Our estimable advice columnist on pathological liars, missing knives, the difference between a Texan and a New Yorker turned Floridian turned Montanan, and why tequila is not—hic!—a vegetable.
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Q: A few months ago I was flying out of the Austin airport on the way to my honeymoon. As I reached the front of the security line, I realized that I had mistakenly left my pocketknife—a gift from my new bride—in my carry-on bag. My only options were trashing it or using an automated kiosk, run by a company in North Carolina, to have the knife mailed back to my house. I’ll spare you the long, frustrating details, but suffice it to say, 83 days have passed and I still haven’t received my beloved knife. The company in question has offered little help. Can you?
Paul K., Austin
A: The Texanist arms himself each morning from a drawerful of trusty pocketknives, among which are a number of sentimental favorites. He’s got knives from his wife. He’s got knives from his dad. He’s got knives from his brother, his uncles, his aunts, his colleagues, and his friends. Indeed, it’s a rare moment when he is caught without at least one of these cherished folding blades. The Texanist can only imagine what you must be going through. First the marriage, which makes for a big enough life-changing experience, and then, on top of that, you are stripped of your new pocket shank. How will the occasional dangling thread be pruned from your garments? With what will you whittle? Your mail will be tended to in a ham-fisted manner or just left on the counter unopened. Dear Lord, there’s no time to waste. So, never one to advise standing idly by in the face of a wrongdoing, the Texanist has taken the liberty of firing off an angry letter for you. Fill in the blanks as you see fit and post at will.
Dear Sirs (a term I use loosely):
Apparently due to the heady effects of getting hitched just one day prior, I failed to properly secure the pocketknife that my brand-new bride had given me in my checked baggage as I normally would have, per TSA rules. Rather than forgoing the honeymoon flight so that I could run the knife back home myself, I chose—at the urging of my wife—to trust your company, for a slightly gougey fee I might add, with the knife’s safe handling and prompt return.
Alas, you [fill in the blank] North Carolinian SOBs have failed to live up to your end of the [fill in the blank] deal for three [fill in the blank] months now! How the [fill in the blank] hell you [fill in the blank] can sleep at night is beyond me. Please return my [fill in the blank] pocketknife posthaste. Failure to comply could result in the full wrath of one quite [fill in the blank] irritated Mrs. Paul K. being rained down upon you for this gross bungling—much as it has rained down upon me ever since exiting that [fill in the blank] security line at the Austin airport. You have been warned!
Sincerely, Your Name Here
Whether this note gets results or not, the Texanist is certain that you’ll feel better after having sent it. Ultimately, pocketknives are replaceable. Clear consciences and first wives are not.
Q: I work in a Chicago office with a guy from Dallas who is proving to be a pathological liar. All of his conversations are sprinkled with obvious fibs, fabrications, and falsehoods. He doesn’t seem to have a particular agenda with these innocuous exaggerations, but it is very strange conduct. I’m originally from Missouri, and never in my 46 years have I witnessed such odd behavior. One of my co-workers, a Kentuckian, thinks it’s a Texas thing. Are all Texans liars?
Name Withheld, Chicago, Illinois
A: The age-old tradition of tall tale telling here in Texas has become so ingrained that today virtually all Texans come equipped with an affinity for testing the truth’s tensile strength by way of extra-colorful stories, which are relayed to anyone within earshot. Texans are not liars, though. Generally speaking, at least. A better way to think of your co-worker would be as a spinner of yarns, a dropper of whoppers, or, if you will, a fabulist. There is a big and important distinction to be made when it comes to common run-of-the-mill liars (Get a rope!) and the A1 Texas bullshit artist (Get this man another drink!). So you may hold off on that alarmed call to HR for the moment. In fact, the Texanist would suggest that you join in the fun with some Windy City–style windbagginess of your own. Hey, did you know that Chicago was first called the Windy City by the Texanist’s great-great-grandfather, who, upon passing through in the 1850’s, lost a total of four cowboy hats in one afternoon to lake-effect winds? It’s true. The Texanist swears.
Q: Nutritionists all seem to agree that we must consume five servings of fruits and vegetables daily to remain healthy. So if potatoes are vegetables, and vodka is made from potatoes, then vodka must be a vegetable. By extension: cactus = vegetable = tequila; juniper berries = fruit = gin; orange = fruit = triple sec; sugarcane = vegetable = rum (this may be a stretch). Thus, by drinking one Texas tea nightly, you get your recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. My wife, who works in health care, seems to disagree (I think it may be because of the sugarcane angle). I argue that if you garnish it with a wedge of lemon or lime then you are sure to be in compliance. Can you offer any advice on how to resolve this issue?
Jim P., Fort Worth
A: The Texanist apologizes, but every time he reads your letter he can’t help but hear it in the voice of Foster Brooks, that great comedic tippler of yore. Remember him from the Dean Martin Show and those hilarious celebrity roasts? What a hoot. Wait, maybe it’s Otis Campbell, the lovable town drunk from Mayberry. He was always giving Barney fits with his boozy antics. Or is it Barney Gumble from The Simpsons? Hell, maybe it’s that guy that the Texanist imitated train horns very loudly with that night down in Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar, in Bandera, all those years ago. Whoever it is, the Texanist—a man who is not opposed to throwing one back on occasion—was entertained by your letter. Unfortunately, while those nutritionists who suggest we take in those five helpings of fruits and vegetables per day do accept fresh, frozen, canned, and dried preparations, the Texanist doesn’t see anything about the allowance of produce that has been mashed up, distilled, and served in equal parts with sweet and sour mix and Coke over ice. (And let’s not forget the optional bourbon—er, corn. And not to be a stickler but agave is technically not cacti.) Therefore, while being all for a refreshing Texas tea in general, the Texanist is going to have to side with your missus on this one. No hard feelings. The Texanist is curious to know, though, just how many servings of this sort of liquor–fueled sagaciousness your wife endures each evening as you consume the last of your nightly “fruits and veggies.”
Q: My father, grandmother, and grandfather are/were from Texas and are/will be buried in Texas. I was born in New York, spent 25 years in Florida, and now live in Montana. I feel more like a child of the South and West, and certainly not from the East Coast. Lately, I’m drawn back to Texas. Am I a Texan?
Clyde L. Still, Butte, Montana
A: In addition to being a native New Yorker, a former Floridian, a migratory Montanan, and a bona fide child of a child of the great Lone Star State, you are also, as of this moment at least, a rootin,’ tootin,’ 100 percent puredee non-Texan. Be sure to give the Texanist a jingle when you arrive, though, and he’ll be happy to walk you through the naturalization process.
THE TEXANIST’S LITTLE-KNOWN FACT OF THE MONTH: Doodyville, home to beloved TV marionette Howdy Doody and his friends Clarabell the Clown, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, Chief Thunderthud, Phineas T. Bluster, and Dilly Dally, was a little fictional town located in—drumroll, please—Texas! How ’bout that, kids?