I’m not cowed by the idea of admitting to things that put me on the banks of the mainstream in Texas—rooting for the New York Yankees (give me an alternative!), thinking Cormac McCarthy’s books are boring (get a rope!)—so I may as well also cop to the following: The cover of this issue grosses me out. It will be 24 years in January since I last ate meat, and while I can still be swayed—almost—by the smell of bacon, I’m right where I was on that Sunday morning in the college dining hall, when, after a long night of demonstrative socializing, I stared at a mealy, bunless hamburger and said aloud, to no one in particular, “Not now, not ever.” So it was, there and then, that I became a vegetarian—not for moral reasons, not because I intended to one day own an Austin shopping center, but out of sheer loss of appetite.
You can imagine how this might be more of a problem for the editor of Texas Monthly than, say, the editor of Portland Monthly. It will surprise no one that I haven’t rented a billboard in Hereford and broadcast the news to the world, but nor have I ever pretended to be the Carnivore in Chief. (Although I seem to recall a lunch with Susan Combs, then the state’s agriculture commissioner, at which I ordered a pork chop, took a bite, distracted her—“Hey, there’s someone even taller than you are!”—and spit into my napkin. Or maybe I imagined it.) I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never have the pleasure of tasting brisket or sausage from Kreuz Market or a Greenberg Smoked Turkey. I’ve had to memorize which of Austin’s Mexican restaurants serve rice not made with chicken stock and beans not made with lard. I don’t get the whole corny dog thing (though on that one, at least, I gather I’m not alone).
None of this, however, has any bearing on the decisions I make, or we make, about the stories we assign or the covers we produce. The founder and publisher of Texas Monthly, Mike Levy, often says that “every great endeavor is the result of one person’s taste, vision, judgment, and interests.” At this great endeavor, that one person is the editor. My predecessor, Greg Curtis, was a collector of pulp novels, so it makes sense that his iteration of the magazine had lots of true crime. I’m more interested in politics than he was, so it stands to reason that you’ll find lots of politics in our pages today. But if crime or politics didn’t inherently interest our readers—if they weren’t part of our creative DNA—the editor’s personal taste, interests, etc., wouldn’t matter. Big, juicy, authoritative service journalism is part of our DNA too. The vast majority of you really do care about what to do and where to go in Big Bend National Park and the Big Thicket, and yes, where to eat the best steak. So that’s what we give you. At the end of the day this magazine—no matter who owns it, no matter who runs it—is for you, not me or anyone else.
How do I feel about slapping a big hunk of raw beef on the cover? Just fine. I’d do it all over again. And will.
Bum Steers, the mother of all quilters, a college football player who’s really a senior, a tragic tale from Iraq, and a loyal Bushie to the end.