With this issue we begin the final year of the Aughts, also known as the Two Thousands, the Zeros, the Naughts, the Ohs, the Oh-ohs, or, as seems recently to be the case, the Oh-nos. Before long we’ll be heading into the Tweens, trying to make sense of the bewildering decade behind us. When it began, on January 1, 2000, our most pressing fear was the Y2K bug (and after a few minutes, not even that). George W. Bush still answered to “Governor,” Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator with a one-year-old daughter and a memoir, and Osama bin Laden was an obscure lunatic shivering in a cave. There was no American Idol, no iPod, no Department of Homeland Security. Not only had the housing bubble not yet burst, it hadn’t even inflated.
Around here, the legendary Gregory Curtis was still editor of Texas Monthly, though his deputy, a fellow named Evan Smith, was preparing to inherit the job. Evan’s first issue as editor came eight months into the new millennium. On the cover were Lady Bird Johnson and her two daughters; inside was a piece on J. C. Penney’s cutting-edge Web site, a review of the new album from Denton alt-country band Slobberbone, and an admiring profile of Roger Clemens that pondered whether or not “the greatest pitcher ever to come out of Texas” was getting ready to retire.
Change is, obviously, a law of the universe. Not only is Lady Bird no longer with us, but Slobberbone is kaput and the Rocket has made such a hash of his once illustrious career that we’ve herded him onto the cover this month as our Bum Steer of the Year. Yet one source of constancy in the welter of these and other departures and disasters has been the monthly arrival of a fresh Texas Monthly in your mail slot, at your P.O. box, or on your local newsstand. In the eight years that Evan has edited Texas Monthly, the magazine has thrived, increasing readership at a time when most magazines have scrambled just to stay afloat, netting fourteen National Magazine Award nominations (one of which it won, for General Excellence, in 2003), and making a real difference in the lives of Texans.
So it is with a heightened sense of responsibility that I assume the editorship of this magazine. There have been only three editors in Texas Monthly’s history: Evan, Greg, and William Broyles, who cast the mold. Each oversaw a different magazine, one that over time came to reflect his own vision of what was most compelling about our state. The sum of their tenures represents a rich journalistic tradition of fearlessness, curiosity, wit, native intelligence, hard work, and, above all, respect for the reader. I count myself as truly lucky to stand as the beneficiary of this tradition, and I’m committed to upholding it.
Texas Monthly occupies a unique position in American journalism. It combines the high standards and literary sophistication of a national magazine with the local passions and homegrown style of a state publication. This formula has succeeded for two simple reasons: 1) Texas is the most fascinating state in the union, and 2) Texas Monthly has the best audience in the business. Readers are what make a magazine great, and from the early days we’ve been blessed with an intelligent and cacophonous crowd, a good-humored group who’s eager to correct us when we go astray, allergic to pretension and bombast, politically and culturally diverse, and deeply engaged with the question that drives us every month: What does it mean to be Texan? If you’re reading this, you’re one of the 2.5 million folks who make up that crowd; your allegiance is our greatest asset. It’s carried us through the Booming Seventies, the Busted Eighties, the High-Tech Nineties, and now the Aughts.
As for myself, when this decade began I was a reporter at the Big Bend Sentinel, the weekly newspaper out in Marfa, hustling around the Trans-Pecos in an old Toyota station wagon on a beat that covered everything: the school board, the city council, the Border Patrol, ranching, crime, art, rain. And when the Aughts end, eleven issues from now, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than sitting at my desk in Austin, writing another letter to you.
The year’s best new restaurants, race in the Age of Obama, the fiftieth anniversary of Buddy Holly’s plane crash, and how two Texas oilmen created the Super Bowl.