Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Exceedingly Minor Things I Actually Liked About Moving to Texas When I Was 17
Well, since Texas is currently in the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, might as well revisit my time there and try to contribute any good vibes I can in my own miniscule way. Reading about the small pleasures from my time there – I lived north of Houston for a year, almost to the day – has certainly got to be better than watching noted goblin Ted Cruz try to flee the crisis to a resort in Mexico while throwing his kids under the bus or listen to unfathomable moron Rick Perry sputter out DURRR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAD DURRR.
And before we get going with the triviata, something larger to note here. Although Texas wasn’t exactly suited to my taste for a variety of reasons, if given the opportunity for a do-over, I would absolutely move down to Texas at the age of 17 again. My parents would almost certainly feel differently, but if I focus that lens intensely on me and me alone, I learned more about myself in those twelve months than I had in the previous five years. Uprooting yourself and finding 90% of the crutches you could previously lean on now unusable yields unparalleled growth.
I figured out who I was, what I wanted, gained a bunch of confidence in matters of courting the opposite sex, lost a ton of weight, discovered my personal style, made some incredible friends (that I still have to this day!), learned how to actually study and put in the work (instead of my previous M.O. which was a cocktail of bullshit, slick charm, canny intelligence, and identifying cracks in the system I could exploit), and basically took a giant leap forward in becoming a man.
I’m grateful for my experience in suburban Houston. Plus, it came with a bunch of hilariously trivial small joys I hadn’t known prior! Here are five such things listed for your amusement and/or perspective.
Like I said, hilariously trivial. And this one is two-fold. First, growing up my dad was an unbelievable pizza snob. There was exactly one place in the entire Denver Metro area that served satisfactory pizza in the eyes of my father, and it was at least 30 minutes away on the other goddamn side of town. It was rare we’d get that.
And the invective my dad would hurl at the Dominoses, the Pizza Huts, and the local eateries “that tasted like hell” of the world was enough to frighten any child away from ever suggesting we order them. I cannot describe my excitement when friends would have birthday parties and order from whatever garbage chain their parents ordered from. Similarly, the only reason I liked going to the doctor as a kid is because my mom would always take me, and my doctor’s office was across the street from Little Caesar’s. She’d take me there after appointments, and it was what the dreams of 10 year-olds were made of.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, when I was 11 we moved into the mountains. There was no delivery of any kind there. We were DEEP in our little mountain community which meant it took at least 15 minutes to get anywhere resembling commercialized civilization (more on this in a second).
So, when we moved to Texas, one of the first pieces of mail we received was a promotional flyer from the local Pizza Hut with like 30 coupons on it. I ordered one on one of the very first nights in our new house, was amazed when some dorky burnout delivered it right to our door, and got to work devouring it myself. My dad, as you might imagine, passed on having any. I felt like Kevin McCallister and figured this place couldn’t be all bad.
Not Having to Drive 15 Fucking Minutes Just to Get Anywhere
To get just to the highway from my house in the mountains was eight minutes. Then it was at least another seven minutes to get to absolutely anything you’d want to visit. This was 15 minutes one way for even the most menial trip, and a bunch of miles as your opening ante. And before I could drive, this meant I carried a lot of guilt for making my parents, my friends, or my friends’ parents pick me up or drop me off from the mainland. It also meant having to generally do a lot more planning. No emergency jaunts to the grocery store for something you forgot unless you wanted to turn it into a 40 minute ordeal. No impromptu dinners out when your fridge looks wildly unappetizing that evening. Nothing of this sort unless you really liked spending time in your car and didn’t mind growing hangry while twisting through endless hills and neighborhoods of large houses you’ve seen a zillion times dotting the landscape.
When I moved to Texas, my high school was 5 minutes away. My swim practice was 10. The grocery store, video store and a bunch of restaurants and fast food and stuff was 3. A park with a basketball court was literally just outside my backyard and across a street. The mall, movie theater and everything else wasn’t more than 15. I didn’t miss the rurality of my previous situation and embraced the proximity of it all. The closeness was oddly freeing.
This could be why I now live in a lovely Denver enclave with a retail strip that has a liquor store and some decent-to-great restaurants and a big, beautiful park two blocks away in one direction, and no less than Colfax motherfucking Avenue three blocks in the other.
Last one bitching about rural shit, I promise. Broadband didn’t come to my old mountain neighborhood until sometime in the mid-2000s. It was dial-up for internet and weird, shitty coax for cable until then. Suburban Houston was my first taste of digital cable, baby! And let’s get right to the point of why I cared about this at all: WWF!
I had only seen a handful of WWF pay-per-view events prior to moving to Houston, and none since 1994. I was always woefully behind on seeing these big events, and then had to wait until they’d recap the results on the next tv shows, wait a couple of months to read about it in WWF Magazine (I had a subscription), and then could finally rent them after that. I might buy a VHS copy of a show once it went on sale, but by then, so much time had passed, why even bother?
Now I could indulge my nerddom in real time! We moved down there in August of 1998, and within two weeks I ordered SummerSlam with my friend Stephen. We split the $29.95 cost and paid my parents directly. Then I made sure to set the VCR, and from that point on, I had it forever. This was GAME CHANGING for my fandom, which is good or bad, depending on your point of view. We got four more of these in the year I lived down there. Now I have WWE Network, and it’s literally everything I ever dreamed of. But seeing this stuff in real time in Texas was the opening gambit, and it was awesome.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the buffets. I mean, holy shit! Mexican food buffets. American food buffets with deep fried goddamn everything. And my personal favorite, Chinese food buffets! I had never experienced the majesty of a massive Chinese food buffet until I lived in Texas, and now I long for them. All we had here was regular sit-down restaurants and those god-awful buck-a-scoop places that always tasted like industrial cleaning solution, questionable meat and peanut oil.
In Texas, they know how to fatten you up right proper. After midterms and finals, Stephen and I used to drive to the Woodlands House Buffet and load up during lunch. It’s possible I’m exaggerating, but that buffet felt 20 yards long. And the most amazing thing about it was the big double boiler-looking pot at the end with a ladle and a huge vat of sweet and sour sauce in it. That crazy, viscous, hot pink goop was SO GOOD, especially on the fried biscuits that I’ve not seen before or since anywhere else.
I don’t miss a whole lot about 17, but certainly the metabolism and the ability to eat literally anything and bounce back after mid-day gluttony like I had a B-12 shot is certainly one of them.
Damn Near Everyone Had a Pool
By far and away my favorite thing about living there. Stephen had a pool. Ashley had a pool. At least a half dozen of my other friends had pools. My house had a SICK pool with a hot tub and a weeping wall I used to do backflips off of. Virtually any birthday you’d get invited to was a pool party, which meant 17 year-old me got to hang out with 16 and 17 year-old girls in bikinis all year round because Texas, when not in the grips of a polar vortex, is pretty much hot as balls.
Our time in Texas was weird because I don’t remember interacting with my parents all that much, especially compared to before the move. Everyone seemed to be dealing with the upheaval of the move in their own way and handled it mostly in solo. At 17, this was a total godsend because freedom = mischief = exploration.
That pool, and especially the hot tub, saw plenty of action in the year I was down there. And truthfully, it was all pretty PG-rated stuff, but when you’re just starting to figure it out, that’s all you want anyway. Very few people go from simple making out straight to orgies in the grotto at the Playboy Mansion overnight, and we were no different. But I think about those kids playing Truth or Dare in that hot tub and it always makes me smile. Simultaneous innocence and naughtiness is a good nexus for high school experimentation.
And it’s in these memories that my nostalgia kicks into overdrive, and when I’m most grateful for my time in Houston. Here’s hoping the people of Texas are able to persevere through the current situation.
May you all get back in the hot tub soon.