What it means to be a Texan & remembering Melvin on Memorial Day

melvin croaker

Above: Melvin (above, right) taught me a lot about what it means to be a Texan.

Especially when I revisit the North American coasts where I used to reside, friends often ask me, so how do you like living in Texas?

When I tell them that I love living here, they sometimes respond with skepticism.

But you live in Austin! I love Austin. But that’s not really Texas.

To that, I answer quoting my cousin Jonathan Levy, a professor at Princeton and a native Houstonian.

“What a lot of people don’t realize,” he likes to say, “is that a lot of what they like about Austin is actually Texan.”

Great music? Texan.*

Barbecue? Texan.

Tex Mex? Texan.

Politeness, dignity, consideration, and humanity in personal interaction? Texan.

On Christmas eve 2009, a man name Melvin taught me a lot about that humanity when he officially declared me a Texan, giving me a six-pack of Lonestar Beer and a cowboy hat.

“I want to see tasting notes for that beer!” he said with his Texas-sized grin.

Our origins couldn’t have been more disparate.

But no matter the great divide in how we came into this world, Melvin embraced a Jew from La Jolla (a card-carrying member of the Democratic party who’s never driven a Ford truck or owned a gun) as he would his own brethren.

And ladies and gentlemen, THAT’S what Texas is really about.

Melvin passed away, a victim of cancer, less than a year after that Christmas eve. He was a veteran and every Memorial Day, I think of him and what he taught me and shared with me.

And I forgot to mention: another thing that’s great about Texas is all the pretty girls

*Austin is the Texas music capital but from East Texas to El Paso, from Lubbock to the Gulf Coast, music is a sine qua non in Texan culture, tradition, and history. The Wiki has 570 entries for “musicians from Texas.”

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