I have blue blood. I just know it. I’m part French, from the Sollee lineage. I suspect that’s an American bastardization of the French word, “Soleil,” meaning Sun. So with that in mind, it stands to reason I am, without a doubt, descended from Louis XIV. After all, dear old Louie was known as The Sun King! And my English side is descended from noblemen who attended Oxford…about three centuries ago. I dare anyone to scrub the inside of my cheek with a Q-Tip and send it in to National Geographic as part of their DNA genetics thing they had going on. Well, the study may be over, but gosh darn, it all, that’s not really the reason I’m blogging right now!
You see, I really meant I am the only registered Democrat in my family. My family hails from Texas and many parts of the South. The French ancestors settled in South Carolina, then Colorado. The British ancestors settled in Virginia before moving on to the Rocky Mountain state, as well. Hell, my family of families have been here in the states for well over three centuries, but amazingly, I know little about my own family history. Just that we’ve all been here so long, I could qualify for membership in the Daughters of the Revolution! Ok, dammit, I digress, yet again.
I am a liberal by Texas standards. I am a traitor to my state’s Red Elephantine Republican tradition. And so imagine my sense of wonder when I moved 975 miles north and east to the Windy City! Here, in the midst of the two mighty O’s! Oprah! Obama! Hallelujuah!
Granted, the city’s public transportation infrastructure is aging, but even in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, if you don’t own a car, you’re pretty much S.O.L., unless you live in downtown Dallas, Fort Worth, or within walking distance of a bus/train stop.
I lived in downtown Fort Worth for a while. I loved it despite the fact that the public transportation left much to be desired. There were buses…during the day until evening. Want to go out at night? Either hoof it or drive. According to The T’s web site, “Regular city bus hours of service are from 4:19 a.m. to 12:08 a.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday service from 4:21 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. Sunday service is available from 4:40 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Man, that just sucks. The routes are pretty limited, too. You can thank voters and lack of funds for that. Seems people in the D/FW area just don’t really like to use public transportation. You know, it attracts the “bad element.” Dallas has DART, which is better, but even that has its drawbacks. They shut down at night, too, for the most part.
And don’t even get me started on the city of Arlington! This gem is home to Texas Rangers (who are they?), and will soon be home to the Dallas Cowboys! Why am I even mentioning Arlington? This sprawling city of nearly 400,000 does not have any public transportation to speak of. None! Why? Because, again, the voters didn’t want it. They don’t want the higher taxes, they don’t want the gangs coming into their area. Blah, blah, blah. Seriously, the gangs are already there, and chances are, they’re driving and packing their pistols, not using the buses!
How can a city that is host to two major sports teams, a nationally renowned amusement park, a huge water park, throngs of shopping and hotels…how can it not have public transportation???? It’s simply ridiculous. And now, the traffic in that area has become so congested (duh) that Tarrant County has called for a special bond meeting to address the growing problems. Any takers in the bet that Arlington residents kill yet another public transportation initiative?
Live in the D/FW Metroplex? No car, no travel, my friend!
So, now you have a better idea of where I’m coming from in terms of getting around Chicago. Before I moved here, I got rid of my car. I loved my car. It was a PT Cruiser. Black. It had attitude. It reeked of nostalgia and ZZ Top. It also ate gas. The payments were drowning me, and my insurance payments were just another expense sinking me further into debt. I lived in Frisco, a fancy suburb of Dallas. I paid $14 per day driving to and from work. That adds up.
I worked in Downtown Dallas. I could have taken the train to work, but that would have involved driving thirty minutes to the nearest park and ride stop and then traveling another hour to work by train and then bus. I wouldn’t have saved much gas going that route. In fact, doing so would have caused me to drive about ten miles out of my way just to take advantage of the park and ride! I could have walked thirty minutes to the nearest bus stop and travel yet another hour to work. You see where I’m going here?
Public transportation is a bitch in D/FW.
And so again, I heard angels sing when I disembarked from the plane to the El Train to my new home in the cozy little Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville.
How is Chicago different than Texas? Obviously, attitudes are much different here about things. Imagine my surprise and quiet pleasure from seeing two men walking down Clark Street openly holding hands, or two women doing the same, for that matter. Interracial couples are the norm here, whereas in Texas they’re still quite a novelty. What happened in Arlington when Jerry Jones decided he wanted a large parcel of land for the new Cowboys stadium would never have succeeded here. Homeowners in Arlington were basically told, “We don’t care how long you’ve lived here, you’re selling.” I remember one home owner continued to hold out, forcing construction workers to begin working around his home. Finally, he had no choice but to sell his home at a reduced price. Chicagoans wouldn’t have stood for that. According to my husband, they would have revolted!
It’s funny how Texans like to brag about how independent they are, how stubborn they are, and yet, when big business comes knocking, don’t expect a fight to the death. I like Texas, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that some things about it just disgust me. The mixing of religion and politics, the way people say, “I don’t want to share my wealth with anyone!” It’s that “go it alone” attitude that has gotten Texas in trouble so often. (It’s not surprising though, after all, Texas is commonly known as “The Lone Star State.”) I’ll illustrate my point about this. In an email exchange between me and my older brother, we were discussing health care. I believe healthcare is a right. Anyone who lives here and pays taxes and is a citizen should have an automatic right to basic healthcare. My brother believes it is a responsibility, and that people should pay for their own. Here’s an excerpt of his email to me:
The government does not exist to support people with housing, healthcare, eductation,(sic) a car, etc. [for] those who are either too lazy or too incompetent to earn these things themselves. For those who believe otherwise, there are plenty of socialist countries out there willing to give you a home (one room apartment), transportation (a train ride), and healthcare (you get what they give you).
What should the federal government really do? I can tell you – it’s not to give people houses, tell companies what they should pay or what benefits they should provide.
I was shocked when I read that. Too lazy? Too incompetent? What happened to the cool brother I used know and admire? Did he mean to include the mentally disabled when he said that? The physically disabled? I, myself, have a disability, and so I was shocked to read these words from what I thought was an enlightened individual. The government doesn’t exist to take care of people? The government doesn’t exist to protect rights? Then what’s the point of it? I guess we could scrap it all and have anarchy. Deregulate everything. We’ve already seen where that got us in the financial industry. Chaos. A foundering economy. Massive lay-offs, and growing joblessness.
But you see, my brother has worked for the same company for over twenty years. He hasn’t a clue about what it is to feel frustrated in a job search, to wonder where your next meal is coming from, to send out hundreds of resume’s without a nibble. He doesn’t understand the enormous amount of pride swallowing that goes into standing in line for the local food bank because you can’t afford to feed your family otherwise. I’ve been there. I know people who live their lives at the mercy of those benevolent souls who continue to make donations to programs they depend on. I have helped people try to find ways to get off government assistance, only to have the door shut in their faces time and time again. So…incompetent? Lazy? I know how it feels to go without because you don’t want to ask your family for a handout…until the problem is so big you’ve exhausted all other options and have no choice. And they say, “We’re getting to the point where we don’t want to help you anymore.” Walk a mile in my shoes, bro. Or better yet, walk a mile in the shoes of the many people I’ve worked with. I’m sure, if he could truly understand what it is to feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of need and debt, he would be singin’ a different tune. I asked him about the disabled. I asked him about those who’ve lost jobs through no fault of their own. He never responded. I guess some things are best left ignored.
I’m also a proponent of gay marriage, which is a very controversial subject.
My brother also wrote that “God intended MAN and WOMAN to marry with the purpose of having children. Two men or two woman can’t do that. I’m OK with gay and lesbians – but how can they get married?”
He misses the point completely. Historically, marriage was a merging of two families in order to create an alliance. It was a business transaction. Children begotten out of these alliances were considered assurance the family’s legacy would continue. His point comes (supposedly) directly from the Bible, making it a religious reference. The passing of California’s Proposition 8 originated with the Mormon Church and was supported by a number of religious institutions. I’m not a legal expert, but wouldn’t that be crossing the line between church and state? Wouldn’t this incident mean that the Mormon Church, officially, has ceased being a church only, and crossed over into political lobbying? After all, the Mormon Church actively lobbied, for this proposition, and donated a large amount of money to the cause. My brother’s assertion that because gays and lesbians can not procreate with each other, and should therefore, be denied the benefits of marriage, is a canard. Wouldn’t it be easier to abolish the legal definition of marriage all around and create business unions? Then we could let our own churches take care of the religious bonding aspect of it. Because, when you think about it, marriage is, essentially, a business partnership: a melding of two incomes and financial responsibility.
I love my brother, but he is a microcosm of Texas attitude at its worse. He’d probably have a heart attack if he saw two men holding hands all lovey-dovey here in Chi-Town. In all fairness, though, he’d probably be ok with watching two women kissing, but don’t quote me on that.
I thought I’d be done by now, but this entry has taken on a life of its own. I meant to talk about my neighborhood, but I ended up talking about my brother! I wanted to talk about the cool places I’ve seen and fun things I’ve done, but I ended up ranting about the crap public transportation in D/FW!
And so, “I’m just a Texan in Chicago” will continue…