Who Are the People in your Neighborhood?

As my time in San Antonio begins to draw to an end, I reflect back on the individuals who have made my time here memorable, forgettable, and regrettable. I won’t be speaking about the primary characters who I normally interact with at school and church. Rather, this post focuses more on the secondary characters found around our apartment complex we have grudgingly referred to as “house” (not to be confused with “home,” which is where the heart is) for the past year and a half.

In the beginning, transitioning from a college-town apartment setting was difficult. I discovered that people here REALLY don’t appreciate it when you walk into their house unannounced as I did so often previously. Even with my winning personality, I couldn’t prevent them from threatening me with management or the police. So I would have to take my search for 2 eggs elsewhere. Eventually, our nights became resigned to staying inside. We couldn’t even play on the apartment playground. Apparently you need children of your own to play, otherwise the other residents jump to conclusions when you respond to them that none of these children are yours.

There are a number of other frequent encounters between management and neighbors we experience here that, while providing great material to write about, will not be missed in the least when we move in 3 weeks.

When we moved into the complex, we were required to visit the office to get our lease signed. I went in a few weeks after my friend Adam to sign my part. As they dabbled in small talk (I hate small talk), they asked how the neighbors were. I responded that my corner room was fine, but Adam was constantly bothered in his room by the neighbor’s daytime noises and nighttime noises. Ignoring these complaints, the office lady formed a quizzical look on her face and asked “Both ya’ll don’t sleep in the same room?” Realizing where her assumption had taken her, I responded in a deadpan voice “We’re not gay.” Quickly trying to backtrack, she inquired about our current work as Mormon missionaries (which was actually a pretty good guess). But apparently outside of Utah or a college campus, two white men can’t live together if they’re not gay or Mormon missionaries.

We usually tried to avoid the management. But they would usually get us to come in by placing an eviction notice on our door telling us to vacate the premises within 24 hours or it would be done forcibly. We received no less than four of these throughout the year for “missed rent” which we had really paid. When we confronted them about it, they would cheerfully look up our account and magically find our paid rent. “Sorry about that, here’s a fig newton” they would happily say as I was shepherded towards the door, not having a chance to express the unnecessary stress I had felt.

On our walks between the office, to get the mail, or to our cars, we would usually pass by Nick. Nick is an older gentleman usually found on his porch at any given time of the day smoking a cigarette. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can never get him to talk about anything other than the weather with me. Our conversations usually go like this:

M: Good morning/afternoon/evening!

N: Beautiful day (said regardless of the weather)

M: It sure is….

I’ll usually follow up with any type of question, but all that I get in reply is a toothless grin as Nick laughs and ignores the question. What baffles me even more is usually if someone is behind us, Nick will engage them in conversation and ask about some specific detail of their life. I guess I’ll just stick to the weather.

When we round the corner to our apartment, I’ll usually glance up at the building across from ours to see if business is open. Meaning, if the door of a specific apartment is open and there is someone sitting in the doorway, a number of Andrew Jacksons will score you a bag of pot. Occasionally we’ll notice random people climb the stairs, make the exchange and leave without a word being said. So, if you need a guy…ask someone else because I don’t know the guy.

However, our neighbors above us either know that guy or a different guy very well because most days when we come home, the neighbors upstairs have lit up and the poor ventilation pushes the smell down and into our apartment. All the candles we’ve gone through to get rid of the smell have gotten way too expensive.

The person we probably know the most (which isn’t saying much) is a 10-year-old kid whose name I still can’t pronounce. I threw a football back to him one time and from that point on, he frequently shows up at our door to play. When we answered the door one day, he started coming in our apartment when he saw our PlayStation and we had to tactfully get him back outside because he probably wouldn’t have understood if we tried to explain that his parents probably wouldn’t like him going into a strangers house.

But the boy is relentless. Another time, I was home alone watching TV when there’s a knock on the door. I immediately know it’s him because no one else has ever come over. Not wanting to answer the door, I quickly turn out the lights as the knocking turns into him kicking our door. As I go into my room, I hear our gate door open and the see the silhouette of someone peering through our glass door appears. As the silhouette disappears, I breathe a sigh of relief right as the front door opens and I hear a voice yell “HELLO?!” Figuring I have no choice at this point, I run my hand through my hair to give the appearance of bedhead and squint as if just waking up from a nap and walk out. It takes another 5 minutes, but I he eventually leaves after I tell him how tired I am among some other lies.

Now, those of you who may be judging me for lying to a little kid, I was simply doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. You had to be there.

There were also gunshots in the neighborhood. But I’m not familiar with those neighbors.

Neighbors are a part of life’s experiences to be embraced for better or worse. I’m moving to Fort Worth, TX in January. We’ll see what uncomfortable experiences await me there.

More Things Texas People Like

This post wasn’t supposed to happen.  It is an uneccesary sequel, much like any Transformers movie or the last 7 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (really, all the main characters in that hospital keep dying, why would anyone want to keep working there?).  But since there appears to be a market for it, these posts will keep getting pushed out.  So here are some More Things Texas People Like.  Let’s begin with where this started:

Never Being Content

Go read any article about Texas.  Actually, just skip the article and go to the comments.  If you haven’t lost your faith in humanity after the first few commentors and common trolls, you’ll find a trove of Texas complaining about what was NOT included in the article.  Really, you could read an informational article about the Alamo and have someone comment that it isn’t nearly as fun as Six Flags.

Think about how difficult it must be for a Buzzfeed author to “write” (quotations because I can’t believe people at Buzzfeed have jobs consisting of posting pop culture memes and lists) about the best restaraunts in Texas.  These authors (excuse me, the Buzzfeed term is contributor) have to narrow down the choices to the top 20 bars or the top 36 BBQ stands that will give you chills…er…sorry, I get my clickbait articles mixed up.  They are absolutely destroyed by upset readers whose favorite spots were not included.

According to the National Restaraunt Association, there are 43,670 restaraunts and bars in Texas.  If an ambitious millenial journalist really wanted to cover their bases, they would write an article along the lines of “The 43,670 Restaraunts and Bars in Texas You Need to Try Before You Die.”  Of course, someone will still likely complain that the article forgot the Tamale lady who comes over every Tuesday.  Some people are just impossible to please.

Whataburger

If you’ve ever watched Parks and Rec, you may recall the recurring storyline of Ben and his beffudlement over the excess attention people give to Lil’ Sebastian.  He doesn’t understand why, but he still goes along with it.

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“It’s a small pony. What am I missing?”

Similarly, I feel the exact same way about Whataburger.  To me, it’s still just another fast food place, but Texans approach it as more of a transendental opportunity.  So I go along with it. (For the sake of this post, I am an anonymous guest blogger to avoid potential backlash)

Whataburger (or you may hear it pronounced Waterburger) likely makes up half the restaurants in Texas .  Back in Utah, when two girls want to meet up, they usually settle on a soup and salad place or maybe some fake Mexican food.  You’d be hard pressed to find people meeting up at Wendy’s or some other fast food joint.  I meet up with 2 girls a few weeks ago for dinner and asked them to pick the venue.  To my amazement, they agreed on Whataburger.  Mind blown!

Ask anyone what their favorite menu item is and the answer will likely be the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.

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One serving and your daily calorie intake has been met!

When I first visited and tried this menu item with classmates, expectations had been set unreasonably high (like every other food recommendation I’ve been given here).  Yes, it was good.  But not knock your socks off good (I was partly to blame for wearing shoes that day).  I’ll probably get another one, probably as a way to break my New Year’s Resolution in early January.  But where one breakfast food may fail, there are dozens more attempting to take its spot, which leads to…

Breakfast Tacos

These are nothing new.  Breakfast tacos have been around for a long time.  In Utah, breakfast burritos are more common.  The biggest advantage of the Texas Tacos over the Utah Burrito that you won’t be regretting your choice from the confines of the bathroom for the rest of the day.

Even the term itself, ‘breakfast taco’ is classic Tex-Mex food formula.  One word is English. One word is Spanish.  It turns regular food into breakfast food.   It provides an ethnic experience without having to travel.  Some people grab a coffee and doughnut on their way to work in the morning.  In Texas, you grab your taco and coffee to go.  It doesn’t ring as well, but who cares?! You have a breakfast taco!

Vendors jam pack their tortillas as well.  Being used to meager fillings in Utah, I ordered 4 breakfast tacos my first time.  If you’re assuming I didn’t eat them all, you’re wrong.  I did, and I was more full than I would have liked and it hurt a little bit.  But it was a good hurt.download

If you thought breakfast tacos came from Mexico, you’re probably right, but you will also probably be told you’re wrong by people from Austin

Austin is its own post which I don’t even want to try writing about.  So if you’d like to guest post, let me know!

I’d ask if I missed anything, but people will let me know anyways.

Things Texas People Like

Blogging is hard.  I haven’t gotten to the point where hundreds of ideas just flow through my mind until I’m rolling in ad endorsements.  My primary forte has been finding groups of people to poke fun at and I quickly exhausted my resources of Utah county (although this election cycle provides plenty of new material, but I’ll just leave that to every media outlet).

For those of you who didn’t know I moved to Texas, I moved to Texas.  It’s been about two months now and in that time I still don’t understand the root of Texas pride.  However, I have been able to see that many things are, in fact bigger in Texas: trucks, alcohol tolerance, and waistlines (San Antonio: 8th largest in the nation!) for example.  There is a whole group of people down here with their own culture and stereotypes that must be spoken of.  And so continues the saga with Things Texas People Like.

Driving the speed limit

When someone strikes a nerve with you while driving, do you ever glance at them while driving past them to see if they look as bad as they drive?  Since I’ve been in Texas, it has taken a great deal of self-control to keep watch where I’m going and eyes on the road.

“Is there a 7 care pile up ahead?”

No! It’s just half the freeway population doing 5 under the speed limit!

Coming from Utah where the average speed is 10 over (I’m not implicating myself as a reckless driver, it’s everyone else), if you pulled that speed here, you’re likely to be bigger target for cops than sprinkled doughnuts on a stake out.  I half expect there to be a dog or family of otters in front of all these cars to explain their speed.  But I am always left disappointed that I have yet to see a family of otters running through the freeway.  In Utah, I used to hear all the time what bad drivers we are.  I think a more appropriate statement would be:

(Insert your state here) has bad drivers”

Talking about Restaurants you’ve Never been to (and shooting down the ones you have)

One of my first weekends in Texas, we had just finished a successful trip to IKEA in Austin (about an hour and a half drive).  We were hungry and wanted to find somewhere good to eat.  Consulting Google, we found a place called Rudy’s with excellent ratings.  As newbies, the employees treated us to a small, free platter of samplers to see what we liked.  We proceeded to consume a satisfying meal of brisket, half a loaf of bread (calories don’t count if you don’t count them!), and creamed corn that tasted like ice cream.  We were content.

Later that week in class, we told others of our experience.  All we wanted was for others to be happy of our decision.  What we were told instead was that we should have gone literally anywhere else.

“Oh sure, Rudy’s is fine, but it’s a franchise and you can find that anywhere.  You should have tried…”

Then came a more heated discussion than the blue/gold dress of 2015 as everyone but us Utah folk contributed to the conversation and disagreed on where the best BBQ places are. What I came to understand was that it didn’t matter if we bought some good-looking chairs, we wasted a trip to Austin. If I had a nickel for how many restaurants have been recommended to me down here, I still wouldn’t be rich, but I would have just an absurd amount of nickels.  Even after we go out and try a recommended place, there is always someone to disprove our decision and give us 10 other alternatives.

So, if you ever come to town and are looking for recommendations, please don’t ask me, and whatever you do, don’t tell anyone where you decided to go.  Also, you’ll likely have to travel to Austin because apparently all the best restaurants are not in San Antonio.

Blue Bell

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A play off the moniker “What happens in Vegas…” is “What’s made in Texas, stays in Texas.  They’re very selfish with their BBQ sauces, HEB grocery stores (one of the best things in Texas), and especially Blue Bell ice cream.  Once I decided to pay nearly $7 for a half-gallon of buttered pecan (pronounced pee-can), I was immediately  hooked and went and bought another tub the next day upon finishing the first (don’t judge me).

Yes, there was a Listeria outbreak last year in which over 8 million gallons were recalled.  Yes, a few people did die from it.  But, since they used the phrase “we’re rebranding” during their comeback, like Chipotle or Wells Fargo, I completely trust them.  It’s just so good!

If you want a small taste of it in Utah, they serve it at Ike’s Creamery in Provo Beach Resort.

Football

I’m not a sports guy.  I love attending events, but watching random games on TV isn’t my favorite idea, and don’t expect me to know any stats either.  It took me about 5 years at BYU before I could hold my own in a conversation about BYU football, always made difficult by the fact that the lineup changes constantly (stop graduating for just one year, please!).

Now I feel like an idiot all over again.  My class is made up of students coming from big football schools of the south.  Naturally, the topic comes up…quite frequently actually…everyday as a matter of fact.  It’s usually the morning conversation as everyone follows up on their fantasy football stats.  Sometimes in order to deflect my lack of knowledge, I feel like saying:

“Can you all shut up? I’m getting ready to learn!”

or I just keep it vague:

“I like when the team you like gets more points than the other!”

But those both make me feel about as comfortable as getting stabbed, so I keep it to myself.

Texas is fine as far as states that start with T go.  I’m not sure where Texas pride comes from yet (unless it comes from Blue Bell, then I completely understand).  Another year may help me understand that, but also give me more things to write about.