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Texas | Columns | "Quips and Salsa"

When Texas Froze Over


by Jase Graves
Jase Graves

My home state of Texas has recently become a national punching bag for politicians and pundits after Mother Nature gave the Lone Star State a giant frozen wedgie in the form of a week-long record winter storm that caused widespread suffering from power outages, water shortages and the closure of most Mexican restaurants.

Speaking of Mexican food, much of the problem stemmed from the failure of electrical utilities managed by an organization known as ERCOT, which is also a noise I sometimes make after I've had the Burrito Supreme Combo meal from Taco Bell. Apparently, the power grid couldn't find its rarely-used long underwear in time to avoid the embarrassing ravages of lingering frigid temperatures usually restricted to more arctic regions-like Oklahoma.

And as CNN has gleefully made sure you've heard by now, Senator Ted Cruz inadvertently provided more ammo to Texaphobics by making a politically-damaging escape to Cancun with his family during the crisis, presumably to keep from going completely Jack Nicholson-bonkers as the lone representative of the dude gender trapped in the house with his wife and two pre-teen daughters. As a father of three teenage girls myself, I must admit that after a few days of witnessing their boyfriend withdrawal symptoms and acute TikTokaholism, I caught myself fantasizing about stowing away in Ted's carry-on luggage.

On the coldest night in my part of the state, the temperature reached an unprecedented -5F (that's Fahrenheit to readers not familiar with the biblical temperature scale). And although the good Lord spared my family from any real harm, we did experience frozen water lines to two sinks and one commode in my daughters' bathroom, which meant that my own private restroom time was constantly at risk of interruption by a mob of pets (as usual) and various adolescent girl children.

Since the roads were iced over, and I don't own a vehicle designed for navigating harsh terrain to retrieve a deer carcass, we were relegated to domestic pursuits-namely eating. Fortunately, I had joined the frantic hoards at Walmart in the days leading up to the storm, stocking up on necessities laden with carbs, artificial flavors, nitrates and other deliciousness.

In defiance of the freezing weather, we shamelessly indulged in comfort foods like chicken n' dumplings, fettuccini Alfredo, biscuits and gravy, Belgian waffles, and cheese enchiladas. Then we sat around the roaring fireplace will full tummies, enjoying our family time together and listening to the gentle sound of our arteries hardening.

Because we eventually ran out of milk and eggs (and we wanted to see what frostbitten nostrils feel like), my wife and middle daughter joined me on a treacherous trudge across the East Texas tundra to a nearby grocery store. What began as a diverting adventure soon turned sour, though, when we found the shelves empty of just about everything other than almond milk, Coke Zero and those giant clear plastic jars of cheese balls. To make matters worse, our daughter suddenly realized that we also had to walk back home, and there's nothing crankier than a teenager walking uphill in the snow and ice with a shopping bag full of imitation dairy beverages.

Hardly a week after the extraordinary winter storm began, the melt was on-sending temperatures flirting with a humid and armpit-ravaging 80F. Texas definitely took a somewhat understandable black-eye over its response to this once-in-a-generation weather event, sending the political posturing and investigations in full swing. But maintaining their usual sense of resiliency and exceptionalism, Texans pulled together in countless ways to help one another survive.

I thank God that I live in the USA-and especially Texas. It ain't perfect, and there's always room to improve, but anybody who has vacationed in Cancun (or anywhere else beyond state lines) will tell you, "There's no place like home-even when it's -5F."

Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" 3-9-21 column



Jase Grave's "Quips and Salsa" columns
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