Hot, dry, and sunny – the seasons in Los Angeles have little difference, but the summer in my hometown of Houston, Texas is its own unique spectacle. Summer storms create steamy days with both the temperature and humidity cranked up to one hundred percent. The climate serves as a perfect breeding ground for the mosquitoes who come out to feed during the cool evenings. However, despite the oppressive climate and having to bring two shirts with me everywhere I go, the heat allowed me to forge great memories during my summers in Houston.
I can remember when I was little, walking to my neighbors’ house to pick the figs off of their backyard tree in early June. Years of growth and care had caused the tree to expand across the back corner of our neighbor’s backyard, and this yearly ritual provided my sister and I with enough fruit to last us until the next summer. We were always greeted with a warm smile and a hug as we scurried, buckets in hand, towards our fruity symbol of summer. Throughout the rest of the summer the figs would make their way into salads, preservatives, desserts, and ultimately, our stomachs, and over time summer simply wasn’t summer without the ripe fruit on the dinner table.
As I grew older, the summer brought with it music festivals, exciting vacations, and road trips with friends but, with age, came hard work. The summer after my junior year of high school my dad insisted I spend some time working at the family business. Since my great-grandfather opened Carl Poe Company, my family has been repairing gas meters and selling their parts for over fifty-five years. So, instead of having a nice office job or internship like some of my friends, I labored in the oven-like workshop disassembling gas meters for repair. It wasn’t lazy days spent by the pool or the thrilling vacation I’d desired, but it was a much needed lesson, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Those sweaty hours of swinging a hammer and dismantling meters with my pneumatic screwdriver taught me the importance of preparing for the future. Though I arrived begrudgingly everyday at eight o’clock at the forceful request of my father, the job provided me with experience I’d need when applying to future jobs, not to mention a little extra cash.
Two years before coming to Los Angeles to study at USC, my family and I moved from Chicago, Illinois to Dallas, Texas., a state where two things are undeniable: 1:. That barbeque is doggone good. 2. That the infamous slogan, “Everything is Bigger in Texas” is an understatement! I also quickly learned that Texans are not ashamed of greeting anyone with a hearty ‘Hey Y’all’! Y’all is an American slang word, an abbreviation of the term “You all,” and is mainly used in the southern parts of the U.S.
I was also surprised at another phenomenal here: fried food! Sure, I had heard of fried chicken and fried shrimp, but never in my life had I ever come across fried butter! Lo and behold leave it to Texans to transform the butter you spread so smoothly on toast into a fried dish worth writing about. I found out about fried butter and other remarkable treats when I spent a day at the Annual Texas State Fair.
Every fall, the Texas State Fair takes place in Fair Park, near downtown Dallas. After living in Dallas for two months, my family and I decided to go out and take part in something new and entertaining. On a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in October, we were in for a very amusing treat. On this particular day, the fair hosted the Red River Rivalry Classic Football Game which is a historically, well-known matchup between the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Oklahoma Sooners in the notable Cotton Bowl Stadium. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this two team matchup has the same intensity and energetic fan base as a USC vs UCLA rivalry game. Many in the crowds were dressed in either orange for their support of the Longhorns or red for the Oklahoma Sooners. I wore a gray Texas Longhorns shirt to show some love for the home state.
When I first walked into the fair entrance, I was amazed at the array of tall flag poles arranged in a semicircle each representing a flag of a different country. While walking through the fair event, there were food booths located on each side. In the air I could smell a variety of many flavors, not one short of pure deliciousness. On our sightseeing and food tasting journey, we also made a stop at the animal farm, where I saw live chickens, geese, roosters, and turkeys right in front of me. I had actually never seen these animals up close before. We also visited small shops selling a unique collection of handmade jewelry, paintings and cowboy/western clothes and memorabilia. The highlight of my afternoon was taking a picture of the grandest Texan of all named Big Tex (pictured above). He’s a cultural icon for both the city of Dallas and Texas in general and he stands an incredible 55 feet tall.