I have often been asked to explain why I consider Dallas so despicable. It is a fair question, especially when one considers the depth of my contempt for that city relative to, say, Plano, Arlington, Southlake, or Weimar Berlin, all of which induce only mild disgust. Indeed, just the other day, a suspiciously bejeweled gentleman of effete manners accosted me in Waco, ostensibly neutral territory, demanding that I defend my recent book, 1001 Things to Hate About Dallas Before It Dies (which, as you might imagine, recently made for quite a lively reading at the Paperbacks Plus in Mesquite).
The man’s contention, insofar as it was coherent, seemed to be that Houston, my own beloved home, was for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the object of my malice. Correlatively, my attitude toward Big D (big detestation) bespoke a thinly veiled self-hatred of the sort that Marx was thinking of when he dreamed up his concept of false consciousness oh so many decades ago. My reply, of course, was that it was not Marx but Engels who first employed that celebrated phrase in a letter to Mehring. Furthermore, as Mehring later put it in a reply, “Though the depravity and inhumaneness of Mother Russia is pervasive, it masks a genuine underlying joyfulness. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Dallas.”
Throughout the planning and execution of this month’s manifesto, I have been repeatedly accused of trumping up minor differences between two cities purely for the sake of ginning up controversy. Again, not true. I am only trying to sell magazines, which as we all know is no easy task in this Brave New Digital World in which we now find ourselves. And while I did indeed direct my staff to charter a van so that the Houstonia editoriat might be able to add many more instances of Dallas’s shortcomings to our overall tally, I never once asked them to be anything less than candid in their assessments. In every case in which Dallas outpaced Houston (e.g., ragweed allergens), staffers were instructed to report their findings accurately, secure in the knowledge that if their conclusions reflected positively on Dallas, I would reframe the question.
The end result of this labor of loathe, this inquiry into the roots of urban dynamism and decrepitude, this cover story with the utterly inspired title “Houston vs. Dallas” is, I modestly suggest, a gift to all Houstonians, one I offer with the fervent hope that you will regift it in the form of spirited debate, multiple symposia, a bad thesis or two, drunken bar fights, etc.
I of course can’t pretend that one $4.99 magazine will singlehandedly reignite the passions and prejudices that, while now dormant, once propelled each of these cities out of their subtropical torpor and onto the national stage, where one of them still stands. Still, the petty, childish feuding that once defined our relationship seems especially ripe for revival these days, if only because we’ve never been able to properly celebrate our victory.