Today I’d like to raise a glass to second chances.
Last Labor Day Weekend, Jason and I were playing highway hopscotch with our Honda Civic and a rented Penske truck, vying to be the first to cross the state line out of Texas. A cross-section of either vehicle would have made both Tetris aficionados and IKEA stockholders (if there are such things) beam with pride. Sweaters snuggled with salad plates, socks hunkered down in nests of cable cords, all of us bound for a new home in Nashville we’d seen only in a Craigslist ad. No matter. Goodbye death trap highways, soulless subdivisions, and sweating through Halloween. Hello fall foliage, rolling landscapes, and living so close to home we’d barely have to stop for gas. After meandering from Indiana to Ohio to Texas, I was certain Tennessee would be our last stop.
It took only a few months to prove me wrong. The short explanation? The job that brought us there was eliminated in December. The long one is wrought with disappointment, disillusionment, anxiety and depression—with some insect infestations, hacked bank accounts, and a car accident thrown in for color. Even when we tried to put on our brave faces (“Let’s just get out of the house and take our mind off things,” the conversation often began), Music City seemed to spite us—offering pizza that tasted that Chef Boyardee smeared on a tortilla, trapping us in a line of fifty cars waiting for one of fifteen spots at our local hiking trail, or interrupting an otherwise pleasant outing with a phone call from work: someone’s sick, we’re under a tornado watch, we need you to come in. Even pouring a glass of wine was a hassle, requiring an extra errand (only liquor stores can sell it), advance planning (they’re not open Sundays), and twice the cash you’d need anywhere else (our budget red, a Rex Goliath Cabernet, was sometimes on sale for $12; I’ve never seen it priced above $6 elsewhere). Not to give the impression that we’re lushes, but after 215 consecutive hard days, it starts to add up.
Then one day I heard myself agreeing to something I vowed never to do again: moving back to Texas.
It was hard to argue with the facts. Jason was offered a great job in McKinney. It paid more. It offered better benefits. His close friend from grad school already worked there. Rent would be cheaper (apparently Nashville landlords have taken a cue from Nashville liquor stores) and we’d have friends again (a perk that knows no price tag). Jason even threw in something to sweeten the offer: if I agreed to go, he’d buy me the laughably expensive mid-century sofa I’d been pining after for two years.
Texas has been notably kinder to us this time around. The summer was actually mild (you could count the triple-digit days on two hands versus fourteen) and we haven’t gotten in a single profanity-inducing traffic jam. McKinney has its fair share of soulless subdivisions, but it also has a charming downtown, incredible farmers market, and libraries that smell like sunshine and drywall instead of…well…urine (sorry, Nashville). Our apartment costs hundreds less than the squirrel-infested, questionably-wired one in Tennessee—yet comes with granite countertops, central air, and a freaking lazy river. (And I must say, the couch looks quite lovely here.)
So here’s to Texas, in all its infuriating glory. Here’s to cheap wine, great restaurants, free museums, and old friends. Here’s to good guacamole and margaritas that aren’t (insert snobbish upturning of nose) from a mix. Here’s to new beginnings and second chances and yet another adventure. Cheers!
4-Ingredient Guacamole | Serves 1-2
A stripped-down version of a Tex Mex favorite. Word to the wise: if you wear contacts, you might consider removing them before handling the jalapeño (or perhaps enlisting help from a friend who won’t have to touch his eye in the next six hours). Unless you know a secret for quickly removing the oil from your hands, in which case, PLEASE SHARE!
- 1 avocado
- 1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 garlic clove (or 1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic)
- Pinch of salt
Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Finely dice the jalapeño and mince the garlic; add the garlic and 1-2 tablespoons diced jalapeño to the avocado, along with a pinch of salt. Using a fork, mash the avocado until mixture is creamy but still contains some chunks, making sure the jalapeño and garlic are evenly distributed. Serve with tortilla chips.
No-Mix Margaritas | Yields 2 drinks
Living in Texas turns you into a margarita snob. There are many variations on this classic recipe (shamelessly ripped from the label of the Tres Agaves bottle), but no matter how you change it up, you must start with a fresh lime. Not a just-add-alcohol mix. Not bottled lime juice. Limes. Got it? Good.
- 4 oz. (1/2 cup) tequila
- 2 oz. (1/4 cup) agave nectar
- 2 oz. (1/4 cup) freshly squeezed lime juice
- Kosher salt
- Extra limes, for garnish
Pour some kosher salt onto a plate and set aside. Juice limes into a 2-cup measuring cup (the kind with a spout and a handle works best) and set aside. Using one of the squeezed-out lime hulls, wet the rim of two glasses. Dip the rims in salt and add 3-4 ice cubs.
Add tequila and agave nectar to the measuring cup and stir well. Pour into prepared glasses. Garnish with lime wedges.