Friday, July 06, 2007

The View From Outside .....

I remember an evening, twenty years ago or so, standing next to a hotel's vending machine and ice dispenser, visiting with a number of recent arrivals to the Tall City, as they took stock of the land and the community in which they would now be living .....

"Can you believe this place," one asked.

"Small town," said another. "Way too small."

"I'm going to fly my family in at night, on a late flight," said a third, "try to ease them into all this."

They were employees of a major oil and gas company which had recently closed its Denver office, consolidating personnel and operations in its Midland office. I listened with interest ..... my favorite landman (an employee of that same company) and I were also recent arrivals, from Dallas. But in our case, we had lived in Midland before, and we were happy to be back.

I suspect that, given some time, many of those from Denver came to know this town and its people better, and to appreciate them.

I also suspect that many natives - or longtime residents - of West Texas and southeast New Mexico, may not have any real sense of how Midland looks to those who live elsewhere ..... no real appreciation for the view from outside.

These are thoughts that come to mind as I read the flurry of posts and comments that lit-up West Texas' portion of the blogosphere in response to
this column in the Austin American Statesman by John Kelso. Among those weighing in on the topic were Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, Jimmy at Stick Doorknobs and Ospurt at Jessica's Well.

Me? I understand where Kelso is coming from. I don't agree with all that he says ..... but I remember my first impressions of Midland and the Permian Basin - nearly 25 years ago, when we came here from Albuquerque. New Mexico - and some of those impressions were similar to some of Kelso's.

But I'd also learned not to trust first impressions of something as large and generalized as an entire community. It comes, I guess, from growing up in a military family, and changing hometowns - and home states! - every twelve-to-eighteen months or so. After a while, you discover things that aren't conveyed by a chamber of commerce billboard, or lack thereof ..... after a while you come across many things - both expected and unexpected - that you love and/or hate about Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Quantico, Virginia; Cherry Point, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Bakersfield, California ..... or Midland, Texas.

The idea is to give them a chance ..... and for them to give YOU a chance. And that is where Kelso and I part ways ..... I really wish he displayed some knowledge of his target before taking aim. Over the years, I've heard some great, deprecating jokes about West Texas, its climate, its communities and its people ..... and the best ones were told by natives. I honestly hope that our city and our chamber take the high road, and put together a visit for the man and his family.

It might help ..... I can still remember the day it would have taken an 'arrest' to have made me pull over and stop in the Tall City for anything more than a tank of gas. And - trust me on this - ENVY had nothing to do with it.

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