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Bagels & Big-Haired Women -- Illustration by Mike Lester space holder

Four years ago,
J.R. Lieber fell off the turnip truck in Texas.
He hit his head hard.

LIKE THE AMERICAN pioneers of yore who headed west in search of freedom and fortune, this loyal Penn man (Class of 1979) and archetypal yuppie of the Eastern Establishment had hitched a ride on a covered wagon -- in this case an American Airlines jet -- to build a new life in a strange and exotic land. It was a place without the three necessities of life: cheesesteaks, bagels, or home delivery of The New York Times.
   How could this penny-loafer-, buttondown-shirt-, and khaki-pants-wearing preppie reared in private schools and New England summer camps survive the harsh wilderness? How could somebody who grew up in the Yankee capital, New York City, someone who never saw a western movie, listened to a country music song, or watched a rodeo learn to say "Y'all?" How could he prevail in the land of the big-haired women?
   Similar to the message painted by 19th-century pioneers on the front doors of their abandoned Midwestern homes as they headed for the Lone Star State, J.R. had GTT, short for gone to Texas. Yes, he had gone to the home of the hated Dallas Cowboys, chicken-fried steak, and l0-gallon hats.
   This greenhorn had many strikes against him. He was a Jew moving to the buckle of the Baptist Bible Belt. A Bella Abzug liberal settling in a state that had elected and reelected Phil Gramm to the U.S. Senate. A divorcee in a place that supposedly cherished family values. Perhaps most troubling, though, he was the newly-hired columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- a member of the despised news media. And as Texas's newest and least experienced newspaper columnist, he was supposed to offer Texans his opinions about how to act, think, and live their lives. In other words, he was supposed to act the way Texans thought Yankees were supposed to act -- like a fathead know-it-all.
   Not since those brave soldiers attempted to fortify a stone mission structure in San Antonio known as the Alamo had someone in Texas seemed so ripe for failure. By all expectations, the Yankee Cowboy should have been tarred and feathered, lynched from a Texas oak, or chased by a posse all the way back to his old haunt in West Philadelphia. How in the world could J.R. fit in?
   And should he bother to try? Continued...
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Copyright 1997 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 11/13/97