"Ah, so we see that fire ants in the underwear can change the course of whole governments." - Pearl Forrester, MST3K
Nolan Ryan is one difference. If he'd been born in Fairbanks, well, he'd have been one heck of a miner.
It takes a while to get the feeling of the place. The sights, the sounds, the smells take a while to permeate your being. It’s a lot like being the carpet at the Angelina/Brad house – oh, they look like clean, scrubbed celebrities, but in reality Angelina showered last April and Brad rubs ham on his hair to keep that “just got up” look. Okay, I don’t know that Brad rubs ham on his head, but, really, who could tell?
Okay, cheating Hollywood couples aside, it’s time for a column to discuss the differences in Houston and Fairbanks by a clever use of juxtaposition. (I used to think that juxtaposition was a word that you only Pamela Anderson would know, and would involve a lot of liquids that decreased friction. Then I went to grad school, and learned that it meant side-by-side comparison. Imagine my disappointment.)
I’ll try to avoid the Yakov Smirnov type comparisons: “In Fairbanks, air iss cold. In Houston, air colds you!!!”
See why I’m going to avoid that? Yeah. Thought so.
Anyhow, part of what I’m seeing now is very disturbing. When it’s the coldest part of January, well, in Fairbanks, all of the bugs are very, very dead. Last week I saw a wasp and several species of bugs of such complexity that they looked like they were getting ready to star in a Sci-Fi™ channel movie, and not as the good guy.
The bugs themselves could take up a whole column. The red imported fire ant, solenopsis invicta is one. I grew up with ants, red ones that bit and hurt. Then I moved to Alaska, where any ant you’d see would be as big as your finger, but not bite and be primarily interested in chewing wood, slowly. They were called “carpenter ants.” Made you think of pale people singing songs like, “I’m on Top of the World,” and then not eating enough and dying. Fire ants are known as such because their sting feels like being burned by fire. I prefer the carpenter ants, unless they’ve got circular saws by now.
Invictus is Latin for “unconquered.” I’ve never been intimidated by a small, hive-bound insect before, but when some sort of bespectacled scientist decides to name an ant “unconquered,” well, you know that the ant must be a bit tougher than the average ant. There are also things called “grubs,” “termites.” and “ticks.” None of those live in Alaska.
Right now they share the house with me, but contribute little to the mortgage payment. I’ll let you know how that works out.
Traffic is horrendous here. On a Saturday, you might end up at a red light with fifty cars behind you. In Fairbanks, it’s rare that there are fifty operable cars. I drive an hour to work. In Fairbanks, I could drive an hour and be an hour away from anyone.
In Fairbanks, the crimes were mainly petty home burglary and domestic violence. In Houston, well, there are violent muggings, car-jackings, and bank robberies. In many cases, when it comes on the radio that the Chase® Bank was robbed, well, it makes you wonder if it was the Chase® Bank on the north side of the street, or the one on the south side.
Texas is like Fairbanks in that everybody has a gun. I appear to be an outlier, since when I began to discuss the guns that I own and the fact that I think that a .44 magnum is woefully underpowered from an Alaska standpoint, most people begin to feel that I should register as a military organization. In Alaska, well, people wondered why I called those puny things “weapons.”
Housing prices are lower, too. I don’t really understand that, since, well, Alaska’s made of land, and, well, it’s huge. But in Houston you can buy a house with a pool and granite countertops for what a gallon of milk would cost in Fairbanks, unless it was moose milk, in which case you could buy a mall down here.
Next, more witty observations about life in Houston, and clever, baby-oil covered juxtapositions. Because you can never get enough baby-oil.