April 21, 2005

The Capital of Boys and Girls

1. There’s a fraternity house just north of the UT campus that looks like it must be the most gung-ho establishment around. They’ve got the usual American flags and pro–war signs; lots of the brothers wear butch crewcuts; and once a year they redecorate their exterior with camouflage scenery and create a recruiting pageant advertising their culture. Sometimes the pledges parade on their lawn in fatigue uniforms, carrying practice rifles. I assume they’re members of ROTC and aspire to military careers.

But it reminds me of when I was a child in the Fifties, and my friends and I would turn the cement railings in front of our apartment buildings into horses. Leaping on and straddling, jumping up and down on our motionless steeds and shouting, “Giddyap!” as we chased imaginary bad guys and Indians.

In the frat house parking lot yesterday I saw a pickup truck with this bumper sticker:


Son, I don’t object to any of your beliefs (although I’m no fan of this president). What worries me is the way you link the three together as if they were a holy trinity. God roots for your school team, and international relations are a matter of kicking the other guy’s ass and winning the championship.

A world run by boys playing soldier.

I hope they get back safely and honorably from wherever they’re going.

2. Austin is publicly known as the Live Music Capital of the World, but among the cognoscenti – that is, me, and now you – it’s called the Pretty Girl Capital of the World. We don’t have glum haughty fashionistas like Manhattan, or artificial women wearing $100,000 worth of plastic surgery like Los Angeles, or trophy wives with Martian hair and nails like Dallas – we have real girls who are pretty, and that’s the best thing in the world. Every height and shape and skin color, on this campus of 60,000 students. They’re streaming to class en masse in the sunlight. They’ve been to volleyball practice – they’ve been studying with their laptops at the café (fortunate laptops, to be on such laps!) – they’re relaying the latest gossip on their phones -- they’re ready for the test and they’re all getting A’s. They’re bright and healthy and confident. They’re calm and they can handle you. Each one has her own distinctive look, without seeming to care about it. They are the spring breeze.

What happens when those boys and those girls come together? It’s the mystery of the ages.