This book Welcome To Utopia: Notes From A Small Town is a good read. The perspective surprised me, a native Texan, because I grew up in that small town atmosphere. This account comes from a New York City girl, Karen Valby, who moves to Utopia, Texas for the purpose of writing this book. She follows some regulars at the Utopia General Store “The coffee drinkers” branching out to all the people who intersect them in life.
It wasn’t an earth-shattering, life-changing book, just a good read for someone who has been there. I’m not one of the “Coffee Drinkers” in life but my father was so I guess I’m one of those whose life was impacted by that little Texas ritual. My father always found time to sit and drink coffee and chat about anything and everything. Wherever he was or whoever he met, it was the next question after his greeting…”Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”
The dictionary says that Utopia is an imaginary place described as perfect or ideal in all aspects. Karen Valby points out that Utopia is definitely not perfect. Most of its young folk want to leave but many find themselves pulled back into what they know to be familiar and then learning to like it.
I remember going to school in Pearland and how I couldn’t wait to leave. I didn’t want to grow old with the Texas twang snarling my speech, and a dead-end job at the local insurance agency. I didn’t want to have a husband and two point five children.
I did, too. I went to Chicago almost immediately after high school. It was an exhilarating experience. After a few years and dozens of people falling asleep listening for the END of a story I was telling, I learned to speak faster with more clipped non-accented words. Now I’m hard pressed to come up with Texan words, though I do “dish up” folks from the stove, and I usually am “fixin’ to” do something, most of my “Texian” has disappeared from my vocab-bank. I completely lost the “R” in the word ‘wash’, as in “I’m doing the warshing up.” It’s gone. I don’t say it anymore and I blame Chicago for that. While living there I was once asked to please spell ‘wash’. Then that person asked “where is the ‘r’ then?”
I’ve run into people I went to high school with who still live in Pearland. I had good friends I’ve reconnected with. I’m glad for that but just as glad I’ve had the experiences I’ve had, too.
And I’ve come full circle – in Houston with a husband and two point five children (I count the dog as the point five).
Still not Utopia. But it’s all good.