Launched in 2017 and based in Williamson County, Texas, WHY ARE Y'ALL HERE? is a travelog for restless folks with big questions and a love/hate relationship with the most (in)famous state in the country. I explore all 254 Texas counties through photos, maps, music, videos, writing, and--most importantly--interviews with local residents about why we are where we are and how you can get there, too, if ya want. Y'all enjoy!
As you may have noticed, there is a bit of a theme developing here. I haven't always been this obsessed or enamored with Texas. Born and raised here, my feelings were neutral, or some combination of warm and cool. For instance, I loved going to the State Fair as a kid, but Big Tex was terrifying; not so much his 52 feet stature, but the way his dummy mouth moved didn't always sync up with what he was saying. That incongruity really bothered the shit outta my five-year-old self, but nothing some cotton candy and corn dogs couldn't fix. Come to think of it, adult me busted out lauging whenever I heard news that ol' Big Tex had caught fire, yet I felt strangely forlorn. Like I should have been there when it happened.
There wasn't a single "aha!" epiphany moment, however 3 realizations do come to mind.
1. GOOGLE ME THIS
On average I keep about a dozen tabs open in my internet browser and have a very wide range of interests driven partly by social media (Facebook and Reddit, primarily) and partly by search engine results after typing in something in the url bar/Google search. I wondered what kind of questions other people ask and how that differs from state to state, and found this May 2016 article and map by Estately, "You Won't Believe The Questions Each State Googles More Than Any Other State".
2. WRANGLING DATA AND ROPING GEOCODES DOWN ON THE APPLE CUBE FARM (it's really more of a cube ranch, given the size of the campus)
I was sitting at work in my cubicle in Austin around November 2016, on contract at Apple in one of their Maps Development teams. Without violating my confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement, let's just say I've virtually visited thousands of places on every continent. Doing digital work on physical locations I would mostly never see struck me as both astounding and depressing. Then one day, I worked on a portion of the map a few minutes away and thought, yes, I can go to that VERTS restaurant off of Parmer. Actually, I can get to anywhere in Texas in less than a day, granted a very long day if I want to get to the Panhandle or El Paso, but a day none-the-less. Yes, I can do that. And I will do that. I must do that. And along they way, I will make digital changes to Google Maps from the physical location. Nothing against Apple, I just don't own and currently can't afford a product that has Apple Maps and there isn't an Android version of the app (I asked). :( But, if I get an iPhone or iPad, I could get Google Maps AND Apple Maps on the same device...hmmm.
3. WHERE DO I PUT MY HOME PIN?
A feature in both Google Maps and Apple Maps is the ability to remember the geocode/address for your home. You can't change your "home" pin through the actual Apple Maps application. (do it through Contacts, please, for the love of God, you'll thank me, or, you won't, but what you want to happen will happen). I changed my home pin so to speak 11 times by age 18, 37 times by the time I was 30, and 45 times as of 2016. I have lived in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Colorado, California, and Minnesota. With the exception of one summer spent working in a box factory in Loudon County, TN, and one month spent in Naval Station Great Lakes, in Lake County, IL, (entry-level separation from the Navy, basically I told the truth about myself at the moment of truth, they sent me back to Texas) I spent my first 30 years entirely in Texas (McLennan County, Dallas County, Ellis County, Camp County, Williamson County, Harris County, Travis County). Now that I think about it, that's partly why I've chosen counties as a theme for this journey. I've moved around and lived/worked/went to school in so many damn places throughout my life, I need a space bigger than a city to explore, or I feel restless and constrained, or maybe my smartphone and current staring at 2 screens for 8 to 10 hours a day job are rotting my attention--squirrel!--span away.
Because it is fun, because this state is as ridiculous as it is vast, and if you already live here, you could actually go to some, most, or all of these places.