I feel for Texas. The pictures from Hurricane Harvey are pretty horrific. (The pictures from Sierra Leone where hundreds lost their lives in mudslides after torrential rains collapsed entire hillsides are equally terrible, as were the scenes from Peru last spring where floods killed hundreds and left 700,000 homeless.)
Water has a terrible power…and a lasting effect on its victims. I spend way too much time watching videos of tsunamis on YouTube. Those Texans are going be cleaning up and rebuilding for a long, long time. So many lives, upended; so many plans, ruined.
I’ve only spent a little time in Texas. The last time I was there was a few years ago helping my son – Calder’s Father, the Sculptor – drive a rental trunk full of his work from a show of his in Houston back to Los Angeles.
We weren’t in Houston long, but we had a taste of a harsh, nasty Gulf storm. Nothing like Harvey obviously, but we got completely, ridiculously soaked in a very short period of time. And there was instant 100% humidity, right after the storm. We joked with the waitress who served our lunch that housing costs in Houston are low because the weather is so horrible. (Even though we were near the Gulf, there were signs on certain bridges that they could freeze in winter. What kind of a strange climate is that?)
One thing that struck me as we drove through Texas was the careless, almost haphazard arrangement of buildings. Everywhere you could see oil wells and heavy equipment interspersed in neighborhoods. Industry right in the middle of residential areas, some next to schools and playgrounds. They don’t zone too seriously in Texas.
Here are some good places to send money to help the victims of Harvey:
Harvey was the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. It seems that this time the effects are worse because of a combination of factors: the loss of freshwater wetlands (at least 30% in the past twenty-five years), inadequate flood control to keep up with population growth, continued construction floodways along the bayous, etc.
Sure, Harvey was a once-in-a-long-time storm, but Houston has had three big storms in the past few years. Like it or not, this is just the beginning of huge hurricanes and storms like Harvey. As climate change raises the temperature of the oceans, evaporation increases, bringing more moisture into the atmosphere to fall as rain. As someone once said, “A hard rain’s gonna fall.”
Most Texans have pulled together and there have been many, many acts of bravery and self-sacrifice during this ordeal. There have also been reports of price-gouging. But, as Anne Frank said, “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
I wonder: as they rebuild Houston, will they plan for the weather of the future, or go back to their heedless development-above-all ways of past?
But for all its problems, past and future, Texas is home to some of the best singers and songwriters in the history of American music.
Here are a few of them, to remind us how much America needs Texas, if only for the music:
BUDDY HOLLY – “That’ll Be the Day” – on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (fragment)
“Oh Boy” from Ed Sullivan
WILLIE NELSON – “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “Night Life” – live, 1976 – with some great Mickey Raphael harmonica
TOWNES VAN ZANDT – “Pancho and Lefty” – live, 1993 – introduced by Nanci Griffith
DOUG SAHM – “The Rains Came” – live from Austin, 1975 --- with the great Augie Meyers on organ
NANCI GRIFFITH – “Trouble In the Fields” – live,
LYLE LOVETT – “Nobody Knows Me” – live, 2003
GEORGE STRAIT – “Carrying Your Love With Me” – live, 1997 – no guitar, but what a voice
STEVE EARLE -- "You're the Best Lover I've Ever Had"— with the Dukes, last year
With the Del McCoury Band – "I Still Carry You Around"
"My Old Friend the Blues" – from Farm Aid
RAY WYLIE HUBBARD – "Snake Farm"
RAY WYLIE HUBBARD – "Screw You, We're From Texas" – "The problem with irony is not everyone gets it."
STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN – some great stage moments by a Master
MARCIA BALL – “Find Another Fool” – live, 1990 – hot, slow blues
KRIS KRISTOFFERSON – “Sunday Morning Coming Down” – live at the Johnny Cash Memorial – one of his “four perfect songs”
“Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad
So I had one more for dessert
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day”
It doesn’t get much better than that.
And last but not least –
ERNEST TUBB, “the Texas Troubadour” – “Waltz Across Texas”
Ernest Tubb – “Walking the Floor Over You” – from the movie “Fightin Buckaroo” (1943)
Ernest Tubb – “Driving Nails In My Coffin” -- live