In this land of Bubbas and Bubbettes, where grown men are called Billy Bob until they expire, the prince of Wales is being referred to as good ol' Prince Chuck.
And being tolerant sorts, Austinites just barely grumble over the fact that Prince Chuck doesn't speak English a 'tall. "Y'all can't understand a word he says," commented one.
The local press is nothing if not patriotic. Reporting on Prince Chuck's stop in Dallas, the Austin American-Statesman observed that "the sky was blue, the carpet was red and the governor was White."
There was intense high drama when Prince Chuck broke rank and actually touched a Kilgore Rangerette on her bare arm during one crowd walk-through, but the big news was bigness, Texas being in the bigness bidness and all. Today's second lead in the Austin American-Statesman -- getting as much ink as "Senate Slams Election Fraud in Philippines" -- was that the prince would cut the World's Largest Cake with a replica of Sam (the George Washington of Texas) Houston's sword.
What everyone has a hard time explaining is why Prince Charles is here at all. They also have a hard time pronouncing it, since getting a Texas tongue around a word like sesquicentennial is not easy.. The speaker of the House, Gib Lewis, has settled for "cess-quennial" or sometimes "cess-quential." Then Lewis thanked his colleagues for "extinguishing yourselves this session." He is fond of saying "a problem is a two-headed sword" and "skim the cream off the crop."
Locals, smarting at a New York Times article that said the short-lived Texas Republic (1836-1845) "fizzled out," insist that "the U.S. begged us to join the Union." England's prince was not the only royal to be invited to participate in the republic's 150th anniversary. The state also asked representatives from such former occupiers as Spain, France and Mexico plus West Germany. So far, all have been no shows. The prince is here, explains Lynn Nabers, head of the sesquicentennial celebration, "basically good-willing and looking at the high tech all over this state."
Now for a few words about The Cake. A team of 150 worker bees worked till dawn today in the Austin Coliseum, slapping together a 90,000-pound cake that was about the size of two basketball courts. It really was quite a scene, as cake baking goes; 31,026 boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix, 93,108 eggs, serves 300,000. Looking at 2l,000 sheet cakes being spread across the floor, the huge paint buckets filled with frosting, one of the workers, April Smith, said, "Three of us here have made several of these stupid things," including the biggest omelet in the world [12,800 eggs] and the world's largest chocolate chip cookie [600 feet long]. Just to show that tackiness has no limits, the Texas cake is bordered with 18 Duncan Hines logos.
Austin is the one city in Texas somewhat like the rest of the nation. In the '60s it peacefully harbored hippies. The city's patron saint, Willie Nelson, brought them and the cowboys together with his music in the now-departed Armadillo World Headquarters. "There is this cliche' of corporate Texas excess, the Duncan Hines cake and all that crap, but there's a lot less of it in Austin than Houston and Dallas," says agricultural commissioner Jim Hightower. A University of Texas professor, Stuart Schoffman, transplanted from Brooklyn via Harvard and Los Angeles, where he writes movie scripts, said, "The people I know wouldn't dream of living anywhere else in Texas. We even have a Katz deli. The food's awful -- but it's still called Katz."
Austin remains the town where people desperate to get out of Dimebox, Luzbuddy, Flatonia and Fred, Texas want to go. Although still mellow compared with the enshrined materialism of Houston and Dallas, Austin has definitely been Yupped Up with the influx of what the remaining liberals call "Granola Republicans."
Yuppification has even come to Whole Foods, the 1960s hippie natural food store. "In the suburban branches you've got these women who come in in their minks. Now I tell you, it is sure a sight in Whole's to see these women wearing dead animals and reading Ultra, the magazine for Texas rich," says Molly Ivins, columnist for the Dallas Times Herald. So far, there has been no taco quiche in Austin, although Ivins reports that "the usually reliable Mad Dog Helmer [senior editor of Playboy from Pharr] swears there have been sightings of taco quiche in Kerrville."
The idea in recent years has been to create a mini Silicon Valley in Austin and such high-tech companies as IBM, 3M and Westinghouse have moved here, bringing outsiders with them. This causes some of the "kickers" (never ask what a kicker kicks) to sport such pickup bumper stickers as "If you ain't Texan, you ain't [expletive]." Or the more refined "If you weren't born here, you don't belong."
On any given day, about half of Austin can be found relentlessly jogging its way to perfection on the Town Lake hike and bike trail, streaking the six-mile loop so fast that they barely notice a truly lovely bit of land beautified in the long ago by Lady Bird.
A disappointment for visitors is that down-home country music has faded in popularity, back to where it was before the Jimmy Carter "it-ain't-tacky-to-be-southern-no-more" era. The Short Horn ballroom went out of business and the Broken Spoke only has live music three nights a week.
Sixth Street on a Saturday night looks more like Georgetown than Texas, filled with milling punkers, preppies from the University of Texas and just a smattering of good ol' boys. There is a lot of heavy-metal rock, some '60s rock, some fine blues singers and a new wave of Chicano music expected to be big soon.
Yuppification has truly hit Texas; the Chablis is now home grown. There is Ste. Genevieve Fume Blanc from Pecos Valley, for example. Texas humorists take vintnering in their stride, coming up with such suggested names as the Yellow Rose' of Texas. Many vineyards are in Erath County, inspiring, you guessed it, the Grapes of Erath.
Agriculture commissioner Hightower solemnly reports that Texas may have a way to go but it is ahead of Mississippi in fine wines, where they have yet to make Biloxi Beaujolais.