In 2011 I attempted to explain Texas. I think this blog post bridges the gap between Texas and the rest of the world.
The other night, we were having a rambling conversation about all sorts of things and somehow we landed on the ridiculous liquor laws in Colorado and the even more ludicrous liquor laws in Texas. I was also amused to know liquor stores are called “Party Stores” in Michigan. I think that’s much more poetic than Package Store or Liquor Store. Especially for the lonely alcoholic who–through the process of drinking themselves to a slow death have alienated everyone they know or love–can delude themselves further by running after their drug of choice at the Party Store. Because life is a big party if you’re just a half a bottle of Jim Beam from the DT’s.
The Girl finds Texas Culture fascinating and I like to entertain her with stories and attempt to educate her on the nuances of living in Texas. The other night I tried to explain what the liquor laws were like during the 80’s in Texas. She just thought Colorado’s laws were silly. Showed her! Cuz Texas has to do it bigger and sillier than everyone else.
At 18 in the great state of Texas, I was drinking legally. If I wanted to fill up the Pontiac Sunbird with as many cases of Miller as the little yellow car could hold, I could do that at any given filling station within my voting precinct. However, if I wanted a bottle of wine or hard liquor, I had to drive at least fifteen miles to the closest liquor store where I could–as a senior in high school–purchase as much wine and hard liquor my car could hold. I could even legally pop open a bottle of Jack Daniels and swig from it as I sat in afternoon rush hour traffic. But I couldn’t make my purchases before noon or ever on Sunday. I could however, drive from one end of the Metroplex to the other while enjoying a cold adult beverage or twelve of my choice. However, if I drove six blocks to the north east or west of my home back then, I entered a dry precinct and beer was not available. It was also necessary for all alcoholic beverage purchases to be placed in a plain brown bag. A Methodist minister friend of mine once quipped: “That’s so nobody sees what the Baptists and Church of Christ folks are buying at the gas station.” (I actually forgot about that until just now and it gave me a hardy chuckle) I don’t think I will ever forget the disdainful look with my first Colorado liquor purchase. When I asked didn’t I need a bag, the guy at the counter looked at me like I had just set fire to Rocky Mountain National Park with my flagrant waste of natural resources on a single brown paper bag. It was shocking and naughty to leave the store with an unsheathed bottle of cheap Shiraz and it took me about a year to get used to flaunting my booze out in public. The last time I bought alcohol in Texas I asked the guy if I had to have the bag (trying to be a good steward of the Earth) he narrowed his eyes at me when I suggested he blatantly break the law. Over the last few years things have gone all to Hell in my hometown precinct. You still can’t buy on Sunday but you can now buy wine and hard liquor without getting in your car and driving across the county, no doubt after having enjoyed a beverage or four. Because it makes sense to put the liquor stores way way far away from where people live so they are driving under the influence. I learned this in Lubbock. You had to drive past the city limits to “The Strip” for liquor and beer by the container. I’m not sure why the Baptists thought this would discourage college students from drinking. It wasn’t until just ten years ago (almost to the day) the Texas Legislature made driving with an open container illegal and they only did so due to pressure from the federal government. I have to admit, I snort laughed when I read the carefully worded legislation just before I wrote this piece. The law very carefully spells out what constitutes an open container, the passenger versus the driver side of a vehicle and what constitutes a public highway. It also specifies whether or not the vehicle is moving or not. I can only imagine the good old boys sitting around discussing this law:
“So’s what if I’m on FM 101 between Dime Box and Luling? Can I have my draink open? It’s not a big road an’ there’s hardly any traffic on it ‘sept a couple of ranchers maybe a roughneck drivin’ back to ‘Uston.”
“Nope, 101’s public. Law is gonna read: ‘This includes any public road, street, highway, interstate, or other publicly-maintained way if any part is open for public use for the purpose of motor vehicle travel.'”
“Well Dammit. You found some damn Dallas lawyer to write that didn’t you? Say, what if I’m on my road from the highway to th’ house in Travis county?”
“That’s ok, that’s your road, your property. You can shoot a man if ya’ want. You can have a turkey outa the bottle if you want.”
“How about this. I’m drivin’ home from Austin at Thanksgiving, runnin’ a little late so I’m listenin’ to the game. What if A&M beat those damn tea sips from Austin, after a fumble and a field goal. I’m so happy ’bout this I need to have a draink to celebrate with my boys in the back of the truck. Can we pull off and have a couple of pulls from the Turkey bottle?”
“No sir. ‘ Under the law, a person commits an open container offense by possessing an open container in the passenger area of a motor vehicle regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is stopped or parked. There is an exception for people who are passengers in a bus, taxi, or limousine; or who are in the living quarters of a motorized house coach or motorized house trailer, including a self-contained camper, motor home, or recreational vehicle.'”
“I bet those Dallas lawyers writing this shit aren’t even from Texas. I bet they’re from New York and a teetotaller’ Harvard Methodist to boot. So you’re sayin’ I gotta get me an RV and a driver to take me to and from Austin now? Shit, Imma need a pay raise. where the Hell is George when you need him. Damn…Ya’ think Rick give us a raise or an RV allowance? Ok, what about this. What if I’m riding in the truck and my goody-two-shoes Baptist legislative chief is driving me…Hey that would work…I could get that ole boy to drive me…”
“No. It says in this new law: ‘It does not include a locked glove compartment or a similar storage container that is locked, the trunk of a vehicle, or the area behind the last upright seat of the vehicle if the vehicle does not have a trunk.’ ”
“Oh fer the love of God, why in the Hell did this get passed. This is Texas. We do whatever we damn want.”
“Well…the boys in Washington were gonna pull the federal highway money if we didn’t change the laws.”
“What kind of damn fool would put an open bottle of whiskey in a glove compartment, that would right out ruin your gun! That sounds like some fool thing ole Dolph or Ann would try. Get George on the phone, I know he didn’t have nuthin’ to do with this, what with the missus flying’ around the Permian Basin while she was having a few and crumpled up the front end of some feller dumb enough to be wanderin’ around the awl fields. Shee-it might as well be livin’ in Oklahoma.”
*(To be perfectly clear, one of the things I miss about Texas is the politics. It’s quirky and annoying and frustrating and always entertaining. The above is a loving parody and If I’ve insulted you…lighten up a little. Don’t send me emails about what a damn liberal I am because…well I’m not a damn liberal. I’m a damn moderate.)
(I must confess, the open container law is the only thing I did research. Feel free to correct me on the finer points of 1980’s Texas liquor laws. <a href=”http://www.austincounsel.com/2008/05/11/texas-open-container-law-frequently-asked-questions/” target=”new”>My–cough cough–research came from here)