They ask me how's Lubbock so far; I've been here only what, four months maybe, so I don't really know. People are nice. It's easy to get around, and has a small-town feel, everyone knows everyone more or less. It's got an economy, which is more than you can say for anything northeast of about St. Louis.
It's odd, though, that the town has developed so far out south and west, and more or less left the downtown empty. I went downtown to the library on Saturday, and once more, the streets were virtually empty. I saw an entire block, empty. No shops to speak of, no Christmas shopping going on, that I could tell. At the library, there was a policeman; the library, at least, had a lot of people. It was maybe the only place that had a lot of people. Ah, but then, it's worm in there, and it's cold out, and it's always open, I think that explains the policeman.
Then tonight I went out to a friends' house way out south, on the edge of development and cotton fields, a good nine miles from our house in town. Out there, he said, there's plenty of traffic, plenty of business, plenty going on all the time. There's water, he said, at the corner of Indiana and ninety-eighth, this water comes from local businesses that water their lawns all the time, but the lawns are red clay and the water doesn't seep back into it. It ends up on the street where people splash it around but it has nowhere to go until it evaporates. So I said, it's nice here, I'd like to invite my kids and my relatives to settle around here, but it seems, if the ogallala aquifer is on its way down, and everyone is just spraying water on red clay left and right until it's gone, then the place doesn't have that much of a future. OK so they're bringing in water from the nearby lake. Maybe that will help for what, a few years? But that water is from the Brazox. There's no infinite supply of natural water anywhere. Ten, twenty years from now people will start fighting over what's left. We'll blame the people with those green lawns and point fingers for wasting all that water for so many years, letting it run into the streets like that and evaporate away because it has nowhere to go.
Ah but in the meantime, people have these nice new cars; gas is below three; the sun shines and they keep building out into the cotton fields. The guy sells off his cotton field little by little to the developer and doesn't care how much cotton he gets off of it; some of it drops from the plants near the road and lines the fence along with paper and garbage strewn out in the country there, blown by the wind. I feel like getting out of the car and grabbing some of it if only because it has to be part of an era. Who can justify pulling up so much aquifer water for that cotton, so that the cotton can just blow around the plains getting in tumbleweeds? Cotton is prosperity and it keeps the banks and the new cars coming, but, does it take our future in the form of the water we'd need to stay here permanently? And those people who are serious about the cotton, growing it in huge bales, irrigating like crazy, what else do they have to do to the red clay to make it come forth with all this cotton? I'm not clear on how this works.
And another thing, the people just outside of town, have their own wells, no water restriction at all, they can draw up whatever they want. Is that because they have another source besides the ogallala? Or because it's just assumed they're using it only for themselves and not for bales of cotton? Not, for example, just leaving a hose running by a tree until the water shoots out and fills up the streetcorner?
A playa is a plains lake, just sits there until it evaporates; maybe in the old days the water had ways of getting down through the soil, back to from whence it came, the ogallala reservoir. These days, places like ninety-eighth and Indiana are playas, because they collect the water too, and everyone knows that, and takes University when it rains. If somebody can explain this to me, please do; one issue is that the city as we know it is so new, nobody has applied themselves to figuring out how to make it survive over time. Another issue is, there are really two cities. One, the old one, has been here a while, but is fading back into the plain. The other, new, aggressive, drill baby drill, get it while you still can, and then maybe if you have some money in a Swiss bank, when the water runs out, maybe you can head out to the south of France or some such place, because you'll be used to the warm dry sun, and you'll have a taste for the monied lifestyle. I feel like one of those old cowboys, squatting in the shadow of the saloon, weighing it back and forth, by the time he's made up his mind, the wagon's up and left town for better parts, the history it leaves behind, merely the suggestion that things could have been better.