The term Texas seems to evoke emotional responses from many people, most especially Americans. Either as a source of pride or embarrassment, except Austin which I’m told isn’t “real” Texas. Which is ironic because Texas’ State Capitol Building is located there and while many things are bigger in Texas – the pride is pouring out the doors of this building isn’t matched by many offices anywhere else.
Stumbling out of a downtown Austin cafe in a caffeine daze after a morning of typing my mind numb, I wandered up to this Austin icon, walking in the door and asked if there were any tours or access inside. A day before Christmas they said yes, didn’t mind my backpack filled with electronics, wires, and spare computer parts; and told me tours were free about every 30 minutes.
Now normally government buildings are pretty boring and combined with tours they throw me back to college classes where I got the best sleep of my life. But what people love and hate about Texas is what I can’t get enough of. Sure, there’s the over-sized aspect to everything (a tradition American colonists found and cultivated with the native peoples in the area when they arrived) but there is also passion and pride. To a degree you don’t often find in the North Americas or northern-Europe-world – this crazed, reverent acceptance of virtue, flaw, and land. It’s almost Italian…and if you’ve ever been to Italy, you know what I’m talking about.
Probably the most surprising yet interesting demonstration of this Texan pride struck me after the tour when I was allowed to wander around the building freely, as all visitors are. If the doors are open you can enter any of the offices and conference rooms and take photos all you want. It was explained to me that this policy is because “we think we have the best capitol building in the country and want to show it off.”
Whether it’s the door hinges that remind you of where you are (they’re all labeled by the way), the stars on every doorknob, the parts of Texas you can’t capture with a camera, or the fact that the Texas State Capitol Building is 6.7 meters taller than the US Capitol, this building says a lot about what Texas is and is not.