Dallas, TX –
Last weekend, I had another lengthy conversation about where I went to high school. When I first moved back to Fort Worth, I thought these discussions were really strange, since no one outside of the city had ever heard of Carter-Riverside, let alone cared. But now these discussions are starting to seem normal. They're all part of a central fact I've recognized about my hometown, that it is supremely sticky.
Here's what I mean. Weekend Edition Sunday had a story a few months ago on a Pew Research Center study that categorized states as either "sticky" or "magnetic." Magnetic states attract people from other regions, while sticky states hang on to their natives. Texas is apparently stickier than scotch tape, with 76 percent of people born here never moving away.
I think you can take the sticky/magnet analysis still further, to cities. Austin, where I lived for seven years, is powerfully magnetic. Residents flock there from every state of the union and every nation of the globe, so the city is dominated by newcomers. In all my time, I knew two people who grew up in the city.
Fort Worth, however, keeps its natives stuck like glue. When I moved back after ten years away, I encountered many people who had either returned like me or never bothered to leave in the first place.
The result is a sense of tradition Austinites would find bewildering. I have friends taking their daughters to the same dance academies where they learned to pli and pirouette, while the Science and History Museum School is on its third generation. Every year well, every year but this one my son gets his face painted at Mayfest just like I did, and in Fort Worth no one thinks that's remarkable.
Even when things change, Cow-townians remember how they used to be. The late, great Molly Ivins once said Fort Worth is the kind of place where you give directions such as "turn left where the green water tower used to be," since this is the kind of town where everyone knows where the green water tower used to be. It makes total sense in Fort Worth to take your kids to ride the Zoo Train, although the train hasn't been affiliated with the Zoo for decades. Making plans for the Main Street Arts Festival, I arranged to meet my mother in front of the Blackstone, although the hotel has officially been a Courtyard by Marriott since 1999. People will sometimes say they went shopping at Montgomery Wards, although that venerable institution closed more than a decade ago and the actual shopping was done at Target.
The Pew study said sticky places possess "strong traditional cultures or distinctive kinds of features that make people want to stay." Fort Worth's distinctive features aren't dramatic breakfast at the Paris Coffee Shop, feeding the ducks at Trinity Park, the familiar bumpety-bump of driving on the red bricks of Camp Bowie. But they are supremely appealing and, more than anything, they are home.
Meanwhile, I learned the other day that the mother of a friend went to prom with my uncle, once again proving Fort Worth is a small and very sticky world.
Elizabeth Lunday is a freelance journalist from Fort Worth.
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