"Damn it feels good to be a gangsta." I'm humming the catchy rap song by Houston's seminal Geto Boys as I drive to the Inn at Dos Brisas, a 300-acre ranch in East Texas. I spent my high school years in Houston doing everything possible to avoid becoming a Texan. Back then, while my classmates were listening to country music radio, I would drive through our suburban neighborhood blaring hip-hop out my car window. Now, as much as I love living in New York, I've been missing Texas like crazy, even craving some of the things I used to hate. These days I have seven Willie Nelson discs on my iPod. And I think the English language has yet to find a suitable alternative to the pronoun "y'all."
Nostalgia was part of what brought me to the inn, an hour from Houston, on a summer weekend. Related to that was the urge to cast off certain tiresome aspects of my New York persona (high-strung, over-scheduled, indoor-dwelling) and try on a more iconic Texas one (low-key but sly, steely, sunbaked).
The Inn at Dos Brisas opened two years ago out in the prairies of Brenham, where there's not much around except the Blue Bell ice cream factory and some country houses owned by wealthy Houstonians who want to escape the city without missing opening night at the Houston Grand Opera. A few miles away from Brenham is Washington-on-the-Brazos, where Texas signed its Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836, just before getting slaughtered during Mexico's siege of the Alamo in nearby San Antonio. In an episode drilled into the brain of every local schoolkid, General Sam Houston then waged a massive don't-mess-with-Texas battle that decimated Mexican general Santa Anna's troops.