Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them. Tell us your story here!
This week we have John Corrales. You can’t get much more Texas than the town that “Friday Night Lights” was based on, yet John has left the deserts and cowboy boots of his youth behind for the high rises of Midtown and the Greek bakeries of Astoria (making him our first official Queens-dwelling profilee!). Read all about the band of kindly cowboys that shaped his youth (…or not) below.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a news assistant on the National desk at The New York Times, a Liverpool fan (which is difficult these days), and an appreciator of good stories and poems.
Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?
Just over two years.
What brought you to New York?
I was a reporter at The Odessa American in my hometown. Wanderlust bit hard after working there for a year, so I petitioned my cousins living in North Jersey to post me up for a bit while I figured things out.
What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?
The usual: “You don’t have an accent,” or “You don’t seem like you’re from Texas,” or “What was it like being Filipino in Odessa, Texas?”
What kind of answer do people expect when they ask that question? “Well, it was lonely in my tribe of four, and we were ostracized often. It wasn’t until a band of kindly cowboys showed us how to break horses and live off the land that we were finally assimilated into Texas’ third caste, which we’re extremely proud of.”
My usual response is, “It was fine; people were nice *shrug*.”
I also find myself having to explain that being really nice to a stranger isn’t secretly a way to earn that person’s trust so that I can use them to my advantage. I’m just being kind.
Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.
New York is often thought of as eternally exciting. One second you’re rubbing elbows with a foot soldier of a mob boss, the next you’re locked in a debate over free will with a Columbia graduate student, then you’re invited to a rooftop soirée thrown by Henry Ford’s brother’s granddaughter’s niece, and by the end of the night you somehow end up doing an interpretive dance at a warehouse rave.
But nay. In reality, finding good friends and affording survival prove exhausting and oftentimes defeating. Scintillating though the city may be, it’s also draining. That being said, I think the city is worth the hustle it demands.
Where do you consider home? Why?
I’ll always consider Odessa home. I’ve spent more of my life there than anywhere else. I’d like to think that the earnestness and honesty of some community members there helped teach me to live a meaningful life.
Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?
I do miss where I’m from. I miss the desert and the stars.
I don’t see a long-term return in my future, but who am I to say what will happen?
Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?
Until rain ceases to amaze me (West Texas is fairly drought-stricken), and I adjust to the cold, I won’t consider myself a New Yorker.
Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?
Lox on a bagel, Halal food carts, the Knicks with Patrick Ewing, Joseph Mitchell‘s “My Ears Are Bent,” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Edward Hopper’s “New York Movie.”
Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?
Brisket, corn bread, Southern Maid Donuts, fajitas, sweet tea, “Friday Night Lights” (of course), and George Strait singing “Neon Moon.”
What is the best cure for homesickness?
Google Earthing/Maps-ing Monahans Sandhills State Park, and grilling while sipping on a Shiner Bock.