"All these people, they're all downtowners," Mike says. Mike is a big, mestizo-looking guy, so big, in fact, that people mistake him for "Hawaiian" when he leaves Texas. I think he may mean Samoan by this, but I don't press the issue. When I ask what he does for a living, I think he says "horse breaker," but it's too loud to be sure and I don't press it.
We are at a cowboy bar in downtown Fort Worth, as much as you can have a cowboy bar in downtown Fort Worth. Mike the Horse Breaker may not like the crowd much, but he's in their territory, not the other way around. Most everyone is drinking Coors or Coors Light even though Shiner Bock is much better, the same price and made in Texas.
It is here, after Mike leaves, that I first encounter Twang among the Lawman jeans and autographed cowboy hats. Twang comes wrapped like a tiny present in square wax-paper packets, which you open and dump in your mouth, then gargle with beer. It looks, to the uninitiated, like the adult version of Pixie Stix.
In Fort Worth, all the urban cowboys use Twang somewhat surreptitiously, hiding the packets in the palms of their hands. I text message my friend Sasha in San Francisco, who's far cooler and more worldly than I am, to ask what this crazy cowboy drug is. The way you use it is so weird, I think. Sasha doesn't know, so I am even more perplexed.
And it's not until I get to Houston that I learn that Twang is just beer salts. It's a part of life so not-worth-mentioning that everyone I ask thinks I'm trying to describe something much more esoteric and obscure. Twang becomes, then, an anti-climax.
I like this story, but I can't tell it often. It doesn't play very well or, perhaps, just not in the way I like it to. I only repeat it to fellow outsiders, because somehow, in the South, it becomes a story about my ignorance, rather than the space between places.