While several Texas cities frequently appear in “Best of” lists, Austin holds a special place in the hearts of the list-making cognoscenti: It’s “The Best City in America for Young Adults,” the “Number Two City for Raising Kids,” the “Number Three Most Patriotic City in the Nation…” You get the picture. Last year, The Guardian listed Austin as the third best “holiday hotspot” for international travelers in the world.
Austin is that kid in high school who lettered in basketball, played trombone in the marching band, earned Salutatorian and was voted “Nicest Guy” in the Senior class. You know, the guy you secretly hoped would fail an econ test, pull a hamstring or suffer a career ending lip injury? Austin is just so, Austin.
Which makes The Gallup-Healthways list of American Well-Being so sweet. According to the Gallup folks, Austin is the sixth happiest city in America, easily outpacing Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. But Austin is not the happiest city in Texas. That honor goes to El Paso, ranked number five in the nation on the Gallup list.
There are a lot of reasons for El Paso to be the fifth happiest city in America. It’s a lovely place, rich in history and ringed by the rugged Franklin Mountains. Its tacos and chorizo are so tasty that expats actually order them online for overnight delivery to locations all over the country. I can’t speak for everyone, but tacos and chorizo have always figured high on my personal happiness scale. Perhaps the key to El Paso’s happiness is that it’s 574 miles from Austin.
I do have some sympathy for Austin. Popularity can be confusing. Our capital currently sits on national top ten lists for Best Hamburgers, Best Barbecue and Most Vegetarian Friendly.
How can a city be both a carnivore’s paradise, and a haven for the gentle greens eater? Are shamefaced vegans slipping off to the pecan-smoked side of town, furtively indulging in the greasy passion of Czech sausage and fatty brisket? Are the barbeque boys secretly sampling the pleasures of a nice plate of tofurkey and eggplant? Nah, that last one is impossible.
All of these lists are just a bit silly. Don’t take any of this too seriously. A website called Area Vibes ranks Houston “A+” for weather, which means Area Vibes is either a collective of incredibly advanced salamanders, or they visited for the fifteen minutes in mid-October when our weather is, indeed, “A+.” A University of Vermont study recently named Beaumont the “Saddest City in America,” and while Beaumont is no El Paso, it’s not exactly Mogadishu.
Maybe they just need some tacos. El Paso, see what you can do.