Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Tough Job

but I feel a certain, twisted loyalty and therefore need to defend Houston. [see the SNSS' blog on Chick Flicks and the comments section for what inspired me to write this particular blog] Now, please don't interpret this to mean I want to live there again, because I don't. There hasn't been enough money printed, wait, there HAS been enough printed, but I doubt anyone with the power to give it to me, will be doing so merely b/c I'm being loyal to a former home.

In 1965, when my parents marriage imploded, I moved to Houston with my Mother and Older Brother. I lived there until 1976. From 1976 until 2004, I returned to visit fam and friends, on average, every other month. I was last there in 2005 for my Niece Katy's honors graduation from UH.

For the 11 years I lived there, I enjoyed Houston. Having spent my formative years in Killeen, Houston was like an amusement park. The array of shopping and restaurants and movies theaters and RODEOS. We could go to the Rodeo every Friday night! In Killeen, we only got to go to the Rodeo once a year, and had to drive all the way to Belton to do that!
Those of you familiar with Central TX geography are no doubt laughing your tushies off right about now. But try to put yourself in my paradigm: it's pre 1965; I'm 6-9 y.o.; any ride farther than across town [and Killeen wasn't that big] or lasting longer than 10 minutes was a long time for me.
Houston also had so many other wonderful experiences to offer as I grew older. I got to ride a school bus! In Killeen, I'd either walked or ridden my bike to school. In Houston, I got to ride that huge [NOT the short], yellow bus with all my friends, to school. The schools were newer and bigger and we took FIELD TRIPS, to museums, and the opera. In high school, I was part of a group of students that went to "press preview night" at the Alley Theater every month for the entire year. As a Drama Club member, this was absolute HEAVEN!
I began to develop an appreciation for historic architecture while growing up in Houston. There are so many beautiful neighborhoods of breathtakingly beautiful homes. I don't mean the mansions in River Oaks, I mean the Heights Neighborhood, or the two streets I can't remember the names of, they are just off Montrose, between Westheimer and Richmond...somebody help me out here. Oh, and North and South Blvd.; the homes around Rice Univ. Heck, the Rice campus back then was lovely. Hermann Park. Oh the tales I could tell about that place.
Hermann Zoo, when I was growing up in Houston was FREE. That's right, no admission fee. I haven't been in years, so I don't know if that's still true or not. But when I moved to N.TX, I was shocked that Dallas and Ft.Worth charged folks a fee to visit their zoos.
Texas Medical Center, the jewel of Texas Medicine then and now. St.Luke's, Methodist, M.D.Anderson. If I ever get cancer, I can only pray my doc will refer me there. Nana, my Maternal Grmtr was initially given a 6-9 month prognosis. After receiving radiation and chemo from M.D.A. she died...of a stroke, 16 years later.
I worked in downtown Houston for a short while. I would spend my lunch hour and time after work, when I didn't have a date, just wandering around looking at those wonderful Art Deco, and Gothic and Romanesque, and Revival edifices in the canyons of downtown. And the sculptures that the more recent buildings placed in their courtyards...ahh, I enjoyed those, too. Especially the String Players outside...where, GBro? I forget. Is it Jones Hall, or a bank?

And Fountains...I've always been queer for fountains. The Mecom Fountains outside the Warwick Hotel was my first infatuation in Houston. But I'm not the first, nor the last. I'd love to peruse the HPD reports on how many drunks, clothed and un- have been asked to vacate that fountain over the years! Then there is the small one in Barkdull park. And that gorgeous fountain array at the Galleria.

I was there for the explosive growth and Great Yankee influx of the late '60's and early '70's. I learned to drive in Houston. And trust me, if you learned to drive in Houston in the early '70's, you can drive ANYWHERE atall. I was there for gas wars. Ahh, yes, gas wars. For you of you who never lived along the Gulf coast, or too young to remember gas wars... local gas stations would get into "wars" with one another and there prices would begin to fall. 20 cents; 19 cents; 18; 16; 15! Yes, Children! I remember paying 15 cents a gallon for gasoline. That's right a dime and a nickle! But then I also remember the First Arab Embargo and waiting in line to buy their precious gas and paying whatever they wanted to charge and being aghast when it went over 50 cents a gallon!

Now all of these fond remembrances don't mean I want to live there again. For I also remember: smog so bad I had bronchitis at least twice every year; rain every afternoon from late May to late September thanks to the afternoon Gulf winds hitting the heat island that is metro-Houston; cussin' the traffic snarls that turn a 5 mile commute into the 1.5 hour drive from hell. And let's not forget the humidity, crime, crowding, flooding, the inability of Houston drivers to handle ice of the even the thinnest coating, and Hurricane season.

But me, a former citizen of Houston criticizing Houston is one thing. My criticisms are tinged with a bit of nostalgia and yes, love. My criticisms are EARNED. I lived there, I paid my dues. I am also descended from not one, but TWO Native Houstonians. If you've also lived there, or are still living there, Gawds love you, bitch away. But if you've never lived there, if you've only visited, or driven through on your way to somewhere else, I don't want to hear it. That's like coming in to some one's home and complaining about the decor or cooking. It's rude and will not be tolerated kindly.


phlegmfatale said...

Hear! Hear!

It's one thing for people who have some plausible propriety in a place to bitch about it, but for people who have no stake in it one way or another to go off on a tangent, well, that's just lame. Houston has so many great aspects, and when I was there about 4 years ago, I was dazzled by how beautiful downtown looks - it truly is getting more beautiful over time - I love what they are doing with the place. The traffic was amazing, but, honey, at least they make the damned roads big to begin with. I mean, 7-lane-wide expressways? My hat is off to them!

lainy said...

I can't say very much about Hoouston. I used know San Antonio, Ausin, Bandera and all of the Hill Country like the back of my hand, but I've been away for so long that when I go back every few years it's grown so much that I don't enjoy it as much. Texas is a good state, I just don't like living there anymore, but like my family I'm glad you do.

Walrilla said...

I absolutely loved Houston for the short time I lived there, and still like to go visit. You just had to look past the minor inconveniences, like the rainsqualls, and the interminable drivetimes at rush hour, to find the best things, like a choice of 3 or 4 good supermarkets with in a 3 block radius, superb chinese buffets, always something to do, and other stuff.

G Bro said...

Holly, the sting player statue is at the Lyric Centre next to the opera house.

I have lived here 52 years (well, the 1st third of that was in Aldine, but it counts). When we have a stretch of weather like we've had recently (clear, cool, dry), it is absolutely incredible. Sometimes in August it is completely unbearable.

We have the consequences of being a "polycentric" city - multiple business and residential areas all over the map linked by concrete. So traffic is a bit rough at times. It is different from the postwar northern model: work downtown, live in the suburbs. It's not always great, but I like it better.

I years ago predicted that when the WWII-vintage public housing project ("Allen Parkway Village") was torn down SW of downtown, things would change rapidly - and they did in the mid-90's. For better and worse - we have practically lost Freedman's Town in the 4th Ward to townhouses. But given the choice of townhouses and McMansions or old neighborhoods becoming slums, I'll take the former.

Downtown has undergone an amazing transformation! We've had neat buildings for years, courtesy of the late 70's building boom (oil money that disappeared when the oil price dropped). But 15 years ago, middle or upper middle class people were not found downtown after dark. Now, the Astros play downtown. The Rockets play downtown (having sold their former home to the Osteens of Lakewood Church fame). There is an aquarium, theatre, classical music, ballet,movies, popular music, restaurants, clubs, a toy train.

There's lot to dislike here, but there's a lot to like. It is not the obligation of a visitor to be a cheerleader for Houston. Just be fair. So, Holly, tell the SNSS my goat is on the truck headed his way. He might need to bring a shovel to the unloading. ;-)