an ode to houston

It dawned on me over the weekend that I've never much written about my adopted city, Houston.  I figure it's time.  Because really?  H-town gets a pretty bad rap.

Think about it:  when was the last time you heard about someone going to Houston on vacation?  (Yeah, you're racking your brain right now, aren't you?)  Even if you have heard of someone going on holiday to Houston, I'll bet you big money that they were coming here with the express purpose of visiting family.  No one comes to visit Houston just because "they've heard it's a great place to visit."  Houston has absolutely no topography to speak of.  Its public transportation is poor, and that's putting it kindly.  Its complete disregard for any kind of zoning logic leaves neighbourhoods in strange configurations, like having elementary schools just a stone's throw away from strip clubs.  It's woefully lacking in sidewalks, making it a pedestrian's nightmare, but in many ways, that doesn't matter: because you do not want to get me started on the Danté's Inferno that is the Houston summer.   Let's just say for 4 months out of the year, it takes true grit to intentionally be outdoors for longer than 10 minutes at a time.

And yet.

You know how you have heard of those places that are "great places to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there"?  Houston is really exactly the opposite:  not the ideal vacation spot, but an exceedingly easy place to live.  For one thing, Houston is REALLY cheap.  Really, really cheap.  A mere 20 minutes outside of downtown, you can get huge homes --  over-the-top ones, even, with crown molding everywhere, media rooms, swimming pools, multi-car garages and kitchens that would make Jamie Oliver weep with joy -- for a fraction of what they cost in other parts of the country.   Secondly, while our summers are awful, our winters are pretty great -- at the very least, you're never going to see a Houstonian digging his car out from under three feet of snow in this city.  Furthermore, Houston is a friendly town:  more often than not, people pass you on the streets with a smile and a "good morning," which is pretty stunning given that Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States.  Speaking of which, Houston has everything you could possibly want in a large city:  all the major sports (including hockey!), a fantastic ballet, an impressive symphony and opera, the largest medical centre in the world (with some crazy-amazing talent) and art and museums that are magnificent (from the classic to the contemporary to the scientific to the downright weird, depending on your pleasure; also, what doesn't fit in the museums can be found in the scores of lovely galleries around town).  Houston's also got NASA, which you have to admit, earns the city some mad cool points just for that.  It's got a great nightlife.  And finally (and know that I know exactly what I'm saying here, lest you question I don't), Houston has the best food scene for the money than any other city in the country.  Oh, yeah, I said it.  I don't care what kind of food you like, Houston has incredible restaurants that will both cater to your tastes and absolutely blow you away, for reasons not least of which is that you'll be amazed you're walking out of the joint thrilled with your culinary experience, with a surprising amount of money is still left in your wallet.  No lie.

Another really lovely thing about Houston?  October.  October is usually the month when the humidity of summer finally decides to take a hike, the high temperatures finally break, and the weather really comes into its own.  Although it was late in coming this year, October finally felt like it arrived this past weekend.  And so, right before the golden hour on Saturday,  Marcus, Alex and I decided to take a little drive to visit the lovely Rothko Chapel, see the Menil, take a peek into the Cy Twombly gallery, drive through downtown to check out Houston's really quite pretty skyline, before heading home into the setting sun.

The Menil museum, one of my favourites in town.




Yup.  No place like it.  As we like to say here, "Houston. It's worth it."

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In other news, registration is now open for the Chookooloonks Path Finder.  Go take a look.


Images:  Shot with my new Olympus E-PM1 camera, given to me by Olympus as part of their PEN Ready Project (I'm #874).


SongI wanna dance with somebody by Whitney Houston. What?