"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some rambling thoughts on Houston

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I had hoped to do more in this blog (and still do), but life has a way of intruding.

One thing I had in mind was photo essays on Houston, and on why I like this place so much.

When I first came here, in 1964, it was not with great enthusiasm. Our family was living up in Arkansas at that time, and here I was, fresh out of the USAF, and seeing Arkansas as oblivion as far as job prospects go. At that time, I had an aunt and uncle in Pasadena (next to the east side of Houston), so I would have a place to stay while job hunting.

While in the Air Force, I had made a lot of bus trips through some pretty grimy industrial towns in the northeast (names withheld to protect those who have since improved a bit) and expected the same of a city known primarily for its' refineries.

What I found, instead, was one of the cleanest and friendliest of large cities I have EVER encountered. Also, one of the most diverse in culture.

Sure, Hollywood simply cannot set a scene here without showing someone in a Stetson hat, but that ain't the norm here (Houston Chronicle columnist Jeff Millar once observed that "If you see someone in a Stetson hat in Houston, it's either a Yankee tourist on vacation, or a professional athlete").

For the "diversity" side to this town, I wanted to get a shot of a shopping center I remembered in the southwest side of town. That shot would have shown store signs in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, German, French and God knows what other languages (I've just counted twelve among the ones I've listed), just in ONE shopping center alone.

But, it's gone now, scattered to the winds, and replaced by (typical for here) yet MORE shopping malls.. All of the different elements I listed remain in Houston, but relocated.

Major parts of my city are as ephemeral as cloud patterns.  When I worked here, in engineering a long time ago, I observed that the builders of the pyramids just wouldn't have cut it here. We periodically tear down things here, only to replace them with something very much like what we just demolished. When structures get much over 30 years old, watch out.

It didn't occur to me then, but now I wonder if the fact that Manhatten is built on granite, and a lot of Houston is built on gumbo might have a lot to do with that; maybe you just reach a point when the developing cracks in the structure make demolition and replacement more practical than continuing upkeep.

Places I lived in as a child in San Antonio (more years ago than I like to contemplate) are still there, while apartments I had in my early days in Houston are now ancient history and replaced with, you guessed it, townhouses and condos.

Had the Alamo been in Houston, I fear it would have been replaced with a Burger King long ago. (On this gumbo, it probably would have settled and crumbled into rubble before the battle was fought).

Well, I see I've once again rambled all over the place, but I'm going to leave it as is. I still like the diversity photo-essay idea, and when I can I'll keep on the lookout for a center like the one that now appears to be history. This town's over 600 sq. miles in area; the chances of finding other such should be pretty good.

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2 comments:

gcotharn said...

LOL the Alamo/Burger King quote. Nice post.

Paul_In_Houston said...

Thank you, Greg.

That quote might appear to contradict the aim of this post; it does NOT.

I have said that I love this city; I never suggested it was perfect.

:-)

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