Posts Tagged ‘Places’

I love Houston. I never thought I would go to Houston in my life. I certainly didn’t think I would love it. To be fair, many of the awful stereotypes I had heard about Houston were true. If I hadn’t known people there, who also had lots of spare time that year, I may have just seen an over-grown vapid wasteland of concrete and metal sprawling over the hot clay into more nothingness. But there are silly things everywhere, and bad things everywhere, and there’s also something to love in everyone and everywhere. As for me, when I think of Houston, I think of waking up at night and seeing the Transco tower’s searchlight shining through my blinds like a lighthouse.

The Transco Tower is actually called the Williams Tower, but blah blah blah who cares. I don’t normally go in for skyscrapers. The Houston skyline is very impressive (and it goes on and on and on), but the only building I adore is the Transco Tower. Well, that’s not quite true. I love how all the buildings line their roofs with lights in December. But what I love about the Transco Tower is how it stands out (there’s nothing nearly so tall near it since it’s in Midtown) and the searchlight. It’s like a fucking lighthouse! In a city!

This statue was near where I first lived in Houston. I would see it at night pulling into my driveway, and it being Texas, I assumed it was a statue of Jesus. Nope! It’s an enormous, enormous statue of Quan Am, a Buddhist goddess of compassion. The Vietnamese temple there is by a long, nearly-empty road with lots of tall grass and a dance hall with the old-fashioned light bulbs circling the sign and blinking. At night, it’s very perfect.

Fiesta. God, I love Fiesta, the international supermarket. Specifically, I love the Fiesta by Bellaire. When you go there, here are some things you can get: Cotton Candy. Corn in a cup. An enormous towel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Kumquats. Every chile pepper on earth. The most perfect avocadoes. Cowboy boots. Cowboy hats. Any type of tea from anywhere on Earth. A candle that says: “Law! Stay Away!” and a candle that says: “Are you being controlled?” An aerosol spray to keep away Death. Every possible kind of curry. A mix for borscht soup. A mix for sponge cake. Rosehip tea. Basil seed drinks. When I walk through Fiesta, with all the families getting treats for their children and putting piles of plaintains in their cart, I feel like the happiest person on the planet.

The Byzantine Fresco Chapel is part of the Menil Gallery complex. When you walk in you are immediately overpowered. The light of the world disappears and all that’s left is the fine, sheer glass, the heavy stone walls, and the beautiful, ancient frescoes of Jesus. I believe they are the only intact Byzantine frescoes in the western hemisphere. The Chapel automatically brought to mind one word: Sanctuary.

The Rothko Chapel is right next to the Byzantine Chapel. Both are part of the Menil Collection, a lovely museum complex downtown. It’s meant to be used, and they have all sorts of religious texts from an enormous variety of religions. You can see people praying and meditating at any hour of the day, and the whole place has managed to keep a sense of the sacred while at the same time being unlike any chapel you’ve ever seen.

Vietnam Coast is the greatest restaurant in Texas. Maybe in the world? I don’t know. Whatever. The tofu with vietnamese garlic sauce is my favorite food, even when my boyfriend has gotten it for me three days earlier and had to carry it back in a plane. Everything else on the menu I’ve tried is incredible. Since I first walked in there years ago the place seems to have gotten some recognition and is always fairly crowded, but it’s the same three people I see working there and they’re as smiley as ever. Everyone I’ve dragged there has loved it, and I love it, and damn you DC for having such overpriced restaurants and no decent Vietnamese food.

Live Oaks. God, they’re like beautiful monsters. One day you’re in the North and everything is cold and stark and lovely, and then you’re in Texas or Louisiana, and it’s January but there are these enormous trees still carrying their leaves. They’re as big as buildings, they’re older than our nation, and they’re sprawling and majestic and uncontrollable. Let every other tree go to sleep, who needs them when you have a live oak!

To look at the blue ferris wheel at the aquarium lit up at night when you’re driving on Memorial into downtown is glorious. Glorious, I tell you!

Okay, so that is not what New Years Eve looked like. But whatever. We were outside the city limits on 290, and starting around 9 o’clock every 30 seconds or so you’d hear a firework go off. As it got more and more frequent we went outside to look around. Nearly everyone was outside setting them off, and you could see them shooting up miles away. Children were lighting off roman candles and running down the street. At midnight it was as loud and bright as any organized fireworks display I’ve ever seen, with all sorts of families waving hello and hugging and lighting sparklers. It was also nicer than any organized fireworks display, because absolutely everyone was setting things off. It was lovely.

If you’ve never seen Texas in April, no words or pictures could describe the bluebonnets. Adjectives are suddenly paltry. All I can say is lots of wonderful things have happened in my life, but sitting in a field of bluebonnets with people you love on a misty April evening with low fogs and stone staircases that don’t go anywhere, well, there’s nothing more beautiful I’ve ever seen. My friend and I have gone out to see them several years, and sometimes we would just stop the car and start laughing. You hop over a fence and run through them, and the only thing that can bum you out is knowing no one will believe how heavenly it is until they see for themselves.

There’s a million other things I love about Houston (which my friend and I were nearly weeping about as we sat in a bar called Bubba’s near Galveston and tried to convince my boyfriend why we should all move back to Texas, though he was too busy playing with his stick-on mustache to pay much attention). I love the rodeo and corn in a cup, I love The Marquis bar on a Tuesday night, I love the jukebox at the Volcano, the bartender at Warren’s, the music at The Big Easy. I love sitting at Agora and having a beer on the wooden balcony overlooking the live oaks in April. I love the Houston Rodeo. I love getting a potato and cheese tacquito and fries at three o’clock in the morning from Whataburger, a late night decision no one anywhere could ever regret. I love the people, the enormous Vietnamese community, the bartenders who will chat with you for hours, the incredible Mexican-American culture, the poker dealers who never sleep, the men with cowboy hats still wanting to dance at the end of the night, the strangers who will come up to you and start talking and never stop and it’s wonderful.

Houston! Let’s hang out again soon, please.


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