I took an overnight trip to Houston in mid-December for a work event.

Upon arrival, I checked in with my rental car company and waited for my per-policy economy car to be pulled up.  Suddenly, an agent drove up in a shiny black Tahoe.  He got out and walked toward me, and I said, “How much would it take for me to drive away in that?”  Five dollars.  Done and done.  I felt really badly, though.  Everything about Houston seems to live up to a bad stereotype in some way, and I was doing it, too.

I don’t particularly care for Houston.  It’s inevitable that I would say that after living for any period of time in Austin, and adding Dallas to my repertoire again doesn’t help.  When I read “Dressin’ Texan,” Patricia Marx’s March 19 New Yorker feature article, I thought, “Yes!  Yes, so true!”  Houstonians seem awfully concerned with what Dallas does.  On Houston, a Dallas socialite might remark, “What about Houston?”  Any city that’s known for political and economic scandal should probably lay lower than Houston does.  In a way, I think that Houstonians account for the stereotypical Texas identity, but the rest of Texas almost seems to wish Houston would pipe down.

Due to zoning regulations or the lack thereof and the division of Houston into six distinct wards, Houston does not appear to have one central downtown but, rather, about four.  Apparently, the city has a sense of humor and a self-consciousness about it, and it’s no big secret.  The divide between the oil wealth and the poverty is visible: simply take a drive to Freedman’s Town by way of the Galleria area.  It’s sad.  Katrina and Enron have both had devastating effects on the city too.  A weekend trip last year was great fun because of my company, but we had some really bizarre encounters.

When my girl friend and I arrived with a new friend at Vic and Anthony’s steakhouse, an Irish “petrol” exec, she was told that we could not be seated in the main dining room because she was wearing shorts– expensive shorts with a classy blouse and high heels.  In the course of our discussion, a woman in black jeans and another woman in capris went past us into the dining room.  This was the summer of 2006.  “They’re formal shorts!” I insisted.  This did not pass muster.  We ate in the bar and enjoyed a fantastic meal of calamari and lobster, drinking not one but two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape.  We ate a $600 meal at the bar (thanks to our friend Charlie).  Dumbasses.  Later in the evening, we ended up at a rooftop bar that smelled like its late night special, fried chicken.  We were among the only non-minorities in the venue, and the staff was extremely helpful and sympathetic to me when I suddenly fainted from dehydration.  (I’m a dehydration fainter!  It’s true!)

On this trip, I realized that I’d left without packing the proper undergarment for a white silk shirt, so I went to the Galleria for an emergency trip, as it was near my hotel.  It is remarkable to me how incredibly rude the teen sales employees were capable of being.  Admittedly, I was in jeans and not wearing makeup.  What would it have taken to be helped at all?  A facelift?

The best part of the trip was definitely the hotel.  I noticed that the wallpaper was slightly irresdescent near the TV, so I got closer to inspect it.  I thought it was an unusual, if not whimsical, touch.  I soon realized that it was not an irredescent wallpaper pattern at all but, in fact, body glitter.  And that is the last time I stay at the Courtyard Marriott at the Galleria.

There’s a side to Houston that I know I would really enjoy, and I haven’t experienced it yet.


Living the dream.

Houston roadways.  Note that this is not a great way to take pictures, but it is a way to take great pictures.