We drove to Houston on a sunny hot July day. I’ve been to Houston twice before and each time had a great time with my Houston friends. This time I have Lee with me. He has only heard the usual negativities about Houston – giant spread-out city, terrible traffic, glass skyscrapers downtown, big money, impersonal. He doesn’t believe me when I tell him that Houston is a cool place, with beautiful old neighborhoods and great restaurants. Yes, he saw Terms of Endearment, but that Houston is long gone. Right?
As we drove into Mel and Stan’s quiet neighborhood I was ready to prove to Lee that the standard impression of Houston is very wrong. Yes it’s a huge city and very spread-out, but Houston has a lot of character.
Mel welcomed us into her home and her three sweet golden retrievers greeted us politely. For three young rescue dogs they were extremely well-behaved! Our first excursion was to try Houstonian Dim Sum. Houston has a very large Asian population and we were not disappointed. The place we went (Ocean Palace) was authentic and delicious! Our friend Vickie met us there and tried dim sum for the first time. I THINK she enjoyed it…but she was at least polite about it! I was very happy trying all the standard dim sum specialties, from chicken feet to pork buns to egg tarts.
After lunch Vickie went off in search of door knobs for her house (still recovering from damage due to hurricane Ike) and we returned to Mel’s house, where we spent the afternoon visiting with Mel, her children Brett and Lindsay, and our friend Mary. Lee endured the girl-talk very well I think!
That evening it was time for Tex-Mex. We went to a place called Sylvia’s where the margaritas were really great, as was the food.
Vickie met us there as well. Vickie is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me, but she’s a lot of fun to talk to and I admire her immensely. She does all kinds of things for other people without thinking about herself at all. She works, restores her house, takes care of others and is just pretty amazing. And we can discuss our differences in a cordial manner, without getting all upset. She’s a lot of fun and I’m glad she, Mary and Mel are my friends.
In the morning I got up, had some coffee and a banana and headed out the door for a run. I had directions to the nearby bayou from Mel and managed to find it easily without getting lost. Mel and Stan live in a beautiful neighborhood. It DOES look a little bit like Terms of Endearment, even though it’s nowhere near Rice! Running along the bayou was fun. It’s like a long skinny park. I didn’t see any alligators, but I did see lots of friendly Houstonians along the way, jogging, walking, and biking. People said good morning, made friendly comments, nodded in greeting. Texans are just friendly, there’s no two ways about it!
At around noon we headed south to Galveston. Now for me this was really a treat. I’ve never been there and I had all sorts of fantasies about what it was like. Now I have a reality too! Reality turned out to be a charming old town that is busily being restored after Ike. We ate lunch at Rick and Pacos and then headed to the Strand where we window-shopped and admired the old buildings. The Strand was completely under water from Ike so the extent of the restoration is really impressive. Many businesses are open and the others are hard at work getting ready to reopen.
We got back in the car and headed for the beach. I’ve never been to the Texas shoreline. This is actually something I want to do, maybe later this fall if we’re still here. I’d like to rent a condo with some friends and hang out on the water. All we did in Galveston is drive along the shore, but I really thought it was pretty. Because of the closeness to the Mississippi river delta and other rivers that empty into the Gulf the water is kind of brown and muddy, but the sand is pretty. There was still a lot of damage along the ocean, but there was also a lot of new development. I just LOVED the retro-old/new beach houses. They were new, but built to look as if they were one hundred years old. I just loved those houses!
It was getting late and it was time to head to Vickie and Mike’s house in LaPorte, Texas. Their neighborhood, Shoreacres, was badly damaged by Ike. Many of the houses in their neighborhood were destroyed and have been leveled, waiting for their owners or someone else to rebuild. Some houses (like theirs) are being restored, and for some the access to the money and time to rebuild is lacking, so the houses still stand, boarded up and abandoned, waiting for someone with the time and inclination to restore them.
Shoreacres is just a little slice of heaven. A tiny neighborhood almost completely surrounded by water, I can just imagine what it must have been like to be a kid growing up there, with the beach just a block away. Vickie and Mike drove us around their neighborhood and in some ways it was really sad to see all the damage. But I’m sure their neighborhood will come back and prosper. It’s just such an amazing little place…
It was time to head to what for me was the culmination of a perfect mini-vacation. We drove to Minute Maid Stadium to watch the Astros play the Cardinals. Minute Maid is a beautiful indoor stadium. Unlike the Twin’s stadium in Minneapolis, Minute Maid is light and colorful, and has a roof that can be retracted when the weather is good. Vickie and Mike have “connections” and were able to get us tickets on the club level, right behind home plate. I’ve NEVER sat in seats like that for a game before! It was just amazing. We could see the pitchers pitch…
the first basemen guard the runners,
Tony LaRusso in a bit of a spat with an umpire. And we could watch Pujols bat too!
For most of the game the Cardinals were easily in the lead and I’m afraid I became a bit complacent. “Ah, it’s my birthday – they’re going to win!” But I forgot, it’s me, it’s a team I root for, and the baseball gods don’t like complacency. In the 8th inning Houston scored and tied it up, and in the 9th inning they won. I’ll admit that when the game turned I lost my composure for a minute or two. I’m not sure that anyone else knew, but Lee certainly did, since he tried to give me a consolation kiss and I practically slugged him! But my chagrin was temporary…I even felt happy for the Houston fans…sort of.
The next day we bade goodbye to Mel and Stan, thanked them for their generosity in opening their home to us and headed back to Austin. I still really like Houston and intend to return. I still need to go back to Ousie’s and have some Tres Leche cake!