Saturday, April 25, 2015

Some Fine Legacy

I know I can be cynical and I can be negative, but the truth is, I love this city. I love Houston and I loved the last version of it, too. I even loved the version that we had before that.

You see, every few years here in Houston, we rip down the whole town. In its place, we build a new town entirely from scratch. Nothing remains except the potholes. What stood before is gone. Forgotten.

For us, this is an exciting process. It keeps us all on our toes.

Around here, a restaurant will boast “SERVING HOUSTON SINCE 2011!!!” on its marquee in bold letters with three exclamation points. An historical preservation district will consist of two old houses up on blocks in the middle of a sea of new construction townhomes.

Why, even as I write these words, right at this very moment, Houston is engaged in what might be our most ambitious project yet: We’re bulldozing everything within fifteen miles of downtown and replacing it with $1 million, three-and-a-half story townhomes and something called “luxury apartments.”

Now, if you are wondering what a luxury apartment is, well, it’s just like any other apartment except the building is thirty stories tall and the rent is three times higher than a regular old run-of-the-mill, non-luxury apartment.

Contact your local realtor today!

A few years ago, I traveled to Boston, which exists outside of Texas in a place known as “Massachusetts.” And get this: In Boston, instead of being decades old, the oldest houses in some parts of town might be centuries old! While I was there, I even saw a fire station that was built four hundred years ago.

If it were in Houston, that fire station would have been ripped down eight times by now.

This reminds me of a story that my friend, Doctor Belloq, told me once. Doctor Belloq is an archeologist, you see, and back when she was still in school, she spent a semester studying abroad, in Rome. In Italy. There are all sorts of old things buried in the ground in Rome, Italy, just waiting for an archeologist like Doctor Belloq to come along and dig back up.

A kind Italian family agreed to take Doctor Belloq in during the semester she was there. Their basement was old and it was unfinished, but it was good enough to store some clothes and some books and a bed. Doctor Belloq moved in. She was grateful.

Her allergies began bothering her almost immediately. Horrible, crippling allergies, but it only happened when she was in this basement.

Doctor Belloq launched an investigation. She tracked the source of the problem to a large hole in a wall in one corner of the basement.  She got her helmet lamp and her scooper and whatever other equipment archeologists use to archeologate and she collected a thick black dust that was piled high inside the hole.

Then she studied what she’d found.

It was soot. It was ash. It was a lot of other stuff mixed in besides.

And when Doctor Belloq and her archeologist friends finished studying the stuff she’d found behind that basement wall, and when they cross-checked it with their maps and with their history books and so on, they reached a conclusion. The conclusion they reached was this: This was soot and ash and charred remains from the burning of Rome in 64 C.E.

This stuff had been back there – just sitting, waiting to wreak havoc on Doctor Belloq’s sinuses – for one thousand nine hundred and forty-four years!

“And THAT,” Doctor Belloq said, finishing up her story, “is how Emperor Nero made me sneeze!”

She said, “Think about how you might still be affecting the world in the year 3952.”

Meanwhile, back in Houston, every slab of concrete in which I have left my handprints has been torn out. My childhood home is gone. My elementary school is gone. Every apartment I have ever lived in is gone. Et cetera.

But whatever abiding principle or constant is the city of Houston, I love it. In fact, I love the next Houston – the future Houston, the Houston that will replace this Houston – already. There’s something about it that will always mean “home” to me.

Once in a while, though, I sort of wish they would have at least saved the restaurant where my ex-wife and I went on our first date. 

25 comments:

  1. But medically speaking, she would only have allergies if it is the SECOND time she was exposed to the allergen.

    Hmmm ... Wait, what's her name again?

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    1. This is the way the story was passed on to me. Now, I pass it on to you.

      Make of it what you will.

      Delete
  2. No funny comment to make on this in my current situation - after yesterday's earthquake, which has civilly renewed Nepal and parts of North India inside the space of one minute - but in this part of the world historical monuments, unless aggressively protected, are vanishing at a tremendous rate owing to encroachments and looting.

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    1. I am relieved to see that you made it through today's events in one piece.

      I assume that there are Indus Valley sites that would make Rome look as new as this blog post. What does Indus Valley culture go back? 5,000 years?

      The old stuff has been hit pretty hard in Iraq, too.

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  3. cool stuff I remember about Houston
    "Air conditioning made Houston" - old Dude

    1962 - NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center moves to Houston.
    1969 - "Houston" is the first word spoken from the lunar surface.

    1965 - First event held in Astrodome, 8th Wonder of the World

    1971 - Shell Oil Co. relocates corporate headquarters to Houston. More than 200 major firms moved headquarters, subsidiaries, and divisions here in the 1970s

    1973 - The Famed Chicken Ranch at La Grange ceases operations, due to an investigative report by Marvin Zindler.

    1981 - Houston elects its first female mayor, Kathy Whitmire.

    Kathy Whitmire and Marvin Zindler, what a pair!





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    1. Don't forget that the last big war was all cooked up in Houston, and the enxt one probably will be too.

      Also: Beyonce. Be-fucking-yonce.

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    2. That is one of my major beefs about Houston. My grandfather's house is still there but the wonderful 1800s century artistry has been gutted to make it more "modern." My old stomping grounds are almost unrecognizable. The movie theater I went to most often is now a church. The Summit is now a megachurch. My old high school is almost all black and has an eight foot high fence around it. The old theater in Houston with the stage and pipe organ has been torn down to make space for a newer pre-fabricated building. So much for the ornate design of the building.

      The video of 2525 was great!

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    3. I understand that things change, you know?

      But with Houston... On one hand, everyone complains that the city has no sense of culture, history, or identitiy, and on the other, we insist on tearing it all down every few years.

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  4. "archeologate"............Katy, I'm saving this word to add to my George W. Bush list of words he could have invented. Such as, "recordificate," which he did use on one occasion.

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    1. The way I see it, the purpose of words is to communicate an idea. If the idea gets communicated, who cares whether it is a "real" word?

      Delete
  5. Those of us who only know Houston from mediocre sports teams (one of which relocated to our fair city) and from iconic recordings of panic calls from space don't really mind that your city paves itself over every few years. We only wish the politics of the place were as easily erased and recreated. Hate to say it, but it seems to be ground zero for political stupid. They even export the stupid via Texas-specific textbooks the rest of America has to use in our public schools. If some politicians in Texas insist in putting Noah's Ark and the Biblical version of creation into a high school biology textbook, the rest of us have to teach around the stupid when our kids get home from school. Why don't they ever tear down THAT crap and build something memorable in its place?

    On the other hand, it is nice to have it there as sort of a Loon Central. Louie Gohmert can probably eat for free all over town.

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    1. I read a book a few years back about the Bush/Saudi connections from the Seventies onward, and I was stunned by how it was all about Houston. The modern oil problems internationally... they really started in Houston. I had no idea before I read that book even though I worked and lived right in the midst of it.

      The Enron story was big here for so long that I guess it stole all the limelight from our wide assortment of other disreputable characters.

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  6. brilliant. this one needs to go in the book.

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    1. Thank you, bj!

      It is possibly my least weird post ever. But I suppose things will get weird again soon enough...

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  7. Katy. I must make comparisons between Houston and my married life. Ten starts and restarts on new lives, ten honeymoons, ten scrapes back to bare earth, ten trips to the dumpster.

    Which reminds me. Please tell me that the Alabama Theater is still alive and well. I know that they tore down that amazing old Victorian house that was painted yellow and purple back to the 1960's. I forget the exact location in Westhiemer, but it was the site for many hippie hoedowns.

    Maybe I'm looking for a woman who can elicit the same sentiments as that old house. Maybe I need more therapy. Anyway, that's what happens when a giant city has no real zoning ordinances and an ADHD-addled fuckbrain is allowed to date nice ladies.

    Was that confusing?

    Fuck Walmart!

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    1. The Alabama Theater is a Trader Joe's.

      Let me say that again: The Alabama Theater is now a Trader Joe's.

      River Oaks Theater is alive and well, though.

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  8. And yet everything here remains the exact same. Willfully untouched. In fact, today while driving home from our old hometown I took the wife by the 'old sugar beet factory' because I mentioned it in passing, and she wanted to see it. It's a factory that's over 100 years old, that has been closed as long as I've been alive, but it just kinda stands on the outskirts of our town collecting dust. So instead of using it for something else or tearing it down and rebuilding luxury apartments people just drive by and speculate how much dust has collected inside or what kind of horror movie could be filmed inside. My guess: paranormal suspense.

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    1. I would call the horror movie, "The Beet Goes On."

      Unless it was determined that the name would undermine the film's tone.

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  9. I get it. Your blog eats my comments when I use a tablet. Sigh.

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    1. Of course it does. You don't think I'm just going to go around accepting comments posted from tablets, do you?

      I've got SOME standards and a reputation to uphold.

      Delete
  10. I have only been to Houston one time. My girlfriend at the time, along with another woman, and myself, had just spent a month hitch-hiking around southern Mexico. My girlfriend contracted hepatitis and we cut the vacation short. Flying back through Houston, our flight was cancelled due to weather. We vaguely knew someone there and we called and he said, of course we could stay at his place (see: we were one man and two women). Anyway, we cab it there and, not only is his air-conditioner broken (this is Houston! In August!!), but he has three dogs, all of whom had fleas, none of which were controlled in any manner whatsoever. So, my gf is turning yellow with hep; it's ten zillion degrees in the shade in this apartment, and horrific vampire fleas are turning our bodies into raging vistas of red bumps. Dude's car was also broken and his refrigerator was empty. And it was ten zillion miles to the nearest store that sold stuff like vegetables and juice. We got a flight the next day. None of this, of course, is Houston's fault. But, that's the only time I've ever been there.

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    1. I'll never visit Houston, based on your yelp review alone. Thanks for the heads up.

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    2. Actually, sterno, that's pretty much Houston in a nutshell.

      Except for the red bumps. Y'all were lucky that you got bitten by the fleas that leave red bumps. The purple ones are much more coommon and much worse.

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  11. Whoa, that's cool! She was inhaling the dust of the dead (also the name of my memoir that will end up being the particulates that someone else chokes on)! Grotesquely amazing (my Luchador name, "Grotescamente Increíble").
    When I lived in Houston, there were monuments to rot, abandoned apartment complexes littering the outskirts of downtown. But everything outside of that, yes, was raised and replanted. That's part of why I like Houston, it was treated like a garden, weed some areas, plant something new, ignore some parts of the garden where the kudzu grows freely, but that garden remains your garden, flowers and weeds alike.

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    1. Was that Keith Richards who bragged about snorting his father's ashes a few years back? This was sort of like that, but with ancient Roman dudes.

      Your comment has inspired me to good this "garden" thing you mention. It sounds like it's kind of like a grocery store, but without cashiers or bar codes? Weird.

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