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.