Saturday, March 04, 2006

H-Town baby, H-Town.

Previous posts have seen me whining about how the week prior to vacation is always one of the hardest work weeks of the year. This past week was certainly no exception; particularly since I planned this vacation rather spur of the moment only two weeks ago.

Correct. Vacation. Foreign concept to many of us, myself included up until the last few years, but seeing as I have three weeks of the stuff at my current place of employment, and they have adopted a "use it or lose it" policy, it's in the best interests of my sanity to, in fact, use it.

There are some minor, yet not insignificant problems when dealing with vacation where I work. The first, of course, is the aforementioned "use it or lose it" policy. It's great in that it makes sure you use all of your vacation, but come years end, if you have any remaining, you find yourself in the position of having to scramble to make sure to get it all in. The process is complicated further by the fact that the available days to use it are often severely restricted (no one is allowed to take the week between Christmas and New Years off, for reasons not made clear. Also, certain whole months are often also blacked out due to it being a school, and large amounts of students are present during certain programs/semesters.) Still, three weeks is three weeks. That's a lot of time, especially compared to many corporate environments. But, this is a school as I mentioned before, so while I have lots of vacation time, I generally don't have any money to do anything with it. I'm O.K. with that, oddly enough (not the lack of money by any means, but the fact that I can't splash for an expensive getaway.) Recent vacations have consisted of nothing more than me spending a week at home, relaxing. Boston offers tons of stuff to do, even for those of us that grew up here, and I find I'm never bored if I put just a minimal amount of effort in.

Because of all the restrictions regarding when I can take time off, I decided to use some of it now. The only problem is that Boston has been cold in recent weeks. Actually, it's been pretty fucking frigid. Normally, I would shrug it off. The winter weather here is merely a small price to pay to live in such a wonderful city. Right now though, I'm tired of it, even though this winter has been unseasonably mild by all accounts. I'm not quite sure what it is. Perhaps, it's the recent cold snap in the midst of a warm spell that has me unable to deal. Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder. Maybe I'm a grump. But I'm a grump who wants warm weather without paying for it.... in a hurry.

Enter my cousin Brian. Brian and I are just about the same age (he's six months older, as he constantly bragged to everyone else in our single digit years) and in addition to being my cousin, he pulled double duty as one of my best friends growing up. Several years ago, after having lived in Boston, London & Munich, he and his partner George decided to make the move below the Mason-Dixon Line and settle there. Since then, he's been living a relaxing warm weather lifestyle, free from the aggravation of snow shoveling and teeth chattering. Fast forward to my birthday last year. I open the mailbox and receive a card from Brian that says "Happy Birthday! Come visit!" along with enough frequent flyer miles for a round trip ticket to......


Now, just a second. W.. Wait.. I kno... Please, will you just SHUTUP! I know what you're thinking. I've thought all the same things myself.

"Houston? Pfft. Have fun getting black lung. What the hell are you supposed to do down there? Visit an oil refinery? Yee-fucking-haw."

Believe me, I know. Just this last week I went to a bookstore with a rather extensive travel section, when I was approached by an employee and we had the following exchange:

"Can I help you?"

"Yeah, I'm looking for a guidebook on Houston."

(After a slight grimace) "Ohhh man... No, we don't have guidebooks on Houston. I don't think they even write them. I've been doing the ordering here for years, and I've never even seen a listing."

Well. So much for that.

Even the Sports Guy, one of my favorite sportswriters, took time out to trash the city in a recent column:

In the past four years, I made four separate trips to Houston and spent a total of 24 days here. And you know what? That's too much freaking time to spend in Houston. My editors just bleeped me, I don't care. Maybe Houston doesn't suck any more or less than 20 other major cities, and maybe the people are friendly and likable, but the fact remains, you would never come here for any reason, other than these three:

(1) For work.
(2) To gain weight.
(3) To get shot.

You just wouldn't."

Sounds encouraging, wouldn't you say? (A very brief and completely off topic aside: Sports Guy just posted, in two parts, a wonderful rambling e-mail exchange he had with Malcolm Gladwell, writer for The New Yorker and author of both The Tipping Point and Blink. Just fantastic stuff. Check it out if you have the time. Here's Part 1 and here's Part 2.)

Well, you know what? I AM encouraged. In fact, I am really really REALLY looking forward to this trip for a couple of reasons. Reason #1, obviously, is the warm weather. The average temperature in Houston at the moment looks to be about 73 degrees. The average temperature in Boston is ohhh.... I'd day -12. That's a significant jump in the right direction. Huzzah!

Reason #2 has to do with knowing my cousin. Brian, as mentioned, has lived well in some very exclusive European locales. Further, he's gay, and as such a man of rather refined taste. I mean, c'mon, haven't you ever watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? Alright... you don't have to answer that, but suffice to say they don't live like cave dwelling grunts. Do you think if Houston was really as bad as some of the ridicule it receives, Brian and his partner would choose to settle there? I think not, kind sir. And yeah, I'm blatantly stereotyping, but I also know Brian. So there.

Reason #3 is purely demographics. Houston is the 4th largest city in the nation with close to two million people living within its borders. That many people generally don't say, "Well... Houston is a shithole and there's nothing to do. I think we should live there! What do you say, Wanda?" On the contrary. I'm quite certain that there is PLENTY to do in Houston and that I will enjoy much of it. True - I have no idea what I'm going to do and see there yet, other than NASA (I don't have a guidebook, remember?) But, I do have a cousin who knows where all the fun and interesting stuff is located within that monster of a city - plus he knows his way around.

Reason #4 - Southern accents make me laugh.

So yeah, Houston may take a lot of crap from a lot of people but I don't care. I'm ignoring the comments, and I fully intend to go down there and enjoy myself. Will that happen? I'm thinking so, but if you want to see for yourself, check back here every so often. I'm bringing Mr. Peabody (my laptop - don't ask) with me, and plan to post my exploits up on this space as they occur... or rather, shortly thereafter. In the meantime, however, I've got some packing to do. Now, where did I put that gas mask?


Blogger Jesse Anna Bornemann said...

Y'all are the ones with the accent.

Reason #5: Taco Cabana. Puts that wimpy chihuahua to shame.

If you see any displaced New Orleaners, tell them the crepe place on Broadway is open - which is reason enough to return.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Marty Wrin said...

Geez, it's been 36 hours since you left. I thought you would have taken a break from sitting next to Brian while playing World of Warcraft to throw us a post about Houston. Actually, I was anticipating a post that touched on Houston and then focused on the difference between playing World of Warcraft in Boston vs. in Houston(besides the fact that, unlike here, the bizarre characters are only running around on the screen in Houston).

Anyway, hope Houston is treating you well.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in houston, and have have seen it change into the shithole it is today. it is just awful here. the people are totally hostile, crime is nuts, its dirty, ugly, and i hate it. iam reenlisting in the military during a time of war to get out of here. by the way, whites are officially a minority now. thanks border patrol.

7:02 PM  

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