Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Stars At Night Are Big And Bright....

Texas is big. Houston is a part of Texas. Is Houston big too? Why yes, sir. Yes it is. Enormous, in fact. That's one of many observations about the place... but more on that in a bit.

My cousin was kind enough to book a first class flight on the way down to this fine city. Not because he was generous, but because that's all that was available. The trip home evens out the karma a little bit. Two middle seats and a transfer in Cleveland. Yiiick. Anyhoo, the flight down was an excellent one as it (remarkably) had good food and was on time. I happened to get seated next to the "elderly woman who can't see anything because she forgot her glasses so instead of reading or watching TV she passes the time by talking to the person next to her and bragging about her children" but she was quite pleasant to talk to and while away the time. The whole flight took about 3 hours and change and, although exhausted from lack of sleep the night before, I was in a decent enough mood. Upon exiting the plane I had to stifle the urge to do like Pee Wee Herman did in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and belt out the words that title this post just to see if everyone would stop and return volley with *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* "Deep in the heeeeart of Texas!" I came SO close to doing it, but stopped short when I remembered that my cousin has to live here. And so, I gazed in awe at the ten gallon hats and cowboy boots while having a serious hanker for a hunk o' cheese. My cousin Brian quickly ushered me into his waiting vehicle while shaking his head and we sped off.

First thing I noticed about my cousin's home is that it, like everything else in this city, is huge. I'm pretty much living in luxury at the moment with gorgeous furniture and modern appliances all around me. Were I a jealous person, I would be extremely so now, particularly when Brian told me that his house here costs less than a shack would in Boston. Why do I live there again? Anyway, here are some photos of the front and back:

Goodness. And I didn't even provide any pictures of the interior. The guest room I'm staying in has gorgeous mahogany wood furniture, queen size bed stacked with pillows, a walk in closet, private bathroom and shower, and a bookcase FILLED with books. Screw Houston. I didn't want to leave the house.. and in fact I didn't on my first full day here. Nope. Feeling a little under the weather and tired (we had gone out for some great Mexican food the night before and then drove through Houston's downtown) we hung out in the house and read by the pool, watched movies, and played video games - all in 7o degree weather.

Today however, was a different story. As luck (bad or not - I haven't decided yet) would have it, the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Fair is happening this week. People from all over Texas and the country come to show off their prize heffers and steers and enjoy country/rock music concerts, a carnival, and various shop stalls hawking all sorts of cowboy paraphernalia. It happened here

which is the bigass complex where the Houston Texans play football, but more importantly, where the New England Patriots won their 2nd Super Bowl in 2003-2004. That photo doesn't properly convey how large a place this is. One is simply dwarfed when standing next to it.

Anyway, since neither Brian or I are sticklers for detail or fine print, we actually missed all of the rodeo events for today and had to settle for the "livestock show" instead. As we walked around the shops and stalls and I found myself continuously amazed/appalled/dumbfounded/in fits of barely stifled laughter. The place was simply FULL of cows, goats, and other farm animals that you could walk right up to and well.. pet, I guess.. or simply look at. I almost got my shoe shat on by one of the most enormous cows I've ever seen. I couldn't tell if these things were for sale or there to be judged, but man - I've never seen so much livestock in one place. A couple of things were a little disturbing, too. First, they had an indoor childrens merry go round, but with real horses instead of fake plastic ones. Tiny little ponies were harnessed to the thing and little children climbed up on their backs and they walked around in circles all day. Also, the Texas poultry department had a stall with chickens in front of a wall that... well, see for yourself:

How's that for tact? Eviscerator? Is this something I needed to know? There were no euphemisims at the event and nothing was handled with kid gloves. It was all about poultry and livestock and all out in the open for you to see. Also, the place smelled like shit. Literally. Really, I guess it was more of a culture shock than anything else. Coming from Boston and knowing as many vegetarians/vegans as I do, and knowing why they are what they are, seeing all this was like getting hit over the head with a blunt object. And yet, even though we missed the rodeo events we still are planning on coming back later in the week to see it. Why? Because it's part of the culture and unique to the place I'm visiting and seeing these things is part of why you go on vacation.

All this aside, two days have gone by and my initial thoughts on Houston are largely good ones. The phrase "Everything's bigger in Texas" is SO overused and cliche, but it's also pretty true - at least where I am. The city is huge - you could drive for two hours and still not cross it entirely. There are tons of excellent restaurants (which serve Texas sized portions) and some really gorgeous neighborhoods. I know I've only been here two days but based on the little I've seen, I don't think it's at all deserving of the ridicule that it gets. It reminds me a lot of Los Angeles. Lots and lots of sprawl, except the sprawl in Houston seems much more clean, and the people here are nicer. Plus, there's a noticeable downtown area where some fun stuff goes on. It's been a fun place to see and explore so far, and there's plenty more planned. What exactly, I'm not sure yet, but I'll certainly keep you posted with some updates as we go. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make sure my chicken has been properly eviscerated and plucked. Mooooooo.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was begining to worry you'd been shot! (I hear that can happen to a feller in Houston.) That livestock show sounds completely demented, like some kind of a haunted petting zoo... definitely puts Clemens in a little better perspective. Keep the reports coming, and stand clear of the eviscerator!

3:12 PM  
Blogger Marty Wrin said...

Glad to hear that you're enjoying Houston. Although I don't recall hearing bad things about Houston, I hadn't heard much good either. In fact, I think you might be the first person I know who has gone to Houston on a trip so you're a veritable trailblazer! I definitely agree that it is interesting to immerse yourself in local cultural opportunities. Speaking of which, after a long day at the rodeo - nothing completes the day like kicking back at the Mustang Cabaret. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

8:15 AM  

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