February 01, 2002
Covering Houston, take two

Salon tries again to capture Houston's mood in the post-Enron collapse. While this article is a lot closer to reality than their cringe-worthy first attempt, it still felt off to me.

I don't deny that the free-market deregulation worship that Katharine Mieszkowski describes exists, and is even rather prevalent. Houston is indeed the land of no zoning and free-for-all suburban sprawl. Houston is also a very big place with a large and diverse population. As such, anyone who tries to capture its essence in a four-page article is going to make a bunch of sweeping generalizations about it that are going to be flat wrong for a lot of its residents.

I grew up in Staten Island, New York. Staten Island is a part of New York City, but its small size (compared to the other boroughs), relative isolation, and suburban feel make it a very different place. I often got annoyed when I'd hear someone say something or other was "quintessential New York" or "definitive New York" because they were seldom describing anything resembling my reality. To put it another way, New York is as much The King of Queens, Crooklyn , and Working Girl as it is Seinfeld and Sex and the City.

It's the same sort of thing in Houston. We have snooty old money (River Oaks) and snooty new money (Memorial), too cool (and expensive) for you downtown lofts, gentrifying neartown neighborhoods like the Heights and Montrose that are struggling to retain aspects of their past identities as hippie and gay areas, a large variety of ethnic and minority enclaves, the more rural areas down south and out east near the refineries, and on and on. In addition, a lot of us here now weren't here during the 80s boom and bust, myself included. I'm sure it makes for a boring story, but if author Mieszkowski had looked, she'd have found a bunch of people with no memory of or interest in the psychological baggage she talks about.

UPDATE: This time Ginger was harsher than I was. That's two Premium subscribers you've pissed off, Salon. We deserve better.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 01, 2002 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack