December 13, 2004
When we say "It's Worth It", this is what we mean

This is the best article I've seen by a non-Houstonian about what there is to like here. The writer was inspired to visit by the Houston: It's Worth It campaign, and the best evidence that he gets it is right here:

"Zoning, schmoning. There is a kind of urban anarchy here that gives the city a real punch." (From No. 815.)

It's true: The greater metropolitan area is truly a geography of nowhere, a crazy quilt of strip malls and strip clubs and gas pumps and houses. But the sneaky thing about Houston is that the city's heart isn't to be found in one place; it's in a thousand small places and subtle pleasures. Trouble is, most outsiders don't have the time to assemble the scattered pieces. Only with time does mishmash become mosaic.

One hundred percent dead-on right. Even many people who've lived here forever discover secrets about their city they never knew. I live in the Heights, which is just north of downtown. As far as I know, before we settled in here my mother-in-law, a third-generation Houstonian, had never set foot in this part of town. Earlier this year Tiffany and I were hanging out on a nice weekend day with a former coworker of hers, a woman whose grandmother had lived a mile or so from our house. We had promised to take some pictures of St. Joseph's Church in the old Sixth Ward for Tiffany's cousin who was to be married there, so we took a bit of a driving tour around the area. All of it was new to the former coworker.

(I'm the same way. Take a map of inner-loop Houston and draw a red line along I-45 to downtown, then TX-288 to the South Loop. I'm very familiar with everything to the left of the line, and mostly unfamiliar with everything to the right. Houston's a big place, and that's just how it is.)

The point is, in every part of Houston there's something worth seeing, eating, or doing. It's just that much of it is a bit of a secret unless you're with someone who already knows about it.

One other point:

[W]alking is the way to meet a city, and in this, Houston thwarts the pedestrian. The place is simply too diffuse and too auto-oriented. It's also not easy to find reasonably priced lodging that both has character and is in a place where a wanderer can ramble from the front door.

The author then notes that an exception to this is in the Museum District area, where he spent some time at a B&B and wandered from there to a number of places of interest. I guess he didn't take the light rail line, since he could then have gotten from his resting place to downtown without a car. Too bad.

Via Kevin.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2004 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

"the city's heart isn't to be found in one place; it's in a thousand small places and subtle pleasures."

Same thing could be said about Los Angeles. Hundreds of communities spread over a mind-boggling amount of square mileage. (Yes, I lived there for a while; I don't hate the place as so many profess to do).

Posted by: Linkmeister on December 13, 2004 2:36 PM

I'm a second-generation Houstonian and I'd never spent much time in the Heights until my friends started moving in here. I had set foot in it, though.

I've never spent much time inside the Loop on the northeast side of town, but that's because it's bad neighborhoods and not much to draw me--although I still want to find my father's favorite BBQ place on Lockwood, if it's still there. On the other hand, the Heights was a bad neighborhood in the 1970s.

Posted by: Ginger on December 13, 2004 6:05 PM