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Monday, February 11, 2008

Houston, I have a problem...

Where was the downtown? It seemed I drove on forever, but sometime after 7pm I saw the skyline--what a relief--and the concrete highways all around. I clenched the steering wheel tensely, as traffic was all around me as well, along with neon lights from the businesses off the interstate and blue flashing lights from the police cars who had pulled drivers over for whatever.

I passed TWO, count them TWO Budweiser/Bud Light breweries here. This was a sign that I was not going to find any good microwbrew pubs in town, and with the monopoly of Budweiser, no wonder Houston has no good beer of its own.
I got off on Houston Street from I-610, then on Sawyer and then Washington which got me to downtown. As soon as I saw a city trolley I knew I was in the nice part of town, as trolleys don't drive down the crummy parts of society. I parked my van off Prarie, walked two blocks north, saw a Frank's Pizza that offered free WiFi and I was smitten.
It was here at Frank's Pizza (417 Travis St at Prairie) that I had two slices of cheese pizza and two small plastic cups of Shiner Bock, with a bill of just $11 plus tip. The pizza was delicious, or I was just hungry, but for another hour I sat upstairs where the free Wi-Fi was and wrote the last two entries of this journal. How many free WiFis will I get along this trip? I've hit two sofar.

This was a nice place to eat at. I was alone in a corner (because that is where the electrical outlet was) and busied myself with my project. Although there was no one else to talk to, and Frank's Pizza closed at 9pm, the ambiance was relaxing. Bluesy tunes aired through the speakers and old black and white photographs of old Houston adorned the walls. I was across the street from the Houston Chronicle, founded by Marcellus E Foster. His photograph and many others were also on the wall, but only Sam Houston took center stage. Boy was Sam Houston ugly. Just don't tell a Texan that or the Texas Rangers will be dispatched to take care of you.
Main Street is part of Houston's Historic District. Tall limestone buildings of the 1880s and 1890s line the streets here. Statues and water fountains and vacant blocks followed. Metro Cops on bicycles rode around watching out for the pedestrians. If there is a crime wave in Houston I didn't see it tonight. Grackles socialized in the trees en masse. They have a pretty call. I haven't noticed too many other birds gawking or calling to each other after dark like I have the grackle. They have overtaken Texas cities.
It had rained while I was inside eating pizza. After Frank's Pizza closed I walked around Houston, a whole 90 minutes and I loved every minute of it. It was windy and lightning struck further away at times.
I walked west on Main, placed my Canon on stable edges to photograph the lights. Houston is a very photogenic city. Old Market Square was nice, with its lights and fountains, but then I found fountains everywhere.

One building that captured my heart was the 1847-built Houston Lyceum, which is now part of the Houston Library Research Center. Mature live oaks are up front. The modern addition is north of the historic building, and an orange ball-looking piece of art is on the south side. This part of town was on the dark side, but the aura was beautiful. I could even get a whiff of "autumn rain" which invigorated me.

I liked Houston this time. Why didn't I like it the first time, back in July 1986 whenTim and Erin drove through town on our way to Galveton? Back then I had memories of a dirty town with abandoned lots, and a recent murder of an infant girl still tied in her infant seat but covered with fire ants had made the news the weekend we were in Houston, disgusting me to its careless residents. I know now that that was grossly unfair.
My expenses today were $30.10 for gas and $13 for food.

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