Houston: Another Problem

Trip Start Jan 30, 2011
Trip End Nov 16, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Thursday, September 22, 2011

My first proper day walking around Houston did absolutely nothing to contradict the stories of it being a concrete jungle; not only was there uninspiring building after uninspiring building, but even the Museum District seemed clinical. The sculpture garden intrigued me as I looked at the metal creations, but the most intriguing thing in there was the workers trying to cut down some loose branches and tidy up after themselves, whilst not hitting the few tourists on the head. 

I was walking towards the metro, as I thought that would take me in the right direction to the city  centre, but I was soon distracted by a church that stood out from the other buildings in the skyline, meaning I thought I was walking on a road parallel to Montrose.  I'd later find out I wasn’t.

I found the Downtown area, and was soon walking amongst more skyscrapers that housed many cowboys who insisted on looking like every other American I’ve seen; I expected cowboy hats, spurs, and chaps, but these Houston cowboys were nowhere to be seen.  Whilst the majority of them did walk like they’d just hopped off horses, there were no other signifiers of being in cowboy country. 

 On arriving at the main stop Downtown I asked where Bagby Street was, as this was where Houston’s visitor centre was, but after five blocks full of more saddle-sore-ridden men who did nothing to confirm the saying that 'everything is bigger in Texas’ I was standing on Bagby Street with no visitor centre in sight, or even a sign to point out where it might be. You’d think that the one place designed for newcomers to the city who have no idea where anything is would be well sign-posted. 

After despairing at my failure to find the centre and a bus, any bus, failing to appear, I headed back to the rail stop and went back in the opposite direction towards the house.  Whilst on the train, a greasy, long-haired man decided it was okay to place his head on the back of my chair and stare at me before a strong glare pushed him back into to his own seat, and of course his stop was the Greyhound Station. 

I listened in horror as a man at the stop blew his nose by literally blowing the contents out of his hooter onto the pavement below; unfortunately I also caught sight of the horror by looking in his direction at the wrong time and seeing the evacuation mid-flow.  I’ve not seen or heard that since Southeast Asia, and even then they did it in the gutter rather than where people walked.  I got off the train at the station I’d boarded at, thinking that the Greek restaurant Catherine had recommended on Montrose would be parallel to the Main Street stop.  It wasn’t.

Grossed out, I headed off in search of Niko Niko’s, although the thought of food after that man wasn’t exactly appealing, but half an hour and an empty water bottle later I was still searching in vain.  I asked an older man on his bike for help, but he just told me it wasn’t in walking distance and that I should get the bus, but as he only seemed intent on eyeing me up from his five-foot platform I walked in the opposite direction to him, figuring I’d at least get back to the rail stop if I carried on.  I was right, it did eventually appear, and as it was next to ‘Jack in the Box,’ a McDonalds-like fast food chain I went in for an iced tea to replenish my fluids.

I did intend to get some food too, but on seeing the toothless clientele I opted for just the beverage, although that didn’t keep me from mixing with the masses and listening as the hairy-legged old woman in front asked what she could get for a dollar whilst leaning on her tatty brown suitcase.  The worst thing about the place was that I probably fit right in, following my hours of walking in the Texan sun, not having a clue where I was going, and getting all in a muddle.  Typically, I was soon freezing cold as the air conditioning blasted away my body heat, and a swift exit ensued to keep me from dying of hypothermia.

Once I’d figured out the way back to the house from the rail stop I had a quick change before heading out and realising that the street I wanted was just minutes away from where I was Couchsurfing; the bridge that was apparently just before Niko Niko’s was right in front of me, and then the Manil Collection building that I was assured would wow me was another ten minutes away.  After walking through the university grounds I found the building, but rather than saying wow I took a quick picture before heading back to the house, seeking solace from yet more of the midday Texan sun.

A shower and more clean clothes later I was off to an Indian restaurant with Catherine to line our stomachs before going to see Houston’s baseball team the Astros play the game that would end their losing streak.  The food was delicious, but the waiters weren’t too happy; maybe it was because we were discussing drop toilets whilst waiting for our meal, but as usual their lack of smiles still ‘earned’ them a tip. 

Another trip on the light rail took us over to the baseball stadium where we met up with Catherine's sister and her family, then proceeded to watch the Astros beat the Colorado Rockies, hopefully I brought a bit of luck with me, seeing as the last baseball game I attended saw the Toronto Blue Jays fail to score a single run.  We left in the ninth inning as it was clear the Astros were in for a win, and settled in to eat the remaining curry whilst watching 'The Lincoln Lawyer' starring Matthew McConaughey, himself a Texan.

Whilst awaiting any possible indigestion following the late-night curry I saw an email from the hostel I’ve booked for New York in four days, telling me that it’s been closed down by the New York Department of Buildings; every day brings a new hurdle.
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