Stop over in Houston, Texas

Trip Start Aug 23, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Straight to South America? Just like that? That would be the action of madman. So to break myself in gently I came to Houston for a week of R&R visiting a mate and chilling out....

Think of this entry as a prelude to the real stuff south of the equator from entry #2 and beyond.

Even though this week was pure relaxation, the journey out here was still the journey away from home and all things familiar for what will probably be a long time, so this stopover is nevertheless the beginning of the larger journey. Did I feel nervous? sad? excited?.... no, I just felt knackered - a long week of goodbyes had left me exhausted just in time for a 6am start to what would turn out to be a 24hr trek to Texas.

I still managed some firsts on the way though: First time on a 747, first time being asked to take off my jumper to go through security, first mile-high cognac, first 'welcome' from the homeland security goons. But eventually, I made it. Fitz, my pal, was at the airport to pick me up and my week of chillin' could begin.

Houston is big. Endless almost and to me it seems incredibly spread out, the downtown 'built-up' area is tiny, although quite nice looking, and the rest of the city seems to consist of mile after mile of detached bulidings each in their own patch of concrete or scruffy grass. However, this IS America and more than that, it is Texas, and like any new-comer to the States (I've only been very briefly before) this land from the films is entertaining to be in just for that "hee-hee I'm in the movies!" feeling.

Visiting Fitz is easy and some things are guaranteed. If there is fun, it will get properly organised, if there is no specific fun there will definitely be booze instead and most of the time there will be both. He certainly didn't let me down and an extra bonus is the house he shares with his girlfriend, Candice, is handily placed and very comfortable - especially the balcony.

As soon as I arrived in the house on Thursday night (24 hrs after I got in a cab in Edinburgh) any problems of time-differences or jet lag were wiped out by red wine and good company (Howard the daschund). The next day I felt fine and Candice, who was off work, took me to breakfast and to see Downtown. Candice is fun was only mildly freaked out by the bag-lady who insisted on operating the train ticket machine for us from a seated position using only her aluminium walking stick "let me help y'all...". She has been here for years (that's Candice not the bag-lady) so could show me all of Houston's sites... it took 10 mins - Dowtown and ... er..... that's it. It took us longer to find her car in the parking garage. I say car, it's more of an all-purpose tank/personnel carrier/truck thing that she calls 'the vehicle' and just climbing into it makes me want to chew tobacco and shoot stuff. 

That evening we went to the ball game - an American institution if ever there was one. It was fantastic. Great stadium (Minute Maid Park), beer and hotdogs, stats and American patriotism and sentimentality. It was just a shame that the Astros lost (when they really should have won) and that it went into extra time for so long that we left to go to the pub and saw the last innings there instead. I think I could get into baseball. I like a sport where you can be fat and still have a long career and where the uniforms are traditional but faintly ridiculous. 

After the ball-game experience the rest of my time here in Houston has been taken up with getting boozy or going to the salsa club (a weakness of mine that Fitz and Candice kindly indulged). It was funny to be the only white dude dancing, but the salsa here is ok and the club certainly didn't disappoint in terms of living up to a stereotypical latino nightspot experience. Oh, and obviously we met a Serbian Hungarian massage therapist who drove us to another club (she didn't go in) where everyone seemed to be participating in a mass hispanic-off in which our chances were not good (I didn't come last though, Candice easily managed that). I forget what the name of the club was, but we managed to avoid getting knifed and even the worst cab driver in history eventually got us home to the safety of the booze cabinet.

I am now contemplating the journey to Buenos Aires as the thunder rolls overhead (it has rained nearly every day here but has been sunny too). Houston has been cool in many ways especially with the ubiquity of air-conditioning and the fantastic welcome I've had from my hosts. Tomorrow will be a proper leap into the unknown (ay caramba!), but I'm glad I had this week of fun before getting down to business.
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