May 23, 2011


Almost two years ago, it became apparent that I was going to be moving from the East Coast to Texas. No one was more surprised by this fact than I was. Living in Texas was about as high on my list of life goals as contracting rabies. Still, I found myself packing my bags and heading for the only state with an x in its name.

My original plan was to resist the fanatical cult-like obsession most people here have with the state.

But there really is a lot to like here in Houston. Take the beef, for instance. It seems that red meat is a necessary but not sufficient means of hospitality. Everywhere you go, you can't avoid being offered steak.

Most bars here don't regularly serve food, but once a week, they will have a steak night. They just wheel out a grill and start cooking slabs of beef. It's an idea both simple and beautiful.

I have a friend who is a vegetarian, which is about the equivalent of being a communist here.
Then there are the roads. In Texas, they love their 12 lane highways. It's very common to find yourself on an overpass where at least 900 major highways are intersecting. You always feel like 8 million cars are careening into your face.

They also have feeder roads that run the entire distance of the highways, but just parallel to them. All I'd every known were on- and off-ramps. Remarkable!

It's important to note that there is a distinct country western theme here. Despite the city being very modern and metropolitan, it's still Texas. The other day, I was walking along a city street with a friend when she exclaimed:

I'm telling you, you don't have the opportunity to say that where I'm from.

To be fair, Houston is also home to the world's largest medical center (so it's a great place to study medicine or to break your leg), the second most Fortune 500 companies headquartered in a city, the most restaurants per capita of any city in the U.S., one of the nation's largest shipping channels, 4 standing performing arts companies, and a vibrant arts scene.

But so what when you're home to the world's largest rodeo? The term "world's largest rodeo" is no joke. Imagine sitting in a giant arena, watching children cling desperately to the backs of sheep that are cantering through a giant pit of dirt (an event called "Mutton Busters").

 Next, you see what must be the world's largest American flag unfurl above you as troops repel from the ceiling amidst indoor fireworks.

Then, because it's Tejano night, the arena transforms into a giant stage where a popular Mexican musical group performs entirely in Spanish to a crowd that sings along to every word.

It is mind-blowingly awesome  (and around here, kinda viewed as normal - I recently mentioned how weird the rodeo is to a Houstonian friend, and he looked at me and asked, "What's weird about it?").

In Houston, there is also the issue of no-zoning. This means that virtually anything can be built anywhere.

You never know what you're going to get as you drive along.

As I mentioned before, my original idea was to resist falling in love with the great state of Texas. I am somewhat disturbed to report that despite maintaining a healthy sense of humor about this place, I haven't been entirely successful in sticking to the plan. I don't know. There's just something about standing up in the 7th inning stretch of an Astros baseball game and joining an entire stadium of fans in singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas..."

...that makes you feel at home.

May 2, 2011

The Perfect Picture

One day at my parents house, I noticed that a rather large cabinet filled with fine china was slowly sliding down the wall.

I alerted my dad.

We decided that the best immediate course of action was to grab bricks from outside and stack them under the cabinet's wooden frame to keep it from sliding completely off the wall.

My mom didn't take the news so well.

It was fun.

My aunt came over to help prepare for the party. Because I was conned into serving as the wait staff, she gave me a very thorough lesson about how to pour the champagne.

We made sure to warn my aunt not to go too near the cabinet because it could fall on her.

A little while later, I decided to document the festivities by snapping some pre-party pictures.

I approached my aunt, who was in the kitchen where the cabinet was. I asked her to smile for the camera. She held up her hands and flashed a big grin.

I pressed down the shutter button. There is a slight delay on many cheap digital cameras between pressing the button and an actual picture being taken. In that brief instant, someone on the other side of the kitchen dropped a pan, which clattered loudly onto the ground. Because my aunt had been warned about the possibility of the cabinet crashing down upon her, she immediately assumed this was what was happening. With a look of sheer terror, she turned to the cabinet, waved her hands frantically, and screamed loudly. That's exactly when the camera snapped the picture.

She was so far away from the cabinet.

I captured the best picture I will ever take: pure, honest terror of impending death on my aunt's face. Every once in a while, I like to dig around on my dad's computer, find the photo, and email it to everyone in the family. My aunt really appreciates it.