By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Out in the parking lot, I told him about our trip, and for the first time in 16 miles, somebody got it. No talk of buses from Malcolm, who looked like he was working on his second fifth of the day.
"Ah, yes, you've made a Hajj," he said instantly, in his quasi-British accent. I offered him the chance to walk the last few blocks with us.
"I am sorry, but I am rather indisposed," he said. "And I don't want to steal your thunder."
"But I've got some vodka in my bag," I said.
"I am afraid that I have some, too, and it is closer at hand," he said, reaching into someone's car for a fifth. "But I wish you well!"
Minutes later, at about 11, we made it. Tick told me to destroy the worst boom box in the history of the universe, so I spiked it football-style on the sidewalk, and it exploded with satisfying force. Then we howled out that the Hajj was over, and that the crappy little pocket park near the entrance to the spur was our Mecca. There we had one last swig of vodka to toast our success.
So, had we found the soul of Houston? Yes, I would have to say that we did, such as it is. It's ugly, preposterous and inhuman, interspersed with all-too-rare pockets of serenity and beauty. It smells like roasting corn, raw sewage, fish sauce, frying hamburgers and exhaust. (Heavy on the exhaust.) There's sex and God at one end of it and plain old sex at the other. It's chic and tacky, humble and proud. It's Vietnamese, Mexican, Korean, black, white, Muslim and Christian, macho and effete, alive and dead, Red State and Blue. It sounds like the whooshing of cars, and if you close your eyes, you can delude yourself into believing they're waves lapping at a beach. It's the American dream, and it's a prison. And it's got the best sweet tea. Great! Walk! Super! Indeed.