10 Things We Hate (But Have Come to Accept) About Houston
Hey, we're not THAT ugly...right?
Photo by Jeff Balke
I am an unabashed supporter of the city of Houston. I am a third-generation Houstonian and despite having visited places around the country and world, I'm perfectly happy to call Houston home. That doesn't mean it doesn't have its problems. Oh, it has a boatload of them. Some are fixable. Others, not so much. But sometimes the Serenity Prayer and all that stuff about acceptance play a role in where you live, too.
This is not to say a lot hasn't changed. If you lived here in the '80s, moved away and didn't come back until this year, you'd probably wouldn't recognize the place with the exception of the lovely oak trees and the endless expanse of strip malls and abandoned car dealerships along Interstate 45 North.
Still, if you are going to live here, you may as well get used to a few things that have very little chance of changing.
One of the biggest snow storms here in two decades...seriously.
Photo by Jeff Balke
10. The Old Rockets Uniforms are Never Coming Back
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Okay, perhaps this is a bit of a niche item, but among Rockets fans, it is often a serious debate. When the Rockets won back-to-back titles in the early '90s, something that NEVER happens in Houston (more on that later), they did it in the old-school familiar "ketchup and mustard" uniforms. That red-and-gold look was pervasive when they were winning. Not long after, the then relatively-new owner Leslie Alexander changed them to a bizarre, cartoonish pinstripe get up with a logo that looked like an angry dildo. Sensing the error, the Rockets changed them again in the early 2000s, this time with the spikey Asian font and red/white color scheme they have today. Even young Rockets fans occasionally raise a stink about bringing back the old uniform style despite the "throwback" nights during the season featuring the beloved red and gold. Get over it, Rockets fans. Those days are gone along with those duds.
9. It Doesn't Snow
In 2008 and 2009, we had back-to-back snow days during Houston's winter for the first time in recorded history. This past winter, we had a number of days below freezing and a slight dusting of the white stuff. But a winter wonderland, this most certainly is not. Even if we do get a bit of snow, it hits the ground and melts almost instantaneously. Up north what we call flurries, they call good weather. We should be glad. We never have to shovel that crap and we can go visit people who do have that lovely chore as often as we like. It's kind of like being a grandparent. You get all the benefits of fun with your grand kids without having to take them home.
8. We Aren't Winning Any Beauty Contests
For as lovely as parts of the city can be, we suffer both from an intrinsic lack of geography and an unfortunate lack of taste (much of the time). The city is flat, our waterways aren't exactly scenic and the vast expanses of strip malls, particularly in the suburbs can be depressing. We don't look out our windows in the morning and see glimmering coastlines or towering mountains. Face it, the city is ugly. And that's totally fine. We get to enjoy the hidden beauty of the city and the fact that its citizens are really attractive even when their surroundings are not. It makes for a nice contrast. Plus, being an unattractive city keeps out the whiners.
7. In Summer, the Pollution Can Be Awful
If you decide to move here, get to know the word "ozone." Thanks to the city's massive physical size, traffic, nearby chemical refineries and the weather patterns in summer, we are often subjected to days of below-average air quality. Los Angeles sits in a valley, creating the smog they face during the summer months. We have still, heavy air. The good news is that it doesn't last long and the fall months here are insanely beautiful and mostly pollution free. That's why God invented the summer vacation.
6. We Lack Decent Public Transportation...Because We Love Our Cars
Remember that pollution I mentioned? Most of it is thanks to our desperate love of cars. Sure, if you live in a city as big as Houston, you better have some transportation, but it becomes especially true when you realize we have a severely lacking public transportation system. METRO does what it can, but the scope of covering 600 square miles of city is daunting. And we aren't helped by many a loudmouthed politician who seems to think increased public transport is akin to making our city government socialist and declaring French as the official language. Of course, they don't have to deal with our traffic either. It does make us fiercely independent and give most of us the flexibility to come and go as we please, however. It also means a lot more Uber drivers, so there's that.
A man once paid $200 to see our QB's jersey burned in the stadium parking lot. Yeah.
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5. Our Sports Teams Break Our Hearts
Look around at the rest of the country. I dare you to find a major American city with the run of bad luck we have. From UH's loss in the Final Four to NC State to the Oilers near misses during the Luv Ya Blue days to the general and nearly consistent failings of our teams over the decades, this is the kind of place sports dreams go to die. Worst of all, the losses are often the painful, crush your soul variety as evidenced last season by the Damian Lillard shot with .9 seconds to send the Rockets home with yet another first round playoff exit. The Texans go from 12-4 to 2-14 in consecutive seasons. The Astros make it to the World Series for the first time ever only to be swept. Fortunately, our teams are rarely just awful -- setting aside a few lost seasons for all of them and, of course, the Astros -- making them just entertaining enough to be interesting, get your hopes up and then slam them into the turf.
4. We Are in a Perpetual State of Road Construction
The good news about Houston road construction is that while it haunts everyone at some point, you can live near recently reconstructed roadways and find life extremely pleasant for at least a decade. I've often thought that if a scientist were trying to figure out how to make a perpetual motion machine, he could simply visit Houston and study the road construction. It never ends...ever. It seems as though attention is focused on one stretch of highway for a decade or so -- right now, the poor bastards like me who live near 290 are in the crosshairs -- before moving on to a new area. And city streets are in a near constant state of repaving thanks to potholes. It could be worse. We could be stuck in Austin traffic where the population expands daily but they refuse to build new roads or increase highway size. Then again, their view from traffic is better.
3. We Tear Everything Down
Historic Preservation is a lovely concept. It means keeping ties to our past and restoring the great beauty of storied architecture. Europe has castles that date back centuries and they are thoughtfully maintained for each successive generation. In Houston, we have a few buildings from the early 20th century...for now. If God was a construction supervisor, Houston would be heaven. There is nothing here we won't demolish in the name of something new. I'm a bit surprised we haven't torn down City Hall (the original was in Market Square, but that's another story) and put in luxury condos. Get on that Perry Homes! So, when you are driving through the Heights and you see four three-story homes crammed into a lot where only one has any business fitting, that's what we refer to as progress. It does help keep housing costs low and the commercial construction industry is booming, but we also end up with empty lots that used to be Astroworld.
2. The Heat and the Humidity
The great benefit of the humidity is how young it keeps your skin. Unfortunately, you have to live in the steam room to experience it. There are days in the summer when a sudden rain shower crops up, drops a quarter inch of rain in the span of a few minutes and then dissipates leaving sunny skies behind and steam rising from the pavement like they were filming a noir crime drama outside. We don't reach triple digits often in temperature, but we make up for it with a heat index that can kill small animals unless they are indigenous to the rainforest. On the other hand, the lush tropical climate means we can grow a boatload of plants here you can't anywhere else in the U.S. and our tree canopy is simply amazing. Trade offs.
1. No One Gets Us
Ask the average American and I bet they think Houston looks like a desert and is ranked about 15th on the list of most populous cities in America. As I just established, we are the opposite of dry and we rank 4th, thank you very much. No matter how much good publicity we get -- and we have gotten an avalanche of it in the last few years -- we are still a hot, filthy, ugly, crime ridden, pollution filled, oil loving, backwoods shit-hole to much of the rest of the world. And if that means they don't want to live here, I'm cool with that.
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