The latest issue ofSmithsonian
magazine features an article that would make anyHouston, It’s Worth It
campaigner proud. The story, written by award-winning poet Mark Doty, explains how Houston’s lesser qualities add to its overall charm.
“I wanted to write about what is it that feels soulful and inevitably compelling to me about this place,” Doty, who pitched the story to the publication as part of their regular feature My Kind of Town, tells Hair Balls. For the past 10 years, Doty has come to Houston to teach for a semester at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.
“When I first came to Houston I was in shock,” he says, noting the typical responses of a first-timer in H-town: the sprawl, the heat, suburban development, etc. But after a few years of returning, he was charmed.
“If you look beyond the surface there were all these really interesting people who were shaping their own lives here with pretty much a disregard for the kind of bland – on one hand bland, on the other hand ambitious – values of the Sunbelt,” he says. “There are people who are just quirky and very warm and interestingly available.”
Of course, the article does mention Houston’s lack of love for anything historic.
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“Houston just loves to knock everything down and put up something new and it changes so quickly that I swear I can never – something new goes up and I immediately forget what used to be there,” Doty says. “And at first I thought that was awful, and I still think it’s awful, but I also kind of like the way – I don’t think people think about the past so much here,” he says. Doty believes this is what drives the town’s improvisational attitudes and a strong, we-can-do-anything spirit.
“I think that the character and the spirit of invention makes Houston feel like a 21st-century city,” he says and adds it has the same appeal of places like Dubai or Singapore. “These real evolving cities that we really don’t know that much about yet … they don’t have centers, they don’t have even so much a common language or a common culture but they’re kind of New World places that are still creating themselves.”
Wow, maybe Weingarten isn’t the root of all evil … well, at least not totally.
— Dusti Rhodes