Somebody asked me a few weeks ago: Have you ever been to Kingwood?
I had to think. I had passed by Kingwood many times while on my way up Highway 59, but to the very best of my recollection I had never ventured into Kingwood proper.
I hesitate to make such a shameful admission, but, yes, I had lived in Houston for 15 years and never sampled the many fine and varied restaurants of Kingwood, never taken in a game with the two-time NBA champion Kingwood Rockets, never enjoyed the world-renown Kingwood Grand Opera, never admired the distinctive architecture of downtown Kingwood, never perused the want ads to check all the job opportunities available in Kingwood, never ... well, you get the picture. In other words, I'd never gotten down with all the get-down people of Kingwood.
I recently resolved to fill this void in my life after being mercilessly harangued by the editor of the Kingwood High School newspaper, who called to vent her extreme displeasure (and if you're reading this, let me again apologize for calling you "honey") over the picture of a Klan cross burning we ran with an item in The Insider column on Kingwood a few weeks back. I spent many agonizing minutes trying unsuccessfully to explain the concepts of irony and satire -- not to mention the First Amendment -- to my young Kingwood counterpart, who nonetheless informed me that she herself might go to court seeking redress for the slander we had visited on her and all the fine residents of her northeast Harris County community.
As I explained to her, it wasn't me who had hired the political operatives to frighten African-American and Hispanic members of Houston City Council into believing that Kingwood is nothing more than an especially affluent outpost of the Aryan Nation. I suggested that she lodge her complaint with the Kingwood Annexation Strategy Committee.
But I later felt a small pang of guilt, and upon further, more sober reflection I was forced to acknowledge the possibility that she and the other Kingwoodomites who called or wrote to complain about the Klan photo were just too sophisticated for the sort of blunt irony and sophomoric humor that gives us a chuckle here at the Press.
I was thoroughly convinced that such was the case last week after witnessing the Kingwoodians who made another long trek to City Hall grant a standing ovation to Michael Yarbrough, the African-American representative of northeast Council District B, after he spoke against the city's proposed annexation of their community. Imagine: Michael Yarbrough, the newly crowned Fresh Prince of Kingwood!
I was truly touched by the concern that the Kingwoodolians had shown for the under-served, mostly black residents of District B. Perhaps, I thought, Kingwood isn't giving itself enough credit. Maybe it's not written down anywhere, but I began to suspect that the community's secret motto is "Kingwood Cares."
And I realized that the whole Kingwood issue is being played out in a territory far beyond mere irony after listening to Bob Lanier explain that the annexation was necessary to ensure a "fair sharing of the tax burden at all economic levels." (A deeper cognitive dissonance gripped me the following day, when I received a warm letter at my home from Comrade Bob, entreating me to vote for that other well-known Trotskyite, Tom "Thanks for Hiring My Brother the Lobbyist" DeLay.)
It was then that I knew I had to get to Kingwood, posthaste, but I didn't want to go alone. First I swung by City Hall to pick up Elyse. Then we headed over to the shelter to retrieve my old friend "Bob," a two-time convicted felon who's been trying unsuccessfully to resolve a number of vexing personal issues since approximately 1974.
Bob had never been to Kingwood, and he's always looking to go places he's never been. As for Elyse: Well, if anyone could calm the roiling waters of Kingwood, I figured it was her, and besides, she might want to inspect the premises, seeing as how she'll one day be mayor of this great city, from the shores of Fondren Southwest to the hills of newly annexed Kingwood. I also thought the trip might cheer her up.
"They just don't understand," said a hurt-sounding Elyse of the angry Kingwoodomites, "what my Bob's trying to do for them."
So we were off to Kingwood.
A little banjo music, please.
Damn, it's a long way to Kingwood, if you're actually going there. Fortunately, I was blessed with convivial traveling companions; unfortunately, the conversation was off-the-record, so I can't repeat the nasty things Elyse said about Lloyd Kelley. But I think I would not be betraying a confidence by reporting that Elyse showed her immense charitable side when we stopped to gas up and she graciously purchased Bob and me a dozen or so 16-ounce cans of Olde English "800."
"My Bob never drinks that stuff," she confided.
By the time we got to Kingwood, my Bob and I had a nice little buzz going. I was feeling expansive, downright Wordsworthian, to be out in nature among the towering pines, so I pulled out my pen and started a running diary of my impressions of Kingwood: a document, if you will, to acquaint all you city-bound wankers with your future fellow Houstonians in Kingwood.
1. "Very green up here. 'Livable forest.' "
3. "White people."
5. " 'Homes from the 70s'... move up here ... run for Council?"
6. "More white people ..."
7. "A person of color (Pakistani?) behind the counter at the Smart Shop ... Olde English ... Yum!"
8. "Bumper sticker on a Volvo: 'My God Will Crush Your Pointy Head with a Big Ol' Rock.' "
10: "Kingwood College: member of the PAC-12?"
11: "New homes ..."
13. "It's really green, man ..."
It was about then that things began to get hazy, and my handwriting from that point on is pretty much
illegible. I think we got lost; Kingwood became one long, green blur. I couldn't tell where we had been, or where we were going. Bob, I believe, passed out, and while I can't swear this actually happened, I think Elyse took the wheel from me at some point and downed one or two "800"s herself.
When I came to, Elyse and Bob were sharing a Frappuccino and were surrounded by an admiring clutch of Kingwoodians, who in subsequent conversation proved to be nothing like the snarly, sour-faced bigots they'd like us Houstonians to believe they are.
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"Have a Frappuccino, neighbor," offered one elderly gentleman, whose very green pants will stay forever etched in my memory.
Suffice to say, the goat roast in the woods that evening was great, and the Olde English flowed freely.
"I could feel the love of Kingwood!" declared Elyse as we dropped her off at the Huntingdon early the next morning.
"Mofo ... bluh ... ugghh ....," said Bob.
Next week: We go to The Woodlands!