The 8th Wonder of the World

Highlights from Hair Balls

Houston 101

I have spent most of my 44 years on this earth in the city of Houston. I started visiting the Astrodome when I was just a kid for Astros and Oilers games as well as the occasional high school football game. I even walked on the floor for one of them. After all the memories and all the discussions, I don't have a tremendous amount of sentimentality for the old girl. My life would certainly go on if the Astrodome was torn down just as it did when they shuttered AstroWorld or when they imploded the Shamrock Hotel.

But for the love of all that's holy, if the powers that be are once and for all going to demolish the only true identifiable Houston landmark, why must it be for a parking structure?

The truth is that blowing up the Astrodome to build a garage for VIP parking would be in character for Houston. We live in a city where historic preservation may as well be a four-letter word. The laws — and I use that term extremely loosely — governing what can be protected are so lax that virtually anyone with a bulldozer and a wad of cash can shred any structure in the city and build whatever he goddamn well pleases on the piece of dirt that remains.

Most believe that the plan for the Dome has been set in motion for some time. With a limited deadline in place and few real solutions — at least any that have monetary backing — it seems a foregone conclusion that the Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will get their wish and the Eighth Wonder of the World will be torn down to be replaced by a place where you park your luxury SUV.

(Of course, if they wanted that, they have a GIANT FREAKING EMPTY LOT DIRECTLY ACROSS THE FREEWAY ATTACHED WITH A BRIDGE, but that would make far too much sense.)

I've heard people complain that they are sick of hearing the arguments and we should just tear down this old, sad, rotting structure. Fact is, the structure isn't rotting. Sure, the seats are. The sheetrock is. But the bones of the building are in fine condition. It has held up against multiple hurricanes and housed the victims of one of the most devastating disasters in U.S. history, a shelter for those no one else wanted. And this is how we repay that memory?

There is also the old "whatever we do, it should be cost-neutral" argument. Yes, because everything good in this world must turn a profit. I'm fairly certain no one in Paris worries that the Eiffel Tower doesn't earn money. The Roman Colosseum is anything but cheap to maintain, yet the folks in Italy aren't clamoring for it to be torn down so they can put in some luxury condos. The Astrodome is modern history's version of an architectural marvel. It was the first of its kind and it is to Houston what those other iconic structures are to their cities, just a little younger.

I've resigned myself to the fact that it will probably be demolished. But I cannot stomach the idea of a giant concrete place to park your car so you won't get wet when it rains. It makes me sick, and I assume Judge Hofheinz is spinning in his grave. It's no wonder NASA won't let us have a space shuttle. We'd probably break it down for scrap and use the space it was in to build some cheap apartment housing.

We landed a man on the moon. We turned a swamp into a thriving, diverse city. We dug a ditch that became one of the biggest ports in the world. We went from a blue-collar oil town to a white-collar energy city to a high-tech, independently driven metropolis that has been praised in the past 12 months by virtually every publication that can lay ink to a page.

We invented nanotechnology and the artificial heart, but we can't figure out how to preserve the Astrodome? Judge Hofheinz, Red Adair, the Allen Brothers, Denton Cooley, Michael DeBakey, Neil Armstrong and every other fearless Houstonian who dared to try something crazy should drive over to the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation and slap every single person in the building in the face for even thinking for one second that a parking garage was a good replacement for the Eighth Wonder of the World. It would, frankly, be better than they deserve.

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