50 Things Houstonians Should Be Thankful for in 2012

Lately, you've probably noticed a lot of people posting what they are thankful for. If you are anything like me, you were wondering, "What's with all these weirdos?" Then, someone tells you it's Thanksgiving and you are all, "They have that ever year?" It would be funny if it weren't so very very sad.

Anyway, it is a good time of year to count your blessings. Nothing says, "Thank you" like gorging yourself on turkey and pie before camping out in front of Target to fight some other crazy person for the right to own a crappy TV. It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Because we at the Press love our city, we thought we'd come up with 50 things you can be thankful about in Houston. Each of our blogs is doing similar posts, so keep your eyes out over at Eating Our Words for food, Rocks Off for music and Art Attack for all things art and pop culture. Here at Hair Balls, we'll stick with the cool stuff like football, crazy politicians and buildings. We have lots of them here.

9-1 It could be 10-1 by later today.

JJ Watt He's a beast. He's young. He's ours.

Wade Phillips The Son of Bum turned the Texans defense from worst to first in one season.

Maridre Schohnster The three-headed monster of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster is one of the best threes in the NFL and the best offense Houston has seen since the run and shoot. Add Owen Daniels and, well...9-1.

Beard-sanity They are hot and cold so far this season, but James Harden and Jeremy Lin have a lot of years of growing together in Houston.

Daryl Morey The Wizard pulled off the Harden trade, drafted well (Royce White incomplete, obviously) and was never in danger of losing his job, no matter what fans may have wanted.

The Dynamo Their fourth MLS Cup Final in seven years of existence. Shouldn't they be called the Dyna-sty?

Jose Altuve The tiniest Astro has become a bright spot on a very dim roster the last couple seasons.

The Designated Hitter Lots hate it. Many have said they'll never watch the Astros again because of it (dumb). But, may as well embrace it, particularly if it brings Lance Berkman home.

Youth Movements The Astros finally gave in under new ownership. The Rockets followed suit this season. Tough to watch, but fun to imagine.

The Number 34 Earl, Hakeem and Nolan. Is there a better group of 34s in any city ever? Think not.

Lloyd Oliver Lost The Tea Party Democrat could have been a nightmare as the DA...an entertaining nightmare, but still a nightmare.

An Entertaining City Council They go nuts about food trucks, think the U.N. is out to get us and were named our Turkey of the Year, but they sure are fun to watch. As our own Craig Malisow so adroitly put it, "If every city council member anywhere has simple common sense, then it wouldn't matter how many are at the table. But this is Houston, and we just don't do that."

The Light Rail We Have The METRO referendum victory may have virtually crushed our chances of expanding the light rail, but the north and east lines are nearly complete and the downtown line has the highest ridership per mile in the country.

The Declining Use of Billboards As the city's billboard ordinance grows into full effect, the blight of giant signs is diminishing. If you grew up here even 20 years ago, you remember the onslaught. Thankfully, they are disappearing. Now, we just have to figure out how to get rid of that giant neon cross.

Mayor Parker on the Colbert Report The shock and awe over the nation's only openly lesbian mayor being from Houston was stunted by her laid back appearance on Colbert.

The Dogs Rescued at Spindletop For all the horror of the failed animal rescue organization, seeing so many animals rescued and given new homes is heartwarming.

Jobs Despite a nasty recession, Houston managed to add jobs and keep on rolling...as usual.

All the Free Parking Scoff, but try parking in New York or some other big urban center and you'll understand.

Diversity It's thrown around a lot here, but in a state as blue as Texas, Houston is a unique melting pot. In fact, it's the meltiest of all melting pots in the country according to a Rice University study.

Isaiah Carey's Twitter Feed The Fox26 investigative reporter admonishes homebodies for not getting out more, runs down stories and lets us know when the devil is busy. Hard to imagine doing more with 140 characters.

Swamplot.com No one covers the ins and outs of Houston homes, land and architecture like the folks at Swamplot.

ClutchFans.net Like Swamplot for basketball, this long-time Rockets fan site hosts more than 45,000 members of its bulletin board community -- the largest in Houston -- who talk about sports, politics and everything in between.

Geek Gathering The monthly gathering of nerds hosted by Dwight Silverman and Jay Lee of the Chron and KPFT's "Reality Bites" radio show is the best meetup in town with some of the more interesting people you'll ever meet.

Space Shuttles Were Born Here We may not be able to display one and New York, a city with a barely tenuous attachment to the space program may have one, but we built them. Ultimately, they ALL belong to us.

Bike Paths In case you aren't a cyclist, you might not have noticed the miles and miles of interconnected bike paths emerging throughout the city. Take a ride and see what you've been missing.

The Astrodome The Eighth Wonder of the World is in disrepair and more and more are favoring its destruction, but it still stands as a monument to what Houston is, was and always will be...bold, dynamic and mildly disappointing.

The Esperson Building It's beautiful cavernous lobby and its stunning art deco design is an example of how preserving great structures in a city that rarely does so can be worth it.

The Downtown Tunnels If you need to eat, do some dry cleaning or even get your teeth cleaned in downtown -- especially in the heat of the summer -- you do it in the ingenious tunnel system that spans a huge swatch of underground urban Houston.

The Skyline One of the great and underrated city views in America can be seen driving east down Memorial or north on 288 or, my favorite, south on 59 over I-10. For all our ugly freeways and stip malls, it's tough to beat downtown Houston when it comes to a great view.

11th Street Park The tiny little patch of densely wooded forest covering about four blocks of space in Timbergrove was saved a few years ago through a public/private partnership and is one of the hidden gems in a city that is greener than most think.

Houston and Mercer Arboretums If you don't know about these wild expanses of nature near town and on the north side, you are missing some extraordinary times outside.

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership The project that is now turning the Buffalo Bayou waterway into an amazing stretch of mostly clear (believe it) winding water complete with performance venues and hike trails will change the downtown landscape and reduce flooding, all thanks to this organization that is transforming what many of us used to consider nothing more than a repository for sewage.

Institutions of Higher Learning Rice is one of the best schools in the country and UH has become a fantastic research school. TSU, St. Thomas, Houston Baptist and even the Houston Community College system provide us with a multitude of options for improving our education.

MD Anderson Hospital and Texan Children's Hospital You could really say the entire medical center. If you or your kid gets sick in Houston, your chances of a speedy and complete recovery are better here than just about anywhere in the world.

A full-time NPR Station Losing KTRU was a blow to many, but sacrificing it in order to make room for the first 24-hour NPR station in the fourth largest city in the country was at least a reasonable option.

Tellepsen Family YMCA The old downtown Y was a mess. The new one is beautiful, clean and probably the best health club in town.

Heights Walmart Look, Walmart is an easy whipping boy and for good reason, but you Heights-ites know that when a REALLY good deal crops up, you won't be able to resist now that it is just minutes away. Admit it!

Surfside We forget sometimes we are less than an hour from the ocean. Galveston may have the touristy glitz, but Surfside is the sleepy fishing village dotted with beach houses that makes for a relaxing getaway.

Galveston Island Pleasure Pier Tilman Fertitta may build some garish and invasive neon monstrosities, but turning the Ike-ravaged Flagship Hotel and pier into a boardwalk was a stroke of genius.

Rain After the drought of 2011, people around Houston were thrilled to see the rain this summer. We'd like some more, please, Mother Nature.

Hurricane Season is over...until next year With all the hype over Sandy, you'd think America had never heard the word hurricane before. With the season essentially over for us, we can exhale until next June.

Airline Drive If you ever want to see one of the most interesting stretches of road in Houston, take a drive down Airline from 528 all the way into town. Do it on a Saturday and stop and one of the numerous flea and farmer's markets. Maybe buy a jumbo shrimp from a street vendor. It's fascinating.

Memorial Drive And if you want to gawk at beautiful, tree-encased homes, don't bother with River Oaks. Take Memorial Drive from Sabine Street clear past the Beltway and enjoy the view.

Hardy Street Bridge For me, no other bridge is quite as cool as the McKee Street Bridge in the warehouse district. Sure, the Fred Hartman down in Baytown is an architectural marvel, but the quirkiness of the brightly painted brick bayou overpass is my favorite.

The Ship Channel Driving over the ship channel bridge at night is like looking down at some twisted future industrial hell, but as part of the Port of Houston, it is one of the largest seaports in America. Take a pontoon boat ride all the way down to the turning basin and see for yourself.

Eastwood and Lindale Park These two older, eclectic neighborhoods to the southeast and northeast of downtown, respectively, are rapidly changing and that speed will increase when the light rail lines that transect both of them are completed in the next couple years.

The Montrose I mentioned diversity earlier and nothing says it like an extended hang in the "Gayberhood." It's funky, crowded and still completely weird after all these years. It's loaded with restaurants and open to anyone who wants to live and let live.

The People Pat yourself on the back. You're awesome and anyone who has ever visited Houston knows it. We have humidity, heat, roaches, strip malls and sprawl, but we also have the best people on earth. Take that, San Diego.

This isn't Dallas Praise Jesus and pass the cornbread.

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