When I first moved to Houston eight years ago, I found myself asking several questions:
Is it legal to make freeways this wide?
Is this furniture salesman for real and is he actually going to save me money?
Oh my God, what the Hell is slime in the ice machine and why the Hell is that older man in blue glasses talking about it so much?
Why not pronounce the H in Humble?
And, perhaps most important, Why do they let someone’s old gym teacher do the weather here?
I didn’t know then that the man with the buzz cut (and not one gray hair!) was Dr. Neil Frank, KHOU’s weather expert, hurricane guru, and all-around nice guy. And now, Dr. Frank is retiring, and I’m totally bummed about that. In celebration of Dr. Frank, KHOU is airing a Saturday evening special that’s been somberly titled, “Neil Frank: A Legacy of Trust,” complete with recollections by fellow Texan Dan Rather, who used to have Dr. Frank on the CBS Evening News. (You can read more about Dr. Frank here.)
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Sure, we could bitch and moan about how Dr. Frank was wrong sometimes. (He’s a weatherman, give him a break.) And yeah, we could say that KHOU is milking his retirement with the whole “Legacy of Trust” routine just to snag a few more viewers. (Okay, so maybe they are…they’re a television station, what do you expect?) We could even say that it’s dumb to get all misty-eyed over a guy who tells you that you might need an umbrella later today.
But on that last point, I’ll vehemently disagree. It’s people like Dr. Frank who make a city what it is, who give it its character. Despite what the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau would like us to believe, it’s not a city’s attractions and museums that give a town its identity. It’s the little weird local celebrities, the strange traditions, the quirks you only understand by living here that make a place what it truly is. Dr. Frank is one of those quirks that is special to us, and I, for one, am going to miss having him around.
When the Chronicle reported his retirement, a woman posted a comment online about the fact that a few years back, her daughter had been assigned a school project about the weather. On a whim, they called Dr. Frank with a question or two. They left a message, and the mother was sure they’d never hear back. That very day, Dr. Frank returned the call and didn’t get off the phone until the kid got everything she needed for her project.
You might expect a pop culture hack like me to make some smart ass remark about that story, but I won’t. Because there isn’t a smart remark to be made. I’ll miss the man and his hair and his weather reports. He’s a part of Houston, and it will be weird not to see him on television. All that’s left to say is, bless ya, Dr. Frank. – Jennifer Mathieu