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Houston

Houston, Texas

As an Houstonian who wasn’t born in the State of Texas, I am like most transplants and use the phrase, “I wasn’t born here, but got here as soon as I could”. Houston is as diverse as it is wide. I won’t bore you with statistical data, as you can get those numbers anywhere. What I have to offer are some interesting tools for the potential visitor. Tools coming from a person that has lived in Houston (and surrounding areas) on and off for over 45 years.

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While there are many that will provide you with their own point of view as to the places that are entertaining and truly remarkable sights to experience while visiting Houston. I can only offer information and a perspective of a person who has lived and travelled most of the world and has learned a few things that person(s) intending to travel to Houston, should store as a sort of First Aid / Survival Kit while visiting the incredibly diversified unique city of Houston.

I

If traveling from another Country, or say…..anywhere north, east or west of Oklahoma, (Louisiana excluded. They are considered “Kin”. Although, one may compare it to the relationship between a first and 2nd cousin. You know all the same people, habits and history, but do things a bit differently than the rest of the family. However, when together, it still feels like home)……the single most important thing to remember is that nothing, and I mean nothing is “just around the corner”. Just around the corner to most, means just that. A mile at most. Somewhere almost within walking distance. A “neighborhood or local spot”.
Those statements actually mean the same to an Houstonian mindset, but not what is actuality. It Houston, it means that the said location “around the corner”, “just down the street”, “close-by”, all meaning the same, none of which can be measured by distance. Only by time.
You see, the nearby grocer can be less than 1 mile from your location. HOWEVER, with the amount of random traffic, random road work, sudden and random weather change, random loose cattle, or for no apparent reason whatsoever, 1 Mile can take an hour to travel. Some days it would take less time to walk than to drive to a given location. But then you would need a NASA issues space suit that protected you from the heat intensity.

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II

Houston and the words “Oil & Gas” mean the same thing. Most either work for one of the “Majors”, “Super Majors”, or “Service Companies”, that support the Majors and or Super Majors. Any term with the word “Major” in it include a large Oil & Gas company, and they are some of the largest if not the largest companies in the field even the world. Houston hosts corporate offices for Saudi Aramco, Petrobras, British Petroleum, Shell Oil Company, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, Hess Corporation, Chevron, and so many more. Which then matriculates the need to host the largest service companies (every other sector known and unknown by most that support every project or initiative the Major or Super Majors deploy that cover Upstream, Midstream or Downstream Divisions of the entire lifecycle of the industry. Onshore and Off. The industry rules the city and the economy in general. For those that do not live in Houston or its surrounding area, the escalation of fuel prices is something dreaded and a burden to the pocket. To Houstonians, it puts a smile on the face of the city. Everyone has a job, and can afford the price per gallon.

III

Heat is part of every season. Every Houstonian can state that they have spent Christmas day sans a pair of comfortable shorts and T-shirt, if not in a bathing suit swimming in the pool at some point in their lives. Decorating your home, inside or out will usually include a few scratches on the legs or arms from outside bushes, or inside Christmas tree construction, as it’s usually done wearing shorts. Rarely can I state that Christmas has ever been spent wearing a sweater or by a burning fire in Houston.
Most parents have pictures of their young children sitting on the lap of some Santa found at the local “Mall”. In Houston, most of our photos include our children wearing some cute red shorts or summer dress on Santa’s lap. In 50 years, I can remember only one holiday that rendered the storybook version of Christmas weather. It snowed on Christmas Eve and Day. Every road was closed. Every person I encountered was happy. Almost giddy. For an entire 48 hours, we had the luxury of 1-inch worth of snow and it was magically wonderful.

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IV

” It ain’t hell, but you can feel it from here”. That pretty much sums that up. Heat is on the menu, and it is at its highest around 5:00 pm and doesn’t start to cool until around 6:30 pm. At which point, the rest of the state comes alive and we all reform our melted bodies back into a respectable state and proceed to enjoy the remainder of the day usually outdoors. Right along with a billion -trillion percent of the insect population. Dinner on the patio is a dual feast for all and it never stops. Yet somehow, it rarely is noticed or unpleasant. I can’t explain it. You must experience it for yourself.

V

There is literally something for everyone.  Houston is a melting pot of diversity, opportunity, challenges, intellectual stimulation, and more culture in one city than all states in the entire United States combined.  Houston attracts the finest minds in the world. They develop or support the space industry and NASA is “just down the street” from downtown Houston.  Austin is “just up the road” and Galveston Beach is just a “short shot around the bend”.  Travel out of Houston in any direction, I10, I45, death defying 610 Loop and it will eventually take you coast to coast.

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VI

Houstonians love Texas colleges. You’re either a “Longhorn” or an “Aggie”. The only other exception is “LSU”. No need to explain in grand detail. Rule of thumb is simple. Burnt color orange and a Longhorn of any sort, the University of Texas is where the Houstonian and it’s money has gone or is currently being drained from their proud bank account. Maroon Red and Aggieville it is. A&M University. If you find the combination of the colors purple and yellow, is the LSU fellow. If you happen to find the small percentage of “Cougar Pride Red & Fly High”, you’ve found some of the proud from the University of Houston pack. While the college has one of the best NCAA Division 1 Football Teams in the League, the spirit of the school is not very prevalent throughout the city. We struggled for over a decade in professional sports, however the Houston Texans are a force to be reckoned with these past few years, and this Houstonian cried real tears of joy watching my beloved Houston Astros win the World Series. Seriously.

VII

If you’re ill before or after arriving in Houston. You are in luck. Houston is a leader in the Medical Industry and has the finest hospitals in the world. I say this with all objectivity, as well as a few facts I jacked off of Wikipedia.
I have been fortunately enough to have utilize these state of the art facilities (almost all of them….don’t ask) and they truly are leaders in innovation and technology. Methodist, St. Luke’s, Baylor, Herman, and on and on and on are the hospitals of choice for millions every year, and patients travel from all over the world for their services. Whatever aliment it may be, Houston Medical Center may be your best solution for a cure.

VIII

A “Bug-Out” bag is always a good idea. If you  have viewed the internet, television, read a paper, magazine or pamphlet in the last year, it would be impossible not to see the recent devastation Houston endured with Hurricane Harvey’s lovely visit.  I personally was evacuated, all the way to San Antonio.  It was the closest location that had space available.  As I watched the devastation continue to occur from a safe and remote location, I noticed something remarkable.  The city, it’s government officials, and even the media, never reported looters, crimes occurring, or any sort of unfavorable acts occurring during, or long after the devastating storm ended.  It was one of the largest natural disasters to occur in the United States, and unlike many other locations or events, Houstonians and it’s government never hesitated to ask the community to aid its neighbor.  In fact, the Mayor redefined rules and cut through all red tape, and used the media as a platform to ask all Houstonians with available equipment personally owned, to get out and help if it could be done.  Then they did it!  Boat owners motored through the neighborhoods and streets of the city, rescuing all they could. Without regard to race, indifferences or stature.  Love  thy neighbor was in abundance and made me proud to claim the city as my home.

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That being said, it’s important to note that Houston is subject to changes in the weather like the swing of a pendulum and with a force you may not have experienced ever before. While 8 months of the year ranges anywhere from 70-117 degrees (mainly on the higher end), we have weeks that make you consider the notion that Mother Nature is going through menopause.
I’ve experienced a complete city freeze on a Tuesday in February. The entire city, frozen solid. Power lines broken due to the weight of the very unexpected or planned freeze. Collapsing the energy grids and all power to Houstonians. Remarkably, lasting only a few hours and restored by an incredible fleet of utility workers. By Friday of the same week, it was back to 88 degrees.
The key to sending your child off to school, or yourself to work. Layers. Start with more and peel them off as the day goes on. It is not unusual from the months between February -April, and October through, well…..February, your day may begin with a crisp 48 degrees (Fahrenheit) and gradually warm up into the 90’s. Then right back down again by 8:00pm. It’s a rollercoaster without an off switch. But makes it interesting.

IX

Cowboys are not cowboys. There are Texans, Rednecks and Hillbillies. All of which have their own definition and are subject to one’s point of view. I’ll let you google and decide for yourself.

Cowboys are not cowboys. There are Texans, Rednecks and Hillbillies. All of which have their own definition and are subject to one’s point of view. I’ll let you google and decide for yourself.

X

Houstonians love Houstonians in the company of “foreigners”. Anyone not from “around the block, down the street, born and breed or a good buddy of mine” is a foreigner and subject to question. These could include: “Where ya from”, “why ya here”, or “who ya with”. The answer to those questions will define your friend status while conversing with a Houstonian….and they LOVE to ask questions, even more so, love visitors from other countries.
Someone from Kentucky may not get the same fanfare as someone new from say, Scotland. Not to say that a visitor from Kentucky won’t receive the same level of hospitality that all well raised Houstonians have been well trained to provide. The traveler from Scotland or any other country outside of the U.S. itself, is just a bit more interesting and will generate an immediate sense of duty to the typical Houstonian, to ensure that Texas is represented with pride and dignity. Not a horrible trait to encounter, but an odd one nonetheless.

There are more points of interest, notices and or warnings that I could provide any traveler heading to the unique State of Texas, but what fun would it be if I delineated them all? The point is not to search for the “spoiler”, but to experience it and all it has to offer. Just remember to bring an open mind, patience, comfortable clothing, sunblock, an umbrella, and a hearty appetite.
The saying IS true. “Everything IS bigger in Texas”.