How do I see Houston?
Houston hits hard. It’s a concrete jungle, an urban sprawl made up of millions of beating hearts. Real people make it their home. They try hard every day, and sometimes they fail. But you could fail anywhere, and there’s no better place in the American Southwest. Here’s why I think all those other Texas cities don’t compare.
That one weird city
“Keep Austin Weird” applies to the Urban-Outfitters-wearing, Austin-City-Limits-flocking trendy-tattoo-sporting yuppies that dominate the city’s image. If Houston used such a slogan — which it never would because Houston isn’t so self-involved — it would be “Keep Houston Screwed Up.”
There are a lot of homeless on these Bayou streets. There’s crime, too. There’s also art, love, success and intelligence. That’s an incredibly beautiful part of this city. There is just something about this city and its erratic heart rate… but whereas that catches the eye, something else makes you stay.
There is a deep sense of care here. The Houston Food Bank is the nation’s largest food bank and helps feed 18 Texas counties. All cities follow this pattern of charity, but Houston sets the tone of how it should be done.
The mosaic of human stories is iridescent here. It’s OK to be scared. Genuine souls are hard to comprehend. But don’t let your fear inspire prejudice. Houston possesses a diversity that is seen nowhere else in Texas. That’s the main difference.
Austin is a bit like a pair of white-washed jeans: worn-looking without the hardship.
That one rich city
For some reason, Houstonians hate Dallas. It’s a drive-through city for many which makes the source of hatred sometimes uncertain. There’s that tall structure that looks like a rigid tadpole. The Reunion Tower, it’s called. But what else is there, beyond the skyline?
All other knowledge comes from the show “Dallas,” — oil tycoons and betrayal. Maybe that doesn’t sound different from Houston, but whereas money and treachery is the focal point of Dallas’ life, they are just one facet of Houston. Any similarities stop at the surface.
Houston’s location makes it a nexus of culture. Dallas can offer sports and oil money — and the life that pinwheels from those subjects. But for many Houstonians, it’s hard to go deeper.
That one city no one talks about
Fort Worth is a part of the DFW Metropolitan area. They’ve got a bit of an identity crisis going on.
They want to be like Dallas, but there aren’t enough snobby white rich people. They want to be cool, but they’re main attraction is the stockyards, which celebrates a dead age of cattle drives.
Since the age of mechanical reproduction, improved farming techniques, and the death of the homey sustenance farmer family, the townspeople, like everyone else, have eased into a sedentary lifestyle.
At a young age, children put on the sorting hat and are granted passage to either the world of cows and snakeskin boots or the realm of… whatever hipsters wear. There is also homelessness, like everywhere else. But most people might not think of it when they think of Fort Worth. That’s part of this grand illusion of safety and comfort and suburban quiet — people ignore the problems (and people) in front of them because they don’t fit in their daily lives.
That illusion has no room to pass in Houston. It crashes and burns like a wayward meteorite. Houston is a place of history, of many rises and many falls. The people here don’t have time to be phony. Their systems are ingrained with a desire to be frightfully real.
That one city with the old building
A desert metropolis, San Antonio emits a romantic vibe. But that vibe fades once you’re there for a bit. It ends up being a city of landmarks and gimmicks.
They have the Alamo, the source of Texas pride and the inspiration for future victory. Located within the bustling city, one can imagine the battle raging on in the Catholic mission. It is nice to picture Spanish missionaries settling down by the big San Antonio River, planning their futures. They are articles of antiquity now, but their efforts blossomed, and their struggle thrums beneath the ground.
The juxtaposition of past and present is jarring for someone who is into history. But, educational trips can only occupy the mind for so long.
Then there is the River Walk, which entices at first. Rivers are the bigger and better version of bayous. The river walk, a focal point of entertainment in San Antonio, would be a rightfully attractive place for Houstonians. You can eat, or dance, or fall in love. Basically, it’s the best vacation spot within a three- to-four-hour drive. Caverns and other, less historical missions dot the area. And of course there is Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Not much more needs to be said there, as it is one of the most well-known attractions of the area.
People come to Houston to make a life. People go to San Antonio for roller coasters, which are fun the first few times. But who wants to live in a place known for their theme park?
A vacation spot isn’t a home. If it were, it would be where you’re moving, not where you’re visiting.
That one cult city
The home of the Cult … sorry, the Aggies. College Station and Bryan basically make up one city, though perhaps “town” is a better word. Without Texas A&M University, it would be much smaller, like the empty Texas ghost towns that it pines for. Southern hospitality and the lack thereof run this place. You become accustomed to men holding doors open for women, a true and enviable respect for our veterans and a romantic sense of school pride.
Houston has multiple universities, sports teams and a sprawling demography. As a small town, College Station is able to devote its focus to singular pursuits. That is the best part about College Station. You get the small-town aesthetic while still having access to good education, a mall, sports, nature, somewhat of a nightlife, and even an Olive Garden.
But then there’s the fanaticism over tradition. Don’t walk over the seal. Stand up during the game. Let’s have male yell leaders instead of cheerleaders. Say “howdy” to every single living thing you pass; buy an Aggie ring, get a job. There are nice ones as well, and none of them are detrimental, but after a certain point a stranger to that town will start to wonder if they are stuck in a loop.
Let’s just say you’ll never see a homeless man sleeping or panhandling near campus. The focus on the university and the pride involved sometimes overshadows the bigger issues. That doesn’t happen in Houston. Everybody has a chance to get noticed here, even if it is the fourth most populous city in America.