Things I know about Houston:
- I can sing the chorus of that Dean Martin song.
- It’s a city with lots of oil and plenty of money.
- I have a dim recollection of the Houston Oilers.
- I remember NASA’s dramatic triumphs and tragic disasters.
- I assumed that Houston women would have big hair and Houston men would wear big hats—I have yet to see either of those.
- I have seen lots of interesting restaurants, incredible grocery stores, shopping carts left annoyingly askew in every retail parking lot, bored, unpleasant store clerks behind the cash registers, a rich concentration of excellent museums and galleries, truly terrible drivers, a concrete network of urban bayous, heavy traffic everywhere all the time, a Costco that is not busy, consistently misleading highway signage, side streets full of cracks and potholes, few bike riders, and not many dogs or children.
Things I did not know about Houston:
- With 2,250,000 residents, it’s the fourth largest city and has the most diverse population in the country.
- The 1,345 acre Texas Medical Center is the world’s largest concentration of health and research institutions.
- It’s second only to New York City with the number of Fortune 500 corporate headquarters.
- Houston has no zoning code—not just quirky zoning, but no zoning. On the bright side, it gives the city character. You can find a church, a barber shop, a Texas-style mansion, an apartment, and a warehouse on the same block.
- The Port of Houston ranks first in the country for the amount of international waterborne tonnage handled.
- Annual events include the Houston Rodeo, the Orange Show, the Bayou Arts Festival, a thirty-five year old Gay Pride Parade, the oldest film festival in the world, and large Italian, Greek, Japanese, and Turkish festivals.
- Places of interest for tourists include the Houston Space Center, the Museum District, Buffalo Bayou Park, the Mahatma Ghandi District, Chinatown, a seventeen block theatre district, 337 urban parks, and the largest skatepark in Texas.
- It is one of the few cities in the country where all of the performing arts—theatre, ballet, symphony, and opera—have permanent, professional, resident companies.
All in all, Houston is a city like Portland only rougher and muggier, more like Chicago than New York, and more like LA or Miami than Dallas.