Ok… maybe not the entire United States, but it is by far the coolest place in Texas. Obviously not by temperature, but in awesomeness. Also obviously this is just my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. The latest Tinderfella says he wouldn’t move to Houston on a bet because of the humidity.
But you get used to that.
So what is it that makes it so amazing?
Admittedly, I haven’t been to New York or to many other really awesome cities for that matter (which is why I’m limiting my opinion to Texas), but I grew up near Austin, and started my teaching life outside of Dallas. Fort Worth has never interested me, so I can’t speak to that one, and I’ve only ever visited San Antonio for a weekend here or there. But of the three big ones (Austin, Dallas, Houston), Houston is by far the best!
Houston is one of the few truly progressive areas of Texas.
In Dallas, while they do have a thriving fashion scene and a decent music scene, it’s still very conservative and you have to make your connections through church to truly get anywhere in that city. You’re expected to go everywhere in your Sunday best, even. Like I said, the fashion scene is nice, but it’s impractical sometimes.
An engineer I know (a female engineer at that) was telling me about a get together she went to in Dallas with a bunch of other female engineers, and the Dallas ladies were dressed to the 9’s, while the non-Dallas folk dressed for comfort, as is the wont of most engineers. This is typical. Dallas is very perception oriented. It doesn’t really matter if you are good at what you do, but can you look like you’re good at what you do? It’s all a facade.
Plus, for such a large place, it is strangely segregated… and not just by color.
Everyone has their niche. There’s the gay-borhood, the fashion district, the music and tattoo area (Deep Ellum), and yes, there are predominantly African American neighborhoods with a bad reputation as well as the uppity white neighborhoods.
For someone like myself who goes where her interests take her, I tend to stray from my designated area quite frequently. On the other hand, I do like to keep things separate; I even eat my meals in courses, choosing to eat one thing at a time until I’m done with it instead of mixing entrees and side dishes and what not. As such, the segregation of the neighborhoods is kind of nice. You know exactly what to expect when you go in certain areas, but it is too much pressure!
I can’t spend that much time trying to make sure my actions and appearance match the neighborhood I’m visiting on any given day. That’s just crazy. Not to mention, there are some days where I don’t want to get out of my pjs, and by the Gods, on those days… I don’t!
So, Dallas isn’t for me, possibly to the chagrin of the latest Tinderfella, who shall not get a nickname until we meet face to face… if we meet face to face.
Austin, at the other end of the spectrum, is a traditional college town that also happens to be the capitol, meaning that it, too, has it’s separations, but mostly it’s just a division of super liberals and super conservatives. There’s not really a middle ground, which is part of what makes it weird. Hence the motto: Keep Austin weird.
Also, and admittedly this is a little weird…even to me, Austin is too green. It feels like you’re still in the country. The buildings are short, and there are huge spaces of just nature that makes your commute longer because every route is the scenic route! I like nature, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t force the city to be so spread out! A city is meant to be compact, everything you need should be easily accessible in your very own neighborhood, unless you’re looking for something that is specific to a certain area. You shouldn’t have to travel through the jungle to find what you’re looking for…
And in Austin, it feels like it’s a bunch of little towns that have conglomerated to become a city…and the capitol is there.
But in Houston! There’s diversity, and it feels like a city!
The place where I’m renting a room (speaking of, I don’t have to move until the school year ends, which is a blessing!) is 15 minutes from my work, my doctor, my pharmacist, half an hour from my favorite theater, and right off of one of the many major highways so it’s easy to get to the other neighborhoods if there is something specific in another location I need to get to… Like to see my friends. I don’t have that many in this area, but I can get to all of my friends within 45 minutes… except the one I’ve known the longest, but that’s because she lives almost to Galveston.
And today, I tried a new little restaurant that was highly praised on Yelp (with good reason), and the diversity became evident.
First of all, let me give a shout out to Belle’s Kitchen.
I had the Migas, but with bacon instead of chorizo, and then I wrote for a little bit and had the blackberry cobbler. I was so stuffed, I practically had to be rolled out of there, but it was oh so worth it! There was a steady stream of traffic, but not so much that my waitress couldn’t take care of me… or that they had to kick me out before dessert.
I hope this place isn’t struggling like my last diner, because they shut it down, and I’d like to make Belle’s my new weekend spot. The food is priced better than a couple of the other places I’ve tried to make my new weekend writing spot, the ambiance is great (they were playing 90’s music), and the food is actually good… not amazing, but Yelp didn’t do me wrong like it did with the I-45 Diner.
Though next time, I may have to pass on the dessert. That was brunch, and now, well after dinner time, I’m still full!
There is one thing: contrary to the sign saying they stay open until 9, they only stay open until 3 or 4, hence why it can only ever be my weekend writing place… except maybe in the summer time.
The reason I’m writing about it today is because it is an example of just how diverse Houston is. Diverse and accepting!
First of all, it’s supposed to be known for it’s southern style cooking. You know what that is: chicken friend steak, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, that sort of thing. The cobbler proved to me they can master the southern style cooking, and so did the fried potatoes… though they could have been a little more charred for my taste. I like them on the crispy side a little. But what impressed me was that this country style cafe also served traditional Migas. Mine weren’t quite traditional by request. I’ll take bacon over chorizo any day!
Migas is a Mexican dish that takes leftover tortillas, diced and fried, and cooks them in with eggs, onions, jalapenos, meat (supposed to be chorizo), and sprinkled with cheese.
The ones I had at Belle’s were served like that with their signature fried potatoes, refried beans, and fresh homemade tortillas! I got a traditional Mexican breakfast from a southern style restaurant!
The people were equally diverse.
Now, remember, I grew up in the country and spent a goodly amount of time in the very segregated Dallas area. Some parts of where I used to live are known for their racism still today… probably one of the reasons I was unsuccessful dating there: I don’t fit a category.
So, today, when I looked up from my meal and saw a table where an African American male and a Hispanic female and a Caucasian male were sitting together and having a great time, it caught my attention… in a good way! I’ve said before I wish we’d stop labeling ourselves…
Two tables over from them was a very uppity looking soccer mom with her group of equally uppity teenage girls in uniform. Next to me was a lone black man enjoying his chicken fried steak and eggs. And across from me was an interracial couple, with the woman wearing a Geeky superhero tee sporting DC heroes on it. You can buy the shirt at Amazon, here.
Had we been in Dallas, you wouldn’t have seen that much diversity in one location, especially the uppity soccer mom and her gaggle of teenage girls; it would have been much too hole-in-the-wall for them. Had you been in Austin, it would depend on the neighborhood, and either there’d be a line out the door as the hipsters tried to take it over, like they have with the very trendy Cafe Brasil, where the Boy used to take me to breakfast with his obnoxious friends, or it would cater to one specific clientele.
Only in a place like Houston, where people of all different backgrounds flock to be in the oil and gas business, can you find such a thing. Or at least it’s that way here in Texas…
I hope there’s a day sometime soon when I won’t be inspired to write simply because I see people of different backgrounds existing in peace in one location.