So, the Homestead Suites hotel is over on FM 1960, or Jack Rabbit road, behind the Papadeux’s, across the street from the Toys R Us, next to the Willowbrook mall. ABS is off I-45 and Greens, next to Greenspoint (guns-point) mall. My drive to work was going east on 1960, then south on Veteran’s Memorial to Antoine, which turns into Spears, which turns into Rankin, right on the service road to Greens, left at the homeless woman, through three lights, right on Northchase, right into ABS. Reverse to go home. Albertson’s is on the corner of 1960 and Veteran’s. The bank is next to that; the Randall’s (read: Tom Thumb) is next to the Barnes & Noble. Bedrock City comic book store is on the corner of 1960 and Kuykendal. The Spec’s (read: liquor store) is just west of that. And the Denny’s…fuck the Denny’s. It’s not my Midpark.
Veteran’s Memorial does not have a curb, or a proper sewer. There’s just a big ditch on either side of the road. During my time in Harris County, I saw five cars in that ditch—one was on fire.
And things in Harris County burn. I saw three car fires while I was down there. One Tuesday, it rained all day. Top story on the news? Apartment fire.
Everyday, I’d come home from work to check the local news. The order of stories was pretty standard:
1. People who have diedAnd the PBS station in Houston is presented as a service of the University of Houston. A service of the university. You’re not going to see any spots for a jewelry store or antique market that gave money to the station because NO ONE GIVES MONEY TO THE STATION. Sure, you have the occasional private donation from individuals, but there’s no corporate sponsorship.
2. People who are missing
3. Things on fire
4. Andrea Yates
6. The weather
8. People who have been found
9. Marvin Zindler’s restaurant report
Which is why on Saturday nights at midnight, Houston PBS becomes a gangsta rap video channel.
Somer and Hillary came down for Marti Gras in Galveston. We spent a lot of time on the bridge going into Galveston, couldn’t find anywhere to park, got fed up and drove home, got wasted in the hotel room. On the way down, we saw several cars in ditches. We started to yell, “DITCH” at cars we didn’t like.
And at night, Texas City looks like the opening credits for “Bladerunner”.
Besides being incapable of driving in a straight line or at a decent speed, the folks in Harris County can’t give directions either. For example: I had to get from 45 and Greens to 610 and San Felipe. That involves a lot of driving SOUTH. So when I asked for directions, one woman drew a horizontal line with north to the left and south to the right. Under that, she wrote the names of intersecting streets, but never drew the streets, just wrote them underneath like a time line of the journey.
And the Homestead Suites, oh…that’s just a whole new joy in and of itself. You see, they are extended stay rooms, so there’s a fridge, and a stove top (but no oven *sniff*), and a microwave and all those wonderful things you need when you have to stay somewhere a long time.
There were a lot of divorced guys living around me.
This was always it’s most fun on weekends. She would show up and maybe they’d fuck and maybe they wouldn’t. Usually they would argue. Sometimes she brought the kids. Sometimes she stole the car. Sometimes she’d get drunk and smash out the window of his room. Her name changed and her face changed, but she was there every weekend: The Woman Who Went Back For More Over.
I’d sit in my room and read on weekends: open up the windows, pull back the blinds, pop in Miles Davis’ “Kinda Blue” and read Rumi. Sometimes I’d get online and chat with friends back home. Sometimes I’d watch some crap on Showtime. Every other week, I’d go hang out with the guys at Bedrock city. One weekend, I went down to Rice University for a showing on “Jin-Roh”.
My room was right over the laundry room for the hotel, so I got to hear the door slam a lot. One morning, some guy had parked his truck in the fire lane next to the laundry and was blaring his radio.
Radio in Houston sucks. It amazes me that a city that big has so little variety in what you can hear on the radio. Granted, there was the classical station, which was also the NPR carrier for Harris County. And there was the college radio station that occasionally played decent jazz, but at night was unlistenable.
So this guy was blaring Christian radio at top decibel under my room. I went outside to have a few words with him.
“Is that your truck?”
“Well listen, I live in section eight housing back home, and hearing a radio like that, well, it makes me painful homesick. Could you switch the station to some tejano or gangsta rap or something like that?”
He turned it off.
The people I was working with were okay. I have found you can always find the true soul of a workplace on their smoking porch. Whenever you go for an interview somewhere, spend a little time outside with their smokers. You’ll soon know what it’s like working there.
There was Rachel, who sat two cubes away from me and would come by with her pack of Marlboros to ask if I was going out (just unwritten, unspoken smoker code—wave a pack of smokes in a smoker’s face to ask if they have time for one). Tracey, who smoked thin menthols and was from north of the Mason-Dixon line. Another woman from a higher floor who had lived in Ontario for some time. The old guy who couldn’t hear that well who I would discuss Rommel and Patton with. The Eastern-European programmer who couldn’t understand Texas weather. The guys from the print-shop downstairs who never asked for a procurement number when I had to bind something. Lorie, from networking, who knew about the OTO and IOT and was willing to discuss super-string theory and the multi-dimensional universe and its implications on Quabbalistic and Gnostic theory. John, from the PC lab, who could not believe I didn’t have a degree in English or Linguistics or something like that.
The malls in Houston blow. I had tried to find something cute I could wear when I went back, sort of a “welcome back, me” thing. I tried the Willowbrook mall, but it’s like a smaller version of Valley View and with snobbier people.
Then I tried Greenspoint mall, which is “not one of the better malls” as someone told me. Over fifty shoe stores and none of them carried a size 11 in women’s. There was no toy store, which creeped me out, and no bookstore. All malls should have at least one toy store and one bookstore.
And Northline mall had both, but not much else. I picked up a “Ghost in the Shell” figure at the Kay-Bee toys (get all your McFarlane figures at Kay-Bee—they are priced to MOVE) but Northline is like a very small Town East with lower ceilings.
One weekend I went to Austin to go hang out with my buddy, Kris. She was down there for some state championship swim met and was working as a physical therapist for the Plano team. We went to a bunch of gay bars, then got the rickshaw guy to take us somewhere else. Saw all the sights. Tried to eat at one of the trendy café’s in Austin and went to a greasy spoon instead. It was good. I had had steak and eggs. You can’t get steak and eggs at a trendy café in Austin.
So I drove back to Houston. Again.
So I’ve decided that if I ever get terminal anything, I’m going to go back to Houston.
Killin’ spree’s got to start somewhere.
All in all, the job went well.
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