Discovering Houston, Texas

Discovering Houston, Texas

Houston. I’ve been here for a few weeks now. All is good. The first few weeks were difficult for various reasons that I won’t go into so as not to bore you to death. Mostly job and money related. The good news, is that I’m starting to get my bearings a bit, and that I finally have a job I’m happy with.

My apartment is right smack in the center of town, and I’m pretty close to just about anywhere I want to go. There’s plenty of places for me to hit on foot, where I don’t have to worry about driving, and if my car were to break down–knock on wood that won’t happen–I wouldn’t be stranded, as my job is but a few blocks from my apartments, and I can make it to groceries and just about anything else vital either on foot or by bike.

 

That being said, Houston is one hell of a big town. It was built on a swamp, and it’s one hell of a sprawl. To give you some perspective, (according to Wikipedia) Houston spans 639.1 square miles (1,625.2 square Km) and has an approximate population of 2.3 million people, that’s a general density of 3,662 people per square mile (1,414/km). Compare that to Paris, France. A city where I’ve also lived. That city also has an approximate population of 2.3 million people, except the general average density is 55,000 people per square mile (21,000 per square km), and the city itself (intramuros) is 40.7 square miles (105.4 square km). Greater Houston, Texas is 1,660 square miles! Covering more space than some small European countries.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that this place never fucking stops. It just keeps going and going and going. The only other place I’ve ever been to that’s been like this is Los Angeles. When I drive back to Austin, it feels like by the time I’ve left the sprawl and am driving through the countryside, I’m already half way back–I’m only slightly exaggerating.

If you can imagine something, anything, that is a real tangible thing, something that exists somewhere in this world, you can probably find it somewhere in Houston, Texas. However, and here is where this town gets difficult, finding that particular thing is going to be a real pain in the ass because there ain’t no logic to just about any of it as far as I can tell. If you don’t know where it’s at, whatever it is that you need or want, then you better find somebody who does, or keep driving until you accidentally find whatever it is that you’re looking for.

And that’s basically what I’ve been doing on my days away from work.

I drive around and try and get my bearings. I wanted to find a Halal grocery store. There are plenty in Houston, Texas, but like I said, this is a big place, and from what I can tell the more interesting places don’t show up on Google Maps or anywhere on the net. What I could look up on my portable brains instead is where the largest density of Mosques, Halal restaurants / shopping places where in Houston, and then I drove in that direction. And I kept driving around until I found a place called, I think, Alameda Halal Market, where I found all kinds of yummy things. I love those places because I can buy a whole bag of cinnamon sticks for $4, whereas if I go to my local H.E.B. or Kroger, I’m going to pay $3 for two sticks. Now, what am I going to do with a whole bag of cinnamon sticks? I’m not sure yet. I also found a bag of Turmeric and a bag of whole Cumin for similarly very cheap prices, and a 3 liter bottle of olive oil for less than $20, as well as a jar of Tahini for $6 and some change. Basically, this place rocks.

Driving back home, I drove through a neighborhood that had a rather more Mexican feel to it, so a few days later I went back there and stopped at the first cantina in some random shopping center, and had a wonderful meal with coffee for less than $9.

I had been really depressed about how bad the Mexican food is in my neighborhood. It’s either really cheap, over refried, almost liquid, black beans and overcooked eggs, or over the top fancy and stuffy Tex Mex for rich white people food. I wanted chicharron and Tortas de Lengua! I’ll be hitting every taqueria in this particular neighborhood until I find the perfect one. The Tortas wasn’t the best, the bread was low grade, and the tongue wasn’t tender enough, however for the price I paid, I ain’t complaining. The chicharron, however, were incredible. Just the right amount of spice, and the tacos came with cilantro, onion, and lime. That’s it! No cheese, no iceberg lettuce, nothing else. The meat must be able to stand out for itself.

That’s my synopsis of Houston for you so far. Let me know what you think, and if you want to read more about Houston. If you have special requests, like places you think I should go to and explore, let me know as well.

FRANÇOIS POINTEAU
Please buy my books:
BEER SONGS FOR THE LONELY
and
GOOD FEELING SEVEN SHORT STORIES
You can find them locally in Houston, Texas
at Wired Up on Dunlavy in Montrose
as well as in Austin, Texas
at Malvern Books, Book People, and Half Price Books (2222 & Lamar)

and online at Amazon

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