Houston is not necessarily the most bike and pedestrian friendly town there is. If you need to travel within your neighborhood and the ones just around you, then you’ll be fine, especially inside the loop, however if you need to get out of the loop, cross one of the bayous or a major highway, then you’re just up shit creek. There are very few pedestrian and bike friendly bridges to cross highways and waterways.
This morning I decided that I wanted to go visit Kaboom Books in Woodland Heights, for which I had to to cross one bayou, two highways, and ride approximately 5.5 miles. The bookstore was totally worth it, and getting to ride through this incredibly diverse town was totally worth it as well, though the crossing of the highways was not fun, especially coming back south where I’d forgotten where the bike-friendly bridge was, and had to push my bike on a two feet wide sidewalk over a massive highway with very little protective hedge on one side and speeding uncaring cars on the other.
I overheard the bookstore owner tell another customer that he had over 84 thousand books! And during my two or so hours there, I asked him several questions, and he seemed to know every book in his bookstore, present and past, or if he’s never had such and such title in his collection. At one point, I asked him if he had any collections of Robert Graves essays–he didn’t, they’re hard to find–and he came out with several titles from Graves I had never heard of, as well as several I had.
They have one of the largest French-language selection I’ve seen in a second hand bookshop anywhere in the States, and the largest poetry selection I’ve ever seen. They also have a massive Fiction section, with all the genres very well covered. Their Non-Fiction section is also quite impressive. Highly recommended.
I have never heard of Charles Dizenzo, but his collection of plays, Big Mother really grabbed me. I haven’t visited with Alfred Jarry in a couple of decades, and it was time we caught up, so I bought his major works, all to do with Ubu, and my favorite first line of a play ever: “Merdre!”, first line of the first act of Ubu Roi. And I picked up a collection of essays by Jim Harrison, Just Before Dark which I can’t wait to read.
The bayou is beautiful, and has a beautiful hike and bike trail, however it is for the most part not a practical one. As most parks and so called recreational spaces within cities in the southwest of the United States, these are destination parks, unlike European cities where parks and pathways along canals and rivers are part of everyday living. If you don’t understand the distinction, what I mean is that for example to enjoy the Japanese Garden in Houston, Texas, a gorgeous place, you have to decide to go there, take your car, park it in the designated parking lot, and walk to the gardens. You would almost never walk through this garden accidentally, or on your way to another place.
Whereas the Luxembourg Garden on the left bank in Paris for example is certainly a destination park, but it is mostly another aspect of the neighborhood. People walk through it daily to go to and from work, shopping, the grocery store, the cafe… it is part of everyday life, just another part of your day, and because of that, there are always thousands of people enjoying its landscapes, old men and women playing chess and checkers, young parents walking their kids after school, young lovers making out on the benches, business people going to and from work, basically it is a living park, not a place you go to on purpose with a purpose. The reason for this, is that Houston like most cities in Texas and the Southwest, were built in the era of cars and modern transportation.
This is really unfortunate.
That being said, Houston is still a gorgeous town, though it goes on through acres and acres and never ending miles of endless shopping centers, highways, streets, urban and suburban neighborhoods, it is a massively spread out city, that you couldn’t possibly walk through in one day even if you really needed to. I doubt you could walk through it in a week’s time.
I probably did around 12+ miles on my bike today, and I didn’t even get out of the center of town.
But first, I started with a homemade breakfast of sauteed onions, yellow squash, tomatoes, and spinach with plenty of whole cumin seeds. Served that with home-fried potatoes, and two over-medium fried eggs with Mexican cheese.
After leaving the bookstore, I stopped at Platypus Brewery. The beer was okay, though I really liked the setting. Then I went down the street to a pub called Liberty Station which is owned and operated by the same people who own the neighborhood restaurant where I tend bar and wait on tables. I’d been wanting to check it out. It’s a cool spot, and if it was closer to my home, I would probably go there regularly.
Then I had a burger back in my neighborhood at Griff’s, one of the local Irish Pubs. I like this place. It’s unassuming, with non of the hype-yuppy-cool-kid feel of most places in Montrose. It’s got cheap beers and affordable pub food. It has slowly become one of my go-to joints, and will remain that way I’m guessing.
Good day, can’t complain. Plenty of shit to see in this town, and not having a car right now, is forcing me to see it at a slower pace, and in so doing, more intimately. I like it.
Jim Harrison starts his collection of essays, “Just Before Dark” with the essay “Sporting Food” with these two sentences:
“Small portions are for small and inactive people. When it was all the rage, I was soundly criticized for saying that cuisine minceur was the moral equivalent of the fox-trot. Life is too short for me to approach a meal with the mincing steps of a Japanese prostitute.”
Jim Harrison goes on to explain that he hates restaurants, and that real men and real women cook their own damn food, and preferably hunt it as well. I love Harrison, even when he shits on me. Actually, that’s when he’s the best. I love cooking my own food, and I love eating out, and I never go hunting because I can’t shoot a gun to save my life, and the only thing I accomplish when I go fishing–which I haven’t done in decades–is to come home empty-handed.
Peace & Love
please buy my books:
Locally, my books are available in Austin, Texas at Book People, Malvern Books
and Half Price Books (2222 & Lamar)
My books are also available in Houston, Texas at Wired Up on Dunlavy & Westheimer.