Nov 14

Woe Is Me

Last year I switched web hosts from an individual to Go Daddy (I know, I know. Go Daddy offends me on many levels but I’ve signed up for multi-year plans and I can’t afford to just walk away. Plus, their hosting/domain/website services really are excellent.) In transferring my blog over to GoDaddy, my former web host lost all my posts up to that point – there was supposed to be a backup file, but it disappeared.

I was disappointed. I had some of my old posts saved on my laptop – not all of them, though. Most of my posts were written directly into the blog so when the backup got lost, they were gone. Which didn’t bother me until I realized that one of my favorite posts was among those lost. It was one of the best (IMO) that I’d ever written, a looong, funny (at least, I thought so) and picture-intensive post about how uninhabitable Houston really is – how flat, hot, wet, mosquito infested and generally dank, and what shameless liars and con men the Allen Brothers, Houston’s founders, were, and how it would be great if we could pick the whole metropolis up, freeways and all, and move it about 170 miles west north west, where we’d absorb Austin and live forever in a greener, slightly dryer, much bumpier landscape, albeit with a lot more naked hippies.

I think the loincloth was added to modesty’s sake. By all accounts, they went nekkid.

I talked about the long-extinct Karankawa tribe, who roamed the Texas Gulf Coast from here down to Corpus Christi, and who went about largely naked and covered in alligator grease to ward off the mosquitoes.

I observed that, in fact, naked and covered in alligator grease is really the only sensible way to live in this climate, and I could only marvel in sympathy and disbelief when I imagined the first Anglo women who arrived here.

A lot of men read the Allen Brothers’ blatant lies–excuse me, marketing promotion– in real estate ads back east and rushed to purchase prime land in this rich, fertile, coastal (ha!) area. They staked out their plots and then sent for the womenfolk back home to join them.

And I pictured these women, in their high collars and long sleeves and layers of petticoats, making the trek in horse drawn wagons, only to arrive at this pestilential swamp–did I mention the frequent outbreaks of yellow fever?–to  see their husbands standing ankle-deep in the muck, pointing proudly to the empty lot, proclaiming, “Our own land, Viola! See this? All this will be a thriving city soon, just you wait! Ships will come from everywhere and we’ll be rich!”

[Houston is roughly 100 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The Houston Ship Channel is wholly man made and is the only reason Houston has a port. It was built over the course of a century. Buffalo Bayou, at the time of Houston’s founding, was a shallow, crooked, vine-choked nightmare.]

Poor Viola looked at her husband, looked at the flat, wet muck, felt the sweat trickling down her face and between her boobs, slapped at a mosquito and said, between clenched teeth, “Ephraim, I’m taking the children back to Tennessee.  When you come to your damn senses, you shall find us at my mother’s.”

But a lot of women weren’t as smart as the imaginary Viola; a lot of them probably thought that they had to go where their husbands led them. They stayed here. That’s why, two hundred years later, all my family and all the Hub’s family are still here, and thus we can’t go anywhere else.

I  spent some time ruminating on the different between Austin’s Towne Lake and Houston’s Buffalo Bayou.

The pretty one, on the left? That’s Austin.

That’s why I’m sulking over that lost post now.

See, our generally very cool Mayor, Annise Parker, made some ill-advised remarks about San Antonio’s Riverwalk back in September:

According to a television station in San Antonio, Houston Mayor Annise Parker recently took a shot at one of Texas’ top tourist attractions.

She was asked why Houston has not developed its bayous as a draw for tourists and responded, according to television station KABB:

“As I travel I am often asked by people why we don’t turn Buffalo Bayou Park into a River Walk. The answer is that the River Walk is a cement ditch… there’s no nice way to put it. . . .

Buffalo Bayou is a living, active water course, and it has to be kept in as natural state as it can be for flood control purposes to allow the fish, the birds, the turtles, the critters that live in there to get what they need from the bayou as well as the recreational opportunities for Houstonians.

She added that the Harris County Flood Control District is reshaping some of the bayou, “putting some of the natural bends and curves back into it,” to help it hold water during rainstorms and to improve water clarity.

We still think there will be opportunities for things like a café to stop and get a cup of coffee and enjoy some time along the bayou with your family as well as active rental opportunities that will be coming.”

Bolding is mine, for various reasons:

1) Yes, the San Antonio River is, nowadays, a concrete ditch. But it’s a concrete ditch lined on both sides for several miles by trees and other lovely foliage, and shops and bars and restaurants, and is in all possible ways more scenic and more fun than Buffalo Bayou. Buffalo Bayou connects Houston to the Gulf of Mexico–i.e., it’s the only reason Houston has a port. It’s economically indispensable and ugly as hell.

2.) Those curves and natural bends Mayor Parker wants to put back in? They were taken out, on purpose, over the course of decades in order to make the route from the Gulf to the Houston Ship Channel smoother, straighter, and easier for ships to navigate.

3.) That last bit, about cafes and active rental opportunities? Wishful thinking. Progressive politicians in Houston are always dreaming about that kind of stuff, the kind of stuff they have in more “liveable” cities like Portland and Seattle. Mass transit! Bike share programs! Jogging trails!! Trendy little coffee shops on the banks of Buffalo Bayou!!

A local radio host says these are the kinds of plans that make Houston Chronicle features writers “wake up with the bed all sticky,” because your typical Houston Chronicle reporter would rather live in Seattle or Portland. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, or either of those cities, but bike trails and share programs and trendy little commercial enclaves designed to lure the hipsters out of Montrose and Mid Town all cost a lot of money, which means more taxes, which means it’ll never happen, because City Council members would like to keep their jobs and Houston voters don’t like spending money on stuff to make hipsters happy. In fact, The Chronicle ran a poll for a few days and the overwhelming majority of respondents said no, they wouldn’t be willing to pay more taxes in order to have trendy little coffee shops along the Bayou.

Anyway – Mayor Parker’s remarks made me think of that blog post. And after spending several hours, I’ve had to admit that the post is lost and gone forever dreadful sorry, Foolish Author Who Doesn’t Backup Her Blog Posts.

Better a blog post than a manuscript, though!

What’s that? Why’d I just now think of this? Well, actually I started this post back in September. Then the weather turned nice – it’s topping out in the low 70s this week, which makes a post about how hot and sticky Houston is seem a little off topic. Then I realized heck, by Thanksgiving we could be back to highs in the 80s. And then it’ll be relevant again. Yay!


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