There are some people I truly love living in Houston, Texas. I've been there a few times and generally enjoyed myself. But let's not kid ourselves; unless your idea of a well laid-out metropolis with a high quality of life is Phoenix or Tulsa, Houston is a clusterfuck. To be outdoors in Houston in August is like breathing soup or living in the anal cavity of a giant mammal. It is necessary to drive everywhere – which I'm sure has no bearing on Houston being the fattest city in the country. The public transportation "system" is a joke and good luck trying to meet your needs on foot. The city center is a concrete splatter surrounded and pierced by one highway after another. It sprawls mightily in every direction with nothing to constrain it and with no rhyme or reason (much like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Southern California, etc). Much of the city is seedy, impoverished, and crime-ridden despite what the rest of this post is going to talk about. The Astros are fucking horrible.

Houston is a big, hot, sprawling mess. It's also "America's #1 job creator" according to The Atlantic.

The crux of this analysis is that it's really cheap to live in Houston and its location makes it relevant to the energy industry (read: oil and gas). Because it's cheap to live there, employers can set up shop there, pay less than they would have to pay elsewhere, and then make the cost of living argument. Combined with Texas's legendarily "business friendly environment", it's a cheap place. It's not hard to see why Houston would be adding jobs.

These things don't exist in a vacuum, though. Housing is cheap because land is ample and cheap, hence the epic sprawl. Add more highways to move people between the city and the sprawl to up the ugliness factor. And that business friendly environment isn't free either. Employers are lured there with billions in tax abatements and other handouts from the public till. Accordingly, there's a limited tax base and the population growth has outpaced the ability to provide public services. That's why Houston manages to be "booming" and "affluent" while appearing to residents and visitors alike to be run down and seedy. Come for the great jobs, cheap houses, and public schools you wouldn't send your dog to.

This is supposed to be the template for other cities to follow – be more like the growing, sprawling megaplexes of the Sun Belt. Pay particular attention to Texas and the Southwest. Turn your city into a gargantuan strip mall, hand out money to oil companies (and defense contractors; good lord does Texas love it some defense contractors), actively reject the idea of urban planning as socialist, and tell everyone who lives there to fend for themselves. We have seen the future, and it sucks.


  • I read an interesting article recently. I can't remember where it was, but it revolved around an interview with someone who was disgustingly rich and the gist was there's no such thing as "quality of life" to a successful person. Everyone interested in "quality" in their life is just a lazy sack of shit. If someone doesn't like their job, they are doing their job wrong. Also, you're doing your job wrong if you aren't putting in 70-80 hour work weeks consistently.

    That thinking is how you get such shitholes as monumental as Houston.
    Fuck quality, we you can have a city of quantity.

  • Fuck Houston! I live in Phoenix, where yes, the politicking is vehemently Conservatarded, but it is clean, sunny(325-plus days a year), and we like the one huge suburb thing. Lots of jobs for a good tech like myself. Low cost of living. FUCK HOUSTON!

  • Houston is, without a doubt, the angriest large-ish city I have ever visited, and for good reason. The climate, the sprawl, the masses of urchins living day to day and the utter lack of beauty, parks, and the other things that make life in a city worthwhile condemn it to the lower reaches of hell.

  • Surprised you didn't mention the wildfires and the coming water crisis. (When Florida had its wildfires in the late 90s what's-his-name the self-righteous Christian shitbag said it was God's punishment for the Gay Days at Disney and because the City of St. Augustine allowed rainbow flags to be put up on public rights-of-way. Of course Texas is a God-fearing red state where they hate Teh Gays, so in the case of Texas burning to a crisp the idea of "God's punishment" will give way to "God's plan" and how it works in mysterious ways.)

  • Ten years of rising sea level will wash all of that fecalmatter to sea. Phoenix and S Cal will inverse, rather than drown' they will die of thirst. Better grow some thicker ski.

    It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature. She'll you dog's ass. Everytime.

    No fear.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Regarding tax breaks for corporations: Over the weekend, I caught an episode of the sitcom with Roseanne Barr in it. That particular episode was filmed in 1992 (that is, at the tail end of the Reagan/Bush I regime). In the opening act, a politician comes to Roseanne's house and begins his spiel about how he wants to get in touch with all his constituents. Roseanne shoots back that all of the constituents are in line down at the unemployment office.

    Quick as a wink, he replies that he's got big plans to entice companies to come to the state (was it Illinois or Indiana?!?) with tax breaks. Roseanne pointedly asks if the corporations aren't going to be paying the taxes, who will?!? (Great question!)

    The politician hems and haws and finally says the workers will be paying the taxes that the corporations won't, but look! They'll all have JOBS! Roseanne points out that they won't be union jobs with living wages–the new jobs will not pay a living wage.

    Remember, this episode was filmed in 1992. That's what I found so depressing; my entire working life, this has been the deal.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I grew-up in NY City, and we moved to the suburbs when I was 11. I went from being able to take a subway or bus to wherever I wanted to go, to having to be driven, or take a bike.

    When I got done with college, I lived in NY City throughout the 80's, living in every borough except Bronx, and never needed or even wanted a car.

    Buses ran down every major avenue and cross street, and subways were either a few blocks away, or a quick hop on a bus to the subway.
    Even when I live in Staten Island for a year, the ferry was about a 20 minute walk away – and that's because I chose not to take a bus to the ferry, or back, where there was a stop 2 blocks away.

    I was in great shape, because I walked all over the city.

    And you can't find a better city for food and culture. I'd often walk to the opera or ballet, or to see a play.
    If I wanted to go to a ballgame, the Yankees were on one subway line in Bronx, the Mets on another one in Queens. If one played a day game, and the other a night game, I could have hopped on the 6 train to the 7, if the Yanks were the early game, or the 7 to the 6, if the Mets were the early one – and transferred at Grand Central.
    And Grand Central was where I went to take a train home to visit my folks.
    My other relatives were accessible by subway, if they lived in NYC, or by going to Penn Station, or Port Authority, bus terminals, if they lived in NJ, or Long Island.

    Why would anyone want a car?

    I didn't realize how good I had it.

    In 1990, I took a job in Philly, and had to drive everywhere.
    Then, I moved back to the suburbs of NYC, and had to drive everywhere.

    And forget about the South. If I had to depend on mass transportation to go from Chapel Hill, where I lived, to Raleigh (later Morrissville), it would have taken about 3 hours in each direction – and a series of buses was the only option, with a whole bunch of change-overs.

    NY City should be the model for American cities.
    But, mass transportation means dealing with the Socialist/Communist masses, rather than individual free enterprise, Capitalist, cars (FreeDUMB! LiberTEA!!!), so, forget about it, masses.
    Find your own transportation.

    I wish I could afford NY City.
    You couldn't pay me to live in a different one – especially any urban sh*thole city South of the Mason-Dixon line.

  • Houston's screwed, and so is Phoenix and probably anywhere else that big, that far south. Even before the rising effects of climate change were becoming apparent, water supply was a problem for those places; now, it's only getting worse. There is literally NO good plan to provide for the water needs of Phoenix's growing population beyond about ten years from now. Beyond water, their disastrous failure at anything resembling smart urban planning isn't helping, either.

    Not all American cities are as screwed. Some are beginning to figure out that Americans of "Generation Y" and later are rejecting the suburban Happy Motoring dream, and aspire to a more urban, walkable environment for their home. Forget luring corporations with suicidal tax breaks; if you instead lure the talented, highly-educated 20-to-40-something cadre, the corporations might come to them. It's worked for Portland and Seattle and is working for Pittsburgh and Philly. Others are starting to "get it", too. More mixed-use; more mass transit; more parks; more farmers' markets; more walkability; younger Americans are demanding these things, and they will go to the cities that offer them – especially if they are accompanied by reasonable cost of living.

    Personally, I've been to both Houston and Phoenix and I think they're both unbearable shitholes. "sunny(325-plus days a year)" equals "110 degrees in the shade in November" equals "stay inside in the AC all the time, day and night". Phoenix looks like a sun-burned version of suburban Detroit, and Houston is a smoggy disaster. No thank you.

  • Doctor Rock says:

    Fuck Houston. Fuck urban sprawl. Fuck shitty mass transit. Fuck cities where you need a car to get around.

  • I have never been there and have no desire to go there. I but understand the Houston has radically lax to non-existent zoning laws resulting in skyscrapers in residential areas and the like.

    Combine that with 100/100 weather in the summer, I am putting 'Avoiding Houston' on my bucket list.

  • Doctor Rock says:

    New York. I don't really "like" the city, but I love the infrastructure (the subway). I wish a city that I really liked could be as walkable and easy to get around.

  • @Anonymouse: The tragedy of the Roseanne show and that episode is that the characters are the Fuax Gnuz watching audience (if Fuax was around then or the show was made today). 20 years on, they still haven't gotten it.

  • The Texas dingbats who run their " government" claim to be champions of the family, but their philosophy of eat everything now before somebody else gets it illustrates that the somebody else their screwing happens to be the next generation…their children.

  • My corporation's headquarters is in Houston, I'm pretty sure it was there long before it was known to be "business friendly" and god knows it will be there long after. I end up there about twice a year and honestly, it's not as bad as Ohio. Everyone has their Ohio, sometimes it's Houston, or Phoenix, or just Texas as a whole.

    My Ohio is Ohio.

  • Makes me feel better about living in Oakland California.

    Naah, just kidding. I felt just fine about living here anyway.

  • Seattle's actually a place, outside of the eastern seaboard, where the mass transit works, and people use it. Living downtown Seattle is mucho bettero than living in Bellevue or Renton, or the 'burbs between Seattle and Tacoma. Serious gang activity happens there.

  • Jerry Vinokurov says:

    While sprawl is definitely a thing in Southern California, it bears noting that its direction is, today, actually quite constrained. You can't go west because of the ocean, and you can't go east because of the mountains and the desert. Unfortunately there's still a great deal of notionally habitable area between San Diego and LA, which I guess will keep filling up so long as people have the stomach to spend 1.5 hours in traffic every day.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    Sounds a lot like Northern Virginia, except here you can't get a one-bedroom for less than a thousand dollars a month.

  • D.N. Nation says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    "NY City should be the model for American cities."
    "I wish I could afford NY City."

    You see the inherent problem here, yes? NYC as a concept isn't feasible 1) In many areas of this country; and 2) For many people in this country. I've known quite a few people who burned out of NYC because they got sick of not having their own toilet or having to eat wallpaper paste every day just to make ends meet. You pay for that infrastructure, and you pay good and hard. Is it worth it? I *think* it is, but it's not supremely optimal.

    (An aside: The last time I was there, in 2007, everyone was dressing/listening to music like it was 2003. Weirdest damned thing. I've never thought that city lives up to its billing as a cultural zeitgeist.)

    I'd still choose NYC over Houston, but they're both the pits for people my age starting out. Happy mediums are better. I'm not sure what that is, though. (It's definitely not where I live, Atlanta, but I'd say we're much closer than Houston is. I live in an entirely walkable neighborhood with bars/restaurants/grocery/public transit nearby for pretty cheap…yep, it's possible even in the ATL.)

  • what? criticize Houston/Texas? lol amazing what constitutes "better". to think people have bought the crap referred to by the Roseanne Show for years on. well, Houston is just the physcial statement of a country lost in greed and corruption. the short term outlook vs the long term.

    The BBC had Texas in its' top 10 list and why everyone is moving to Texas. lol. living in Louisiana, i have been to Houston enough to avoid it whenever possible. no zoning laws allow anything to built anywhere. this/Houston is the capitalist ideal for all the see. Texas, is the shining hill of the Capitalist Greed is Good, Money, Money Money is all that matter. the Anti Christ if there ever was one. lol for an atheist, that's quite a label.

    the short run looks very good to those kind of people who care less about humanity, and more about getting "more" right now. it is unfortunate Texas can't secede. with all the military bases, Texas is also a big part of the Military Industrical Congressional Complex. Texas exemplifies what is wrong with the American Empire. it is The Empire for all to see. and as one postcard said. The sun has risen, the sun has set and still we are in Texas yet!

    i avoid Texas at all cost and feel sorry for those who have to live there. poisoning the water, air, land and the people for profit!! doesn't bode well for anyone who lives in Texas. a shame too. but consider the lunatics that Texas has given Politics. LBJ, Bush, Perry, Gohmert, Cornyn,Hutchinson, ad infinitum. Texa is hell on earth. Regulation of business is a communist idea and not done in Texas. aka the explosion at that ammonia plant shows how cheap human life is. Inspect Business, Hell no!. people are expendable, but Business is Holy! Only Austin is worth commenting about or living in from what i hear.

    to think the Bush family chose Texas/Dallas says enough. Texas is what the devil rents out while he lives in Hell.

  • When I lived in Houston my rundown shitheel apartment was two streets away from some sort of chemical plant. When the wind was right you could get a contact high just breathing, and the air had a sharp, dangerous smell that made me think of open drums of something dark and fuming. I still have no idea what the hell they were brewing over there, but had it been toxic I suspect the first we'd have known about a spill would have been the moment our lungs stopped functioning.

  • Yes, Houston is an awful awful city. It is Jane Jacobs' nightmare.

    In Houston, corporatism, mass consumerism, and the trivial, bubblegum abdication of culture reach their zenith. I used to think that the areas I had visited in Houston were a shapeless quagmire of highways, chain restaurants and strip malls but I've subsequently realized that the entire city is that shapeless quagmire. There really is no "there" there, no cultural or natural landmark to ground you. It's terrible and unsettling. The only nice aspect of the city is that you're tantalizingly close to New Orleans. Every time I'm there I have a strong urge to leave immediately and just drive to the big easy, which is everything Houston is not: poor, beautiful, real.

  • I had the dubious pleasure of living in Houston for two years from 1985 to 1987. For the first year, my soon-to-be-spouse and I shared an apartment way out on Highway 6, northwest of the city proper. It was truly a soulless, empty landscape of concrete, pavement and strip centers accessible only by motor vehicle. When that lease was up, we moved to a spacious one-bedroom apartment in a quad in Montrose, a quaint older neighborhood adjacent to the 'concrete splatter' of the city center. Montrose was (and remains) a walkable part of the city – food, shopping, clubs, employment all within reasonable walking distance. But then the 'double century' days (100 degrees F., 100% humidity) of late July were terrible to behold, though the acclimated amongst us still managed the occasional pick-up basketball game at the local school playground after work.

    For a young, childless, urban professional, Houston can actually be a lot of fun. However, MrsFromOhio and I intended to be parents, and clearly this was no place to raise children. Having collected our marriage license from the Harris County courthouse, we departed in early 1988, not to return. Having been back multiple times since then, the city has swelled to nearly 8 million people in the metropolitan area, and the sprawl has kept pace. Way the hell out on Highway 6, what was once empty land is now paved and commercialized. As I understand it, the sprawl has followed the major arteries along I45, I10, more so than 26 years ago.

    One thing that has not changed in that time is the seriously ugly proliferation of huge billboards. It was that ugliness that finally tore it for us, returning to Houston on 59 on a drive from Texarkana, and seeing the transition from the piney forests of East Texas to the forest of billboards in early morning light. It was on that trip we agreed we had to get the fuck out of there, and some months later, we were gone.

    I see no reason ever to go back there.

    fdchief218, that sounds like Stinkadena (Pasadena) down by the ship channel, apartment buildings next to refineries. Even the tap water had a smell and taste reminiscent of chewing on a new whitewall tire.

  • NYC sucks, Houston sucks a bit more, Pretty much any city with over 30,000 folks suck. That's my standard….
    Blow up the TV , move to the country, eat a lot of peaches, etc….
    Lots of fine places above and below MD line….

  • Anonymouse says:

    @xynzee: not sure I get your point. The concept behind the Roseanne show was blue-collar folks just trying to get by. Not sure the Roseanne character would watch FUX Noize; the character seemed pretty aware of b.s. and not afraid to call it what it was (which got her fired from some really crappy jobs).

  • Diamond Dave says:

    Checking in from Houston. Been here two years and I can't wait to GTFO of here and get back to sunny FL. Had to move out of the place I lived the first year because my bedroom window literally looked over the outside patio of a night club that was packed full of drunk screaming people 5 nights a week until 2AM and then another hour of drunk screaming people on the street until they finally disperse sometime around 3AM. It's insane there are no zoning laws here.

    Having come from the Cocoa Beach area, I wanted to go to the beach here in Galveston and everyone I talked to said not to go because it would make me sad. I made it over there one time for a day trip and it looked like an industrial wasteland. Oil refineries, brown water, heavily industrialized. Not a place you want to bring your kids for a fun day at the beach.

    Say what you want about Florida but at least they give a fuck about the environment and keeping shit relatively clean.

  • Leading Edge Boomer says:

    Re Houston, before retirement I visited Rice University for work, an oasis within just what you describe. MD Anderson is where I would go if I had cancer. Also there is a downtown liquor store that is a full city block in size–a whole aisle for ports, a whole aisle for Loire wines, etc. Since TSA ruined carrying a case onto an airplane, a couple of bottles in checked luggage was my limit.

    Re urban living, I lived in the Phoenix area before it got even worse, then in a nice college town, a little stint in Seattle (pre-mass transit but still navigable then, worse now) and two years in DC (loved that the Metro went where I wanted to go, except IAD).

    Now in Santa Fe, a tourist Disneyland with faux adobe whose downtown architecture is ruthlessly governed by a blue-haired ladies' committee. I live in a neighborhood where everything is decreed to be beige (except the people, of course).

    I do not lust for NYC, or any east or midwest city, regardless of the quality of transport or anything else. I am looking for a new place where water will continue to be available, in a "big enough" city where urban condo-style life is possible: driving not extinguished but diminished. Hating winter excludes the worst of the West, and some parts of the West are trying to be self-eliminating; E.g., a giant coal terminal is proposed for the WA coast that will bring many long coal trains through Seattle and points north daily.

    Still looking. That college town has grown up some.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    "actively reject the idea of urban planning as socialist"

    Here in the Spokane, WA area, where it is truly beautiful and the weather is manageable (the summers are spectacular), the infrastructure is a direct reflection of the political climate of E. Washington and N. Idaho.

    Recently there was a local call-in radio show with a panel of county and city commissioners, and one of the callers asked why the traffic lights were so bad, and why couldn't they hire a firm to come out and sequence them. I shit you not, the very first answer from a councilman was…

    "That would fall under the category of 'smart growth', which is a direct mandate under UN Agenda 21. I will not be a party to the ushering in of a socialistic, one-world government!"

    The rest of the panel expressed their agreement.

    So as nice and affordable as it is here, a lot of the people here are simply nuts. And that's what I've found with many of the rural areas I've lived. I love the countryside, the low cost of living, and the relatively drama-free nature of such areas, but they are invariably populated by far-right paranoid religious morons.

  • @Anonymouse: sorry. To clarify, whilst Roseanne character herself knew the score. The neighbours, not so much. As the underlying story would be, "yes, but I have a job!" :-/
    Someone was voting for Ronny and Pappy in large enough numbers and it certainly wasn't us (though I/we were too young to vote in the first place).

    @bernard: yes say what you will about LBJ for keeping us in Nam, but I'm guessing that Pappy and Shrub have seen it as their mission to redeem the state from his sins of Civil Rights and gun control — did he appoint anyone involved in RvW? — with appointments to scotus. Now we have this: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3378379/

    It would be great to divest our military involvement in the state — last thing we need are a bunch of well equipped nutters on our southern border — and let them leave.

  • well Jeb Bush the half hispanic grandson of Pappy will be the next entrant for the White House. so Texas knows how keep them lunatics coming at us. there are so many bad politicians in Texas, it is hard to list them all. of for sure the payback for the Civil Rights Laws is what we see in the Republican "hate America" tour we have of late. Payback for letting non-white, non straight, non male people vote.

    and it ain't going to stop until enough of the dumb white Southerners die off. and Texas leads the way. just when you think Texas can't Fuuk us over any more, surprise. That's Texas.

  • Molly Ivins used to refer to Texas as "The National Laboratory for Bad Government"

    Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of competition for that title these days.

  • buckyblue – I'm just back from a few days in Seattle, and it was awesome. You're right about the public transit – the light rail is like an amusement park ride, Westlake Station is right out of Bladerunner, and the buses are fast, clean, and the drivers courteous and helpful. An Android ap from Seattle Metro makes it impossible to miss a bus.

    Even better, you can't swing a cat without running into some neat little bar, cafe, food truck, or resto.

    Plus architectural delights at every turn.

    Amazing city.

  • Plus, the Crumble & Flake bakery was worth the trip all by itself. Jesus god, it's a miracle I wasn't found passed out in the gutter with crumbs on my face.

  • I'm reminded of an old joke:

    "What's the matter with Kansas?"


    Sometimes I wonder what the hell it is with Texas. Most people I meet from there act like GWB, down to that weird deer-in-the-headlights smirk. (FWIW, LBJ was strongly opposed to the Civil Rights Act personally, but felt he had no political choice but to sign it. Same wth FOIA. And don't forget that Cheney is a Texas politician. So I think a good rule is, never vote for any candidate with a Texas connection.)

    I once had a colleague from Texas who would have conversations in the hallway, between classes, in earshot of all the students, in which he would loudly rant that there will be no peace in the Middle East until there was no one left on Earth who had any respect for the Koran at all.

    To his credit, he would occasionally talk about how he hates racists almost as much as he hates Chinese people…

  • @Diamond Dave

    I'm a fellow Cocoa Beach resident.

    Basically, all that we love about this place is going to be fucked over by some wanna-be theme park development.

  • Incidentally, while I have never had the pleasure of living in Texas, I have spent plenty of time in the Bible Belt, and it all sucks.

    I vividly remember the departmental Christmas party- at a public university- that featured an anti-gay Christian video.

    The funny thing is, if I ask Christians about homophobia, they tell me that the very fact I would bring such a thing up means I am acting in bad faith. Because, you know, queers don't *really* suffer at the hands of Christians. They just pretend to, so they can have an excuse to bash Christianity.

  • Cannot refute that TX is more than overly represented by crazy and evil. So we can definitely agree on this. My guess is that driving in extreme heat over extreme distances of gafa takes its toll.

    So which is worse?
    Someone strong armed into doing good, and alienates the crazy or someone who does some good but consciously courts the crazy.

    If only Nixon and Ronbo had left the South to founder…

  • Sally's Dad says:

    @Anon: ((( To his credit, he would occasionally talk about how he hates racists almost as much as he hates Chinese people… )))

    Reminds me of a Tom Lehrer quote: I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!

  • Anonymouse says:

    @xynzee: "Someone was voting for Ronny and Pappy in large enough numbers and it certainly wasn't us (though I/we were too young to vote in the first place)."

    Yes, I was too young to have a say in Ronny Ray-gun and Bush the Elder, but I distinctly did *not* vote for Bush the Younger. I think reality found that Bush the Younger didn't get enough votes to win, either, but you know, Flor-UH-DUH and his brother being the governor at the time…nope, nothing to see THERE. @@

  • Ridnik Chrome says:

    Funniest description of Houston I ever read was a magazine article (I think in Harper's) that said it looked like a test site for a new type of bomb that threw up ugly buildings wherever it was dropped.

  • Ah yes, I get to leave the lovely, temperate SF Bay Area for Houston in October. Everyone likes to tell me that the foods great and there are lots of places to shop, except I'm (already) fat and have plenty of things.

    I am bracing myself for my first real experience living in a true red state and telling myself that, so long as I save money and don't do something stupid like get fired, the worst case scenario is I stay there for 20 years and retire back to the Bay.

  • It's easy for me to say, since I live in, and come from, the little blue oasis in the middle of Texas, but y'all are being way too hard on Texas. We definitely do not have the monopoly on sprawl, braindead government, rednecks, car addiction, bad architecture, etc. etc. I've traveled all over the country, lived for a time in both NYC (capital of Earth, if you ask me) and the Bay, partied in places as shitty as Tulsa, OK (which is not nearly as shitty as people think) and Berkeley (which is the most overrated, boring vegan potluck I've ever had the displeasure of suffering through) and I'm telling you, it ain't that bad. Houston sucks because giant cities that experienced their massive growth smack in the middle of the age of the automobile are going to suck. New York predated the automobile; Austin only started booming after the advent of the environmental movement. That, and Houston's economy is almost entirely driven by the oil industry. It's an unfair lot that plagues places like Detroit also. I know it seems like I'm fruitlessly chasing the point, so here it is: There's a hell of a lot more to Texas than oilmen and racists. If you keep beating the drum for cities that do it right, the future might NOT be Houston in its current state, and even better, you might change the future of Houston and cities like it. Shit on it, write it off, and you guarantee the worst.

  • BethanyAnne says:

    I grew up south of Houston. I'm in it currently, but I've lived in Oakland and Berkeley for years, and hope to make it back soon. Mainly this place ends up driving a cycle of depression for me. Too easy to stay isolated.

    Ursula, there are a few things that I like in Houston. Fadi's makes very good Mediterranean food, the Rennaissance Festival around Labor Day is fun, and I've always liked our little zoo / natural history museum complex. People seem to love the Rothko Chapel, but I haven't been.

    Diamond Dave, my dad grew up in Texas City, which is across Galveston Bay from Galveston. It's where that refinery smell came from. When we lived there, we replaced the screens on the windows that faced the refinery side of the town every 3 years. That's how long it took the aluminum screens to turn to dust. No surprise that Dad died of cancer at 61.

    Houston doesn't technically have any zoning. What it does have are home owners associations and deed restrictions. So, if you can afford to live in a "nice" neighborhood, you won't have a junkyard pop up next door. Only the poors have to put up with that.

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