As I watched on TV the devastation caused by the floods in Houston, I felt compelled to write this post. I have a personal connection to Houston. My daughter moved there a couple of years ago.
It is inconceivable to me that with all the financial, technological, and people resources that the United States has at its command, it is still struggling to bring the situation under control and get peoples’ lives back on track. It is a stark reminder that when it comes to the power and fury of nature, it doesn’t matter whether you live in Mumbai or in the fourth largest economy in the US – Houston.
When our daughter called us to say that she and her fiancé – now her husband – were planning to move from New York City (NYC) to Houston, our reaction was:
That was a couple of years ago. The move was work related.
Houston is not the first city that comes to mind when you plan to visit the US as a tourist. For that matter within Texas itself, Austin may be perceived as a cooler destination to visit, thanks to high-profile events like SXSW and Keep Austin Weird.
You go to Houston because you have business there, or are visiting family and friends.
So our first visit to Houston was to visit our daughter who lived in an apartment within The Loop, not far from the cherished River Oaks neighbourhood.
Right away, I could tell that the differences between NYC and Houston were glaring.
The pace was different.
Ironically, the concept of the New York minute is supposed to have originated in Texas.
Unlike NYC, people seemed to have more time on their hands in Houston. The city was sprawling but lacked public transportation. In my view, Houston would not qualify as a pedestrian-friendly city. Cars were the norm, even for short commutes.
Perhaps it’s the heat. Or, it may have something to do with their support for the local industry – Big Oil. Everyone knows Houston for its oil and NASA, but the healthcare sector and technology companies play a big part in its economy and in attracting young professionals to the city.
And of course its sports teams – The Rockets, Texans, Astros…
If you like it hot, you would love Houston.
The “eat out” culture was evident. Restaurants, bars, and Ice Houses with their crawfish bakes, Tex-Mex food, and patios were always packed and lively. There appeared to be no zoning laws for urban development. It wasn’t unusual to find a large, well-maintained house next to a restaurant adjoining a Doctor’s office that shared a wall with a spa.
People were friendly and helpful. Not having spent a lot of time in any of the southern states, I had expected people to be conservative and reserved. My apprehensions about Houston – a city perhaps less exposed to multi-culturalism – were quickly alleviated.
Anthony Bourdain said it best “Houston has been, from what I experienced, particularly if not more welcoming to immigrants and refugees from all over the world than most other cities I know.”
I did not know this.
Another thing that I did not know about Houston was that it is very vulnerable to flooding – more than any other major cities in the US. I had written off the April 2016 flooding in Houston as a freak weather event.
Boy, was I wrong!
Out of the blue, our daughter called us a couple of months ago to say that she had an offer from a firm in San Francisco. She had to move right away. As luck would have it, it didn’t take long for my son-in-law to find a job in San Francisco.
When they packed up most of their belongings and moved, leaving an affordable city and their friends were their only concerns. As stories of flooded basements, damaged cars, failed elevators, depleting food and gas supplies pour in, I can’t help wonder how it would have played out had they delayed their move by a few weeks.
I am not a particularly spiritual person. But, as I watch the buried houses, and people wading through the flood waters holding their possessions, one word comes to mind.
I am sure Houston and its people will bounce back, but there is a lesson in there somewhere…
If you are interested in helping, please follow this link to Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.