As I sit on the 23rd story of the Hilton Hotel in Houston, Texas I feel the ever-present cascade of cooling wind and somehow feel heat from the stars. It’s 9pm but the heat never leaves. Maybe it is caught in the concrete skyscrapers that would put the Tower of Babble to shame or maybe the moon itself is reflecting the sun’s heat. Whatever it is, it is absolutely beautiful and romantic.
I digress. Anyways, the allure of the landscape of the city is numbing to the senses of a corn-fed Alabama boy and I think I can now fully understand the passion that inspires our “City Culture” class. As I walk the streets, constantly bombarded by sweating, greasy pigeons and the ever-present question of, “sir, can you spare a dollar for dinner?” I think I have officially fallen for the city. At the very least Houston, Texas has grasped my heart.
We walk every day to the convention center for the NAFSA conference (http://www.nafsa.org/annualconference/default.aspx) and I am reminded of De Certeau and the term “Flaneur.” The city is alive and I can feel it’s pulse as my Chaco-clad-feet tread upon it’s concrete veins. The diversity here is absolutely incredible. Today I met people from Korea, New Zealand, Peru, Germany, Australia, and a man from U.S. Homeland Security. Every hour my brain has the opportunity to speak and interpret as much Spanish as English, not to mention the various other languages that I can’t even begin to understand. It is a wonderful land full of inspiration and diversity. Stimulating would be too humble of a definition of this beautiful metropolis.
I have officially decided I sympathize with the “sidewalk view” instead of the “bird’s-eye view.” Flying in you can see the size of the city and it is almost too intimidating to fully grasp, but as I walk the crunchy curbs I feel like I am actually integrated into the city as a functioning part of it. The birds-eye view misses so much of the city! It is an elitist view that separates rather than integrates and to be able to fully enjoy a city, I now fully believe, integration is key.
One of my favorites parts of the city is the artificial conjunction of the city and country. There is a park just three blocks from our hotel and you may call me a romantic, but it is where the heartbeat of the city pulses. The children playing in the water jets spewing from the concrete squeal with delight as their parents enjoy mojitos and the Texas classic “Dos Equis” beers under the shade of the oaks. The park is the meeting point of class and degradation. The people present here range from businessmen attending the NAFSA conference to the Spanish-speaking immigrants that make up the spice and culture of the town. It is a beautiful place where paradoxes of personalities collide to create pure peace and relaxation. A city cannot be defined by a particular section of socioeconomic group because it is the conjunction of the city as a whole that makes the city, well, a city.
To finish up I will leave you with a few choice words: knobby-footed birds, snow cones, heat, lights, wind, aggression, skylines, smoke, taxis, and a scent of chicken fried steak and Black and Milds. These are the physical things that make up this city but it is the ethereal things that make it beautiful.
For more information of Houston, visit www.houstontx.gov and be in class on Thursday, May 31, 2012 for more information on the website itself!