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2003-11-14

Hello nurse! I am traveling around the US and writing about it, and there seems to be no end in sight unless I die or go to prison or something.

I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights. This would involve me staying at your house for a few days, showing me a good time (since I like good times), and whatever general mischief we can get into. If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com. Please make sure to include your address and phone number in your email to me so I can be in touch!

I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and the East Coast. I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter what! Here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

San Francisco
Louisiana
Mississippi
Alabama
Florida
Tennessee
North/South Carolina
Georgia


Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!



US Tour Day 59: Houston

Houston is a strange place. It was the first city I visited that actually seemed foreign. Everything around me screamed out that I was very far from home, and not just a distance measured in miles.

First of all, people in Houston have lots of money and they want you to know it. Even in the most wealthy parts of California I have not felt such a pride in wealth. Sure, people in LA and San Francisco and Palo Alto are clearly happy to have more money than you and the Mexicans they hire to do tasks they wouldn't dream of doing themselves. But, they seem to fall into the category of a more bohemian bourgeoisie. They're wealthy and blow tons of money on things, but there is still this leaning towards spirituality, even if it is only seen when they buy mini zen gardens for their desks or feng shui books to get the new wing of their house set up for maximum energy flow. I don't get this feeling at all in Houston. Fuck the spirits and energy. This megalopolis, the fourth largest city in the United States, is about commerce and oil and lots of money.


I call this photo "Ode to Tim Walker" because it reminds me of him.

It looks like the fake–tanned, orange–skinned old ladies Jaguar drivers association had a convention here and the old ladies liked it so much they never went back to wherever it was they came from. And they brought their little dogs, too. I was amazed to see a high–end bakery that catered exclusively to dogs.


These healthy, high–end treats are made with great care. At least that's what the prices suggest. These doggie baked goods cost as much as fancy pastries for humans.

The owner explained that the treats were made for dogs with all human–grade ingredients and were therefore quite edible for people. But, he said they might not suit our tastes, as they use only fruit juices and honey as sweeteners. Dogs, however, love them. And, if your dog needs more love than they can get from a cookie or customized cake, you can always bring it to any number of nearby doggie day spas. I mean, what better way to say "fuck the poor" than by spending excess money to send a resource devouring pet to a day spa?


A custom cake for your dog. Small: $14. Large: $17. Why feed the homeless, clothe the naked, or heal the wounded when you could just buy your dog this nifty cake instead?

It gets worse, though. I guess there comes a certain level of orange skin and Jaguar/Bentley ownership at which it is no longer safe to cross a street in order to purchase a fifty cent cup of coffee for five dollars. I visited not one, but two street corners in the Houston area where there were two Starbucks right across from one another.


One intersection. Two Starbucks. I should really do a review of each one and see which one is better. Or, probably more entertaining, I could send falsified letters from one Starbucks to the other making the employees of each think that the employees from across the street were trying to conquer them in a fierce battle for territory. They would then rush into the intersection, barista tools held above their heads, and clash in the most epic battle that street corner had ever seen. It would be incredible! Just think, I would be responsible for starting the Great Texas Coffee War of 2003!


I travel a lot. And, believe me, I've seen lots of restaurants with signs bearing names referencing the insertion of raw fish into one's anus. But, of all such signs this was definitely the funniest one on this entire street corner. [It's conveniently located behind one of the two corner–sharing Starbucks mentioned above.]

The buildings looked different, too. Basically I saw two different kinds of buildings that I was unfamiliar with. First there were skyscrapers. I'd never been in a skyscraper before. Sure, we have some tall buildings in California, but not like these. I think that our reasonable fear of earthquakes must have kept us from doing something as stupid as making tall, skinny buildings that want nothing to fall down when shaken from below. (Although there must have been some lapse of seismic reason—or blatant disregard for history's lessons—when building San Francisco's precarious–looking Transamerica Pyramid.) They don't have that pesky plates–of–the–earth–rubbing–against–one–another problem in Houston, so the downtown skyline is ruled by some long, tall buildings with serious size bragging rights. I stood at a street corner with skyscrapers on each corner. Looking up, I couldn't even determine which one was the tallest, as perspective melted away that far up against the blue and white patchwork of southern sky.


This is the first skyscraper I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. Thanks, Houston.

They've also got buildings made of bricks. Bricks, for those of you who live in California or other places which have excellent weather and don't need the protection of bricks, are these rectangular reddish brown things that people in the southern and eastern parts of the USA use to make buildings out of. I even remember finding one in an abandoned lot in my childhood. (I seem to remember this vague memory in which I threw the found brick it at the ground in an attempt to smash it.) Sure, I see a brick building from time to time back home. But out here there are huge estates, office buildings, and apartment complexes made from these strange red blocks.


One of my favorite things about the city was the almost rampant proliferation of art—good art. There was art everywhere—in galleries, museums, on sidewalks, the sides of buildings, and in parks. I found this piece in the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. There were works by Rodin, Calder, Bourdelle, and others. But, my favorite was Aristide Maillo's sculpture "Flora, Nude". Her hands implied so many filthy things. "Come closer so that I might squeeze the head of your penis and the penis of someone standing right next to you between my thumbs and forefingers!" or maybe "I would like two cocks, please."

The thing about Houston is that it was the first destination on my journey where every single thing I looked at seemed foreign—people, clothing, restaurants, stores, food, trees, the ocean, parks, the sky. Everywhere else I had been so far didn't feel this way. In fact, I noticed that in most places I could squint my eyes and almost believe I was still in California. Arizona, New Mexico, West and Central Texas—they all felt familiar. I wanted to find a manager or maitre d' or someone in charge so I could mention to them politely that as nice as everything was that this wasn't exactly what I'd expected when I ordered. It's all good and fine, sir I would explain, but this is, well, this is weird.


Speaking of foreign, I found this sign outside the Houston Zoo. It gets the award for most spelling errors on a large–scale, public sign.

It's foreign, its alien. Its a picture of something new. And, I like it. I like Houston. But, more than just this place I like the feeling I get as I observe and relate. I feel alive out here past the edge of familiarity, looking back over my shoulder to see my comfort zone shrinking into the horizon behind me.


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