For nearly a quarter century, I kept a daily journal. I kicked the habit in 2011. If I have more weeks like last week, I may have to start journaling again.
I’d like to talk about my first impressions of the Heights life, as well as recent travels – and finally, a few notes on northwest Houston neighborhood politics while I’m still observing them as an outsider.
One drawback to my former small town life was a lack of cultural and culinary options. For years, if I wanted to see a hot band or eat spicy Thai, I’d have to travel three hours or more to Dallas – and who the heck wants to mess with that?
Part of my relocation plan was to get to some good shows – and last week as the time to do it. My first visit to Revention Center was a good one, taking in the Fleet Foxes, a folksy bunch out of Seattle. It’s a cozy venue with big sound.
Just three days later, my first taste of Heights Theater involved the Squirrel Nut Zippers in what could almost be called a variety show (especially with accordion aficionado Ginny Mac as opener). SNZ ended with a New Orleans-style conga line out to the lobby, nearly spilling out onto 19th Street.
As for food, I’ve been trying to visit northside recommendations and eateries that advertise with our paper. It has been an interesting mix, but early returns have Ploughman’s Deli, Spanish Flowers and Simo’s high on the list.
We’ve also taken in a couple of dog rescue fundraising events – which means going to bars and sampling food trucks at McIntyre’s and Karbach Brewery. I love the swing at McIntyre’s, where they are thoughtful enough to put up signs warning patrons not to actually swing on the swing set.
Honestly, food and music are backseat passions for me. My true love is travel, especially road trips. Indulged myself this past weekend with a solo camping adventure to the Hill Country. It was a semi-spur of the moment jaunt, which is always a recipe for misadventure in our modern, reservations-only society.
We need to take a step back and talk about The Map. I have this Rand McNally atlas where I’ve drawn every road I’ve ever driven – ever. Easily over a million miles of interstate, byways, farm roads and state routes in a slowly widening arc around Texas.
For me, finding “new” unexplored roads from Houston is a challenge. So it was exciting to get some new-to-me interstate under my wheels in the form of I-14 near Fort Hood. The Bryan Eagle reports this is a congressionally-designated route to cross all of East Texas from Killeen to Huntsville and on over to Louisiana in the decades to come.
I had no end point in mind for Saturday, but Colorado Bend State Park seemed as good a place as any. Except, the campground was full and booked three months out. Colorado Bend… over and out.
Cabo San Saba to the rescue! Closing in on sunset, I found an RV park along the river in the “pecan capital of the world.” To the proprietor, I guess my four-door Ford Taurus counted as an RV. But the local constabulary deemed it more of a “suspicious vehicle.” They must be having a rash of tent-camping bookworms along the riverbank there in San Saba; glad the SSPD was there to check for warrants among the camper-less campers.
Along the route there and back, my favorite past time – stopping to read the metal plates of history installed every few miles by the Texas Historical Commission. A Dairy Queen may be a “Texas stop sign” to hungry Lone Star travelers, but for me, those big brown “Historic Marker one mile” signs have me tap-dancing on the brakes every time.
The older markers that still stand are graphic testaments to the friction between Comanches and colonists. “A metal arrow hit a Mr. Lafferty, slid halfway around his skull, was cut out with a pocket knife, and Lafferty survived,” from the Onion Creek Indian Fight of 1866 in McCulloch County.
Others are more sedate but relevant, such as the marker for Valley Spring, birthplace of James Field Smathers (1888-1967), “inventor of electric typewriter.” Where would we be with out that little gem?
Well, if you’ve made it this far into the column, hat’s off to your perseverance. Obviously I like to get out of the office from time to time and here in the early going, that means a tour (of sorts) to the various HOAs around here. I’ve visited Norhill, North Shepherd and Oak Forest so far.
Folks here are passionate about their neighborhoods. Concerns are many, discussions plentiful, solutions elusive. In Norhill, which is on the north fringe of the Heights along Main Street and Studewood, resident involvement was mentioned as an issue.
They count 840 homes and just over 100 neighborhood association members. Less than 20 of those members came to an April meeting which included a fascinating report on Hurricane Harvey recovery from a panel of newspaper reporters (not including yours truly, for the record).
In North Shepherd, which is more of a shopkeeper-oriented group, street lights, a loitering-prone corner and even sex trafficking were mentioned as blights on an area which is seeking to maintain the momentum of its renaissance.
Oak Forest seems to be enjoying the calm in between storms which befall all communities. And the Heights is all abuzz about the new historic home guidelines, with a final public hearing held late this week.
We’ll be wading into those waters in next week’s paper. The Heights is an interesting mix of nouveau and nostalgia. One pretty house on Cortlandt Street has one of my beloved historical markers labeling the home a “well-preserved early Craftsman bungalow with late Victorian influences.”
On a final note, I’d like to pay respects to Roberto Gonzalez Garza, who passed away on May 9 at age 74. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Garza, but as you can see in his memorial on Page 2 of this paper, he was a very distinguished individual. Among countless accomplishments, he was also a reporter for this very newspaper, among other publications.
Treinta y tres, Mr. Garza.