Friday, March 28, 2008
Via Matt Drudge comes a really good article about a town I did not want to go to at first, but which the years have caused me to regard as my second home town, Houston Texas.
The article holds, and rightly so, that Houston is well on its way to becoming one of the world's great cities.
First appearances -- then and even now -- often didn't help. Early visitors were struck by the settlement's largely shack-like housing. And in those days, long before air conditioning, there was the Houston weather, which often combined scalding temperatures with soupy humidity. "Heat is so severe during the middle of the day that most of us lie in the shade and pant," wrote a doctor, Ashbel Smith, in 1838. Yet the Allen brothers had not really chosen so badly. Houston possessed powerful assets. It sat on an enormous fresh-water aquifer, which today guarantees a water supply in a way that other growing cities, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, can only dream about. The area also abounded in natural resources such as timber and rich soil that was ideal for growing cotton. And when oil drillers hit a gusher in Spindletop, about 90 miles from Houston in East Texas, in 1901, Houston suddenly found itself positioned as the nearest city to some of North America’s richest oil and gas reserves.The article is a very interesting read and touches on some things I have written about before, like Houton's peaceful, capitalistic transition away from segregation in the 1960s and the fundamental differences between it and the Gulf Coast rival it eclipsed some time ago, New Orleans.
None of this, however, adequately explains Houston's ascendancy. Other cities enjoy better locations for shipping, richer agricultural resources, or similar proximity to oil fields. The answer, I have come to understand as I have worked in Houston as a reporter and consultant, echoes something that the late Soichiro Honda once told me: "More important than gold and diamonds are people." This critical resource, more than anything, accounts for Houston's headlong drive toward becoming not only the leading city of Texas and the South, but also a player on the global scene: it is emerging as one of the world's great cities.
It took a certain type of settler, back in the 1830s, to look at a sun-blasted, humidity-drenched, mosquito-infested flatland far from any major river or port and think: "Here is where I'll make my success." That tradition of hopefulness and determination can readily be found in the city to this day. As Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg notes, roughly 80 percent of Houstonians, according to his annual local surveys, consistently agree with the proposition that "if they work hard, they can succeed here." [bold added]
If I could live anywhere I felt like, it would be Houston. New adventures aside, I will miss this place. I have enjoyed spending the past fourteen years here.