My Second Home Town

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.

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]
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.

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.

-- CAV


Monica said...

Such a nice photo. I dated a black guy a few years ago, and he had lived in Houston for years. I've never been there. He told me that racism was almost unheard of there and he would like to go back, though. (Both of us were living in upstate NY at the time. What people call "race relations" are not very good in upstate NY... due, in my opinion, to massive amounts of welfare state spending and a sense of entitlement on the part of blacks there.)

Gus Van Horn said...

I have lived all over the place and have found that race is closer to being a complete non-issue here than anywhere else.

I grew up in Mississippi during a very interesting time. My schoolmates and I were among the first generation of kids after desegregation, but race was always lurking in the background.

Not so in Houston. I'm glad one place is past all that. (Well, you do have Quannell X, but he's so marginal as to be close to a joke and even he may be shaping up.)

Anonymous said...


Hi Gus -- have you seen this story yet?

Is it not the most fitting symbol (or confession) for environmentalism that anyone could conjure up? It is a literal extinction of the Enlightenment.

Gus Van Horn said...

Ha! Not really off-topic. Houston, I am happy to say, did not participate!

I'll comment on this in this morning's post....