As I drove out of Louisiana on I-10, I was captivated by the cyclones of white bugs swarming by the side of the road. The setting sun highlighted them as they swirled around like little mini tornadoes and I wished that my car was equipped with a side spray of Raid so I could blast those suckers right out of the sky. While I enjoyed my time in Louisiana, I knew what was coming next: Texas, the biggest state in the contiguous United States. Alaska is the biggest US state but it might as well belong to Canada as far as I'm concerned. But Texas is the real deal, a good old fashioned piece of America where cowboys fought indians, oil made people rich, and a goofball became president.
When you first drive into Texas, everything just seems big. The landscape itself is your first clue as you can see for miles and miles. People drive big trucks, the women have big hair, and the churches are the size of football stadiums. Giant American flags fly everywhere you look, but even more so is the Texas state flag. One of the first things I saw when I entered the state was a big ol' pickup covered in the Texas state flag. A lot of corporate logos incorporate the state flag. Billboards constantly remind you that you're in Texas and you should be downright proud of it. One bumper sticker said, "Some people will go to heaven when they die, but I'm going to Texas." People from Texas loooove them some Texas.
My first stop was Houston and I didn't have high expectations. I hadn't heard many great things about it, in fact I'd heard that it's basically the armpit of Texas. Luckily my friend Danielle is from Houston and gave me a great list of places to check out while I was there ranging from art collections to restaurants to strip clubs (sorry, didn't get that photo you requested!). As I drove into the city I couldn't help but notice how beautiful their highway system is. The overpasses swoop in like giant ribbons and you feel as if you're slowly gliding into the city. They're aesthetically pleasing too, unlike say El Paso.
My day started with a four donut breakfast at Shipley Donuts. Somehow I thought that was a good idea, but they were so good I couldn't help myself. After slipping into a nice food coma, I headed off to see some art. Like DC, Houston has a lot of art galleries and museums that are 100% free. You just walk in the door, look around, then leave. I first went to the Rothko Chapel which is a minimalist looking building, not what you think of when you hear the word "chapel" but what you think of when you hear "Rothko". I honestly wasn't impressed by the interior but I liked the idea of a non-denominational place where anyone could go to be alone with their thoughts. I'm alone with my thoughts every day on this trip so I didn't stay long at the chapel.
Just down the street is the Menil Collection which is also (and amazingly) free of charge. The building itself is beautiful and tranquil, but I found the squeaky wooden floors to be distracting. Their contemporary collection was impressive, as was their current civil rights photography exhibit (Dan Budnik, Danny Lyon, Bruce Davidson, Leonard Freed, Bob Adelman, and Elliott Erwitt), but their "antiquities" collection quickly bored me.
My next stop was the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, also part of the Menil Collection. Again, another tranquil space and a beautiful, contemporary way of displaying the frescoes that were stolen from Cyprus in the 1980s. I went in, I went out.
OK, enough about the great art that Houston has to offer (although I did go to the Contemporary Arts Museum as well), let's talk about the barbecue. I had lunch at Goode Company Barbecue and well, it was more than good. I've had some good barbecue on my trip, but this was top notch. I got to eat it on a picnic table next to a lawyer in a cowboy hat who was sorting out a divorce for an old guy who was also wearing a cowboy hat, with a view of a giant armadillo that's right across the street. Have I mentioned that everything is big in Texas? As their saying goes, "Everything is bigger in Texas," and they're not kidding.
After slipping into another food coma, I headed over to a funky part of town filled with thrift and antique stores. As I drove around Houston I was surprised at the amount of street art that they have, something that's usually a good indicator of how creative a city is. There was a lot of graffiti and stencils but I didn't see any wheat pastings. I saw one stencil of Ralphie from "A Christmas Story" in his pink bunny costume but I wasn't able to stop to get a picture of it. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by Houston but didn't feel compelled to stay another day, so I hit the road and headed toward San Antonio.
Unlike Houston, I had heard good things about San Antonio and was actually looking forward to it. After all they have the Alamo, the River Walk, and margaritas. Yep, that's pretty much all San Antonio has to offer. I talked to an older couple later in Marfa, TX who was from San Antonio and they confirmed, "Yep, that's pretty much all there is." So I really don't have much to say about that city other than I probably won't be going back there ever again unless it's for a convention. Hmmm, maybe a margarita convention? I'll have to get my people working on that.
Well that's enough of Texas for now. Texas is big remember? I covered a lot more ground and I'll write about those adventures in the near future. After another long day of driving, it's time to catch some shut-eye. G'night y'all.