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There is only one word to describe Houston: sprawling. What other city boasts not one, but two, downtowns? There’s Downtown downtown, and then there’s Uptown, or The Galleria. Here’s the view from the 60th floor of the observation deck at Chase Tower Downtown, with Uptown in the distance:

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With a population of over 6 million, you would expect lots of folks walking around downtown, but it was eerily quiet on a Friday afternoon. Workers are scurrying underground in tunnels; Houston’s underground system is burrowed 20 feet below the street, connects 95 city blocks, and is more than 6 miles long.

Despite few pedestrians above ground, the ear-piercing and protracted “vehicle exiting” alarms wail at the orifices of parking garages, together with the gesticulations of off-duty police officers, just in case a lonely, straggling walker steps in front of a car. I chuckled, thinking of exiting parking garages in Times Square in Manhattan with my friend Virginia, who works at MTV. She inched forward continuously and ever so slightly, literally touching the shopping bags and legs of pedestrians, in order to exit. If she waited for an opening she’d wait all day. Wide-open spaces produce the luxury of a higher level of caution than density and tight spaces can afford.

Staying at a campground behind IKEA and visiting with my friends Randy and Brian who live in the Heights, I drove Interstate 10, also known as the Katy Freeway, many times. One particular section of the Katy Freeway has 26 lanes of traffic! Did I mention sprawling?

There is a healthy culture of individuality and eccentricity in Houston. The Art Car Parade was the week before I arrived. Each evening a crowd gathers at sundown at Waugh Bridge for a bat emergence.

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Stephen, Kevin, Brian, Randy, and I at Waugh Bridge

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There’s The Orange Show and the Beer Can House, both lovingly preserved. I did not have time to visit the Orange Show, but I did go to John Milkovish’s aluminum-adorned house:

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This is Texas, but with a twist. A gun show was continuously advertised on freeway signs designed for traffic updates.

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But just off the freeway, where there is a monument erected in earnest to celebrate Great Statesmen, the locals irreverently call it “Mount Rush Hour.”

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This is the beginning of Bayou Country, and “Tex Orleans” cuisine abounds. I dined on Tex-Mex food one evening, and crawfish the next.

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The trip out to the Johnson Space Center was worth it just to see Mission Control.

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However, for adults the rest of the place was souvenirs and fast food and cheesy arcade games. I’m hoping Kennedy Space Center is better.

The best part of Houston for me was visiting my friends Randy and Brian, and hanging out with their friends, enjoying meals together and playing Cards Against Hunanity. Brian was also a most excellent tour guide around the city. What a wonderful visit with wonderful people.

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The huma-ditty caught up with me in Houston. For the entire weekend the city felt like a giant water balloon loomed overhead, just begging to be popped. The skies were not terribly ominous as I continued east to New Orleans,

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but within hours of my departure Houston experienced torrential rains and flooding, which unfortunately is fairly common for Houston. I got out just in time.

Thanks, Houston! I had a blast!

*Title based on the song by Juke Boy Bonner: