Sunday, December 18, 2005

NYT: 36 hours in Houston

The New York Times focused last week's "36 hours in..." column to Houston. It's always interesting to see how outsiders perceive the city. In this case, pretty darn favorably (for a nice change of pace).
THAT'S right - you're not from Texas. It's O.K. According to Lyle Lovett, Texas wants you anyway. On the other hand, however, there's long been little love returned for Houston, the state's biggest city and the nation's fourth largest. Houston doesn't have a clear-cut positive reputation, like Austin (the laid-back slacker capital), or even a good nickname, like Dallas (Big D). As far as most of the country is concerned, it's got Enron and robber baron oilmen and heavy people, all in a climate requiring enough air-conditioning to power a rocket ship to Neptune. But Houston also has extraordinary museums, an innovative alternative arts and hip-hop scene, a rapidly growing cache of upscale hotels and haute cuisine and the neighborliness to take in tens of thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And, of course, it has rocket ships; that is, NASA's Johnson Space Center. In the end, maybe that's what makes Houston such an unusual and wonderful place - there are so many different Houstons to see.
Wow, too bad we don't have "a clear-cut positive reputation" like "Slacker Capital", huh? I'm sure employers are flocking to Austin based on that one. "Smithers, we need to build a new office/factory. What cities have a plentiful supply of slackers?"

I found this part particularly funny:
If for no other reason, go to Space Center Houston, about 25 miles south of downtown, just so at the slightest provocation - for instance, if you get lost on the way - you can say, "Houston, we have a problem." Repeat this until spouse or traveling companion begins to hit.
Now you know why so many cars are weaving on 45 South.

You can see an overview of their trip in the map below. I'm betting that 'Space Center' icon was custom to this article and probably won't get too much reuse in other columns.
(thanks to RJ for the pointer)


At 8:35 PM, December 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just goes to show how lame most "reputations" are. Austin ran off its slackers in favor of far lamer "Dellionaires" years ago, and I know plenty of slackers here. In fact, given that we are 3 times the size of Austin, I bet we have far more slackers than they do.

On a side note, I can't believe these people found Thelma's (affectionately known as 'Crackhouse BBQ', for its distinctive ambiance). Most Houstonians don't even know the heaven that is Thelma's. Good for them.

At 9:32 PM, December 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a side note, I can't believe these people found Thelma's

Yep, when I saw the reference to Thelma's, I knew that the author had done his research...

At 1:14 AM, December 19, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Austin has pretty much lost its reputation as being slacker-hill and is now the main center of innovation between the California, Chicago, and Atlanta. So Im not quite sure where the NYT came up with that rep-- the state of Texas will depend on Austin to counterbalance the predominantly energy focused Houston, the predominantly tourist focused San Antonio, and the god-knows-what-happened-to-their-economy Dallas.

The amount of VC being spent on high-tech projects in Austin puts Houston to shame. But, it goes with the territory of locating the largest research university in TX there.

At 9:59 AM, December 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So where did all of the Austin slackers go when they were run out of Austin?

At 10:41 AM, December 21, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

The slackers weren't run out of Austin, just demoted to second-tier status after the tech industry took over - "Keep Austin Weird" bumper stickers not withstanding.

At 5:10 PM, December 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother-in-law and I were just trying to put together a list of 10 things you should do, and we were comparing Houston and Philadelphia.

Philadelphia's are very clear-cut, whereas Houston's aren't. Yet, none of my suggestions were the same as the NYTs. (And Chapultepec ain't nearly what it used to be!). That's not too surprising, because we aren't a touristy city. Yet, even though they aren't obvious, there really are lots of cool things to see.\

I was impressed at the Thelma's reference.

justus-- "nerd bird" -- that's hilarious. also, do you ever stop by valhalla since it's right next door? I bartend there.

At 7:58 PM, December 23, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm surprised NASA wasn't on your list - it's usually the first thing on most Houston lists. And comparing us to a substantially older city with much more history (esp. around the Revolutionary War and the Constitution) is a little unfair.

Most of the most modern, fastest-growing sunbelt cities have the same tourism problem of non-obvious choices. Think Atlanta, Phoenix, and Dallas. Give it time.

At 10:59 PM, December 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, the true slackers were priced out of Austin long ago...I still haven't gotten a satisfactory answer as to where they went, though there is a suspiciously strong correlation between the decline of Austin's slacker-ness and the rise of Williamsburg.


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