Saturday, July 02, 2005


This morning is a typical Houston July morning: before 9 a.m., it's 84 degrees, but it feels like 92, according to There's a breeze out there, but it's not helping: I'm still bathing in my own sweet sweat from walking to the farmer's market two blocks away. Humidity is only in the 70s right now. Weatherman said the humidity will reach the 90s, with 99 degrees predicted as the high temp for today.


I won't forget the day I moved to Houston: August 10, 1990. The first morning I walked outside and felt the heat, the humidity, I bellowed -- to no one -- "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!" Walking to the convenience store down the street, the air around me felt like a wet wool blanket slathered in mayonnaise.

Weather apologists try to sell the "yeah, but living in Houston is great for one's skin!" story. That's bullshit. Any benefits of the moisture in the air are obliterated by the blistering sunshine plus the appalling air quality (most polluted city in the U.S.!), both of which contribute to the gaping hole in the ozone layer above Space City. If you don't wear sunscreen here, you are taking your already jeopardized life in your own keratoid-covered hands.

I grew up in Southern California, in a mission town, located on the balmy shores of America's answer to the Mediterranean -- the South Pacific Coast -- known for surf spots like Trestles, Doheny and T-Street. In the early 1900's, Laguna Beach was home to the California Plein Air school of painting. This group was inspired by the verdant arroyos stocked with lazy eucalyptus, the breathtaking cliffs racked with fuchsia bouganvillea, the unbelievable blue expanses and, on clear days, the views to Catalina Island.

Today's high there will be 77 degrees.

Why don't you just go back there, then?

Because I love to suffer, and I'm good at it, too. I'm a lapsed Catholic, which means I don't have the church anymore to flog my soul. Nature abhors a vacuum and all that. The Houston Summer is my hairshirt.

But the weather isn't the only thing that keeps me here. I love how no-zoning laws result in streets that go like this: church, convenience store, adult bookstore, seeded lot, restaurant, elementary school, candy store, single family dwelling, church, convenience store, adult bookstore....

It makes no rational sense, this city. What reason-minded type of folk build their lives in a swampy, croc-infested, floodplain rife with mosquitoes and cockroaches the size of Ford Fiestas?

People like me, I guess.

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