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Friday, January 31, 2014

Leading Lines Houston Style

SAM_0266Last night I went through my not so extensive archives for Houston and its surrounding satellites.  I picked a few possible photos for yet unimagined stories, pulled them into ‘Live Writer’ but no words flowed – nothing – nada – zip. 
Had a small Drambuie.  Nothing.  Played a few rounds of ‘Wonder Words’.  Nothing.  Turned out the lights.  Let it all percolate over a good night’s sleep. 
This morning woke to a wish for a coffee clutch to talk over the ideas…. balancing on a high wire above the noise, checking out the day, begin to feel creative, write…..DSC04994
Houston is often described a ‘ugly’, it isn’t.  Like most modern cities you have to know where to look for the beauty.  But, you can’t walk to find it.  Remember my stories from Rio, the little hidden gems I found walking the streets.  Here you have to drive, and then drive some more. All streets lead somewhere, most are tree lined and auto-clogged.   When you get there, you’d better have remembered your camera.  I have been forgetting my camera often lately.  And I don’t stop.  Is common to hear, ‘ that would make a great photo’ float through my mind as I speed by.  I sometimes get a secondary thought…. ‘I could park there and walk back’,  but...
I don’t know how many times I’ve wish for the nerve to stop in the middle of one of the streets and take a photo.  I know for sure that I would end up dead, but maybe my camera would survive and I would become a hero to all those that despise urban sprawl.  Over on the west side of  town, my side, the city / state / federal governments have just completed a five year ‘increase the freeways’ plan.  Since 1975 when I moved to Houston, the I-10 which runs from Florida to California, passing right through the middle of Houston, has gone from a 8 lane highway (two access on either side plus two lanes headed east and two west)  to an 18, yes that is eighteen lanes; passing the upper Galveston bay, oil refineries, the financial center, the rich homes off Voss and Memorial, the now named energy corridor, and exists Houston through the once sleepy town of  Katy, heading West.
And joining I-10 practically in the middle of the city is the Beltway 8.  In 1975, it was a two lane country road with open drainage ditches lining its sides.  Now! Now it is 14 lane toll road circling the city.  The outer loop is what it was called when our section was finished in ‘89. DSC_4533 It has grown and grown, tolls have risen, more than double as they, the government searches for money from the users to build even more toll roads;  Westpark and Ft. bend county toll roads to be exact., in an attempt to get the cars where they are going without spending money on a mass transit system.    Highways, the life blood of Houston.

(under construction the I-10 Beltway 8 interchange.   Built by the Federal Government.) 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Open Spaces


I would say that one thing Houston has, in abundance, is open space.  We do have tall buildings, and traffic and those tight spaces that all large cities have; those spaces that make you feel closed in, surrounded. 

But it is easy to drive a short distance in any direction and find space: open space, space to breath, to dream, to meditate with nothing but blue sky and acres of grass, forests or water, surrounding you.
DSC_2632  DSC_4404

Friday, January 17, 2014

From question to inspiration….

Missouri City: a bedroom community.  That is about the extent of my knowledge of Missouri City. And it isn’t hard to figure out; there is a sign as you come down Texas Parkway that says the population is 67,000+ and there are grocery stores, shopping strips, government buildings, CARS and houses.  There are no high-rise office buildings, no hospital, no manufacturing.  Most of  the houses seem to have been built in the 70s and 80s and now south and west of  here there are two large areas of even larger, very upscale houses being built.  Yes, there is work someplace that pays very well and everyone drives there to work, and then drives home again to sleep – the typical bedroom community.
To tell the truth I haven’t thought much about its history, really didn’t think it had one.  I thought that it is just another add-on to Houston as it spreads itself across the southern plains of Texas, but with a little internet search (thank goodness for Google search) I found out that the towns in this area date back into the mid 1800.  That Missouri City itself sprang up as a railroad town.  And that, what is now highway 90 was once its main street that ran parallel to the still existing and active railroad tracks.  That, even then it was a bedroom community, its citizens taking the train to Sugarland to work in the sugar mills. 
DSC_3407During this time the area also had farms, ranches, and sugar and tobacco plantations, (needing the train ) and around 1925 oil was found, and still more recently natural gas fields.  (I am getting to the point….)  One of the sugar plantation was owned by DSC_3408The Dew brothers, in fact it was called the Dew Brother Plantation. (!) The original home has been blown down, burned down, neglected and modified, but still stands.  The city picked it up, lock stock and barrel, as we say in these parts,  and moved it to Kitty Hollow Park and named it the Dewalt Heritage Center.  It is now used for classes, weddings and other official functions.  I need to go see the inside spaces.  If the photos seem to be tilted this was soon after the house was dropped here and there were yellow/orange temporary keep out fences all around….  and I was walking the dog.  “… sit Spritzer, sit, stay… NO sit – just sit for a minute….OK lets walk….”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winter is here,

Four days ago we woke to ice on the car windows, it was 20’ outside.  Today it is 62 reaching into the 70s.  This is Houston during the winter months.  Like the rest of the USA, we have had nearly 3 months of unusually cool temperatures this fall, giving us fall colors; trees turning all shades of bright orange and yellow, and even two nights of hard freeze in December and now in January, usually the real winter in Houston, we are up in the seventies with bright blue skies and warm southern breezes.
Today, the only thing telling me that it is winter is the mix of bare branched trees and the still green, native live oaks.  
This blow from the north, icy air temperatures and winds shifting to the south with warm, humid air flowing in, gives us constantly changing scenes.  Bright and clear one day and dark and moody the next as the cold air moves across the warm water, and warm wet ground creating layers of  morning fog. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

2014 – a new year

The New Year; Interpret as you wish; from celebrations in your towns to personal reflections and resolutions; what does the coming New Year mean to you?
camillo (9)
Yes, I will write this.  I have sat down, stood up, got another cup of coffee and a yogurt, sat down, stood up, walked in a circle and sat down again.    It is time to put it down on paper (screen doesn't sound as romantic).  2013 was all about losing Camillo.  Change, adjustment, uncertainty and more uncertainty, but also tears and laughter, more sadness and little joy; there is no way to talk about 2013 and what is to come in 2014 without including him in the story.  So I write.
2013 – a long year, a fast year, filled with things to do, legal things and just things.  I traveled, avoiding staying at my daughter’s house for long periods; trying to hang on to travel, one of the things that made us a couple.  Travel, we did a lot of it and I tried to hang on. 
I went to Sarasota Fl. to visit my sister in her winter home.  I flew back to Brasil for a week to take care of banking issues; walking the downtown streets looking for Camillo.  I spent a month in Michigan trying to stick with a plan of driving around the state to see more, but mainly sitting on the sofa watching TV with my mother, (a good thing really).  Driving to Michigan with RioRose and back home with Patty, seeing the country; trying to hang on to, but returning with new resolve to let go.20131022_170740
A broken arm in July slowed me down but didn't stop my Italy Trip.  One month in a rented apartment in Rome, walking, walking, walking; eating goat’s cheese and parmesan, drinking coffee with milk, spending time with Camillo’s sister, a bit of wine and a little more Prosecco (sparkling white wine): prosciutto di Parma, green sweet olives and fresh tomatoes from the market; all of our favorite things.  And for myself: long walks with the camera, finding a small pastry shop, going to wine tastings, eating gelato of all flavors, buying train tickets by myself, travel to Lucca and writing a long letter to Camillo, telling him of my experiences in Italy.  Knowing he was smiling all the while.  Coming home with new( er) resolve.  Feeling courageous and happy: I can do this.
Then the holidays.  A bit of a set back.  Now the tears where there haven't been any before.  Maybe now I am really letting go and letting go hurts.  I finally hung his picture on the wall of my room.  I still have his shaving lotion in a bag under my bed – it is losing its ‘Camillo’ smell.  Seeing his children and grandchildren enjoying the house in Friburgo over the holidays – hurts.  But I don't think I am still looking backwards, maybe the eyes are a little more in front.  ‘What to do next’ is more prominent than ‘what we did then’. 
DSC_3386This is what 2014 will be about.  What next?  The real Transition. Some plans:   I know now that plans are to be left behind, forgotten, changed, remade, reinvented, rediscovered, but it is a direction.  Plans are not sitting watching TV or playing games on the iPad.  Plans are movement, energy, forward: change.  And change is not forgetting but using the past to make the future better.  Now, I know these things, the phrases roll of my pen (keyboard doesn’t do it) with ease, now I just have to use this bit of knowledge to make change happen.  This next week I start looking for a small house or a large apartment to make Spritzer and my home.  This is the biggest, most important step to take for all other plans hinge from that location, wherever it may be. 
Happy New Year to all my blogger friends, and to my family.  Much love and happiness to you all for many years to come.