When approached about writing my own column for this gorgeous new Web site, I was overcome by a sense of flattery, confusion and duty, as I was given the task of voicing the experience of the twenty-something life in Houston. By no means did I believe that I could reasonably represent the archetypal post-college individual.
I don’t drive an SUV (totaled that in high school); I don’t aspire to be a physician or oil tycoon; and I have little in common with other prominent twenty-somethings from Houston (Beyoncé and Hilary Duff come to mind).
However, I believe that these differences, in fact, do make me typical of a newer, emerging city.
Culture may not be king, but it may at least be a prince – the kind who makes a mean organic chili and gossips with an ever-so-slight Texas twang at gallery openings. This prince might just be me, living in the southerly parts of Montrose, or SoMo.
My early college years took me from Brooklyn to Barcelona, so for my final year at school, I really wanted to make my mark somewhere special. I investigated studios in Midtown, lofts in Eastwood and garage apartments in the northern part of the ‘Strose.
Ultimately, a little toho (townhouse) in SoMo became home, and I soon found myself living with a girl named J and a rabbit named Sasquatch. I relish living walking distance to the museums, sushi, dive bars and garden-variety trouble.
To provide a clearer view of what life is like in SoMo, I would like to take a page from a fellow Internet phenomenon and detail: Stuff SoMo People Like.
Nobody can help where they’re from, but once the post-college years arrive, a decision must be made. And for the twenty-something in Houston, the city suddenly manifests as a medieval walled town, in which going outside Loop 610 (or OTL), is far out of bounds.
For the twenty-something intelligentsia, OTL means suburbs plainly named after sugar, pears and forests – a wasteland of ring roads and megamalls. I even heard that swine flu started out there.
OTLers and these so-called 281ers may encounter one another first hand on Friday nights in Midtown or the Washed-up-ington Corridor – a Houston adaptation of the clash between downtowner and bridge and tunneler. However, access to OTL is granted to SoMo people for the pursuit of airports and authentic dim sum.
Note: “OTL” may also refer to “One True Love,” so be careful. These terms are basic knowledge, like knowing where Binz ends and Bissonnet begins.
Vaguely Obscure Art Collectives
The only thing hipper than an art collective is an obscure art collective. Art collectives are great because they bring together interesting people and foster communal creativity.
More importantly, public events at art collectives provide free kegs of microbrewed IPA and efficiently consolidate a critical mass of generally attractive pseudo-intellectuals – people like me.
Visiting these collectives offers a glimpse of SoMo subcultures, ranging from ‘zine enthusiasts exhibiting at Caroline Collective to the cartoon-meets-porn doodles of the I Love You Baby group featured at The Joanna.
Breaking free of the white box art galleries, obscure art collectives inhabit reconstituted mid century ranches or cute dilapidated bungalows. People from SoMo love these buildings because they lend themselves to unique installation art and offer a plethora of hidden corners for making out with your OTL.
Yes, the youth pastime of loitering is alive and well, especially for the trendysomething in SoMo. While there are numerous options for productively spending time indoors, perhaps it is the grueling humidity and drivers’ hostility to pedestrians that consistently brings SoMo people outside.
One of my personal favorite spaces for individual contemplation is Bell Park at Montrose and Banks. Most reactions to this pastime involve questions of how many times I’ve been mugged or if I’ve befriended any legitimate drug dealers. The answer is “no,” but I have had an epiphany or two while sitting on the Gaudí-esque benches and making serious eye contact with that statue of Christopher Columbus.
Loitering at Bell Park is also successful when you bring a bunny wearing a harness and leash, which has a tendency of luring amiable lesbians from the patio at Ernie’s.
The art of standing around and doing nothing is at its best on Montrose bridges spanning 59. The Graustark street bridge, just west of Montrose, functions as a sort of after-hours VIP club for the SoMo-er, as the stray empty Shiner bottle or Lucky Strike butt may attest.
Tip: Loitering + jaywalking = potential encounters with hipsters on fixed gear bikes. Friends with a fixey are like art school degrees and museum memberships – the more you have, the greater your credibility.
It is my sincere hope that this modest list of Stuff SoMo People Like provides insight on the valuable practices of life in my home-hood. Clearly there is much more to SoMo, including a severe enthusiasm for theme parties, karaoke and crashing bar mitzvahs at the Hotel ZaZa – all aspects of a certain prince living out his twenties in ostentatious obscurity.