Hot time, summer in the city
Searching for heavenly summer fun in a city that's hotter than Hades
When the Houston Rockets went up against the New York Knicks for the National Basketball Association championship in 1994 — back when the Rockets were good — sportswriters from the Big Apple groused about having to visit Houston in June. After stepping outside of his hotel in the wilting summer heat, a columnist for the New York Post raised a ruckus when he wrote that the Bayou City is a "hellhole."
So after the Rockets won the first game, my cheeky editors at the Houston Post ran a headline across the front page in big, bold type: "Hellhole 1, NY 0."
(The Rockets won the series, which was particularly memorable because NBC broke into Game 5 of the finals to broadcast OJ Simpson's high speed car chase. But that's another story.)
The simple truth, however, is most Houstonians dread the summer months. They complain constantly about the clammy weather and pine for the two weeks in the fall when it's cool. Those who are wealthy or have flexible schedules escape to Park City, Aspen, Provincetown or anywhere in California. I've even heard of some people who have switched careers, becoming school teachers, to get away from the heat for an extended period.
I, on the other hand, love summer in Houston. I treasure the languid Gulf breezes that waft into the city early in the morning or at dusk, offering a momentary respite from the stifling heat. I enjoy the slower pace of life. And I get an immense feeling of satisfaction from knowing that I'm a stronger, tougher person that the fainthearted who fled town.
I've always lived in the South or Southwest, so sticky weather is a way of life. Having never lived farther north than mid-Missouri — and only for one winter — I can't imagine residing someplace where you don't sweat.
Even with air conditioning — Houston is the most-chilled city in the world — summer is a time when everything slows to a crawl. The social season isn't nearly as frenzied and traffic is lighter. The rhythms of the day are measured, so it makes perfect sense to start a little earlier and suspend outside activity at high noon whenever possible. Barbecues, a dip in a pool, ice cream and summer songs become special summer treasures, evoking warm memories long after the season has passed. (I'll always associate the summer of 2007 with Rihanna's "Umbrella.")
Of course, the summer season used to be much simpler. Most schools let out on Memorial Day and started back after Labor Day, so summer always spanned the months of June through August. But then schools moved up their calendar year; ending classes the first or second week in May and resuming in mid-August. That has taken some getting used to.
Movie executives were among the first to recognize the shift, launching the first summer blockbuster on the first weekend in May. (First up this year: Iron Man 2 opens next Friday.) But not everyone else has adjusted their calendars.
Here at CultureMap, we're out to change that mindset. Why wait until June? We think summer fun can begin right now.
So we're launching our month-long series of ways to enjoy summer in Houston today. We'll discuss a lot of ways to make summer in Houston more enjoyable. We'll scout out the best margaritas, sangria and sno-cones. We'll search for the best outdoor concerts, premiere watering holes, favorite DVDs for indoor viewing, and awesome books (in paper and Kindle versions). We'll offer a comprehensive road trip guide for those traveling by car and city guides for nearby vacation spots. We'll cover interesting camps for kids and classes for adults.
Heck we'll even look for the best hats that offer shade from the sun and the trendiest lightweight sweaters to wear indoors, where everything is always over-air-conditioned.
And we'll search for secrets to surviving a Houston summer — my vote is to always seek out shade (for your car and yourself).
Got ideas? Let us know your favorite things to do, along with your survival tips. Even though I love the summer, I agree we need all the help we can get.