Adventures in H'Town
Editor's Note: Cathy Parsons recently moved from Music City (Nashville) to the Bayou City (Houston). In a periodic column, she will write about her new life here.
Earlier this summer, I realized it was time for a change. Not a little change, not a temporary change, but a big, fat life-altering, redefining, OMG kind of change. What seemed like a whim on the surface is turning into the best thing I ever did. After mere moments of consideration, I took a plunge and opted to maximize the best thing going for me … my long-distance relationship.
Moving to the same city as my beloved was not a difficult decision. Yet it greatly surprised virtually everyone who knew me. My entire life had been spent in middle Tennessee (other than a stint in Paris in my early 20s). So while it seemed like a huge leap of faith in many ways, when I explained my decision, I compared it to a person who had been lost in the desert and was offered a tall glass of water … Would this poor soul, think … mmm …do I want this? ... Seriously …???
The object of my affections was a boy — now man — that I knew somewhat from my college days back in Tennessee. He was a Sigma Chi and I was a little sister for that fraternity.
From my way of thinking, RT (as I will call him) was MUCH too assertive for my tastes. When he asked me out in college, all I thought was …Thanks, but no thanks. Then we both graduated and went our separate ways. I married right out of college, stayed in the area, and had two children in quick succession and dove into the suburban lifestyle. In contrast, he climbed the corporate ladder and moved from one big city to another until landing in Houston and then married and also had two children.
Fast forward until January of this year… I saw that he was a friend of my stepsister on Facebook, and e-mailed him to say… “Hey”, and then, it was on. We had both been in long marriages that ended a few years earlier and were single and restless.
Loads of emails, followed by long, then marathon phone calls, several flights back and forth from Nashville to Houston, all led to an invitation for me to move to the Bayou City. I honestly wondered at times before I moved here, if RT was secretly employed for the Chamber of Commerce (or whatever it is called) in Houston. He adores this city and made me feel like I was totally nuts to NOT move here.
I must say, that I have not been disappointed. No overselling on his part. He described it perfectly.
Perfect timing. Once the decision was made, the next two weeks involved me: renting out my condo, selling or giving away most of my furniture, selling my car, and quitting my job in order to get on a plane and fly to Houston. I must take this time to apologize to every passenger on that particular Southwest flight, as I fully expected that my innocent plan to take my tiny rat terrier, Daisy, on the plane would be totally uneventful.
But between the unfortunate two-hour delay in leaving Nashville, the utter and total failure of the dog tranquilizers, and the completely outraged lady beside (not that I blame her!), this flight seemed interminable!. My dog whined, yipped and clawed furiously in her stupid Southwest-issued dog crate for the entire flight. (I am now waayy more sympathetic to parents flying with babies.)
Once we hit the Hobby runway, I was just thrilled to finally arrive in Houston, and the instant I recovered from the flight, I quickly dove into learning everything I possibly could about the city. I love it! But being new has its drawbacks and I wanted to take this time to offer my observations to others new to Houston as well as solicit pointers from the firmly entrenched residents of my newly adopted home.
Driving on Houston's highways
Don’t have a crappy car if you plan to ever drive on the main roads. Coming from Nashville, I naively thought I was somewhat prepared for the road systems in Houston, but not hardly.
Oh, and another car tip … for people like me who truly hate filling up their cars. Do not wait until you have hit the “empty” spot on the gas gauge. This is a Very Bad Idea. The traffic tieups make the prospect of running out of gas all too likely. Another new road thing for me was the number of elevated freeways… SCARRYYY at first. Very Jetsonsesque. But after a few short weeks, I could zip along with the best of ‘em.
Get a map and learn the roads ASAP. Do not rely on GPS. I knew Nashville like the back of my hand and I am determined to learn Houston just as well. A GPS will often spin you all over the city.
Also learn how the feeders work. It was tricky at first for me to look for an address on a feeder, pass my destination and then either (a) try to figure out a way to sneak back going the wrong way by winding through parking lots (not recommended) or (b) realize I had to drive to the special U Turn lane under the freeway and then retrace my steps, which often made me late for my meetings. However, now I am a huge fan of the U-Turn lanes. These are fabulous! Now I am ready to learn all of the special insider shortcuts and driving tips around the city. Got any to share?
Driving times from point A to B vary wildly depending on the time of day. Until you really know your way around, take care not to put yourself in a bind when making appointments. Or take a page from my book and allow an hour to get to everyplace (after lesson mentioned above). This often gives me time to drive around a new part of the city and explore a bit. Every such experience adds to my enjoyment of Houston and allows me to find places that I might not come across otherwise.
As I drove home recently, I realized a very interesting fact: I had gone into automatic pilot mode. Normally this might be a very bad thing, but with very little traffic (it was on a Saturday), this just proved to me that I had indeed gotten pretty comfortable behind the wheel. And when my parents came to visit last month, it gave me a chance to demonstrate my newly polished navigational skills! (naturally, I only went to places where I knew the routes super well…hehee)
Dressing for Houston Weather
Mmmmm ... this has proven to be very tricky. I am a real clothes and shoes nut and love fashion. Before I headed west, many people explained that Houston was “hot” most of the year. And that I would not really need many heavy clothes. Right. So now I have a closet full of summerish clothes and strappy sandals, which of course, none of them will work now.
After only a few weeks, I have noticed that Houston women really do have their own sense of style. And while I absolutely love having a real excuse to shop and it is very exciting, I am basically starting from scratch. I could use any all and all fashion tips for dressing in season-appropriate clothes, while avoiding burning up.
One of the best bits of advice came from the CultureMap site in early fall and addressed the questionable practice of “Premature Booting.” Good to know! And I could not agree more… One of the few non-summer items that I shipped to Houston were my boots. But I had sense enough, at least, to hold off on wearing them until just now.
I was in Rice Village recently and saw this very thin, blonde pretty woman wearing a short skirt, with a sleeveless blouse and fabulous black cowboy boots that looked pricey. I thought she looked amazing. Is this a good look or a bit cliché? Please advise …
I have a thing about wanting to be in the KNOW (anyone else like this??) about the best places for … having lunch with friends/family, dining out, after work outings, shopping (with an emphasis on boutiques), organic foods, weekend fun, etc …. And by Good Places, I don’t necessarily mean the most expensive — although those are fine too.
By GP, I am also including the little out of the way dives and dumps, sneaky places to get super cool stuff on the cheap, the places to show off to out of town visitors that aren’t so touristy.. You know- the real “insider” scoop on the city, i.e. The Hookup. In Nashville, I was “in-the-know” from years of carefully gleaning the best info that came my way and through my love of networking.
It might be cheating a tiny bit, but I sure would love to speed up this learning curve for my new life in Houston. It would certainly save any other Newsters (I like this word MUCH better than “newcomers”) to the city a ton of time.
So feel free to throw out a few bones that will get me up to speed, more or less. I realize that some of these things are easy enough to learn, and with some Googling, and checking up cool websites like CultureMap.com, it is possible to learn the what’s what in no time, but other information is a bit more challenging, which leads me to …
Stuff You Can’t Ask Your Boyfriend (but you really, really want to know)
Since my boyfriend brought me to Houston, he has proved invaluable in giving me the 411 for many things, except for anything involving hair disaster solutions or nail concerns, makeup places, waxing and cosmetic procedures ... i.e. Botox!
The quickest way to get in the know about these essential topics is to basically just strike up conversations with people you meet and just keep asking questions. (or to write about it on a popular website and hope for the best). Once the same names come up again and again, then you can probably assume that these are safe bets.
Learning about Houston has been a tremendous source of excitement. My notebook of good places has been growing in leaps and bounds since I arrived. Feel free to offer up any tips, suggestions, and lists of your own you can send my way. Oh, and thanks for making me feel so welcome.
I will always have special feelings for Nashville, but Houston is definitely my new love.