I apologize in advance for the shamelessly “homerish” tone of what follows, but I felt the need to write this. I’ve been in Houston for many, many years now, and I see things happening that I am proud to see. I think we are doing well.
A few days ago, I had need to visit the Clerk’s office of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals. The Clerk’s office is in the same building as the Court, itself, the recently restored 1910 Harris County courthouse, which has now become home to the Fourteenth and also to the First Court of Appeals. I parked on Preston Street, in the area known as Market Square, and headed southeast toward the courthouse.
As I walked by the corner of Preston and Travis Street, I saw the beginnings of a mural that was being drawn and painted on a two-story wall. The painting was in its infancy, but the outlines of the mural were already drawn. It was a drawing of Houston’s downtown skyline with the word “Houston” prominently displayed in the middle of it all. Colors were being filled in, bit by bit, though the end product was far from complete. Nevertheless, it was obvious, even at this early stage, that the end product would be full of vibrant color and energy.
And I thought to myself: “This wouldn’t have happened ten or twelve years ago.”
Because, strangely, I think I find myself in a city that is experiencing a renaissance. Houston has, for many years, had a civic inferiority complex. There have been scams and scandals here, but nothing that would draw anyone in; nothing—besides money —that would make them want to be here. But, it seems that may be coming to an end. What I see recently is a new sense of pride. It’s been tried before, but this time it seems like it’s sticking.
Suddenly, Houston is cool. Houston is a destination. Even in neighborhoods off the beaten path (and I include my own humble home which has become known as “the GOOF,” where new restaurants and one of the best craft beer bars in the country now reside), there seems to be a sense of possibility and maybe a feeling that there is actually something unique here and worth exploring. Maybe it’s a transient thing. Maybe it’s just the fact that Houston survived the recent economic turmoil with less fallout than most cities. Maybe having a job constitutes being hip, these days.
The truth is that the Bayou City (yes, that’s what we call it) has always been a strange amalgam of go-for-broke business (see, the Allen brothers), artistry, and immigration. Houston is now the most ethnically diverse city in the entire country, and it’s a leading indicator of where the country is going, ethnically, politically, and demographically. It’s increasingly progressive. And now, it’s being discovered. It‘s kind of nice. Because there’s always been a lot here. We’re still building, but it’s not done yet. We’re still making it better, because it needs to be and because we can. And if we weren’t, we’d be abandoning the very foundation of Houston’s success. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being here, it’s that Houston doesn’t stand still. That’s just not the way we do things here.
UPDATE: And the Daily Beast confirms it.