My Feces-Consuming Utopian Urban Design

I live in the capital of sprawl, Houston. I buck the trend by living in town and commuting backward to NASA in Clear Lake- take THAT commuter society! Nevermind my commute is 20 miles each way (but it’s backward so I go pretty fast!..). I scoff at the suburban dweller, nay, hermits, who retreat daily to their free standing single family homes to lock the door and pluck some brain cells to place into a jar until the day repeats anew.

I am “woke” to the depleting nature of suburban bedroom communities. I don’t need a car to get to the grocery store- provided I can get what I need from the michoacana up the block. Great news- tacos, again! It’s not a food desert! (If you’re reading Scott McClelland I will perform acts for an HEB east of downtown) I don’t retreat to my self-imposed prison because my prison is smushed up against other ones in an arrangement called townhomes. I get the best of both worlds: high price and no privacy!

Even better- my neighborhood is a rapidly transitioning area from blue collar warehouses/factories/shotgun homes to white collar purchased townhomes to probably eventually no-collar rented townhomes. Instead of windy streets that require a car (snort!) to get around, we have a grid where drivers are free to accelerate to 50+, and a railroad goes literally right down my street. It shakes the house in the morning. Not across the street. Down it, like oh hello I’m driving next to a giant train full of lumber; no arm is preventing me from embracing the void and veering under it. We live across the corner from a hummus factory- how many white bread subby kids can say that? In Spanish? They probably have a good Spanish teacher at their school…

I honestly love my neighborhood and flail against the Undeniable Likelihood that we’ll end up in the suburbs “for the schools”. I tell myself “Chaz won’t start school for six years and by then brick and mortar schools will be Disrupted™ with School Prime by Amazon” and we can continue to live like quasi-hip artists-cum-yuppy near downtown. I tell myself we’re here to get in on the gold rush of Houston’s new hip EaDo neighborhood, but promise to sneer at the term EaDo and prefer “second ward” or if I’ve had a Corona, segundo barrio. I hate what I’ve become.

I did want a townhome in an urban environment, and kind of had a loose list of priorities in living:

  • Prefer proximity to amenities over land or yard potential
    • Really no yard is tops- I hate lawnwork
  • Prefer mixed neighborhood to bedroom community
    • Walkability like NYC or Amsterdam!
  • Prefer upcoming neighborhood to mature neighborhood
    • Cheaper, speculative

I’d say for the most part I hit the nail on the head with our house, but the nail is in fact several nails of mixed quality and I pay well over $1000 a month for a gentle tap upon one of them.

I told a liquor store owner I bought a house nearby and she said “Puedes retirarse en dos años” which was not the case. I bought my house when oil began its free fall. Another fun thing you pick up against your will when you live in Houston is learning a laymans introduction to the oil business. Like when Johnny Depp went to prison for weed in Blow and learned cocaine. You are forced to listen to that or sports if you must talk to other men in Houston. Houston sports are bad enough that oil can dominate a conversation by default. Downstream’s doing great I’ve heard. That’s another column.

I realized now I’m not talking about the title of my rant. I guess there is a lesson inside reading and writing this article tangent to the actual content is that you can’t have it all, and your plans become minute tactical moves instead of grand designs you dreamed of. Instead of a self-reliant bungalow in a mixed urban environment where I can walk/bike/train to a park, grocery, bar, whatever, basically I Want To Live In Amsterdam But Maybe A Bit More Room is replaced with mundane decisions of what to do about the dang garage door sumbitch weather strip fell off and it’s $300 to replace a rubber tube whose only job is to keep my garage clean? Which it wasn’t in the first place and never will be?

Fuck every time I start an article it spirals into an existential I’m-jaded-with-western-capitalist-society-and-want-to-move-to-the-trees-in-a-commune-that-miraculously-rejects-pathological-quasi-religious-nuttery. Maybe I should write an article about my shit eating idea of a utopian oh god dammit.


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