I’ve always enjoyed a good flirt. A subtle look, a hint of a smile, holding a gaze just a little too long. I’ve been flying back and forth to Houston from sunny Los Angeles for about two and half years now, and the city and I have enjoyed this casual back and forth on every trip. From an amazing meal at a quirky eatery or a well-crafted drink at one of the top cocktail bars in the nation (my favorite - the Anvil)... along with my time with my coworkers, natives and transplants alike, I started to realize that Houston has been slowly breaking down my defenses with its coquettish ways.
But this last visit was different. I just wrapped the longest stay I’ve ever had in Houston - almost a whole month on a pretty intense project. And as I checked out of my hotel and dropped off my rental car, I realized I that flirtation has led to something more.… I was having a love affair with Houston. Don’t get me wrong, Los Angeles has been my home for almost 15 years, and I’m not leaving her… but Houston has become an incredibly appealing mistress.
For the first three weeks, Downtown Houston was my home base. I’ve learned that area has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years, with the heft of a world class convention center, stadiums, and arenas, mixed with funky gastropubs and gorgeous hotels. Houston was showing me an edgy, stylish side, and I liked it.
But when I decided to stay straight through the last two weeks of the project, I scored an AirBnB in the Montrose neighborhood for the weekend, home to our new Six Foot Houston office. It’s laid back, and little hipstery, but in a fantastically non-pretentious way - like LA’s Silverlake, but with less kale. It has reminded me that, as in any relationship, it’s not the action packed nights but the lazy Saturdays that grow a bond.
I went for a run that Saturday - a six-mile loop that took me past neighborhood brunch spots, through Rice University’s beautiful campus, past the Houston Zoo and all around the Museum District. Ok… “run” is a strong word - once I hit the park, I found myself strolling past families enjoying the day, large and diverse groups doing yoga, or enjoying a street fair. I stopped to take pictures of this breathtaking city I only thought I knew. On Monday, I ran out to Buffalo Bayou park, along the waterway, and back past little neighborhood hangouts and bars where I had the feeling “everybody knows your name.”
When I returned to my cute and cozy weekend digs (complete with a patio, pool and almost total quiet, save bees and birds flying about, doing their thing), I recounted my experience to my host, a young guy in his early 30s who had moved to Houston from Minnesota five years ago and bought this gem of a house with my little guest spot in the back. He laughed, and said, “Yeah… that’s Houston’s motto - ‘Houston: Surprisingly better than you thought!’” He loves it here - he found his niche in the right neighborhood and great friends, and plans to stay put for the foreseeable future because he sees such potential for more.
And that’s the clincher:Houston has ambition, too. It’s reinventing itself all the time, renewed by a youthful spirit that wants to be known for more than a serious side - energy production and health care. Houston is a pop culture geek, interested in art, entertainment, literature, and gaming. She’ll talk comic books over a pint, or films over some crawfish.
So that’s it. I find myself seduced by someone I thought wasn’t my type, when I was happy with what I had at home. It’s definitely a spring fling, though… I have the feeling that Houston may be get a bit too hot and heavy for me over the summer. Maybe we’ll just stay friends after all.