Though I have called the Dallas/Fort Worth area my home for the past 20+ years, I have always had an affection for the city of Houston. My grandparents made their home there, mother grew up there, my aunt and favorite cousin lived there until recently, all converging to create some of my best lifetime memories in the South Texas city that now finds itself under water.
My grandmother would drive for 10-hours from their home after retirement in Arkansas to Houston, just to eat at Felix’s on Montrose. My aunt would drop my sister, cousin and me at the Galleria on a Christmas holiday morning for a day spent rummaging through old record stores and funky clothing shops. We would grab loaded James Coney Island dogs before heading south to Galveston for summertime jaunts filled with laying in the sand looking for sharks teeth, before standing to find ourselves covered in tar from a recent Gulf Coast oil spill. (This was the 1980’s before the Gulf town had a major revamp….a little baby oil would remove that tar, and we would be cleaned up and ready for shrimp cocktails at Gaido’s by sunset.)
I remember us running through the waterfall in front of the formerly named Transco Tower, or the fountains in front of the Omni on Woodway; Attending Astros games with Nolan pitching inside the Dome; Watching Arkansas play Florida in the Bluebonnet Bowl back in the SWC days with my Uncle John; Seeing artistic plays at the Alley Theater and large productions at Jones Hall; Driving with the convertible top down in the middle of winter with the car heat on full blast listening to old Rice University radio station ktru 96.1, just because we could; Enjoying great Vietnamese just outside of downtown at Mai’s, or the dreamy spinach and cheese gnocchi at Damian’s downtown, or getting very dressed up for a special truffle dinner at Tony’s at both the original and new location.
There was nothing quite as intoxicating as walking into my aunt’s Houston home on Green Tree to inhale the mix of cooking garlic, red wine, fresh and dried roses, and cigarette smoke.
She inspired me with the gift of hospitality that I thrive on today, minus the cigarette smoke. When anyone enters your home, they should immediately feel welcome, comfortable and loved, and it should appear effortless, and never inconvenienced as there is no better way to show those you love how much you care. The doors were always open in her Houston home, and it was always a place of comfort for me.
When I was hired to work for Nielsen so many years ago, one key factor that helped me decide to take the job was that I would work with the television stations in Houston. I knew the city, and knew that even if tensions flared in the ratings world, the people were gracious, engaging and genuine.
And, it meant I had a chance to walk into the mecca of wine, a neighborhood Spec’s store to pick up a bottle of Chablis and this Kirsch flavored cheese my cousin loved before spending an evening laughing with her in her Galleria area home.
Gary and I have had the chance to re-visit many times in the past few years, working with some corporate clients presenting wine and film programs, and I always feel at home in Houston. The fast pace melds with laid back Southern charm. It is almost as if you have a little bit of Dallas and Fort Worth combined. Add in the spirited personality of South Texas, and you have Houston.
It is a special city with resilience.
But now, the city needs your help. There are dozens of ways set up to give, so if you have the ability, please do so. The Red Cross has made it easy with a simple “Harvey” text to 90999. Local food banks, Salvation Army offices, area churches and schools are coming together to provide assistance. Also please consider donating to the SPCA, as our furry children need our help as well.