And not a cowboy hat to be seen
I have been in Houston, Texas in the United States of America (although some would claim independence) for the best part of four days now and I haven’t seen a single cowboy hat. I did see a couple of Trilby hats on my first night here – there was an electrical storm over the city and the Trilby seemed to be the apparel of choice to fend of the rain. And, as I was passing through George Bush International, I did see a couple of guys in business suits but getting their cowboy boots buffed by the shoe-shine boys. But, no Stetsons yet!
The trip out on Tuesday had been uneventful. An early start with just enough time to have a quick shower, a cup of strong coffee, a spot of undue attention from the cat (his psychic powers were strong that morning) and a kiss goodbye from C, before being whisked off to Terminal 2 in Pete’s Taxi. Pete is a talker. I am not a talker. At least, I am not a talker until the sun has come up. But I nodded and grunted at the appropriate times while Pete put the world to rights, before dispensing me at departures.
I went through the security checks (did I intend to undertake any acts of espionage or terrorism during my stay in the USA? – er “No”! I wonder how many people get caught out by that question?), checked in, and went through security again, including the increasingly demeaning routine of dispensing with belt and subsequently trying to keep my trousers from falling down while adopting the star shape as security staff chuckle at your see-through image.There must be a better way…….
I acquired my dollars from a machine. I went to W.H.Smiths to buy a newspaper. How frustrating. They have dispensed with the post office style till arrangement (“Cashier number two please!) and installed self-service “fast lanes”. That’s a misnomer. They are anything but fast. And, they are so user-friendly that they have to employ a member of staff to show you how to use it. They are probably not THAT complicated, but remember that this is 6am in the morning and most of the people there have been up for two hours after juts five hours of sleep. And, most people who seem to travel through airports seem to leave their brains at security…
Anyhow, there was still time for a vanilla latte at some concession that is famous for tax avoidance, and while people gazing I came to the conclusion that Scousers are not unlike Italians. When you see them from afar they always seem to be arguing, if in a dishevelled, and unfashionable, tracky bottom not-so-Italian kind of way.
Anyhow, the flight was on time and I was soon herded into cattle class for the sixteen hour journey to Houston via Newark. And, so just sixteen hours, five movies, one episode of the Borgias, no sleep, a burger I wouldn’t have fed to next door’s dog, a stiff back, and, no doubt, the onset of deep vein thrombosis later, I arrived at Houston, and just an hour later (Grrrrr!) collected my luggage, jumped into a cab and headed downtown.
There is not much happening in Downtown Houston. There is a plethora of car parks advertising cheap rates for people attending court or a baseball match at the nearby Minute Maid stadium, a bunch of Bail Bond companies, a couple of closed down bars and restaurants. But it is hardly the most vibrant of cities I have visited. The guys from Atlanta also did not go out of their ways to talk it up any.
As I walked to the oil company HQ, above ground, the following day I noticed the lack of retail activity, other than a drive-through branch of Chase Bank. OMG – they have drive-through banking here. And, as I walked back to the hotel through the myriad tunnels built under the city, I discovered that Houston had gone underground, like a modern-day Cappadocia, in fear of invasion or nuclear fall-out. This underground world is accessible only through corporate lobby areas and is full of every kind of retail, fast food, restaurant, and counselling service imaginable. But no cowboy hats…..
America is a very foreign country…..
I’ll be heading back to the airport shortly.