August 20th, 2007


Hurricane Dean & The Humidity Scene

Greetings from Houston! It's Monday morning and you know what that means: Yogi Bear is on TV!

But, first thing's first. Let me take you back to last Thursday. The world was a vastly different place; I was in New York, I'd just stayed up all night watching Rescue Me, and Doing Laundry was a #1 hit song on the charts. I managed to get to sleep by 3 or 4pm so I could sleep all day for my all-night traveling party. By midnight, I was awake once again and by 2am, I was on the road.

I really only had one objective to complete before I hopped on my private jet: nab a Crave Case for Konstantin. I did my homework - turns out the teacher gave me a frowny face and a note to "see her after class" - and inevitably failed. I got off the train at the proper stop to catch the bus to LaGuardia Airport, walked the correct route to the supposed White Castle restaurant, saw a large white sign in the distance that had those words I'd longed to see ... and it turns out what I'd found was the White Castle District Office. Yes, apparently the fast food chain needs a place to keep all their top secret recipes for deliciousness ... I'll never forgive Google Maps for deceiving me so.

As usual, I got to LaGuardia entirely too early, sat around and finished my Chuck Klosterman book as well as my issue of Rolling Stone magazine - which actually arrived in my mail on time thanks to the fact that nobody in the United States Postal Service wants to steal my fucking mail when there's some hunky beefcake from High School Musical flashing his abs on the cover. Why was this douche on my cover? I'm assuming the editors from RS share an office with Teen Beat and they got their covers mixed up ... should be an interesting edition of Teen Beat with John Edwards flashing his abs.

To conserve money, when I bought the ticket to Houston I also bought into a layover in Chicago. So, within the last month, I've seen both Chicago airports and I've gotta say ... I couldn't care less. A couple hours - and a few 9am beers - later, I was en route to Houston. To pass the time, I went through my iPod and compiled a list of songs for a new playlist. It's going to comprise the best song from every band in my 60-gig behemoth, with the one requirement being that said band must have at least 15 songs or 2 albums worth of material. This is going to be one long playlist when I'm finished with it.

Stormy weather delayed my flight an hour, but Southwest managed to get me there in one piece. Good ol' Southwest, they're still peddling those tiny packages of peanuts. Say what you will about the quality of the free snacks, at least they hold true to a fine tradition in American aviation. While all these other airlines are doing away with free peanuts - presumably to save the consumer ... three cents? - Southwest knows it's the little things that make a flight to Houston worthwhile. End commercial for Southwest Airlines.

Kon picked me up at Hobby International Airport at 2-something and dropped me off at his apartment before going back to work for a few hours. I napped - I think - and then it was off to din-din. Here's a list of the quality eats we've had since my arrival:

Friday Dinner - Cajun food at this awesome Cajun restaurant. I had the tchoupitoulas (pronounced choppa 2 las), which I think is chicken over ham and mushrooms and peppers with this spicy Cajun sauce.

Saturday Lunch - Hungover, but it was my second aborted stab at Indian Food in the last year. Instead, I had a World Class Chocolate waffle cone at Baskin-Robbins.

Saturday Dinner - Whataburger. Texas burger chain. It's no Frisco Freeze, but it'll do.

Sunday Breakfast - Here, we made bacon on the Foreman - which I burned - and egg beaters on the griddle with onions and sausage and mushrooms.

Sunday Dinner - Barbecue. I'm bad with names, but it was awesome. Brisket and half-a-chicken and this jalapeno bread and some rice and beans. Fuckin' A.

Sunday Donuts - Shipley's Donuts. Pretty much exclusive to the Bible Belt, and even then not ALL of the Bible Belt. Apple Fritter, Raspberry Jelly, Coconut Icing.

More all-world Texas food to come throughout the week.

To pass the time in the evenings, we went to some real Texas Honky Tonks. HEAVY on the Honky. Maybe I had a different idea of what a Honky Tonk was supposed to be - I probably envisioned more of a saloon type atmosphere with ruff rider types and card tables with whiskey shots all around, dames in frilly dresses watching their menfolk guzzle ale and shoot darts, boots and spurs and 5 o'clock shadows as far as the eye can see. Where's the skinny guy at the piano playing ragtime hits? Where are the revolvers over the bar? Where are all the horses from which these cow-pokes rode in on?

Instead, we got a heavy dose of popular hip hop music, popular hair metal from the 80s, and a smattering of random drinking-approved country songs. Why do you drink? Indeed, to get drunk. Why do you smoke? Surely to get high!

It was a good time, though. Always a fascinating spectacle to see all the players in their natural habitat, hittin' on chicks, boogie-ing to their Caucasian delight. Obviously it's not an environment I'm particularly adept at maneuvering or understanding, but when there's alcohol involved, you'll get no complaints from me.

So, that was Friday and Saturday night, which brings us to Sunday. Well, not quite. I suppose I should explain my hangover on Saturday afternoon. It really shouldn't have happened, considering I did my best to hydrate myself before bed and really didn't drink enough to kill myself like I normally do. But, with the volatile mix of vodka, pineapple juice, beer, jagermeister, and Red Bull, something had to give. Not even a morning that saw me eating a meatloaf's worth of saltines could sate my savage stomach. After a half hour in the car to get to the Indian restaurant, I spent more time in their bathroom - eventually forcing a puking session to get it out of my system - than at the table where I watched Kon and his friend Paul enjoy their All You Can Eat fest.

Anyway, for some reason I managed to avoid a similar fate on Sunday - probably because I started drinking beer at their friend Mandy's house and continued drinking beer and only beer at the bar that night - so it was all systems go for a near 3-mile run on the treadmill at noon. After breakfast, it was time for the Johnson Space Center.

You know when they say, "Houston, we have a problem"? Yeah, this is that "Houston". We got there in plenty of time to see a presentation on the Space Shuttle - which is coming home a day early thanks to Hurricane Dean - the Astronaut Gallery, the Starship Gallery - which has a bunch of artifacts and replicas from the earliest American rockets to the Space Shuttle and everything in between from Gemini to Apollo - and a video about the history of NASA, with the actual presidential podium where John F. Kennedy declared we'd put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Of course, what NASA museum would be complete without some Anti-Russian propaganda; though, to be fair, they could've done a lot worse. Imagine if we'd gone to this same space center in the early 70s.

The peak, however, was the 90-minute tram ride that took us to the old control room they used on their Apollo missions, the floor where they have life-sized models of the space shuttle where they conduct all their trials and training programs for helping the astronauts solve problems while in space, AND the giant building where they have the last Saturn V rocket that was never used due to budget restraints ending the Apollo moon-landing program. My 8 year old self just had an orgasm party in his pants yesterday getting to see all these space-related relics.

So far, that's gotta be the highlight of the trip. So far. But I've still got a whole week left for fun and adventure.

Adventure, you ask? Why, of course! After all, there's Hurricane Dean to be worried about!

Well, apparently, it's not going to be a worry so much as a rainy concern thanks to the fact that it's most likely going to strike Central Mexico and almost entirely miss southern Texas. Boo! I want to say that I've lived through a hurricane! How bad could it really be, seriously? Anyway, here's to hoping it changes course and makes it up Houston way. Right now, it's a category 4 which means absolutely nothing to me except that it's big and bad and dangerous. Which, coincidentally, are all three of my middle names.