Tag Archives: houston

Sweaty in the City

For my regularly scheduled monthly blogpost, I’d like to complain. Actually, I’d like to be asleep. But because I don’t have a choice in that matter (reason to follow), I figured complaining was the next best option. Yes, I learned that process of deduction in law school. You should be very jealous.

Complaining isn’t exactly my bag – oh, hush; I’d liken it more to “a critical eye,” mind you – but at 4:40 a.m. the morning of a bike race, you’re only getting complaints out of me.

Houston, gawd. It’s hot already! Muggy, sticky, peel-yourself-off-things-and-out-of-things nasty. Change-your-t-shirt-three-times-a-day gross. Walk-around-your-house-without-pants-and-mulling-over-going-outdoors-that-way yucky. And it’s only May 2nd.

I mean, seriously, Houston. Why are you doing this already? My appetite has shriveled to nonexistent, I clearly can’t remain in REM mode for an extended period of time, and unless I plan on swimming in the sweat pools forming around my hairline, I can’t exercise, either. I am useless. A slug! A sloth! A waste! Nice time for a bike race, eh?

My air conditioner is happily humming along after a long winter hiatus, my fan is merrily churning loop after loop of recycled air, and yet, my body temperature rivals a sidewalk at noon in July. Because it’s damn, damn hot.

I’m here to tell you, Houston, that you’re being a real stupidhead. Yeah, it’s almost 5:00 a.m., and yeah, that’s all I’ve got. You stupidhead.

I’m no native Houstonian; this much is true. I would normally call myself an acclimated Midwestern expat, under better circumstances. The Texas transition from pleasant to insufferable in May is one with which I am intimately familiar. Three years in, and you’d think I’d have gotten it right by now. You’d think.

And yet, at every reliable onset of every predictable humid snap, at the cusp of every pre-summer, it never ceases to amaze me just how icky a city can get. And how ill-equipped for this meteorlogical torture test I am.

Sigh.

I’d sign off with “good night,” but let’s be honest – this is probably “good morning” more than anything.

Argh.

Oh well. At least you can type out entire blogposts on your iPhone without pulling out that leg-scorching laptop, right?

There I go, making lemonade outta lemons already.

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But I know I am lucky.

At sometime around 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 14th, the wind abated, the rain subsided, and I had made up my mind. I was going to return to my apartment and face the, ahem, music (please, spare me the Ike-Tina jokes this time, yeah?). Mind you, I live in a garage apartment built sometime in the 1200s. Everything in it and on it is most likely the original, and for all intents and purposes, my landlords are slumlords with just a touch of infectious Southern hospitality.

Thus, I feared the worst. I expected the worst. Visions of roaches setting up shop in my apartment mixed with the blood-like stains of water damage on the walls danced through my head. I knew the outlook was grim and that the odds were against me. Hell, for once I was thankful that I still hadn’t gotten around to unwrapping the plastic from my couch.

I figured, I’d already scurried away from the city in a hurried fourth-down field goal attempt to seek frightened refuge in the suburbs; I’d shamelessly shaken uncontrollably in my borrowed Tony Hawk bed while the eye of the hurricane approached and retreated, rattling me and the house in its wake; I’d subsequently fled the suburbs when the bayou threatened to crest, thereby stranding us all; I’d recklessly driven through beyond flooded conditions to seek shelter once again. What was one more Ike-induced obstacle, truly?

So I went. Down Montrose Boulevard, I hurtled past a waterlogged Allen Parkway and a bursting Buffalo Bayou, I whizzed over a soggy Studemont Street and a waning White Oak Bayou and up the tousled Studewood Street, turned the corner onto my war zone-replica thoroughfare, and parked my car amidst the Heights equivalent of a broken heart – litter upon litter of fallen tree limbs everywhere.

I crept up the stairs, hesitant and wary. I turned the key in the knob.

And…nothing.

By “nothing,” I mean that, evidently and to my naked eye, nothing in my little slice of world had gone wrong. Nothing. My apartment was left entirely intact by the terror that was Ike. No colonies of roaches, no immediate visible damage (although there would be minimal water stains discovered later), no puddles or pools, no danger. Even my electricity, water, and gas were fully functioning! I almost fell to my knees and wept. How did I get off so easily after such a devastating and crippling natural disaster? The tides of my luck never turn this way!

I know I am lucky.

Monday itself was a blur. Okay, to be straight, the last thing I really remembered with any sort of respectable cognizance was being sent home early from work on Thursday, and feeling incredibly apprehensive about what the future was about to bring. So could it really be Monday already? Yes, yes, ’twas certainly Monday, mind you, and the heartaches cultivated from the weekend’s events began to emerge in full force left and right. Numerous saddening tales of punctured homes, burning landmarks, and destroyed dreams complemented the continuing epidemic of dwellings without power or water. Was this really happening? Did it really happen?

Still, I know I am lucky.

Tuesday, it’s back to “normal.” Well, it’s an attempt at regularity, no matter how futile. In reality, it is nowhere near successful. “Normal” is a place void of that pervasive worry that you cannot move about as you please or that you may run out of those very essentials that are so necessary to existing fruitfully in Houston. And I see nothing about Houston as of late that even suggests a degree of normalcy.

For example, back in high school, I had a curfew. “Be home by midnight, Fayza, or else.” I heeded those menacing words then, as a adolescent that still had yet to figure out right from wrong. In post-Ike Houston, I am yet again required to heed those words now. Glaringly obvious public safety reasons aside (reasons I completely understand, mind you), a curfew? Yes, a curfew. It is both stifling and alarming to be instructed as to what time you must be tucked inconspicuously into your home at night.

Adding insult to injury, I have just under half a tank of gas left, and I’m unavoidably on edge. But not because I’m irrational. For all intents and purposes, half a tank is a good thing, and the clear indication that someone was a savvy pre-hurricane preparer. However, that doesn’t particularly alleviate the fact that by the end of the week, I may very well run dry anyway. Especially now that rationing gas has become the utmost priority, and wait times for fuel are averaging two hours at best.

Or take food, on yet another hand. Procuring foodstuffs is no better, as the stores that are operating feature shelves that are next to bare. And those lines for sustenance? Well, they’re vying with gasoline for top wait times.

But I know I am lucky.

“Stupid spoiled American,” you mutter disdainfully under your breath.

I heard that. And perhaps your point has some merit. But you’re not really listening, are you?

After a day of work that felt insignificant in light of the affairs of the past few days, I went to Home Depot to buy a few of cans of paint for my living room and bedroom. If I couldn’t be useful, I might as well be resourceful, right? I cornered the nearest salesperson and asked how I purchase the paint. She told me regretfully that there weren’t enough employees to mix the paint; all human resources were being dedicated to assisting people with getting their homes back on track.

Indeed, I know I am lucky.

Last week, I could’ve driven down the street to fill my tank, purchase food, procure supplies. It was my way of life, and the way of life for the majority of residents in the Texas Gulf Coast region. There are countless others in this world that have never had that opportunity, for certain, to exist on this earth the way we do. If there’s any sentiment you take away about me, it should be that I am the last person that would fail to empathize with the plights of others. Nor would I ever take my own good fortunes for granted.

Because I know I am lucky.

But this weekend, in what felt like a single, incredibly long, excruciatingly trying day that spanned lifetimes, my way of life changed profoundly. Berate me for the privileges that being an American affords me, but when your sense of “normal” is toppled – no matter what your way of life – and you can no longer function in “normal” mode in your very own sphere of survival, it creates quite a sense of incomprehensible upheaval. It is dominated by a form of dizzying grief. My face smiles, my mind connects, but behind my eyes, I’m very much the shell of a lost soul.

But I know I am lucky. I know I am lucky. I know it could’ve been much, much, much worse.

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A Day in the Life #2 – The Truth Really Is Stranger Than Fiction.

Separated at birth? Bueller?

Phew.  Hey, is this seat taken?  Pardon me, but I need to sit down.  You see,  I’m already knackered, and I haven’t even begun writing!  That’s because, well, it’s like this.

Listen closely, dear reader.

Because I’m going to tell you once, I’m going to tell you again, but you’re never, ever going to believe me. But it happened.  I swear on everything that is cheesy and good in this world that it did.

Ready?  Here goes.

Truthfully, it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin.  I mean, between the exhilarating and invigorating DNC and the how-many-peaceful-protesters-can-we-arrest RNC (mind-blowing they even have a website at all, considering McCain can’t use the Internet), the past week has been a flurry of excitement and adventure.  There was Sarah Palin and her baby mama drama.  Or was it the Pitbull-in-Lipstick‘s baby’s mama drama?  Dearie me.  I need a pizza.  I’m famished.

Can you believe we’re still talking politics?

Let’s not fool ourselves any longer.  Toto, we’re really not chewin’ the fat on the election anymore.  This is more like a telenovela, if you ask me.  Except in English, of course.  With uglier outfits.  And much, much earlier birthdates.  Ahem.

Shall we continue?

So, after everyone made fun of Sarah Palin and effectively discounted her second X chromosome, I-Wish-Dude-Wasn’t-A-Lady mocked Obama’s tenure in public service.  Oh yes she did, yo.  Girlfriend totally went there.  And then the newest Spears mama bought onesies for the Palins’ pregnant underager.  Because an affiliation with any member of the Spears family enhances your social standing these days, dontcha know.  But never fear; Lynne Spears pulled the plug on that dirty rumor.  Wouldn’t want to tarnish the Spears’ reputation or anything, would we?

As if that wasn’t enough, then there was, like, a hurricane, too!  I mean, not in Houston, but still, it happened.

Drug-induced hallucination?  Hunger-inspired delusion?  Figment of my imagination?

‘Fraid not, my friends.  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled dose of the-truth-is-stranger-than-fiction reality.

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Rumors. Substantiated.

A few days ago, there was a monumental Twitter declaration in Houston. Okay, okay, so it only held that magnitude for me, I’ll concede. It consisted of admirable amounts of wooooing and hooooing, claiming I’d been brainwashed into joining the Schipul team in Houston. To that I say, “Joining the Schipul team in Houston? Yes, yes, yes! Brainwashed? Hardly!”

I am incredibly excited and proud to stamp my virtual approval on the rumor that I am relocating – nay, returning – to Houston to become a Schipulite at Schipul – The Web Marketing Company. I formally accepted the offer on Monday, and ever since, my days have been a flurry of making sure all the parts of the puzzle fit together. Living accommodations, exit strategies, goodbyes, and packing up my worldly goods, for starters (including cursing myself for inexplicably growing my book collection in these few short months).

If you would’ve told me a year ago that, even after summarily abandoning it for San Francisco, my heart would still be lodged in the Bayou City, I might’ve poured a beer over your head. If I’d already had enough booze to make me feel that feisty, of course. Because at that point, such an accusation would’ve actually offended me (trust me, I wouldn’t let a good beer go to waste for nothing). But somehow, some way, in some sneaky little manner, Houston got a firm grip on me, from the inside out, and never quite released me from its loving hold. No matter how I kicked or thrashed.

So, in the prime of hurricane season, I’m fixin’ to head straight into the eye of the storm, and embark on what I expect and hope will be the best decision I have made to date.

Y’all, I’m a-comin’ home.

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