Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photo of the Day: Now Where Was I?

These signs are really common in my area. Every drainage ditch/bayou has at least four.

Today really has nothing to do with lolita, except to explain why I don't wear it very often. Today, I'm going to tell you a little bit about where I live!

To warn you, this post is not for the faint of heart: I live in Houston, Texas. This is going to be a bit of a word-vomit. I won't be sad if you skip it.

Actually, technically, I suppose that you could say that I don't live in Houston, though I spend a good deal of time there.

I have lived in a suburb to the west for about twelve years, which uses a different name for the purposes of mailing and politics. The area around is the Mecca of the planned community. There are five separate, large planned communities that I can name off the top of my head in my area alone, and I'm sure that there are more which I can't remember at the moment.

These planned communities control everything that gets built within their borders, including entertainment facilities, restaurants and stores. It is the realization of the American Dream (without the white picket fences; the homeowner's association would never allow such a scar to appear on the block!). At times it can be quite dizzying, and it's very easy to get lost when most of the roads start with the same name.

The area in which I live has very much merged with the larger city for most of its eastern borders, but this does not mean that it is easy to navigate the changeover. In some cases, the only way you can tell you've passed into Houston is by the signs along the side of the road.

There are other differences as well: Houston has no zoning laws. I do not joke when I say that I have seen a daycare center wedged in between a liquor store and a gentleman's club. This can make for some interesting site-seeing if you drive down Westheimer, where every other store is a 24-hour video and smoke shop (and every other block boasts a super-sized Carmen's Love Boutique).

As more than one person visiting has told me, Houston is flat, with squat, ugly buildings. One visitor went so far as to say that it was absolutely desolate, and asked how I could stand to live in a city that is, overall, rather ugly.

Now, this isn't to say that the entire city is a loss. It has its good points (and we'll get to those shortly).

The city was founded directly after the Texas Revolution. For some reason, the two men who founded it decided that their new center of government ought to be smack in the middle of the Coastal Planes region.

Originally, it was not intended to be a permanent city, but a base of operations for planning one. The fact that the city has no zoning laws, and a ridiculously poorly planned infrastructure are part of what the city has inherited from of this period. Wikipedia insists that the founders showed great foresight in their planning of the city--frankly, that's a bunch of bull. Anyone who has suffered Houston's mid afternoon traffic will agree with me.

In short, Houston was a disorganized city built on a swamp.

We even have gators! And strange water birds.

With its proximity to the coast and various rivers, however, Houston grew and became more established.  At present, it is the fourth most populous city in the United States, and it is constantly growing. 

Since I have moved here, the major highways have all undergone massive overhauls to account for the growth in the area. They have also started planning their next batch of reconstructions, as we have already surpassed the originally projected capacity, and construction isn't even done for most of the city's major highways.

Now that you know a little bit about where I live, I'm sure you're wondering why this relates to lolita, or photography, or both.

Well, you've made it this far, can you go a bit further?
My feelings won't be hurt if you close the window now. If you can proceed, however, now may be a good time to take a break and get something to eat or drink. Possibly take a quick trip to the toilet.

Ready, then? Okay, let's go.

Like I was implying, living in Houston can be rather trying (especially if you're into a fashion that typically has you dressing in layers). Our weather is notoriously bad because of our location, driving around is not only difficult but often a harrowing experience, and it isn't exactly a pretty city as a whole.

In winter, our temperature rarely dips below 40°F, or roughly 4°C; it's certainly tolerable and even a welcome respite from the rest of the year. It does not last long, however. Most of the "cold" weather we experience only sticks around for December and January. Right now, we're in the middle of one of those pleasant spells, where the temperature hangs around 50°F and the rain stays far away. By the middle of next month, I expect it will already be back to not-quite-summer weather.

As an example, last February, I went to a meet-up at a tea house in the Montrose area. It was a very nice venue, and kept its doors standing open to let in the lovely spring weather. It was already in the 80s that day; it was so hot that if I hadn't been wearing bloomers, I fear my legs would have stuck to the seat where my skirts didn't cover them.

Summer temperatures can reach 110°F (43°C) and more when accounting for the heat index and humidity. During the summer, I only wear lolita if I know that I will be hopping from an air conditioned car to an air conditioned building, and often I skip the blouse or petticoats for fear of melting during the interim. Outdoor activity is certainly possible, but so is getting yourself covered in sweat. 

Having touched the heat, let's not even go into hurricanes. We don't have it as bad as, say, New Orleans, but we've had our fair share of nasty storms.

The weather isn't the only reason that I object to living in Houston, however. The city itself isn't very attractive. Sure, there are a few lovely spots to visit, but the number of parks is far outweighed by the squat, beige shopping centers and eateries.

So what are the good points?
Like I said, not everything about Houston is negative. The city does have some positive aspects to it! For starters, the shopping and culture are quite varied. There are some real gems of places to visit, and if you're into shopping and eating, Houston is your city (though that does have a good deal to do with why we've been in the top ten fattest cities for I can't remember how many years now...).

You can go to the Galleria for high end boutiques, strip centers off any road for mid-level department stores and chains, and little hidden niches for quirky or otherwise out of the norm shops. Bellaire boasts a thriving Chinatown (which is really more like China-Korea-Vietnam-town), and you're never more than twenty minutes from a decently sized mall.

For food, you can get just about any type of cuisine you want. There are chains and mom n' pop shops galore, for every type of food you could want.

Houston also has a good number of parks and gardens. The surrounding suburbs are a bit more keen on putting little oases here and there than the city itself, however. One positive aspect of living in a planned community is that there is an abundance of lakes and recreational areas that make for nice scenery.

There's also never a lack of things to do, regardless of your hobbies. For example, there are quite a few photography groups active in the area, and ample opportunities to get behind the lens and click-click-click.

Houston is very fond of festivals, and the surrounding areas are as well. Galveston has its Dickens on the Strand Christmas Festival, Plantersville has the massive Texas Renaissance Festival in fall, Houston hosts a massive Rodeo and numerous cultural, street festivals, and so on.

What are the ups and downs of where you live?

4 comments:

Miss Lumpy

I would never be able to live in Houston! While I prefer heat to cold, I just could not live somewhere where the yearly average temperature was that high.

I live in Connecticut which is, for the most part, a really nice place. It's hugely diverse, probably due to the fact that it's smack dab in between New York City and Boston. The whole state is moderately wealthy with a few areas of rather crippling poverty (Bridgeport, Hartford, I'm looking at you). There are lots of rich folks, especially by the coast (where I grew up) - Greenwich, CT is the second home location for most celebrities. Despite this (or maybe because of it), the people here are pretty accepting of eccentricities and rather progressive in their mindsets, which means that going about in lolita, while not always pleasant) is rarely life-threatening. I spend most of my lolita-time in New York City, which is only a $20 round-trip train ticket from my home and about an hour each way- there are a lot more negative people there, though. I've been personally harassed in lolita in NYC (sexual harassment, being filmed and photographed without my permission, being propositioned), and I know someone who was actually attacked by a drunk man for wearing lolita. All in all, though, I really do enjoy the area I live in- just wish it weren't so cold! While it often gets into the mid to high 90's in the summer with 90%humidity, it's also a rare winter day that it gets above freezing. There's usually lots of snow in the winter, too, as well as really lovely beaches in the summer!

Come At Me Bro

No snakes or alligators!

HSP

Some people consider this an "up" but I fucking hate the weather in Melbourne. It's very inconsistent and I must say, this is my first year living here and the spring has been most disappointing. Not to mention it's raining in summer... I guess an upside is there's always something cool to do here. There's a lot of I haven't discovered about this city yet. Can't wait to hit the beach XD

cupcakelady

Hmm thats tough, I like it to be warm but I think that's too much for me.

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