Now here’s something you don’t see everyday — at least not in Southern California. But signs warning pedestrians about alligators and other reptiles were a common sight in Sugar Land, Texas, just outside Houston, where I was traveling for the past week.
This particular caution appeared in the city’s Oyster Creek Park, a large green space popular with local joggers, cyclists and strollers. I soon learned that gators and snakes weren’t the area’s only dangerous inhabitants. Fire ants and leeches also call the place home.
We Left Coast types like to make fun of the South and other “fly-over” regions of the country, often assuming they’re nothing more than a haven for bubbas and bumpkins…
I have to admit my visit for a family wedding in the region was somewhat of a culture shock. For example, trying to find a simple bottle of tequila to make frozen Margaritas for a Sunday BBQ proved impossible. The grocery chains sold only beer and wine (but ironically carried Margarita mix), and the liquor stores were all closed, thanks to the Blue Laws. Apparently in Texas, there’s no such thing as impromptu mixers for weekend get-togethers. Cocktails require considerable forethought.
Still, there’s something to be said for the slower pace of life around Houston, not to mention the city’s scenic beauty. (By comparison with L.A., even the rundown parts of town had plenty of greenery, decent roads and virtually no graffiti or police helicopters hovering over the neighborhood for hours on end.) Plus the region is more diverse than we smug outsiders might imagine, as evidenced by this gleaming new temple being built to serve Sugar Land’s sizable Indian immigrant community.
With Los Angeles becoming increasingly overpriced, overtaxed, overcrowded and less friendly and fun to live in, every once in a while the nagging thought that I could get used to Houston kept creeping into my mind.
Then I remembered the gators. And the snakes. And the leeches and fire ants. Not to mention the heat, humidity and rain.
[Sigh!] For now, I think I’ll stick with our fires, mudslides, earthquakes and urban decay just a little longer. Sad as it sounds, it still feels like home.