What have been up to since I last wrote?
Erik and I settled nicely into a lovely apartment in a historic neighborhood in Houston. The streets looked like this:
Mostly we stayed in and worked, but we did get out occasionally. We had breakfast with Alison and her sweet little boy, Arthur. We ate BBQ from a tiny place that was sold out of almost everything before 5 PM on a Saturday, because a man ahead of us was ordering for a crowd of 65 (“I’ll take 15 pounds of ribs… what else ya got?”).
We enjoyed saying “y’all” (such a useful way to refer to people in the plural).
We went to my best friend Jackie’s nursing school graduation, and celebrated the happy event with her family and local friends. I am incredibly proud of her, and not just because she can stick in IVs and things like that. She is one of the sweetest, most caring, and most capable people I am honored to call friend — except I don’t call her that, I call her family.
And she’s beautiful outside as well as in. 🙂
I made her this card:
I had a birthday, which makes me now 32. I got a massage, and we had two meals with Jackie — a very good day. Here’s my birthday brunch at the popular Breakfast Klub, where the line was out the door at 9:30 on a Thursday morning, but the staff were friendly as can be. I was pleased to see a grits alternative to the usual chicken and waffles. I love grits.
(No, I did not eat that all in one sitting. Not even in two.)
Longtime readers might recall I did not love Houston the last time we visited, but this time it started to grow on me. We liked our neighborhood and our AirBnB hosts, and everyone we met — from Jackie’s friends to the employees in shops — seemed so nice. There’s a very strong feeling of Texas culture, but the city itself is diverse. And the landscape is a strange mix of gracious architecture (much of it very new), sprawling industry, ad-hoc rural-ish structures, and the kind of massive urban-commercial skyline that calls to mind Metropolis or Blade Runner. On overcast days, it felt as if the smokestacks had consumed the sky, and maybe there was no more blue-and-green world out there beyond the city.
During my birthday massage, the therapist, who has lived in Houston since coming here from Mexico with her family as a teenager, said, “People don’t come to Houston because it’s so beautiful. They come for the jobs.” I still don’t love the city, but I could visit again, and in fact, I hope I will.
A dubiously well-stocked convenient store near the airport:
On Monday we arrived back to my parents’ home in San Jose. I had to take a couple of days to make my bedroom livable again, but it’s now tidy and comfortable once more.
As soon as I could, I set to trying to get my big daily paintings — the ones from Boston — out of the plastic carrying tube into which I’d crammed them (actually, Erik and I had done it jointly; it was not a one-person job). That 300-pound watercolor paper does not mess around. It had fought back when we tried to roll it up, and now the roll had expanded inside the tube and did not want to come out. Tugging did nothing, and neither did shaking. In the end, we had to destroy the tube.
Here I am holding the tube in the airport, ready to leave Boston:
Scenes of destruction (alas, poor tube!):
Once freed, the paper resisted again when I tried to unroll it. Just for fun, I wrapped it around myself, and it stayed there, like a giant cuff bracelet.
Amazingly, the paintings have suffered very little damage from being rolled up and stored that way for more than a week. They’re now resting on my desk, under stacks of my heaviest books.
I baked cookies last night, and today my sisters are coming home. Commence holidays!