August is My New February

I have so far treated Houston cordially and with respect.  I have not yet unleased a torrent of insults on the place that I thought I would hate more than all of  the others.  My sunny reflections on this tropical petri dish have confused a few people close to me, who have remarked upon their curiosity to get to know my Houston.  So I realize that it might be time for the gloves to come off...I don't want to lead anyone astray.  In short, it's pretty good, but mostly because it's not terrible.  I'm strangely content here, but the honest truth is that I'm not completely sure why.

As far as I can tell, many people like Houston only because they thought it would be the worst thing that ever happened to them, and then it wasn't.  A common chorus sounds: "it's not as bad as I expected."  It's not just me; out-of-towners repeat this descriptor of life here with uncanny frequency.  Those here for work from other, much more expensive, (European) countries are especially enamored.  So much shopping!  Such low taxes!  Such enormous living spaces! I can relate to them in some ways; the instinct to consume here kicks in like no other place I have experienced.  So far my favorite days here have all involved shopping and usually a fair amount of alcohol, too.  And while those were genuinely fun days, I'm worried that it is not a sustainable method for finding my bliss.

When we have told people that we are considering a move home to Minnesota next year, instead of continuing to base ourselves in Houston, eyebrows go up.  I also find this funny; even though Houston is mostly unremarkable and derives much of its personality from other cultures, Minneapolis somehow sounds like a questionable choice to them.  People that live in warm places find it shocking that other people would prefer to live in cold places, especially if said cold places are in the mysteriously boring-sounding Midwest.  To our friends here from other countries, Minnesota sounds snowy and rural, with little else to offer.

But here is the secret.  The mysteriously boring Midwest is also a healthy and delicious place.  You can grow food there in the relatively unpolluted ground, and breathe in the air that doesn't come with safety warnings.  You can swim in clean and cool water there without worrying about snakes, alligators, and chemicals.  You can run around lakes and along well-maintained paths without fear of the sidewalk abruptly coming to an end or of trucks chasing you.  If you are cold, you can put more clothes on, and get warm.  You can drink a hot toddy, make a fire, and snuggle.  And all of these things will bring you warmth.

If you are hot, you are hot, and that's it.  There's no taking off more clothes, unless you want to go to jail.  Which is not advisable, because as I learned recently, only twenty-one out of 111 prisons in Texas are fully air-conditioned. And while I understand the politician who pointed out that he is not inclined to make prisoners more comfortable when he can't afford to do that for poor law-abiding folks, I'm also unconvinced that slowly baking to death in a concrete oven (which happened to five prisoners in Texas last year) is an appropriate punishment for your garden-variety car thief.

Each day that I have run, since early May, I have been sweatier and more uncomfortable than I was during the run before, and all of them were all completed before 9 a.m.  The average highs for June, July and August are all well into the nineties, and in spite of that, it was considered a kind of gentle July here.  What feels difficult to me is that the lows don't drop much below eighty at night.  The cat won't come near us to cuddle and I've even begun putting ice in my water, something that I haven't done since before living in France.  We are lucky to have only had a few days over one hundred degrees so far, but I'm told that there are more coming now that it's August.

I would be lying if I said that I'm excited about Houston in the summer.  I realize that the entire country is hot right now, and many people are struggling.  Our heat this year is not considered serious compared to last year.  On the other hand, our heat will not abate.  It is not a heat wave, it is just normal summer.  Today is the beginning of our hottest month, and most of my instincts scream to hide inside, away from the extreme conditions...just like I would be doing in Minneapolis in February.