Sunday, March 1, 2009


Damn Google. I thought I had just coined a word but with a quick check, nothing is ever new under the sun. Houstonization has been around for at least 30 years. I could come up with another but it's a good word and I'll stick with it.

Many years ago I visited Houston on business and with some time on my hands decided to walk around to check out the place. Being used to Chicago-like cities, I was drawn to the big towers of Downtown, thinking that was where all the action was.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Making the trek which was no small effort in itself, it was about a five mile walk in a city designed for cars not pedestrians. Finally I found myself in the midst of gleaming new buildings designed by some of the biggest names in architecture that oil money could buy. They looked great on paper, in renderings and in photographs. They were impressive to admire from a distance.

But a city is not simply a collection of buildings like a museum is a collection of paintings. A city is a living, breathing thing, warts and all. There was nothing out of place, everything was tidy and tasteful. In the middle of the week at lunchtime on a beautiful November day, there was barely a soul to be found outside, something I found amazing in a city with a population of over one million. As far as I was concerned, all the life was sapped out of downtown Houston.

There was "no there there" to quote Gertrude Stein, absolutely nothing to contribute to a sense of place. I could have been standing in Downtown Dallas, Denver or L.A., which is essence of the term Houstonization.

Flash forward 25 years and looking at where the Loop may be headed, I'm hoping that no one will replace the term Houstonization with Chicagoization.

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