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I’m gonna get out of here someday: the refrain of my youth. When I was a Lamar High School student back in the ’90s, there wasn’t a kid of my acquaintance who didn’t plan to leave town. Houston was ugly; Houston was provincial; Houston was boring; Houston was, essentially, not New York. It wasn’t until after graduating from Rice that I left town, moving to NYC for grad school, but also maybe for good.

During my time there, I figured out a lot—about Houston. My hometown, I realized, is easy. The mail comes on time. You don’t have to wait for an hour, crammed in a small space with dozens of other people, just to get a prescription. You can use a full-size grocery cart at the grocery store. You don’t have to ask an employee to use his hook to pull down a package of toilet paper for you. You don’t have to lug your heavy groceries six blocks home. You don’t reach the end of May and find yourself trudging through sludgy gray ice, incredulous that it can still be so…darn…cold. You don’t find yourself freezing, needing a restroom, waiting for a train that never comes, before giving up and spending money you don’t have on a cab. Instead, you get to drive.

That’s what I learned about Houston during my time in New York. What did I learn about New York? It’s a great place to visit. In the very late springtime. What did I learn about myself? I’m meant to inhabit the earth’s warmer regions; I place an absurdly high premium on convenience; I’m a huge fan of open spaces, thunderstorms, apartments with multiple rooms, queso and margaritas.

After graduating and doing some stumbling about, I got a job offer in H-Town and landed back here. Moving home felt like arriving in another city entirely from the one I’d known, and not for the reasons you might expect. The main difference, for me, was that not one, but two urban tribes I’d been a member of—formed during high school and college—had scattered to the wind. In fact, I knew exactly one person in the Greater Houston Area I wanted to call up and invite out for queso and margaritas. (Eating Mexican food alone, I knew, was a fate worse than death.)

Of course, that initial lonely period didn’t last long, not amid such a warm and friendly population. I formed a new tribe and, once again, started randomly grinning at people on elevators, like a good Houstonian (I didn’t even know I’d stopped doing that). It was then that I realized that the city’s greatest asset was, in fact, the people themselves—that during my time away, they were what I’d missed, even more than reachable toilet paper and, um, cars.

Houstonians are fun and easygoing and open and hilarious and weird and talkative and the best reason I can think of to move here (or move back here). So while we’re handing out Best of the City nods, I’d like to award one to the people who inhabit this hot, convenient, queso-drenched city.

Y’all are, quite simply, the best.

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