A Farewell Tour of Houston: New Friends, Same Old Anvil

Sometimes you have to come full circle before you can leave.

By Hala Daher March 25, 2016

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Classic cocktails at Anvil Bar & Refuge

Part 3 of a 5-part series on leaving behind the Bayou City after losing your job in oil and gas.

One of the strangest phenomena of leaving an old place for somewhere new is unexpectedly encountering someone you wish you'd met earlier. Many years back, when I was still a chemical engineering student in Detroit, I met a guy who was leaving Michigan in a week. We instantly connected over being engineering students who were more into books and art and music than our chosen academic majors. He was off to Boise, to live with his brother, work at a civil engineering firm and pursue his passion for writing. I still had a year of schooling in Detroit before I went off to do my own thing. Houston wasn't even on my radar at this point.

Even though we only had that week to get to know each other, we ended up being good friends for many more years. We visited each other in the various cities we ended up living in and made sure to meet when we were both in Detroit for the holidays. We talked almost daily. We became very close and he became someone who really defined my 20s. Though we've since lost touch, it always struck me as interesting that you could connect to someone at the end of your tenure in one place yet still carry that person with you to the next one.

This happened to me in my last couple of weeks in Houston. I met a woman through my yoga studio and something told me: Just talk to her. I try not to ignore these feelings when they arise, so I went for it. She seemed cool—an awesome yoga instructor with a cute, curly, short haircut that I myself had sported not too long ago. Clearly she had good taste. So we started chatting, mostly about fitness, specifically about yoga; she had a wealth of information about the latter and I really enjoyed picking her brain.

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I finally decided I should ask her to meet me for a drink in my last week here, figuring it wouldn't hurt to make another new friend on my way out of town. She agreed and suggested we meet at Anvil. Neither of us is much of a drinker anymore—those days are behind us both—but Anvil is rightly famous in Houston for excellent cocktails and sometimes you have to make an exception. Besides, I thought, it would be a perfect opportunity to visit an old haunt with a new friend.

Anvil was the first place I ever had a real cocktail. When it opened, it ushered in a slew of classic cocktail bars and fancy drink menus at restaurants all around the city. I've always appreciated the fact that even though it was expensive, you are guaranteed a quality drink. That night I decided to skip the featured cocktail list and get a classic American martini with gin. I let the bartender use his gin of choice. My new friend ordered a Queens Park Swizzle and we settled into a long, deep conversation over the next couple of hours.

Maybe it's the fact that I was leaving town, or that I've always loved the company of strong women, but I allowed myself to let my guard down and really connect with her. Besides our common interests in yoga and fitness, we talked about our life goals, feminism, loss, depression and grief. We talked about the changes that were happening in Houston, good and bad. I left Anvil that night feeling very happy and full of positivity. It was the perfect energy to carry with me the next day while I packed up and moved out of my home for the last eight years. 

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