Like all of you, we miss Houston, B.C. That's "before COVID" or "before coronavirus," depending on your preferred nomenclature. The sights, the smells, and the excitement of our lives in the Bayou City before a global pandemic serve as sweet and sweaty memories now. The Houston Art Car Parade, Easter Sunday brunches, the beginning of the Houston Astros season, and what would have likely been a triumphant Houston Roughnecks season were all casualties of COVID-19.
While we wait for a sense of normalcy to slowly be constructed around us, we wrote some fan-fiction about the Houston that we adore. Picture this.
You just scored a table with six of your best friends at your favorite crowded Tex-Mex place on a Friday night—no special occasion besides it finally being the weekend. The bar is showing an Astros game and a Rockets game, which is extra special because both teams are playing at the same time in Houston.
You and your friends are all drinking huge margaritas as you follow the host to your table. Immediately, three huge baskets of warm tortilla chips hit the table, along with two kinds of salsa. Your server comes by and asks if you want queso and guacamole, and you order the biggest sizes they have for the whole table.
There is not a Zoom portal in sight; you can look at your friends in the flesh. You can even smell that weird shampoo one of your friends ordered from that shady Instagram account.
Sometimes Houston's downtown skyline has a way of bewitching you into seeing it less as a bastion for oil and gas money and more as a monolithic art installation, all twinkling lights and cloud-hugging skyscrapers. The skyline has never looked better from this vantage point on the hill at Discovery Green where you're lying on a wine-stained blanket with your friends. The stars come out to play on a warm May evening, just in time for Robert Ellis to take the stage for a free Thursday night concert. As Robert and his band unfurl songs about the Texas condition, mini-operas on loneliness, and the existential bliss of a late-night drive near a refinery, you think, Maybe sweating after dark isn't the worst thing in the world.
It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and you just pulled into a mega-sized Buc-ee’s during an extended holiday weekend. It’s sunny, breezy, and there’s a chill in the air. The store is bursting at the seams with families on the move, some bleary-eyed and still in pajamas. Some are on their way to Grandma’s house, a few are headed to their property near the water, while others are off to a softball tournament.
A teenage couple is making out near the Icee machine. Dads are in line to buy beef jerky, savoring the time away from the steering wheel and screaming tween arguments. Moms are loading up on three flavors of Beaver Nuggets. The Buc-ee’s beaver mascot, Bucky the Beaver, is taking selfies and hugging giggling customers as an assistant hands out sausage and cheese samples on toothpicks.
Did I mention that the restrooms are immaculate? Don’t you miss restrooms that aren’t your own?
It’s Saturday midday, and you find yourself inside Cactus Music with money to burn on vinyl, books, and T-shirts. A local band is setting up on the small stage, while complimentary beer begins to flow. You see your friend and their two kids, flipping through the classic rock section and making fun of Joe Cocker’s hairdo. They slam you high fives and you wonder, Weren’t they just in a stroller?
What are you after? Nothing in particular. Don’t you already have a copy of ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres? The one with the mouthwatering gatefold spread of Tex-Mex from Leo’s Mexican Kitchen in Houston. How about that great vinyl copy of John Prine’s debut? On the other end of the store, a teenager is picking up her first ever vinyl purchases: The Clash’s London Calling and the Billie Eilish LP. The future looks great.
The Astros are down three runs to the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth on a windy Friday at Minute Maid Stadium. This seems familiar. Did we mention that somehow newly-minted Yanks-starter Gerrit Cole has pitched an almost complete game in pinstripes against us? That wine snob is throwing heat tonight, predictably.
This is where we shine. This is where the magic happens. This is also when we’re bummed they already stopped serving beer. The roof is open, the sky is clear on this particular April night. George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Uncle Mike Brantley all single to get on base. It’s time for Alex Bregman to send everyone home with a walk-off dinger—we have Friday night fireworks to watch. Cole and Bregman duel into a full count. You could power Sugar Land with the electricity in the air, or at least River Oaks at Christmastime. Cole lobs one to Bregman, who sees fit to slam that meatball right into the left side of the train above Minute Maid Park. Train conductor Bobby Dynamite is on the move.
You hug and high five everyone in sight, even the oil biz transplant in a Yankees hat behind you who is making an escape to the nearest exit. Orbit just stripped down to his oversized skivvies and is waving our flag out in right field. It’s Friday night in Houston, the Astros just won how the Astros always win, and tomorrow is Saturday.