Driving and Biking in the Big City

Archive for October 2015

Houston commuters … I’m back!!

leave a comment »

View of the Texas Medical Center from my ortho doc's office

View of the Texas Medical Center from my ortho doc’s office. Photo by John Hensley.

After being housebound for a month and a half because of a knee replacement, I will hit the roads next week with my doc’s permission to drive again. And, yes, the new knee is the right one. And, yes, I know that’s my gas pedal foot. And, finally, I realize the drive is at least an hour and I’m supposed to straighten out my knee as much as possible. Houston drivers, beware! Like the Terminator, I’m back and better than ever with some new, somewhat expensive, better-than-nature new parts.

I’ve always been known as a bit of a lead foot but now I’ll be heavier in the knee area – cobalt and titanium, that is. It actually doesn’t feel any heavier so that’s an empty threat. It can be quite a bit stiffer when I keep it in one position long, but it doesn’t hurt at all. As a matter of fact, it’s much better than my real, left knee. Now, when I go for a walk and want to rest, I can put all my weight on my right side and stand and stand. Perhaps forever.

Uncommon sights of Houston. This man is sharing his bread with some pigeons from an artsy chair.

No sight is uncommon in Houston. This man sits in an artsy chair in downtown, sharing his bread with some pigeons.

I’m looking forward to being behind the wheel of my Nissan Rogue, Clarence, weaving in and out of slow-goers and perhaps finding my way onto a magic lane or two. I’ve missed the skyline at sunrise as I approach from the ‘burbs. I miss the airport at sunset when the planes come in from all directions – often looking like spaceships before they come into sight completely. I miss the Texas Medical Center and the characters who ride and walk the streets of the big city. I’ve tried Metro and carpooling but prefer to saddle up and ride alone. I listen to Bruce , the Joel or Paul Simon. More often, I have a murder mystery on download. Still, I keep my head on the swivel I was taught in ninth-grade driver’s ed. In Houston, you want to see who is behind you, beside you and what might be flying out of the sky.

As a kid growing up 90 miles from here, I never loved Houston. It felt too much like home, I think, being from a smaller but similar version of an oil boomtown. And, as a newspaper reporter in an era when the Houston papers were known for being in bed with big business, I skipped right over my nearby city and headed straight for Dallas, then Fort Worth and on to Detroit. Motor City was the only other place in the United States where I would get as much solid driving experience in crowds of hostile, aggressive motorists. Driving in floods in Houston is nothing compared to driving on black ice at 4 p.m. in Troy, Michigan, when it’s already pitch dark and you have two elementary age children in your convertible.

But now, I’m all in. I love Houston’s melting pot of ethnicities and people – from art to cuisine. I love speaking Spanish as my second language and eating Mexican food as my first preference. I love the Texans, the Astros and trying to get used to soccer with the Dynamos, driving by their Dowling Street stadium on days when I want to see what’s going on in Houston’s lively Third Ward. I’m just as likely to hear some street music as I am to witness a public oration or see a boxing match or the athletes running outside the boxing hall.

So this weekend I’ll polish up Clarence; he’s pretty dusty from all the pollen in the air. I may even vacuum and dust him out some and certainly fill him up with gas. I’ll find my office key, my name tag and my parking pass. I’ll locate my sunglasses and maybe a second pair, just in case. I’ll kiss my faithful hound and adorable husband goodbye and ride off into the sunrise. Baby, I’m back.

Shop in Third Ward where folks are invited to rent a bike and “tour the hood.”


No commuting this Chronicle

leave a comment »

Rehabbing my new knee

Rehabbing my new knee

I am on a bit of a work hiatus while I recover from knee replacement surgery and am starting to miss my 30-mile commute to the city in rush-hour traffic. “What?” you say. “True,” I answer. It even shocks me that I am such a hearty commuter. Something about that early morning entry into the rat race gets my blood pumping and my creative juices flowing. I see the ‘burbs in my rearview mirror and the mountainous skyscrapers ahead, and I thank God for the opportunities of both.

As a commuter, I have an 11-hour day and get more done than I do while I’m puttering around the house with little to do but try to rehab my knee. “Shall I water the plants?” I think. Then, two or three plants later, I decide that I’ll get to the rest of them later today or tomorrow. I have this adored gardenia that is pot-bound and needs to be replanted in a flower bed in the yard. I may wait until the weekend to get that done. Wait! Wait! My weekdays are the same as my weekends, I remember. Shouldn’t I take advantage of the hours in a non-commute day to get my plants and garden in shape? You’d think.

Time to watch the spider spin his huge web.

Time to watch the spider spin his huge web.

If I were commuting, I’d certainly have potting soil and flowerbed trim on my list. I drive by several wonderful outdoorsy shops on my 30-mile route. I’ve even been known to go out at lunch to some of the boutique shops in Houston and buy some unique yard ornaments or plants. That gardenia would be sitting pretty way before now if I were on my regular schedule.

It’s amazing how much I get done on my way to and from work. Birthday presents, cards, groceries, dry cleaners, gas, oil change, Target run, wine. However, when I’m not already out and about, I seem to choose to stay home and not replenish any of the household supplies, eat at any fancy restaurants or do much of anything.

The house is a terrible wreck when I’m home in it day in and day out. When I’m on the road, I always make a sweep through in the morning and then in the evening when I go to bed. These days, I have no internal clock. I am just as likely to be up and puttering at 3 a.m. but I’m not likely to be doing anything constructive. I’ve got these “adult” coloring books and 100-count colored pencils that seem to be occupying my time.

Then, my appearance is way closer to “hippie chick” than is attractive. No makeup. Tennis shoes or – embarrassingly enough – clogs. With socks. I’ve worn the same two or three shorts and t-shirts most days. I’ve got this little bundle of laundry that I wash every few days and I’m good to go. In my real life, I always assess my wardrobe on Sundays. What needs to be cleaned; what earrings; what shoes. How many meetings do I have that week, and what jackets do I have for those meetings.

If I’m going to be around the Big Cheeses, I check my makeup supply and be sure it’s on hand. Nothing like getting in the car and not having my makeup to put on during the commute. What a waste of time to do it at home or at the office powder room. I’m typically not much of a makeup person – having passed right through my makeup phase in junior high. But, now that I’m the oldest professional in an office full of beautiful, younger women, I try to do my best – if not to keep up at least to show them that you can hang in longer than they think.

Right now, I can’t even tell you where a skirt is in my closet, much less a jacket or a dress. I have this favorite pair of pretty expensive light-weight cross trainers that I love. Or, should I say now that I have one of those usual two shoes. I can’t find the second shoe and don’t even have the urge to look.

Adult coloring book keeping me busy.

Adult coloring book keeping me busy.

My hair is longer than ever and beginning to look way grayer than I typically allow. When I’m commuting to the city, I have regular facials at lunchtime every six weeks and visit my hair shop for a cut and dye job almost as frequently. I don’t even have those hair and face folks to visit in the ‘burbs any more. I feel myself aging every day that I’m not commuting.

Now that I’ve written this column about how low key my life has become, I have the urge to get up and do something lively. Think I’ll start with finding that second shoe.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

October 6, 2015 at 10:08 am