Houston-recalling childhood there (was Immigration (Was: crime in big cities and Europe)

From: altamira (altamira@ecpi.com)
Date: Sat Jun 24 2000 - 12:27:37 MDT

Houston is an interesting city in many ways. (I grew up there, and my
parents still live there, so I go to visit from time to time) Last time I
thought to ask about it, there were no zoning ordinances. I wonder if this
is still the case.

We lived in a neighborhood called Tanglewood, and there were deed
restrictions and neighborhood agreements which called for things such as
minimum square footage of buildings, single family residential use only,
types of building materials, and so forth. But I could ride my bike not too
far and find myself in completely different surroundings.

One of my favorite places to go was the Fifth Ward where there were very old
weather-beaten wooden houses built right down to the street, and little old
ladies would spend their early morning hours sweeping the sidewalk and
street outside their houses, and old men sat on the front porches just
watching the sun move the shadows around. They'd all be talking to each
other, and they'd stop what they were doing to smile and say hello to me
when I pedaled by--so unlike my own neighborhood where everyone stayed
inside of tightly closed airconditioned houses which were isolated from each
other by wide expanses of uninhabited lawn. The air often smelled of coffee
(to this day I don't know if there was a coffee packing plant somewhere, or
if some industrial process gave off a coffee-like fragrance), sometimes of
oil refineries if the wind was blowing in from Pasadena.

Houston was filled with unexpected delights. You could be walking along a
cracked sidewalk past flat dirty-white walls with small, uninteresting
windows and suddenly come upon an archway. If you didn't mind going where
you weren't s'posed to go, you could pass through the archway and find
yourself in a courtyard with a hipped-style roof of steel beams and glass
and a huge fountain in the middle, apartments meeting at surprising
non-90-degree angles, peeling cobalt blue paint, peeling red paint,
extravagant tropical plants. (many years later,I saw this amazing place
again in the pages of _Architectural Digest_ or some such publication.
Someone had bought it and restored it)

My best friend's grandmother lived in an austere old mansion in River Oaks.
You could get up from the Sunday-dinner table with its delicate china and
smooth linen and the button on the floor for calling the servants with your
foot, and you could walk a short distance down to the bayou and find there
dying pigeons, struggling to fly on oil-soaked wings and rainbows of oil
slick swirling around your bare feet, and someone's artificial leg caught in
the bushes (where was the rest of the body? you'd wonder).

And then you could find places, right in the middle of town, where you could
lie down in tall, unkempt grass and look up at the sky and hear the song of
the field lark (that song still makes me shiver with joy whenever I hear it,
which isn't too often since that particular bird doesn't live where I am
now), and the constant hum of traffic would be soothing, like maybe a
mother's heart beat to a fetus.

I think growing up in a place like Houston definitely gives greater scope to
a person's thoughts.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-extropians@extropy.com
> [mailto:owner-extropians@extropy.com]On Behalf Of GBurch1@aol.com
> Sent: Saturday, June 24, 2000 11:32 AM
> To: extropians@extropy.com
> Subject: SOC: Immigration (Was: crime in big cities and Europe)
> Immigration policy is one area that exposure to well-presented
> libertarian
> ideas has had an effect on my thinking over the last ten years.
> I live in
> one of the most ethnically heterogeneous cities in the US (perhaps in the
> world) and I see signs of the vitality this "people gumbo" brings to my
> community everywhere. Many of these immigrants in Houston are
> illegal under
> US law. They all seem to be working hard and contributing to the
> progress of
> the area. Yes, if we opened the borders entirely we'd probably
> be swamped by
> economic refugees beyond the ability of our infrastructure to
> respond. But I
> think we could steadily increase the permeability of our borders
> and still
> maintain our prosperity.

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