View from the Suburbs: Saturday Haircut and Feeling Like an Alien

Driving back into town this morning, I was wondering whether I was ready to give up my regular haircut place.  In fact, I’ve been going to Visible Changes in the Galleria for more than 25 years, with a few detours here and there, when my haircutter had left or I had heard there were greener pastures in some other salon.

It’s a long trip in on a Saturday, when I could sleep in and just head to one of the places that I’ve seen out here in the strip centers, rather than retracing the better part of my Monday through Friday commute to work.  This morning, though, with the weekend morning’s light traffic,  from the gas station just down the road, where I had to fill up, to the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak, only took 15 minutes.  That meant I had extra time to spare.

That meant extra time to wait.  Unless I’m the first cut of the day, waiting is generally par for the course at the salon.  For a long time, I hated the wait, felt I was being cheated out of my time.  The past couple of years, though, I have come to embrace the time I spend waiting for my cutter to be ready.  Time just isn’t so urgent any more;  savoring the moment is more enjoyable than worrying about hurrying on to some other task on the “to do” list.

Sunk down into the comfortable give of the salon’s sofas, I can take in what is to me a metropolitan atmosphere, the edgy look of some of the haircutters, the even-on-a-sleepy-Saturday-morning, casual sense of style of the customers, the tracks of new and old club music playing, and, in particular, a painting of a tree, that I want, some day, to mimic in a quilt.

There’s a feeling of homecoming for me, a return to the old stomping grounds.  I’m one of these people.

I’m comfortable now in my house out here 25 miles from the Galleria.  I have no regrets about buying it, and I’ve met nice, welcoming neighbors, but I have to admit when I go to my neighborhood Kroger or HEB for groceries or Home Depot or Lowe’s for items for the house and yard, I generally feel like I’m in alien territory.  After living in the suburbs for 6 months, I can’t say I feel like I am one of these people.

Maybe, though, like my feelings about time and waiting, this too will change.

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Houston METRORail Holds Ground-Breaking Ceremonies for Two New Lines

Ground-breaking ceremonies were held to inaugarate the beginning of construction of two new light-rail lines in Houston.  Work will be starting on the Southeast Corridor Line and the Northline Corridor Line.

metrorail houstonBoth of these will connect more commuters to downtown and the present line, which goes from the University of Houston Downtown on the north to beyond Reliant Stadium on the south.

According to Click2Houston, “(F)ive light rail projects were selected nationwide to receive federal grant money. The two new lines METRORail lines are two of those projects. The north corridor and the southeast corridor will receive $150 million combined.”

Read more here about these and three other new Houston METRORail lines, which will soon be part of the Houston Metro System.

Houston Poised To Start Work on Five New Metrorail Lines; Officials Say These Transportation Projects Will Bring 60,000 New Jobs to the Bayou City; Completion Set for Sometime in 2012

houstonmetro1Today contracts were let for four new lines by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. In addition to these lines is the fifth new line, the University Corridor Line, which is part of another contract, but is to be built during approximately the same time frame.

The almost 1.5 billion dollar deal (plus a similar price for the Corridor Line) will add to the current single line, which has as its northern terminus the University of Houston Downtown, passes through downtown Houston on Main Street, then on to the Museum District and Medical Center, and finally alongside Reliant Stadium (home of the NFL Houston Texans) to its southmost stop just outside of Loop 610.

The original line was finished in 2004 despite the efforts of many community activists and others who fought against commuter rail, saying that nobody would use it. Anyone who rides the Metro today will see the cars filled with riders of all types, especially students and downtown and medical center employees. The addition of the rail line was one of the factors which has led to a “renaissance” of the entire downtown area, which just like those of many other big series had slipped into a period of decay as freeways and shopping malls pulled many city dwellers and newcomers to the Houston area to the suburbs.

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The five new lines include:

  • The East End Line (3 miles), which will cross the current line very near its present northern stop, but mostly will head east toward the Harrisburg area, sometimes known as Magnolia or Navigation. This is an old, primarily Hispanic area near the Houston Ship Channel. Probably the most famous establishment in this part of Houston is the original Mama Ninfa’s Restaurant on Navigation Street.
  • The Southeast Line (6.7 miles), which also starts at the north end of the current line, then somewhat zigzags its way near University of Houston Main Campus and continues on.
  • The North Line (6.4 miles), which actually will be an extension of the current line. It will, of course go north from downtown Houston and end up at the Northline Mall area. (Northline Mall was torn down a couple of years ago and has been rebuilt into more of a plaza-like series of strip centers with stores easily accessible to drive-up customers.)
  • The University Corridor Line (10 miles), which starts in Eastwood, an area near the University of Houston Main Campus and heads west crossing the Main Street Line and goes out to the near southwest side of town. This line has been the most controversial, fought against by homeowners and neighborhoods, who don’t want the rail to pass through their areas.
  • The Uptown (4.7 miles), which will connect perpendicularly with the Corridor Line, and pass through the Galleria and Uptown Park areas.

This is an ambitious project, but one worthy of the 4th largest city in the United States. Although Houstonians are known to be in love with their cars, and high-priced European sedans, Hummers, and double-cab pickups, and other gas guzzlers are the norm rather than the exception in this city, the recent high-dollar price of gas and now the more recent general economy slump have moved many drivers to rethink their daily means of getting to work. However, these new rail lines do not really reach that far out from the center of the city, so many commuters will still need to use the current freeway system to get to their jobs, keep taking the non-too-frequent Metro buses, or perhaps drive to the end terminals of the new lines.

Officials say they hope these lines will be completed sometime in 2012; that seems quite a large order for such a huge project. In addition, they say that these projects will add 60,000 jobs to the community and that some of the cost will be paid for by the stimulus package, which President Obama and the Congress have approved.

With all the construction taking place all over the city, but especially in areas surrounding downtown, this project will probably bring major traffic nightmares to the city before it is actually completed.