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Ever been to (by which I mean that you have to have gotten out of your car) Kashmere Gardens? Minnetex? The inner loop neighborhood legally described as "Freeway"? Old Jeanetta? Magnolia Park? Kingwood? Fondren Southwest? Acres Homes? Manchester?

Have you ever had a roach crawl up your arm while sipping from a crappy margarita in a (now defunct) HoJo's bar while sitting on a sticky sofa, behind which children are unsupervised and watching TV? (Musicman will appreciate that one.)

Have you ever been forced to communicate in gestures and grunts with a Korean waitress because none of the late night staff at a restaurant on Long Point speaks English, and you really want to know what those things you've been eating are? They were boiled fish intestines, btw.

Houston's identity has a whole lot more to do with sprawling 1970's apartment complexes with crime-ridden courtyards than it has to do with shiny new midrises in hip neighborhoods. But it has even more to do with a legacy of crackerbox single-family homes. Did you know that Gulfton (the densest part of Houston) was hip once? Just because the opinion leaders from your youthful self-absorbed generation (which we share, shamefully) have identified new breeding grounds in a tiny sliver of the land area that comprises Houston doesn't mean that that area provides an identity for the rest of us.

I think that if you were to pour over economic data, Houston's multi-generational identity is apparent as being a place where uncouth people (invisible to white hipster opinion leaders), like the poor, immigrants, or families, can live comfortably, and where their children (or more likely, their grandchildren) might stand a chance of becoming hangers-on to white hipster opinion leaders...one day.

Of course, that identity is meaningless to a resident of Tanglewood or Boulevard Oaks. Which goes to say, there's no such thing as a single collective identity. Its a constructed reality that only has meaning to the individual contemplating it. In the context of other people or society at large, the root of the idea of one's identity becomes warped by egotism, utter nonsense, and it usually figures into a larger mortgage and car payment than we'd be willing to pay if we were sane. I'd like to think most people are as capable as feeling the cognitive dissonance that P.J. O'Rourke reveals in this article, but I doubt it.

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From my experience, most of the neighborhoods you mentioned are predomnantly African American. Is that your definition of Houstons identity?

I think dirty bars with various eccentricities can be found anywhere and are not exclusive to Houston.

I think that when we are searching for Houstons identity we are searching for what makes it seperate than other cities across the country. That is something in the air and cannot be contained to a few neighborhoods or establishments. You can't deny we are a progressive pro-business city and Houstons development patterns define that. Moreso than its ghettos.

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Houston (and LA, which share a lot of qualities) is the True American City: a ruling city over dozens of suburbs and outlying cities, cobbling together a unique collection of neighborhoods. Doesn't matter if they're hippies, hipsters, rednecks, or don't even speak English.

They both have a bunch of awesome mid-century buildings. A quote from Pleasant Family Shopping describes the LA version of these: "scads of them have been torn down over the years, but there’s still a lot to see - simply because so many were built there in the first place."

And both LA and Houston were one of the forefront in creating a workable highway system, and the sprawl that results from it. (Another great quote is from Keep Houston Houston:

"Los Angeles, San Antonio, Houston highway sprawl is interesting. For one thing, there’s a lot of it. There’s so much retail in those sprawly places that it becomes impossible to fill it with chain bullshit, so there’s a lot of independent businesses all over the ‘burban areas. You’re eating Mediterranean cuisine at this hole-in-the-wall on Dairy Ashford, or you’re having kebob in a stripmall that also houses a smokeshop, a lingerie place, and a swimming pool installation biz. Funky. And it comes right up to the highway, buildings and signs and dudes wearing sandwich boards are all right there. Driving Westheimer isn’t the same sort of urban experience as, say, walking 42nd Street in Manhattan, but it still feels urban.")

The neighborhoods in Houston are what create it. I can't really say the same thing in College Station: sure, there's Northgate, there's Wellborn, and the Wolf Pen Creek District, and those are all different, but with Houston, the neighborhoods are so wildly different it's impossible to really pick one to define a city. Once you get out of the Museum District and really see the city: the ports, the neighborhoods southeast of town, Midtown, Medical District, Memorial, Montrose, Upper Kirby, The Heights...I've been through all of them. And it really is something. I can't even say the same thing for LA's neighborhoods (of course, I've never been to LA, so it's a bit hard to judge).

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From my experience, most of the neighborhoods you mentioned are predomnantly African American. Is that your definition of Houstons identity?

I think dirty bars with various eccentricities can be found anywhere and are not exclusive to Houston.

I'd say, three of nine of the neighborhoods I mentioned are majority black. Maybe four, but it'd be close. This is as it should be. Black culture is something that many cities don't have very much of.

And dirty-ass bars are a facet of Houston that I'm sure you'll never experience, but that a lot of people do. Its part of their identity, and so its part of ours. Which goes to your next point...

I think that when we are searching for Houstons identity we are searching for what makes it seperate than other cities across the country. That is something in the air and cannot be contained to a few neighborhoods or establishments. You can't deny we are a progressive pro-business city and Houstons development patterns define that. Moreso than its ghettos.

Most people are boring. Race doesn't matter, class doesn't matter, whether they prefer to live in a house or a highrise doesn't matter. The people that try to be different, hipsters, are also boring. A part of these individuals' identities (as I experience them) is that they are boring. True enough, there are many permutations of characteristics that make people boring, but they are what they are. The city reflects that. All cities do. All cities are mostly boring. The only question is, to what degree.

To the extent that there are any differences, I agree that the feel and the smell of the air is part of it. IronTiger nailed the rest.

Edited by TheNiche
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I agree with a lot in the video (thanks, Double L, for sharing), but also think the responses here bring up a lot of aspects we don't always see or think about. Identity doesn't necessarily have to be about pure realism, it can also be aspirational - something we as citizens strive to be, even if we don't always succeed (not unlike the identity of being "American"). Houston's identity is one of the topics I've explored quite a bit on my blog, and rather than repeat it here, I'll just link:

Most of the best identity posts are linked to from this highlights post

http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2010/03/fifth-birthday-retrospective-best-of.html

And here's everything I've tagged with "identity", although it misses the critical first few years of the blog (before Blogger had tags), and it is also a bit cluttered with less relevant posts:

http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/search/label/identity

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Houston has an identity; it’s just not a famous identity. Dallas is known nationally and worldwide for rich snobs, Austin is known for hippies and being laid back. I don't think Houston identity is known that much outside of Texas and Louisiana. Houston to me has an identity as a decentralized city that really does not function very well. When one area gets old and undesirable people just build further out. Nice stuff gets torn down for parking lots, etc. It’s a city that really doesn't know what it wants to be. Does it want to be the world’s largest suburb or does it want to be a city with many mini downtowns surrounded by suburbs? It’s a city that does not spend money on unnecessary items. It’s a city that builds what it needs to build in the cheapest possible way, and it shows. Houston is a city that does not think very far into the future and is not very aggressive when it comes to competition. It’s a very multicultural city, but the only way you would ever know it was if you drove to the many shopping centers sprinkled throughout, parked your car in a parking lot and walk into some of the endless shops. Many people identify Houston as Space City, partly because of NASA, but that wasn't even enough to get the city a space shuttle.

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We didn't get a space shuttle because NASA decided to put them in the largest tourist centers (LA, NYC, DC, Orlando-Kennedy) to get the most citizen exposure and therefore build the most political support for NASA. Not unwise. And if it works, it actually helps Houston/JSC more in the long run than having an actual shuttle would.

A simple way to get to the root of why Houston is what it is is to realize that it's really a city run by engineers, because engineers run the oil and gas industry. And engineers value function over form, practicality over aesthetics, and cost effectiveness over just about everything. You don't build for durability, but to get a job done - anything more is waste. It does lead to some disposable construction, but then it's also easy to tear it down and rebuild, so we have a dynamic, evolving city - unlike most cities, esp. in Europe.

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We didn't get a space shuttle because NASA decided to put them in the largest tourist centers (LA, NYC, DC, Orlando-Kennedy) to get the most citizen exposure and therefore build the most political support for NASA. Not unwise. And if it works, it actually helps Houston/JSC more in the long run than having an actual shuttle would.

A simple way to get to the root of why Houston is what it is is to realize that it's really a city run by engineers, because engineers run the oil and gas industry. And engineers value function over form, practicality over aesthetics, and cost effectiveness over just about everything. You don't build for durability, but to get a job done - anything more is waste. It does lead to some disposable construction, but then it's also easy to tear it down and rebuild, so we have a dynamic, evolving city - unlike most cities, esp. in Europe.

I usually don't agree with you, but great explanation. Aside from not getting a space shuttle, I think the city/metro should try to attract some sort of theme park. its the largest city in the States without one and I think that that is just unexceptable for a metro of 6+ milion people. I know many of you do not think the city should be in the business of trying to attract a theme park, but I think it should.

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I usually don't agree with you, but great explanation. Aside from not getting a space shuttle, I think the city/metro should try to attract some sort of theme park. its the largest city in the States without one and I think that that is just unexceptable for a metro of 6+ milion people. I know many of you do not think the city should be in the business of trying to attract a theme park, but I think it should.

Funny you should mention this. I know the people involved, and I can assure you that the problem is being worked on actively. It's unlikely to do enough to make Houston a tourism powerhouse (any more than having Astroworld used to), but it will be a nice amenity for the regional population.

Although for the record, we may not have a Six Flags equivalent, but we do have two good size waterparks, Moody Gardens, Kemah, and the new festival pier being built by Landry's in Galveston. None of them alone is all that impressive, but they make for a pretty strong collection of options on any given weekend.

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Funny you should mention this. I know the people involved, and I can assure you that the problem is being worked on actively. It's unlikely to do enough to make Houston a tourism powerhouse (any more than having Astroworld used to), but it will be a nice amenity for the regional population.

Although for the record, we may not have a Six Flags equivalent, but we do have two good size waterparks, Moody Gardens, Kemah, and the new festival pier being built by Landry's in Galveston. None of them alone is all that impressive, but they make for a pretty strong collection of options on any given weekend.

Are you referring to the Earth Quest Adventures Development, or are you talking about just plain efforts to bring any theme park to Houston? I would be happy with either answer. I think Earth Quest Adventures if built as planned will bring in people atleast as far as the States that surround Texas.

Astroworld was more for just the Houston region.

Edited by citykid09
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Are you referring to the Earth Quest Adventures Development, or are you talking about just plain efforts to bring any theme park to Houston? I would be happy with either answer. I think Earth Quest Adventures if built as planned will bring in people atleast as far as the States that surround Texas.

Astroworld was more for just the Houston region.

So...we're that desperate to draw from the vast untapped tourism markets of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas? Seriously! I mean...really? Why not just install a slip-and-slide in Channelview and call it a day?

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Are you referring to the Earth Quest Adventures Development, or are you talking about just plain efforts to bring any theme park to Houston? I would be happy with either answer. I think Earth Quest Adventures if built as planned will bring in people atleast as far as the States that surround Texas.

Astroworld was more for just the Houston region.

Someone mentioned this before, but Houston is not a tourism based city, and I don't believe it will ever be. I tell you, what we need is a Real Housewives of Harris, Montgomery and Ft. Bend Counties show on Bravo. See what it did for New Jersey? <_<

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Are you referring to the Earth Quest Adventures Development, or are you talking about just plain efforts to bring any theme park to Houston? I would be happy with either answer. I think Earth Quest Adventures if built as planned will bring in people atleast as far as the States that surround Texas.

Based on what I've heard and read in the Houston Press (http://www.houstonpress.com/2012-04-12/news/earthquest-green-amusement-park/), EarthQuest is dead. No, this is an effort to attract another theme park. Nothing specific, just putting out feelers to different companies and promoting Houston as a location.

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So...we're that desperate to draw from the vast untapped tourism markets of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas? Seriously! I mean...really? Why not just install a slip-and-slide in Channelview and call it a day?

Since you put it that way it does seem kind of desperate LOL! No offense to those States, but when you are trying to prove a point like that (the pull that the theme park would have), mentioning those States is not very impressive. You left out New Mexico though, that makes it a little better. I guess trying for a theme park that pulls people from around the nation would be pretty great. Even the rich tourist from Mexico and maybe even Canada will make their vactions longer for it.

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