03 November 2014

October in Houston

The Bayou City, Space City, Where 17 Railroads meet the Sea. Home of the 8th wonder of the World (the Astrodome), and the world's largest Medical Center. Fuck near 1k square miles. Keeps getting bigger. Circumscribed by Loop 610 in the late 60s. By the Tollway in the 80, by the beltway in the 90s and still expanding.

I don't live in the heart of the city, but well inside the thoracic cavity. Imagine the city of Houston as a patient etherised n the table, with urinary catheter discharging to Galveston Bay. I'm in the upper right lung. Nice neighborhood, to tell the truth, the Corps of Engineers dredged and lined the bayou there for flood control purposes but I can go to the banks and see coyotes and ospreys, Great Blue Herons and their lesser kin, anhingas and wood ducks. A buddy a few mile upstream swears he saw a family of white-tail deer coming down to the water, but they might have been from a golf course. Carp, scooters, snappers and I swear to GOD once an alligator. All of this within a quarter mile of my place.

Turn the other direction, though, and I have a big freeway. Not really really close, about a mile and a half. Not a really really big freeway, but broad enough to attract redlining riceburnering crotchrockets loud enough to set off car alarms in my neighborhood. Soon it will turn chilly, and they will drive their girlfriends cars to work because they haven't discovered glove technology.

Ah, October, the time of High School football and even worse High School Homecomings which allow the flower merchants to squeak by by selling cheap mums dyed in unlikely colors. Usually co-ordinated with class reunions, those monuments to embarrassment.

The smell of smoke on the air is still barbecue. No-one in Houston uses a wood-burning fireplace as anything other than an affectation, a symbol. Most people with fireplaces will actually turn up the AC to give a bit of verisimilitude. Makes for expensive s'mores

Some trees turn colors, though. Mostly the Chinese Tallow, an introduced species with useless wood for burning or for construction, and sweetgum, which is good for both. The pecans drop their fruit, but first the fibrous husks so desired by meat smokers. (Use some hardware cloth, or just foil, to build a cradle to hold the husks over the heat source, and smoke pork loins stuffed with apple slices, or corned beef brisket. Fire at “infinite patience” setting, or if you prefer “fraction of eternity”. Low and slow, that's the ticket, and you can use the ones gnawed by squirrels, too. I love you too.)

Good time to go out birding, too. It's starting to get cold up there in Canadiastan. Find some cranes; Whooping or Sandhill, they're both beautiful. Want a good cheap hobby? $10 for a cheap set of binoculars and $40 for a new copy of Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of North America. More local versions are available: “Texas” is the one I keep. Look for it in your local used bookshop. Mark one eyeball is good too. That's how I spotted the American Bittern (The American Bittern will be at rest with its beak pointed at the sky and with a skinny neck and body such that it resembles a cat-tail reed. I mean it really does look like a cat-tail reed. It was a quarter beat late on the wind at Brazos Bend State Park. Low voice to all: from broken willow branch at 2 o clock, Now down 6 feet. See it now?). You can garner a respectable Life List inside the city limits, and a world-slass Life List without driving more than an hour.

You don't believe me? Talk to the head groundskeeper of your nearest golf course.

Get your bag limit on migratory ducks and geese. Protip: move at least 5 miles from nearest golf course. Srsly. Taste horrible, and buttermilk won't cut it.

Them animals ain't dumb, although they are speech inpared. Reptiles will be a bit more aggressive. Alligators especially

Fall is the time to fatten up: Reptiles, birds, and mammals. This is when you'll see foxes and coyotes on your golf course going after captive ducks and geese (you did know that some have their wings trimmed to keep them as nature status symbols? Even swans, in some areas0. Turtles have some good eating on them if you can figure out how to peel them. Worse than M&Ms, I tell you.

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