Cover Story: The Making of the Houston Bucket List and The Final Nine

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I have a soft spot for Houston, this mutt of a city that I've called home for nearly all of my 44 years on this earth. During those four decades, it has certainly suffered its share of ups and downs. But, even during the most complicated times our city has faced, I've believed in its resilience at it has yet to fail me. So, when Press Editor Margaret Downing recounted the story of a checklist she saw on her sister's refrigerator in Austin -- a personal bucket list for the state capital -- and suggested one should be done for Houston, I leaped at the opportunity.

The first step in this process I surmised was setting ground rules. Anytime a list is made of any kind, the only way to keep it valid, interesting and relatively free from complaint is to set some fairly strict criteria.

First, whatever made the list had to either be unique to Houston or something we do differently. There are some interesting things to do in Houston that also happen to be done in many cities, so I took sky diving out of the mix, even though it sounds terrifying and exhilarating. Still, not terribly uncommon. On the other hand, there are plenty of places around the world that make killer fried chicken, but are there any that do it like Frenchy's in that setting? I doubt it.

Second, there needed to be a limit on distance. We immediately ruled out anything farther than 30 miles from City Hall. While this took places like Galveston off the list, it made it much easier to focus specifically on Houston. Besides, Galveston might be able to make its own 100-item deep bucket list.

Finally, the only ranking would be No.1. The other nine of the top 10 would get more detailed descriptions, but no item from 11-100 would be ranked. Not only did it make it easier to put together, but it seemed sensible. Personal taste would certainly drive those rankings for most people, so there is no purpose in telling them which one is better than another. It's all Houston and it's all awesome.

One last thing before I reveal the final nine (you'll have to read the cover story online or pick up a print edition to see No.1), comments and responses have come in all over the map. Because this list was heavily crowdsourced, that was a huge help. But one thing that struck me was how many people were angry about particular choices for no other reason than they didn't care for them. One of the difficulties of living in a city this large and with this diverse a population is that it is almost impossible to please everyone. I'm sure this list won't satisfy everyone's personal taste, but it can't. Houston is too damn big for that to be possible.

Having said that, if any of you think the No.1 choice is ridiculous, you probably need to move to Dallas.


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