10 Ways Houston Christmas and Traditional Christmas Are Different

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Jeff Balke
The Houston City Hall reflecting pool all lit up for the holidays.
The traditional vision of Christmas tends to be based on snowy winter wonderlands, forests of evergreens and happy children waiting for Santa. In Houston, we do have a lot of green trees and kids waiting on St. Nick. Snow? Well...

Fact is, there are a lot of differences between a traditional Christmas and what we celebrate here in Houston. We like to believe they are for the better...most of the time.

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10 Things We Hate (But Have Come to Accept) About Houston

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Jeff Balke
Hey, we're not THAT ugly...right?
I am an unabashed supporter of the city of Houston. I am a third-generation Houstonian and despite having visited places around the country and world, I'm perfectly happy to call Houston home. That doesn't mean it doesn't have its problems. Oh, it has a boatload of them. Some are fixable. Others, not so much. But sometimes the Serenity Prayer and all that stuff about acceptance play a role in where you live, too.

This is not to say a lot hasn't changed. If you lived here in the '80s, moved away and didn't come back until this year, you'd probably wouldn't recognize the place with the exception of the lovely oak trees and the endless expanse of strip malls and abandoned car dealerships along Interstate 45 North.

Still, if you are going to live here, you may as well get used to a few things that have very little chance of changing.

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Salon Article Thinks Upper Kirby Is an Example of "Monstrous Gentrification" in Houston

Thumbnail image for katiehaugland.jpg
Katie Haugland via Flicker Creative Commons

Guys, we have something very serious to discuss with you about the city of Houston. And what is that issue, you ask? Well, it's the monstrous gentrification of Upper Kirby.

No, we're not kidding. Not one bit.

Those claims were made by local writer and resident Anis Shivani in a recent Salon article on the gentrification of central Houston in which he calls the area around Alabama and Kirby not only the most desirable area in the city, but also one of the most stark examples of gentrification in the city.

According to the whopping 4,000-word article, the gentrification of central Houston has turned the area into an "exclusive playland for the rich," and Houston itself has "transmogrified into a city ruled by a brutal strain of neoliberalism."

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24 Reasons We're Thankful We Live in Houston (Hint: It Ain't Dallas)

Katie Haugland via Flickr Creative Commons

Just kidding! We're also thankful for Dallas, which might share a high-speed rail with us one of these days, so we should probably play nice.

Here are the actual reasons we're thankful we live in Houston, presented without an ounce of snark, of course.

24. The Lady Bird Johnson wildlife beautification people plant bluebonnets and all that business along the roadsides so when we sit in traffic for hours on end, we have something nice to look at.

23. J.J. Watt, what with his pizza-schleppin' badassery and all.

22. Conversation at local parties can always be livened up -- so long as the battle over what to do with the Astrodome still rages.

21. We brought the world Anna Nicole Smith (#RIP).

20. We don't have alligators in the bayous ... because the polluted water killed them all. And oh, yeah, now the water is coming after us.

19. IN THIS ECONOMY...we are still nailing that job opportunity thing.

18. Virtually no winters = virtually no snow. But when it does (sort of) snow, we are so excited that the whole city shuts down.

17. The humid climate keeps us all looking much younger than our Texas counterparts.

16. The pollutants in Stinkadena smell horrible, giving us all fair warning when we're about to drive through what is probably a haze of carcinogens.

15. Given the above item no. 10 on our list, it's nice to know that we have MD Anderson Cancer Center so close...

14. Food lovers across the nation are jealous of our restaurant scene.

13. There's a Whataburger (properly pronounced as "Whut-a-burger") every five miles.

12. This ain't a hipster haven a la Austin.

11. No zoning means an...uh...interesting array of buildings sit alongside one another wherever you go.

10. We get to claim rights to not only a ridiculous local rap scene, but artists like Beyonce, Slim Thug, Paul Wall and Willie D. Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

9. On that note, you (as in the rest of the nation) can all thank us for Screwed Up Records & Tapes. You're welcome.

8. The local art scene is enviable, isn't full of those dreaded sellouts, and they put on an Art Car Parade in the middle of summer that's impressive enough to make people want to suffer in the Houston heat.

7. Houston has nicknames with actual street cred, like Screwston and H-Town.

6. Our city is the smart kind of fancy, with big brains leading research at places like NASA, the Medical Center, and the Baker Institute at Rice University.

5. The traffic. Without it, we'd never have the time we need to listen to all the podcasts we've synched to our phones. We've learned so much about history being stuck in traffic on the way to and from work that sometimes we feel like we're enrolled in a mobile community college class. So thanks, fellow Houston drivers, for keeping the lanes slow and our minds active.

4. Bars like Alice's Tall Texan and West Alabama Ice House are a thing here.

3. Where else can you find the Rockets, the Dynamo, and the Texans? No where, that's where. There's even those good ol' Astros, who we'll secretly always love, even if they're never going to get any better. Ever.

2. It's still relatively cheap to live here.

1. The city is vastly diverse, rapidly evolving, and yet is full of our favorite kind of people: Houstonians.

12 Things You Have to Explain to People Who Aren't From Houston

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Alex
Houston: It's not what you think it is.
All cities are saddled with misconceptions fostered by ignorance and popular culture, but we wonder if any city is more misunderstood than Houston. Even with all the positive publicity we've gotten over the last few years, it seems like dispelling myths about our city is an uphill battle that even a fierce publicity campaign cannot completely overcome. It would be one thing if we were reduced to a simple stereotype like New Jersey or Los Angeles, but Houston isn't so much pigeonholed as it is ignored.

Explaining what we are like to those who don't live here and, worse yet, people who have never been to Houston, is mostly about telling them why they are wrong and watching them stare back at you with skepticism.

So, we put together a list of some things you might want to know about our city and its people for the next (or first) time you decide to visit.

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[Video] The Ghost Bikes of Houston

Categories: Houston 101

With Critical Mass launching off tonight at Market Square Park downtown, tensions are bound to be high between motorists and cyclists as bike enthusiasts swarm the streets. The controversial event, whose participants have been nicknamed "Critical Massholes," has a reputation for holding up after-work Friday traffic, corking through red lights and straight up drunken brawls. Some cyclists say Critical Mass gives them a bad name -- others argue biking needs to gain visibility on Houston's sometimes bike-hostile roads and the monthly event is one way to forcibly take back the street. Earlier this year, the Houston Police Department offered Critical Mass participants an escort for a fee... but cyclists elected to chance it free. Recently, the police have been keeping watch anyway.

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10 Things You Say That Make You a Houstonian

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by Jeff Balke
Multiple indoor stadiums? Damn right.
Colloquialisms are part of all regional cultures. When someone in New York asks if you want to go half on a pie, they don't mean apple. But, in many places, there are words and phrases we use that help define us as denizens (and often natives) of that specific location. Houston most certainly qualifies. Some of them are rather odd words we have adopted while others are phrases too often repeated for all the wrong reasons.

Why we use them is self-evident to anyone who has lived here long enough to adopt our unique language. If you haven't been here long, consider this a primer for how we Houstonians talk and, perhaps, a glossary of sorts for the next time you want to go local.

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The 5 Least Charitable ZIP Codes in Houston

Categories: Houston 101

The Chronicle of Philanthropy's interactive map points out where the givers are in Houston.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently published a report on charitable giving throughout the U.S. culled from Census information. The report noted that charitable giving among wealthier Americans is down and that the most poor citizens give a larger percentage of their income to charity than the richest. But what about Houston?

Fortunately, the organization put together an interactive map that divided up areas by ZIP code, and we were able to see just where people gave and where they did not.

For the purposes of this list, we excluded neighborhoods outside the the boundaries of the city limits with one exception, because even though it is its own entity, it is still inside the Loop. Areas like Sugar Land, for example, were also on the short list, but they were well outside the city limits and the central portions of Houston. This list uses ranks ZIP codes based on the organizations "giving ratio," which is calculated by taking the percentage of charitable donations from the ZIP code's adjusted gross income.

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9 Reasons Fall in Houston Is Awesome

Categories: Houston 101

Photo by John Olives
Believe it or not, we do get a few leaf color changes in Houston.
Fall in Houston is not exactly like other parts of the country. We don't get the same kind of foliage color changes. We don't really need layered clothing -- though you'll still find people doing it anyway -- but you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer place to be after October 1. But, it is more than just the change in the weather and the onset of holiday season. There are plenty of reasons to love Houston in the fall.

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7 Titles and Businesses That Should Consider a Name Change

Categories: Houston 101

Google streetview
"Who Made the Cake!" Wait..is that a question or not?
In Houston and throughout Texas, there are a lot of weird names that confuse visitors. It is difficult to explain that Kuykendahl Road is properly pronounced KIRK-un-dahl or that there is something in the state called Waxahachie. That's before we even get into the influences from the wide variety of ethnic groups that now call our state and city home.

But those are just pronunciation issues. Most of us can recover from that. What is befuddling, however, is the fact that many of the names we have given various businesses, organizations and locations don't make a whole lot of sense. Some are borderline offensive if taken the wrong way. We would like to help correct that unfortunate error.

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