Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bush/IAH to N Main - the longest walk yet- Part II

Please see two posts below for Part 1 of this walk, which took place Sunday Dec 28th 2008.

After we ate the excellent tacos at the taco truck sundown was beginning to approach. The clouds had mostly cleared and I was no longer worried about rain, but the colder night air had me slightly spooked, as I was barely staying warm as it was, and we were maintaining a very brisk pace most all of the day. Through the parting of walls, stores and trees down a partially abandoned cul de sac for a sickly newer development we spot the most glorious view of Greenspoint I've ever seen! Ah, yes, the Emerald City of the Greater Houston area. This picture (although kind of dark- click on it for better view) is surely what the real estate barons of the late 70's and early 80's were envisioning for the area now more commonly known as "Gunspoint".

Oh, turn back a bit- before we hit the taco stand, I nearly forgot- and I thought I took pictures, but apparently not- we walked by an extremely messy strip shopping center that housed, not one, but two different chapters of AA. These were announced with big signs, and right between them was a bar. Actually the whole mess of the place looked shut down. There were old couches and TVs scattered about the sidewalks in front of the storefronts and cars in various state of disrepair in the lot. We passed the place and then were both drawn back to it- something was really wrong with this scene. A closer look revealed that the bar and several other shops were not only closed but in a total shambles; the cars in the lot were all inoperable, and the AA storefronts may not have been what they stated. I got really bad vibes after I walked around the ruins of the former bar and got the heck out of there. Meanwhile, John noticed a faceprint embedded in a shattered windshield of a Pontiac with a flat tire. Really, really rough.

Anyway, back to near sundown- at this point we are inside 610 and the road, at some point around here, changes names from Aldine Bender to Airline Dr. We're still well in the 5 digit addresses, but there are more taco trucks and cantinas, plus more traffic and human activity in general. I stop into a Fiesta Mart hoping to get a sweatshirt, but this one doesn't have any clothes. Next door there is a discount closeout clothing outlet and I get a very "bummy" looking large flannel/poly/cotton long sleeved overshirt that would look at home on any guy waiting around in front of Labor Ready. Now I'm warm and rejuvenated. Walking, walking, seeing more and more of same- auto shops, boutiques, taco trucks and Spanish everywhere. A new phenomenon of Houston cruising makes itself known to me- the blasting of speakers within the grilles of cars and trucks. Kind of like the old boom box trucks but less bass and more direct volume. As we get closer to the Airline "Los Garages" as they are sometimes called, there are more and more cars blasting rap, conjunto, rancheras and tejano out of external speakers. Wow- new to me and such a logical progression from bass boxes!

John picks up a shopping cart as his feet and the load of I-pod jam box and general reporting gear begins to wear on him. We've been out for over 8 hours by this time with only one short stop off our feet. My feet are aching as well. We have miles and miles to go to get to home territory. By the way, we have seen relatively few shopping carts on this trip and essentially zero homeless folks.

It's Sunday night and it's hard for me to believe that Airline drive out here (past Canino) is a hot spot for cruising, upper Westheimer style. We are nearly the lone pedestrians and there are piles of junk in vacant lots along the way, burned out cars here and there, etc, but mostly just fences and weeds along the sidewalks.

The street activity gets more and more hectic and we finally find ourselves just further out than the corner of Airline and Tidwell when we come across the fables "Garages". This is the most amazing flea market I have ever seen- Sunday night and there's live Tejano, thousands of booths, food everywhere, families, more music and good times for all. Everything in the world- new and used- is sold here and I will be going back as soon as possible.

This is a cultural jackpot. Plus, there was a nice Airstream Bambi next to a booth.

We could have stayed there all night, but things were getting ready to wind down there and we needed to keep moving if we ever planned on getting home. Mike Haaga had called and wanted to possibly meet up with us as we got nearer to his place (Airline at Crosstimbers area), so we were beginning to look for a hangout we could sit down at for a while.
The area between the "Garages" and I-45 reminds me slightly of the Golfcrest area in southeast Houston.

Like Golfcrest there are homes built in the 50's and 60's in various states of disrepair, a mishmash of businesses, but few recognizable name brands of much, and a few old school established restaurants that have toughed it out over the years. This BBQ joint is clearly one of those. I love the name "Hungry Farmer BBQ" The hickory burger at Lucky Burger back in the day was called "The Hungry Farmer" The jalapeno cheeseburger was called "The El Capitan". I still order them by that name and get a blank look from the cat who has worked there for the last 15 years! Anyway, that's my Hungry Farmer story.

Just past Little York we finally find our pit stop. John has heard of this place before and it has some heritage, plus a nice stage, great jukebox, pool tables, good service and smoking permitted if you are not too obvious about it (yes, we are now finally in Houston City Limits and John is a light smoker- I don't smoke). It's the Cedar Lounge, and since it's Sunday, this is one of only three nights a week that's not "Tejano Night". Despite the billing, the crowd is mixed and, as I said, it's a great place to stop off for a drink.

Mike Haaga in front of the Cedar Lounge sign

John calls Mike and he shows up a good 15 minutes later with the bad news ( we already knew) that we have quite a long way to go. It's nearing 9 PM and I am fading slightly as the lack of sleep, cold, walking and Christmas break in general is catching up with me. Not lost on me is my drive to Marfa with a stop at the State Comptroller's office in Austin the next day.
Mike, John and I have a nice chat about this and that and I am thrilled that the black guy sitting next to me who buys a drink for a pretty hispanic chick about my age across the way looks like he may have a made a good new friend in her. About 15 songs on the excellent jukebox later and it's time to go. Haaga gets in his car for the safe ride home and we set out again on foot.

About an hour later we stop at another bar, this time it's clearly a Spanish language only place. We walk in and have a shot of Cazadores tequila and a Budweiser each and relax. Ten PM- we are getting near 45, but it's clear this walk will last past midnight before we get into our turf.

Walking, walking, more and more amplified cars drive past and there's some street racing and at least one cop bust going down. John reminds me that as we get closer to 45 the prostituiton activity picks up. That and everything that goes alongside that is what we're heading into. By this time my legs are kind of numb, but my foot pains have leveled off. Not so for John, whose feet are in just as bad a shape at this time as they are usually when he wears the Crocs.

Another hour or so of walking and we are at Crosstimbers. John opts to go iiinto a gas station to get us a beer and I wait outside with his I-pod jam box and sit on the curb. One of the drunkest men I have seen in recent years stumbles across the esplanade and comes over to me. He is not speaking even remotely clearly, but in his hand are three crack rocks and he is obviously looking to sell. I turn him down politely and he becomes slightly upset. Once John comes out I let him know that we are dealing with a new frontier in our walks, plus a true idiot. At thie point the guy gets pretty upste when John turns down the crack. Luckily for everyone, a police car with its lights on drives fast and spooks the guy. We take the opportunity to ealk off and he is standing in the lot, talking loudly and incoherently. We are now officially in the hot-sheet motel zone.

Passing over a giant aqueduct, John and I are debating the indisputable merits of the Isley Brothers, their history and excellent covers of classic rock tunes. He dials some up on the jam box and the misty cold night is made whole.

Airline between Crosstimbers and North Main is a mix of appliance stores, light industrial, the ancient and small original farmer's market and a bunch of questionable convenience stores, motels and excellent Mexicna food joints. By this time of night things are relatively quiet in the streets and at the corners. We get hit up for money and use of John's cell phone(!) at the corner of 45 and Airline by a group of older homeless balck guys and a crackhead 17 year old white girl. Rough stuff- everyone is walking too fast, and so are we.

John's feet are killing him and we are both beat. I don't know the mileage at this point, but it's after midnight and we agree to get to the corner of North Main at Airline and catch the bus or a cab down Main to Warrrens and talk over the recap.

A call to Yellow Cab is met with 45 minutes of nothing and because of our fatigue we make the totally out of character amateur move of waitng for the cab across the street from teh bus stop and narrowly miss TWO buses. Idiots. I am out of practice.

Waiting for the cab across from Spanish Flower at another burned out Conoco. John Lomax sitting.

Finally a cab shows up and we feel the pleasant relief of the state of relief. The cab driver is talkative and nice and takes us to Warren's. The cab smells like puke. In Warren's I mention this to John and we both notice that we can still smell the puke. Next thing you know John is stripping off his favorite sweatshirt and tosses it. Puke from the cab on his sweatshirt! Sunday night in H-town. A drink later and it's about 2 AM and time to git. One more cab back to his place and the night is done. What a heck of a walk.

Admittedly, although I had far fewer drinks than I had on a couple of these walks I was as delirious as I have ever been by the end. John's feet were getting ready to start bleeding and he had been noticably slower over the last few miles. Night had fallen for real and Sundays, even in Houston, are mundane in the late hours. It was a walk cut short of downtown, but not short at all; I believe we covered more mileage and wlaked faster in general than ever before. Days later my calf muscels were still sore.

Conclusion- "Los Garages" are not to be missed under any circumstance; Bush?IAH is much further than I thought. - DB


Marco from Houston said...

that Hungry Farmer BBQ used to be named "Sam's BBQ".

The "original" Hungry Farmer BBQ is @ 40 E Crosstimbers, and is much better than this one.

concernedcitizen said...

This was a very good story, you were "off" on some of the intersections you were at, but since you are not from the area it was great!! I like the way you were trully objective and tried to find the "good" in the area. I grew up "on Airline" you could get anywhere I needed to go from Airline, I have since moved away and am sad to see how much it has gone down.Thanks for tanking me down memory lane!!