Actually, it’s been gone for a few years. Not my childhood (that’s been gone for a long time). A piece of my childhood. A big neon roach sign on the side of a freeway. A sign that, coincidentally, was 42 when it was taken off its post. Interesting.
I’m not a fan of the creepy-crawlies, and roaches are pretty much at the top of my “most hated” list, so you might wonder why I miss that ridiculous thing. It’s because when I was a kid and we drove down that stretch of road, my parents would say, “There’s the roach restaurant where they serve roaches,” and I would squeal in disgust (but also a bit of delight, because what could be grosser?) (gross shit is very interesting and funny to little kids) (even prissy little girl kids, like I used to be).
I don’t travel down 59 that often these days, and the sign hadn’t crossed my mind in a while. But there were a few mentions of it this week because the company is “going with a different look” and decided to dismantle the thing after keeping it in storage for eight years. I guess they wrote a press release about it. I would say this isn’t news, except it is. Here we are.
Thinking about this sign for a couple of days made me think about the relationship I have with my hometown. In a city full of people from elsewhere (and a place recently dubbed “most diverse” in the nation), my family runs deep. I’m third generation Houstonian. My grandfather was born in a house (not a hospital) near where the downtown library stands now. I was born in more luxe accommodations, though I can’t say I turned out any better.
Most people have a conflicted relationship with the place they’re from. I’m no different. I love Houston for its “I don’t give a fuck” attitude and lack of pretention. I hate it for its brutal summers and lack of physical beauty. I love the fact that a certain corner will remind me of people who are no longer here, and I hate the fact that Houston tears down its history so often that you can’t rely on visual landmarks to navigate. If you don’t believe me, drive the few blocks of Kirby between Richmond and Westheimer.
Things like the Holder’s roach sign make me think of a Houston that is gone. When Mason was my bratty younger brother so full of potential, my grandparents still had some color in their hair, my parents were awaiting the arrival of my brother Tohner, Antone’s poboys were good and you could ride a horse in a small park on a busy street corner near the Astrodome (which was still being treated as the 8th wonder of the world). Now Mason and my grandparents are gone, the Astrodome is full of mold and falling in on itself and the little park with the horses is now home to a CVS. Or maybe it’s a Walgreens. Time passes. Shit changes. Roach signs get cut up for scrap, and it’s sort of news because it’s just another reminder of things that are gone, never to return.
My kingdom for a tacky fucking neon cockroach sign.