the I-10

Not counting the eight years I lived in Industry, Texas when my family departed the big city for more a more bucolic setting, I’ve lived within 15 miles of the hospital where I was born. That’s 35 years in a pretty tight area, especially considering Houston’s sprawl. My shortest-distance move was out of the garage apartment I lived in for 11 years (where I was pretty sure someone would eventually find me buried under a mound of cats*) into a house with James a half-mile away.

My grandfather was born in a house downtown near where the Houston Public Library now stands. The house was within a short walk of the hospital where I was born almost 55 years later. My mother was born in Houston, and my father got here when he was five years old. And both my brothers were born here, too. My Houston roots run deep, and I’ve had a habit of running the same ground for most of my years here.

In fact, I’ve spent the past 14 years living 1.5 miles or less from Interstate 10, which Houstonians commonly refer to as “I-10.” When we visited my friend Bree in LA last year, she gave us shortcut directions to avoid traffic on what she called “the 10.” These regional variations aren’t related to an accent you can hear, but they’re an accent just the same. This quiz nailed that I’m from Houston and, oddly, suggests I have some New Orleans influence too.

I joked with my brother yesterday that I’m going to become “Texas Crystal” when we move to California. Start wearing boots and really up the twang that I’ve always been relieved not to have. (I was already wearing a shirt with the Astrodome on it while we were having this conversation.) James piped up, “Please don’t do that.”

And I won’t. Probably.

Maybe I’ll do a hybrid instead. Call that particular interstate “the I-10.” Serve sliced avocados with my grits. Go fishing…for sanddabs…from a kayak…while drinking Lone Star.

probably the most "Texas" picture that exists of my brothers and me (this was a few years ago) (I mean, decades)
the most “Texas” picture that exists of my brothers and me (this was a few years ago) (I mean decades)

*Regarding the “crazy cat lady” motif, why cats? Dogs are much more exuberant in their displays of love. Seems like a lonely lady would get more emotional gratification out of having a dog than a cat that barely sniffs her direction when she enters the room.

What I’m saying is, cats are assholes.

5 thoughts on “the I-10

  1. Actually, all non-native Californians are generically referred to as “Okies.” Again, we have J. Steinbeck to thank for that. It won’t matter. The military presence in that region means that yours will not be the only voice with a foreign accent. It is fun, though, to enjoy the Stranger In A Strange Land effect for a while, although my typical approach has usually, when out a-roamin’, to take the advice of Pliny about how to act when in Rome.

    I have often wondered what it would have been like to spend my whole life in the southern Indiana town I was born in. But I was born under the sign of the crab and as an adult have never lived more than an easy bicycle ride from one ocean or another. I can’t imagine life any other way, or I would be living down the street from Jim Banks. California has the sea AND the mountains. I have zipped down a hill in fresh snow and then watched the sun go down with a beer on the beach. The beach was in Malibu and there were horses.

    I’m having a blast reading about your migration. It has awakened a spark in me that has been long dormant. The I-10 is a heartbreaker, in my case, partly because of it’s interminable length from coast to coast, but also because of the multitude of memories of drama and loss as I scrabbled, crab-like, along it’s too many miles chasing love and money.

    I’m heading back out on the road to remodel yet more McD’s and won’t be posting on my blog. That means I’ll be coming around blogjacking. My favorite victims are you and bangs and sometimes your brother. Hey, we Okies have to stick together, right?


  2. And here I thought Okies came from Muskogee…or is it the other way around?

    Houston is such an international city, there isn’t really a definable “Houston” accent anymore. Or even a definable Houstonian. Austin likes to act like it’s separate from Texas, but Houston is really the city that is its own territory.

    And that’s one of the things I find attractive about Monterey. That there are all sorts of people there without an easily defined “native.” We plan on fitting in so well, people will assume we’re from there and, randomly, happen to know how to make great Tex-Mex.

    I can’t express how long this move has been in the works. In some ways, it’s always been there, humming in the background. Guess that’s the thing about being in your mid-40s. You have enough sense to know how to make something (realistically) happen and still enough youth to actually do it. (Though my knees have already started protesting as we pack boxes and break down furniture in preparation.)

    Now that the secret’s out, maybe I can start blogging more regularly. All I wanted to talk about was this move, and that was the only thing I couldn’t talk about. The rather dramatic difference between this location and the next should provide some interesting fodder, methinks.

    And, please, blockjack away. Always happy to have you stop by.

  3. I mentioned to TJ how when someone you know is doing a big life change it makes one a bit antsy. Why is that??? Is it because of the excitement and you want to feel that emotion? Or, on the darker side, is it because your own life sucks monkey balls and the feeling that everybody is better off than you?? I would hope it is the first reason!!
    My #3 son graduates from CSU this spring and already has a job lined up (yea!!) and I am totally feeding off his energy and excitement of starting a new life even though I have lived in the same place now for 36 years and have had the same job for 28 years. I will not become an old fuddy duddy, “Hey you kids get off my lawn” kind of guy. Wait….I might already be there since I used fuddy duddy in a sentence.
    Growing up, we were always the family that watched the neighbors change, never were going to move and then, bam, my Dad was transfered and off I went to change high schools in my junior year. My parents then lived in four different places after that. I have only lived in four places.
    I guess for me, I can live in the same place and not get to restless as long as I keep myself involved in things that are outside my four walls.

    As for cats….we have one…he keeps the mice on the run….but, he is kind of an asshole now that you mention it. And, he doesn’t care about what I think.

  4. Jim, you won’t have to worry about anyone thinking you’re a fuddy or a duddy once you complete your bicycle trip down the PCH.

    And I get what you’re saying. I’ve always been the person who never went anywhere (not counting vacations, which I didn’t really start taking until my mid-30s). I’ve watched friends move to places near (Austin and San Antonio) and far (Paris and London), always wishing I had the balls/opportunity to do that myself. But, wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which fills up faster.

    It certainly helps that I have an enthusiastic partner on this journey. Don’t think I would have gone anywhere otherwise.

  5. The Whispering Pines is a kind of wacky cat refuge. It seems everyone has a couple cats and usually when these people move out they leave the cats. These orphans breed, of course…currently the feline population is higher than ever. but I haven’t laid eyes on a rat all winter and that is unusual. So I’ll take the cats. Plus they are kind of fun to watch, like little lions or tigers. My corner of the Park is wilder than the rest of the place (in more ways than one) and I feed the squirrels which means I have a pride of cats around most of the time.

    I don’t know what they think of me…the Keeper of the Squirrels, maybe.

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