Adventures in the Big City

Hello, folks–I am once again connected to the digital world!  I had intended to show you pictures of my apartment today, but we were too busy having adventures today to finish furnishing it.  We won’t add much–just a table and chairs and a lamp.  There is a gigantic Salvation Army store in the area, so we will pay them a visit tomorrow.

In the meantime, I am no longer homeless, and for the first time in my life I am living in a home owned by someone else.  It’s great–we feel like we’ve outsourced home ownership!  We have gone from living in a town with two traffic lights, to living in the fourth largest city in the US.  (Technically, we live in a suburb, but we’re just outside of the city limits).

Naturally, such a transition would bring with it some adventures.

So, today, I am going to entertain you with some stories of our adventures in Houston.  I have to tell you, last summer, when I was at the marina in Ludington, I never imagined that a year later, I would be here!

Story #1: Fun With the GPS

My parents were nervous about driving in Houston.  So they had us take the lead.  Rob has driven through Houston once, and I have twice–but, other than that, Detroit is the only city any of us had experience driving in.  While it’s smaller that Houston, it’s set up in such a way that one can’t help but get lost.  Detroit is enough to scare anyone out of city driving.

But, we were good.  We had the GPS on our Smartphone going, and we’d even bought the larger data plan.  We would take 59 in, then get on the tollway, which would take us straight to El Dorado Blvd, which would be our new address. 

The first problem occurred after we drove up the crazy overpass to enter the tollway.

“EZ Pass Only” the sign said.  The tollway no longer had tollbooths.  During the two months that we were frantically emptying out the house, Texas’s DOT was busy removing the tollbooths and computerizing their system.   As we do not yet possess EZ Passes, we had to quickly find a way off of the tollway, and find a road going in a similar direction.  We took the last exit, which led us to the beltway.  Instead of flying above all the rush hour traffic, we were caught in the thick of it.

We were sure we saw my parents enter the tollway, but they, too, bailed at the last minute.  Our GPS gave us a more complicated route, then it died because the battery couldn’t charge fast enough.

Fortunately, every road in Houston goes in the same direction, so we guessed, until we saw something familiar.  We temporarily lost my parents, who were following their GPS, but eventually we all ended up on El Dorado.

Story #2:  Anybody Home?

So, around 6:45, we arrived at the apartment complex.  We slipped through the gate, behind someone, and parked in front of the office.  The door was locked, with a sign up saying, “Will Return at 8:00.”

Still frazzled from the drive through Houston (did I mention it was 102 degrees that day, and our car has no air conditioning?), I could have cried.

I called the number on the sign, but only got management’s voice mail.  We were prepared to meet my parents at their hotel, when I found a way, through the phone system, to contact maintenance’s voicemail.  The super called me up within 10 minutes, and said he would make some calls.

While we were waiting, Rob decided to take a ride on his tall bike.  He attracted a lot of attention, and one resident–who talked just like us–approached, looked at our license plates, and congratulated us on getting out.

Finally, about 30 minutes later, the manager arrived and I got to sign my life away.  There are some very important rules at this apartment complex.  Here are some that you need to know about:

–These apartments are not infested at all.  We have agreed to make sure that we ourselves are not infested, and to call the exterminator if we happen to be.

–We have agreed not to make mold.

–We can have our trash picked up 3 times a week.  I’m just going to pretend I don’t know that.  That would enable me way too much…

–We have agreed to eat the white chocolate-macadamia cookies that are baked in the office every morning.  Okay, we didn’t put that in writing, but we shall do it anyway.

So we got moved in to our apartment, which didn’t take long because we didn’t bring a lot of stuff.  You’ll get pictures tomorrow, but I will tell you that it is perfect.  It’s not too big, has a cute kitchen and a nice balcony/patio, and we can use grills, the laundry room, and either of the two pools.  Which we’ll be doing a lot of, since it is crazy hot.

Story #3:  Real Food

In Harrison, Michigan, we had a Spartan store and a Save a Lot.  They were both overpriced and had little-to-no selection.  Our small independent store was better–and on the other side of the path through the woods–but the selection was still poor, and the produce were always past their prime.

For real food, we had to drive an hour to Mount Pleasant, where we could visit Kroger and the food co-op.  There was a small farmer’s market on weekends, and the Amish store was on the way.

Now, we live 2 miles from a Kroger.  I went there today.

First, keep in mind that I have been craving real food for some time.  We have spent the past 2 weeks living with relatives, who knew that they would not see us until Christmas.  So they made us their tastiest, sugary treats.  Before that, we had been in survival mode, eating our fair share of Hot N Ready pizzas.  Junk food has affected my waistline, energy level, and mood.  It got to the point, on the way down, where I skipped dinner, because I couldn’t stomach any more garbage.

So, here I am, at Kroger, in Houston.  (There are many Krogers in Houston–this one was in Clear Lake).  It was huge.  Like, Texas huge.  Which makes sense…

But it was WHAT they had, that was impressive.  They had sushi, a bulk foods section similar to the one at the co-op in Michigan, a huge natural foods section, nearly all produce available organic, cheap seafood (in Michigan, it was prohibitively expensive), and a large variety of grassfed beef.  They sold kombucha (the real kind, that you have to be 21 to buy) at the grocery store!  There were vegetables for sale that I had never heard of.  So, of course, I had to buy them.

Which brings me to my next issue.

With the veggies, were cactus leaves.  I have never eaten a cactus.  Now I have the opportunity.  Why would I want to go my whole life without eating something, knowing that I have the choice to do so?  So, of course, I bought one.  I have e-mailed my foodie (and Houston-dwelling) friends, hoping for some suggestions on how to prepare it.

Soon, we will eat a cactus.  I will let you know how tasty it is.

Story #4: My Morning Walk

I woke up this morning, feeling guilty and negative.  I was analyzing my past behavior, and feeling unworthy.  I tried to rationalize it, saying to myself that I had been suffering this winter, and that is why I acted selfishly at times.

The rationalizing didn’t work.  Then I read a poem that a friend wrote on their blog, about staying in the present moment.

It dawned on me that my reality now involves taking a walk through palm trees every morning.  EVERY morning, even in December.  That I am surrounded by birds, flowers, and really cool looking lizards (and no cockroaches or snakes!).  By moving here, and making this my reality, I have basically forfeited my right to whine and feel sorry for myself.  What’s done, is done.  I’m not proud of my past, but I’ve learned.  Because I’ve learned, I can teach.

No matter how much of a screw-up you are, if you wake up and see palm trees in the morning, you don’t get to complain.

So, here are some pictures from my morning walk today.  I think we chose a good neighborhood.  Don’t you agree?

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15 thoughts on “Adventures in the Big City

  1. Congratulations on getting out! I am glad that you made it and that you like your new place. It is a major adjustment living in the south, but I think you will love it. And you will really want to get that air conditioning fixed. It will still be hot for at least two or three months!

    • Yup, it needs a new compressor and condenser. Rob is going to buy the parts on e-bay, then we’ll find a shop to do it. Or he’ll do it, if it is easy. We’re in the back of the complex, and we saw some people doing a pretty major car repair yesterday.

    • We are totally going swimming today. I promised myself that when I moved here, I wasn’t going to spend all day inside (although I am loving the central air–I always thought a/c was frivolous, when I lived in MI). We’re going swimming, then we’re totally grilling out in the courtyard tonight!

  2. Congratulations – and enjoy those palm trees. I’m so jealous. And don’t forget to tell us about eating cactus. I’ve been mean to try it. Pati, who has a cooking show on PBS, said it tasted kind of like green beans.

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