Across Texas (part three)

In none of our previous journeys through a single U.S. state have we accumulated such great amounts of photographic material to require a three-part series to present it. So, I guess the “everything is bigger in Texas” saying just proves right after all.

If you read parts one and two, you already learned about the places we had visited in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. This closing segment of our Texas road diary features Houston and Galveston—the bottom-right of the great Texas Triangle.

Houston

We started off Houston with one of its most known landmarks, the We Love Houston sign, which, quite frankly, could use a better spot.

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We could not get inside the Art Car Museum, out second destination, because it is closed on Sundays, so the best I could manage was the following shot from behind the fence. Too bad, for the place is surely interesting.

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Next, we proceeded to the (exhibition) lot outside David Adickes’s sculpture studio on Summer Street. It hosts busts of American presidents of rather imposing magnitude and workmanship. Over their heads are towering the statues of the Beatles’ bandmates, presumably in the outfits of the Sergeant Pepper’s era.

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Market Square was next, with the Houston Is Inspired Mural right by its side.

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At last in the center of the city and cheerful for the day’s first patches of clear sky, we started recognizing the urban virtues of Houston.

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We continued doing so from inside the cozy corners of the Discovery Green park.

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An astute reader may already notice how artistically exuberant Houstonians are. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art—as well as the various sites we passed on the way—further attest to that deduction. (The Orange Center also happened to be closed, but I was able to peek over its walls to behold the phantasmagoria awaiting inside.)

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Still, Houston does not stop there. Building designs, fence decorations, and even bridges are all implemented in their own unique ways.

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One would think that at least religious institutions would maintain more traditional appearances… and would surely stumble into the Chapel of Saint Basil to find himself mistaken.

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Still tuned to the artistic wave, we paid a visit to the Menil Collection for more samples of unconventional creativity in a more conventional setting.

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Yep, certainly not your everyday still life canvas.

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Before the next big stop of what was unfolding into a very cultural afternoon, we dashed to the wall of the Biscuit Home store

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…and, because it seems impossible to see one curious thing without seeing a bunch of others in Houston, spotted an outdoor chess board, complete with two-feet figures, beside an upscale restaurant; and a fountain beaming up right the middle of some unidentified water basin.

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Ironically, perhaps, these finds stood out more to us that the half-barren Asia Society Center, whose only art gallery we decided to skip for the jacked up fee.

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To make up for that miss, we headed straight to the Contemporary Art Museum, and yet again, before we approached it, Houston shone through in its inventive and original colors.

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To top it all, every museum’s visitor is welcomed to one of the most bizarre collections ever collected.

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I wonder if the authors’ psychotherapists find these works as disturbing as I do.

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Having seen this, I suppose objectivism is not a huge thing these days.

Fortunately, there are other forms of visual arts, some of which impose stricter limitations on the extents of one’s planophrasia. Sculpture being one, it was both a sobering and revitalizing experience to wander into the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, practically steps away from the museum door.

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At that point we came to realize that we had outperformed our schedule and could, in fact, afford a brief excursion to the nearby Galveston. It was great to see the big water for a change and even set foot on one of Texas’s few beaches; but I will have to come back to this in a minute, because I do not want to disrupt the geochronological layout I have adhered to in all of my previous posts. For the moment, let me recount the rest of our time in Houston.

We returned from Galveston long before dark and halted for a bit at an unnamed metal sculpture lot at the intersection of Belfort Street and South Freeway.

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This may not be the wildest metalwork you have ever seen, but it is surely different and amusing.

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Afterwards, we took a stroll in the Hermann Park, having chosen, somehow, the less picturesque half of it—the one without the lake, the Japanese garden, and the reflective pool.

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The fast-setting sun prompted us to relocate to a park more suited for nighttime photography. With its original seated sculptures woven of white metal letters, and the unhindered overlook of the Downtown Houston skyline, the Buffalo Bayou Park is a popular hangout spot after dusk.

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With our mission for the day fully accomplished, we dared to even plan a few additional things for the following morning. These included an ascent to the JPMorgan Chase Tower (which was closed the previous day) and a superficial (or rather subterranean) acquaintance with the Houston Tunnels.

As one could expect, the observation floor of the Tower is fully enclosed in glass, whose reflectiveness and general lack of maintenance always degrade the quality of photographs taken from the inside. So much, in fact, that I am not even including any of those we took in this post.

As for the Tunnels, we absolutely enjoyed them. What they are is an underground network of pedestrian walkways interconnecting dozens of destinations in the downtown area.

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I found this idea brilliant for several reasons: First, the Tunnels are climate-controlled, which is truly a blessing during a hot Texas summer. Second, the Tunnels promote a healthier mode of travel; subways, in comparison, are often dirty and overcrowded. Third, with lots of inexpensive cafés, restaurants, repair shops, and even banks, one can get things done quickly and without the struggle of having to find a parking spot, never mind paying for one.

In a particular bank office (Wells Fargo, if I recall correctly) they show off a huge vault door, which is kept open during the business hours. As I was about to photograph the piece, a receptionist checked my intention with the claim that it was against their security policy. I even requested to talk to the manager, insisting that I had seen similar pictures online, and that anyone interested could as easily find them there. She dared me to furnish them, but none of the ones that popped up on my phone she identified as theirs. In the end, I was only granted a shot of the vault aperture but not the door itself. (In all conscience, the manager might have been right, for I cannot find a matching photo on the Web at the moment :-)

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Having returned back to the ground level, we made but a few quick stops before finally bidding farewell to Houston and shipping off to Dallas, as I explained in the first part of this series.

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Which leaves us with just a bit of unfinished business.

Galveston

As I noted above, the day before we left Houston we made a brief sally to Galveston, probably the most (and next to none) popular sea resort in Texas. Of the three or so hours we were on the island we probably spent one exploring the area in the neighborhood of the Moody Mansion Museum,

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one bumming about the marina,

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and one finding a strip of shoreline quickly accessible from the road and actually spending some time by the water (with whatever corollary scenes we caught a glimpse of).

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And this concludes the Texas road diary I started almost two months ago.

 

The map:

map

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