Saturday 9 December
7:30 a.m.: Coffee in bed, browsing the internet for cars (yes, I’m still looking but have survived surprisingly well without one so far).
8:50 a.m.: Breakfast at Cenote, “East Austin’s Neighborhood Patio Cafe” while waiting for the local branch of the Austin Public Library to open at 10.00. I will pick up two books I had reserved: Getting Started in Consulting and The Gates of the Alamo. A book for the future and a book about the past.
9:57 a.m.: At the door of the Terrazas Branch of the Austin Public Library, I am impressed to see a small group of young men waiting with me.
10:00 a.m.: The sliding door opens. The group of young men rush past me and head directly to the restroom. They live on the streets of Austin and the restroom is a place where they can attend to their needs in privacy and with dignity. I have traveled throughout the developed and developing world and I have seen people living on the streets of Bangalore, Oslo, Colombo, Paris…still, the sight of them in one of the world’s richest countries depresses me. It is heartening to observe the library staff who are kind and polite to everyone who enters the doors here.
Houston? Why Not?
It has now been a few weeks since I came to Austin and I’ve just returned from a week visiting friends in Washington. I have now decided to settle down in Houston rather than in Austin. After years of visiting my parents in Houston and thinking “I could never live here”, I have to come realize that I could actually live here/there. Here are some salient facts about my soon-to-be new home:
- Houston is the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the United States.
- Houston’s economy is larger than that of Norway and Sweden. In fact, only 21 countries in the world have a GDP larger than Houston. Houston is home to 26 Fortune 500 companies, many of which are in the oil and gas industry and thousands of people are employed by the Port of Houston, NASA and the Texas Medical Center.
- Residents of Houston eat out more times a week than in any other city in America
- Houston is one of America’s “fattest cities” with an estimated 34% of the population classified as overweight (see 3 above)
- Houston has one of the best culinary scenes in the country (more than 10,000 restaurants representing more than 70 countries and regions of America) (see 3 and 4 above)
- It is home to the largest medical center in the world with 54 medicine-related institutions situation on 1,000 acres of land with an average of 7.2 million visits per year. There are more heart surgeries performed in the Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world (see 3, 4 and 5 above)
- Houston is the fourth most populous city in the nation with 2.3 million residents (add one more in a few weeks’ time)
- Houston has the third largest number of languages spoken in the US surpassed only by New York and Los Angeles
- The first traditional Hindu Mandir in the US was built in Houston.. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was assembled like a puzzle. Consisting of 33,000 pieces of Italian marble and Turkish limestone, the temple was carved by hand and took 28 months to build.
- The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of the biggest rodeos in the world, attracting 2.5 million attendees each year. It is also known for serving foods like deep-fried Nutella Balls and fried Twinkies (see 3, 4, 5 and 6 above).
- Beyoncé is from Houston.
As I move into my 57th year on this earth, I have come to know a bit about myself and a bit about life. Here is what I am pretty sure of this Saturday morning:
- I can change my mind whenever I want to and no one will die because I did.
- There is no perfect place to live but there are places that feel good, especially those where family and friends are close by.
- Living close to a green space where I can run has become a priority for me in my search for an apartment…that would not have even entered my mind 7 years ago.
- Living in a State where it is legal for licensed permit holders to carry a gun openly causes me more concern than if I lived in a State that did not allow this.
- Buying a car is a horrible experience…it just is…there is no way around it.
- Buying a bike is a pleasant experience…I want to buy one every day.