Dear Houston: We’re About to Have a Blind Date
Posted on June 8, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 36 Comments
So, Houston. Let’s talk.
See, I am coming to you tomorrow, June 9, at Brazos Bookstore, at 4pm.
And the thing is, I’ve never been to Houston before; I haven’t even flown through your airport as far as I know. So I am considering this something of a blind date, you know? As in, you know who I am — I write books — and I know who you are — you’re the fourth largest city in the US by population — but we don’t know who we are together, right? I mean, we could be great, and have one of those days where we just click and talk and tell each other all our secrets and wonder how it was all our lives had lead up to this point… Or we could just make awkward conversation for an hour and mutually decide to skip dessert.
Which will it be? I don’t know. All my friends say you’re pretty awesome. But that just means that if it doesn’t work out, it’s probably me.
So, yeah, Houston. I’m a little nervous.
But that still doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time.
So meet me, Houston, at Brazos Bookstore, tomorrow at 4. I’ll be the one in the red shirt. I’ll tell you stories and answer your questions and even sign a few things for you. It could be a lot of fun. I think it will.
I can’t wait. See you soon.
Don’t miss the statue of George H.W. Bush at the airport. He is facing a stiff breeze, his tie blowing in the wind, coat slung over his shoulder. Last time I was there, it was tucked away down a side hallway, but they seem to have put it somewhere more central since then.
As a Texan, I’m going to go ahead and apologize for the humidity. Houston’s best feature is that it is not Midland/Odessa.
Please let these book-tour-as-dating-site posts be a thing. They’re damn funny.
One of the best things about Houston is all the great food. Do you like Indian? I recommend Shiva or Madras Pavilion, both of which are really close to Brazos.
I miss the food in Houston… sigh…
I don’t know where you’re staying, but Goode Company is right around the corner from the bookstore, and they have all kinds of different food, depening on what you’re in the mood for – and it’s all pretty good.
Be prepared for humidity and horrible traffic.
I wish you would have come to Austin! All things considered, I think you would have more fans, more fun, and a happier overall experience.
I’ll second PJ’s comment about Goode Company. There’s seafood, Mexican and BBQ all in close proximity. The seafood is rather pricey, and I didn’t find the quality as good as their BBQ place. Haven’t tried the Mexican. I think Goode Co. is probably the best BBQ in Houston, it sucks that we don’t live close enough to it to make it a regular destination. Le sigh.
Oh…dunno how much free time you’re gonna have, but if you have a couple of free hours, and you’re any kind of a science/history geek, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (hmns.org) is great.
Houston Airport has the best United Lounge I’ve ever been in. You probably won’t use it, but if you’re flying United, and get stuck there for a few hours, it’s completely worth it.
Cannot believe you didn’t use: Houston, we have a problem. Probably the jet lag.
And, by the way, still can’t buy Redshirts in Romania.
Just my luck you’d visit Texas the weekend I’m recovering from inner ear surgery and not allowed to drive. I was literally 20 minutes away in Clear Lake on Wednesday and Thursday :(
Oh well, since you’ll be in the Pavilion, forget the Indian joints (tasty though they are) and Goode Company (good BBQ, but not great by Texas standards), and head straight for Yao Restaurant & Bar (owned by the family of Houston Rocket’s star Yao Ming). My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
@ David Lombard
He has plenty of fans at the JSC. But I agree for purely selfish reasons. Plus, Austin is significantly less humid being at the highest elevation in Texas.
Houston better treat you right or it’ll have to answer to Austin!
I’ll be packing the family into the car sometime between 6 and 7 AM to drive from Ft. Worth. All of the various *sundries* have been acquired and packed. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a bucket of soapy frogs on such short notice?!
Coolio! I recently started following your blog (a couple weeks back) so this gives me the perfect reason to de-lurk as I’m a Houstonian and, as luck would have it, free on Sat. My odd work schedule usually interferes with my social life (paramedic) though it gives me lots of free time between calls to write. Ahh.. always a flip side to life. I have yet to purchase your book (nothing personal – I hardly read anyone anymore, though Campbell’s latest keeps getting lugged to work and back) but … now I’ll definitely buy a paper copy just to have you sign it and chat with you AND I’ll even promise to read it, lol! Red shirts? Bwahahaa! Has to be sarcastic sci-fi and that has to be good.
I’m really glad I read this, because I thought the reading was at 7, and I would have been very sad indeed.
Given the number of eaterie recommendations: What’s your average weight gain per book tour?
If you get the chance, try a Whataburger. It’s a chain, but they make a tasty burger.
Also, “Redshirts” was great. Finished it last night.
@PeterM — you’re kidding about Whataburger, right?
I’m not a fan of Houston (lived in Austin for many years and went to UT twice). However, the food has always been great. I do think Goode & Co. is very consistently tasty and a reasonable suggestion for a traveler who isn’t going to be driving out to the hinterlands and may not want something schmancy but does want to do something that says “Texas”.
I lived in Houston for a year in the early nineties. On the plus side: there’s good food there. If you like Mexican, I still have fond memories of Ninfa’s after 20+ years. On the minus side: the place is otherwise a shithole. Also, the Bushes. But maybe that’s redundant.
You have a date with Houston? Tell others where you are going and when you expect to be back and bring mace.
PS: What can I say about Redshirts that isn’t completely spoilery? I liked it a lot, but felt vaguely disappointed at the end. Too many Chekhov’s guns left unexploded on the wall or something. Good, but could be better.
I’ll be there, with a couple of friends if I can swing it. I’m looking forward to meeting you.
Goode Company restaurants are terrific. I’ll also recommend Ousie’s Table ( http://ouisiestable.com/home.html ) for a good meal.
I’ll probably be there, depending on kids nap schedule.
And skip Whataburger. There are lots of great local places in the city. Any kind of TexMex you can imagine.
If I were visiting my parents, I could walk to Brazos Books, and I would, for this. But I’m not, so I won’t. Sigh.
There are a lot of neat places to see and/or eat at, but it doesn’t look like you’ll have a lot of time. Who decided Cincinnati-Houston-Chicago was the way to go?
I’ll 3rd the recommendation for Goode Company if you want BBQ. Have the brisket and a slice of pecan pie. Or if you want TexMex go to Ninfa’s…the original one down on Navigation Blvd. on the Ship Channel. Best fajitas anywhere. Another Mexican option, Cadillac Bar on Shepard (I think). The cabrito is good, too bad you’ll pass on the tequila. I love Willy G’s on South Post Oak. Crawfish etouffee (did I spell that right?) to die for. You can eat REALLY well in Houston.
I live in the neighborhood and still need a copy of Redshirts, so hurrah! If you only have a few hours around here, I recommend Torchy’s Tacos and the Menil Collection’s Surrealism and Cy Twombly galleries. Torchy’s isn’t unique (it’s in Austin and Dallas too), but wherever you get the chance, take it. The Menil is always free, parking is easy, and it’s an easy 1.5 mile drive from Brazos, so you can be in and out in minutes having seen a truly world-class collection of Surrealist work–especially Magritte, Tanguy, and Ernst if they have everything up.
Dammit. Thanks for giving me the first reason to regret leaving Houston since I escaped three years ago, John! And thanks to everyone else for making me have to remember how much I miss all the good food in H-town…but nothing else!
I’ll be the one in the red shirt
Okay, fess up, you’re wearing the same red shirt for all your appearances right? I hope you’re washing it.
So, fellow Houstonians, are we all going to risk life and limb and show up in red shirts?
Brazos Books is a great place, and it’s very cool of you to support the local bookstore. Another book store is two short blocks away, Murder By the Book, where Mary Robinette Kowal made an appearance last month. Will we be able to buy copies of Redshirts at the signing?
As a couple people recommended, the Natural Science museum is fantastic. There’s an astounding permanent display of fossils, as befits a city full of geologists.
My experience of Whataburger is that it’s a step above McDonald’s…but only one. If you’re looking for “fast food burger & fries” it’s okay, and if not then not.
There’s an excellent restaurant called the Backstreet Café a couple miles north of where you’re signing; it’s where we take out-of-town company. Or if you’re looking for BBQ, I agree with Goode Co. — even if you don’t eat there you should at least swing by and have a gander at the giant armadillo statue.
Goode is convenient and passable, but it’s by no means the best in town. That’d be Gatlin’s on 19th street in the heights, no place near Brazos but still inside the loop.
The aforementioned Ouisie’s is quite good, but if I wanted great food also closeish to Brazos I’d go to Pondicheri, a new Indian place owned by the same folks as the higher-end Indika.
As for red shirts, I’d be there in color except for the awful fact that I’m posting this from Abu Dhabi.
@jay lonner: You’d have to try hard to be MORE wrong about Houston. We’re a great food town — on par with anywhere, seriously — and an even greater arts town. Sure, the summer blows and we have a wholesale lack of hills, but all places have a few downsides.
pS: The Bushes WE have are the elder statesman variety; W lives in _Dallas_.
(Incidentally, Murder By The Book is also where Richard Kadrey read earlier this year.)
If you go to Goode Company BBQ be sure to pick up a Bull Testicle handbag. It is uniquely Texas in a weird sort of way. It makes a great gift if you have a strange sense of humor.
Anyway enjoy Houston, your publisher picked a good day for it (not near as hot as it could be). I seriously considered driving down from Austin but a family emergency just came up. Please come to Austin on the next tour.
Last time I went to Huston, we traveled by Amtrak. The trip out was cool, however, on the way back, the cab driver did not know where the station was, so the trip took well over three hours. (I finally pulled out the iPhone and used GPS to guide the driver in.)
We did not miss the train because, lucky for us, three kids had been ran over by the train before it got to our station. (Note to all 12 year old kids, don’t play basketball on the tracks.) When I stepped out of the station to make a few quick calls, some random person who was pharmaceutically enhanced and liked to talk to himself (far more than he liked to take showers), sat down and started hitting on my friend Christina. I don’t think it was a homeless person because, When Christina told him, she was not interested, he thought she said, please buy a train ticket across the country, so you can sit with us the entire way.
We managed to talk the train company into having armed guards sit next to him and put him on the far end of the train. (They would have kept him at the station, however, I think they wanted to get rid of the smell.)
On the way back, some jerk jacked my iPad. Huston was a nice city, just stay away from the train station, if you are with a Greek supermodel.
John, Have you ever did a book signing in Vancouver, Canada? The city is home to quite a few SFF writers. I went to several signings years back, William Gibson and Spider Robinson being my favourites. Chapters or Indigo Books would certainly host an event for you. PS Indigo Books in North Vancouver used to have the best MIDNIGHT Harry Potter releases. They were so beautiful . . . kids staying up with their parents in a big bookstore, waiting for the next book in the series. There was a Starbucks in the corner and . . . costume contests. We need another J. K. Rowling.
John, I dragged two of my kids to Brazos Bookstore with me, got there a bit late, and stood immediately to the right of your table. The reading/performance from “Redshirts” was really good! We didn’t stick around to have a book or front plate signed because my 10-year-old son in the green “Grinch” t-shirt couldn’t stand still and really wanted to leave once the Q&A session was over. Maybe next time. I enjoyed your reading and the Q&A, as did my 12-year-old son.