Hello Houston

It’s midday when Ruby and I hop into my car armed only with a Lonely Planets travel guide and a quarter ounce.

We had a plan. I had two tentative appointments, one for the job I had lined up and one for a place to live. It felt like a monstrous weight on my shoulders but I kept reminding myself that all I can do, is be myself and do my best.

No one can convince me that I was in my car for five hours. It felt more like two! Ruby and I had a great time on the road together.

It was almost five when we saw the signs that read: Houston 70 Miles. As the number counted down I expected to feel butterflies or something but I just felt…peace. As we drive up I10 we can see the skyline from the distance.

“Get ready friend. Here we go!” Ruby announces and motions toward her camera. It’s just after sunset and the skyline is lit up as we enter the city. I roll down my window and position my arm on the glass in order to get a good picture as we pass by on the expressway.

Ruby’s screaming at me, “Girl, don’t drop my camera. Put the strap on your arm! Put the strap on your arm!”

I think I got a few good shots but I can’t tell. One more glance out of the window and my eyes are captivated. What a beautiful city!

We see more chinese places than we’ve ever seen in our lives. And more Mexican restaurants too. There were these big Fiesta gricery stores and there was so much damn traffic! It was crazy as we headed downtown toward the Museum District.

I came into Houston with a little more than $50 cash but God surely must have set me up with the right friend because Ruby had done her research and found us an inexpensive place to stay; a hostel.

I called and reserved our space before we got there and it wasn’t difficult to find with our mapquest directions. It was located in the Museum District. We couldn’t help but smile with satisfaction as we drove through the neighborhood. What a nice area! We laughed as we pulled up to the old rickety house on the corner.

“Dawg,” Ruby assured me. “If it’s unnacceptable then we’ll just get a hotel.” But I knew we didn’t have money for that. I’d rather just grin and bear it, whatever happens.

I stepped into a pile of mud as soon as I stepped out of the car, completely ruining my nice pearl white Air Force Ones. I rolled my eyes and strolled up to the porch. We walked up to the front desk and were greeted by the front desk clerk, a man with a sly smile.

Ruby paid for our space; a steal at $14.50 a night per person. We were given a key to the house and a short tour which included the common areas like the living room, the kitchen, the computer room, TV room and the upstairs dorm where we were assigned to room C.

We walked timidly upstairs, our eyes wide in anticipation of this adventure. Door C was on the right, we paused before opening the door and then turned the knob slowly. We found a room very similar to the ones we lived in college. There were 4 sets of bunkbeds. We grabbed one set and put our name tags on the railings.

We smiled at each other. Our minds communicating what our hearts were eminating; damn this is nice! Both me and my girl were in full “let’s have an adventure” mode so we saw every opportunity as a chance to do some crazy shit just to say we have done it or seen it. Ruby is a true tourist. She will whip out that damn Lonely Planets book while she’s driving if she has to. She’s great with maps and organizing and all that shit and I just sat back and allowed her to control the trip. She drove. She picked the places to go. I was in pure heaven.

It seems like I am always the person in control. Or maybe I set it up that way. But with this, I knew Ruby had it down and I am so glad she volunteered to come with me. I didn’t even ask her. She loves me that much!

So we rest at the hostel for a minute and call our loved ones. My phone isn’t working so Ruby and I are sharing her phone, or rather I took over her phone because everyone was freaking out worrying about me. Except my Mama. She said, “I never worry about you because I know your friends are going to take care of your crazy behind.”

When I told her that I was staying at a hostel she said, “A hostel? Like the movie?”

“There’s a movie?”

“Girl! you betta put a chair under the door when you go to sleep! I can’t believe you girl! Watch your back!”

I laugh and look around at the cozy room, clean floors and unique wall art. I felt like I was in another world.

“I’ll be alrght Mama.” We hang up.

Ruby looks at me with a mischievous grin. “Call your people dawg. Let’s go out!”

“Hell yeah!”

I pick up my phone and call the only person I know in the city. He’s actually affiliated with young CEO. He doesn’t answer so we head over look up Dave & Busters on the internet and we head over there for dinner. I had never been because I really don’t like games and stuff like that but I was in it for the experience. We sat down in the game room at the bar and I ordered chicken fingers but they called it something else. When our food came we were astonished at the portion on our plates.

My plate was so huge. You know how you would get four chicken fingers in a usual meal at a restaurant? I had EIGHT chicken fingers. I was like, “Damn! Who’s supposed to eat all that?” I tried my best though because they were good and I was hungry.

Then we got the call from my contact. “I’m over here at Sky Bar. Here are the directions..” he says.

We head over.

We read all the street names as we go by. Let’s see how many I can remember overall? I remember Montrose. Flannin. Crawford. I10, 288, 610. Bissonet, LeBranch, Prospect, Rice Blvd, Richmond Avenue, Southmore, Beechnut, KTY FWY, West Main.

Ya’ll the streets here are contemporary. At intersections there were these markers that hung in a circle in the middle of the street. The architecture in the Museum District was simply amazing. Ruby thinks people in Texas don’t know how to do anything but SPEED. Ruby did the driving, and I just held on for dear life as we navigated the city going to and from appointments and trying to get a grip on the layout of the city.

We found the contact in the parking lot at Kroger and he pointed us toward a building. “Go over there until and go up the elevator to the 10th floor. It’s free for ladies all night long.”

We thank him and stroll on. We’re not too jazzy. In fact, we’re both still wearing what we had on while traveling. I’m wearing my signature purple sweater. I love that sweater even though it makes me feel like a linebacker because my arms are so big. But I still wear it anyway because that color looks good on me.

I’m crazy…

So we go up to the building and through the glass doors and there’s a line to get on the elevator. So you KNOW me and Ruby are sizing everyone up, looking at what they have on, how they are strutting and what’s the local fashion.

The place was beautiful. The tables were nicely decorated and you could tell it was a kinda older, sophisticated crowd.. The best thing was the view. It was a magnificent view of the city. All lit up and shiny, it seemed so inviting.

By the time we go inside there’s no place for us to sit so we stand near the bar in front of the stage so we can see the live entertainment. What Ruby remembers most is the “oversized women”. She says she kept seeing women that were extremely statuesteue. Ruby, at 5’5″ says she felt very small next to the gaggle of women who were over 6 feet tall.

The crowd was mixed age wise. Some young women were there and some older couples and younger men too. Everyone looked as though they were out to have a good time and even the women smiled at you if you caught their eye. That was friendly.

I didn’t drink because I wasn’t trying to get loose on my first night out. I just watched how the people interacted. The vibe I got from men and women was neutral. I couldn’t tell if they could tell we were new.

Ruby says all the men there think they are a pimp or a hustler or a bitzniss man. She thinks Florida is too real for the rest of the South. “Because in Florida if you own it you own it, if you don’t you don’t. They don’t fake like they have things they don’t. “

Ruby’s being entertained by some drunk guy at the bar and I slip downstairs because I’m a little warm as the crowd in the Sky Bar gets thicker and thicker. I post up by the door to watch everyone as they come in. I’m on the phone with JB and I’m describing what the women look like and what the men are wearing.

“There are a lot of thick women here,” I tell him.

“Hell yeah.. That’s why the boys at the magazine used to fight over being assigned to go to Houston. Those women…mmm, they are a little thicker but it’s not a big deal to them. They wear their weight almost with pride. We like that.”

I was looking closely to find the downlow men. I looked really hard but I didn’t see any that would make me blink. But I didn’t see any that would make me want to meet him either.

The music was the best part. One set was belted by a white man who sounded just like a black man and he turned the place out. The bartenders were excellent. She kept the wine glasses full. Ruby had three glasses of the house chardonnay and was feeling lovely.

We both left in a hurry to explore our way back to the hostel.

When we got there our roommates had returned. They were three young asian woman with laptops downloading pictures. We exchanged hellos and smiles as Ruby and I settled into our bedtime routines and then into our bunks.

“Dawg,” she whispered from the top bunk.

“Huh?” I whispered back.

“We’re in a HOSTEL!”

“I know dawg! This is tight!” I squeal. “Good looking out.”

“It’s the BOOK. Ya’ll be laughing at me but we’re going to have a good trip thanks to Lonely Planets.”

“I’m sure we will dawg. Shut up and go to sleep world traveler.”

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