my first ever week in TEXAS / by geoffrey nichols

this state seemingly looms larger in popular culture than it does in actual acreage, but even the scant amount of "Lone Star" state which i have seen so far (the Megopolis of Houston) is rather daunting.

i arrived in the northwest suburb of Cypress around 7 last sunday after a 5+ hour drive from New Orleans (where Pixie & I watched our beloved Arsenal win on the final kick)

my dear friend Lloyd, whom i met 16 years ago on a flight from NYC to Ontario, California, has been living here in Texas for the past 14 years and has graciously invited me to visit countless times so i was really excited to take him up on it.

now for some reason Lloyd thought i might be in the mood for pizza and to that i responded with a puzzled head tilt akin to what Pixie exhibits when asked something. for you see, when Lloyd & I get together we eat Korean food... LOTS & LOTS of Korean food* (mind you, Lloyd's Korean so perhaps he just calls it food. (to steal a line from FRIENDS)

so with pizza 86'd we set out to the Korean "all you can eat" where a collection of Lloyd's friends awaited us. now, i'm not sure if it's because i hadn't had proper Korean food in 2 years or because i hadn't eaten since breakfast, but we DESTROYED the place.

after dinner, Lloyd & I (and the dogs) enjoyed cigars by the bonfire in his backyard which buttresses the 7th fairway of Sterling Golf Course so a grand Texas night sky was our entertainment.

the next we ventured into Houston proper where Lloyd wanted show me a very cool spot called The Dunlavy where, coincidentally enough, former Greenwich resident Christina Odelfelt happened to be near (she spotted a FB post of mine sunday night and so we spoke of getting coffee) so we had rather impromptu GA/Brunswick reunion of 2.

the day was capped off with a trip to TOP GOLF which is basically a sports bar mixed with a driving range mixed with an arcade (and though i was complete rubbish after not having golfed in 6 years, i DID get the top swing of the day with a 75-point blast to the back screen some 200+ yards away)

tuesday consisted of a trip to NASA where my jaw dropped and mind was blown repeatedly. now i should also mention that Lloyd had been telling me of a BBQ joint he was eager to try for 2 days, but after NASA went long and the traffic proved daunting we arrived at Gatlin's FOUR MINUTES after they ended lunch service!!! (our profound hunger was quashed across the street at crappy Tex-Mex joint but you don't need to hear about it, though it IS significant for later)

Here's the aforementioned "later"... we had dinner plans at the home of his friends, Nick & Penny (the latter being from what i was told and learned an AMAZING cook) Now, after a rather long dog walk & nap i was STILL quite full from lunch and kinda hoped we'd pass on dinner, but that wasn't the case and i'm so thrilled because Penny prepared the most impressive Vietnamese feast that i totally forgot i wasn't even remotely hungry.

wednesday i took "Darth Volvo" over to Lloyd's garage for a much needed oil change and then headed down to Spring Valley where i lunched with high school crush, Margaret Flood, for the first time in 24 years and then visited high school era chum John Conlon in Sugar Land for dinner where i met his baseball phenom sons and darling wife who introduced me to the VERY Texan tradition of formal dance MUMS*

on thursday pixie & i set off from Sugar Land to explore the Gulf Coast city of Galveston (which before the storm of 1900 was the "Paris of America") and to our delight we discovered a ferry which took us AND "Darth Volvo" over to Boliver penninsula where we encountered a dead Fort, a seemingly endless road, a guy brandishing assault rifle in his front yard AND most importantly THIRD COAST COFFEE which will go down as one of the most fantastic bits of whimsy i've ever had the good fortune to experience.

we later met up with my cousin Seth whom i had not seen since approx 1983 and walked along the beach and then to an iconic area dive for fried seafood.

Friday was a day for culture as i ventured down to the Menil Collection where i was treated to the works of Max Ernst, Magritte, Picasso's line drawings, and many more brilliant pieces. i also stumbled upon THE most adorable hand-made teddy bear in the gift shop which i procured for my nephew (but don't tell him!)
across the street, i noticed the Houston Center for Photography and took in a collection of work documenting America's obsession with guns. i quick tour of shops in Montrose showed me where hipsters hang, dine and buy awesome vintage 80s & 90s sports teams gear. (PLUS the very cool "scientific emperica" at Merchant)

dinner was an Argentinian feast with some of Lloyd's motorcycle crew followed up by cigars and cocktails at the garage of our host where i gawked at vintage bikes while chiming in on karaoke.

Saturday saw me track down a pair of running sneakers (yes, i know i have dozens at home i SHOULD'VE brought) because i've gained nearly 10 pounds in the 4 weeks of this trip.

and while Lloyd & company took a twilight motorcycle cruise, I chased light in the Volvo for a couple pics and then read hundreds of pages of a good book.

Sunday began with a drive into the farmland in a vintage Porsche 356 for a photo shoot which culminated in very few images but very many stalls...  including a MAJOR one on the side of the 290 freeway for about 20 minutes. fortunately she turned over and we were able to meet friends at a local sports bar where i devoured buffalo style shrimp and cursed the Philadelphia Eagles fumbling away a W in the waning minutes (yes, i loathe football but that doesn't mean i can turn off my Philadelphian heritage)

the week came to a close at the house with a Korean BBQ party in honor of my visit / trek and complete with presidential debate projected on a big screen so we could stuff our faces WHILE hissing at "The Donald"

At this point i should say what an amazing host my friend is and the people he surrounds himself with have been so wonderfully gracious it's tough to leave, but the rest of Texas and America awaits...