The light turned green but I was still digesting the words. I turned left on Texas Street and circled the block. My old assistant in New York City laughed when I gave her my new address. “Texas Street in Texas?” she ribbed. I told her I could be living in Texas City. Stopped again, I weighed the message on the blue-green banner hanging from a downtown Houston streetlight—“The city, half-imagined (yet wholly real), begins and ends in us, lodged in our memory.”
Sorting through my mail later that night, on top was an envelope from The Menil Collection promoting its inaugural exhibition at the Menil Drawing Institute—The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns.
Then an email the next morning—“This Week at MATCH!”—giving me performance offerings to pull me out of my apartment. Main Street Theater presents The Wizard of Oz. “Travel with us down the yellow brick road as Dorothy and her three friends help her find her way home finding courage, love, and friendship. This musical spectacle reminds all of us that there really is no place like home!”
All right, Houston. I’m on to you. You brought Dorothy into it with her shiny red slippers declaring the mother of all place mantras. I know what you’re doing. Like handing me fortune cookies full of city affirmations. Because you know August is coming. That month of transition—towards the promise of cooler temperatures and changing leaves, the new school year full of new possibilities, old friends, and new boyfriends. Every turning point in my life happens in August. Fourteen moves in twenty years.
It’s not that I wasn’t proud to be a native Texan. I just didn’t wear it.
I left Houston in my early twenties and began a long love affair with the Northeast. After dating several New Jersey townships and a long relationship with Philadelphia, I fell in love with New York City—a very easy thing to do. Friends there asked me if I’d ever move back to Texas and the answer was always an emphatic NO. It’s not that I wasn’t proud to be a native Texan. I just didn’t wear it. My first cowboy boots were bought from the Shoe Parlor on 7th Avenue and 54th Street, but not real cowboy. They were the high heel kind with Jessica Simpson’s signature on the bottom. Over the years, I lost the “y’all,” then completely lost the accent altogether and picked up a city edge that fit me better. It was a magical place to be.
It [New York] got inside me, filled me with its sounds and smells and its stunning looks,
The pulse and the people and the choreography of all the moving parts in New York City are impressive. It got inside me, filled me with its sounds and smells and its stunning looks, whether underneath it in the subways or on top of it in the Empire State Building, seeing Manhattan’s skyline from Queens and Brooklyn, watching the Yankees take the field in the Bronx, riding under the Hudson River to Jersey or gliding on the Hudson River on my way to Staten Island. The Towers from that viewpoint were always breathtaking. The City offered me its apple. I took a big bite and fell into its arms.
Former Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale made me laugh years ago with “Living in the Big Apple would be tough.” He stayed for ten days and surmised, “New York is an exciting place and still one of the greatest of all cultural centers. But living there is just too hard.”
I stayed for ten years. It was hard to leave, but like all relationships, it got complicated. I believed Sinatra, that I could now make it anywhere. I thought about the Golden State. L.A. and Santa Barbara were my annual go-to cities in April, right about the time New Yorkers are sick of still wearing winter coats. I knew a love affair with the west coast would be easy, and I knew it would be hard there, too.
It’s hard to let go of the grip of an old love, the way we were.
And, so, I settled for my hometown. H-Town. After a few years of a real-life love affair, I’m back to wondering if Houston could be that magical city where I stay for awhile. It’s hard to let go of the grip of an old love, the way we were. But I’m ready to try again with Houston, see if we still have a connection.
The membership offer from The Menil Collection sat in my hands like a love letter. The Condition of Being Here. Maybe it’s time to commit, join in August. It’s just for a year. John de Menil said that museums are places “where you should lose your head.” I might just reserve a table for one at the Bistro Menil, see if they serve big juicy apples.
For more from Amy in Table For One.
You can connect with Amy by following her at writeonpearl.com