and then there's the problem of the giant ants
Yesterday I went to Sugar Land (a.k.a. Sugarland, a.k.a. SugarLand) which, for the happily uninitiated, is that glob of Houston that is spreading on I-59 towards Victoria. It takes 90 minutes to get there from Victoria if you can manage a near-constant 80 mph. I figured that out to pass the time while driving within the legal range of 60-70 mph, officer.

Another little fact about Sugarland, other than — yes — it does have something to do with that Sugarland Express movie, is that I lived there for about two years. That would be the Spring of 1986 to the Spring of 1988, which is probably marked off in your special edition historical day planner as "possibly the worst two years of my life.”

Why the worst? Well, I was 16 (to 18) and living at home when the very best place for all concerned, even with (especially with) hindsight, was Anywhere Else. We moved to Houston (from the other side of the country) in August of 1985. We moved to Sugarland before that first year was out. I switched schools for the next Fall then graduated early because I was so miserable as a result of, well, whatever typical recipes you're likely to generate when given the above ingredients, plus my naturally low tolerance for suffering both fools and bureaucracy.

(Don't make me drag out the story about how the school wouldn't let me take Spanish unless I agreed not to graduate early. They therefore used their authority to mislead a student about policy and at the same time stomped out a young person's true desire to further her education since this would have been my fourth year of Spanish and therefore totally elective. William P. Clements High School: <littlenicky>YOU SUCK, YOU REALLY SUCK!</littlenicky>)

Then I spent the year following graduation sending away for junk mail, walking three miles to the grocery store and back each day just for something to do, and every month arguing with my parents when they saw my phone bill to friends back home. (I did try to pay it at first with my little money saved, but the units refused because it was the principle. So I put my hundred bucks into magazines and stamps.)

I couldn't work because I didn't have a car. (The grocery store never called.) I wasn't allowed to borrow a car to take my driving exam. I couldn't afford a car even if I had a driver's license. I lived in a subdivision in the middle of nowhere. I was too far away for my few local friends from the last school to come by, plus they were getting ready for college.

This all sucked. I'm over it. That doesn't mean that I excuse it, just that I'm over it. It's all blogbabble now, working its way through the years to perhaps be whittled into concise anecdotes or deleted to make room for memorizing movie showtimes.

There was a lot of inertia. It wasn't Sugarland's fault, but Sugarland made an excellent backdrop to frustration and stupidity. I'll (finally) tell you why.

Sugarland, Texas, has a high opinion of itself. Tremendously nice subdivision communities, shopping centers with landscaped pine trees and every store facade meant to look just alike. All the soccer-mom-abilia you could desire: gymnasia, skating rinks, countless resources for little gifted Britneys and Caitlins. Why shouldn't it? I mean, to an extent I quite like that stuff.

The reason Sugarland boggles the mind is because Sugarland is the city planning equivalent to a hardcore smoker who wears finely-cut clothes, tasteful, expensive perfume and jewelry, and has hair stylists (colour, cut, and bikini) to die for. Sure, the trappings are nice, and the ideas mean well, but what are you going to do about the yellow fingers, globby eyes, and that gawd-gawd-gawd awful smell?

Sugarland doesn't smell, but it's a mess. It was under construction fifteen years ago and it's still under construction now. The streets are congested as hell in the middle of the afternoon, the street shoulders are bulldozers, cranes, and dirt, and of course street signs and nets and traffic cones abound. There may be a Starbucks there now, but the reality of how things look and interact is not only as bad as it was 15 years ago when people were saying "but someday it will be wonderful," it's about 15 times worse.

Fifteen years is too long for residents to wait. Retirees have hoped and died in this time. Young children have grown up, graduated from university, and moved away to cities that know their place. What's the point of the elegant home if it's in a disaster area where it can take 10 minutes to whip around the block?

So of course I'm very smug, pleased, elated, ha-ha'ing, and other juvenile emotions. Our subdivision (“Waterford Estates”) is unchanged on the inside, and still extremely attractive I admit, but the quiet road next to it is a gridlock of orange barrels and passing cars and overturned dirt and there is a commercial nursery next to the ivy entrance that didn't get the memo about standardized look-and-feel.

It's not what anyone hoped for. Or, more importantly, it's not what anyone insisted it would be despite all evidence and experience to the contrary. Sugarland, face it: you're more Houston than you'll admit. Suck it up and be a good freeway community. Neener neener infinity.

Now that I've worked through those unsightly issues, I'd also like to say that I was able to prove that it's cheaper to buy pet products online at PetsMart and Petco, even when paying sales tax, than drive to Sugarland and get them at the same retail stores, even when figuring in gas money. Shocking.

Plus, online I don't have to see PetCo (or was it PetsMart?) sell "Black Bear Hamsters" for twenty bucks. People, these are regular black Syrians. Contact any hamster breeder and you'll find they aren't special and they don't cost the shops more to buy. In fact, some breeders are pumping out lots of black Syrians just to end the misinformation profiteering.

(And here is where I cut myself short, sensing old rants rising. Obviously I don't heal all wounds, nor do I particularly want to.)

In other news: We have a lot of hamsters. Return of the King is now 11 days overdue and still unread. I could go for some pizza buffet. It is taking a lot of work to postpone The French Revolution. Work is sane, so therefore I fear next week when it will actually need to be. I haven't done my taxes yet even though I'm expecting a refund. Cricket season is about to end. I will miss the excuse to nod intelligently at "bowls" and "overs.” Sticky wickets probably aren't going anywhere, though.

06 March 2003 |

Previously: Crossroads of Twilight
Next: Evelyn






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