Friday, August 5, 2011

Houston: Museums, Antiquing, Death by Heat

You know how the sun has inexplicably moved closer to the earth and we are all on the verge of death by heat exhaustion? I thought the over-100 temperatures and oppressive sun were miserable in Dallas, but you throw a little Gulf air and dragon breath into the mix and you have summer 2011 in Houston.

Yep, Saturday was to be spent leisurely and INDOORS.

We sought out a little coffee house for breakfast that sounded perfect and adorable, and indeed was perfect and adorable (a little bungalow with a bridge in front and awesome menu of drinks and homemade snacks) until we got to the front door and realized it had recently closed. I was so disappointed I even deleted the pictures I took of it. But fate stepped in and lead us to coffee shop #2, Inversion (on Montrose), which was not only open but had a taco truck in its parking lot! Life is awesome... and so were those breakfast tacos. *drool* The coffee shop was connected to the Art League and you could definitely tell by the decor. Such a cool place to enjoy gigantic breakfast tacos, an Americano and air conditioning.

From there we headed to the museum district. So many museums in such a small area! 
We started at the Fine Arts Museum and ended up spending most of our early afternoon there. It was nice and cold (doesn't that lobby look chilly) and featured a lovely array of artifactual art from around the world. There are few things I enjoy more than taking my time strolling around gallery spaces with someone who can both make me laugh and seriously appreciate art. There was a Venetian exhibit on loan from Scotland that looked amazing but was super expensive so we stuck to the other ample offerings and tried to casually sneak a peak. I also snuck a couple lopsided pictures while I was being sucked into another dimension by way of these blue hallways.
On our quest to not pay admission, we visited the Contemporary Arts Museum. It was fun but I was quickly lured away by the gift shop. Don't those Pantone mugs look like something I need? I bought B some fun little erasers for a back-to-school package I'm making him and, after some internal struggle over wanting to enjoy the lovely scenery of the area and also not melt, we were on our way. Even the crosswalks were works of art!
I threw a little bit of a fit over not stopping at antiques shops on our trip down from New York, so it was an unspoken rule that I get my fill on this trip. Houston is full of cute antique and vintage shops, but I stuck to antiques so as not to be too tempted to buy clothes. I was hoping for nothing more than a hunt for old reels of a film and pining over antique furniture that I can't afford, and definitely didn't expect to spend any money.

We were having a great, if strange, time. I spotted this cat in one shop and recognized it instantly as one that used to sit in the front entry way of my Great-Grandma Maree's house. After closely examining it several times, pacing around and furiously texting pictures of it to my family, I began to second guess myself. Grandma Maree lived in San Antonio... How would this have ended up in Houston? Would my aunt really have sold it off at the estate sale? It was so important to me as a child, why wouldn't they have given it to me? We left the shop without buying the cat (I was still trying not to spend money and just couldn't be sure) when I got a text confirming that this had to be the old kitty I used to name and pretend to play with when I was little. I'm still kicking myself for not buying it.
 At another shop I spotted this awesomely awkward Scarlett O'Hara plate and thought instantly of Swinny, my old Apt2B-mate and fellow 1939 movie enthusiast. The picture below speaks for itself.
I would be lying if I said this was the first time this has happened to us. Still, it never ceases to freak me the eff out (and make me love her). So, the day was already going well when fate lead us here...
 We found and were excitedly scoping out a shelf of old Super 8mm and 16mm cameras and some old empty film reels when a gentleman came up and asked if we were looking for anything in particular. I asked if he had any reels of film - home movies, news film, cartoons, anything. He didn't but he just so happened to have a massive box of old slides out back, would I care to take a look? Obviously.

What he brought out a few seconds later blew. my. mind. Old cases filled with 35mm Kodachrome slides from the 30s, 40s and 50s and an old carousel projector. As we poured through the slides, examining them in the light one by one, I became downright giddy. Pictures of GIs in uniform, beautiful ladies lounging in front of a mid-40s era Cadillac, well-dressed men on a trip to Reno, breathtaking shots of flowers and mountains, the colors somehow still perfectly preserved on beautiful Kodachrome. For half an hour I dug through the hundreds of slides and read the handwritten shot lists (dated 1952) as he tried to decide whether or not he would be willing to part with this treasure. Finally, he said: "I suppose if I said I would sell these to you for $1 a slide you would freak out, right?" I didn't answer, just stared back stone faced. There was no way I could ever do that. "But... I guess I would be willing to sell you the whole thing for $60... including the projector." ...What? YES. Yes. Right now. Let's do this. We shoved everything back into boxes and I practically dragged Taso to the cash register, as though I were afraid this wonderful man might change his mind. If you're questioning my sanity right now, just know that slides like this go for $25 a slide on Ebay. However, as I told him, that salesman probably found one of the only people in the world who has no interest in ever selling a single one.

Practically high on our success and nearly dead from the heat, we debated just collapsing in our room to watch the X-games (skateboard vert competition - very big deal round these parts) but decided to cap the night with a meal at #2 on my List - Beavers. I was outrageously mislead by the goofy name and website. It's actually a gorgeous (but casual) space with a fantastic chef and quite creative menu. The vegan gumbo and cornbread was to die for. When we arrived we were seated in a booth directly in front of a TV showing, what else, the X-games.
Taso was glued.

Shaun White killed it on the vert ramp, Chef Jonathan Jones killed it in the kitchen and I felt like a million bucks. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this post--you capture the Houston I know and love so well--it's crazy, hot, artistic, idiosyncratic, great for vintage, full of surprises and filled with odd, eclectic and affordable restaurants. I hope you had a wonderful time in Montrose and the Museum District.

    And I love the Swinny texts and the cat. I wish you'd bought her/him!