As you're probably aware, I'm just back from 10 days in the USA. All spent in the South, a part of the country I've scarcely set foot in before.
It all kicked off in Houston. I started there for a very good reason: there's a direct flight from Amsterdam. I've learned my lesson about changing planes. Way too stressful.
Talking of stressful, boarding USA-bound flights at Schiphol has become tense for me. Twice last year I was near as damnit strip searched. It's not a good way to start a journey. To calm my nerves I have a couple of Famous Grouses and a Heineken at the bar adjacent to the gate.
I needn't have worried. They don't say more than two words to me.
Flying across the Atlantic is becoming routine. Not necessarily a pleasure, but not too much of a chore, either. With my extra legroom seat and noise-cancelling headphones, I pass the journey in reasonable comfort, watching crap films to while way the time. And obviously taking fiull advantage of the free drinks on offer.
Another good reason to fly in via Houston: no ridiculous queues at immigration, unlike some airports. Before I know it, I'm in a taxi bouncing along a freeway lined by endless strip malls. Every one has a pawn shop. Can't remember seeing many of those when I lived in the US in the 1980's. Maybe I just didn't notice.
I'm stopping downtown. That's what I usually do. Preferably somewhere quite nice. I've picked the Magnolia because I liked the one in Denver so much. Nice old building, comfortable rooms, decent free breakfast. What more do you need?
This is the view from the window:
The weather is pretty crap. Wet, humid and surprisingly warm. I've deliberately come in the spring, knowing what southern summer weather is like.
I've a couple of hours to get my head straightened before meeting Noel Hart at 4 PM. He's helped organise tomorrow with his home brew club the Foam Rangers (great name).
We're headed for the Flying Saucer, a beer pub handily situated just a couple of blocks from my hotel. It's a fairly cavernous place, with a high ceiling and an enormous beer list. Loads of US beers, but equally plenty of European imports. Not that I'm going to bother with any of the latter. Just as I usually avoid American beers in Europe. Unsurprisingly, it being Friday, it's pretty boisterous inside.
We chat and drink. A few other people turn up. Until I hit a wall at about 9 pm. I think that's when it was. I didn't do that badly, when you consider it was 4 am for me. And I'd been up over 20 hours.
It's pissing it down when I leave. I wake up in bed at 1 am, fully clothed, TV on. Must have dropped off while watching something.
I sleep deeply well past dawn.
Foam Rangers and De Falco's tomorrow.
The Flying Saucer
705 Main St
Houston, TX 77002
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