This is your City. It’s amazing.

Last week there was an article in the Travel section of the Wall Street Journal titled, "Take Monday Off: Houston" by Matthew Kronsberg. Yes, the article is telling the high-income-earning demographic across the country that they should consider hanging out in Houston over a long weekend for a fun, short trip. Houston. I know!

clip from WSJ online

Travel article about Houston in the Wall Street Journal

The article describes Houston as an exciting tourist destination. While it doesn’t make explicit efforts to point out family-friendly or kid-friendly things to do in town (of which there are many), it nonetheless makes Houston sound like the kind of place that I would like to visit. I was pleasantly surprised to see how good it made our City seem, and how much I often take for granted about living here and doing all these things with easy access to anywhere inside the Loop.

It brings up a few points that, as Northsiders, we should be aware of:

  • This is your city. It’s amazing. Take advantage of it.
  • People want to be here, to visit and to live – especially inside the Loop.
  • This is how attractive and desirable the Near Northside already is. We live within the vicinity of all these great things (made even easier once the Light Rail extensions are completed).
  • This is how valuable your property is, or will become very, very soon.
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Celebrating the Historic Near Northside Sign Toppers

Celebrationo Brunch Flyer

Flyer announcing celebration of the Historic Near Northside sign toppers.

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The Little Things


This nice looking styrofoam bowl of frijoles a la charra came from El Rey on Washington at Shepherd. I enjoyed removing the plastic lid and seeing a big, green slice of jalapeno floating at the top.

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Dancing and Marching and Having A Good Time

Danza Azteca at Moody Park 2012

Danza Azteca at Moody Park 2012

We were invited (via Facebook) to a Danza Azteca (Aztec Dance Circle) taking place in Moody Park.  The event hostess is an old friend of mine from the Northside who has been traveling the US and Mexico learning this type of Dancing.  She was in Houston for a short time and decided to do a dance circle in Moody Park, open to whoever wanted to participate regardless of their familiarity or experience.  We joined in and so did a few other park-goers who passed by the gazebo where the dancing was taking place. Everyone dancing had to get smudged (cleansed with a type of incense) before participating.

My friend told me that she had seen quite a few of these kinds of events happening regularly in neighborhood parks when she lived in California.  It sounds like maybe there isn’t much of this going on in Texas, much less in Houston.  You can see from the photo above that park goers that day were equally as interested as we were.  Some young soccer players stopped by and watched for probably 30 minutes.  A small family who came by to watch later joined in the dancing.  A group of older men sitting at some tables nearby leisurely watched the whole thing unfold that Saturday morning at the park.

We were very glad to see that she decided to just come out to the park one day and do this and we hope she does it more often.

The following Saturday, we came to see the Near Northside BOND annual March on Crime Parade.

Northside BOND March on Crime Parade 2012

Marshall Middle School band and dancers in the March on Crime Parade

The Northside Blocks Organized for Neighborhood Defense (BOND) puts on an annual parade called the March on Crime.  This time it started at Clemente Martinez Elementary School, through the neighborhood, ending up at Marshal Middle School.

Clowns in the Northside BOND March on Crime Parade

Clowns in the Northside BOND March on Crime Parade

It’s possible that the route was chosen because of all the Light Rail construction on Fulton.  The neighborhood side streets were kind of cramped and quiet, but there were still people out on the lawns, on their porches, and just walking around that stopped to gawk and point out the clowns to their kids.

Ketelsen Elementary in the Northside BOND March on Crime Parade

Ketelsen Elementary in the Parade

Going through the side streets was actually really nice.  It might have been a little more spectacular on Fulton, but making those tight turns near people’s houses made it strangely intimate.  Definitely something unexpected, but not so big and loud to be obtrusive.  They did a great job.

Kid on a custom bike

This little dude just had a really cool bike

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Watching and Waiting

Sometimes I like to google “Near Northside” just to see what I get. I guess I hope that I might find links to articles that mention this neighborhood whatever reason. Maybe I also kind of hope to find that someone else is blogging about the Near Northside, writing about us, making art about us, or making music about us. Mostly what comes up from these searches are references to the Near Northside in Chicago; which isn’t really what I’m looking for.

More searching brings up a few more results; adding “Houston” to the end or separating “Northside” into “North” and “Side”. The results come back a lot more relative to my search. Still, the links that show up on top are links to this, my own blog. Its a little flattering. Its nice to know that someone will most likely come across this site when searching for information on the neighborhood. Its also a little disheartening. I cant be the only person writing or referencing the Near Northside on the World Wide Web! Can I? Am I really? as it turns out, I am not.

One of my searches turned up this article in the Houston Chronicle from 2006 – Mayor, Councilman Sign Housing Deal. The Housing Deal appeared to be a plan to build more affordable housing in the neighborhood, a down payment assistance program, and money to buy land for future homes. According to the story, the deal was a plan by The Metropolitan Organization to preserve the character of the working-class community…

In recent years, residents and organizers have fought efforts by developers to build condos and other projects that would have raised property values, property taxes and forced residents out of their homes.

Because of its location within minutes of downtown Houston, the community was viewed as prime real estate in the ever-growing gentrification of inner-loop neighborhoods.

Another search yielded a blog entry from 2011 by a realtor who focuses on homes in the Heights. His entry asks, Is it time to recommend Near Northside Homes?  In his article Mr. Martin cites the amazing renovation by Saul and Ruben Obregon on their historic house on Everett.  The Obregon house was featured in a previous article in the Houston Chronicle by Lisa Gray (which Martin also mentions in his article).  Martin confesses:

I have always been asked about the area between Lindale Park and downtown.. I have seen some wonderful old bungalows that would make me drool if they were in the Heights. They are not in the Heights though, or in any other easily categorized area. This is generally known as Near Northside Houston.

He ends the article with his recommendation:

So, is it it time to recommend this area? I would look into it, especially if you can’t afford the Heights. There are some darling homes in Near Northside.

Then there’s the photo below which I happened to see recently on Eater Houston

Poppa Burger by Gary R Wise. Source:

Eater Houston calls itself, “The Houston Restaurant, Bar, and Nightlife blog”.  The blog updates a few times a day with  hot new restaurant openings, craft beer releases, and other news that Foodies in Houston would need in order to plan their nightlife.  The photo above was the top image on a list of such daily links.  Of course, this is an image of the Poppa Burger on North Main and Harrington, across from the Casa De Amigos Health Center.  Not necessarily the place that comes to mind after a night of drinking artfully crafted cocktails at Anvil.  It probably doesn’t have the kind of cult following that Someburger or Frenchy’s might enjoy.  Still, there it is, next to links that describe the right way to eat sushi; on a blog that highlights the city’s gastronimic diversity.

These links show that other people have, in fact, been writing about and referencing the Near Northside.  Not necessarily Northsiders, but other folks in the City who have quietly been looking at this neighborhood over the last decade.  While we, the current residents, have been complaining about being neglected, others are watching and waiting; taking an interest in the local resources that Northsiders might have taken for granted.

So why is it so hard to find art, music, photography, or writing about the Northside?  Especially anything like this being done by Northsiders?  Do we lack the resources or the training or the facilities to do so?  Do we fail to recognize just what we have here because we live it everyday?  Do we set our creative sights elsewhere in the City (Montrose, Museum District, Theater District) or even farther (New York, LA)?

As Northsiders we have the opportunity to identify ourselves to the rest of the City and the rest of the world.  If we don’t do it, someone else will come in and do it – without an insider perspective, without respect for the history or the aspirations of the neighborhood, and without anyone’s permission.

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