Knockin' Around H-town

As much as I've worried and been warned about the weather here, I must say that in my nearly one month in Houston (come Tuesday), it's been insufferably hot only about a week's worth of days. Oddly, it's the mornings that feel most suffocating. When I walk out of my hotel at 7:15 a.m., usually, there's a haze and it feels like walking into a hot, wet blanket. But come the morning or at latest noon lunch break, the sun has broken through and burned off the humidity (I'm sure that's not a meteorological phenomenon, but it feels that way) and it's just sunny and hot, not crazy-wet-hot (also not a term you'll find on the NOAA Web site).

Took a fun day trip down to NASA's Johnson Space Center on Saturday, only about a half-hour south of downtown. They have a replica of the nose cone of a space shuttle and an exercise where you sit in front of a computer screen that shows the view out of the front of a shuttle, complete with the heads-up display, and with the aid of a joystick, you get to simulate landing it.

On my first attempt, I crashed and couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable about the sound effects that accompanied the crash, which sounded almost cartoonish. It's a touchy thing to try and celebrate/tout, the space shuttle. On the one hand, it is an engineering marvel -- the most complicated machine ever built. On the other hand, out of a fleet of five flying shuttles, two have exploded. A .600 batting average would sail you right into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, but the space program has higher standards.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, after NASA, I hied it over to nearby Alvin, just to see if I could catch a glimpse of favorite son Nolan Ryan. No luck. Like he'd be hanging out at the washeteria. No luck spotting another hero of mine, Hank Hill, either, as I imagine Alvin might have been the model for his Texas hometown of Arlen.

Despite the terrific weather, cable channel TV Land has not made it easy to go outside, thanks to its weekend-long "Miami Vice" marathon. It's fascinating to see how many guest stars on that show went on to bigger things. For instance, "Deadwood's" star -- Brit Ian McShane -- played a corrupt dictator with a terrible accent and the most dark-skinned makeup seen on a white actor since Charlton Heston played a Mexican in "Touch of Evil." Robert Beltran, who co-starred in "Star Trek: Voyager," was in the same episode, playing an officer in the corrupt regime. Did manage to tear myself away for a pleasurable stroll around the city's Memorial Park, which is ringed by a three-mile trail.

What does all of this have to do with Enron? Nothing, of course. And I'm not even going to attempt some lame-o connection. (Even though I might have out of the baseball section: Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane is going to be a character witness for Kenneth L. Lay this week.) Just thought you'd like to know how one can pass a temperate weekend in Houston.

By Frank Ahrens |  May 1, 2006; 12:53 AM ET  | Category:  Houstoniana
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FYI, Hank Hill's dad lives in Houston, but Arlen is supposed to be in the Dallas area. Not to say that HH clones are hard to find in Houston,heehee...Jackie

Posted by: | May 1, 2006 12:01 PM

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