You Can Go Home Again (at Day For Night)
HOUSTON, TEXAS: I tell everyone I grew up in Houston, but I really grew up in the south eastern suburb of Deer Park, out near the ship channel and the gasoline plants and edge of the ocean. It’s a part of the world mostly known from the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy.”
In high school, for adventure, we’d “go downtown” where the pre-smartphone experience would lead to getting lost, using the street art as landmarks and drinking coffee all night.
Often my friends and I would go out to see the newest art exhibits. We sucked down Houston “high culture” because it was there and it was good…and you can see it for almost no money if you try.
When people would ask me how I liked Houston, I would tell them that I loved the post-modern industrial sprawl of it…and mean it.
I loved living in a city where you could take a road trip without leaving the city limits, driving across vast and empty freeways while listening to dance music on the radio. Depending on the season, I always had a bathing suit or a jacket in the car, because you never knew when you might need them…and popping home isn’t practical in a city where you might live 50 miles away from the party.
Though I haven’t lived here full-time since I went away to college, the recent Day for Night festival reminded me of why I loved the city so much.
Day for Night took place at the former Barbara Jordan Post Office on Franklin Street in downtown Houston. The conversion from downtown mail facility to entertainment complex was so recent that many post office signs were still on the walls. Aptly for a party venue, a “Lovejoy” was still listed as Postmaster on the building directory.
This was the second year of “Day for Night” but it’s the first time I’ve really been back for an event. While my parents still live in Deer Park—and I’m there all the time to check in on them—I don’t get out for adventure much. Usually my biggest excitement here is seeing what crazy products are on clearance at the big supermarket near my parents’.
During the festival I stayed with my parents in Deer Park but I was mostly at the event. I hadn’t planned it, but a bunch of my friends from my Austin-based Burning Man camping crew were at “Day for Night.”
Leaving for the festival on Saturday afternoon, my father was very concerned that I was going to leave the house without long pants, telling me it was going to get cold on Saturday night. Given the muggy and oppressive temperatures of Houston on that Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t too worried about it.
When a crazy pre-Christmas “blue norther” blew in on Saturday night, dropping temps from summer to winter in moments…I was standing outside in fishnet stockings listening to Irish electronic DJ Aphex Twin. I could see a few people sitting on the curb outside the festival fence who were enjoying the music as well, something that my broke friends and I might well have done when we were in high school.
When the sudden cold rain hit, my friends and I ran back into the large former post office space to look at the art exhibits. Many of the art projects were done with lasers or projectors or magic.
But as anyone who has ever noticed that nearly every museum has a very busy cafe, looking at art makes you hungry!
With the temperatures plummeting on Saturday night and with downtown Houston getting colder and colder, our Austin crew rushed past the downtown Christmas decorations to the downtown hotel my friends were staying in, where I borrowed a fuzzy coat and everyone put on more layers. While we were waiting, someone had the brilliant idea of ordering food to the hotel!
Sitting around a big table in the fancy lobby of a downtown Houston hotel (that had free sparkling water on tap!) eating burgers and fries with my friends felt exactly like my childhood fantasies of what cool grownup life was going to be.
When I finally drove home towards the pretty lights of the eastern refinery complex early Sunday morning, I bumped into my parents, who were up having coffee and getting their Sunday morning started. I even told my dad the phrase that he’d been waiting many years to hear: that he was right—I should have worn pants.
Light Wheel at the Day for Night preview party.