Samuel Johnson said “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but I consider myself a patriot. The fact that the United States of America is the birthplace of the blues, jazz, rock-and-roll, and Muhammad Ali is argument enough for me that we are a place worthy of pride.
Texas, however, was for most of my life a foreign land — a place and a culture far from the one I grew up in in New York City and suburban New Jersey. And I will shamefacedly admit that for most of those years I entertained the same lazy prejudices and assumptions about what Texas was like — and who, I believed, lived there.
But judging from Houston, it ain’t like that at all, is it?
Houston is, in fact, about as multicultural a city as exists in the country. Houston has been, from what I experienced, particularly—if not more—welcoming to immigrants and refugees from all over the world than most other cities I know of.
Our show focuses entirely on some of those communities and on those stories—of people who looked to America as a refuge, as an ideal, as a place of opportunity and who found it in Houston.
Yes, I took subversive pleasure in opening the show with an American flag — and then spending an entire episode in an America that is nonwhite, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-cowboy and entirely devoid of the usual tropes (barbecue, Tex-Mex, big hats, and big oil). Houston is far, far more — and more interesting—than that.
We are a rich country. Rich in stories. These are some of them.
These field notes were previously published on Medium on October 29, 2016.
Highlights from Houston on Explore Parts Unknown:
- How to spend a perfect day in Houston
- What you need to know before you go to Houston
- A love letter to Houston’s West Alabama Ice House
- A photo essay on the city’s mesmerizing slab car culture
- Recipes for taco al pastor and Korean goat and dumplings