I spent the holidays down in Houston Texas. I don't even know where to begin to describe it - except by and large it was not a warm and fuzzy experience. My brothers and I, visiting family, were encamped out in the suburbs of Houston - somewhere in the hundreds of square miles of it that encircle the city - near NASA, the Gulf, and a semi-exclusive enclave called Friendswood. Endless strip malls, power centres, eight-lane roads, dead-end or nonexistent sidewalks, freeways, driveways and parking lots. I have never seen a place so car-dependent. Completely scaled to the automobile, getting around was an alienating and aggravating experience, to say the least. Especially seven days of it, being shuttled around from sealed place to sealed place. Areas of downtown Houston were lovely, but by and large, the place is an unplanned jumble, carved up by freeways that make the Gardiner look small. Approaching Houston: I'll never complain about the St. Lawrence Centre again... Downtown was a Philip Johnson-fest, with the NCNB Center.... The view from the informal observation deck up in the 1,000 foot JP Morgan Chase Tower - an I.M. Pei creation from 1981. Johnson's Pennzoil Place.... and the building formerly known as Transco, now the Williams building... Tired of being crammed into a car out in the suburbs, I decided to take a walk to my family's house. It turned out to be a very interesting seven mile-walk through various modes of wasteland. View from the front of the hotel - the back of a strip mall across a parking lot! Crossing a street.... Darkness Falls..... and when it's not glitzy and new.... One sees things that jolts our Canadian sensibilities. Personally, I spent a lot of time at the firing range, as my step-dad is an ex-Marine sharpshooter who wanted to impress on us the virtues of gun-shootin'. Urgh. Out to the country at last. It reminded me of Southern Ontario with palm trees. Very flat. Very. F-L-A-T. At the hangar (at 'Skydive Spaceland') where we did our jumping. A new thing for me! Free fall from 14,000 feet (about two-and-a-half miles) at 120mph, to 6000 feet, when you pull the cord. Had to do it a bunch of times, as it was a hoot. So, I'll leave it on a semi-upbeat note between the assault rifle firings, skydiving and Philip Johnson. A most interesting holiday, all in all.