Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 5th Adventures Along the Bayou

So, if you read my last post, you'll see that I went on an adventure. This post continues where the last left off.

A Few Basic Principles of This New Thing
  1. Always go forward. No turning back.
  2. If it looks like a good idea, it probably isn't but go ahead anyway.
  3. You're going to get wet & dirty anyway.... so fuck it.
  4. The point is the go where there is no control, so avoid those previously tredded paths.

A Few Hard-Fast Rules
  1. Carry a phone, ID card, truck key, and a copy of Art of War. If detained by police, my Harry Potter glasses and this piece of literature will mediate the situation more than any uttered words could ever possibly.
  2. Stay along the bank. People are weird about stuff they paid for, especially their own swaths of land. So making sure no one is freaked out about me traipsing across "their" backyard is important. This is a hard-fast rule for now, but I'm just starting out.
  3. No night-time wanderings.
  4. Take photos... lots and lots of photos.
  1. Sticks are useful for walking along a bank of a bayou or for clearing brush. I noticed that carrying the stick was useful at first for grabbing onto the earth in case I needed to climb up an embankment. As I opted to traverse the wooded area on my way back, I was grateful for the stick because I thought it'd be useful as a weapon.
  2. Once our controls over nature are put into place, we ignore nature's procession unless it interacts with our controls.
  3. Some roots are really strong & can support me. Others cannot.
  4. Thickets suck.
  5. The City's right over that embankment, so chill out.

Things for Next Time
  1. Wear contact lenses. Reduces the number of variables of things that could go wrong.
  2. Long sleeves would help with walking through a slew of branches.
  3. An extra pair of dry socks. Lieutenant Dan knew what's up.
  4. Small backpack for carrying everything I'll decide I need/want.
  5. Better waterproofing. More plastic bags maybe.
  6. Knife, of some sort.
Philosophical Musings
  1. Be prepared to slip and fall on your ass. You have no idea what's underneath the ground you can't see. You have no idea what weight that log will support until you put all your weight onto it. By then, it'll be too late, so just be okay with what you get, as long as it's not a contusion.
  2. Try to avoid keeping your gaze down for too long because sometimes you might hit your head on a low-hanging branch. Look up.
  3. Sidewalks make sense now that I've had to make my own path through the woods.


I'm including a slew of photos in order to get you guys a feel for what I encountered on my jaunt through the woods.

So, ideally, you understand what I'm trying to do here as well as the inclusion of a graffiti tag. This really was an homage to #StickEmUpMovie, but I hadn't seen the film yet. I heard the term "street art" and assumed it was graffiti. After the fact, this graffiti is on the opposite end of the spectrum due solely to the overt/obscure bifurcation of the canvasses.

At this point I'm facing the eastern feeder of 610 between Post Oak & Woodway. It's right at the bridge before the entrance ramp. If I were on the actual road, I'd be staring at the Uptown Park strip mall.

But you may be asking yourself "Why is this shot done so awkwardly?" And I would respond not with words but a visual qualifier like this.

This was how I was able to take this shot: by standing on a utility pipe with my back to the busted up concrete blocks. The jagged shards of concrete & stagnant water did not look nice or welcoming. It really was nothing, but probably more than the majority of you would be willing to attempt.

Below is where the water was coming from the Uptown Park strip mall. It pours from the bottom of the previous photo to the top of the photo. And this side tributary continues in that general direction toward the bayou. This looks like a photo I took from my original post, and I actually started walking inside of it to see what I would find. Unlike the last time back in March when I was unprepared for dirty adventures, I decided I would be as willing to walk into something possibly infected with whatever infests dark, damp, ignored spaces. I pussied out (for lack of a better word) for only one reason: I don't like inhaling bugs. Which is what happened. I was inhaling little knats/bugs/whatever despite my best efforts. I initially was breathing through my mouth due to physical exertion and decided that this was a bad idea. Alternating to breathe through my nose only led to me getting bugs stuck up my nose. Feeling unprepared for something I was ignorant of, I decided this could be postponed until I could locate friends of mine who own ski goggles, gas masks, or both. So onward I went considering my limitations. Onward with the journey...

This is an embankment along the huge Xerox office building I parked in. Notice how the contractors used the chicken wire fence and the compacted rocks in order to prevent and soil from eroding. I enjoyed the rocks for nature vs. rocks for civilization in this photo. There's a way in which naturally occurring elements are manipulated to mark the border between the developed and the undeveloped. Like as if this grey area needs to be padded by a hybrid to transition from one to the other. And then all that intellectual, liberal arts bullshit is blown out of the water by this little gem I traipsed right by...

BOOM. Metal. All metal. Steel? Whatever. It's not rocks. It's metal. Well... there's concrete and a few rocks, but it's mostly just man-made stuff.

See that sloping concrete slab in the background? Yeah... I had to crouch down really low in order to make it across because the angle was so steep. And the imperfections in the concrete formation helped to clutch onto in order to make it across. Control is about imposing one's logic onto another. That logic is assumed to be valid & perfect, but I was able to leverage those imperfections in order to fit into the cracks left available to explore. This is high-minded bullshit, but I still think it makes some sense. I'm standing on the same sorta rocks in the foreground in order to take this picture. But if I look to my right and notice what's at my feet, I'll get this.

Which is basically the same thing as the above, save the fact that it's on a smaller scale. It created a little bit of a babbling brook milieu, but is still circling the concept of control of the natural environment. It's mirroring of the huge steel wall above was what caught my eye. (I can tell right now I'm going to have a hard time coming up with a variety of words which mean "environment", "nature", and "feeling".) Onward...

So something like this is what occurs when you gradually transition the elevated development in to the bayou. See the stairs of the embankment, iterating themselves closer and closer to the bayou. I took the detail photo from above to the left of what this photo was taken. This gives a bigger picture of what is accomplished by those constructions. And all of the details add up so something like the above...

...Could look like this. This is the Xerox building from behind. It's huge. It's really huge. It's spread out. It's an impressive structure once you're on the verge of falling into nasty bayou water. You're like, "Wow, I wish I could be way the hell up there in the A/C playing Crash Bandicoot not worrying about this dumb project where I want to explore the nasty bayou of Houston going into the Spring/Summer months where both the temperature and the humidity will be above 90." Moving forward.

Footprint of an animal. It looks like a lemur footprint, but I don't know what a lemur footprint looks like, so I'm basing this on nothing. It was cool to think that I wasn't alone. I left my own footprint, but it's a shitty photograph, so I'm not going to show it. You'll have to understand that I thought of creating the parallel but was limited on time/energy/dry hands.

I decided I'd follow the bayou around the Xerox building so I curled back from the bayou & 610 to the bayou & 610. The Xerox builidng is to my left. So, further down, the bayou is this bridge you've crossed a million times trying to get to Woodway from Post Oak. I was walking and found a footprint, but I also found this can tied with fishing wire onto this stick. The feeling I had from the Coke can was the opposite of what I felt with the lemur footprint. It was creepy because I didn't feel alone but in a bad way. I suppose the footprint was a communal feeling vs this where you feel objectified & watched. Notice the bridge in the background because everything is forward here.

Sunset underneath the bridge. Not too much of the hobo-age perphernalia visible underneath this bridge, so I knew I was safe for the time being. This beautiful sunset that this picture can't even approach in terms of comparable perspective. The kewl thing was the noise coming from above. It was a perspective of the freeway I had never experienced before. And all I had to do was to look up.

[Put filler here.]

So I turned around and came back down the bayou and posted a photo on the Twitters. I jumped from a mound of dirt to this island of dirt & foliage. After climbing along the bank of the bayou for long enough, I came across this yet-to-be-finished development. Notice how this hill of rocks looks remarkably similar to the Xerox building's erosion-prevention design. Lots of rocks, lots of sloping. Blah blah blah. I look to my left this time.

Voilá. Pretty green stuff attached to less pretty brown things set against a big blue amorphous something. Some wavelengths bouncing off the green stuff at some points in the photo. A lack of wavelengths perceptible at other points in the photo.

I turn the corner and see this overpass. I think it's initially that bridge that is where Woodway & Memorial split off, but that's because I have no concept of geography. It turns out to be train tracks. (Upon reflection, it's probably the same tracks that intersect where Memorial & Woodway branch off.)

And then I get up to what turns out to be train tracks and see more tagging. Still, this was initially an homage to #StickEmUpMovie. Without having seen the movie, I now consider this to be erroneously referring to a film not about tagging at all. (My bad.) In the same way in which this project of mine is about ignored areas of Houston, how does this tagging represent what messages are trying to be communicated?

To the right, you'll see these stumps poking out of the water. This what I'm standing on in order to pass underneath the train tracks. To understand the path I had to take, I get down and take this photo of my boot and the stump.

Yes... I've already fallen into the bayou multiple times by this point. I was actually up to my crotch in the bayou, with my personal belonging sitting in water for 15 seconds at a time. Thankfully, I thought to bring plastic bags. It seemed natural at the time, but I gained persepctive when the train passed overhead and I realized how I was straddling these stumps of wood along the bayou on a Tuesday afternoon.

Here's a shot of the train that passed overhead.

I thought it was pretty. I climbed up on top of the train tracks.

And here's a photo of the train tracks. This is facing the San Felipe crossing, I believe. I could see cars in the distance.

Coming around and over the train tracks, I decided to see back down on where I just had crossed. I don't know why, but I feel that for perspective, I tried to get my path photographed from different angles. Here you see the refuse gathering at the base.

And this is the house with the hill of rocks in the background and the Xerox building behind that. My left hand is used to block out the sun. That's ingenuity.

I circle back around to walk through the woods. Where my path toward the train tracks was defined by water & mud, the latter half of the journey was definitely terrestrial & very forresty. I could use a path that exists, but that violates a basic principle. This is where it gets hairy. The next photo I take is this one after getting caught in the thicket for 15 minutes.

My first 10 minutes was fine, but after that, the thicket got thicker, and fatigue was taking its toll on me. The water in my socks & boots starts to irritate me more and more. My legs are heavy from being water logged & tired. But there's nothing to do but go forward. I can't go back because I know the path that got me here was torturesome, much less retracing it. In keeping with "going forward", it's mentally easier to go forward without knowing when/where it's going to end.

So the photo above is my standing on a log in the middle of the thicket. Looking back, it was probably around the mid-point of my journey back through the woods. I had to crouch down low in order to get past the branches and the vines. Using my stick as a machete to clear a path in front of me, I was glad that I had it after using my hands to clear vines and grabbed onto a couple of thorn-riddled vines. The stick I used on the 1st half to dig into the mud to prevent me from falling into the bayou was latter used to whack at the flora. I later realized it was useful in case I needed it to ward off dangerous animals or people. (The feeling itself of being in the woods versus being along the bank of the bayou were completely antithetical. One was defined by openess and curiosity while the trudging through the forest involved isolation & and a self-consciousness about how my paths were limited. I was definitely in more of a defensive mode while walking back.)

Here's a photo of the thicket after I got off the log and remembered to take photos of this adventure. I mostly forgot to take photos because I was too busy getting touched by the forest's tentacles.

There were moments where I wanted to despair.

I thought back to documents I read of Spanish Conquistadors traveling through the lush Amazonian jungle.
I thought of how Texas was taken from Native Americans.
I thought of how much noise I was making.
Was I talking to myself?
How much of a wake I probably had.
I thought maybe I would get lost forever.
I had a few non-work work things to get done that other people were relying on me for, and I knew I had to get those done.
I thought I had made a wrong choice by not just going along the opposite bank of bayou for my return trip. I doubted myself.
I doubted what this was.
What this third adventure had become.
I thought of my ex.
I thought of work.
I thought of my college experience.
I thought of high school.
I thought of family.
I thought of what not having shoes would feel like.
I thought of what it would've been like if I were being hunted.

Then... a clearing in the forest. Then...

...A phone call. It's my boss wanting me to get stuff done for my non-work work. I had civilization beckoning me back. I had time to worry about. I had to get back. I had to find my way out of this. And I had to get back to a computer to code some website stuff. And to talk about it here. I Twittered this photo because it was pretty, and the last photo I took from my adventure on the 5th of April.

So yeah. Those are my thoughts on this. More to come. Maybe if I remember anything else extremely astute, I'll update this or post again.

And onward go I.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What I Did with My Sunday


About two weeks ago, I found myself needing to not drive home after a night of debauchery. I ended up roaming around the city thereafter. It led to a fortuitous discovery of some exit drain on the edge of the bayou.

It was a brief moment where I felt like I was one of the first people deciding that going through the brush was the best idea ever machinated. It was horrible & awful, but fun at the same time.

Here are the three tweets I made of the adventure I had that Sunday afternoon:

Right when I was having to climb down an embankment in jeans, boots, and a blazer, I realized how amazing it is that this sorta of structure was hidden from view. It's an industrial piece of our civilized world that's been fused with nature (seamlessly) and absconded from view.


I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an outdoors-y type. I'm awesomely athletic and enjoy the competitive aspect to physical exertion but that's about it. Oh... and the camaraderie too. Given the fact I enjoy reading my online articles of import and all the other technological gadgets that allow me to partake in the 21st century, I'm pretty stuck into the digital version of the cosmopolitan sphere. Despite my proclivities, I resolved to explore the bayous & natural spaces that are so hidden from Houston's public view.


I resolved to go on more adventures of discovery around the city I know & love. My attempt in doing so are three-fold:
  1. It will give my public a view of Houston they're not used to. It's not an attempt to explore nature & laud all of its wonderment (despite the awe being there) but more of a reflection upon the parts of the city ignored by the hustle & the bustle. More so than the gentrifying ghettos and decaying industrial districts, the greenery of Houston seems to be so easy to forget since it's so ubiquitous & installed along paths of transit.
  2. Ideally, I'm hoping to come to some cogent conclusions about the use of urban space & elements put into place when designing a city. We design cities for living, and a lot of the space to be utilized never is. I think seeing how nature's organized & our reaction to it will give me perspective on the city's organization.
  3. Since I'm sort of a contrarian, this project of mine will try to counteract the buildings, events, and the foods that occupy my Twitter feed.
  4. These hikes through the woods make sense. They make sense since, if you've seen me recently, I could use the exercise.
And then comes Today...

I was basically at this building off of 610 between Post Oak Blvd & Woodway.

I was only able to spend 45 minutes exploring, but felt like I was starting off on something worthwhile.

I started this great/bad/awesome idea by parking at the bottom level of the parking structure for the Xerox building. I was wearing walking shoes & a pair of khakis. I had not planned fully the events of my day. Whoops. I just hope I don't destroy these pants. I like these pants. They're Dickies, but, hey, they make my legs looks slender. Onward...

So I ventured out like the first time. This time, I've got a more grandiose vision of what's out there. I stare out at the great space before me.

But, alas, I only had 30 minutes before I had to be at brunch with my sister and her boyfriend. So I retreated away from further exploration and returned to civilization, with a clean pair of white tennis shoes & a mildly soiled pair of pants. It was a nice introduction to what I might want to do when I really decided to venture out into unknown territory.


The impetus for all this must seem odd unless you know more about me. Lots of things have changed recently about me with regards to major signifiers I find important. As a result, I'm in flux. Since I've been going through this weird transition between being an immature asshole & a less-immature less-asshole-y jerk, this sorta positive-ish preoccupation makes sense.

I hope to make sense & give good photos. We'll see how it goes. My next post should come in a few days. I'm hoping to do something Tuesday along the same area I was going through today.

Click here to continue this adventure.