Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Bird Family Debating Society and Supper Club

Greetings from the Lone Star State!

We Birds flew the coop yesterday on spring break and ended up in Houston, long considered a major spring break destination.

We are actually here because it's our first stop on College-Tour-a-palooza. For the virgins among you, this is the time in a parent's life when you spend a lot of money going around to visit schools that may not let your child in and that will cost you an arm and a leg if they do. The economic irony of the process would be intolerably painful, however, if we focused on that reality, so instead we laugh a lot and throw in some tourist attractions and really good food, thus putting an even heavier burden on the credit cards.

Yesterday, we drove around Rice University. Tomorrow we'll do the official tour and dog and pony show, but yesterday, we were just trying to get a feel for the place. What we felt was hot, which shouldn't have surprised us, this being the southern part of a southern state and all, but did catch us a bit off guard. Ben, who is trying to milk his "I-gave-up-the-beach-for-my-brother" martyrdom for all its worth, persuaded me to buy him some sunglasses to protect his dainty eyes from the Texas glare. This wasn't a problem, as Billy got off the plane with such painfully stopped-up ears that we had absolutely no choice but to hit up Walgreens. (Your travel correspondent is here to report that if you've seen one Walgreens, you've seen them all.) Ben chose some mirrored lenses, Billy downed some 12-hour Sudafed, and we were off.

It wouldn't be a Bird family vacation without an argument about where to eat.

We are all of us about the food, so much so that one of my roles as Mama Bird is to scope out restaurants in advance. I'd done plenty of research using magazine websites and my favorite, Chowhound, and printed off a great list of Houston possibilities. Which, apparently, are still lying in the printer tray back home.

This was a scary situation for a Bird to be in. Well not Bob -- he will eat anything, and as long as it doesn't cost much, deem it absolutely delicious. But the rest of us want to know in advance that those in the know have given our restaurant choice an A.

Thus, it was with a great deal of trepidation that we found ourselves adrift in Rice Village, a shopping area near the campus, trying to choose between an Italian place and a Turkish place, both of which I vaguely remembered from my research.

Billy, the world traveler, was all about the Turkish place. Ben, the picky eater who was already miffed that we weren't at his grandparents' beach house in the first place, thought we should play it safe with Italian. I was just ready to sit down and get out of the sun, and Bob, who's nursing the cold I gave him, just wanted to curl up in a corner somewhere and die.

So the four of us engaged in, shall we say, a spirited debate about which restaurant to choose. This is a scenario we've engaged in about 735,129 times in the past 18 years; the Bird boys can disagree about anything, but usually, it's about where to eat. Finally I proposed a diplomatic compromise a lot better than the State Department could come up with. (Perhaps this was because we were a stone's throw from a college school with a bunch of stuff named after James Baker.) We'd eat lunch at the Turkish place and dinner at the Italian place.

This decided, we went on to discover we loved Turkish food -- even Ben, of course. (It turns out Turks eat pizza.) His stomach full, Billy announced that between his cold and his horribly stopped-up ears and the fact that he'd only slept three hours the night before (we'd had terrifically bad hail storms during the night), all he really wanted to do was go to the hotel and go to sleep.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon not strolling around Rice but napping at a Fairfield Inn in Katy. Now I'll grant you that Katy isn't exactly tour-bus worthy, but it is the former home of Renee Zellweger, so the afternoon wasn't a total loss. And Bob and I were exhausted.

Why were we all the way out in Katy, which is like 45 minutes from Rice? Because we are visiting Houston right smack dab in the middle of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which we will be attending this very afternoon. All the cowboys and cowgirls got the good rooms, and we are out her in Katy in a motel populated primarily by a European soccer team and its entourage and a bunch of American cheerleaders and pep band members who are apparently in town for a basketball tournament. (Not to digress, but when did it become mandatory for cheerleaders to wear GIGANTIC bows in their hair? In my day, cheerleaders were all about the long sexy hair, and now they look like they're all dressed up for the preschool Easter pageant. And whatever happened to the big pom-poms? Honestly.)

Anyway, back to yesterday ... after two-hour naps, we got up and began the arduous task of deciding where to eat dinner. I mean, you could be excused if you're thinking I could never travel with these people IN A MILLION YEARS. We even drive ourselves crazy, I can assure you. Armed with the names of three Tex-Mex places (perhaps because he'd had pizza at luch, Ben was willing to broaden his horizons and forget about the Italian place near Rice), we left the hotel for another arduous trek back into town.

Our first choice turned out to be located between an AutoZone and a liquor store, which meant there was no way, no how Ben was eating there. I found this a little surprising, seeing as how he was still wearing the mirrored sunglasses and looked vaguely menacing himself, but I was a bit uncomfortable with the parking situation, so we headed back to number two on our list. This place turned out to have limited parking as well, so that you pretty much had to pay $5 for valet parking. Bob and his congested head and chest hadn't been saying much, but no way no how was he paying someone $5 to park his car if he didn't have to. So we drove on, finally ending up at a Chuy's. Here you could park your car yourself for free; you could absorb a little history, since if I'm not mistaken, it was at a Chuy's in Austin that Jenna Bush got busted for underage drinking; and you could get a yummy frozen Margarita, which of course I was in dire need of at this point. It was our kind of place.

Now we're all up and almost ready for our first full day in Houston. (Thank God we've got brunch reservations, so we'll have at least one meal without a debate.) We're going to try to see a bit of the school we've paid all this money to come visit, and then we -- the least roping and wrangling of folks imaginable -- will make our way to the Rodeo. I'd appreciate your thoughts and prayers, because God only knows how many choices of food will be available there.


Katherine said...

Yay Rice! That's where DH and I both went (met there). I could have given you restaurant recommendations 20 years ago, but only if you didn't mind the dirt cheap places (good food, less than $5 then).

I hope Billy will get to visit with a student, see a dorm room and eat on campus.

Betsy Bird said...

If only there were still places less than $5! We had to settle for less than $10.

Mr Lady said...

See? This is why I'm selling mine before they hit their teens.