- Friday dinner: Treated Kate "Bionic Dance" Fahr to a reasonably priced dinner at Charlie's on Broadway. After that, I caught up with traveling buddy Kevin and the Martins, a couple of friends who are "Houston expats" now living in Portland OR.
- Saturday's visit to the EMP Museum: The Sci-Fi/Fantasy portion had costumery from the Star Wars movies, and the Experience Music Project featured an exhibit on Jimi Hendrix's time in London. There was also an excellent and tasteful history of music video on multiple screens. From EMP I went to Pike Place Market, which can be overwhelming on a Saturday.
- Sunday's expedition to Fremont: After brunch with the aforementioned couple, I walked to, around, and from the Fremont district, including one stop at Theo for some fair trade chocolate treats and at the Dubliner to sip some Harp and read some Ulysses.
Mass transit in the Northwestern cities is far superior to Houston's metro, by several measures: convenience, reliability, cleanliness. Parking in downtown Seattle is ridiculously expensive, so Seattlites happily pony up $2.25 (or $2.50 during peak hours) to ride Sound Transit buses to and fro. Four different bus routes serve the Queen Anne district, including two that passed right by our place on Taylor Avenue North, usually about every ten minutes. En route to Sea-Tac Airport, at Westlake Station I transferred easily from the bus to the Link light rail. The Link runs between Sea-Tac Airport and downtown, costing $2.75 each way, less if you don't ride the whole distance. Portland's Max is just as good a deal.
Now compare that with my return to Houston Monday night. After I picked up my suitcase at baggage claim, I walked out to the bus stop at Hobby Airport's terminal. Of course, it was well after rush hour, so the three bus routes that serve Hobby had buses arriving every 30 to 60 minutes. I waited nearly half an hour for the 73 Bellfort, then hoisted my baggage awkwardly onto it. The bus took off for the endpoint of the route, where my fellow passengers and I sat for 15 minutes in a dodgy neighborhood while the drivers of the Bellfort bus and the 50 Harrisburg chatted. (I'm a local, so I expect this, but if I were an out-of-town visitor, I'd be appalled.) We took off into the night, taking about 40 minutes to get to Fannin South Station to transfer to the Metrorail (again, awkwardly), which dropped me off at Wheeler Station. I would have to wait at least another half hour for the 60 MacGregor to get me within a few blocks of home, or I could drag my suitcase about half a mile down Blodgett Street, which has two blocks with no sidewalks due to the construction of an upscale mid-rise apartment building. Walking along Wheeler Avenue would be a little better, but not much, and a little farther. If you get a friend to pick you up at Wheeler Station, there is no place for a car to stop, much less park.
With the Reimagined Metro due to come online this summer, the situation in Houston should improve dramatically, but some of the inconveniences will remain. I look forward to seeing how much better public transit will be with the new Metrorail Green and Purple lines and the redesigned bus routes.