Y'all, I'm on a business trip in Houston. this is my first time in the city, so I figured I'd get the "authentic Houston experience" by not driving at all and walking the half mile radius around my hotel. It's so dismal it makes me giddy. Come along with me, won't you?

I'm staying in a Fairfield Inn and Suites right by the highway. In isolation, it's nice. It's a quick half mile walk from where my conference will be. Though it's the cheapest marriott hotel, it gets me points and has free breakfast and such.

In other words, nothing about it is objectionable or dirty. It also happens to be the saddest place in north america. Why? Let's explore further to find out!

This fairfield is conveniently located near some commercial space, a couple strip malls, and residential areas that are completely gated off. there are no sidewalks; the road next to it people are going roughly 40 mph / 65 kmph.

so, if you want to do anything, you basically need a car. But lets say you don't wanna have a car and decide to risk your life by jaywalking in in an unfamiliar, pedestrian unfriendly city. Let's see what we can find!

the safest places to walk to are this restaurant that's closed on sundays which looks like a former drive-in, a shipley donuts (will try--would like to get a kolache while I'm here, and a popeyes. I ate lunch at that popeyes. the restaurant was blaring a station that was peaking and distorting the speakers. It played "the 80s, 90s, and today," which is code for unoffensive white people music. this popeye's by the side of the highway was good. I am satisfied.

across the street from this popeyes, we find a strip mall; based on the design I'd guess early to mid 2000s in design.

couple things I like here. I like how there are no places to sit or interact with outside, but they still put that one sad desperate plant. Also I like this Kolache place that has no clue what its identity is, advertising italian panini and korean bulgogi right next to each other. Is it a drug front? who knows!

We turn around from this strip mall, and look under the overpass. Hmm. Signs of civilization on the other side!

So let's do something that no texan expects you to do: cross the street. Seriously, I did not see one single other pedestrian and all the drivers were looking at me cheerfully walking down this sidewalk as if I had three heads. Let's see what's over there, shall we?

Okay. We've got an utterly ordinary strip mall from the early to mid 2000s. Needs power washing. The mexican place (Carnitas, seen in previous shot) looks nice and is quite busy during sunday lunch rush. Nowhere else is.

The "for lease" place has a hell of a lot of abandoned crap inside. It'd be fun to root around in.

We sally forth and find a comfort inn and suites not too different than the fairfield inn where I'm staying.

On one side there's a weird for sale house (could be former medical offices?), and on the other side we find a drab industrial building.

also, lots of security cameras. remember, this is the comfort inn and suites. for there to be true comfort everyone must be watched at all times

next to the strip mall with the mexican place, there's a road that suddenly ends, and a best western that looks even more comfortable than the comfort inn

It's got that nice prison yard feel, and seems like a great and unique place for a family of four to get away for the weekend in beautiful houston. after all, they are right near a popeyes and a mexican restaurant and vague, nonspecific industry and commercial space

walking back under the overpass we can hear cars whooshing by overhead. We've encountered no pedestrians thusfar but there are countless people whizzing over us.

Looking up, we can see that this structure has a lot of thought put into it. It's the only thing we've seen so far that really feels intentional and impressive. a feat of engineering, all to make sure nobody has to stop in this area unless they have to

we go back to the first strip mall we saw, the one with the sushi place. We stand in the parking lot and look east. we can see why Arcade Fire wrote The Suburbs about this place:

"Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small,
Then we can never get away from the sprawl,

Living in the sprawl,
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains,

And there's no end in sight,
I need the darkness someone please cut the lights."

an ordinary houston office park on a sunday. a contextless, almost featureless space; like something from a PS1 game with distance fog

zones without people. spaces without meaning.

sometimes, as in the second office, things get so drab that they cross over back to being interesting. Like, why is that path leading into a window with no door? did this level not get tested yet?

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@stolas I didn't get to the area where most people actually live, but it's close to what i took pictures of

people who live near places like this tend to live in gated communities, these walled suburban enclaves with a whole lot of security theater that doesn't actually do anything. you need a car to enter and leave; you can't actually walk anywhere

@realmaxkeeble That's just really weird to me. I can understand having to use a car for everything if you live in the middle of nowhere but what's the point of a city that you can't walk around in?
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