Friday, January 31, 2020

Odd Things I Noticed

I was north of Houston, In Spring, TX this week and last. They seem very fond of making all residences the color of some variety of sand. It was true for towns west of Houston as well. In the 1980's-era section my son was in there was enormous variety of layouts for the various houses, far more than one would find in New England. Yet little variation in color. The streetnames border on the bizarre for a flat (flat!) area with no mining: Stonemist, Castlemont, Ironcrest, Enchanted Rock, Copper Hill. My son likens them to names on a map of a fantasy novel.  I suppose with that many new streets in a series of suburbs spreading out the developers use up the good names pretty quickly and have to resort to lists of charming words that they throw darts at, picking two per street.

No trash barrels in public areas.  I am used to every supermarket, hardware store, and strip mall having a bin outside entrances.  I don't know what they are hoping to accomplish, but it did seem that there was very little litter in parking lots.

I knew I was in a very different culture when I saw big signs advertising Montessori schools, sometimes miles from the school itself.  In New England, the signage can be so minimal that it's hard to locate the place.  My son's girlfriend, who was an elementary school teacher and is now a children's librarian, tells me that those are often the faux Montessori schools, trading in on the name.  She gave as an example a friend who had a son bring back a drawing he had made on which the directress had noted that leaves on trees were green, not pink.  In a real Montessori school they would be correcting him for using green, rather than something more creative.


james said...

Nature's Preserve Office Park

Grim said...

The subdivision name thing is also a feature of the Atlanta sprawl. It’s an ugly feature at that, the removal of meaning from place names.

Although there is one on the very northern edge of the Atlanta region that kept the true place name in its marketing: “The Preserve at Long Swamp Creek.”

Aggie said...

Back when I used to commute to Houston every day (90's), I used to amuse myself between early-morning NPR radio segments by coming up with new, ever more ludicrous development names (e.g. 'The Ranches at High-Meadow Canyon...Lake') to match the ones I would keep seeing advertising the newest developments . You have to see this process to believe it - vast tracks of open, totally flat grazing acreage in 100-year flood plain being quickly converted to full-feature neighborhoods, with development names that were totally ignorant geographically, and weirdly evocative of romance novels, as someone else noted. Greater Dallas is even worse.

Texan99 said...

So much near Houston is brand-new that you can be surrounded by construction that is almost 100% determined by a marketing group using the surveys results of only the last few years. That will get you an incredible consistency in the color palette. A really new development, of course, has shucked all that off-trend earthtone stuff and substituted white and gray. We're starting to see signs in the trade journals that it's time to ditch white and neutral in favor of "pops of color" and lots of words like bold and vibrant and warm.

Hey, just like that, our "muted green" kitchen is back on trend.

JMSmith said...

The beige houses are partly due to the fact that most new Texas houses are brick-veneer, not vinyl, wood, or aluminum siding. Where stone is used, its always limestone from the big Cretaceous beds west of Austin. In the south, we also need houses with low albedo, since its really hot in the summer. Finally, lots of the local bricks are made from a yellowish clay (also Cretaceous).

JMSmith said...

As a geographer, I deplore ludicrous and unsuitable toponyms, street names included. But I do try to check this with a little charity for the poor developers. They have to come up with a lot of names, and then find themselves trapped between the rock of the U.S. Postal Service and the hard place of consumer vanity. I don't know the exact rule, but the Post Office basically says there shall not be two Maple Streets (or any other duplications) in a single city, and this pushes names into the weird zone in a big city like Houston. Consumer vanity meanwhile demands a street address that suggests gentility and taste. So honest descriptors like swampy hollow and slaughterhouse row are out, so far as residential streets are concerned.

The consolation is that toponyms sound better as they age. A person who raises a family on Meadowview Circle grows out of thinking that the word Meadowview has anything to do with the nouns meadow and a view, neither of which are present on Meadowview Circle, and grows into thinking that it is the name of the place they have lived their life. And as the language changes over the long term, banal names can become very poetic. Mississippi is a lovely word, but its original meaning is just "big river."

Texan99 said...

"Pinchgut Holler"!

I grew up on "Wigton" close to a cross-street 'Runnymeade," if you can imagine that kind of imagery in a 50s-era Houston suburb. Toniness evidently was associated with Anglo-Saxon references, even though the neighborhood was predominantly Jewish and called Meyerland. Real estate professionals probably give up worrying about logical consistency quite early in their careers and embrace whatever irrationality will sell houses to their nutso clients.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

JMSmith - I referenced you when I reposted on the topic of toponyms years ago. A refresher, for the others:

"Big River" (Rio Grande) isn't even the half of it.