From Austin to Spring, Texas. How to stay sane.
August 26, 2009 11:09 AM   Subscribe

After 7 glorious years in Austin, I have been demoted to relocating to Spring, Texas for a job. After a few days of getting the lay of the land, I am very disappointed. How do I stay sane?

If distance makes the heart grow fonder, I now realize the dearth of coffee shops, independently owned businesses, ecological consciousness, artists, and general quirkiness in Spring only confirms my love for Austin.

To get a feel for my personality, I am a mid-20s male who enjoys art installations, large libraries, experimental music, and social theory. The brutal compulsion of the economic has forced me to get a "real job" and move to a suburb dominated by god, country, and guns.

1) I know that I am 20 miles north of Downtown Houston. I have taken a look at this thread for suggestions on interesting things in Houston. Can one suggest interesting venues for my personality type in Houston? For example, the Nameless Sound collective is something I could get excited about.

2) Would it be a better idea to commute 20 miles to work from Downtown Houston instead of living in Spring itself?

3) How does one maintain one's individualism in a deeply conformist community? More specifically, how does one make friends in Spring Texas. I've got Metafilter for esoterica and email to keep in touch with my Austin friends but I'm missing the physicality of meatspace.

4) Does Spring have any secret gems that I've overlooked? Or is it Starbucks Starbucks Starbucks all the way down?

Please help Hivemind!
posted by bodywithoutorgans to Travel & Transportation around Texas (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
4) Does Spring have any secret gems that I've overlooked? Or is it Starbucks Starbucks Starbucks all the way down?

You have Mercer Arboretum just a few miles away for hiking/kayaking/pretty gardens. It's gorgeous there and really a hidden gem.

The Woodlands Town Center/Waterway has some cool bars and restaurants and they aren't all mass-produced Starbucks. Hubbell & Hudson is a really cool independent grocery store that would please any foodie.

Man, "deeply conformist community?" That's a negative way to think of it and frankly it's kind of insulting. Try to meet individuals without presuming that you know something about them. Granted, Spring isn't a bustling culture center like Austin is, but don't just assume that people here are all the same.

I live in the Woodlands and my sister just bought a house in Spring (to answer your #2, buying a house in Spring would be way cheaper than renting/buying in downtown Houston.) I will ask my sister about the bars/nightlife recommendations there.
posted by jschu at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

Twenty miles really isn't that far to commute, if you're really unhappy.

I know nothing about Spring, Texas, but I would suggest giving it a try for at least a few months. If what you're looking for isn't there, maybe you could create art installations, experimental music, and other things you're looking for, which could be more exciting than just glomming on to what other people are already doing.

Good luck!
posted by elder18 at 11:29 AM on August 26, 2009

How great could this job be, anyway? Is it really worth sacrificing your quality of life just to punch a clock and get a measly two-bit paycheck? Times are hard, but a little initiative goes a long way.

How does one maintain one's individualism in a deeply conformist community? More specifically, how does one make friends in Spring Texas.

The real question is why do you want people you don't respect to like you? You make friends the same way you make friends anywhere: by not being a patronizing, judgmental dick. And speaking as one patronizing, judgmental dick to another, why don't you just screw living in a small town, move to New York, and get on with it? Works for me.
posted by aquafortis at 11:36 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Would it be a better idea to commute 20 miles to work from Downtown Houston instead of living in Spring itself?

Downtown is actually pretty dead, but the areas around it are good. Midtown or the Montrose area sound up your alley, and it would be a reverse commute, against traffic for the most part.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2009

If I were you (and a few months ago, I was), I would move to the Montrose area (or something close: Rice Village, Museum District, etc.). The commute might not be great, but the area you'd be living would be.

Montrose or Rice Village are going to be your best bets to "match" Austin. The Heights is good, but can be hit or miss. Midtown is the yuppier/trendy part of town, along with Downtown proper. Not much in the way of individuality going on there.

I was living in (practically) Katy after I moved here three years ago. I finally wised up and moved into the Galleria area (I could almost throw a baseball and hit 610). I will never move away from where I play again. It sucks having to drive 30 minutes one way (with no traffic) just to hang out. Nothing can be impromptu when you're that far out.

While the Woodlands has some cool things, I really doubt it's what you're looking for. Between the two choices, I will say "move into Houston" every time.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 11:51 AM on August 26, 2009

If you decide to move to Houston, Montrose is great, but would tack on more time to your commute, which may or may not be what you want. There are parts of the heights that are pretty far north and not far from the highway to Spring, so that's an option. It's an enormous neighborhood if you look at a map, so it varies by subneighborhood and would require some research. You might also consider the third ward -- it's funkier than the other suggestions and has a lot of community projects and art and good food, quite central. Someone I know moving here has similar interests to you and that's where he wound up.

A lot of the good stuff in Houston is pretty hidden, perhaps Spring is even more so?
posted by *s at 12:03 PM on August 26, 2009

Welcome to Houston. It is big and diverse, and flat, hot and humid. I endorse the idea of visiting Mercer Arboretum, as it has pretty things to see. Pick up the Houston Press, a weekly newpaper, which has a great listing of things to see and do. Be sure to see the annual Art Car Parade, the oldest, biggest, bestest one in the world!

The only cure for the flat that is Houston is to visit the Hill Country once in a while.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:19 PM on August 26, 2009

I lived in Spring for some years (off Rayford-Sawdust, the cusp of The Woodlands!) and you know, that area may not a good fit for a single 20-something. Ideal for families, it has good schools, affordable housing, it's lovely to look upon, lots of amenities, la, la, la ... but not so much amiable quirkyness and such.

In your shoes I'd check out Montrose or the Museum District or the Heights, or, or, or (insert neigborhood of choice here). Could you try a short term lease while you get an idea of where you'd like to live?

Now, before hurt feelings arise, I like Spring and The Woodlands and loved my time there. Now my daughter is grown and out of school and we both enjoy living in Houston with all it has to offer (yes, traffic and crowds and urban blight, and museums, symphony, ballet, grand opera, bookstores, parks, restaurants and clubs, oh my!).

In my family, the rule is to give a new place three months before pronouncing judgement; it's usually home by then. Give it time and enjoy yourself.
posted by Allee Katze at 12:28 PM on August 26, 2009

My father commutes from the Museum District in Houston to Clear Lake (24 miles one way, south on I-45) every day, and he enjoys the drive: he is a teacher and has to leave pretty early in the morning, but regardless of the time, he is always against the general traffic (most people drive from suburbia to downtown in the morning) as would you be if you were to move to Houston.

Once you're there, you'd be surprised how easy it is to meet like-minded people and venues you'd like.
posted by halogen at 12:48 PM on August 26, 2009

I can commiserate. I'm currently in the process of packing up my Montrose apartment to move to across country. It's easy to love a place that you spent seven years getting to know, and easy to demonize change. But it makes you sound like a tool to people in meatspace, so get over it.

If you're looking at Montrose, look at the area in between Taft and Montrose, particularly north of W Gray. You're two minutes from 45, I-10 and 59. Then the reverse commute to Spring (or anywhere else in the city) is almost nothing.

I love Inversion for Coffee, Becks Prime for burgers. We have an Alamo Draft House down in Sugarland (super poor planning, but not all that far), River Oaks Theatre and the Angelika. Get on the Angelika's email list for free movies and other events. Our arts scene is actually phenomenal, just scattered and poorly organized. There's the MFA, CAM and Menil for wandering, and dozens of fantastic small galleries that put together great parties and openings.

Don't forget to check out the St. Arnold's Brewery Tour. They also put together Pub Crawls and occasionally scavenger hunts. It's a good way to get to know the city.

I could go on, I absolutely love this city. If you have anything specific (or want to sublet from me) feel free to MeMail me.
posted by politikitty at 12:53 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Moved to The Woodlands when I was 13, and didn't care for it much until I moved away. Funny thing is, one of my fondest memories is actually the Crawfish Festival that they have in Old Town Spring. What's the place with the beer bread and the funny name. Probably German and probably ___ Bros. That always seemed like a good place for a Sunday brunch, but I got the feeling it could be a pretty decent place for a Friday night as well.

My parents live in Austin these days, and while Spring definitely has a different feel, I feel like you could find a few decent dive bars and be set. You're probably not going to find a lot in terms of art installations, etc, but if you can appreciate Spring for what it is then I can't see why you wouldn't enjoy it. You certainly have access to all that Houston has to offer.

That said, I don't think it's a terrible idea to make the move to Houston (if I had stayed, I would have), and make trips to the burbs when there's something specific going on.
posted by hue at 1:09 PM on August 26, 2009

If it helps any, Lyle Lovett is from Klein, which is right next door to Spring. Does that add a little local color? :-)

Seriously, live in Montrose or the Heights and do a reverse commute. They have feel much more similar to Austin's than anyplace else here. You might also like Midtown, but you have no reason to live Downtown. Anyhow you do it, the commute will be tolerable (and maybe you can carpool or vanpool, too), and you'll also keep your sense of self and place.

I did this when I lived in DC and worked in Maryland, did it again when I lived in central San Diego and worked in the suburban office parks. I never could find a job located near where I wanted to live.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:06 PM on August 26, 2009

hue, that's Wunsche Brothers.

I grew up in Spring, and lived there for more than 20 years. But "suburb dominated by god, country, and guns" is a little insulting, and shows that you really don't have an open mind about your future location. So, yeah, maybe you won't like it. Over 5 million people live in the greater Houston area, and find things to do and exciting places to go, but it's not for everyone.

Pro tip: Don't whine about being in a "suburb dominated by god, country, and guns" to your neighbors, and then ask what are the hot things to do. Pick up a copy of the Houston Press to find your art installations and experimental music. No worries about libraries: We have a few.
posted by Houstonian at 2:09 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Houston, went to college in Austin and came to hate Houston, and my mom moved to Spring in the past year+. Yes, Spring kind of sucks, but here's the things that kept me happy:

- Old Town Spring is a nice little place that... well, it's too proper and Southern to remind me entirely of Austin, but there's a lot of independently owned businesses and restaurants. There's a really good Cajun place there whose name escapes me, and it's not expensive. It's a good place to explore.

- The Woodlands mall is something to do, and its waterway is quite pretty. Not a library, but there is a Barnes and Noble.

- The real gem is Market Street, which is right by the Woodlands mall. It's just a nice shopping center where you can walk around some pretty landscaping and statues -- not a ton of places like this in the Houston area. It has mostly chain shops and restaurants, but some are more obscure and a few are independently owned, iirc. There's a movie theater, a chocolate/coffee shop, some other coffee shop that isn't a chain, and a Borders.

When I visit my mom, roaming around these areas when I don't have time to get into Houston proper keeps me sane.

As for commuting... Honestly, I dislike Houston so much that I think you'd be better off just living in Spring and commuting into Houston for special fun when you get bored. Traffic is NOT worth commuting every day, and even if you live deep in Houston you're gonna have to drive at least twenty minutes to get to anything worth doing -- which you're already going to have to do in Spring, with less of a commute. Montrose is alright for an Austin feel -- though I think it gets old fast -- but it is an absolute nightmare to drive from there to Spring; sometimes it takes me nearly an hour.
posted by Nattie at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2009

Actually there is a very nice library in The Woodlands, just across from Market Street, right after the Cynthia Woods Pavilion ... overlooking the waterway.
posted by Allee Katze at 4:16 PM on August 26, 2009

Nthing the northern parts of the Heights as a possible place to live. I reverse commuted out from the Heights to the far west side for years. The commute sucks, but based on your wants, you'll be happier living closer in to Houston proper and going to concerts and seeing art in town. That way you can also look for a more amenable job in town as well as trying to get back to Austin.

NB: I've also commuted in from Clear Lake on the southeast side to Rice. Reverse commuting is much, much better. It may suck to be in the car that long, but commuting against traffic is much easier than commuting in the same direction as the traffic.
posted by immlass at 6:03 PM on August 26, 2009

I would consider the reverse commute and live where you play versus where you work.

By the way, I absolutely LOVE Houston and would live there in a heartbeat if it weren't for the summer humidity.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 7:03 PM on August 26, 2009

We lived in Houston for about a year and a half, and lived in Spring for about 9 months of that time. Neither of us loved Houston, but there are definitely some hidden gems if you look closely.
Pros for living in Spring: The Woodlands! It's really suburban, but Market Street and the waterway are the only things I miss about that area. It's a nice, walkable place with some independent restaurants- there was a decent sushi place there, as I remember.
Pros for living in Rice Village/Montrose/the Heights/Museum District/Midtown: much better nightlife, wine bars, etc; good restaurants in Midtown, Galleria, the Heights, Rice Village; galleries, museums, music. I think you'd enjoy living in those areas a lot more, and depending on where you work in Spring, you can take the Hardy Toll Road, which should get you there pretty quickly.
Good luck!
posted by mrstrotsky at 5:16 PM on August 27, 2009

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