• Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Cinema

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

"Houston is a cruel, crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby, sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West -- which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch."

- Hunter S. Thompson


I tried to think of themes and ideas for my blog going forward. Honestly, I find it quite tough. Writing mad fiction, I can do without much thought (which still surprises me, even more than it does anyone else) but for some reason choosing a blog topic is difficult. This month I wrote a blog about Houston and Texas but I didn’t enjoy writing or reading it afterwards. Not because I don’t love living in Houston, I do, but I just thought it was generic. I decided to just delete it. It has vanished back into the ether from whence it came. How can you describe a whole city and state especially one as large as Houston in a thousand words? You can’t, if you want that maybe get a guide book or watch No Country for Old Men or Sicario (do watch those movies but they don’t represent Texas very well, but they are great films.)

So, what am I rambling on about? What is this blog about? Going forward it is going to be the Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas. Sounds exciting? It might be, of course, it might not be, but that’s for you to find out. Basically, it will be me doing normal things and trying to be funny about it. What does a Yorkshireman do in Texas besides sweat and complain about the heat while slathering bug spray onto his pale legs? Not much, just everyday stuff really. But isn’t that what it is all about? The everyday things that we do without thinking. That is life. It is easy to forget that while we have our heads in the clouds, planning, remembering, worrying. It is sometimes difficult to block all that out while we are just living. For me, it is also easy to forget that I even live in another country. Everyday things that I may do that I have grown accustomed to living in America might sound strange to you guys back home or people living elsewhere, to those of you who live here these things will be very familiar.

Take going to the cinema. Now, you must be thinking what a weird place to start, but just hear me out. I like to think of myself as a cinema geek, I love nothing better than to go and watch movies that I have seen a million times before but on the big screen. I also like to act the film snob when the opportunity arises, especially for horror and art-house movies (especially art house wherein the winter I can wear a cardigan and skinny jeans with my black-rimmed glasses, drink coffee and make out that I’m avant-garde.) The place for all that in Houston is the Alamo Drafthouse cinema. I love this place; I really have been there a ridiculous amount of times.

Here is the thing, living in Houston you get used to the distance. The city is vast, the state is enormous. Public transport is practically non-existent, so you drive. Everyone drives, everywhere. Hell, I didn’t even drive until I moved here and I quickly understood that it is an absolute necessity. This is made easier by the petrol (gas) being cheap as chips. Two dollars a gallon! Pays to live in one of the Oil and Gas capitals of the world. So, I drive now and I want to go to the cinema, but not just any cinema. I want to go to Alamo. I book an early morning viewing so I can avoid the worst traffic (I am a bum when I’m not writing or cleaning the house and mowing the lawn) of whatever I want to see, in this case, Midsommar (batshit crazy) and jump in the car. Obviously, it is BOILING hot in the car (mid-thirties outside even first thing in the morning) so after a few minutes of blasting myself with the A/C, as they call air conditioning over here, I can get going.

I put Alamo into Google maps – serious side note, how the fuck did anyone get anywhere before Google Maps?? – and it gives me an ETA. Thirty-five to forty minutes! Yes, that’s right I am going to drive twenty miles to go to the cinema. Why? Because this is Houston and driving for thirty minutes to go somewhere isn’t that big a deal. Off I go, with my own Spotify playlist blazing away on high volume, rather than “Housewerk” (I’ll save those dirty, dirty beats for another time) it’s on random so first in is Tear for Fears with “Head over Heels” (What can I say I love Donnie Darko) so I can sing my arse off. This is an eclectic playlist so anything can come on. The beginning is just driving around the burbs so no drama, but my journey will take me to the dreaded I10.

How to describe the I10, or Interstate 10, for you guys back home. Sixty miles an hour speed limit which everyone completely ignores (including me – hey I learnt to drive here!) Concrete and steel as far as the eye can see. At one point it is fourteen lanes across, yes that right, fourteen lanes! That makes the M1 look like a wet fart on a Sunday morning after a heavy Saturday night. Wikipedia tells me it is two thousand four hundred and sixty miles long going right through the Dirty South to California. That is a lot of road (it makes you wonder what historians studying our civilisation will think of this in ten thousand years when they still can’t get their heads around the Pyramids.) Back to the trip, after a bit of messing around, I am on the I10 at 10:30 am and for some reason its always busy. Today, it is reasonable by Houston standards which is still busy by normal standards. I crank it up to seventy miles per hour just as “Move My Body” by Tiga comes on so I turn the sound up, mainly to drown out the noise of the freeway (motorway to you guys back home.) I start on the right side of the lanes so I know I’m going to need to cross over to the centre or else I’ll be going in the wrong direction and if that happens you are done for; you could end up literally anywhere and add twenty minutes to the journey.

I take a quick glance and see a pickup truck zoom past me; I’m doing seventy already so who knows what they are doing but hey that’s a pickup truck and they do anything they want in Texas. I wait to see a gap and go for it. It sometimes feels like this is way more dangerous than it’s worth but I really like this cinema. I’m off and away, immediately someone else is right up my arse so I go to the next lane. Of course, there is a massive multi-wheeled truck right in my way driving at eighty miles an hour like a lunatic. I try for a different lane but there is another one, they ride along with each other for some reason, maybe racing but who knows, either way, I’ll need to wait to get past them.

On the way I see someone blow a tyre, an old sofa upside down on the hard shoulder, a cracked builder’s helmet in the centre lane and the continuing clean-up job of a crash on the right-hand side. Standard on the I10. I also see that the cops have pulled over a bright red muscle car which makes me smile because, well, fuck those guys! The trucks part so I blast right past them and out on to the open freeway. The speed limit goes up to sixty-five miles an hour which is the queue to go up to seventy-five. I am flying and listening to some uplifting “Steal” by Marabou State, I always mocked my wife for singing in the car but it is fun. Fifteen miles now on the I10 up to Katy, I can gun it now without too much worry. No cop will stop me although I don’t go past ten miles an hour over the limit (I was pulled over in Louisiana and got a ticket…$250 fine!) It wouldn’t matter because people are taking me over left and right, driving like absolute lunatics for the sake of saving one or two minutes. Risking their lives for a matter of a few seconds.

Ten minutes later I am off the I10 and back into the burbs where I reach Alamo and park up. Back into the blazing sun for a short walk where I now enter the cool cinema and get my mind bent and disturbed by the strange genius of Ari Aster. Forty minutes. Twenty miles. A sore throat and a lot of near misses just to go to the cinema. A very cool cinema but still, I used to complain if I had to walk more than twenty minutes to anywhere. Now, that doesn’t seem that bad. That’s going to the cinema in Houston baby!

That was a tale of a Yorkshireman in Texas. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it.

A bloke with a ginger beard who writes.



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