The Village Arcade
Kirby Dr. at University Blvd. Houston,
November 2010–Deep in the heart of West University, Rice village has been a part Houston for decades. Located near Rice University, Rice village is home to many establishments, which cater to the public’s appetite. One of those fine establishments is the rooftop of a four tier-parking garage. Parking is an important necessity to everyday life. So why not appreciate a superior parking facility. This particular parking garage is located on the busy intersection of University Boulevard and Kirby Drive. There are many places where I could relax and enjoy the surroundings. Some of these places are parks, lakes, and even rooftop parking garages. A parking lot seems like an odd place to sit and reminisce of good times and magical moments. But this place is a simple gift of modern architecture where I can loiter to my heart’s content. I go there to spend time with friends or that special someone when finances are low. The rooftop garage is great for couples, small animals, and the poor, otherwise known as college students. It is a step back into the past where friends and family come to enjoy each other’s company, but not exactly on a rooftop. I frequent the village and it’s parking structures to waste time, money, or just to get away from frustrations. I could just sit there for hours to enjoy the people, the economy, and time pass me by.
I was drawn to the concrete palace because it seemed like a unique exhibit to see and I could not find parking anywhere else. My girlfriend, Diana, and I were visiting the village for an exquisite dining experience. The parking surface is dimly lit by lamp posts and moonlight, which reflect off the hoods of cars. Red Spanish tiles cover the roofs of car port gazeboes. Exquisite white stripes are painted for maximum parking pleasure. Cars race frantically around the rooftop in search of a parking space. As I pull into an empty spot me and my girlfriend decide to sit for a while and enjoy the rooftop activities around us. Hummers to Hondas, Ferraris to Fords, cover the lot to its full capacity. Depending on the day of the week, the rooftop could be packed like a can of sardines or empty as a ghost town. Aromatic car fumes fill the air and our lungs with great potency. Tire skid marks and oil leaks are scattered across the lot as we depart from my 1995 Camry. It is music to my ears when automobiles on the rooftop create euphoric sound consisting of car alarms, screeching brakes, and honking horns. These cars are mainly here for the night club the Gatsby, which sits on the rooftop garage. The blue neon entrance draws your attention to the club. Laughter echoes in the lot as well-dressed individuals pile out of their cars and head toward the club. The elite social club is home to West universities rich upper class. The roof is filled with the gossip and cigarette butts of club patrons as they come to dance and drink the night away. Parking attendants sprint back and forth retrieving cars for the rich and the lazy. Valet parking spaces are heavily guarded by orange florescent cones, which give of an iridescent glow.
Besides the expensive cars and high class clubs, another great feature of the rooftop is the spectacular views. These magnificent visions are seen from above, from below, and from a distance. From above I can see a dark night sky filled with moonlit clouds and a Life Flight helicopter zooming towards the medical center.
On other rooftops I am able to view flocks of pigeons and mazes of pipes. The vermin of the sky relieves me with laughter when they leave their mark on unsuspecting bystanders, but at the same time I shield my head and quiver in fear from the watery excrement of these plump birds. The art like bundles of pipes and other unidentified machinery, vent out smoke and steam. Maintenance workers are occasionally seen on the rooftops checking and repairing fixtures that run the building. A huge Half Price Books billboard reads “we buy books and CDs” as it towers over the long standing Fu’s Garden Hunan cuisine. Neon signs light up the night displaying that they are still open for business. Remnants of graffiti cover the walls of adjacent rooftops. As I peak through the smog, I am able to see a brand new high rise with condos for sale. On the outer skirts of the village and the rooftop garage are rows of lofts and many different species of trees. The lofts are marvels of architecture which line up along Kirby Drive. These amazing domiciles carry a hefty price tag. You must have many dollars or work many jobs to live in one of those homes. The trees around these houses are even expensive. The forestry that surrounds the buildings is comprised oak trees, palm trees, and different shades of green. Power lines cross each other above the buildings feeding electricity to the occupied stores below.
Below the rooftop is an infinite amount of restaurants and specialty stores. There is an array of international cuisine which surrounds the rooftop garage. Enthusiasts and parking patrons of rice village walk the street level hopping from store to store in search of a sale. The main occupants of these stores are Rice University students. I can tell that they are from the university because of their collegiate paraphernalia. I see caffeine addicts sitting in front of coffee shops sipping down their lattes. West University natives walk their small dogs along the side walk as they chat away on cell phones. I view the confusion of families not knowing where to go first as a hungry little boy tugs his father into a restaurant. In the distance, on one side I see the medical center skyline, and downtown skyscrapers on the other. Beacon lights on the tallest buildings blink rapidly to warn low flying air craft and low flying birds. Buildings whether short or tall, decorate the horizon like lights around a Christmas tree.
I enjoy the cool breeze as my girlfriend and I sit on the hood of my car, relaxed by the serenity of our surroundings. Suddenly, I am attacked by a buzzing menace. Moving vivaciously near my face, the mosquito mocks me until he feels the wrath of my palm. The smell of greasy, unhealthy, MSG filled food lingers through the air. I have a strong connection to this odor. That bond is the desire for food. Rain drops start to fall as we rush back into the car for cover. We sit in the car and add a soundtrack to our optical field day by turning on the radio. Multiple puddles start to form on the rooftop. As the rain subsides, I begin to survey the area for more sights, sounds, and smells. I stand on the rooftop perched like a bird ready for flight. A security guard patrols around in his official golf cart with a revolving blue light discouraging criminal like activities. Road side assistance helps a weary driver whose car has broken down on the rooftop. My girlfriend feels the hunger rumble in her stomach, and persuades me that it was time to dine.
Every time I arrive there I remember good times and good friends. The people around the village are friendly and courteous which makes it an even more delightful place. I have spent many hours gallivanting around the village and have been accustomed to its ambiance. I enjoy sitting lazily watching cars roll by.
The connection I have with the village and its parking facilities is that it is a safe and enjoyable atmosphere. I view the world at a whole new height. I start to feel that superhero vibe, having an ever watchful eye looking for any sign of distress. But there would be no such thing as a purse snatcher or car thief in the village. Of course I cannot leap from roof to roof, but just the thought is enough for me. A rooftop parking garage such as this one is a great place to bring the family or throw a birthday party weather permitting. I have come to the village many years and have never found a special place like this until now. I reflect on my past memories and feel that this area has a warm place in my heart. It is a refreshing high on top of a high roof.