Hey Suburbia, We’re In Love With You by Kenneth Starkey

Neighborhood in La Porte
La Porte, TX 77571

April 2004–During the summer of 1996, between my 7th and 8th grade year, my friends and I were sitting around the neighborhood bored as usual on a typical muggy Texas summer night. However, that all changed when one of us hit upon the spectacular idea of filling a tennis ball full of gasoline then dousing it in hair-spray. Our careful preparations paid off as we saw the unfortunate sap who had the task of lighting it leap back in horror from the sudden burst of flames. Then we began to kick the homemade fireball around causing flames to spew onto the concrete, and sometimes resulting in an inferno breaking out on our shoes. Suddenly I got a running start towards the tennis ball, putting forth all my effort to give it a hardy kick. As I saw the fireball sail forty feet into the air and a distance of fifteen yards I knew my exertion had paid of as I saw the fireball explode into a blinding light upon impact against the asphalt.

Nestled in between the cities of La Porte and Deer Park along highway 225 is the small area known as Lomax, the place where I have spent most of my time growing up. For the most part Lomax consists of three streets, H L and P, that are roughly 2.5 miles long, a rodeo arena, two small parks, a soccer field, a Junior High, and an Elementary. North P Street is decorated by a few sparse houses that line the street, roughly five small neighborhoods, and few large houses with ranches, owned by people who think they are cowboys so they ride the streets of Lomax in large bands, congesting traffic. Just past the soccer fields on N. P is the neighborhood of Bayou Glen, which is now composed of approximately 50 houses, is the place where I live.

In 1892 the city of La Porte was founded around the northwest shore of Trinity Bay, an inland extension of Galveston Bay, and originally covered fifteen square miles in southeast Harris County. Furthermore, La Porte was originally a business venture, specifically real estate, lead by a group of men such as A. M. and J.H. York, J.R. Holmes, and the man who chose the name La Porte (a French word meaning “the door”), T. W. Lee. The population of La Porte by 1900 was 537 people. La Porte gained national attention during the 1920’s and 1930’s due to the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park where several big bands performed, such as Benny Goodman, for dances and beauty contests. Despite all of the attention, La Porte for the most part remained a sleepy little community. However, the city began to grow and prosper with help from the La Porte-Baytown tunnel opening in 1954 and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center opening somewhat later, which led to a population of 7,149 in 1970. In 1980 La Porte annexed Lomax, and with the growth of Fairmont Park the prosperity of the city was further enhanced (Kolodzy). Before La Porte annexed Lomax my grandfather can remember hunting during the 50’s where my neighborhood is today, not to mention his family kept in the area too. Furthermore, he can recall when Lomax, prior to the annexation, would count all of the cattle in the various pastures as people in a sad attempt to make Lomax’s population seem larger than it was.

My parents and I moved here when I was five and have lived in this house ever since, and within that fifteen-year span the community has evolved quite a bit, and for the most part it has been for the worst. The neighborhood of Bayou Glen consists of one main street, Bayou Glen, and two small culs-de-sac. When we originally moved here there were only thirteen houses all based at the very back, which gave it the quite nice feeling of seclusion, not to mention it created the close and friendly relationship between neighbors. I can remember that as a child I played in the vacant fields of the other cul-de-sac closer to N. P Street and the other fields that lined the right side of the main street going into the neighborhood. Furthermore, there was a large cow pasture behind the suburb where my friends and I played, built club houses, and swung on a rope tied to a tree branch from a large hill behind the tree.

In 2nd grade I began going to Lomax Elementary, one of the better elementary schools, since they had programs such as the Gifted and Talented program which furthered the education of the more intellectually talented students. A recent article from the Houston Chronicle is a prime example of how serious Lomax Elementary takes the education of their student body. The article starts off by talking about how six pupils from Lomax Elementary were appointed ambassadors for an educational exchange program, and goes on to say that they would be apart of a delegation of 40 pupils from different areas. Their purpose would be to promote world peace and the understanding of various cultures, not to mention that the experience could impact the students’ future career choices (Evans). The La Porte school district was one of the six richest schools in Texas due to the surrounding chemical plants that have to pay taxes, more specifically those to La Porte schools. However that all changed due to the Robin Hood Act, which in a nut shell meant property-rich districts such as Deer Park and La Porte had to distribute most of their finances to the “poor” schools. For instance, La Porte and Texas City school districts were forced to give funds to the Galena Park Independent School District. Furthermore, in an even worse scenario Deer Park was compelled to give $32.8 million to Pasadena schools, which nullified the $27 million Pasadena was to receive in state aid (Markley). By 2001 several of the previously property-rich districts were facing bankruptcy.

When I got into Junior High my friends and I would spend the summers bored out of our minds so at night we decided to pass the time by filling tennis balls full of hair-spray or gasoline to light on fire and kick around the cul-de-sac. It was also during those dull summer days that I took up the habit of smoking cigarettes, along with the other habit involving smoking. Once I reached High School my friends and I would hangout around my house, or at night on the streets of my neighborhood, specifically on the curb on the side of my house. We were never bored because there was always the enjoyment of burning my old treasure trolls to kick around the street, or indulging ourselves in a little toke, like men in the opium dens of 1800’s China. Furthermore, I will never forget that drunken night where we took an old red wagon, filled it with bricks, and chunked it into the bayou that ran through the cow pasture, much like a Viking funeral except for the fact that we did not light it on fire, as we did with most items. These high-jinx, amongst many others were some of the fondest times I ever spent in this neighborhood, except once two of my close friends moved out of the community, and my other close friends dispersed to go of to college these good times came to a halt. In my eyes the neighborhood became a barren wasteland, leaving me only with my memories. Despite the fact that they still stop by during the summer to hangout, visit me from Houston, or visit from the oil fields of East Texas, things were never really the same nor will they ever be.

During the early and mid 90’s other companies came in to fill all of the vacant lots in a hurry in order to make a quick buck, like vultures moving in on their dead prey, except the customers were only brain-dead. The construction quality of these newer houses truly reflects that desire for easy money held by the companies, not to mention they possess that cookie-cutter look as if they had just rolled off of Henry Ford’s Model T assembly line. Due to the surrounding refineries the sound of sirens can be heard every Saturday at noon as they perform their test in case of an emergency. When I hear these alarms I cannot help but be reminded of the air raid sirens used during the Battle of Britain to warn the London citizens of the imminent oncoming Nazi Junker bombers coming to drop their lethal payload over the capitol of Britain. Yet any time there has been a gas leak I have never heard the sirens sound once. Instead I find out later that there was an accidental release of some toxic fume, and should have staid inside with the A/C off. Also, from the various chemical plants I have a flare to the north of my front door so that when they are having trouble at night I always know since the massive flame illuminates my backyard to a bright orange as their product burns off. Furthermore, the stench from the refineries hangs lower than usual when it rains, not to mention the fact that it then mixes with the fetor of fish from the bay nearby. The resulting odor is quite putrid, and depending on how hard of a downpour one can actually taste the foulness. At night the air is filled with the incessant sound of trains blasting their horns, a monotone whining from some chemical plant, and the occasional bird cawing.

As the neighborhood expanded the number of families increased, taking away from the friendliness found in a small community, but leaving the closeness of neighbors enough to know that one does not like them. Instead of the friends that I had through elementary to high school that lived in Bayou Glen I now have little brats who constantly ride their bikes in the middle of the road, throw trash in my yard, and casually stroll through my backyard. In addition, several of the kids have motorized scooters that they ride around the cul-de-sac, not paying attention to traffic, while their vehicle emits an annoying high pitched cry from the motor as they go by. The parents of these children can only be described as worse, and not just for allowing them to behave in such a manor. The lady that lives behind is one of those pent-up house wives who just sits around and has nothing better to do than get involved in “neighborhood politics”, always sticking her nose where it does not belong. She will act like someone’s best friend when she sees them checking the, but it is only to get the new juicy gossip going around or to spread her own. Furthermore, after she gets her mail and is walking away she shakes her butt with a disturbing over emphasis for guys and will intentionally drop her mail, and yet her actions are more of a joke than a turn-on. Conversely, there are the other neighbors who used to be cordial and worth occasional idle chitchat or a friendly wave that now see me as the source of their kids corruption. Instead, these same people pretend to be oblivious when I am outside or give me dirty looks as they pass by.

My neighborhood that I once found quite pleasant I have now come to loath due to the people and atmosphere that I believe will only worsen with time. Yet in spite of all this I could not see myself calling anywhere else home since I have lived here so long and I have so many wonderful memories of my past here. However, I know that I have outgrown the usefulness of this place and cannot help to feel that it is time to move-on.

Map

Links

La Porte Website

City-Data: La Porte, TX

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