International Peace Maker: The Water Wall by Seir Ortega

2800 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston , Texas , 77056

April 2004–My cousin Lily has forever loathed Houston. She is from Mexico, and prefers it more. I don’t understand how she can live without air conditioning, microwaves, and many other commodities, like a shower with running water. My cousins and I decided to show her the one place in Houston where her troubles would be sure to melt away.

Lily is not an easy person to amuse. She enjoys making others happy, but trying to place a smile on her face is a challenge. This place had to be extraordinary, and oversized, and filled with whimsical charm. Before arriving at this place, we headed towards the Galleria. Our mission was to show her many wonderful things found only in Houston , and then impact her with the only thing that makes this city unique. When relatives visit from afar, there is one place they must see before leaving the hustle and bustle of Houston, The Water Wall.

Just what is so great about water falling down a slab of concrete? It is an architectural feat, and describing it to someone who has never seen it can be quite a challenge. “ Well, you see…water falls down a wall and that’s it.” Not very appealing! I did not know this wall even existed, until my fifth grade teacher mentioned that the class would be taking a “educational” class trip.

The day of our fateful class trip, May’s hot steamy stench joined us to this water land. I had woken up thirty minutes late, and since I usually wake up fifty minutes before school begins, I was in quite the situation. I had planned to wear a nice crisp yellow T-shirt with my favorite blue jean shorts, which were extra comfortable, but unfortunately this plan didn’t unfold well. These two items were in the laundry hamper, and there was no way they would be washed and dried in twenty minutes. I was left to wear an old oversized T-shirt that had already begun to sweat as soon as I stepped outside. I also had to wear faded black denim shorts, which when mixed with May’s humid weather the outcome is nothing but discomfort. Since Houston ’s dewy climate was in full peak, my head experienced a terrible case of nappy hair syndrome. My hair was cut in a tight bob style, and if it had been straight I would not have minded, but my tiny dark locks were wavy and frizzy. I was a dead target for ridicule.

Once I arrived at school, I dashed towards the entrance of the building, like a man to an oasis in the desert. The sprint had me gasping for air, and many teachers asked if I was having an allergic reaction, but I just told them how glad I was to have air conditioning.

When students are taking a class trip, a school bus is the preferred mode of transportation. School buses, at the time, rarely carried cooling air systems, so I was dreading the ride. Worse, our teacher informed us we would be traveling in an old Dodge van that had no trace of air conditioning, or open windows. We would be trapped inside a mobile sweatbox!

Our school was located on the East Side of Houston, and the Water Wall was on the West Side of town. The thirty-minute van ride was the most intolerable form of cruelty, we felt we were being led to prison and not to a water paradise. After a while, a stench in the van began to surface. Was it a stinky kid in the back of the van who hadn’t showered in four days? Maybe the heavy toxic pollution mixed with humidity, or a dead rat on the freeway shoulder that finally began to decompose? The most reasonable answer to this mystery would have to be the pile of left over food in the back seat, not to mention sweaty fifth graders who do not wear deodorant.

After thirty long, sweaty minutes we reached the West Side of Houston, where mansions and ridiculously expensive foreign cars roam. Even though Houston was my home for six years, I had never seen the west part of town. The streets were filled with savvy businessmen, dealing major transactions over the new oversized telephones called cellular phones. The stoplights on the streets were designed with chrome materials, and the intersections were paved with dark red bricks. Hollywood was the first image that appeared in my mind after seeing this spectacle.

Before visiting this modern masterpiece we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a near by Mc Donald’s Restaurant. Everything on the west of Houston looks like a million bucks, and probably costs that much, so why should this Mc Donald’s be any different? The restaurant was a two floor eating ground, equipped with a gigantic big screen television, and there was definitely no Play Place insight. When lunch was over with, we climbed in the clammy beige van, again. I was preparing myself for disappointment, because so far the only positive thing in my day had been a quarter pounder with cheese.

I was skeptical, and imagined the waterfall to be anything but spectacular. I had watched a movie about a rich boy who bought a fountain, and swam in his brand new toy. I wanted desperately for this wall to become a pool instead. One with crystal clear aqua water, filled with the chlorine scent. As the teacher filled our heads with historical information, as do all teachers, I could not help but look ahead to where the wall was. This brilliant curbed wall of stone stood proudly six or so stories up in the air, right in front of a massive lawn. A cool breeze flowed across my body as I faced the monument. The heavens parted, and the sun glistened over me. By this time I was sure I had turned delusional, because the heat was so intense.

We walked across to the other side of the wall and all I could do was be still. The roaring body of water came rushing down this man made wonder at top speeds. Staring at it with amazement, I became light-headed. After staring at the running water for a consecutive period of time, the body begins to feel a spinning sensation. People who experience extreme motion sickness should be cautious of the wall. I did not mind this feeling, because after a long day of troubles I began to see hope. The cubed wall of water embraced me and took me in. I was standing on the edge of a tropical waterfall. This euphoric feeling was brief, but the impact was everlasting.

At this wall many lovers, or soon to be lovers, congregate under the star lit sky. There is something magical about water flowing at the speed of lightning. The feeling is sensual, which is why I think many school children are taken during the day. Conversations of love are carried through the winds. “ I love you,” and, “Will you be my wife?” are the nightly events at the water wall. For these occasions there is always a cameraman waiting anxiously to take a Polaroid of this monumental moment. “ Five dollars,” the man says as couples try to enjoy their evening. The price may seem unreasonable, but for many lovers, price is not an issue.

Across the street is another lovely part of the West Side . A small pond, which may pass for a small river, is filled with many exotic fish and ducks. The Water Wall is located directly across the Transco Tower . This tower is the tallest skyscraper in Houston , rising over seventy floors. In between the two landmarks is a long rectangular piece of land. This area is the host to many concerts and events. Weddings are said to also take place here, since this is probably were the couple was engaged. This area of Houston is similar to New York ’s Central Park. It is not as massive, but the area still serves its purpose.

The monument has water running on both sides; however, water on the outer wall is not always on. It is turned on during the lunch hour. On that “educational” class trip I was able to experience this phenomenon. The water beginning to fall down is as special as watching a shooting star fly across the deep blue sky. I have seen two shooting stars during my lifetime. On both occasions I have made wishes; however, I can not remember what they were exactly.

While my cousins and I were at the Galleria with Lily, she was growing restless, and was getting quite annoyed with us. Night finally came, and the time was just right to surprise her with the most spectacular sight. As we described what she was about to witness, she did not seem excited. Once again, describing this attraction is not simply done. People will not be amused with hearing the boring description of a beautiful sight. The night was cold and clear, a rarity for this city. A nearby French bistro released its aroma into our direction. The smell of French bread, pasta, crepes, and chocolaty desserts nearly steered us into on coming traffic.

The Water Wall’s lights had finally appeared. The soft yellow incandescent light filled the spectacle with elegance, and transported us into a world of dreams. The soothing rumble of the water began to take effect on us. All of us were single, and at moments like this we wished we had that special someone to share this place in time.

I looked as she stared in awe of this massive superstructure. She seemed like a child who was given free reign over the biggest toy shop in the world. The expression on her face went far beyond that of amusement. “Este lugar esta bellisimo!” she told me. This beautiful place warmed her heart, and reassured her that this city was not too shabby. We had reached our goal of showing her something so special, that for just one moment she wished she lived right here in Houston.

Houstonis an ever changing city, a metropolis for the lost and weary. A romantic city filled with soul, lights, and excitement. This may not be trendy New York City overflowing with wealthy socialites, but Houston has a deep, warm southern charm that most cities would be honored to have. Marvelous structures, such as this, are what give cities their fame. The Water Wall is a diamond in the rough, which needs to be discovered by all visitors and Houstonians alike.



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