BEAN ANGST

Fred Faour: Really, we are going to war with Chicago over a freaking bean?

Chicago had its bean first. Getty Images

Initially, I put this article on my personal blog, freddysworldblog.blogspot.com. But since several people convinced me that this had become a competition and big story nationwide, I should post it on SportsMap. So here we go:

For some reason, with any controversy these days, we slap a “gate” on the end. And lo and behold, Houston finds itself mired in just such a national quarrel.

Call it “Beangate.” 

OK, let’s not. “Gate” is overused and a copycat term, and since the city is basically being accused of doing just that, let’s use something different. In fact, the impetus of all this is a structure called Cloud Gate.

So maybe we will go with something more simple: “Bean angst?”

It all started when Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts got a new statue, a work by British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor entitled “Cloud Column.” The structure is similar to a work he did for Chicago, “Cloud Gate,” better known as the famous Bean. Chicago’s structure is awesome and a tourist draw. Houston is obviously hoping for some of the same.

(Plus, who doesn’t want a structure from a “Sir?” It adds class and dignity. And who would not want to have Sir in front of their name? Sir Fred Faour. See? It’s a game changer.)

Suddenly at odds

The problem is our good friends in the Windy City are somewhat upset over Houston getting the new work of art, albeit it a vertical version of the Bean. In particular, a reporter named Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune is particularly bothered. Janssen did his best to troll the good people of Houston. 

Said Janssen: “If being surrounded by a cultureless abyss insufficiently communicates to confused tourists that they are in Houston, the bean’s verticality will therefore act as an additional reminder of their poor life choices.”

Let’s toss in the headline for good measure: “Unoriginal 4th place Houston gets its own bean sculpture... whatever

And, of course, now Houstonians are in an uproar over being called a “cultureless abyss.”

That qualifies as trash talk? That gets our city up in arms?

City on city crime

I would love to bash Chicago and come to our defense. But in truth, we brought it on ourselves. The headline on the story linked above in Houston? “Move over, Chicago, Houston has a bean now, too.” Yes, one could see why that would be considered “unoriginal.”  

Janssen seems more upset that Houston is going to pass Chicago as the third largest city sometime in the next decade. He writes, “the (Houston) metro area gained 94,417 residents in 2017, while the Chicago metro area lost 13,286 residents. If that trend continues, Houston could eclipse Chicago as the nation’s third largest city in the next 10 years.” Bad news, Kim, that trend has been going on for quite some time...Whatever.

I would love to list all the reasons why Houston is not a “cultureless abyss,” but if you live here, you already know them all. (And you won’t find an actual “abyss” in Houston other than the potholes). And I would also love to bash Chicago. But the reality is it’s a great city. I have spent a lot of time there, especially in the past two years. Sure, it has its negatives -- if you fly in via Midway, there is a *67.5 percent chance you will be murdered on the Uber ride to downtown. (*-based on watching episodes of Chicago P.D.). But it’s not like we don’t have our own questionable areas (“Gunspoint,” anyone?)

Millenium Park, home of the original Bean, is awesome and we have nothing like it here. Chicago’s downtown is loaded with excellent restaurants, bars and amazing architecture. It remains the cultural center of the Midwest. The craft beer scene is fantastic. Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Gino’s pizza are personally responsible for at least 10 of my pounds. 

Of the art we have collected for our home, everything is from Houston except two works, both purchased from a Chicago artist. I have Blackhawks gear I like to wear. So I would be hypocritical to bash the city. And I get the angst. Chicago has always been third fiddle in terms of culture behind New York and Los Angeles, and now some upstart is about to pass them for third largest city. Go cry in your multiple sports titles (see, there is your sports angle) and terrific beer and food scene, Chicago. And, oh, by the way, you still have a lot of unique structures that no one will ever be able to match. 

We should all grow up (me too)

And I will not give Houston a pass for the “move over, Chicago” bit. Our fine city has long had an inferiority complex. “Dallas gets a TV show. Wah. Austin gets to be the cool place. Wah. We didn’t get a space shuttle. Wah.”

“We get a bean, too, and can be just like Chicago!”
Whatever.

It would also be wrong to make fun of the writer who trolled Houston. That’s what trolls want, right? For you to come after them? Why would I take that bait? After all, his name is Kim. Unless you are Korean or a talented Canadian rocker or actor (Kim Mitchell, Kim Coates), your parents are dooming you to mediocrity at birth. I would never make fun of that. 

And there is no way I would mention that a reporter for a major newspaper has less than 4,000 Twitter followers. What has he been covering? Bake sales? Dog walks? Only someone from a cultural abyss would go there. So I won’t.

And there is no way I would bring up that newspapers in general are so desperate for relevance and survival they resort to trolling. That would be unoriginal of me. 

Can't we all get along?

So yes, Houston now has a bean. Should the brilliant work of a famous artist not be displayed because it is similar to something he did elsewhere? Should it just be locked away somewhere? There was a time when imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Where someone would say, “hey look, they want to be like us. Cool! Thank you!” Instead, we resort to insults. 

Then again, maybe you guys are the copycats; trying to steal our inferiority complex. So...Cool! Thank you!

Whatever.

WEEKEND GETAWAYS

The best places to visit in San Antonio

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

One of the great mysteries of Houston life is that so many locals don't take better advantage of San Antonio. Not only is the Alamo City a cultural jewel with more than 300 years of history proudly on display, it is also a strikingly modern city with chic boutique hotels, innovative restaurants, and some of the best shopping in Texas.

In a time when cities across the world are starting to feel numbingly the same, San Antonio has kept its identity. What's travel if not a chance to experience some place unique?

Where to eat and drink

Eastside Kitchenette

After a long period spent renovating its 1906 building, this project from owner chefs Jenn and Jeff White debuted in January with a comforting menu melding the best of Southern and Hill Country cuisine. The dishes — catfish, meatloaf, and even spinach artichoke dip — certainly appeal to traditionalists, but Eastside doesn't exactly deliver home cooking. That catfish is stuffed with sweet blue crab, the meatloaf comes with a side of black garlic broccoli, and the bacon Parmesan streusel topping the dip was never in a Junior League cookbook.

Jet-Setter

The newest player in the downtown bar scene is literally underground, giving it an exclusive speakeasy vibe. Still, once revelers descend the steps, it's clear that its head is in the clouds. Taking style cues from midcentury airports, the lounge has vintage vibes without looking like a Mad Men set. The cocktails are fully contemporary, using ingredients from destinations all over the world.

Lala's Gorditas
The owner of this Southside restaurant, Steve Pizzini, is San Antonio restaurant royalty. His aunt Ernestine Pizzini Chapa founded Teka Molino in 1938 before father Herman Pizzini launched Taco Hut in 1958, and both quickly rose to become some of the Alamo City's most beloved concepts. That's a lot to live up to, but Pizzini rises to the occasion with extravagantly overstuffed gorditas, shatteringly crisp puffy tacos, and deep caramel flan baked every day.

Swine House Bodega
This downtown sandwich shop is serious about its sourcing, using only ethically raised breeds from area farms. For owner Joe Saenz, it's not just a matter of being a responsible global citizen. Pasture-raised meats also taste better, a fact readily apparent in the Swine House's New York-style subs and biscuit sandwiches. Be warned that the shop is only open weekdays for breakfast and lunch. What better excuse to extend a weekend day trip?

Continue reading on CultureMap to find out the best places to shop.

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