Sitting across from my 31-year-old son in Agora, his local coffee shop in the hip Montrose section of Houston, sipping Texas country pecan coffee, all is right with the world. At least in this little part of Houston. It’s my first time here. I’ll be back, not only to visit Ethan as he pursues his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at Rice, but for the fantastic restaurants, free art museums and the Robin’s Nest Bed and Breakfast where I’m staying.
On Thursday, my first day in town, we drove down to Brazos Bend State Park, home to hundreds of alligators, from a five-month-old baby under a foot long to a humungous immoveable gator lounging in the lake. Ethan hasn’t gotten around the city much since his arrival in August, and he also wanted to explore natural places outside of town. I was game. We walked six or seven miles around the park, marveling at the prehistoric-looking creatures.
Although alligators reminded me that life has existed on this planet for thousands of years, last night at the Poison Girl bar showed me how small Earth is. Sitting around the table drinking to Ethan’s birthday were his new grad school friends from Turkey; Columbia; Orange County, Calif.; Amherst, Mass., China, and one Texan.
Sharon, who gave herself an American name when she arrived in Houston from a small city near Shanghai, wanted to see where we were from in Maine. She patted me on the back and pointed to Mt. Desert Island on her iPhone. “Where on the island is your house?” she asked in perfect English.
All the world’s a stage for curious, ambitious young folks. I so enjoyed talking with Ethan’s Turkish friends about scary terms like “terrorist” tossed about by the powerful in all countries to scare the populace, keep them under control. The “word” in the United States used to be “communist.” There’s always a word, but the way to break the “word” down into reality is to exchange more words with others. I love that.
When I was in college the choices for a semester abroad were London or Paris, neither of which I could afford at the time. And I was afraid to leave my U.S. cocoon. Breaking down borders through travel, technology and study can only help our beleaguered world. Even at my — ahem — advanced age I want to get out there.