In February 2016, The New York Times featured Houston in its travel column “36 Hours,” which outlines how to spend 36 hours in a particular city. This is like that, except this one is called “37 Hours,” because 37 hours is one hour longer than 36 hours, and “longer” is basically “bigger,” and bigger is generally better. The list is for you to use during Super Bowl weekend, but it also works pretty much any other time of the year. Also, just a quick note: This version is slightly more treacherous (and maybe even longer than 37 hours).
1. Be Angry, 5 p.m.
There’s a point in Houston where each of the three biggest highways in the city converge within a two-mile stretch. As such, there’s a nasty, nasty knot of traffic there every day from about 3 to 7 p.m., and it’s especially aggressive on Fridays. I can’t think of too many things that are more “Houston” than for you to spend some time sitting in that, getting angry, and yelling at everyone and no one.
It’s not all the way bad, though. One time, while driving with my wife and kids, we saw a person driving a car while dressed in a full-on Easter Bunny costume. He (or she) was wearing the head and everything, which seems dangerous, but I’ve never dressed up in an Easter Bunny costume so I can’t say for certain that driving while wearing an Easter Bunny head is dangerous, only that it appears to be dangerous. Another time, when I first moved to Houston in 2004, I saw some people in the backseat of a car open the door and then throw an empty child’s car seat out onto the side of the road. I’ve thought about it at least twice a week since it happened. I just really want to know what was happening in there that made those people say, “We really, really need to get rid of this car seat right now.” Perhaps you’ll see a great mystery like that, too.
2. Participate in a Mob, 7 p.m.
Directly in the center of the above mentioned traffic knot is the Galleria, the largest and best mall in Texas. During BIG EVENT weekends, it acts as a nerve center, and draws large, large, large crowds. When the NBA All-Star Game was held in Houston in 2013, for example, the Galleria became so flooded with humans that the stores were forced to close early and police had to be called in to usher people out of the mall. Do you remember the scene in World War Z* where all the zombies were climbing up over each other to try to scale the wall into Jerusalem? The Galleria is going to be like that on Super Bowl weekend. You should go. You should be a part of that.
*World War Z was dope. It’s probably a top-10 Brad Pitt movie, unlike The Tree of Life, which, coincidentally, was filmed in part in Houston.
3. The Ocean of Funk, 10:30 p.m.
In 1994, E.S.G., a Houston-famous rapper, rapped, “So spread your legs / And, bitches, let me enter / ’Cause I fill a chick up like a Timmy Chan wing dinner,” and that* was the moment Timmy Chan’s entered the Rap Food Reference Hall of Fame**. Go there to eat. The food is not that great, but at least it’s also unhealthy for you.
*It was on a song called “Ocean of Funk” from an album with the same title. That album was actually the first nationally distributed album to prominently feature chopped and screwed music. It’s a seminal piece of work.
**The third-best rap food reference of all time was when Biggie said “Pull the truck up front / And roll up the next blunt / So we can steam on the way to the telly / Go fill my belly / A T-bone steak / Cheese, eggs, and Welch’s grape.” The second-best rap food reference of all time was when Rakim said, “A pen and a paper / A stereo, a tape of / Me and Eric B., and a nice big plate of / Fish, which is my favorite dish / But without no money, it’s still a wish.” (Rakim, I would argue, is the only rapper who’s ever made aspiring to eat a plate of fish sound cool.) And the first-best rap food reference of all time was when Young Jeezy said, “Big wheels, big straps, you know I like it supersized / Passenger’s a redbone, her weave look like some curly fries / Inside fish sticks / Outside tartar sauce / Pocket full of celery, imagine what she tellin’ me / Blowin’ on asparagus, the realest shit I ever smoked.” That’s six food references in less than 20 seconds, which is an almost unfathomable food-reference-to-seconds ratio.
4. Laredo Taqueria, 9 a.m.
Two barbacoa and bean tacos. Salsa verde. A can of Big Red. Congratulations. You are now a Texas Mexican.
5. The Sunken Basketball Court Near the Toyota Center, 11:30 a.m.
Some say that the spirit of 1995 Hakeem Olajuwon wanders the court each night, hoping to find another championship, or at least another trip to the Finals, or at least a first-round playoff victory*.
*Did you know that the Rockets have had only two first-round playoff victories in the past 19 years?
6. Screwed Up Records & Tapes, 2 p.m.
The actual original Screwed Up Records & Tapes location — if you’ve heard of Screwed Up Records & Tapes, then that’s the one you’re thinking of — closed in 2012. The new location is in a different part of town but still carries with it the same lore and mystique. Go there. Buy some things. Take a picture in front of it. Post it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever. That way, people who have lived in Houston for their entire lives can look at it and say, “Look at this dork.” Only people who have lived in Houston for their entire lives are allowed to take pictures in front of Screwed Up Records & Tapes. It’s actually written out on every lease agreement and mortgage note for you to see when you move here. You have to sign your initials by it and also get it notarized. It’s very serious.
7. Johnny Dang & Co., 4 p.m.
Do you remember when everyone was wearing grills? This is where they were getting them.
8. Lil Ike’s Auto Collision & Frame Center, 8:30 p.m.
A song that will live on in Houston forever is Lil’ Troy’s “Wanna Be a Baller.” It’s a perfect piece of art, in that it grabbed hold of a very specific time and location in history (1998, South Houston). There’s a line in the hook where Troy says, “Swisher rolled tight / Got sprayed by Ike.” It’s in reference to candy paint, which is a special kind of paint job that is popular in Houston. Lil Ike’s is where a bunch of that was happening.
(My favorite thing to think about is, OK, let’s say there are two families coming to Houston for the Super Bowl. One of the families is from New England and they’re here to cheer for the Patriots. The other family is from Atlanta, and they’re here to root for the Falcons. Both families get to Houston, Google “places to visit in Houston,” find this list, and then set out to see each place on it. The family from New England gets to Lil Ike’s Auto Collision, and they’re very much just like, “What the fuck, man?” The family from Atlanta gets to Lil Ike’s Auto Collision and they’re very much like, “Beautiful.”)
(I don’t really know very much about New England. I assume they’re super into clam chowder or whatever, but probably not that interested in where Lil’ Troy got his car painted. Vice versa for the family from Atlanta.)
(Question for you: Were you picturing the hypothetical family from New England as white and the hypothetical family from Atlanta as black? Because guess what: It’s actually the opposite. In this hypothetical, the New England family is black and the Atlanta family is white.)
9. Fondren and Main, 10 a.m.
Fondren is a street in Houston. Main is a street in Houston. The location where they intersect, Fondren and Main, is not that nice of an area. In fact, it’s kind of horrible. Adding it to the list of places to visit when you’re in the city is like if someone was making a list of places to visit when you’re in Australia and they were like, “Swim out into the Indian Ocean and see if you can convince a great white shark to bite your leg off.” That said, it gets on here because (1) Guerilla Maab, the group that sent Z-Ro* and Trae headed toward fame, wrote a song called “Fondren & Main,” and I just really like Z-Ro and Trae; and (2) it’s only a few minutes from my house, and so I feel a certain kind of loyalty to it.
*I freelanced for the Houston Press, Houston’s alt-weekly paper, for several years. While there, I tried several times to meet up with Z-Ro for this story or that story, each time coming up empty. After something like, I think, three years of trying to chase him down, I ended up at one of his video shoots. I will never forget it because when I walked up to him, he extended his fist for me to bump but I was working so hard trying not to look excited that I didn’t realize it was his fist he’d put out, and so I ended up grabbing it like a doorknob.
10. Steak and Shrimp, 1 p.m.
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, a restaurant chain, has several locations in Houston (the Pappas Restaurant group, which has more than 90 different restaurants in several different states, is headquartered in Houston). There’s one that’s across the freeway from the stadium that the Super Bowl will be held at. It might seem like anticulture to eat at a chain seafood joint near a freeway while in Houston, but it’s super-duper not, particularly that location. Going there before going to whatever is happening at the stadium later that day is legit a very common and important Houston experience. Also, I was there for dinner one evening in 2013 and I saw Drake at a table with a woman. He had a concert later that night and so I guess he was there to get ready for that. I walked over there and I was like, “Hey, Drake. I hate to interrupt, but it’s just I’m a big fan of yours.” He was like, “I’m not Drake.” Turns out, it wasn’t Drake, but he looked so much like Drake that you wouldn’t even believe it.
11. MacGregor Park, 4 p.m.
MacGregor on Sunday. There are better parks in Houston (Terry Hershey Park), and cleaner parks in Houston (Buffalo Bayou), and prettier parks in Houston (Memorial Park), but there is not a more “Houston” park in Houston, nor is there a more “Houston” time to visit it than on Sunday afternoon.