Los Angeles is maybe 5 years ahead of Houston in traffic and pollution. Similar cities in their topographies and sprawling geographies. Hard to imagine either one without the automobile. Hard to forget they sit in bowls, covered by inversion layers. Leonel Castillo used to say the solution to industrial pollution was to cover the factories with domes and make management live inside the domes. In a way, nature has done that for Los Angeles and Houston.
We made our yearly swing through Houston and Los Angeles last week. Compressed trip to see the grandmothers. Into Houston for two days, on to L.A. and up to Santa Barbara for two days, then back home before the Thanksgiving rush.
Every year the traffic is worse. It's just impossible to imagine all of those big, high-powered cars, weaving in and out of traffic at 70 m.p.h., being replaced by electric cars in my lifetime. There are just too many of them.
It's easier to imagine the end of commercial air travel, knocked in by high-speed rail and telecommuting, but maybe that's just a fantasy spawned by the misfortune of ending up in a middle seat between two strangers on a 4-hour red eye.
In Houston, we whipped down the HOV lane (2 or more occupants) with a handful of other cars, while thousands of other cars and trucks inched along the regular lanes of the Katy Freeway. Nobody believes the Port Of Houston or the Baytown and Texas City refineries are secure. Houses have been cheap for a long time in Houston. There wasn't much of a housing bubble there, but other investments have taken a hit.
In California, houses and land have taken a hit, along with stocks and other investments. We stopped at a P.F. Changs along the highway. It was in a new mall with an ice rink. The power in the mall went out right after we ordered. The waiters at P.F. Changs say it happens all the time. They blame it on the rink.