In my last post I rattled off a few fake neighborhood names that should probably bite the dust, then took the final two paragraphs to dis Houstonia magazine. Enter longtime Houston Press alum John Nova Lomax, who pens a missive defending his new employer’s honor.
I feel bad for you son.
So let’s address a few of the guy’s arguments. Roughly half of them are Argumentum ad Strawmanum; Rice Military, Cottage Grove, and Eastwood are, I argued, all legit names – I just look askance at people who use them in place of more generic terms like “Washington” or “Third Ward.” Hyde Park is pretty clearly a part of Montrose. And Upper Kirby is fine – Kirby at least runs north south, so the northern segment is “up” on ye olde Key Map.
The same, however, cannot said of Westheimer. Lomax writes:
Lower Westheimer has a feel that differs slightly from its surrounding area.
Really? Westheimer and Fairview combined are the very essence of Montrose. Poison Girl, Catbirds, the Tower, Chances, Mary’s, Felix, Numbers – Montrose institutions, past and present, and all located on Westheimer. The Pride Parade is on Westheimer. The “Montrose Block Party” – in both its current, low-key incarnation and its raucuous past – has always closed many more blocks of Westheimer than the neighborhood’s namesake street. By contrast, “Lower Westheimer” mostly gets trotted out to describe the location of upscale newcomers like L’Olivier, Uchi, and Underbelly.
In fact there is a well-established pattern to neighborhood renamings. I’m usually content to leave the Social Justice Warrior stuff to tumblr, but given that Lomax calls me out twice for using “offensive language” (his head’ll explode if he ever sees this post), I feel compelled to point this out.
Neighborhoods that have been traditionally described as “Wards” are overwhelmingly majority-minority. Renamings happen when white folks move in. So when the townhomes went into “First Ward,” as commenter Rosanna pointed out on the last post, it magically became “Sawyer Heights.” Fourth Ward didn’t get renamed, but a quick perusal of HAR listings shows that its houses are only described as “in the shadow of Downtown” or “near the new Carnegie magnet school.” Contrast this with “Heights,” which infects not just the Washington Avenue corridor but also listings that are well into Spring Branch or Garden Oaks.
This was what I was getting at with the line “you too, Eastwood.” Eastwood is a real place, but it’s also part of the Third Ward. So for instance, when I mentioned to a friend of mine (who is an Eastwood homeowner) that I was looking at listings “in the Tre,” he immediately thought I was talking about his neighborhood. But other people in the comments section argued that this was not part of the Tre, that the Third Ward actually started at IH-45. Which is, you know, where the black people start.
And it’s not solely a race thing. Commenter ZAW helpfully showed up in both mine and Swamplot’s comments sections to argue for Lower Westheimer:
Tell someone you live in Montrose and they might answer “oh, that’s where the gays live… Um, are you gay?” Tell them you live in Lower Westheimer and the response is different.
This might actually explain why “Neartown” has fallen into such disuse. Three decades ago, being gay made you radioactive. Today, overt ‘bashing is generally frowned upon in polite company, and discriminatory laws – while still quite extant – are falling fast. With few left in Montrose to be ashamed of Montrose, there’s no need for a name other than Montrose.
But it gets even better. Swamplot’s comment of the week from a couple months back asked:
Am I the only one who thinks that the Wash Ave area needs one, unifying neighborhood name? I live in Magnolia Grove, but no one knows what that is, so I have to just say “Off Wash Ave” (though that implies that I moved there to be close to Wash Ave bars, which is NOT the case) … The area’s former name, ‘Smokeytown,’ should also be out for obvious reasons.
Now this I can understand. Who would want to be associated with the sort of people who frequent Washington Avenue drinking establishments? And this is a man after my own heart, looking for an overarching neighborhood name to describe the mishmash of historically-accurate plat names that make up our broad neighborhoods. Still, the way the question is phrased is instructive.
To recap, here is a list of people who white people do not want to be associated with:
-Other white people
This is the driving force behind neighborhood renamings. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love white people. Some of my best friends are white. I just don’t think we need to keep renaming stuff because they don’t like what it’s already called.
So what “general neighborhood name” should these effete snobs adhere to if not Washington Heights?