DC Hot Air; Houston Weather

DC Hot Air; Houston Weather


Leonard Zwelling

It had been a while since I had been in Washington, DC in the summer. I had almost forgotten. Almost, but not quite. As soon as I emerged from the huge, air-conditioned Ford Expedition I had to drive to cart around four suitcases, two golf bags and four people from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore to Baltimore and on to DC, my skin and nose immediately recalled that sensation from so long ago. It was Washington’s unique hot air—heavy, dirty and humid. Playing golf in it was way worse than playing in the same temperature in Houston.

Houston is flat and the breezes roll in and out from both west and south. Not here in DC. It’s a bowl full of car exhaust and stagnant air that wrings the life out of you. I remember running in it and never being able to cool down. I was in training for a marathon in the summer of 1981. Cooling down was a luxury especially when we ran at lunch and had to return to work thereafter. The showers in the basement of Building 10 of the NIH Clinical Center were always inadequate. It was one of the sacrifices of training for long distance racing, a film of afternoon sweat.

We have much family and friends in the DC area and it never ceases to amaze me how they laud the town in which they live and tend to belittle us in Texas. They always belittle us in Texas and we just smile. We know better. I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got there as fast as I could.

The grasses and trees in Washington are different than those in Houston. They are even more allergenic. And it snows here. My family says it’s not so bad but in 1982 and 1984 we were snowed into our house for three days each year and the city was paralyzed. They’ve had plane crashes in snowstorms in this city, Washington, DC.

Much has changed in DC since I lived here the first time from 1975 to 1984 and even since the second time in 2008-2009, but the summer is unaltered—smoggy, humid, and heavy.

Of course, this discomfort has been compounded by the plane from Houston on which we were supposed to depart DC at 2:55 having not even left Houston and it’s 3:00. Several mechanical problems. It sure does make you think about getting on that plane. We’ll see.

Suffice it to say that it is healthy to go back and try to recapture past sensations, even ones that aren’t pleasant. My life in DC had always been a series of ups and downs, from the excitement of starting as an NCI fellow to the disappointment of my failed first research endeavor there. Then came my breakthrough with Dr. Kohn in the Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology and the beginning of my real research career that would lead me, thankfully, to MD Anderson and Houston.

Sure Houston is humid and hot. It is also flat and not very scenic. But it is the most diverse city in America and the hardest working in my opinion. Nothing that emanates from DC in the form of hot air and smog can compete with the environment of southeast Texas. I would never want to come back to Washington. Too much hot air and not enough clarity. I’ll take Houston over DC every time and I am certainly glad I did.

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