Underground City

In the tunnels uptown
The Rat’s own dream guns him down
As shots echo down them hallways in the night

Those words bring to a climax the dramatic gang-themed “Jungleland”… the nearly 10-minute final track on Bruce Springsteen’s iconic Born to Run – ranked #18 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the all-time best albums.

In my mind, “Rat” is an appropriate name for the central character, as I envision tunnels in New Jersey infested with the nasty creatures. With that as the context, you can imagine what I thought when, after nearly a decade living in Houston, a client asked me to meet him for lunch a few years ago at a restaurant in the downtown tunnels. I pictured dark, wet and cold passageways that I might not escape afterward.

What a surprise when I discovered these tunnels are bright, air conditioned and dry… featuring more than 75 food establishments, a whole bunch of retail shops – from clothing and art to a printer – and several doctors, dentists and barbers. It’s literally an oasis below Main Street that provides a wonderful respite from hot and humid Houston summers.

After many months of trekking along the different paths, I know my way around quite well. Next week I’m taking our three children to an underground lunch to help them overcome any preconceived notions about their hometown. It will be good for them to experience one of the city’s least known attributes, especially since many folks think of Houston as all that concrete and glass above this hidden jewel.


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