May 11, Houston
Friends For Life
107 E. 22nd Street, Houston
Had a great, great time at Friends For Life! As Houston's only no-kill shelter--and Houston's only green shelter--they run a beautiful facility, full of happy dogs and kitties and loving volunteers.
Rather than the usual blog post, Laurence (professional interviewer that he is) has agreed to do a Q&A with me about each stop on the LOVE SAVES THE DAY National Book Tour of Shelters. Check it out below for a run-down on how the event went--and check out the tour's Pinterest page for more photos!
Laurence: Okay, just so we can set this up for everyone as to when and where we are, it’s Thursday evening, May 17, six nights after your awesome gig at Houston’s Friend’s For Life Animal Shelter.
Gwen: It’s been a busy week, but it started off with a very nice night.
Laurence: Oh yeah. A great looking shelter and a great turnout. But let’s get to that later. First, let’s talk about your days leading up to Saturday night at Friends for Life. You arrived in Houston on Thursday the 9th…
Gwen: Yes, Thursday afternoon. Thanks, by the way, for hanging at home with the kitties for a couple of days before joining me.
Laurence: My pleasure. Homer missed you madly, of course, but he seemed to get over it whenever I unwrapped some fresh turkey or cracked open a can of food.
Gwen: I hope you got up early enough to give him his food on schedule! You know how mad he gets when he has to wait.
Laurence: He did yell at me as only Homer can, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Fanny and Clayton were a little more controlled when it came to the food, but they were as hyper as ever. Fanny’s got this great new habit of jumping onto the kitchen counter and knocking as much stuff onto the floor as she can for Clayton to play with.
Gwen: She’s his little helper monkey! She gets all the things for him from high places that he can’t get to himself because he only has the three legs. I don’t love picking all our stuff up off the floor, but I do always get a kick at seeing what a tight little unit the two of them are.
Laurence: I’m sure they’re all be mellower for a little while without an audience.
Gwen: We’ll have to ask [our catsitter] Reina what they were up to for a week.
Laurence: Okay, so you got to Houston on Thursday afternoon. What did you think? This is your first time in Texas, right?
Gwen: It is! I actually really like Houston—it reminds me so much of Miami. I love the humidity and palm trees, and I especially love what a great mix of people you find in Houston.
Laurence: Come on—where do you find more of a mix people than in New York City?
Gwen: Yes, but you know how it is in New York. Everything is so stratified by how much money you have and what business your work in and what your background is. Houston is more of a genuine mix, at least from what I’ve seen. In the restaurant we went to Sunday night, I heard people around us speaking Spanish, Creole, and Japanese in addition to English. That’s what it was like growing up in Miami, so I felt very much at home.
Laurence: And Houston has a great animal rescue community, judging by your event on Saturday. Which brings us up to Friends for Life, which wasn’t too far from our hotel via out cute li’l rentacar.
Gwen: It’s always wild to be driving together—and in the front seat, yet! The only time we’re ever in a car together back home is in the backseat of a cab.
Laurence: Not that we haven’t had our share of backseat fun.
Gwen: Enough of that—this is a family-friendly Q&A.
Laurence: Yeah, yeah, I know. Friends for Life was a real smash
Gwen: Friends For Life is one of the most amazing shelters I’ve ever seen, and my hat goes off to Salise Shuttelsworth, the amazing humanitarian and visionary who built it. It’s so bright and spacious, and they have this specially designed air-filtration system that recycles fresh air in from outside 15 times every hour—so it just smells great in there. And the cat rooms are so big and cheerful-looking! You can tell immediately how happy and well-loved those kitties are. I was actually talking to Jackson Galaxy about this last week, and he really put it best. When you have a shelter with cats in cages, what you’re basically asking people for is a pity adoption. But when you have a room that people can look into and the cats can look out of, with cats playing and lounging, what you give people is the opportunity to see what the cats’ personalities are really like and to imagine what it would be like to have one of them in your home. Plus, it’s just the kind of fun, relaxed environment that people want to be in, and of course half the battle when you’re running a shelter is getting people in your doors in the first place.
Laurence: Almost as memorable as Friends for Life was dinner afterwards at Goode's B-B-Q. Real Texas style stuff—many thanks to your cousin Ira and his girlfriend Lauren for bringing us there.
Gwen: That was sooooo good! Ira moved down here nearly eight years ago and it doesn’t look like he’s put on a pound since he arrived. I’d put on 20 pounds with the barbecue alone. After only a few days of it, I’ve had to start wearing the “big girl” pants I brought with me.
Laurence: They say everything’s bigger in Texas.
Gwen: Yeah—like my backside!
Laurence: From where I’m standing, I think you’ve actually lost some weight since we’ve been in Texas, with all the running around we’ve been doing.
Gwen: Spoken like a good husband! But, in all seriousness, thanks for dragging me away from the computer and emails and Facebook updates long enough to see some of cool stuff in Houston. The Picasso exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art was beautiful, and the Space Center, which we went to yesterday, was also a lot of fun.
Laurence: Definitely. Those rockets they used in the space program in the '60s and '70s were enormous. Really wild-looking.
Gwen: Oh, yes. It made me feel good to see all that technology and I really got a sense of the drive and pride behind the space program, particularly back in those days. When you stand next to the Saturn rocket—which is as big as two football fields!—it really strikes you how completely audacious it was for humans even to contemplate going into space.
Laurence: Thanks for letting me wangle you into finding a couple of hours to go. The geek in me really wanted to check it out – I grew up watching all those Apollo space shots on television with my parents.
Gwen: I was more of a Space Shuttle kid – but we used to see footage of the Apollo missions in history class. How old are you again?
Laurence: Old enough to understand a joke about my age.
Gwen: I’m glad we made it to the Space Center. We didn’t end up with a ton of time for sightseeing this trip, what with the event in Houston, two in Dallas, and two in Austin—that’s five events in eight days!
Laurence: And tomorrow we’re headed to Dallas.
Gwen: Crack of dawn, baby!
Laurence: I’m psyched. I’m thinking about all those great outlaw movies, like They Live by Night. Or, better yet, The Getaway, where Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw are barreling across Texas to the border with a valise full of stolen cash.
Gwen: Oh, you keep thinking that you and I are McQueen and McGraw...
Laurence: All you have to do is sit sexy in the passenger seat and say something like, “Punch it, baby.”
Gwen: Hey, I keep telling you—we have to keep these Q&As family-friendly.