Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Mosbacher Bridge: Houston's Newest Bayou Span is actually its very Oldest

In addition to all his other worldly accomplishment, Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. now has a bridge to his name, albeit one acquired post-humorously (pun intended)   

He seems to be smirking 
Not far from where several generations of Bakers have their dedicated Common overlooking the periodically silt-covered buffalo-less banks of Bayou at the Downtown Post Office bend. See --> Baker Common

Why did they name a bridge for him? Or rather, to be more accurate, rename an existing one in his honor? -- The Preston Avenue Bridge.

If bridge re-rebranding was called for, why not recognize a local luminary that actually built a bridge, figuratively speaking: Like between Texas and Mexico. Erstwhile Preston Ave Bridge could have found new vitality as Mama Ninfa's Passage or as the Felix Tijerina Crossing perhaps. To honor these hardworking immigrants for turning Tex-Mex into a noun, and a very savory one at that, -- a daily staple of the local diet. Something average Houstonians, hyphenated or otherwise, can appreciate, whether or not they are members of a yacht or country club. Not to mention having Knickerbockers credentials on their resume or pedigree.

A re-dedication plaque, but not even a new coat of turquoise paint 
Ah, come to think of it -- and come to read the life-summarizing blurb on the new brassy tablet -- Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher wasn't just a petroleum landman and a wildcutter. He was involved in a North-South project, too: NAFTA.

Honoring the NAFTA Man 
Alas, the bridging metaphor has remained unexploited and the chance for an artistic interpretation of the bridge-building theme has been sadly squandered. Not to mention a chance to hold an inspiring competition for a commissioned piece of art; -- to serve as a suitable stream-side landmark on either bank of the Theater-District segment of the mudstream, which currently boasts a push-button-activated swirl feature. 
Houston could have done better! 
As it is, the existing Seven Wonders will have to make do, keeping Mosbacher's posthumous bas-relieved and red-brick-walled company at the Wortham end of the newly re-monickered bayou span.

Come to think of it -- and walking across it -- Preston Street Bridge does not even connect North to South. Main Street bridge would make a better candidate for a re-christianing, be it as Commerce Secretary Mosbacher NAFTA Bridge or as Mama Ninfa Memorial Viaduct.

The Seven Wonders at The Wortham Center
seen from the West end of Preston Street Bridge 
The Franklin Street Post Office Building (doomed) seen from the Preston Ave Bridge
And the Bayou overlook at UH Downtown would have provided a suitable venue for related open-air Tex-Mex and Hispanic Heritage events. With occasional lectures and conferences on North American trade, and international commerce more generally, to be staged in the auditorium inside.

View of Downtown from UHD Patio above Buffalo Bayou 

And perhaps a few other topics. Like "The role of oil money in Republican politics"; "The moral if not legal claim of major campaign contributors to ambassadorships"; "Commerce vs security: the case of high technology exports", or something with less academic; something quasi-scholarly but with more popular appeal, like: "Et tu felix Mosbacher Nube: Serial monogamy of the oil-rich and famous", or  "Homophobia and its Discontents: The travails of gays and lesbians in the Republican fold."

A mere bridge & brass plate combo on a stack of red bricks can hardly do justice to the rich tapestry of the life of a larger-than-life figure such as Robert Mosbacher Senior, and his extended family. Not to mention that he did not even get his own new bridge. Much rather, the original bayou bridge at this location was the very first one; and vital to early Houston's commercial viability. At least and at last, there is a common theme to connect the man to the bridge: Commerce. Too bad Commerce Street itself isn't blessed with a Bayou passover that a smart Houston-booster might reconceive as a naming opportunity just waiting to be capitalized on.

Historic Preston Avenue Bridge Marker
on display at The Spaghetti Warehouse nearby 
Or perhaps UHD could sponsored a symposium with a more local, bayou-oriented bend: "Bush Parks, Baker Commons, and Moss Brook Bridges: The partisan dimension of the re-branding of parks, bridges, and other public infrastructure in Bayou City, Texas. With a break-out session on best practices in "Commemorative Private-Public Partnerships on a Shoestring."


The prior incarnation: Preston Avenue Bridge (1998) 
Buffalo Bayou at The Wortham Center
Preston Ave Bridge with the still erect soon-to-be history Post Office relic behind it (Aug 2015) 
The burnt orange look in the winter (2012)
The Cougars should be offended and turn crimson. Hey this is H-Town.
No place for Longhorns and Sooners. 
Two of the Seven Wonders flanking the bridge
with verdant bayou banks in the summer
and at least a spec of azure in the water 
Muddy flow at The Wortham in Spring with white blossoms cheering up the promenade.
If you want real cherry blossoms, head to the Japanese Gardens in Hermann Park. 

 James A Baker III at the Baker Common
making eye contact with President George H. W. Bush on the other side of the Bayou 
George Herbert Walker Bush in heavy metal set against the Downtown Houston Skyline:
Wortham, Pennzoil, Bank of America, Shell, and that Heritage Thing with the Mayan Temple on top;
Enterprise and Enron, now Chevron, farther afield.
 1 2 3 Dynasty math suitable for elementary school field trips:
The three Big Bakers: Paying homage to James A Baker I, II, and III  
James A. Baker Monument
Silhouette of  Statue with doomed Post Office Bldg across the dirty runoff from the burbs (out of view, behind the railing).
"Take a last good look, James. Soon enough that erstwhile state-of-the-art federal outpost is gonna be gone."
Bushes and Bakers will be with us much longer. 

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