Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbuz on Banks

Why, no offishur, I haven't been drinking at Ernie's.  That wuz some other tall, bronze Italian.  He went thatta way!

This Christopher Columbus was sculpted by Joe Incrapera in 1992, commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World.  You remember the childhood saying, right:  in fourteen-hundred-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?  The statue graces Bell Park, in Montrose--right across the street from the bar Ernie's on Banks.

Fairly unassuming, right?  Wrong!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hurricane Ike

1900 Storm Memorial, Houston Chronicle
Five years ago.  Ike came ashore after midnight.  

We were weary and had fallen asleep, though not for long.   Wind so fierce, it howled and blew water through our closed doors and windows.  Dark, punctuated by green as transformers popped.  The trees gyrated in every direction, and many of them along the block uprooted.

After, the neighborhood turned into a block party, of sorts, as everyone fired up the barbecues and emptied their rapidly warming freezers.  

How long were you without electricity?  Those first few cooler days after Ike were livable.  When the heat returned, finding places with electricity and cool air became a bit of a game.  At the week's mark, though, it was no longer an adventure.  At two weeks, it was just damn miserable.

Brennan's had burned.  The Flagship, where I drank Shirley Temples over the water as a child, was laid bare and sagging.  There were yachts and big vessels sitting on I-45 South.  My friends closer to the water could look at empty spaces where neighbors' homes had once been standing.

    after-effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas        | ♕ |  The Flagship Hotel, Galveston, Texas after Hurricane Ike
artsandletters posted | photo by Terry Shuck: 
The owners plan to demolish the hotel and replace it with an amusement park. 

Every oak on Broadway along Galveston died from the salt, along with 40,000 other mature trees on the Island.  But better trees than people. . . like the 8000 who died in the Great Storm of 1900 Hurricane.

The Gresham house, center, now known as the Bishop's Palace, sits relatively unscathed behind a wall of debris following the hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas, Sept. 8, 1900. More than 6,000 people were killed and 10,000 left homeless as entire neighborhoods were swept clean. Heavily damaged Sacred Heart Catholic Church is at right. (AP Photo/Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word)

Hurricane Ike was just shy of a Category 3, compared to the Category 4 of the Great Storm.  And we knew it was coming.  Still, I'm glad we sat tight.  Compared to the evacuation for Hurricane Rita?  Hell, no, never again.  (Well maybe if it was projected to hit land at Cat 4.  I'm no "red line" kinda girl.) 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good bye to The Garden Gate

The Garden Gate has been a profuse labor of love for twenty-odd years in Rice Village.

In earlier days, Texquiem noticed it while on Morningside pub crawls to Gingerman's and Little Woodrow's.  It is lush and tranquil and quirky.  You could spend hours strolling its grounds, taking in fountains, statuary, goldfish, and greenery.

I took these pictures with this cheap little flip-wannabe-Vivitar.  Never posted them because I thought, "Oh, I'll go back and take better ones, with my iphone or a real camera."  

But time runs short.  The upscaling of Rice Village is unrelenting.  And so The Garden Gate falls.

As reported in the Houston Chronicle, here, and in Swamplot, here, The Garden Gate's property has been sold.  The little gem has opened (and closed)  for the last time.  True to reports, the place is looking oddly lonely and sadly scavenged.  In its place to come, a 12-story, 200 unit apartment building.  Given this particular developer's precedent, lot-line-to-lot-line cement is forthcoming.  I expect greenery only in architectural drawings and token pots flanking the entrance door. 

Goodbye, The Garden Gate, and thank you for so many years of inspiration.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The WSJ's Weekend Interview: Annise Parker & the Modern American Boomtown

Howdy, y'all!  I'm guessing if you're fixin' to head to Houston, you're practicing your new-Texas accent. Here's a Texquiem hint:  drop the "howdy" but keep the "y'all."  And the drawl itself?  There's one secret to Houston-speak:  there's just not much drawl to it at all.  Of course, feel free to put your Texas on for emphasis, for politics, and for the Rodeo.

Is that disappointing?  Are you thinking, "Why the hell isn't there a Texas-sized accent in the state's largest city?"  Well, folks, we're a melting pot (and have been for more than a few years).  As our mayor, Annise Parker, sees it, "A good soup where all the ingredients come together."  By the numbers, we're the nation's most racially and ethnically diverse city.  Yes, that's right--more diverse than New York City.  More than Chicago, Philly, or LA.

Mayor Parker describes us as Southern hospitality, Western tolerance, and international flair, all in one package.   CNBC concludes we've got a lot to offer, notwithstanding the bolo tie its reporter first planned to wear.  Texquiem will forgive the come-lately amazement at our diversity.  *Sigh.*

More to the point, and speaking of the mayor, Herroner and Houston were featured in the venerable Wall Street Journal this week-- Annise Parker: The Modern American Boomtown.  The WSJ dines at Underbelly with the Mayor and points out that Houston has the nation's fastest pace of job growth, fastest-growing metropolitan economy, and highest per-capita income of any city in the country.  The article seems surprised that Texas elected a Democrat and a lesbian.  It can't get over the Mayor's sexual preference when--yawn--it's just no big deal here.  Heck, I bet the Mayor mentioned Underbelly's history as Chances just in passing, and off to the races went the WSJ.  More interesting than the story are the comments to it, by folks using their own names (except I'm a  little suspicious of that William Rice guy).  My favorite comment to the article?  "My God.  Did someone make a mistake and run an article that was supposed to run in the New York Times instead?"

My second favorite is an exchange, started by a comment from one David Pelino:
"The fact that Houston is showing signs of developments that have long since taken hold in these other metropolitan areas is good news; the fact that it is considered newsworthy only speaks to the general backwardness of the place."
Pelino* may have moved from "corrupt mind"-ed to small-minded, but this rejoinder had me laugh aloud:
Mr. Pelino, you are absolutely correct. If it is all the same to you, we will just wallow in our "backwardness" and do our very best to muddle along without the assistance of people from New York, LA, Washington, etc. Ignore the article. We are an unsophisticated backwater. (Did I mention the alligators?) Neither you nor anybody you know should even consider moving here given the rampant backwardness that abounds here in the Bayou City. 
You really should check out Dallas though. I think you'll like it there.
You gotta love that, a dig at the snooty and at Dallas, all in one.  Yee-haw!

*Reddit-style pursual of Pelinos in the USA leads to quick suspicion that the commenter in question is actually a doctor of psychiatry in New York City, with a past life as a guitarist in a hair band whose debut album was "Corrupt Mind."  Nope, I'm not making this stuff up. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

National Rifle Association sets its sights on Houston-- the 142nd Annual Convention

Following five months' political slog over post-Newtown gun control, the NRA's national convention landed here, in Houston.

Granted, the convention was planned even before twenty little children lost their lives in a mass shooting.  It was planned before the ensuing surge for new legislation and before NRA-discipline led to defeat.  With the timing of it all, and the frothing lately in national news, clearly the main stream media was wishing hard for confrontation at this weekend's event.

Despite the run up, a Texquiem purview shows precious little dissent on site or in surrounds.  Still, the main stream media is pushing a cra-cra-crazy view of the politicians who're in town.  Here's Sarah Palin, with her face specially screwed into muy loca mode:

Here's Texas freshman senator, Ted Cruz:  The media is still looking for a way to paint him crazy.  For now, they usually settle on some shade of Tea Party or political novice.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, aka Governor Good Hair, was there, yee-haw.  Here's Rick Santorum (who still can't overcome his Google problem).  But, see, he must be nuts, he's showing his teeth.  Here's Glenn Beck, whom media says has gone insane (as opposed to Adam Lanza, who was clearly out of his mind, but different, in a special blame-his-mother kind of way).

Given the hoopla, I expected a greater rabble-rousing presence all around.  The traffic to the convention center was bad, but nowhere near NBA-All-Star proportion.  The Kardashian girls were in town at the same time, but I think they got a rowdier crowd for their cult of personality.  Where are the flocks of politicos, either pro-2nd Amendment or ban-the-guns?  Not on any soap box on the corner of Hyde Park, to be sure.  Instead, the TV camera cast a solo shadow in the park across the street:

This girl made the national news, but was quiet and collected (and on her ownsome, but for the seated lady nearby) when Texquiem saw her.  

Guess the "hundreds" reportedly protesting with her were filled with the spirit of conviction only before lunch time on Saturday.  Because they'd all disappeared by the time I visited.

Disappeared, that is, except for these guys--the only ones with enough chutzpah to disagree just 15 feet from the entrance door.  Can you figure out their disagreement?  I can't--just saw "LaRouche" and basically got bored--how damn relevant is the man who's been dissenting since before I was born?  

Fact is, all the conventioneers were calm and (for God's sake) queuing when Texquiem saw them. The rest of the 60,000 attendees were inside, browsing nine acres of pistol-packin'-bras and target practice zombies.  (Really, there were zombies.  It's not just because I like the word).  In the end, Texquiem was just vaguely amused that, in the literal sense, either side of the gun debate could have told their opponents to "go fly a kite" and meant it.  

As Linda Ellerbee said, "And so it goes."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Galleria: Hands Off My Arches (and my park), TIRZ!

Texquiem has previously highlighted Uptown Houston's Post Oak Boulevard, here.

Six pairs of massive stainless steel arches, circular silver street signs hovering over the major intersections, and purtier landscaping along public medians than you see anywhere else in the city.

signage wayfinding public art program
texas signage placemaking

They bedazzled Post Oak circa 1995--and even though it's stainless, it cost as much as your grandma's sterling.  The link to the Chronicle's story about the huge cost is now dead, so you'll have to take my word that it cost an arm and a leg.

The Uptown Management District wants to slice up these esplanades to install two dedicated bus lanes (with a sliver left for landscaping).  That's right--dedicated bus lanes.  Plus widen Post Oak Boulevard.  They'd rather have rail, but that's a no-go for now.  So instead, they'll settle for buses where they hoped light rail would run.  It's a vision you, see.  A vision of 1,000s of office zombies and Galleria dwellers suddenly descending highrise elevators and hopping on public transport to zip down Post Oak.  Or as the Management District describes it, "As importantly, travel within Uptown itself, whether by car, foot or by transit, must be convenient, safe and enjoyable." The cost?  $177,500,000 for the "transit project."  Another $114,000,000 for a "mobility project." And $113,000,000 more for "other."  Over $400 million dollars for bus lanes, in the hope to supplant king car in the Galleria area.

That seems to be a pretty big folly.  Have they been downtown in the last decade?  Office workers descend to the tunnels, not the streets, not the rail, and particularly not during summer.  Downtown streets have two dedicated bus and car pool lanes, in addition to the rail.  Hasn't stopped the traffic jams.  But it allows a lot of mostly-empty Metro buses to hog the roads for big chunks of the day.  Have they seen the dead irises and brownery down the skinny little medians on Main?  Do they really think they can get an oak tree to grow that tall in the little strip left in this picture?

Fact is, you can already ride a Metro bus up and down Post Oak.  That's why they have those fancy, custom bus shelters (below).  You don't need $400 million and a dedicated lane, or a widened street, to take the bus.  Dear Inner Loopers, when is the last time you contemplated taking a bus to the Galleria?  Yup, that's what I thought.  Mattress Mac is against it and points out that Uptown Management District once provided a free bus service up and down Post Oak--but had to cancel it due to too few riders.  Being Texas-born, I'm real familiar with the adage "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

 IMG_0176 IMG_0171

But wait, they say.  We need the dedicated, local buses to ferry workers to park-and-rides we'll build!! Great, Texquiem is all for park-and-rides.  But you still don't need two dedicated lanes down Post Oak for it.  And, if you're heart-set on those dedicated bus lanes, go pick on McCue or Sage Roads, close by and parallel to Post Oak.  Make those your thoroughfares to your future park-and-rides.

In the end, let's just be honest, huh?  This dedicated-bus-lane-thing is just a way to get a foot in the door for light rail.  Texquiem likes the idea of rail, but the reality of rail in Houston?  Not so great, so far.  I've ridden the light rail more than a few times.  Except at Rodeo time, I've never been on it when the majority of passengers haven't been fare jumpers and/or homeless.  Did you ever see the blog Today on the Light Rail?  Hilarious but true!

While we're being honest, let's be honest about the costs, too.  It takes a ginormous amount of money to build just a few miles of light rail.  It's also a real buzz kill for businesses along the route.  Downtown was a nascent hotspot when the first stretch of light rail started.  Construction killed that off PDQ.  It also killed the Texaco Grand Prix--which was the coolest damn thing to hit downtown ever.  Metro started construction on the second stretch of light rail a few years back, closing the bridge on N. Main by UH Downtown in 2011.  Impractical navigation through there since.  As Casa Grande's owner pointed out, it's real hard to get to his restaurant now.  His business is down 40% and the construction continues way beyond its deadlines.  Seriously, any project costing $756 million should come in pronto and on budget.

Really, it seems like the Post Oak bus plan is a done deal, period.  They've packaged it up somehow with Memorial Park.  In addition to that $400 million in tax dollars Uptown TIRZ wants for dedicated bus lanes, they promise to dedicate $100 mm over 20 years to re-forest and remodel Memorial Park.  The Memorial Park Conservancy likes the deal.  For sure, the park was laid bare by the drought.  Who doesn't want to see it in better shape?  It's twice the size of New York's Central Park and looks like overplucked eyebrows right now.  Still, I don't fully understand the Uptown TIRZ deal.  The Chronicle has put the main stories, as well as Mattress Mac's counter-opinion, behind a pay wall.  The City's announcement makes the Uptown "rapid transit plan" sound warm and fuzzy.  You can read it here: annexing greenspace. Feels like they're putting lipstick on a pig.  With the park as the lipstick.

As much as Texquiem likes Uptown Houston's landscaping, I'm just a tad uneasy about putting Memorial Park in its hands for the next 20 years.  Apparently, Uptown Houston's half-a-billion-dollar baby includes integration of and access from the Galleria area to the Park.  Remember a few years ago when developers tried to loop in Spotts Park with fencing that matched their own?   You can see it on Google Streetview, right by Waugh near Buffalo Bayou.   They wanted to make the park acreage look like part and parcel of their own property. Didn't the City have to tell them to back off?   I understand that the Mayor has said absolutely no commercialization of Memorial Park.  Let's be sure to get that in writing.  Or better yet, carved in stone. After all, the Mayor is term limited and we don't know who comes next.  Who's left in the City's Parks Department to curb excesses on the largest city park?

Unease aside, the bottom line for Texquiem is the bottom line.  Half a billion is an outlandish amount of money.  What's $500+ million really going to accomplish, other than a construction nightmare, death blows to businesses currently along Post Oak, and loss of green medians on the hope that if they build it, riders will come. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


File:Downtown Houston Skyline Night.JPG
photo by Bobby L. Warren, shared via Wikipedia Commons

Aaaahh, Houston, the nation is impressed that you can rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time.  Did you know you've been called "one of the country's most exciting places to eat?"  That may be a surprise to those cruising along the free-for-alls out to the 'burbs, passing ubiquitous fast food chains, Landry's permutations, and Pappas-what-was-that's on the feeder roads. Not that there's anything wrong with Tilman Fertitta's endeavors ('cause, really, who doesn't *get* the white tigers?) or the Pappas family ventures.

But it's the lovefest for Underbelly and Oxheart that has lured a New York Times food critic outside his home territory to here, where he has found "an instinct for the delicious that is rare in any city."

Before you get all soft and fuzzy about the freakin' New York Times, don't forget that Bon Appetit has already heralded Houston as the state's best and most diverse food city.  That sounds about what you'd hope from the country's most diverse city, right?  Anyway, Bon Appetit names Oxheart in the Hot 10 of America's New Restaurants for 2012.

Oxheart (along with newer Pass and Provisions) cracked into Opinionated About Dining's "coveted list" of Top 100 American restaurants.  This foodie-fight blogger is "America's most fickle food critic", i.e. Steve Plotnicki, a co-founder of Profile Records (signed Run DMC in the day) and rich guy who eats out too much.

Of course, Houston's made a great appearance in nominations for the Oscars of Food, the James Beard Foundation awards.  Two of five finalists for 2013's Best Chef Southwest hail from Houston:  Chris Shepherd of Underbelly and Hugo Ortega of Hugo's.  Local food critic Alison Cooke is a finalist for distinguished restaurant review (not hard to guess that her reviews of Oxheart and Underbelly are underscored).  Oxheart and its owner/chef, Justin Yu,were semi-finalists for Best New Restaurant and Rising Star Chef.  Anvil Bar & Refuge was semi-finalist for Outstanding Bar Program.  And the James Beard Foundation nods to Goode Company--semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Frankly, I think all these folks need to high five Bryan Caswell of Reef, Little Bigs, El Real, recently-closed Stella Sola plus Next-Iron-Chef fame.  When he started making the national scene a few years ago, I think folks were scratching their heads in puzzlement about Houston being on anyone's culinary radar.  I remember watching the Las Vegas episode of Next Iron Chef and thinking, "Yes, yes, barbecue crabs!"  Plus, every contestant on Food Network after Caswell seemed to assemble a pain perdu after his charming little doughnut concoction.

Back handed compliments aside,* Houston lastly gets touted this week by travel writer David Landsel as an impressively creative and fun town, with plenty of good food, good music, good drink, and "best of all--fun-loving locals who are generally anything but uptight."  Hell, yeah, baybay.  So pat yourself on the head, Houston.  And after supper from our starry dining scene, rub your tummy, too.

Pat Your Head and Rub Your Tummy

*Guey, he called Houston so ugly that sometimes you may be tempted to put a bag over our head.  I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear that (and remind you to stay inside the Loop or just nap on the way to the airport, k?).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Good Witch of the South

Why it's Glinda, the Good Witch of the South!  How appropriate for a Texquiem shout out to the good girls. . .   Hang in there South girls--truth, love, and karma prevail. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ash Bash: March 25-30

Tough day today, thinking about Ash most of it.  Thinking about how much I wish we could have saved his life.  How much I wish we could better ease the grief of his bereaved wife and children.  Then I see this plan, and it touches me.  Texas Children's saves lives.  It reaches out to scared families and offers hope.  And that's sure what I needed today, a little hope.  So, in all that was hard today, I am also thankful.  Thankful for Texas Children's.  Thankful for Ash's love of his children, and of my children, and for one child in particular, whom Texas Children's saved.

"Houston's beer community has responded to the death of Duff Beer Distributing founder Ashley 'Ash' Rowell with a series of events that will take place next week to raise money for Texas Children's Hospital, which was one of Rowell's favorite causes.  Highlights include a five-course beer dinner at Hay Merchant on March 26 and a wrap up party at Cottonwood on March 30.  [EaterWire/Facebook]."

"We talk a lot about the beer community.  But here is an example of a beer community in action:  Six local bars are teaming up next week to honor the late Ash Rowell, former owner of Duff Beer Distribution and a widely known and liked supported of craft beer and brewers, with a six-day celebration of his life doubling as a fundraiser for Texas Children's Hospital."  Ronnie Crocker at

Texquiem loves the Jenga at Liberty Station.  I've lost a few games (and paid a few rounds), but I'll be back.  Flying Saucer?  As much as I love Houston, I also get giddy about Fort Worth. . . which means I also TGFTBB.  That is, thank god for the Bass Brothers, and Molly Ivins' columns for the Star Telegram, and the Flying Saucer Beer Emporium, too.  It was a damn good day when the Saucer expanded to Houston.

Cheers, guys.  Thanks for giving your heart and soul to Ash, to this town, and to your industry, which Ash loved so much.


*Were you there at Liberty Station?  There was a great crew there, including the good folks from Duff.  Did you also have a fantastic night at Hay Merchant, in honor of Ash?  Good food, good friends, good times.  Up for tonight is The Flying Saucer--$1 to Texas Children's for every Duff beer sold.   Helloooo Racer Five and Bombshell Blonde!  See you there.

*Check this out--the craft beer gurus have partnered with Favorite Brands Distributing for Ash Bash.  Favorite Brands will match dollar-for-dollar up to $5000 in proceeds raised during Ash Bash.  That's generous and cool.  Read more at

Saturday, February 16, 2013

All Starred Out at the Galleria


Did you hear?  The Galleria is full.  Full as in "can't fit one more person" full.  Full as in closed until tomorrow full.  In fact, it hit capacity at 8:15 tonight and no one else can come in.  Come back tomorrow!

Kobe Bryant al la Galleria
So many people descended upon the Galleria for NBA All Star sightings, product sales, Jordan XX8 shoes, and the Jordan lounge. . . they closed down the Galleria.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Houston Spots near the NBA All Star Game

In town for the NBA All Star Game and want to wander?

No worries, Houston has tons to do near the Toyota Center, but not all will show up on your Google Maps!

Here's a quick and dirty list to meet your needs:

Alcohol for your room/suite


Spec's at 2410 Smith St  Houston, TX 77006.  Don't pay fourteen times the actual cost by ordering a bottle from room service.  Not when you have an adult Disney just a stone's throw away in Midtown.    Spec's is the state's largest liquor store at 80,000 feet, with everything alcohol under the sun.  Plus, it's got a deli, cheese, and delicacies section to swoon for.  Where else can you B-ball highrollers pick up a 1938 bottle of Macallen (at a mere $12,400 before the cash discount) and Buluga caviar all at the same time?  Feeling a little more thrifty?  They've got a Texas-size array of all the regular beer and wine, too.  Give the Bombshell Blonde a try--it's a local craft beer.  Ambling through Spec's is worth it.  With all the taste tests, sights, and sounds, it's a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Texas Monthly's My Montrose

All you gritty-in-your-souls Inner Loopers (and a good number of you Outer Loopers, too), don't you have a Montrose story to tell?  You know you do.

Need a little inspiration?  Why don't you first take a look at My Montrose in this month's issue of Texas Monthly.  It brings back all sorts of Texquiem moments for me.  A trip down Montrose Lane, as it were.  Kind of like here.  And here:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ash Rowell - the hardest hue to hold

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
--Robert Frost

Whether you've lived in Houston for a week, a year, or longer, you know Ash Rowell.  The name doesn't sound familiar?  How about Flying Saucer, Hay Merchant, Rudyard's, Gingerman's, Petrol Station, Stag's Head,  Liberty Station, Anvil, O'Bannon's, Glass Wall?  Or Spec's or HEB?  All these bars and stores and more have Ash Rowell in common. Still not sure he's familiar?  How about Southern Star's Bombshell Blonde, or Bear Republic's Racer 5, or Houston's own Leprechaun Cider?  Brew Dog, Wasatch Beers, Clown Shoes, NoLabel, Cedar Creek Brewery, Silly, Indian Wells?  If you've ever tasted one of these beers or ciders, then raise your glass to Ash Rowell.  He was instrumental in bringing craft brews to Houston through his distributing company. He worked long and hard, and I saw him more than one time with loaded dolly and truck, at various of Texquiem's favorite nooks and crannies.  He built his company through a lot of sweat, enthusiasm, appreciation of craft brew, and, even more, an outsized heart. Seems like Ash never met a man he didn't like.  And seems like we liked Ash right back.  Ash Rowell is one of those few you meet who is truly *golden.*

The mainstream news and other blogs have picked up the terrible news already.  On Friday, Ash was killed at his own front door.  Shot, not randomly.  Seems likely the killer knew him, which makes it all the more incomprehensible.  I can't bear to re-post it all. . . here is the Chronicle, here is the local television news, here is reaction from some of the craft brew community.

Ash is--was--a spectacularly good-hearted man.  A friend, a true friend, to many.  The contribution he made as a businessman has far-reaching roots, yes.  But his legacy in our craft brew community is surpassed by Ash the husband, father, and son. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sugared up for Fat Tuesday: Sucre

Fat Tuesday will soon be here.  Are you a Mardi Gras fan?  Texquiem is.

I think it started when I was a child, and my mother once brought me souvenirs from New Orleans.  Never an "all-I-got-was-a-lousy-T-shirt" traveler, Mom instead brought home an iconic jazz poster and a beaded, beribboned mask for Mardi Gras.

Texquiem is not a fan of the crowds, mind you.  I'm more a fan of the legacy.  The tradition.  I admit, too, it's appealing to shed the staid and reserve of your usual you.  One last hurrah before Ash Wednesday, its reverence, its fasting, and the Lenten season to follow.  (But no, I'm not flashing you the goods for a strand of cheap beads.)

For my finicky children, Mardi Gras is all about two things:  the cake and the baby.

King Cake to be precise.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Space City: NASA Johnson Style

NASA Johnson Style.

NASA, not cancelled.  Gone viral.  Gangnam-style.

4,269,411 4,278,668 4,405,050 4,973, 712 views.

Well, a few more, actually. Because I keep watching it over and over.

Stellar job!

Each year, NASA Pathways interns create an outreach video to commemorate their NASA experience.  This year, they took it past the stratosphere, huh?

"Psy" is played by Eric Sim, a North Carolina State grad and now a propulsion systems engineer on the Morpheus project.  Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who had missions on the Space Shuttle Endeavor and the International Space Station appears.  Astronaut Clayton Anderson has the best dance-off ever.  His NASA work included a stint on the International Space Station.  Telling Psy to take a hike is astronaut Michael Massimino (Space Shuttles Columbia and Atlantis).  Appearing in other astronaut cameos are Mike Coats (former director, three flights on Space Shuttle Discovery) and Ellen Ochoa (current director, four flights on Discovery and Atlantis).   Other participants included Brian Schwing (Ohio State), Ronak Dave (Purdue), Gary Jordan (Penn State), and Adam Naids (graduate of Embry-Riddle, now full time at NASA as a hardware development engineer).  The finale includes 50+ other scientists, engineers, and JSC "extras."  Keep calm and NASA on, indeed.

Four mil hits later. . . is anyone in Washington watching?  If so . . . take note, Beltway types, of attention on a grand scale.  Our part of the International Space Station is managed here.  Johnson Space Center is here.  Mission Control is here.  As in "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."  Our museum at NASA houses a live craft from every major American manned spaceflight program.  (OK, so maybe future programs may share a private angle. . . and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin is in BFE Texas, but hey, it's still in Texas and he went to elementary school here in Houston anyway).

Now give us back our shuttle, dammit.

Enterprise, GalaxyWire
One of the few times Texquiem has gone truly apoplectic?  See here.  I can't gather even a veneer of "let's civilly discuss it."  Fact:  no one is visiting NYC to see the shuttle.  It's, like, number seventy-two hundred on the tourists' list of things to do there.  They aren't able to do right by it, either, it seems, so just go ahead and send it home.  As in Johnson Space Center, Houston.  Come home to mama, baby.  We love you here.  NASA Johnson Style.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Seventh Place to Go in 2013

Where's the seventh place to go in 2013?  No, the answer is not Hell, but if you come in August you may think it is.

Houston is number seven on the New York Times's The 46 Places to Go in 2013.  "What's big in Texas?" asks the Times.  Why, culture and food, of course. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Bayou City Tops America's Coolest Places to Live

Banner year, fellow Houstonians.  And that includes the 50,000 of you who joined us in 2012.  Not only did Forbes give Houston kudos for being the little-economic-engine-that-could, see here, and for being a great place for female business founders, we also topped its list of Coolest American Cities.  Wow, Texas in general did well on this list, with five spots in the top 20.


To reach this zenith, we scored well in all categories:  entertainment options, recreational options (including green space), restaurants and bars per capita (emphasizing local eateries), diversity, median age, employment rate, cost of living, and net migration.

It took all of a nano-second for the doubters and haters to chime in.  "Yeah. that's right. Houston is number one.  Surprise is always refreshing. . . .  Jobs are definitely cool.  But Houston, Washington, and Los Angeles?  Something in [Forbes's] rubric must be missing."  (Rachel James at smartplanet)  "Houston is not cool."  (Will Doig at Salon).  "Houston is America's coolest city, according to a bunch of nerds."  (some dude in Brooklyn).  No surprise with Dallas's take: "Forbes rates Dallas fourth coolest city; loses all credibility by putting Houston first. . . .  They apparently didn't see our even more scientific assessment ranked Houston asshole of the universe."  (Dallas Observer blogger who probably really lives in Grand Prairie).  Fort Worth just called us fat.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On Ice for New Year's

The Galleria was open on New Year's Day.  I (guiltily) admit to being there.  I don't even have the excuse of returning ill-fitting Christmas presents.  Simply, I was in town and the lure of 60%-off sales was too great.

Maybe the Galleria is always open on New Year's.  I mean, if it's not open, where do all of the visiting  tourists spend their time and money?  Usually, though, I am out-of-town at New Year's (preferably somewhere snowy), generally where the locals cuss under their breath about all those damn Texans in town.  So, I'm not griping about the out-of-town shoppers.  Merely observing that I had to wait to snap this quick shot of the Galleria's Christmas tree on the ice rink, then try to explain to those waiting that I intended to take a picture without them or anyone else in it.  Plus, I wasn't nearly as dressed up as they were, so maybe they thought I was just a peasant, or something.

The Galleria Ice Rink has always fascinated me.  As a child, newly moved to Houston, I thought the rink and Marvin Zindler were surely among the Eight Wonders of the World.  Having moved here from po-dunk, I had big eyes trying to take in the three-story gallery and an ice rink beneath.  Ice, when it's hotter than Hades outside?  And a three-story mall?  In my then-limited experience, we'd had to drive over an hour to reach the nearest mall of any size--itself one-story except for the few anchor stores topping out at two.