Author Archives: williamfpaz

Willow Meadow Place: An International Residence by Phuc M. Huynh

10630 Beechnut St.
Houston, TX 77072
281-495-9293

April 2004–To find a perfect residence is extremely hard in The United States . Let’s say you are a newcomer and do not know where to find a good dwelling because everyone is unfamiliar to you. For the sake of economy, it makes sense to begin your journey of searching for an apartment at places that offer cheaper rental cost. Driving along several streets, you might pass a sign saying “Move-in specials, no deposits, first month free.” Your immediate reaction is to jot down the phone number of that apartment complex and call in its leasing office to reserve a rental. But that may be where your troubles begin. This is the case of many people who have lived at the Willow Meadow Place Apartment Complex. Located right in the heart of Southwest Houston , Willow Meadow Place used to be a crowded residence where time did not exist although it might be the middle of the night. However, for the sake of security and personal safety, the face of Willow Meadow Place has changed, and the complex itself has become desolate.

Located at the corner of Beechnut Street and Wilcrest Drive , a really busy and bustling corner in Southwest Houston , thousands of cars and drivers pass by Willow Meadow Place every day. However, the place seems not be noticed by the passersby. The complex looks shabby. The cranky, unsteady and full-of-bends fences show the signs of wear and tear at the first glance. The sky blue paint on the apartment doors is faded into somewhat white-blue. The long-standing buildings also contribute to the old appearance of the complex. The building bricks near the ground are coated with mosses. They all prove the lack of care and maintenance. Even though the complex itself is really big, there is just a small sign posted on Beechnut Street to welcome its visitors and couples of lines providing leasing information. Even though the shabby appearance makes it uninviting, there is one thing distinctive about it. Unlike other apartment complexes where you have to enter into in order to figure out what they are like, here at Willow Meadow Place you can just stay around the entrance, you are still able to see what the inside is like. By just driving by, you will notice a big mailbox where a lot of people gather around at the dusk, gossip and exchange their experiences of the day.

My family and I resided there for about one year. As for me, I loved the place since it was the first residence of my family after we moved to Houston . Six years ago, the complex was so beautiful and friendly. Most of the apartments were occupied; therefore, the mosses had no place to grow. The fences and gates were not newly constructed, but they were steady in place and had no bends. The smell of fairly newly painted doors was like the mint of winter-green gum, giving me a feeling of freshness every time I returned to my apartment. Willow Meadow Place also provided me with many good friends. However, all of us had to follow our family moving out to different parts of the city because of security concerns. Since then, I have not returned to the place even just to pay a visit, until recent time.

It was 11:30 P.M. on Saturday. I was on the way home from work. The outside temperature dropped below 55oF. This was usual for the nights in late November in Houston . I was on Beechnut Street and immediately had my car stopped at Wilcrest due to the traffic light. There was little traffic on the street at that time. And for less than two minutes, I continued driving and approached Willow Meadow Place . A strange occurrence caught my attention. It was almost midnight, and everything in the complex seemed ghostlike in the quite, misty darkness – everything except the appearance of an Asian man whose age I guessed was more than sixty. He was wearing a worn jacket while carrying a thirty-gallon size trash bag in his hand. When I slowly steered my Toyota Corolla past the complex, I saw him opening the gate and entering the complex. I wondered why he had to walk out that late.

In my mind, that apartment complex was not a safe place to walk. My father was mugged twice right in that apartment complex by black men when we were still living there. It was about seven o’clock in the evening, and my father went to the trash container in the back of the complex to throw away some food wastes. When he just approached the corner, halfway to the trash container, two black men attacked him. They punched him down and put a revolver on his forehead. One of them started searching in his Wrangler jean pockets and took away his wallet which had one hundred dollar bill, some changes and his driver’s license. After both muggers ran away, my father went back to my apartment with his pale face. He was too scared to immediately report to Houston Police Department what had happened to him, but a couple of hours later. The second time he was mugged was when he returned home from work at night o’clock right at the parking lot. The muggers did not deprive of him anything this time because he did not carry any cash with him. However, they punched his left eye so strongly that he had to call EMS to take him to the hospital immediately. My father was not the only victim of the robberies at Willow Meadow Place . The muggers also targeted Vietnamese people who seemed to be the main targets for the robberies. At times, old black and Hispanic men and women also fell victims of the violence. For years, Willow Meadow Place was known to be a Vietnamese village because once you entered that complex, you would catch Vietnamese people walking or doing something in every building block. Things started changing when others moved in including blacks and Hispanics. This move-in gradually made Willow Meadow Place a diversified apartment complex. Unfortunately, the robbery rate started rising following that move-in trend. Willow Meadow Place was then known to be an insecure place because the diversity made the complex more complicated.

Situated in the Alief subdivision of Imperial Point, Willow Meadow Place was known in Vietnamese as Bich Gia Nghia Village . The name of the village was translated roughly as “The Four Walls of Mutual Assistance.” It had an important meaning to Vietnamese residents here because “within these four walls, I would do anything for you, and you would do anything for me,” one of them explained. In this multiethnic apartment complex, about 750 Vietnamese residents had created vestiges of the village system of their homeland. At the time my family moved in, the Vietnamese population at the complex had doubled as the result of 153 new refugee families. Daily tutoring is a valued component of life at Willow Meadow Place . In a vacant apartment, the village leader scheduled the tutoring, four levels of English classes and a variety of other programs offered to residents. The Vietnamese immigrants at Willow Meadow Place found strength in working together. And together, they gathered to hear their share of stories about family difficulties or problems with their social lives. And together, the group tackled language barriers. And together, they wanted to learn English because each word learned was a step closer to a new life and new possibilities, a step away from the deaf-and-mute feeling.

Concerns about robberies and security had changed the face of Willow Meadow Place . The complex became more vacant as Vietnamese people started moving out. My family followed that trend because the violence happened to my father twice. After that time, we were no longer in contact with the complex and had no information about it. That accounted for my concern when I saw that old Asian man walking in the complex at midnight. Anyway, such a concern just flashed in my mind and then quickly faded. However, the same sight came upon my eyes again the next day when I was driving home from work and passing Willow Meadow Place . I began doubting him and asked myself if I should follow him to figure out what he was actually doing at midnight in a pretty cold weather like that. Finally, I decided, no, and went straight home.

I did not work on weekdays, so I did not see him the following five days. Such a scene was really strange to me because it had not ever caught my eyes in the past. I guessed he had been doing that for a long time, but I did not notice him. Next Saturday, I took the same route and caught him again. This time I decided to follow him. After he opened the gate and entered the complex, I quickly drove my car in and parked my car in front of the leasing office. I saw him approach the trash container, climb on its side, open his trash bag, and start disturbing the container with a wooden stick that he picked up right on the ground. In a moment, I heard the clank of cans emitting from the trash container. I came to understand that he was picking up the used cans. I stopped my car for a while and left the complex until he left for another trash container located further inside. On the way home, my mind seemed to be obsessed by what I had just seen. In fact, image of that man gave me an emotion and a deep thought about the life of people like him. I had ever thought that I was unlucky because I had to work that late. But when I saw him at almost midnight, I knew that at least I was luckier than one person. Society forgot him, left him out of its game. I asked myself unanswered question, “How many more people like him had to walk in this cold weather to pick up “pennies” thrown away by the others? Was it fair to them?” A sad feeling was provoked in me, and I did not say a word after getting home.

I decided to pay a visit to the apartment complex during the daytime to see how it would be now. After having my car parked in the lot where I used to park it, I hastily walked to the building located in the back of the complex. Physical things seem not to be changed. The apartment where my family and I lived in before is still there; however, a Hispanic family now occupies it. The doors are still painted blue. The trees are still sitting by the stairs, making a big shade ideal for those who like chatting with friends. Though the place and the objects seem to be intact, human activities are not as same as what they used to be. It is daytime, but no one there hangs or walks around. The scene is getting so quiet, giving me a feeling of having left something behind. It makes me feel like I was attached to it somewhere. The sky was overcast, but I could still hear the birds singing while hiding themselves on tops of the trees. A couple of squirrels were chasing each other while looking for food. They were running back and forth as if nobody were present there even though I was standing by the stairs and keeping my eyes on them. In a couple of minutes, I left for the nearby building. I caught no one in my eyes but a Vietnamese man who was fixing his Honda Accord. Rumpled and bleary-eyed, perhaps due to lack of sleep last night, he was sitting transfixed by the car with his eyes glued to it. I proceeded to him to find out if he would know something about the old man who I saw pick up used cans in trash containers. Before I said anything to him, he stood up and smiled at me. He gave me a feeling of friendliness and made me feel like I was actually welcome there. After a few words gossiping with him, I asked him about the old man I saw at night. He responded me in Vietnamese, “Sorry for not being able to help you. I don’t really know that man. My family and I moved in six months ago. And we are in the habit of not loitering outside at night because, you know, security is not very good.” Through his words, I acknowledge that security is still the main concern for residents at Willow Meadow Place . “So, you didn’t hear about security at this apartment complex before you moved in?” I asked him in Vietnamese. He let me know that he chose to move in because the price is cheaper there, and he thought that security at other places were not good as well.

After saying good-bye to him, I walked quickly to the building block neighboring the exit onto Wilcrest Drive . Passing by the waiting area where I now saw two more benches were added, I recalled the moment when everybody in this complex running out for life as the roof of this waiting shack caught on fire six years ago. It is now renovated with the entire roof removed. Instead, they grow a tree with the very big shade, giving the freshness to the area.

I took a seat on the bench for about thirty minutes. More human activities now came upon my eyes. A Southwestern Bell car passed by followed by four cars of the residents. Those cars were really noisy, but anyway they broke the strange quietness of the whole complex. Not so long after those cars passing by, the voice of a girl calling my attention, “Mom, please wait for me! I forget my wallet.” Looking on my right, I saw her mom was waiting for her while she was running upstairs to her apartment for her wallet. Her mom was wearing a blue Old Navy Dress while the girl had a new pink Banana Republic V-neck shirt on. They both disappeared in a moment. After their going, an Alief I.S.D. school bus arrived and dropped off their high school students. Among them, there were only three Asian boys and one girl leaving the bus. It came upon my mind that most of Vietnamese families had moved out of this apartment complex already, and they would not like to set their feet back here for security reasons. Willow Meadow Place is not as full of animation as it was in the past.

Several days following my visit to Willow Meadow Place , I got back to work. And on the way home, I still saw that old man. I was very unsatisfied because I could not figure out who he was after my visit to the complex. And nothing is going smoothly as I thought. Following the week of Christmas Day, I no longer saw him. I do not know for some unknown reason that this fact made me feel as if I were missing something behind every time I passed by Willow Meadow Place without seeing him open the gate and enter the complex. Since then, I went home in a fairly sad mood. I felt pity for him because his life was clearly not as happy and fortune as the others. I related what I had seen on the street to my father. One thing that amazed me was that he and my father have been friends since my family was still residing at Willow Meadow Place . After listening to the story, my father just smiled and told me about the life of that man. He lived alone in the apartment next to Willow Meadow Place and worked in the nearby Phillips gas station. He picked up used cans as his extra earning. He went back to Vietnam after Christmas Day and planned not to re-enter the United States . He had been saving enough money and wished to live the rest of his life in Vietnam . Well, I still felt pity for him. Willow Meadow Place now loses a midnight visitor. But his image will exist in my mind as long as Willow Meadow Place is still present in Southwest Houston .

Map

Links

Alief Independent School District

Alief Community

Houston Apartments

Vietnamese Community in Houston

Crimes in Houston

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Shop Till You Drop: Baybrook Mall by Patrick McCafferty

500 Baybrook Mall
Friendswood, TX 77546
(281) 488-4620


April 2004–Nothing cures boredom and a wallet full of money like a trip to the mall. It has almost become an American pastime for teenagers. When the question, “What do you want to do?” is asked the answer, “Let’s go to the mall!” comes quite often to the mind in certain social groups. A mall is an excellent place to go to pass time and Baybrook Mall is no exception. Located off the Bay Area exit off of I-45, Baybrook Mall is the home to dozens of varying stores, businesses, and restaurants. Baybrook Mall is in the city of Friendswood, next to Webster and Clear Lake on the southeast side of Houston. This area of Friendswood began as a Japanese Colony for growing rice. It all started in 1903 when three-hundred and four acres were purchased by a Japanese businessman named Seito Saibara. In just under one-hundred years the area went from being used for rice patties to becoming a major commercial center. All the rice isn’t quite gone though. There is still Sakkio Japan, a place to get Japanese cuisine in the food court of Baybrook Mall.

I find that Baybrook Mall has the standard set of department stores (including Mervyn’s, Foley’s and Dillard’s). But what sets it apart is the variety of stores located in and around the mall. Clothes, movies, games, and toys can all be purchased inside the mall at such stores as Banana Republic, Sun Coast, Electronic Boutique, and Kay-Bee. The mall appeals to people of both genders. For the ladies there’s Victoria’s Secret, The Body Shop and Body Works, and Chico’s. And for the guys there’s the hardware section of Sears, The Knife Store, Structure, and Dillard’s for men. To satisfy teenagers, there are shops including The Gap, Gadzooks, Sam Goody, Wet Seal, Abercrombie and Fitch, and American Eagle. Kids can go to The Disney Store, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Baby Gap, and Gymboree.

Within a five minute drive outside of the mall stores such as Old Navy, Target, CompUSA, Best Buy, and Petsmart can be found. This variety of stores has made Baybrook Mall the center of commerce for the surrounding communities up to 30 minutes away. And of course these people don’t walk to Baybrook Mall; they drive. One huge problem of going to Baybrook Mall is actually getting there. Going down Bay Area Blvd (the main street) gave me quite a headache.

Something that I noticed about the Mall was the security. In this present time, security is a very important issue to me and a lot of other people. For example, there had been a string of incidents where people were being mugged. Through recent security measures these incidents have been halted. One thing that I think really think helped was the increase in parking lot patrols. They always have at least one of their security personnel in a car patrolling the parking lots during store hours. Guards also frequent the entrances to ensure the stopping of shoplifters. Most stores also have the standard set of cameras.

I entered the mall at the “Talbot’s” entrance, which is one of the four possible entrances to the mall. It just happens to be my favorite because its located conveniently next to the Cinnabon. I always love entering the mall to the smell of fresh made cinnamon buns (and leaving too!). On the average I usually spend about an hour at the mall, walking around the “circle” of stores or just casually sitting on a bench. Watching how other people react to each other at the mall is interesting. A couple in their early 20’s passed me by. I can’t help but think that the look of bliss on their faces was brought about by what they were doing and where they were.

What makes spending money so fun? It seems like everyone who has a shopping bag at the mall has a smile on their face. I went to the For Your Entertainment (FYE) store to get a compact disc I wanted. The guy who rang up my purchase seemed to be enjoying what he was doing, though it’s hard to tell if it’s forced or not. The normal “have a good day” didn’t seem quite as forced out as it usually is at other places. I did find one type of store where the employees looked to not be enjoying themselves to much: shoe stores. Every shoe store that I passed (Nine West, The Athlete’s Foot, and Payless) looked to have the unhappiest employees. The woman at Nine West seemed to be impatient with one customer who had a box of shoes and a receipt – guess the refund wasn’t going well. I can’t really blame the employees at a shoe store for not liking to have to deal with feet and the people who walk on them.

After traveling around the mall for awhile I ventured my way into the food court. The smell of all the mixed cultures of food really hits you and sets and makes it more enjoyable. The abundance of hyper kids can be annoying, but eventually that can be cured with my portable CD player and a good quick meal. It almost seems a necessity to travel to the food court after or during shopping. Every single person there had at least two bags which I thought was a little odd not many window shoppers in the Mall that day. Following buying a gourmet burrito from Taco Bell I went to sit down (with a little difficulty because of the bags just waiting to trip me up). Casually looking around, I saw that there were three types of people in the food court. Those who just came to the mall to get something to eat, those who were on a break from shopping, and those who looked like they were about to collapse from exhaustion. Parents with kids seemed to fall under the exhausted group. The food court is usually the end of my trip at the mall. On a full stomach I like to go home or go out with my friends and enjoy the things I just paid an overpriced top dollar for.

Concluding my trip to the mall I can reflect upon new experiences and the new things I learned. Where you work can greatly influence how you feel about your job. I saw several different employees from various stores all with many different attitudes. Also, I gained an appreciation of how the mall can really be a place to pass some time very quickly and have a lot of fun while doing it. Sure, you could shop online, but you don’t get to experience the product firsthand. Of course there are other malls a little further away and they may not be quite as crowded as Baybrook, but sometimes the people are half the fun.

Map

Links:

Baybrook Mall

Sakkio Japan

Mervyn’s

Foley’s

Dillard’s


Shop Till You Drop: Baybrook Mall by Patrick McCafferty

500 Baybrook Mall
Friendswood, TX 77546
(281) 488-4620


April 2004–Nothing cures boredom and a wallet full of money like a trip to the mall. It has almost become an American pastime for teenagers. When the question, “What do you want to do?” is asked the answer, “Let’s go to the mall!” comes quite often to the mind in certain social groups. A mall is an excellent place to go to pass time and Baybrook Mall is no exception. Located off the Bay Area exit off of I-45, Baybrook Mall is the home to dozens of varying stores, businesses, and restaurants. Baybrook Mall is in the city of Friendswood, next to Webster and Clear Lake on the southeast side of Houston. This area of Friendswood began as a Japanese Colony for growing rice. It all started in 1903 when three-hundred and four acres were purchased by a Japanese businessman named Seito Saibara. In just under one-hundred years the area went from being used for rice patties to becoming a major commercial center. All the rice isn’t quite gone though. There is still Sakkio Japan, a place to get Japanese cuisine in the food court of Baybrook Mall.

I find that Baybrook Mall has the standard set of department stores (including Mervyn’s, Foley’s and Dillard’s). But what sets it apart is the variety of stores located in and around the mall. Clothes, movies, games, and toys can all be purchased inside the mall at such stores as Banana Republic, Sun Coast, Electronic Boutique, and Kay-Bee. The mall appeals to people of both genders. For the ladies there’s Victoria’s Secret, The Body Shop and Body Works, and Chico’s. And for the guys there’s the hardware section of Sears, The Knife Store, Structure, and Dillard’s for men. To satisfy teenagers, there are shops including The Gap, Gadzooks, Sam Goody, Wet Seal, Abercrombie and Fitch, and American Eagle. Kids can go to The Disney Store, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Baby Gap, and Gymboree.

Within a five minute drive outside of the mall stores such as Old Navy, Target, CompUSA, Best Buy, and Petsmart can be found. This variety of stores has made Baybrook Mall the center of commerce for the surrounding communities up to 30 minutes away. And of course these people don’t walk to Baybrook Mall; they drive. One huge problem of going to Baybrook Mall is actually getting there. Going down Bay Area Blvd (the main street) gave me quite a headache.

Something that I noticed about the Mall was the security. In this present time, security is a very important issue to me and a lot of other people. For example, there had been a string of incidents where people were being mugged. Through recent security measures these incidents have been halted. One thing that I think really think helped was the increase in parking lot patrols. They always have at least one of their security personnel in a car patrolling the parking lots during store hours. Guards also frequent the entrances to ensure the stopping of shoplifters. Most stores also have the standard set of cameras.

I entered the mall at the “Talbot’s” entrance, which is one of the four possible entrances to the mall. It just happens to be my favorite because its located conveniently next to the Cinnabon. I always love entering the mall to the smell of fresh made cinnamon buns (and leaving too!). On the average I usually spend about an hour at the mall, walking around the “circle” of stores or just casually sitting on a bench. Watching how other people react to each other at the mall is interesting. A couple in their early 20’s passed me by. I can’t help but think that the look of bliss on their faces was brought about by what they were doing and where they were.

What makes spending money so fun? It seems like everyone who has a shopping bag at the mall has a smile on their face. I went to the For Your Entertainment (FYE) store to get a compact disc I wanted. The guy who rang up my purchase seemed to be enjoying what he was doing, though it’s hard to tell if it’s forced or not. The normal “have a good day” didn’t seem quite as forced out as it usually is at other places. I did find one type of store where the employees looked to not be enjoying themselves to much: shoe stores. Every shoe store that I passed (Nine West, The Athlete’s Foot, and Payless) looked to have the unhappiest employees. The woman at Nine West seemed to be impatient with one customer who had a box of shoes and a receipt – guess the refund wasn’t going well. I can’t really blame the employees at a shoe store for not liking to have to deal with feet and the people who walk on them.

After traveling around the mall for awhile I ventured my way into the food court. The smell of all the mixed cultures of food really hits you and sets and makes it more enjoyable. The abundance of hyper kids can be annoying, but eventually that can be cured with my portable CD player and a good quick meal. It almost seems a necessity to travel to the food court after or during shopping. Every single person there had at least two bags which I thought was a little odd not many window shoppers in the Mall that day. Following buying a gourmet burrito from Taco Bell I went to sit down (with a little difficulty because of the bags just waiting to trip me up). Casually looking around, I saw that there were three types of people in the food court. Those who just came to the mall to get something to eat, those who were on a break from shopping, and those who looked like they were about to collapse from exhaustion. Parents with kids seemed to fall under the exhausted group. The food court is usually the end of my trip at the mall. On a full stomach I like to go home or go out with my friends and enjoy the things I just paid an overpriced top dollar for.

Concluding my trip to the mall I can reflect upon new experiences and the new things I learned. Where you work can greatly influence how you feel about your job. I saw several different employees from various stores all with many different attitudes. Also, I gained an appreciation of how the mall can really be a place to pass some time very quickly and have a lot of fun while doing it. Sure, you could shop online, but you don’t get to experience the product firsthand. Of course there are other malls a little further away and they may not be quite as crowded as Baybrook, but sometimes the people are half the fun.

Map

Links:

Baybrook Mall

Sakkio Japan

Mervyn’s

Foley’s

Dillard’s


An Entertaining Place to Check Out: Kemah Boardwalk by William Flores-Paz

215 Kipp Avenue
Kemah, Texas 77565

November 2010–After driving 30 to 45 minutes from Houston, from a spot at top of the freeway; we finally see the immense park. Rides boldly stand out and make the whole place feel as if it surrounds you. Three of my friends are with me; my friends from church, Ruth and Eva, and my best friend Chance from school. It’s a hassle parking in a sea of cars, and as we step out of the car, “finally” my best friend Chance says, sipping the last of his Dr. Pepper and squeezing the can. Kemah Boardwalk is a new waterfront development on Galveston Bay, home to a major cruise ship port. It provides a new fresh destination, especially for families.

“Cheer up!” the environment says as we enter the park. It is my second time coming, and I feel the happiness that I felt before. Something in this park makes it special, people compare it to Six-Flags, but Kemah Boardwalk and Six-Flags are only the same experience-providers. The same experience that you live in Six-Flags, you live in Kemah Boardwalk. However, Kemah Boardwalk has many advantages that Six-Flags doesn’t. Lines are shorter, rides are closer to each other, and Kemah Boardwalk is a lot less expensive.

Today, the crowd looks like roasted walking-sausages and steamed vegetables dripping butter from their faces on this sunny day. I’m melting while in the line to get wristbands that will allow us to ride every single ride in the park. Ruth stays with me. The gigantic, maybe 6’9” tall guy in front of me looks like he’s going to faint because of the heat, and I imaging him crushing me to the ground as he falls. My other friends Eva and Chance decide to stay in the Cool Zone, a 20’x20’-square-shaped section of the park that refreshes you with a mist of cold water. I wonder how it is cool if thousand people are trying to fit in, that must be hot.

I watch a family with a mom and a dad and three kids—one of them is waybehind because he got distracted watching a train with people waving before it disappears into a tunnel. Children all over are smiling from ear to ear, and smiles don’t fade away easily in this park. Just as I think this I see a sobbing child grabbing his mom’s hand trying to pull her back where the man with blue shirt and multi-color spotted white jacket is selling cotton candy—his strengths aren’t enough to make his mom go back. There’s a different scene in every single degree as you turn your head 360 degrees.

Chance has my wallet in his pocket, I realize, and now I am one person away from the window. The thirty-two dollars and seventy-five cents in my left side pocket will not be enough to cover the price of three wristbands—only three because Ruth has money to cover her own. “What’s the hold up!” a man angrily yells when it’s my turn and I’m still trying to locate Chance in a crowd of a thousand people. “Hurry!” I voicelessly yell to him with only the movements of my lips as soon as I spot him. He understands and runs toward me, cutting off all the people in his way. Wristbands on, our fun is about to begin. Laughing is all I hear. We walk closer to the rides and we stare for a while. A little boy with khaki shorts and a white shirt is standing next to me, idly admiring his sister: the one with the red ribbon on her head, who has bravely and fearlessly decided to ride “The Inverter”, the ride that swings back and forth, up and down, flips you upside down, and swings back and forth again. We had decided to ride “The Inverter” first. Just as we are almost up, I turn and see my friend Eva behind me, her dark brown skin turning to completely white skin, terrified and cold; her skin froze the drop of sweat running down my own arm as I try getting closer to her. This is nothing new for us because she always gets scared for little things like getting on a ride. After a little begging, we convince her to ride today. Once on it, there is no way back. As soon it begins I can’t hear anything but screaming. My brain never quits imaging the ride breaking apart and launching us far away into the sky, like a rocket. Swinging up and down, people below stare at us. They look like ants from the top, and then zoom into normal size again as we head down. The adrenaline is on top of my head coming out of my ears, and this is just getting started.

The sunset is amazing as we ride The Boardwalk Tower. It spins us around as we ascend up, appreciating the fantastic view of the dark blue water that surrounds three-quarters of the park and the endless number of boats sailing around. We witness fishes jumping out of the water and people taking pictures of them. It is the quietest ride in the park. You feel calmness, and you forget about problems waiting for you at home. My friend Ruth almost falls asleep during this ride. As soon as we leave The Boardwalk Tower, we run to the Kemah Train, for the first time today, we see the line is like twenty people long. “We won’t have to wait that long” Ruth gloats, staring at the curve where the train is supposed to come from. A lady, standing next to Chance, claims that “they all went to lunch.” Just smiling, I look at her, not knowing what to say I nod a “who knows?” We hear the choo-choo of the train getting closer, meaning that the time for us has arrived. The train stops, and people get out the train. As the guard opens the rusted green gate, he lets us get on the train. This is really relaxing, it tours you throughout the whole park and we now become one of the people waving good-byes to the spectators. It is really enjoyable and now I understand why they are always smiling. It is worth the time to ride the train because close to the end of the tours the train gets into a tunnel with an old western cowboy haunted city. And as you go through the dead cowboys start having a battle and it feels like they are shooting to you. “It’s above amazing!”

There again the lines are hundreds of people long to get on the rides. It seems that the Pharaoh’s Fury, a swinging ship ride, is a big attraction; all the times we have passed by, it always has a long line. We have walked by the same place so many times that once again I see the path of peanuts that I left when they were falling from my pocket down to the red adobe tile path. Three rides into the day, and we are aiming for something to eat. My stomach groans even louder than the train squealing on the rails.

The aromas of the different types of food makes me hungrier, and fill my brain with ideas: I can’t stop imaging the steak on the grill, juicy and tender medium-well-cooked from Saltgrass Steak House, BBQ sauce and a warm delicious roasted garlic mashed potato.Landry’s Sea Food House, Red Sushi, Aquarium, and many more are really making us ready to try it all. We spot for Saltgrass, not forgetting that more rides like the Drop Zone, Bouncer, Wipeout, Aviator, and—Chance and my favorite—The Boardwalk Bullet still await for us.

After eating we walk and let he food settle in order to get on more rides. We stop at every single carnival-style game bordering the sidewalk. These games start at two dollars in price per game, giving you the opportunity to win a prize that is worth probably more that the game’s price. It is not our lucky day, “Not your lucky day, right guys?” Eva teasing us expresses. Disappointedly, we keep walking around and seeing the prizes that other people are winning. A concert could be heard and the crowd rushes to the stage. We don’t recognize who is performing; however, we choose to go and take a peek. The pop-rock music boosts our moods giving us energy to move into the next.

Our day comes to an end for us, but our last ride is still waiting for us. From far away you could hear the girls screaming and the laughs of the boys; from far away you could see the huge wooden mountain. My feet were able to feel the vibration getting stronger and stronger as we got closer to it. Yes, I’m talking about the Boardwalk Bullet, a roller coaster. Once on it your arms feel like tearing apart from the rest of your body. The shaking is intense and the wind blows against your face making you unable to move it forward. It is like a 30 to 40 seconds ride which makes you think that those few seconds are the last of your life. We got off and my hands were still shaking while Eva was complaining and trying to get the buzz of the engine out of her head. Thanks to those whom invented such amusements and made us have a wonderful day. We really enjoy, here in Kemah. It is just a different way of entertainment. Rides, games, shops, and beautiful outlooks over the bay—it’s the perfect combination that definitely charms kids and adults (Kemah Boardwalk—Houston, Steven). Great day, great time, Kemah Boardwalk we now say “see you later!”

Map

Links

Boardwalk Inn

Boardwalk Beast

Kemah Boardwalk Marina

Author Bio

William Flores-Paz is a first year student at the University of Houston Downtown, his goal is to become a doctor. He likes helping people as much as he is able to. He is new in The United States as well as in the Houston area. He’s been living in Houston for three years. His native language is Spanish and now English has become his second language. With his goal in mind, William, puts all his efforts to succeed. People around admire his achievements reached so far in this new environment for him. William thinks to never stop until he feels he is done with his work which he assures it’s not soon.

The Family: Thompson’s Chapel by Jackie Williams

between Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 59
Sugar Land, Texas

January 2004–There’s a place, not too far from here, where my mother grew up. It used to be out in the country, but not quite anymore. Subdivisions have built up around it. Times have changed it, children have grown up, and lives have passed on. This place is known to the older generation as Thompson’s Chapel, after the church up the road from where my mother lived. The church recently celebrated its 123rd anniversary. The younger folks know it just as Sugar Land. Even though it’s not quite out in the country anymore, everyone calls it “the country”. So when you say you’re going to The Country, everyone in my family knows what you’re talking about.

When you first arrive in the area, no matter which way you come from, you’ll see a small white church called Thompson’s Chapel. You drive a little farther and you’ll see a small, now white, house with a screened-in porch where my Aunt Lillie (my mother’s sister) and Uncle Ronnie live. This is the same house where my mother grew up. There has been a little more room added to it since my aunt and uncle moved in. My mother is one of fourteen children, around the sixth to be born. She has eight sisters and five brothers. In the yard there are some Pecan trees that have been there for a very long time. Next door to my Aunt Lillie and Uncle Ronnie’s house on Lee Lane is, or was, my Aunt Ollie’s house, her two sons stay there now. She died of breast cancer maybe six or seven years ago.

Keeping straight Thompson’s Chapel Rd. and not turning onto Lee Lane, you’ll see my Uncle Harold and Aunt Shirley’s house. My aunt and uncle are caterers, and my Uncle Harold custom makes barbeque pits from scratch. I don’t think he welds anymore though. At the corner, before you make the left for the cemetery on McVey Lane, there is a gold and maroon trimmed house. In the front yard sits a wooden rocking bench with an engraving on it that says: “We love you granny”. My Aunt Jean lives there. If you turn left (really you have to turn left, there’s no place else for you to go) at the end of the street onto McVey Lane, you’ll reach the cemetery-the end of a dead end. My grandparents, two of my three deceased aunts, and a cousin are buried there. When you arrive to “Thompson’s Chapel”, you some how get the feeling you’ve arrived home, a place where you can let go and be yourself because everyone, and I mean everyone, is family. Thompson’s Chapel has been surrounded by modernity yet it still has this feeling of country and the past, that you’ve come and escaped it (the city or whatever) all. It’s kind of like a haven, where you can go and forget whatever you’re frustrated with, ‘cause you feel like you’re away from it all, like you’re in a small special place inside yourself. The Country makes it seem like everything is blocked off, kept out (even though there’s a Randall’s across the way) and you’ve come to a place unchanged, familiar.

Map

Links

http://www.firstcolonymall.com

http://www.ci.sugar-land.tx.us/

http://www.sugalandbest.com

http://63.90.155.100/default/asp

History of Texas: San Jacinto Monument 3523 Battleground Road

3523 Battleground Road
La Porte TX. 77571
281/479-2431

April 2004–the years, the United States has seen many faces of people who come and go from here to there, moving from one place to the other, leaving their history in the streets, in the houses, and everywhere in the cities. All these people whether they are from this country or not, have contributed to its changes. These people have left their histories engraved everywhere, and these histories are made up of prints, they are a legacy of memories in this and many other lands. One of the most beautiful prints that history left to remember is the variety of artifacts from museums and museums themselves. They constitute a part of our past that continues living in our present because of their presence in the actuality or in the world of today.

There is one museum especially that makes me feel the history of Texas around me and reminds me of my country Mexico at the same time. This museum is a high tower with a big star at the very top of it symbolizing the lone star of Texas , which makes the tower look higher than it really is; this tower is the San Jacinto Monument , built to commemorate all those who fought for Texas ’s independence from Mexico back in the 1800’s. When I visited the museum for the first time, I remember how this monument looked from the freeway, opaque; I was not able to appreciate the monument’s beauty until I got closer. All around the tower is green and it smells fresh since there is a park with a huge lake next to it nearly. In the middle of this park, a road takes you directly to the tower. However, the bad news is that you have to climb stairs in order to enter the base of the San Jacinto Monument .

When I came to Houston for the first time, the San Jacinto Monument was the first museum I visited. I was very amazed, my head just could not stop going up looking at the height of that monument. I had never seen a tower of that height in all my life well, that is probably because I am from a small Mexican town where there are no big buildings and even the few two-story buildings are rare there. So imagine how impressed I was when I discovered this tower which is the tallest monument in the world; it is 570 feet tall and is 12 feet taller than the WashingtonMonument.

Inside of this tower, there is history left everywhere. It feels like you are living in another epoch. There are thousands of artifacts from different wars, including the Mexican war in Texas , which is the war that this monument commemorates. The purpose of this war was to give Texas its independence from Mexico and make it part of the United States . General Sam Houston, leader of the U.S. military, fought against General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. Santa Ana lost Texas in the battle of San Jacinto, and it became an independent Republic in 1836, which later joined the United States.

When you enter the tower, the first thing you see is an elevator that takes you to the star located at the highest point of the tower. The elevator takes a little while to go up, which is reasonable since it has to go very high. When the elevator stops, there is a little room in the star from where people can see the park and its connection with the lake where the battleship Texas poses and rests. The park, the monument, and the Battleship Texas form the San Jacinto Battleground Historical State Park . Besides the elevator, there is a museum on the first floor, which is not like other museums. This museum exposes objects of different wars of the United States and other things related to that subject. There are rifles, weapons, jewelry from the rich people of those times, and documents such as letters and contracts, etc.

Every other month I visit the monument and it has changed since the first time I was there; it is being renovated and looks better all the time. They are improving the monument’s facade from the outside. Architects know that the monument’s height and beauty are the first things that catch people’s attention, those details make people wonder what is inside the tower and motivates them to enter and discover it, and in fact, that is how my family and I discovered this place.

The San Jacinto Monument is always full of curious people who want to know more about history; well, at least that is what their faces express to me when I see them looking around with interest. Although this is a museum, this is a place that everyone can visit even if they are interested in knowing more about Texas’s history or not. Most of the people I have seen there are families, students, and tourists relaxing, having fun, and learning something about Texas all at the same time.

Once when I was visiting the tower with my family, an American soldier’s uniform caught my attention. When I saw it, it was like a flashback that made me remember my History teacher, Dr. John Moretta. A few weeks before he had lectured the class about the terrible things that happened during the Civil War of the United States and how many deaths this war brought. He told his class that after the Civil War, there were some conflicts between the North and the South of the United States because the South wanted to continue having slaves (slavery was the issue that caused a rebellion and consequently the civil war) and the North wanted to abolish slavery. Dr. Moretta mentioned that some North Americans waved bloody uniforms of dead soldiers to show how many misfortunes and deaths this war brought and to claim that those deaths should be worth it by abolishing slavery once and for all.

When I saw that uniform, I imagined how much pain it must have caused this nation to lose many lives, all at the same time. I thought about how that soldier’s uniform is now a symbol of pride and respect. When wars occur, they just bring disasters and leave disasters. Holding that thought, I started looking at some other artifacts in the museum and while I was engaged in the history, I saw an old friend walking in. I waved at her and she came to talk. She has been a family friend since we came to Houston . I asked her what was she doing there; I asked her this question because she is not the kind of person who likes history. She told me that the museum made her remember her brother very much. Her brother was in Iraq and she did not know when he was going to come back. We spent a while talking about her brother and the current issue in this country which is the war of Iraq . I really didn’t know what the causes of this war were but I felt strongly against it since its beginning because all wars are equal to deaths and unhappiness.

It was six o’clock, it was getting late, and it was time for me to go home because the museum was going to close, so I told my friend good-bye. I had a long drive, since I live in Houston and the museum is in La Porte. While driving home, I thought about how many people can visit the museum and inevitably think about something or someone related to the war. It is a feeling and an experience that anyone can feel by visiting this museum, it does not matter where people are from, wars are a universal thing.

Although I am Mexican and I don’t like wars, I visit the San Jacinto Monument because I can imagine how my country felt under the dictatorship of Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana and how Mexicans were oppressed by his rule and government. Mexicans fought Santa Ana many times but General Houston was the one who finally beat him. I do not celebrate the U.S. victory over Mexico by visiting the San Jacinto Monument . The fact Texas is now part of the United States is not a victory, the real victory for me is the fact that by taking Texas off from Mexico the U.S. also ended up with a dictatorship and as a result my country was liberated from the rule of Santa Ana . Even though it was not the purpose of this battle, the U.S. helped Mexico in some way but at a high price, which was the whole Texas . The legacy of the battle of San Jacinto are the generations of Mexican Americans proud of being part of both countries, a Mexican country emerging with a new government, and Texas emerging with a new population and a new culture from which I am now part of.

Map

Links

Houston

Houston Travel Guide

History of Museum and Monument

Battle of San Jacinto

La Porte

Majestic Oriental Palace: Asian City by Paul Vo

20205 Hwy 59 N
Humble, TX 77338
(281) 319-4567

April 2004–You probably think most of the good restaurants are in the southern part of Houston. But if you’re curious you might start to think, “Are there any places to eat on the northern part of Houston?” For one, there are a lot of places to eat all around Houston. Near Willowbrook Mall, there’s Pappasito’s, Pappadeaux, Fuddruckers, and many others surrounding restaurants to choose from. Around FM 1960, there’s Luther’s BBQ, Chinese Buffets, and the list goes on. Who here hasn’t already tried a fajita? Some steak? Some chicken tenders? I personally have and I’m tired of eating the same things over and over.

Anyways, let’s get to the good part. Across from Deerbrook Mall, there is a restaurant called Asian City. Some of my friends and I went to this restaurant last Saturday. The restaurant is made from logs that look like one of the castles from the movie The 13th Warrior. As you start to walk towards the entrance, there’s a light grey wooden bridge with an arc in the middle so you can walk over the pond that is underneath it. Looking down at the pond, you can see the bright orange koi fishes that are about the size of your hand swimming around frightened from the sound of your footsteps. Around the bridge were bright red roses, dazzling yellow lilies with bonsai trees in the middle of the extravagant garden to resemble an oriental palace. Once you walk off the bridge you will get to the magnificent, giant wooden door that is ten feet tall and about 3-4 feet wide. The main entrance door is made of red wood with a big glass window in the middle with fascinating designs that look like it took a very long time to do. My guess would be that it’s a large, muscular dragon soaring through the beautiful sky with white clouds covering one of the arms and parts of the tail throughout its large body. Also, the oriental door handle is made of gold and feels like it’s made just for your hand to hold.

When you open the door you will see a small fully stocked bar with four aluminum stools that surround dark wooden counter. But if you’re not old enough, don’t even think about it! Inside the restaurant, it is beautifully decorated with traditional Chinese posters, vases, cloth covers, and paintings. The posters visualize a Chinese girl wearing a traditional yellow Chinese dress sitting down with her knees in front of her. In her hands is a small white fan with a painting of the peaceful horizon with birds flying around in harmony. The vase pictures a tree with Chinese words written all around and is about 4’3” in size.

Directly in front the host will ask you how many people and smoking or non-smoking like other restaurants. She was around 5’2” tall and had short black hair put back in a ponytail. Her name was Michelle. She was wearing black slacks with a clean, white dress shirt and some black tennis shoes, which got me wondering most of the night. Why make it look traditional, but wear formal clothes? I found out later that night that the owner wanted the restaurant to look professional.

The best part is you can choose to sit in the regular tables or in the group tables where the chef cooks right in front of you. The regular tables were made from the same wood as the main entrance door and could seat from two up to four people at a time. In the middle of the table you could see a beautiful Asian girl painted onto the side. She was dressed with a long yellow silk dress with purple and red flowers sewed across the side. Beside her, there were Chinese words written downward which none of my friends knew what it meant. The chairs were also made from redwood and had a dark maroon cushion so that you would have a comfortable seat while eating the delicious meals. Crafted through the chair were crazy Chinese designs that the crafter made so it would be original. I don’t know how to explain how it looks like. The regular tables are unique in those ways but I prefer the group tables. Around the group tables were large brown marble walls. The table utilizes a counter type table where you sit around the chef where he cooks the meal for you. He cooks over a state of the art grill that doesn’t have a grill. The grill looks like a giant sheet of metal with an oven underneath. These chairs didn’t have cushion on them, but they were also large and made from aluminum, which looks the same as the chairs in the UC Satellite. It was uncomfortable at first, but I didn’t mind it at all later through the night. The only thing that I didn’t like about the group tables was that they were too small. It wouldn’t fit more than 10 people. You might think 10 is a lot of people but it’s really not when you see how big the restaurant is.

The chef cooks everything right in front of your face so you know how he cooks it. Tommy was the name of the chef my friends and I got for the evening. The food tastes great and cooked to perfection right in front of you. But before he starts to cook he displays some cool tricks with the knives. If you order some squid he takes out a small yellow lemon, throws it into the air, grabs a knife and cuts it in half in the air. Another trick he does is throwing different large metallic knives around like he was juggling them before he starts chopping up the food. I was pretty scared that one of those big knives could hit me! One of my friends was trying to hide under the table because he was scared of getting stabbed with one. I’m glad the chef really knew how to handle the knives. He cooks everything from marinated steak to Jumbo shrimps. You’re probably wondering if there are any different sauces besides the A1 sauce to dip the food. I have no idea what sauce the chef gives you but it’s a white creamy sauce that has a distinct taste I can’t quite figure out.

If you don’t want to eat cooked foods there is an ok size sushi bar located right next to the alcoholic beverage bar. It was approximately 15-20 feet long. I think about 10 people could fit along the counter. Customers would sit a long polished aluminum stools that had just enough height so you could see the sushi trays. The trays lie on top of trays of ice and is covered by a glass window like the cafeteria in elementary school. Glass windows are there to cover it from people that just touch the food but not eat it. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to eat something someone else touched with their hands. If you want a certain sushi dish, the chef gets it for you. He wore the typical white clothing with the large white hat that makes him look like Dr. Seuss and was really nice. Every now and then he would talk to you to make sure everything was good. He would ask if you needed anything or, “Is the food ok? I don’t really like sushi but I tried it anyway since you only have one life.

If you haven’t tried sushi yet, you should try it. There is this one sushi roll that is rice wrapped with uncooked fish called Sashimi. You can dip it with the white sauce or with some Soy sauce. Soy sauce is a brown sauce that gives your food a better taste depending on how much you put on it to bring out the full, fresh flavor. Also, it is made from 3 main ingredients: soybeans, wheat, and salt. In Japan, Soy sauce is found as a table-top seasoning, just as salt and pepper are used in America. I didn’t eat that much sushi because I’m used to eating cooked meals. Another reason why I don’t like sushi is because I’m one of those people that believe the myth that you can die from eating raw meat. That’s not true if you eat clean raw meat. Asian City cleans their meats thoroughly. Besides the sushi and meats, one of my friends tried the salads and they said it was pretty good. The dressing they used was tart orange and it gave the salad a fresh flavor. When we were eating some sushi, I could hear the other customers around applauding that the sushi was good. One of the customers said, “Wow, I never ate sushi before, but this is good!” As I was listening close to their conversations, I looked around and was so surprised that the place was so packed. There was a bunch of people in the front frustrated that they had to wait at least thirty minutes to an hour to just get a table.

After a couple of hours eating and sitting there talking to each other, we got to chat with the owner of the restaurant. Turns out, he was the chef we got and is my friend’s uncle. It was pretty cool; he was a very nice person. He asked if the food was good and of course to me it was great! I was surprised we got to talk to him because the place was busy and he gave some of his time to talk to us. Even though he was busy, I got to ask him some questions about the restaurant. I asked him if he enjoys all the customers that come in here and leave happy. He said that he tries his hardest to make the people happy and want them to come back for more. Other things that I got to ask him before he had to run off were that if he planned on opening stores around the Houston area and if he enjoyed being the owner and chef at the same. He replied that he doesn’t know and that he loves being both owner and chef since it’s what he loves to do. The other workers there were also courteous. The restaurant reminded me of how home-cooked meals were at the house. The food being fresh and the workers making you feel at home. The sushi wasn’t that expensive but reasonably priced. They also had dinner specials but I didn’t get to try it. It’s not the typical order-your-food-and-wait-5-minutes-only-to-ask-the-waiter-where’s-my-food-deal. The service is incredible; it’s done before you can say, “Is it done yet?” You get the food in seconds while the food is being cooked in front of you. You maybe think it’s the same as other restaurants, but once you go inside, it’s a whole other world. Even though Asian City is known for its sushi, the cooked meals are good as well. Think of it as, if you can’t choose a place to eat at if it it’s with your family, friends, or even your significant other, try Asian City. You won’t be disappointed.

Map


links

Asian City Reviews
Deerbrook Mall
The World of Kikkoman
The 13th Warrior
University of Houston