Category Archives: East

Hey Suburbia, We’re In Love With You by Kenneth Starkey

Neighborhood in La Porte
La Porte, TX 77571

April 2004–During the summer of 1996, between my 7th and 8th grade year, my friends and I were sitting around the neighborhood bored as usual on a typical muggy Texas summer night. However, that all changed when one of us hit upon the spectacular idea of filling a tennis ball full of gasoline then dousing it in hair-spray. Our careful preparations paid off as we saw the unfortunate sap who had the task of lighting it leap back in horror from the sudden burst of flames. Then we began to kick the homemade fireball around causing flames to spew onto the concrete, and sometimes resulting in an inferno breaking out on our shoes. Suddenly I got a running start towards the tennis ball, putting forth all my effort to give it a hardy kick. As I saw the fireball sail forty feet into the air and a distance of fifteen yards I knew my exertion had paid of as I saw the fireball explode into a blinding light upon impact against the asphalt.

Nestled in between the cities of La Porte and Deer Park along highway 225 is the small area known as Lomax, the place where I have spent most of my time growing up. For the most part Lomax consists of three streets, H L and P, that are roughly 2.5 miles long, a rodeo arena, two small parks, a soccer field, a Junior High, and an Elementary. North P Street is decorated by a few sparse houses that line the street, roughly five small neighborhoods, and few large houses with ranches, owned by people who think they are cowboys so they ride the streets of Lomax in large bands, congesting traffic. Just past the soccer fields on N. P is the neighborhood of Bayou Glen, which is now composed of approximately 50 houses, is the place where I live.

In 1892 the city of La Porte was founded around the northwest shore of Trinity Bay, an inland extension of Galveston Bay, and originally covered fifteen square miles in southeast Harris County. Furthermore, La Porte was originally a business venture, specifically real estate, lead by a group of men such as A. M. and J.H. York, J.R. Holmes, and the man who chose the name La Porte (a French word meaning “the door”), T. W. Lee. The population of La Porte by 1900 was 537 people. La Porte gained national attention during the 1920’s and 1930’s due to the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park where several big bands performed, such as Benny Goodman, for dances and beauty contests. Despite all of the attention, La Porte for the most part remained a sleepy little community. However, the city began to grow and prosper with help from the La Porte-Baytown tunnel opening in 1954 and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center opening somewhat later, which led to a population of 7,149 in 1970. In 1980 La Porte annexed Lomax, and with the growth of Fairmont Park the prosperity of the city was further enhanced (Kolodzy). Before La Porte annexed Lomax my grandfather can remember hunting during the 50’s where my neighborhood is today, not to mention his family kept in the area too. Furthermore, he can recall when Lomax, prior to the annexation, would count all of the cattle in the various pastures as people in a sad attempt to make Lomax’s population seem larger than it was.

My parents and I moved here when I was five and have lived in this house ever since, and within that fifteen-year span the community has evolved quite a bit, and for the most part it has been for the worst. The neighborhood of Bayou Glen consists of one main street, Bayou Glen, and two small culs-de-sac. When we originally moved here there were only thirteen houses all based at the very back, which gave it the quite nice feeling of seclusion, not to mention it created the close and friendly relationship between neighbors. I can remember that as a child I played in the vacant fields of the other cul-de-sac closer to N. P Street and the other fields that lined the right side of the main street going into the neighborhood. Furthermore, there was a large cow pasture behind the suburb where my friends and I played, built club houses, and swung on a rope tied to a tree branch from a large hill behind the tree.

In 2nd grade I began going to Lomax Elementary, one of the better elementary schools, since they had programs such as the Gifted and Talented program which furthered the education of the more intellectually talented students. A recent article from the Houston Chronicle is a prime example of how serious Lomax Elementary takes the education of their student body. The article starts off by talking about how six pupils from Lomax Elementary were appointed ambassadors for an educational exchange program, and goes on to say that they would be apart of a delegation of 40 pupils from different areas. Their purpose would be to promote world peace and the understanding of various cultures, not to mention that the experience could impact the students’ future career choices (Evans). The La Porte school district was one of the six richest schools in Texas due to the surrounding chemical plants that have to pay taxes, more specifically those to La Porte schools. However that all changed due to the Robin Hood Act, which in a nut shell meant property-rich districts such as Deer Park and La Porte had to distribute most of their finances to the “poor” schools. For instance, La Porte and Texas City school districts were forced to give funds to the Galena Park Independent School District. Furthermore, in an even worse scenario Deer Park was compelled to give $32.8 million to Pasadena schools, which nullified the $27 million Pasadena was to receive in state aid (Markley). By 2001 several of the previously property-rich districts were facing bankruptcy.

When I got into Junior High my friends and I would spend the summers bored out of our minds so at night we decided to pass the time by filling tennis balls full of hair-spray or gasoline to light on fire and kick around the cul-de-sac. It was also during those dull summer days that I took up the habit of smoking cigarettes, along with the other habit involving smoking. Once I reached High School my friends and I would hangout around my house, or at night on the streets of my neighborhood, specifically on the curb on the side of my house. We were never bored because there was always the enjoyment of burning my old treasure trolls to kick around the street, or indulging ourselves in a little toke, like men in the opium dens of 1800’s China. Furthermore, I will never forget that drunken night where we took an old red wagon, filled it with bricks, and chunked it into the bayou that ran through the cow pasture, much like a Viking funeral except for the fact that we did not light it on fire, as we did with most items. These high-jinx, amongst many others were some of the fondest times I ever spent in this neighborhood, except once two of my close friends moved out of the community, and my other close friends dispersed to go of to college these good times came to a halt. In my eyes the neighborhood became a barren wasteland, leaving me only with my memories. Despite the fact that they still stop by during the summer to hangout, visit me from Houston, or visit from the oil fields of East Texas, things were never really the same nor will they ever be.

During the early and mid 90’s other companies came in to fill all of the vacant lots in a hurry in order to make a quick buck, like vultures moving in on their dead prey, except the customers were only brain-dead. The construction quality of these newer houses truly reflects that desire for easy money held by the companies, not to mention they possess that cookie-cutter look as if they had just rolled off of Henry Ford’s Model T assembly line. Due to the surrounding refineries the sound of sirens can be heard every Saturday at noon as they perform their test in case of an emergency. When I hear these alarms I cannot help but be reminded of the air raid sirens used during the Battle of Britain to warn the London citizens of the imminent oncoming Nazi Junker bombers coming to drop their lethal payload over the capitol of Britain. Yet any time there has been a gas leak I have never heard the sirens sound once. Instead I find out later that there was an accidental release of some toxic fume, and should have staid inside with the A/C off. Also, from the various chemical plants I have a flare to the north of my front door so that when they are having trouble at night I always know since the massive flame illuminates my backyard to a bright orange as their product burns off. Furthermore, the stench from the refineries hangs lower than usual when it rains, not to mention the fact that it then mixes with the fetor of fish from the bay nearby. The resulting odor is quite putrid, and depending on how hard of a downpour one can actually taste the foulness. At night the air is filled with the incessant sound of trains blasting their horns, a monotone whining from some chemical plant, and the occasional bird cawing.

As the neighborhood expanded the number of families increased, taking away from the friendliness found in a small community, but leaving the closeness of neighbors enough to know that one does not like them. Instead of the friends that I had through elementary to high school that lived in Bayou Glen I now have little brats who constantly ride their bikes in the middle of the road, throw trash in my yard, and casually stroll through my backyard. In addition, several of the kids have motorized scooters that they ride around the cul-de-sac, not paying attention to traffic, while their vehicle emits an annoying high pitched cry from the motor as they go by. The parents of these children can only be described as worse, and not just for allowing them to behave in such a manor. The lady that lives behind is one of those pent-up house wives who just sits around and has nothing better to do than get involved in “neighborhood politics”, always sticking her nose where it does not belong. She will act like someone’s best friend when she sees them checking the, but it is only to get the new juicy gossip going around or to spread her own. Furthermore, after she gets her mail and is walking away she shakes her butt with a disturbing over emphasis for guys and will intentionally drop her mail, and yet her actions are more of a joke than a turn-on. Conversely, there are the other neighbors who used to be cordial and worth occasional idle chitchat or a friendly wave that now see me as the source of their kids corruption. Instead, these same people pretend to be oblivious when I am outside or give me dirty looks as they pass by.

My neighborhood that I once found quite pleasant I have now come to loath due to the people and atmosphere that I believe will only worsen with time. Yet in spite of all this I could not see myself calling anywhere else home since I have lived here so long and I have so many wonderful memories of my past here. However, I know that I have outgrown the usefulness of this place and cannot help to feel that it is time to move-on.

Map

Links

La Porte Website

City-Data: La Porte, TX

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Losing Yourself: The Perfect Spot by Maria Lopez

On the Edge of La Port
TX Sylvan Beach
Going down Fairmont

April 2004– If you ever find yourself in a conversation with my father, you will agree with me when I say that he is not the easiest person to talk to, let alone get along with. Everything has to be done his way, right away, or get out of his way! Some people would even go as far as to say that he is “scary,” just ask one of my ex-boyfriends! Not, me. No, sir! I know the secret to getting along with him is just to agree with him, tell him how great his hair looks (and DON’T stare at his balding spot), and tell him how brilliant he is. And the fact that I’m his baby girl makes it a little, well, a lot easier for me. But some wont take the time to do all that and just take the easy way out and label him as “scary.” I guess it easier for then that way.

My father is a great man, with many talents that come easy to him. He is great at fixing things that aren’t broken, breaking things that are fixed, and crushing the dreams of a little girl whose only wish is to get a pony for her birthday. (But that is a whole different story) He gives great advise, he is always there when you need him, and he is the best damn fisher man I know.

As far back as I could remember, going fishing in the Lopez house was like an Olympic event. Everyone would go crazy when my father would announce a fishing trip. Bringing home the “big one” would be like the gold medal and you would have the honor of gutting it yourself. But since my two older brothers and I started high school, we didn’t want to go as much anymore, so my dad started going alone. I guess he figured that we were too old to spend time with our old man.

More than anything, I was shocked when I woke up, that day, to the sound of my father’s voice penetrating through my door screaming, “Maria! You wanna go fishing?” It only took me but a few seconds to realize what had just happened and with a great big smile on my face I yelled back, “Yeah!”. As I watched my father gather everything that we were going to need, I found myself remembering the last time we were at our spot. I caught the biggest catfish I had ever seen. It most of been 14 inches long, and I hoped for the same luck that I had that day! After about 15 minutes of packing and making sure that everything needed was in, were finally ready to go. All that was missing was food, drinks, and most importantly, bait. For those items, we decided to stop at a store on the way to save a little bit of time.

It was around noon when we finally left, and it was a long 35 minute drive down Fairmont Parkway on that hot Sunday afternoon. What made the long drive a little bit worse was the fact that I had to drive! I was more nervous driving with my father beside me then when I had to take my driver’s test. The most difficult part was fighting off the temptations of wanting to turn left to a Starbucks, or right into a shopping mall. Much to my surprise I managed to drive past all those man made obstacles. At the end of the road, and after countless “its turning red, STOP!” and “your going too fast, SLOW DOWN!” we finally reached Sylvan Beach.

Sylvan Beach is not at all a beach, as the name suggests, but rather more like a park. There is no sand, no swimming, and no bathing suits. What you would find is grass, swings, monkey bars, benches, and the most annoying ingredient: NOISY CHILDREN! Some might even know Sylvan Beach as a reception hall that is located 100 yards away form the park when you are facing Galveston Bay. If we had a choice we wouldn’t of stopped at all, but since we still needed bait, food, and water to get us through the day we had to stop. The store next to the park was the only one near by that sold fresh shrimp, so we stopped there and bought what we needed. Without even thinking about it twice we turned right leaving the park and noisy kids behind in their artificial world.

We were driving along side the coast now, but Galveston Bay was no where to be seen. What seamed to be endless rows of big, fancy two story houses were blocking the coast. It only took about 5 minutes to leave all that behind and as the pavement became a dirt road we were finally at our spot. My perfect spot is not much to look at, mostly dirt everywhere and patches of grass here and there. On the edge of our spot is a small little cliff, from which you can climb down to fish from the rocks that are found at the bottom. Those rocks weren’t always there because most of them are just chunks of cement put there by man. Dirt, some grass, rocks, and dirty water was all that our eyes could see. As we step out of the van, with a great sense of triumph we stand still for a moment and remember the last time we were there. Good times. As my father begins to get our fishing rods ready I stand still at the edge of the cliff and continue to look around. I notice that the houses are a little bit closer, and begin to worry that one day our spot might not be there for long. But as quickly as that worry came it was gone because I remember that this place is to escape all our worries, fears, and doubts. Even if it is for a few hours, this is our haven from all that.

I’m not sure what it is about his place, but whatever problems you might have are lifted from you and taken away, even if just for that time spent there. Here it doesn’t matter how much money you owe, what you got on your SAT, or what classes your failing, here you can completely loose yourself. Even my father is easier to talk to, and you don’t even have to suck up to him! All you really need to worry about are the seagulls that a re trying to eat your bait when you leave it unattended. Cast after cast, the hours pass. All there really is to see is ocean as far as the eye can see. Now and then a big cargo boat would pass by creating a low tide, and then when the boat itself is but a spot in the horizon, an army of waves would attack the rocks at the bottom of the cliff as if they wanted to escape. Cast after cast, we sit there watching the sun twinkle in the murky waters, as we eat some chips and talk about life. I always find my father’s stories about his childhood, adolescence, and young adult life fascinating. My favorite stories, though, are the ones where he is trying to win over my mother. Those are the best ones.

As the ocean breeze plays with my hair, and the smell of the ocean tickles my nose, the hours pass. As the sun is setting, the sky transforms into the most magical purples and blues your eyes have ever seen. As you sit there soaking inn all the magical colors you realize that soon your going to have to leave this wonderful place. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter who caught the bigger fish (me), but what truly mattered that day was that we spent one more day together at our spot. Everything great has to end sometime, and sadly, the hours pass, the bait is all gone, and the day has turned to night. It is time to head home to rejoin our family and return to civilization. And as I drive away, I look back and feel that I’ve taken with me a part of our spot. My experiences there have been nothing but joy that nobody can ever take away!

Map

View Larger Map

Links

Galveston Bay

Sylvan Beach

La Port

La Port

Fishing Gear


Left Unknown: Washburn Tunnel by Victoria M Hernandez

Superintendent: Bob Bennett
Phone: (713) 455-0062
3100 Federal Road, Houston, Texas 77015

November 2010–There wasn’t a day that passed that didn’t feel like any other. On a daily miniature road trip my mother and I took the same route every afternoon for a bonding session. Moving right along, passing up people who were fond of causing delays. We slowly approached a trademark in which many people fail to notice. The Washburn tunnel, which is located at 3100 Federal Rd. in Houston , Texas . Coming to a slight stop just a 100 ft away from the entrance, my mom begins to count. “One….Two….Three….Go!” For years now this traditions has overcome my mother and I .It has become a memory in which will be stored in our hearts forever. The idea of the game was to hold your breath once entering the beginning of the tunnel. We pretended the person who couldn’t last throughout the whole journey drowned , the tunnel is located in the ship channel which makes it surrounded by water. Making a fool out of myself trying to catch my mother’s attention was something common and was not the same without. Many times I noticed that she would let me win. I was about nine years old it’s not like I didn’t know the difference. As I grew older the same game was played over and over again.

As I look deeper into the tunnel it seems as if the color in the structure faded into a yellowish brown color. Everything which was in clear view had an essence of being man made. You could feel that every brick that was put into place was brought together by someone who put effort into their everyday job . Come to realize that their was more about the tunnel which wasn’t just visual.

The reason behind making the tunnel was to be able to make a closer route from Houston to Pasadena . The name originated from a Harris County Auditor Harry L. Washburn. In the mid 1950’s the public was exposed to something in which would be a new insight to architecture. Which was also named the South’s largest and toll free vehicular tunnel. The estimated price of having this Tunnel built caused the city to pay an enormous amount of seven million dollars. Hard labor was put into the making a count of two major corporations came together to put this structure to use. The process of the tunnel was divided into six major operations. First the engineers h ad to dig a 90 x 40 feet trench had to be dug. At 85 feet under water a numerous amount of cement structures had to be locked into position. After completing this task the beginning of the tiling the inside had begun. Ventilation is supplied by Westinghouse Sturtevant blower fans which give a complete air exchange every two minutes .The ventilation system is located at the top of the tunnel. The purpose of the fans is to keep the air level clear from carbon monoxide. Due to the massive size of the tunnel every feature had to be taken seriously and well constructed to prevent any malfunction from occurring. Another extraordinary feature that was added to the tunnel involved the lighting. Fear of having an electrical outage was one of the main concerns at that time. Therefore every 12th light that you pass a generator is located to reassure people that the lighting will always be available. It is known that the light intensity in the portals is three times brighter than the interior. Flooding has never occurred in this tunnel for the fact that in is nearly impossible. Pumps are located under the road to drain the water back into the ship channel. Yet once the completion of the tunnel had been wrapped up they felt as if they needed more to give to the community. With a result of wanting to give they have made it known that if a vehicle where to run out of gas while passing through the tunnel the city would be more than happy to give the driver two gallons of gasoline.

For once I wanted to win fair and square. Time after time I tried to figure out a technique in which would help me control my breathing for a much longer time. Failing over and over again, caused me to want achievement even greater. After a few years or so I finally realized that reclining my seat would cause my oxygen to stay at a flowing position and I was able to hold it in much longer. Every time that I held my breathe I felt like a fish without water. Everything that I viewed seemed to change colors and become very bright. As I lay there in the passenger seat holding my breath for a last time I could hear myself thinking. Every thought that crossed my mind was at the volume of speaking to the world .Every moment that passed felt like an eternity. The thing I had wanted so much in my life was on its way. As difficult as it was getting I knew the harder I tried the more that I would be able to accomplish. I gazed up trying to see how much further the exit was and only to my disappointment we had more than half of the journey to go. Realizing that I needed to stay focused on my mission I closed my eyes and began to sing a soft song to myself. Sooner than later I had overcome another obstacle in my life. Finally I had won! Failure was something that I had become very acquainted to. Finally the day that I won I felt as if I was complete. A greater part of myself had caused me to have pride within my own accomplishments. There had never been a greater feeling than this one. I recall my mother just looking into my eyes and smiling. I felt as if she knew its was I yearned for. Her smile was all that I needed in order for me to know that she was proud.

I’ve come to realize that I would want to experience theses moments with my children one day. I’ve had several conversations with my mother on how she felt sharing these times with me and her only response was a smile. She stared right at me and smiled over and over again. I would always wonder why she never said anything but yet the look in her eyes was all that I needed. I knew that as much as it meant to me it meant even more to her. Now that I have become much older and take the same route on fewer occasions I miss having those limited outings but not once do I fail to reminisce on the past. I feel as if it helped me realize how important the small things were in my life. Yet the day I won it gave me a greater understanding of the tunnel. I never noticed how many titles were placed along the walls. The lighting in which gave it a mellow atmosphere.

Even though as human beings we tend to always look at the outer coating and never take time to realize the significance of many things we’d be lost if the tunnel weren’t there. Many things would fail if someone wouldn’t have come up with such a great idea. The route to pass through the water would have been much longer. Yet I couldn’t imagine my life without having such minor details implicated upon it. I do believe that these special moments have not only been shared between my mother and I but yet many other whose stories, have not been reached. Traditions have never played an important role in my family. Everything in which has occurred was just another daily routine. We wouldn’t consider much of anything to be a great importance. But for at least once in my life I can say that this has impacted me in many different ways. I believe that many special moments such as these should be shared in every family. They are building stones to a happy and healthy life. Every day I dream of having cherishing moments with my future family. Its importance should always been taken into consideration for if it weren’t for the tunnel my daily bonding session wouldn’t have been able to occur.

Map:

Links:

Washburn Tunnel Pct. 2

Washburn Facilty

Houston Travel Guide

Washburn Tunnel Treatment Facility

Tunnel Facility Manager

Social Haven for Believers: The Portico Ministries

7317 East Houston Road
Houston, Texas 77028

April 2004–When I mention the name or tell people that I am going to the Portico, they instantly want to inquire about the place, for the name compels them to wonder. I can easily analyze their puzzling expressions before they can even form the question: what is that? The definition of the word portico means a front porch with columns. The word is simple, but it holds some sort of mysteriousness; it seems sacred. Is it an exclusive organization, art exhibit, or dance club? I simply tell them, “It is the church service for the college ages and young adults, age eighteen to mid-thirties, at Lakewood Church every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ” Their body language and response indicates that their inquisitive nature seems somewhat fulfilled. Most of them recognize the name Lakewood , for the inveterate “mega-church,” which has an enormous congregation with a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, was established in 1959 by John Osteen. The non-denominational church, which is well-known in the Houston area and around the world, will soon reside in the Compact Center as the international haven for Christians.

«««««

The cold nights are filled with emptiness, and the stars refuse to show themselves. Houston ’s interconnecting highways and old, haunted railroads on the North side seem coldly habitual and listless. Every few Thursdays, pillows of clouds, which paint the humid skies a dark and eerie color, pound the saturated, industrial landscape; for now, the rain dies down. Inevitably, I can feel my vocal cords wear out from this erratic climate as I sing along with the blasting, gospel music that radiates from my radio and speakers in the car. The songs along with my anticipation to hear the new teaching for the night and the opportunity to share fellowship with friends lift my spirits and fight the depression that oppressively looms over the city. Exiting off of North Wayside, I hit the back roads and arrive at the 55 acre “institution for spiritual enlightenment.”

Many 50 foot, iron poles housing cyan-colored lights reveal that the wet parking lot is nearly full. The church, which looks like a series of two-story complex buildings, partially surrounds the parking lot along with the trees, which brightly glows against the skies. It feels like a remote country side. I park my old, dependable Chevy into one of the well lit parking spaces in the back. Turning the car off, I extend my arm and reach for my army-camouflage slip covered Bible in the back seat of my car, in which scattered textbooks and a box of tissues also sits. I quickly shine my shoes with a leather sponge, slap a thin layer of balm on my dry lips, and grab a pen out of my backpack for notes and a stick of gum out of the ash tray. The world suddenly occupies my senses as the cool wind playfully bumps against my skin and my nose picks up the smell of rain. Cautiously splashing through the reflecting puddles and weaving in between cars, I am impeded by three young, Nigerian ladies, who are nicely dressed and carrying their Bibles in hand. Their laughter stimulates my ears as they freely chat amongst themselves; their jovial smiles contagiously influence mine. I politely greet them. Taking a deep breath, they cordially reply, “We are fine, and yourself?” Inquiring into each other’s life for a moment, our spirit of eagerness puts us at ease as we make a casual connection. I open the door for them at the entrance to the church.

As I step onto the dark marble floors, the atmosphere is suddenly airy. A Hispanic woman, who is dressed in a black uniform with a security guard patch on her right sleeve, stands erect and staidly places her eyes upon me and others who enter. The foyer, which connects to the corridor, gives off a dramatic, neo-classical flare intertwined with elegance. Low yet intense lighting shines from the brassy gold and embellished chandelier that hangs in the center from the high ceilings. The off-white walls are sharply laced with traditional, dark oak crown molding along the corners of the wall and over the Spanish double doors with many embedded rectangular dimples in the surface. On the other side, my reflection is cast in the mirror, which hangs above a table that is accompanied by armchairs on each side. A few young adults stand around in the foyer, either chatting in small groups or talking on cell phones. Others travel to and from the contemporary water fountains and restrooms farther down the corridors to the left. My ears are immediately drawn to the constant noise from the crowd just behind the open double doors in the main room, as I walk in its general direction. With each step, the intensity behind the dark room enhances my curiosity. As the energy heightens, a young Hispanic man, who stands in front of the door, firmly shakes my hand and gives me a compact and colorful flyer that shows upcoming events and has an empty space on the back for notes. Establishing sincere eye contact, he says, “Welcome to the Portico.”

The sound of hundreds of people mingling creates equilibrium as I step into the grand room. The orange-colored lights that are implanted in the high ceilings show the far end of the main room to my left, which is the coffeehouse. The patterns of whimsical, floral designs paint entire walls with dark and light creams. Off-white crown moldings powerfully overtake the ceilings and exude opulence; it equally divides the upper surfaces into large squares with the inscriptions of strong, circular craters that are embedded in each. Several chandeliers like the one in the foyer are the center pieces of these divisions. Besides that, the aroma of brewed coffee from Starbucks and prepared food such as the punchy wings from Wing Stop, the irresistibly seasoned seafood from Pappasitos, or other foods of well-known, quality restaurants from the coffeehouse settles in my nostrils. Behind the countertops and cloth-covered tables, humble workers are on guard, moving about and ready to serve the crowd that thirsts and hungers. A variety of ethnicities gather together and dine on the scattered plush couches and low, wooden table tops in the general area while others drink their tasty Frappucinos and steamy Lattes. The energy, which fills the room, engenders camaraderie amongst us. The beam lights that are connected to chrome bars over the black platform illuminate the stage from the far right side of the main room. Rows of generic seats surround the stage and extend to more than half of the room. As I search to find a seat in the front, the service opens up; a black man, who has short dreadlocks and wears pressed slacks and a t-shirt, gets up on stage and begins with prayer, followed by praise and worship as the Portico Band leads. Everyone in the room concludes their interactions and finds their seat accordingly, preparing up their hearts to be receptive. While the band plays and sings, the contemporary gospel music captivates everyone and enlightens our ears with beautiful, soul-shaking melodies from the blasting speakers that vibrate the colorful, floral carpet underneath us. It takes us through an emotional roller coaster, allowing us to show gratitude and honor for God. The group openly sings and shouts in awe; some clap, while others close their eyes and reach toward the heavens. The big screen monitors display the praise and worship team to those who are seated in the far back and in awkward areas of the room. They capture and convey the ambiance and mood that surrounds the room. After worship, Pastor Scott Crenshaw gets on stage to deliver the Word. The group of young adults laughs in unison as the charismatic Pastor uses his impressions to share his prepared message for the night. His emotionally intense and profound messages are down to earth and strongly relative, enlightening, and compelling to my life and the life of every other young adult.

After service, social camaraderie continues as the crowd travels back to the coffeehouse for more conversation for an hour and a half. People break out the board games such as Jenga, Pictionary, and Dominos, meet with friends and make new ones, share their faith and experiences with God to others, eat, and drink coffee. This modern-day Portico is modeled after Solomon’s Porch in the New Testament in the Holy Bible, which was a place next to the holy temple where all could gather, form relationships, and be touched.

Map

The Portico Ministries

Lakewood Church

Electronic Bible

Compaq Center

Christianity

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

The Grand Old Lady: Battleship Texas by Richard Brukardt

3523 Highway 134
LaPorte, Texas, 77571

281-479-2431

January 2004–There are few places in the country that can lay claim to pieces of history, and relics of wars gone past. Such places are normally museums, and the like. A couple of the museums are actual relics in of themselves, namely waterways that are now homes to mighty ships of conflicts of the past. Luckily, our state is home to one of these, the aging queen of battle, the Battleship Texas. This grand old lady, once flagship to the United States Navy, sits moored at her final home in the ship channel; awaiting all those who wish to experience some of what it was like, so long ago.

Since her renovation late in the 20th century, Texas appears once more the stately young lady she was when first commissioned before the First World War. After leaving the ticket office, you begin walking up a long ramp to the warship; it is then Texas first comes fully into view. Even from there, the battleship’s aura of history and power can be felt. Upon setting foot on her deck, history hangs in the very air, heavier even than the humidity that all Houstonians are familiar. By simply walking around the ship, one can imagine what it was like, for sailors at war, the crew of U.S.S. Texas, BB-35, unleashing the fury of her weapons against the enemies of the United States.

The ‘Mighty T’ began her long, distinguished career in March 1914 when she participated in the occupation of Vera Cruz during World War I. By 1918 Texas was in the North Sea with the Allied Grand Fleet, where she remained until the Great War ended. Texas returned to her regular duties at the end of the year, safely back with the Atlantic Fleet after war had finally been resolved. During the intervening years between wars, Texas served many roles, on both the Pacific and Atlantic, which included training and most exceptionally fleet flagship. Also, the mighty battleship underwent refit, with new boilers and other modernization to keep her competitive with her counterparts. Up to the entrance of the United States into World War II, Texas trained sailors for the Navy and patrolled the Atlantic Ocean to aid in ensuring the neutrality of her home country. A dark day at the end of 1941 changed all that. The battleship took part in escorting vital supplies to the embattled countries of Europe and Africa, until late in 1942, when the might of Texas aided in the beginning of the End for the Third Reich, the invasion of North Africa. During this time Texas supported the landings on Morocco, putting ashore a little known war correspondent by the name of Walter Cronkite.

Afterwards Texas returned to her less exciting duties of escorting Atlantic convoys (as unexciting as it could be with the ever present danger of the German Wolf Packs prowling the ocean). Excitement, such as it were, for Lady Texas returned in April 1944, when for several days the ‘Mighty T’ vented her fury, along with her allies, upon the coastal defenses of the Normandy coast. Two months later Texas again used her might against the Nazi-held city of Cherbourg, France, but this time did not escape unharmed. Twice coastal weapons smashed shells against the battleship, causing the death of one sailor and injury to thirteen others, but the ‘Mighty T’ fought on. Two months after that, Texas steamed in the Mediterranean, supporting landings in Southern France. After a restful overhaul, the battleship was sent to the Pacific, to aid in battling the threat still there. For four months Texas battled the Japanese Empire at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and was preparing to assist in the invasion of the Japanese homeland when the horror of nuclear fire aided in returning peace to the war-torn and tired world. The following months saw Texas given the peaceful, relaxing duty of transporting weary veterans back to their homes. With that done, Texas herself was allowed to rest until 1948, when she finally retired, then was given to her one true home, the state for which she was named.

Since then Texas has enjoyed a restful slumber, undisturbed by duty for many years. Only those who wish to meet this queen of battle would visit, like everyone’s kindly old grandmother, happy to give treats and stories to those willing to listen. Since 1983 Texas has called the Ship Channel her home, kept company by the San Jacinto Battleground historic site. During this time Texas underwent standard changes for when a ship is retired. Her armor was largely removed, as was her wooden decking. The decking was replaced with a more durable concrete, even though it was far from historically accurate. She almost faded into obscurity, but there were some that had not forgotten. At the end of the 1980’s Texas was restored, and not in a simple way. First was the replacement of the old lady’s clothes, placing her back in the Measure 21 blue paint she wore in wartime. Even her armor plating was replaced, giving Texas back her look, especially with all the other renovations, such as repairs to her superstructure and the replacement of her decking back to the original, more historic wood. The best news is that work is not finished, with a further renovation scheduled for 2005. All of the renovations are not simply by the government for the people, but are instead by everyone for everyone, for all who have any love for history.

However, the history of Texas did not begin, or end with the World War era warship. The first American vessel to bear the name was a 2nd Class battleship (1895-1911, renamed San Marcos in 1911). Two more vessels since the New York class battleship now quietly resting in the ship channel have had the honor of bearing the name of our state, the next a Cold-War era guided missile cruiser (1977-1993), and very recently (2002) the keel was laid down for a new Virginia class submarine.

The fickle Texas weather almost seems inconsequential at times while you make your way through the many points of interest. Much of the battleship’s armament is open to the public, allowing you to even take a front seat in an instrument of warfare. Most notable of these is Texas’s #3 Turret. A small ladder leads up into the twin-barreled weapon, and its steel surrounds you. Two small seats sit to either side of the entrance, and before you is an instrument panel. Just past the seats and the panel the turret opens up, revealing the machinery where crewmen would load 1,500 lb. shells and the propellant for them. Beyond that extend out two of the mighty 14” cannon, which make up part of the New York class Battleship’s 10 gun armament. Toward the front of the ship is the main tower, where visitors can go up, up, visiting the places where the most important decisions are made; the helm, fire control and the bridge. Then you go below decks, to the places the crew called home while at sea. Narrow hallways lead to bunkrooms packed almost claustrophobically close together. Such rooms can make you feel what it was like for Texas’s 1,820 strong crew. The engineering deck is also cramped, but somehow the mighty ship’s crew made serving here possible.

Even though for most the drive to Pasadena is quite a trip, and the Texas weather is never kind, a visit to a nexus of history such as U.S.S. Texas is time well spent for all, for the battleship is a part of all Texans, and for all Texans. And while Texas is not alone at being a warship monument, or a piece of history, there is one thing, one important item that does make her Unique. Texas is ours.

Map

LINKS
Battleship Texas
‘Mighty T’
2nd Class Battleship