Category Archives: Inner Loop

The Eyesore : Mary Jane’s Fat Cat by Caleb Butler

4216 Washington Ave
Houston, Texas

January 2004–In two hours this empty, dusty room will be filled with sweaty kids screaming lyrics that they love at the top of their lungs. No one will be concentrating on the peeling paint that’s seems to reach toward the ceiling like green fingers or the missing floor tiles that reveal the concrete slab underneath. No one will be concerned with the dust that is caked on every surface inside the building, or the two hundred-pound speakers hanging from the ceiling held by a single chain just waiting for a opportunity to fall on some unsuspecting show-goer. No one will care that this building is has a legal occupancy limit of half the number of people in the building. It is not so much the physical aspects of Mary Jane’s Fat Cat that make it a special place, it is what happens inside night after night.

Mary Jane’s is the only venue in Houston that regularly allows hardcore shows, it is because of them that hardcore has had a outlet to expand and to draw new kids to a genre of music that has been over looked by the mainstream since the early 80’s. Two times a month this club is filled with hardcore kids looking for a release from every hindrance of the real world, a chance to experience a catharsis, to let go of everything. When the music starts they forget about their jerk off boss, they forget about their homework load and they forget about any family problems they may have, they forget about everything. To people on the outside hardcore is seen as just another kind of music or noise, but to the kids who live for it, it is their salvation what they live for and what some are even willing to die for.

Hardcore holds a special place in the hearts of the few who have experienced it, and it is not embarrassing, ten years after a kid stops going to hardcore shows he will never look back on his experiences in hardcore with shame, the great times he had and all the friends that he made will remain dear to him and he will think of hardcore as his badge of honor. Everyone changes and when they look back on past phases or experiences most people chuckle or make a face of disgust , but that does not happen with the hardcore kids because hardcore goes beyond music, it actually gives back to the people that put time into it. Hardcore kids are forever proud of what they have been involved in, because the feelings brought on by it are so strong that they cannot be denied, the benefits are so strong that they are impossible to refuse. What other kind of music can a person listen to and take away life lessons that pertain to everyone, not just abused children, not just kids raised by one parent but everyone, including the rich kids? There is absolutely no other music like that, because there is no music that raw. Some might try to compare gangsta rap to hardcore, by saying it is just as real, but how can a middle class white kid relate to songs about police abuse and gang violence? They can’t. There are certain things that all people deal with in life one of them is betrayal, if you haven’t ever felt betrayed than you are most likely devoid of feelings. Maybe the point is that the central themes and emotions within hardcore are generic and that makes easy to relate to.

There is a amazing sense of brotherhood within the so-called hardcore “scene”, it is where people meet their best friends or spouse. Hardcore is a genre of music, or a lifestyle for those that see purpose, for those that are concerned with making the best out of what you are given, and taking what you have to in order to get where you want. Hardcore is for the kids who want substance and purpose, the ones that are not concerned with a uneducated person in clothes that are 10 sizes to big rapping about how much “ice” or “bling” he has. Hardcore is for the real people, the ones with heart and without Mary Jane’s it would not be able to flourish.

Sometimes it is not the place that is special but the feelings you get when you are there, because without hardcore and friends Mary Jane’s would just be four walls, a dingy building with horrible plumbing and peeling paint. To you it is a eyesore in the ghetto crammed in-between a liquor store and a used car lot, but to the two hundred people that show up twice a month it is more than that it is where they get their salvation, a church for the kids that are lost , confused or jaded by the “real world”. The bands speak volumes to the kids involved in this scene, to most they are more than just a untouchable being on a stage that tower above the crowd, to most they are friends and even deeper than that they are their friends.

One of the most sincere bands in hardcore today is Will To Live, they originated in 1997 in Houston, Texas. Robert Galdamez or Rob To Live as some call him is an amazing person with passion for what he does that cant be matched by anyone. Fortunately for me Rob is more than the singer for will to live, he is my friend and my boss. I work at Best Buy under Rob selling appliances and the reason I have my job is because of Robert, because he does not have a superiority complex, because he is a normal person. Would the singer from Three Doors Down give you a job if you needed it, would he put money in your pocket? No, he would host a contest on VH1 to give you a chance to meet him, and watch his band play. He would act as if he were god, as if his presence and time was so valuable that you had to compete for it. I love to listen to kids on the radio or TV say “Yeah I met so and so and they were so nice and so genuine”, to that I always have the same response. Did you shake their hand and ask for a autograph or did you sit down with them and discuss politics, religion or the meaning of life. I can almost guarantee that you will get the same answer from everyone who has met these “rock and roll heroes”, they’d say “well he shook my hand and signed my 35 dollar t shirt for free”.

The one thing if nothing else, which sets hardcore apart from the mainstream, is the relationship between the bands and the audience. In hardcore they are on the same plane there is absolutely no need to label one group as the audience and the other group as the band because in hardcore they are viewed as people, one is no better than another is. Hardcore is a brotherhood, our scene is built on honesty and friendship, in the hardcore community if you do not have integrity you will not last, we will run you out. If you are to participate in this your word has to be worth your signature in blood. No frauds in our scene, that’s not to say that we havent had them in the past or that we don’t have any now but their flaws eventually come out because they cant hide behind a façade for too long, and when they come out they are run out.

The bands that make up our scene, the Houston scene, are among the best around, but first let me offer a brief history of hardcore music in general. The actual beginning of hardcore has been disputed for a long time, some say it started on the west coast with punk rock bands in the early eighties, but others will say that hardcore developed in the north east, in New York in CBGB’s to be exact. I cannot say that I know exactly where hardcore started because I wasn’t around in 1980 during the infancy of hardcore, but I do know that to me hardcore belongs to the NYC. In the mid- eighties there was an explosion of hardcore bands like Sick of it All and droves of positive youth hardcore bands. The so-called posi hardcore bands were bands that advocated a lifestyle in which alcohol, drugs and promiscuity were not involved. The whole idea of being “posi” was do keep your mind clear of any worldly distractions and make choices in your best interest. It was the mid to late 80s “posi” scene that really spread the gospel of straight edge, and in some cases even veganism or vegetarianism. In the late eighties and early nineties we saw the “posi” scene start to kind of die out while militant straight edge bands were gaining popularity. A lot of the bands of the late eighties and early nineties had more of a social commentary aspect to their lyrics, than the bands of the previous eras. The late eighties also saw the beginning of the “metalcore” sub genre with a band called Integrity.

In 1988 Integrity released their first 7” record, “In Contrast of Sin” on Chicago based Victory Records, from that point on hardcore was never the same. Integrity introduced metal into the primarily punk influenced scene, and coupled that with some of the most disturbing, yet poet lyrics in hardcore to date thus creating “metalcore”. Throughout the nineties more metal was added into the mix and hardcore became the perfect mix of punk rock and metal it was kind like metal but with a DIY punk rock attitude and hints of early eighties punk rock sound. Throughout the years hardcore bands were forced to tour relentlessly without the help from major labels because of their painfully real and raw sound. This relentless touring is what created a sort of brotherhood within the scene, because bands spent so much time on the road kids in different cities got to know the bands and started booking shows on their own.

The touring aspect of hardcore is world apart from that of major label bands, or even your typical indie band. A typical hardcore tour is set up without any help from people outside of the band, band members spend hours on the phone with kids they have met through playing out of town shows trying to get contacts for other kids out of town. Hardcore bands have to create a web of contacts to book a tour. Normally it will take calls to 200 different people to set up twenty shows for tour. The web kinds of works like this: I call my friend Loy in San Antonio and say “Loy we need a show in Boston do you know anyone from there?” and he says “No, but I know a kid who might know someone, his name is Steve, he lives in Jersey here is his number”. So then you call Steve and he says “I don’t book shows there but I have a ex girlfriend in Boston who may be able to help you out”. So then you call his Ex Girlfriend and she says “My current boyfriend plays in a band out here and he knows a kid who books shows out here.” So of course you call her boyfriend and then he tells you “I don’t know the kids name, but our drummer does”. Then you call the drummer and get the number to the guy who books shows in Boston. After you get his number you call him give him about 3 different dates that you can play and he will tell you if he can set up a show for your band on one of those dates.

As a rule you should expect about twenty percent of all your shows to fall through. The shows that do happen you play and you tell the kids watching you that you are on tour and you need a place to crash. Hopefully you will find someone who has extra space, if you do then you go sleep at a complete stranger house but you have a new friend when all is said and done. If you are playing to a bunch of weird kids and you cant find a place then you have to drive to the next city over night and sleep in the van. Touring in a hardcore band is difficult because as a whole the scene is very poor so you cant charge more than eight dollars for a show, and you cant ask for a high guarantee to play. All your money comes from CD’s and t-shirts. Its tough, but that tough lifestyle is my dream. Hardcore is more than just music, it is salvation.

Map:

Links:

Mary Jane’s Website

HATETANK

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Inexpensive but Never Cheap: Theatre Southwest by Rachel McKeehan

8944-A Clarkcrest
Houston, TX 77063
713-661-9505

April 2004–As a Theatre Major, I am bound by the laws of physics (and aggressive theatre professors) to see plays every so often. I attend a variety of sorts at the high school, college, and professional level. But the amount of professional productions I get to see is limited due to the loan I need to take out just to look at a ticket to places like The Alley Theatre. So a few months ago I went on a search for the theatres to go to while keeping the majority of the net worth of my being. Enter Theatre Southwest. This is the littlest place I’ve never heard of, but I don’t know it was little when I heard of it. So I call and get some cheap student tickets to As Bees In Honey Drown. I know the title sounds corny, but I needed to see the play to write a paper. The day of the show I looked up directions on Mapquest.com (which I now know sucks, by the way) and got all ready to go. Since my taller, but younger, sisters are interested in theatre as much as I am, I tell them I’ll take them to shows one at a time. Tonight was Olivia’s turn. My mom drives us because I’d get lost if I drove, and Map Quest had us going downtown in a not-so-nice neighborhood.

On the way I decide to call the theater again because Map Quest was getting confusing. The box-office man tells me in his 007 voice that the theatre is in fact not downtown, but off Fondren. I get a little mad and have the 50-year-old box-office man who thinks he’s charming direct my mom there. He does it perfectly.

We drive into this ratty looking strip center and wonder if we did it right. Then we notice the windows of the particularly clean part of the strip center. They are painted with drama faces and big black letters that read, “THEATRE SOUTHWEST.” This is the only evidence that this place is in fact a theatre. I get out of the car and notice odors of a garbage bin that must be near by. There were also a few weird guys down the strip center giving Olivia and me funny faces. Like we would give them the green light with our Mom clearly saying, “I love you Honey, be careful! Call me when the show’s over!”…Nice place right?

Olivia and I wave our goodbyes to my mom as she drives off. We enter the building through glass doors covered on the inside by red curtains, and receive yet another funny smell. An old building smell. To top if off, it turns out the living room of my house is bigger than this lobby, if it can be called that. I notice the ceiling looks as if it will fall in. We walk up to the kind-faced lady at a small desk and request two student tickets. It all costs about half of what on Alley ticket would have cost me. I then walk to another part of “The Lobby” and sit in a sticky chair. After a few mean-spirited words, I end up leaving my stubborn sister to stand next to where I sit because she doesn’t want the chair across and a little left of me. I look around and find an assortment of ages in this place, all of them waiting politely and patiently. Most of these people came in pairs or groups of three. All the faces I see are those of older senior citizens or the younger high school and/or college generation. About fifty of us here in only sixty square feet of space. The lower-than-it-should-be-ceiling adds to the tight, squashed feeling.

A man in a colorful disco shirt comes out and, with the help of various gesticulations, says we can be seated now. (Hmm, wonder if he’s straight.) As we go into the theatre, I realize that the stage is as small as the lobby, maybe smaller. It is a tiny four-sided stage surrounded on all sides by tiny seats. According to the AACT website glossary, this is what you would call a theatre-in-the-round, or an arena stage. It looks only big enough to seat about a hundred people.

My sister and I get seated in the second of three rows. The seats look as if they used to be a reddish color. They are small and padded and my sister soon complains how there is not enough room for her freakishly long legs. The friggin’ giant, serves her right.

The seats full up after about twenty minutes and we begin the show. It is about a con-woman and this poor, beginning writer she cons. He’s kind of cute and her haircut reminds me of Velma Kelly from the musical movie Chicago . I agree with Jay Reiner from The Hollywood Reporter when he says that the con-woman sounds like “Bette Davis on speed.” The actress who plays the con-woman seemed a bit weaker than the other actors because she relied completely on her accent to pull her character through. I was glad her accent appeared less in the second act, because I was going to get irritated if it didn’t. After the first act and half of the second, the innocent writer is dumped. Took her long enough. However, all this leads to his loss of innocence and his shock into the real artistic world. He finds the need to get her back, and, in doing so, meets all the people from her past. All in all, it is a decent play. A bit weird, but good. And that is really all I can ask for from freakishly cheap tickets and a kind ticket lady, despite the weirdo on the phone.

After the show they were going to have a “talk to the cast and crew” session. But Olivia and I needed to go. However, I found it kind of cool that they would consider doing that. After looking at the website and speaking to the people who run it, I know they do care about their audience. They really need to, considering their theatre and location. They do all this, not for fame, not for glory, not for money, but for the love of the Theatre.

A true Thespian will do what they do for the living for free. That’s our problem. That’s why most actors get paid squat. But this theatre doesn’t care. They are known as an amateur theatre (thank you, expensive college theatre class books like The Theatre Experience) but I always find that term to be belittling. I find its connotation means they don’t know what they are doing and they really serve no purpose. But my professor and I share an alternative view on this theatre and other amateur theatre groups: they do it for the love of it, thus they are more dedicated than we who expect to be paid. And this is what I think is the spirit of Houston : they’re constantly striving to fulfill their dreams while building a community with their accessible shows.

It’s not like they don’t know what they are doing. Quite the contrary. The lighting designer for the show I saw, according to the ticket lady, has a resume that can fill a 1 inch binder. He has worked in just about every theatre in Houston , plus many in other parts of the USA and London . The director also was responsible for stage managing and directing plenty of plays in the Greater Houston Area. The story was the same for most of the rest of the cast and crew.

But these people are not snobbish in their experience and do not exclude newer members of theatre to try their hand. The leading lady with the Velma Kelly haircut had never gotten a major role in anything before then. From her bio in the program, she was so very excited to be given the chance to be a part of such a show. I’ve also heard from some of my friends from the UH School of Theatre that they pay about $20 for tech workers. It’s not much, but it gives an inexperienced set or lighting techie the chance to get their feet wet.

Later, under their consent, I looked at Theatre Southwest Online for dates and times for auditions to upcoming shows. To my surprise, they actually encouraged new, never-before-seen actors to audition for these shows. The auditions are set for times that have the ability to fit nicely into a working person’s schedule. Perfect for a student who spends most of their day at school. I also learned from the extremely helpful Theatre Southwest Online that they have been providing “quality theatre since 1957.” 1957!?! This place should now have a historical marker! To be a non-profit theatre company and be able to stay in business for that long, they must be doing something right. Such a small place, such nice people, such good shows… this kind of phenomenon is not seen to much now-a-days.

This is why I believe Theatre Southwest represents Houston: Good people and good places exist that are never heard of before. They also have the ability and drive to offer so much to the community; good, affordable shows, open-minds to new talent despite the theatre’s age, and extraordinary experienced people in accessible areas to be learned from. What else can someone ask for from an amateur theatre group? They love their work, and they love their audience. They must for them to find the nerve and the will to continue their promise: “quality theatre.” I hope you will find out the unheard-of greatness that is Theatre Southwest for yourself. Then tell me that you would rather see a play for the indifferent people from Theatre Under The Stars or the expensive people from The Alley. Don’t get me wrong, they do nice work, but I like my money where it is.

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Links

Theatre Southwest

MapBlast.com

Alley Theatre

Theatre Under The Stars

Stages Repertory Theatre


Hope and Sanctuary: M.D. Anderson Cancer Center by Katherine M. Clark

The University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

April 2004–Following Bill’s family through the maze of a hospital into our waiting room in the Rose Zone, I realize that M.D. Anderson is like its own city. You could easily get lost without a proper escort, like Bill’s grandmother. Not really paying attention to where she is taking us, I notice that though it is confusing to me, the hospital is very organized, It is broken down into different colors, sections, and numbers. I realize that each color corresponding to a particular ward of the care center. After a few moments, we find our way through the maze of passageways inside of the hospital and come to the waiting room that we are told to wait in. It is easy for me to associate a sense of care as I look at the colors on the walls. A subtle beige and tan color provide a moot feeling, and the hospital is kept cool, quiet and clean. The only smell that can be described is a heavy air of medicine. Those who are waiting in the waiting room to see various other patients are quiet, out of respect for those who are being treated there. Most of these people must be experienced at the hospital visit, as they appear to be dressed for a long stay; comfortable clothes, the latest daily paper, and a cup of coffee. The first time visitors must be those that are dressed nicely and playing with their clothes seeing as they seem to be very bored.

I am here with my boyfriend Bill and his dad. We are here to visit Bill’s mom, who has come from four hours outside of Houston. Bill’s mom has cancer in numerous places and lithium poisoning and is going to be put into the hospice, where people are put once it is deemed there is no hope of living for them. It all started with lung cancer, which is hard to treat, that came as a result of her smoking. There is a new vaccine that destroys lung cancer in some patients, but Bill’s mom is too far gone. Before we entered the hospital, Bill’s dad lit up a cigarette and I watch him smoke in amazement.

How could he smoke, when his ex-wife’s cancer started in the lungs from smoking? This is the same man who fought cancer once himself. We have seen horrible things happen to him and his ex-wife and he still stood there and smoked, right outside the hospital doors. I think about all this as we walked through the entrance to the waiting room.

As most people who come here, we quickly grow tired of waiting for the hospital to allow us to visit, so we found entertainment through various magazines. Bill and I chose a puzzle and we began to work on it. Most people around us are talking loud enough that we can’t help but overhear, it is funny how their conversations were mostly about things unrelated to the reason that they are there. The only time they bring up their reasons, they keep it short and to the point.

Also, judging by the visitors, the patients are mostly ones from Texas, but some are from outside the state. They come for many different reasons and are dealing with a variety of cancer types. Most of the people here at this hospital, especially in the zone that we are in, are very sick. The hospital makes the patients as comfortable as possible. In fact, M.D. Anderson is considering providing online services to patients in their rooms.

After building up quite an appetite from just sitting and waiting, so we head for the cafeteria, which is the only place in the hospital that makes you feel like you’re not in the hospital anymore. When you’re eating in the cafeteria, you’re sitting with doctors, nurses, other staff members, patients, and visitors. It is a time out from the real world and back into the commercialized world with overpriced food, which surprisingly is comforting. The food tastes like it does everwhere else there is a Pizza Hut or a Chick-Fil-A.

Bill‘s grandmother, who stayed in the waiting room, has come down to inform us that Bill’s mom has been placed in a room and that we can go see her. Walking to the room is where we actually see other patients. We see them walking around the area where the rooms are and through the open doors of their own rooms. Although the majority of people’s time is spent in the patient’s room. Bill’s mom looks bad, almost unbearable to look at. We spend a good amount of time with her and then we leave, back through the maze of hospital.

The patients look lonely when they are by themselves and that is when they look sick to me. But when people are visiting them they look happy and alive. It is very important that patients are visited by their family and loved ones. Looking at my boyfriend’s mom made everyone want to bust out crying, but when you’re there you realize that you have to stay strong for them and the rest of the visitors. So you act as normal as possible and try to make them fel as if it is just another day. Smiling helps a lot. Since I am not a relative I felt that it was my duty to keep smiling and holding their hands in order to keep them from falling apart.

I have lived in Houston, Texas all my life and have been familiarized with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, through numerous visits to see Bill’s mom. It is the most valuable possession we have and the nation’s top cancer hospital. Anyone who lives in or around Houston should visit and contribute to it, so that it can prosper, so that we can prosper. It is a symbol of life to many people fighting cancer. The hardworking doctors and nurses are caring and dedicated. It is blind to race, gender, and age. It will be there for you no matter who you are. Ultimately, we are all here in this world striving to stay alive and no one is working harder to help us out than M.D. Anderson.

The visits I make to the hospital have changed my life. I used to be afraid of hospitals because all the sick people overwhelmed me with sadness. But now I see hospitals in a new light. I see people helping other people out and I realize where they would be without this. The work they have done has shown greatly and has passed with flying colors in the hearts of everyone.

It is important for the hospital to have support and you can support the hospital and their patients even if you do not have a loved one there. Besides giving money, you could give them your time with volunteer work or even join their team of professionals to better the lives of the cancer patients. Out of all the places in Houston, M.D. Anderson shines the most; it is the heart of our city. It is the only place that you can go where all the set backs and digressions in life are brought down to size and where people work together to keep and better life for all.

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Links

M.D. Anderson

Cancer

Health

Prescriptions

Houston Guide


Silence: The Wheeler Bus by Brittany Ray

On Wheeler Street, between
Cullen and Calhoun

(713) 635-4000

January 2004–Walking down the long sidewalk, I focused on each individual rectangle of concrete to keep my mind off of the scorching afternoon sun, pounding down on my back. With each step I took, I felt the ball of sweat dropa little farther down the side of my face. I was pushed to the side by each individual car as it passed by and stirred the air on the two-lane street called Wheeler.

As I approached the grungy bus stop, that looked almost identical to every other one in town, I realized I still had about a twenty-minute wait. There was a bench. No, itwas a poor excuse for a bench. Just two two-by-fours lying across metal bars, to sit on, and another of the same size to lean against. I sat down. I was alone at the moment, but I knew that my fellow bus-riders would join me soon.

Glass walls surrounded the bench. All the different names of the people who had previously sat on this bench were scratched into the glass, and fingerprintspranced across the windows at about the height that a bored child would stand, starring anxiously out the windows at the people passing. And next to that were the remains of a used Band-Aid, stuck on the glass, despite the existence of a trashcan, located less than a foot away. I look around to realize that there was a lot of trash thrown around the trashcan. An empty soda bottle, about thirty cigarette butts, a Styrofoam cup with a bite out of the rim, and an empty mayonnaise packet, flattened by the many people who had stepped on it polluted the healthy green grass. An older man on a bicycle rode by me, and as he passed he turned back and smiled at me.

I heard the deep, rhythmic pounding of a car’s bass growing closer to me. I waited intently, wondering which kind of car would match this music. A few seconds later, my curiosity was lifted by the old, blue Cadillac, that proved to be closer to the ground than most when it scraped along the pavement as it crested the bumpy intersection.

A white wooden house stood across the street. The overgrown bushes, which concealed unclean windows made the run down house look abandoned. Shingles from the roof littered the patches of dead grass around the house, and a porch swing with one chain missing creaked back and forth in the dry wind. I could imagine an older woman swinging in it, surrounded by her many cats who were more like companions to her. Despite the run-down impression the porch gave, the house was still very comforting and inviting. The paint on the house had chipped in many places, and a light brown color was showing through. Tarnished and off centered, a metal plaque displayed the house number on one of the house’s unsteady pillars. I determined that the house was probably built in the 1960’s. On the street in front of the house there were five large construction cones. A few of the cones were knocked down and it looks like they were just left behind from an old construction job because there was no sign of ongoing work.

A teenage boy in a red t-shirt and black pants that were about two sizes too big walked by quickly, obviously in a hurry to get somewhere. I turned and looked behind me to see a small, steep hill leading down to a parking lot. It was the kind of hill that I would have rolled down when I was seven. The grass was very green and healthy, and I suddenly got the urge to roll down it at eighteen years old as well. But there was a police officer writing a ticket for a car that was parked in the wrong area, and I didn’t want to attract attention from him. I turned forward again to see the same teenage boy, walking much slower in the opposite direction, but this time carrying a 16 oz. bottle of Coca Cola.

Down the block there was a ragged, older man walking intently towards the bus stop. As he approached he nodded in my direction. Every move his lanky body made was slow and belabored. His long, dingy jeans creased as he lowered himself onto the other end of the bench. Without starring directly at him, I tried to estimate his age by examining his wrinkles. I guessed 38, but who knows what life troubles he has been through that had shown up as lines. He turned and I could feel his eyes on me, “D’ya have any spare change?”

Startled by his address to me I stumbled over my reply: “I dunno, let me check.” Knowing my pockets were empty, I leaned back on the bench so I could reach into both pockets at once. The bench creaked as I returned to my normal position as I shook my head and mumbled, “Sorry.”

Pondering whether to continue the conversation, my thoughts were interrupted when he inquired, “Where ya headed?”

“I’m just going to the store”, I replied, not wanting to give this stranger too many details. I started fumbling through my purse, not sure what I was looking for. I wasn’t used to making conversation with people at the bus stop. When I found some chap stick, I smeared it across my lips a few times, and then held it in my hand with the lid still off for a little before I re-applied it, trying to keep busy to avoid conversation with this man. I wonder why I feel so uncomfortable talking to strangers, especially when they are obviously of no threat.

A young girl who I recognized sat down between the old man and me, relieving the awkwardness. I thought I had met her before at an event in my dorm. She glanced in my direction and smiled as she realized that I was familiar as well.

“Hi, I’m Brittany. I think that we are in the same dorm,” I said, hoping that I wouldn’t have to continue conversation with the man on her other side.

She smiled again, “Yeah, I live on the floor above you, I always see you get off the elevator before me. Where are you going?” Why did talking to her feel different?

Feeling more comfortable in this situation I said, “I am running to the grocery store to get some things. I am completely out of everything.” I offer this information without hesitation, even though I was so reluctant to before.

She responded with a simple, “Oh”, not caring where I was going.

I leaned back, not having much more to say to the people sitting with me. Some squirrels caught my attention. One was chasing the other up the trunk of a nearby tree before they both stopped suddenly. They looked like they had heard something that I wasn’t aware of and were stopping to observe the noise. They looked so happy and playful and seemed to have no worries as they played in the shade.

As I grabbed the rim of the bench to rest for a little, my hand landed in someone’s previously chewed gum. It was fresh, sticky and unpleasant. The whistle of the buses brakes as it pulled to a stop ended my search for something to wipe my contaminated hands on. Grabbing all my things, I waited as the door shook as it slowly opened. The sign on the front of the bus said in all capital letters “WHEELER”. After climbing each steep stair, I sat down in the first seat. There were only three other passengers, all sitting separately. The girl that I had recognized came in after me and threw all of her belongings into a seat a few behind mine. The old man, who walked past both of us and went to the farthest seat in the back of the bus, followed her. I wondered why everyone sits alone on a bus unless it is crowded and they have no other choice. The chairs were blue and had some red and orange stripes on them. They reminded me of tacky carpet you would see in a cheap motel.

I leaned back into the seat and started to relax, enjoying the cool air blowing on my face before I remembered that I still had someone’s carelessly placed gum all over my fingers. I rummaged through my crowded purse again, but this time for a reason. I was unsuccessful in finding something to clean my hands on so I guiltily put the gum onto the bottom of another seat before I once again leaned back to relax and wait to arrive at my destination.

Map
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Links:

Houston METRO

Bus Schedule

Maps of Houston


Chocolate Paradise: The Chocolate Bar by Mark Hurtado

The Chocolate Bar
1835West Alabama
Houston TX

November 2010. From the time you breeze in till the time you walk slowly out with your belly full of goodies. Your senses will be engulfed in a huge variety of color, smell, taste, and sound. The smell of homemade chocolate is overwhelming, and the taste is so rich it explodes you’re taste buds and leaves you craving for more and more. Visually exciting, The Chocolate Bar tempts your taste buds with colors through a display of numerous chocolate shapes. From the blending of milkshakes to the grinding of espressos you’ll always hear upbeat sounds, music, laughter, and conversation among customers. My favorite part of visiting the Chocolate Bar is the first few seconds when I walk through the double doors and see all the different assortments of chocolates and dessert and taking a deep breath in of the sweet smell that overcomes you. It is my favorite place among many other Houstonians to go when you have a sweet tooth. They offer everything from truffles to chocolate-dipped fresh fruit, cheesecake, homemade ice cream and even chocolate novelties, which also make great gifts. You can also find unusual items covered in chocolate like Pringles, Twinkies and Lucky Charms cereal to name a few. But what really caught my eye were these massive four layer chocolate cakes on display. One of the unique things about this store is it has something for everyone including your dog. With a small choice of carob and peanut butter covered bones with elaborate edible designs for your pet. In short words it’s a chocolate lovers dream! Located in the Montrose area, the Chocolate Bar offers a great location. It’s location in one of Houston’s most cultural rich neighborhoods offers visitors both local and from out of town the chance to see one of this city’s many treasures.

I first moved to Houston when I was nineteen in the Sugarland area, the city was so vast I couldn’t contemplate ever knowing my way around it. There were few places I visited which were only the typical local restaurants, malls, and stores in my general area. It wasn’t until one summer afternoon my family and I had to go into the city to run some errands and we happened to come across The Chocolate Bar. Out of plain curiosity we stopped and we have been hooked ever since. Shortly after that I joined the Air Force, and left Houston for four years. During my four years away from home I would come home to visit my family here. The Chocolate Bar was a must stop visit for me at least once every visit. I was stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base right outside of Del Rio, TX a small border town in west Texas. There wasn’t anything comparable in that town to Houston. So with that, this was an awesome place I loved to visit when I came home to visit my family and friends. If offered something out of the norm that I wasn’t used to seeing back in Del Rio. It offered delicious sights and smells and above all a friendly place where everyone has a smile on. You are always greeted with a sweet smell of chocolate as you walk in along with a friendly hello or welcome from a staff member behind the counter covered in chocolate cover fruits and nuts. Walking in and taking a look around is my favorite part of the experience, it allows you to walk around and look at the many variety of chocolate moldings. There are chocolate pizzas to dog treats, and bells to dollar bills. Then I like to make it over to the ice cream area where they have roughly twenty flavors, all with a chocolate theme to it. When you sit down with your dessert of choice after debating over and over what flavor of this or that should I get, you get a feeling of warmth and excitement as if you were a little kid again trying a delicious desert for the first time.

My most memorable experience there was for my twenty third birthday back in February. I went there after enjoying a nice dinner with my family and close friends. It was the first time that I was going to trying one of their amazing chocolate cakes. They have many different styles of cake and all have their own names to them. I got a huge slice of Aunt Etta’s which is four layers of extremely moist dark chocolate cake with toffee and bittersweet chocolate bits between each layer. This slice of heaven will cost you around $10, not exactly cheap, but worth it. They’re also conscious of the diabetic population offering the best sugar free chocolate treats in town. It was a dark evening which usually means there’s some playing soft live music. One side of the shop actually does sort of resemble a bar. In fact, on Tuesday evenings, you can enjoy listening to a live band while indulging in your favorite chocolate treat.

A creative man by the name of Gilbert Johnson had a childhood passion for making chocolate. He dreamed of a shop serving all ages with smiles and sweet treats, where chocolate could become a complete entertainment experience. To make his dream reality, Gilbert enlisted Eric Shamban and Tino Ramirez as founding fathers and on October 10, 2000, The Chocolate Bar was born. Today, Gilbert’s dream is thriving in two locations thanks to loyal customers and exceptional service from enthusiastic and friendly employees.

One of my favorite times to go is when I have my six year old niece Isabella with me, it’s nice to see her young eyes open when we walk into the store and have her ask me “ Uncle Mark, can I have anything I want?” With such excitement in her voice it only leaves me with one answer every time, “Yes of course!” We always end up choosing their ice cream which again has any flavor to please any chocolate lovers taste. My dessert of choice I a rich chocolate ice cream with nuts and small pieces of brownies. Although on the prices side this place is truly worth every penny of it. So if you’re looking for a nice atmosphere, good people, and conversation, and above all a delicious variety of dessert then The Chocolate Bar is the place for you

MAP

LINKS
The Chocolate Bar
Houston Dining/Desserts
Montrose

Author Bio

Mark Hurtado is a first year student at the University of Houston Downtown, who is thinking of majoring in Political Science. He grew up in Corpus Christi, TX where he graduated from Richard King High School in 2005. After high school he went on to serve in the United States Air Force for four years, at Laughlin AFB, TX.

3RD WARD HIGH BY:Adrian R. Richard

‘’She said ‘Moe-Yo I didn’t know that you rap, I remember you singing way back at the Jack Yates’’
-Big Moe
 

November 2010-When people hear the name Jack Yates first thing that comes to mind is the basketball team. “Those boys are raw,” one of the fans said. Now that Yates has been all over the news because the principal is under investigation a lot of people talk down on Yates and feel that Yates should close down. Until you actually walk the halls of Yates you find out that this school has much to offer students, some will actually be surprised at how talented and gifted these students are.
The second black high school in the city, Yates Colored High School was established on February 8, 1926. The school was located where James D. Ryan Middle School is now at 2610 Elgin. The school was named after a highly respected minister, considered to be “The Founder of Freedom’s Town” the late Reverend Jack Yates. He was the first black pastor of some of the first black churches originated in Fourth Ward in Texas. Reverend John ‘Jack’ Yates changed the history of the freed slaves in so many ways and was well respected by everyone in the community.
The school opened with seventeen teachers and six-hundred students with James D. Ryan as the first principal and remained so until his death in 1941; William S. Holland followed after him. Some schools in the Third Ward area were named after the former principals of Jack Yates High School. In September of 1958, due to overcrowded conditions Jack Yates Senior High school later moved to its present location 3703 Sampson Street.
“Oooo Ahh Third Ward High,” scream the cheering fans and alumni at the basketball championship game. Yates gets plenty of recognition because of the national state champ’s basketball team, but once you look pass all of that and get a closer look, Yates has a one of a kind communications program. The Magnet School Of Communications has opened so many doors for students in the magnet program. Some students even have the opportunity to work at the Houston Chronicle their senior year, interview celebrities or take a trip to Washington D.C and get a closer look at the president and or the White House.
The Magnet School of Communications which some would call a school within a school focuses on three areas Media Technology, Photography, and Journalism. This Magnet program was established in 1978. This program has let the students have the privileged to take pictures around third ward and showcase them in the Museum of Fine Arts every year, take a closer look behind the camera or in front of the camera. This Program has helped students know what they want to do in life and give them the tools to go far. Some students even have the opportunity to get a job as a newscaster or at least be an intern. Roland Martin, a newscaster for CNN went to Yates and still today he gives back to his alma mater.
For the past ten years, the photography teacher and his students walk through Third Ward and take pictures. MFAH and Yates partnered up and have given the students an opportunity to show their work in the museum. Eye on Third Ward is what they call the exhibition; this project began in 1995 and is still going strong today. These students have so much talent in their work. This project has been ranked as one of the museum’s most admired and successful educational initiatives.
Every time I walk the halls of Jack Yates it takes me back to my freshman year there. I can remember it like it was yesterday, before attending yates I made the Varsity cheerleading team and was ecstatic to say that ‘I go to Jack Yates High’. All I heard when I told everybody that I was going there was “Why Yates?” “You would be better off at Lamar or Bellaire.” I couldn’t believe that everybody was against Yates like that and made me feel that I was going to the worse school ever. What people don’t know until they go to Yates is that this school gives students so many opportunities to go far in life, all the students have to do is want it and try to get it.
Many well-known actress or celebrities went to Yates and are proud alumni’s. Debbie Allen a professional actress, Phylicia Rashard, some know as Claire on The Bill Cosby Show went to Yates. Just to name a few more Monica Lamb, former WNBA star and the late Johnny Bailey, former NFL football player for the Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams also went to Yates. These people have proved Yates students are talented and can be whatever they want to be.
My freshman year I couldn’t wait until football season because I loved my school and has so much school spirit. I was nervous when I walked down by the football field and found out how big the stadium was and how many people loved Yates.
“We are the lions” yelled the captain of our squad. “Ready? J-Y”
“Oh you better know this cheer and can do it in your sleep because this is our home cheer and the alumni’s will know if you mess up.” Oh great that puts more pressure on me that I already have at the time of cheering my first game. I couldn’t wait until the band started to play ‘NECK!’ so I could calm down just a little bit.
While other schools have homecoming king and queen, Yates has a Mr. and Miss Jack Yates pageant. The students Junior year, get to run for Mr. and Miss Jack Yates and show the student body why they should vote for them and show them their talent that no one knew they had. This campaign runs for at least two weeks and following the campaign is the pageant. This pageant has been a tradition of Yates for many years and the students enjoy doing this every year. After selecting Mr. and Miss Jack Yates of the next school year, doing homecoming week all the students dress up in their formal wear and go to the coronation where Mr. and Miss Jack Yates is crowned.
The news media has been all on Yates this year especially when the basketball team scored 170 against Lee. This little issue turned into a big mess all on TV. Also the news media had been on Yates with the big fight that broke out this school year. As an alumnus of Jack Yates I am displeased as how everyone is treating my alma mater. Yates is not a bad school whatsoever as outside people would think it is. It’s the students that go to the school that makes up what it is but the school as a whole is not bad. You can go to Bellaire or Lamar or even Westfield and you can see that they have the same problems that Yates does but the difference between them is that people just don’t talk about it or you don’t see every news media rushing to that school to get the inside story. No matter how many times the basketball team wins a state championship or how many times the photography class showcases their wonderful work at the Museum, people still have something bad to say about this school.
As alumni of Jack Yates I feel that nothing should change about the school. People shouldn’t judge Yates as a whole or think of Yates as a bad school because what they heard from other people or what they saw on the news. Every school has problems but it seems like the media is always targeting these majority African American Schools all around Houston.
For 83 years strong Yates has been a major force in the Third Ward. Jack Yates is a historical marker in third ward and deserves the recognition. So many people doubted Yates and are fighting today to close Yates, but what people don’t know is that Yates has very strong alumni since the beginning that will not let that happen. “If you cut me right now I will surely bleed crimson and gold.”
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Jack Yates High School

 

 

 

 

100% Taquito: Authentic Mexican Food by Yesica Silva

3245 Southwest Freeway @ Buffalo Speedway
Houston, TX
(713) 665-2900

November 2010–Mmmm…. Just hearing this extraordinary phrase “100% Taquito” reminds me of the delicious taste of taquitos in Mexico . Located between Southwest Freeway and Buffalo Speedway in front of the Compaq Center, 100% Taquito has the most authentic Mexican taquitos in Houston . You may think that it is a common Mexican restaurant in the Hispanic populated area, but it does not have any comparison.

One day my friends Wendy and Sylvia called me to go celebrate the end of the semester. We had a stressful week and it was time to take a little break and relax. I had not seen Sylvia for a long time and she wanted me to be there. They introduced me to this extraordinary restaurant “100% Taquito” Since I was always criticizing the kind of taquitos that are made in other places, we had not returned for more. Sylvia told me that her friend invited her and that she thought that I would also like it because I’m a taquito lover.

As you begin to walk towards the entrance of the restaurant, there are some pictures of how the restaurant was founded. Also, you can see how it looked before. When I visited 100% Taquito I never imagined that the taquitos could taste so great! Eventually, I became addicted to the tacos, but especially my all time favorite “Tacos al Pastor” are the best. Each time I visit my hometown, Mexico City , the first thing that I like to eat are these delicious tacos and 100 % Taquito has the authentic and same exact taste. When I look at the menu my first eye contact is always at the Tacos al Pastor. Immediately without thinking of anything else, I order them accompanied with a Mexican soda called Jarrito. I suggested Wendy to order the same thing and to share with me an order of sopes which she agreed to do. Also, we have our favorite dessert; their famous “Tres Leches” has made this traditional cake the most enjoyable part of the dinner. What a complete combination! Delicious tacos, a great dessert, and the company of my closest friends is what makes it an enjoyable meal.

100% Taquito began as a school project of Marko and Karla Garcia at the University of Houston . Together, with their parents Manuel and Susana Garcia, they tasted the market for authentic Mexican food with a concession trailer. They began with a taco stand at the parking lot of Super K’mart on Westheimer. Their purpose was to bring the real Mexican food out to the public. Overwhelmed by the results, the Garcia family embarked in the second phase of 100% Taquito: a place that recreates the heart of Mexico in Houston .

The Garcia family came from Mexico City which consists of over 20 million inhabitants or 40 million if you count its suburbs. It is the largest city in the world and the heart of Mexico . In its streets the cuisine from every region of Mexico merges in a festival of flavor. Served from trailers, holes in the walls, and restaurants on tiny stands; tacos reign as king. Oddly enough these tacos are nothing like the American interpretation. They are small as three fingers put together, made with fresh corn tortillas, and are never covered in lettuce and sour cream. The original taco is served with onion and cilantro with the small corn tortillas. There are a great variety of salsas such as green, red, and pico de gallo which are made with the original chiles and lemon. These salsas make the flavor of the tacos a wonderful taste. 100% Taquito brings the true flavor of Mexico to Houston . Imagine walking into a restaurant that fools you into believing that you are back in Mexico City . The serving area is disguised to look like a trailer and the rest of the restaurant is constructed and painted to look like Mexico City . 100% Taquito is the only place in Houston where you can truly experience authentic Mexican food. As soon as you take your first step into the restaurant, you can smell the aroma of the meat that is being cooked, and feel the enjoyment of other customers enjoying their food.

The critics believe that 100% Taquito is the best authentic restaurant around. Many newspaper articles and websites have supported this fact by reporting many stories on our local newspapers. This has given this restaurant great prestige among the Hispanic small business. They are very successful and well recognized. For example, Alan Truex from Houston Chronicle wrote an article explaining that “The food is all good at 100% Taquito.” Alison Cook from sidewalk.com wrote “Nothing less than the Best…It’s all top-flight.” These articles and commentaries about the restaurant helped them keep a great reputation. Also, the Daily Cougar staff wrote another article, “UH entrepreneur aims to please, 100% Mexican style” thanking a senior of the UH for bringing the authentic Mexican food to Houstonians.

100% Taquito is open all week. Personally, I like to eat there at night, which is one of the Mexican traditions. The menu consists of a great variety of Mexican food not just tacos, quesadillas, sopes, tortas, molletes, ensaladas, Mexican bottled drinks, fresh fruit drinks, frozen slush, and desserts. For the people that don’t know how each of the plates on the menu is done, there is a broad statement for each of them, “not Tex-Mex” style for those that are looking for the real stuff.

What a complete combination, great tacos, and a mouth watering dessert. The puzzling thing about this restaurant like many others is that there are no waitresses. Just like the restaurants in Mexico , 100% Taquito is what we call “self served”. So the cashier took our order and gave us a little flashing electronic square and when our order was ready, it automatically vibrated until we pick up our food. The tray was full of tacos, the exquisite smell of the meat made me hungrier. The cashier area simulates a trailer with two tires in the front painted with a bright orange color.

Inside the restaurant there is a beautiful decoration of important and significant places in Mexico City . At one of the corners there is a painting of one of the most outstanding avenues, called Paseo de la Reforma, which shows the main monument, the Diana fountain. Wendy and Sylvia have never been in Mexico City , and I was telling them some stories from the paintings. In the other side corner there is another painting, this monument is called the Independence Angel and is located on an enormous avenue in Mexico City . This place has great significance to the Mexican people; it serves as a gathering place when we have something special to celebrate. For example after a soccer game, where the Mexican National Soccer Team wins a match people usually go out and meet at the Angel and celebrate their victory. This special place, is widely known in all the rest of the country, and is well taken care of by the national authorities.

To fully feel complete, once you’re having your dinner, and eating your mouth-watering tacos, the only thing you need is a good song. The music that they play is only Latin pop music and sometimes Folkloric or Mexican music. When we were there, they played the “Jarabe Tapatio” a popular music from Jalisco Mexico and we were dancing and singing. This atmosphere, suddenly takes you back to that small stand where we used to have our tacos in our greatly missed Mexico . One of the most original attractions from this restaurant is also the fact that they have a car inside the restaurant, so you can easily sense the feeling of being in the streets of Mexico . It’s a classic taxi with plates of Mexico City , with a driver and many decorations that most of the Taxis from Mexico have. For example, many cars in Mexico have a Mexican Flag hanging, also important significant items like a baby’s shoe, and a picture of the Virgen of Guadalupe.

The restaurant also has a small second floor, which portrays the ceiling of a common Mexican house. They have what we call “ Tendederos” which are lines of metal wire, which are used to hang clothes to let dry. They also have shirts of different soccer teams, which one more time takes you to the fact that we take our sports very seriously.

They have many different types of chairs, and tables, and spaces for you to sit. If you really want to go back to Mexico you can eat your tacos standing up, or at the tables that they have outside, which makes your dinner more authentic than anything. Once you leave this place, it is almost like if you have to travel back to Houston . The realism of this magnificent place, really takes you back, and make you keep wanting some more. That’s when the addiction comes takes place. Some people think that Mexican food is high in calories, and it is, but when you have this great food in your own city there is nothing much that you can do. You can become addicted in a second.

This restaurant has recently been remodeled and has added some more space to its location. The fact that day-by-day this restaurant attracts more and more people has left them no other choice, but to extend the location. I would not be surprise if in the near future we would see a big restaurant chain, providing people the great taste of the authentic Mexican tacos. This is definitely a good place to have some real Mexican food, and I know what I’m talking about, as I am a Mexican myself. If you ever feel like having the best tacos in Mexico City , remember that you don’t have to get on a plane and fly to Mexico , City you can find the best Tacos, and Desserts here in your own city.

MAP:

LINKS:

UH Article about 100% Taquito

Mexico City

The Mexican Kitchen

Houston Texas Cuisine

Mexican Restaurants in Houston