Category Archives: Downtown

Hilton Skyline: The Houston Horizon by Roy Cantu

1600 Lamar
Houston, TX 77010
713-739-8000

November 2010-Cattle, cowboys, and ranches are widely accepted stereotypes when the word “Houston” comes into one’s mind. Texas, in general, is imagined to be nothing more than people riding on horses greeting each other with the words “ Howdy, Partner!” but as how reality has it, Houston is a highly urbanized city with a population over 2 million and many unique buildings. One of these unique buildings, The Hilton Hotel, possesses a remarkable view of the entire city of Houston and makes the individual realize how beautiful and extraordinary the city of Houston has become.

It was a hot summer day in June and I had just gotten laid off from my job as a hotel receptionist and I didn’t have college until the fall. By being unemployed and a student on his summer break, I had nothing but absolute time on my hands. I was bored and anxious to do something so I decided to call my girlfriend, Isabel, and ask if she wanted to hang out and she accepted. I told her I’d pick her up in half an hour and once I arrived we began conversation on where we should go. The thought of going to the Discovery Green Park came into mind. I have heard many things about it and was curious to check the place out. So we decided to head downtown to the Discovery Green Park.

As we were on our way to downtown, I noticed the extremely tall buildings and the urban landscape that downtown Houston has unlike any other place in the city. It is unique and brings the sense of a “New York-like” atmosphere when you gaze towards the center of the Energy Capital of the World. While thinking this I suddenly remembered about my friend’s cousin, Vinny. He was from New York and I remembered how he was explaining his own standpoint on the city of Houston. “Houston is nothing but cowboys riding on horses across their ranches.” Knowing this was an ignorant statement, it got me thinking of how Houston is viewed by other places in the world. “Do people really think of us being country?” I thought. I’ve lived in Houston all my life and his ignorant statement made me look at Houston from a foreigner’s point of view.

As soon as we arrived at downtown, we headed straight for the Discovery Green Park. Luckily, I found a parking spot right in front of the convention center. As we were walking down the sidewalk I looked up and noticed a grayish tall building with the words “Hilton” at the very top. I am familiar with the Hilton hotels across the country but this honestly was the biggest and the tallest Hilton I have ever seen. After noticing the abnormally tall Hilton, the first thought that ran into mind was “I have to check this place out.” I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to go to the Hilton, and she kindly said “Yes.”

As we got closer and closer to the Hilton, I started noticing a row of fancy cars. There was Jaguars, BMW’s, Mercedes and just about every luxury car you can imagine parked outside of the hotel. We even happened to see a Ferrari Spider parked towards the entrance. The first impression I got immediately was that this Hilton had to be real expensive to stay in. There was a front door guy dressed in a velvet suit greeting and opening the door to the guest. “Welcome to the Hilton.” He invitingly said. He was welcoming and friendly and the other employees seemed to have the same traits. As soon as I walked in, it was like a warm feeling, kind of like the feeling you get when you walk into your own home after not being there for an extensive period of time. I noticed the spectacular Venetian glass chandelier they have in the lobby which glistened when the rays of the evening sun hit it beautifully from an angle. It looks stunningly amazing.

My girlfriend and I are walking, and then we see a sign that reads “Skyline 24th Floor” next to the elevator. I’m thinking to myself it’s simply the top floor of the building, I would have never expected anything relatively special of it. We decide to get into the elevator and go to the 24th floor to see what they meant about a “Skyline” and as soon as we got there we were surprised to see something we highly unexpected to see. It was extraordinarily beautiful and absolutely shocking. Our eyes widened in amazement, it was like a stranded man in the desert seeing water for the first time; it was the skyline view of the entire city of Houston.

I got face to face with the crystal clear glass and gazed at the spectacular view. I was witnessing one of the most beautiful things in my life and I suddenly became speechless. Both my girlfriend and I stared at amazement and a realization of my city was taking place in my head at that very moment. I realized I had taken my city for granted. My whole life has taken place in this city and I never actually thought about it in that type of way. What I am and who I am today, has been shaped by my experiences and lessons learned that have taken place in this unique city. My appreciation for Houston greatly increased in that special moment. The widely known stereotype for Houston as being a city of ranchers and cowboys doesn’t correspond to how Houston is in reality. From the skyline view you can see how industrialized and urbanized Houston is and becoming. You can clearly see how the stereotype of Houston is conflicted by the massive buildings and endless highways Houston possesses. Houston is anything but country and with its hardworking citizens and its close proximity to an abundance of natural resources; it has become the 4th largest city in the country and is often given the great title of the Energy Capital of the World.

MAP

LINKS
Discovery Green Park Website
Downtown Houston Landmarks and History
Hilton America Hotel Website
Hilton America Skyline View Sample
Energy Capital of The World Website

Author Bio:

Roy Cantu is a first year student at the University of Houston-Downtown, who has decided to pursue a bachelors in Psychology. After he obtains his bachelors in Psychology he wants to continue his education by becoming a licensed psychologist. In the meantime, he focuses in trying to maintain a B average in school and works full time at a computer company called Foxconn.

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Paesanos Lounge by Jeremy Boyd

January 2004–The funny thing about the little club is how totally unremarkable it is. From the outside it is thoroughly unimpressive. The main streets surrounding it are chronically blocked off because of construction, and the side streets that are open are scarred and pitted with potholes deep enough to land aircraft in. The park behind the building, and most of the area immediately surrounding it, is swarming with homeless people. Sunday is their day. Houston’s forgotten hide during the week and come out at night to carry on with the secret rituals of their very public lives. But Sunday’s, much like holidays, are their days. The area is deserted, and they are free to do as they please. For twenty four hours, the destitute don’t have to hide. And it’s ironic, because in the north west corner of the building that houses a bank and a restaurant, is a club called Paesano’s Lounge, where I don’t have to hide.

It’s a Sunday night in January of 2003. it’s rainy, it’s cold, it’s slick and it’s miserable. I’m way underage for anything, just seventeen years old, in a club that serves liquor. The last time I was here, I did a horrible job. It was Super Bowl Sunday and the crowd was abnormally small. I rushed a piece that I had tried to write earlier the same day, and I was, frankly, garbage. I tried to dress to impress, look dapper. I was focused on entirely the wrong thing. Thankfully, the crowd was small. Tonight, it’s all about redemption. I’m dressed in a blackish, grayish zip up hoodie, baggy, faded jeans and hiking boots. This is the third time I’ve been to Peasano’s Lounge, but it will act as my initiation. Baptism by fire.

The inside of the club is as unimpressive as the outside. Maybe to a person who enjoys the club experience it’s nice, but I don’t like clubs. I don’t like small, smoky, enclosed areas where the music is loud and sexually frustrated strangers grind on each other in a drunken stupor. That really doesn’t appeal to me at all. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is that the place is about the size you’d expect of anything that gets the space left over from a bank and a restaurant. It can hold maybe two hundred and fifty people comfortably, three hundred if you’re looking to start a fight. The bar is against the right wall, and there’s a row of stools pulled up to it, though later on tonight, people will be three or four deep at the bar, most of them drinking. The seats on what is the main dance floor, when there’s dancing going on, are arranged for an intimate crowd to observe the poets. Against the back left corner, there is a raised section of the floor with a long sofa that curves to fit the wall. In the back, behind the badly positioned stage, and behind an area that has couches and no real purpose, is what is considered the “VIP” room. In all actuality, it’s just a sitting room dimly lit by cheap, low wattage red bulbs. The bathrooms are off to the right, and colored strobe lights play against the wall, occasionally hitting a disco ball hanging on the ceiling at the far end of the bar.

I have my notebook in one pocket, my beat up red CD player in the other, headphones clamped firmly to my ears, music blaring, as I make my way to the bathroom. The stalls have no doors, and there is no soap. But I’m clean, so after I pee, I zip up and stand in front of one of the two mirrors and begin to practice my piece. I think it’s good. No. I know it’s good. But the problem is, I don’t know if these people will. They’re not used to my style of writing. I know this because I have my own unique style. When I perform, I have a quick pace with a complicated, multi-syllabic rhyme scheme, heavy on alliteration and word play. I touch on subjects that aren’t common for the poets that take the stage here, subjects that are near to my heart, that I have to confront every day that they just don’t. Or are too scared to touch on. All of which are reasons I don’t consider what I do spoken word poetry. It’s more like rap, but without the music. In fact, in the piece I’m doing tonight, I label my style “spoken word with a rap swagger.” I walk outside and pace in the cold night air, mumbling my piece over and over to myself.

When I go back in, the host, a man named Se7en (pronounced of course, Seven), is calling all of the poets who signed up to the VIP room. He runs down the rules of the house for us (“I don’t care about the sign up sheet. I’ll call you in whatever order I want, so stay close to the stage. Don’t make the crowd wait while you come all the way up from the back. There’s too many of y’all, and we’re running late. But fuck it, I’m drunk and I need a challenge.”). We’re dismissed, and he goes out to take the stage.

Se7en is not a tall man by any standards. He stands maybe five foot eight to five foot ten, with extremely light brown skin and wild hair that is normally braided, or at least should be. Tonight he’s wearing dark glasses, as he was the times before now, and will be in times to come. He’s a born MC, he has crowd control down to a science. It’s a Paesano’s tradition to get up and hug three people you didn’t come in with (“Damnit, get y’alls asses up and hug!”) That said and done, the lights go low, and it’s almost show time. But he has more to say, telling the crowd how to conduct themselves. Don’t yell out loud, but if you agree with what the poet has to say, snap your fingers, tap your ring on your glass, or your glass or knuckles on the table. People will do all this, including yell out loud, when the show is underway. Then comes the cell phone announcement (“Turn the shit off. Because if it goes off and one of the poets jump off stage and kick your ass, that’s your fault.”) usually at this point, there’s another announcement. (“The views and opinions of the poet are not the views and opinions of Renaissance Entertainment, or Paesano’s Lounge. If a poet say something you don’t agree with, go home, write a poem about it, and come back next Sunday. If you don’t write, meet the poet outside.”) But sometimes this one goes forgotten until the first poem that really gets people stirred up.

Finally, it’s show time. The crowd is small, but as Se7en was talking, people trickled in, some signed up to perform, some just sat down and ordered a drink. The crowd is generally genuinely friendly, but they go to a whole other level when the room starts to fill up. Chuckles turn to throaty laughs, good poets are suddenly excellent preachers, and the whole place is their amen corner now. Drinks are flowing, people are laughing, talking, having a good time. At the same time, the poets get full respect. People might whisper, but nobody out and out talks.

I can’t really focus on the poets. I’m jittery, but it’s not just that. It’s the fact that I’m cocky. I don’t feel that there’s a poet here that’s better than me. They’re good, I’m just better. There’s something about the soft anonymity of being on stage in front of a dark room full of strangers. It’s like alcohol, it’s a type of false confidence. They don’t know me, so I don’t have to hold anything back. So to hell with whoever fees otherwise, because everybody is brave in a crowd, and there’s not a person in the place who can write like me. It’s my one constant passion, the talent God gave me. And here, this place, with this particular blend of people, is the perfect place where my passion and my swaggering, cocky attitude can be combined.

And it is this combination that makes Paesano’s my sanctuary. Starting tonight, I will be living Sunday to Sunday, recharging myself for each new week by beginning it on stage in front of strangers. Because Paesano’s is where I can reclaim my self esteem, leaving insecurities and life’s harsh realities behind me. From here on out, when my name is called, I will stroll calmly, slowly, to the stage, look out at the crowd, and begin to speak. I will usually start with some sort of preamble, an introduction. Tonight’s is the admission that I messed up last Sunday, and tonight is all about redemption, as well as that I have performed my second piece already. But I don’t think they were paying attention the first time, so I’m going to do it again so they understand fully. And then, for the next three to five minutes, I purge my soul to people who don’t care about me in the least bit. Jeremy ceases to be, and tonight, Paesano’s Lounge is introduced to Causal Swagger.

I can’t see the audience at all, because the lights that illuminate the stage are beaming down on me relentlessly, and I’m silently thankful. The sight of a hundred or so strangers staring and sizing me up will more than make me nervous. But, they might as well not be there at all, because all that fills my vision is the microphone and my gesturing right hand. I begin to float, and for a blissful moment, here on stage, wrapped in a warm jacket on a cold night, all that exists is me and the microphone.

It is now that I realize that the microphone is magic, but it will be a long time until I can figure out why. Paesano’s is a club on the outskirts of the dirty center of the fourth larges, and most polluted, city in America. It’s intimate, but in the same way that sex with a stranger is: somebody you don’t know gets to see parts of you that no one else does. Because in any club, a certain side of you comes out. It’s a side you don’t display on your job, or with your parents, or in church. It’s a hidden you that you can only let loose when no one is looking. And what better way to make sure no one is looking at you, than to go to a place where everybody is hoping no one will be looking at them.

And therein lies the magic of the microphone on a small stage in the tiny room that houses a little known club in a great big city. It isn’t like a poetry group, where you are invited to discuss your feelings with anyone, or make any lasting relationships. It’s quick, it’s painless, it’s anonymous. You’re encouraged to do nothing but say your piece and move on. You’ll get patted on the back if you do well, it’s entirely possible to make friends. But mostly for the poets, for me, it’s five minutes of total, boundless freedom with no consequences. And it begs the question, what would you do if you knew you could get away with it? How addictive would it be?

Personally, I take the opportunity to hide in plain sight, tucked away in the private subculture of artistic escapists where anybody can gain entrance for a seven dollar fee. And as I walk off stage, having given myself completely to my new addiction, I realize that I have found what I’ve been looking for. Every Sunday until early June, I will swagger confidently to the microphone, take the stage for the entertainment of people looking to do exactly what I’m doing: escaping into a shadowy community where everybody can be anybody because nobody cares.

Map:



Links:
Tosha Terry
Poetry
Spoken Word
Next best thing

The Angelika:End of an Era by Randy Webb

500 Texas Avenue
Houston, TX 77002-2737
(713) 225-160

November 2010– Anton Chigurh was the human embodiment of death he represented the fury of mankind. The only mercy that he offered was the flip of a coin; if you lost, your demise was soon to follow. I encountered Chigurh once at the Angelika film center two years ago, when the Coen Brothers film No Country for Old Men was released. Now the Angelika which served as a film culture hub of Houston has passed on in the quick and viscous manner that most of Chigurhs victims fell prey to. All that is left of the old Angie is a representation of the dying film culture in Houston. When it was thriving it brought Houston a rich film culture which is sadly gone at the current moment.

The Film center began its service to the citizens of Houston in the late 90’s. Over the years it offered moviegoers a place to relax, and enjoy pieces of projector artwork. Yet during this eleven to ten year period it began to deteriorating rapidly. It was if the center had been struck by some type of terminal cancer and the Angie was slowly reaching its demise. You could visually see the interior of the facility falling apart. Ryan Rogers a frequent visitor of the Film center agrees “Yeah I could tell the place was going downhill. Near its closing they had some theatres that lacked air-conditioning and they also kept nasty bathrooms.” The cool atmosphere of the Angie still wasn’t enough Botox to hide the wrinkles of age. The Restroom always had at least one out of service sink or toilet. Visible piping was covered in rust, and you could see the corrosions all over the place it was if the Management had lost the funding to maintain it. Their Bar, one of the most emphasized features of the facility was never actually in use it seemed like a show piece of the good days when the place was a forum of cinema lovers.

As apparent as the decay was, there were still things that gave the Angelika its own unique look and feel. Covered along the entrance hall to the theatres were posters of films from different countries and of different periods, the majority of which were from the fifties and sixties. It gave the Center a whole different vibe than your typical AMC or Cinemark. The aesthetics alone are not all that made Angie standout from its counterparts: the Angie was also one of the few places that featured multiple theatres playing Independent and Foreign cinema in Houston.

This made the Angelika more of a cultural crossroads for film rather than a viewing center. The usual playlist consisted films from almost every corner of the globe, including places far out as Antarctica or Kazakhstan. The Quality cinema that was often shown struck the hardest spots, covering topics that you would not find at your standard AMC. Films like Restrepo a documentary

about a platoon of paratroopers and there hardships in the deadliest place in Afghanistan, The Korengal Valley; The White Ribbon a symbolic allusion to World War 2 and the birth of Fascism. The duds, on the other hand, were usually mediocre yet extremely funny. The Korean film mother had such immense stupidity that just made it hilariously bearable.

Occasionally the Angie would play awesome movies which, combined with its dilapidated appearance and empty rooms would become mind blowing experiences. Such is with the movie Moon,by Duncan Jones (aka David Bowie’s kid). About a year ago I went to see moon with a couple of friends. When we arrived in the theatre it was totally empty. This would begin my epic journey through the Film Moon. The premise is that a lone worker has to maintain an H3 mining facility on the Moons surface. Throughout the film the idea of isolation and madness are heavily emphasized. Being in this massive room, with only two other people, helped us relate with the main Character. These factors, combined with the films, made the Angelika an awesome place to go watch movies.

Sadly, though not many people in Houston knew about the place. Perhaps not many people watch the genres that were often shown. What I’ve seen and heard, is that mainstream people don’t enjoy going to a theatre and watching something with an amazing message or awesome story. Just like in High School English classes’ people can’t sit through and absorb a great novel as they don’t know how exciting it is. Rather than go the Angie and witness a masterpiece, many prefer unrealistic machismo heroes riding pterodactyls shooting machine guns. This social factor must have played a big role in the decline of people coming to the center.

The terrible management also contributed, not only was there no push for maintenance, but they failed to keep the place clean. It always had too many people on the job or too few they couldn’t figure out that there were certain days of the week that required a certain amount of people. The managers of the facility even failed to mention the place was closing, they basically closed down the facility and failed to tell the whole staff “Hey we are closing forever tomorrow.”
This angered people such as Faye Ticzon, a frequent visitor of the Angie, said it pissed her off.
“Because it closed down so suddenly?”
She said “Yeah, But mainly what pisses me off is how they informed the employees. They didn’t mention or utter a word that they were out of business so a lot of employees showed up thinking they were going to work their shifts and only to find the place locked up, with closed signs all over the windows.” That kind of treatment is its own kind of toll bell in the Angelika’s final demise.

With the Center being dead, I feel as if I was never really in tune with what was happening. Even though I frequented the place all the time, I seemed to subconsciously put all the pieces of the puzzle in backwards so I couldn’t get the big picture. Maybe it was the films acting as a visual mask blocking my mind from the realization that the place was on its last lap.

It’s terrible that the Angie is gone but I still have a lot of memories of my various crusades to Houston just to go watch movies. In fact a majority of my Junior and Senior weekends of High School were spent at the Angelika. For two years my clan spent thirty minutes to an hour driving. These longs drives usually served as great time for us to talk about some of the dumbest subjects. I probably spent more time there than studying for tests or classes. Though I regret not studying for school, I definitely do not regret a single minute spent at the Center. All that time driving and chatting led to a strong friendship among my buddies. It also expanded our thought on stupid ideas. Are trips downtown served as cultural revelations; I felt like I had come out of the backwoods of Seabrook and arrived on the doorstep of civilization. It introduced me to a wide array of cinema and also served as great way to expand my thoughts on certain topics. It brought a lot of culture to my life as I experienced a totally different lifestyle downtown.

One story, juts out the most whenever I think of the AC. Right after I saw the Movie No Country for Old Men, my posse was heading back to our car when a random homeless man came out of nowhere. “Hey! Hey! Hey man! Don’t hurt me I’m black!” he cried. At first, we were just confused as we had never had a homeless guy come up to us telling us not to hurt him due to his ethnicity. But since we stopped, he asked us for some cash and Nico handed him five bucks! The man then scurried off to who knows where, and left us. That has to be one my most memorable and hilarious experiences at the now empty relic that was the Angelika.
Several days ago I mentioned the Angelika’s closing to a friend of mine who now lives out of state.

“Culture has now left Houston,” he said. In terms of films I would say in a way it has. Yet someone has to pick up where they left off. They introduced a lot of genres to Houstonians, and someone could capitalize on what the Ac had started. Maybe the Angie’s passing is sign that blockbuster mega hits will always dominate and that Indie will never thrive in a wider community than what it has. Though all the reasons and whining in the world will not change the fact that this beloved place is gone, as of now, and that citizens of Houston are left in a state of Limbo. There is no certain future for the Angie. Hopefully someone will continue their legacy.

The inevitable end is an event that all things must encounter but it seems as if the Angelika encountered too soon. Like a sickness coursing through the veins of a man all the negative variables finally overwhelmed the Angelika causing a sad end to something so awesome. Yet this eulogy can’t really some up what has happened to the Angelika. All you can do is look at the old shell and live off of the nostalgia that it conjures up about the good old days when it was thriving place of cinema. There is a segment at the end of No Country for Old Men that in a way seems almost relatable to the ACs demise. It starts off with Carla Jean entering her Home to find Chigurh sitting in the dark looking ominously evil. They proceed to have a conversation about her fate which then followed by Chigurh leaving the house taking his bloody socks off and walking away like nothing had happened.


MAP

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LINKS

Angelika Film Center

Angelika Film Center Closes

Decline of Foreign Cinema in the US

Author Bio

Randy Webb is a first year student at the University of Houston-Downtown, who is considering Business Administration as his major. He is also plans becoming a career Officer in the United states Army. Randy grew up in Seabrook, Texas, He is enthusiast of foreign and independent cinema.

Spending A Day On Montrose Boulevard by Bianca Diaz

Montrose Blvd
Houston, Tx 77006
(713) 965 3597

November 2010- Her hair was short, stringy, full of color and lots of layer to flaunt what seemed to be a perfect bone structure with pale glowing skin. She wore a revealing low-cut top to compliment her busty features, along with short H & M shorts that showed off her slender long legs that went on for days, and topped it off with what looked like an old vintage fedora. She strutted in thick black pumps with another inch of platform on the bottom that added height to a girl that was already seemingly 5’7 and wore midnight black eyeliner to draw attention to her olive green eyes. She smelled of cigarettes and herbal incents, carrying around with her a purse, a book, and a Nikon DSLR snapping photographs of everything around her that somehow caught her attention, which was pretty much almost everything. As I watched this girl, I not only noticed her unique appearance, but took a high interest in what she was doing and where she was. As I sat in Café Brazil on the corner of Montrose and Westeimer, I just couldn’t help but notice her flamboyant features and high enthusiasm for her surroundings. I guess you could find a person like her in a random coffee shop, at an art gallery, or maybe even at your nearest Barnes & Noble, but it seems like this street in particular brings her to life. I myself know exactly how she feels.

Growing up in downtown Houston I’ve always been in love with the inner city. My all time favorite place in all of Houston is Montrose! Everything from the grungy music, to the different restaurants, to the unique shopping, the exciting people, to the dirty tattoo parlors on every corner… it all makes up one of the most unique alive spots in Houston. Known for its negative reputation of homosexuality, drugs, sex, and alcohol, most people would be highly discouraged by the thought of going and spending a day there. But given a chance, one would find it to be a beautiful, lively place with full of depth and culture, you can’t experience elsewhere in Houston. Montrose is one of those places where no matter who you’re with or what you’re doing, you’ll learn something new and see something different every time you’re there.

When I was younger, I remember I spent my Sundays with my grandparents antique shopping on Montrose in all of those old boutiques with vintage furniture pieces, and I would always help them pick out something different that no one else had but them. We’d always find the coolest things, such as I faintly remember this one piece, it was an original record player that just looked like one of those things you saw in the movies in that specific time period that had been thrown into our modern era. My grandparents had many trinkets of that sort scattered all over their home, out for guests to see. One Sunday, we were out on a hot sunny day, walking, eating ice cream, and shopping for more antiques when all of a sudden we stopped at one particular store, Texas Junk Co., we noticed we had never been in before. I remember walking in searching for something different, and beautiful that I could find to show to them, when I saw it. This old, wooden, dusty, ancient children’s desk that I fit into perfectly… so perfect that my grandparents knew in an instant that, that desk was made just for me. So that day, they didn’t buy anything for themselves, they bought something for me. And to this day, I still have the desk! Even though, it doesn’t fit it means so much to me, and will always mean so much to me because it was one of the best gifts they ever gave me in that unique little antique shop that Sunday.

Montrose isn’t just another street in Houston with stores, restaurants, and bars… it offers artistic value, musical influence, and creativity to our city that we don’t appreciate. You will never find yourself bored spending a day wondering down Montrose blvd because there’s always something going on. If it’s not a music festival, such as; Westeimer Block Party, Music Mayhem, or Indie Acoustics, then maybe there’s a new art exhibit that just opened, or an event at a local photography gallery! Montrose is also a great location for one to be involved in the Houston art scene, since Montrose isn’t all that far from our Museum District with plenty of inspiring eye opening exhibits and performances to show off creativity that so many of our locals are a part of. There’s always something and it’s just so awesome to be able to have that kind of access to so many different activities that keep people away from doing other negative things and staying productive.

Though Montrose has it’s darkness with all of the poverty, drugs, sex, and alcohol abuse, it shows how truly hard life can be and how ugly it can really get. I know every time I’m there, I’m reminded by the broken beer bottles on the sidewalks, smell of pot in the air, and the sounds of homeless begging for money. I see the same man on the same corner every afternoon when I go to pick my little sister up from school. He’s tall, shockingly thin, looks as though he hasn’t bathed in weeks, and always has the same outfit on as the day before. He has dark, kind eyes that when you look close enough, tell a story. Kind of makes you wonder, “What happened to him? Where’s his family? Did he have a choice?” It may not be beautiful, but its reality and some people don’t like seeing those things out in the open so instead of facing them, they choose to stay away from it and go places where they won’t see it. Montrose exposes a majority of homelessness and drug abuse probably more than most places in Houston, but also has drug and alcohol rehabitations near to help those in need of enlightenment and mental care. The community does what it can to help those in need and isn’t prejudice towards homosexuality. If you drive past the main street of Montrose on Westeimer, stop and take the time to notice that outside of most of the stores, coffee shops, restaurants, bars/clubs, and other places will have the gay peace flag hanging outside of their business or somewhere nearby. I admire the freeness and feeling of acceptance whenever I’m there, and I love seeing it out in the open of our big city of Houston Texas, because it breaks a southern conservative stereotype that we have along with other southern states in the US. Being different is a gift and separates people from others because if every one person was alike, there’d be no existence of art, music, dancing, or any creativity that you’ll see on Montrose that is most appreciated and flaunted.

Spending one Saturday night on Montrose is unlike any other place you’d find yourself in Houston because Saturday nights is when all the adult fun begins. Just walking up and down the block you see things, you wouldn’t find yourself seeing elsewhere. With loud music blaring out of coffee shops, streaming lights, people dressed up laughing and smoking their cigarettes, you get an idea of what the night’s going to be like. Even if it’s just dinner at Brazils or coffee at Katzy’z, you’ll find yourself having a good time. Montrose offers so many choices of cuisine, if you love Mediterranean there’s Aladins, if you love Greek there’s Niko Niko’s, and if u even like vegetarian there’s Mangos. Numbers nightclub has been around for years, way back when my father was in high school, and he just turned 48 years young this month in September, and even he says back then it was a fun lively place to be. Including a bar, live music some nights, different events on weekends, DJ’s who play dancing music from the 80’s, and an outdoor patio and more, who wouldn’t want to spend a Saturday night there hanging out with friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, or whoever?!?! In the end I guess one would say it’s all about having an open mind, and I strongly agree! But one should always have an open mind, with meeting new people, trying new foods, and visiting new places. Open your mind to Montrose and you’ll get a taste of what that feels like.

Montrose offers so much to our wonderful expanding city of Houston, & we don’t understand what it really does for us as people and a community. It’s a place to go have fun, wind down, drink wine, drink coffee, dance, listen to music, play music,… everything! The options are endless. It’s a place to be free, meet new people, and spend time with old friends. Take a day to explore the different art exhibits, restaurants, cafes, and book shops, and I guarantee it’ll be unlike any other street you’ve ever spent your time in Houston.

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Author’s Bio

Bianca Diaz is currently a full-time student at the University of Houston Downtown. She is planning on majoring in marketing & business, but still isn’t sure what field she’ll be focused on specifically. She recently graduated from the High School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice with hopes of becoming a family lawyer, but changed her mind along the way. Growing up in the inner city her whole life, Bianca has always loved Downtown Houston. Although she spent most of her life growing up in the city, she’s a country girl at heart. She loves spending most of her free time fishing, four-wheeling, and camping out in her family’s ranch in Waller County. Throughout her high school career, Bianca was involved in her school’s photography club & theatre department. After graduating, Bianca got hired as a sales associate for one of her favorite Boutiques in the Rice Village Shopping Center, Mint. Now currently unemployed, she’s chosen to make school her number one priority.

Bianca Diaz is a fun, loving, free spirit who loves living in the moment & is excited to continue her journey through life taking each day as it comes.



The Life of Houston: George R. Brown Convention Centerby Cruz A. Carrasco

1001 Avenida de las Americas
Houston, Texas 77010
713-853-8000 800-427-4697 713-853-8090/fax
ccinfo@cityofhouston.net

April 2004–Are you sure that you cannot find a place to visit here in Houston? If your answer to this question is yes, then come and visit the great George R. Brown Convention Center. The George R. Brown Convention Center is a building that really represents the city of Houston, which has a large Hispanic community. Thus, the George R. Brown Convention Center is not just a building, it is the place where the Hispanic community unites and strengthens its culture.

The George R. Brown convention center opened on September 26, 1987. The convention center is located on the east side of downtown Houston, which makes it very easy for you to find and visit at least once while being here in Houston. In 2001 the convention center was expanded and an adjacent hotel, which has 1,200 rooms, was built. The convention center has many exhibition halls on the first floor. These halls are very big and the only things that you can see are the large walls that separate one from the other. Three more exhibit halls were added during the expansion to increase the space for exhibition. The second floor consists of large conference and meeting rooms. During the expansion sixty-two meeting rooms were also added for a total of 105. Different events that promote education and cultural awareness as well as entertainment take place in the big exhibition halls of this great building. These events take place throughout the whole year and anyone can attend them.

An event that promotes education awareness is the Houston Hispanic Forum College and Career Day, which takes place at the beginning of every year, and is planned to teach parents and students about the importance of pursuing a higher education. Representatives from colleges and universities, as well as those from important organizations, set up small booths to present information that will answer some of the questions that parents and students have about college and career planning.

I attended this event during my junior year in high school. My high school counselor planned a field trip to the convention center so that we could attend the College and Career Day. I took the permission slip home for my dad to sign and told him what the field trip was about. He said that he would go with me and that surprised me because it showed that he was interested in my education. When we entered we saw many parents and students walking around and talking to the representatives. They were talking about the requisites needed to attend college and how to find financial assistance. There were representatives from the University of Houston and some of its different departments giving information on the things that they take into consideration for admittance into the university.

I heard a conversation between a representative and a parent. The college representative said, “The SAT is a very important test that your children should take before they apply to the University.”

The parent asked him, “When should they take this test?”

The representative responded “They can take it during their senior year in high school,” and he also added, “It would be best if they take it during the beginning of the year before the winter break.”

The parent thanked him for his time and amiability and walked towards another booth with his children.

There were also representatives from the U.S. Department of Education giving information on how to get financial assistance by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). I heard another conversation between one of these representatives and another parent.

The parent asked him “Where can we get the application?”

The representative answered his question by saying “The student can get the application from his high school counselor.”

Then the parent asked “What is needed to fill out the application?”

The representative said “The income tax returns from the previous year, bank statements, and personal information such as your social security number is needed.”

Another question that the parent asked was “When should we fill the application?”

The representative said, “The application is available from January until June, and it would be best if you fill it out very early after you file your income tax return.”

The parent was very grateful towards the representative and also thanked him for his time and proceeded to the next booth.

There were also representatives from different organizations, which also gave important information about financial assistance in the form of scholarships, such as local TV broadcasting network Univision. I saw a few parents and students taking photographs with some of the news reporters of the local TV network. In addition to the booth from the local TV network there were also booths with representatives from local community markets such as Fiesta, Kroger, and Randalls to mention a few. My dad and I personally talked to the representative from Fiesta. He told us that they provide scholarships to students that work with Fiesta, who are exceptional workers as well as students. After talking to him we thanked him for his patience and time and proceeded to visit the other booths nearby. After visiting the majority of the booths we decided to return home. Since we spent most of the day at the Houston Hispanic Forum event, we were very hungry and so we stopped at a restaurant on the way back to our house. When we arrived at home my dad said that he was very happy for having accompanied me to the event and that he had learned a lot of important information about college.

As I mentioned above, the George R. Brown convention center is home to events that also promote cultural awareness. An event that reflects this is the one called Fiestas Patrias that takes place in mid September of every year. This event that promotes the Hispanic culture, mostly the Mexican one, is put together by radio broadcasting stations such as Stereo Latino 102.9 FM, Que Buena 93.3 FM, and La Tremenda 1010 AM. I first went to this event with my cousin on a Sunday. We waited in line because there were a lot people who were trying to get in. As we entered we saw a lot of booths that had been set up by the representatives from the radio stations. We also saw many people walking around and visiting the different booths. The representatives from the radio stations set up the booths with flyers and games so that the people could have some fun and earn some prizes such as t-shirts and key chains.

My cousin and I had a lot fun playing some of the games and trying out fun things. After visiting most of the booths we started to walk towards the big crowd where people were taking a seat in one of the many rows filled with chairs in front of a big stage. They were doing this because they were getting ready to witness the main part of the event. The main part of the event is when many famous Hispanic artists perform in front of a lot of the people that attend the event. They sing some of their songs, which the people listen to the most, and the people can record their presentation with video cameras and take photographs of the artists. My cousin reached the middle of the crowd and took some photographs of the artists that were performing. There was a lot of commotion going on and the people seemed to be having a great and wonderful time. After it was all over my cousin and I returned home happily because we had just attended such a wonderful and great event.

The George R. Brown convention center is also home to events that promote entertainment such as car shows and the one that is going on right now called the NFL experience. I have not been to any of these, but it seems that a lot of people attend them. I know this because one of my friends went to a car show and he said that there were a lot of people that attended the event. He also told me that there were a lot of cars being exhibited, which were very modern and ranged from luxury all the way to racing cars. These cars are from here as well as imported from other countries such as Japan. They are of many different makes and models and their price is very high, which makes them very expensive cars. I saw from the news that a lot of people were going to the George R. Brown convention center a few weeks ago to see what the NFL experience felt like. This event was being use to promote the NFL Super Bowl which was played here in Houston. There are many different games that had been set up at the convention center during the event so that parents as well as children can try them and have a wonderful time with the whole family.

Thus, the George R. Brown Convention Center is a great building that really reflects what the city of Houston is all about. It is home to many events by which the Hispanic community here in Houston promotes its culture. Some of these events promote education and cultural awareness such as the Houston Hispanic Forum college and career day, which takes place in mid January, and the Fiestas Patrias, which takes place in mid September. Others promote entertainment such as the car shows and the NFL Experience, which was going on some weeks ago. It is very easy to attend these events because they take place throughout the whole year and the whole family can attend them.

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Links

Houston
Convention Center
Hispanic Forum
Fiestas Patrias
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The Wonders of The Wortham Theatre by Tiarevia Cannon

501 Texas Ave
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 237-1439

Its December again so my mom and I are on our way to see the Nutcracker at the Wortham Theater. We are wearing dresses, heels, and shawls – because it is as cold as the North Pole inside. Driving up to theater in downtown, the building looks like a giant’s bird face from the front: the high arch of windows looks like a beak, and two great circles imprinted in the brick look like eyes. The dark stripes along the side of the building add to the effect.

Across the street is  Downtown Aquarium. Most people might drive right past the Wortham because the Aquarium is flashier and more colorful. The Wortham is just a brown building that looks like a bird to a creative eye, but the Aquarium has an actual swordfish fountain with water coming out of the nose. But it’s not good to always be distracted by flash; sometimes you need to try something that’s really out of the ordinary.

After valet takes our car, we enter through the glass doors. A woman with a pleasant look on her face says, “Good evening, your theater will be down the hall to the left. Enjoy the show!” As we walk to our seats, I smile at how smooth the red, luxurious carpet feels. There are reflections of us everywhere we look because there are hundreds of mirrors in the hallway. The other theatergoers are wearing glittery blacks and creams, little girls are draped in bows, ruffles, and flower designs.
The more I look, the more I am amazed by how much a theater naturally looks like Christmas: red carpets and seats, gold railing, the glitter of the mirrors. The building smells like pine and cinnamon, is filled with chatter and laughter as people make their way to the seats. Mom and I find our seats in the middle of the theater.
“I remember when you were up on that stage, Ty,” my mom teases.
It’s true. The first time I came to the Wortham Theater it was to be a clown in the Mother Ginger scene of the Nutcracker. I had been taking dance lessons at the Houston Ballet for one year and I auditioned, and I was chosen. The first time I saw the Nutcracker was from the side of the stage, as I waited with butterflies in my stomach for my scene to come up.

Tonight I glance down at my watch. It is fifteen minutes until show time. To let the audience know this, the orchestra plays a soft melody, and the audience begins to shush. The thick velvet curtains open to reveal a fantastic, snowy Christmas Eve scene. A family on stage is getting ready for a party. A nutcracker she gets as a gift will come to life during the course of play, and I eagerly watch it all. I glance at the children in the row ahead of me; their expressions are full of excitement. Even though it’s a play without words, they want to know what happens next. This is common in ballets. My sister went to see her first ballet, Don Q, and told me she was amazed at how the ballet dancers’ movements told the story so well that she understood their emotions.
Before I know it, its break time, also known as intermission. Everybody in the audience stretches, and grunts as they move their bodies for the first time after sitting a long time. I have noticed lots of people enjoy intermission because it is there time to take a bathroom break and grab a couple of snacks to satisfy there hunger. Ding Ding, well there goes the bell that lets everyone know it is time to go back to there seats to enjoy the rest of the ballet.

So the ballet is finally over, and the thick velvet curtains are down but they suddenly come back up, its curtain call, all of the dancers who have performed are taking there bows. The curtain call always makes me laugh a little because once you think its over the curtains come back up and people clap, and the curtains will go down. And they come up again and back down. You never know when the last bow is which makes it funny to me.

And of course seeing the faces of little girls giggling, and wishing that one day they could be on that stage dancing as one of the ballerinas that they saw that night, also brings a warmth to my heart.

We leave, and on our way out we stop by the green room. The green room is a room that is filled with mirrors from wall to wall. Fans of the dancers come in and get a chance to actually speak to the dancers’ one on one, get autographs, and also take memorable pictures. What is so spectacular about the green room is that the dancers are still in full costume and make-up, which looks different if you are looking at it from a far and them up close. Being in the green room makes me imagine myself being on the set of a movie seeing all the actors and actress fully dressed in make-up and wardrobe up close.

We go home. But it isn’t the last ballet. The Wortham offers a wonder of different ballets that you can go see with your friends and family such as the ballet Swan Lake. Swan Lake is a very popular ballet that is shown mostly in the winter season around Christmas.

One day maybe you will get a chance like my mom and I had to enjoy the talent at the Wortham on and off stage whether it is watching grand ballets, grand operas, musical plays, or letting the sounds from the orchestra take you to a place that you never want to come back from.

UH Athletics and Alumni Center by Cynthia Silva

3100 Cullen Blvd.
Houston, TX 77204-6742

 
I was starting to get that feeling. The same feeling I hated but at the same time I loved. It all starts as soon as the gun is fired. I try to stay with the front pack, I keep my gaze a few feet ahead of me so I won’t trip or get bumped. The sun is burning my face and the sweat is running down my face making my eyes itch. My legs feel like bricks and I can’t breathe but I can’t stop. There is always something that keeps me going; I can hear my friends cheering for me, my coach yelling out my time but most important I can hear my parents. As I come out of the woods I can see my mom and dad yelling for me and that gives me the strength I need to go faster. Finally I can see the banners at the finish line. My arms are heavy and I can’t pick up my legs anymore but somehow I always have the power to finish strong. Sometimes I think, “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this to my body?” but as soon as I cross the finish line all my questions are answered. Running is everything to me; I love the butterflies in my stomach before a race, the fear of loosing but above all I love the feeling of competing and winning. There is not a better feeling in the world than to stand in the first place podium and receive a first place medal.

My first experience as a freshman here at the University of Houston was walking into the Athletics/Alumni Center. I am a member of the cross country and track teams, so the facility is almost like my home. I spent most of my time there, from visiting the computer lab to do homework, to getting treatment form the trainers, to running on the outside track during practice.

As a competitive sport, cross-country running began in England with a game called “hare and hounds” or “the paper chase” in the early 19th century. In important competition the game became a cross-country race along a course laid out in advance over open country. In 1887, the National Cross Country Association was founded. Also in 1880m cross-country running was introduced at Harvard as an autumn training event for track and field distance runners. Although most cross-country competitors also run distance events in track and field, the two are separate sports. The cross-country season is during the fall and events are run through open country, often over rather rude hills like golf courses, parks and a few are held on college campuses, not on roads or tracks. Team competition is very important in cross-country. Teams are made up of five to nine runners and the order of finish is determined by adding up the places in which team members finish. The team with the lowest score wins.

 

The Alumni Center provides us, the athletes, with the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), which is located on the second floor of the Athletics/Alumni Center. The staff includes two academic coordinators, three counselors, and a learning specialist who assist over 350 UH student-athletes in 16 sports. Open from 8:00am-9:00pm weekdays and 6:00pm-10:00pm on Sundays, ACE includes a 22-station computer lab with IBM and Macintosh computers. It also contains a career preparation group room, two 50-person classrooms, five six-person small group study rooms and 16 one-on-one individual tutoring areas. Because it is very important to the athletic department that we pass with high GPAs, we are provided with free tutors. We can have a tutor for any of our classes as long as we don’t miss any appointments.

Inside the lab, there are all types of people. There are athletes, coaches, doctors, trainers, counselors, sometimes TV reporters, employees, and non-athlete students that have classes on the second floor. It is very easy to tell from students and student-athletes because only students wear nice clothes like jeans, nice blouses or shirts, jackets, high-heels or boots, their hair is fixed, etc… inside the facility. Athletes usually wear something comfortable like pants, sweats, shorts, t-shirts, tennis shoes, no make-up , hair up because they are not there to take classes but to practice or get treatment. There is no need to get all dressed up when you are going to end up al sweaty. We are all used to seeing each other in work out clothes, the only time we all get dressed up is if we go out to eat, a party or a banquet.

It also very interesting to hear the conversations that go on inside the athletic facility. Where in most classrooms you hear things like, “Oh my God, did you hear about Jessica and Raul? I heard Raul broke up with her because she was cheating on him,” inside the facility you hear stuff like, “Did you know that Janay ran a 4:58 mile?” or “Come on guys, we have to practice really hard this week so we can do well at the Conference meet.” There is also a lot of yelling of coaches to athletes, “What are you doing? You know you can run faster than that.”

Perhaps the most “state of art” area in the building is the Sports Medicine Center, which most of us call “the trainer.” We go there for treatment, rehabilitation, preventive measures and medical attention from team doctors. The Athletics Department has a legal obligation to ensure health care to all student-athletes. “The trainer” is located adjacent to both the Cougar weight room and locker room facilities. The Sports Medicine room includes an examination room, 12 treatment and taping tables and a rehabilitation area, which features stationary bikes and fixed-resistance machinery. There is also a hydrotherapy room, a sauna, whirlpools, a spa and a Swimex- a pool in which athletes swim or run against a current for rehabilitation purposes.

The trainer is also kind of our little “hang out place.” Even thought they are very strict there, we all have a great relationship with the trainers so they let us stay even if we are not getting treatment. Sometimes it is not a very pleasant sight because all you see is injured athletes who are getting painful treatments and all you hear is painful moans, cries, and nervous laughs because it hurts so much. Every time I go there to get treatment, I am ready for pain. Being a runner involves getting hurt, or at least being sore most of the time. Overdose symptoms such as soreness, or injuries are cause by too much shock or jarring. Lack of flexibility is probably the biggest cause of Achilles’tendonitis and is a major factor in plantar fascitis and shin splints. I have always suffered from shin splints so I need to go to the trainers almost everyday so they can massage my shins. But don’t think because I say massage it, is a good thing, on the contrary they rub my shin up and down and it hurts really badly. Shin massages are among the most painful massages there are. It hurts me to touch my shin so just imagine in how much pain I am when they are putting pressure on them as hard as they can. What I do is get a clean towel and I bite it to keep me from screaming when I can’t take the pain anymore. Even tough it hurts I keep going back because it helps me run better. It reduces the pain in my shins when I run. I would rather be in pain for about 10 minutes than run in pain for about one hour, so it is worth it. They also give me deep tissue and/or soft tissue massages when I have sore muscles, they stretch me out, etc…

Nobody wants to go there for treatment everyday, especially because of the smell. They have all these kinds of lotions like “Ice-Hot” and “Biofreeze” that have a strong odor and if you smell them for a long time you get a headache. But we all keep going there regardless of all the bad smells and sounds because it gives us time to talk while we are getting treatment. We are all so busy with our lives that we try to take advantage of moments like these to talk about our personal life.

The Athletic Facility has a strength and conditioning room, or “weight room, “which provides Cougar student-athletes the opportunity to become faster, stronger, and more flexible. It is a big room, but there are so many machines in there that it makes it look small. Covering 16,500 square feet, the weight room contains the most modern and innovative weight training and conditioning equipment in the world. Each sport has a scheduled time to use the weight room. We always have fun when we are working out. It doesn’t even feel like we are doing a work out, probably because we have a stereo system that is tuned to the latest hits. The only thing I hate about going to the weight room is the unpleasant smell of sweat, the sour, rotten, stinky smell of shoes and feet- all of these smells combined to make the weight room smell like a decomposing body.

In front of the weight room is the Field House, which houses the indoor track. The University of Houston is one of the few universities that has one of these. For this reason, most of Houston ’s indoor track meets are held in our athletic facility. It is very convenient for us because we get to practice there everyday, instead of going somewhere else like other teams. Also, it keeps us from missing class because the meets are here on campus. We can just arrive in time to warm-up and run for our event instead of missing the whole day going somewhere else to compete. The Field House can also be used as a football field, volleyball, and basketball courts depending on the season. We also have an outdoor track for the outdoor season. Outside you will also find one of the top college baseball stadiums in the country, which is a scaled down versions of a major league park.

One of my favorite places to visit in the facility is the Hall of Fame. As soon as you walk through the main doors you can’t miss the stunning Hall of Fame to the right. All of the athletes that made history here at the University of Houston are displayed there, like Carl Lewis and our own coach Leroy Burrell, who are both Olympic medallists. There are pictures, medals, and trophies lining the walls as well as old uniforms, game balls, and other sports memorabilia. It is an amazing feeling to walk around looking at so many old, but unforgettable moments
I have been running since I was little. I ran my first race when I was 6 years old and I won in my age category, it was a wonderful experience. People used to always get on my parents for pushing me so hard when I was still a little girl. They said that I wasn’t suppose to be out there everyday practicing that instead I should be playing with dolls at home or with girls my age. I didn’t have a normal childhood like every girl because I had to practice everyday sometimes twice a day. I would just go to school, eat, and go to practice, then do homework and back to sleep because I was so tired. But I don’t regret it, it made responsible, and learned to love my sport. It helped me to become the person that I am today.

Besides I don’t think I could live without running, even I f I didn’t run for the school I would still run on my own. But I love to be in a team because there you find people that love to run. We all share the same interest but most important we all love to run. An athlete has to love their sport in order to do all the things we are asked to do. And since we see each other everyday your team becomes like your family.

The Athletics and Alumni Center is by far one of the most equipped, interesting and fun places to hang out, not only for the athletes, but for all cougar sports fans. We try to make ourselves as comfortable as we can, considering that we spend the majority of our time there. If you haven’t visited the Alumni Center yet, you are missing out on a great experience. It is open to everyone and should be enjoyed by all.

Map:

Links

http://www.runnersworld.com/

http://www.uhcougars.com/

http://www.olympic.com/

http://trackshark.com/

http://www.ncaasports.com/