Category Archives: South

Saturday Night: El Rodeo Nightclub by Erica Graciano

10531 Gulf Fwy.
Houston, TX 77034
Phone: (713) 947-0535

November 2010–It’s Saturday night and there’s nothing to do. You’re sitting there watching TV or just laying down waiting for someone to at least call to invite you somewhere. The radio is now on and you hear that the local radio station is at the nearest club, “El Rodeo.” You lay there wishing you were at the club dancing away or just sitting there and enjoying, listening to the music.

That was a typical night for me. I was home alone with nothing to do. I watched TV, looked out the window, ate junk food but still I wanted to do something with a group of people, I just didn’t want to be at home. Finally, at quarter till eleven, someone knocks at the door and I tell myself, “finally, someone who will rescue me.” There at the door I see my two cousin’s and a guy friend. They’re dressed nice, my guy friend in slacks and a dress shirt and my two cousins in nice slacks and shiny halter tops, they matched. They stand there at the door and tell me to hurry up and get ready. I ask them where we’re going and they don’t tell me anything, they just tell me to hurry and get ready. Confused I dressed something similar to my cousins. With the radio still on, I hoped that we would go to “El Rodeo”. I turned off all the lights and the radio and out the door we went.

I kept asking where we were going but they would not tell me. We went south on 45 and exit Edgebrook. At the light we turned to the left, under the bridge we went to the next light and passed the next light. All you could see was a Payless Shoe store and what looked like a little shopping center. As my cousin drove a little further down the street to the next light, to my right I saw a lot of nice cars and lots of people, I still didn’t know where we were. There were Nissan’s, Mustangs, and all kinds of big and small trucks, their owners either inside the vehicle looking out checking out every car that passed them or out side getting a better glance. Everyone looked young, dressed up, and ready to dance. I still didn’t know where we were, when all of a sudden I see the sign, “El Rodeo”. I was in shock and didn’t know how to react, all my hopes came to reality. I was so happy and ready to dance.

After going through the parking lot over and over about five times we finally got a good parking spot, the parking lot is not one of the greatest things ever. You always have to keep your eyes wide open because there’s people everywhere trying to get good parking spots. As soon as you see someone pulling out you need to put your signal light and be careful that no one else gets it, the faster you move, the better are your chances of getting what you want. We got off and there were people every where, guys and girls, short and tall, and all dressed very nice, there were people of all races but mostly Hispanics. We walked toward the club when I sensed the smell of “tacos”. I looked around to check where the smell came from. There next to the club, there was a taco stand. It seemed that people who came out of the club went there to crave their hunger, dancing can do that to you. Outside the taco stand a man and a women moved fast to satisfy their customers. I was suddenly saddened by this site, I could only wonder who they have to support by selling those delicious good looking tacos.

Looking back at all the people eating, the door man looked at my ID. He let me in and there the smell of cigarette smoke hit me like a speeding bullet. I didn’t mind the smell and we walked in. As we passed the doorway there was a young woman at a very old cash register. The young woman asked how many people and charged us. I don’t know how much exactly but it was about forty dollars. As we kept walking the people older than twenty one got an orange hand wrist bracelet to indicate that they are of age to drink. I was glad to know that at least this place where I’ve never been before follows there safety rules to keep the club open and young adults away from this habit. Not knowing the place we looked around to check out the place from the entrance. We decided to go to the left to see what we could find. You could tell it was a very small place because there were people standing very close to each other, there was barely enough room for one person to pass at a time. One behind the other we walked hoping not to touch anyone in an inappropriate way. As I looked to my right I could see people having fun, some were sober and some were drunk but they all were getting along. I walked some more and I see another young lady selling beer. Again I asked myself why. She stood there, giving her back to the dance floor waiting for the next customer. It looked like she was used to the loud noise and all the drunkies.

At the end of the corner you see an old wooden rusty bar, another young woman and a young man sold beer there and other hard liquor. The bar was crowded and they both tried to move as fast as they could to satisfy their customers. We stood there trying to not bother anyone and faced the barely visible old small wooden dance floor. The music was good since we walked in, no wonder the local radio station was there. I looked to my right and to my left and people of all kinds trying to make new friends, it was amazing how everyone got along. The music so loud you could barely hear your neighbor, it seemed the DJ knew exactly what to play. Suddenly, “Carnavalito” by King Africa a Spanish techno song came on, my cousins and myself had the urge to dance. Since we had no dancing partners we decided to dance with each other, well for this song you really don’t need a partner. After that, the DJ played more Spanish techno, the DJ then changed to cumbias but didn’t keep it for long. He then changed it to something slower, I guess romantic, Norteño. Norteño music is more of a couples kind of music so we got off the dance floor, besides we were thirsty, so my guy friend went to buy us some water. Making sure the seal was on very tight and no one had opened it before I opened it, I took a long gulp, the water was good.

Norteño music still playing we walked around puzzled at how such a tiny space could hold so many people. As we walked to the left some more, you could see more people enjoying themselves. Next to the bar there were pool tables where men enjoyed playing with their friends and listening to the music, I guess that’s what some guys like to do at a club. We walked some more and as I kept walking I noticed that people don’t care how you look, everyone is very friendly to the point where it is scary sometimes. The more we walked around the club it seemed like a bigger adventure. It felt like if I was in a maze of people trying to go through each and everyone keeping up with my cousins, hoping not to get lost. There was so much variety of people, it was amazing how everyone in the club got along. It surprised me to realize that the world could be different if everyone got along just like in here. As we continued to walk, I also noticed how different guys dressed. Yes, girls dress different but it all ends up the same, either dress pants or a skirt or a dress, but guy they’re either in cowboy boots and wranglers or in nice dress shoes with some slacks. No matter where you looked people were having fun. At the end of the next corner I saw the DJ, he seemed happy and satisfied to see all those people dancing. Everyone around him just stood there as to be his body guards. There at the end of the wall was another bar, in total the club had about two large liquor bars and two beer stands and the people working at these places all probably trying to make end meat.

We finally finished our adventure and ended up at where we started. The music still playing good, we just sat there enjoying it, when then a man with a camera and some glow in the dark toys came to us. He asked if we wanted to take a picture, sure enough we took one for the memories. I again was amazed at how and what people do to get money. As the music began to change to rancheras, Vicente Fernandez, echoed the rusty old walls. We decided to call it a night. We were tired and the smoke was getting thicker and thicker. On our way out, I noticed that not very many people were left.

Out the door we went, looking back I remembered how much I wanted to come. It was an adventure that I will never forget. Out we went and there again I saw the taco stand. I only wished to have a taste of the delicious tacos I could smell. We found the car, looking around, people everywhere were up and going, everyone was so happy. To get out of the parking lot was another adventure. With your good charms and nice face you’re guaranteed to leave the very exhausted parking lot faster. It’s just like another club, one could say, a big maze of cars. Being very tired I fell asleep as soon as we got on the freeway back home. It was an exciting night and I would recommend “El Rodeo” to young people who want to have a good time. Remembering what happen the night before I closed my eyes and pictured the small dancing floor and all the people, good memories.

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LINKS:

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Childhood Memories: Astroworld by Charles Anderson Jr.

9001 Kirby Dr. Houston Tx
77054 south loop 610

November 2010Traveling down 610west freeway I could remember the excitement and the remarkable experience the closer you approach the arch over 610. The Bridge that links the drop off parking lot and the once-famous Astroworld still sits there for us to ponder our memories. Astroworld was the start of some people’s vacation, for some it was a common tradition, and for some young adults it was a first date. The exhilarations this empty parking lot once held began inside the lot, and grew stronger as you crossed the bridge.
Now I walked through this newly built parking lot; my blood pressure rises and thought of Astroworld mesmerize me. These fifty-seven acres of land now look like a cemetery full of memorable roller coaster, great stories, and the atmosphere of Astroworld. The smile and joy Astroworld put on people faces are now replaced by parking lot entertainment, such as the tailgaters at the Texans games or from the livestock shows.

Touring that million dollar franchise, it was hard keeping my hands out of my pocket and not spending any money. How could anyone resist the temptation of trying out different foods, or buying creative souvenirs from a key chain to a fancy shirt? Chosen widely as America’s favorite restaurant, many people chose to eat at McDonald’s even though the prices where more expensive than normal. Even some of our favorite childhood cartoon characters influenced Astroworld and the appreciating of buying wonderful souvenirs. Although the price of a keychain or a famous stuffed animal were unpleasant, the satisfaction and joy of receiving them was pleasurable. Receiving a human size Tweety Bird or a Bugs Bunny shaped cup made it worth every penny, or if you were afraid to ride the huge roller coasters, a variety of mini games were presented to win a possible stuffed animal or many more prizes. Now when I see the lot I think it is amazing that lot was filled with Houston greatest money maker. I always described Astroworld as the cash absorber deep in the heart of Texas, though even now, parking in the parking lot that used to be Astroworld still accounts for a large amount of money. So even though there’s only gravel and grass, Astroworld is still a money-making attraction.

Although, the parking prices are outrageous the experience you received some say is priceless. Astroworld is sincerely missed but the rodeo, tailgating, and concerts held at the Reliant and Astrodome Stadium covers the missing moments. I can remember some of the stories my mother mentioned to me about when she use to work at Astroworld. On holidays like Independence Day or Halloween night concerts where held inside of Astroworld and famous singers before my time performed.

Some days when my friends and I attend an event inside of the parking lot we mentioned, “It is days like these when I wish Astroworld was still open,” and I could relate with them. Discussing times when we took a detour to the Astroworld water park also known as Water World because of the hot and humid weather. My huge water slide experience came to me, the time when it felt like butterflies’ begin to enter my stomach. Giving the opportunity to visit Astroworld rather it was in 1975 to ride a roller coaster or 2009 just to park to attend an large invent being held at reliant stadium, all visitors can relate to at least one memorable moment.


I can still picture the rollercoaster such as Serial Thriller that lived up to its name with its fire truck red, twisting tracks, and dangling seats. It arrived and was a great addition to the older attractions of Astroworld, such as Grease Lighting and Batman Escape. The Batman Escape impression was modeled like the bat cave seen in all of the Batman movies and cartoons, in a very dark tunnel with a cold breeze of air while you waited to enter the ride. The Grease Lighting was lighting striking fast. It reminded me of a Ferris Wheel with high-speeds. When I heard dropping a penny from the top would give a concussion to anybody below, I never looked at the rollercoaster that day.

Introduced to the parking lot attributes and all the great memories overshadows the pain I felt in my legs and feet, or the heat I conducted on my skin walking fifty-seven acres of land to stand in lines longer than he D.P.S office. Remembering the obstacle that was completed looking up to the rollercoaster that I knew was going to have my stomach turning felt as if the ride lasted forever. Moving forward towards one of the rollercoaster rides gasping the fact I no longer have the courage to ride anymore but it’s too late to turn around, I looked my fears in the eye and entered the ride of my life. A feeling of accomplishment and a burst of pleasure enters my body at the end of the ride.

Entering the actually theme park you could taste the sugar from the funnel cakes as you made your way across the ticket booths, and you could hear the soft music of Looney Tunes theme songs playing. As I take footsteps through the parking lot I could think of all the fantastic activities and concerts, and the only concern that I have is the thought of not coming back. Growing as a child visiting Astroworld one or two times were breath taking and the desire to visit increase as you grew. Throughout the years Astroworld invented the season pass, an answer too many people boring days during the summer. The parking lot was not only built to increase Houston’s economy, nut surprisingly a Houstonian second home. In Remembrance of Astroworld

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LINKS

Employee Tribute , History, Facts

Author Bio

Charles Anderson Jr. is a transfer student from University Houston and is in his second semester at University of Houston Downtown, who is thinking about majoring in Computer Science. Charles is compassionate and genuinely well rounded, and has competed in many diverse assortments of activities ranging from sports, and education courses.

In my experience, Charles has proven himself to be an honest, hard-working young man. He is generous and kind. Even as a teenager, he was always thinking of other. Several times, I have witness him volunteer to help complete any kind of responsibility.

At all times I have found him to be a humble, dependable, courteous young man. He strives always for the best and takes a high interes in technology. Charles plans to get a degree and pursue his career in technology

Elks Lodge A Group Dedicated to Charity and Patriotism by Eric Woods

January 2004–Houston, Texas is much different from the town I came from. I grew up in Vernon, New Jersey, a small town where everyone knows everyone else in some way. If you didn’t know the person, you knew the name. I moved here to live with my grandparents and go to school at the University of Houston. Instead of paying rent, I work on the house for my grandpa, and I run all the errands that Grandma doesn’t have time for. Before I moved to Houston this year, the only elks I knew of were running away from the hunters who wanted to put their antlers on the wall of their study. Then, one Tuesday afternoon, my grandpa asked me if I wanted to go to “the lodge” with him.

I said “What lodge?”

“The Elks lodge,” he told me, realizing by the confused look on my face that I had no idea what he was talking about. “The Elks lodge is a great place,” he explained. “It’s just a building that the Elks bought, and we use it as the clubhouse.”

My grandpa explained that he pays a membership fee which allows him to participate in activities provided by the Elks. There are limitless possibilities as to what he can do at the lodge. They have a bar where he can buy drinks ranging from Cokes to Bloody Marys. The bar tender is a volunteer, and only makes tips, so you always try to tip generously. Almost all of the members take advantage of the green-felt covered billiards table, which is getting old, but holding up well. According to what Grandpa said, it’s a lot like the table my dad has in New Jersey. There is a shuffleboard table, and a small game room with a mini-arcade, cards, and board games. All of the board games are old hand-me-downs, so they have all the classics.

Outside, in the backyard of the lodge, is the full size, in-ground swimming pool with a diving board that the kids love to use. Hearing about it made me decide to pay it a visit many times while I’m in Texas. Around the pool, he said there are lounge chairs, with some open pit barbeques, and every once in a while, members bring their families for picnics and pool parties.

After he described the club to me, I decided I had to see it for myself, so I put down the want- ads I had been searching, and went along with him. On the way there, my grandpa asked me to go into his wallet and get out the membership card. At first I couldn’t find it, but when I did, I asked what it was for, and he told me I would find out when we arrived. The first thing I noticed when we arrived was a cast iron gate in front of the front door. It is about twelve feet high and it is painted black with an Elks sign in the center. It had an elk’s head, with the lodge number and the name “Elks” on it. They also have signs that say: “This area is private property and it is surveyed by cameras twenty-four hours a day.” I looked around and sure enough there were cameras. One on the pillar scanning the parking lot, one on the gate watching the visitors, and there were a few on the sides of the building as well. I thought this was interesting. The security made it seem like we were entering a top-secret facility. I began to wonder if they had been robbed before, and that was the reason for the precaution. Before I realized it, I was daydreaming about a person climbing the fence and then attempting to break the lock on the front door. Then I bumped into the wall and returned to reality. If you don’t have a membership card, you can’t get in. You need to swipe your card in the locking mechanism, which is just like an ATM machine. When you swipe the card, the door unlocks.

The parking lot was small, and we crossed it quickly. I followed Grandpa into the front room where we were greeted by an unexpected face. There was an elk’s head mounted on the wall. It was stuffed and it had huge antlers. He told me about a woman who called it a moose head once, and they will never let her forget it. Every time she goes to the lodge, somebody brings it up. Charley, one of the other Elk members, greeted my grandpa and then said, “Who’s the baby?” while referring to me. Although the minimum age for a membership is 21, most of the Elks in Houston are seniors. My grandpa introduced me, and we started talking. Charley is a graduate of the University of Houston, and he was glad to hear that I am attending school there. He told me a lot about the Elks organization.

It was founded in 1868, as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPO Elks), and it is one of the largest fraternal organizations with just less than 1.2 million male and female members. There are members of every religion and nationality. Their main commitments are to charity and patriotism. If they can raise money for others, then they are happy. With an average of eight million dollars in scholarships each year, the BPO Elks are one of the nation’s largest providers of college scholarships. Lodge number 151, the one my grandpa is a member of, is one of the oldest among the lodges. There are now over two thousand lodges nationwide, but number 151 was among the first to be established. They have changed the location of the lodge over the years, but it is still one of the oldies.

After we had some lunch, Dave, another member, showed me the flag porch. This is where they keep each of their fifty flags, one for each state. On the fourth of July, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, Labor Day, and Memorial Day, a representative of the lodge (usually someone with a truck) goes and sets the flags on the median of one of the highways. This tradition is in honor of all who have been lost and all who serve our country with pride. I really appreciate this since my brother is in the Navy, on a destroyer, based in Japan.

While Grandpa was socializing, I decided to explore the grounds. It seemed as though they didn’t throw anything away. There were broken televisions and tables around that just sat unused. I came across the kitchen, the restrooms, and even the janitorial closet, but the most interesting thing I found was a big rectangular bulletin board with every color paper you could imagine posted on it. One of the postings said “Thank you Ladies Auxiliary,” but I had no idea what the Ladies Auxiliary was. As I read a little more, I found a list of names. It was the names of the officers who belonged to the Ladies Auxiliary. The most surprising thing was that my grandma is the secretary of the organization. I never knew because I didn’t have the chance to talk to her very often. She is in charge of calling people and making reservations, she plans most of the events, and she does most of the paperwork for the events. This was about the time my grandpa found me and introduced me to another one of his Elk friends.

He called himself “Yippy Skippy”, though other people just called him Skip. He is a tall gentleman with glasses, and his voice is like Louis Armstrong’s, but it’s a little higher. I asked him what the Ladies Auxiliary was, and he told me it was a group for the wives of the Elks. I asked if women could be Elks, and he answered yes, but then they have to pay the membership fee along with their husbands. If a woman who is not married wants to become an Elk, she would pay for her membership. However, Elk’s wives can join the Auxiliary for no cost, and that way they are not paying another membership fee, but they are still welcome at the lodge any time they want to go. Skip said that the Ladies Auxiliary was one of the most important groups associated with the Elks. “They do most of the work,” he said. “They do most of the planning for all of the activities, they host bingo every Monday and Thursday night, and they put up with all of the Elks all of the time.”

While I was looking at the bulletin board, I had also noticed a schedule of things to come. After speaking to Skip, I went back to the board to see what kinds of activities were coming up. Every Monday, the Ladies Auxiliary voluntarily hosts an open to the public bingo night. Anybody who likes to play bingo is welcome, and the proceeds go toward the Elk’s scholarships programs. On the first Friday of every month, they hold “bring your own steak night”. All of the members are encouraged to bring a steak, and after paying five dollars a head, a man named Herb cooks your steak to the specifications you desire. Your five dollars also includes all you can eat salad, and baked potatoes made by one of the members.

Part of the money raised here is contributed to the Sweetheart. This is a person who tries to raise more money than the other sweethearts in Texas (one per lodge), and whoever has raised more money by the end of the year wins. All of the money eventually goes to charities and scholarships, so it’s really just for fun.

During the dinner itself, there are other activities. They hold a raffle for a cheesecake made by my grandpa, and this always brings in a lot of money because he makes the best cheesecake there is. He has a secret recipe from Jack Dempsey who owned a restaurant near my grandparents’ old house in New York. Grandpa made a big one for October’s steak night, and a small one for one of his friends. We brought them to the lodge, and put them in the freezer, but the person grandpa made the small one for, took the big one by mistake. We were looking for it for about twenty-five minutes before we realized that she must have left with the wrong cake. By then it was too late, and we just had to raffle off the small one. Later in the night there is a shuffleboard contest. When you sign up, they give you a partner, and take another five dollars from each of you. The winners split half of the money; the other half goes to the charity fund. There is also a raffle for the “Booze Basket” which the Ladies Auxiliary stocks with various wines, and other liquors. The winner traditionally opens a bottle, and shares it with everyone that night.

On the second Friday of the month, “Chicken Night” occurs with a nice variety of chicken dishes for all who arrive. Grandpa bakes the potatoes for chicken night, and he always does them differently. From what the Elks tell me, they always taste good. The money they make during Chicken Night is split between the Ladies Auxiliary and the charity fund.

On the third Friday of each month, a “fish fry” happens. Just like the other Fridays, there is salad, potatoes, and usually a vegetable; but this time, fish is the main course. The type of fish depends on the month. Each month is different. Sometimes, they mix and make an assortment of fish so that everyone has a choice. The Fish fry’s proceeds are distributed to charity funds, and it counts towards the money made by the sweetheart. All of these gatherings give the Elks a time to socialize, and have a good time. I think it is nice that they have a chance to do this every month. The fact that all of the proceeds are used for charity or the Ladies Auxiliary makes it even more important to go and support the cause.

There are thousands of Elks lodges all over the country, but not too many people know about them. It is a great organization, and the members are great people, too. I had no idea what they were until I came to Texas, and now I love to go to the lodge. I know all of the guys, and a lot of the wives, but the best thing is that even if the Elks don’t know you, they will take the time to meet you. Anybody who is twenty-one or older is eligible to be a member, and it is definitely a worthwhile group to join. Although I am not an Elk yet, the members all treat me like a peer, and I go to the lodge as often as I can.

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Serene: Beverly Hills Park by Abbey Cole

10201 Kingspoint
Houston, TX 77075
713.948.9065

January 2004–In a small suburb in Southeast Houston there is a pleasant little park called Beverly Hills Park. I began playing soccer there when I was ten and I fell in love with it. I remember every Tuesday and Thursday nights, the park was full of soccer players of all ages. On the weekends, parents would fill the sidelines, screaming their heads off and praying on the inside that their kid would not be the one that missed the goal. I remember a mother at every game being kicked off the sidelines for yelling too much, promising that she would not do it again and then the very next Saturday returning with the same attitude.

Beverly Hills Park is very versatile, I can go there to relax or have fun. When I first exit my car, I can hear the sounds of birds chirping and dogs barking. In the distance, I hear another sound not so pleasant to the ear. On the old worn out basketball courts, vulgar words come streaming from the mouths players that lost shots or ones that fell. The courts are full of various races from blacks to whites to Asians and ages from ten to twenty-five to forty. The baskets are so old that most of them do not even have nets anymore and the ones that do are chains. As a child, I was scared to go near the basketball court, fearing the men that seemed so hateful, until one day a soccer ball from our field rolled onto the basketball court and it was my turn to fetch. So I gathered all the courage I could and walked myself to that court. As I was keeping my eyes on only the ball my worst nightmare came true. A man with arms bigger then my head picked up the ball and brought it to me. It took all the courage I had to stay and not run. The man walked over to me and handed me the ball with a smile. I walked away feeling happy and stupid at the same time, now knowing that my fears were just a figment of my imagination and stupid.

Inside the park’s recreational building next to the basketball courts there are various meeting rooms filled with karate or dance classes, or the usual sports club meetings. Inside the front door, there is an office where the building manager answers the phone or conducts business. I remember a woman that used to work in that office. She was short and plump with orange frizzy hair plus a bad manicure and had a five-year-old daughter that would watch cartoons in the hallway and eat popcorn. Every day that I had soccer practice, we would go into the building to fill our water jugs in the water fountain or get a coke from the vending machine and the woman would always sneak us candy or free sodas. I remember years later coaching her daughter and sneaking her the same kinds of things. The rooms in the building are actually all one room separated by a paper-thin partition. Most nights there was a karate class on one side and a meeting of a sports league on the other. I remember many meetings canceled because the karate kids were too loud. In the building, there is no air conditioning and a strong scent of sweat in the air. Many of the basketball players would go inside the building and use the phone or get some water. Outside the building, there is a beautiful mural that a neighborhood children’s art class drew. The mural was very colorful and was drawing of the diverse neighborhood.

Next to the old paint-chipped building and the concrete courts, is a peaceful play area where the neighborhood children come to swing or throw rocks while giggling and fighting. The gravel underneath is filled with plastic bottles and old t-shirts left by the sweaty basketball players. The swings are set in the middle of three rusty, dirt filled barbeque pits, and broken picnic tables where teenage girls would sit and gossip for hours. Occasionally there was a small family or birthday party. I remember an older man that would sit on a bench every day at seven o’clock. He was about sixty or so and had an old tired face and frizzy white hair. He would sit there every night and just stare into the distance. After about a year of wondering what he was doing, my friend and I decided to ask him why he did what he did. He answered by telling us that he and his wife of forty-five years used to come to the park and walk their dog until one day she died of a heart attack. He came to the park to relive every day that they went to the park.

Set next to them was a third of a mile long asphalt track where runners run their daily runs or the neighborhood kids zoom by on their bikes. The track took me around the entire park. On the inside of the track, there are about six soccer fields. On weeknights, the local Hispanic men come to play with many friends and the soccer club teams practice to make perfect. The sounds of whistles and yelling coaches or kids cheering echo through the air. On the weekends, those same kids play games during the season and the Vietnamese men play during off-season. As I keep walking, I pass the only covered bench, full of graffiti and is the popular make-out spot for young teens. The bench was placed under a tree that bloomed beautiful pink flowers that rained down like a scene out a movie in the spring. Next to the infamous bench is an old overused and neglected tennis court. The fence surrounding it is rusted and falling apart with a net so worn out that most of the balls that hit it just go right through. There are hardly ever any tennis players there, except for one teenage girl that would go there everyday and practice for three hours straight, never taking a break.

In the early summer weeknights, cheers can be heard from the baseball fields beside the court. As I walk by the field I constantly hear concession stand workers yelling out the prices of their last deal or the sound of port-a-potty doors closing as mothers rush back to watch their little boys hit a homerun. In the fall, I hear the grunts of little league football players on that same field and the cheers of the preteen cheerleaders learning new cheers for the next game.

As I keep walking on this track, I pass the backyards of various houses. Each house has a specific sound. One house may have a dog barking, a cat meowing, a kid crying, or even a rooster crowing. I remember this one house that every time I walked by a puppy would whimper, calling me over to pet it or rub its belly. Over the years, I got to know that dog and still to the day visit it when I take my daily walk.

As I end my first lap around the track, I pass an old pool where kids will ride a mile just to swim in and where high school teens get their first job lifeguarding or cleaning. I remember as a kid, always wanting to go there as we drove by but then having my dreams crushed when my parents or my grandmother told me that we were too small. Years later, I remember being yelled at for being late or missing practice because I was swimming in that same pool. In addition, kids I knew would swim there competitively.

As I walk a few steps, I am back where I started. Back to the beginning of a place where differences are blinded and for just a moment, people can feel like they belong. Back to a place where childhood memories were made or relived.

MAPS


LINKS

Houston Parks and Recreation

Come Dance with Me: Jill Rauscher School of Dance by Angie Wike

202 S. Walnut, Webster TX. 77598
(281) 338-1380

January 2004–Looking at it from the outside, the last thing you would think when looking at it was that it is a dance school. It is a very small and humble building that actually used to be someone’s home. I might as well call it a house rather than a building because that’s what it really is. The house looks pretty run down from the outside. The wooden walls on the outside are painted a pale pink and its obvious that someone has given them a couple of coats of paint throughout the years but it hasn’t helped anything; the paint is still chipping and just makes the house look even older. The dark, charcoal gray shingles on the roof are scattered around and some are even missing. Just by looking at it I would think the house was completely vacant if I didn’t know any better. It sits in the middle of a side street across from McWhirter elementary school in a poor and run down neighborhood right off Nasa Road 1, one of the busiest roads in the old city of Webster. Webster is smack-dab in the middle of the Clear Lake area, where I moved to in 1990; I was five years old then. To get to Clear Lake, it will take you about a good 30-minute drive going south from downtown Houston.
The inside as well does not resemble a dance studio. There are only two fully mirrored rooms used for dancing and they are both very small, about as big as two small bedrooms put together, which is not very big for a room to dance in.

The ballet bars against the walls are very old, they don’t ever get replaced, just repaired; and this has to happen often because of the amount of use and abuse done to them from all of the many dancers. Inside the dance school there is also a small office for the teachers, a waiting room and two small dressing rooms, as well as two bathrooms, minus the showers. The floorboards in the two dance rooms are uneven, loose, and always have to be repaired, they are just cheap tile so this can be expected. It also does not help that the property next door was built on ground so high up that when it rains really hard (which is experienced often in that area), all the water rushes down to the dance school grounds.

 You can’t see the damage to well, but you can sure feel it. In one of the dance rooms the upper right side of the floor is raised because the rainwater rushed in, pushed the floor up, and then drained out, leaving big humps in the floor. The plumbing isn’t any better here. In one of the bathrooms when you sit on the toilet it feels like you are going to fall off because the floor is not level and leans to one side. The parking lot is hardly that; it’s basically a half circle of cement barely big enough for parents to drive on to drop off their kids. There are about three parking spaces next to that and three above it, all equally as small as the driveway. There is also a dirt and gravel area behind the studio where the teachers parked, but when I got old enough to drive I never parked there. People living in the apartments directly behind the studio were constantly breaking into the vehicles.

This place might sound like complete junk, but it’s just worn down and old. You might be thinking that this dance school doesn’t get much business because of how old and trashy it might sound, but this just isn’t the case. Actually this dance school is pretty well known around town, mainly because of the way its run. In fact, its so popular that every year when its time to register many people end up getting turned away because all the classes get filled so quickly. This dance school is obviously about more than making a buck for the owners, because they could afford to fix it up real nice if they wanted to. A big fancy building and huge rooms aren’t necessary when dancing though. All a person really needs in order to express themselves through dance is a little space and some imagination. Music is important but a person can even dance without music. You just have to feel the movements, and get into it; dance comes from the heart.

I grew up at that dance school. From the age of four to the age of eighteen I was able to call that place my home away from home. It was that way for everyone. Most of the women that teach there now used to attend class as students themselves; its such a family environment. Jill Rauscher, who is 52 years of age but looks as though she is in her early 40’s, is the owner. She grew up as a dancer herself, starting at a very young age, and instead of going to college she decided to runaway to Broadway, in hopes of becoming a star. Jill soon changed her mind when she fell in love with her husband and they moved to Texas, where she decided to open up her very own dance studio. She has two daughters: Leslie and Julie; both girls are married and have children. Leslie is 25 years old and I would describe her as Jill’s lifesaver. Leslie is young and hip so she can relate to all of the dancers, she always knows all of the latest moves, which helps a lot when we need a jazz or fast passed dance; whereas Jill didn’t grow up with that stuff, she’s better with the ballet and tap. At Jill Rauscher School of Dance, my teachers became second moms that I could talk to about anything, at anytime. If I ever had a problem, there was always someone there to listen. Stephanie was one of my favorite teachers, she was in her early 30’s and we could talk about anything, whether it be about the problems I was having with friends at school, or about getting my nails done, she was there to talk to me. Not only was going to dance a comforting experience but also a learning one. At dance I learned that I didn’t have to be the best or look the best, that I was just as good as anyone else by being me. I learned that life was about having fun and challenging yourself, setting goals to be reached later on in life. I was taught to reach for the stars because anything was in my reach if I stretched my arms long enough. I made lifelong friends that I will never forget. I grew up with these girls and I know that I will stay in contact with a few of them for years to come. This was the one place I could go, when I felt like it had to be the worst day of my life, and I would just dance away my problems. That’s exactly what dance was to me, a release. Dance for me was just a way to let go. Rather than turning to things such as drugs, sex, and alcohol like a lot of my peers do at their teens, dance helped me stay grounded. I didn’t need any of those things; I was addicted to dance. Here I was truly free, and nothing else mattered.

I have danced all my life. I have been able to dance almost since I could walk. I can even remember shaking around in my diapers, okay maybe not in my diapers but I was dancing at a very young age. I was already dancing around the tile on the kitchen floor before my mother got me started in ballet and tap lessons. My mom had signed me up to give me something to do because she didn’t want me just sitting around the house bored. I was new in the neighborhood, so it was hard to make friends, being in a class full of girls my age was a great way to meet people. Then as I got older I really got into dancing and started to truly love it, now dance is a part of my everyday life. I sleep, drink and eat dance; I live it.

Maps:
View Larger Map
Links:

http://http://www.nycballet.com/index.html

http://http://www.abt.org/

http://http://www.cyberdance.org/index.html

http://http://www.houstonballet.org/

http://http://www.dancer.com/redirect.php

A Date with Nature: the Creek by Marlon Price

Clear Lake City

April 2004–All my life I have enjoyed the way that animals behave towards one another, as if they live in a completely different world from the one that humans live in. Animals sometimes can be very entertaining creatures, I love the way that they interact with one another. This is why when I visit Houston I spend a lot of time at the creek.

The creek is behind my cousin’s house in Houston. It is filthy, but easy to enjoy. The water is brown and very shallow. If you ever visit the creek you’ll spot beer bottles, old flat tires, various types of trashes, and a smell so bad it would make a skunk go crazy. The grass is cut once every other month so it grows tall. In truth when it’s not cut it can almost cover up the entire area. People often complain about the cities lack of interesting helping to clean the creek.

My first visit to the creek wasn’t by choice. I was chasing my basketball, because it had rolled down the hill. The ball rolled into the creek, and I sat on top of some rocks trying to grab it for about two hours before I realized it was gone for good. I had lost my focus because a flock of ducks had caught my attention. After this, I started visiting the creek.

Since the day that I first saw those ducks whenever I visit my cousin I can’t stay away. Snakes, geese, fish, rabbits, all types of birds, and a few animals that I am unfamiliar with are creatures I’ve seen. They all behave very well towards each other; in fact, they act as if they are all the same. I like the creek because it serves as a meeting place for the animals and me.

Whenever I feel like relaxing, I go to the creek and spend countless hours there watching the different animals from the railroad tracks. The railroad tracks are very old, rusty, and they don’t look sturdy at all. From the way they look you can tell that a train hasn’t ridden on them in decades. When you walk on them they make a shrieking noise. From the tracks you can see the creek in its entirety, but you have to be careful because they shake often.

I like to throw down bread and watch the birds wrestle for it. The fight normally ends with the birds sharing the small bit of food. It doesn’t seem to bother the animals that the creek is so dirty, and even I sometimes believe that if someone ever cleaned the creek, I probably wouldn’t admire it so much. But then I come back to real world.

You can find big beautiful rocks at the creek, rocks that would get a geologist excited! They come in many different colors and sparkle like diamonds. The stones are shaped like backpacks, which is why many people collect them and put them on display in their living rooms.

Most of the time everyone seems to forget about the bad smell of the creek, that’s until the neighbors get together to have their annual picnic at the park. I like to call it “A Relaxing Day at the Creek,” which is suitable because everyone seems to be relaxed. They listen to music, eat food, drink beer, and play board games. Community leaders take up money claiming that they are trying to clean the creek up so that people can enjoy the neighborhood better. What makes me question their real motives is that when they finish their drinks, they throw the empty bottles into the creek. I guess they are having too much fun to realize they are the ones destroying their neighborhood and most of all, my creek! I often find myself picking up trash from the grounds after everyone has left. Not because I want to, I do it because I feel that one day the animals might get tired of the filth and leave.

I talked to a man named Earl who has been living near the creek for thirty- six years. He told me that when he was younger he and his brothers would play in it while their father caught fish. When I asked him if his children play in the water while he catches fish he replied: “The water is too dirty for them, they might get sick.” He says that he won’t let them go near the creek because it is unhealthy. With the help of the neighborhood and the city he believes that it could once again become the main attraction of this small community and people could once again enjoy the beauty of it.

The main reason I visit the creek is to see the animals. I would feel lonely if they were to all of a sudden stop coming around. The creek has made me realize that animals are such wonderful beings and we as people don’t respect their environment the way that we should. Sometimes I just sit at the creek and remember the days when my brothers and I would take field trips to the zoo and the wonderful times that we used to have. I think that without the creek that the city of Houston wouldn’t be so gorgeous, even with the tall beautiful buildings and the sports arenas. When I wake up in the morning the first thing that I think about is the creek, because I know that when I get there that the animals will be there with open arms waiting to embrace me.

I feel like the animals are a part of me and without them I wouldn’t be able to enjoy life as much. I have made it my duty to protect the animals as much as possible. I have put up signs to keep people from hurting the animals and I have talked the little kids into wanting to play with the animals so that they won’t throw the empty bottles at them. The children love watching the animals so much that they often sit near the creek with me and name the animals.

Rabbits are the most common animals at the creek. We feed them lettuce and sliced carrots and they repay us by letting us pat their backs. Some of the children often find one they like and take it home, until their parents find out and make them bring it back. I thought about taking one of the rabbits myself, but I decided that I would treat them all as my pets.

The creek to me is that special place that everyone can go to and enjoy nature’s peace and quietness. It helps me to relax and enjoy life to the fullest even though it isn’t all that appealing to some people. It makes me happy to know that whenever I am feeling down that I can always go to the creek for comfort. The animal’s love playing in it and I enjoy it for the same reason that they do. I feel that I have a personal connection with the creek because it has shown me that the best things in life aren’t always so glamorous but have a special way of showing its true beauty. I hope someday that others can share my enjoyment and make it a part of their lives also.

Fort Bend C.S.C.D.: Ruining One Life at a Time by Matthew P. Hinton

4520 Reading Road, Suite B
Rosenberg, TX 77471
November 2010

April 2004–I walked through the automatic doors dressed in a gray herringbone suit with my head up higher than Whitney Houston’s voice, and showing more confidence than Mohammed Ali. The walls were painted white, but not a divine white; it was a dirty white like highly cut cocaine. There were blue plastic chairs leaned up against the wall throughout the room that made you feel just as uncomfortable and nervous as sitting in the passenger seat of car being driven by a drunk driver. Everybody in there except for the employees was dead silent, and had a look of determination on their face, but I could see the paranoia through their skin deep facial expressions, just as they could see the paranoia through my skin deep confidence.

As I sign in, the secretary sitting behind the bulletproof glass took my ID card, prints out my monthly probation form, and takes my forty dollar money order. I hastily fill out the paper and sign that I haven’t violated any terms of my probation. All I have to do now is sit in the uncomfortable blue chairs, and wait for my Probation Officer to come get me. I hear the door open, and a voice softer than Downy fresh clothes says “Matthew.” It was Ms. Echols, my probation officer. I ask her how she is doing, and I used my Ken Lay smile to cover up my paranoia. She asks me if I’m ready to take my drug test, “of-course,” are the words I use as my rebuttal of choice.

When I get inside the testing area there are three bathrooms on the left with mirrors surrounding each toilet like the boards around a hockey rink. To my right was the computer for entering the drug testing fees and cabinets containing all the equipment necessary for drug testing. This room was so clean that it sparkled like a cloudless night sky filled with stars. I notice that there is a girl getting her hair cut by a different Probation Officer, and my body becomes paralyzed…

The Fort Bend County Supervisions and Corrections Department is a probation building. All people placed on probation in the Fort Bend Judicial District must attend this place. The building was placed in Rosenberg , a city which has a dominant Hispanic population; you will see Fiestas on this part of town, with a dollar store about every 4 miles down Avenue H, which is the main road going through Rosenberg . The Fort Bend County Supervisions and Corrections Department is located about a quarter mile off Avenue H on Reading Road . Sixty-percent of all individuals found guilty are sentenced to probation. It is places like Fort Bend C.S.C.D. that will send approximately 352,500 probationers to jail every year for not successfully completing probation. Of the 352,500 people going to jail, about 60,000 of them will be going to jail because of a marijuana violation. That is 60,000 people going to jail for smoking an herb that is less harmful than tobacco, and less dangerous to be under the influence of than alcohol. The government’s reason for putting these people on probation is to rehabilitate them. My probation officer, Ms. Echols, said “I’m pretty sure that about 95% of my probationers resume their drug habits after they get off probation (Brandie Echols, 18 Feb. 2004 ).” These peoples’ futures are destroyed because having a marijuana conviction on your record will greatly affect job opportunities in the future for all of these individuals. It is hard to understand how probation works unless you have went through it, so I will give you an example of how probation has changed my life.

In Fort Bend County Supervision and Corrections Department, my name is not Matthew Hinton in the records, it is number 103242. I am on probation for a Class A misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana charge. It is Class A and not the usual Class B Possession of marijuana charge because I wasn’t just caught with marijuana. I also had a digital scale, baggies, vile containing 38 hydroponic marijuana seeds, one pipe, one lighter, and an expensive Tupperware container to keep the herb fresh. I was lucky I wasn’t charged with intention to distribute. My lawyer had negotiated my punishment from being 24 months probation, with conviction, to 12 months differed adjudication, with no conviction. I basically would loose my freedom from May 13th, 2003 to May 13th, 2004.

What most people don’t realize is that probation is trap. The lawyer and the district attorney will tell you that it’s better because you will get the crime dismissed after you finish probation. Well to an uneducated kid that sounds like they will just through the case out and pretend it never happened. Dismissed means that you were not convicted of the crime, and you were not innocent either. So when I apply for a job in the future, my record will show “Class A Misdemeanor: Possession of Marijuana: Charge was Dismissed.” I still have this charge on my record, and anyone can figure out that since I was not innocent, that its’ pretty obvious that I committed the crime. So having a crime dismissed will affect your future just as much as getting convicted. If would have known this before giving my decision to whether I wanted 12 months differed adjudication, or two weeks in Fort Bend County Jail. I would have chose jail, because after I get out, I am a free man without having to take drug tests and pay money to the government once a month. Unfortunately I was scammed into taking probation, and now I have to suffer the consequences of giving up some the freedoms I love for at least a year.

The main things you have to do while being on probation is pay $40 a month to your probation officer and be subjected to random drug tests. There are two types of drug tests, urinalysis and hair testing. The urinalysis test cannot detect most drug two to three days after they are used, but it can detect marijuana for a slightly longer time (http://www.omegalabs.net, “Hair Testing Overview”). The hair test usually can find drugs in your system if you have used them within the past ninety days, if no head hair is available, then body hair can be used (http://www.omegalabs.net).

…I notice that there is a girl getting her hair cut by a different Probation Officer, and my body becomes paralyzed, but I gain back my composer quicker than a drunk getting pulled over by a cop. My Probation Officer Ms. Echols asks the other probation officer if she could hair test anyone. The Probation Officer said that in order for me to get hair tested, my court papers must be worded correctly, and I must be on probation for at least one hundred and twenty days. I told Ms. Echols to get my court papers so I could see if they worded correctly for me to get a hair test. As she was getting the papers, I could feel my luck running out quicker than a cocaine abuser’s bank account. Of course I was right; the papers said “The probationer will be subjected to random drugs tests throughout the period that he is on probation.” Since the paper didn’t specify any kind of drug test, which meant that it was perfectly legal for Ms. Echols to hair test me. I start getting desperate, so I ask how much the hair test costs, and she tells me that it costs seventy-five dollars. I try to convince them that I can’t afford the hair test, but they just replied by saying “you can make monthly payments if you don’t have the money now.” The other probation officer asks me why I am so against the hair tests, and if it was because something would show up, and if something will show up, that it would be better for me to tell them now. I freeze, and I can’t decide what to do. As I am thinking, I am tapping my leg with my hand, but as I become more stressed out over the seconds the tapping becomes harder and harder, and soon enough I am beating my leg like a red headed step-child (you see when most people are around cops, and are close to getting busted, it is hard to make logical decisions, in fact it is almost impossible. That is why whenever you talk to someone that has gotten in trouble with the police, all you hear them say is “only if I would have done this…” The fact is that you just can’t think straight, so their will always be something that you could have done better.). I ended up confessing to smoking marijuana, and they told me that since it was my first time messing up, they would not send me to jail, they would put me in a another drug education class, and possibly extend my probation.

The mistake that I made was confessing to smoking marijuana. What I should have done is not confess at all, and waited for the test results to come back. Then after the test results come back I should start making excuses for what I failed for. I ended up failing for marijuana. If I wouldn’t have said that I would fail for anything, then I could probably have just said that I was around people that were smoking, and I might have gotten some second hand smoke in my system, and Ms. Echols wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Ms. Echols ended up sending my case to court because I admitted to smoking marijuana on my statement. I should have listened to the advice that I give almost everyone, “when in doubt, don’t say anything, because you always have the right to remain silent.”

It makes me sick to know that I am facing a year in jail because I enjoy smoking an herb, and the fact that I got tricked into accepting probation knowing that if I violated it I would be facing a lot more jail time than if I just went to jail in the first place. If it were not a crime to smoke marijuana, then I would not be in the situation that I am in now. I am not a threat to society, I am not a child molester, and I am not a murderer. I am a full time college student with a 3.33 GPA. I am a full time employee of The Men’s Wearhouse. I am a person that pays taxes, and I am a person with a future. My future is in jeopardy because of some stupid law that prevents people from using a drug less life threatening than both alcohol and tobacco. Why can’t our society understand that victimless crimes like smoking marijuana should not be crimes? Why can’t our society understand that not every person that smokes pot is the stereotypical drug user that is homeless, and a threat to society? Why can’t our society understand that smoking marijuana is the sole decision of the person using it, and that it doesn’t harm anyone else but the user? Most importantly, why can’t our society understand that this ridiculous law against the use of marijuana is ruining the future for hundreds of thousands of working class citizens per year that contribute to the economy, volunteer for homeless shelters, and do just as many good deeds as everyone else in this misguided nation? Fort Bend C.S.C.D. is the place that is about to destroy my future. The one thing I have learned from it is that I will never accept probation as a punishment in the future.

Map:

Links:

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Dennis Kucinich

Omega Labs

Are you a Pothead?

Bio:

Fort Bend Supervisions and Corrections Department is a place of seriousness and not something to be taken as a game.