Category Archives: Sugar Land

Tranquility Among Peoples: Lakes of Austin Park

Neighborhood Lake
Austin Parkway and Lakefield Blvd.
Sugar Land, Texas 77479

January 2004–The sun is setting beyond the horizon of suburban housetops and enormously tall, metallic power lines, the kind of unthreatening power lines with their own designated area in fields far away from playing children and fathers trimming their trees. As I open the front door of my red brick, two story house with forest green shutters on every window, I make my way to the mailbox at the end of the street. This is a safe neighborhood with people who don’t take any chances, even when it comes to the convenience of having your own unlocked mailbox in front of your house. My bare feet touch the warm pavement soaking up the sunshine from the day as my feet are pounding onward towards the locker containing bills, coupons, and letters.

On the left side, and across the street Nigerian food is being cooked. I recognize the smell because a few weeks ago I attended a graduation party where I sampled many delectable ethnic dishes with names I couldn’t pronounce. Just a few houses down from where I’m walking, I detect the aroma of Chinese food. These neighbors have a garden in their backyard and bring us the biggest cucumbers I have ever seen in crumpled up paper bags as a gesture of neighborly kindness. The Egyptian family resides two houses down the row of the comforting brick houses on Bermuda Drive. I have never eaten over there, but as a child I went swimming in their tropical oasis-like pool. Finally the distinct smell of curry spices cuts through the air, and I know exactly where it is coming from. There is an Indian family who lives here, whose daughter used to baby-sit my sister and I. About five years ago she made it on to a college episode of “Wheel of Fortune.” Her proud family posted on the mailbox the time and day of the airing so we could all watch it. I’m finally to the rusty, wobbly, gray painted mailbox. The only mail for me is from technology and community colleges. As I am walking up my driveway with the mail in a loud, plastic grocery sack, I return to the smell of my own dad grilling chicken.

After dinner when everyone’s belly is filled with their own native cooking and the air is cooler outside, it is common for many of the families and couples in our neighborhood to go for a walk around the man-made lake that wraps around our peninsula-like neighborhood. The land the lake was carved into used to belong to the Frost Ranch. “In the 1940s a man named Gerald Hines took flying lessons above the Frost Ranch land he would later purchase and develop into First Colony.”(Perin) These lands served as a purpose for growing sugar cane and other crops. On the other side of the lake behind a levee there remains a large pasture of cattle. It was common to hear the melodic groan from the cows in the morning when I stepped out into my dew covered backyard. At a glance the lake is beautiful and the ripples and mini-waves shine like crystals from the sunlight. The grass around the lake is green and well kept. Various strategically planted trees circle the lake to provide shade to picnickers and people seeking solace by the water. The lake is stocked with fish every year bringing recreational fishers as well as raggedly dressed men who drive washed out, blue Cadillacs with loose tail lights.

When I first moved into my house I never questioned whether or not the lake was clean, it was new and looked clean to me. I saw people swimming in the water on more than one occasion. If someone were to do that today they might be branded insane, or diagnosed with some terrible bacterial infection, or feared to have the same effects a New York Sewers Ooze had on the Ninja Turtle. The water is very stagnant, so mosquitoes thrive and bite while kids from the block are trying to enjoy neighborhood games of kickball. Trash, leaves, and chemicals of fertilizers that runoff into the lake, form a ring around the edge. After saving up enough birthday money, I purchased a four-man raft and oars this summer to carouse around the lake for fun, but most of the excursions turned unpleasant when I was stuck in a big massive floating dump. The lake being unnatural and polluted, still has noteworthy qualities that many can enjoy. A wetland environment is one of the most innovative concepts to relieve the normalcy of suburban living.

As I told you before, it’s after dinner and time for the family to go on our daily evening walk around the paved path through our neighborhood that weaves around the lake. The lake curves from the entrance of the neighborhood all the way to the last street where I live, with the other shore residing behind my backyard fence. I would follow shortly behind my parents on a bike while they steadily walked onward. I think they appreciate this in a way because it gave them more space to talk about problems at school or at my dad’s workplace. Women dressed in Indian saris, or with their faces completely covered wearing some kind of draping would step aside for me on the path around the horseshoe shaped lake to let me pass by on my bike. Everyone almost always says hello as they walk past others. If a ball or Frisbee crosses the path of the regular evening walkers they would stop and retrieve the item to the people playing. That’s what I like about this neighborhood; it isn’t completely full of rich or close-minded people that think they are too good to interact with the common public or individuals from different cultures.

You can catch clips of conversations made by the walkers. As I zipped by unsuspecting parties, I nosily eavesdropped the usual dialogue, that consisted of family problems or upcoming events. As I rode my bike behind my parents I heard them talking about building a deck for our backyard, at the same time I also hear part of a conversation in Spanish going on behind me. I used to ride my bike on this same sidewalk to elementary school almost everyday. It was a refreshing and beautiful way to start the long day of sitting under fluorescent lights in unforgiving classrooms. I would watch the sun come up over the lake and reflect a net of diamonds bouncing off the water.

Feeding the massive duck population is a popular activity to partake at this lake in one’s own leisure time. There used to be other kind of wildlife like alligators, but they were seen as a threat to the people in the neighborhood. They were worried that the alligators would try to snatch dogs or children if they got too close to the lake. The food chain here is discombobulated. The duck population is enormous now, at unnatural levels leaving the sidewalks and streets covered with bird droppings. There is an overweight white woman who sits for hours almost everyday feeding the ducks. One time during one of my excursions in a raft with a few friends around the lake, geese started to encircle us. They were honking and trying to peck at the raft, so naturally we were waving the oars at the foul. While nervously laughing, my friends were looking at me with disgust, questioning why I would put them in a position of danger like this one. I looked back at them saying, “I don’t know what’s going on, this has never happened before, but keep on whacking!” The woman angrily yelled at us to stop, and we were thinking, “Oh, what now?” She made a strange noise and the wild geese flew to the grassy shore and allowed the big woman to pet their feathered backs. I believe this woman had tamed the geese, probably by means of food which we didn’t have, and that’s why they came so boldly close.

Several years ago, before new houses were built on the other side of the lake, we had a huge fireworks display every Fourth of July. The new houses were a big controversy to the others already living here. They were worried their natural view of the lake, trees, and fields would be obstructed and urbanized. Well Corporate America and investors won of course, but not all was lost. There is a branch of the Brazos River that is lined with many trees that is still visible past the levee beyond the lake. Our lakefront house was the site of the entire New Hope Lutheran Church Fourth of July party. Our church wasn’t a Lakewood type of televised church, but it wasn’t a one room small church either. I felt privileged that others came to enjoy what was in our own backyard. We had the BBQ going with hotdogs, burgers, and chicken, as well as the yard lined with tables and chairs with red checkered table cloths. Some kids brought sparklers and pop rocks, while others played on our swing set. Our party wasn’t the only thing bringing hundreds of people out to our neighborhood. Around the entire lake, people from miles away filled nearly every grassy spot with a blanket, cooler, and their families.

How did these people know that this was the perfect place to choose to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July? People I had never seen before in this area of all ethnic groups, possibly family members of the cultural mecca of what our neighborhood is were there to celebrate. As a child I remember petting exotic cats at my Egyptian friend’s house, eating rice and watching “Bill and Ted’s Awesome Adventure” at my Chinese friend’s house, learning how to play basketball from the black kids in the neighborhood, meeting people from my Jewish friend’s Temple, and playing “Pogs” with the Indian kids who all lived on my one block. The community, lake and its surrounding area in the neighborhood of Lakes of Austin Park is an oasis and safe place for growing up, living, and participating in recreational activities no matter what your ethnic or cultural background. This neighborhood teaches people of different cultures to interact peacefully, no matter how great their diversity may be. This neighborhood greatly influenced who I am today.

Map:

 First Colony Parks and Recreation

 First Colony

First Colony Real Estate

 Duck Overpopulation

 Alligators in Neighborhoods

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The Family: Thompson’s Chapel by Jackie Williams

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

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

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

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

Maps:

Links:

http://www.firstcolonymall.com

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

http://www.sugalandbest.com

http://63.90.155.100/default/asp

How to Hold the City in Your Hands: Sugar Land Town Center by Taylor Fry

2700 Town Center Boulevard
Sugar Land, TX 77479
(281) 275-2700

     November 2010 – The engine of my charcoal gray mustang rattles and roars as I slowly wind my way up to the roof of the seven-story parking garage. My heart slams against my ribcage as if it is trying to escape from my chest. My thoughts no longer come out smooth and consistent like a water fountain, instead they are few and come out in chunks like an ice dispenser. I accelerate over a final ramp that leads me out onto the final story of the building and quickly pull into the parking spot with the number twenty-eight spray painted in large bold text. With shaky hands, I turn they keys in the ignition and kill the engine. Eagerness overcomes me as I leap out of my seat to embrace the cool night air. From the second it reaches my eyes, the magnificent view draws a sigh of relief from my lips.

     To the far left is a bird’s eye view of Highway 6 and the speedy parade of misfit cars that it entails. The picturesque scene of a small array of shops to my immediate right is blocked entirely by City Hall, lit up in all its splendor, with the words City of Sugar Land glowing even in the dead of night. All of the stores and shops across the boulevard are slowly emptying as closing time draws nearer. The lights in Party City and DSW are already turned off but a few customers linger inside of Marshall’s and Sabai Thai Café. Looking into the distance, I can see the bright cityscape laid out before me like an offering before a queen. In my mind, I am capable of simply reaching out and holding the world with my own two hands. Everything in sight is at peace, and finally so am I.

     I fish a cigarette out of a crumpled box in my back pocket and light it; leaning my forearms against the concrete barrier that wraps around the roof. I take a long drag and hang my head. Nicotine surges into my bloodstream and my tense muscles begin to relax. From my perch, I am able to look into this world as a quiet observer, without any need to interact or entertain. I am just a pair of eyes and soft breathing in the night. I stroll to the other side of the empty lot and look down at the square.

   

     An elderly African-American man takes his post at the steps of city hall and plays a mellow tune on his jazz saxophone, being observed wordlessly by a young couple greedily munching on ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Behind them, children of all ages are playing, shrieking, and laughing as the splash in the fountain. Meanwhile, watchful mothers are looking on from The Vineyard, sipping on goblets of wine and chatting calmly. Across the street, is an elderly couple sitting in front of Starbucks, holding hands and sipping on paper cups as cars pass by. A few policemen stand scattered about, watching over the citizens in the same manner as a collie guarding its herd of sheep from wolves.

     Standing upright in the center of the fountain is a large metallic statue of a man on horseback, rearing high on its hind legs with a terrified look in its unchanging eyes. Stephen F. Austin by Bob Pack, proclaims the bronze plaque  on the edge of the fountain, right beneath the word “faith,” etched in the stone. Around the outside of the fountain, engraved in stone, is the written history of Sugar Land back to the early seventeenth century, though no one ever seems to pay much mind as they trample across it from store to store.

    The wind picks up and the aromas from a dozen different cuisines waft into my nostrils. Every nation from India to the Americas are represented in this place by a particular restaurant. Every budget and taste bud can find what they require whether it includes Japiniero’s Japanese-Cuban hybrid cuisine, Amici’s elegant Italian dining, or just a tasty American sandwich at Jimmy John’s. Around the corner is a sports bar known as Loggia containing oversized flat screen televisions mounted on the wall, with young girls strutting around in umpiring uniforms, and infamous beer towers on every table. The delicate balance of every culture makes Town Center a place of common interest for every citizen within ten miles, whether to wine, dine, or simply to socialize. I think about all the fun times my family has had drinking frozen margaritas at Escalante’s and laugh softly to myself.

    To this day, the thing I love the most about my concrete palace is the fact that I have never been encountered another person, with the exception of a wandering security guard. In a world crawling with people, it is wonderful to think that there are still such surprisingly beautiful places that are uninhabited by ordinary people.

     Town Square has been and will continue to be a place of commerce for the people of Sugar Land. Its central location near highway six as well as highway fifty-nine makes it ideal for people to bring guests to show them the city in its entire splendor. There is virtually no crime or discrimination between people of different races and cultures. Sugar Land’s Town Center gives the common observer hope that maybe there are more places in the world with such high regard for all people, where they can all come together and be at peace.

MAP
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LINKS

Sugar Land Town Square Webpage

Sugar Land Town Center Reviews

History of the City of Sugar Land

AUTHOR BIO

      Taylor Fry is a full-time student at the University of Houston-Downtown. She plans to major in biology and become a chiropractor. She was born in Houston, Texas in 1991 but grew up on  a ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. Eventually, she moved to Sugar Land, Texas to live with her father, her stepmother, and her two siblings. Taylor played softball all four years of high school, while working at Ben & Jerry’s in Sugar Land Town Square where she fell in love with the city she lives in. Recently, she has begun a new career working as a server at Kona Grill, just across the street from her first job.

      Taylor Fry strives to live in the moment, and enjoy each one as they are given to her. She spends her free time getting into trouble in the pursuit of happiness. She plans on living out her days as a walking oxymoron with a PhD.

Become the Hunted: Paintballing Suburban Style By Matthew Golden

Elkins Road
Sugar Land, TX 77479

April 2004–We drive through the suburbs to reach our destination with huge homes towering above us as we drive along a road. It is blocked off by a wooden barricade at the dead end, where a long stretch of dark green forest extends as far as the eye can see.

This forest is not like any other, it is full of my memories of the past paint ball matches, with laughter and warm memories of friends. We then proceed to the paint ball area after getting out of my friends car. As we make our way to the ridge we can see our friends talking at the meeting spot, next to an old tree with its bark chipped from various years of gun testing. The remains of what used to be paint ball gear and boxes still lay under this giant tree to this day. Today I see a few familiar faces and also some new ones, which is good because new comers are always welcome on our fields and they are treated with a friendly welcome. After brief hellos, we prepare for the long day of paint balling ahead of us, and hoping it will meet our expectations.

My old high school friend Robert, now in the military, is back from Georgia, on vacation. What better way to enjoy a few days back at home than spending it with old buddies from high school in a familiar sport? He brought the fill station with him, a large object that looks like a tank for a scuba diver, used to pressurize our tanks so our guns will fire. There is also plenty of water which Robert has brought from home to ensure we can cool down after a long match.

There are a few new faces here this time, but it is not their first time paint balling, they just came to our field to try out something new. In the five years that I have come to this field, not once have I seen another team. Still, they are welcomed as friends and we know it is going to be a fun day ahead of us. Our usual team is split, but today we come together and form one ultimate paint ball team. This is something that has not been done in years, due to the lack of people we had coming to the field. This opponent’s team, although very young, had some superior firepower. They have about four people with good guns while we are down to three, with our fourth using a very old gun made in the early 1990’s. But surprisingly it still shoots well enough to play many games.

The sport was invented in 1981 by several forest rangers in the state of Connecticut. The paint ball “markers” were originally used to identify trees. These “markers” were also used by farmers to identify cattle. Now the youth of the world are turning old run down buildings and forests into virtual battlefields. But, it is not only a sport appealing to the youth of the world, many adults also enjoy the game.

The paintball guns are called “markers” in order to keep people from getting the wrong impression about the sport. These markers have came a long way since their original design, and manufacturers create a large assortment of different creations. Markers can look like a space age weapon or a real gun issued only by the military.

The forest that we are playing at today has a pathway that splits it into two halves. The left side has more brush and the other has large varieties of trees and bushes scattered throughout the meadow. Both of these sides stretch for a long distance, so we just tell our players not to wander off too far. To the south lies a quiet river which is the end of our field and you are forced to go left or right. Various crates and barrels are scattered along the landscape on the left side. A obstacle course made by other paint ballers who did this for the purpose of a close combat “speed ball” course. It resembles the close combat used in professional courses and gives players some strategic points to take.

You and your enemy could be shooting at each other from a mere 20 feet away, in which a paint ball could really hurt you. For me, this forest is full of good memories and I would never ruin the trees or landscape with rusty barrels and nails hammered into the trees. This especially annoys me due to the fact that this side of the forest is where I have had my best matches. But today our team gets the right side of the forest. This match looks promising for us today. The years we have played at this field will give us a terrain advantage over our competitors.

We take about five minutes for our teams to find a starting spot. Our team is now ready and waiting for the other to shout back to us. We hear the enemy yell that they are ready and the match has begun. The adrenaline begins to pump throughout my body, and I know that the hunt is on. Getting shot does hurt for beginners, after you play for awhile you do not feel the pain. I play this game like it’s real war, if I was to be shot I would be dead, and therefore I do my best no to. But when you are shot you simply walk off the field and wait for the match to end.

As I peer into the trees I can see the enemies up ahead. They have spotted us as well, and they ponder and wait for us to take the initiative. We slowly creep up to their position while we send other men around to hit them from their sides. The fire fight begins and paint balls are soaring through the air, showing no mercy for anything they hit and whistling past our heads. The enemy is trapped in the middle behind a big oak tree. They then realize that we have them cornered from all possible positions and in a desperate plea to escape our heavy fire they attempt to scatter. One of their newest players trips over his friends and they both came out in the open. They were exposed to our barrage of bullets and sent off the field. I put some heavy fire on the tree in front of me to keep the enemy from attempting to fire back. Robert moved forward and around the tree to make him surrender. This is perfectly legal and when a enemy gets real close and tells you to surrender you are supposed to.

Although our opponents lost that day over and over again, we eventually switched teams up to give them advantage and show them some new tricks. We were once in their shoes and know how it is to loose matches against more experienced players on odd terrain. So we helped them out and allowed them to enjoy paint balling as much as we do.

Our field resides in the city of Sugarland in a obscure location, yet others have found it as well. It is a great place to go if you wish to get away from the everyday city life. It is a vast landscape full of plant and animal life, which draws people like myself to find it a great forest to play paint ball. Paint balling works very good here, but the land can be used for many purposes. People occasionally also use this area as a bike trail or just an area to walk around and catch a breath of clean air. I am trying to enjoy the forest while it still stands. It lies on the outskirts of a neighborhood and looks prone to be cut down soon. To make matters worse there are hunters who kill all the animals in this forest.

I remember seeing deer prancing through the forest in the past. I remember seeing boar grazing in the open field under the sun. Now I wonder if these animals are even alive to enjoy the area as much as I do.

As I come here I remember all the good matches we had. The first time we came here must have been the most interesting and fun. I purchased some Vietnam trip wire and smoke bombs, one of which could turn half the forest into a dense fog. We could use it on our side of the forest to provide blankets of thick cover, or throw it at the enemy to choke them out of a location. We had a local threaten to call the fire department that day but we came to an agreement to never use those smoke bombs again. That day we dubbed the field “Nam” after Vietnam. We purposely did so because the land and the first battles we had there reminded us to of old Vietnam movies you see on TV.

After that day we have been coming back for years trying to replicate the fun. Even when one of our players had a severe concussion he found the time to come out and play paint ball. We have so much fun here that nothing will stop us from showing up when we have set the date. Rain or shine we still come to the field under the worst conditions, which should give you a idea of how dedicated some people are becoming in this sport. The sheer amount of action and adrenaline will have you coming back for more.

Other paintball fields could be an option, but for the most part I have seen lack in creativity. Usually they have areas designed for differently types of combat, including speed ball courses. I do admit that professional fields have better speed ball courses than ours does, because they are more intricate with their setups, for example, create the small towns like in the wild west where you can have gunfights behind buildings. But in our little field in Sugarland you will find something unsimulated, the best natural forest environment. There is plenty of space but it is still small enough to have reasonable time between matches. With you own personal field you have less restriction and if you have any kind of paintball gun that is safe we will let you use it. You can also use afield like this to practice with your friends. You do not have to worry about combating others of higher skill if you do not invite them to the field. Honestly, I do not see how you could go wrong with a place like this. If you have never paint balled before you could go to any sports good store and buy a starter package to get you situated. Get a few friends together on a weekend and you will have more than then you can imagine.

I know someday I will look back and remember that some of the best times I have had were in this field. Paint balling is just like any other sport, with the exception that anyone can play. I believe this sport has also inspired two of my friends to join the military. One of my friends even believes that paint balling at our field is better combat training than what he receives in the military. But as for myself it is just a way to have fun every now and then. It went from having fun every weekend in high school, to having this privilege a few times a year. Most people have jobs or college and our time is little. Being not from Texas I find it hard to find places I truly enjoy and this field is the home that I long for. I have found a place where I can escape from worldly troubles and replace them with a good game of competition.

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