Category Archives: West

International Peace Maker: The Water Wall by Seir Ortega

2800 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston , Texas , 77056
713-850-8841

April 2004–My cousin Lily has forever loathed Houston. She is from Mexico, and prefers it more. I don’t understand how she can live without air conditioning, microwaves, and many other commodities, like a shower with running water. My cousins and I decided to show her the one place in Houston where her troubles would be sure to melt away.

Lily is not an easy person to amuse. She enjoys making others happy, but trying to place a smile on her face is a challenge. This place had to be extraordinary, and oversized, and filled with whimsical charm. Before arriving at this place, we headed towards the Galleria. Our mission was to show her many wonderful things found only in Houston , and then impact her with the only thing that makes this city unique. When relatives visit from afar, there is one place they must see before leaving the hustle and bustle of Houston, The Water Wall.

Just what is so great about water falling down a slab of concrete? It is an architectural feat, and describing it to someone who has never seen it can be quite a challenge. “ Well, you see…water falls down a wall and that’s it.” Not very appealing! I did not know this wall even existed, until my fifth grade teacher mentioned that the class would be taking a “educational” class trip.

The day of our fateful class trip, May’s hot steamy stench joined us to this water land. I had woken up thirty minutes late, and since I usually wake up fifty minutes before school begins, I was in quite the situation. I had planned to wear a nice crisp yellow T-shirt with my favorite blue jean shorts, which were extra comfortable, but unfortunately this plan didn’t unfold well. These two items were in the laundry hamper, and there was no way they would be washed and dried in twenty minutes. I was left to wear an old oversized T-shirt that had already begun to sweat as soon as I stepped outside. I also had to wear faded black denim shorts, which when mixed with May’s humid weather the outcome is nothing but discomfort. Since Houston ’s dewy climate was in full peak, my head experienced a terrible case of nappy hair syndrome. My hair was cut in a tight bob style, and if it had been straight I would not have minded, but my tiny dark locks were wavy and frizzy. I was a dead target for ridicule.

Once I arrived at school, I dashed towards the entrance of the building, like a man to an oasis in the desert. The sprint had me gasping for air, and many teachers asked if I was having an allergic reaction, but I just told them how glad I was to have air conditioning.

When students are taking a class trip, a school bus is the preferred mode of transportation. School buses, at the time, rarely carried cooling air systems, so I was dreading the ride. Worse, our teacher informed us we would be traveling in an old Dodge van that had no trace of air conditioning, or open windows. We would be trapped inside a mobile sweatbox!

Our school was located on the East Side of Houston, and the Water Wall was on the West Side of town. The thirty-minute van ride was the most intolerable form of cruelty, we felt we were being led to prison and not to a water paradise. After a while, a stench in the van began to surface. Was it a stinky kid in the back of the van who hadn’t showered in four days? Maybe the heavy toxic pollution mixed with humidity, or a dead rat on the freeway shoulder that finally began to decompose? The most reasonable answer to this mystery would have to be the pile of left over food in the back seat, not to mention sweaty fifth graders who do not wear deodorant.

After thirty long, sweaty minutes we reached the West Side of Houston, where mansions and ridiculously expensive foreign cars roam. Even though Houston was my home for six years, I had never seen the west part of town. The streets were filled with savvy businessmen, dealing major transactions over the new oversized telephones called cellular phones. The stoplights on the streets were designed with chrome materials, and the intersections were paved with dark red bricks. Hollywood was the first image that appeared in my mind after seeing this spectacle.

Before visiting this modern masterpiece we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a near by Mc Donald’s Restaurant. Everything on the west of Houston looks like a million bucks, and probably costs that much, so why should this Mc Donald’s be any different? The restaurant was a two floor eating ground, equipped with a gigantic big screen television, and there was definitely no Play Place insight. When lunch was over with, we climbed in the clammy beige van, again. I was preparing myself for disappointment, because so far the only positive thing in my day had been a quarter pounder with cheese.

I was skeptical, and imagined the waterfall to be anything but spectacular. I had watched a movie about a rich boy who bought a fountain, and swam in his brand new toy. I wanted desperately for this wall to become a pool instead. One with crystal clear aqua water, filled with the chlorine scent. As the teacher filled our heads with historical information, as do all teachers, I could not help but look ahead to where the wall was. This brilliant curbed wall of stone stood proudly six or so stories up in the air, right in front of a massive lawn. A cool breeze flowed across my body as I faced the monument. The heavens parted, and the sun glistened over me. By this time I was sure I had turned delusional, because the heat was so intense.

We walked across to the other side of the wall and all I could do was be still. The roaring body of water came rushing down this man made wonder at top speeds. Staring at it with amazement, I became light-headed. After staring at the running water for a consecutive period of time, the body begins to feel a spinning sensation. People who experience extreme motion sickness should be cautious of the wall. I did not mind this feeling, because after a long day of troubles I began to see hope. The cubed wall of water embraced me and took me in. I was standing on the edge of a tropical waterfall. This euphoric feeling was brief, but the impact was everlasting.

At this wall many lovers, or soon to be lovers, congregate under the star lit sky. There is something magical about water flowing at the speed of lightning. The feeling is sensual, which is why I think many school children are taken during the day. Conversations of love are carried through the winds. “ I love you,” and, “Will you be my wife?” are the nightly events at the water wall. For these occasions there is always a cameraman waiting anxiously to take a Polaroid of this monumental moment. “ Five dollars,” the man says as couples try to enjoy their evening. The price may seem unreasonable, but for many lovers, price is not an issue.

Across the street is another lovely part of the West Side . A small pond, which may pass for a small river, is filled with many exotic fish and ducks. The Water Wall is located directly across the Transco Tower . This tower is the tallest skyscraper in Houston , rising over seventy floors. In between the two landmarks is a long rectangular piece of land. This area is the host to many concerts and events. Weddings are said to also take place here, since this is probably were the couple was engaged. This area of Houston is similar to New York ’s Central Park. It is not as massive, but the area still serves its purpose.

The monument has water running on both sides; however, water on the outer wall is not always on. It is turned on during the lunch hour. On that “educational” class trip I was able to experience this phenomenon. The water beginning to fall down is as special as watching a shooting star fly across the deep blue sky. I have seen two shooting stars during my lifetime. On both occasions I have made wishes; however, I can not remember what they were exactly.

While my cousins and I were at the Galleria with Lily, she was growing restless, and was getting quite annoyed with us. Night finally came, and the time was just right to surprise her with the most spectacular sight. As we described what she was about to witness, she did not seem excited. Once again, describing this attraction is not simply done. People will not be amused with hearing the boring description of a beautiful sight. The night was cold and clear, a rarity for this city. A nearby French bistro released its aroma into our direction. The smell of French bread, pasta, crepes, and chocolaty desserts nearly steered us into on coming traffic.

The Water Wall’s lights had finally appeared. The soft yellow incandescent light filled the spectacle with elegance, and transported us into a world of dreams. The soothing rumble of the water began to take effect on us. All of us were single, and at moments like this we wished we had that special someone to share this place in time.

I looked as she stared in awe of this massive superstructure. She seemed like a child who was given free reign over the biggest toy shop in the world. The expression on her face went far beyond that of amusement. “Este lugar esta bellisimo!” she told me. This beautiful place warmed her heart, and reassured her that this city was not too shabby. We had reached our goal of showing her something so special, that for just one moment she wished she lived right here in Houston.

Houstonis an ever changing city, a metropolis for the lost and weary. A romantic city filled with soul, lights, and excitement. This may not be trendy New York City overflowing with wealthy socialites, but Houston has a deep, warm southern charm that most cities would be honored to have. Marvelous structures, such as this, are what give cities their fame. The Water Wall is a diamond in the rough, which needs to be discovered by all visitors and Houstonians alike.

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Tanglewood: The Cool Neighborhood in The Hot City of Houston by Sima Sharifian

Tanglewood is located outside loop 610, south of I-10.

April 2004–Fourteen years ago, my family and I moved to Tanglewood, north of Woodway Street, from Bering Drive, not far from Tanglewood. I had always loved this quiet, spacious neighborhood and hoped to live here one day. At the time, we were among the very few families with small children and soon we became known as the family whose little blond boy was always skateboarding.

Tanglewood consists of the original section, south of Woodway Street, which evolved in 1949; and the new addition, called “New Tanglewood” by the locals, built in 1959 and 1960. The new addition, located north of Woodway Street, was developed for people who wanted a more exclusive neighborhood. The two areas are located just outside Loop 610 and close to Memorial Park, the Galleria, and The Houstonian Club. They are very similar in the style of homes, landscaping, and the general feel of the neighborhood. The only difference is that the new addition has bigger lots, bigger houses, less traffic, and fewer foreigners.

“New Tanglewood” is one of the most prestigious and beautiful residential areas in Houston. The neighborhood is famous for its beautiful fifty-year-old live oak trees, vast beds of lawn, big colorful bushes of azaleas, and the exclusive country club called ” The Houston Country Club.” Houstonians are proud of this neighborhood because of its location, beauty, tranquility, and exclusivity.

Almost all of the original residents are white, elderly Americans. Being foreigners and not having much in common with them made it difficult for us to blend in. Although I enjoyed living and raising my kids here, at times I felt excluded and alone. Tanglewood was built by a builder called William Giddings Farrington who arrived in Houston in 1926 with faith, a dream, and forty dollars in his pocket. His daughter, Mary, in her book, “Tanglewood, The Story of William Giddings Farrington” recounts the life of her father and writes, “one of Mr. Farrington’s greatest accomplishments was the development of the charmed neighborhood called Tanglewood. What started out as prairie land now consists of one of the most beautiful tree lined neighborhoods in Houston.”

The famous Tanglewood Boulevard with a fifty-foot wide esplanade in the middle is located between San Felipe and Chimney Rock. Its one-mile walking path with fifty-year old oak trees on both sides is a great place for jogging, walking, or just visiting. People sit on the teak benches placed in the middle of the esplanade to visit, enjoy the view, or just rest. Sometimes joggers stop to stretch while holding on to these benches. The old, strong branches of the oak trees cover the boulevard and the walking path like a huge umbrella. Squirrels run around, outpacing the joggers. The smell of freshly cut grass, the colorful flowers, and the majestic oak trees create a park-like atmosphere. I think it is this atmosphere along with other qualities that differentiates Tanglewood from other neighborhoods in Houston. Maybe that was why former President, George Bush and his wife chose to live here too.

The original one-story, ranch-style homes are mostly occupied by the original owners. The few houses that face the country club have a fantastic view of the club and its splendid landscape and the club’s golf course is practically an extension of their yards. The new houses are built by a younger generation with small children and they are changing the mood of the neighborhood and making it livelier. Only two families with small children had moved to our street in the last fourteen years. One of them managed to bring a lot of real snow and dump it on their lawn for their little boy’s birthday party last year. The kids, some of whom had never seen or felt the snow before, had a lot of fun sliding on the hills of snow.

While many new houses are being built along the boulevard and on the adjacent streets of old Tanglewood, there is little new construction occurring in new Tanglewood because of the bigger lots and higher prices. Since there are very few vacant lots left, people who need one have no choice but to buy and demolish the old houses and replace them with new two-story ones. Although I like to see new houses and younger residents, I hate to see the old neighbors die and with them part of the history of the neighborhood.

The facades of the original houses are all brick, where as some of the new ones have a stucco finish. The houses and streets are very similar in style making it very easy to get confused and lost, if one is not familiar with the neighborhood. Every time I have a big party one of my guests ends up ringing my neighbor’s doorbell by mistake.

One of my next door neighbors, the Monroes, are a nice white American couple in their late seventies with three grown up sons and have been living here for forty four years. They were very nice to my kids and have watched them grow up and leave home. My daughter visits them every time she comes to Houston. Mrs. Monroe told me that her husband and many other neighbors used to work for the oil companies before retiring. I asked her about the history of the neighborhood and she said “when we moved to our house in January of 1960, Woodway was a two-way paved road with ditches on both sides.” She added, “The neighborhood was like a small town, life was leisurely, and everybody knew each other. The only close stores were a barbershop and a pharmacy called Post Oak Pharmacy. The pharmacy also served sandwiches for lunch and it was a place for the residents to have lunch, drink coffee, or just chat. Everyone had a charge account and the bill was added to our account.” She continued, “The closest grocery store was in Highland Village and in the Galleria area, there was just one department store called Sakowitz.” In fact I remember the Sakowitz store and loved to shop there.

Now there are many shopping centers in the area. The above picture shows a center that is located in Tanglewood. This center has a Wallgreen, Bluckbuster vedio, and Quizno’s subs, my son’s favorite. Tanglewood is also very close to the Post Oak blvd., the most expensive street for the retailers, with different shops and restaurants, like Maggianos. Galleria, the biggest and most prestigious shopping center in Houston with shops like Luis Vuitton, is very close to the neighborhood. The pictures that follow show a view from outside and one from inside the mall.

My favorite time in Tanglewood is the spring when the azaleas bloom. Big bushes of azaleas in a variety of colors surround the houses. If you drive by in the spring, you see waves of purple, white, red, and pink beds of azaleas everywhere. One of the houses on our street has many beautiful rose gardens and has named and dedicated each rose to someone special. She has even named one after the former first lady, Barbara Bush. The beauty and aroma of the roses makes walking by these houses a wonderful experience. My husband walks everyday but he doesn’t like to walk at night for safety reasons. Except occasional incidents against elderly women wearing expensive jewelry while entering their homes, the neighborhood is generally safe with patrol cars driving around day and night. The quiet neighborhood is very popular for walking or biking.

The only sound in the early mornings during the spring and summer is the lovely, relaxing sound of birds singing and on summer nights, the crickets screaming. The birds come in a variety of nice colors like bright yellow, orange, and red. The neighborhood is full of squirrels that race over the electric wires like acrobats and climb up the trees with incredible speed and expertise. I think the birds and the squirrels add to the charm of the neighborhood. Sometimes a young, inexperienced squirrel is run over by a car and the remains leave a sad view for a few days. We are not used to seeing garbage because of the back-door garbage pickup system that keeps the Tanglewood area clean and unique.

Azalea Trail, the Fourth of July celebration and parade, and the Tanglewood Garden Club’s social gatherings are a few events that take place in the Tanglewood area.

The Azalea Trail was established by the River Oaks Garden Club sixty nine years ago. A few historic houses in River Oaks and new Tanglewood areas are included in the trail. These houses are open to the public to visit during two weekends in March.

The spectacular fireworks at the Houston Country Club on the Fourth of July was my children’s favorite event in the neighborhood and they would pass through the vacant lots to take a short cut to the club. The Fourth of July Parade takes place on Tanglewood Boulevard in the morning and horses and trains are provided for the children to ride.

The Tanglewood Garden Club was organized on February 20, 1951 as a social club with four gatherings a year. Tanglewood residents can become members by paying annual dues. The objective of the club as stated in article two of the constitution is “to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs, to aid in the protection of native trees, plants and birds, to encourage civic planting and to generally improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.” My other next door neighbor, a widow in her eighties named Margaret, welcomed us to the neighborhood with a homemade cherry tart when we first moved here and later invited me to join the club. I have learned a lot about the neighbors and the history of Tanglewood by both going to these gatherings and living here for fourteen years. I have come to call it home away from home.

Houston is proud of having two prominent neighborhoods, River Oaks and new Tanglewood. In addition to the class, beauty, and history of these neighborhoods, their exclusivity and originality differentiate them from other areas in Houston and make them popular among native Texans especially but among many others as well.

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Bedazzled and Confused: Katy Mills Mall

5000 Katy Mills Circle
Katy, TX 7749

Telephone: 281-644-5000

April 2004–The largest mall in the world, and I worked there. In Katy, Texas, at the intersection of I-10 and Pin Oak Road, 25 miles west of downtown Houston, laid Katy Mills Mall. A retail and entertainment destination featuring 200 realtors; including manufacturer’s and retail outlets, off-price retailers, category dominant stores, dining and entertainment venues. I want to talk about this mall, because even though it is a very good place to go, personally it was much more than just a mall. When people see Katy Mills they see the obvious and only the things that would attract them there. They see 1.3 million square feet plus 2.5 million square feet of out parcel development on 640 acres, enough to hold 3.5 Astrodomes. They see a year round, one-level, continuous one-mile indoor course with wood tile and carpeted floors which are 145,000 square feet, and enough for 73 homes or 30 basketball courts.

They hear motivational music on Mills TV, which can threat their mind and their bodies while they shop, and could also be used as healthy rewarding exercise program. They see incentive prizes and discounts at many of their fine stores. Unique architecture and bright colors, oversized features and 50 foot tall entrance features, not to mention their interior which is divided into seven neighborhoods, each with its own combination of colors, sculptures, patterns, sounds, and lighting. Even though I am not going to talk much about the mall in a whole it was still one place in the mall that my teenage years linked from and that was the start of trouble.

It all started when I turned 16, I was in desperate need of a job and I needed one fast. Some people think that the place where I worked was just any ordinary place, and to the ordinary eye that may have been so. But in my eyes that was far from the truth. See the ordinary eye saw The Great Steak and Potato Co. with this great big menu that had different types of sandwiches, potatoes, salads and the best lemonade you ever tasted.

To me it was like a small portion of the mall that turned into the whole entire mall. That store was the only thing that existed to me in Katy Mills Mall. Even though I saw everything around me and may have visited the other stores, they meant nothing to me. All I ever saw was the food court and everything that laid in my presence from my restaurant. That carousel that was in the center of the food court, the restaurants that were on the other side of the food court. I use to get so tired of looking at those other restaurants across from us too because they were all so colorful. Even though I was in the food court, I felt like I worked in a toy store and everything was so happy and playful. There were rides in the middle of the food court and little games like the machine where you try and win a stuffed animal, or the game to test your strength. The stage in the food court didn’t make it any better because it got annoying at times. It was this huge black platform that reminded you of that movie in Selena, when she got outside and she was performing in front of all of her fans. The speakers that fell from the ceiling and hung over the stage, the speakers outweighed the entire food court and when it was time of us to work we could not even hear our customers. To me it was like the life of the mall. That is where people went to come and relax, eat, rest, talk, meet people, or just to get something to drink from all the shopping that they were doing.

That is one thing that I really enjoyed, the fact that people came to the food court, the place where I worked and chilled. So, I took advantage of that opportunity. I used Katy Mills as my escape and eventually that mall became my life. I petitioned to work at my job for 40+ hours a week, while still going to school. I use to go to work early, left work late and tried to live my life to the best of my ability. I had that job now and it seemed like everyone liked me better because I had job and more money. I was talking to people when they passed by my job that I went to school with that I wouldn’t normally communicate with outside of class. I really like that, friends would come and I wanted to work more because I never had a lot of friends. Things began to become rituals. I was so called friends it leads to me every so often staying a little late after work. Well, I got so use to staying out late and going into work early, that the job was no longer my obligation or just a place of employment, it became my life. So, I got friends, then things began to get serious, since I was rarely at home, I began to use drugs. My friends would always go chill and do drugs then one day the came to the mall and stood right in front of those glass windows in front of my job and offered drugs to me. I thought to myself that I couldn’t really hurt anything if I used them right. So, I bought the drugs and went to my little hiding spot. There was long tunnel behind the restaurant doors. It traveled all the way to the other side of the mall. Down the tunnel, right in the middle of the mall I stood almost everyday smoking weed. That was almost every kid’s first drug. When I took my breaks and things of that nature I would go to that dark and deserted hiding place and just blow my life away and feel good about it. Slowly, I wanted more.

Eventually, a lot of things began to rise at school and I wanted to become apart of them. Our homecoming dance was about to start and there was this really cute guy that went to Kerr High School and I oh so desperately had to go to homecoming with him. His name was Isaac Ola. He was whom I wanted and since I didn’t have very much that I wanted back then he was whom I had to get. So, he came up to the mall one day and yes that is where we went out. From that point on, that is where we always met up until homecoming. He met me in the front of my job and I was so ready. When my mom dropped me off all I saw was magic. This is the first time out of every time that I pass through to get to work was outstandingly beautiful. To my left were the lights Books-A-Million and to my right was Boss, an appliance store. There were poles everywhere and weird designs that covered the front of the sidewalks and the entrance. You felt like you were in a circus with the lights all shining on you. As I walked through the middle entrance which automatically opened, the most annoying sounds came from the speakers above. They loudly shouted “You are passing through entry 2 into neighborhood 2 sponsored by Memorial Herman Katy Hospital”, then as you would walk a little bit father you would be like somewhat in a holding tank because there were doors in front of you waiting for you to go inside and doors behind you waiting for you to exit outside. As

As I proceeded I almost bumped into a car machine, where mother and guardians would purchase little cars so their child can sit down while they shop. As I glided to my left I continued to walk forward. Looking at all the accessories and amenities that Katy Mils had. I never really paid any attention because I was always in my own little world. The mall was shaped like a race track, there were ATM machines everywhere and bubble gum machines everywhere as well. As my attention fell from the mall, I finally saw who I had been waiting to see. Right in front of Great Steak, my job, was Isaac. Life couldn’t’ have gotten any better because I felt perfect. Well after homecoming he would show up sometimes just to see me. Everything I wanted to do, I knew I could not do it at home because my parents were so strict. So, I told myself if you want to get high, if you want to make extra money on the side, if you want to get away from home, if you want to see Isaac, then you have to take it a step father. So, I did, I got another job. I was in Katy Mills so much when I had days off people were like what happened to you yesterday, why were you at work? I liked the attention that I received at my job.

I started skipping school, with no transportation, so I would walk to Katy Mills just to skip.

My stories could go on and on about everything I experienced in that mall because 3 years passed by and I just quit a couple of days ago. Therefore, as you can tell, I can’t just look at Katy Mills like everyone else does. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking or because that mall was my second home. I went to that mall to live and just to do what I thought I needed to do. I went to smoke weed and I got high. I went to get money and ended up coming out with extra advantages. I went to see Isaac and I did at every opportunity I wanted to. I wanted to see my friends and when I was at work I saw them I wanted to leave home and ran right to my comfort zone. I wanted to do everything and with no supervision or guidance that mall was my answer or maybe not. Now that everything is clear to me, I can tell you that Katy Mills is not just a place to go and enjoy the games and pizza, the clothes or the adventure it has installed in it. To me it is a place that has raised me from my adolescent, clueless and troublesome years and shifted me into my independent, strong woman hood. Thank that Katy Mills, I have stopped looking for myself found myself and thanks to God escaped my unknown escape to start my known life.

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The Marq*E by Gigi Lopez

7620 Katy Freeway,
Houston, TX
(713) 263-7843

November 2010-The image I can’t get out of my head is two teens having an Icee at the movie theatre on a Saturday night talking about how pretty and fun the Marq*E had been that night. Hip Hop music playing, doors opening and closing, water falling from the waterfall, kids laughing, and people saying cheers is heard every night at the Marq*E. Houstonians find this place like a get away. Yeah people think of Houston as a country with no tourist attractions but little do they know that this complex is a great place to go have fun. On weekdays, weekends and even holidays you will never see this complex closed or empty. Everyone from kids to adults have a place in this center where they can have so much fun. The Marq*E is the Heaven of Houston, anyone is welcome but its all up to you if you want to have fun or not. The Marq*E center is located on I-10 west and silber. This 360,000 square foot entertainment center features a 22-screen state-of-the-art Edwards Cinema and IMAX screen, a variety of quality restaurants and retail shops, a comedy club, and Houston’s most popular multi-venue setting night club. This center is very unique in Houston because there is no other like it.

The most popular is of course the Edwards Cinema. As you walk in you see all the lights and showings which make you just want to go watch a movie. All teens go to the movies to get away with their friends. I spend a lot of time watching movies there with my friends or cousins. The ticket takers are great on telling you where your showing room will be. Passing up that person is the great concession stand. The smell of popcorn, pickles, pizza, and hot dogs is amazing. There is about 15 showing rooms including 4 Imax Theatres. The Imax theatres are used for big showings like movie premieres or popular movies that always have a lot of viewers. The Imax is so big that there is four exits. There is the two downstairs and two upstairs. Upstairs is just for the exits to the theatres, no showing rooms. During the week there is a lot of showings as well for those who don’t like the rush on weekends. This theatre differs from others in many ways. One way is that there is people from all of Houston going to it, in comparison to others theatres where those theatres only have people from around that side of town its located in. There was a time I made new friends from Humble at this place. I was so shocked to know that these girls would go to the Marq*E all the way from Humble.

There is a lot of places to go to if you suddenly get the urge for some food . There is a Red Robin, Dave and Busters, Café Adobe, New York Pizzeria, and Wings & More. Café Adobe is a Tex Mex restaurant that has been running for 25 years. Café Adobe is known for Houston’s best Margaritas. If you are hungry for gourmet burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, wraps, and soups Red robin is the place to go. Red Robin has been open since the 1940’s and still going strong with its great food. Out of all the places to eat, my favorite has to be New York Pizzeria. This pizzeria has great smells as soon as you walk in. This small pizza shop has great flavors and different toppings for pizza. The owners are from Italy but opened up their first shop in New York. For this reason, this pizzeria has great Italian sensations. The pastas, wines, pizzas, soups, and salads have a very catchy taste that will have you wanting more. Wings & More is one of the most famous wings restaurant in Houston. I’m sure each place has its specials but everyone knows about Two for Tuesday at Wings & More. Wings & More will be full and a have waiting list to get a table every Tuesday.

Entertainment wise, there is Dave & Buster’s, Pump it Up, Improv Comedy club, and Drinks Houston night club. Dave & Buster’s is a family place where parents can eat and drink and have their kids satisfied as well with the games inside. It’s a bar, restaurant, and arcade all in one. They also have bowling for those who like to bowl. Ever dreamt of having an place to go where there is big colorful inflatable’s where you and your kids can have fun? Well at the Marq*E your dream has come true. Pump it up is an inflatable place where kids can go jump and have fun. They also have birthday parties on weekends and during the week they have “Pop-in-Play” which is a good thing for kids who are bored at home and want to go play. On special occasions they have Parents night out in which the staff takes care of the kids while the parents have a night out. Pump it Up has many locations in Houston but the one at the Marq*E is its central location and gets a lot of new and cool stuff. I worked at Pump it Up for about 6 months and I enjoyed it there as an employee. Also the comedy club is fun for adults who want to get a good laugh in. There are also magic shows and comedy shows for kids of all age. For those who love to dance, the Marq*E is also a place for them. Drinks Houston is a very popular night club in Houston. There is only one Drink Houston location and its in the Marq*E. Starting on Thursdays you can show up at that club for some drinks and dancing fun. There are 4 different dance floors in this one big club. The first dance floor is filled with people and plays party music. The second dance floor is called the 8.0 Retro. In this room there is music played from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. In the third dance room you have a mix of Latin music. This is called the Rain Bar, it plays Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, and Hispanic Urban music. The last room they have is called Center Stage Karaoke. This is the room where a person has thousands of song to choose from and gets to sing for fun or show of their great voices. Its nice to get away sometimes to just dance and have a good time. The bad thing about this club is that once adults start drinking they get very violent. There are some nights that end with violence.

The Marq*E is a unique place because even though it has international shops in it, it also has places that are only found in Houston. There is only one Marq*E center in Houston and it’s the only complex that has all these amazing services for you. Even the food places found in the complex are unique compared to others in Houston because they are much bigger, classier, and fancier than most of the other locations. The people at the Marq*E are very nice, never rude, and all get along. If I can say something bad about the people that go to the Marq*E is the teens that start fights between each other. Kids will be kids and always make little mistakes.

I am sure most people think of cowboys, horses, saddles, and ranches when they hear about Houston Texas. As you can see the Marq*E is far from that. It is just a place where any person of any age can go to have fun or relax.

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Frito Lay: The World’s Largest Snack Food Corporation

3310 Hwy. 36 North
Rosenberg, TX 77014

April 2004–Throughout high school I was quite studious. In my house grades came first, therefore I was not allowed to work until I was eighteen years old, though I always wanted to work because I wanted to feel independent. When I graduated I decided that it was time for me to spread my wings and join the work force, especially since I would be starting college in the fall and needed extra money for books and such. At first I was just aiming for a job in a department store like Foley’s or Lord and Taylor , a starter job. I applied for several positions and I guess its not often you meet an eighteen year old these days that has absolutely no job experience whatsoever, so consequently, all the jobs I applied for were pretty much hit and miss. By this time I was getting a little frustrated, so one day I was just lounging around the house thinking about what I was going to do next, this Cheetos commercial came on with Chester Cheetah and I was thought that could work. “I am a Cheetos addict, therefore, why not work with something you love, or at least try to?
I decided I wanted to be a part of the Frito Lay team. I discussed this with my mom and she was very supportive. My mom informed me that Frito Lay had a factory in Rosenberg ,Texas , which is about thirty five minutes from my home. My mom said “If that is what you truly want to do then go for it. Just do not get upset if you do not get the job.” I prepared myself and about a week or so later I went to the company and filled out and application and at first the human resource manager told me they were looking for a Q.A. tech (Quality Assurance) and it would be perfect for a college student because it was only part time and you chose what days you wanted to work and your hours would fluctuate at your discretion. As a Q.A technician my job would be to check the nitrogen sensors on the machines and run test on the product to test for foreign matter, allergens, or cross contaminant which could result in lawsuits. My job was to make sure that the consumer was getting the best product we could supply

Surprisingly, I expected for this to be a hit and miss opportunity also, but I tried to be positive and just waited to hear from them. The human resource manager Cheryl Riddell gave me a call three days later and wanted me to come in for an interview the following day. I was so nervous but I managed to get through it and luckily I got the job

I first went on a tour of the plant to get aware of the site, because I would have to be in every part of the plant at some point. Tours are offered by appointment five days a week during the hours of 9a.m. to 5p.m. free of charge. I was shown the prep room where they peel, wash, and soak the potatoes before they reach the processing area where they are fried and sent down the conveyor to drip and cool and then the packaging area where they travel from the kitchen to the allyns where they are dropped down spiral chutes onto stat-weighers which are machines that weigh the amount of product and release it into the bags and then are packed in boxes and placed on pallets then shipped out.

I remember the first day I entered the production plant, walking through the sheeted (Doritos, Tostitos) packaging room the smell of corn filled the area and the machines were blaring and packers moving quickly packing bags in boxes, in a sort of robotic fashion. As I walked further into the plant I came to the PC (potato chip) department the smell of grease and old chips made me sick to my stomach and the floors were slippery from years of saturated grease. Machines on either side less than four feet apart. It was kind of gloomy in a way, many of the packers seemed unhappy you know sort of like they were there because they did not have a choice. Which made me wonder why I was so excited was it just the fact that I was young and this was my first job or had I gotten lucky and was not standing at the packing line.

I worked as a Q.A. Tech for four months, until an opening for another position came up for a Food Safety Coordinator. As Food Safety Coordinator I had some sort of input in operations, I am in charge of the sanitation team and I have the opportunity to travel to other Frito-Lay plants around the world to gather techniques used to insure the safety of the product. I placed my bid in the box still not thinking I would get that position, because I was going for the same position as workers who have been with the company for twenty years and were definitely more qualified than I was but my mom always said that you will never know what you are truly capable of until you actually get out there and try it. I waited for news regarding that position for three weeks, possibly the longest three weeks of my life and I finally hear from Cheryl June 1, she congratulated me and informed me that I had been given the position and I would be starting the following Monday.

Once I was awarded the position I could feel a great deal of animosity towards me from veterans within the factory. I could understand the way they must have felt in a way and I wondered what made me stand above the rest. My resource informed me that I was chosen because they were looking for a young energetic person to represent there company and someone who would be able to grow with the company and not be eligible for retirement in the next ten or so years.

Now when people ask me where I work and I tell them Frito Lay they immediately think of potato chips. However, potato chips was merely the beginning of this multi-billion dollar conglomeration which is the result of the merger of two independent privately owned companies began some twenty nine years ago. On September of 1932 a man named Elmer Doolin a former ice cream business owner in San Antonio , Texas whom purchased the Fritos Corn Chip recipe from a Mexican immigrant who was desperately trying to return back to his native land, for the mere price of one hundred dollars. The other future partner of the company was a man named H.W Lay of Nashville , Tennessee who in 1938 purchases an Atlanta potato chip company from a former supplier whom he had been working for after it was in danger of failing and changed the name to H.W Lay and Co.

In 1945 H.W Lay & Company was granted the right to distribute Fritos corn chips. Frito Lay later partnered with Pepsi Cola in 1965 forming PepsiCo which is now a thirteen billion dollar operation in itself, which now operates under three major business groups World Wide Foods ( Frito-Lay, PepsiCo International), World Wide Beverages (Pepsi Cola and also restaurants such as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and PepsiCo foods international. The company has grown and evolved drastically throughout the years, it now distributes several brand of potato chips such as Fritos, Doritos, Funyouns, Ruffles, Lays, Cheetos, and Tostitos, along with cracker jack , and Grandma’s cookies along with several less popular products just to name a few. Frito Lay is taking the world by storm it also now merged to incorporate Tropicana, Gatorade, Quaker, and Pepsi Cola. Few people actually know the history of Frito Lay which has now grown to be the world’s largest multi billion dollar snack food corporation. Frito lay is constantly seeking for new ideas about how to improve an existing product and even create another one. Hopefully, I will play a part in the innovation of a new product somewhere down the line sometime in my career.

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Home Away From Home: Bellaire/Veritas Christian Academy by Veronesia Proctor

7000 Ferris Street
Bellaire, TX 77401-3921
(713) 773-9605

November 2010 – In a stop and go drop off line in front of Bellaire Christian Academy, our gray minivan finally reaches the front door. It is a tall beautiful stained glass door in the artistic, of a style church to be specific. As Ceily’s four wheels come to a complete stop, my mom yells, “Hurry up kids and have a blessed day!” Rubbing my eyes as the thumping of my feet tap the gymnasium floor, I am greeted with a hug from one of my best friends. I see about forty children playing board games, listening to music, or reading books, as I prepare for a game of speed. I spent ten years doing a similar routine every morning.

Approximately forty minutes after I won the card game, my tall, skinny, mid aged, grumpy homeroom teacher asks, “Does everyone have on their chapel attire, and their lunch cards completely filled out?” Some answer yes ma’am while others get warnings for not being properly dressed or not having their cards filled out. The school clown says, “Yay, only three more months left and we are off to the real world.” The rest of the gym laughs, but I begin to think of how I will be going off to high school, with no more recess, no more fantastic Fridays, no more class trips to London, or most of all no more spending nine hours of my day with some of the people I love most. Tears run down my face, because this place is all I ever knew when it came to my second home and my learning center.

RING, RING, tells us it’s time to go our homeroom class. Lunch, Pencils, Board is what we are greeted with walking in to the classroom, which means put your lunch cards in your slots, sharpen your pencils, and check the board for our morning activity. At 1pm we go out for recess, the average person probably would say after 5th grade recess should stop. BCA believed that we were never too old for a 30 minute break outside on the playground. Majority of the girls had girl talk, while the boys played dodge ball or football. On our way back to class I see sweat running down the boys face followed by a lingering stench. After recess it always seems as if class went by so slow. Always to my surprise that dreadful RING RING sound that we heard in the morning, was now a joyful sound to us. It was the end of our day. Depending on the day and season I headed to track, volleyball, or basketball practice with Christine. She was a great athlete in every sport she attempted. Christine said, “Some of my best memories happened while I was participating in sports. I enjoyed the fact that our coaches found out what we liked at what we were good at. They helped us improve our skills physically and emotionally.” While we were at practice the boys were at football or basketball practice, “The funniest thing was after practice Coach Dave always said, “Go home and do your Homework.” Not a day passed that those words did not come out of his lips.” James stated.

Family through Christ Jesus is what comes to mind when I think of Bellaire Christian Academy. BCA is physically my past, but forever lives in my heart. Veritas Christian Academy became the new name of Bellaire Christian Academy in 1998. Veritas is a Latin word that means truth, and God is truth. Using a classical method Veritas emphasized the story of Western civilization and the Christ church is embedded in it. Veritas Christian Academy is said to be in existence for one purpose and that is to help children reach their maximum potential in life, guiding children to be all that God our Savior has called them to be. In order to understand God’s creation they teach academic disciplines of mathematics, literature, science, history, and languages. My experience in this school has prepared my mind for higher levels of education, while installing an awesome Christian foundation for the journeys in my life to come. My heart now yearns to know more about Christ and His stories. BCA helped me to figure out the reason I am on this earth, and that is to witness the Gospel of my Lord and Savior to those who do not have knowledge of Him.

A decade has gone by since I have been to Bellaire/Veritas Christian Academy. As I drove up into the parking lot I saw a yellow cross surrounded by the paintings that my classmates and I painted in the 1900’s. It meant a lot to me to see that they would keep something of this sort and display as one of the first things the public see’s, of course I had to take a picture of it! I was then greeted by Mrs. Raad, she was in shock to see that the little Nenee that she knew was all grown up, she escorted me to the front office were I met the lady who took care of me from there. The smell of a new office was what I smelled while filling out a form. I sat on a navy blue chair by a bear stuffed animal with the school t-shirt on and a bow tied around its neck, that felt like cotton; I was waiting for further instructions. Two 3rd grade girls run into the office and one says, “Rihanna cannot find her sweater!” They told them to go look in the restroom and see if they could find it. Relaxing in my chair I took a look around the office, I noticed that the school is interested into the Art Festival. Six pictures that were painted by the children served as decoration for the office walls; there was also a pop out bed and a pillow. I assumed that was for a child if he/she became sick during school hours. As I glanced across the cheap looking wood floor I spotted a caterpillar strolling from one end of the office to the other. My ears are wide open and I hear a lady in her office saying, “Our school does not have money to go from year to year, so we have to do a live auction that usually brings in enough money.” I overheard that she was in the process of trying to get more grants for the school. After her conversation ends the office is filled with silence and soon after I was let free to go and roam the school as I pleased. Once you exit each classroom your are outside, which isn’t bad because the school is gated. I peeked through the classroom windows as I walk down the sidewalk. Pre-K takes a nap while kindergarten paints pictures. For the first time in my life I saw a classroom strictly for teaching languages other than English, called the Foreign Language Classroom. In classroom 3A some of the children were reading books and finishing projects during free time. Two minutes later about twenty boys and girls walk my way with their sports attire on. They were on the way to get prepared for their games against Wesley. I then asked them what they thought about this school one girl said, “I love this school and my teachers are awesome!” My last question to them was what do they learn spiritually at Veritas and a blonde hair boy said, “We learn the importance of loving Christ and trying to become more like Him in all that we do.”

My parents say that this was one of the best decisions that they have made in their life. This school has been a blessing to them. BCA was like another set of parents. The taught us spiritually and mentally, they disciplined in a way that they approved and they also love as if we were their children from the womb. Verlensia, my short, beautiful 20 year old sister, feels that BCA helped to broaden her horizons. Along with that they helped her to build her social skills to the point where she is able to interact with people from all walks of life. The desire to be more like Christ has helped her in an area she struggles in daily and that is forgiveness. Something she remembers vividly and misses most, is the fresh mashed potato and gravy smell that came from the kitchen on Wednesdays. James says” In my experience at BCA my Faith in Christ Jesus has grown exceptionally, I have also learned to summarize from Mrs. Capps and how to expand equations and a little geometry from Mrs. Raad, who is now the Principal. I could go on and on about BCA but in one word that I would use to describe the school as a whole is Foundation.” Bellaire Christian Academy has similarities with the world we live in today.

 Religion may be in both, it is scattered around the world, but everywhere in Bellaire Christian Academy. There are Christian churches in the all around the United States, in the U.K., in South America, Asia Australia, India, Russia, the Middle East and a few more that I did not name. In some countries it is illegal to practice Christianity; they have underground churches where they go for praise and worship. In the world we learn a number of things that changes as society changes. God’s Word never changes, which means what Veritas teaches will forever be the same in our forever changing society.

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LINKS:

http://www.veritasca.org/index_flash.html

http://www.popcs.org/news/news.htm

http://www.gci.org/jesus

Veronesia is a Junior at University of Houston-Downtown who is transferring to central campus to pursue her degree in Graphics Communication. She was born on August 20, 1987 to Ronald and Verlonda Proctor in Houston, Tx. She has a son named Jacob. She has an older brother named Ronald and a younger sister named Verlensia. She is also very blessed to have two beautiful niece’s named Zarriah and Ryliegh.

Her passion is Jesus, graphics, and cheerleading. Bellaire Christian Academy is the school that gave her the Christian foundation that she tries to show on a daily basis. Yet she learned her love for graphic design at Lamar High School playing around with people’s pictures and party flyers. Since she was knee high to a grasshopper all she has ever known is cheerleading, from little league, to high school varsity team, to all-star cheerleading. She works part-time at a charter school as a cheerleader coach. She spends most of her time embracing life with her family and trying to live Christ like.

Barnes and Nobles: The Peace Within by Tina Cherian

7626 Westheimer

Houston, Texas, 77063

January 2004–It is 4:30 pm and I am driving down Highway 6 South, just before the intersection at Providence, on my way to meet my friends at Barnes and Nobles.  Horns are honking, tires are squealing, and Mother Nature is taking revenge upon us, for the environmental sins, we have committed, by burning us alive with the heat.  I sit there, and stare ahead in an almost zombie-like state, waiting to escape from my heat automated prison.  Someone from behind shouts out a familiar verbal obscenity at a driver who brashly swerved into a tiny gap existing between my car and the car directly behind me.  I look over to see what the commotion was, and it was not what was happening that drew my attention, instead it was what I was seeing that hit me, tens of cars, all lining up like soldiers in war, ready to head into battle against a solar enemy, putting the statement “warriors of steel” to literal use.

Finally, I turn into the parking lot for Barnes and Nobles, and get out of my car. As I walk towards the entrance, I see two middle aged men walking in the same direction as me.  Both men are sporting the same look: short black hair, with white long sleeve shirts, each hold black leather briefcases with one hand, and each other’s hands with the other.  As I approach the door, one of the men, opens it for me and lets me in before them.  I thank them and in return hold the door for them.

As I walk inside, I am immediately greeted with a presence of calm that I can never quite experience anywhere else.  Ideally suited for the thinking individual, its quiet and personal atmosphere is so welcoming to all that one would just have to enter.  I look around for my friends and see them sitting on the floor near the window.  As I walk towards them and say hello, one of my friends tells me that they want to get something to eat, from Starbucks, next door.  They ask if I would like to join them, and I say no, as I would rather sit, relax, and bask in the tranquil surroundings within Barnes and Nobles.

I decide to stay where I am and do what I do everyday, which is to look through the same magazines, with the same cosmetically enhanced figures, and the same “age- defying,” surgically altered, “natural” faces on the covers.  Falling into the hole of materialism, I pick up a Cosmopolitan and decide to look through it.

Some may wonder however, if peace is all that is required, why not just visit a library?  However, Barnes and Nobles is more than a library, in numerous ways.  To begin with, upon entering a library, one is forced to constrict themselves to a set of several trivial rules, such as the all too familiar sign at the entrance reading, “NO FOOD” or “PLEASE BE SILENT.”  Barnes and Nobles, on the other hand, do not have these trivial waste-of-paper-signs hanging on their doors, and instead allow customers to eat while they peruse through the shelves of books, talk to each other while reading or studying, or just simply talk.   

While reading, I hear the front doorbell chime.  Curious to see who it is, I look up to find an elderly man, with a black and yellow-checkered golf shirt and oversized gold-rimmed spectacles.  I watch as he approaches the front desk and asks an employee where he can find “plant books” for his wife.  The employee at the front desk directs the elderly man to the gardening section of the bookstore.  Soon he disappears amongst the many books, and I go back to the “intellectually captivating” material I was just reading.  I flip though the magazine for something interesting and start to laugh when I find an article on Cameron Diaz, titled “Tips On How YOU Can Get That Sexy Glow.” 

As I am reading into this article, an explosion of laughter erupts in the far corner.  I see seven girls, identically dressed with white flip-flops, each decorated with one bright plastic flower.  The septuplets, wearing rainbow colored tank tops, and white short shorts, are all laughing in unison about something they heard about another girl at school.  I start to smile to myself thinking, “Oh my gosh do I sound like them?”  I lean my head back against the window, cover my face with the magazine and slowly start laughing.

I hear another chime of the doorbell sound, I look up, and this time it is a young boy in his teens.  He walks in with a “rough-n-tough” appearance, with baggy pants and chains hanging from his back pockets, like a background actor, just leaving the set of the “Gangster’s Paradise” production studio, carrying something in an almost concealed manner in his hands.  Half expecting the concealed object to be a gun, I squint my eyes and to my surprise see that the “concealed weapon,” is in fact a big, shiny, red book. Thinking that it looks similar to something I had at home, I once again squint my eyes, to see the words “S A T,” in big white letters on the front cover.  I watch, as the teenage boy, casually walks to an empty table, where just moments before, seven identically dressed girls had sat busily whispering gossip and somehow, left without notice.  The young boy sits down, opens the glossy paperback cover to his big-shiny-red-book, and resumes his reading, I too go back to mine.

Bored by looking at the multiple pictures of Cameron Diaz, I turn the page to find an article about the “spirituality” of yoga.  As I begin to read, I find that the article is simultaneously degrading and debasing the art of yoga, for the simple interest of shallow minds.  Not even once, stating its many psychological and medicinal advantages, it simply shows pictures of middle-aged women, sporting skintight work out clothes, thriving to get the rock hard Brittany Spears “abs” or the “perfect” Jennifer Lopez body.  Disappointed at the materialism in just about everything today, I briskly turn the page.

While skimming through the magazine, I hear the doorbell chime once again. This time it is a woman and following quite a distance behind her, is her teenage daughter.  The mother, noticeably bothered by her daughter’s apathy, calls her name out and tells her to quicken her pace.  The daughter as a result straightens her back and walks faster.  I watch, as the mother walks over to the desk and asks for an application form for her daughter.  I watch, as the mother begins to fill out the form on her daughter’s behalf, explaining to the woman at the front desk, that she would like her daughter to work at Barnes and Nobles, because it is the only place she knows that her daughter will be safe.  Remembering that I too, desperately need a job, I attempt to get up and ask for an application form as well.

However once again, I am interrupted in my thoughts when I see my friends coming back, with their “chocolate brownies.”  They tell me that they want to leave, and go watch a movie.  Almost saddened, that I have to leave such a peaceful place, I slowly gather my belongings, and leave the magazine where I found it, near the window, next to a crumpled up Starbucks straw wrapper.  On my way out, I see the young teenage boy with the baggy pants, crouching over the table, reading aloud sentences with a perplexed expression and desperately trying to make sense of what he is reading.  I laugh to myself and point it out to one of my friends, as we remember how we too, used to come to Barnes and Nobles and study for our SAT’s and do the very same thing.  Both of us laughing, and cherishing those forgotten fond memories, we walk toward the exit with the rest of our friends. 

As I open the door to leave, I am greeted with the ear piercing loud sounds of a nearby car alarm, like a call of the wild, waking all the metallic animals of this world, coming from the direction of a nearby black Mercedes with tinted windows.  Instantly thrust, form a temporary world of calm and tranquility, I am thrown back into the busy, noisy and chaotic lifestyle that we all ironically choose to live. I start to wish that the same tranquil atmosphere within Barnes and Nobles could replace the screaming sound of metal.  Barnes and Nobles, at Highway 6, is truly my favorite place in Houston.  I like it because its peaceful atmosphere possesses a welcoming presence to all who enter.  With its perfect blend of different things for different types of people from, music by globally acclaimed artists, beautifully decorated journals, contemporary to historical novels, and cards to coffee, it is the only place in which, such an eclectic variety of people can go.  It is by far, my favorite place in Houston and I recommend all to give it a try.

 

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Links

     Barnes and Nobles

     Starbucks

     Entertainment News

     Britney Spears 

     Cameron Diaz

     Jennifer Lopez

     Cosmopolitan

     Princeton Review