A winter storm is arriving as I type this, and our state government has done NOTHING to prevent the power failures of last winter.
Looking for something else on my laptop, I found a folder of very, very old pictures taken with, I think, a Palm Treo. (At any rate, they’re all VGA-resolution pictures, which means 640 x 480 pixels. By contrast, the pictures I take with my iPhone are something like 4000 x 3000.)
The timestamp says these are from March 11, 2005, but those of us that were there remember it as “the night the Tramps played through a convenience store”:
The Rev (l) with nudie mags:
The now-famed Mr Mueller, bassist to the stars, wearer of excellent jumpsuits:
“Anonymous” Big-Fiddle witch:
No such thing as too much banjo:
Back “home” on the stage at Alabama Ice House:
Far-flung folks are worried, so, first: Erin and I are fine. We stay fine. Our home has never, ever flooded, and probably won’t this time, just because of the mild elevation our area enjoys.
We have power. We have food, bourbon, wine, cable, and Internet. But much of Houston has none of these things right now, and there but by the grace of God, you know? I’d love to be able to say I made a study of Houston flood plains when I bought this place, but in truth I just bought what i could afford in the neighborhood I wanted to live in — the elevation is a happy accident, but it’s a VERY happy accident indeed.
Now, some context.
There’s a picture being tossed around in social media that I want to share, and annotate a bit. It was taken from a high-rise apartment building at Studemont and Memorial, and looks back to the southeast towards our neighborhood, and includes Buffalo Bayou, which is one of the many natural waterways that run through Houston.
Here’s the neighborhood in question from Google maps:
Key things to look for are the headquarters for Service Corporation International (who are, by the way, straight-up evil) and the studios for local TV station KHOU.
And here’s what the bayou looks like normally, with the same points marked — n.b. that the bayou is lined by a couple levels of paths and no small amount of greenspace. It’s a lovely area; people run and bike and walk and picnic there all the time. Trails there are connected to a network that stretches through huge parts of the city, and that network is growing all the time.
And here’s what it looks like right now:
KHOU has had to evacuate. The uphill grade on Taft is what’s saving us, basically, but the waterline ON Taft is far, far higher than we’ve ever seen it — only a block or so north of Dallas, which is completely BANANAS, because the idea of the water at that point covering even Allen Parkway is pretty unusual.
Now, that’s still a long way from us, both in terms of distance but also in terms of elevation, but it’s still shocking.
Houston’s formerly fair-haired restaurant group Treadsack (Down House, Foreign Correspondents, Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s, etc.) is in serious trouble; stories have been circulating for a while now about payroll problems, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the problems are directly tied to a ridiculously over-ambitious expansion program probably timed to take advantage of the regional and national press accolades they were piling up.
Finally, the Houston Press gets to the bottom of it and — spoiler alert — it ain’t pretty. The Texas Comptroller’s Office has frozen their accounts; the IRS has over a million bucks in liens against them; and at least two banks aren’t honoring their checks. I’m pretty sure this is how you spell “fucked.”
it’s a damn shame, because the food at Down House was legit, and both Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s were delightful (if overpriced). I guess the good news is that someone’s gonna snap those locations up, though — they’re lovely.
My personal booze hero Justin Vann has some thoughts on the Vulgar Hedonism of Brunch that you really oughta make time for.
By now we’ve all seen friends posting (old) news stories about famous people who have died as though it was recent news, right? Something along the lines of “I can’t believe Elvis died!”, followed by several other comments of disbelief before someone points out the obvious: that Mr Presley passed away 39 years ago.
Today, well, it’s not just Facebook; at the Chronicle:
Jesus, check a fucking FACT, why don’t you?
Venerable Montrose tavern Cecil’s Pub — where I spent a nontrivial part of the 90s, and met people who became lifelong friends — is up for sale after 26 years.
It was always a good place back then (and, I’m sure, now). The bartenders learned your name quickly, and became friends; one of them even became a pretend white supremacist on TV, much to our shared glee. Sometimes, celebs drifted through — I literally bumpted into Tim Robbins at the bar one night (“who the hell is this tall motherfucker in my way ZOMG I LOVED THE PLAYER“). The bar survived the early gentrification of the area, and even a fire (which, I’m sure, was probably the only way to clean the carpets at that point).
The Chron has a nice feature about it, and reminds us that it was featured in Dave Attell’s Insomniac back in 2001, the entirety of which is on YouTube so you can see pre-fire Cecil’s.
Owner Kimberly Blythe is selling to retire (and good for her), but hopes someone will take over. Even though I never go there anymore, I hope so, too.
Seen today, on my neighborhood’s Facebook group, where someone is actually upset that their new tax appraisal is more than 10% higher than last year (i.e., the homestead limit) because they added a pool, a two car garage, and an elevator.
You probably don’t know, so read this.
Or, at least, their (no doubt soon-to-be-former) pilot Bruce Wayne Wallis sure was giving it the ol’ college try.
My mother was visiting this weekend, and I’m pleased to report that Montrose managed to rise above the gentrification enough to produce a delightfully odd moment yesterday: on our way home from brunch, about 4 blocks from home, we passed a buff, shirtless middle-aged dude walking down Taft in the rain holding an enormous green parrot.
From 25 September until 17 October, my friends at The Catastrophic Theatre will be producing my favorite play: Maria Irene Fornes’ The Danube.
The same people — director and cast, though I don’t know if puppets are involved this time — staged this play in Houston once before, with Infernal Bridegroom every bit of 15 years ago. I saw that performance, too, and reviewed it for a long-defunct local paper.
Because I am a packrat, I still have that review, which I’ve pasted in below. It’s amusing to me to read, because at the time none of these people were my friends. I hope it’s amusing to you as well, and encourages you to see this show. Performances are all at 8pm, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. All shows at Catastrophic are pay-what-you-can.
Let me be perfectly clear: prior to entering the Atomic Cafe on Friday night, I had no idea what I was going to see. All I knew was “IBP and Bobbindoctrin puppets,” which sounded at least interesting, so off I went. An article from American Theater posted in the lobby gave me a bit more background: The Danube is a piece by Maria Irene Fornes. (This is a name worth remembering.) Her work as described by the AT article makes her sound like a perfect match for Infernal Bridegroom – experimental, often challenging pieces that may well leave the audience just a bit (or more) bewildered. And, as if this wasn’t enough fun, the Danube includes puppets – making the collaboration with Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theater a natural development.
The Danube has its origins as a piece of found art; Fornes built the play around an old Hungarian language record. The initial scenes between Paul (Troy Schulze), Mr. Sandor (Charlie Scott) and Sandor’s daughter Eve (Amy Bruce) are enunciated and exaggerated to the point of parody. Add to this an intermittent voiceover from the language record itself preceding each line, and an odd sort of disconnection rules the scene. From these pattern sentences, though, Fornes weaves a simple enough story – at first. Paul is an American businessman sent to Budapest; he meets Mr. Sandor and Eve; courting ensures; eventually, Paul is called home, prompting them to marry, which essentially concludes the linear narrative – but not the play’s action. The pattern-sentence language-instruction motif fades (but never completely) in favor of a sort of Euro-film surrealism that grows into the outright bizarre before the play’s abrupt conclusion. Paul becomes ill; he may or may not have been conscripted. Everyone deteriorates dramatically, apparently afflicted with some grotesque palsy. There is plenty of goggle wearing, and frankly there’s just not enough of that in modern American drama. Two scenes are done with tiny puppets manned by the actors on a perfect miniature version of the stage, complete with smoke and light wafting from the floorboards.
So what’s happening here? Is it life during wartime? Is it a plague? What is Fornes up to? In the American Theater article (September, 2000), the author (Steven Druckman) suggests that “the best way to wrap your mind around the plays of Maria Irene Fornes is to abandon all hope of understanding them.” This is probably true. He goes on: “[Fornes] is for people who prefer passion to fashion, who prefer awe to wit. She is for those of us who don’t mind admitting that we’re still groping in the dark.”
Spot on, I think.
To allow this play to swirl around you is to experience it most fully and, ultimately, purely. Do not chase the plot, ticking off characters and events as if you were at a hockey game. There is ample time for reflection after the final curtain. Allow Fornes (and, by association, IBP director Jason Nodler and company) to assemble this thing on their own terms; you will be hard pressed to find this experience elsewhere. Certainly no one else in town will go this far from the beaten path. IBP is in fine, fine form here, aided in no small part by the collaboration with Bobbindoctrin. The small cast – Bruce, Schulze, Scott, and the irrepressible Kyle Sturdivant in four supporting roles – is well chosen. Schultze exudes the alien confidence of a businessman abroad when the U.S. ruled the world; Scott and Bruce are exemplars of a formal old-world charm. Sturdivant, when so called upon, delivers some of the few genuinely comic lines with scene-stealing aplomb – and his almost menacing monologue as a waiter is not to be missed. Costume, properties, and sound are all beyond reproach; the primary set pieces are beautiful drops painted by Bobbindoctrin. Small details throughout the production are universally solid, from the costumed set-changers to the upholstery on the puppet-stage furnishings. This is some of IBP’s finest work yet.
In a conversation with Nodler after the show, he mentioned that this is at least the third time he’s attempted to stage The Danube – and each prior time he cancelled the production when he feared it would miss the mark for some reason or another; that mark must certainly be met here. Nodler studied under Fornes in college, which no doubt drove his ambition for the play, and in turn informs his obvious pleasure with this show. He told anecdotes about the production, the play, and Fornes, and led my date and I backstage to show us the smoking apparatus used for the puppet stage. His excitement and enthusiasm for the play and production were infectious (and this from a director I have previously described as “grouchy”).
You will almost certainly not “understand” the Danube in the way you might understand a more conventional play. You may find yourself, as we did, unable to properly describe the work – or at least unable to do it justice – when you meet your friends for beer afterwards. You will use words like “postmodern” and “experimental” and “surreal,” but none of these will be equal to the task. It is true that Fornes seems to be playing games with narrative, but not in the traditional postmodern sense (if there is such a thing); there is no winking here. What there is seems best described by Druckman’s quote, above: the characters grope about in the dark for meaning, for understanding, just as we in the audience do. This is a splendid script and a strong production of the sort we don’t see too often in Houston. Do not miss this play.
The completely bananas construction worker rescue from the giant fire near Heathen HQ earlier this week made BoingBoing.
(Watch it if you haven’t seen it.)
You’re making the city look just GREAT, you doofus.
Recently, a joint in my hood — long plagued by spotty food, bad service, a crappy wine list, and a host of related issues — decided that “hey, I’ll ask a TV show for advice!” was the right plan.
Mrs Heathen and I decided to try them out last night, to see if the plan worked.
First, their key problems, as I see it:
- A somewhat run-down building.
- Generally poor service, mostly by people who appear to have never waited tables before.
- Glacially slow kitchen production even when very, very not busy.
- Spotty execution.
- Bizarrely long menu.
- Poorly considered entrees rife with unforced errors.
- Trifling wine list that needs help.
After the visit, I can report that the interior is much nicer, and the previously unknown to me waiter did seem to have done this before. Further, the menu is much shorter and more focussed, which is great.
We waited about half an hour for a burger and a salad when there were only 2 other active tables in the restaurant. The wine list is unchanged and terrible, which will be even more damning when the always-excellent Max’s opens on the next block. The execution of the food we got was iffy at best; a beet salad should have more than a couple beets in it, I’m sure you’d agree, for example. Worse, they appear to have deliberately sourced burger buns and patties that are wildly different in size, which is unfortunate, because it gives the impression of a very small burger — and leaves you with a bunch of extra bread when you’re done. Of the fries, the less said, the better — “leathery” is not a texture I look for in side dishes unless we’re under siege and dining on filet of Allen Edmunds.
I really, really want this place to work. They’re reasonably priced, and literally two blocks away. But they seem to have a really, really hard time with the basics. Reality TV isn’t going to fix that. Given what they changed and what they left the same, I have the distinct impression that the owners and I disagree about what’s keeping Gratifi from being a great local restaurant.
The Harris County GOP is suing the city and Mayor Parker over the fact that the city will now provide benefits to legally married same-sex spouses.
I’m sure this won’t hurt them AT ALL come election time, what with the city having elected a gay mayor over and over and whatnot.
Christ, these people are awful.
The NYT has a long piece about the crazy ants.
And I can’t stop scratching.
Naked man goes on window-breaking rampage near Galleria. The best quote, btw:
“The naked man (was) running around in the street breaking cars,” said the store manager of the W Luxury Car rental. “He looked normal but I am sure he was on something.”
“Normal,” except, you know, naked. And toting a shotgun. TOTALLY NORMAL otherwise.
KHOU has pics of the damage, which includes a UH flag driven through the windshield of a Rolls.
… here’s the best video I’ve seen of the Foley’s demolition yesterday. Via Houston Reddit.
Tropical Depression Erin has formed in the Atlantic.
In case you missed it: Kroger lobbied Governor Perry to veto a fair-wage act here in Texas.
The only reason to shop there is if you believe women should be paid less than men for the same work. Govern yourself accordingly.
A friend of mine is in this short film. It is hi-goddamn-larious:
My friend John Nova Lomax wrote a pretty amazing piece in Houstonia magazine about his mother. You should make time to read it.
He was of a certain type:
- Pressed blue chinos;
- White technical mock-T with UH logo;
- Red and white athletic shoes;
- Leather belt with “UH” medallions;
- Big honkin’ gold “Presidential” Rolex; and
- A charming affect that nevertheless suggested he was used to being in charge.
“Huh,” I thought. “I’ll bet that guy is either UH’s head basketball coach, or head football coach.”
It’s easy! In a needlessly fawning profile in a more or less worthless glossy for the rich and shallow, be quoted thusly:
- “Houston has a crush on Austin.” Seriously?
- “In L.A., there’s like a thousand food trucks [. . .] so I wanted to bring that here.” Well, thank god for that; God knows there were NO food trucks AT ALL before this clown showed up OH WAIT.
I’ve been to Bermudez’s “flagship” bar, Royal Oak, once — but only as a meeting spot for the Karbach Brews Cruise monthly bike ride. At 6, it was okay, but it’s also pretty clear that by 8 or 9 it’d be completely jam packed with wall-to-wall douchebros.
I will say this: the article IS useful for providing a list of spots to skip if one wishes to avoid funding this kind of weaselry: Royal Oak; the new Pistolero; a variety of resale shops on Westheimer; and the Koagie Hots and Golden Grill trucks. Me, I’ll spend my money with the Clumsy Butchers.
The heretofore anchor donor for the Houston Area Women’s Center’s fundraising efforts has pulled out and abandoned them.
I joked about refusing to support or care anymore after their move to the AL, but this is seriously bullshit. They can fuck off as far as I’m concerned, for now and evermore. I’ll take what little baseball amusement I need from the Nats.
In the wake of news that there’s yet another reason to hate Reef and Bryan Caswell, we received a bit of fan mail this week from a purported “Mystery Fan”:
We encourage your continued avoidance of all Caswell-infected properties: Reef, Little Bigs, El Real, etc.
Go check out my biking friend Alex’s video about Juan Carlos, the dancing rollerblader often seen in greater Montrose.
Hay Merchant has announced a movie night.
Well, you just use the local horse track, of course.
Who has a good independent insurance agent or agency in Houston they’re happy with?
John T. Edge on covers our exploding food scene in Savoring Mutt City: Why Houston is becoming a top-tier destination to eat and drink.
The story begins:
We’re boating the high-top cloverleaf in a kandy-kolored streamline baby, if you know what I mean. A 1967 LeMans ragtop, stardust blue, with red-lined fatties and cigarettes-and-whiskey mufflers.
It’s a summer night, circa right now. I’m in the backseat, leaching liquor and perspiration onto the vinyl. Chris Shepherd, who spent the afternoon at a Vietnamese nail salon here in Houston, is digging his shellacked toes into the front passenger-side pile, while Bryan Caswell palms the steering wheel and blasts Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears through a removable-face Blaupunkt that would have gotten him laid in tenth grade.
Goddamn if that didn’t just send me to eBay motors searching for late-60s absurd convertibles… Apparently, if you don’t care about “original” or “concours,” you can get something for well under ten grand…
Houston is getting a local bourbon distiller.
I grew up cringing every time somebody or something from where I lived made national news. I’m therefore delighted to be so proud of my city and our mayor, who was on the Colbert Report last night.
So it goes: the only decent music station on Houston’s FM dial, 103.7, is switching to a Christian format.
I recently re-read this fantastic piece from the Houston Press, which ran originally back in 2006. Ever since then, I’ve kinda wanted to do my own stroll down the length of Westheimer — though I doubt I’d have as much fun at it as Lomax and Mueller. Who’s with me?
You know, I really DID miss the sorts of storms that we’ve been enjoying the last week or so, but I really don’t need them to be so dramatic as to zap my power.
On the other hand, this is the first power outage of measurable length — 35 minutes and counting — that I remember since Ike back in 2008. Let’s hope this one doesn’t go for 4 day.
Also? All hail iPads with keyboards and 3G.
Go see American Falls by Miki Johnson, over at DiverseWorks.
Mrs Heathen and I have just come from opening night, and I’m still processing it, but I can say this: It’s one of the most affecting, beautiful, amazing things I’ve seen on stage. It’s truly remarkable. I see lots and lots of plays. I see lots of plays with these people in them. I don’t see many plays that leave a lump in my throat or my eyes wet. This one did.
I’m going back tomorrow, because that’s the only time I can. Show runs through June 9. Don’t miss this. When people talk about what’s amazing about Houston’s arts community, it’s work like this that they mean.
Trust me. I know things.