By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
First it was a pregnant Dayna Steele, posing a la Demi Moore on the cover of Health & Fitness. Then it was gossip chatterer Lucy Lipps, undraping herself for Playboy's "Women of the Internet." Pray that Dan Patrick doesn't get any ideas.
Boats o' Doom
Think New Orleans had it bad? Every time we turned around, some wayward boat slammed into something. A runaway barge inflicted major damage on the Pelican Island Bridge. A Bolivar ferry rammed into a shrimp boat. Two barges gashed a tanker near Baytown, spilling 1,500 barrels of oil into the Ship Channel. Two barges collided near Pelican Island, dumping naptha into the Intracoastal Canal. Ken Bentsen asked the feds to help get rid of 33 rusting, abandoned barges infesting the San Jacinto River and the Ship Channel. The champion doomsters: Buffalo Marine. One of their barges sprang a leak in Galveston Bay, loosing a miles-long trail of oil. Another of their barges grounded off Bolivar, sending 5,000 barrels of oil out to sea in the form of tarballs measuring up to five feet in diameter. Ship ahoy.
Only a Scrooge could object to holiday lights atop Houston's skyscrapers. But year-round neon creep has begun to turn our elegant skyline into a kitschy version of Dallas. That Toltec temple on Texaco Heritage Plaza was plenty amusing without the addition of white neon. Houston Industries Plaza could do without the lit-up crown. As to the green neon outlining the Wedge International Tower, say it ain't so.
Body Parts I
Clyde's knee, Hakeem's heart, Hakeem's knee, Cassell's elbow, Elie's wrist all made our collective sports angst even worse.
Body Parts II
Let us count the stray body segments that turned up in 1996. One: the human leg found in the Ship Channel. Two: the severed "hands" that turned out to be animal paws. Three: the jars containing a spinal cord and other organs dug up from a parking lot at the VA hospital. Four: the two headless torsos in trash bags in Fort Bend, plus a third bag full of feet, legs, hands and arms. Five: the Conroe man dismembered and buried in Mississippi by a grocery butcher. Six: the image of a severed head left on a Houston copying machine that turned out to be not a missing murder victim, but a copy of a CD cover.
Really Bad Smells
There's a reason Houston is on the cutting edge -- no kidding -- of the brave new field of "odor science." To wit: the stench that spread south and west of downtown from natural gas that was over-perfumed by a busted Entex odorizer. The paint fumes that caused the First Interstate Bank to be evacuated. The unexplained hydrocarbon aromas, likened to "a dirty locker room smell," that closed down a Baytown elementary school. The foul smell from a chemical wastewater treatment plant that sent several East Enders to the hospital. The excessive carbon dioxide that caused a "stale air problem" at Dayton High School. The mildew woes of Cloverleaf Elementary in Galena Park. And last but not least, the unfortunate aroma that clings to Houston's City Hall.
Not to be left behind in this year of the Unabomber and the Olympics explosion, Houston had its own bout of bomb jitters. A bomb scare in Texas City -- where they're really sensitive about explosions -- turned up two dummy devices inside area refineries. Three Houston teenagers were charged with detonating a pipe bomb they claimed to have found in the street. A Clear Lake woman was injured when a package addressed "To Capri with love" exploded in her face. Charles Hurwitz and Baylor med professor Stuart Yudoffky were discovered to be on the Unabomber's hit list.
The New Messiahs
Dear John Moores, we'd like a new NFL team, and we'd like it soon. Dear Sir Charles Barkley, we'd like another NBA crown, and we'd like it sooner.
What a great can-do idea! See, we stage the 2008 Summer Olympics in Houston, where jillions of athletes, spectators and worldwide media can get a load of our world-class heat. Bring on that heat-alleviating Bromantan -- and while you're at it, get the Olympic Commission to make the drug legal.
We're jumpy. Very, very jumpy. That's why Caller I.D. is such a huge hit in Houston; a third of us have it, and Southwestern Bell scare-ya billboards may rope the rest of us in. Parents in droves have started videotaping their nannies. FBI sting-stress Betti Maldonado claimed that a tracking device had been placed on her car. Mayor Lanier, convinced his luxury high-rise condominium was bugged during those downtown hotel negotiations, ordered a fruitless police sweep. Oh, never mind.