Best of Houston

Photographer George Hixson is no wuss. He has been known to brave prison cells, bomb the bayou and set cars on fire -- anything in pursuit of the perfect picture. But his portrait session with our cover model, Tasha, made him a little nervous.

“The jaguar is the only big cat that kills its prey before it eats it,” Monique Woodard told Hixson as she opened the gate to a cage at her Exotic Cat Refuge and Wildlife Orphanage in Kirbyville. Inside, four untamed 150- to 300-pound jaguars circled him, sniffed him, pawed him, licked him, climbed him, even chewed on his leg a little -- not enough to draw blood, but enough to leave bruises. Then, after several ignored entreaties for Tasha to “come,” Woodard yanked the jaguar's tail and the cat spun around in aggravation. “I thought that was it,” Hixson says.

But he survived. That's what this Best of Houston issue is all about: surviving the urban jungle. Not just surviving, but surviving in style, with stories to tell. With tips from local experts, lore from Best of Houston issues past and the best of everything from piercing studios to pyrotechnic puppet shows, we've created an adventurer's guide for a safari into the heart of the city. Just watch out for stray cats. -- Lauren Kern, Best of Houston Editor

 
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