Low and Outside

Welcome to the ballpark. And brown fields and barren expanses of a still-not-rejuvenated section of downtown.

"Contrary to popular belief, the teeming, thriving neighborhood around the new baseball stadium, which we will call Gashouseville® to get synergy with lame-but-determined Chronicle columnists inanely flogging the 'Gashouse' nickname, is alive with entertainment possibilities.

"A quick walking tour reveals the extent to which Denver's LoDo district or New York's Greenwich Village (minus the gays, thank God) better watch their backs. Gashouseville® is swinging, baby!

"You want eats? We got eats. Before I even got out of the car, I saw the towering skyline of the Ben Milam Hotel. What does a huge sign painted on that hotel say? 'New cafeteria,' that's what it says. While carbon-dating tests to determine just how pre-Eisenhower the sign is have yet to be completed, it's safe to say that no downtown eatery has a larger sign.

There's plenty of off-street parking on non-game days.
Deron Neblett
There's plenty of off-street parking on non-game days.
While the beer will be flowing to thousands at the park, Evans's bar bid is being challenged.
Deron Neblett
While the beer will be flowing to thousands at the park, Evans's bar bid is being challenged.

"Only a fool would argue that such a large sign would still be operational for a restaurant that is no longer open to the public. While I personally was unable to find the entry to the cafeteria, or at least one that wasn't boarded over, I did discover a street-level sign that said the place offered 'Southern Cooking.' Two signs for a place that's no longer open? I think not.

"So there's at least one retro-kitsch comfort-food 'emporium' right by the ballpark. Just try to get your naysayers to admit it, though.

"But that's not all. There's also a Catholic church right across the street from the new stadium. I'm reliably told that not only do they offer bread and wine at their services, but apparently there's some kind of floor show involved, a magician who somehow transforms those things into the 'body and blood of Christ,' Christ being some old kind of prophet dude. (Interesting fact, boss: When you occasionally blurt out 'For crissake, can't anybody here get their head out of their ass?' you're actually referring to this 'Christ' person. Swear to God.)

"At any rate, while I'm told that the wafers don't really offer much in the way of 'taste,' could it be any worse than the chips and salsa at some of the so-called 'Mexican' places around town? I think not.

"So you got retro comfort food, you got a floor show and snacks. Is that it? Au contraire, mon frère. During my walking tour I discovered not one, not two, not three, but four delightfully al fresco dining establishments, all within easy walking distance of Enron Field.

"All were cleverly disguised as those kind of god-awful silver-plated lunch trucks that pull up to serve construction workers and factory drones everywhere, but I assume that was just part of their hoi polloi charm. It is to just die, is it not? It's like Disney creating a fake Paris street scene. Genius, I'm telling you.

"All this alone is more than enough to allay any so-called 'concerns' about the neighborhood, right? Well, there's more. A mere four blocks away from the stadium is the annex to the Harris County Courthouse. A more munificent cornucopia of snack-machine offerings cannot be imagined by anyone outside of the snack-machine industry.

"I haven't even mentioned the King George Hotel, just across the street from the Star of Hope homeless shelter, which backs up onto the stadium. (Talk about street life!) Any hotel in downtown Houston that's named after King George (assuming it's not the insane one) just has to be pretty 'royal' in my book, and the street-level window, if you can see past the chain-link fence keeping out trespassers, advertises a coffee shop inside! Food fit for a 'King,' no doubt! (Ha, ha!)

"As with the Ben Milam Hotel, no easily accessible entrance was immediately discernible, but no doubt the proprietors were keen to keep out the riffraff. Surely anyone who could afford a ticket, parking and sundries at Enron Field would not be considered riffraff!

"As for bars, well -- except for the wine offered at Annunciation Catholic, which I'm told won't exactly have Ernest and Julio shaking in their boots -- pickings seem relatively slim. The good news, though, is that seems to be the case only if you are somehow determined to do your drinking indoors. If you don't mind a little healthy fresh air while imbibing, then the world's your oyster. As far as I can tell, it's easy to get rid of both your empty bottles (anywhere will do) and your excess urine (ditto). Not to mention vomit.

"That's not to say that there won't be some kind of last-minute 'cleanup' drive that will discourage such activities, but hey, boss, I can only report what I see.

"So, bottom line -- I don't see much of a challenge in employing the Hey What Problem mode. Plus, if we can just get the Hooter's people to put up a 'Coming Soon' sign, we're home free. Gashouseville® rules!"

As you can see, Our Man in Sarajevo is supremely confident that we can convince everyone that there is no actual "problem" as regards the area surrounding Enron Field, and that anyone who thinks so is a naysaying carper who wouldn't know Houston's Can-Do spirit if it slapped him in the face!

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