Bonding with the Community

A Sixth Ward lesson in adapting to a changing environment

Neighborhood boosters have long wanted to rid the historic Sixth Ward of its eight bail bond outlets and the accompanying neon, crime and 2 a.m. traffic.

Their hopes ran high when the Washington Place Brownstone Lofts opened recently. The idea was that this mixed-use explosion of bricks and palms -- where Jacuzzi-equipped residences sell for $460,000 -- would attract the ghetto-purging forces of gentrification. The first-floor spaces would house ice cream parlors, coffee shops and dry cleaners.

But what was the first shop to open? The office of abogado Oscar Favela, a 24-hour bail bondsman.

Paul Wall (left) leads some of the KPFT protests.
Paul Wall (left) leads some of the KPFT protests.

The storefront window also advertises help with divorces, accidents and criminal cases. Inside, Favela decorated the space with an illuminated Jesus sign. "The office is beautiful and it's fixed up nice and stuff," he says. "But the tenants don't like me." -- Josh Harkinson

Storming the Gates

It was a pretty, well, radical scene, even by KPFT standards. Not that the alternative radio community had never waved these placards of protest before -- signs like "Justice Not Found Here," "Unfair to Labor" and "No Dictators." But on a recent afternoon, 30 or so demonstrators weren't stationed outside the Gap or the White House. They were picketing KPFT itself.

"This is the most Pacifica of all activities -- we're about protest, we're about equality, we're about fairness," said protester Ray Hill, host of KPFT's The Prison Show. He called it "a symbol of broader rifts -- how decisions in the station are made."

The tempest centered on Wendy Schroell, a popular receptionist who worked at the station as a temp 40 hours a week for the past 18 months. When the station decided to make it into a permanent administrative assistant position, she and others thought her performance had earned her the right to finally get full benefits. Instead, she was ditched when management hired a replacement from among the 57 applicants for the job.

General manager Duane Bradley says it was never a slam-dunk. "This was not a wink-wink, nudge-nudge job search," he said. At one point, he looked over the angry gathering with a somewhat glazed expression -- it was pledge week, after all. He noted, wearily, "This is an illustration of what KPFT and Pacifica are all about: freedom of expression and voicing dissent."

A few feet away, the program hosts of Go Vegan Texas! and Whole Mother voiced their dissent. "We feel there has to be a regime change at home," said one. "They started out being fair, but now they wound up being General Motors," said another.

As an early concession, both sides agreed that irony is not dead. -- Michael Serazio

What's Next:

Foley Flutists?

The Houston Chronicle's "Eight-Day Planner" of upcoming events had this on October 16: "Founded in 1846, the Dillard String Quartet is one of the country's most venerable chamber-music ensembles. It brings the music of Blytheville, Mazurka and Woburn to its…recital at 8 tonight."

The Planner also noted that Itzhak Perlman would be in town on the 18th, playing "sonatas by Bach, Blytheville and Opulent."

Sharp-eyed reader Doris Pryzant pointed out, in a October 23 letter to the paper, that the Juilliard Quartet played music by Beethoven, Mozart and Webern, and Perlman played Beethoven. ("Opulent" apparently was the Chron's spell-checker version of French composer Francis Poulenc.)

Shoot. Guess this means we won't be attending performances anytime soon of Handle's Messiah, the Four Seasons by Vividly, or even one of those graceful piano études by Chopping. -- Richard Connelly

Send Them Your Love

A Hair Balls fan recently went to his favorite porn merchandise site (AdultDVDEmpire.com) to get a couple of DVDs, one explicit and one for general audiences. The site prides itself on sending the material to places all over the world. But his order was rejected with the explanation that Houston (as well as other major Texas cities) is on the site's "DO NOT SHIP" list.

On a whim, he tried again, this time punching in a friend's address in nearby Bellaire as the delivery destination. Presto -- order accepted. And other seemingly staid bedroom communities such as West U are apparently smut-approved as well.

"I am curious (but not Yellow)," the reader concluded.

Calls by the Press to the Pennsylvania porn outlet's attorney and, uh, "talent" scout went unanswered, leaving a mystery as to why they won't ship videos to Houston, but will ship novelty items such as the foot-long Raging Hard-On Double Dong anywhere except Alabama.

Until answers emerge, you'll just have to route the skin flicks through friends or family in the burbs. But you better warn Auntie Estelle in Bellaire first -- before that copy of This Way for Three Way shows up with her AARP newsletter. -- Craig Malisow

 
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