Crash Course

A stuntman is mightily impressed by Houston's rail crashes

You may not be aware of it, but Houstonians are getting a regular dose of high-priced street entertainment these days.

Once a week for the last month, an automobile has collided with a Metro light rail car as the transit agency does a series of test runs in advance of the January 1 opening of the seven-mile line.

That's four times that some enterprising driver has gone into Wile E. Coyote mode and tried to beat one of the trains at a crossing. Geniuses driving parallel to the tracks have also tried to make left turns as the train approaches from behind them, a maneuver that's a specialty of the Acme Driving School.

It's Friday evening after a tough workweek, and 
downtown's ready to rock. Isn't it?
It's Friday evening after a tough workweek, and downtown's ready to rock. Isn't it?
The other white Christmas
The other white Christmas

It has provided pretty pictures of smashed-up SUVs and pickups hugging the fenders of sleek new rail cars; so far no serious injuries. Metro has (over-)reacted by, among other things, handing out jaywalking tickets like it was 1938 Berlin, or modern-day Dallas.

The casualty-free street violence gets a thumbs-up from professional stuntman Mark Anthony Chavarria, a Houstonian who's done stunts in Walker, Texas Ranger and Pearl Harbor and who will be the Mexican soldier killing Billy Bob Thornton's Davy Crockett if The Alamo ever gets released.

Trying to re-create Metro's weekly Jerry Bruckheimer carnage would be expensive, he says. "Doing a stunt like that would take at least a week of prep time," he says. "You probably wouldn't want to have the train hit the actual car because of budget reasons -- you'd cheat it by dragging a crunched car in front of the rail car."

If you did it the no-holds-barred way of Houston's drivers -- having someone actually behind the wheel as the crash occurs -- costs go up further. "If you got a guy in the car, basically you'd be asking him, 'What's it worth to you?' He'd probably get $2,500 to $5,000 for it," he says.

Adding the other realistic touches -- pedestrians, traffic, a passenger for the crushed car -- could jump the budget to at least $10,000. Throw in enough cars and extras and you could spend $100,000.

Here in Houston, though, where we're still baffled by those fancy trains in the middle of the street, we get to watch for free.

Let Me Entertain You -- Please

Stunt crashes may be the only type of street entertainment Houstonians are fans of, if a recent Hair Balls investigation is any indication.

City boosters have been hyping the edgy fun to be had downtown with "The Main Event," where a few blocks downtown are made pedestrian-only on weekend nights. (Actual line from a Houston Chronicle news story November 13, not quoting or paraphrasing anyone: "The best in live entertainment, artisans, street performers and activities will be provided.")

How's it going? At about nine o'clock Friday night, December 19, the place was packed. Compared to a meeting of the Former Popes Club, that is.

Hair Balls -- one of approximately four people in the area -- turned the corner onto Main and Prairie to find an empty street guarded by bored Metro cops ready to react in case the tepid cover band down the way somehow inspired a one-man mosh pit. Luckily potential moshers -- who should probably be classified less as Audience Members than as Pedestrians on Their Way to Somewhere Else -- seemed more confused than inspired by the presence of a band on an otherwise empty street.

Hair Balls was then all but attacked by a lonely magician desperate to perform something, dammit. Avoiding him and his fellow entertainers was like dodging airport Krishnas in the old days.

The only thing missing from the festive scene were some tumbleweeds and the sound of crickets chirping. Now maybe if they could actually schedule a light rail crash…

White Christmas

The holidays usually mean family and friends spreading good cheer. In several Houston suburbs this year, however, it's meant assholes spreading that special white-supremacy brand of ass-holiness.

In Santa Fe and Alvin, thousands of residents woke up recently to find flyers on their cars urging the white race to take time this holiday season to rise up against its current terrible oppressed state of being a pampered majority.

Many of the flyers were the work of the local KKK, but some were distributed by an Arkansas group called White Revolution, represented here by one Billy Roper.

Roper says his group will do similar "literature drops" on future holidays.

We talked to the man; to get the full flavor of the conversation you'll have to imagine that each of the answers below is surrounded by paragraphs of dull, complex, idiotic pseudo-analysis of America's racial his- tory. Think "hemp enthusiast," except instead of mind-numbing details on hemp's history, it's mind-numbing details on casually vicious hatred.

Q. The front- runner for the Democratic Party nomination is Howard Dean. Seeing as he comes from Vermont, which is 97 percent white according to the 2000 Census, he's probably your kind of man, right?

A. You know Dean has said some interesting things -- you expect someone from my point of view to view him as a wacko, extreme leftist…He did say he wants everyone's vote, including the redneck yahoos with the Confederate flags…[But] to answer your question, I will not vote, because I believe the current political system is corrupt.

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