Visitors' Guide

Get Bowled over by the best of the real Bayou City

The legacy is on display among the second wives of River Oaks businessmen. And you, the humble traveler, can also peruse it in the best entertainment places Houston has to offer. As long as you have the cover charge.

Even if you instead limit yourself to hotel-room porn, you're reaping the benefits of what these visionaries created. They came, they saw, they improved! And then you came!

Of course, what Houston giveth, Houston taketh away. The city hosts one of the most flamboyant groups of plaintiff's lawyers in the nation. They tend to be familiar with breast-implanted women, but where the average joe saw melons, they saw dollar signs.

They sued the hell out of the silicone-implant companies. Where science was unsure just how dangerous the implants might be, these gladiators of the contingency fee knew. And they convinced enough juries, so that the defendants came begging to pay big bucks to settle.

Bucks that mostly went to the plaintiff's lawyers, some of whom no doubt spent them, one way or the other, on enjoying the very thing they fought against.

7. I'm Dying Here

Don't forget -- we kill lots of people here. And by "we," we mean the government.

Ninety minutes up Interstate 45 is Huntsville, home to the gosh-darn busiest death row this side of Stalin. Sure, the kids'll bitch that they don't use the electric chair anymore, but when are kids ever not bitching on vacation? Just tell 'em that lethal injection is now the "hip" way to kill people.

For 35 years, death row was located near Huntsville, in the Ellis Unit of the state prison system; now it's a few miles east in the Polunsky Unit. And we're sure Ma Polunsky couldn't be prouder of her little boy.

The killin' still gets done in Huntsville, though. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the hardworking team there has killed 314 folks. "That's only about one a month," you might say. "What kind of slackers are lazing around on government time up there?"

To which we say, Whoa. The head count might not seem impressive at first blush, but in that same time span the other 49 states combined have killed only 573 people! And England hasn't executed anyone! So don't be dissin' our death row, thank you very much.

8. God, Give Us Strength -- to Put Up with Nut Jobs

On your way to Huntsville, you'll pass through Montgomery County. We advise you to think pure thoughts.

Montgomery County's Republican Leadership Council is extremely aware of the danger posed by a mind that isn't properly closed. When one developer wanted to liven up his property by including a replica of Michelangelo's David over a sporting-goods store, the RLC leaped into action.

Sure, you say -- who wouldn't protest the atrocious taste of a shopping-mall David? But it wasn't aesthetics that had the RLC pissed. Instead, one brave researcher determined that whoever the hell this Michelangelo guy was, he had sculpted someone who was nude.

The David now sports a fig leaf.

Ungodly Montgomery County perverts can still go to the local franchise of the Buca di Beppo restaurant. It features replicas of ancient Greek murals that don't meet the high moral standards of the RLC, but the owners have yet to be convinced that they are leading diners toward Satan.

And don't think the RLC is concerned only with ancient art. They're also busy trying to ban books in the county library and, as their mission statement says, fulfilling their "moral obligation to fully participate in our God-given political process."

So if you're driving through Montgomery County, best keep your mind on the road. And bring a fig leaf.

9. Girls Gone Wild -- Houston-Style

Up north is also where you'll find Kingwood, a planned community of expensive houses, manicured lawns and sweet young high school girls who go on robbery sprees.

The plucky gals who gave themselves the clunky name of "The Queens of Armed Robbery" stole a nation's heart, along with some petty cash and cigs, when they decided to fight their teen boredom by robbing convenience stores in 1999.

They had the lingo down: "You have two seconds or I'll shoot, bitch!" said one of the budding prom queens during one of their first jobs. When the clerk handed over the wrong brand of cigarettes, she heard, "Marlboros, bitch! Marlboros!"

The story of the well-off girls from the very white uptight suburb who decided to become the James Gang was irresistible to the media, and for a while Kingwood High School students were all well practiced with their sound bites.

The story was sad and dismal, of course -- broken homes, drug use. Three of the girls are serving prison sentences; one is on probation.

Kingwood strives mightily to change the subject whenever it comes up. The pricey burb lucked out when the Hollywood extravaganza based on the case, the Mena Suvari vehicle Sugar and Spice, bombed.

The film did have the line "If the O.J. trial taught us anything, it taught us that in America, you can cut somebody's head off and still be innocent if you have enough money."

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