Of the many good reasons to dawdle and socialize with friends before heading home at the end of a long day, architect Larry Albert may have struck upon a work-weary Houstonian's best idea yet: lazing with a conscience. Albert first saw a connection between air conditioning and procrastination while touring a coal-fired power plant three years ago. "I learned that daily peaks in electrical demand come at the end of the workday," he says, "when everyone goes home and fires up their own a/c." Suddenly, Albert says, he started seeing icehouses and happy hours -- anything that might slow you down on your way home from work -- as easy ways to save energy. The newfound knowledge served as ample reason to launch a grassroots series of Energy Conservation Happy Hours: semi-regular summertime get-togethers that have attracted a solid showing of conservationists and absurdists alike for the last three years.
E-mailed invitations encourage participants to do good simply by getting together to do nothing -- and to bring friends. "Seemingly minor changes in usage patterns," Albert gushed in one recent e-mail, "can have startling effects on the world that surrounds us."
Gatherings take place at establishments with outdoor and indoor seating. "We're not against air conditioning," he says. "We just prefer to share it." 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 1. Onion Creek, 3106 White Oak Drive, 713-880-0706. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Free. -- Amy McGee
The Red Lion Pub's Dirty Smirnoff Martini
I called a cocktail waitress I met a while back, and we agreed to meet up for a drink at the Red Lion Pub (2316 South Shepherd, 713-782-3030). I didn't see her when I walked in, so I took a seat at the bar, ordered a dirty martini and took in my surroundings. I was just ordering my second when the girl I was supposed to meet appeared from around the corner, arm in arm with some guy whose jeans were halfway down his ass. They were drunk-dancing, and she never once looked my way. When she was two barstools away, her eyes finally focused, and, with a slurred shriek, she called out my name. "Jzimmmy Boy! Where the hell have you been?!" I knew this one was going to be a handful. The guy looked at me like I was a dead man and returned to his table, where two overserved trashy women were also calling out my name. Half expecting Jerry Springer to walk in the front door, I quickly ordered my third martini. Closing time wasn't far off, and I knew I had to start talking fast. But my cocktail waitress was wasted, repeating her stories over and over. By the time she got to the one about her husband (current? ex?), I knew this cowboy was going home solo.
2-3/4 ounces Smirnoff vodka
1/2 ounce olive juice
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and measure out the vodka and olive juice. Give it a good shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with olives. Best enjoyed with someone who isn't already half gone. -- J.W. Crooker
Ah, Independence Day weekend. You're so full of barbecue you're about to puke and you've been to more than your share of fireworks displays. What's a patriotic hipster to do? Do it like our forefathers: Go west to HUSH, which is hosting the Red and White Meet the Blue Party. Fellow 'mericans get half off admission if they show up in red, white or blue, and there's a drawing for complimentary champagne and VIP giveaways (almost guaranteeing a Trent Steele sighting). Make sure your colors don't run (lest they turn a weird shade of purple) and join the huddled masses at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 3. 15625 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-330-4874 or visit www.hushonline.com. $10 to $15. -- Steven Devadanam
In Houston's progressive move toward the marriage of music and art (finally), a new organization called the Young Republic has risen up to help tie the knot. The Independence Show will highlight the work of local artists, writers and musicians in an event produced with the goal of generating a forum for all creative types. New works by nearly a dozen artists will be featured, from the daydreamy installations of Aimee Jones to the socioeconomic commentary of Microcinema regular Jeremy Eilers. Musical support will be provided by John King, Go Spread Your Wings, the SARS, Mock Run, sure/// and the Pretty Please. And on the literary front, The Concussion Chronicles magazine will be released. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, July 3. Dramos Studios, 1121 East Freeway, 713-229-8583. $3 suggested donation. -- Lance Walker