Mean Streets

NASCAR has nothing on Houston freeways

The racetracks of NASCAR -- from the "Too Tough to Tame" Darlington Raceway to the blazing-fast Talladega Superspeedway -- are intense cauldrons of competition where the slightest mistake can trigger a chaotic crash.

But they're mere scenic-route drives compared to the mean streets of Houston.

In order to crash at a NASCAR track, the cars need to be zooming around at 200 miles per hour, barely under control. Here, they just have to be parked.

A half-dozen brightly painted NASCAR cars sat unmoving by the curb of Allen Parkway in the predawn hours of July 4, ready to be seen later that day by folks attending the Freedom Over Texas event.

Parking on that particular street may not seem a great idea if you're familiar with it, but the thing was the parkway was closed at the time. Barriers blocked anyone from getting on it between Taft and downtown.

Those barriers proved to mean little to one allegedly shit-faced driver, though, who breezed through them on his way from downtown about 2:30 in the morning.

And then, finding himself seemingly in the Daytona 500, flashing by high-tech, high-priced racing vehicles, he did what came naturally: He went all Rusty Wallace and plowed into them.

Sophisticated race fans call it "trading paint." Houston cops called it "DWI."

"I've seen DWIs go up over curbs and into homes, so this wasn't that unusual," says HPD Sergeant David Crain. "A lot depends on how impaired the person was."

The cars were part of a display by Chevrolet Racing. You'd think the people at Chevy would get a good chuckle out of the whole thing, seeing how cars that survive the rigors of NASCAR get totaled just sitting on a Houston street.

You'd be wrong, though. "Chevy has no comment on the incident at all," says spokeswoman Lydia Rickard.

It's difficult to talk, we suppose, when you think you know all about tough driving and then you try to bring your weak-ass game to Houston.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Houston's premier gay activist, Ray Hill, got a lot of publicity with the announcement of his recent retirement, but it seems his role model for leaving the public stage is not so much J.D. Salinger as it is Cher.

He's still doing his radio show, and he's still going to man the barricades whenever he thinks the cops are hassling someone.

And he's still getting into trouble. The latest is a lawsuit filed against him last month by a TDCJ employee that includes claims of defamation, invasion of privacy and, apparently, causing a car accident.

Prison employee Michelle Woolsey's suit says Hill did all this on his KPFT-FM prison show. The suit itself isn't the most clearly written legal document, and Woolsey's lawyer wouldn't comment on it or let us talk to his client.

Hill says he and Woolsey have been going back and forth for a year. He says Woolsey is a TDCJ officer and she was telling other officers which inmates were sex offenders.

He says he went on the radio and said, "I understand that Officer Woolsey down on the Ramsey [Unit] is a great believer in putting other people's business on the street. What say if in a couple of weeks, if she persists in doing that, [we] run her home address on the air on The Prison Show?"

Woolsey called Hill and, he says, "She said I placed her life in danger and she was so upset about that she had some kind of accident and, of course, that was my fault. She's very unspecific about the accident." (The suit asks to recover "medical costs and expenses…resulting from the accident complained of herein," but doesn't describe the accident herein, therein or anywherein.)

Hill, like any self-respecting gadfly, is hoping the case goes to trial. "I would love for all these issues to be aired in court, which would give my lawyers an opportunity to depose inmates and employees on the Ramsey Unit," he says with a laugh.

Enjoy that retirement, Ray. But how can you have a comeback tour if you don't go away?

Hands Across the Water

The city of London may have been wracked July 7 by a series of deadly bomb explosions, but it didn't take long for them to feel a whole lot better about themselves. A few hours after the blasts, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels sent out a press release expressing sympathy.

"London is a great city, a strong city," Eckels announced. "Prime Minister Tony Blair is a staunch ally of the United States, and with President Bush has shown steadfast resolve in the war against terror."

Blair, speaking from the scene in England, said, "I, like all Londoners, thought of packing it in after this latest attack. Expressions of support from the G-8 leaders were all well and good, but as the minutes ticked by and we hadn't heard from Harris County, I must admit my stiff upper lip began to waver. Thank God we eventually received word."

Or maybe he didn't say that. We'll have to wait for his press release.

Release the Hounds

Tucked away behind trees and greenery off the corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer, Brasil coffeehouse has long been a hipsters' hangout with a laid-back attitude. Dogs were more than welcome, and many a hound passed a morning lounging under the table of his aspiring-screenwriter master.

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