By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Chances Are, It's Done
Chances Bar, the semi-landmark at the corner of Westheimer and Waugh, may soon be no more.
On the heels of Mary's, Hollywood Video, Skybar and Felix all pretty much biting the dust, the owners of Chances have put the property on the market:
Entire block in busy Midtown commercial area with frontage on Westheimer and street access on Waugh, Waughcrest and California streets. Prime retail/restaurant/redevelopment space with already existing building, currently in use as a nightclub.
"It's a very hard decision, and it makes me sad to even talk about it," part-owner Anne Vastakis tells Hair Balls.
But the economy and, perhaps, a change in habits have brought some hard times.
"We have been running it for 15-16 years and loved it, but the last four years — let's just say business has not been getting stronger," Vastakis says. "With the economy the way it is — these mega-lesbian bars — there are four bars there, and in the '90s they were thriving. Now, I don't know, maybe there's too much competition."
She says a number of potential buyers have expressed interest, but the relatively small group of owners hopes to sell to someone who won't change things too much. She cited Felix and the Tower Theater as landmarks that will be redeveloped but not torn down.
"We would love for someone to keep it with the same feel it has, maybe stay as a bar...kind of a neighborly restaurant-pub type of thing," Vastakis says. "We wouldn't want to see it become a Baby Gap or a strip mall."
The owners will continue to run it as Chances until they sell, if they do.
The place has been on the market "for a couple of months, very low-key," she says.
The building was put up in 1954, and the lot for sale is more than 27,000 square feet, the listing says. The bar had a brief flurry of fame last year when the punk group Girl in a Coma got into a scuffle there.
Top high school's students hate new dress code
DeBakey High School for Health Professions (aligned with the Baylor College of Medicine) is one of the city's toughest schools to get into — a 2007 report said for every 1,200 applicants, 250 are accepted.
Students there are hard-core dedicated in terms of studying, attendance and hard work. And they win a lot of awards and recognition.
So it's kind of hard to understand why there needed to be a crackdown on the school dress code there — essentially dropping from five to three color choices (white, navy and royal blue were retained, forest green and brick red got the boot), adding a mandatory patch and, most important, handing the uniform sales franchise over to the PTA.
Some of the students aren't reacting to it very favorably and have launched a petition drive and a Web site for comments. They say the uniforms cost too much and while they appreciate the aspect of the PTA using this as a fund-raiser, they think the Parent Teacher Association could find a better way to go about it. (One student termed it "heavy-handed" at a school where 55 percent of the students are on free or reduced-price lunch.)
Altogether, they are being a lot more polite about it than Hair Balls would ever be.
Under the new rules, the shirts as well as the jackets must carry the DeBakey patch on them, "which only the PTA has the right to distribute. This has allowed the PTA to monopolize the economy and charge extravagant prices for their product," rising senior Sahifah Ansari says.
A look at the DeBakey uniform Web site doesn't show hugely expensive clothes; polo shirts range from $14 to $18 and hoodies are $28, but several students say they were able to purchase the appropriate dress clothes much cheaper at Walmart and Aéropostale when the latter had sales.
DeBakey Principal Linda Lazenby was on an out-of-state camping vacation, but delivered this response by e-mail:
The new uniform was initiated by the PTA and discussed in several PTA meetings, student advisory meetings, and by the Shared Decision Making Committee. The parents and teachers voiced a concern about the past uniform code as being too varied and somewhat difficult to enforce. As far as the ability for our students to pay, there will be funds available to support our students in need. It should also be noted that the current uniform will be grandfathered until 2013. The old uniforms are fine as long as they have the DeBakey logo, which most students have. The new uniform code has generally been well received, especially on Friday jeans day. With students being able to wear jeans and a cub or spirit shirt, the uniform code actually allows for more diversity in what the students can wear. One of the new colors has been coined "DeBakey blue" and is the color of scrubs usually worn in hospitals.
Number one, students say, the Friday jeans day isn't as big a deal as the administration is making it out to be.
Number two, students say the sole student on the Shared Decision Making Committee was a senior who was out of there after this year and will never have to meet the new standards. And they say there was a lot of committee pressure on that student.
Number three, the students say that several of the families at the Title I school don't have the money to pay PTA dues and thus were kept out of the discussion.
And before anyone wants to label these kids pointy-headed commie radicals, a lot of their argument has to do with the American Free Enterprise System.
"The new DeBakey Uniform policy restricts what colors students can wear. I agree with the school that there should be a uniform policy, because wearing anything to school can be distracting. However, this new policy not only restricts our choices of uniforms, but only the PTA is allowed to distribute the new DeBakey logo; therefore, there is no competitive pricing. The PTA basically has a monopoly in selling the new DeBakey uniforms, and they can price them unfairly," says rising senior Linda Asiamah.
Another student, rising senior Eric Kao, asks why the PTA couldn't just "sell DeBakey logo patches for students to iron on to their polos or require students to wear strictly defined colors such as solely white or navy blue so that there would be no discrepancy over the permissible color. In addition, the PTA could fund-raise using other methods such as a carwash instead of forcefully seizing profits off of low-income students and their families."
He goes on to say: "It simply defies logic to require students to purchase expensive, low-quality polos when the polos can be purchased for a much [more] economical price through other vendors or commercial stores. In the current state of our economy, many families do not have the capability to spend excessively; most students wear their middle school uniforms or polos that they wore in previous years, but now that this new uniform policy is being enforced, families will have to dig deeper into their pockets just to accommodate these requirements. Upcoming seniors, in particular, will suffer the most — they will be required to purchase several costly polos that they will only wear for the short duration of ten months."
The students all say they hope a compromise can be worked out.
"We're trying to focus on a solution," Ansari says. "The purpose of a uniform shouldn't be to try to get more kids into detention. If you can find a navy shirt elsewhere, it shouldn't matter that it doesn't have a DeBakey logo on it. Maybe the school could make exceptions for low-income families."
"We're not against the PTA making money," Ansari says.
It seems these kids have embraced their classes in the American system of government, economics and debate.
DOING IT DAILY
There is a ton of new stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; you're only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. Head to http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs (or "/rocks" or "/eating") and under "Tools" on the top-right side of the page, use the "categories" drop-down menu to find these stories:
The Aeros got a new coach; the Astros got a new batting coach (Jeff Bagwell, he of the strange hitting stance); George Steinbrenner died; the Astros had a gay event (kinda) at Minute Maid and the world didn't fall apart. Oh, and some guy named LeBone or LaBorn or something like that made a choice about where he preferred to work. It wasn't Houston.
Houston got obsessed with the stinky "corpse flower" in the Museum of Natural Science, which had a rare bloom. The waiting was the hard part, and it went on all week. The Houston woman who was in plastic-surgery pursuit of the world's biggest boobs ran into health problems, and Glenn Beck made lunatic claims about a media conspiracy involving a Houston bombing.
The world's dumbest child pornographer got 20 years. Next time, don't pass out drunk on the road in a car filled with your sick handiwork, dude. Also on the dumb-criminal list: A man arrested in League City used the jail phone to impersonate a cop to a towing company. They listen in to those calls, bro. And the "XXXL Bandit" robbed a bank and got away — on foot. Ferocious security there, fellas.