Best Of :: People & Places
One day, if we're lucky, YES College Preparatory School will have dozens of campuses across Houston. So far there are four. Well, five, actually, if you count the one about to go inside Houston Independent School District's long-struggling Lee High School. YES, which stands for Youths Engaged in Service, is the only charter school system in the state to earn an Exemplary or Recognized rating by the Texas Education Agency for every year of operation. About 80 percent of the kids are poor, 95 percent are African-American or Hispanic and 100 percent of its graduates gain admission to a four-year university — a requirement written into the school's charter. Students attend classes for nine hours each weekday, four hours on Saturdays and one month during the summer. Expectations are high. And, amazingly, they are met.
For a short while, this unhinged woman was a savior to our bummed-out, cynical nation. Iraq, the U.S. Attorneys scandal, dead Anna Nicole — it was too much bleakness for us to handle. But then God, who obviously wants to produce movies for the Lifetime Network, sent us Lisa Nowak. By driving from Houston to Orlando to beat up the woman she suspected of diddling her ex, Nowak delivered just what we needed. For a week, late-night talk-show hosts had material they would sacrifice their firstborns for. Headline writers were absolutely giddy. Unfortunately, this astro-nut's star burned too brightly too quickly, and the nation moved on. But for a while she was the opiate to our masses. Generations from now, troubadours will sing, "Where have you gone, Lisa Nowak? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you." We guarantee it.
Scott Ballard has worked on design projects as far away as Kuala Lumpur, but some of his coolest work is right here in Houston, where the architect lives inside the Loop in one of his own hip designs. Sleek and oh-so-modern, the homes he creates are fine enough to impress the most discriminating tastes and funky enough to amuse and bemuse anyone who loves interesting houses. His kitchens are user-friendly, with lots of nooks and crannies for kids and busy families to store stuff, but they feel spacious and airy at the same time. And his great rooms soar with high ceilings and loads of lofty, lovely light. Occasionally, he'll put a secret lookout right on top of your roof, where you can climb with the closest members of your entourage to sip wine while you gaze at the gleaming skyline.
Okay, so they were six months behind schedule, but it was worth it. No mere eye patch here. Developer Charlie Givens and partners have taken the city's premier Warwick Hotel and turned it into a mega-star. The grand opening on June 1 was so over-the-top, they had a live mermaid atop the entrance to wave in the bold names. (How she got up there is anybody's guess, but a ladder or crane must have been involved.) The Monarch restaurant is finally open and offering superb high-end comfort food; the rooftop pool sports shiny retro cabanas; and the rooms are right out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, or maybe Captain Nemo's private quarters. Retro rock and roll never looked so hot.
We are lucky enough to know of Woodlawn's superiority over most local cemeteries not because we were clients, but because of a high school assignment to collect a "romantic" gravestone rubbing. The assignment wasn't easy. We went to the oldest cemetery, where stones — if they said anything at all — said stuff like, "Died valiantly, fighting women's right to vote." No luck. We went to ethnic cemeteries, where people left shrines with food and cigs (both presumed to be contributing factors to the deaths). Nada. Finally, we hit pay dirt (sorry) with Woodlawn, where there are inscribed poems and pictures — laser cut onto the stones, no less! — and even a few bronze monuments to what might be the greatest love of all: a boy and his guitar. Rock on, Woodlawn!!
The foundation supports the Children's Assessment Center, which provides medical, psychological, forensic and therapeutic services to aid in the healing of sexually abused children and the prosecution of their attackers. Charity Navigator has bestowed its highest (four-star) rating on CACF, stating that 89.2 percent of the funds go toward program expenses, with 10.7 percent for administrative and fund-raising costs combined. Support from the foundation has allowed the CAC to win state and national awards for its mission to help heal these most tragic of victims. If you're looking for a worthy cause, we strongly suggest you check out the foundation — it may be the most rewarding thing you've done in a long time.