God really loves Manuel Gutierrez. Or so he claims.
The 49-year-old Detroit native has been hit by a car, stabbed twice during a street fight, fallen off the back of a motorcycle, spent the better part of five years in jail and readily admits he likes to drink. (Wouldn't you?) But through it all, this seemingly jinxed Mexican has kept an optimistic outlook.
"It's like, I've been through all of this shit and here I am," says Gutierrez, charm shining through every bit of his weathered light-brown skin. "God's lookin' out for me, He always has."
Or maybe He's trying to get you.
"Well, then He's a shitty assassin."
Gutierrez is just one of the many engaging customers enjoying themselves at Bohemeo's (708 Telephone Rd.), the East End's finest (and only) music, art and coffee house.
Quartered between a day-care center and the Patrician Beauty Shop in the easily pronounced Tlaquepaque Plaza, the 18-month-old venue belongs to arts aficionados Lupe and Sidonie Olivarez. As expected, it has a bit of a New-Age beatnik feel, minus the asshole-ishness. Beatnik for beginners, if you will, or beatnik-lite.
Handcrafted mosaic tables and hand-painted signs made in-house give credibility to Bohemeo's name, and the spotted concrete floors and secondhand-couch/coffee-table combination solidify it.
The large patio and palm-treed courtyard do their best to assimilate Bohemeo's into the Hispanic neighborhood. Even the cinder-block walls and burglar bars are made to be as inviting as possible. The Olivarezes' friends and family put on a painting party prior to the venue's opening, culminating in a wash of pastel yellows, blues, oranges and teals that establish Bohemeo's good-natured vibe and stand in stark contrast to an otherwise drab backdrop.
With live music scheduled Wednesday through Sunday evenings to supplement the smug-free atmosphere, customers and prominent local acts alike have quickly made Bohemeo's a regular destination. In addition to Houston favorites like Rock en español group Cuervo, bad-ass bassist Rozz Zamorano and 2007 Texas House of Representatives honoree Glenna Bell, national acts like Adam Levy (guitarist for Norah Jones's Handsome Band) have recently entertained there as well.
Lupe Olivarez is not displeased with their draws thus far.
"We need them, and they need us. It's a win-win," he says, his East L.A. roots and cultured upbringing clear in his drawn-out and meaningful talk. "They wanna come play here, and we're glad to have them."
But beatniks aren't exactly known for their business savvy. And the likable enough Olivarez has fallen directly in line with the promote-the-arts-first, worry-about-bills-later mantra that has submarined many other culture houses. He promotes events like open-mike poetry on Sundays and First Friday Indie Cinemas and offers a health-conscious menu. And when Bohemeo's does charge a cover, the band receives 100 percent of the money (so long as they provide their own door guy).
But Olivarez feels like maybe you don't have to be a dick to run a successful night spot, and if you do, he's just not that type of person. Thirty years in the harsh music industry have done little to skew this bohemian's altruistic attitude.
"I [think] I can make it work," he says. "It's a tough motherfucker, you know, but really I think I [can] make it work. We're going in the right direction already."
If there's one thing that everybody absolutely needs to know how to do, it's how to survive getting hit by a car traveling at a high rate of speed. The aforementioned Manuel Gutierrez, whose own car-dodging deficiencies landed him in the hospital with a broken arm, broken leg and collapsed lung, offers up this week's tips on how to survive a run-in with a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88:
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1. Try to go backfirst through the windshield. Not only will it increase your chances of survival, but it'll look wicked cool.
2. Be real drunk. "I was so drunk I didn't even know the car had hit me until I woke up in the hospital," Gutierrez says. "[The doctors] said it probably helped."
3. Don't try to dive out of the way. Because that would just be stupid.
Test your luck at these Houston sports bars (or in their parking lots, anyway): Mezzanine Lounge (2200 Southwest Fwy., suite 150) — $6 pitchers for March Madness mean someone is going home a tad bit inebriated; Roll-N Saloon (4200 San Felipe) — one of the city's better dive bars (no pun intended); Live Sports Cafe (407 Main) — People drive for shit downtown, so you're sure to get run over here.