I've been writing this column for four years now. That's more than 150 stories on Houston nightlife. It's pretty much an excellent job to have. And it's a cool thing to tell people. "You know the Nightfly column in the Houston Press? I write that. That's me. I'm the Nightfly." The Nightfly. It's like I'm the world's shittiest superhero (my superpowers: not flying; eating handfuls of sliders when available; arguing with parking attendants about parking rates).
Again, it is an excellent job. It's also extremely handy, and occasionally educational. Some things I learned this year:
Turtles are goddamn excellent party bros. They race every Thursday night during the non-winter months at Little Woodrow's (2306 Brazos) and it is an unexpectedly exciting time. When I went, the place was buzzing with energy. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I'd ever seen a woman shout profanities at a red ear slider.
The dead are super posh. Some people turned a former funeral home into a very impressive lounge in River Oaks called Roak (3320 Kirby). It was one of the few times I'd been turned away from a place for not being dressed properly. I tried to give the doorman my bedroom eyes. I think it mostly looked like I was maybe about to throw up. After ten or so minutes of uglying up the place out front, they let me in.
If you want to go on a date with someone and you don't want them to immediately figure out how awful a person you actually are, take them to Kung-Fu Saloon (5317 Washington). They have a whole host of video games — good for distracting a date — yet somehow manage to be entirely cool about it. The Washington Corridor still has a reputation for being sleaze central, but it's not near as bad as it was in 2009. Give it a shot.
Agora (1712 Westheimer) has recovered beautifully from the fire that gutted it in late 2010. It really has. And Houston should be very happy about that.
If you exited a venue via its second-story window, and it wasn't because Steven Seagal threw you out, then it's probably your own fault. That's what happened at the Dean's/Notsuoh compound (a drunk guy fell out of a window). For a bit, it looked like the venue's enigmatic owner, Jim Pirtle, might have to pay millions of dollars to him. It was recently announced that he will not have to. God bless you, Steven Seagal.
But the one nightlife story line that did its very best to taint this year's general feeling of merriment and excitement:
Racism is still very much slithering around. To summarize 2011's biggest nightlife story, Hudson Lounge (2506 Robinhood), a discreet, very haute hangout in a predominantly white neighborhood, booked a New Year's Eve party. The party, predominantly black, showed up. Then, for reasons that were never properly explained, its members were all asked to leave. Allegedly, after they'd been cleared out, the lounge reopened to its traditional, predominantly white, clientele. That shit actually happened, bro. The Houston Press ran a cover story on the whole situation and everything.
Here's the crazy part, though: You know what happened after that? Basically nothing. Actually, worse than nothing: Hudson Lounge became just a little more popular. It was as if people read about what had happened, then said, "Wow. Well, I'm definitely going there now." Perhaps they knew that they'd be among a majority white crowd, and that made them feel comfortable. Maybe that's more important for some than being decent, and that's terrible.
Fortunately, such blatant racism doesn't happen very often. But everyone understands that discrimination occurs, and that it'll probably always be a part of the club scene.
Still, Houston has a robust, interesting, engaging nightlife. And it's mostly the good.
It's the turtles.
And it's the video games.
And the perpetually overlooked DJs.
And the live music.
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And the lounges.
And the body shots.
And, of course, the girls on swings.