Cough It Up
Popular poison: The "Lean and Mean" article [by Jesse Washington, April 26] about codeine use was very interesting. I've been hearing about "syrup" and hadn't really cared to look into why it was so popular. Thanks for a very informative story.
Werner's good: I want to thank George Flynn for his fair treatment of me in "An Open Mike" [April 19].
As was noted in the article, I do regret the embarrassment I caused former judge Werner Voigt. Had I known the case in which he was appointed was his first case, I would not have been as critical. This, I regret.
Michael T. McSpadden
209th District Court judge
Stand-up guy:Thank you for the in-depth article on Judge Mike McSpadden. He is a rare breed these days. His values are those of a generation that places importance on honor, truth, loyalty and standing up for what is right and just.
Although my life took some very difficult turns, he never let our friendship change. For over 20 years he has been loyal and steadfast and one of the kindest, most compassionate people I have ever known.
End the 180-day rule: Interesting article on the HISD/ Community Education Partners situation ["180 Days in the Hole," by Margaret Downing, April 19]. It's amazing such an arrangement -- against the outcries of students, parents and educators -- can remain in effect.
I attended an alternative-learning high school my junior and senior years, of my own volition, and recall many students transferring in and out. Most were not serious troublemakers and were given the opportunity to go back to regular high school if they did their work and stayed out of trouble.
Unlike CEP, we had "real" teachers, educators, most of whom were pretty knowledgeable and helpful if you showed any interest in learning at all. With their support, I was able to get an early GED and go to college. So obviously there's no reason an arrangement with flexibility can't be worked out to return kids, when ready, to their home schools.
With the old inept superintendent gone, it's time some of the broken cogs within the HISD system were fixed.
Make 'em pay: I can appreciate the sacrifice the young boy is forced to give in missing his German classes, and perhaps some review of the program he's in might provide for exceptions in the future, albeit such students may be rare and few.
But the point of the program is to deal with kids who feel compelled to remain in proximity to their drugs -- so much so that they have to bring them to school to get through the day. Is it okay for kids to bring only enough marijuana to school to meet their personal needs? Has the incidence of discovering drugs risen or fallen in this boy's home school? Saying good students, or even above-average students, shouldn't spend six months in an alternative, even boring, setting sends the wrong message.
Editor's note: The 180 days translates to an entire school year, not six months.
Chaos at CEP? As a contract vendor who teaches anger management to juvenile offenders in Harris County, I can tell you that over and over I hear the stories of what the kids say CEP really is: chaos, no supervision and "fight rooms." Staffers will put two kids who are fighting into a locked room together by themselves to beat the hell outta each other for a few minutes, then the staff lets them out and returns them to class. My tax dollars hard at work.
Name withheld by request
The penalty fits the offense: Are Drew's parents arguing that he should not have been expelled for bringing drugs to school? The three-day suspension sounds more like the interim needed for his due process hearing, with his expulsion being the result of his guilt. If this is true, good for HISD.
I believe that the hundreds of thousands of HISD students who do not break the law deserve their right to a safe and drug-free school. So even though I think CEP has problems, I think it's good that Drew and other expelled students have a place to continue their education.
Name withheld by request
A thrill from the grill: Yup! I am with you as far as Original New Orleans being the only place in town with the right size of bun for your poor boy ["Folk Art on Bread," by Robb Walsh, April 26]. I used to do all my running around early on Saturday so that lunchtime would find me here or at my second-favorite, Spanish Village on Almeda.
They make knockout hamburgers, and great fries. Once I even had a late breakfast there, and the over-easy eggs were perfect. I hope people can get past the looks of the place. It's clean, it's cheap, and it's good food!
Felicia M. Krumbeck
Focus on the new: Robb Walsh seems to be stating that since the opera isn't covered much in the Press (in fact, there's a great review of Don Carlo in the same edition), he shouldn't have to write about haute cuisine. Do we have to choose between Tony's and greasy spoons?
There are many new restaurants opening up in Houston, especially in the inner city. I would like to see reviews on these new venues as the mainstay, with hole-in-the-wall greasy spoons and out-of-the-way places in Sugar Land and the far reaches of Bellaire Boulevard getting second-tier coverage. Those of us who eat out regularly want to experience what's new in town. It would be nice to have some information.
Editor's note: That information already has been flowing to you regularly. Issues in recent months have focused on many new restaurants (Aries, Century Diner, St. Pete's Dancing Marlin, Charivari, Saba Blue Water Cafe, divino and more). Robb doesn't think dining choices have to be an either/or decision -- there have been reviews on cafes with inner and outer locations, and down-home as well as upscale. He's got a respect for all the culinary world -- not just isolated corners of it.
Another view: I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your food stories. They are a wonderful combination of the social, political, cultural and economic history of a people. I look forward to finding out the origin of a particular food and the conditions that brought about its existence. More than anything, I think I most appreciate the respect, acceptance and enjoyment that shines through when you talk about the many ethnic foods in Houston.
As a transplanted Detroiter, one of my greatest joys has been the readily available diversity of food. Houston is a food adventurer's paradise. When I can't make it to a restaurant, your stories offer me a multisensory substitute that I truly appreciate.
Meat and Greet
Servers should know: For seven years I have worked in restaurants that may not be described as fine dining, but they are nice. I have been a vegetarian during this whole time. When I am not able to taste the food, I ask questions of all the other waitstaff and diners. I make sure that I know every ingredient in the dish.
There is no reason the waiter described in the article ["Still Your Father's Tony's," by Robb Walsh, April 12] could not have described the foie gras and been courteous about customers' questions and choice of food. That server was just ill-mannered and self-righteous. Employees like that should be fired for their attitude and lack of product knowledge. It frustrates me when other vegetarians act that way (holier than thou) to people who eat meat. It gives the rest of us with respect for other people's choices a bad name.
One Hongry Guy
Triple A nostalgia: I loved your diner review covering the Triple A and some other restaurant, which I haven't been to and, judging by your description, have no desire to try ["The Inkblot Test," by Robb Walsh, April 5]. I was just out of college when I discovered the Triple A in 1979. It was a small place off the beaten path that served great food at reasonable prices. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
What I remember most about the experience was how quickly I felt at home. The food was down-home, and so were the waitresses (I love it when a mature woman calls me "honey," or just "hon"). What makes the place comfortable is the complete lack of pretension; it is what it is, and it doesn't care about trying to please everybody. Its own kind of people will get it; everyone else can kiss off.
About five years ago I found myself working in the North Loop area, and guess what? The Triple A was still there, just like I remembered it. The same paneling, the same orange vinyl, the same great food and, I swear, the same waitresses, who still called me hon.
It is a living tribute to a more honest time, a deliberate embodiment of the idea that "new" doesn't necessarily correspond to "better," and a statement that they don't have to compete with the fads and upstarts that are always blowing by. I feel fortunate that I have been able to experience this monument to another era. Sometimes you can go back.
Greasy and great: Always enjoy your reviews (or ramblings!) but I especially liked your "Inkblot Test." I feel just as at home at a greasy spoon as I do at, say, the Empire Cafe.
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My favorite place is on the east side and it's called Pizzini's. I guess this could be termed old-fashioned: good American-Italian pasta dishes, steaks, seafood (mostly shrimp and catfish), burgers, pizza, sandwiches and salads.
The steaks and pizza are my favorites. The owner is sometimes behind the grill, his wife is waiting on tables; sometimes their kids are in on the weekend from school doing waitstaff chores. Last, if you go, check out the murals painted on the walls.
Anyway, thanks again for your great reviews. They fit perfectly for a city like Houston.