Vitalis Onu recoils at flowing, overelaborate garments that prompt onlookers to query, "Who's that prince?" For Onu, the creator of the fashion line Citalis, the key is graceful simplicity. That principle is evident throughout the native Nigerian's vibrant showroom in an office building on Richmond near Hillcroft. The racks overflow with robes, caftans and woko suits made of silk, linen and other materials in a variety of shimmering colors. Each piece bears Citalis's stunningly elegant embroidery work. A lovely dark gray caftan comes with swirls of blue stitching down the front. A checkered silk robe features olive-green squares set against a pea-green background. Citalis offers men's and women's wares, custom-made and off-the-rack. Prices for blouses with matching skirts, and for men's outfits, range from $200 to $350. The store also offers velvet hats decorated with lace. While distinctively African, Onu's designs include crossover lines for American buyers. His wares can be found in stores like Festari for Men in the Galleria area. A tall, elegant man dressed in a gleaming black woko suit, Onu summarizes the exacting standard to which he holds himself: "If I can't wear my clothing, I can't sell it."
For selection, you just can't beat Planet Anime. This Rice Village store has more than 2,500 tapes for rent, and many for sale, though approximately 400 were destroyed by the flood. Looking for Cowboy Bebop, BubbleGum Crisis, Martian Successor Nadesico, Ranma 1/2 or Tenchi Muyo? Planet Anime has got them in subtitles, so you don't have to watch bastardized, dubbed American versions. The small store, which also does mail-order business, carries manga (comic books), T-shirts, wall scrolls, action figures, stuffed animals and other enticing imported goodies that won't let you get away without paying through the nose. Where else can you get an adult-sized costume of a furry animal from one particular anime series? (And where else could you spot a store clerk wearing one of these?) Perhaps the oddest touch is the TV behind the counter that often blares music videos by the Japanese versions of 'N Sync and Blink 182 with nonsensical English names like Bump of Chicken and Da Pump.

It's a widely held view that inadequate state funding for the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County is to blame for the steady collapse of the local public mental health system. That's certainly how MHMRA incessantly spins the situation, and policy makers and elected officials, out of ignorance or convenience, largely have gone along. Last winter, a handful of rabble-rousing patients and advocates began challenging the performance of MHMRA administrators and, to the discomfort of the agency's die-hard apologists, pointing out the human cost of repeated budget cuts. Rejected as contrarians, the group decided to organize as a nonprofit organization committed to bringing greater attention to patient needs. Recently, Houston Area Mental Health Advocates' president, attorney Robert Hager, was awarded seats on two mental health advisory councils. While Hager is still the proverbial voice in the wilderness, HAMHA finally lends something other than an obsession with the bottom line to the debate over mental health care.
This business has been in operation since 1949, a pivotal year in automotive history. It was the first year Detroit issued brand-new models after the war. Back then, the average family car was almost a decade old, and Americans finally had money to purchase some new wheels. And when they did, they wanted to keep 'em clean. Back in the day, it was Olds Rocket 88s, Jeepsters and Studebakers. Now it's everything from SUVs and Cadillacs to pickup trucks, sedans and even clunkers. Taking your car to Minit Man on South Main is like hiring maid service for your vehicle. They do an outstanding job cleaning your car, inside and out, paying attention to detail and leaving it with your choice of air freshener. And if, by chance, you're the kind who abandons logic and believes in the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, Minit Man issues a rain check to every customer for a free wash if it rains within 24 hours of bringing it in, because everyone knows that getting your car washed is a sure sign of a downpour.

After spending way too much money on Day of the Dead bread at a bakery inside the Loop last year, a friend-in-the-know pointed us to this bakery, fused to the side of a taqueria near Hobby Airport. Order your Day of the Dead bread early, as this popular panadería gets muy busy closer to the holiday. No need to wait if you've got a taste for some pan dulce. Walk in, grab a tray and tongs, and help yourself: empanadas, galletas, maranitos, whatever you fancy. It's all there, and it's all delicious. After you make your selections, they'll ring you up and bag your goodies. A recent visit cost just a little more than $5, with two bags of delicious desserts tantalizing us in the car the whole way home.
"We doctor shoes. We heel them, we save their soles and attend their dyeing." So goes the motto of Herman Shoe Repair, a mom-and-pop outfit run out of a converted old house in the Heights. The place, owned by veteran boot repairman Herman McCarty, is pungent with the smells of leather and polishes, the way any good shoe clinic should be. What sets Herman apart is the quick, dependable service and the reasonable rates. Resoling boots starts at $41.50, and takes up to two hours. Old boots return transformed to their former glory, with sturdy soles, attractive heels and impeccable stitching. Herman's dedication to his clients leaves him little time for anything else. When asked for some basic facts about his business, a harried McCarty replied, "I ain't got time for this right now. I've got customers."

We don't know about your pets, but ours don't like to take medication. At all. We have the battle scars to prove it. Instead of buying cases of first-aid ointment to heal all the wounds received while trying to administer medication to our asthmatic cat, we discovered it's cheaper and easier to call BCP Veterinary Pharmacy. They work wonders with asthma medication, insulin, antibiotics -- you name it. Instead of wedging a pill between little FiFi's clenched teeth as she scratches every inch of you to get free, you can give little FiFi a VetChew, a medicated treat flavored with chicken, tuna, shrimp, liver, beef, seafood or even fruit flavors. If little FiFi is too finicky, you can get the medication in a transdermal gel, which you rub into your pet's ear, where it is absorbed. BCP is the brainchild of Houstonian Jennifer Gimon, R.Ph., who now boasts clients in homes, wildlife refuges and zoos all over the globe.
For a bakery, St. Honoré is located in a weird place: inside an Asian mall that is perpetually empty, its escalators moving and moving nobody at all. Never mind, though. Just head straight to the bakery on the first floor, with the window display of a huge gingerbread-houselike Chinese palace, layered in icing. St. Honoré bakes delightful French-style cakes, multicolored cake rolls, bite-sized icing-topped desserts, fragrant raisin bread, all sorts of rolls with coconut and pudding fillings, and a yummy bolo (pineapple) bun. They also serve up simple lunches like ham-and-egg croissants, and ground onion and beef baked inside croissants. (Which is actually a lot tastier than it sounds.)
Meandering the aisles of Droubi's with Arabic music in the air, one can imagine wandering through a Lebanese open market, only with air-conditioning. The aroma of constantly baking bread that is sold still warm, a myriad of bulk herbs and spices sold by the pound and the daily lunch specials of Lebanese food sold in the grocery's small dining area keep the nose twitching and the mouth watering. The expansive family-owned grocery is a mystery tour for Anglo customers who know neither the language nor the alphabet and can only hope for a picture of the product on the label, but "tourist shoppers" eventually find what they're looking for. The deli is easier -- you just need to know how to point -- but the vast selection of feta, olives and pickled vegetables (including eggplant) requires at least some agonizing. Fresh hummus and baba ghanoush, so popular they must be made several times a day, are inexpensive and tasty, as are the kibbe, cabbage rolls and stuffed grape leaves. While the prospect of visiting the war-torn Middle East might be a little unnerving, taste buds can still take a vacation here.
Legend has it that Fred once threw a couple out of Rudyard's because they ordered only water. All right, so it sounds a little harsh. Actually, it's comforting. The world is full of bartenders who are willing to give you free water, listen to your stupid problems and shake their heads sympathetically. But not Fred. He's too busy serving your pathetic ass some cold beer to mess with that nonsense. If you need a quality drink and some witty banter and you need both right away, Fred is your man. Plus, he's a bartender you can trust because he actually drinks the bar's liquor and hangs out there when he's not working. You'll usually find him throwing darts, dressed in his well-worn Montrose Beer and Gun Club T-shirt. Yes indeed, Fred is a drinker's bartender if ever there was one. Just don't order only water.

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