Sure, this jurist was plenty enthusiastic about assuming the bench. Tad Halbach came equipped with a solid sense of humor and a levelheaded nature that meant that the most voracious of attorneys weren't going to push him around. But other newcomers also have landed a judicial post with that kind of energy. The big difference is that Judge Halbach, six years later, shows more of that eagerness and obvious dedication than ever. He was well grounded in civil law when he arrived -- he's only increased that expertise, without losing any of that good-natured, down-to-earth approach to the people who appear in his court. His Houston Bar poll rankings reflect that. The former Eagle Scout has impressed an ample number of cynical old civil lawyers and first-time civilians with his clear opinions and judicial presence, in the toughest of cases. If only more of the once-new judiciary had his ever-fresh love for the law.
Do you remember the '80s dance song by Yello, the one that had the vocal line that stretched out in a deep bass? That's the feeling you get on a Friday evening in September when the flaming fist of Queen Bitch Summer has begun to loosen and you stroll out onto the second-floor balcony of Ernie's with a fresh cold pint of Fat Tire. What's left of the sun is sparkling golden and pink through the branches of the Museum District's massive oaks, and you prop your feet up on the round plastic table, lean back in a comfy chair and lazily muse about nothing in particular while gazing down at the sylvan tranquillity of newly renovated Bell Park. Ooooohh, yeaaaaahhhh.
A little friendly ribbing between competitors never hurt anybody. For more than seven years now, Khyber Grill's Mickey Kapoor has been using his marquee to taunt the neighboring Pappadeaux's. When the seafood restaurant wrote, "Hiring today 3 to 5," Kapoor replied, "My, You Do Start Them Young!" When Pappadeaux posted, "Happy Hour 4 to 6," Khyber responded, "DWI 8 to 12." When the establishment bragged, "Our Softshelled Crabs Will Reach Out and Grab You," Kapoor fired back, "Pervert!" People have been known to drive out of their way just to see what the restaurateur will come up with next, and so far the targets of Kapoor's barbs have taken them all in good humor. Keep it going.
Legacy Community Health Services
Montrose Clinic started as a agency to treat sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis and gonorrhea in Houston's gay community 20 years ago, but the onset of the AIDS epidemic redefined its mission. Throughout the plague years, Montrose Clinic has served Houston's HIV-infected patients with compassion and competence, something not always seen in AIDS nonprofits. When the AVES Clinic that served Hispanic HIV clients closed its doors last spring because of financial mismanagement, Montrose Clinic stepped in to take part of the caseload. The agency provides a wide range of services, from confidential and anonymous HIV testing to community outreach for HIV education and counseling. Montrose Clinic also recently added a fitness center after merging with Body Positive. As new treatments transformed AIDS from a terminal disease to a chronic but manageable illness, the services at the clinic evolved as well. Fitness and nutrition programs now have a much higher priority, and clinic executive director Katy Caldwell is eagerly awaiting further medical developments that will revolutionize the fight against HIV. "What we're looking forward to is when our outreach workers are out in the community and giving vaccinations," says Caldwell, "rather than waiting to do testing after people are infected."

The beer joint or honky-tonk that really had the best name in Houston, Bugeyed Mary's, sadly went out of business this past year. The runner-up is the Stroker Club. A stroker in car salesman parlance is a customer who does not have the means or the intention to buy an automobile but who takes up the salesman's floor time with a show of interest and enthusiasm for a particular car. This comes from a pop psychological term, stroking, for making someone feel better through interaction; stroking the ego. A stroker can also be, of course, a masturbator. As such, it is a harsher term for slacker. Who would you likely find in a beer joint in mid-afternoon? A bunch of strokers, perhaps? Score one for truth in labeling.

Minister Aubrey Vaughan's literary diatribe against "sodomites," a response to his being quoted in The Insider advocating shipping gays to an island and leaving them there, appeared in the March 8 issue of the Houston Press. Vaughan took exception to the suggestion that he had been watching too many episodes of Survivor. "I have not watched one episode of Survivor," wrote the minister. "If it is true that the winner" -- corporate trainer Richard Hatch -- "was a sodomite, then I can offhandedly say the whole episode was set up by wealthy sodomites to manipulate the minds of the people into accepting and tolerating sodomites." Vaughan wants to make it clear to everyone he's not a bigot. "Sodomites are not a race," he explained. "A black man will not go to hell because he is black. But a sodomite will go to hell because he is a sodomite." Aubrey didn't explain where self-righteous ministers go when they die.
What with so many different local businesses from which to choose, we avoided the temptation to go with any guy holding up a wad of cash; a man wearing a bean bag chair; two dapper fellows who knock knuckles over clothing prices; a self-described "crazy" man with a double-billed baseball cap selling cars; a chef flailing his arms out of sync with classical music; any tough, smart lawyers; and the hand surgeon whose daughter is growing right before our eyes. No, we decided to go for an advertisement campaign featuring local chefs promoting the fresh produce at Fiesta Mart. The ads were practical in that they passed along cooking tips, with chefs from restaurants we know right here in the Bayou City. The commercials looked professional. The lighting and audio were good, unlike so many local commercials, and it didn't overuse character-generated text or fancy but unmotivated special wipe effects or loud, repetitious slogans. In other words, these commercials actually respected the viewer.

Sure, the Clutterless Recovery Group has its merits, and a good many more of us should be visiting Anger Management, but when it comes to mutual support, the Genesis Ballet is tops in our book. Interestingly enough, the dance company didn't start out that way. According to the troupe's founder, Marie Plauché-Gustin, it was chance that all their members happened to be suffering from either cancer, abuse, addiction or cult brainwashing. This nondenominational liturgical interpretation of creation simply allowed them to cope with their particular problems through the art of dance. Vive la différence.
When the good women from Blue Willow Books on Memorial Drive discovered that Jill Connor Browne, author of The Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love, didn't include Houston in her book tour of her most recent release, God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, they took matters into their own hands. Well, arms really. They challenged the tiara-wearin' writer to an arm-wrestling contest to get her to come to Houston. Donning T-shirts that read, "Tough Broads vs. Tammy's," the women from Blue Willow Books put on a party fit for the Boss Queen and her loyal royals. The event was held at the Mesa Grill on the west side before it closed, and women from all over Houston showed up, decked in their very own royal finery. Some wore cowboy hats and star-shaped sunglasses instead of tiaras and called themselves the Texas Tater Tarts. Others wore wigs, feather boas, sequined dresses and crowns. While sipping margaritas, the official drink of the Sweet Potato Queens, the women engaged in raunchy, ribald revelry. At the same time, they raised money for Houston's Pink Ribbons Project, a benevolent act by a group of majestic queens.

Best Place to See Houston's Cannibal Ducks

Hermann Park

It was a sunny spring day. We were killing time before an IMAX movie; we'd already bought a shiny rock from the Museum of Natural Science gift store and grabbed some McDonald's hot fudge sundaes and wandered outside. We walked along looking at the green, green grass, thinking about what a pretty day it was and talking about life and love and relationships gone bad as we walked toward the duck pond. Ducks are happy, and we have happy childhood memories of feeding ducks endless bread crumbs. But the ducks were very hungry that day, and they wanted more than stale sourdough. Toward the edge of the pond we saw one duck eating the eyes out of another duck. We'd always thought ducks were vegetarians. At first we thought maybe the first duck had died and the other duck was kissing him goodnight and good-bye, the way Grandma gently grazed her lips against Grandpa's closed eyelids as he lay in his coffin. But we kept looking, and the duck wasn't giving the other one a gentle peck. He was eating him. So, please, people -- get these birds some bread crumbs.

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