The architect's architect, Carlos Jimenez is a local lad -- graduated from the University of Houston, tenured at Rice -- of Puerto Rican extraction, who unfortunately is better known outside of Houston. With a slew of awards, visiting professor positions, competitions to which he has been invited, exhibitions and published articles, this young designer should be doing a lot more work right here in Texas. There are a lucky few, in River Oaks and Montrose, who live in houses he designed. For the rest of us, his work is best seen at the spacious yet functional Museum of Fine Arts Administration Building, arguably his best work outside the Spencer Studio Art Building at Massachusetts' Williams College.

Back not so long ago, when Ken Lay was God in Houston and Enron was regarded as a collection of corporate geniuses rather than crooks, David Berg helped torpedo a city push to award a billion-dollar wastewater plant contract to an Enron subsidiary. As chairman of the Houston Area Water Commission, the veteran criminal and civil attorney detected a fishy smell coming from the direction of Enron's Smith Street headquarters. The corporation's negotiators had refused to guarantee subsidiary Azurix's billion-dollar debt load, a position Berg found inexplicable if Enron's public financial statement was accurate. As a result, he refused to buckle under pressure from city officials and opposed Azurix's bid. The plant contract went to other bidders, sparing the city embarrassment and expense when Enron collapsed months later after disclosing it had reported a mountain of debt as profits. Too bad hawk-eyed Berg wasn't sitting on the Enron board of directors when members gave the green light for the conduct of officials that brought the company down and gave employees and shareholders a very cold Christmas indeed.
1600 SmithThe 732-foot sparkling white Continental building, designed by Morris-Aubry, is a Houston hallmark. But we bet you don't know who Fujitec America Inc. is. Give up? It's the company responsible for the building's lovely elevators. These babies will take you all the way to the 53rd floor in style. Fujitec's simple motto is "The World's Smoothest Riding Elevators" -- and they aren't kidding. The swooping ride is so polished you could pour yourself a cup of tea while the car is in motion and you wouldn't spill a drop. Not that you'll have time to drink it; the elevators are too fast for that. And to top it off, the Continental cars are equipped with mini television screens that keep riders updated on the latest news and stock quotes, so there's no need for that collective silent stare at the floor number that we're all so familiar with.

Best Place to Take a Stroll with Your Camera

Glenwood Cemetery

If you're looking for a quiet, peaceful place to take a walk and snap a few pics, you can't do much better than Glenwood Cemetery. The final resting place for some of Houston's most famous names, including billionaire Howard Hughes, Glenwood boasts a collection of gorgeous monuments scattered over its manicured hills (yes, there are hills in Houston). Zoom in on one of the sculptures of forlorn angels, or focus your wide-angle lens on the skyline looming over the rows of grave markers. Let your creativity guide you. Just be sure to pack plenty of film.
Who'da thunk it? This modest Montrose favorite has the ass-kickingest soundtrack around. You can sniff the ripe mangos to Blood Sweat & Tears, grab a six-pack of Sierra Nevada while jamming to Stevie Wonder, and squeeze the Charmin while gettin' your Beatles on. And there's no Muzak in this joint -- oh, no -- just like the Coke you're buying, it's the real thing, baby. We've also heard the Pretenders, Pulp Fiction's "Jungle Boogie," Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good to Me So Far" and the original "Goin' to a Go-Go" while crossing those items off our list. Sometimes we stop in just to shake our groove thing.

Stressed? Tired? Tired of feeling stressed and tired? Walk past all the people on blankets soaking up the sun in the boring part of the park and stroll into the Japanese gardens. There's a suggested donation, but we've yet to see someone sitting in the booth. When you walk in, there are little pagodas and rock gardens and beautiful flowers. Beyond lies a little hill with waterfalls flowing by a serenity pond and reflection pool. The place looks like the cover shot for a book of haikus. There are footbridges galore, and little baby ducks following their mothers. It's a peaceful, shady, tree-laden place to stare at the water and try to think Zen thoughts.

All right, all right. We know what you're thinking. But remember, this is the issue where we're supposed to be nice. And anyway, who fits this award better? Linda Lay knew she wasn't winning any fans after her Tammy Faye Bakker moment on the Today show ("We've lost everything!"). So rather than continue the pity-me route, Lay took the much more American approach. She picked herself up by her Fendi bootstraps and started Jus' Stuff, a resale shop in Montrose. The store is full of all sorts of items once officially owned by one of Houston's most favorite families -- and there really are items the public can afford. From lamps to tables to little knickknacks, here's a chance to get your hands on a curio from one of this city's biggest stories. And come on, you've got to hand it to the gal for trying.

This is how bank lobbies are supposed to be: gilded, titanic, chock-full of patterned marble and with a ceiling as soaring as a newly minted MBA's ambition. The ceiling of this grand banking hall is a full six stories above the worker ants below. It's clear that Jesse Jones -- at whose behest this majestic edifice and more than 100 other buildings were built -- was not one to think small, and it shows not just in the lobby but also in the exterior of this Gothic skyscraper. Don't forget to check out the historical art deco murals in the lobby's entrance halls -- the retro-futuristic one depicting what must by now be the past is pretty hilarious.
The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
This is where the rich people go. The place looks like a plantation. As soon as you drive up under the towering oaks, you expect someone to rush out and hand you a mint julep or a big straw hat and a cane. This is a place where the locker rooms have fluffy towels, robes and fresh fruit. Sneak in and sit in front of the 30-foot hand-carved stone fireplace and pretend you're staying in this four-star hotel, living the life the other half lives. Dream a little dream of luxury.
The best T-shirt we saw all summer was "Purple What?" Targeting the Willy Wonka-esque theme of rapper Big Moe's "Purple Stuff" video, it featured a purple Oompa Loompa pouring a cup of lean, or drank, or whatever the hell you wanna call it on the floor. On the back was a poem eloquently revealing the evils of the notorious cocktail. ("Welch's grape and bussin' Tussin / mixed to careless killer thickness / the last thang Black folks need / is subliminal chemical degradation.") Both the words and the shirt are the work of local poet-designer Deep Blu See, who also makes personalized tees out of his Liquid Soul Studios company. The "Purple What?" caught the eye of many. Hopefully they grasped the long-overdue message the shirt was trying to convey. Not since the "Die Yuppie Scum" T-shirt of the early 1990s has a piece of clothing become such a fashion and social statement.

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