The legend is so old that some of the current students don't even know the sordid past of their school's basketball court. But we do. The High School for Performing and Visual Arts is located in the older section of the Montrose that used to be all houses. Legend has it that a couple lived there with their young daughter. When her short life ended, her parents sorrowfully buried her in the backyard. Years passed, the area was developed, and the school was built were the house once stood. The gravestone was removed in the '80s. In the early '90s, when students were still aware of the haunted court, they would sit around the arch and contemplate the fate of the little girl and her grave and try to find some evidence that it was haunted: quiet cries, levitating basketballs, anything spooky. But apparently she is at peace, for nothing out of the ordinary has ever been recorded. It's still there, though, this secret grave of the mysterious girl, so if you're ever playing basketball on that court and the ball is ripped from your hands, it is most likely her. There is also said to be the ghost of a rabbi in the school's Denney Theatre, but that's a different story altogether.
While driving through the maddening traffic of West Gray from Waugh to Montrose, take a turn down Van Buren. What you will find is an enchanting little neighborhood, filled with duplexes, fourplexes, gingerbread houses and pink stucco homes that would fit in well in Bermuda. The residents are mostly young working people on their way up and eccentric folk who make their abodes look magical. One creative resident built a house out of cinder blocks and glass, with a profusion of bonsai trees. Other houses feature Buddhas and tiny ponds in their front yards. Whether you're looking for a place to live or just an interesting locale to meander through one Sunday, take a turn down one of the side streets and enjoy the good vibes.

It was a place for sipping fruity cocktails from the thatched-roof bar by the pool, partying with the band after a great downtown gig, spotting Bill Murray during the filming of Rushmore, watching the fireworks over the bayou on the Fourth of July, getting away from the usual Montrose haunts for a quiet drink on the lush patio and scarfing down the best over-easy eggs in town. But it was not a place, apparently, for making money. Vacancy rates were high, and when Tropical Storm Allison flooded the inn, its owners decided they'd be better off selling the land underneath the 40-year-old landmark. Now, the Allen Park Inn will have to live on in our memories.

Best Place to Wait for Traffic to Die Down

Solero

Just around the corner, human temperatures and internal-combustion exhaust rise to a rush-hour crescendo. Travis teems with idling autos, igniting road-rage fuses at the pace of a few feet per minute. Solero, however, is the place that has known how to tame the savage commuter since the antebellum era. It's easy to see why. Chef Arturo Boada's exotic tapas are just the appetizers to sooth any predinner rumblings. And co-owner Bill Sadler, the veteran from the earlier days of the River Café, Café Noche, the Blue Agave and Moose Cafe, has added precisely the delicate expertise to create a most comfortable place to hang. The drinks are reasonable, the service is excellent, and the conversation and cuisine are both fulfilling in this restaurant-bar that radiates with character. Let the motorists all go mad. When the freeways flash with their fury, Solero is the place to find peace. Sanctuary!
As you watch Jennifer Garner kick a guy square in the jaw while wearing thigh-high vinyl boots with that peach of a heinie wrapped in a rubber cocktail dress, do you think to yourself, 'That girl is doing Houston proud'? Probably not, but as the second season of the baffling yet exciting superspy show Alias gets under way, you can be sure that the star of the show is a born-and-bred Houstonian. Yes, she moved to Charleston, West Virginia, when she was a kid, but she's 100 percent bayou stock, and that's what matters, dammit! At a time when a lot of famous natives aren't giving outside folk the impression that this town can send some talented people out into the world, we can be happy that at least one gal -- a Golden Globe-winning gal, mind you -- can leave Houstonians beaming with pride every time she whups up on a guy's ass.
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.

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