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.

No, diversity isn't the name of a bar or restaurant or nightclub or coffeehouse or loft or even theater or sports stadium. But it applies to them all and more. And that's the ultimate attraction of a downtown that's alive. With the central city's growth (under those clouds of construction dust), no one or two clubs or eateries can lay claim as the ultimate magnet -- indeed, no one sector or group can do it, either. Our downtown is emblematic of a city that has really come together. Where else does an Astros fan belly up to a bar for a postgame beer and wind up befriending the martini couple closing out an evening after the opera? How about the businesswoman kicking back with the bohemian set? The homeless can even remind the high-rollers about the realities of the world -- something that doesn't happen in The Woodlands. There are plenty of good cafes and bars far away from Houston's heart -- but no outlying area can come close to the variety that underscores downtown's vitality. If the city has any sense, it will protect this diversity that makes a trip into town so delightful and dynamic.
It took you three weeks, but you finally worked up the nerve to ask for his number, that sexy hunk at the gym. And you were thinking the hard part was over. But wait! You still have to woo him with your natty clothes, wow him with your classy ride and wallop him with your fabulous taste in dining. You want a second date, don't you? We suggest you slip into a little black dress, roll by and pick him up in your shiny-clean wheels and escort him to Aries, Scott Tycer's showplace of culinary magic on Montrose. With choices such as three-onion brioche bread pudding with confit of tomato, whole branzino in salt crust with asparagus, and Evil Chocolate Overlord Cake, you can't fail to impress the man. Aries has won the hearts of national critics and local diners alike with its upscale American cuisine. Maybe with Tycer's help you can win your date's heart, too.

Art Car Museum
With its gleaming silver spindles, strips of barbed wire surrounding the front door and a big red "look over here" star affixed to its roof, the Art Car Museum is hardly the staid sort of building that pops into one's mind at the mention of the word museum. But its collected set of beautiful art cars is uniquely Houston, and a perfect place to take guests who associate this city with only Enron. Not that it's just an art car collection. The museum, founded in 1998, makes a concerted effort to bring unusual avant-garde art from all over the globe to our hometown -- although a fair share of local artists have exhibited here as well. And here's a bit of trivia: The Art Car is probably one of the few museums in America to receive a visit from the FBI after September 11 (see "Quirky Yes, Al Qaeda No," by Jennifer Mathieu, November 15, 2001). Seems someone thought their avant-garde "Secret Wars" exhibit was some sort of terrorist threat. In the end, the feds deemed the exhibit just really weird, so you know it's gotta be good.
"Do you remember when I was an elephant? The elephant is always here!" It's a familiar set of phrases for any woman who has used the facilities on Rudyard's first floor. (For the uninitiated, the elephant is the coat hook on the back of the bathroom door, with ears and a body penciled in to make him look like a pachyderm.) The homey pub on Waugh is not just a spot for a Shiner and a burger. It's also a great place to read. Just check out the bathroom walls. From poetry ("Don't bother to hover above the seat, the crabs in here can jump ten feet!") to political debates to a long line of cartoon people sketched on the wall of the second-floor women's restroom, every winner of bar graffiti is covered. You might end up spending most of the night on the can instead of on a bar stool. The best part is that Rudyard's is always repainting its bathroom walls, regularly leaving a fresh canvas for the masses to express themselves.

Ted Callaway is the kind of landlord who leaves flowers in the apartment on move-in day and drops off a bottle of wine for your housewarming party. But that's not why we're naming him Best Landlord. He gets the honor for the buildings he has bought and preserved: ramshackle old Victorians and beautiful brick retail centers from the 1920s. He'd probably make more money off his properties if he tore down the existing structures to make way for parking lots and town homes, but Callaway wouldn't dream of it. As developers try to turn Midtown into a faux French Quarter in the form of Calais at Cortlandt Square, Callaway is preserving the real history of the neighborhood.
There was a time several decades ago when Houstonians bore their city's brute industrialism with pride rather than shame. We bragged about the black gold we refined. On the stench of this process, we just told sneering outsiders, "That's the smell of money, buddy." Those days are long gone, as the forlorn observation deck at the highest navigable point on the Houston Ship Channel attests. No more do we take our children to watch the action on the wharves, as the massive cranes unload the produce of America's breadbasket onto freighters destined for God knows where. Seven out of ten westside Houstonians, to hazard a wild guess, probably couldn't even find the headwaters of that bayou-on-'roids we call the Ship Channel without navigational aids, and that's a pity. As conventionally unpretty as it is, since 1914 it's been the very soul of our city, and it's so ugly it takes on a kind of fearsome beauty all its own.
Jillian's
So the bloom's gone off the rose, has it? Her laughter has become annoyingly loud. She ends every sentence with a verbal question mark. You can't bear to watch another episode of Sex and the City. It's time for you to move on. But you also have a healthy fear of public humiliation -- and loneliness. So take her somewhere noisy, crowded and brimming with energy: Jillian's. With a raucous bowling alley upstairs and myriad video games down, plus food, drinks and dancing till 2 a.m., Jillian's is the perfect place to start your single life. And with a dozen pool tables, it's also a great place to make a clean break.

Best Houstonian You Didn't Know Was a Houstonian

Jeff Martin

You're probably saying to yourself, "Who the hell is Jeff Martin?" Well, there's a good chance the man, a highly successful television comedy writer, has made you laugh on more than one occasion. After all, this is a former Houstonian (and former AstroWorld employee) who started out writing for that temple of subversive, relentlessly hilarious comedy, Late Night with David Letterman. After he left that show, he immediately jumped over to The Simpsons, penning some of the show's most memorable episodes. (Remember when Marge stars in a theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire? That was his.) And we're not pointing him out now in hopes that he'll read this and send the entire staff of the Houston Press copies of the Simpsons' second season, just released on DVD. We're just glad to say he's one of us. We wouldn't be so shallow as to ask for such a thing, over here at the Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77002.
4739 Buck RoadTucked at the end of Buck Road in the Fifth Ward is the oddest but coolest shotgun house in Texas. World-renowned Houston artist Bert Long, known to many for his massive public ice sculptures, lives there with his partner Joan Batson, a painter from Scotland. The house, rehabbed as part of a thesis project by Rice University architecture student Brett Zamore, was built in the 1920s. The 950-square-foot space is actually two shotgun houses merged into one. The wooden wall that once separated them is still there, and so are the sliding bathroom doors. And the corrugated tin roof is a close match to the original. The space is small, but Long and Batson have done their best to utilize every nook. Ivy covers exposed beams, and the art inside is rotated so often the place is almost a miniature museum. In the large backyard is a well-tended garden where Long grows watermelons, tomatoes and five kinds of eggplant, which he regularly gives away to students at the local elementary school and to neighbors on his street. Long, who grew up in the Fifth Ward, says the house is a way of connecting him to his past. And it sure is cozy, too.

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