The great explorer Christopher Columbus stands at one end of the park, pointing to the Italian Cultural and Community Center. Nonetheless, this respite from the noise and traffic of the Museum District, this diminutive stretch of trees and grass, remains undiscovered (or at least unnoticed) by many Inner Loopers. Not really a picnic spot, or a sports spot, or a jogging spot, this place is more of a chill spot. Maybe it's the rippling pond with its quaint pair of bridges, waterfall and fountain, surrounded by pink crape myrtles and lush red hibiscus at one end; or just the fact that it's almost always empty. Whatever the case, it's peaceful enough to suit a small memorial to a beloved grandmother. ("I'll bet Grandma Pam is a pretty angel," reads the plaque.) Grab a spot on a bench and watch the birds, sip some coffee or just be still. When was the last time you did that?

The great explorer Christopher Columbus stands at one end of the park, pointing to the Italian Cultural and Community Center. Nonetheless, this respite from the noise and traffic of the Museum District, this diminutive stretch of trees and grass, remains undiscovered (or at least unnoticed) by many Inner Loopers. Not really a picnic spot, or a sports spot, or a jogging spot, this place is more of a chill spot. Maybe it's the rippling pond with its quaint pair of bridges, waterfall and fountain, surrounded by pink crape myrtles and lush red hibiscus at one end; or just the fact that it's almost always empty. Whatever the case, it's peaceful enough to suit a small memorial to a beloved grandmother. ("I'll bet Grandma Pam is a pretty angel," reads the plaque.) Grab a spot on a bench and watch the birds, sip some coffee or just be still. When was the last time you did that?

Since their invention in China, kites have been used to carry messages, to ward off spirits and as instruments of war. Their principles of aerodynamics led to the airplane. Now, they're just for sport. The city doesn't offer many spacious areas for flying, and Houston's air is relatively still. For a good wind, you've got to travel south to the beaches of Galveston, where there's nothing to slow a gust down but miles and miles of waves. That's why this is also the location of the annual International Kite Fest, where flying contraptions of canvas, silk and paper line the beach. On this shore, anchoring your kite to a good strong stake is all that's required to keep those beauties airborne -- at the festival, most are left unattended.
Since their invention in China, kites have been used to carry messages, to ward off spirits and as instruments of war. Their principles of aerodynamics led to the airplane. Now, they're just for sport. The city doesn't offer many spacious areas for flying, and Houston's air is relatively still. For a good wind, you've got to travel south to the beaches of Galveston, where there's nothing to slow a gust down but miles and miles of waves. That's why this is also the location of the annual International Kite Fest, where flying contraptions of canvas, silk and paper line the beach. On this shore, anchoring your kite to a good strong stake is all that's required to keep those beauties airborne -- at the festival, most are left unattended.
Picture it. You're sitting on the front porch of your rustic cabin, which is perched on a bluff over the Frio River's crystal-clear headwaters. You're sipping a Shiner Blonde on a hot summer day, and all you can hear is the Frio rushing over the nearby crossing and the wind whispering in the cypress. A hummingbird zips past, burning nectar and seeking to sip more. Maybe in a little while you'll walk across the lonely highway to the rough-hewn restaurant and grab a chicken-fried steak, or maybe you won't. Maybe you'll just sit there and watch the sun play on the rocky hills. If you get a wild hair, Acuña's an hour to the southwest, and Brackettville -- home to the famous Alamo replica where John Wayne's Davy Crockett went down fighting -- isn't far either. But you probably won't get much past the river on your first visit to this stunning Hill Country Eden.
Picture it. You're sitting on the front porch of your rustic cabin, which is perched on a bluff over the Frio River's crystal-clear headwaters. You're sipping a Shiner Blonde on a hot summer day, and all you can hear is the Frio rushing over the nearby crossing and the wind whispering in the cypress. A hummingbird zips past, burning nectar and seeking to sip more. Maybe in a little while you'll walk across the lonely highway to the rough-hewn restaurant and grab a chicken-fried steak, or maybe you won't. Maybe you'll just sit there and watch the sun play on the rocky hills. If you get a wild hair, Acua's an hour to the southwest, and Brackettville -- home to the famous Alamo replica where John Wayne's Davy Crockett went down fighting -- isn't far either. But you probably won't get much past the river on your first visit to this stunning Hill Country Eden.
Shorty, Oscar Meyer, Razzle, Slinky and Conan. They're wiener dogs, dachshunds, charging down a greyhound track, their long low-to-the-ground bodies undulating, their floppy ears flapping, their pointy muzzles yapping, to the amusement of anyone willing to make the trip to La Marque. You don't normally hear laughter at a race track. Sobbing is more likely. But when Cinnamon, Rambo II, and Elmeaux lollygag out onto the track and look around in confusion, a body can't help but giggle. And when Nutmeg and Mortimer make a mad dash for the finish line a few yards away, but hook a sharp right instead to greet the cheering kiddies for a nice head-scratch, those giggles erupt into guffaws. For about $2 a head, you can't beat entertainment like this. Except maybe with the other annual kooky dog race, the Chihuahua World Cup, October 12.
Shorty, Oscar Meyer, Razzle, Slinky and Conan. They're wiener dogs, dachshunds, charging down a greyhound track, their long low-to-the-ground bodies undulating, their floppy ears flapping, their pointy muzzles yapping, to the amusement of anyone willing to make the trip to La Marque. You don't normally hear laughter at a race track. Sobbing is more likely. But when Cinnamon, Rambo II, and Elmeaux lollygag out onto the track and look around in confusion, a body can't help but giggle. And when Nutmeg and Mortimer make a mad dash for the finish line a few yards away, but hook a sharp right instead to greet the cheering kiddies for a nice head-scratch, those giggles erupt into guffaws. For about $2 a head, you can't beat entertainment like this. Except maybe with the other annual kooky dog race, the Chihuahua World Cup, October 12.
Last season, Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes heard the three most dreaded letters known to an athlete: ACL. Those three letters stand for a sports injury that often means the end of a career. But while Swoopes missed all last season with a torn ligament in her knee, she returned this year to take her team to the playoffs. So impressive was Swoopes's comeback that she was named the WNBA's most valuable player (her second such title in three years), beating Los Angeles media darling Lisa Leslie, the first woman ever to dunk in the WNBA. Swoopes gained stardom as part of the dynamic duo that included Cynthia Cooper, who brought Houston the first four WNBA championships. Yet Swoopes has proved easier to embrace than the retired Cooper, who wears a scowl even when smiling. Swoopes displays a casual star attitude. She left to have a baby and came back to win a title. Even her name sounds fast. Also voted the WNBA's best defensive player, Swoopes drew throngs of fans to watch her swoop, steal passes and glide down the court like a gazelle, ending with her signature spin move and a kiss off the glass for two. For that, she's hearing three new letters: MVP.

Last season, Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes heard the three most dreaded letters known to an athlete: ACL. Those three letters stand for a sports injury that often means the end of a career. But while Swoopes missed all last season with a torn ligament in her knee, she returned this year to take her team to the playoffs. So impressive was Swoopes's comeback that she was named the WNBA's most valuable player (her second such title in three years), beating Los Angeles media darling Lisa Leslie, the first woman ever to dunk in the WNBA. Swoopes gained stardom as part of the dynamic duo that included Cynthia Cooper, who brought Houston the first four WNBA championships. Yet Swoopes has proved easier to embrace than the retired Cooper, who wears a scowl even when smiling. Swoopes displays a casual star attitude. She left to have a baby and came back to win a title. Even her name sounds fast. Also voted the WNBA's best defensive player, Swoopes drew throngs of fans to watch her swoop, steal passes and glide down the court like a gazelle, ending with her signature spin move and a kiss off the glass for two. For that, she's hearing three new letters: MVP.

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