It's been said that Houston doesn't hang on to its history, but longtime resident Roger Wood is out to challenge that theory with his new, lovely book, Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues. Wood, a Houston Community College literature professor (and sometime Press contributor), has woven together a masterful piece of art that covers nearly every important Houston blues musician, from the legendary Lightnin' Hopkins to guitarist Little Joe Washington, who still plays local clubs. The 300-plus-page book, which includes great black-and-white photography by James Fraher, is comprehensive enough to impress any hard-core blues fan, but eloquent enough to draw in any novice to the genre. But the best thing about the publication is the way it unearths and documents a treasure that so many native Houstonians aren't even aware of: one of the strongest blues communities to ever exist in America.

It's been said that Houston doesn't hang on to its history, but longtime resident Roger Wood is out to challenge that theory with his new, lovely book, Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues. Wood, a Houston Community College literature professor (and sometime Press contributor), has woven together a masterful piece of art that covers nearly every important Houston blues musician, from the legendary Lightnin' Hopkins to guitarist Little Joe Washington, who still plays local clubs. The 300-plus-page book, which includes great black-and-white photography by James Fraher, is comprehensive enough to impress any hard-core blues fan, but eloquent enough to draw in any novice to the genre. But the best thing about the publication is the way it unearths and documents a treasure that so many native Houstonians aren't even aware of: one of the strongest blues communities to ever exist in America.

First, he's courtly in a way that only an Eastern European intellectual could be. Just imagine him sipping imported tea from a tiny porcelain cup in his attic apartment as he composes his exquisite poems. Second, he is one of the kindest thinkers living among the rest of us troglodytes; he listens with the patience of a saint. But most important is his work. Never mind the fact that he's won multiple international awards and published well over a dozen books, and that he teaches aspiring poets at the University of Houston every spring. His poetry is the sort that can save you from the darkest night. Any doubters need only read his poem that The New Yorker published after September 11, 2001. The delicate Try to Praise the Mutilated World ended with these powerful lines: "Praise the mutilated world / and the gray feather a thrush lost / and the gentle light that strays and vanishes and returns."

First, he's courtly in a way that only an Eastern European intellectual could be. Just imagine him sipping imported tea from a tiny porcelain cup in his attic apartment as he composes his exquisite poems. Second, he is one of the kindest thinkers living among the rest of us troglodytes; he listens with the patience of a saint. But most important is his work. Never mind the fact that he's won multiple international awards and published well over a dozen books, and that he teaches aspiring poets at the University of Houston every spring. His poetry is the sort that can save you from the darkest night. Any doubters need only read his poem that The New Yorker published after September 11, 2001. The delicate Try to Praise the Mutilated World ended with these powerful lines: "Praise the mutilated world / and the gray feather a thrush lost / and the gentle light that strays and vanishes and returns."

Ripcord
Ripcord, let us count the ways we love thee. Your walls are painted with an eye-catching image of a guy's nutsack hanging below the parted cheeks of his ass. Shirtless men on flashing roller-skates zip around your tables taking orders. Your patrons wear chaps, tiny shorts and leather, and if they get drunk and kinky you're kind enough to offer them cock rings, chain mail and large black phalluses for a reasonable price. Despite your hardcore-ness, you have a lovely, intimate, shaded patio, perfect for a tête-à-tête.

Ripcord, let us count the ways we love thee. Your walls are painted with an eye-catching image of a guy's nutsack hanging below the parted cheeks of his ass. Shirtless men on flashing roller-skates zip around your tables taking orders. Your patrons wear chaps, tiny shorts and leather, and if they get drunk and kinky you're kind enough to offer them cock rings, chain mail and large black phalluses for a reasonable price. Despite your hardcore-ness, you have a lovely, intimate, shaded patio, perfect for a tête-à-tête.

The Orange Show
C'mon, the Orange Show founded the Art Car Parade, the most uniquely Houston cultural event in existence. If that's not enough for you, the organization is also nationally known for its programs, projects and files on self-taught, folk and outsider artists. In spite of its success, the Orange Show remains a tribute to the common man, to the artist in all of us. The bizarre little folk art headquarters off I-45 is a great place to spend an afternoon strolling the mazelike grounds, catching a film and, of course, learning all about the virtues of oranges.

C'mon, the Orange Show founded the Art Car Parade, the most uniquely Houston cultural event in existence. If that's not enough for you, the organization is also nationally known for its programs, projects and files on self-taught, folk and outsider artists. In spite of its success, the Orange Show remains a tribute to the common man, to the artist in all of us. The bizarre little folk art headquarters off I-45 is a great place to spend an afternoon strolling the mazelike grounds, catching a film and, of course, learning all about the virtues of oranges.

Houston institutions have been done in by many forces through the decades -- "progress," development or sheer stupidity. But success shouldn't be the cause of death. Yet a couple of years ago, there it was: Houston's signature event, the Orange Show's Art Car Ball, bloated and expiring right there on the floor of the Astrodome. The ball had grown up from a street festival to a perfect, near-spontaneous parking garage happening, complete with crazy cars and crazier characters, music and noise and laughter and near-nekkid skaters. When the party simply got too sizable to be managed, the Orange Show called it off in 2002. So it was remarkable to see the resurrection, and the return to roots, of the Art Car Ball in a downtown parking garage this year. Praise more than geezus for this born-again blessing for the Bayou City.

Houston institutions have been done in by many forces through the decades -- "progress," development or sheer stupidity. But success shouldn't be the cause of death. Yet a couple of years ago, there it was: Houston's signature event, the Orange Show's Art Car Ball, bloated and expiring right there on the floor of the Astrodome. The ball had grown up from a street festival to a perfect, near-spontaneous parking garage happening, complete with crazy cars and crazier characters, music and noise and laughter and near-nekkid skaters. When the party simply got too sizable to be managed, the Orange Show called it off in 2002. So it was remarkable to see the resurrection, and the return to roots, of the Art Car Ball in a downtown parking garage this year. Praise more than geezus for this born-again blessing for the Bayou City.

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