Paul Mewis Law Office Houston is home to many beautifully painted murals, some by noted artists. The backside of Paul Mewis's small building isn't one of them -- but this crude hodgepodge depicting the horrors -- and humor -- of the justice system is precisely the kind of soulful native art that deserves attention. On the corner of Caroline, just across from the county's criminal courts building and jail, the painting depicts Whistler's Mother settled into the electric chair. "Fruit of the Vine" has liquor and beer bottles hanging off ivy -- look closely for the marijuana leaf. Inmate "Carrazco" (presumably Fred Gomez Carrasco, who led a fatal prison siege in 1974) fights off an execution needle while another naked inmate reaches through cell bars, grasping at the eagle of freedom flapping away. Meanwhile, the Mona Lisa has gone hooker, Ma and Pa in American Gothic are packin' heat, and a cop's got a suspect pinned down. Paul Mewis is even in there, on the $100 bill. Mewis, an attorney, commissioned the mural years ago when a client referred him to the "artists" at a northside bar. He chuckles recalling how they dragged the job out for three months and pestered him for more money to buy paint. Now Mewis isn't as jovial -- the county bought the entire block from a parking company to build a plaza in its place. Mewis will get nothing for his building. "I'm less than a year away from the wrecking ball," he says with a sigh. When that happens, another piece of Houston's heritage will be dust.

Jim Rome "Pimp in the box, what is up? Thanks for the vine, Rome, Houston Press here -- first time, long time. Way back, in fact, from the early days on the Mighty 690 with Smacksaw Hamilton. 'Show us your lightning bolt!' Anyway, V-Smack, it's been an epic run of syndication, and your old saying remains true: The Jungle is like beer. You didn't get your first beer and go, 'Hey, that's great! Gimme ten more of those!' It's an acquired taste. So if you're new to tuning in, H-town, and you don't quite get it, give it two weeks. Hang around for an interview or two -- they're smooth, incisive, intimate and inimitable. Sit back for a riotous, acerbic rant. Fumble around in the smacktionary trying to keep up with Jungle gloss. And hell, be a clone, too -- send an Orenthal reset. But most of all -- and this is important -- make sure you have a take and make sure that take does not suck. War Cablinasian. War Astros. Rack us."

Jim Rome "Pimp in the box, what is up? Thanks for the vine, Rome, Houston Press here -- first time, long time. Way back, in fact, from the early days on the Mighty 690 with Smacksaw Hamilton. 'Show us your lightning bolt!' Anyway, V-Smack, it's been an epic run of syndication, and your old saying remains true: The Jungle is like beer. You didn't get your first beer and go, 'Hey, that's great! Gimme ten more of those!' It's an acquired taste. So if you're new to tuning in, H-town, and you don't quite get it, give it two weeks. Hang around for an interview or two -- they're smooth, incisive, intimate and inimitable. Sit back for a riotous, acerbic rant. Fumble around in the smacktionary trying to keep up with Jungle gloss. And hell, be a clone, too -- send an Orenthal reset. But most of all -- and this is important -- make sure you have a take and make sure that take does not suck. War Cablinasian. War Astros. Rack us."

James Black "What kinda fuckin' world is this?!" wailed the man on the stage, wearing only a shirt and underwear. From this opening line, we knew life wasn't easy for the folks in Stephen Adly Guigis's Our Lady of 121st Street. In the play, the pants-less character, Victor (James Belcher), was supposed to attend services for his dead friend, but that was before someone stole her corpse -- and Victor's pants -- right out of the viewing room. Belcher's rant against this "godless jungle" of a world is representative of the fine performances director James Black was able to extract from the entire lot of his actors. Best known for his mesmerizing performances in productions at the Alley over the past decade, Black lately has shown a clear passion and uncanny knack for directing. Using a local cast -- many of whom had rarely if ever performed at the Alley -- Black created a nuanced production, and he took chances more experienced directors might not have risked. One gets the feeling that Black has only begun to polish his directing skills, and the best is yet to come.

James Black "What kinda fuckin' world is this?!" wailed the man on the stage, wearing only a shirt and underwear. From this opening line, we knew life wasn't easy for the folks in Stephen Adly Guigis's Our Lady of 121st Street. In the play, the pants-less character, Victor (James Belcher), was supposed to attend services for his dead friend, but that was before someone stole her corpse -- and Victor's pants -- right out of the viewing room. Belcher's rant against this "godless jungle" of a world is representative of the fine performances director James Black was able to extract from the entire lot of his actors. Best known for his mesmerizing performances in productions at the Alley over the past decade, Black lately has shown a clear passion and uncanny knack for directing. Using a local cast -- many of whom had rarely if ever performed at the Alley -- Black created a nuanced production, and he took chances more experienced directors might not have risked. One gets the feeling that Black has only begun to polish his directing skills, and the best is yet to come.

Whiskey Bar at Hotel Icon Achingly hip hotels have been springing up all over Houston like crabgrass. Really hip crabgrass, of course. One of the hippest is Hotel Icon, housed in the beautifully restored, 93-year-old Union Bank Building (which, in Houston years, qualifies as prehistoric). And the best part of the Icon is the Whiskey Bar, a local version of the Los Angeles-based chain. Tucked away on the balcony, up a small and tight staircase, are the beautiful people and those who are trying to be. The tiny place gets cramped on weekends, as downtown visitors -- especially those coming in on the light rail line that's just steps away -- come to somehow gawk and act cool at the same time. During the week the atmosphere is more sedate, as business travelers fuel up for their road-warrior battles. But sipping something icy as you lounge in plush seats and people-watch in this darkened hideaway is good just about anytime.

Hotel ICON
Whiskey Bar at Hotel Icon Achingly hip hotels have been springing up all over Houston like crabgrass. Really hip crabgrass, of course. One of the hippest is Hotel Icon, housed in the beautifully restored, 93-year-old Union Bank Building (which, in Houston years, qualifies as prehistoric). And the best part of the Icon is the Whiskey Bar, a local version of the Los Angeles-based chain. Tucked away on the balcony, up a small and tight staircase, are the beautiful people and those who are trying to be. The tiny place gets cramped on weekends, as downtown visitors -- especially those coming in on the light rail line that's just steps away -- come to somehow gawk and act cool at the same time. During the week the atmosphere is more sedate, as business travelers fuel up for their road-warrior battles. But sipping something icy as you lounge in plush seats and people-watch in this darkened hideaway is good just about anytime.

The Red Door Lounges seem to be popping up all over Midtown, but the Red Door has managed to stand firm in the capricious scene. Once you pass the eponymous port of entry, you find yourself surrounded by attractive twentysomethings who are dressed to impress and sloshed to excess. They mingle around the circular bar, exchanging and avoiding glances in turn. Upstairs is a patio with a kick-ass view of the downtown skyline, where groups gather around tables for a little more privacy. But no matter where you choose to set up camp, you can't avoid the bumpin' beat and the dancing talent.

The Red Door Lounges seem to be popping up all over Midtown, but the Red Door has managed to stand firm in the capricious scene. Once you pass the eponymous port of entry, you find yourself surrounded by attractive twentysomethings who are dressed to impress and sloshed to excess. They mingle around the circular bar, exchanging and avoiding glances in turn. Upstairs is a patio with a kick-ass view of the downtown skyline, where groups gather around tables for a little more privacy. But no matter where you choose to set up camp, you can't avoid the bumpin' beat and the dancing talent.

Best New Effort to Inject Culture into Houston

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Okay, maybe it's not high culture that the Alamo Drafthouse is injecting into Houston, but they're catering to film buffs who like their brew. The Alamo features independent films alongside Hollywood smash hits, underground classics like the Toxic Avenger series and plenty of Japanese anime. They serve decent bar-type food such as pizza, wings and spinach dip, and their drink specials can't be beat. Where else can you get wait service while watching a film? Where else can you hear a live DJ spin an original score to some Japanese anime? No place else in H-town, that's for sure. Welcome to the west side, Alamo.

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