Leon's Lounge
Leon's Lounge Piano bars should be divey, but also have a touch of class. There should be history and mystery in the air. You should be able to envision yourself as Humphrey Bogart, and that shapely woman at the bar as Ingrid Bergman. They should inspire you to think up and use corny dialogue in lieu of your usual speech. There should also be a hint of danger to it all, and the people who work there should have plenty of character. In other words, piano bars should be like the one in the back room at Leon's Lounge. A renovated area of the oldest continuously operating bar in downtown/Midtown, the dark wood paneling, smoky mirrors and big chandeliers of Leon's speak of a faded grandeur, while its location by the Greyhound bus station attracts a colorful clientele. Sure, not many of them look like Ingrid Bergman, but if you can knock back a couple of belts and get the piano man to play "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," you might not care.

Club Tropicana You can hear the salsa pumping from almost a block away. Inside, Club Tropicana is chock-full of attractive patrons. The salsa, merengue and bachata (the spicy music from the Dominican Republic) throb compliments of perennial local stars Mi Rumba. DJ Salserin, who's getting props around town for his mad salsa spinning, accents Mi Rumba's tunes on Fridays. It's almost painful to watch the short skirts and sculpted calves spinning on the dance floor. Need a dance crash course? Arrive early and take a salsa class before the crowd shows up. Or, just buy a bottle of Herradura, spark up a Macanudo and kick back in the lounge and watch guapo guys ogle the gorgeous Latinas who flock to the restrooms to reapply, refresh and repeat.

Tropicana Nite Club
Club Tropicana You can hear the salsa pumping from almost a block away. Inside, Club Tropicana is chock-full of attractive patrons. The salsa, merengue and bachata (the spicy music from the Dominican Republic) throb compliments of perennial local stars Mi Rumba. DJ Salserin, who's getting props around town for his mad salsa spinning, accents Mi Rumba's tunes on Fridays. It's almost painful to watch the short skirts and sculpted calves spinning on the dance floor. Need a dance crash course? Arrive early and take a salsa class before the crowd shows up. Or, just buy a bottle of Herradura, spark up a Macanudo and kick back in the lounge and watch guapo guys ogle the gorgeous Latinas who flock to the restrooms to reapply, refresh and repeat.

The Light Inside Oppressive, unceasing brightness got you down? The depths of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will lift you up with the shadiest spot in the state of Texas this side of a Tom DeLay PAC. Burrowed beneath Main Street, this James Turrell installation is our choice when the summer sun becomes too much to bear. From a distance, it feels like stepping into Tron with the juicy grape screen concealing the corridor behind. Once you're inside, the platform seems to hover above the light, and the artistically inclined will no doubt draw great meaning from it in terms of color, space, perception and emotion. Us? We'll just wipe our salty brow and chill out a bit, wondering how the security guard doesn't get dizzy.

The Light Inside Oppressive, unceasing brightness got you down? The depths of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will lift you up with the shadiest spot in the state of Texas this side of a Tom DeLay PAC. Burrowed beneath Main Street, this James Turrell installation is our choice when the summer sun becomes too much to bear. From a distance, it feels like stepping into Tron with the juicy grape screen concealing the corridor behind. Once you're inside, the platform seems to hover above the light, and the artistically inclined will no doubt draw great meaning from it in terms of color, space, perception and emotion. Us? We'll just wipe our salty brow and chill out a bit, wondering how the security guard doesn't get dizzy.

Cahill's on Durham It's all about the juxtaposition. In one stall of the men's bathroom you've got a Budweiser poster featuring supermodel Elsa Benitez -- typical fare for a sports bar. Over the urinal hangs a poster of a Harley-Davidson chick in a black leather jacket. This one looks like it came straight out of a truck-stop bathroom. But inside the other stall hangs beauty itself: a portrait of a buxom brunette framed with wooden veneer. Her hazel eyes gaze forward, surrounded by hair that cascades down until it rests upon her supple breasts. She's gorgeous. We've only got one question for Vincent, the artist of this photorealistic work: How much would it cost to get a version on velvet?

Cahill's On Durham
Cahill's on Durham It's all about the juxtaposition. In one stall of the men's bathroom you've got a Budweiser poster featuring supermodel Elsa Benitez -- typical fare for a sports bar. Over the urinal hangs a poster of a Harley-Davidson chick in a black leather jacket. This one looks like it came straight out of a truck-stop bathroom. But inside the other stall hangs beauty itself: a portrait of a buxom brunette framed with wooden veneer. Her hazel eyes gaze forward, surrounded by hair that cascades down until it rests upon her supple breasts. She's gorgeous. We've only got one question for Vincent, the artist of this photorealistic work: How much would it cost to get a version on velvet?

Jerry's World at Infernal Bridegroom Productions Based on the programs of Joe Frank -- a real-life radio personality dubbed "the most imaginative, literate monologist in radio" -- Jerry's World, like a strangely ecstatic tone poem, celebrates the dirty little corners of our contemporary landscape, in which life gets funnier as it gets more abstract and amorphous. Directed and adapted by Troy Schulze, the collage of scenes and monologues (all of which were either re-creations or recordings of dialogue from the actual radio program) stitches together anecdotes and rants, including cracks at long post office lines, overpaid athletes and oversexed teenage dance shows. Ultimately, the show is both a sonic experiment that redefines traditional theater and a mesmerizing symphony of language.

Jerry's World at Infernal Bridegroom Productions Based on the programs of Joe Frank -- a real-life radio personality dubbed "the most imaginative, literate monologist in radio" -- Jerry's World, like a strangely ecstatic tone poem, celebrates the dirty little corners of our contemporary landscape, in which life gets funnier as it gets more abstract and amorphous. Directed and adapted by Troy Schulze, the collage of scenes and monologues (all of which were either re-creations or recordings of dialogue from the actual radio program) stitches together anecdotes and rants, including cracks at long post office lines, overpaid athletes and oversexed teenage dance shows. Ultimately, the show is both a sonic experiment that redefines traditional theater and a mesmerizing symphony of language.

DiverseWorks A visiting performance artist once sent a note to DiverseWorks saying, "Once you've done DiverseWorks, you've done Texas." That's a mighty strong statement, but we agree that everyone should "do" DiverseWorks. Now in its 21st year, the funky, intimate performance space has brought consistently challenging and groundbreaking contemporary works to Houston. Homegrown shows like the experimental electronic music festival "Twelve Minutes Max" take shape here each season. But DiverseWorks also has introduced Houstonians to internationally recognized performance artists such as Miranda July and spoken-word celeb Marc Bamuthi Joseph. This year brings more international offerings, including edgy Argentine puppeteers El Chonchón's Spanish version of Romeo and Juliet.

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