Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention Air pollution shouldn't be a partisan issue -- at least, not for those of us who breathe. But in refinery-dominated Houston, clean-air advocates can be painted as whining hypochondriacs who just don't understand that a little bit of ozone keeps the economy well greased. Industry officials might hurl this and other imprecations at the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, yet it's much harder to refute the group's research. For example, this summer GHASP released a report indicating toxic emissions from Houston refineries and chemical plants are more than three times higher than what the industry reports. By using hard numbers and scientific studies, GHASP presents a strong case for better regulation of polluting industries. And its feisty membership arm, Mothers for Clean Air, is mobilizing enough local activists to make it happen. If Houston is to breathe new life into its economy, we'll need groups such as GHASP to make the city's atmosphere attractive for everybody, not just oil tycoons.

Revolution Yeah, we know what you're thinking: Surfing in Texas? Well, after years of being ignored in the Cali-based surf mags, Galveston-born Stephen Hadley launched Gulf Coast Surfer in 2003. That publication metamorphosed into Revolution, a free magazine with great photos, interviews and updates of those involved in the Texas surf scene. "The mag's publication is happening at a time when surfing has reached unprecedented levels in our region," Hadley writes in the premiere issue. "Instead of fashioning a surf community based on East or West Coast ideals, we are slowly creating a culture that is uniquely ours." No matter if you're a beginner, an expert or have never even seen a surfboard, check out Revolution and see why surfing is alive and well in the Lone Star State.

Jeff Skilling Hey, Jeff: Nobody's dissin' you for that little mess known as Enron. Hell, you jumped in as CEO and jacked 'em up -- shareholders, small-fry workers and anybody else you could boost -- for a few hundred million. But so did the rest of the gang. That act, er, innovative leadership, will play well in most corporate boardrooms across the country these days. What doesn't go over quite as well, either here or in the Big Apple, is your horror show while clubbin' in Manhattan. You had to get shit-faced, try to swipe license plates, talk to the heavens and cop a feel under female blouses in the name of searching for FBI wires. Your wife may forgive you for knocking her over when she was already on crutches, but we can't be as kind. Those Upper East Siders already think of Houston as a heathen backwater. As Kenny Boy might say, can't you at least Lay low for a while?

Sharon Bush Sit down, Anna Nicole, there's a new bad broad in town. Sharon Bush gives exes everywhere a bad name while elevating the whining-victim game to a new high (or low). Neil may not be the brightest Bush in the bunch, but even he couldn't put up with her. After 23 years, he called it quits last year. But Sharon didn't take the divorce lying down. She has called his new wife a naughty name, told people that the woman's infant son was Neil's love child (slander suit pending on that one), threatened to write a tell-all about the Bush family, talked to gossip columnists in New York and D.C. and spilled her tale of woe to at least two major magazines, neither of which wound up portraying her in a very friendly light. What's next, her own reality TV show? Divorce just brings out the best in some women.

Eric Quill, Davey Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards), Chris Gbandi (Dallas Burn), Josh Gardner, Ricky Lewis (Los Angeles Galaxy), Rusty Pierce (New England Revolution), Nelson Akwari (Columbus Crew) and Arturo Alvarez (San Jose Earthquakes) Houston needs a Major League Soccer team. Just check the names above. All of these young men hail from the Houston area and are slamming and jamming with the big boys in the MLS. Why not give them a home team? The league has grown over the years to include prime players from all over the planet, and the sport's growing popularity here is building a sort of soccer solidarity with the rest of the world. That's something we've never had before, and we might need it now more than ever. Heck, Chris Gbandi was the top draft pick in the league when he entered the MLS, and Rusty Pierce is in the pool for the Men's National Team Player title. These are some shining soccer stars from our own backyard. And with the diverse population here -- as evidenced by the players listed above -- H-town is ready to host and support an MLS home team in the Astrodome. Now.

Wish's Club It's amazing what people will do inside a shadow box. Hidden by frosted glass with a red light behind them, otherwise distinguished women will take it all off for the sake of a little harmless exhibitionism. Elsewhere in the bar, couples embrace tenderly and not so tenderly -- and then trade off and do it all over again. The whole thing is a scene that should be seen at least once. But, unless you're ready to take part in "the lifestyle," we suggest you don't get too close to any of the randy couples; that curvaceous specimen you were just ogling might be old enough to be your grandma. It's best to stay in the dark about some things.

Solange Knowles With her debut record, Solo Star, and a role in the major motion picture Johnson Family Vacation, Houston's other Knowles -- Solange -- is busy punching her way out from big sis Beyoncé's shadow. Her recent appearances on Today and Sharon Osbourne, along with her performances on Soul Train and On Air with Ryan Seacrest, suggest the newly married Solange is closer to breaking the big-time barrier than Ashlee Simpson, Aaron Carter and all the other sibling suck-ups combined. Learning from the best has its privileges. Something tells us that by this time next year, the entire country will be crazy in love with this 18-year-old Bayou City triple threat.

Sig Byrd's Houston In the '50s and '60s, Sig Byrd was a columnist for the old daily Houston Press and later the Houston Chronicle, and his beat was the human tragicomedy. Byrd was irresistibly drawn to the city's lowlife; in his words, the "curious assortment of hard-bitten merchants, working men and women, wineheads, goofball addicts, [and] desiccated trollops" that congregated in the "scrounging retail stores, flophouses, brothels, and honky-tonks" along the skid rows that were Preston and Congress streets. Though Byrd's Houston existed 50 years ago, it might as well have been the Middle Ages. Who today remembers that the entire 400 block of Milam was once a den of sin called Catfish Reef, or that in the '50s there were still blacksmiths beating on red-hot metal in a place near the Preston Street Bridge called Vinegar Hill? Who recalls when people would say something was "lagoo-oon" when they wanted to call something cool? While virtually every other book about Houston concerns the deeds of great men -- Sam Houston, Jesse Jones, Roy Hofheinz and the like -- Byrd explored the deeds of the forgotten souls who lived on the fringes or did the grunt work, and in doing so, he wrote the finest book about Houston and one of the best ever works of Texan nonfiction. It's a tragedy that it's out of print, but you can almost always pick up a copy online. It's well worth the hunt.

Hard Times and Misery Saloon A couple of blocks west of Jack Johnson Boulevard squats this neighborhood bar, which rivals a Mexican cantina called El Higado No Existe ("The Liver Doesn't Exist") and a rough pub in Lancashire called Dr. Syntax as the very best bar name we've ever come across in a couple of decades of spending time in the cursed joints. Remember -- it's not just Hard Times you can escape from at this saloon; it's Hard Times and Misery. Tennessee Williams couldn't name a bar any better than that.

Best Place to Pretend You're in the Hill Country

Blanco's Bar & Grill
Blanco's Living inside the Loop, it's easy to forget you're in Texas. In parts of Midtown, it's easier to trick yourself into thinking you're in Saigon; in parts of the Second and Sixth wards it's easy to believe you're in Puebla or Matamoros. But what about Texas? For that, you'll have to swim the country music-echoing sea of Shiner, Stetsons and Wranglers over at Blanco's, which feels like more of a piece of its namesake town, New Braunfels -- or maybe even Marble Falls -- than East Texas.

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