Though this mysterious fellow's real name is a secret, regular readers of his blog know that Slampo is an ex-employee of the defunct Houston Post, a native of southwest Louisiana now living in the Westbury area, a fan of both baseball Hall of Famer Enos "Country" Slaughter and primordial swamp-bluesman Slim Harpo, and a guy who can, on occasion, be tart as a, um, persimmon. Slampo's high-tension prose positively crackles with electricity, whether he's taking on immigration, the Enron trial, City Hall or Tom DeLay, or lamenting the deaths of music heroes such as Buck Owens or Wilson Pickett. (The latter's demise prompted one of Slampo's most Proustian posts.) And just when you think you've seen every mojo in his trick bag, he pulls out something like a very good original poem or a dialogue with his daughter and her schoolmate that rivals the best work of Mike Royko.
Earlier this year, we submitted public information requests to 63 Houston-area school districts, just to see how they'd respond (see "Needling the Haystack," by Keith Plocek, May 18). We wanted to measure how each district would treat a taxpayer who'd walked in the door and demanded to know what was what, so we didn't out ourselves as reporters. What we got were tons of quizzical looks and a good helping of "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?" But we also got to meet Beth Rickert, the finest PIO in the land. Rickert walked out, shook hands and got down to business, looking up most of the information we requested on the spot. She even let us dig through a stack of papers to make sure we got everything we needed. Now that's a PIO with no shame in her game.
When we were kids, we loved to ride in or underneath the shopping cart while Mom propelled it along. Now that we're older, we shop at Fiesta -- not just for the value, but because their carts can easily be wheeled off the premises and used for a little extracurricular activity. Here's what you do: Gather three friends, retrieve two carts, and mosey on over to a quiet, straight street for a head-to-head race. The rules are simple: Each cart has a rider and a pusher. As the riders brace themselves, the pushers take off at full speed for ten seconds and then let go. The winner is determined by whoever makes it the farthest (basically, whoever doesn't hit a curb and crash to the ground). If only Mom knew what we were up to.
Of all the places one could wish to spend one's FEMA relief money, The Penthouse Club is the place where one can drop some serious cash in a seriously quick amount of time for a seriously not-so-cheap thrill. Whether you're scoring some champagne for your party, getting some VIP treatment from an exotic dancer or doing both at the same time, adrenaline does not come cheap in this Galleria-area monument to Texan debauchery. Don't let the fake stone columns outside fool you -- this place is all class.
Byzantio Cafe & Bar - CLOSED
For those initial getting-to-know-you interludes, you want a place like Byzantio, where there are plenty of cozy nooks and hideaways with plush sofas under dim lighting. Start off the date with a coffee to maintain awareness during the "So, do you have any brothers or sisters?" phase. Move on to some wine or a tawny port to show off your sophistication. Then step up the mood with something adventurous, such as ouzo. The staff at this family-owned Greek coffee bar will be happy to make suggestions, so it will appear that you're open to new experiences. Once the booze has provided ample social lubricant, you're ready to load up the jukebox with exotic selections such as sultry and scintillating tunes from the CDs used by local belly dancers. Feel the music and see where it takes the two of you.
This cozy spread is way too quiet and intimate to accommodate anyone making a scene. If someone were to try, they'd likely get shushed -- or ministered to. (More on that later.) The vast offering of free-trade coffees proffers an air of rightness and justice, setting the tableau for your breakup as being "the right thing to do." The lack of alcohol prevents the likelihood of a sloppy, sobby scream-fest ("WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!"), and the abundance of books and presence of Wi-Fi gives the dearly dispartnered something to do after you leave. On top of all that, Taft is adjacent to Ecclesia Church, so if the recently dumped is in dire need of soul-searching, someone just might be there to listen.
The do-gooders at Grassroots: Art in Action, which only recently received 501(c)3 status, are determined to improve the state of art education in our public school system. Promoting creativity and critical thinking in the classroom and the community, the group develops innovative and collaborative teaching and learning experiences by focusing directly on the isolation and marginalization of artists and art teachers. Group members arrange museum and gallery tours and help teachers create unique lesson plans. How many memories do you have of school field trips to the Orange Show or the Art Car Museum? None? Grassroots wants your kids to have it better. And artists will surely enjoy being involved, thanks to the group's hip and fun fund-raisers.
You wouldn't expect a group of drywallers and bricklayers to be vulnerable dudes, but when the Minutemen and other anti-illegal-immigration advocates started shouting that the city was "coddling" day laborers, these workers were left standing alone on the corner. But Juan Alvarez, founder of the Latin American Organization for Immigrant Rights, jumped aboard their cause and drove all over town listening to their stories and teaching them how to deal with harassment. And when many of them were lured to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was Alvarez who cared for them when they returned sick and underpaid. He later hopped on I-10, tracked down a couple of opportunistic NOLA contractors and convinced them to turn over back wages to dozens of immigrant workers. Not bad for someone who was once a day laborer himself.
For once, this city saw a protest in which most of the marchers were directly influenced by the issue. Sure, there were some anarchists and LaRouche drones sprinkled throughout the crowd, preaching solidarity and handing out pamphlets, but most of the estimated 30,000 folks who marched from the Second Ward to Allen's Landing on a bright Monday were just regular, hardworking folks who'd decided it was time to stand up and be counted. American flags fluttered over the mostly Hispanic crowd, and anybody in attendance would've had a hard time painting all those stroller-pushing moms and dads as criminals and terrorists. Comprehensive immigration reform seems to have been postponed until the next election cycle, but all that congressional hemming and hawing won't stop these marchers from pursuing the American dream. S, se puede!
Matt Sonzala's blog is all about Third Coast hip-hop, which is fitting, considering how integral the man is to the scene. HoustonSoReal always seems to have the word on H-town haps, whether it's flicks from a video shoot in the Fifth Ward, a write-up of local rappers doing their thang in Europe or a link to a download of Sonzala's Damage Control radio program. The party pics are probably our favorite part, and Sonzala (a Press contributor) doesn't skimp on the uploads, often posting dozens upon dozens of shots from a single event. And just when you're about to get burned out from looking at so many rappers holding up their chains, along comes a photo of booty.

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