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.
No, there's not much to do at this particular stop on the light-rail line. Unlike Ensemble or Preston, this is not an entertainment hub, nor is it a sports stop like Reliant; it's mainly a place for people to transfer from the bus to the train or vice versa. But we're not rating the stop based on what's around it -- we're rating the stop itself. And the medical history-themed TMC Transit Center is definitely the most educational and erudite transportation hub we've ever been privy to. Here, while you wait for your train, you'll learn from various plaques and etched bricks that the 1890s "saw enormous gains in successful surgeries," that the East Indians were experimenting with smallpox inoculation long before the West, that Confucius had something to do with slowing the advance of surgical science and that the Romans had advanced toilets -- all of which provides ample food for thought for your commute.
It wasn't so much a court ruling as it was a jury verdict, but Houstonians everywhere let out either a sigh of relief or a gleeful shout of schadenfreude when a jury of their peers came down hard on Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The city had lived through five years of the post-collapse soap opera, enduring all of it with the nagging fear that the city's most expensive criminal lawyers just might succeed in getting their clients off. Luckily, those clients had to take the stand, and both of them -- especially the prickly Lay -- practically erased any chance for an acquittal. Houston could breathe easy again. Now we only have to worry about the best appellate lawyers money can buy.
Far too many parades are bogged down by rinky-dink floats, processions of skinny high school kids in silver helmets and quasi-military uniforms, and convertibles full of D-list local dignitaries. Screw that. Parades should be about bands -- bands that bring the big beat. And no parade in H-town booms like MLK Day. For the first time in years, 2005's MLK Day Parade was a unified affair, with the two rival organizers joining forces for a near-nonstop cavalcade of funk. Every historically African-American high school band from Worthing and Sterling on the south side to Smiley and Forest Brook on the north -- not to mention Texas Southern University's Ocean of Soul -- all brought the noise: thunderous drum lines, blasting horns and majestically sashaying majorettes. Marching bands, especially African-American ones, are one of America's foremost native arts, and there are few places better to see them than at Houston's MLK Day Parade. (And this year conquering hometown hero Vince Young was the grand marshal, to boot.)

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