One part egomaniac, one part friendly next-door neighbor, Joel Osteen preaches a positive-vibes-only brand of nondenominational Christianity that's helped his membership grow exponentially in the past few years. Although we don't appreciate the unholy amount of traffic Lakewood's services bring to Highway 59 every weekend, we do appreciate the lack of fire, brimstone and sexual scandal that tends to accompany most other people looking to save your soul. Besides, it's only fitting that the largest church in the United States would reside in the most Texas-sized, morality-be-damned city in the state.
Co-designed by architectural legend Philip Johnson, the 901-foot-tall Williams Tower has the kind of power and grace that impresses people who aren't normally impressed by buildings. Completed in 1983 and originally known as the Transco Tower, the edifice was built as two separate structures, one atop the other. The building has separate elevator banks and lobbies for the two parts, but even if you've never stepped inside the tower, you can appreciate its majesty. It's the fourth-tallest building in Texas and the 20th in the country, but as a Houston landmark, we're giving it No. 1. (When you drive by, be sure to check out the gorgeous water wall.)
Dominique's got personality to spare. Whether she's sharing the joys of her pregnancy with viewers or talking about her bulldog, Butkus, she's hypnotizing. Mostly, it's the lips; just look at those things. When she first announced she had a "secret," we feared the worst. Was she leaving us? Was she really a man? So when she revealed that she was expecting a baby, we cheered. And now there's a 243-picture slideshow (as of this writing, anyway) of her lovely boy, Styles, on her company's Web site. It's all a part of a wonderful exchange: We let her into our living rooms, she lets us into her heart.
For more than a year now, a self-described nympho identifying herself only as "Vix" has been telling us about her need for constant sex. Up until a few months ago, that need was met by her boyfriend, although not as often as she wanted. They split, so she started a new blog to chart her activity as a single nympho on the town. Just the other night she was about to bang some ugly dude in a parking garage until he confessed he had a girlfriend. This is good stuff. You could waste hours of valuable work time here, which is the hallmark of any good blog. Vix, we eagerly wait to see what adventures unfold.
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.

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