Sadly, except for "schmuck," "schlemiel" and a few other silly-sounding words, Yiddish is mostly dead. A Yiddish theater revival would go a long way in resurrecting the language, and there's no better place for it than the gorgeous, grossly underutilized open-air chapel at Emanu El Memorial Park. Long live Tevye the dairyman and Kalmen the matchmaker!

Slick Willie's Family Pool Hall

Sure, sure, we don't like to praise the chain outlets, but this really is the best pool hall in town, and we're not just saying that because we get a kick out of the irony of a place called Slick Willie's being stationed right across the street from the girl bar: Twenty-three of the big-boy pool tables (and one of the super big boys) are scattered about this clean, quiet, reasonably priced lair that, even though it's in the gayborhood, is populated by people who like their sticks and balls and holes in all variety of combinations. The place seems to keep the sharks and chickens out as much as possible, leaving yards and yards of felt for regular folks who like to shoot stick. Rack 'em up.

Nobody ever goes to this spectacular water park hidden in plain sight near the Med Center on the site of the old Shamrock Hotel. There's no free parking around and almost no foot traffic in the area, so likely as not your only company will be maintenance workers. And that's what makes it such a great place to take your iPod and meditate. Sit on one of the benches along the ivy-covered walls that line the ornamental pond and watch as jets of water spurt up in time to the songs of your choosing. Think about how all our lives are just like those of the droplets of water that fly upward, and no matter how high we fly, we're all destined to fall back to Earth and rejoin the one.

The Dirty South takes a lot of knocks from the greater Hip-Hop Nation. New Yorkers, especially, accuse us of dumbing down the music. They love to say hip-hop is dead, murdered by stupid songs like "Laffy Taffy" and "Chain Hang Low." They say our beats are wack and our lyrics are moronic. Chamillionaire is everything the smarty-pants New Yorkers say we are not. He's a fiercely intelligent rhymer, his beats are always fresh, he respects the music's history while carrying it forward and, what's more, he can sing. Somehow, he's commercial enough for radio and platinum-plus sales without being droolingly stupid, and clean enough for families to enjoy together, while hardcore enough to keep his cred. He's done not just Houston proud, but all of Hip-Hop America.

Annalee Jeffries is one of Houston's most wonderful treasures. Funny, fierce, smart and glowing with charisma and charm, the quirky actor is a bright spot in every production she joins. But this season she created one of her most unforgettable performances as the dowdy kook of a sister in the Alley Theatre's production of Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. Though she did not play the lead, she was, in most every important way, the swooning soul of the production. Her bumbling Virginia was so fully imagined that her every gesture felt as though it was coming from some mystical place of truth.

Griff's Houston

This venerable neighborhood bar isn't just for ass-kicking Saint Paddy's Day blowouts. It's also a great place to watch the Texans, Astros, Rockets or whomever any time of the year. And if your game is on a Tuesday night, you're in for an especially tasty treat: Griff's $10 steak night — which includes a 16-ounce rib eye, baked potato and a pint of beer. It's a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, complete with 16 TVs, three big screens and a cool little patio. Even if your team gets its ass handed to it, you're still going to have a great time here. Just have another drink to dull the pain.

Splendor

Whereas one can go to any Inner Loop establishment and get ignored for $100, those who want a real gentlemen's — and we use that word loosely — club experience go to Splendor. With all its 1983-casino­-lobby, uh, splendor, this independently owned and operated club treats every customer as if he's Tom Sizemore on a spending spree. Somewhere among the strikingly attractive dancers, the bizarre waterfall in the middle of the stage and the laid-back, friendly atmosphere, you'll find what you're looking for here. Just be sure to have some singles on you when you do.

The Ensemble Theatre

Founded 31 years ago "to preserve African-American artistic expression and to enlighten, entertain and enrich a diverse community," the Ensemble Theatre gets better each season, and this year was a banner one. The stage fare was distinctly varied and indefectibly produced with the company's usual high polish and downtown sass. There were two wonderfully different musicals: Christmas is Comin' Uptown (Dickens goes to Harlem — with attitude) and Get Ready (old smoothies stage a comeback); the civil rights dramedy Waiting to Be Invited; August Wilson's classic Joe Turner's Come and Gone; Lorraine Hansberry's mother of all black family dramas A Raisin in the Sun; and the wacky One Monkey Don't Stop No Show. The talent on display is prodigious, the works are given definitive productions and all that's needed is your presence. You can reach Ensemble by our beloved Metro light rail — the stop's right across the street — how convenient is that for great, enlightened theater?

When Suzan Lori Parks became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama — for 2001's TopDog/Underdog — you'd think she might have been willing to sit back on her laurels for a while. Not the reigning queen of American theater. Just one year later, in November 2002, she came up with what may be the most audacious theatrical idea ever. She would write a play a day, then theaters around the world would produce those plays. Called 365 Days/365 Plays, the project was open to any willing theater. The royalties were nominal and the technical requirements minimal. All a group had to do was sign up. Kudos to the Houston companies that put us on the map, including Mildred's Umbrella, Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and Infernal Bridegroom Productions. Houstonians will get two more chances to see this "far out" idea (as Parks called it). The Strand Theatre in Galveston and Nova Arts Project are both signed up for a week of plays in October.

Chapultepec Lupita
Photo by Houston Press Staff

After a night of drinking enough to make you crave the food of whatever restaurant is in sight, you're not usually worried about the music that accompanies the meal. This is what makes Chapultepec's jukebox such a pleasant surprise. The music machine is loaded with enough classic jazz, soul, rock and Latino hits to make you want to stay past your late fill, which is good for those trying to sober up before the drive home. Albums include Coltrane's Love Supreme, Miles's Bitch's Brew, Fats Domino's greatest hits, plenty of Billboard Top 10 records (from the years when popular music didn't suck), Patsy Cline and even Linda Ronstadt's Canciones de Mi Padre. Many tracks might encourage you to continue the dancing at your table; just try to stay off the tables and chairs.

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