Harrisburg Plaza, the newly renovated 1929 blond-brick building with a terra-cotta roof and reflective steel canopy, would look right at home on any ivy-covered college campus. Instead, it houses an auto parts store and payday loan center on Houston's rough-and-tumble east side. Designed by German-born architect Joseph Finger, the building blends nicely with the adjacent church and always-busy Eastwood Park. Check it out: It's a great building to gaze at, and there are great prices on motor oil.

Like his Democratic Best of Houston® counterpart, we've had our disagreements with State Senator Kyle Janek's record. But the anesthesiologist from West U has shown some impressive thinking on health issues. This year he helped spearhead the drive to make Texas high schools test for steroids. Anyone who's seen the giant kids being produced by some of the state's football powerhouses knows there's been something fishy, not to mention something terribly cynical about programs willing to put kids' health at risk. Janek's bill requires random testing of athletes and educational programs for coaches. It doesn't go as far as some would like, but it's an important first step, and Janek is responsible.

If you reside on the northeast side, Bissonnet Street won't do you much good. But if you're anywhere on the southwest side, Bissonnet represents not only the best but also the most sane route to downtown. Offering a much-needed respite from Houston's choked, monotonous highways, Bissonnet will glide you through economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods such as Sharpstown, Gulfton, Bellaire and West University, then drop you off in the Museum District at Main Street, where you can follow the light rail into the city's ­center.

This 48-year-old outdoor mall looked old when it opened and was full of life. Designed by architect William J. Wortham, Jr., a man with a fixation on all things Italian Renaissance, Westbury Square was supposed to evoke a village in Tuscany, and for a decade or so it thrived as a hotbed of the counterculture outside the Loop, far from Montrose. Today it looks more like Pompeii. Almost half of it was pulled down about ten years ago to make way for a Home Depot, while the other half molders and crumbles in the sun, rain, wind and mold. And yet there's life there — people still live on the upper floors of some of the buildings, and a cigar shop there claims to have Houston's largest humidor. So grab a stogie, fire it up and remember the way things were.

Estereo Latino KLTN 102.9 FM has tons of the latest hot Latin music. But then again, so do a dozen other Spanish-language radio stations. So, what makes the station stand out in the crowded Latino radio market? The DJs, of course. Host and show producer Raul Brindis is the morning funny man on weekdays and Saturdays, along with sidekicks Pepito, Caraturky, Columba, El Perico, El Costeñito and El Lobo. Brindis's radio show is one of the most popular in the city. The crew starts the mornings off with regular comedy bits, like "Confessions" and "Professor Chingao" (ask your Spanish-speaking friend for a translation). Then beautiful and sexy-voiced Gloria Rodríguez takes over for the afternoon, followed by René Rodríguez and Vidal Luna. Each show has a slightly different twist on the music, moving from norteño to grupero to cumbias. Stereo Latino keeps you dancing – and laughing.

Adickes SculpturWorx Studio

Okay, so we're not vouching for the artistic merit of David Adickes's gigantic sculptures, but for some reason this was the artist's year. Not only did Adickes finally finish his 36-foot-tall rendering of the Beatles, but it seems every out-of-town visitor asked us for directions on how to get to "that weird warehouse space with those huge presidential heads." (No one refers to the studio by its official, overwrought title.) And it's only by standing there, surrounded by tons of dead presidents, that other local, offbeat tourist attractions, such as the Orange Show or the Beer Can House, make sense. You realize the creators of those monuments just collected things and stuck them on their houses. But with something like SculpturWorx, you can't help but wonder: What the hell was this dude thinking?

Hurricane season is the time of year when all the local weathermen and -women (and, ahem, dogs) tell you, time and time again, that you are about to die!!! All of them, that is, except for Channel 2's Frank Billingsley, who prides himself on not giving in to the hype. He was the first guy, after all, to make the call in 2005 that Rita was going to miss Houston. He never freaks out when a storm is barely within 1,000 miles of Texas, and he never delays the moment to tell folks when they're safe. He just gives the goods the way they are and the way they hopefully will be. Of course, by the time you read this, a hurricane could've blown Houston off the map and, thanks to Frank Billingsley, you might've stayed in town, but we're pretty sure that didn't happen.

La Luz Del Mundo

It took what seemed like years to build, and then, voilà, there it was. But what is it? There amid many a gun shop, porn emporium and used-tire barn, rising out of the pine-tree-lined concrete gash that is the Eastex Freeway, now stands this vast apparition, looking like nothing so much as a giant, golden-domed slab of Greek Revival wedding cake. The Internet is rife with guesses about its purpose: Is it the residence of a Scarface-like drug kingpin with a Parthenon fixation? A Jain temple? A Mexican mosque? No, it's Iglesia La Luz Del Mundo, the regional church for the Luz del Mundo religious movement, a Protestant Christian sect based in Guada­lajara. It's also the only cool thing on the Eastex Freeway between the North Loop and the airport.

YES College Preparatory School

One day, if we're lucky, YES College Preparatory School will have dozens of campuses across Houston. So far there are four. Well, five, actually, if you count the one about to go inside Houston Independent School District's long-struggling Lee High School. YES, which stands for Youths Engaged in Service, is the only charter school system in the state to earn an Exemplary or Recognized rating by the Texas Education Agency for every year of operation. About 80 percent of the kids are poor, 95 percent are African-American or Hispanic and 100 percent of its graduates gain admission to a four-year university — a requirement written into the school's charter. Students attend classes for nine hours each weekday, four hours on Saturdays and one month during the summer. Expectations are high. And, amazingly, they are met.

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