The Catastrophic Theatre's production of the comedy/drama Hunter Gatherers won a rave from our reviewer, but Lee Williams failed to mention Greg Dean's incredible hard-on, waving around for all to see in the intimate Stages setting. Dean, playing a disturbed ex-jock, had been off-stage for a while before making his dramatic blood-engorged re-entrance, so we imagined him backstage furiously reading Hustlers and Penthouses in order to get ready. Alas, someone sitting closer to the actor than us reports that — unlike Teri Hatcher's breasts in Seinfeld – while it was fabulous, it was not real.

Hipsters, it seems, will do just about anything if there's enough of a retro-kitsch factor involved, which generally boils down to an idea that sounds really, really good when you're baked. Only a few short years ago, after all, sales and manufacturing of new vinyl LPs were as dead as Elvis, and now that's one of the fastest-growing (and only growing) sectors of the music business. Now, a few local bands have taken that a step or three further and resumed releasing new material on cassettes, those chunky plastic-and-magnetic-tape artifacts you haven't been able to play in a new car since around the turn of the century. (And that tend to melt in the stifling Houston heat and humidity should you leave them in said car.) Evidently, there are still enough old cars and jamboxes lying around Houston to convince bands like Muhamad Ali and Cop Warmth it's a viable medium, while Bright Men of Learning's Benjamin Davis Murphy — inspired by '90s lo-fi cassette kingpins Sebadoh — has planned a whole series of cassette-only releases. Pure hipster irony or remarkably farsighted forecasting, more and more people these days are ready to just push "play."

Restaurant CINQ at La Colombe D'Or Hotel
Jeff Balke

Everything's big in Texas — everything except La Colombe d'Or, that is. Billing itself as the smallest luxury hotel in the world, La Colombe has only six suites and a handful of courtyard apartments. There's also a four-star restaurant and well-appointed bar on-site. The hotel is the former family home of oilman W.W. Fondren, built in 1923. Did we say family home? We meant mansion. Opulent but without pretense, La Colombe is filled with museum-quality antiques and art. The low-key service (no intrusive waiters hovering over your shoulder), coupled with an emphasis on privacy and the picturesque setting, makes this the perfect place to spend a romantic weekend.

One lazy Houston afternoon, Umbrella Man bassist Nick Gaitan was sitting upstairs in his apartment on "The Island" at 3700 Main, the South Midtown building that houses the Continental Club, Tacos a Go-Go, Sig's Lagoon and Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge. At the time, Gaitan was pulling down shifts at all of them, and as he stared out his window at the Ensemble/HCC MetroRail station, the makings of a song began stirring in his head: "I just walked up from the station / 26 steps up in the rain..." He finished the song in about 20 minutes, before the ride he was waiting on showed up, and titled it "I've Found My Weakness in You" after the abundance of attractive women who populate the block most weekend (and some weekday) nights. Not long after, Gaitan's boss Billy Joe Shaver heard him rehearsing it on the tour bus and liked it so much, he's already cut a version for his still-unreleased next album. Still, the version Gaitan sings most every Tuesday at Umbrella Man's Continental gig — and has recorded for that band's forthcoming release — remains the definitive one. "Weakness" may be about a very specific piece of real estate and what goes on there, but its laid-back, down-home vibe makes it an anthem all Houston can get behind.

House of Blues

Really, now: You didn't think we were going to give Houston's newest (and priciest) concert hall "Best Drink Prices," did you? But House of Blues deserves credit where it's due, and it has due aplenty for bringing in artists who might otherwise skip Houston altogether — legends like Willie Nelson and rising stars à la Santigold alike — and even more for a sound rig that makes them all sound as good as they do on record, if not better. HOB's all-digital setup looks more like an instrument panel from the Starship Enterprise than the levers-and-knobs soundboards most other local music venues use, and it shows. Most nights, it even works well enough to drown out the conversations of HOB's exceptionally chatty clientele.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Photo by Houston Press Staff

These days, mixed martial arts might be more popular than baseball and hockey combined, but in Texas, football is still king. And there's no better place to post up and watch a game than Buffalo Wild Wings near Rice Village. The food is better here than at most sports bars in town, and even the boneless wings, which usually are a letdown, hit the mark. The set-up at Buffalo Wild Wings is what makes it great, though. The big-screen TVs on top of the long tables are the perfect way to view a game outside of your living room. And if the Texans aren't your team, you're bound to run into some like-minded fans making fun of the locals.

Under The Volcano

In this city of carnivores, choosing a steak night — by which we mean, a pre-designated night a local tavern fires up the grill outside, not a trip to Fleming's or Texas Land & Cattle — is as easy as choosing which night of the week you want to eat steak. Some places even do it twice a week. And although Griff's and Cedar Creek have their supporters, Bissonnet tropical oasis Under the Volcano is still Houston's grade-A choice prime cut to us. Every Monday night, the Volcano crew grills up succulent strips or robust ribeyes for about a third of what similar cuts would cost in a steakhouse. Volcano's signature condiment is the pungent chimichurri (a sort of Argentine pesto), but the steaks are so well-seasoned we usually don't even need it, and the drippings make a fine gravy for the extra-garlicky side of mashed potatoes. Wash it down with one of the bar's homemade cocktails or one of its many specialty beers — our hearts will always be true to locally brewed Saint Arnold's Amber, at least in summertime — and don't forget to ask for a to-go box. You'll need it.

The Men's Club of Houston

The strippers at The Men's Club are about as sexy as can be desired. But forget about them and head to the amazing all-you-can-eat lunch buffet — for just the $12 cover, it might be the best dining deal in town. A guy in a chef's hat doles out choice cuts of prime rib; another makes stir-fries to order. Gourmet takes on everything from chicken and salmon to jambalaya and enchiladas fill the many silver platters; there's also a salad bar and killer desserts. Like the food, the venue itself is both manly and classy, with smoking-room-worthy armchairs and flat-screens tuned to ESPN. The $1.50 cocktails and domestics (and another buffet) make happy hour similarly enticing. Worried your significant other might not buy such excuses for all that time at the strip club? The sound-proof phone booth near the bathrooms says you can be wherever you like.

Treasures

Julie is not saving money for school. She strips 'cuz she likes it, and it pays the bills. "I'll keep stripping until there's a ring on this finger," she says. At the notoriously rambunctious Treasures, where, as the deejay announced on a recent Thursday night, "It's harder to get a stripper to the stage than it is to get the manager laid," Julie's no-nonsense style is a nice change of pace, if a little intimidating. Fit, compact and impossibly enticing, she's also aggressive as hell. If she plants herself on your lap, you'll probably end up with a $20 dance, whether you like it or not. (Trust us, though, you'll like it.)

Vine Street Studios

FotoFest likes to start them young — as photographers and as fans. Its student art program FotoFence, a Literacy Through Photography project, had 2,500 kids in 22 Houston-area schools producing some surprising results. Working with professional photographers and arts educators, students from fifth through twelfth grades wrote essays and created posters, photo-blogs, self-portraits, collages and mixed-media artwork. The assignment? "Reflect the world around you." The students responded with work that revealed their secrets and dreams, such as having a chronic disease ("My scar has been a speed bump...") or becoming an engineer ("I am a math expert"). Others were a little more fanciful ("I am the king of Neptune!!" and "When I'm crazy I'm a Rabbit with no fur wearing a bikini"). An exhibit at the FotoFest gallery, where 500 students displayed artwork and read their writings to a seriously impressed public (plus a few proud moms and dads, we're sure), closed out the project for the year. Now, back to that bikini-wearing rabbit...

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