Voices Breaking Boundaries

In order to inject culture, one must first observe, collect and acknowledge the culture that is already in place. "What does it mean to have a home?" is the question posed to us by this Voices Breaking Boundaries production that digs deep into the history of Freedman's Town and its current residents, who are dealing with an elimination of history through gentrification. For comparison, the filmmakers also look at the Baloch and Sheedi community of Karachi, Pakistan, whose roots are also in Africa. Music and visual artists also provided their talents during the community events that were held on and near several streets within the neighborhood west of downtown between West Gray and West Dallas. Near the end of the film, director Sehba Sarwar says: "It's clear that neither community is gone, histories are not lost and struggles are not over."

Whether your child wants to be a princess, a superhero, a pirate or simply a Nerf-sharpshooter, Wonderwild can assist with making that happen. They're the go-to guys for birthday magic, and they've got a menu a mile long of add-ons to customize little Mikey's pirate extravaganza. Want a sweet treats candy bar to sugar up the little monsters before you send 'em home with Mom and Dad? Check. Need a balloon artist to provide less deadly pirate swords? They've got it covered. There's Bubble Magic, face painting and inflatables to make planning your kid's birthday party as seamless as possible, and you don't even have to clean up the mess when it's over and done with. See? Life does have its little miracles.

Station Museum of Contemporary Art

The Station Museum of Contemporary Art made its reputation with exhibitions of international artists such as Mel Chin's "Do Not Ask Me" in 2006, the group show "Iraqi Artists in Exile" in 2008 and Andrei Molodkin's "Crude" in 2011. More recently the museum has focused on local artists, as with its 2012 exhibit "HX8 (Houston Times Eight)," the first in a series of shows by local painters, photographers, sculptors and videographers. That one included work by Daniel Anguilu, Forrest Prince, Floyd Newsum and Prince Varughese Thomas. The museum's current show, "Call It Street Art, Call It Fine Art, Call It What You Know," builds on "HX8" with work by street artists Skeez181, DUAL, The Death Head, ACK! and KC Ortiz. Station Museum, a non-collecting organization, is making sure local talent gets time on museum walls, something sometimes overshadowed by the bigger museums' blockbuster, big-name shows.

It hasn't taken long for this intelligent, provocative, smart-ass — and sometimes infuriating — local talk-show host to spread to markets as diverse as Nashville and Portland. So the dude must be doing something right. Even though we generally know where he's going to stand on the day's or week's major events — generally on the redneck end of the spectrum — we also generally rush to hear his take before giving a rat's ass about anybody else's, because Berry is just so damn good at what he does. There are few others in radio — national hosts included — who can hold our attention, and just plain entertain, like Berry can. Houston is lucky to have him.

Natachee's Supper 'n Punch

Shuffleboard is as serious as you make it. You can idly scoot the metal puck back and forth across the table or calibrate just the proper amount of force that will result in a "hanger." It's fun either way and an excellent way to pass the time. Mid-Main comfort-food oasis Natachee's Supper 'N Punch can get mighty crowded, which makes its shuffleboard table a welcome diversion as you're waiting for a table. It's a good way to sharpen your skills for a more competitive environment, such as the table across the street at the Continental Club. But please, no wagering here, just fun. There's no scoreboard above the Natachee's table, nor any need for one.

The Grove

The Grove, a chic little eatery in the heart of Discovery Green, boasts one of the best happy hours in the city, and the scenery ain't bad, either. The patio is perfect as a chilled-out space to hang, but even if you're more of an a/c-and-dining-room person, the floor-to-ceiling windows allow you to bring a bit of the green surroundings inside. With small plates like truffle fries and tuna tacos knocked down to rock-bottom prices and a $5 drink list that includes goodies like the pomegranate screwdriver and raspberry margarita, the Grove is a no-brainer for an after-work drink or three with friends.

Slick Willie's Family Pool

Montrose has always been a place of wonder and merriment, and overall a cool place to hang. In the middle of the Westheimer/Montrose strip is Slick Willie's, which has always been open to all kinds of characters, from novices to experts, teens to retirees, all looking for a place to cool down. Whether you're skipping class or just pre-gaming it, you can enjoy happy hour every day until 7 p.m., munch on bar food while you watch an Astros or Texans game, throw some dollars into the jukebox, or do your best Paul Newman impression as you hustle your friends for a round of drinks. Check out Wristband Wednesdays, when $5 a person buys unlimited play from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Black Hole Coffee House
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
An extensive coffee menu is just the icing on the cake at Black Hole, which also has delicious, locally made cakes and desserts. While they specialize in caffeinated concoctions, you can also find plenty of non-caffeine drinks such as the absolutely amazing Matte-Latte. Black Hole-ites go there for the good brew and good eats, but it's also a see-and-be-seen coffee spot where you can find many a Mac laptop user banging away on his or her latest poem or novel. Go for the coffee and the Montrose people-watching, and stay for the good music always playing, the friendly staff and the free Wi-Fi.

The Suffers have Houston's best stage show because there's so much to look at: cucumber-cool keyboardist and bandleader Pat Kelly; steady-rollin' drummer Nick Zamora; guitarists Kevin Bernier and Alex Zamora; bassist Adam Castaneda; a three-man horn section doing that old JBs side-to-side; "Chapy" Luna going to town on all manner of percussion — congos, timbales, bongos and more — and of course Kam Franklin up front, a singer whose voice is as bodacious as her Afro. The multiple Houston Press Music Awards winners have so much going on onstage at any given time, they're as fun to watch as their intoxicating Island-flavored stew of reggae, rocksteady, ska, R&B and a whole lotta Gulf Coast soul. And even still, the Suffers' stage show is not even kind of close to the action they create on the dance floor.

Architect Mohammed Nasr vacationed in the Yucatán just before he was set to design downtown's Heritage Plaza in the 1980s. His time in Mexico is directly reflected in the building's postmodern design; the building's cap is a granite stepped pyramid inspired by the Mayan constructions he saw there, and the interior lobby shows off more Mexican influence with a plaza-like design. The building is one of the last projects of this scale to be completed before the economy took a turn for the worse. Heritage Plaza stands as a gleaming expression of Houston's then-wealth and optimistic future.

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