The Rice University campus is a world unto itself. When you drive past its stately gates, suddenly you're enveloped in a collegiate, oak tree-shaded enclave populated with old brick buildings. Unlike most other parts of Houston, the campus has a sense of history. Lovett Hall, which has been around since 1912, is a beautiful building. There's an air of permanence to it -- which is why starry-eyed engaged people want to pose in front of its graceful arches for their wedding photos. Perhaps (against all odds) their unions will be permanent too. Note: Backpacked folks wandering to class are a background hazard.

Do you remember the '80s dance song by Yello, the one that had the vocal line that stretched out in a deep bass? That's the feeling you get on a Friday evening in September when the flaming fist of Queen Bitch Summer has begun to loosen and you stroll out onto the second-floor balcony of Ernie's with a fresh cold pint of Fat Tire. What's left of the sun is sparkling golden and pink through the branches of the Museum District's massive oaks, and you prop your feet up on the round plastic table, lean back in a comfy chair and lazily muse about nothing in particular while gazing down at the sylvan tranquillity of newly renovated Bell Park. Ooooohh, yeaaaaahhhh.
Too bad for Harris County and the state of Texas. Those damned technicalities keep getting in the way of another good execution! All the law asks is that defendants get a fair trial and adequate legal representation. And it's exactly those onerous standards that have stymied the county and state in putting down Calvin Burdine. Even though his attorney snoozed during in his 1983 capital murder trial, the trial judge and state appellate courts still upheld the death penalty verdict. But U.S. District Judge David Hittner had a strange notion that a defense lawyer ought to at least stay awake in trial. Hittner's view was vetoed by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that full court flipped again and supported his logic. Finally, with the rest of the nation wondering just what passes for a judiciary in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed Hittner's original ruling. State officials and judges, of course, howled in protest. We hope the outrage is loud enough to wake up the electorate -- the ones who decide who's supposed to safeguard fundamental American rights.

Where will you be when a giant ball of flame engulfs Houston's skyline? If you're smart, you'll hightail it to Bread of Life Church. Or at least that's what the ominous ad in the yellow pages seems to be saying. "Experience Revival Fire and the Presence of God," the ad proclaims, and with that kind of pitch, it's no wonder this humongoid congregation has about 2,400 members. Pastor Dusty Kemp has been with the church since it opened in 1979, but he leaves the Sunday-evening Spanish services to another preacher. Yes, Bread of Life has something for everyone, especially the kids. Check out the two-story, 40,000-square-foot "Kids' Kastle," a real treat for those who like to mix up their devotion with some creepy-looking faux-medieval architecture; it'll put the fear of God in them for sure. Services: Sundays, 10:30 a.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish); Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. No membership fees. Nondenominational.

A severely mentally ill Andrea Yates had drowned her five young children. Her competency was the supposed issue, but it was hard to find much sanity anywhere in these weird proceedings. Into all that madness came attorney George Parnham. Along with defense co-counsel Wendell Odom Jr., Parnham brought a soothing calm into the chaos. His matter-of-fact demeanor, wisdom and insight combined for a textbook performance of professionalism under intense fire. Parnham was patient and enlightening, coupling hard evidence with immense compassion for what had occurred. Regardless of where individuals stand on the underlying issues of the case, Houston should be thankful for this elite defense team. With the world watching and weighing the local caliber of justice in this worst of crimes, Parnham carried away a rare sense of quiet dignity for both the defendant and the system.
Every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. you can step inside the cool peacefulness of the Rothko Chapel and leave the sights and sounds of Inner Loop life behind. Founded by John and Dominique de Menil in 1971, the chapel is part gallery, part sanctuary. The quiet, minimal interior is a place of reflection for those of all faiths as well as a showcase for 14 paintings by Mark Rothko. It's a haven for Houstonians and a place where travelers from all over the world come to seek shelter from the storm.

A little friendly ribbing between competitors never hurt anybody. For more than seven years now, Khyber Grill's Mickey Kapoor has been using his marquee to taunt the neighboring Pappadeaux's. When the seafood restaurant wrote, "Hiring today 3 to 5," Kapoor replied, "My, You Do Start Them Young!" When Pappadeaux posted, "Happy Hour 4 to 6," Khyber responded, "DWI 8 to 12." When the establishment bragged, "Our Softshelled Crabs Will Reach Out and Grab You," Kapoor fired back, "Pervert!" People have been known to drive out of their way just to see what the restaurateur will come up with next, and so far the targets of Kapoor's barbs have taken them all in good humor. Keep it going.
Spanning 60 acres east of Studemont, between Washington and Memorial, lies Glenwood Cemetery, the final resting place for a who's who of Houston families. Names such as Binz, Cooley, Elgin, Foley, Hermann, Hofheinz, Hobby and Jones all can be found here. Perhaps the most famous people interred at Glenwood are Hollywood celebs Gene Tierney, famous for her role as Laura in the movie of the same name; Maria Gable, wife of Clark; and Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire businessman and heir to his father's tool company. The sprawling, hilly grounds were first laid out in 1871 by an Englishman named Alfred Whitaker. Upon entering, you'll see a Victorian-era cottage, which is the caretaker's residence. Gothic monuments, along with examples of Greek and Roman revival style, abound in the carefully manicured lots. And, of course, the place is rumored to be haunted.

Montrose Clinic started as a agency to treat sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis and gonorrhea in Houston's gay community 20 years ago, but the onset of the AIDS epidemic redefined its mission. Throughout the plague years, Montrose Clinic has served Houston's HIV-infected patients with compassion and competence, something not always seen in AIDS nonprofits. When the AVES Clinic that served Hispanic HIV clients closed its doors last spring because of financial mismanagement, Montrose Clinic stepped in to take part of the caseload. The agency provides a wide range of services, from confidential and anonymous HIV testing to community outreach for HIV education and counseling. Montrose Clinic also recently added a fitness center after merging with Body Positive. As new treatments transformed AIDS from a terminal disease to a chronic but manageable illness, the services at the clinic evolved as well. Fitness and nutrition programs now have a much higher priority, and clinic executive director Katy Caldwell is eagerly awaiting further medical developments that will revolutionize the fight against HIV. "What we're looking forward to is when our outreach workers are out in the community and giving vaccinations," says Caldwell, "rather than waiting to do testing after people are infected."

Stepping into the large building of T.H. Rogers school a mile or so west of the Galleria is almost always an uplifting experience. First there's the incredible mix of students: The school's a magnet program, so every socioeconomic level is represented; it's both an elementary and a middle school, so there's a wide range of ages; and it's home to programs for both talented-and-gifted kids and those who are deaf or otherwise impaired. Second, there's the reason these varied groups all mix happily: the dedicated and enthusiastic teachers and staff. It's definitely one of HISD's finest success stories.

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