Draka the Dragon is legendary, among the kind of people who think art cars and kinetic sculpture can be legendary. It's a 112-foot-long piece on three trailers, it's appeared at Burning Man and it's won an award at the 2005 Art Car Parade.
So why was it unceremoniously dragged out of this year's parade by the cops?
Well, if you listen to some disgruntled artists, it's because the Art Car Parade has gotten ever more corporate (this year's event was "presented in partnership with" the Houston Chronicle and KPRC-TV, and had a slew of cars sponsored by big bidness). If you listen to the Art Car folks, it's because certain people chose not to play by the rules.
Draka did make an entrance into the parade May 12, tooling for a while down Allen Parkway. But when the time came to make the hairpin turn for the second leg, witnesses say, police came and ordered Draka out.
"The cops got sicced on them pretty heavy," says one witness.
There are rumors that Lisa Nigro, the woman behind Draka, has been feuding with the Art Car organization (she couldn't be reached for this story). She had a certificate to enter a vehicle in this year's parade, but substituted Draka for the car she had described in the application.
And that, says Art Car artistic director Kim Stoilis, caused all kinds of problems.
In an e-mail to Art Car participants, Stoilis said it boiled down to an insurance issue. "We love Draka. I personally think it is one of the best art cars ever," she wrote. But, she said, "the city was not informed it was rolling, which is absolutely crucial with a vehicle of this size and liability carrying not only the driver, artist and their family, but additional passengers and unrelated children."
Stoilis described the incident with the cops not as The Man cracking down on artistic freedom, but as "our agreement with Lisa to have [Draka] exit the parade route."
Which certainly sounds a lot nicer. Not to mention different from one witness';s description: "There was screaming and yelling and people were upset," he says.
As they do every year, Art Car officials in reality, the folks at the Orange Show Foundation will meet with participants to do a postmortem on the parade. It looks like 2007 will follow in what has become the parade's new tradition people griping about how commercial and rigid it's become, versus officials who say they need corporate money to put on the event.
This time, there will be the added attraction of a fight over a dragon. Let the battles begin!!
A while back, Metro (finally) completed the downtown street-renovation project that had been causing traffic hassles for years. But its legacy lives on, loudly.
Streets like Milam were repaved, and Metro installed "trench drains" on them, long, skinny storm drains that run the length of a city block. They installed these drains in the bus lanes, and handed over the job of upkeep to the city.
And now the city has discovered that vehicles especially buses can make the covers on the trench drains pop out, exposing a long, ugly hole for cars to dive into.
Their solution? Until replacement parts arrive, the city has placed huge metal plates over the popped-out sections of the drains. These metal plates make a booming explosion-like noise whenever a car or especially a bus drives over them.
Normally we wouldn't much care, but some of the plates are right outside our freaking office window. It's like working in Baghdad, minus the death. (Which is, admittedly, a pretty big difference.)
Metro officials had no comment on the compelling common-sense of lining bus lanes with drains that tend to fall apart when buses run over them.
Alvin Wright, of the city's public works department, says the metal plates are necessary until replacement grates come in. And he notes that the trench drains on, say, Smith Street are working fine.
But the fact that Smith Street's okay doesn't do much for our eardrums here at the Press, and that, after all, is what makes this a crisis.
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Wright's not that worried. The booming noise, he says, "is probably easier on the ears than hearing the crash-bang-boom of a car accident because someone's hit the drain," he says.
Maybe. But the entertainment value would be a lot higher.
Congressman and former judge Ted Poe riled up the lefties recently by quoting a Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, on the House floor. Forrest was one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, so some whiny crybabies thought it was inappropriate for a modern-day politician to cite him approvingly. But they just dont know our Ted.