For three years now, Jasmine Quintero has been running an unusual sort of business. If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a personal assistant, then you’ll love this service. My Personal Assistant takes care of all the tasks and chores that fill your to-do list and make you crazy. Quintero performs many of the duties that crowd our busy lives and ultimately rob us of the joy of free time.
You know what I mean — the nuisance jobs, the ones that take time and energy, leaving you tired and anxious at the end of the day. Some of the services offered include feeding and walking your dog, checking your house and mail when you are out of town, paying your bills and making sure your maid shows up. This company manages the minutiae of everyday living, leaving you with the energy and time to spend on the things that really count — family, friends, sleep, etc.
One thing that is unique about this company is that it is completely Internet-based. As a client, you first check the company’s Web site to decide which of its many services you want. Then, you order. As the tasks are performed, you receive an e-mail confirmation and an e-mail follow-up.
“I love to run errands,” says Quintero. And many people are glad to hear it. She provides services to a broad spectrum of clients who include single moms, busy executives and anyone who has extra income and is willing to pay for the privilege of personal assistance.
Thus far, the most unique errand she has faced was a request to find “unique gifts” for a bachelorette party. It seems the maid of honor knew the bride wanted “funny” items but didn’t know where to find them. Quintero stepped in, and the party was a huge success.
Another request came in the form of an autographed Tina Turner album. It took Quintero three months, but she finally found it. The company also offers airport shuttle service for a charge 30 percent less than what a taxi service costs. And as a bonus, you get to ride in a Durango instead of a taxi.
When testing My Personal Assistant, I sent the company to the west side of town to pick up some kitchen tiles, which I requested then be transported to my back porch. And like clockwork, the tile was delivered to my home. This represented a terrific savings in time for me because I wasn’t familiar with the tile store and had no time to go there anyway. You won’t believe what I was charged — $25. I estimate the savings in my time and effort to be at least $80. Now that’s value.
What won’t they do? “Pick up your kids from school,” says Quintero. “And, oh yeah, we won’t break the law. You have to do that yourself.”
So for those of you who have more chores than time to complete them, bookmark www.mypersonalasst.com as one of your favorites.
|1. The Palm celebrated its 75th birthday with its loyal customers. Guests feasted on the Palm?s signature Surf ?n Turf, also with all the trimmings. The highlight of the evening was the birthday cake and a champagne toast by general manager Jim Martin. Server Joe Malheiro, who?s been with the Palm for nearly 25 years, entertained everyone by telling stories about the restaurant and its many celebrity visitors. Pictured (l to r) are: Jennifer Knobloch, executive chef Everardo Aviles, general manager Jim Martin and Mark La Rue.|
|2. Wells Fargo takes “center stage” at this year?s Ballunar Liftoff Festival. It?s 100 feet tall, 90 feet from the front wheel to the back wheel. It weighs 850 pounds without air and without the basket. It takes a crew of 25 just to inflate the balloon, and it can carry two passengers plus the pilot. But guess what, ladies? They actually ask your weight! This was the second year the financial service company participated in the festival. Pictured: Wells Fargo?s balloon “Cent?r Stage”|
|3. A.D. Players premiered the new Tony-winning Broadway musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” It?s, of course, based on one of America?s all-time favorite comic strips. A.D. Players is a professional company made up of about 40 members. The adult theater performs four major productions throughout the year. This month you can check out a new work created by the company?s artistic director, Jeannette Cliftgeorge, called “Christmas at Grace.” For ticket information call the box office at (713) 526-2721. Pictured (l to r) are: actors Adam Estes and Rebekah Dahl.|
|4. The Houston BMW Group, which includes Advantage BMW Clear Lake and Downtown, BMW of Houston North and Momentum BMW, honored local heroes for their outstanding efforts in the fight against breast cancer. Nine Houston-area groups and individuals were honored at the Fifth Annual BMW Ultimate Drive Breakfast at the River Oaks Country Club benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Pictured (l to r) are: previous honoree Linda Grayson, North Houston BMW?s Joe Irpino and previous honoree Carolyn Farb.|
|5. Rice Bar?s grand opening celebration was a one-hit wonder with a packed house. The event also was a fundraiser for the Downtown Houston Historic District Association. The night began with a ribbon cutting with proprietor Jeffery Yarbrough and general manager Raul Herrea. Rice Bar is located at 909 Texas Ave. in the historic Rice Lofts next door to Liberty Noodles. It offers specialty drinks and cocktails. Pictured (l to r) are: Guy Mahaffey, Temy Johnson, Jessica Marquez and Marie Myers.|
|6. The Spay-Neuter Assistance Program’s project to help control animal overpopulation on the Navajo Nation was profiled in the documentary film “Desert Dogs.” SNAP held the premiere of the film by Austin filmmaker Julia Hilder with a special event at Studios at the Lakes. The Navajo Nation spans 18 million acres across three states. With poverty and unemployment at all-time highs, the lack of funding for veterinary programs has created a dog and cat overpopulation crisis on the Nation. Pictured is a member of the Navajo Nation bringing in her cat for wellness care.
by Roger Gray
You Know, Dan, if it Wasn’t for My Bursitus, I’d be Down at the Recruiter Right Now…
As I sit scribbling this missive, we are eight days into this national tragedy. At this point, I think most of the truly profound observations about the scope of our national loss already have been made. But hopefully, as you read this, most of the blood-curdling letters to the editor and talk show calls will have slowed as well.
In my former profession, there was nothing so predictable as the phone-call patriotism of these Bruce Willis wannabes in the wake of some sort of international outrage. Calls to flatten this, make that glow in the dark, bomb so-and-so back to the stone age are sure to follow as night follows day. Immediate anger and pain are to be expected. But these cut-rate Audie Murphy’s are speed-dialing their outrage and willingness to volunteer to spearhead the invasion, if only…well the new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu, and…
Can’t You See This is a Cry for Help…?
And as certain as the sunrise, you can count on the apparently Quaker wing of our populace to either:
A: Assure us that we must forgive and understand any atrocity, or
B: Assure us it is all our fault and that we brought this on ourselves by our imperialist/Zionist/militarist/white supremacist/fill-in-your-own-ist ways, and this is the only weapon that powerless people have.
In this particular case, senselessly killing thousands was the only “weapon” at their disposal? Sure, we shouldn’t wallow in the muck with terrorists, but no justice at all? That’s simply insulting.
You Know, the Lord Said to Me Just This Morning…
An adjunct to this is an amalgam of the first two. This usually takes the form of one of our own fundamentalist Protestant mullahs issuing a fatwah informing us that he has it on very good authority that God himself has washed his hands of us and let this happen. Why? You name it — gays, abortion, sex, Adam Sandler movies — all are reason enough for the Almighty to throw up his hands and leave us to the tender mercies of Saladin and his infidels. In this case, the heavenly e-mail apparently was received by Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell (predictably) and Ed Young in Houston (rather less predictably).
Well, I am pro-life and have some real issues with the gay-rights agenda when it goes beyond non-discrimination, but presuming to know the mind of the Almighty is…well, presumptuous at best. I find it intriguing that it’s always the same guys who are seemingly enjoying regular fireside chats with the creator during which he gives them the birds-eye view of this troubled old world. How fortunate for all of us, eh?
What I Want to Know, Rush, is…Where was Hillary During All This?
And then we get the political posturing. Of course, this is all George Bush’s fault — either Bush, just pick one. Or certainly, if Bill Clinton had not simply ruined the nation’s defense in return for campaign contributions, we could have detected this. One letter to the editor decried a previous writer who blamed it all on Bush, allowing as how partisanship had no place in our discussion of this tragedy. But, he continued, of course had Bill Clinton handled this correctly in ’93…You get the drift.
Unlike the Previous Tenant, at Least we Know These Guys Are Sitting Around Smoking the Cigars…
Whatever my doubts about GW and his public demeanor at times, let’s be honest. His and every predecessor’s options were and are limited. Oh, sure, we could flatten Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or you name it. But to what end, other than satisfying Bubba on his cell phone from Sugar Land? After the World Trade Center was bombed in ‘93, we tracked the SOBs, caught them (one snatched from Pakistan) and put them on trial. They are locked up and never getting out. But in this case, would that be enough?
Killing bin Laden, as justifiable as that is, or worse, killing innocents he will no doubt hide among, may well create more anger, more hate, more terrorism. Not doing something, on the other hand, invites perceptions of weakness. It’s a fine line.
What is Your Favorite Club or Bar?
by Mimi Dinh
Whether you‘re looking for an adrenaline-charged club so you can dance with total abandon or the next “it” place to hang with the beautiful people or just a cool bar where everybody (or maybe nobody) knows your name, Houston is a mecca for clubbers and bar junkies of all repute. Our downtown has hosted some of the most debauched parties on the planet. Even some restaurants have joined in the act, mixing together their very own type of bar scene so partiers can have scrumptious late-night eats and fabulous drinks while shaking their bodies at the same time. Of course, there are times when the pulsating beats may grow tiresome at even the sleekest of joints. For such occasions, there are hole-in-the-wall lounges with a truly cruddy ambience that borders on the poetic and inspires conversation.
We were on a quest to smoke out the hottest club/bar on the see-and-be-seen circuit. Not luke warm or above average but fiercely, boldly and unabashedly h-o-t — this very instant (as we all know how fleeting this honor can be in the world of “it” locales). Read on, and join us as we raise a glass of “Mojito” (drink of the moment) to the power.
In Houston, I like the Alabama Ice House— unpretentious, real, kick ass. But my favorite is Crowd Nine in Tokyo, Japan, an erotic nightclub, sensual aquatic environment in a skyscraper penthouse.
— Doug Michels, head of creativity, Doug Michels Studio
With the vast array of clubs and bars in Houston, it would be impossible to nail it down to one. When I go out, I like to bounce between several favorites. I start at Saba for the great food and atmosphere, then to The Hub for its wonderful bar staff, then next door to Tonic/Tryst (I really dig the upstairs). I then bounce to Prague and finish the night to the awesome music at 410. When traveling, I have always loved Manray in Paris, which can’t be described. In Miami, I‘m always drawn to Pearl & Rio downtown.
— Guy Mahaffey, president, Sudden Impact Collision Center
Zimm’s Wine Bar — the quintessential neighborhood bar where you will see a friendly face, and the wine list is great. Also, in Galveston, there is The Poop Deck. Their motto “Where the elite meet in bare feet” says it all.
— Lisa Benitez, senior event coordinator, Foley’s Fashion & Special Events
I like them all for various reasons — no true favorites. But presently, I favor Hyperia for its amazing line-up of DJs of the finest caliber playing there each week. Plus it has the best sound and lights in the city, if not the nation. As far as bars go, I have traditional faves, but at the moment, I favor the Davenport. I can’t get over the fact that they have actual Knoll furniture everywhere in the place and that the bartenders are so in tune with being bar-TENDERS who look after your drink and head. Outside of Houston, I like Club Ampersand in New Orleans; Pearl, Level and Space in Miami; Opera House in UK; and Pure in Chicago.
— Sean Carnahan, nightlife infobot Child of the beat, SCTC Houston
My favorite is Favelachic in Paris, an insane Brazilian club that’s rustic, wild and filled with people literally dancing on the tables.
— Shannon Hall, co-owner, Sloan/Hall
Dean’s Credit Clothing. It is a great, funky bar downtown, and while you sip your favorite cocktail, you can shop for that must-have faux fur coat from the 70s.
— Elizabeth Satel Young, publicist, Elizabeth Satel Young Public Relations
Paved in History
The Colorful Stories Behind Houston’s Historic Street Names
by Marks Hinton and Aaron Howard
Nothing says more about a city than its street names. Its history, heroes, civic-minded citizens, philanthropists and sometimes just colorful characters are all chronicled in a Key Map. There is only one problem — while the maps and street signs pose the questions, they fail to deliver any answers. However, with an innate sense of curiosity and the willingness to invest some time at the public library, the city’s Planning and Development Department, homeowner associations and real estate development firms, the code can be cracked.
In Houston, we have streets named for their importance (Main Street), for a location (Railroad), for a developer’s whimsy (Betty Boop), for battles (Iwo Jima) or for thoroughbreds that won the Kentucky Derby (Secretariat). Less known are the thoroughfares named to honor important settlers, merchants and men of the cloth. Our purpose is to breathe life into these names and tell their stories. Let us begin this journey around our city in the central business district where Houston took root at the confluence of Buffalo and White Oak bayous.
Franklin Avenue Benjamin Cromwell Franklin arrived in Texas in 1835. He actively supported the Texas Revolution and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. Thomas Rusk, then-secretary of war, sent Franklin to Galveston to inform Republic President David Burnet of the victory at San Jacinto. In December 1836, the Republic of Texas established four district courts, and Franklin became the first person in the new Republic given a judicial position. Harrisburg was designated as District 2 with Franklin as the district judge. He was not re-elected in 1838 and once was fined $20 for sitting on the bar in the new courthouse. Franklin died in 1873 and is buried in Galveston.
LaBranch Street As the last official act of his administration, U.S. President Andrew Jackson appointed Alcee Louis LaBranch as charge d’affaires from the United States to the Republic of Texas. LaBranch served in this position from 1837 to 1840. He returned to his native New Orleans and was elected to Congress. During the campaign, he was challenged to a duel (the only one of his career) and killed his opponent, a Whig from Baton Rouge. LaBranch Street was formerly known as Milton Street after John Milton, the author of “Paradise Lost.”
McKinney Avenue As one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” colonists, Thomas F. McKinney was given a league of land in what is today Brazos County. He became wealthy through trading, lumber and agriculture. In 1834, he partnered with Samuel M. Williams and established the largest commission-merchant firm in Texas. That company helped finance the Texas Revolution by advancing the Republic $150,000 and issuing notes that circulated as legal tender. McKinney later became a famous thoroughbred breeder.
He was opposed to secession but reluctantly accepted it. Employed as an agent for Simeon Hart, the Confederate quartermaster for Texas, McKinney sold cotton to Mexico to purchase arms, ammunition and other necessary supplies for the Civil War. The war and a disastrous speculation in cotton ruined McKinney, and he died broke.
Rusk Avenue Thomas Jefferson Rusk arrived in Texas in 1832 in hot pursuit of a gang of con artists who absconded with some of his money. It is not known if he found them and recouped his investment, but Rusk liked Texas and stayed. He signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and was elected secretary of war in 1836. He fought with Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1838, he was a founder and second vice-president of the Houston Jockey Club. Rusk County was named for him in 1843 and the town of Rusk in 1846. After Texas’ annexation by the United States, he and Sam Houston were elected as our first U.S. senators in 1846. Rusk served in that august body until his death in 1857. He and General Sam often made public addresses from the pulpit of one of the three churches in Houston at that time (Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic). Depressed over the death of his wife, Rusk committed suicide in Nacogdoches in July 1857.
Moving south, we enter Midtown, one of our older residential districts and home of the neighborhoods of Montrose, Westmoreland and Binz.
Binz Avenue A Chicago native, Jacob Binz built Houston’s first “skyscraper” in 1895. A Renaissance- and Romanesque-style structure at 513-19 Main St., it cost $60,000. The Binz Building was the first in Houston to be built out of concrete, stone and steel. The structure was six stories high, plus a basement. Architects said the foundation and superstructure could have supported a 20-story building. When it was opened, people came from miles around to ride its elevators to the top floor and admire the view of the surrounding countryside. The building was demolished in 1950.
Holman Avenue James S. Holman was elected district court clerk of the county of Harrisburg in early 1837. The city of Houston was incorporated a few months later, and Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Andrew Briscoe called an election. Holman was elected the first mayor in a tight contest, collecting 12 votes to Francis Lubbock’s 11 and Thomas W. Ward’s 10. At this cliffhanger, there were no reports of hanging chads, lawsuits, lawyers, Supreme Court intervention or even sore losers.
McGowen Street Andrew McGowen was a tinsmith. He also owned a general store that sold copperware, cooking stoves and hardware, much of which he manufactured. Elected mayor in 1867, the election was remarkable, according to a newspaper account, because it was “unmarred by a single fight.” During his term, enough wooden rails were laid on McKinney Avenue to operate the city’s first mule-drawn streetcar in 1868. The fares were a dime for adults and a nickel for children.
Montrose Boulevard Sir Walter Scott, famous poet and romantic novelist, created the historic town of Montrose for use in his stories. In 1910, J. W. Link acquired 165 acres west of Courtlandt Place and laid out the neighborhood. He named the boulevard Montrose. He built the first of many mansions that were to grace the subdivision. His home on the southwest corner of Montrose at West Alabama cost $60,000 to build in 1912 and was famous for its large gold doorknobs. Today, it is the administration building of the University of St. Thomas.
West Gray Avenue Peter Gray was a Harrisburg judge and founding member of the Houston Library. Texas Chief Justice Oran Roberts named him the “very best district judge upon the Texas bench.” Another judge fined him for sitting on a courtroom table ($20) and smoking in court ($20) in 1838. A year later he was named district attorney. He was an organizer of the law firm Gray, Botts & Baker, predecessor to today’s Baker Botts. Gray founded and captained the Civil War Texas Grays, was General John B. Magruder’s aide at the 1863 New Year’s Day Battle of Galveston and was elected to the House of the Confederate Congress. He developed tuberculosis in 1873. In 1874, Gray was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court but only served two months due to his failing health. He died Oct. 3, 1874, at the age of 54. Roberts said he was “a man who ought to be remembered.”
Yoakum Boulevard Although his parents wanted him to be a minister, Benjamin Franklin Yoakum was taken with railroad fever. His first job was on a survey gang laying out the route of the International-Great Northern Railroad into Palestine. Working his way up the corporate ladder at several rail lines, Yoakum joined the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company (Frisco). Under his tutelage, this railroad grew from 1,200 to 6,000 miles of track. In 1905, the Frisco and the Rock Island Line merged to form a 17,000-mile system, the largest in America at the time. As one of Texas’ leading agrarians, he is credited with creating the great agricultural counties of the Rio Grande Valley and south Texas. In 1907, he moved to New York City and became a financier, activist agrarian and prize-winning cattle raiser. Yoakum died in 1929 and is buried in New York.
Leaving Midtown, we enter parklands, historic neighborhoods and arguably the greatest medical center in the world.
|Medical Center and South|
Hermann Drive George H. Hermann, one of Houston’s greatest philanthropists, was born Aug. 6, 1843, in a log cabin where the City Hall reflection pool is today. He came from humble beginnings. His parents arrived here in 1838 with $5 and three kids. Mrs. Hermann pawned her jewelry so they could open a bakery. George’s first job was as a stock keeper for Governor Lubbock’s Simms Bayou ranch. Active in the Civil War, he served with distinction in Company A of the 26th Cavalry. Hermann took up cattle ranching in 1872. He made his fortune on livestock, land and oil. In 1885, as Houston’s importance as a world port increased, he traveled by train to New York City and caught a steamship to Europe. This tour was possibly the only big indulgence he allowed himself in his long and frugal life.
When the Board of Park Commissioners was formed in 1910, Hermann was named one of its founding members. Later that year, Hermann gave the land where he was born to the city for a park. One condition of the gift was that anyone who was drunk could sleep it off in the park without being arrested. The reason: Hermann did not want to constantly bail out his employees, thus wasting time and money when they could be working. On May 30, 1914, he gave the city 278 acres of beautifully wooded land that became Hermann Park. He died Oct. 21, 1914. Hermann Park officially opened July 4, 1915. As Hermann never married, his estate, valued at $2.5 million, was willed to a foundation to build and operate a hospital. Hermann Hospital, built at a cost of $1 million, began operations on July 1, 1925. Hermann is buried in Glenwood Cemetery beside his parents and two bachelor brothers.
Holcombe Boulevard Oscar Holcombe was one of Houston’s legendary politicians. First elected mayor in 1921, he would be re-elected 11 times. In 1922, the Ku Klux Klan controlled many county offices. The Klan asked Holcombe to fire three city administrators who were Catholic. He refused, and the KKK set out to defeat him in the most outrageous campaign in the city’s history. In its newspaper, the KKK claimed Holcombe was a drunk and a gambler. Actually, he was a member in good standing of the First Baptist Church and had no vices. Slandered by a rumor that he shot craps at a New Year’s party, Holcombe challenged the Klan to prove it. He asked the Baptist Ministers Association to try him on the charges. The Klan produced two witnesses who claimed they peeked over the transom and saw the mayor, but he produced six attendees who swore he was not there. Holcombe won acquittal and a second term.
Early in his career, he became known as the “Gray Fox” for his political showmanship. Holcombe was a good businessman and became very wealthy through investments in lumber, home building, gas stations, apartments, oil and a turkey farm. He combined the power of city manager and mayor, giving mayors of Houston more power than those in other American cities. Under his administrations, the Harris County Navigation District and the Houston Independent School District were created.
M. D. Anderson Boulevard In 1904, Monroe D. Anderson, his brother Frank and William L. Clayton incorporated Anderson, Clayton & Company. This firm became the largest cotton broker in the world and was the basis of Anderson’s wealth. In 1936, he founded the M. D. Anderson Foundation. As a bachelor, his $20 million estate went to the foundation upon his death in 1939. The bulk of the funds went to establish the Texas Medical Center. One of the finest hospitals in the complex is named in his honor.
Old Spanish Trail This thoroughfare is named in honor of one of Texas’ earliest highways. However, the actual route of the Old San Antonio Road, the King’s Highway or El Camino Real, its original names, is nowhere near Houston. It started on the Sabine River near what is today the Toledo Bend Reservoir, went southwest to San Antonio and ended on the Rio Grande River in Maverick County near Eagle Pass. Initially traversed in 1691, it was ordered surveyed by the Texas Legislature in 1915 and named a state highway worth preserving in 1929.
As we wind up our tour, it’s time to go west to visit the stately neighborhood of River Oaks and discover the citizens who merited street names there.
Kirby Drive John Henry Kirby was called the “father of industrial Texas.” He owned the two largest lumber companies in East Texas. In 1895, the Houston Baseball Association was chartered with capital of $3,000 and Kirby as its president. In 1922, Kirby and Joseph Cullinan formed the American Anti-Klan Association to force the Ku Klux Klan to disband. He completed construction of his luxurious mansion at 2006 Smith in 1928. The Kirby Mansion had one of the city’s most beautiful gardens. It contained baroque water parterres, conservatory, pergola, natatorium and a lake with a rustic bridge. He owned Camp Killcare on Armand Bayou where he and influential friends partied on weekends, swam, fished and hunted alligators. Kirby and Howard Hughes Sr. were among the first Houstonians to own an automobile. The Great Depression took its toll on Houstonians, including Kirby, who filed for bankruptcy in 1933.
San Felipe Road This was the route from Harrisburg in eastern Harris County to Stephen F. Austin’s colony at the town of San Felipe on the Brazos River. Listed on early maps as Route Number 6 by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, commissioner of the Association for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, the road’s distance was set at 49 miles, and the prince noted the lack of water between Houston and Piney Point (now one of the Memorial Villages) 10 miles to the west.
Shepherd Drive Benjamin A. Shepherd was a Virginian who came to Houston in 1844. In 1847, his Commercial and Agricultural Bank became the first chartered bank in Texas. Although he was not invited in 1866 to be a founder of the city’s first national bank, he was elected to the board of directors a year later. In 1867, he was named president of the First National Bank when it encountered financial difficulties following the Civil War. Shepherd managed the bank with an iron hand for the next 25 years. He was one of the incorporators of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad, as well as one of the founders of the Board of Trade and Cotton Exchange in 1874. The town of Shepherd in San Jacinto County was named for him following his laying out of the route of the Houston, East and West Texas Railroad in 1875. The family, now six generations old, gave the city land for Shepherd Drive and funded the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.
We wrap up our street tour of Houston with the longest named roadway in Texas, at just over 43 miles in length.
Westheimer Road An immigrant from Germany, Michael Louis Westheimer came to Houston in 1859. He was quite an entrepreneur. Westheimer owned a flour mill, a livery stable on the corner of Milam and Congress, was a hay merchant and laid the city’s first streetcar tracks. At auction, he bought a 640-acre farm for $2.50 an acre west of town where Lamar High School is today. He started a school on the property for his brother’s children, as well as nieces and nephews from Germany. The shell lane that led to the schoolhouse became known as “the road to Westheimer’s place.” Out of the family livery business came the Westheimer Transfer and Storage Company. The family also once owned the Westheimer Undertaking and Embalming Company and remains prominent in the city today.
While we have only scratched the surface of the stories behind our historic and interesting street names, our highways and byways, whatever they are called, are an encoded chronicle of our history, heroes, pathos, ethnicity, idealism, sense of humor and attitude about ourselves.
Memo: To Members of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority
From: Your Chairman
As you may know, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels (hereafter called “the party of the first part”) is suggesting that members (hereafter called “the party of the second part”) of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority (hereafter called “the party”) wrap up its business and close down. This must not happen. As we say in our private suite at Enron Field, Houston without a sports authority is like beef tenderloin without a slightly chilled Merlot.
Eckels points out that the authority was created specifically to build sports stadiums and arenas. Such projects were urgently needed. Some of our stadiums and arenas were getting to be half as old as our hospitals and elementary schools. What?s more, owners such as Drayton McLane Jr., Les Alexander and Bob McNair could hardly be expected to build their own facilities. I mean, they didn?t get rich by being stupid, now did they?
And as we all know, those taxes we collect to pay for these new facilities are not being paid by us but by visitors. Houston now has the highest (17 percent) hotel-motel occupancy tax in the entire nation. We?re No. 1! It?s a great point to make when trying to attract conventions.
Speaking of money, we work for free, yet our sacrifices go unheralded. All the liberal press is reporting is about our perks, our ever-growing $3 million a year budget, our staff and the fact that we, along with City Council and Commissioners Court, have the biggest suite at Enron Field and get free food. By one estimate, if we stuck to the deluxe menu of shrimp, tomatoes Napoleon, cheese, beef tenderloin, pork loin, chocolate marquis, etc., the food alone would run $150,000 a year. We plan the same situation at the football/rodeo stadium and the basketball/concerts arena. But those suites are for business purposes; I think you have met most of my family.
All of this is being challenged by Eckels, but not by Mayor Lee Brown, who never met a bureaucracy he didn?t like. So it is clear that we must take some action in order to stay on the gravy train. I suggest we expand our role to include other sports-related projects, such as ethnic museums, Little League fields and parks. Oh, sure, Eckels probably will point out that no other museum in town needed our oversight to get built, that Little League has done fine without us and that the city and county have been building parks for more than a century. Eckels sure can be picky.
If these plans for our continued existence prove impractical, there are other projects to consider. We could help oversee construction of light rail on the theory that if one board of managers is good, two are better. How has Houston gotten along without a sports authority to oversee the dog pound? (Although I don?t think we need a private suite there.) We are the natural organizers of weddings, science fairs and an academy to train rodeo clowns. This brings us to school construction, but Houstonians don?t seem to care much about education. You?ll know their priorities have changed when you see press boxes in the biology labs.
And we have not exhausted the sports scene. The Texas Medical Center could use a little economic stimulus, and the UT-Health Science Center needs a football team and a stadium for the Fightin? Physicians. The Astrodome needs to be re-built, and Enron Field is getting to look a little seedy, don?t you think?
The measure that created the sports authority states that any additional duties to be taken on must be specifically approved by the voters, which means we?ve got it made in the retractable shade. The voters! Those are the same bozos that keep griping about their school taxes but give us $1.5 billion to play with. As for us hanging around too long, I stayed on as head of the MTA for 19 months after my term expired. A final plus is that once any sort of government bureaucracy is created, you can?t kill that sucker even if you drive a stake through its heart.
So that?s our plan. Remember, mum?s the word, and notice the peeling paint at Enron Field. ih