In Your Face
by Roger Gray
Hey, She Loves Animals, but You Have to Draw the Line Somewhere –
Short Alpha Male Alert! Houston Rockets owner Les “build me an arena or I dump Hakeem” Alexander is single and on the prowl. It seems his PETA-lovin’ better half, (and in his case that is not metaphorical) Nanci, has had enough. Whatever the tawdry details, it seems they are calling it a marriage. It appears that Nanci, unlike Lee Brown, would like to escape the stigma of having willingly been in bed with Les.
They’re Clearing Out Pulitzer Shelf Space For –
– the Houston Chronicle’s Shelby Hodge, who apparently has a completely tin ear to the sensibilities of the public. The fact that this journalistic equivalent of a White House intern continues to shamelessly plug Linda Lay’s “resale shop” with a devotion usually reserved for live-in pool boys is mind-boggling. Disgraced (and if there is divine justice, soon to be dressed in orange) former Enron CEO and head weasel Ken Lay’s wife has been treated to a front page story and periodic updates about her pawn shop to the stars. Why no one in Chronicle management has said, “Hey, maybe this isn’t in very good taste,” will perhaps only be revealed to us in the hereafter. Whatever the cause, it is one more reason to lament the late Houston Post.
I am a Lineman for the County – and I Just Screwed L.A, –
Before we leave the “energy sector scandal” topic, Dynegy jefe Chuck Watson has said “basta,” grabbed a bag of money and left his post just ahead of a pack of shareholders resembling nothing so much as the mob in “Frankenstein.” This in the wake of the Enron/Andersen fallout that has shaken confidence in everything energy-related. And while we’re on the subject, remember when we all wrote the paper and called talk shows in a state of high dudgeon over charges that Texas was the cause of the California energy crisis? “Whiney brie-eaters!” we charged. “How dare they blame our corporate sons and daughters for their own dereg-Chernobyl.” Well – it appears they were right. We played those granola-chomping tree smoochers for a bunch of rubes and damn near got away with it. Now the feds are sniffing around. Is this what we paid good campaign protection money for?
Forgive Me Father – I Have Uttered a Bad Word –
The D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, whoever they are, has announced their annual “Distinguished Christian Statesman” award winner for 2002. This apparent inheritor of the mantle of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln is described by a Center mouthpiece named Frank Wright as – “a man who, while having a reputation for being passionate about issues, is respectful of other people and attempts to love his neighbor just as Christ has loved us.” Quickly, Frank, we’re palpitating with anticipation. Tell us who this paragon of virtue might be that we may heave accolades upon his brow. OK – drum roll please – and the winner is – Tom DeLay! Well, all right – we are heaving, but it could just be ozone.
To Run a Surplus Would Mean the Terrorists Have Won –
My illusions have been stripped cleaner than a Boston altar boy. Let me get this straight. In fiscal year 2000, the United States had a budget surplus of $236 billion. Social Security was going to be OK, we were paying down a national debt that had quintupled since Ronald Reagan took office, and we boomers could relax a bit. One tax bill, one short recession and one war on terror later and we are looking at a $150 billion deficit. I thought tax cuts stimulated the economy. I thought they increased government revenue. Of course, they didn?t really in the ’80s – that’s a standard political myth, but the only administration we have says they haven’t cost us, either. They say it’s the war (and don’t you dare criticize any of it, you Benedict Arnolds!) that is to blame. The total so far on the war is nearly $20 billion. And the rest? Do we remember that Spanish temptress of the 1980s, Rosy Scenario? She has worked her wiles again and conned us into cutting revenues. And it won’t improve anytime soon. In fact, it will get worse. Your assignment – read Paul Krugman in The New York Times. Read him regularly. He is the only person making sense on economics. And he apparently is not distributed on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Taking Texas Music to the Next Level
Houston native Jack Ingram makes a name for himself – and the Texas music genre – in the recording industry
Like a true Texas gentleman, Jack Ingram looks you in the eye when he shakes your hand and says hello. He exudes confidence yet is very humble and genuine. The day Inside Houston talked to him, he was scheduled to rock the house at Garden in the Heights as part of their homegrown series that focuses on Texas musicians.
When Jack Ingram takes the stage, the crowd goes wild for this local favorite. Part of the new music revolution made popular by such stars as Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green, Ingram lets the audience know he appreciates them. “All I can do is keep on putting out my music – what I consider to be quality music. Whether it is or not, it’s not my place to judge.” Judging from the audience’s response, Ingram’s stuff is right on target.
The type of crowd that loyally follows Ingram varies from young college coeds to cowboys and businessmen. Most of all, his music touches them. It transcends age groups and classes. They know the words to every song – they’re dancing, clapping, begging for more. Jack Ingram fans do more than appreciate his work; they revel in it.
So, who does Ingram see when he looks out at the audience? “People who give a s— about music – who want to hear music and want to connect on a level about songs and emotions,” he says.
Although you may not recognize Ingram’s name from mainstream radio, there is a movement to change that, a constant gurgle from the people that gets louder with every new fan. “There is always opposition to change, and this kind of stuff is different from what radio stations are used to seeing on their desks. I look at it as a dam with a bunch of pressure on it. At some point the dam is going to break, and it’s all going to flow through.” His fans eagerly await that moment.
Speaking of the lack of air time that Texas music encounters, Ingram responded earnestly, “All I can do is what I do: make records and go out and tour. I do my best to get my songs on the radio.”
Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Charlie Robison and many others “weren’t making records 10 years ago because there was no place for them to be heard. Well, now there’s a place to be heard, it’s just not necessarily on the radio yet. It’s like a snowball thing we’ll get through. It’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on.” And Texas music has found its nook. It is infiltrating college campuses and local bars; it’s on people’s lips and in their car stereos.
There is a whirlwind circling Texas music these days, and many are struggling to define it. Ingram shed some light on the muddy subject. “I guess you could call it a clash of folk, country and rock. You might call it Americana,” he laughs. “Put those types of music together and throw it back out and see what you can call it. As long as they think it’s good.”
A graduate of McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Ingram says he feels like he has two hometowns. “This is my hometown, but I live in Dallas. We always make certain to stop in Houston. My whole family is here. My nieces and nephews are here. We like to be around our family.” Of course, he loves to play to his Houston fans, but the musician in him concedes, “There’s really no place I dislike playing.”
“I play every show like it’s my last. I can’t really choose who’s going to follow me and try and garner that audience or cater to them. I just do what I do and do it as well as I can.”
Single in the City
by Jessica Rossman
Best Patio to Mix and Mingle
The standing-room-only crowds say it all – the patio at Taco Milagro is Houston’s outdoor hot spot. On most weekday evenings, and virtually all weekend long, Milagro is ideal for Tex-Mex-infused patio lounging. The dress code is – well – there is no dress code. There are loosened ties and tight slacks straight from the office basking next to T-shirts, shorts and the always-sexy flip-flops. After a few Milagro margaritas, nobody notices the difference. 2555 Kirby, (713) 522-1999
Best Sunday Parties
Ruggles, Café Adobe, The Social and Prive
Yes, it’s true. Our lives are a big, black hole of emptiness since the Montrose La Strada burned down. But while Houston’s Sunday partiers eagerly await the reopening of the Mother Ship, a few other spots have stepped up to the plate. Your choices are not few, but they ensure a rockin’ Sunday and difficult Monday. You can brunch at Ruggles at Westheimer and Montrose, sip margaritas in the sun on Café Adobe’s patio, people watch at The Social and stay up late at Prive. Good luck at the office on Monday! Ruggles Grill, 903 Westheimer, (713) 524-3839; Café Adobe, 2111 Westheimer, (713) 528-1468; The Social, 3730 Washington, (713) 426-5585; Prive, 910 Westheimer, (713) 522-2542
Best Singles Group
Arts Symposium of Houston
The Art Symposium’s motto says it all: “The Arts Have Never Been So Much Fun.” Even macho men enjoy the creative events this newly revived organization offers – including festivals, wine tastings, gallery openings, theater, music and more – giving singles a colorful twist to meeting new friends and exploring Houston’s diverse entertainment scene. www.artssymposium.org
Best Professional Singles Group
Professionally Speaking Singles Toastmasters
Are you terrified each time you are called on to speak in a meeting? Do you mutter, “uhmm”? and “ahh?” Take heart, so do millions of people, and toastmasters has helped them improve their public speaking skills. Why not improve your communication skills and scope out a potential date? www.psstoastmasters.com
Best Club to Latin Dance
Nothing is steamier than a Latin dance beat and a spicy dance partner. There are plenty of both at Club 511 downtown. Open until 4 a.m. Thursday through Sunday nights, Club 511 consistently draws a saucy dance crowd. Plan on sore feet the next day. 511 Main Street, (713) 224-8855
Best Place to Break Up
This Italian restaurant has great Tuscan cooking in an old manor house. If you choose to break up here, you can head next door to the cigar and martini bar to look for your next romance. 1515 S. Post Oak Lane, (713) 840-0303
Best Place to Find a Prospective Date – Downtown
This grandiose downtown hot spot is the place to see and be seen. From the gilded frames on all the walls to the marble and gold staircase, everything about Boaka is first class. When you want to get dressed up for a night on the town, it must include the Boaka Bar. 1010 Prairie, (713) 225-6372, www.boakabar.com
Best Place to Find a Prospective Date – Kirby
Stag’s Head Pub
From the owners of The Ale House comes the Stag’s Head, a British pub with attitude. The relaxing atmosphere is welcoming and comforting. It’s a quiet, low-key bar with lots of great beers. If you want a place to just sit and talk with friends or clients and not be bothered by blaring music and pushy waitresses, Stag’s Head Pub is the perfect spot. On the weekends, it’s packed with 20- and 30-something patrons. 2128 Portsmouth, (713) 533-1199
Best Texas Hoedown
Let’s face it. We live in Texas. A little dose of our state’s culture now and then is good for all cowboys and cowgirls. So, pull on your boots and ‘git’ on down to Blanco’s on a Thursday night. Blanco’s is authentic, unpretentious Texas fun with live music, two-stepping and service with a smile. And get ready to dance – a spin or two around the dance floor is required. 3406 W. Alabama, (713) 439-0072
New Team New Dream
Houston Texans set to kick off inaugural NFL season
by Kenny Hand
In Houston’s first dance with professional football, K.S. (Bud) Adams ponied up $25,000 for the rights to buy one of eight teams in the new American Football League. It has cost Bob McNair $699,975,000 more for the right to cut in and join the exclusive NFL fraternity of the new century. That’s a bit more than a cost of living increase in 42 years.
Adams’ first two entries in 1960 and 1961 won league championships and would have made it a three-peat in 1962 if not for a team named, interestingly enough, the Texans. The Dallas Texans, owned by Lamar Hunt, beat Adams’ Oilers 20-17 in two overtimes. McNair’s $700 million Houston Texans won’t win the next two Super Bowls, or he’ll be recognized as the smartest and luckiest man who ever lived.
McNair’s team, however, may reverse the path that Adams took. Other than Bum Phillips’ brief but glorious “Luv Ya Blue” era that included two American Football Conference championship games in the late 70s and Jerry Glanville’s helmet-rattling but eventually disappointing 1987-89 playoff run, the Oilers after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger were known mostly for losing an unprecedented 32-point post-season lead in Buffalo and for leaving town. McNair’s Texans should start slowly by the 1960-61 Oiler comparison, due to the difference in the modern-day NFL and parity. But the Texans should be far from a first-year expansion joke and should enjoy remarkable staying power.
“I see no reason why they can’t be real competitive right off the bat,” Phillips said during an early May trip to Houston. “They’ve got a great owner, a great front office, some good players, and they’re building things the right way. I’m already a big Texans fan.”
McNair already has a leg up on Adams in the category of perception. McNair has persistance, power, persuasiveness and no paucity of pennies. Adams was called “Bottom Line Bud” for the notion that he hoarded every nickel. He also changed coaches sometimes on a whim – Pop Ivy or Sammy Baugh one day, someone named Bones Taylor the next. Ed Hughes. Bill Peterson, master of the malaprop. Chuck Studley. Hugh Campbell. What a revolving door of coaches in the powder blue house of errors. Adams sounds and even looks a little like Edgar Buchanan, the former actor. In 37 years in Houston, the Oilers won only 46 percent of their games (251-291-6), yet Adams fired 1960 AFL Coach of the Year Lou Rymkus (11-7-1) after the franchise’s first 19 games. Edgar Buchanan probably wouldn’t have gone through as many coaches.
McNair, a South Carolina native in love with horse racing, doesn’t yet have a nickname. But it’s not “Cheapskate.” The feeling to date, real or imagined, is that if it’s relative to critical business, McNair might send a limousine just so you can join him for brunch.
In the Oilers’ first year, they played at a dreary, downtrodden Jeppesen Stadium near the University of Houston campus. You wouldn’t recognize it now, revamped and renamed Robertson Stadium, sculpted especially for the Houston Cougars. Back then, though, even with Adams agreeing to finance the Jeppesen expansion to 36,000 seats, it was cramped, uncomfortable and smelly. The prices were right, though. You could buy a season ticket package for $31.50. That’s 31 dollars and 50 cents. For all the home games, no PSL (personal seat license) was required.
And the Oilers in the early years had some rather unique training camp follies. The first-year sites, plural, were Buff Stadium – the minor league baseball park – and a hard vacant lot by the UH campus. There was no air conditioning, cockroaches galore and, of course, mosquitos larger than Lufkin.
The next year, they moved to Hawaii. Talk about landscape swings. But in 1962, they were back here, training at Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston, on a shrapnel field. The following year, they moved to Colorado Springs, which sounded like a neat idea, but Colorado was going through its worst drought in 36 years. No fresh water meant the practice field was irrigated with sewer water. Scratches became infected. Nice camp.
On to 2002. The Texans’ $9 million, 17-acre training facility off Kirby is state-of-the-art, the envy of the 31 other lodge brothers. The field house is fit for River Oaks. It’s a 4,500-square-foot gem that includes a small locker room, training room, emergency medical area, four offices and one conference room, just in case Texans executives want to convene and gloat over these advantages to the previous owner’s digs. Oh, and there are three outdoor fields and an air-supported indoor field, believed to be the largest of its kind in North America, plus a 4,000-square-foot maintenance facility. None of the aforementioned practice fields, to our knowledge, is irrigated with sewer water.
The larger locker room, weight room and rehab facilities are across Kirby at the 69,500-seat Reliant Stadium, site of the 2004 Super Bowl. Reliant is, in fact, the only retractable-roof yard in the NFL. “Spectacular,” said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue upon inspecting it this spring, when NFL owners and general managers gathered in Houston. “I saw the concept and heard the plan when they were just a gleam in Bob’s eye, and I knew this place was going to be something special. I’m so impressed.”
Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner, said he wished he could haul the Texans’ stadium back to Irving, where the hole in the Texas Stadium roof is archaic and looks dumber by the decade. Adams, too, has been bowled over by Reliant’s world-class looks. His Tennessee Titans play in Houston this season as part of the new AFC South, and, since he still makes Houston his home, Adams won’t have to travel far for that trip. Also, he bought 12 season tickets (plus PSLs) to the Texans games, 20-yard line, eight rows up.
Unlike Adams, McNair seems to exhibit more stability and pure common sense. Everything he’s done has a long-range plan attached. He chose, for instance, one of football’s top general managers, Charley Casserly, who picked a defensive-minded coach in Dom Capers, a believer in the 3-4 defense and ball-possession offense.
Adams kick-started the Oilers with George Blanda, a quarterback-place kicker in his early 30s who’d been dumped on in Chicago by Bears owner-coach George Halas. McNair, conversely, is counting sooner rather than later on rookie gunslinger David Carr, who led the nation in passing yards (4,839) and touchdowns (46) last season and completed almost 63 percent of his career passes at Fresno State. Blanda grew to dislike the way Adams conducted business with the Oilers. Carr already has to love McNair for making him the No. 1 pick in the draft and signing him for a small fortune.
The Oilers’ first-ever college choice in 1960 was Billy Cannon, everybody’s All-American running back from LSU. In fact, with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL thinking they had him under contract, Adams flat stole Billy away from a familiar name, then-Rams GM Pete Rozelle, who would eventually become NFL commish. Adams’ lawyer signed Cannon under the goal posts in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl. It was a great lick for the Oilers and put them and the AFL on the map.
Carr won’t be handing off to a Heisman Trophy winner like Cannon – veteran James Allen is the best-known Carr teammate in the backfield coming from the expansion draft. But Carr has a cannon for an arm and could have a Cannon-like impact on the fans, who’ll surely agree to a two- or three-year honeymoon with the Texans. Casserly loaded up with an experienced offensive line in the expansion pool and came out with the likes of Tony Boselli; Steve McKinney, the former Texas Aggie; and Ryan Young, an ex-New York Jet. The college draft yielded the likes of Florida wideout Jabar Gaffney to pair with Carr.
The Texans put an emphasis on special teams and the kick return speed that Jermaine Lewis, formerly of the Super Bowl champ Baltimore Ravens, represents. They’re hoping Kris Brown’s field goal accuracy is better than it was last year in Pittsburgh, but they like his leg. They don’t have a true pass-rushing stud, but the tackles and ends are interchangeable in the 3-4 scheme. They’re not loaded with greatness at safety, but expansion additions Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman should be quite steady at cornerback. Jamie Sharper and Kailee Wong are talented veteran linebackers.
The point at which Carr is declared the starter is a key issue. You don’t want to get him killed, particularly if left tackle Boselli – who is trying to recover from shoulder surgery – is reinjured or doesn’t come around fully and Carr’s blind side is exposed. McNair’s quandary is this: He paid David Carr a ton of money to be the franchise quarterback, $46 million over seven years plus another possible $14 million in incentives, so Carr must produce results. But when? If Carr gets whacked around physically and affected mentally because he’s thrown to the wolves prematurely, that’s not being shrewd with your investment. Veteran Kent Graham is around to take the early bullets, if necessary.
But these are good problems to have: debates on personnel, when to leave the roof open or closed, what type of mustard you like on your dogs, how much parking costs, when Carr should start. The old Jeppesen season ticket package of $31.50 might barely cover food and drink for a family of four at a Texans game. But one thing hasn’t changed. On Dec. 29, Adams’ Titans visit, so he will have to worry about another team named the Texans beating his transplanted Oilers again.
Even if McNair’s Texans lose that one, I’ll call the season 5-11, allowing for the predictable assortment of embryonic downers: injuries, inconsistencies and interceptions. Defensive end Gary Walker, a former Oiler, for instance, had to have groin and hernia surgery in late May. But there always will be a pleasant surprise or two to offset the injuries. The nucleus of players is exceptional for a first-year club, uniforms look manly and there’s a roof over your head in case of an advancing monsoon.
The blocks of granite – McNair, Casserly and Capers – are in place for a marvelous future.
The NFL has returned. Houston, you have a team, not a problem.
Years ago, Katy Road was a blacktop going from Houston to – where else? – Katy. In the 1950s, a study indicated the need for an intrastate freeway system, and in the 1960s, work began on I-10 West. Later, following a study by the Texas Highway Department, the road was widened. After another study, it was expanded again.
Then, in a few years, the Houston Department For Handling the Road Construction Lobby did a study, and an HOV lane was put in. But each time more cement was poured and more lanes were added, the traffic only got worse. This is due to Parkinson’s Law of Gridlock: “Traffic expands to meet the lanes available.”
If this is the case, Houston can never build enough freeway lanes to handle its vehicles. This, however, does not mean we don’t keep trying. There is now a movement to widen Katy Freeway once more, but by how much? Between downtown and Katy there are up to 12 lanes, counting the service roads. The HOV lane makes it 13. Some would like to add two lanes in each direction, four-lane service lanes and a two-lane toll road HOV lane in the middle. A study has been ordered to see if this is feasible.
There are, of course, some anti-growth folks who worry about the increase in air and noise pollution. “We don’t want our children to wear gas masks and earplugs,” one parent said. These are the same people who think paying for public schools is more important than landing the Olympics.
Working on the theory that if one is good then two are twice as good, there is now an additional proposal that a double deck be built from the West Loop to Sealy. As U.S. Rep. John Culberson explained, “If 18 lanes are good, 32 lanes are three times as good.” U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay agreed so long as no federal funds went to the project, preferring to see the money go to Dallas.
The Harris County Commissioners Court suggested that a special “super lane” be added but limited to those who have the title “county judge” or “commissioner.” Members of the school board, the city council and the sports authority demanded to be included, one of the latter group explaining, “If we’re important enough to have free luxury suites at all the stadiums, we should have our own freeway lane as well.”
By shifting funds from flood control and the county hospital district (“bells and whistles” as one MTA board member put it), money was made available to buy all the land between Memorial Drive and Long Point. Soon, contracts will be let for Phase One of the Katy Freeway Expansion & Campaign Donors Appreciation Project. This construction may create some temporary traffic congestion, although it is scheduled for completion in 2110. When finished, the Katy Freeway will be wider than most freeways are long.
As outlined by Citizens Opposed to Non-Creative Responsible Entities in Texas Expressways, or CONCRETE, “Phase One means one car, one lane.” However, a $20 million study by the Orange Barrel Manufacturers Society shows that by the time this new super expressway would be completed, it will be obsolete and may need a major expansion. Phase Two is still under discussion but contains plans for a lane for card-carrying Friends of the District Attorney Who Do Not Like to Drive 55.
There has been some talk of putting a light rail line alongside the Katy Freeway to ease traffic while helping the environment. Such a proposal was put before the Texas Department of Corduroy Roads but died for lack of a second.
When the U.S. Department of Transportation offered to pay for half the cost of light rail, the plan was rejected. When the offer was increased to paying the entire cost, Houston refused to even answer the letter. When the federal government said it would pay twice the cost of a light rail line and cover health costs, house payments and two-week vacations for all Houston citizens, Rep. DeLay branded it “typical Washington interference in local affairs.” However, there is a proposal to provide children with gas masks and earplugs. It’s being studied. ih