All Eyes On Green

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs

By Warner Roberts

Singing sensation Pat Green on music, family, and the great state of Texas.

H Texas sat down with traveling crooner, Pat Green, the same day his eleventh album, “What I’m For” was released. His excitement overshadowed his exhaustion. He’d been touring for weeks promoting this album and was finally home in Fort Worth. The country star allowed this interview under one condition—he could take a time out when his two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son wanted Daddy to play.

A Texan through and through, Green was born in San Antonio and grew up in Waco. He graduated college from Texas Tech, moved to Austin, and now lives in Fort Worth.

One of nine siblings in a blended family, he remembers a “buffet of music” echoing throughout his childhood home. The family listened to everything from Motown to Mozart. He had heard Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, but he did not fall in love with country music until a friend urged him to listen to Robert Earl Keen. That was just before Green headed to Texas Tech. “I thought his songs were incredible; the stories were great and the music was so deep.” He was soon turned on to Jerry Jeff Walker and was inspired by the way these men used their music as a way of heartland storytelling.

Throughout college Green performed on any stage he could find. “Every Friday night I’d try to get a gig at Bash Rip Rock, County Line BBQ, or Depot Beer Garden,” he recalls. With money borrowed from his parents, 18 year-old Green recorded songs he had written and released a series of independently produced albums, including “Dancehall Dreamer” and “George’s Bar.” He had a day job working for his stepfather’s wholesale fuel business, but it was clear Green’s passion was elsewhere. “One day my stepdad called me into his office and let me go,” Green says. “He knew how much I loved music, and he wanted me to go for it. That’s when I made the total commitment to my dream; it’s music all the way.”

Green’s warm, rugged voice and charismatic connection with audiences earned him a rapidly growing fan base. He soon had the support of the same people who inspired him to sing country music. “Guys like Willie, Jerry Jeff, and Robert Earl were letting me open their shows which was amazing! I owe them all a debt of gratitude—not just for the platform, but also for their attitude and example.”

Green’s album, “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” was recorded during a performance at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Family Picnic. Soon after its release, Green was headlining his own shows and performing in front of sold-out crowds. His next album, “Songs We Wish We’d Written” was recorded in 2001 and within five years, Green sold 250,000 tapes, records, and CDs—an unheard of figure without backing from a major label.

“Going to Nashville and trying to become a star didn’t seem very appealing,” Green says. He believes Texas is the greatest place on the planet, so he avoided the frustrations of the Tennessee music business and found an audience here. While living in Austin, Green married his girlfriend Kori and earned a decent living doing what he loved—playing music. Though he was happy, there remained a large void in his music business. “I’d go to some towns and play for 1,000 people, but the local stores wouldn’t have my records,” he remembers. “I needed a national company to put my music out so people could study my quirks and kinks just like I studied the people who inspired me.”

When Republic Records came knocking, Green opened the door, signed a contract, and released “Three Days.” His next album, “Wave on Wave” was a hit, and the single of the same name rose to number three on the charts. “That was the album that really made a difference,” he says. “It really got the ball rolling toward radio success and national recognition.” The record catapulted him to stardom. He was suddenly in the same ranks as Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, and Kenny Chesney; “Wave on Wave” won three Grammy nominations.

Green wrote eight of the ten songs on his new album, “What I’m For.” To him, this album is a “coming of age” vehicle. Looking back on the songs he wrote early in his career, he thinks they were good, but with the new ones, he feels like he has come into his own. “They’re written by a man, by a father, by a guy that kind of has a handle on the situation.” As far as Pat Green is concerned, this is the best album he has ever done. The critics say he is right; his single “Let Me” is already number 13 on the charts. His favorite song, “Footsteps of Our Fathers,” was written with his friend, Brett James; “it’s the best song I’ve ever been a part of writing.” This song is his legacy, his story to his children.

Green released his first book, “Pat Green’s Dance Halls &Dreamers,” last year. The coffee table book is a look at Texas’ legendary music venues and the musicians who made them great. Each chapter documents a venue’s history, atmosphere, and individual charm. Green shares memories of each venue and gives readers a glimpse into his favorite, Gruene Hall. Billy Bob’s Texas, Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, and Luckenbach (where Green was married) are also highlighted. Interviews with honky-tonk heroes like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kevin Fowler and Jack Ingram add flavor to the book. “I love those old dance halls,” Green says. They’re where life slows down and people seem to have a better sense of reality. I see those great old hardwood floors and know that’s where a lot of our granddaddies walked. I love it!”

Despite performing for large crowds year-round, there is still one show that gives Green butterflies. “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo still scares me to death, but I look forward to it,” he says. “I’ll never forget the first time I performed there … about ten minutes before I went on, Kori told me we were pregnant with our first baby. I swear I don’t remember that performance at all—I have no idea how I made it through.”

Pat Green believes in the American dream. He aspires to continue to grow and, “be involved in the everlasting chase to be bigger than I am, to be better than I am.” Though much of his life is spent traveling and playing his music, he has never lost his contagious enthusiasm for life or excitement for each new performance and audience. His music pays homage to those who have cleared the path and made him the man he is today.

The Search for Manatee

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

The Search for Manatee
Laurette Veres tracks elusive mammal

The Honduran Rainforests
The primitive park train to Cuero Y Salado Wildlife Refuge trudges through banana plantations and small villages. There is no road, only mountainous rain forest terrain that becomes green, leafy flatland at the end of the line.

I’m looking for manatee in La Ceiba, Honduras with a group of travel writers. The only English speaking person at the refuge’s visitor center is a volunteer from Minnesota who reminds me of Francis McDormand in “Fargo.” She has spent three-weeks with Global Volunteers cleaning beaches and researching manatee. She recommends hiring a local guide who knows the water and can spot a 2000-pound swimming mammal.

After boarding a six-passenger boat, we cruise through the pristine waters of the Salado River. Manatee move slowly and eat floating vegetation, so we spend a lot of time near the river’s highly vegetated shoreline. The scenery is exquisite. Picture perfect views of the mountains reflect off the water as howler monkeys scream from the treetops. A large croc rises to the surface not far from the boat, and bats line the trees, hanging in perfect symmetry.

We enjoy the peace and tranquility of unspoiled nature, but alas, the crafty manatee eludes us.

Paddling to Nowhere
Stories of manatee sightings abound near Florida’s Gulf Coast. Native Floridian and owner of Anna Maria Island Eco Tours, Shawn Dutschayer, makes his living leading kayakers to manatee in the peaceful waters of Florida Bay.

It’s early morning, and the sun is shining as we launch our kayaks and begin the search. Cruising in an ocean kayak provides a unique vantage point. The small craft fits through the smallest openings in the mangrove branches letting us see sights we would miss from a boat. Statuesque pelicans sweep across the water, and intricate mangrove roots curve up toward the Jurassic Park-like trees. But alas, despite much patience and paddling, we never spot a manatee.

Snooty, the Manatee
To actually see a real, live manatee, we have to visit the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. Snooty, the oldest living manatee in captivity, performs a death-defying stunt routine, where he slowly swims around a tank and eats lettuce. He shares his 60,000-gallon aquarium with two younger manatees, who also swim around and eat lettuce. The popular tourist attraction allows visitors to view the creatures from above the water or at eye level through glass walls.

Lake and kayak photos: staff; Photo of Snooty courtesy the south florida museum

www.floridasgulfislands.com

www.southfloridamuseum.org

Orlando, Florida

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Beyond Mickey
Tee off and kick back in Orlando, Florida
by Joel Mathiason

Let us travel to a world of magic kingdoms and Cinderella stories; a place where it’s okay to be Goofy and befriend a mouse named Mickey. But on this trip, you’ll unwind with a hot stone massage after shooting a few birdies, and fresh fish is par for your four-course meal.

The sprawling Orlando Omni Champions Gate Resort is a golfer’s paradise, complete with two courses designed by Greg Norman. The National Course features a traditional, American-style layout with lush, tree-lined holes and challenging dog legs. The International Course boasts an open links-style design where generously sprinkled bunkers and strategically shrinking fairways keep you double guessing each shot. If you’re looking to perfect your swing, the Omni plays host to the prestigious David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Lessons ranging from a one-hour clinic to a 3-day Mini School are available.

But golf isn’t the only attraction at this four-diamond retreat. The soothing Serenity Spa, lazy river, private pool and a Kids Play area are prime for family fun and relaxation. Seven-hundred and twenty rooms, 40 luxury villas and 70,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space accommodate families, wedding parties and conferences.

Photos by: Joel Mathiason

The fun, luxurious ambiance is matched with equally impressive dining. Gourmet Pan-Asian cuisine awaits you at Zen, where hot sake and sushi are served in a calming atmosphere. If a livelier scene, steak and perhaps a cigar are on your radar, give David’s Club a try. The resort is becoming a popular wedding destination. Newlyweds Jeremy and Rachael Bastacky profess they were “treated like royalty” during their stay. Trips to nearby Walt Disney World and access to Omni’s world-class golf helped the wedding party enjoy their time in the central Florida sun.

There is more than theme parks to enjoy outside the Omni. A 20-minute drive leads you to the fresh, cool spring waters of Wekiwa Springs State Park. Another popular getaway sends you aloft. A hot air balloon ride courtesy of Blue Water Balloons will lift you and your spirits above the picturesque Florida landscape.

Omni Championsgate
www.omnihotels.com

Walt Disney World
www.waltdisneyworld.com

Weikiwa Springs State Park
www.floridastateparks.org

Blue Water Balloons
www.bluewaterballoons.com

Mayoka Lodge Honduras

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

In The Lodge of Luxury
Mayoka Lodge boasts luxurious accommodations and breathtaking island views
Photos courtesy Mayoka Lodge

A luxury-villa on the Honduran island of Roatan now tops my list of places to unwind.

The first evening I visited the Mayoka Lodge, the chef fluttered around the kitchen with last minute preparations. Owners Paul and Mandy Croucher, greeted me with a glass of champagne and we toasted the majestic sunset. A love of diving brought these Brits together and today, they play host to one of the most unique island retreats in the world.

Walking through the dining area and out to the infinity pool, lush greenery leads you to the ocean. Access to a private beach is just one of many Mayoka amenities.

Head to the top of this three-level lodge for a glimpse of the pristine hillside location. The birds eye view is unreal. The pantry is stocked according to your requests and the breakfast bar overlooks the pool. Freshly squeezed orange juice and robust Honduran coffee are morning staples. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared in-house and enjoyed around the grand oak dining table.

The evening I visited, dinner was fresh snapper with mango sauce, coconut bread, green beans with almonds, and coconut rice. Perfect for a family or group of friends, the lodge sleeps 12 comfortably. When you’re not enjoying the water, take pleasure in movies, games, poker, and billiards on the first level entertainment area. Hop behind the wet bar to mix your favorite drinks and reserve time to view the wine cellar, full of Central American labels.

With a four-poster canopy bed and picturesque bay views, the master bedroom is worth drawing straws for. From the high ceilings to the classic claw toe tub, the luxury quotient is sky high.

I tried to stay away from the desserts, but knowing the chef worked all day perfecting the key lime pie, what kind of guest would I be if I didn’t try it? As expected, it was sublime.

www.mayokalodge.com

O’ahu, Hawaii

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

There’s more to life on O’ahu
From haute cuisine to surf lessons, discover this legendary island

Had your fill of poolside Piña Coladas and Mai Tais? The island of O’ahu is bursting with nightlife, shopping and dining options to fit every taste. Waikiki’s energy is akin to New York City’s non-stop action. Expect to find international boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Coach, and Gucci. Spend your days on exhilarating excursions and your evenings at some of the finest restaurants in the country.

Stay
In the heart of it all, you’ll find the flashy Waikiki Parc Hotel. Just steps from the beach and moments from shops and bars, the boutique hotel echoes the island’s vibrancy.

If you crave seclusion, the Kahala Hotel and Resort exudes its rich history. Overlooking both Diamond Head and Koko Head craters, the Kahala was a favorite of Conrad Hilton when it opened in 1964. The secluded sandy beaches and spacious rooms are still popular with the Hollywood set. Photos of Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and many more adorn the walls. When H Texas visited, James Gandolfini from “The Sopranos” and Deborah Lin said “I Do,” in town and celebrated on the property.

Discover
Dolphin encounters have become the rage in tropical destinations. The Kahala is home to an on-site dolphin experience. Kids can be trainers for a day, or the entire family can enjoy a family swim.

For more adventure, check out dolphins in their natural habitat. Wild Side Specialty Tours has a staff of marine biologists and offers snorkeling off of West O’ahu. Each day, wild dolphin pods are tracked in shallow resting areas. When the boat gets close to a pod, participants dive in and swim as fast as possible. Even when resting, wild dolphins out-swim humans, so the actual swim only lasts a few minutes. An encounter is never guaranteed, as these are wild animals, not Flipper. On the day we visited, we swam alongside the gorgeous dolphins for over ten minutes.

Paddle
Kayaking in O’ahu is not for the faint of heart. It involves dragging your kayak across thick sand, entering wavy water, and paddling against the current. As you explore the waters of Kailua Bay, your guide explains how the islands were formed and are still shifting today. Watch out for sea turtles as you fight the current.

Surf
Surfers are drawn to Oahu’s North Shore in search of Hawaii’s monster waves. Outside cool cafés and funky swimwear shops, you hear locals discussing the next surge. Hans Hedemann Surf has an office in the Waikikki Parc Hotel. This is where you meet your instructor for quick land lessons. It’s a simple four-step process: arms (push-up), knees (under your chest), front foot (forward) and back foot (underneath your body). Then, stand up. That’s it. There is no better way to learn than to head out and catch a wave. As you paddle, the board is leashed to your ankle. Just getting out is a chore and often requires your instructor’s help. Instructors read the waves, tell you when to go, and push you to surf. After that, it’s up to you to follow the four basic steps. As visions of Cameron Diaz float through your head, it’s a struggle to stand without falling over.

Tour
For a unique perspective of the island, check out Segway of Hawai’i. A quick lesson helps you get your “segway legs” as you learn to maneuver the quirky little machines. Cover a lot of ground, see the sights, and make it all the way to the entrance of Diamond Head.

Dine
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the world’s leader in innovative Japanese cuisine, is now in O’ahu. The dazzling new 7,500 square-foot Nobu Waikiki features a full service sushi bar and private dining area for special events.

Duke’s Waikiki, named in honor of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku, is well-known for its beach side location and hula pie—macadamia nut ice cream, whipped cream, and fudge atop a chocolate cookie crust.

Heal
If you’re looking for a cultural experience, take a tour with Denise Moreland of TourTalk. Her insightful CD-Rom and customized tours explore the spiritual side of O’ahu. The land is magical and Moreland leads you to locations with histories of healing. Find your inner peace at the Makapu’u healing pools, a sacred area used by generations seeking peace and prosperity.

* Stay

The Kahala Hotel and Resort
(808) 739-8888
www.kahalaresort.com

Waikiki Parc Hotel
(808) 921-7272
www.waikikiparc.com

* Dine

Nobu Waikiki
www.noburestaurants.com

Duke’s Waikiki
(808) 922-2268
www.dukeswaikiki.com

* Tour

Wild Side Specialty Tours
(808) 306-7273
www.sailhawaii.com

Twogood Kayaks
(808) 262-5656

Segway of Hawai’i, located in the Hilton Hawaiian Village
(808) 941-3151
www.segwayofhawaii.com

Hans Hedemann
(808) 922-7778
www.hhsurf.com

TourTalk
(808) 429-8687
Storefront, Kayak Photos courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson; sea turtle photo: laurette veres

Something Old, Something New…

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

A look back at January’s Bridal Extravaganza Show

Bridal showers and bachelorette parties aren’t the only things Houston’s blushing brides look forward to before walking down the aisle. Attending the Bridal Extravaganza Show is a wedding-planning tradition for brides and their go-to girls. This year, exhibitors gave a Texas-sized welcome to local ladies and out of town visitors hailing from as far as Alaska. The show kicked off the search for the next Billboard Bride with hundreds signing-up for their chance to grace billboards and promotional materials for July’s Bridal Extravaganza Show. Houston’s reigning Billboard Bride, Hollie Padron, was on hand lending support to other ladies about to say, “I do.”

Major prizes including a honeymoon to the Riviera Maya, Mexico and $1,000 shopping sprees to Macy’s and Kohl’s could be won by providing one’s contact information. However, one coveted prize package found some couples kissing the day, (and night) away. After a 22-hour lip-lock-a-thon, the last two couples standing agreed to split the package and left with a bevy of freebies for their upcoming big day.

While the aisles buzzed with excitement, the Couture Catwalk drew those searching for the perfect dress. Models hit the runway donning gowns from several bridal salons, including Ventura’s, Winnie Couture, and Princess Bridal. From drop-waist gowns to sexy sheaths, the latest trends awed the crowd. Other fashion shows featured David’s Bridal, Alfred Angelo, Al’s Formal Wear, and MW Tux.

With princess gowns and place settings galore, January’s Bridal Extravaganza Show delivered the best in all things bridal. Over 5,000 brides-to-be filled the George R. Brown Convention Center to start planning their special day. As they gushed over custom cakes and couture gowns, it was clear the 25th anniversary show was the first stop on the road to wedded bliss.

Samples from Houston’s premier caterers, luxurious linen displays, and floral arrangements made for every budget added to the show’s excitement. String quartets played “Here Comes the Bride” and DJ’s showed off extensive collections of tunes as brides finalized their plans.

Destination DC

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

The Top Ten Places to Eat, Drink and be Merry in our Nation’s Capitol

There is more to do in DC than snap shots of the White House and peruse the Lincoln Memorial. With infinite dining options and scores of museums, our nation’s capitol is brimming with exciting attractions. As former residents of the district, we’ve compiled a list of the city’s top ten visit-worthy destinations:

1. Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U St. NW (202) 667-0909
www.benschilibowl.com
DC’s favorite greasy spoon has been pleasing patrons like Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Cosby, and President Barack Obama for over 50 years. Check your calorie-counting tendencies at the door and indulge in hot dogs, chili-cheese fries, and the city’s most beloved milkshakes.

2. Busboys &Poets
2021 14th St. NW (202) 387-POET
www.busboysandpoets.com
Listen to inspiring lectures, get lost in a book, or sip a glass of cabernet at Busboys. The all-in-one bookstore, restaurant, fair-trade market, theatre, and community center is a favorite among locals. Take a break from touring the monuments and toil the day away with pizza and prose.

3. Eastern Market
225 7th St. SE
www.easternmarketdc.com
Conveniently located on “the Hill,” Eastern Market is a goldmine of fresh meats, cheeses, and produce. From green beans to Gouda, daily shipments of gourmet and organic foods have kept the foodie paradise open since 1873. Don’t miss the weekend flea market!

4. 18th Street Lounge
212 18th St. NW (202) 466-3922
www.eighteenthstreetlounge.com
The 18th Street Lounge stays true to its soulful roots with global tunes and luscious cocktails. Salsa on the roof deck or sip your caipirina by the grand windows overlooking the heart of the city.

5. The International Spy Museum
800 F St. NW (866) 799-6873
wwww.spymuseum.org
Brush up on all things espionage in one of the country’s most intriguing museums. Channel your inner Jack Bauer with documentaries based on famous spies, lessons on the spy trade, and a trip through a crawlspace. Whatever you do, be on your best behavior—you never know who’s watching.

6. Luna Grill
1301 Connecticut Ave. (202) 835-2280
www.lunagrillanddiner.com
Those who adore brunch and delicious home-style cooking will love Luna Grill. Their corned-beef Ruben with sweet potato fries will warm your heart and fill your belly. The unpretentious crowd and vibrant décor are bursting with energy.

7. Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St. NW (202) 347-4800
www.ebbitt.com
Politicians, journalists, and ambassadors convene here for hefty doses of oysters served with sides of DC history. Established in 1857, Washington’s oldest saloon was a favorite of Presidents Grant and Roosevelt. Our votes go to the Hot Steak Salad and Bourbon Walnut Pie.

8. Nana
1528 U St. NW (202) 667-6955
www.nanaDC.com
Named for the owner’s grandmother, Nana houses unbearably chic clothes from uncommon designers. Whether you are looking for a Hobo bag, summer frock, or irresistible scented hand soap, the delightful staff will lead you to some fabulous finds.

9. The National
Portrait Gallery
4100 Ninth St. NW (202) 633-8300
www.npg.si.edu
For an offbeat glimpse of American history, add the Portrait Gallery to your itinerary. Veiled in one of the grandest buildings in the city are images of prominent Americans from Abraham Lincoln to Michael Jackson. The iconic “Hope” painting of President Obama was recently moved here.

10. Screen on the Green
900 Ohio Drive SW (202) 426-6841
www.nps.gov/nama
Watch classic movies on a Texas-sized screen with the capitol building as your backdrop. Bring a blanket and your buddies Monday evenings all summer long to the National Mall. It’s an idyllic way to spend a balmy evening.

All Eyes on Green

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Singing sensation Pat Green on music, family, and the great state of Texas

H Texas sat down with traveling crooner, Pat Green, the same day his eleventh album, “What I’m For” was released. His excitement overshadowed his exhaustion. He’d been touring for weeks promoting this album and was finally home in Fort Worth. The country star allowed this interview under one condition—he could take a time out when his two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son wanted Daddy to play.

A Texan through and through, Green was born in San Antonio and grew up in Waco. He graduated college from Texas Tech, moved to Austin, and now lives in Fort Worth.

One of nine siblings in a blended family, he remembers a “buffet of music” echoing throughout his childhood home. The family listened to everything from Motown to Mozart. He had heard Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, but he did not fall in love with country music until a friend urged him to listen to Robert Earl Keen. That was just before Green headed to Texas Tech. “I thought his songs were incredible; the stories were great and the music was so deep.” He was soon turned on to Jerry Jeff Walker and was inspired by the way these men used their music as a way of heartland storytelling.

Throughout college Green performed on any stage he could find. “Every Friday night I’d try to get a gig at Bash Rip Rock, County Line BBQ, or Depot Beer Garden,” he recalls. With money borrowed from his parents, 18 year-old Green recorded songs he had written and released a series of independently produced albums, including “Dancehall Dreamer” and “George’s Bar.” He had a day job working for his stepfather’s wholesale fuel business, but it was clear Green’s passion was elsewhere. “One day my stepdad called me into his office and let me go,” Green says. “He knew how much I loved music, and he wanted me to go for it. That’s when I made the total commitment to my dream; it’s music all the way.”

Green’s warm, rugged voice and charismatic connection with audiences earned him a rapidly growing fan base. He soon had the support of the same people who inspired him to sing country music. “Guys like Willie, Jerry Jeff, and Robert Earl were letting me open their shows which was amazing! I owe them all a debt of gratitude—not just for the platform, but also for their attitude and example.”

Green’s album, “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” was recorded during a performance at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Family Picnic. Soon after its release, Green was headlining his own shows and performing in front of sold-out crowds. His next album, “Songs We Wish We’d Written” was recorded in 2001 and within five years, Green sold 250,000 tapes, records, and CDs—an unheard of figure without backing from a major label.

“Going to Nashville and trying to become a star didn’t seem very appealing,” Green says. He believes Texas is the greatest place on the planet, so he avoided the frustrations of the Tennessee music business and found an audience here. While living in Austin, Green married his girlfriend Kori and earned a decent living doing what he loved—playing music. Though he was happy, there remained a large void in his music business. “I’d go to some towns and play for 1,000 people, but the local stores wouldn’t have my records,” he remembers. “I needed a national company to put my music out so people could study my quirks and kinks just like I studied the people who inspired me.”

When Republic Records came knocking, Green opened the door, signed a contract, and released “Three Days.” His next album, “Wave on Wave” was a hit, and the single of the same name rose to number three on the charts. “That was the album that really made a difference,” he says. “It really got the ball rolling toward radio success and national recognition.” The record catapulted him to stardom. He was suddenly in the same ranks as Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, and Kenny Chesney; “Wave on Wave” won three Grammy nominations.

Green wrote eight of the ten songs on his new album, “What I’m For.” To him, this album is a “coming of age” vehicle. Looking back on the songs he wrote early in his career, he thinks they were good, but with the new ones, he feels like he has come into his own. “They’re written by a man, by a father, by a guy that kind of has a handle on the situation.” As far as Pat Green is concerned, this is the best album he has ever done. The critics say he is right; his single “Let Me” is already number 13 on the charts. His favorite song, “Footsteps of Our Fathers,” was written with his friend, Brett James; “it’s the best song I’ve ever been a part of writing.” This song is his legacy, his story to his children.

Green released his first book, “Pat Green’s Dance Halls &Dreamers,” last year. The coffee table book is a look at Texas’ legendary music venues and the musicians who made them great. Each chapter documents a venue’s history, atmosphere, and individual charm. Green shares memories of each venue and gives readers a glimpse into his favorite, Gruene Hall. Billy Bob’s Texas, Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, and Luckenbach (where Green was married) are also highlighted. Interviews with honky-tonk heroes like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kevin Fowler and Jack Ingram add flavor to the book. “I love those old dance halls,” Green says. They’re where life slows down and people seem to have a better sense of reality. I see those great old hardwood floors and know that’s where a lot of our granddaddies walked. I love it!”

Despite performing for large crowds year-round, there is still one show that gives Green butterflies. “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo still scares me to death, but I look forward to it,” he says. “I’ll never forget the first time I performed there … about ten minutes before I went on, Kori told me we were pregnant with our first baby. I swear I don’t remember that performance at all—I have no idea how I made it through.”

Pat Green believes in the American dream. He aspires to continue to grow and, “be involved in the everlasting chase to be bigger than I am, to be better than I am.” Though much of his life is spent traveling and playing his music, he has never lost his contagious enthusiasm for life or excitement for each new performance and audience. His music pays homage to those who have cleared the path and made him the man he is today.  

From Footsteps of Our Fathers:
We are walking in the footsteps of our fathers
Standing in the shadows of our mothers
Standing in the shadows of our mothers
Trying to learn from those who came before us
I see the roadmaps and lines upon their face …

Walking the Red Carpet

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Houston-based novelist stumbles her way through paparazzi mob

I’m admitting something here, and I don’t want it to come back to haunt me. Like, I don’t want people coming up to me and saying, “You’re old news, lady.”

Okay, here it goes …

I had my fifteen minutes of fame. There, I said it. The limelight, I’m afraid, has faded into pale limey-ness.

I’m disappointed for a few main reasons:

Number One: I imagined my fifteen minutes to be so much glitzier. I wanted to feel like Victoria Beckham when she landed in Los Angeles with dreamy David and sauntered off the plane in the tight mod dress and the big sunglasses. I wanted to be invited to a “Sushi and Scientology Sunday Night Dinner!” with Tom, Katie, and Suri Cruise. I wanted to be on the “Today Show,” or at the very least, “Top Chef.”

Number Two: And this is the big one, folks. I didn’t realize it was my fifteen minutes, until it was over. You can’t rewind fifteen minutes of fame. It just happens, and then the clock strikes minute number sixteen, and you’re done—zapped of all Angelina Jolie-ishness.

Number Three: My fifteen minutes wasn’t that great. I felt as if I’d been invited to the Oscars, but not the Vanity Fair after-party. Or, to put it differently, like I’d been to the best steakhouse in town, and had bad shrimp cocktail. Sadly, my fifteen minutes passed with a whimper, not a bang.

I traveled to Los Angeles, where I had the pleasure of walking the red carpet at some fundraising event. All I know about the charity is many A-List stars support it and the dinner includes chicken, and fish, and a vegetarian option. People will do stuff on the stage, like auction off lunch with Paris Hilton (can you stand it!) and there is singing and dancing, and general preening and strutting around.

Before the event begins, there’s a red carpet walk with photographers crowded around on each side. They shout out stars’ names to get their attention, and the entire thing takes place in this colorful, circus-tent like atmosphere. The big name stars, like the Will Smith’s and Brad Pitt’s, walk the carpet oozing casualness, as if they’re simply walking down a sidewalk in Portland, Oregon or something. Their body language and attitude brim with this impressive, laissez-faire, it ain’t no big thing, type of nonchalance.

Meanwhile, I’m invited to lag behind some of the A-listers on the red carpet, because I have a new book out, and my publisher wants me to be the next Candace Bushnell. (Which is a lot of pressure, by the way.)

The event is indoors, which is strange for Los Angeles, but people are still wearing big sunglasses as if they are tanning on Waikiki Beach.

Oh, if only I’d worn big sunglasses. What a difference it would’ve made. Instead, I’m wearing a short aqua-colored Cesar Galindo dress and diamonds gifted to me from Bulgari.

I’m kidding.

I’m in a blue dress I bought on sale at Nordstrom’s and rhinestones, baby. But you really can’t tell the difference, I swear.

The publicist in charge of the red carpet rushes up to me wearing one of those imposing black headsets.

“WHO ARE YOU?” she shouts in my face, because everyone shouts at these things.

“Don’t you know?” I ask, crossing my arms defiantly over my chest. “I’m Jo Barrett. The novelist.”

She looks at me and blinks a few times, then flips through the pages of her clipboard. “Jo Barrett … Jo Barrett … novelist … novelist … I don’t have you down,” she says, cutting me with her knife-like smile.

“Oh,” I say, stepping off the red carpet. “Okay. I guess I’ll just walk around.” Apparently, someone in publicity has dropped the ball, and now I’m forced to do this walk of shame around the entire group of photographers who were staring at me, and waiting for my turn.

“Oh wait! Here you are!” shouts publicity girl, grabbing me by the elbow. Then, like Moses parting the Red Sea, she whisks back the red velvet rope and allows me to pass. I hear her speaking these fabulous words into her microphone: “Jo Barrett, the novelist. It’s Jo Barrett, the novelist.”

Stepping onto the red carpet, I expect people shouting my name, the click and flash and bright white flood lights of cameras trained on me, and of course, requests for my autograph.

But as I step into the first few feet of red carpet, it seems like the photographers decide to change their film all at once. I promise, you can hear a pin drop. What had once been shouts of, “Lindsay, over here! Meryl, look this way! Renee, we love you!” becomes sucked into a silent red carpet vacuum void.

I walk quickly, my face flushing in dismay. If you can imagine a woman hustling down the red carpet at top speed, as if her ass is on fire, this is what I look like.

When I reach the end of the carpet, one of the photographers takes pity on me. “Jo Barrett, over here!” he shouts.

I pivot around and flash him a dazzling smile. He clicks my photo, and looks at me the same way the vet looks at a wounded dog.

“Thank you,” I mouth to him. Then I do something zany. I shake my shoulders as if I’m salsa dancing, hike up my dress a little, and flash him some thigh.

“Get a load of this!” I say, as if I’m Zelda Fitzgerald and could pull off burlesque.

The other photographers raise their cameras for a split second, but then Paula Abdul hits the carpet and steals my thunder.

Damn, that Paula Abdul.

Cruise Control How to stay above the ahoy polloi

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

This special issue of H Texas touts great escapes both near and far. As an international traveler (Nuevo Laredo counts, doesn’t it?), I shall now give you a few pointers on the most important vacation: the cruise.

Oh yes, I do know cruises. There is the temperature (about 110 degrees), the ocean spray (swamping my landing craft), the food (one gets used to powdered eggs), and the suites (a metal deck made more comfortable by my pillow—a helmet, one size fits all). These cruises were formed and furnished by the U.S. Marine Corps, and the price was right (I got $85 a month plus health benefits).

But you may wish to partake in something a little more leisurely—say, a cruise aboard an ocean liner with great food, fun in the sun, stops at enchanted ports, night life, and hourly maid service. Then again, you may have been a good friend of Bernie Madoff. But let’s assume you got your bonus from Lehman Brothers just before the SEC shut down the party, and you want to take a cruise.

Good news! Houstonians no longer have to fly to Miami or Fort Lauderdale or Dallas to board a cruise ship. The Port of Houston spent $81 million to build a 96,000 square-foot cruise departure terminal right here at Bayport. Unfortunately, the authorities neglected to build a cruise arrival facility. We have a terminal illness. But somehow, some way, you’ll take that cruise, and here are a few very important pointers before you go. First, let’s learn the nomenclature, so you’ll appear to be a real salty dog.

Ship: That is your home for the next few days, or longer if Somali pirates want the ransom paid in pieces of eight. The ship is not a “boat.” A “boat” is a lifeboat, and there should be several tied up on each side of the “ship.” If there are no “boats” on your “ship,” you might inquire.

The deck: You and I would call it the “floor,” often made of wood. On some ships during long voyages, or if the navigator is dyslexic and gets lost, part of the deck may be used to feed the boilers, which makes shuffleboard difficult. From this practice we have the old nautical term, “not playing with a full deck.”

Walk the plank: This is not like “walk the dog.” Trust me. “Walk the gangplank” is when your whole gang is dumped overboard.

The captain: The most important person aboard, he can easily be spotted because everyone calls him “Captain.” It is considered very chi-chi if the captain asks you to sit at his table for dinner. That tells everyone else you are on the A list. If, however, the captain asks to sit at your table, you are either very, very in, or your ship has an extremely insecure captain. If the captain is also your waiter, get off at the next port of call and fly home.

The crew: Your ship should have a crew. Members of the crew run the ship, cater to your every need, and eat tips. Crew members include:

* The lookout: Stays up top watching the horizon to make sure the ship does not fall off the edge of the Earth.
* The engineer: Makes the ship run, either by keeping an eye on the boiler or by slowly and rhythmically beating a large drum.
* The purser: Carries a large purse.
* The steward: Carries a large stew.
* The bo’sun: (pronounced BOAT-swain): Wanders around the deck yelling such orders as, “Splice the swizzle stick! Stow the frog sail! You there, look lively and marinate the gropstop!” No one pays any attention to the bo’sun, but he adds local color to the cruise. You may ignore his various orders except for two: “Stand by to repel boarders!” and, “Bail!”

Cruises are more than simply travelling from point A to point C (having missed point B due to the aforementioned navigator). These voyages are also a social experience, thus oneupmanship is important. You must be very careful about the company you are seen with.

Here is a list of fellow voyagers to suck up to:

* Any passenger who has the same name as the ship.
* Anyone at your table who, when handed the wine list, says, “Yes.”
* Passengers who get off the ship to go jogging—and you’re still out at sea.
* And for men, any young, beautiful female passenger who, when asked why she is wearing a life preserver in the swimming pool, replies, “But I’m not wearing a life preserver.”

Conversely, here are some fellow passengers to avoid. Anyone:

* Wearing an albatross around his neck.
* Named “Blind Pew.”
* Accompanied by a friend named “Friday.”
* Who doesn’t fully understand the term “poop deck.”

Other people and things to avoid include Little Dutch boys, coin-operated lifeboats, lobster-with-chili during rough seas, a steerage class holding actual steers, sitting in a deck chair if your cruise ship has a periscope and torpedo tubes.

Do not take a cruise on a ship:

* Named the Unsinkable III.
* That advertises, “Your Own Oar!”
* Captained by someone named Ahab or Bligh, or who has a pet cat named Nine-Tails, or who keeps saying, “Arrr, Matie.”
* That makes its final port call at Ellis Island.
* With a restaurant named the Scurvy Scullery.

Theme cruises are all the rage these days, but avoid the Hollywood Cruise, which features panel discussions on “Titanic,” “Jaws,” and “Poseidon the Musical.” Also, don’t book passage on the Tom Cruise. All staterooms come with a sofa to jump on while proclaiming your love for Katie Holmes and the Church of Scientology. Finally among voyages to avoid, the Cruise Missile. (That one is self-explanatory.)

So there you have all you need to know, Matie.

Hyatt Lost Pines Luxury and Nature Collide in the Lost Pines Region of Texas

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Adjoining a 1,100-acre nature park, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa is a full-service 405-acre luxurious, Texas wilderness escape, set in the beautiful Lost Pines Region of Central Texas. The AAA Four Diamond distinct destination offers the best of Texas—scenic beauty, charming hospitality, and a chance to experience the culture, cuisine and character of the Austin and Bastrop regions.

Conveniently located 20 minutes from Austin/Bergstrom Airport and 25 minutes from downtown Austin, guests of Hyatt Lost Pines have the opportunity to experience unique destination-specific activities such as hiking, rafting, kayaking, and more. Additional amenities include championship golf, a luxurious spa, eight dining venues, live local music and a kid’s camp. The resort’s water park features lavish pools, fountains, whirlpools, a 1,000-foot Crooked River pool and water slide.

Spa Django offers the finest in therapeutic massage from deep tissue to culturally relevant treatments like the Django massage—inspired by the music of Austin. Herbal therapies, facials and body treatments have been blended with aromatherapy to create a rejuvenating experience for guests that will enlighten the body, mind, and spirit. The Couples Massage Treatment Room offers a spacious, yet intimate, retreat complete with sweeping views of the resort’s natural surroundings.

Created by legendary golf course designer Arthur Hills, the 7,205-yard, par 72 Wolfdancer Golf Club makes the most of the terrain’s natural beauty. Three courses in one results in holes traversing rolling prairie land, a wooded ridgeline and a pecan tree-dotted river valley. Wolfdancer offers a fair challenge for every level of player and provides an exclusive forecaddie system for course guidance and an elevated level of service.

Experts at the on-site Renegade Trailhead can design specialized activities, including horseback rides—experienced or inexperienced riders, any length of time—skeet shooting and archery. Proximity to the 1,100-acre nature park and Colorado River affords guests to make an event truly memorable by adding a nature aspect, including a GPS Scavenger Hunt, Colorado Raft Float, or Challenge Course and Rock Climbing.

All 492 guestrooms welcome guests with comfortable, elegant furnishings, concierge services, flat-screen televisions, Hyatt Grand Beds™, Internet access, and more. Views include landscaped gardens, picturesque pecan trees, or the water park. Guests may opt for a private balcony or patio with Regency Club access. Luxurious suites and the stand-alone Litton House provide ample room to relax and enjoy stylish living and are perfect for any kind of getaway, gathering, or hospitality reception.

Eight dining outlets satisfy every palate at any time of the day—from wild salmon and game in Stories Fine Dining Establishment to a butter pecan sundae in McDade’s Ice Cream Saloon. Exceptional restaurants and lounges feature innovative creations in striking settings, including Shellers Barrelhouse Bar, with live local music in a historically inspired setting; Firewheel Cafe featuring bold menus blended with the flavors of the Southwest; The Scribes Club, honoring Texas writers and scholars, while serving the finest brandy and cognacs; and Major Neighbors Grill, located at the golf clubhouse, providing breakfast and lunch in a casual ambiance.

Hyatt Lost Pines offers an exceptional experience.

Hyatt Lost Pines
575 Hyatt Lost Pines Road,
Lost Pines, TX 78612
www.visitlostpines.com

The Woodlands Resort Houston’s home away from home

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

FOREST OASIS WATERSCAPE: Bob Lukeman

Looking for a Spring Break destination that is affordable, close to home and fun for the entire family? Explore The Woodlands Resort, offering its lowest rates of the season from March 13 — 21, 2009. Starting at $99, enjoy deluxe accommodations, full breakfast for two, and all the resort activities your family can handle without paying extra resort fees.

The fun starts at the Forest Oasis Waterscape,™ a tropical water experience featuring a two-story, double-helix water slide, a relaxing waterfall, underwater music and marine murals. Water volleyball and pop fountains add to the experience. Seasonal activities include dive-in movieb ke trails.

Nearby are hundreds of shopping, dining and entertainment options. Stroll through Market Street for great finds at Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer, Orvis and other fun shopping spots. Or hop aboard an air-conditioned Water Taxi and cruise along a 1.25-mile waterway for a calm and relaxing journey through the heart of The Woodlands Town Center.

The Woodlands, TX 77380
www.woodlandsresort.com