Places To Grow In Houston

The place where you are born

Well, generally speaking ________, where I have spent most of my life—might be seen as on the periphery of ________ culture. It is the last place someone would think of as cultural in the sense of fine modern art. The place where you are born and raised, and the time when you are born and spend most of your time are critical for people. By being born in ________ and being raised in this peripheral place, I think I carry this unconscious scar or need to be deeply cultural…In my late teens, I wanted to affect culture, even if I was not born to it, I sometimes have this feeling that I am coming from someplace very low and am wanting to go beyond it.

– Tadao Ando

Museums / Architecture

Is really cool.

Cy Twombly   
Annex of the Menil. What a paradise. Natural light reigns. Quiet most of the time. Some of the paintings remind you of Pink Floyd's The Wall movie.* Others remind you that it's free. Just kidding.The paintings are all good enough. But the combination of light, art and architecture make this one of the best 20-40 minutes in Houston.

*And by the way, if you're thinking of shaving your eyebrows off, PLEASE, don't do it because 1 in 5 times, they won't grow back. Think about it.

The Other Menil Annex
Concrete roller skating rink meets regularly placed neon lights. Notice the classic view of the laundromat across the street. Was that intentional? Enjoy the walk from the Menil past what are affectionately known as "The Disastrous Appartments" along the path. Just do it, and let the two experiences, the museum or the walk to it, compete for your memory cells.

Byzantine Frescoe Church
Rothko Chapel
Don't be shy. Get on that mat and let the meditation begin.And even if you don't take the time to do it, it's important to know that such a place exists just in case. Try during week for more quiet.

Free to the public. Artists have to pay? Good for a 30 minute timeout. Has a "cool" gift shop, water fountains and even a little café room in the basement, which is an underused place to do a little reading or editing.

Sculpture Garden (next to CAM)
Good for twenty minutes, weather relenting. Better make that five.

Houston Museum of Fine Arts I
It's a museum, and it does have the occasional great photography exhibit. Addendum on the original building submitted from Miesvan: “ are based in houston, so you might start with the MFAH addition. It dates from around 1954. Notice if you will the subtle curvature of the staircases in the Cullinen gallery. It's stuff like that that makes Mies "the Man"...”

Houston Museum of Fine Arts II
In other art news, they've opened the new Museum of Fine Arts building right next to the old one. The building is very concrete and massive with some bronze-looking accoutrements thrown in for color. The inside has natural light and very spacious rooms with high ceilings, which is apparently the best way to look at famous oil paintings anyway. It also has several wonderful elements such as the metal beaded windows, which also have wonderful views of nearby treetops. Let the Enrons come and go, but it is the cumulous tops of oak trees viewed from above, which will always tie the soul of Houston in the 60's and 70's to the present and beyond. The main foyer itself is spectacular with its pharohic escalator and wonderfully placed window in that mysterious second level. The underground tunnel would be better without the security guard standing in it. How ruinous. What am I going to do, steal the wall? Eh, I might try that actually. But damn if I weren't foiled by the guard every time. 6/00

The construction site formerly known as Rice University [.wav]
Where they give students a diploma in one hand, a hard hat in the other. (Your safety is our priority.)

Rice University Baker Institute   
That new building in between the Fondren Library and the Shepherd Akropolis of Music. Enjoy the captivating mound of flowing water in the front surrounded by beautiful gravel gardens. You are invited. Once inside, you'll feast upon a three story high vaulted ceiling surrounded by two levels of open hallways lined with theatre-like curtains or windows facing in. If I were going to be shot like Lincoln, this is the place I would want it to be. Did I mention the humongous metal coil of lights and lobby bursting with diplomatic upholstry. What a place! Good for studying or just taking a stroll through. This place has the kind of furniture that makes you wish you had a glass of Sancerre in one hand. And what incredible gardens! Versailles. There's four benches per quadrant—that's sixteen benches! I'm sitting here right now on one of those beautiful benches, and to my amazement, there isn't a single other person out here. Where the hell are you, when you could be enjoying this great Republicon fallout? Someone's getting paid money to trim this foliage, and you don't even care. Sixteen benches. Come on! 10/99

Rice University Quad (Main Entrance)
Closest thing to real arches and pillars around. Wonderful to look at, especially at night. Be sure to have your late afternoon picnic on the grass in front of this brother of Elgin Marble. 8/99

Other Haunts

Eleanor K. Freed Library (Montrose)
The building is a converted church, complete with steeple, great natural lighting and even stained glass windows. There is one large room downstairs, which is mostly for children. The upstairs has several tables you can sit at. You can even sit near the big windows facing Montrose and indulge your mental akethesia by watching cars go by in peripheral vision. This supplants the more distracting and potentially dangerous head raising to see who's passing, which happens at larger libraries with women.

The Bookstop (Alabama/Shepherd)
You can usually find a table during the weekdays, but forget it during peak times. With so many books and free AC this is a great place to do a little work, especially if you've got some business to conduct in the vicinity of. Eh. 8/00

Cactus Records (Alabama/Shepherd)
A place to learn/explore/grow? When you can still see for the first time films by Fellini, Welles, Truffaut and so many others, and when you consider the fact that there are five Stanley Kubrick films you still haven't seen, the answer is "Hell, yes." I have lived in the Rice Village area for about four years, the first of which I didn't rent movies at all (no comment), and two of which I rented movies from none other than Blechbuster Video. I like to call those the Starbucks Years. But then I discovered the amazing selection of great films at Francoise's Cactus Video. And I've been getting better every day.

Houston Zoo
Only go on weekday mornings if you can help it. Crowded to the point of being a joke on weekends. On Saturdays it's a total Zoo .

Houston Museum of Natural Science
It's alright. The gems are worth a visit. The best view in the place is to ascend the left (as you come in) staircase to the 3rd level. Then look out the window at the concrete structure there to a blue sunlit sky behind. That's one nice view. The native americans exhibit used to be eerie and cool. Now it's applice and a bit empty. The little Aztec section is cool, though. The big backlit mural. Cool. Worth a quick walkthrough once a decade. 1/07

Still waiting for an Imax movie I can get excited about. Maybe something on the dangers of outdoor grilling in the Arctic or wine-making in Tibet.

Specialized Auto Repair
The best place to go for repairs/maintenance of Volvo, Ford, Lincoln and Mercury. This a car repair shop you can totally trust. And that's everything.
This Little Spot By the Bayou
Just minutes from downtown Houston, this excellent little spot by the bayou offers a chance to swelter in amazing humidity while indulging in the subtle hint of sewage smell. No other stretch of bayou in the city combines both picturesque overgrowth with a mosquito count of under three trillion per cubic centimeter. The free admission and round the clock hours make this one of Houston's premier spots.