Bayou Express The solution to Houston’s traffic problem is so simple,and it’s right under our noses – float the bayous

March 1, 2005 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

They have no red lights, no gridlock, not even any tow trucks. They have been with us all along; indeed, they were one of the reasons Houston was founded here rather than, say, in Iowa. They are the answer to one of our major problems, and it is odd that no one has thought of this plan before: We use our bayous for transit. Why not?

If you look at any map of Houston, you will see that our bayous are all over town. White Oak Bayou runs sort of north-south; Buffalo Bayou is west-east from Memorial through Tanglewood, River Oaks and downtown. Brays Bayou skirts the Texas Medical Center. There are Greens Bayou, Sims Bayou and on and on. I count 10 different bayous in Harris County. Each one eventually finds Galveston Bay, and getting there takes them through much of the county. Our bayou system is already in place. All we need to do is put it to work. The MTA simply buys a fleet of flat-bottomed, air-conditioned boats, or maybe the Marines would sell us some landing crafts, and we run a waterbus system.

We build little docks every few blocks with parking places nearby – the flood control district already owns most of the land on both sides of the bayou, so there would be little, if any, plots to grab. Maintenance of the waterways would be easy, with no potholes to fill, no white stripes to paint and re-paint, no crash barrels or overturned 18-wheelers, no need to spread sand before a freeze and no danger of a waterborne wrecker racing to tow your boat to a muddy bank. Finally, in the plus column, our bayous are relatively level except when Allison comes to visit. This new, cheap and safe transit system would sport crafts named the HN (Houston Navy) Bayou Queen and Buffalo Gal. Or we could sell off the naming rights as we did with our sports facilities.

“Here comes the Chevron/Texaco.”

“Get your briefcase. The HN Waste Management is leaving.”

There has long been talk of changing our bayous into a San Antonio-like river walk. It’s a good idea. San Antonio turned what was once an ugly stream running behind downtown stores into a tourist Mecca that generates tens of millions of dollars for the Alamo City every year. And that eyesore is now some of the most expensive real estate in Texas.

However, such a Pygmalion makeover can’t be done here. The San Antonio River is held to a constant level, but a good rain turns our bayous into wide, fast-running rivers. Those bank-side boutiques and cafes would be flooded out about every two years. Also, even on the hottest days, the Riverwalk remains relatively cool. Here, from May till September our bayou banks are a sauna.

But all is not lost. Under our Bayou Express System, at every dock little kiosks would spring up selling newspapers, coffee and, of course, Off! Or, again to turn a buck, we could sell monopoly rights to Starbucks. Incidentally, land value along the bayous would sharply increase, just like it did in San Antonio.

There is a bayou right at the end of my block. I am looking forward to the mornings when I can cross my neighbor’s side yard, gradually wearing a path in his grass, and walk to the bayou to purchase my cup of coffee and newspaper and float to work. In the afternoon, I would buy my vodka martini and Taxidermists Monthly and then enjoy a leisurely trip back home. Yes, I would have my vodka. There would be a bar on each waterbus right next to the smoking section. Think marketing.

There are those who would oppose this form of mass transit, just as they have opposed all other Houston transportation plans, including light rail, heavy rail and most forms of camel caravans. But Congressmen John Culberson and Tom DeLay would love the Bayou Express System because some of these routes are already paved, and those two reps do love concrete. One objection to my proposal would be time. Wouldn’t a waterbus be slow? Since we are not talking cigarette boats here, yes, speed or lack thereof would be a factor. Yet, have you tried to drive on the West Loop or Katy Freeway during rush hour (6 a.m.-8 p.m.)? How many hours have you wasted sitting still on the Pierce Elevated?

Sometimes, the seemingly quickest way is not. For example, considering all the time spent driving to the airport, finding a parking place, security checks, weather delays and the occasional hijacking, I now find it takes less time to drive to Austin than to fly, going from my house to, say, UT or the capitol. And it is almost quicker driving from Houston to San Antonio or Dallas than flying. So let’s christen the HN Home of the Brays and commute in ease and splendor – warm in the winter, cool in the summer. And on those golden days in spring and fall, the big plastic bubble comes off, and we chug beneath the towering oaks and Spanish moss with maybe a little soft music in the background as we sip our martinis. We are up the creek with a paddle. Venice, anyone? H

Beauty Talk

March 1, 2005 by  
Filed under Edit

True you
The whole essence of a femme-fatale with a beautiful polished face is still ‘the thing’ this spring. Mircrodermabrasion helps you obtain this look, but it is expensive: A series can cost you up to $1,000.
This season, experiment with something a little less expensive and a little less invasive like Natura Bissé’s GlycoLine (right) treatments. The Glyco Peeling regimen is an intensive exfoliating treatment that accelerates the removal of the dead outer layer of skin to leave a soft, smooth complexion.
Another similar result can be achieved with Exuviance’s Skin Healthy Home Resurfacing Peel System (below). This kit comes with a four-step process and helps to reveal an allover glow.

Cover up
Foundations are something to periodically upgrade. (Like your cell phone or Windows application, beauty technology just keeps on getting better.)
Lancôme Adaptîve, an all-day skin balancing foundation with SPF 10, is brilliant for combination skin. This foundation helps to smooth and hydrate while working well with T-zone problem areas.
For a medium-coverage foundation that results in radiant-looking skin, try Non-fiction liquid foundation (below) by Benefit Cosmetics.

Coral Reef
Just like there is always a ‘new black’ in clothing, lips are prancing around in a ‘new red.’ Coral is the kissable color this season, and beauty experts have come up with many hued variations so that everyone can feel quite peachy.
Before painting on the new trend, try pumping up the plump in your lips with Too Faced Lip Injection. This Hollywood secret is a clear cosmetic lip treatment that makes pillow lips out of just about every smile – and without a needle. It stings a smidge at first, but it really works. (And isn’t Aphrodite-like beauty and a Jolie-like pout worth it?) Olive-toned beauties can paint on Too Faced Juicy Jewels in Platinum Peach for the perfect pair of pursers. And for fair-skin mavens, try Stila Lip Rouge in Flare. Ladies with coco skin should choose Trish McEvoy’s lip color (above) in Sparkling Copper.,

Sunny Days
Feeling a bit pale after this past winter? Try a Sheertone Shimmer Blush in Sunbasque (above) or a Blushcreme in Cheery by M.A.C. A favorite of makeup artists, M.A.C. cosmetics offer all-day coverage in edgy and hip colors. Or, for an overall rosy glow, try Bobbi Brown’s Shimmer Brick Compact in Rose (below). Good for all skin tones, this brush-on color will make you blush (kind of). www.bobbibrown H

Pure Texan

March 1, 2005 by  
Filed under Edit

History in the Lone Star State shines on

March is Texas History Month. A good choice, since the month is named for Mars, the god of war, and in March of 1836 those early Texians spent a lot of time both warring and marching. A month devoted to dwelling on our past is an easy sell in the Lone Star State because we love to noodle around in our attic, which is why we have nearly 12,000 historical markers, more than all the other 49 states combined. The study of our past is required in all public schools, but there is a problem. Texas history is often taught by dull teachers, using dull textbooks.

Perhaps times have changed, but when I was a Texas schoolchild no one told me Sam Houston had three wives and an untold number of kids of various hews. My studies missed the fact that Santa Anna used opium and that Robert Potter, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, performed an un-requested sex-ending operation on his wife’s lover and was later murdered by his neighbors. Everyone knows the Republic of Texas had an army, but few know that we also had a navy. We were so poor the entire fleet, including ships and sailors, was once rented out to Mexican revolutionaries for $8,000 a month.

We even maintained a Texas Marine Corps, which had its own money problems. Any Texas Marine who died or was killed on duty had all his effects but his uniform auctioned off, the money going to his next of kin. The Marines then re-issued the uniform to the next in line. Even that uniform was a hand-me-down from the U.S. Marine Corps.

You don’t have to be a Crockett scientist to appreciate the colorful, exciting story of Texas. It is one of those odd situations where, the more you look into it, the more you want to know. So let’s take a look at some overlooked stories of our past.

– To this day, a Texas Ranger’s badge is carved from a Mexican silver coin.

– Outside Brownsville was the Battle of Palmito Ranch. It was the last land battle of the Civil War, more than a month after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. The Texans won.

– The city of Marble Falls was laid out by a blind man.

– As we all know, William Buckley Jr. is a wit, columnist, TV host and sophisticated Ivy Leaguer extraordinaire. What isn’t very well known is that his grandfather, John Buckley, was high sheriff of Duval County. Honest.

– In Cisco, Conrad Hilton bought his very first hotel, the Mobley. After a later West Texas acquisition, Hilton observed, “At Lubbock, I found that Texas had no use for an imported French chef.”

– In 1924, Warren Pruett’s hardware store in Real County was hit by an airplane. The pilot was Charles Lindbergh.

– During inauguration ceremonies for the president of the Republic of Texas, among the dignitaries walking in procession to the podium were the editors of Texas newspapers. That seems only proper.

– Although the Heisman Award is given by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City, the prize was named for John W. Heisman, football coach at Rice, 1924-1927.

– Speaking of sports, while stationed at San Antonio, Lt. Dwight Eisenhower coached football at St. Louis College, now St. Mary’s University.

-Sam Donaldson, Debbie Reynolds and Sandra Day O’Conner were all born in El Paso.

– The movie prizes, the Oscars, were named for a Texan. In 1931, an employee of the motion picture academy, Margaret Herrick, upon seeing the little statue, said, “It looks just like my Uncle Oscar.” Oscar Pierce was a Texas rancher.

– The first award for Best Movie was given in 1927. It went to “Wings,” made, not in Hollywood, but in San Antonio.

– It is a myth that Texas can leave the Union anytime it wishes. We tried that once in 1861, and it didn’t fly. Another myth is that only the Lone Star flag can fly at the same height as the U.S. flag. Any state can do that.

– President Sam Houston was once handed a note demanding a duel to the death. Houston returned it to his secretary, saying “This is number 24. The angry gentleman must wait.”

– Among the governor’s powers listed in today’s Texas Constitution is the authority to call out the militia to repel invasions. In 1999, the governor lost a key command that goes with the job: ordering out the militia to suppress Indian raids. Ah, yes. If only the teachings of Texas history in our classrooms were as exciting as the real thing. Nowhere in my textbooks were quotes such as, “… the Texians being entirely a military people, not only fought, but drank, in platoons.” – Western Monthly magazine, October, 1838

During the republic’s days, a shopkeeper in Baltimore sent his partner in Galveston a load of bonnets, writing that they “were old stock and out of fashion, but believe they will sell in Texas.” And remember this line from the movie “Thelma and Louise:” “Look, you shoot off a guy’s head with his pants down, believe me, Texas is not the place you want to get caught.” A Houston newspaper editor, Dr. Francis Moore, got elected to the Republic of Texas Senate and worked for an anti-dueling law. Sen. Oliver Jones labeled it, “An Act for the Protection of Cowards.” The measure became law, and until 1939, all Texas officials had to swear an oath that they had never taken part in a duel.

When we consider the story of Texas, a mere month is not nearly long enough to absorb it all. While Massachusetts and Virginia have good state histories, their juicy parts ended eons ago. Ours continues like a stampeding herd: Enron, Katrina and Rita, Runaway Scrape II, DeLay, Kinky and the continuing saga of the astronauts. The best part about Texas history is that some of it is true.