Action on North Main

Passing along this news of a few upcoming events at 713inc. Remember to continue shopping local, especially during this holiday season. If not in the Northside, there are always great shops in the Heights, Montrose, and the East End.

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I accidentally grabbed some else,s bag of food today at this burger joint on Washington Ave. I was picking up some food to take back to work. I took the bag from the counter, set it on a nearby table, and looked at the receipt. It was for order #96, but I was order #97. I had grabbed the wrong bag by mistake.

I returned the bag to the counter at the same time a woman was walking up beside me. I told the server about my mistake and placed 96 on the counter. The woman standing next to me told the server that it was actually her order, and that she would like them to make her another one. She said she didnt want the food in the bag, because he touched it… and vaguely pointed to me as I was standing right next to her.

The server had no problems with it and quickly yelled over to the grill to re-make number 96. With that taken care of, I grabbed the correct bag of my order (97) and turned to the woman saying, Sorry about that maam. I just grabbed the wrong bag. I beg your pardon, to which she responded by giving me a look as if I had just stepped on her foot or spat in her face; then turned while waving her hand limply and walked back to her table.

All I could do was walk out of there stunned and thinking to myself, if thats the response I was going get, I shouldve just spat in her face anyway! But I dont treat people that way.

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I Heart Haters

I heart haters

A mural on the brick wall behind 713 inc Art & Apparel

Hater Magazine defines a “Hater” as: Someone that can… cut through the spin, the phoniness and expose what’s real about the world around us…

This mural is on the brick wall behind the 713 inc Art & Apparel boutique at 1912 North Main near Hogan.  I have see different murals on the same wall, so I’m not sure how long this one has been there and how long it will stay.  The store itself is a great addition to the neighborhood and one that I hope is permanent.  In fact, it’s one of the only new retail establishments that has come to the neighborhood in a long, long time.  It opened about a year ago and sells men’s and women’s printed T-shirts designed by Real Street Kloze, as well as bags and small art objects.  It also sells art supplies for the urban artist including specialty aerosol paints, markers, paint sticks, sketchbooks, and magazines.

Opening a new independent retail store on North Main, during Light Rail construction, in a recession, seems a risky move.  Maybe it takes a Hater to pull off something like this.  The entrepreneurs behind this boutique have proven themselves braver and more entrepreneurial than all those other business who are supposedly “waiting” to invest in the Near Northside until the Light Rail is completed.  As a reminder, the North Light Rail Expansion is now scheduled for completion in late 2014.  Meanwhile,  one of our main commercial corridors in the Near Northside (North Main Street) is full of vacant lots, vacant buildings, and suburban-style surface-parking lots.  Northsiders like me, my family, and my neighbors are spending our hard-earned money elsewhere simply because of the lack of nearby amenities.  At this point, that’s three more years worth of going out to eat, out to a bar, shopping for clothes, shopping for electronics, and other general entertainment that we and our neighbors, and anyone will NOT be spending on North Main and in the Near Northside.  On the other hand, I would dare to say that the 713 inc Art and Apparel store on North Main has such a unique product that it likely brings in urban artists and urban art enthusiasts from all over Houston.

I, for one, welcome that business into my neighborhood.  I want to encourage that kind of energy and entrepreneurial spirit.  Unfortunately I have heard rumors that my neighbors don’t share my enthusiasm.  There seems to be a sentiment floating around that wants to discourage this business because it is accused of supplying vandals with the resources to commit their crimes, resulting in graffiti on nearby buildings that is costly to clean up.  To that I would say the answer is not to discourage local businesses, but rather to encourage more new local business.  I would say that maybe the problem is not the things this store sells, but rather the amount of vacant buildings and dark corners in the Near Northside; which is really what is providing vast opportunity for vandalism.  A busier, denser commercial corridor might be less prone to vandalism than a string of poorly lit, empty, neglected structures.

So to those business that are waiting for the Light Rail to be completed before they want to invest in our neighborhood, I ask “what are you really waiting for?”  I encourage you to be creative and take risks!  If you do, I think you’ll find that the Northside will reward you.

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White Linen Night in the Heights

The family and I took the opportunity to walk around at the White Linen Night in the Heights event on Sunday evening.  The event was all around the Heights, but our walk was mostly on White Oak between Studewood and Heights Blvd.  It’s really close to those of us in the Near Northside.  All you do is take Quitman heading West, cross over I-45 and it becomes White Oak.  Once across the bridge, you just keep going past Stude Park and you’re pretty much there.  It was astounding to think of how close we live to this community and yet how far removed the Near Northside is from the culture of the Heights (and vice versa).  The Heights has developed a vibrancy along it’s main corridors (White Oak, 11th Street, 19th Street) that seems to have been absent from the Near Northside for the last 20 years, maybe even longer.  Would it be possible to make something like this happen in the Near Northside?

A crowd walks on White Oak during White Linen Night in the Heights 2011

A crowd walks on White Oak during White Linen Night in the Heights 2011

A string of cotton candy at White Linen Night inthe Heights

A string of cotton candy lines one of the booths on Pink Street - the portion of White Oak that was dedicated breast cancer awareness

Bikers exhibiting at the White Linen Night in the Heights

The Witheries, Michael on Guitar and Jimmi on drums

The Witheries playing outside of Blue Line Bike Lab

tented booths, outdoor tables, and string of lights in the parking lot behind Onion Creek

Booths and tables were set up in empty parking lots selling food and refreshments.

beer and pretzel

I was able to get a St Arnold Summer Pils and a Slowdough pretzel at one of the tents.


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March 29 Meeting – Leonel Castillo Community Center

I was asked by the Go-Neighborhoods project to make a presentation at the Meeting at Jeff Davis High School on March 29th about the Leonel Castillo Community Center that was being planned for the old Robert E Lee Elementary School building. I put a powerpoint presentation together with lots of visuals to present the history of the building, the County’s three options for the building (which I can’t show here because I was asked not to distribute), and possibilities for how the building could be saved and used.

The Houston Read Commission presented another solution for the building, which would be to make the building a Toyota Literacy Center. The woman making the presentation stated that such a facility would be the only one of its kind in Texas, even though there are several such centers across the country. The organization was already talking to potential funders that seemed interested and enthusiastic about the idea. The solution proposed is that the Literacy Center could help to fill the funding shortfall needed to renovate the building for use.

The Community present did not receive this idea with any kind of enthusiasm. The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of Seniors from Saint Patrick’s Church and members of LULAC. It was difficult to determine if there was any other community interest represented, since the Seniors and LULAC were the most vocal during the Q&A session.   The Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman was not in attendance, but some of his staff was there.  The Commissioner’s staff asked not to be recognized and did not participate as part of the presentation nor as part of the Q&A session.

In general, what I heard during the Q&A session was that the community present was mostly interested in two things: 1) They want the senior center that was promised to them by the previous Precinct 2 Commissioner, Sylvia Garcia, and 2) they want to make sure it retains Leonel Castillo’s name and that it’s not renamed to please any potential funding partners.  They said it over and over again and they said it loud.  It got really heated when some attendees began screaming at those of us on stage; asking us where the money went that Sylvia Garcia told them was there to create this center, and who were we to “represent” them in front of the new County Commissioner?  Eventually a man from the Commissioner’s office (I didn’t catch his name) got up, introduced himself, and told those present the Commissioner’s Office really just attended the meeting to hear what the community wanted, and that he seemed to get a sense of it from the Q&A session.  Strangely, no one at the meeting asked him pointedly about the money for the project.  Instead, they just yelled at us again when he finished speaking.

City Council Member Ed Gonzales (District H) attended.  He also got up and spoke at one point to agree that the building needed to be saved and that he appreciated the sentiments expressed about the need for a senior center and keeping Leonel Castillo’s name.  He encouraged more discussion and said that he would look into any ways that the City of Houston might be able to help.  Father Sal from Saint Patrick’s stood up and encouraged tolerance, patience, and for everyone to keep an open mind and remain calm as the discussion continued.  Leonel Castillo himself was present, but I think his health prevented him from being able to speak at the meeting.

The meeting ended with no real solutions agreed upon, and no specific actions taken.  After all the yelling, the arguments, and the emotion, people got up and shook hands with each other.  I saw laughing and mingling  as the attendees shuffled out of the Jeff Davis cafeteria.  I was stunned for a moment from having such energy thrown at me and the others on the stage.  Thinking back on it , that night showed me that our community’s expression of needs is getting mixed in with a general sense of neglect, misrepresentation and broken promises that span generations.  As I was leaving, a neighbor came up to me, patted me on the back and told me while laughing, “They just needed to yell at somebody and you were there!”

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