August 26, 2012

Houston

So last weekend I decided I was going to Houston—just like that. I've spent most of my time trying to get used to my new environment and work that it seems like I left the fun and silly part of me behind in DC.  A friend of mine took me out and about in Beaumont.  We checked out a concert in the local Sterling Pruitt park, then we went to Riverfront Park by the lake, here you can come out with your jet ski anytime and spend your whole day.  Eventually, we ended up at Crockett Street; famous for it's nightlife, honky tonk—restaurants that feature live bands and western style dancing (yet to experience this part).  But enough about Beaumont, that's for another post.
Oh yeah...So while my good friend showed me a good time, I started to realize that I needed to do something spontaneous. "I'm going to Houston!" I blurted out to her while I googled, my inspiration: Art. I found out about Discovery Green and Miller outdoor theatre. The more I researched, the more curious I got. My friend told me I would love Houston, she talked about her trips to the place approximately 90 miles away. The more I listened, the more I realized I was definitely going. When I told my colleagues at work about my pending trip to Houston, they were all excited for me, then I started getting tips on good places. I learnt about Harwin Street (much like New York's Chinatown).
During my research, I found art classes and free shows. It took a matter of a few days and I learned so much about Houston that it felt like I had already lived there. I booked my itinerary, hotel, shows and planned a weekend chock full of events which included, yoga, kayaking, art class, Cirque du Soleil (that's right). I'll just say that I looked forward to the coming weekend with eager anticipation. I felt empowered; for one I didn't need company to have fun; I can create my own fun experiences, learn new things, and have stories to tell; I can love my very own company. I felt a sense of inner joy that radiated through me that was visible. The usual me felt boring, drab and uninspired and it didn't help that naturally I'm a chronic homebody. I was finally starting to do things I wanted for a long time now.
Alexa's curiosity is piqued as Stella Rose describes her art.
Discovery Green is a young and beautiful park that's part of Downtown Houston's landmark; hosting events all Summer long. Opened in 2008. They have free and exciting stuff like concerts, Zumba, Yoga and Flea market by night. I decided I would stay Downtown to check those out.
I started my first day trying Slow Flow Yoga. Every Saturday morning from 9-10am, bring your mat and bottle of water and join in the most exhilarating exercise. The setting is perfect; a bandstand right next to Kinder lake, perfect setting to really focus and meditate.

The usual me just wants to relish in the comfort of my bed (in this case the plush first class bed in Doubletree) and work on my computer all day long, but the person operating this weekend wasn't having that; I planned a very busy weekend for that reason, besides, I could do that at home. So eager to start my day, I woke up bright and early, arrived the park at dawn. The park was breathtaking; so serene, lush green grass, artfully constructed landscape and the lake that runs through it, had beautiful art installations and sculptures all around, the buildings in the middle of the park that housed the bathroom stalls and the Lake house were of modern architecture. I also noticed the children's playground and fountains—the plan's genius.
Artists Anita Varadaraju (above) and Kelyn Reis (below), guess who's work is at the mayor's office?
When I first arrived, there was no one there, I noticed however bicycle riders, early dog walkers and some children with their parents in the playground. I walked around and searched for clues, eventually found the bandstand. Park attendants were putting out yoga mats. I approached a girl on her iPad in front of the lake house and asked if she knew about the Yoga in the park and if this was the right place, she didn't seem to know. I then approached a busy attendant, he asked me to come over and sign a release form. He flipped through the pages and stopped at the sign in sheet. He notices my questioning look.
 "Just says you participate at your own risk, stuff like that." He chipped in guessing my pique.
As I sign the release form, I notice people started arriving with their mats and drinks. I wondered why I had what I didn't necessary need (my mat) and not what I needed (water). I hoped yoga wasn't dehydrating. A lot of people showed up at the same time and started laying out their mats and warming up.

I laid out my mat on a spot on the stage, took the easy pose and observed my surroundings. Right behind me was the lake—so pristine, so serene; around the lake was the green landscape that extends throughout the park (reminds me why I must visit Bali one day). I watched as more people arrived and laid their mats out, the stage filled up quickly and people continued to arrive and spread out below the stage to the ground. Eventually the instructor arrived.

We did a few stretches; flexion, contraction, abduction, adduction; working the whole body bit-by-bit; stretching every inch of spine. I can tell you Yoga is not for the faint of heart; it's a powerful mind and body exercise. Ever tried meditation? Ever tested your balance? A real test of my balance is while I did the slow-motion walk—the longest two minutes I've ever spent doing anything. I am supposed to walk the length of my mat (68 inches long) in two and half minutes in a slow and subtle motion. I did fine for the most part—I was able to maintain my position with my eyes open; but when I tried to keep my eyes closed like I was supposed to, I started loosing my balance. I definitely need to learn how to isolate all my senses.
With Yoga checked off my list of to-dos, I hung around a while, writing on my tablet. It was mid-day, the sun was in full blaze and children were playing in the Gateway fountain. This is definitely a place to bring your children to cool off. I met Alexa, just like me she's was trying out Yoga here for the first time. She's a Houstonian, gets around the city in her bicycle, like I do here in Port Arthur. She told me about artists' exhibits around the city. I checked out one of them at Hardy and Nance street studios. An used-to-be warehouse at the local artists' disposal every third Saturday. The place reminded me of Artomatic. I met and interviewed some of the artists. I especially liked Kelyne Reis' work because of it's ingenuity, one of the things that inspire her work is graffiti. She managed to combine refined contemporary art with raw graffiti (genius!) I'm kind of curious to see how Anita Varadaraju's work finally turns out. With her father being a Civil Engineer, she took a liking to architectural structures; she's making a mural of bridges. That's what I like about art; it's what you want it to be. We all have unique imaginations, through art we can create a world so unique, in no particular order, yet so perfect. Through art imaginations come to life, there's no right or wrong, good, or bad, it's—ART!

After making my rounds through the exhibition, it was time to indulge in the highlight of my trip—Cirque du Soleil (gasp!) It was time for another important lesson; Houston might be a city; but it's a city approximately 70 miles long (at least that's what my chatty taxi driver told me). Nothing is close together. It took me close to 40 minutes, in pouring rain to make it to Sam Houston race track to its venue (I thought the show was downtown). It had been raining sporadically on some regions of the city, midway we caught a really heavy one. Riding it through stormy weather, we finally arrived. It didn't matter that I was already running late, or the pouring rain; finally seeing the sign 'Kooza!" made those very mundane; I was finally here to see a show that I have wanted to see for a long time now.
The show started 10 minutes late due to the rain, I was glad because I didn't want to miss any part of it. Guests were still arriving. We all hobbled in at the same time, running from the drizzle that's left of the rain. We were all seated, I took my seat towards the front of the stage, waited until the whole arena transformed into a fantasy land with lighting and sound effects, it was surreal. I really don't know why I waited so long to see a show like this; I remember watching acrobats on television when I was little. For a moment, I wondered if the shows I've watched in the past were all called Cirque de Soleil (maybe not). I really don't know how I can describe my experience at the show, but all I can say is everyone needs to see it at least once in a lifetime, I know I would be seeing it again and then again, in Las Vegas (O comes recommended by a representative of Kooza's sponsors, though I would like to see Zummanity). The human body has the ability to adapt to anything if trained (like my yoga). I'm watching as acrobats do twists and turns, making it seem easy, like they had no spine. I was very impressed with the flips standing on two 7' sticks! The show lasted approximately two and a half hours; by the end of it I would have had an exhilarating experience. I patted myself on the back for making sure I checked this off my list.

Next on my schedule was an art class. Painting with A Twist was a highly recommended class for the advanced and beginning art lover, just sign up, make your reservation. It took approximately 40 minutes, I ended up getting there late. The class was packed. I was glad to know that my seat was reserved with my name on it. I quietly slipped in through the side of the room to the instructors who showed me my seat. I grabbed an apron, the class was already halfway through when I sat down to my blank canvas. The theme was Date night. The instructor told me to kinda watch and follow what everybody was doing, there were no exact rules to the painting. She also brought me a palette of paint and paint brushes. She outlined a wine glass on my blank canvas and created a mid point by drawing two intersecting lines (forgetting my technical terminology here, but I digress). That created four different squares on the canvas. Every square would be a different color, within each square would be circles. This only makes sense when put together, I'm poor at describing this. I observed painters that already finished and were waiting for the next step.
Discovery Green.  Photo credit: David A Brown
I appreciate art so much, the fact that it's not a science; there's no rhyme or reason to it, it doesn't have to make sense at all, it's the interpretation that you give it, it's not perfect. We all need to indulge in it once it a while, it frees the mind. You gain a deeper appreciation of the world you live in. I got down to business, I started to paint. I've always been the girl in school to complete my drawings in class and then draw for my class mates. My brother once stole my drawing to wipe his ass in the toilet because he realized I can draw better than him. I love to draw; I'm not perfect, but I could be. I have not drawn or painted since college—a gazillion years ago. But my zeal returned like it never left. I was serious, mixing colors, applying to my canvas, creating a four square collage with a wine glass outline. As I continued with my first step, the class listened as the instructors gave the next—the painting of the wine glass. I part listened, part painted. The instructor would come over to me to see how I was doing, when she noticed how serious I was and the fact that I didn't need much instruction she didn't say much. She just asked to call her over if needed. A peculiarity of mine is the tendency to purse my lips, I can't help that, it's like a reflex or something. By the time I composed my four wall palette, everybody else finished their wine glass. Everyone's art was unique. Then I noticed that guys painted a beer jug and the ladies painted a wine glass. I didn't notice right away because I was sitting next to a bunch of single lady friends, one complemented my blue shellac nails.

Midway through my next step, everybody gathered for a group pic. We held up our art for the camera. I continued to paint. I dried my canvas with a blow dryer before continuing with my next step. My instructor came over and reinforced my wine glass with pencil and told me which colors and bushes to use to paint in the glass and the wine. I continued, following her instructions. It took no time at all and I was done. I was very proud of my art. My work was validated with flying colors. I got complements, I'm told that I could be an artist (knew that).

I rounded up my trip by visiting the Contemporary Arts Museum. It's relatively small, had only two exhibits running for a limited time. Not much to say here, but was enjoyable. I checked off almost every item on my list.


Thanks for reading.
I appreciate you.
Love,
Msada.




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