10/22/09 4:50pm

Last week east ender Dana Jennings took photos of a small 1920 brick bungalow on Harrisburg near Caylor — next to a pipe yard, railroad tracks, a boarding house . . . and on its west side, the El Torito Lounge:

Some would say good riddance to El Torito. But I liked the painted sign out front with the flagrantly sexual old Bull leering and leaning on his pool cue. I’m going to miss him. He was a waymarker, a placeholder, a sign that oriented me in my travels. “Oh, there’s the bull on the purple bar….I’m on Harrisburg near the tracks, almost home.” That sort of thing. But the streetscape needs the light rail, so this loss is semi rather than bitter sweet.

Losing the bungalow to the backhoe’s claw is more painful.


05/02/08 11:53am

Box 13 ArtSpace, 6700 Harrisburg Blvd., Houston

Tonight’s art opening at the new Box 13 ArtSpace will serve as a grand opening for the new East End art venue as well.

The space is a 2-story former furniture store on the corner of Harrisburg and Cesar Chavez (or — as the organization’s website uh, “artfully”(?) calls the street — “Cesar Chivas”). It features 13 studio spaces for artists in residence, three interior galleries, a storefront-window display space, and an “outdoor performance exhibition space,” known more conventionally as a parking lot.

The artist-run nonprofit intends to acquire a second building, at 6701 Capitol (directly behind the 6700 Harrisburg building), within a few months. “The Capitol building lends itself toward sculptors and installation artists,” declares the website.

After the jump: A quick tour of the new facilities!


02/27/08 1:01pm

El Torito Lounge, Harrisburg Blvd., Houston

Houston’s lone professional tourists, John Nova Lomax and David Beebe, stop off at the Brady’s Island in the Ship Channel midway into their latest day-long stroll . . . through this city’s southeastern stretches:

The air is foul here, and the eastern view is little more than a forest of tall crackers and satanic fume-belching smokestacks, sending clouds of roasted-cabbage-smelling incense skyward to Mammon, all bisected by the amazingly tall East Loop Ship Channel Bridge, its pillars standing in the toxic bilge where Brays Bayou dumps its effluent into the great pot of greenish-brown petro-gumbo.

While Brady’s Landing today seems to survive as a function room – a sort of Rainbow Lodge for the Ship Channel, with manicured grounds that reminded Beebe of Astroworld — decades ago, people came here to eat and to take in the view. This was progress to them, this horrifically awesome vista showed how we beat the Nazis and Japanese and how we were gonna stave off them godless Commies. As for me, it made me think of Beebe’s maxim: “Chicken and gasoline don’t mix.”

More from the duo’s march through “Deep Harrisburg”: Flag-waving Gulf Freeway auto dealerships, an early-morning ice house near the Almeda Mall, a razorwire-fenced artist compound in Garden Villas, Harold Farb’s last stand, colorful Broadway muffler joints, the hidden gardens of Thai Xuan, and — yes, gas-station chicken.

“There is nothing else like the Southeast side,” Lomax adds in a comment:

I see it as the true heart of Houston. Without the port and the refineries we are nothing. The prosperous West Side could be Anywhere, USA, but the Southeast Side could only be here.

Photo of El Torito Lounge on Harrisburg: John Nova Lomax and David Beebe