It started out as the fight of the century—nearly two centuries, actually. In this corner: novelist and Latina icon Sandra Cisneros, whose home was built in 1903 and sits on East Guenther Street in San Antonio’s King William National Historic District. In that corner: the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC), a city council–appointed body composed of architects, historians, and other preservation types who act as conservators of King William’s architectural integrity.
UNTIL RECENTLY, GOSSIP COLUMNISTS WERE dismissed as all hat and no tattle—journalistic washerwomen who picked through the nation’s dirty laundry with little concern for the consequences, let alone the truth. They trafficked in fluff, not substance; certainly not news. Matt Drudge changed all that. Say what you will about the Walter Winchell of cyberspace, there is no disputing that he broke the Monica Lewinsky story and revealed key details before anyone else did, including the existence of a now-famous stained dress.
WHAT STRUCK HIM, HE WOULD later say, was that the boy didn’t look anything like a junkie. Plano Police sergeant Aubrey Paul had driven north along Texas Highway 289, where Plano’s gated communities and mirrored office parks abruptly give way to unruly stretches of buffalo grass, to check out a call he had received the day before from a detective in the neighboring town of Frisco.
ENTERING MARSHALL by just about any route except Interstate 20 or U.S. 59, you drive through long stretches of residential territory with deep, shady front lawns and solid houses. The lush East Texas landscape suggests prosperity, stability, and age; trees shelter the streets, and azaleas and shrubs bank the carefully planted flower beds. Few neighborhoods could appear more seductive. A sense of both time and timelessness permeates the place. Here children have grown up forever in an unending chain of serenity.
How serious is the fight by suburbs to limit the annexation power of cities? It’s become a matter of life and death. In Kingwood, which was recently swallowed by Houston, opponents of annexation are blaming several deaths in the area on slow response time by Houston ambulances. Annexation is also a question of money. The Humble Independent School District has complained to a legislative committee that complying with Houston ordinances and codes cost it $3.7 million last year.
YOU HAVE SEEN THE FIFTH WARD. it appears in a standard photograph that accompanies stories about Houston. In the foreground there are miserable row houses, so peeling and dilapidated that they practically crumble before your eyes; in the background the gleaming, majestic skyscrapers of downtown loom over the pathetic houses and glisten against a clear sky. The photograph is intended to show the extremes of wealth and poverty that exist so close together in Houston.
UNTIL JANUARY, when he assumed his post as United States ambassador to Sweden, Lyndon Olson, Jr., called Waco home, despite being the president and CEO of New York City—based Travelers Insurance. On his final commute back to Texas, a couple of days before departing for Stockholm, he stepped out of a cab at New York’s La Guardia Airport and handed his bags to a skycap. The man glanced at Olson’s final destination, cocked his head, and exclaimed, “Waco! Man, you ain’t paying to go there, are you?”
THE NEW YORK TIMES GAVE ELIZABETH SLOANE SIMPSON a brilliant send-off last November, paying her far more mind in her death at eighty than in her life for the past twenty or so years.
THE EVENT SOUNDED LIKE A PARODY OF A SOCIETY PARTY: Marvin’s Million Dollar Dream, a $1,000-a-plate gala celebrating the seventy-fifth birthday of that disturbingly loud Houston TV personality, Marvin Zindler. It would be held in late August, the sweatiest month of the year—precisely when people of money and taste scrambled to get out of town. Had chairwoman Carolyn Farb lost her mind? God, no one held black-tie parties in August.
Here’s a World Wide Web page to die for. The Texas State Cemetery in Austin goes online (www.cemetery.statetx.us) late this month, thanks to the General Services Commission. You can scan a list of the more than two thousand luminaries buried there, from father of Texas Stephen F. Austin to republic veteran W. P. Zuber, as well as the nearly one thousand living VIPs who have reserved plots.