Houston has the honor of being Texas' largest city, in addition to being the largest city in the southern United States. Many Texans have a deep and complicated relationship with Houston. By any standard, Houston is an incredible city that I happen to love.
I spent many of my early days there, at my grandmother’s apartment on Broadway and Belfort—just a stone’s throw from Hobby International Airport (HOU). I remember watching the Southwest planes land and then takeoff again as they moved Texans across the state and beyond. As I've grown, so has Houston. And soon, HOU will expand as it opens its international terminal in 2015.
Below, is a behind the scenes description of the people you will meet in this episode by OSMTX’s Michael Golembieski. You can view this episode of “One Square Mile: Texas” either onboard your Southwest flight or online at www.osmtx.com/southwest.
Montrose defies definition.
It's Monday evening, April 22, 2013. Carl and I have just wrapped filming in Nacogdoches and begin the 150 mile trip (our shortest location to location drive of the season) to the fifth square mile to be shot in its entirety on our schedule—the Montrose section of Houston. Montrose is a neighborhood that's unwilling to conform. Living and breathing “outside the box” within the fourth largest city in the nation, this square mile is anchored by the campus of the Menil Collection whose influence permeates all things throughout the area. We arrive after sunset and check into The Modern B&B, our home for the next four days.
Tuesday morning puts us on the campus of St. Stephen's Episcopal School. We're there to speak with Nahla Nasser who's the lower and middle school principal. Her shoot is a blur as we had a small window to interview her before she left town for a week-long field trip. In fact, we're still rolling as she gets on the bus to leave. Nahla, a citizen of the world who now finds herself in Montrose, chats about her community and the role of St. Stephen's in the area. We got to spend a little more time on campus and at a slower pace when profiling St. Stephen's student, senior Dakota Grusak, a Montrose lifer. There are pictures of Dakota, as well as other students, during various stages of childhood posted on the walls of the main building. He gives us an insider's take on the school and neighborhood.
Donell Hill lives a short walk from the Menil and is the caretaker of her 40-year old son, Cody. An icon of the neighborhood, Cody is the local Catcher in the Rye character. Born with an innate sense of time, place, and numbers, Cody sees patterns all around him, and when something is off, Cody is the first to notice. Embraced by everyone who lives there, Donell gives us perspective on her and Cody's world. Everyone we meet during out visit was warm and welcoming. Special thanks to Romero, Jake, and all the residents of the street for a great evening and cook out with awesome hamburgers complete with Best Maid pickles!
Jill Jarvis writes the "Big Kid Small City" blog, the go-to source for families in Houston. She and her husband chose Montrose as the place to start and raise their young family. Jill also lives on a street where we get to interact with her neighbors through the actions of her son, "Garbageman Joe," who wheels everyone's trash can down the drive before pickup and with people who are out in their yards enjoying the evening. Thanks to Jill and her family as well for a great dinner.
Herman Kluge is a bit of a local historian of Montrose. He plays many different stringed instruments, including guitar, and is is the band, Cowjazz. Herman gives us his take on where Montrose has been and where it's going. It's in his backyard where we took the "face on Mars" still that's one of the images from this square mile.
The Menil Collection and campus are the gravitational center of this square mile. Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Kolasinski informs us of the impact the Menil and its artistic sensibilities on the area. The Menil is not only one of the great museums in the country, it's also absolutely free. A definite must see on any trip to Houston. Thanks to all the staff for their time and allowing us access to the facility in filming this segment.
The Rothko Chapel sits on the yards of the Menil. It's open to many different inteprations. Executive Director Emilee Whitehurst enlightens us on all its possibilities in this element of faith segment.
Omega House is a residential hospice run by Bering Omega. It's here we met Les Schlain, a man of great grace and humor. At the time of shooting, Les was the longest-living resident at the facility, and he knew all the ins and outs of his fellow patients and the selfless staff. We also met his daughter, Megan Schlain, who, it turns out, is an Instagram follower of the show. Les was constantly amazed by my ability to disappear during the shoot and then suddenly reappear with a camera lens or lighting equipment at a moment's notice from Carl. As he would say, "I always forget about you, then he says your name and your there." We were sad to learn that we lost Les in December. Watch this segment and I'm sure you'll instantly miss Les like the rest of us already do.
Lila Rivas is the owner and operator of the restaurant, "Just Dinner on Dunleav," which resides inside an old frame house. We get to see Lila work her garden in the backyard, as well as watch her staff prepare for a Friday dining crowd. Compare and contrast the size of their kitchen workspace with that of the Driskell, which was featured in the Austin episode. The limited amount of space is eye-opening, yet everything still gets made in Montrose.
Montrose definitely has that "it" factor—that immeasurable element that comes through constant evolution and the very real possibility that anything can happen. Carl and I wrapped Montrose that Friday evening at Just Dinner and headed to San Antonio. We now had over half the square miles in the can and the wind at our back.