Sweet Georgia Brown! Busking with Melvin the Trumpet Man

It’s 10:15pm outside Minute Maid Park on a Wednesday evening and Melvin the Trumpet Man is warming up his amusing post game patter. “Hey! You don’t count a man out if he still has as much as one toe left tapping,”  he growls.

It’s the top of the eighth inning and Melvin is gently chastising a group of Astros fans leaving the game. “Awww, how can you be going home early?”

Perched on top of a garbage bin at the corner of Crawford and Texas, Melvin swivels and twists to catch the attention of fans as they walk by. Some pick up their pace as they pass. Some give him a slight nod of the head and a gentle smile.

Melvin the Busking TrumpeterThen he sets his sights on me. “Hey, Hey..HEY!” he beckons. I freeze for a moment and look his way. I find myself entertained by his earnest attempts to engage the crowd. “Hey, what song do you want to hear?” he asks.

As my brain starts delineating the complex matrix of what I might want to listen to compared to what he might know, Melvin starts the show. “Tell me if you think you know this,” he says.

He begins playing something that sounds familiar but I can’t quite place it. It sounds so familiar though. He stops after just a few bars. “Can you tell me what that is?” he quizzes.

“Umm, yeah. It kinda sounded like When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“Oh, no, man…” He sounds upset but quickly becomes a teacher. “Well, that’s not bad. It’s similar. That was Sweet Georgia Brown. You know Sweet Georgia Brown, right?”

“Uhh, maybe.” About now I’m guessing those years playing tenor sax in Mr. Pinto’s junior high school jazz band didn’t really pay off.

“Sure, you know it. Do you remember what they played every time the Harlem Globetrotters took the court? Sweet Georgia Brown. Now, this is When the Saints Go Marching In.”

As he raises his trumpet to his lips, I ask if I can snap a photo. “Sure,” he says. “Most people don’t even ask.” Then he begins to play.

Hearing Saints is nice but what he just said about the Harlem Globetrotters – it’s like a little piece of my childhood just came back. I start to remember a time when my parents were still alive, my brother was still alive and life was about as complicated as playing the Globetrotters board game and watching their cartoon on TV – 2 things I often did with my brother as a kid.

Melvin’s life is undoubtedly harder than mine. A tag on his trumpet case alerts us to the fact that he’s a disabled Vietnam Vet. Some might say he’s making that up. I guess its possible but I don’t get that feeling. He served his country and now he serves baseball fans as they head out of Minute Maid Park. I guess its a living.

I want to ask him to play more of Sweet Georgia Brown but by now my wife is halfway across Texas Avenue. Melvin sees me glance her way and he looks over too. “Do you have someone…? Are you…?” He then yells over to my wife, “Sorry Ma’am. Didn’t mean to keep him.”

I’m glad I met Melvin tonight. I just wish I’d given him more than 3 bucks.

3 Things I Appreciate About Beck’s Prime in Sugar Land, TX

Many of us enjoy spending a little extra time with our pets and most of us enjoy a leisurely lunch outdoors on a beautiful day. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find a dining spot that can accommodate both. The Sugar Land, TX Beck’s Prime location worked out perfectly for these on a recent visit.

On Saturday, my wife and I delivered some goodies and thanked the folks at ABC Animal & Bird Clinic for the care and dedication they showed while we struggled with our Poodle Hailey’s illness and her recent passing.

Everyone loves our Pomeranian, Cookie, so we brought her along. On the way home, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and have an outdoor lunch. We hoped we’d find someplace to enjoy a meal away from home with Cookie, which is a rare event.

Cookie Bcks Prm

This is Cookie. She doesn’t get to dine out much.

We stopped by Beck’s Prime. We were welcomed with no issue and I developed a new appreciation for the restaurant, located on Highway 6 in Sugar Land, just North of the Southwest Freeway.

  1. 1. Beck’s Prime on Highway 6 allows pets in the outdoor seating area

There are so many restaurants out there but what’s a dog lover to do? I went inside to ask  if Beck’s policy would allow us to dine al fresco with our pooch. Cookie’s only 5 lbs. so I asked my wife, Diana, to stand where she and Cookie could be seen. “Absolutely no problem,” said the manager as I motioned back towards Diana and Cookie. I hadn’t even gotten the question out and he let me know it was okay. Already I felt welcome.

Di_Cookie Bcks Prm

Adirondack chairs by the lake invited us to take an extra moment to enjoy the beautiful day

We found a table out on the gravel path that runs alongside the building that also houses Rajin’ Cajun. Cookie’s so cute and so small, I almost can’t imagine anyone having a problem with her but we kept our distance from other diners just in case. We also made sure she never touched the table or went potty anywhere near the restaurant.

2. The Manager brought our food out to us

Sure, we had the pager while we waited for our order but the manager brought my Bacon Cheeseburger, my wife’s Mesquite Grilled Chicken Sandwich and our basket of fries to our table along with napkins, flatware and ketchup. In a fast food environment, that’s some pretty good service.

3. The outdoor setting was perfect – a surprisingly picturesque nook amid the hustle and bustle of Sugar Land

Scenic Bcks Prm

The back of Beck’s Prime borders a small lake, adjacent to a business park. In the lake stands a rock formation where some kids were spending part of their lazy Saturday. The breeze felt nice and the Adirondack chairs were inviting for a post lunch moment of relaxation. The calm water and the ducks marching beside us belied the crowded highway immediately beside the complex.

Ducks Bcks PrmAll in all, it was a good day with good weather remembering our beloved little Hailey. It was all made just a little more special with the added bonus of a lakeside lunch with our newest furry member of the family, Cookie. Beck’s Prime is now on our list of favorite dining spots in the Sugar Land, Texas area.

Discover a World in Houston’s Backyard: The Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, Texas

Somewhat off the beaten path but popular among tourists, photographers and, of course, local and visiting worshippers, is the Vietnamese Buddhist Center in Sugar Land, TX.

Fort Bend County in Texas has one of the most diverse cultural communities in America. A Buddhist Temple and its congregation deserves to be treated with dignity and respect so I don’t want to list a place of worship merely as a tourist attraction. However, what first peaked my interest was the very large statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat, also referred to as Quan Am. Rising gracefully above a foot bridge crossing a serene pond, the statue is famous both as a work of art and for being such a large statue in a suburban area.

Quan Am is an important protective figure in the Buddhist culture. In China, Quan Am is referred to as Guan Yin.

One finds many sculptures in the gardens upon driving onto the grounds. The Center is visitor-friendly but I was still very careful not to wander anywhere I shouldn’t. I navigated my way through the gardens, over the bridge and near the temple enjoying the monuments and other scenery. Several lions adorn and protect the grounds as well as the large sculpted depiction of Buddha passing into Nirvana. On this monument, contributed by Dr. Hop Nguyen and Family, one finds the following inscription:


After forty-five years of continuous and tireless teachings of the Dharma to deliver all beings from suffering, The Buddha rested peacefully in a grove of shala trees at Kusinara and serenely passed into Nirvana. His last words were:

“All phenomena are impermanent and are subject to decay and death. Work out your salvation with diligence.”

 The Temple is adjacent to the gardens with a plaza and a small outdoor stage. Various celebrations, festivals and spiritual activities take place here throughout the year.

The Vietnamese Buddhist Center is located approximately 19 miles Southwest of Downtown Houston. For more photos and information visit www.vnbc.com

 The Vietnamese Buddhist Center is located at 10002 Synott Road, Sugar Land, TX 77498. Their phone number is 281-575-0910.

A Wikipedia entry about Quan Am / Guan Yin: http://vi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quan_%C3%82m

Click on the photos to enlarge. All Photos on www.HospitalityHero.com Copywrite 2012 by Gary Riis unless otherwise noted.

Pretty as a Post Card: Houston’s Skyline Viewed from the West

So many of us love Houston’s Skyline. One of the more popular views is the western end of what’s known as the “Skyline District.” Viewed by looking east, over Buffalo Bayou, one gets a simple, clean view of some of Houston’s finest skyscraper architecture.

A view of Houston’s western skyline – a favorite subject of post cards & travel brochures. Click on the image to enlarge. Copywrite 2012 Gary Riis

Anchoring the scene, prominently displayed front and center, is Heritage Plaza, once home to Texaco, then ChevronTexaco and now Deloite & Touche, one of the Big Four consulting firms. Heritage Plaza is easily distinguished by its unique design featuring reflective glass and a granite top portion which was built to resemble a Mayan Temple.

Also on view in the front row of this portrait are, from left; Bank of America Center (the brownish, three-tiered skyscaper,) the off-white One Shell Plaza (with its tall antenna rising from its roof) and the blue-green glass of Wells Fargo Plaza, home to Wells Fargo, Dynegy and Goldman Sachs among others.

To the right of Heritage Plaza we find One, Two and Three Allen Center (Two Allen Center is officially known as Devon Energy Tower at Two Allen Center.) Finally on the far right of the picture sits Chevron Tower which was originally built as home to the now infamous Enron Corporation. Another similarly rounded and mirrored tower is out of picture and to the right. Chevron has offices in this tower as well. A third, much shorter tower is across Smith Street from both of these. All three are connected by a dramatic circular skybridge that’s also a favorite among area photography enthusiasts.

I was on a lunch run and decided to pull over and snap this photo from the Sabine Street Bridge, just west of Sam Houston Park and Buffalo Bayou. It was 95 degrees out and I had to get back to work. I plan on going back when there’s more dramatic lighting to get some special shots from this vantage point and I’ll continue to post city views and skyline shots.

One of my goals is to show as much of Houston’s natural and architectural beauty as I can. In the coming months, I’ll also try to illustrate what makes Houston truly unique and beautiful through photos and descriptions depicting the compassion, humanity and diversity of its people.

Southern Hospitality, Texas Hospitality, Houston Hospitality. Its what makes all of us heroes.

Buildings & Landmarks in Houston: Williams Tower

Rising 902 feet into the sky, Houston’s Williams Tower is the tallest building in the world located outside of a Central Business District

  • Built in 1983 as Transco Tower
  • 902 feet tall, 64 Floors
  • 102nd Tallest Building in the World
  • 22nd Tallest Building in United States
  • 3rd Tallest Building in Houston
  • 4th Tallest Building in Texas behind JP Morgan Chase Tower (Houston,) Wells Fargo Plaza (Houston) & Bank of America Center (Dallas)
  • Designated as Tallest Building in the World outside of a Central Business District
  • Known for its rotating beacon on top
  • Adjacent to Houston’s Galleria Shopping Mall
  • Major Houston Landmark and symbol of “the Galleria Area” or Uptown District of Houston, Texas
  • Famous 64 foot high Williams Waterwall is located on the same property in Gerald D. Hines Water Wall Park
  • Sky Lobby & Observation Deck on 51st Floor
  • 2800 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
  • 713-850-8841

Photo Copywrite 2012 Gary Riis / Hospitality Hero

The Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows ~ Houston Texas

Thanks to all the Houston Hospitality Heroes who took care of our out-of-town dog lovers attending the Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows this weekend!

Guests came from all over to show their dogs and have them compete in events at the show. The Wife and I are huge dog lovers so we stopped by to take it all in. I thought people might like to see a few pictures of the Agility Competition. Slow and speedy, young and old, all kinds of dogs participated.

A Sheltie leaps over an obstacle

I have a soft spot for Poodles. Here’s one catching a little air.

The Wife & I have a little Pomeranian who’s a real spitfire. Here’s a cousin to the Pom, a Papillon, proving small dogs can compete too!

A little old, a little chunky and pretty darned slow – but a fan favorite all the way!






Follow the Houston Dog Show on Twitter: @ReliantDogShows

Check out their website at: www.ReliantDogShows.com

Governor Mitt Romney in Houston today, Wed July 11, Vice President Joe Biden in town tomorrow

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is speaking at the NAACP National Conference in Houston today. He will be the Keynote speaker in a program that runs into the early afternoon. The conference is being held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston.

Vice President Joe Biden will be appearing in Houston on behalf of President Obama tomorrow at the same conference.

The George R Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston. The NAACP National Conference will see Mitt Romney speak on Tuesday and Joe Biden on Wednesday

These appearances will affect traffic in the area. The engagements are anticipated in the late morning or early afternoon though an exact time has not been specified. Though his route is not known, it can be expected that the Vice President will be driving into downtown from Ellington Field via I-45, the South Freeway.

It is not known what Governor Romney’s planned travel agenda is.

Riding the New Greenlink Downtown Houston

Starting a few weeks ago on June 11, a new free bus service began operating in Downtown Houston. It’s called Greenlink.

One of Downtown Houston’s New Greenlink Busses

Greenlink features busses that can carry 28 passengers, all of which run on Compressed Natural Gas. The busses basically make a loop around the central business district running west on Walker with a dog leg running south on Smith Street. The route then turns around on Jefferson, returns on Louisiana and rolls on towards the convention center on Dallas. There are a total of 18 stops, with two of them being at the George R. Brown Convention Center itself.

Getting around Downtown Houston can often be a little difficult. Let’s face it, no one wants to walk more than a few blocks (if that!) when its 97 degrees out and the humidity dictates we’ll be soaked when we reach our destination. This can be especially regretful when we’re trying to conduct business. According to Houston METRO, more than 50% of downtown workers are without a car during the day.

Those who do commute with their own car can be hesitant to give up their parking space. Finding quick and convenient parking at many destinations downtown isn’t always a picnic either. Greenlink promises to make our journey away from the office a bit easier – and maybe a little less sticky.

I work at a hotel that’s not convenient to the Tunnel System so I decided to give Greenlink a try. Some of my friends were gathering at Guadalajara del Centro Restaurant in Houston Pavilions on July 3rd – a fairly slow day downtown. This seemed like a good opportunity.

I dutifully walked the 2 blocks from my hotel to the closest stop, which is at Walker and La Branch – listed as Stop # 14. The walk took 5 minutes. Greenlink claims riders won’t have to wait more than 7 – 10 minutes for the next bus. In my case, the wait was 3 minutes – not bad at all.

So far, when I tell people I rode Greenlink, the first question they have is, “Were there a lot of homeless people on the bus?” I’m not certain what prompts this question and I’m not sure if the Independence Day holiday finds homeless people scurrying to other parts of our city, but in my case, no, there weren’t.

One rather friendly-looking lady was getting off the bus as I got on and there were only two people on the bus besides me for the first few stops. A woman who looked like she could be an office worker or a hotel guest got on at one stop and then an older gentleman who appeared of moderate means, carrying probably a little too much stuff, got on at a Smith Street stop. Its possible he was homeless but he wasn’t dirty or threatening – just maybe, umm…a little eccentric looking. He didn’t ask anyone for money or give anyone any uncomfortable looks.

Things got rolling as we traveled down Louisiana. A decent sized group got on across the street from the Hyatt at the stop located at Louisiana and Dallas. All these people appeared to me to be middle class.

The Houston Pavilions stop – Stop # 10 – came up at Dallas and San Jacinto, right next to III Forks Restaurant and across the street from Guadalajara. Perfect.

Amazingly, it was only 10 minutes from when I had gotten on at Stop # 14. The bus had gone 14 stops and the driver had made at least a momentary stop at each one. I asked the driver if the bus ever gets busy and he said it gets pretty busy between 11am and 1pm most days of the week. It sounds like people really are using it to go to lunch.

My entire trip – including walking, waiting and riding – had taken me 18 minutes. This is roughly the same amount of time it would’ve taken me to walk. It was certainly more comfortable than walking – especially considering most days I wear a suit and tie. The bus was clean and air-conditioned, the driver was friendly. While I wouldn’t say it was a luxurious ride, it certainly wasn’t uncomfortable in any way.

It will be interesting to see how it is during peak ride periods and to see how many people take advantage of this service. So far, this looks like a pretty good way to get from one side of downtown to the other.

Convention guests should find Greenlink to be a very handy way of getting back and forth from the GRB Convention Center to their hotel without being tied to a rigid schedule or calling and waiting for a hotel shuttle. This may give some of our convention guests more freedom to explore and spend money at establishments that may have previously been off limits.

The Greenlink service is, as previously stated, free of charge and runs from 6:30am to 6:30pm, Monday through Friday.

Funding for Greenlink is provided courtesy of BG Group, the Downtown District and Houston First Corporation. It is operated by Metro.

More information can be found at www.downtownhouston.org or by calling 713-635-4000.

President Obama in Downtown Houston Thu July 12. Governor Mitt Romney in town Wed July 11

President Barack Obama will make an appearance in Houston, at the NAACP National Conference on Thursday, July 12, 2012. The conference is being held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston.

Governor Mitt Romney will also appear at the Conference, addressing the group one day earlier on Wednesday, July 11, 2012.

These appearances will affect traffic in the area. President Obama’s address is anticipated in the late morning or early afternoon though an exact time is still to be determined. Though his route is not known, it can be expected that the President would be coming to downtown from Ellington Field via I-45, the South Freeway.

It is not yet known at what time Governor Romney will speak at the convention nor what his planned travel agenda is.

Floyd’s Cajun Seafood & Texas Steakhouse in Sugar Land is closer to opening

A drive-by of the soon-to-open Floyd’s Cajun Seafood & Texas Steakhouse this week revealed a few new signs on the outside of the building, new wooden dining tables in the patio area and more activity by contractors preparing the property for its debut.

A new permanent sign on the outside of the building reads “Floyd’s Oyster Bar” and a temporary sign hanging over the doorway announces that Floyd’s is now hiring.

On Floyd’s Sugar Land Facebook page, one of the owners says they’re still waiting on various permits before they can open. It looks like the folks at Floyd’s are hopeful the location will open very soon, possibly even this week.

It must be very close! Stay tuned…

For more information on Floyd’s opening, please read my original Floyd’s blog at http://hospitalityhero.com/2012/06/05/floyds-cajun-seafood-texas-steakhouse-coming-to-sugar-land-june-2012/

You can view Floyd’s Cajun Seafood & Steakhouse website at: www.floydsseafood.com

Don’t forget to check out their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/FloydsCajunSeafoodAndTexasSteakhouseSugarLand