Our My Top 5 feature showcases Houstonians who are shaping the culture in the city and impacting people’s lives. In turn, they share their own favorite things to do in Houston when they’re not hard at work. This week, we’re very pleased to feature Rich Levy, poet and executive director of Inprint Houston, one of the nation’s leading literary arts nonprofits. Inprint writers will be participating in the seventh annual Musical & Literary Ofrenda, Tuesday, November 1, at Lawndale Art Center from 5:30pm to 7pm. This free five-way collaboration brings together Inprint, Musiqa, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, and the Houston Hispanic Forum.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Rich Levy
- Oui Banh Mi – Ever since Van Loc closed in 2014 I’ve been suffering trying to fill the home-cooked, family-style Vietnamese restaurant void they left me by closing their doors. My latest alternative is Oui Banh Mi, on the corner of Richmond and Mandell where Lucky Burger once ran its fryer. Their bún chay (vegetarian vermicelli) with “special tofu” (made with pepper and lemon grass) and vegan nước chấm (“fish” sauce) is pretty terrific. A great place, and very close to my office!
- Live Jazz at Canopy – This is a recent obsession, as these lovely, very casual, very enjoyable Saturday/Sunday night sessions started about a month ago, thanks to Paul English, the wonderful Houston jazz pianist who is the organizing force behind all this, and Canopy chef/owner Claire Smith. Saturday features Paul with one or two other musicians and vocalist Elisha Jordan, and Sunday is Paul with his quartet. On a recent Saturday, Elisha had three other singer-friends with her, which was great fun. Houston, a town that nurtures great jazz musicians at HSPVA (Jason Moran, Eric Harland, and Robert Glasper, for example), is shamefully lacking in jazz venues. Of course, Da Camera’s jazz series is unparalleled and a must for any jazz fan.
- Brown Auditorium Theater at the MFAH – We have one of the nation’s best film curators in Marian Luntz, a beautiful 325-seat theater, and an endless parade of great films at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As a shameless fan of foreign, indie, and classic films, this is my home-away-from-home. Don’t miss the great film festivals throughout the year, including Jazz in June, Turkish, Palestinian, Q-Fest (LGBT), and Latin Wave.
- Biking along Braes Bayou – Okay, it’s not beautiful, but there are bike paths (some quite precarious, just above the sloping cement trough of the bayou, courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers), some streets can be avoided, and one can take the path from McGregor Park to Gessner, with a lovely detour through Hermann Park, which round trip approaches 20 miles. Look for snowy egrets, yellow-crowned night herons, and cormorants along the way.
- Readings at Brazos Bookstore – This is a bit of an occupational hazard for me, but a sweet one. Brazos is a great independent bookstore, and you can catch wonderful authors there 3 to 4 nights a week. And while you’re there, you can browse and buy a book or two (also an occupational hazard). Best selection of literary titles in town.
About Rich Levy
Rich Levy is a poet and, since 1995, the executive director of Inprint Houston, one of the nation’s leading literary arts nonprofits, in Houston. He earned his MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop; his poems, essays, and reviews have appeared (or will soon appear) in many publications, including Boulevard, Callaloo, The Florida Review, The Hopkins Review, Houston Chronicle, Pool, and The Texas Observer, amongst many others. His poetry collection Why Me? was published in 2009, and in 2011 Houston Press named him Houston’s “best poet.” Levy is a jazz obsessive and has raised three children, plus several cats and dogs. Inprint writers will be participating in the seventh annual Musical and Literary Ofrenda, Tuesday, November 1, at Lawndale Art Center from 5:30pm to 7pm. This free five-way collaboration brings together Inprint, Musiqa, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, and the Houston Hispanic Forum.