Seeing the city

A walk through Houston's neighborhoods can reveal all kinds of good surprises

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

Let's talk gentrification or shall I say improving to conform to middle-class taste. (I looked it up) Wait this sounds like a trick. That depends on who is telling the story. So, I'll tell you my story of gentrification.

As always, this story starts with a walk. This time in Rice University. My foot steps onto the cinder path. I can hear the pebbles underneath my feet. The trees were swaying and the sky was blue.

I had run this path so many times during marathon training. I remember running into regulars that I used to wait on at a local restaurant. I used to see Julie every Saturday on this path. She once told me that her favorite part to training for her own half marathon was seeing "Flower Man."

I had never met him, but he was somewhat of a legend. They called him "Flower Man" because the flowers that he used to adorn the basket on his bicycle. I smile to myself and continue my walk.

From Rice University, I walk through the Museum District before boarding the light rail. I believe that was about 4 miles already, but whose counting? I'm looking for something special today. I'm not stopping until I find it. I step off the Metro at the Ensemble stop.

As soon as I step onto the platform, I knew I was in a different world. I could already see that this neighborhood was full of surprises. I was definitely not in Rice University anymore. I stand in one spot and look all around me. Without even moving, I could see the culture. Ensemble Theatre. Breakfast Klub. Double Trouble. And a number of murals.

I walk over to the Ensemble Theatre to get a better look. Just my luck. It's not open, but I could see a description of the theatre. Apparently, this is Houston's first professional African American theatre. It produces it's own in house shows. What's coming up next? Freeda Peoples and Pipeline. We will have to come back to that. On to the next.

As I walk along the Metro rail, I see Double Trouble. I've heard of this place. It's a coffee shop that serves cocktails and opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 2am. Bring your computer or bring your dog. I walk to the end of the street and turn the corner towards the Breakfast Klub. I have to push through an unexpected line of people.

"How long have you been in this line," I ask the closest person to me. "I've been here since 8 a.m." I look at my phone. 11 a.m. How good can it be? He hands me a menu. Wings and Waffles and Catfish and Grits. I think it's worth it, but not right now.

From driving by on the street, I noticed there was an impressive black and white mural of Barack Obama. I think now is a great time to finally get that picture I've been wanting. I move past the crowd to cross the street. I wonder who the artist is. It looks like it could be Icy and Sot (the Iranian brothers who painted the black and white mural in Graffitti Park) I look for a name….Reginald Adams. I proudly look at my photo. Time to keep moving.


I walk to Truxillio. I heard that there was a brewery here called Under the Radar. As I walked down the street, I looked at the old wooden houses that lined the street. It always gives me a good feeling to see old houses.

What's on the left? The Buffalo Soldiers Museum. I had no idea that Houston had one of these. In fact, I don't even know what a buffalo soldier is. That's why I bring my phone with me. The buffalo soldiers were African American soldiers charged with keeping white soldiers safe from American Indians. They were called buffalo soldiers by the Indians because they were strong and built to last making them hard to kill just like a buffalo. That goes on the list to must visit too.

I find Under the Radar a couple of houses down the street. If it were not for the hanging tea lights and and the picnic tables. I would have missed it. I go to the bar and look over the menu. Dirty Blonde. Radar Love. Midtown Bock. Mid Frequency IPA. I'm an IPA girl, so I place my order. I savor my first taste. It's a winner. I finish my beer and time to keep it moving.

I'm still on Alabama St. Just over the bridge, I see a red brick house. It's a little different from all the other houses near it. There is a lot of sculptures in the front yard. Because it is time for me to be curious, I don't hesitate to go in. This house is called the Gite Gallery. It's owned by Lloyd Gite. Through his many travels to Africa, he developed a love for Afro-Cuban art. He now shares this art with the public. African masks, Colorful paintings, Tribal sculptures are among his offerings. I'll let you in on a secret. Lloyd Gite was a journalist before. Around his gallery, there are many photographs he has taken with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and even Rosa Parks.

Back out on the street, I see that I am approaching Emancipation Ave. I turn left. I came out today because I wanted to check out Project Row Houses. For those of you who don't know, Project Row Houses is a row of Shotgun Houses that have been repurposed into galleries. Each home has its own theme and is created by a different artist.

Project Row is much more than that. This 30 building campus also serves as an incubator for black business. NuWaters is a co-op that sells organic fruits and vegetables to the Third Ward Community. This produce comes straight from the NuWaters farm. Step in and listen to the manager, Carmen tell light hearted stories of how to keep rabbits out of the garden.

Next door, you will find Crumbville Bakery owned by Miss Ella. Miss Ella, who greets everyone with a hug, specializes is cupcakes stuffed with cookies. With favorites like her strawberry cookies called Cookie Minaj, carrot cake, and banana pudding, its easy to see why its hard to keep stocked.

I'm in the shotgun houses now. I saved them for last. Some of the exhibits have an overtone of frustration. Some have a note of inspiration. I came to the last house. When I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a sign on the wall with the instruction to elect my Third Ward hero. There were small pictures on the wall of people of the neighborhood. Beside each photo was their name and something special about them. I walked the wall and looked at each picture before coming to the last. I stopped in front of it and read the note: "I elect Flower Man as my Third Ward hero."

I could feel the goosebumps forming. I came out looking for something and I found it. I left the house in an energetic comptemplation.

Back to the gentrification issue. When I think gentrification in Houston, I think about Third Ward. There has been much controversy over the changes that are being made. I, personally, like to focus on the positive changes. Project Row Houses does much for the community. They purpose to bring voice and community to Third Ward. I say that they have done just that.

By the way, Flower Man, whose real name was Cleveland Turner, was a gardener who worked in River Oaks. He was also an artist who kept not only his bicycle colorful, but his front yard too. He used art to celebrate his sobriety. When he passed, the neighbors came to his house to claim their own Flower Man original work of art.

Time to Start Training

5 bucket list races that make 'Merica great

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Last week, I wrote about some of the world's best bucket list marathon and half marathons. But, what about here in the United States? We got some great places to explore on foot like our National Parks, Wine Country, and let's not forget our southern most state, Hawaii. So, I've made a list of marathons and half marathons to honor some of America's best bucket list destinations.

Red Rock trails​

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Zion National Park Marathon

Zion National Park, Utah

February 20, 2020

It's a steady climb to the road to Zion. This race starts and ends in Springdale, Utah. Runners travel along the Watchman trail to carefully arrive at the mouth of Zion Canyon. Runners can stop and take in the breath-taking views of of cold snow canyons and snow capped cliffs. Better hurry and register because this race sells out every year.

Race fit for a Disney Princess

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Disney Wine and Dine Marathon

Orlando, Florida

November 3, 2020

This popular race takes place on Walt Disney World Resort. Runners get to run wild through the theme park. Make sure to bring your camera for this novelty race. It is perfect for the Mickey and Donald Duck lovers. Stop and take your picture with your favorite Disney characters every mile. This marathon is great to walk and trot to the finish line which is a food and wine festival fit for a prince…or…..princess or……a fairy………or a cricket.

Get hitched on this marathon course.

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Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Las Vegas, Nevada

November 16-17, 2020

The Rock and Roll race series really out did themselves with this one. Have you ever wanted to dress as Elvis or a Cirque Du Soleil character, listen to your favorite rock band, and run down the Las Vegas Strip at night? Me, too! This race is definitely on my bucket list. There is so much packed in that it takes an entire weekend. This marathon is literally a night race down the Las Vegas Strip. You get to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Vegas. You can even get married on course at Mile 3. Bands play at every mile of the race to keep you pumped up. A Rock and Roll race would not be right if it didn't start with a pre-race performance from headliner Kesha. Can I say #StripAtNight?

Run the rolling hills of wine.​

Pixabay.com

Napa Valley Half Marathon

Napa Valley, California

March 1, 2020

This is known as the "biggest little marathon in the west." This picturesque course starts at the Silverado Trail from Calistoga and ends in Napa Valley. Runners run past the vineyards and wineries. It is the perfect tour of wine country. This race is not just wine. This road race is a Boston Qualifier. You will truly want to Run.Sip.Savor.

Fun in the sun.

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Honolulu Marathon

Honolulu, Ohau

December 8, 2019

Run in paradise in our southern most state. Sandy beaches, tropical flowers, and palm trees. Kick off the weekend with a luau complete with male and female hula dancers. The 5am start is no hardship with a spectacular fireworks show. The run up Diamond Head Crator is a challenge, but well worth it. You get to experience the laid-back attitude of Hawaiians. It's come one, come all for this race. Everyone and their mama, grandpa, whoever else comes out. There is no time limit or limit of participants. Fun in the sun.

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