By Alex Wukman
The intersection of Westheimer and Taft is where Montrose begins. Even though the street named for the flour selling German immigrant Michael Louis Westheimer starts a few blocks to the east, the community that defines the road starts near Numbers, where Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon is said to have scored a hotshot. It’s at this intersection where, for years, an adventuresome soul could find almost anything for sale in just a few blocks. You just needed to know what to look for.
Just a few blocks north of the main thoroughfare for our town’s arts district, mixed into an area lovingly referred to as the Gayberhood, is an unassuming faded and fading bungalow. It doesn’t stand out from the dozens of others in the area; except for the young black woman in front of the house, shifting from foot to foot, scratching her arms through a faded and worn sweatshirt. Though the midnight shadows render her almost invisible to the cars driving by; to those in the know she is as clear as billboard.
A late model luxury sedan pulls up. The passenger window slides down with a whisper. An unseen voice asks “is the store open?” It takes a second for her vacant eyes to register who she’s looking at, but when she recognizes the friendly face she nods. A hand slides out the window to meet hers, an exchange is made. It’s the fourth one in an hour. And it’s upsetting Triana who works the other side of the street wearing little more than heels and fur. Triana had been on the block for months before the crew moved into the old bungalow and put the skinny girl with the dead eyes and itchy arms on the corner. Triana’s customers come here because they don’t want to be seen and the extra traffic that the new girl brings is bad for business. Triana’s gonna have to talk to her Daddy ‘bout it and see what he can do.
A little ways away from the mini drama being caused by the problems of the free market, near where Westheimer intersects the street that gives the area its name, another type of working girl faces a different type of problem. Betty is just finishing a double shift, one she told her manager she couldn’t work. She told him she couldn’t work no more late nights cause Metro stop running and she can’t get back to Cloverleaf. She told him she got a heart condition and she can’t stand out on the street waiting for her man to come get her. She told him again and again, but he keep scheduling her over night. She wonder why he don’t schedule that pretty white girl for late night?
Over at the curve, where at least a couple of times a month someone fails to read the City’s various warning signs and puts their pretty automobile into an ugly situation, the talk is of a different variety. In between chasing away their cynicism with boilermakers and bourbon the too-cool-for-this crowd chats about the social event of the season—this year’s big music festival. Who has tickets, who needs tickets, who’s playing when and how they weren’t planning on going but dammit now they have to. Sitting, almost ignored, is the morning’s front page filled with news about the end of the shuttle program and possible plans to increase government revenue. Nowhere in the-next-day’s-canary-cage-liner is the music festival mentioned and nowhere do the stories in the paper crop up in the conversation.
The silence from both parties speaks volumes and makes some people wonder why a music festival is more relevant than a proposal to this community than the loss of a community center? But those questions are as short lived and easily forgotten as the next round of shots.