HOUSTON LOG by Loreta Kovacic

SUMMER MANNEQUINS     by loreta kovacic


On one of those days when I had a lot of time, I was driving around North Houston, trying to remember where was that great tile shop that I visited ages ago.. I stopped on the particularly colorful corner of Little York, mesmerized by the guy cutting fresh coconut with a large machete. “Cocos frescos”.  I imagined him immediately in the middle of Nicaraguan tropical jungle, one of those places I want to visit. I learned from him that the capital is Managua, and I do vaguely remember that from my favorite subject in school, geography.  That sharp blade of the huge knife was cutting so closely to his fingertips, and he was completely absorbed by the ceremony of cutting. I guess he had to be, for his finger’s sake?  I told him in my broken Spanish that this was mi primera vez to have coco fresco. He said that it is cleansing for the body and what I understood as extremely healthy for you.  It was super refreshing on a hot as hell summer day in July, and it looked so good, in a little nylon bag with a straw on the top. Amazing how a sweet new experience can change your day in this big urban jungle. Last night I was turning in my bed full of neurosis, and now I feel like dancing with this coconut in my hand. True summer has finally arrived in my life, disguised as a lovely coconut. 


My European roots are still with me, because in the midst of this heat, I decided to take a walk. This is where my story begins. I cross the street and find myself at the intersection of Art and Little York. I walk a little on Art street, attracted only by its name, to the intersection with Rubinstein and now I think that this is a sign…Rubinstein, my favorite pianist, and Art, my favorite endeavor. This must be the center of something. I read a small sign above the door: “Modern Mannequin”. So this must be that place, the center? In Houston, it is not the fountains, or squares with churches, or beautiful parks that hold the treasures… It’s always the people and their little oasis. Woman named Sherrie opens the door and I enter her mannequin castle. She is full of southern hospitality, and this little house seems to surprise you with ongoing rooms full of her inventory.  


My eyes are now having a big fiesta. Some faces are beautiful, some are old, children look creepy, and she walks me through the years from 50’s to 70’s and on. I can almost recognize the eras by hairdos.  I see a guy from the 80’s smiling big, Clark Gable style, looking so realistic but with slightly imperfect teeth, oh what a cheerful lad! She says he is her favorite and he is not for sale. However, one can rent him for a day or more. I recognize a few faces of famous people, like Grace Jones, and some of them are scary, of course… She is giving me a little mannequin art lesson and a bit of history of this truly family business, started by her father 68 years ago. Now it is only her and her mother left in this mannequin packed old house.


One head catches my eye particularly. It is beautiful face of a woman, with long eyelashes and rosy lips… She informs me that this one was created by the famous David Costa at his studio “Dash and dazzle” in New Jersey.  I love the name, I know I will remember it… I imagine this beautiful woman’s head at a plastic surgeon’s office….

I would have lingered a lot longer had the place been air-conditioned. Even some mannequins were sweating. And they looked a little frustrated… I was imagining a great Halloween party with these guys placed strategically throughout my house, with the spooky kids in the closet. I left Sherrie convinced that we will meet again. Back to that coconut juice, I raise a coco toast to summer mannequins!





This morning I had 2 hours to kill while my son was at his driving ed class.  It’s in Spring Branch so I decided to go to a grocery store.  The first one I hit was on LongPoint and Bingle or somewhere there, and it looked fine. The name “H-mart”, sounds pretty generic.  As soon as I walked in, I knew I was in for a treat in my never boring H-town.  As Townes VanZandt put it, “Houston ain’t that bad of town”. London makes him sad, and these days, with the weird British politics, Van Zandt’s words are right on.


It’s really fun to live in a big city because it offers new melting pot adventures, if you are available.  And I was available to stroll down the isles of a fantastically blooming Korean market, full of new to me and interesting to lok at fruits, vegetables and especially fish!  Most people in the store were Asian, and I was happily thinking of a great variety of fabulous Asian foods that they might be making today.  I was excited to find tiny sardines with a title all written in Korean, I think.  In Croatia we treasure those little fish and eat them like chips with salad.  Inchuni! Yummy!  But these here were dried out, not fresh, like in Croatia.


After I marveled at produce, I still had plenty of time left over, so I decided to explore the lesser known: Korean fashion.  How great it was to find a small boutique inside this this large grocery store! There was an old lady with an eye of an eagle and I immediately sensed that she was not really happy to help me, even though I was her only customer.  This is where my story starts.


Having time to kill is the key for me, because I decided to continue my exploration of her clothing items ina free country of Texas where customer is the king, despite my odds.  Anyways, I really love to touch things when shopping, and this lady hated that about me.  It was obviously striking her bad string or maybe she was born with an unfriendly face expression?!  To make the long story short, in the end I did pick one t-shirt.  I think she was surprised I did. I asked for the price now, because none of her items were priced?!  She said 49. I said, 50 dollars?!! And she said, no, 49. Wow I thought to myself, she just made that price up.  So I said, I am sorry but price is high, thank you, but no thank you.  And I walked away while getting shot from her eyeballs.  As I was walking, I hear “excuse me!” I turn around. She walked to me and asked: How much would you pay for it?  I thought in my mind, 10 dollars. But I said 20, just to be nice.  She looked at me and the fireball from her eyes was now huge! Instead of shooting right back at her, I got into my teacher calm.  I decided to stop, right there in front of her, pretend like nothing happened, and use her mirror to fix my hair.  That will show her! (What?!)  I guess I was cleaning the eye gun-powder off my hair?


I went back to admiring that awesome fish department!