Deep in the Heart of Texas, Part II: Food, Frivolity, Freedoms, and Frontage Roads

Part I had us digging into Texas from a size, sounds, sites and overall silliness perspective. There is a lot of all four categories, and I tried to hit what I could given where I took my Texas trek. Could have there been more? I did not reach Dallas and Dallas is an article all its own. Okay, time to move on to Part II.

Food

Barbecue – all of it is good, some of it is pretty good and some of it is excellent. If they ask you if you want your brisket “lean” or “moist” say lean. Moist means more fat. I went to a few places, one of which was the Harris County Smokehouse. It’s main claim to fame is you can order breakfast all day with your barbecue – “Only In Texas!”… except when you can’t. The night I went I got there about 2 hours before their closing time. All they had left was what was on hand as the cooks closed the kitchen. What? Yeah. Closed it down. Harris County Smokehouse became cafeteria style so you told them what you wanted and they slapped onto a dish or into a bowl. No eggs, no waffles, no pancakes as those all cannot be pre-cooked well. So, no 7PM breakfast. Not that I was going to do it anyway, I wasn’t. I was able to get brisket and chicken and two sides… but they were running out of sides. I looked at the server, looked at what they had left and said to myself “shit…” then said to the server, “I’ll take the boiled (GAAAAACK) brussels sprouts” then quickly added, “wait… is that peach cobbler a side?” With a twinkle on her eye (it was “on” as she had glitter caking her eyelids) “It is tonight.” Damn fine woman!

The best barbecue I had I was used to having and knew it would be good. I drove from San Antonio after my Alamo and River Walk experiences (see Part I) to salvage most of the day via a heaping plate at Salt Lick Barbecue in the Hill Country. Lean brisket, pulled pork, some spicy sauce, tater salad (it’s not potato in Texas), coleslaw, and sweet tea and I was good.

After that I had a day drink called a Firecracker at the Fang & Feather located on the grounds of the Wizard Academy, a place worthy of its own article someday. It was tremendously satisfying, and I have no idea what was in it. I’m not much of a drinker but from what I hear these guys have tremendous whiskey and, at the time they started it, were the only crowdsourced whiskey distiller in America. Look them up at Crowded Barrel Whiskey Company.

Many many Whiskeys, Cigars, and Watch Your Step signs

Frivolity

Texans love their football. Whoo doggie there are massive stadiums all over the place, including for high school football. Yep, high school football. It’s plain crazy. However, let’s leapfrog to the pro teams. Houston had the Oilers who moved to be the Tennessee Titans then got the Texans. They have never won a thing. Then we have the Dallas Cowboys, AKA “America’s team.” America’s team? Really? Well, if you look at it they do go on quick streaks of being great and then they go long stretches of not winning a damn thing so “America’s Team” kind of makes sense.

More sports frivolity? Baseball. Texas Rangers, 2x losers of the World Series. Houston Astros? 2x losers of the World Series… and they cheated to win the one they did so technically 3x losers of the World Series. I know, I mentioned this in Part I but cheatin’ merits another mention.

This cannon at the Alamo will probably be moved to Minute Maid Park so the Astros can have a louder sound when a fastball isn’t coming.

And more? Texas has more pro championships in basketball (6) than they do football (5). As for hockey, they have one Stanley Cup victory, but no one cares.

Freedoms

Freedoms includes lack thereof and Texas history has got it good. When the state decided it wanted entry as an official state into the union, the Missouri Compromise was in effect and therefore no slaves could be above the 36°30’ latitude. Texas wanted to be entered into the union as a slave state. Therefore, this strip of land became what was known as “No Man’s Land” until Oklahoma took it, which is why Oklahoma is roughly the shape of a Jiffy Pop popcorn held upside down. I know I just dated myself and I do not care.
Dated is key here. Texas got wind the Civil War was over, the South lost and the Emancipation Proclamation was set in stone. However, they effectively kept it their own little secret for 2 more years until federal troops arrived in Galveston to take control of the state and make certain the still-enslaved people got their freedom. That was the short version of Juneteenth. There’s more here.

Plus, freedoms ain’t freedoms without guns. Based upon the ton of billboards seen on this Texas trek, the Uvalde tragedy has not slowed the Texas populations zeal for guns. Lots of Second Amendment folks out there still shouting the Demon-Crats are coming to take yer gunz! I saw more than one big-ass truck with such sentiment plastered all over their bumper and windows.

Frontage Roads

First, Texas has a lot of 3 and 4-level highways. There’s a crap-ton of concrete being utilized for roadways in this state. Good gravy. Second, most of Texas has a highway system where a side road – the frontage road – runs alongside the actual highway. Granted, Colorado has these as well but they are not nearly as sophisticated as Texas. In Colorado they are literally so close to the actual highway you’ll see dirt tracks running to them from the highway in what I call “fuck it” lanes, where when traffic gets bad if you have a 4×4 just say ‘fuck it’ and cut over to the frontage road.
Again, Texas has a more sophisticated frontage road system and it works like this – you see the place you want to get to, pass it and then 2-3 miles down the road you’re able to get off the highway, do a built-in u-turn (AKA “turnaround”) under or over said highway to enable driving back to your chosen spot. If you happen to miss it? No problem, there’s another u-turn spot further on up so you can go back under (or over) the highway, return to your original turnaround and start over again. You could make your own NASCAR race out of it if you want… and based upon the chunks of cars, black tire marks and damaged guardrails people have. This system, by the way, is a nightmare for Google Maps. To make it worse there was a lot of road construction too. My Google Maps virtual woman got so tangled up in the mess she stuttered “head south… head south… head south… head… head… head… head.” I finally released her of her duties and figured it out on my own.

Which BY THE WAY GOOGLE – when someone is not familiar with where they are the first set of directions which inevitably includes a direction – are USELESS. I know not where north is in a strange land like Texas so stop telling me to “head north.” RANT OVER – as is this article y’all.

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Part I Size, Sounds, Sites and Silliness

I just spent a four days in Texas. Was I deep in the heart? Not really. From an anatomical perspective looking at a person walking away, the ‘heart’ could be considered Santa Anna, Texas which is kind of ironic given he wanted to cut the heart right out of Texas. First, I was in Houston. Houston would be like the right shinbone if it was a severe compound fracture like you see in Stranger Things. Then I went to San Antonio, the normal leg with a twisted knee, and then Austin AKA the right hip. Very appropriate for Austin since it is the only hip place in Texas yet not appropriate since it should be the left hip.

Size

Texas. What to say about Texas. It’s big. Really really really big. It’s not the size of Alaska – you can fit 2.5 Texas’ into Alaska, but it’s big. It’s so big this is where Southwest Airlines was born. Who wants to drive to Dallas from Houston? No one. San Antonio? From Houston? Sure. From Dallas? No fucking way. Hence, Southwest first set of flights were the triangle from Houston to Dallas to San Antonio. And how, pray tell, did the good folks who started Southwest Airlines entice people to fly on said airlines? With colorful planes? Well… no. This is a marketing question for y’all as it was for me when I went to Northwestern. We had a whole half a day to try and figure it out. Us college kids thought we had all the answers. Free food. Nope. BOGO tickets. Nope. Buy 3 flights get one free. Nope. Free fifths of whiskey. Yep. Wait. What? Yep. None of us came up with that answer and therefore our professor thought we were idiots. Yeah, because that’s the FIRST THING we’d think of – handing out free booze.
“you kids need to learn what the audience is all about and you didn’t.”

Oh really? Alcoholics? Yeah, because coming to the conclusion only alcoholics would be brave enough to get on a fledgling airline’s flights makes so much sense.

They don’t drop whiskey into your lap anymore, but Southwest still does the triangle flights everyday – San Antonio to Houston to Dallas. Good to know, but watching people wait for a delayed flight from San Antonio to Houston – a 3-hour(ish) drive – is kind of hilarious.

Sounds

Your ears will pick this up more than you want, trust me – the actual song Deep in the Heart of Texas. I swear to baby Jesus someone told June Hershey (lyrics) and Don Swander (music) the morning after a massive drinking binge they had to write a song about Texas.

The stars at night are big and bright (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

The prairie sky is wide and high (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

The sage in bloom is like perfume (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

Reminds me of the one I love (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

GEETAR PICKIN’

The coyotes wail along the trail (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

The rabbits rush around the brush (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

The cowboys cry ‘Ki Yippee Yi’ (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

The dogies bawl (MOOOOO!) (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas

PRODUCER: Hey June? Don? That’s only a minute 45 seconds. Do you have any more animals to add to it? Deer? Armadillo? Chupacabra? Hello? June? Don?
JUNE & DON: Fuck off.
PRODUCER: Ok, wrap it up. All done!

Speaking of sounds, we have the Cheatin’ Astros. Minute Maid Park is a nice facility, but the Astros cheated to win the 2017 World Series. They had center field cameras key on the opposing catcher to steal signs then relay it to their hitters what pitch was coming. It if was a curveball or any other non-fastball pitch BANG BANG went the trash can lids then bye bye went the Yankees then the Dodgers.

Sites

The Alamo, where white guys lost, yet they won. It seemed like every single statue of a person at the Alamo that I read about at the Alamo started off with “after a series of business failures back east, so and so moved to Texas” or “after a bad marriage and a business failure back east so-and-so fled to Texas.” Out loud, I said, “oh so they were losers who ran like chickens” and some guy laughed loud enough it broke the unwritten rule of the Alamo Code of Silence (not sure that’s a thing but everyone was super quiet).

I am certain during their last breaths Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett had a discussion that went kind of like this:

“I hope this becomes a tourist attraction.”

“Tourist attraction ?”
“Oh yeah, we’re going to lose this battle and we are going to lose it bad. Yet somehow, through tourism, we will make this a victory.”
“And a movie.”
“A what?”

“A movie – moving pictures on a screen. It’s coming. And maybe they’ll get a huge conservative movie star to make it so it looks like we were wronged.”
“But we’re trying to claim this as our own.”
“Never mind that.”

(Cannonball hits wall)
“Jesus Hosea Jebediah Santa Anna is pissed.”
“He probably has a right to be. I mean we did kind of shell game him a bit.”
“Are you saying we…”
“Swindled him? Well… does it matter now?! We are not going to survive this! But what will… maybe… just maybe… become a legacy so it becomes a tourist attraction.”

“Oh that again.”
“Yes, with tourist trap crap attractions like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, an IMAX theatre, a Haagen Dazs, a Starbucks, an entire shopping center… and a coffee shopped named after you Davy.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake. Coffee?”
“Yeah and…”
OK, so you get my point. The Alamo is surrounded by everything crappy. There’s even a Tussaud’s Wax Museum. It’s not Madame Tussaud’s either it’s Larry or Big Head Todd Tussaud or something like that but after I saw the massive Trump head (and I think Eric Trump) in wax I refused to pay any more attention to it. The only thing it should be surrounded with are Mexican restaurants. It’s close, but not quite there yet.

They may as well move the Alamo to Branson. If they can move the London Bridge to Arizona, they can move the Alamo to Missouri. There I said it.

Back side of the Alamo from inside the walls. Pretty sure that’s the Alamo Marriott in the background where Santa Anna and his men stayed before attacking.
Continue reading “Deep in the Heart of Texas: Part I Size, Sounds, Sites and Silliness”

Everything That Could Break Down Broke Down

I started this in the small downtown of Edmund, Oklahoma. It was bristling with activity. Sitting in a cozy coffee shop, Café Evoke, I watched as people milled about, popping in and out of small locally owned stores; checking out the colorful diner across the street that looked like it was built from a retro gas station. Clean, bright blue, crisp white and popular. The Sunnyside was its name. Very appropriate for the day filled with brilliant blue skies and a soft breeze rushing down Broadway, a breeze pushing the American flags around.

I was as ready, I guess, as I could be to start my article for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Conference Finals are pretty much set and a jump on it before the final team gets decided might be a good idea. But the flags wouldn’t let me push aside the malaise having crept into my soul.

All of them were melancholy, waving at half-staff.

I couldn’t write about hockey.

Just couldn’t.

Continue reading “Everything That Could Break Down Broke Down”

NHL Report: The Quarters

AKA the conference semi-finals, but only the NHL cares THAT much about the Conference Finals. It’s all just window dressing to get hockey fans slobbering about the Stanley Cup Final.

Don’t think I am going to go on about why it’s called “Final” as opposed to “Finals” again. I won’t as it’s too silly to be discussed. Okay? Okay. Great.

As I am writing this, I’ll do a “live” report on the Oilers-Flames series. Right now, it is 0-0 because they’re six minutes away from dropping the puck for period 1.

Now let’s check out The Quarters by taking a deep dive into a frozen pond and scope out the Eastern Conference. As expected, and I predicted – as if it’s that big of a deal it was not hockey magic like an Edmonton goal from someone else besides Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaiti – only the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning stand a chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. The four teams left, those are three. The other is the New York Central Park Rangers who are currently down two games to one versus the Hurricane. The Hurricane are the team I picked to win the Eastern Conference, but they must contend with a scrappy Ranger squad then the Tampa Bay Lightning. The TBL (to shorten it so I don’t have to keep typing their insipid name) are up three games to nil against the Florida Panthers. The cake is baked on that series so all that’s left is the icing.  Man I am hungry. Time to prep dinner – broiled teriyaki salmon with brussels sprouts, garlic and spinach.

Time for the Western Conference. First, we have the Avalanche versus the Blues. On paper this should be a 5 or 6 game series and still might be. The Avs are up two games to one but really got hammered at home 4-1 in game 2. They rallied big time and crushed the Blues 5-2 on St. Louis’ home ice Saturday night though. Tomorrow night is Game 4.

The keys to this series? Keeping the Blues off the power play. They are really good at scoring on the power play. They only team better this year than them are the… yep, you guessed, the Avalanche. As such, each have the same goal so to speak – keep everything 5 on 5 as much as possible. Key 2 is the same as it is on every team left – good goalie play combined with solid defense. One’s goalie can only do so much – we will get to that in a moment. Suffice to say the team that may be in danger are the Blues. They lost their number one(ish) goalie last night, Jordan Binnington when Avs forward Nazem Kadri was going after a loose puck and got shoved into Binnington by Blues player Calle Rosen. Of course, Blues fans – the blind ones – can’t see how Kadri didn’t hit Binnington on purpose but completely fail to see if Binnington had made a clean glove save and not had the puck bounce off him to sit at the front of the net this wouldn’t have happened. And, as it is St. Louis, Kadri is now getting racist death threats. How sweet of the hockey ignorant.

Time Out. I am going to go make dinner now. I’ll be back to report on Game 3 of the Oilers-Flames matchup in a while as well as continue with the Western Conference in general.

Brussels sprouts are roasting, it’s nil-nil 7 minutes into period 1.

Back to the report. I am not done with the whole Kadri brouhaha. Effectively, I just want to go on the record for two items – one, Kadri has been known to mix it up a bit too much and in fact was suspended last year during the playoffs. Two, you Blues fans who are acting like asses, look at the damn play. It clearly was not on purpose and clearly was Kadri going after a loose puck in front of the net. If you all want to really bitch about something, bitch about how your team decided the right time to pull your goalie was way too early. Goal 4 the Avalanche scored via Gabe Landeskog was declared an empty netter but it was kind of comical watching Blues goalie Ville Husso struggle to try and get back to the net to no avail.

oh Landy, you came and you scored without their goalie and it iced the game, oh Landy.

Let it be said the Avs also lost a player yesterday. Speedy defenseman Sam Girard was checked into the boards by the Blues forward Ivan Barbashov. Now if you’re thinking “hey, he sounds like he’s Russian” he certainly is, so let’s just get this out of the way to keep Avs fans frothing “gO BaCk to ruSSiA U coMmiE!” It was a clean check, just a rough one. Girard is out for the rest of the playoffs with a broken sternum. Ouch.

As for the Oilers-Flames matchup AKA “The Battle of Alberta”, you may scroll up to take notice to see how I wrote “one’s goalie can only do so much.” That particular goalie for the first tow games has been starting Oiler goalie Mike Smith. The Oilers lost Game one 9 to 6. Granted it wasn’t all his fault. He was pummeled with 10 shots in the first 6 minutes and let 3 of them into the net. As such he was pulled.

Now it’s still nil-nil at the end of Period 1, but the Oilers are the aggressors outshooting the Flames 21 to 7 at this point. Brussels Sprouts are done, the salmon is broiling, and the Oilers look like they may be cooking the Flames. There’s something poetic about that last part.

For game 2 the Oilers stuck with Smith and they won 5-3 as he stopped 37 out of 40 shots. The Calgary Flames are not going to take it easy on him whatsoever or any Oiler goalie for that matter. For Game 1 they had 42 shots. It may be tied at 1 game each right now but I cannot see how the Oilers are going to win a series when their goalie(s) have to withstand that much pressure. The Oilers can fire away too, but they are “down” 82 shots vs 68 shots through the first two games.

Food is done and delish! FYI, listening to the Flames radio broadcast via the web is pretty hilarious. Lots of “oh-ffense” and many “a-boots” plus for the first intermission you get “Flames history on this date” which was nothing but talking about the move from Atlanta 42 years ago and three coach firings. So weird.

GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL! Not sure why I am so excited. I don’t care about either team, but the Oiler Zach Hyman (AKA The Virgin) just scored for the Oilers. Maybe it’s the whole “Battle of Alberta” deal. Calgary and Edmonton are a mere 3 hours AKA a case of Labatt’s (for the passenger c’mon now) apart, don’t cha know.

Just went through the Flames playoff history. The Oilers had Gretzky so we know they won Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup. The Flames have hoisted the Stanley Cup once in 1989 with co-captain and legend Lanny McDonald.

Opah! Another GOOOOOOOAAAALLLL! The Oilers are working very hard to prove me wrong. I used OPAH because I just heard their commercial on Alberta Flames radio. It’s the largest Greek Mediterranean franchise in Canada, don’t cha know. And the Oilers just scored again, Evander Kane for the second time. It’s 3-0. I’m done with this game. OPAH! It’s now 4-0 and Kane has a flippin’ hat trick in one period. Now I have to take back my snarky comment about just McDavid and Draisaiti scoring for the Oilers. I’m also REALLY done with this game.

What else don’t cha know? My original prediction is still gold – I have the Hurricanes versus the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final. The Hurricane are good, but not good enough. Avalanche takes them in 7.

See you for the Stanley Cup Semis, AKA the Conference Finals.

Opening Day: Reporting on the other 98%

Opening Day – FINALLY – is upon us. The MLB and MLBPA did their darndest over the winter to dangle us like stale cotton candy stuck on a wad of freshly chawed chew to delay Opening Day via what seemed to be endless negotiations, but they merely delayed it by a week. Spring training was shortened so we may see some crazy-ass baseball for a few weeks, but it ought to be fun.

It will be full regardless how much the Cubs will suck and they will suck. Photo courtesy of me – yeah I shot it.

I took a swing at the teams and thought about writing a prediction – who will suck, who won’t, who will make the playoffs despite their roster or manager or owner – but said to myself, “no, let’s not do that. Let’s talk about the MLB farm system. – the other 98%,”
Personnel volume-wise, it is not 98%, but by player salaries it has to be close. The baseball farm system, in case you do not know, is a place where you get what you want to make everything better for yourself on the cheap. This is also known as MLB owners collectively stating, “we’re going to drag your sorry asses all over the place via bus just for you to get a chance to get to The Show.”

The MLB, Major League Baseball for those who do not know, has consolidated their minor league ranks into the MiLB, or “Minor League Baseball.” The reason why they consolidated is the reason why owners of teams do everything, to save some money. Yeah, you’ll still see minor leagues unaffiliated with MLB, but those players are seriously toast. They are done, have been done for a few seasons, and are just there to tip their hat, strike out or throw a hammy, then limp back to the dugout. That’s more of a sideshow circus than baseball IMO, but people still go to see it. The Schaumburg Boomers, part of the Frontier League which I believe is an MLB “Partner” league (AKA you don’t really exist in their eyes, but it is baseball so whatever now pay us), would be one of those teams.

Okay, let’s check out the MiLB right… now.

Continue reading “Opening Day: Reporting on the other 98%”

The NHL Report at the All-Star Break

The NHL in the first ‘half’ (we are beyond the halfway point but the All-Star Break is a reasonable spot to be considered halfway), we saw the league do some good things. One, they pulled their players from participating in the Olympics. Frankly, just preventing the players from being exhausted for the stretch run it would have made sense. Protecting them from possibly being more exposed than they already are to COVID is another. Two, COVID protocols have seemed to work. There have been times when teams have had to take time off because their ranks have been decimated by the virus, but that lay-off doesn’t really seem to affect good teams. And bad teams are, by definition, bad so who fucking cares.

Regarding good teams, let’s slip on some skates and glide around with my favorite team, the Colorado Avalanche. They played Trashville on December 16th and got their ass handed to them, losing 5-2. Due to COVID, they didn’t play again until January 2nd. Basically, they got a public-school Christmas Break. A long layoff ought to make a team pretty rusty, right? Umm, large no on that one. They won their return game, roasting the Ducks 4-2, then proceeded to go 14-1 for January, vaulting themselves into first place in the Western Conference. They’re 8 points above the Trashville Sabre Cats (Yes I know they are the Nashville Predators, but look at their dumb-ass logo) with two games in hand.

Nazem Kadri of the Avalanche is having a hell of a season. Here’s hoping he keeps his head on straight and doesn’t do anything stupid to get suspended like her did for the playoffs last year. Photo via The Hockey News shot by Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports

What does two games in hand mean? I’ll get to that. Tighten the laces on your skates and let’s continue.

Continue reading “The NHL Report at the All-Star Break”

Bob Saget had more than a Solid 7

I had a solid 15-hour workday today – minus a half hour taken for lunch, half hour for dinner and the 90-minute break I took to go to the gym. But Bob Saget? He’s got more than a solid 7. A solid 7 minutes of fame? You could look at it that way. He did a lot. But that’s not it. Now kick back your feet and relax a bit as I wind my way to his ‘more than a solid 7.”

So today as I kept working I felt like I was being someone I really am not – someone who keeps working. I like my job, but criminy that’s a lot of time you know? But it got me to thinking. Generally, when someone starts any sentence off with “it got me to thinking” right after that something will spill out of their mouths possibly a tad daft. Strap it down people and slam open your thought cavity because here it comes.

What does one do when they are acting like someone they clearly are not?

Bob Saget doing his best work – you’ll understand what I mean in a moment.
Continue reading “Bob Saget had more than a Solid 7”

The Great Gridiron in the Sky is Gifted a Legend

BOOM! With crazy-ass Al Davis, getting a great coach and keeping them is pure luck. He rolled 7’s to get John Madden. Madden was first hired as the Raiders Linebacker Coach then two years later moved up to the head coaching position to become – at the time – the youngest head coach ever at 32. He lasted 9 seasons with Al Davis, and took the Raiders to a Super Bowl, winning Super Bowl XI against the hapless Vikings 32-14 (yes the Vikings are hapless. They are the Bills of the NFC: 4 trips and 0 trophies).

Continue reading “The Great Gridiron in the Sky is Gifted a Legend”

The Hot Stove League is Cold

Generally during this time of year Major League Baseball fans such as I mull over their favorite team’s impending moves for the upcoming season. We’ll sit around the metaphorical stove and keep ourselves warm with loads of firewood, black coffee and baseball chatter. But right now, it’s quiet… too quiet.

Continue reading “The Hot Stove League is Cold”