Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Texas Kaleidescope

Took an opportunity to take a drive through the Texas Hill Country west of Austin yesterday. It is surprisingly non-flat (duh!) and green, although we were not able to find any bluebonnets. The locals say it is because of a lack of rain, and it does appear to be a bit dry out there.

Our drive took us about an hour away, just beyond Johnson City, where we toured the LBJ Ranch on the Pedernales River. LBJ was born, died and is buried all within the space of less than a half-mile. His home is in a beautiful spot on the river, surrounded by thousands of acres that have been in his family, off and on, since the mid 1800s when his great-grandfather (I think) emigrated to Texas from Georgia.

And the view from the house:

We were reminded, yet again, of what being a President is supposed to be. Setting aside (for a moment) the Viet Nam debacle, LBJ oversaw the passage of an amazing amount of legislation: Civil Rights, education, consumer protection, anti-poverty...and more. This, I suppose, is what is meant by activism - something that today's politicians seem to disdain.

Yes, it's hard to forgive LBJ for Viet Nam. He inherited a mess and mishandled it several times on his own. But the domestic programs are second to none, in my book. And Mrs. Johnson has made her mark on the country with her conservation programs. Growing up, it was hard to miss the "Keep America Beautiful" programs, for which she was responsible. Good for her - she just died this past July at the wonderful age of 94.

Switching gears, last night we went to see Alejandro Escovedo, and if you haven't heard of him, you're not alone. He put on a helluva show at the Continental Club here in Austin. He's sort of a favorite son, and is about to release a new record and go touring so this was his last local show for a while. It was out of this world good. This video gives a good representation of the show we saw, on one of his classic tunes. Enjoy:

Our friend, Tex, comes home to Austin tonight! More palooooza'ing to ensue.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

History Daze

Monday's drive to San Antonio included a deep immersion into colorful and heroic Texas history. Yes, we visited the Alamo and finally are beginning to put the pieces together toward understanding the Republic of Texas. For whatever reason, I always got this part of American historyconfused - between the Spanish-American War and the Mexican War and all the different players (as I mentioned the other day) I never really understood it. (Or, call me a xenophobe, if you like.)

Anyway, after seeing a couple of video presentations, hearing a live presentation by an Alamo docent, and walking through the hallowed grounds, it's starting to make more sense. If someone had asked me before visiting Texas when the Battle at the Alamo actually happened, I'm not sure what I would have responded, probably something like early 1800s. But it has been etched forever in that it took place in March of 1836, after the Battle at Goliad and before the 18-minute Battle of San Jacinto. Below you'll see the six flags of Texas:

In the midst of all of this some Texan leaders declared their independence from Mexico. It lasted for almost a decade before Texas decided to join the US as a state in 1845, and became embroiled in the Civil War as a slave state.

There are a lot of people who don't live in Texas who I know shake their heads at the pride these folks feel in their 'country.' After visiting and hearing the stories of the heroes, and knowing that Texas history isn't taught all that much outside the state, I can understand their feeling of being special.

Although I grew up in Ohio, I naturally gravitate to the stories of the American Revolution - and am awestruck by the important events that happened in my adopted home state of Massachusetts. People who grow up in Texas feel the same way about the events that happened here. I don't think this diminishes the love they have for the United States, it's just an added attraction for them. I admire this sense of home that they have - it's certainly not what I feel about being from Ohio.

One of the most interesting things is that the Alamo Shrine is treated, not just as a historic location, but as hallowed ground. When we visited, it was the day after the annual week-long San Antonio "Fiesta," and there were wreaths of flowers from all the states that existed at the time of the Alamo and the home countries of many who died (like Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, England), making the site more the hallowed ground of a battlefield than just another tourist trap.

After the Alamo, we took a stroll along San Antonio's Riverwalk, which by all appearances is about all there is to show for the city. It was nice, but a bit of a manufactured tourist trap. But, the weather was gorgeous and it proved to be worth the trip.

And Then There's Kyle

By popular demand, I need to go back and tell the Saturday story of arriving at the airport with a certain tall curly-haired Texan.

Let me begin where it all started. The airport van pulled up to a jam-packed JetBlue terminal early on Saturday morning and we barely had room to unload the suitcases. In fact, the back doors of the van were blocking the crosswalk, causing everyone to walk around them. I noticed as we awaited the retrieval of our suitcases that a bunch of well-dressed young men pulling carry-on bags kept coming around. It was somewhat frustrating because they kept getting in the way of the van driver. Eventually, we were able to make our way into the terminal, with the crowd of men surrounding us. As we walked to the kiosk to pick up our boarding passes, Bob turns to me and says, "That guy looks like Kyle Snyder." I looked up, thinking to myself: "It won't be Kyle Snyder, Bob doesn't even know what Kyle Snyder looks like." But, as the group of men moved beyond us, I saw this particularly tall guy ahead, towering above the others.

"Hey, that IS Kyle Snyder!" By this point, I was standing in front of the kiosk with my credit card in my hand. I quickly rooted through my purse to find my phone so I could take his picture, not caring whether I dropped my wallet (yes, a recurring theme) or blocked anyone else from getting their boarding passes. Bob probably thought I was nuts, but I KNEW that if I didn't get this picture, a certain bunch of friends would never forgive me.

So, do you think Kyle knew I was taking his picture?

I got another one of the back of his head - perhaps any of you eagle-eyed people might recognize other members of the Pawtucket Red Sox?

Then there is this one of Kyle when he walked by the Starbucks counter where we enjoyed a muffin and coffee pre-flight:

And, once the excitement of seeing Kyle wore off, I managed to get Craig Hansen, who looks WAY better in a business suit than a baseball uniform:

And then there's Craig buying his Vitamin Water:

So, that is my brush with fame early on a Saturday morning in April. Ta dah!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

From Boston to Austin, and All Points In Between...

We're about 36 hours into the Texas sojourn and so far, we're crazy about Austin. After our friend, Tex, greeted with a Guinness (in celebration of our SG Sisterhood) and some chocolate covered strawberries (in honor of Bob and my anniversary), we launched ourselves into the local scene.

Our first stop was dinner yesterday at Evangeline's Cafe, about as authentic a Cajun restaurant as you could ask for this side of the Louisiana border. Since Tex herself is a native Cajun, Evangeline's had to live up to some rather exacting standards, and we were pleased to be with her on her maiden voyage to this unexpectedly wonderful restaurant.

Luckily for all of us, the crawfish boil passed inspection, and the three of us were soon up to our elbows (or so it seemed) in crawfish juice and spices. For Bob this was a true test of his willingness to be all in on this vacation as he NEVER eats finger foods. But soon he was ripping the heads off the suckers with the best of 'em. While we licked our fingers and ordered more beers, a nice Cajun band played:

After this great start, we went down to Town Lake and walked along looking at the Austin skyline, and came upon the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue right on the water. It was a beautiful night, but since we had woken up at around 4 am to catch our flight from Boston we made it an early evening. Before we settled in, Bob and I made a quick run to the grocery, where -- unbeknownst to me -- I decided to let my wallet spend the night. Aren't I thoughtful?

It wasn't till this morning's visit to Austin Java for breakfast that I discovered my missing wallet, of course. After scouring the hotel room, the rental car, I called the grocery. Lucky for me (damn lucky for me), they had found the wallet and it soon was retrieved. Nothing like a heart palpitations to start off a vacation, eh?

Although we planned to go to see the Alamo today, the weather wasn't as cooperative. So instead we went to the Texas State House for the tour, followed by a visit to the Texas History Museum. I'm literally seeing stars, one lone star at a time, after this afternoon's trek. All the Texas history I knew before today came from watching Davy Crockett on TV as a kid, but after this afternoon's immersion, I'm fairly certain that I know the difference between Santa Ana and San Jacinto, between Stephen Austin and Sam Houston, and more.

After our history lesson, we rested our tired feet at El Arroyo's, chowing down on some great Mexican food.

Next stop...the infamous Chicken Shit Sunday at Ginny's Little Longhorn Cafe:

This is one of the places you'd NEVER find without knowing a local Austin-ite. It was a small cinderblock bar with a small band, led by James Intveld, a cross between Elvis and Willie Nelson. The place was packed wall-to-wall, finding room to dance where there was hardly any.

But the real draw, of course, is the raffle. Every hour or so, nearly the entire bar lines up to buy a $2 ticket, guessing where a chicken will drop its...well, shit. The red chicken looks rather well-fed, and is placed into its coop where a grid of numbers is painted on the floor. Everyone crowds around, taking pictures and coaxing the chicken to do its business on the proper number.

Unfortunately, we didn't win, but we still were able to enjoy the rest of the show:

Next up...San Antonio! Remember the Alamo?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Goin' to Texas

Seriously, never thought we'd pay money to go to Texas. But here we's the day. In honor of that, I give you a favorite son of Texas, Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughn:

Oh, and Happy Anniversary to my sweetie-pie. Good Lord, 28 years? How could that possibly be? It's been fun, hasn't it...and I still like trippin' with you.

I love you with all my heart...still.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The One Where Obama Explains Hip Hop Music

As a kid, we think about the president as an old, white guy who is intelligent, worldly and wise. He (and it always was a he, of course) hung out with boring bankers and diplomats and came from a stodgy, Ivy League background. No doubt his family was wealthy and somewhat conservative in that they were usually keepers of the status quo. Let's face it, even the Democrats that have been elected are typically from the ruling class.

One of the most stunning things about Senator Obama, for me, is his age. If elected, this will be the first president who is younger than me. I have no problem with this, of course, as I'm getting to the part of my life where a LOT of people actually are younger than me. I'm used to it.

But do you want to know what I really appreciate about the good Senator? Today, I found a clip where he explains hip hop music. I've never been a fan of rap, don't listen to much of it because the sound mostly annoys me. Yeah, I'm not exactly the demographic they're going after, but I might have to try some after watching this clip. (Although the fact that he also mentions Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations at the same time, does warm the cockles of my heart.)

Imagine a president who actually can talk about pop culture? I'm liking this idea.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dusting Off the Place

Alright, stop looking at me like that. I've been busy at work. I was sick for two weeks. I have been engrossed in baseball games. I've been 'palooza-ing.

Besides, I haven't had anything earth-shattering to say. Yes, the Clinton-Obama saga continues unabated. She's still clinging to hope. He's still rising above it all. At long last, the Pennsylvania primary is less than a week away. If Hillary gains more than 10 votes out of the deal, I'll eat my...Red Sox hat. Yeah, that's it.

And it's now 10 days until our vacation. Yes, indeed, we's goin' to Texas. Cannot wait for the good times, good music, good friends, good weather, and more. I'm looking forward to a nice relaxing time, sleeping late and going to 10:00 pm shows. Wahooo.

And for those who care, the Texas Music Series continues...

Texas wants us anyway??? Wooooooot!!!!