Monday, October 3, 2011

The Tex-Ecks Take on the State Fair of Texas

We moved to Texas in March and from the moment the wheels of the plane hit the runway at DFW we've been counting down the minutes until the State of Fair of Texas opened its doors.

We love fairs, everything about them: fried food in abundance, wine gardens, arts and crafts, live-stock, and watching kids on rides that would make us lose all of the fried foods and wine we've consumed.

The State Fair of Texas was a disappointment. There I said it.

We went on a Monday at mid-day, mostly because I just got my foot out of a walking cast and we wanted to avoid the crowds. We took the DART from Richardson, which was easy and let us out right at an entrance to the park.

Immediately I headed toward the animals, passing through the car pavilion which had a few classic cars -  beautiful - and lots of new models of major car brands available for folks to get up close and personal. And then we went through the Crafts and Foods pavilion where there were just a few exhibits and the store. Except the store was closed. All day. For inventory. Really? It's the morning of the third day of the fair and they are closed, for inventory.

In the crafts building there were, again, just a handful of vendors. Most of the goods were perfunctory and very little was distinct. There was more original art at the Wildflower Festival in Richardson back in May.

'The animals', I thought, 'they can't mess up the animals'. We marched determinedly toward the last pavilion. Right up into the EMPTY pens. Fresh sawdust. No animals. No pigs. No cows. No bunnies. No goats. No chickens. Not even the smell of manure to prove that at one point there had been live-stock, alive, on the premises. There was a show going on, but did it require ALL of the animals at the fair? That would be weird.

And lastly, there's the food.

I repeat, we love fried food. Fried food starts with the temptation of the aromas that reach around corners and grab you by the nose hairs, dragging you in a trance to the basket and hot oil from which emerge luscious foods. Smells of onions, meats, batters, sugar, all mixed with heat and oil and love should embrace fairgoers.

Today, no smells.  No embrace.

Here's the thing, everything we bought came out from under a heat lamp and there were no smells. No aroma of fried deliciousness, not even the aroma of fried fried stuff. We had Corny Dogs, good to taste, but super heavy later. And we had chicken fried bacon - the batter was tasty, but the bacon was sliced super thin and kinda limp all on it's own.

The one good thing, despite the lack of flirtatious sensory engagement, was the fried lemonade. A sweet cake soaked with lemonade and fried like a beignet. It was good. That's it.

So, Tex, I have to tell ya - I had hoped for better from the largest state fair of all of the states. And maybe this just wasn't your moment, but I hope you won't blame me for coming on the wrong day or at the wrong time. You've been at this for 125 years and you only have to "make it work" for less than thirty days. I wish you the best, but I won't miss you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tex Eck Draws the Line

Tex Eck here. K provided a fantastic account of our Austin adventure. But I need to hit the County Line BBQ a little harder. When you try a new and highly recommended BBQ place you order everything. At many BBQ joints the ribs are better than the brisket or the the pork shoulder stands out. That sort of thing. If y'all have seen the movie The Professional, to paraphrase Gary Oldman's character- EVERYTHING was awful. I could not pull the ribs apart with an F-150 tow package, the smoked sausage had the consistency of a garden hose (though water could pass through a garden hose and that sausage has yet to pass thorough Tex Eck) and the brisket you could roll into tiny balls and kick ass at playing jacks with some unfamiliar rube from the northeast.

In short, a German/Norwegian from the Northwest could knock that place down.

Site Disclaimer: The author of this post is in fact German/Norwegian.

Who used to reside in the Northwest.

Tex Ecks: Destination Austin, Texas!

With the promise of diminishing temperatures and the three day weekend celebrating Labor Day, we loaded up the mini-van and set on our first Texan road trip. Destination, Austin.

By the map we traveled south down the 75, worked our way west a tad on the 35E South, and then due south on the 35. And then just kept on going.

By the journey, we traveled from the suburbs, through the truly striking architecture of a newer down town Dallas,  through the industrial brick and mortar and rail lines of the city's history. Turning south our eyes were taken on a tour of rolling hills, roadside beef jerky and woodcarving stands, and the first cattle we've seen since the move.

We drove through Italy and Waco. Somewhere between them the the landscape making the transition from the flat green and soft browns of the mid-west, to a sparse, thirsty terrain lined with barbed wire and prickly cactus plants of the American southwest as though in an attempt to keep the determined wilderness from overtaking the modernity of concrete streaking through the land. And then we rolled into Austin, toward the Trinity River. The sight of the blue water, speckled with kayakers and canoes, was a welcome sight for these landlocked north-westerners.

Once arrived, we didn't have much of a plan. The heat decided to stick around over the weekend, so we put on our sunscreen, shades and sandals and went for a walk; escaping into watering holes along the way.

We ate pulled pork tacos at a place called Stubbs (pictured) that set the bar for food all weekend. We visited the Museum of the Weird where I found some old school horror movie postcards. Sixth street was still sleeping off the party from the night before, so no music yet.

As we were walking toward Congress Street, melting quickly in the afternoon sun, Tex declared that he had somewhere he wanted to show me.

We round the corner and first he points out the beautiful capital building several blocks to the north, embraced by businesses and buildings representing Austin's past and present. Then he guides my gaze to a marquee across the street and states, "That's it. The theatre you played."

In a past-life, post college and pre-teaching, I spent a season traveling with the Montana Repertory Theatre in one of their tours of To Kill A Mockingbird. We played three cities in Texas: College Station at A&M University, Galveston's Grand Theatre, and the Paramount in Austin. Of the approximately seventy theatres in which we performed, a handful continue to stand-out in my memory. The Paramount is one of them. Originally an old vaudeville theatre, it has a wall near the dressing rooms that has been signed by performers for nearly a century. I remember looking at all of the names: Harry Houdini, Red Skelton, Lilly Tomlin, and so many others, and being very appreciative of where I was and what I was doing.

What I didn't remember was how beautiful a theatre it is. I borrowed this picture of the inside from because it was too dark when were in it to take a good photo.

As we approached the theatre to see if we could get in, we noticed the marquee was advertising a film festival. They were showing Giant later that day and Gone With the Wind on Sunday! We bought tickets and spent the afternoon escaping from the heat watching Giant with Texans on the big screen in a theatre where I had performed almost fifteen years ago. It was a totally awesome experience.

Following the movie, we were hungry for some serious meat. We decided to check out a place Tex had heard of from a variety of folks called the County Line on the Hill. It's about twenty minutes outside of downtown Austin and the views were breath taking. We watched the sun, enormous and the color of the hot end of a cattle-brand, set behind the hills. The food was disappointing, but if you've had Tex's ribs then you know we eat awesome BBQ all the time.

Sunday we wandered around a little more, still limited by the last hundred-plus degree weekend of the summer long streak. We listened to some music, took some pictures of the decorative steer that peppered the sidewalks, watched Gone with the Wind in a full theatre, and ate seafood for dinner at McCormick and Schmick's; the conversation winding from plans for future Texas road trips and travels to a return  home where sunsets happen every day as they light up snow-capped mountains.   

The morning on Monday greeted us with the long awaited cooler air. We pointed ourselves North, toward Dallas and toward home. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

RummyKub and Rockford Files

As much as I am enjoying Texas, the hardest part of the move for me is trying to meet people. I had hoped to have some involvement with a few local schools but it's taking more time to get my stylishly sandled feet through their doors than I'd expected.

So while I am waiting for the volunteer paperwork to go through in the local districts, and for the Texas teaching certificate to be awarded, and the tens of students who would like the assistance of my tutoring skills to swarm me with e-mails, I decided to find a friend.

That sounds so easy doesn't's like when our moms used to tell us to go outside and find some friends because "Rockford Files" was about to come on and we were chasing siblings or pets around the house squealing and clanging anything that would make loud noises... And, like magic, when we went outside, there were actually kids to play with. 

As an adult, and one without a gig or kids, it's just not that easy anymore. Thank goodness for happenstance.

I walked over to the management office one afternoon and chit-chatted with the staff for a few minutes while I was picking up a package. As we were talking the subject of the heat came up - it's like rain in Seattle, always a part of the conversation. There was a shared concern for some of the elderly residents' health on these scorching days. I volunteered to be available to check in on folks they might be worried about, but couldn't get to.

Not wanting to just say "Me too! I'm lonely!" I said instead, "I am around. All day. I can help. Just call. Please." Desperation is difficult to camouflage.

Ms. A, a delightfully sweet southern lady who works in the office ponders the offer for a moment. " that you mention it, we do have a resident who I worry about. She's lonely and I think she'd just like some company every now and then. Can I give her your number?" 

The next afternoon I had a date to meet with Ms. M. We get together a few times a week and gab or play rummykub. She's an exquisite needle point artist so I imagine one day we'll knit and stitch together. We eat wafer cookies and one-up each other with stories about our grand-kids...

Wait, I don't have grandkids...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flier and Red Visit DFW

This past week I've had an extra bounce in my step as we've looked forward to some good friends visiting from the PNW.

I can hear you asking, "Visit Dallas in August?! With Children!! Are they CRAZY?!"

Nope - (well, maybe, in all the right ways) they are headed to the Caribbean for a week of vacation in blue skies over bluer waters and were kind enough to extend their layover here for a few days, and we are so glad they did! It was so great to lay eyes on their smiling faces and spend such quality time together.

We filled the days with lots of pool time.

Tex, the ultimate cabana boy, fixed up sandwiches and snacks and delicious beverages for us all to enjoy while staying cool in the water. The boys were so fun to hang out with as they splashed and swam and played until they grew gills. We chased torpedoes, practiced "pop-up" breathing, and laughed and laughed and laughed. One of the bunnies that lives on the property came over to check us out - making a special appearance for the boys.

In the evenings the kiddos had a sitter and we big kids went out and played. Red and Flier have been some of our favorite dinner companions for more than a decade and we were so excited to share with them a few of our favorite finds in Texas so far.

Thursday night was pizza at Urban Crust in Plano. We started with cocktails and blue cheese fries at the ice-bar on the third floor. Take that literally - the counter of the bar is covered in ice, making it a popular destination.

Then we moved downstairs and ordered everything! Mussels in a spicy broth, a meat-meat- cheese pizza for the guys and a veggie construction for Red and I. So delicious! As we ate, we caught up on life and family and friends back home and planned our adventures for Friday evening.

Originally, we'd thought it would be fun to take the kiddos to the Dallas World Aquarium and Zoo downtown Dallas, get some more pool time, and then head out for our 6:30 reservation at Nick and Sam's Steakhouse. We realized pretty quickly that we'd take the relax entirely out of the day if we tried to do it all. The kiddos were pretty clear that pool time was their priority. So back to the pool we went, lounging, playing, taking up rays and retreating to shade in the cool blue water. Tex once again treating us with delightful drinks and lunch.

Dinner at Nick and Sam's was awesome. We'd been once before and had an amazing time, but dinner with friends is so much more special. Our conversation leaned more toward the future over this meal. Where we all want to be, what we want to be doing...whimsical about everything except the idea that there will come a time when we will reside near-by each other again. And then we hugged good-bye, how quickly the time goes!

Tex and I savored the weekend, appreciating each conversation, the companionship of our guests, their friendship, our marriage, and this adventure.

Fire and Friends!

As much as the Starship Enterprise is a character in Star Trek, or Baltimore is a character in The Wire, the scorching heat is a character in our Texas experience.

It's been 55 days at temps at or above 100 degrees with one wonderful respite of rain last weekend. That Saturday morning we woke up to the sound of rain steadily tapping the window panes, the tree leaves, the thirsty grass, and the concrete. The world felt cooler, relieved, peaceful.

A barbecue was planned with friends we are getting to know down here. He's a former co-worker of Tex and she's his lovely bride, a native Texan. The phone rang - a quick call to make sure the precipitation wasn't impeding our plans. Tex assured them that he had a lot of practice making fire for the grill in the rain. Two racks of ribs, one bacon-chicken that doesn't actually have bacon, a crack-cornbread/pudding dish made by our guests, slaw, and fresh peach strudel all made for a festive feast. We ate, talked, ate some more, and watched the pilot of Firefly together.

A space western and a Texan bbq with new friends on a rainy summer Saturday equals perfection.

First Impressions

This post is a double dip of something I wrote about for a restaurant review site. As some of you know, my first trip to Dallas was under the dark cloud of Tex's dad falling ill. We decided to get out for a day, ride the DART downtown and do some sight seeing. We were told the Loon was a must, and so off we went, mindful of the present and trying to get a grasp of the future. 


We were walking past the Magnolia and Sweet Husband gestures across Lemmon and says, "See that awning? That's where we're headed."

I followed his gaze through the bright sunshine, to which my own irises had not yet adjusted. Confused I reply, "The one that says Dentistry?"  

"No, no. The green awning, to the left of that one."

"Ohhhhhh." I see it now.

 "Oh," My concern is audible.

 ".... Are you sure?"

As we pull the heavy wood door toward us I try to imagine what we will find on the other side. I conjure up images of dense smoke, mullets, and lots of empties strewn about. Not bad things, mind you, when that's the vibe you're looking for - but it wasn't, not this day, anyway.

My eyes adjusted to the dark, relieved, both as a result of a respite from the sun and surprise in discovering what appeared to be more of pub than a bar notorious for it's stiff drinks and dedicated drinkers.

We cozied up to the counter, which had a few patrons spread around it. The mid-afternoon crowd had us as the youngest by ten, maybe twenty years. No mullets.

The bartender, a chipper and attractive twenty something, welcomed us, asking what we'll have to drink. It's the middle of a hot spring afternoon and I didn't know any better so I ordered a gimlet and called the booze. Sweet husband shakes his head and smiles. The bartender laughs with her eyes and I realize I have made a rooky mistake.

This is a drinkers bar. Not the place for a drink that requires glassware with a stem.

She skillfully shakes the gin as she explains that no one has ordered a gimlet in all the time she's worked at the Loon. I'm lucky, she says, that she also works another joint on Knox/Henderson. The beverage is refreshing and perfect and I appreciate that we can chalk this up to a learning experience.

We get to chatting. I tell her it's my first day in Big D; I'm here visiting my Mister who's already relocated for his new gig. The Loon was recommended by friends who relocated here before us.

After checking out the specials board, which includes full dinners that would sound quite good if I were hungrier, we order a club sandwich to share and a side of fries. Both were tasty. I was surprised at the amount of non-fried options on the menu and tucked that tid-bit aside for a future visit.

She gives us a virtual tour of hot spots, dives, and the various neighborhoods that make up the area. She asks what I do for work and offered some tips on where to look when I move down.

We finish our food, thank the amiable wait-staff and make our way back outside.  

"I think I'm going to like it here," I say. We hold hands and greet the sun.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"July: In like a lion, and out like a lion on fire!"

Happy Seafair Day!!

The heat seems to have idled our blogging fingers. However, this article was on the front page of the Dallas Morning News today. We stole the tag line for this post from it's writer, who made us wish we'd thought of that. It's clever and fun and we thought it was worth sharing. Tex is promising a post soon - I told him that I'd tell you he'd post today, so feel free to put a little pressure on in the comments section.
Click this link to read more great writing with references to Icarus, marching band, and plasma centers!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Tex-Ecks Beat the Heat!

The year I was born a multitude of magnificent disaster films were released: "Earthquake", "Airport 75", and my absolute favorite, Irwin Allen's "Towering Inferno" with Paul Newman AND Steve McQueen. 

The basic plot of Towering Inferno is a greedy businessman and an ambitious architect have built the tallest building in the world at 138 stories. It's soon discovered that the project manager skirted safety specs to bring down the costs of construction. A fire breaks out and quickly begins to spread through the building putting residents and party guests directly in harm's way.

Without a doubt, one of the best things about watching this movie today is seeing O.J. Simpson playing a bit part as a security guard trying to save residents. He pretty much runs around the building, holding a kitty, repeating the same line: "Dammit Man!"
As in, "Dammit, Man! Get the ambulance!",
And, of course, "Dammit, Man! You should have sent a man up there!"
You get the idea.

I've been thinking a lot about "Towering Inferno" as we've been included in the large part of the nation that is experiencing the extreme heat, known in new-fangled meteorologist terminology: Heat Dome. Maybe it's just me, but this fancy phrase brings to mind a much less expensive graphic: I think of my mom's 1983 tupperware set that included a large maize colored bowl which my brother and I would turn upside-down and use as a jail for hot-wheels, smurfs, and other small toys that we conquered while playing on the kitchen floor. This is how I am beginning to feel. Trapped in a totally low-tech way.

Now, I know, dear Seattle friends, that this seems silly. You've been suffering a monotony of grey sky and wet weather for more than a year. Trust me, I remember it well. It literally took months here in the warmth and sun of Texas for the water that had permeated my flesh before arrival to rise up and out as steam from my casper-the-ghost white skin.

But, Dammit Man! It's hot as hell here!

It's taken me several weeks to capitulate to what resident Texans have been telling us since we arrived. It's Hot. Blazing hot. Hot as balls. Sweltering, steaming, torrid-but-not-in-a-passionate-way, freaky-deaky hot. And I know we're not alone, friends in Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana have been reporting temps that make our mere 102s and 103s seem mild. It's so hot, Tex has refrained from grilling more than once.

 The trapped feeling arises from a few circumstances. It's unsafe and uncomfortable to do some of the things I really love. Walk, for example. Long walks exploring neighborhoods is a loved pass-time. Here it's difficult to do because there aren't in-between places like there are in Seattle. There I could walk from my apartment down to the Seattle Center, catch a splash from the fountain, or stop in one of the nine coffee shops for an iced something-or-other, and then continue toward Pike Place Market, where even on the hottest days a cool breeze will reach up from the Puget Sound just when the sun's rays feel relentless.

Here, little clusters of shops and restaurants don't seem to exist in too many places. Those that do are separated by miles of roads with questionable sidewalks, or no sidewalks at all. This is frustrating because I am craving to explore more of Dallas; to get lost in little nooks and crannies of neighborhoods; to discover that lovely little out-of-the-way place that transports the visitor to another time or place for the  duration of her stay.

Even so, and I openly admit this, I prefer the relentless heat to relentless rain. There are a lot of ways to beat the heat. For starters, every where is air-conditioned. Our house thermostat is set at about 80 degrees (I know, right?!) during the day. When I head to the store, I hop in the van which cools down pretty quickly, drive under beautiful blue sky, spend a few minutes soaking up vitamin D and breaking a sweat, only to be back in the comfort of cool air provided by the market. And if I can find a parking spot shaded by a tree - even better for the return trip.

The pool is another option for cooling down. The one pictured above is the smaller of two pools within a  minute's walk of our front door. When Tex gets home from his rigorous day we head over to this shaded oasis and refresh ourselves. It's divine. 

And then there are the usual respites from any kind of weather: movie theatres (high on our agenda for this coming weekend), the library, and several museums we're eager to check-out.

Steve McQueen isn't around to extinguish the dome, and the triple digits seem to be hanging around for a few more weeks, and that's all right. While sitting inside, which I'd be doing in the rain anyway, I get to look outside and see brilliant blue sky with more than enough sun to read from while comfortably curled up by the window. And when I want it, I pop outside and feel warmed to my core. 

Dammit Man, I'm not complaining.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tex Eck Looks for Help

Some readers already know, others will not, about a month after Tex Eck became Tex Eck his Father died. There will likely be future posts touching on this but Tex Eck wants to keep it focused on Big D for now.

So, isolated from friends, in a new and strange environment and taking on a massive new job responsibility, Tex Eck took the advice of, well, everybody, and tried to find some counseling. Mind you, Tex Eck does not look for professional counseling. Tex Eck just grits his teeth and fries another rasher of bacon. But this is more serious than bacon.

Read that last line again.

Now, when one is in new territory on a new health plan one asks co workers "do you have a good dentist?' or "where should I look for a primary care provider?" Less prudent would be to ask "I am looking for a shrink and I thought I would ask you as you strike me as stark raving bonkers."

So Tex Eck goes for the the most geographic convenient choice. That would be the Minirth Clinic.

Tex Eck arrives at 8 am for an 8:30 appointment. And waits. And waits. During this time Tex Eck notes many shoddy oil paintings of cabins set in some woods, or, really, a marsh. Whatever. Its a clinical waiting room. After about an hour Tex Eck decides to move into the site line of the obese administrative staff. Still here!

It is at this point Tex Eck's gaze falls on to what would seem to be an innocuous flyer housed in a Lucite frame which reads as follows:

"The Minirth Christian Program at Big Creek of the Buffalo River: A Hearts of Love Ministry"

Not done.

"Imagine starting and ending your day with a favorite Bible verse as you continue your therapy with a..."

Those are not just wannabe soothing paintings of cabins. It is One cabin and they want to take Tex Eck there! CIGNA pays for this? What the F&*k?!

There is no time to run now.

You see, the way this works is before you get to see a real doctor, like Newhart, you need to go through a counselor who can get certification off of a Boo Berry cereal box. So Ms. Frosted Haired SMU degrees takes Tex Eck back to her office. The story is told. Tex Eck explains his unique background as an only child and raised as a Christian Scientist. This explanation includes the notion that Christan Scientists don't hold funeral ceremonies as part of their beliefs.

Response from the Professional re: Tex Eck having no brothers or sisters: "Ah, you are what we call a Lonely Only." And then "Well you understand you NEED to have a funeral to achieve closure and... well you just NEED a funeral".

Uh, by "we" do you mean trained therapists who passed rigours examines to avoid doing further psychological damage to venerable people? Or by "we" do mean judgmental fundamentalist bitches who ooze Dallitutude (see previous posts) and who should not be allowed to suck at the straw that is submerged in the milkshake of my health insurance plan?

Now it is on to Doc Minirth. He asks some general questions- why did Tex Eck move to Dallas and such. Then "Do both of your parents still live in Seattle?" Well, no they don't both LIVE in Seattle. Why the F&%k do you think I am here!? Tex Eck does not go to these places for kicks.

So, Tex Eck will do what Tex Eck does. Fall back on the friends and true brothers he has relied on over so many years.

More to come.

And who names anything Big Creek at Buffalo River. A creek in a river? A**holes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More than a Haircut

Write more: letters, post-cards, blog-posts, e-mails, and yelp reviews. I'm counting it all towards meeting the goal. So today's posts includes a few reviews I've written for Yelp of some of the local places we've found that are helping Big D feel more like home. This is for Live Hair Group in Lower Greenville.

LIVE HAIR GROUP: For the first time in decades I'm living in the burbs, and honestly, there are some upsides: a bit of yard for a grill, a lack of emergency vehicle sirens to "enhance" our late night movie surround sound, and the absence of panhandlers at the grocery store. That said, when it comes to my tresses I'm a city girl, and the absence of a multitude of funky salons forced me to get in my car and start learning my way around beyond the scope of Richardson's city limits.

On a bright Tuesday morning I decided to hop in the car and head closer to Big D in search of a salon that would do right by the neglected natural blond hairs on my head. I chose Live Hair Group as a destination based on the rave reviews and put the car in drive.

My original goal was to get out, explore, and if I liked the salon I'd set an appointment. Getting there was easy; spotting the shop was a little tricky. After a straight shot down the 75, a left onto Mockingbird, and a right onto Greenville, I drove right by the salon three times looking for the storefront. Quick tip: If you're headed there for the first time - and I hope you will - look for the Granada's Marquee - the salon is in the shops across the street.

Once inside, I was pleased to find a pretty laid back set-up that was clearly focused on hair. It's a small boutique salon with approximately six chairs. They are currently working on expanding. Fortunately for me, one of those chairs was about to be empty and they were able to get me in as a walk-in.

The customer service lived up to the reputation that's been established in the yelp reviews. As a walk-in, I didn't talk with Jana ahead of time, but I think she would have been very happy with the consult I received from Tasha. My previous cut, which I loved, but had not kept up in the process of the move from Seattle, was an asymmetrical do that had been growing out for months. The bangs had been butchered in a few desperate, and failed, attempts to clean-up the look. I didn't just need a good new cut; I needed a rescue!

Tasha put on her super-sheers and saved the day with a cute cut that kept the appearance of some length and added lots of movement with layers throughout. Her precise technique kept the layers blended brilliantly in hair that will expose any wrong move. I love the cut and the style. Afterwards she offered to put some waves in my hair, and it felt like playing dress-up in a totally fun way.

As she cut and styled we chatted about Dallas and Austin and Texas in general. I appreciated that she had great tips on places to go and things to do, as well as some practical advice about how things work down here.

There was everything to love about this experience and the people who work at Live Hair Group. In a final love of Live, I have to shout out to their commitment for professional development. As a teacher lucky enough to have worked in a building that encouraged PD, I appreciate that not only does on-going education enhance what you do, it reinvigorates a love and excitement for the profession - and that vibe was clear in this crew of stylists!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dallas Reboot!

Hot diggity! It's been a busy few days as I've been excitedly preparing for our first visitor. In lieu of an original post,  have fun checking out information about the Dallas reboot here, and the original series here. In related news, imagine our glee when we learned that the Southfork Ranch, where the original series is set, although the ranch was used primarily for exterior shots, is just minutes from our humble suburban abode - and they offer tours!!  

Happy Friday,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tex Eck Rides Public Transportation

Ever since his days in the Bay Area riding Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains Tex Eck has loved convenient, reliable, cheap and frequent public transportation. From his days in Seattle however (Where Tex Eck went by a different name: Mr. Fifty Degrees Shirt Off Guy- don't look for the blog) Ol' Tex was resigned to cabs. Seattle tried to build a monorail for no apparent reason that would run between two neighborhoods nobody ever traveled between. Never happened,more of a Shellbyville idea but Seattle residents still pay for the approved funding on their car tabs. Then came the trolly car that goes from a place nobody lives to a place nobody works. It runs under the name South Lake Union Transit. As you can imagine it took local entrepreneurs about no seconds to start printing "Ride the SLUT" T-shirts. Which were banned on the Trolly cars. By the South Lake Union Transit Authority.

So Tex Eck was thrilled to learn that in the land of the Big Trucks- every day on the road is Sunday SUNday SUNDAY!!- there is a light rail called Dallas Area Rapid Transit. DART. Now it took Tex Eck a little while to get the hang of DART due to something you will read more about in other contexts on this blog: Dallitude. When it comes to DART, Dallitude requires that at certain income levels and certain zip codes one should drive their ca, er Truck/large SUV. "Look K, another Toyota Excuseya." Dallitude also smiles on talking on cell phones while driving as well as applying make up. Dallitude frowns upon things like designated drivers. You hear that phrase about as often as "honey, take the kids out of the back of the pick up before we drive, its not safe."

Now there is a soft, southern polite countenance that mixes with the Dallitude to form a strange cocktail of personal judgment. The result- no one will say to you that you should not ride that DART. A series of urban myths evolve that are passed on in hopes of achieving the same result. Tex Eck will now enumerate and respond to those claims.

Claim: The DART only runs during commuter hours, not late enough to go out at night.

Verdict: False. Dart runs as late as 1 am on weekends and almost as late during the week. Tex Eck does not think those with Dallitude are ever out late enough to notice this. Or sober enough behind the wheels of their Toyota Excuseyas.

Claim: DART is not air conditioned.

Verdict: False. Tex Eck has been at a DART station in 102 degree heat and when that train pulls up it is like the Coors Silver Bullet Blast commercials.

Claim: People who ride DART are smelly homeless drunks who are at best rude and at worst dangerous.

Verdict: Well... Look, it is public transportation in a city with a wide economic spectrum. In reality few cities, like San Francisco or New York, can claim people who make six figure salaries ride the train. This is not stopping Tex Eck. And as a final note, the pay system is sort of a de facto honor system- you purchase a ticket at a machine at a station. The fare is the same no matter how far you travel. Tickets are checked on a random system by DART employees on the train. Tex Eck has noticed that tickets are almost never checked during the stretch of stops in the poorest neighborhoods. Kind of a nod to the fact that there are people who need to get to and from work and home who can't even afford the modest DART fares.

More later. Tex Eck has a train to catch.

Exploring McKinney, TX

 This weekend we grabbed the camera and pointed the mini-van north to McKinney. This is a really neat, historic town and the main road approaching  downtown is lined with colonial style homes with turrets, large porches, and tall trees. I half expected a young Haley Mills to bop down the street in braids. 

Our first stop was the farmers market at Chestnut Square. The buildings of the historic village provide shade for market. Seeing as this market is open on Saturdays year-round, the shade is big advantage in the summer heat. 

We learned a bit about local agriculture, discovered 'Three Happy Cows', a local dairy that makes amazing yogurt, and heard some great live music. 

After the market we walked back toward the main stretch of shops. If you're big into antiquing then there's a lot to love. For us, the grail was discovering Loco Cow Poke Salsa Shop, pictured to the left. 

Featuring flavors and heat from all across the state, this little shop is a wonderfully interactive introduction to the tastes of Texas. Each day they feature several hot sauces, salsas, dipping sauces, nut butters, and more that are available to taste. They also sell a wide variety of rubs. As far as we could tell everything was made in the state with primarily Texan ingredients. Happy husband walked out the door with a bag full of inspiration for his next trip to the butcher. 

Our next stop was the Landon Winery.  When looking at places to visit in McKinney, I had mistakenly thought this was an actually winery, which was part of the attraction for the stop. Instead it is a lovely wine-tasting room. While not the picturesque vineyard I'd been hoping for, the experience was still fun and the wines, our first Texas wines, were surprisingly good and the bartender was a hoot. 

We finished the day with a light lunch at Rick's Chophouse and then hopped in the car for a little more exploring and then turned toward home.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tex Eck here. Mrs. Tex Eck, who I refer to as "K" has done the yeoman's work of launching this viper and will likely be there for you day to day. Think of Tex Eck more as the the Peter O'Toole character in the film My Favorite Year who barges into the the room and proclaims "If I were drunk could I do this..." Tex Eck expected his first post to center on the first use of Dallas mass transit or any number of topics related to local food preparation but circumstances dictate otherwise. The greater Dallas area has a fantastic music scene and one of the icons of the music that made Tex Eck who he is has passed. The Big Man. Clarence Clemons.

Tex Eck first saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live in 1987 at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma Washington. Had a learner's permit but no license so Father had to drive Tex Eck about an hour to the T-Dome. (The world's largest all wooden dome which Father designed- another post) It was the the Tunnel of Love tour. Important for many reasons. First, the Born in the USA tour a couple of years earlier never played in Tacoma because Bruce got sick. Supposedly from the locally tolerable but otherwise toxic Aroma of Tacoma that wafted from an arsenic plant just a mile from the event. Second, and as a result of the first, Bruce played the longest (4 plus hours) and generally regarded as the best show of the tour that night. Tex Eck still remembers his opening: "Last time I was here I was sick as a dog. But I feel great tonight!" Third, and finally, Tunnel of Love was some of the best song writing Bruce had done to that point. It was a marked departure from Born in the USA, which, although it made him a mega star, also disillusioned him when the title track was adopted by Ronald Reagan as an almost second nation anthem. Tex Eck is sitting here on the 4th of July listening to endless snippets from the song over various sporting events. They never seem to play the lyric "first kick I took was when I hit the ground." Hmm.

Anyway, the album about failed marriage and lost middle age dreams was recorded at the then standard of 80s synthesizers and tin pop drums. But live, and here we get to the Big Man, the great songs came alive. Sax was Tex Eck's axe back in those days and the Big Man got long, sprawling solos that would make Gerry Garcia need to pause for a smoke. Father came to pick Tex Eck up and was allowed in to watch the last two hours of the show.

All you need to do is open the album (yes ALBUM cover) of Born to Run and witness the pure joy these artists shared over more than 30 years. So Tex Eck is going to drop the needle on Jungle Land and get lost in some old memories.

More to come

Friday, July 1, 2011

Texas Plates and Plans to Use Them

Sometimes important things can sneak up on me. Things like the fact that my Washington tabs expired yesterday and I hadn't begun to research how to go about registering the vehicle here. 

Quickly, well quickly for someone who waited until the very last minute to begin action on this item, I contacted the county tax assessor's office, they handle vehicle titles and registrations, and I actually talked to a person, a woman who was incredibly helpful! She informed me that I needed a vehicle inspection, an emissions test, cash to cover the $90 "New Resident Tax" and other licensing fees; she even gave me the exact total I'd need to bring. Then she offered the address of an office thirty minutes closer to home that wasn't listed on the website. 

Let's pause and appreciate this for a moment: a person answered the phone, had answers to questions I didn't even know to ask, and was pleasant! 

Things are different here. 

In Washington, emissions tests are required to register a vehicle, although general vehicle inspections are not. The state operates the stations where the tests are performed and they are mostly hard to find and far away, minimally staffed- resulting in long waits, and they seem to randomly close just to annoy citizens (who may have perhaps procrastinated...I admit to a pattern). 

In Texas, private businesses are certified to perform both inspections. A garage near-by got me in immediately. The waiting area, while decidedly not cozy, was decorated with a neon Heineken sign in the shape of the state of Texas. Twenty minutes later the inspection was complete, the service rep cheerfully congratulated me for passing, stapled all of the paperwork together for me, made sure I knew what I needed to take with me to the license office and asked if I needed directions! 

Again, a pause to appreciate that I'm a total of thirty minutes into what I expected to be a five hour ordeal and I'm halfway done and smiling. 

Now the real test approaches, finding the actual license office and getting through the line on the last day of the month at 2:00 in the afternoon of the Thursday before a holiday weekend in a state where July Fourth is serious business. 

And, it was easy! Really. Remember the nice lady on the phone at the county office. She gave me entirely accurate information, allowing a pleasant conversation between me and the clerk assisting me. Kimmie even had me smiling as I handed over the hunk of cash-money needed to finalize the process. Plus there was the bonus of walking out the door with my new plates, which I learned, from Kimmie, in Texas are actually made by inmates - and that when she first started working at this office one of the prisons went into lock-down and lots of agencies were scrambling trying to find plates. I walked out the door before 3:00 with the task complete and a bit giddy. 

Our car is now tricked out with Texas plates, which leads me to the second part of this post's title and the reason there's a cookbook in the photo. Mr. Tex-Eck has Monday off for the holiday so we're planning a bit of an excursion as part of the three day weekend. The plan is to drive up through McKinney, a neighboring town with historic neighborhoods, a popular farmers market, pumpkin farms (not open yet) and vineyards. We're looking at it as a chance to see more of Texas than the pavement and suburban terrain of Richardson in a day trip. And perhaps we'll have the opportunity to procure some local ingredients for "Beautiful" Texas vittles in Sweet Husband's newest cookbook. 

Thanks for reading and a happy holiday weekend to you! What are your plans for the 4th? Do you have any other suggestions for day trips around the Dallas area? (This time we're mostly car bound due to recent extraction of stitches from Tex-Ecks foot; he'll have to post about that one!)


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


It's taking me a little bit of work to get used to the bugs. Our former pad in downtown Seattle, WA, was about as bug free as a place can get. (With the exception of the bee hive that formed while we were traveling the coast by train last summer; thankfully that mischief was managed by a pro, pronto.) 

Our Texan experience is a bit different. We've already fought off a colony of red ants and been visited by a Locust Borer Beetle, which is quite pretty and whom my friend Helen named Marco. And in the past few days a bunch of belly-up exoskeletons were discovered in the garage. The latter really had me squeamish. I'm already obsessing about making sure the kitchen is spotless before we head to bed, and as soon as those little buggers made an appearance I started double bagging the garbage - no damn cockroaches inside, please! Gross, yuck, ick, shiver, and ewwww, I hate bugs!

Flash forward to this morning, as I amble on down the stairs I notice an out-of-place dot on the carpet in our tv room, which adjoins the kitchen. Ugh. I was hopeful that it was a giant piece of lint, or a puff from the carpet, even, please god, a large crumb from the brownie I devoured the night before while watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with Mr. Tex-Eck. Nope. As feared, it's a belly-up critter, still wiggling the front most right leg as though gasping for me to save it. No. Way. In. Hell was I about to touch it. Thank goodness for renting - a quick call to management later in the day and the exterminator is on the way. 

As I'm waiting for the bug-buster I keep walking past this creature and wondering if I should pick it up or dispose of it. Does the bug guy need to see it? Need to know where the death occurred? Is this like insect CSI? Remember - Seattle, no bugs? As the afternoon goes on and no bug dude has arrived, I decide to put the thing in the trash. And that's when I learned a valuable lesson. Had I picked the thing up earlier I would have seen that it was not, in fact, a cock-a-roach (just me, or does Scar Face echo here), but instead was a June-bug. Trust me, from the belly they look alike. Lesson learned and easier sleep achieved. 


Where You'll Find the Tex-Ecks

The red highlights the counties that make up the Dallas-Fort Worth counties. We're located in the north-eastern part of Dallas County in a city called Richardson between Dallas and Plano on highway 75.