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!)