Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Sunday (of course!) the thermometer returned to 60s and 70s range.
Yesterday we hit the low 80's. Way too nice for northwest Kansas in March. This week I'm seeing just how many meals I can cook outside (i.e. grill) before we have another bust of the cold.
That's right. I'm going into my third April here on the prairie (time flies, don't it?) and I figure we're not out of the frigid cold just yet. Spring is here and that means varying temperatures that can sometimes be extreme. I don't care if the weather predictors have us nice and warm for the present, I know Mother Nature is lurking, getting that Arctic air ready for one final blast before taking the cold to the southern hemisphere.
Still it's nice not to have to wear a jacket outdoors and have the windows open for a change. C'mon summer!
Monday, March 22, 2010
(Yes, we do have retailers here in town but none of their microwave products meet our needs.)
Hey, it couldn't be any worse than the summer of 2001 where, following a house fire, we subsisted using a kitchen that did not have a working range until the repair/remodel was complete. Geogal and I learned to make do with a microwave, an electric skillet, a deep fryer, and a toaster oven.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Got (like a lot of sports fans) a fair amount of college hoops this weekend. And yes, my team lost. Even though the Aggies blew it in the final moments and Michigan State is going on to the Sweet 16, there's no such thing as a moral victory.
Still, there's always next season.
The Big 12 was decimated. Go K-State Wildcats! Go Baylor Bears!
Also can't help noticing that the three old-time rivals, New Mexico State, UTEP, and the University of New Mexico didn't make it out of this weekend.
What was I saying about next season?
Made a vegetarian dish for supper this evening: Black Bean Chili. Even finicky little Geoana liked it ("This is awesome," she said). So, Sweet Cousin Julie, rest assured there is at least one tasty vegan (that's right, no animal products anywhere in this concoction) dish out there that's loaded with flavor and fills you up to boot. Impress your Galveston friends!
This one will probably be a staple on the upcoming camping sojourn to Yellowstone (one of our Arizona friends is a strict veggie eater).
Finished up another chore of bathroom remodeling work, nailing in the baseboard molding. Did that yesterday, now today my glutes (oh, let's just be blunt--my butt muscles) really hurt. All that bending down and getting up. Now to just get some help installing the light fixture and having D.K. assist me in putting the door over the shutoff valves and this project will be DONE. And thanks, Mom and Dad, for the compliments about me taking on such a job. Who knows, maybe I'll be doing drywall repair in your house someday.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
(Sneak preview: Summer vacation, 2010. We'll be meeting our Arizona friends at Yellowstone. Camping, again. Geogal has already instructed me to take one of the guns and assured me we will stop for ammunition. Bear protection.)
Back to the past. Even though I was traveling for a family funeral there's nothing that said I couldn't indulge my pastime of plugging in the DTV stick and seeing what channels I can get on the MacBook. And ever since I bought the EyeTV hybrid I've been wondering what I could receive while sitting at Mom and Dad's kitchen table in Seguin. I used to take my little analog receiver (yes, that one) and marvel that I could watch nearly all of the San Antonio stations and most of the Austin ones as well.
But digital? Not so much. I couldn't grab the VHF residents (KLRN and KSAT from the Alamo City and KTBC/Austin) with my dinky rabbit ears. WOAI , KENS, KABB, and a couple of Spanish-language outlets were there for my enjoyment. While the scan detected KEYE, KXAN, KLRU, and KVUE from the capital city the antenna couldn't provide a strong enough to-be-watchable signal.
Before flying out of Austin I wanted to set up my gear and do another scan. I did so, only this was inside the airport terminal where the RF and solid construction served to wreak havoc with my DTV enjoyment. Just a couple were there for the taking. I got screengrabs but didn't have the luxury of time to catch the legal ID's.
It was time for the local Saturday morning news shows. Here's an image from KVUE:
And one from KXAN:
Side note: Over the past many months I've accumulated some legal ID screencaps from my journeys. I'll soon post them at my other blog-site.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Me: "What's the URL for that site in Colorado that rents camper trailers?"
Geogal: "I think it's campingadventures, or adventurescamping, or something like that. It's in the history."
Me: "Which browser, and which machine?"
This is what is bound to happen when you have two full-fledged Macs and an iPod Touch. Plus I got the latest issue of Mac-Life and now I really want an iPad.
(It'll be a hoot to revisit this entry in 2020 and see just how cheesy and retro the aforementioned devices became.)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
All of us, save those who are either military brats or true gypsies, have one spot on the map to which we will always feel a connection. It might be one’s hometown, a place you were born, raised, graduated from high school, and where your family of origin still resides. For others it is a city where you started your career, fell in love (for real this time) and started a family of your own. A third category would be a place that forever will link you to your forebears.
I fall into that last criteria.
The place is Seguin, Texas. It has a population of some 25,000 residents but still pales in size compared to its nearby neighbors, New Braunfels (40k) and San Marcos (over 50,000, although I don’t know if that takes into account the student population of Texas State University).
Even though it boasts the world’s largest pecan and has a couple of state historic sites (Los Nogales and Sebastopol) many Texans are unaware of this place. In fact I had a recent phone conversation with a professional colleague in which I mentioned my recent jaunt to Seguin. This person lives and works in Austin, barely an hour’s drive to the north. She didn’t know whereof I spoke and one of her coworkers had to clue her in.
The regular readers of this blog who are not members of my family might deduce this is where my recently deceased grandmother lived. You’re right. If I recall correctly she lived there for 68 years. My mother, while not native to Seguin, lived there for most of her childhood, leaving after high school graduation to attend the University of Texas. She and my father retired to Seguin many years back. My aunt and uncle were born there. I’ve visited this town more times than I can recall. Since I’ve lived several places and several states during my life I can’t say I have a true hometown. I do, however, have Seguin.
And there lies the connection.
Flashback to Tuesday, March 2. I’ve landed at Austin Bergstrom and am zooming (as much as the speed limit and rush-hour traffic will allow) toward Seguin. To show you how task-oriented I was at the time, I drove by two renowned barbecue joints in the town of Lockhart, which unabashedly proclaims itself to to be the “Barbecue Capital of Texas,” per the state legislature. I’m hungry, it is the dinner hour, and I’ve been traveling since 7:30 in the morning. I don’t stop and eat at either Black’s Barbecue or Kreuz Market. Nope, I tell myself. Gotta get to Seguin.
I’m traveling alone and I admit I enjoy the solitude and low stress level of making a journey by my lonesome. I don’t have to hear the wife and child getting fed up with each other (or me feeling the same way about them). No talking. I get to be alone with my thoughts.
I reach Luling and merge onto Interstate 10, westbound. The sun’s going down. Fatigue is starting to get me. “Just a short distance more,” I keep telling myself. Soon I see a sign: “F.M. 1104, Kingsbury, next exit.” My mother’s words from the mid-1970’s came into my head.
“See that sign? It’s Kingsbury. That means the next town is Seguin.”
Ever since moving “back” to Texas from the east coast in 1974, the drive to Seguin was something of a family tradition. Several times a year mom, dad, my sisters, and I would visit Seguin and grandma. Always took Interstate 10. Usually started the trip in late afternoon (if it was a Friday). Depending on the time of year we would sometimes arrive in darkness. And always that Kingsbury exit sign was a harbinger that our destination was but a few more miles down the road.
Back to the present. I pass a new Texas rest area, large and welcoming. There’s a nice traveler center and free Wi-Fi. None of us could even imagine a thing like that back in the days of President Ford, a 55-miles-per-hour speed limit, and cars running on leaded gasoline. Then I pass a construction zone. This must be the interchange for the new Texas Highway 130, a toll road. (Yet another thing you couldn’t fathom back in the old days).
Finally I see the lights of my destination. End of the road for now. Check into the hotel, make sure I look somewhat presentable, and go out to meet the rest of the family.
I remember 1982. Fourth of July holiday time. Our family was in the midst of a move from Texas to Albuquerque. First stop was Seguin. Spend a few days at Grandma’s before dad and I hit the road to New Mexico. At that time Seguin’s Independence Day celebration was referred to as the “Freedom Fiesta.” Huge midway, kiddie rides, face painting, a haunted house (which always served to scare the beheejees out of my younger sister), live bands, and food. Lots of food.
At this particular Fiesta I saw someone holding what looked like a taco. Only it wasn’t a taco. Not the traditional version, anyway. I saw strips of meat in a flour tortilla (in Texas at this time the corn tortilla ruled the Mexican food roost). It was a small flour tortilla, almost the size of its corn counterpart. I’m not sure why it looked appealing to me, I only remember that it just did. “I’ve got to try one of these.” I headed over to the food vendors and soon found my prey. The Seguin Jaycees were selling something called “fajitas.” I queued up, paid my money, and soon held in my hand that mysterious concoction that looked so appealing just a few minutes before.
First bite. My taste buds sent the brain’s pleasure center into overdrive. After downing that first fajita I bought another. Soon the rest of my family was intrigued by this unknown combination of grilled flank steak, guacamole, onions, and jalapenos served in a small four tortilla that folded in half, similar to a taco.
Those Jaycees must have done well with the fajita booth that July. I think my clan alone paid for several of their civic projects over the next fiscal year.
Illegal drug users, especially those who used cocaine or heroin, always describe their very first use. Because of drug use causing changes to the brain chemistry they never experience that wonderful, euphoric “first high” ever again.
I think I myself will be chasing that “first fajita high” for the rest of my days. I’ve eaten them at dozens of restaurants in numerous locales over many years but never again have I had one as good as those first ones in Seguin.
I haven’t lived in Texas since the aforementioned move out of state in 1982. But it seems no matter where I live I always feel anchored to Seguin. While my own child likely won’t have the same connection to this burg I am positive the “family ties” will continue in my extended kinsfolk. Whether it’s from those who graduated from Texas Lutheran University or simply those who make frequent visits to my mom and dad’s house, my maternal grandparents’ descendants are unquestionably tied to this nondescript South-Central Texas town. It’s not a perfect place and no doubt it has its seedy areas (some of which I saw on this most recent visit). Still, revisiting the words I used to begin this essay, just about all of us feel some tie to a place on the map. Seguin is my place. I knew this all along but it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I could cognitively determine this bond. Grandma’s death and funeral, which necessitated my journey, seemed to finally put it all together to the point where I can translate my thoughts and memories into the written word. For those of you reading this who are not members of my family, be sure to enjoy and celebrate wherever it is you feel that unchanging and indescribable bond . And for those of you who are a part of my mother’s family, I’ll bet your place is Seguin, too.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Even though the occasion was tinged with sadness I still took delight in the travel notwithstanding my elevated stress due to never-ending travel arrangements. Once I'm in the aircraft with the seatbelt buckled everything seems right with the world.
The middle and ending parts of last week also featured some of the best weather to be found in South Texas. Not too hot, not too cold. Not humid. Beautiful blue sky and abundant sunshine.
Although the funeral was my purpose for being there there was no law saying I couldn't enjoy being away from the home front once my duty as a pallbearer and supportive family member drew to a close. Geodad and I even set aside a few hours and visited Cabela's in Buda (huge, HUGE place!--much larger than the Kearney location I frequent).
Then there's the food. No visit to The Lone Star State would be complete without treating my palate to chicken-fried steak, Whataburger, Tex-Mex, and BBQ. Did all four although the Tex-Mex was only symbolic, a couple of tamales made by a friend of the family as matter of condolence.
Still, they were good.
And no, I didn't get on the scale upon returning home.
Geogal and I also got to try the Apple version of Skype, iChat. Videoconferencing is mighty easy once you get an iMac and a MacBook to talk to each other.
Didn't bring the Sirius tuner with me and I was OK with terrestrial radio this time around. Did I mention San Antonio has the two best country music stations around? Y100 on the FM dial and 680 KKYX on the AM band. Modern country and classic country respectively. I challenge you to find a better duo. Shortly after landing and procuring my rental vehicle I heard Y100 list the nightlife and they included who was playing at Gruene Hall (touted by their web site as "Texas' oldest dance hall"). To save you out-of-staters a trip to Google, Gruene (pronounced "green") is a very historic very small burg completely surrounded now by New Braunfels. The definitive one-of-a-kind place.
I also picked up a copy of Texas Monthly, a publication I've read on and off for the past 30 years (yes, I was even perusing it as a high schooler). Their cover story this month is: "The Bucket List, 63 things all Texans should do before they die."
Turns out I've done several of them already. #5, See the world in San Antonio (the viewing deck at the Tower of the Americas); #6, Visit the State Fair of Texas; #18, Drive the River Road, near Lajitas; #19, Drink a free beer at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner (I actually drank four); #37, Ride the ferry between Galveston and the Bolivar Penninsula; #46, Watch two classic Texas films (The Last Picture Show and Tender Mercies), #52, Roll down Miller Hill in Houston (Hermann Park, to be exact. My sister and I called it "Dead Man's Hill.")
Back to food and drink. One remembrance of Grandma is visiting her house in Seguin as a small child. It was summertime (it always seemed to be summertime there). She had the ice chest full of drinkables: Coca Cola, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, and Big Red. 12-ounce glass bottles. Best soda I ever drank.
A couple of days after the funeral I went (along with the Geoparents) to City Market in nearby Luling for a BBQ lunch. I got a half pound of brisket, a half-pound of ribs, and a slice of white bread (Mrs. Bairds). Washed it all down with a bottle of cold Big Red.
A glass bottle.