Sunday, November 30, 2008

Homecoming, unwired

Although it was bittersweet to say goodbye to Kate's family, we were lucky to get out of New England this morning before the weather got nasty.

In the future, we will have to remember to allow three hours door-to-door when leaving Worcester to catch a flight out of Boston. Our slightly late start alone wouldn't have killed us, but searching for a gas station near the airport to fill up the rental car at the last minute, getting left behind by the rental car bus (thanks for nothing, Budget!) and a post-Thanksgiving bottleneck at security came within minutes of making us miss our flight.

The plane was all set to board when we finally got to the gate, so there was no time to grab coffee. They serve Dunkin' Donuts coffee on JetBlue, but I figured I'd just wait until we got to Austin to get my fix since coffee from an airplane almost always tastes terrible regardless of who makes it. That was a mistake. My head was throbbing by the time we landed.

Fortunately, Cisco's Bakery is just a short drive from the airport. Once we settled down to cups of coffee and plates of migas, my cranium slowly began to loosen and I regained the ability to speak in semi-complete sentences without mumbling. All I need now is one more day off.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving in pilgrim land

Kate and I are winding down from our third turkey dinner since arriving in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. We've had a short but very full visit. It's cold here, but not as cold as it could be this time of year.

Aside from visiting with family, we've been taking it very easy. We did squeeze in a short walk through the woods with Kate's longtime chum Caitie earlier this afternoon. The woods here take on a different character with each season. Coming from Texas, being in an environment with four distinctive seasons is really quite remarkable.

Our JetBlue flight leaves from Logan at 8am tomorrow. Since we're driving into Boston from Worcester, we'll need to wake up around 4:45am and amp ourselves up with some large regulahs from Dunkin' Donuts. It's already way past time to start nudging ourselves toward sleep, so I know we'll need the traditional New England pick-me-up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's up with the waterfall billboard?

I was in Dallas for my job earlier today and noticed the landmark waterfall billboard on Goat Hill overlooking Stemmons Freeway is currently a skeleton of its former self.

Back in May 2007, this here blog noted a report about Trammell Crow building luxury condos on Goat Hill where Baby Doe's Matchless Mine restaurant once stood, but the billboard was supposed to remain.

Seeing such a nostalgic totem of my early childhood ripped up like that was traumatic, but I had to play it cool because I was piloting an embarrassingly large rental SUV full of fellow state employees. Fortunately, the waterfall billboard is merely being repaired, not done away with.

The Dallas Morning News reports Clear Channel Outdoor is restoring the iconic billboard to its original 1962 condition, when it was constructed to advertise Pearl Beer. This news segment about the billboard aired on KXAS in October. Restoration is expected to be completed in January.

All I can say to this ray of hope in a troubled world is, "Great job, Clear Channel!" Gee, that felt weird.

Photo by Debra Jane Seltzer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Southwest plans to bite the Big Apple

Southwest Airlines may finally start flying to New York City proper if an upcoming bankruptcy court ruling goes its way.

The Dallas-based airline has confirmed a Bloomberg News report that it plans to buy the assets of bankrupt ATA Airlines for $7.5 million so it can obtain ATA's 14 takeoff and landing slots at LaGuardia Airport. This would allow Southwest to fly seven round trips a day to supplement its current service to Islip, N.Y., which is way the hell out on Long Island.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis is expected to consider the plan Dec. 2.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

As the stomach turns

I accidentally made my wife throw up for the first time Friday night.

We were having pints at Dog & Duck as we often do, but Kate had given blood earlier in the day and never had time to eat a full lunch. As such, she was both tired and hungry, so we ordered a plate of nachos.

Just as we dug in, I decided to recount a somewhat disgusting yet noteworthy incident from the workday. Shortly after I'd arrived at the office Friday morning, my colleague Jean walked over to my cube and asked he to look inside her coffee mug. I peered in and saw the corpse of a large cockroach floating in a sea of cold coffee. It was pretty gross, but at least it enlivened the morning.

As regular readers of Kate's blog know, she cannot stand cockroaches. They freak her right the flip out. Having grown up in New England, she never had to come to terms with cockroaches as big as Hyundais crawling across her pillow as I did while growing up in Houston. Seeing one of those for the first time as an adult is bound to be traumatic, especially if you have a proclivity toward cleanliness and order.

That said, I didn't expect merely relating the café au cucaracha saga would do anything but give Kate a fleeting case of willies. As it was, she bolted up from the table and ran toward the ladies room. Fortunately for everyone, there was no line. I'd literally made my wife sick.

When she got back to the table, I apologized profusely. It is to Kate's eternal credit that she was able to laugh about it.

Any way you spin it, though, I'm now saddled with some seriously negative vomit karma.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Longtime Top Notch manager dies

Although I was not a regular patron, I was saddened to hear about the death of Top Notch manager James Stanish at age 50. Stanish died unexpectedly in his sleep on Sunday. The restaurant has been closed ever since and its future is currently uncertain.

The Stanish family has owned Top Notch since the early Seventies. Stanish started working there when he was 12. He was the only person in possession of the Burnet Road drive-in's secret sauce recipe. Aside from burgers and fried chicken, the restaurant's biggest claim to fame came in 1993, when Austin-based director Richard Linklater used Top Notch as a focal point for Dazed and Confused.

The thing I admired most about Top Notch is the fact that Stanish closed the place for two weeks every summer and hung a giant banner out front that read, "On vacation." I always found it quite heartening to pass by that banner every morning on the way into work.

UPDATE (11/19/08): KVUE says Top Notch will reopen on Monday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fun, Fun, Fun

I turned 40 last Wednesday. I couldn't find a newspaper to commemorate the occasion to save my life, but that's what you get for being born at election time.

Two Sundays ago, my clever and thoughtful wife threw me a surprise bowling party to commemorate the occasion. Kate encouraged attendees to dress like me at different points of my life, so my dad showed up wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Chuck Taylors, which were my somewhat unfortunate uniform for much of the late Eighties and early Nineties. For her part, my mom dressed wore a Randall's uniform to represent my illustrious sacking tenure there. I don't think I could've been more surprised at that particular sight.

This past weekend, Kate and I went to Fun Fun Fun Fest in Waterloo Park. Aside from the dust, the festival lived up to its Big Boys-inspired name with spirited performances by the Krum Bums, Young Widows, Municipal Waste, the Dead Milkmen, the Ugly Beats, the Cynics, D.O.A. and many more under mild blue skies.

The only downer of the festival came when I overheard a couple of youthful punk rockers referring to someone in one of the many reformed acts playing by saying, "Shit, man. That dude's old. He's like 40 or something."

I don't mind the loud music one bit, but I wish the kids would keep it down when they say things like that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Wow. It's not often that I shed tears on account of a historic national event. There were a few on 9/11. And after Hurricane Katrina. But tonight, as I watched the crowd at the church where Martin Luther King once preached celebrate the election of Barack Obama, there were tears of joy.

There's plenty to be done, but tonight we celebrate.

Today is the day

I was born the day Richard Nixon successfully harnessed white resentment and Democratic disarray to squeak his way into the White House. I’m fervently hoping I can close the book on this last full day of my fourth decade on the planet knowing Barack Obama will be our next president. That would be one hell of a birthday present.

In my first five presidential elections, it always felt like I was voting for the lesser of two evils. This year was different. Obama is the first presidential candidate I've ever truly voted for.

Assuming he's elected, whether Obama can live up to the promise that precedes him remains to be seen. If he does, and I think he may in spite of my tendency toward pessimism, we could go a long way toward undoing the catastrophic damage wrought upon the nation and the world by eight years of Bush/Cheney rule.

Here's hoping today is the day.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

How white was my pony

Who says Lawrence Welk didn't know how to get with the changing times? Here are dancers Elaine Balden and Bobby Burgess doing their rendition of "Land of 1,000 Dances" from 1981, a mere 19 years after New Orleans R&B great Chris Kenner recorded it for the first time.