Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Texas

Back to Grand Prairie for Christmas.  In case you don't know Grand Prairie was named by a lady who stepped off the train many moons ago in this sleepy burg and exclaimed, "my, what a grand prairie".  Obviously things have changed a bit since then but it is, none-the-less, a true story - supposedly.

First order of business is a magnificent feed at Max and Jackie's.  Most of the usual suspects showed up as well as a few extras.  This is the core of my old church youth group and we are still tight 40 years on.  I know, you're thinking "church"?  Yea well, it's a long story.  Suffice to say - great food, great people.

Monday brings Max's Christmas Eve church service.  Max gets more entertaining as each year rolls by.  Lots of music, a herd of McCaslands and lots of candles make for a nice evening.  I am proud of Max.  He dedicated this service to the Connecticut school shooting victims and called for action on gun control from the pulpit.  This being a church in Ft Worth Texas the message had to have made some of his congregation uneasy but it damn sure needed to be said.  Good work Max!

I spent 30 years in Texas and never once remember a white Christmas.  This year we got it.  Christmas day was a winter wonderland with big fluffy flakes falling till there was actually a couple of inches on the ground.  Enough to make it official.  Of course no one knows how to drive in the stuff because most have never seen it before which made the auto body repair guys happy with all the extra business.  We all go over to Betty and Wally's for a little Christmas tree and cheer where we all take pictures of each other and then to Jeannie and Ray's for dindin.  

Even made a run to the barn to feed the horses who were as confused as the humans about the white stuff falling from the sky.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Still ramblin'

From Austin we head back out to the hill country to Fredericksburg - now home of JoAnn's sister Sandi and her husband Gary (the parents of the bride from an earlier post if you are keeping up).  More Mexican food and BBQ in an alternating pattern.  Lots of great limestone and log buildings from the Germans who settled this area in the 1800s.  Good chance to visit and catch up that we didn't have at the wedding. Plus that fact that it  is in the seventies and sunny in December doesn't hurt.

Fredericksburg is nice but there is more Mexican food calling so it is off to Weatherford to visit my old racing buddy Ol Weird Harold.  I would never have expected truly gourmet Mexican food in Texas but it does exist in the little town of Godley.  Tacos del Norte is a revamped gas station at the highway crossroads that doles out the best.  Below is definitely one of the best chile rellenos I have ever had.  If you find yourself south of Ft Worth, check it out.

Ol Weird is an interesting fellow.  Like many guys, he likes to keep a project going in the garage.  Unlike many guys his latest project is a Bonneville speed car - a 1927 model T with a model A body and a blown straight six GMC truck motor under the hood.  It makes a wonderful noise.  Harold has forgotten more about cars than most people will ever know.

His last project is still taking up space in the garage as well - a Devin SS, one of the last kits from Bill Devin. It is a 1950s sport racer that Harold has finished beautifully.

Now if he would just race the damn thing . . .

Monday, December 17, 2012

. . . on to Austin

On the way into Austin the truck rolls over . . . to 200K miles that is.  And the DUBY keeps on crusin'.

We journey into Austin and land at an AirBnB spot that is perfect.  A mid-century modern house in northeast Austin with an attached 1 bedroom apartment.  One of the owners is a mid-century furniture dealer and has furnished the place in period.  At about 650 sqft (1 1/2 times the size of our first NY apartment) it does the job admirably.  If we were here in the warmer weather there is even a pool.  When we lived in Austin this would have been WAY out of town.  Now it is VERY convenient to everything.  Go figure.

We take in the Blanton museum on the UT campus for a Buddhist Thangka exhibit from Theos Bernard's collection from 1937.  Interesting museum and a nice addition to campus art but the architecture leaves a bit to be desired.  This was the museum that had initially been designed by the international architecture firm of Herzog and de Meuron but was deemed too modern by one of our esteemed Board of Regent's members.  Herzog and de Meuron declined the commission and one of our local Texas architects completed the building.  It is a typical red tile roof and limestone edifice that fits right in with the Paul Cret campus design.  The only problem is the scale.  It simply looks like a typical campus building on steroids.  Way too big.  What a shame.  UT lost an opportunity for a world-class building.

First night in Austin we meet up with our Buddhist friends for a meditation at their center.  Good friends, many of whom we saw in New York at the Phowa.  They have a live-in center with six residents.  several more make up the sangha.  Great folks all.

The next night is dinner with old friends Jerry and Amy.  We go back WAY too far and it is always nice to catch up.  They take us to a wonderful spot on 6th Street where we eat too much and marvel at the circus that 6th Street has become.  What used to be the heart of Texas rock and roll has now become our very own Bourbon Street.  Kind of unfortunate actually.  There is however some interesting art on the street . . .

 On Friday I drive up to Center City with my friend Dale to the funeral for Virginia.  Virginia was a friend and mother to dear friends from high school and the years in between.   Hard to believe it has been 40+ years of knowing them.  It was just by chance that things worked out that I could go.  A familiar reunion for a sad occasion in a wonderful small country Texas church.  A chance to see friends after many years.  

Saturday is simply a day of doing nothing - or very little.  Just catching up with all those things we must do to exist in the world (insurance, bills, etc...) and taking a day to be easy.  Then we end the weekend with a trip to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.  We meet up with Debbie and Pat again and have a chance to see the Lounge Lizards performing wonderfully politically incorrect music.  Long live the Lizards!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

. . . and (some of) December

Cowboy dreams aside, we head back to Denver to a plane ride back to Dallas. Safely ensconced at Pat's once again, we contemplate the end of 2012.
Took in the new Perot Science Museum in big D - definitely worth checking out.  Glad to see he is putting his money toward something useful like education instead of wasting it running for president.
More eating and visiting.  While JoAnn and Pat made Christmas cookies (and sampled wine) with Wally and Betty I ventured down to Kaufman for a good visit with Thomas.

Everyone will be happy to hear that we did actually solve all the world's problems with a long conversation deep into the night. Next day brought breakfast with Alfred and Caroline, an exhaustive 15 minute tour of beautiful Kaufman and finally BBQ and the Kaufman Christmas Tree lighting parade. Kaufman wheeled out all three of their emergency vehicles and a couple of tractors and hay trailers with local partiers. Kaufman - always a hopping spot. (Sorry no photos)

 The weekend brings breakfast with Dawn and dinner with Ken and Susan and the girls. Dallas/Ft Worth is always such a pleasure to visit. You can see anyone and anything easily. After only a 45 minute drive at 80 or 90 mph you can be anywhere in the metroplex. Unless of course you actually take the freeway which is constantly under construction or you happen to be killed in a massive traffic accident. I'm not sure where they got all of this concrete but I suspect there is a big-ass hole in the ground somewhere.

Never ones to stay anyplace too long, we are back on the road headed to the hill country.  First, a couple of nights with Debbie and Pat in Dripping Springs.   Good visit as we played pool and Mahjong and enjoyed their fabulous new kitchen.  Tried to take a hike at Pedernales Falls State Park but it was closed to people without guns.  Seems Bambi needed killing and God forbid any of us unarmed taxpayers get in the way.  So we decided to head to Blanco State Park instead and had a nice afternoon hike complete with pockets full of pecans.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What a long strange November . . .

Harrisonburg is wonderfully hospitable as Doug and Nancy showed us the sites.  Who knew the theater was alive and well and western Virginia?  We managed to attend three plays in two weeks.  First a modern play in Harrisonburg - Love Song - was a treat and a glimpse of what we were in for in Virginia.  Next we venture down to Staunton,VA (pronounced Stanton for all you non-locals) to the Blackfriars theater and two  Shakespeare plays - Two Gentlemen of Verona and King John.  Both excellent and presented in Globe Theater style with no theatrical lighting.  An unexpected high point was the cast doing an acoustical version of the Rolling Stones classic Gimme Shelter.  Life is full of surprises.
An extra pleasure was a visit from Matt, a graduate school friend I have not seen is 20 years or so, who came up from Richmond.  Amazing how you can pick up a 20 year old conversation as if no time had passed.
Finally, after ten days or so of great political discussion, walks through the countryside, and almost constant munching, we are off for the drive up to Basking Ridge, New Jersey and our Diamond Way Buddhist Retreat.

550 people showed up from all over the world to participate in the Phowa course. I can't begin to describe the length and breadth of this here, but if you are interested check out Diamond Way.
I'm not sure how sitting on a cushion for eight hours a day can make one so hungry, but it does.  Fortunately there was ample fabulous food and an endless stream of wonderful friends to share an amazing five days of teaching and meditation.

After the course in New Jersey we make our way to Boston to visit another long time friend which I have also not seen in 20 years (is there a theme developing here?).  Dave, my old business partner from Massachusetts lives in Boston and has recently restored the 1955 GMC pickup we used in our building business 30 years ago.  (Ouch, that sounds really old)  Anyway, more late nights of catching up over bottles of old scotch made for a great visit.  Boston is really an interesting place if you ignore the traffic.  Spent a day at the Public Library - a magnificent building built in 1895.  Sad that we don't put this kind of attention and spirit into our modern public buildings anymore.

And now for something completely different . . .

After an all to short visit we are on a plane to Denver - then a car into the mountains for Jo Ann's niece's wedding.  The C Lazy U ranch outside Granby, CO is the setting for a marvelous time and a special occasion for Alyssa and Drew.  I must admit, when I heard we were going to an OUTSIDE wedding in the mountains in December in Colorado I was a bit suspect, but all turned out beautifully.  Once again in a short two weeks we were forced to consume too much delicious food and drink.  I'm not sure how we managed it  but we persevered.  Life can be challenging at times - fortunately, we are up to the task.

I also had a chance to get back to my non-existent cowboy roots.  One of the benefits of going to a wedding at a  ranch in Colorado is that they have horses - lots of horses.  And, you can actually ride them.  Well, you can sit on their backs while they move.  That's pretty close to riding but I won't flatter myself to say that I pulled off any Roy Rogers moves here.  I was especially pleased when the wrangler took one look at me and decided that I should ride "Mungo".  Mungo is part draft horse and at least a foot taller than every other horse in the herd.  Needless to say, my mount and I cut a striking figure against the Colorado landscape.

Of course Jo Ann actually did look like a total natural astride "Molly" and she galloped off into the sunset.

More about the month of December soon . . .