I just returned from an out-of-state vacation, and while I had a fantastic time, I was glad to get back to Texas. A sign of a good trip, I think, and perhaps a certain level of satisfaction with my day-to-day routine. In general, I like hotel rooms, the mini-soaps and cute little packets of cotton balls, the comically out-of-proportion flat-screen TVs, the color-coordinated pillow shams, the wake-up calls, the luxury of room service.... But please, WHO thought it was a good idea to invent a single-cup coffeemaker? You've seen them, probably, they're ubiquitous. I'll concede that the concept SEEMS reasonable, pop a little coffee "pod" into the machine, along with six ounces of water (no more or the machine will shut off!), and several minutes later, you have a single cup of coffee. But I'd argue that these devices are not practical AT ALL for two people traveling together. What's with the pouring and the podding and the parceling, we wasted a colossal amount of time getting out the door in the morning. Oh, good grief I sound like Andy Rooney. Write me to share YOUR hotel pet peeves and maybe I won't feel so ridiculous.
Long a fun, famous gateway to the Lone Star State, Texarkana USA is a twin cities with lots of history combined with multiple modern attractions that makes for a delightful destination. Plenty to go, see, and do. Recently spent several entertaining days here researching a future feature for the magazine. Stay tuned. Thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Mansion on Main, an historic B&B. Discovered a couple barbecue masters, Smokey Joe's Barbeque and Big Jake's Bar-B-Q, and 2 exceptional upscale dining options, The IronWood Grill and Timothy's. Don't miss 'em. My fascinating whirlwind trip included stops at Lake Wright Patman, the Regional Art Center, an interesting local piano restoration studio, old Union Station, the famous State Line Courthouse/Post Office, Bryce's Cafeteria, remodeled Tiger Stadium at Grim Park, the Ace of Clubs House, an antique auto museum, Sue & Carol's Restaurant (for breakfast & lunch), Arkansas' largest magnolia tree, the Perot Theatre, the Scott Joplin mural, and a whole lot more. Look for details in the January 2010 issue of Texas Highways. For additional information on Texarkana, check out the website; 903/792-7191.
Our friends at Lubbock's American Wind Power Center have sent an update to E. Dan Klepper's windmills story in the September special issue. On October 17, the center plans to unveil a 5,500-square-foot mural created by artist La Gina Fairbetter, an instructor in the Department of Architectural Art at Texas Tech University. The two-year project illustrates American windmill history, from 1700s Dutch-style windmills to today's massive wind turbines. All of the whirring wonders depicted are represented in the center's collection. Another good reason to make the AWPC part of your next High Plains adventure!
What's up with offal? Seems as though every menu I see these days has some form of offal on it, whether it's sweetbreads or lamb's hearts or some delicacy long treasured in Europe or Mexico, but only now (at least that I'm aware) earning praise in America. At Austin's East Side Showroom (a new, noisy restaurant in the freshly hip section of East 6th Street), I enjoyed a truly delicious salad of local field greens with cornmeal-crusted sweetbreads (that's pancreas and thymus glands, y'all), then another night at Vino Vino, a wine bar on Guadalupe, I tried its version of sweetbreads on the appetizer menu. (Love Vino Vino for the topnotch wine selection and cozy, clubby ambiance.) At then at Olivia, the South Lamar restaurant, recently lauded by Bon Appetit as one of American's top ten new restaurants, the chef served an intriguing appetizer of bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with lamb's heart. The owner told me he takes pride in serving the whole animal, "from the rooter to the pooter." Anthony Bourdain, eat your heart out. Ahem.
Visits with my 13-year-old niece, Kaitie, tend to be enlightening, and not just about what's going on with teenagers these days. When she comes to Austin, I always try to plan some new experiences for her and often wind up learning something new myself.
In the photo: From Texas Highways, Dec. 1981: As she often does for Christmas visitors, Wanda Timmermann stands on the stairs to read reminiscences of Christmas 1849 while her sisters listen. Standing, from left, are Hulda, Willie Mae, and Melitta behind Tekla and Stella. Meta sits in front.
Since I moved from Houston and an office smack dab in the middle of the city's incredible Theater District, I have to admit that I've been woefully neglectful of taking in as much live theater. I mean to, and I do miss going as often as I did. Lately, I've been getting back into the swing of things. I've seen a couple of touring musicals ("Wicked" and "Mama Mia"), enjoyed readings by the legendary Maya Angelou and the hilarious writer David Sedaris, as well as some local performances.
I forget, until I'm there, how important and good it feels to witness the art of live performance; of people entertaining people, sharing and communicating in music, dance, words, comedy and movement. This kind of creative expression, I believe, is inherent to our humanity. There's nothing like it. The best thing is, no matter where you are, big city or small town, there are plenty of opportunities to take in a show.
It would do us good to get back to being better audiences; in major performance halls, restored historic theaters, community halls and in wide open spaces under the great Texas sky.
So when you travel, or stay home, consider live performances as one of the options when asking, "So, what should we do today?"
What performance/venue would you suggest for your neck of the woods?