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For the Road (Archive) (1852)

Monday, 16 February 2009 15:50

For the Road: March 2009 Top Picks and Places

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South Texas State Fair in Beaumont. (Jennifer Reynolds, Beaumont Enterprise)Fair Game

The annual State Fair of Texas, held in Dallas every fall, probably has the market cornered on inventive fried-food concoctions; think of deep-fried Coke, deep-fried Oreos, and chicken-fried bacon. But Beaumont’s annual South Texas State Fair, which takes place in March this year (March26-April 5) for the first time in the fair’s 67-year history, may hold a record for number of culinary concoctions on a stick. “We have alligator-on-a-stick, crawfish-on-a-stick, even jambalaya-on-a-stick,” says 2009 Fair Chairman Donnie Warner. “We like to experiment with food down here on the Louisiana border, so you’ll find lots of things with a Cajun influence. And of course, we have corndogs, which are just about the most wonderful food ever.” A midway, rides, agricultural and livestock shows, and regional entertainers also bring in the crowds, as does a top notch PRCA rodeo. Tickets cost $8 (includes fair and rodeo admission). 



This gold ornament dates from the 1st Century A.D. (Musee Guimet/Thierry Ollivier)Hidden Treasures

Archeologists and historians rejoiced in 2003, when thousands of priceless artifacts unearthed in Afghanistan—items believed to have been destroyed in the 1993 bombing of the National Museum in Kabul—were discovered hidden in Kabul’s Presidential Palace. This spring at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, you can see more than 200 of these objects, including bronze and stone sculptures, gold ornaments, painted glassware, and gold bowls dating from 2,200 B.C. to the 2nd Century A.D. Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul appears at the MFAH March 1 through May 17. “To put this incontext,” says Fredrik Hiebert, the National Geographic Archaeology Fellow who curated the exhibition, “consider that Afghanistan is one of the richest archeological countries in the world, due to its location at the center of the Silk Road. It has an amazing mixture of ancient Chinese, Indian, Northern Siberian, and Mediterranean cultures. “It was an Afghan idea to open the boxes and do this tour,” he continues. “It’s a terrific opportunity to tell the world about Afghanistan in a different way than you read about in the papers. When you look at these exquisite artifacts, you realize there is a connection between classical culture and Afghan culture that brings us all together.” To read TH’s full interview with Fredrik Hiebert,see “Web Extras” at



Flower Power

As winter gives way to spring, botanical gardens across Texas gear up for the year’s busiest—and most colorful—season. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, which was founded as a research center in 1982 and now serves as one of Central Texas’ most popular springtime tourist attractions, celebrates the wildflower-blooming season with its annual Wildflower Days celebration, held this year March 16 through May 31. Normally closed on Mondays, the Wildflower Center opens daily during Wildflower Days, allowing visitors more flexibility to tour the center’s 16 themed gardens, which feature native plants from throughout the United States.  If you’d like to get away from the crowds, the center’s two trail systems (four miles total) wend through naturalized savanna and woodland habitats, where you’ll spy multitudes of butterflies, birds, and other creatures. Three separate events punctuate the three-month celebration: The Artists and Artisans Festival (March 21-22) brings painters, metalsmiths, ceramicists, sculptors, and other creative types to the gardens for art-talks and demonstrations; the Spring Plant Sale & GardeningFestival (April 11-12) features thousands of common and elusive native plants for sale; and Gardens on Tour (May 9) offers participants the chance to view six private native-plant gardens scattered across Austin. 



Exploring Matagorda

Naturalist and avid kayaker James Arnold, who plies the waters of Matagorda Bay almost every day, says that during 2008’s Hurricane Ike, the rich estuaries here were protected by the high tide. “We were pretty lucky,” says Arnold. “Anytime you have a high tide, the plant life is protectedfrom the wind.” That’s good news for Arnold, who leads fishing and birding tours in the bay with his company, Day on the Bay Services, as well as for the Lower Colorado River Authority’s 1,600-acre Matagorda Bay Nature Preserve,which is consistently ranked as one of the best birding sites in the nation by the National Audubon Society. “We have birds all the time,” says Arnold. “Yearround, you’re likely to see shorebirds like osprey, herons, rails, roseatespoonbills, plovers, and egrets. And there’s no better way to look than by kayak.”  While the LCRA mapped more than two miles of kayak trails within the preserve, Arnold mapped an additional chain of trails in the estuaries outside the preserve’s boundaries. Together, the trails provide an up-close and comprehensive look at the creatures that live in and around one of Texas’ most pristine wetlands.  In addition, more than 20 miles of beaches on Matagorda Bay offer opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. Matagorda Bay Nature Preserve itself features a new observation tower, several public fishing piers, and a new 70-site RV park, complete with showers, concessions, and campsites. 


An Unlikely Thrill Pill

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was one spot you could count on if you had a headache, needed a tooth pulled, broke a limb, or even ran out of cigarettes—the neighborhood pharmacy. “It’s kind of ironic,” says anthropologist Dr. Paul Katz, curator of Amarillo’s Texas Pharmacy Museum, “that a health-care provider carried things that could killyou.” The museum, which opened a decade ago in the basement of the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy building, houses some 12,000 items relating to pharmacy history, including a restored century-old pharmacy from Baltimore, Maryland. “Up until 1950,” says Dr. Katz, “druggists filled prescriptions by scratch. And because that took time, they always had sidelines, which is why most every pharmacy had a soda fountain, a photo service, a Western Union desk, and a post office.” The museum’s four rooms overflow with items like mortars and pestles, pill rollers, and salves, as well as a replica of a cuneiform prescription and a chuck wagon stocked with treatments a cowboy might need on the trail. “The chuck-wagon cookie was not only the cook on a trail drive,” says Dr. Katz, “but also the doctor, the dentist, and the druggist.” Dr. Katz gives guided tours of the collection Mon-Fri between 1 and 4 and by appointment. Call 806/356-4000, ext. 268.



Monday, 23 February 2009 17:07

Web Extra: Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan

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Thousands of priceless objects unearthed from a series of ancient sites in Afghanistan, including bronze and stone sculptures, gold ornaments, painted glassware, and gold bowls dating from 2,200 B.C. to the 2nd Century A.D., were rediscovered in 2003, hidden in Kabul’s Presidential Palace. Until their rediscovery, the world believed these objects had been destroyed in the 1993 bombing of Kabul’s National Museum.
    National Geographic Archaeology Fellow Fredrik Hiebert, the curator of the spellbinding exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, which is on view March 1 through May 17 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, talks about the discovery and the importance of preserving a country’s cultural treasures.

alt“First of all, to put the exhibition in context, you must realize that Afghanistan is one of richest archeological countries in the world, due to its location at the center of the Silk Road. The country has an amazing mixture of ancient cultures, including Chinese, Indian, Siberian, and Mediterranean Greek and Roman cultures. The best pieces that were found in Afghanistan were kept in a small museum in the capital city of Kabul.
     “The most famous find was a group of gold objects we call the Bactrian Hoard, which was discovered in 1978. The date is a little ironic, really, because in 1979, the country fell into Civil War, and everything, including archeological work, stopped. One of the casualties of that war was that the National Museum got bombed in 1993; in fact, 70 percent of the city was destroyed. We didn’t learn until recently that around 1988, someone had boxed up the masterpieces and hidden them in another building. Meanwhile, the whole world thought the treasures of the Kabul museum had been destroyed. The whole world cried.
    “That’s the way it was until 2003. I had a chance to go to Afghanistan to inquire whether any museum objects had survived. That’s when I found that some boxes had been hidden in the national bank in the Presidential Palace. Think about this: 20 or 30 people had known the entire time the whereabouts of those gems and jewels. They honored a code of silence. This was ancient treasure. Mind you, these were personnel of the museums, very poor people. One piece of that treasure would have been their passport out of the country. They cared enough about the cultural heritage of their history that they never told anyone.
    “When I went to Afghanistan in 2003, I assumed there were just a few boxes. There were, in fact, six crates. They don’t have curators in the museum; they have keyholders—these are the individuals who actually had the keys. Well, when the six crates were found in the bank vault, they couldn’t find the keyholders. We had to get a presidential decree from President Karzai to authorize us to open the box. We had to use a circular saw, and it generated a lot of heat. There is a photo of us at the moment of the opening, and we have very scared expressions on our faces. We didn’t know what we’d find—a pile of melted gold? An empty box?
    “For me, it was the most glorious moment of my life. The treasures had been locked up for decades. People in the room thought at first they were fakes. We brought in the original excavators from 1978 to look at the objects.
    “In Tomb number 6 at the site of Tillya Tepe, original excavator Viktor Sarianidi, who is Russian, had found a five petaled, hairpiece. He held it up. He said, ‘Oh, I see a repair that I made myself in 1978.’ At that moment, that veil of disbelief fell from the  Afghans’ eyes. They realized that they themselves had saved their cultural heritage. That sense of pride, the joy that they were regaining their sense of history spread around the room like wildfire. Very soon the news was out in Kabul that the national treasure had been saved.
    “We spent many months in Afghanistan. At first there were six boxes. Then there were 25 boxes. Then 50. We eventually inventoried 150 boxes—30,000 pieces in all. They had preserved 95 percent of the museum’s masterpieces.
    “It was an Afghan idea to open the boxes, an Afghan idea to do this tour. They wanted to show the world a good news story. It’s a terrific opportunity to tell the world about Afghanistan in a different way that what you read about in the papers. After all, we’re going to continue to be engaged in Afghanistan. When you go through the exhibition, you realize these are very strong people, with noble character.  
    “The thing I most hope for the people of Texas to take away is a sense of surprise at how familiar these ancient artifacts look. You think of Afghanistan, and you think of a country that has been war-torn for so long. But when you walk in the galleries, you see these exquisite pieces made of gold, art that looks like it came from Greece and Rome. And you come away realizing there is a connection between classical culture and Afghan culture that brings us all together.”

—As told to Lori Moffatt

McNay Art Museum in San Antonio (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)It's a Picnic

In South Texas, even certain temperate days in February lend themselves to picnics. Here’s a suggestion: Pack a light lunch (oranges are in season now; just add some bread and Texas goat cheese) and head for the stunning grounds of San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum, where the new Jane and Arthur Stieren Center has doubled exhibition space and added a certain modern note to the Mediterranean-style ambiance. But don’t forget to go inside: From February 11 through May 17, the museum hosts American Concepts and Global Visions: Selections from the AT & T Collection, a broad, two-part survey of 20th- and 21st-Century American art and photography (an eclectic collection normally housed in the company’s offices). Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture examines the major genres of modern art, while Masterworks of Photography explores the boundaries of the medium with images by the likes of Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Man Ray, Barbara Kruger, and Andy Warhol. And if you’re on a budget, well, aren’t we all? Visit the McNay on Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of the month, when admission is free.

Arts, Letters, Live!

One of the longtime anchors of Dallas’ vibrant Arts District, the Dallas Museum of Art celebrates the 18th season of its popular Arts & Letters Live literary series in 2009.
The program kicks off January 16 and continues through June 23, with dozens of appearances by regional, national, and international writers, often in combination with gallery tours, commissions of new work, and presentations of music and film. Performers and authors this year include Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert; writer Wally Lamb (whose debut novel She’s Come Undone inspired The New York Times to call him a “modern-day Dostoevsky with a pop sensibility”; satirist David Sedaris (whom the DMA calls “the closest thing the literary world has to a rock star”); and Fulbright fellow Dr. Zahi Hawass, whose lecture Mysteries of Tutankhamun Revealed will shed light on the DMA’s blockbuster exhibition Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs (at the museum through May 17). New this year: You’ll be able to download audio podcasts of selected Arts & Letters Live events through
the museum’s new Arts Network.



Daffodils Deluxe

According to Greek mythology, beautiful Boeotian hero Narcissus was so captivated with his reflection in a limpid pool that he perished of thirst at water’s edge, and a narcissus—the botanic name for the hardy daffodil—grew in his place.
You might understand Narcissus’ fascination with beauty upon visiting Gladewater this February, when the Mrs. Lee Daffodil Gardens burst into bloom. Especially lovely after a long gray winter, the 20-acre sea of gold flowers originated in 1960, when Helen Lee, the wife of a wealthy oil baron and developer, brought a railroad car of bulbs to Gladewater and planted them around a small lake on their property. As bulbs and grand ideas often do, Mrs. Lee’s daffodils multiplied. The flowers bloom on their own schedule, of course, but visitors can usually see the display from mid-February through mid-March.



Worthwhile Indulgences

When you’re watching the bottom line, whether it’s cash, time, or calories, you want to spend it on The Good Stuff. You know: Indulge in foods that by virtue of their deliciousness dodge regret.
A nutty coffeecake at McKay’s Bakery in Abilene passed this litmus test recently, as did a delectable flight of Spanish wines at Austin’s new Uncorked Tasting Room. But the following two spots win extra points for inventiveness. They’re also perfect date-destinations for Valentine’s Day.
Pastry-chef-turned-cookie-maestro Mark Chapman used to make elegant desserts for Austin’s historic Driskill Hotel. Now, at Cookie Lounge in Austin, he focuses on the lunchbox classic, elevating simple to sublime. Ever had a made-to-order cookie? Choose your dough from nine varieties, and select from a batch of gourmet “mix-ins” that includes sea-salted peanuts and candied serrano peppers.

"When I was a kid, I didn’t like candy,” says chocolatier Don Burke of Houston’s RainDrop Chocolate. “I thought it tasted too sweet. But then I took a trip to Mexico, where I tasted chocolate flavored with cinnamon and pepper. That experience changed me.”
A high-tech career later took him around the world, where he sampled chocolates accented with herbs, spices, nuts, teas, and liquors. And when he gave up the microchip for the chocolate chip a few years ago, those unusual flavor combinations became his hallmark. Today, visitors to RainDrop Chocolate can enjoy made-from-scratch gelato and bakery items, but the chocolates and truffles—in flavors like curry and star anise—truly shine.  


Long Live The Alamo

The last weekend of February promises to be a great time to visit the Alamo. On Friday evening, Feb. 27, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) will present To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World: The Alamo Under Siege, a program in which reenactors depict scenes from the epic, 13-day battle of the Texas Revolution. Vignettes from the program include Colonel James C. Neill’s departure from the Alamo to gather supplies and reinforcements; Santa Anna’s unexpected arrival in San Antonio and the resulting confusion; the plight of the defenders’ families, who were caught inside the besieged mission; and William B. Travis’ dramatic appeal for aid. Seen collectively, in this historic setting, the scenes bring history to life in a way no textbook ever could. Visit the Alamo Web site to purchase tickets (only 500 available; $9 in advance or $10 at the door), or to learn about other events the same weekend.
According to DRT President General Madge Roberts, the Alamo is again under siege—from the ravages of time and popularity. “We [the DRT] are in the midst of a capital campaign that will allow us to preserve historic buildings, do site renovation, and expand our educational facilities and programs,” she says. If you’d like to help, you can send donations to DRT, Inc. at the Alamo, P.O. Box 1401,
San Antonio, TX 78295-1401.     


Tuesday, 28 October 2008 16:50

For the Road: December 2008 Top Picks and Places

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On any given day in San Antonio, you’re likely to find yourself serenaded by traditional mariachi groups on the River Walk, at your favorite Mexican restaurant, or in downtown’s Market Square. But from Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, during the 14th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, the joyous sounds of mariachi seem to reso¬nate in nearly every corner of the city.
That’s because more than 1,000 mariachi musicians and vocalists from the United States and Mexico are here participating in workshops, competitions, and performances throughout San Anto¬nio
—many of which are free to the public. During the weeklong event, you can take part in a mariachi Mass at Mission San José, enjoy performances at the River Center Mall lagoon, and admire the mariachi-themed art at Centro Cultural Aztlán—not to mention attend the big show by the festival’s honorees— Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, a 12-piece group founded in Mexico more than a century ago.
things we wish we did on the moon. I can do something that no one else can do.”
part in a mariachi Mass at Mission San José, enjoy performances at the River Center Mall lagoon, and admire the mariachi-themed art at Centro Cultural Aztlán—not to mention attending the big show by the festival’s honorees—Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, a 12-piece group founded in Mexico more than a century ago.
Why the enthusiasm? “I heard a gentleman once describe mariachi as a combination of opera, symphony, and Mexican folklore,” says extravaganza producer Cynthia Muñoz. “When the musicians perform, it sounds like a full symphony.”
This will be especially true on December 6, when Mariachi Vargas will perform with the 70-member UTSA Symphony Orchestra at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium. “The meeting of the classical music of Europe with the mariachi tradition of Mexico is a really beautiful acquaintance,” says symphony director Gene Dowdy.
Call 210/225-3353;

Ice, Ice, Baby

Have you heard about the Icehotel in Sweden, where you can bed down for the night in an artfully chiseled, modernist (and meltable) testament to architecture? If you think that sounds cool, but you can’t fathom a trip to the Arctic Circle, you might be interested in a trek to the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, which brings its exhibit ICE! back for its fourth over-the-top year.
Each October, 40 artisans from the city of Harbin, China, arrive in Grapevine to begin sculpting the two million pounds of ice in the walk-through display. In ICE!’s 14,000-square-foot theater, which is chilled to a teeth-chattering 9 degrees Fahrenheit, they freeze thousands of LED lights in ice, build a three-story slide of ice, craft hundreds of ice sculptures, and install dramatic lighting, By mid-November, when ICE! opens, visitors can experience a whimsical, wintry mix. (Parkas are provided at the door.)
Call 800/457-6338;


Stay, Don’t Go

Texans love to adapt new words. Take “Staycation,” for example—the noun that showed up everywhere this past fall as hotels courted visitors with tight budgets. Why travel out of town, they argued, when you can play tourist in your own city? After all, hotel restaurants and bars offer the ambiance of a getaway without the commitment (and expense) of an overnight stay. Here’s a handful of hotel bars to put you in the vacation spirit. Cheers.

  • The Living Room Bar, W Hotel-Victory Park, Dallas. Twenty-something hipsters flock to the hotel’s ultra-trendy Ghostbar for techno tunes and a stunning view of downtown Dallas, but the ground-floor Living Room Bar offers prime people-watching and an inventive drink menu without all the frenzy. Sip a tumbler of spiced rum and watch the street parade of sports fans headed to the adjacent American Airlines Center. Call 214/397-4100.
  • The Lobby Lounge, Four Seasons, Austin. Special holiday cocktails at this sumptuous downtown spot will make you smile, as will the lobby’s famous Gingerbread Village. Call 512/478-4500. (See—click on “Web Extra”—for six Four Seasons holiday cocktail recipes.)
  • The 610 Grille and Bar, Ashton Hotel, Fort Worth. Elegant and understated, this is the place for a wine-fueled conversation about the delicate, jewelry-like Ranjani Shettar sculptures on view at the nearby Modern. Call 866/327-4866.  
  • The Dome Bar, El Camino Real, El Paso. The authentic Tiffany-glass dome of this classic bar—just steps away from the El Paso Museum of Art—imbues customers with a warm, amber glow. Or should we credit the tequila? Call  915/534-3000.
  • Bistro Bar, The Lancaster Hotel, Houston. Food & Wine magazine recently ranked the Bistro Bar as one of top 10 bars in the country. Classic martinis please the post-theater crowd at this well-mannered downtown gem. Call 713/228-9500.
  • Menger Bar, Menger Hotel, San Antonio. Cherrywood paneling and beveled-glass cabinets create an elegant atmosphere at this famous bar, built in 1887 and modeled after the House of Lords Pub in London. Call 210/223-4361.

Piece by Piece

This winter, 17 institutions in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are highlighting the art of quilt-making in a collaborative exhibition called Quilt Mania II. The quilts on display cover territory you might not expect to see in this medium: For example, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison exhibits a collection of quilts inspired by airplanes and the physics of flight, the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas highlights contemporary Japanese quilts, the Mesquite Arts Center showcases quilts made by the Kuna tribes of Panama and Columbia, and The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future in Dallas features quilts that illustrate 19th- and 20th-Century political life from the perspective of patriotic American women. Exhibition dates for each museum vary; check


Dickens-Style christmas

No bah-humbugs allowed in Lockhart on Dec. 5-6 at the annual Dickens’ Christmas in Lockhart celebration. Since 1989, revelers have gathered here to relive one of the most enduring Christmas stories of all time: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ 19th-Century Victorian tale of a bitter Scrooge’s reawakening of his Christmas spirit.
On Friday night, Lockhart citizens host an illuminated night parade, featuring more than 100 floats, decorated vehicles, and costumed Dickens characters. The procession begins on Market Street and meanders through downtown. The next morning, the Dr. Eugene Clark Library transforms into a scene from Christmas past with Victorian decor, choirs, clogging groups, and even a Christmas camel for children to feed.
At the event’s close, festival-goers gather downtown for the lighting of the Yule Log, a traditional ceremony that signifies the beginning of the season. With the flip of a switch, downtown Lockhart radiates with Christmas lights as the community welcomes the holidays with carols. Call 512/398-2818;

—Lauren Oakley


Yuletide at Bayou Bend

When Houston philanthropist and collector Ima Hogg left her 14-acre estate to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1957, the museum saw the rare opportunity to display its collection of American decorative arts and paintings in context. Today, more than 20 rooms of the mansion reveal the evolution of American style from 1620 to 1876, with each room depicting a different era. During the holidays, Bayou Bend’s annual Yuletide celebration brings an extra dimension to the museum’s novel interpretation of history, and this year’s theme—Celebrations!—warrants special cheer.
“Bayou Bend can be somewhat of a formal place,” says Kathleen O’Connor, curator of education. “But during the holidays, the home is filled with guests, and we’ve created historical vignettes based on real people and celebratory events.” For this year’s Yuletide, O’Connor and her docents researched such occasions as Puritan weddings in the 1700s, American Valentine’s Day observances circa 1849, and Ivy League graduation parties of the 1770s to create scenes that ring authentic—down to the last detail. “In one room, we’re re-creating the day the Hoggs moved into the house—November 6, 1928,” says O’Connor. “We ask, ‘Would they have had a tablecloth or placemats?’ And we learned that placemats were the ‘in’ thing on the breakfast table in 1928.”
Special candlelight tours of the estate take place on December 5 and 12, complete with carolers and hot cider. “People come with their little girls dressed in red velvet for photos, or couples come in jeans before they go to the movies, or people arrive as a group for an after-work event,” says O’Connor. “It’s truly a festive time.” Call 713/639-7750;

Great Texas Books

Looking for Holiday Gifts? Visit Abilene’s Texas Star Trading Company, where you’ll find cowboy-themed Band-Aids, a whole clothing line emblazoned with the “Fixin’ To—the State Verb of Texas” slogan, Stetson-wearing rubber duckies, and a slew of other Texas-themed items you probably can’t live without.  Co-owner Glenn Dromgoole, who reviews books for Texas newspapers when he’s not stocking the store or writing books himself, maintains a carefully edited retail book nook, and his list of “10 Great Books for Your Texas Library” makes gift-buying a cinch. “If someone were to ask me to recommend 10 Tex-as books, here are some I would suggest,” says Dromgoole.

  • The Time it Never Rained, a novel by Elmer Kelton about the drought of the 1950s.
  •  The Train to Estelline. Novelist Jane Roberts Wood takes on teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in West Texas.
  • Lonesome Dove, the Western epic often regarded as Larry McMurtry’s best work.
  • The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, the first of John Erickson’s series, equally popular with adults and kids.
  • The Longhorns by J. Frank Dobie, a study of the Texas Longhorn, and the cowboy.
  • Texas Cowboy Cooking by Tom Perini. Cooking as a way of life.
  • A Personal Country, by A.C. Greene, a book about connecting with place.
  • Goodbye to a River by John Graves,a narrative on a Brazos canoe trip.
  • Interwoven by Sallie Reynolds Matthews, a pioneer’s memoir of life on the frontier.
  • Lone Star Literature edited by Don Graham, by more than 60 Texas writers.

All books are discounted at Texas Star, at 174 Cypress St. in downtown Abilene. Call 325/672-9696;   



Tuesday, 16 December 2008 15:50

For the Road: January 2009 Top Picks and Places

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Petales et jardin de la nymphe Ancolie, by Max Ernst, appears in the Menic Collection in Houston.

Nature, Re-envisioned

It would be hard to think of a more unforgiving environment for a painting than the Dancing Mascotte, the bar of the smoky Corso Theatre in Zürich, a nightspot frequented in the 1930s by often-raucous Surrealist artists, musicians, dancers, and hangers-on. But that is where German painter Max Ernst—on commission from the club’s famous architect, Alvar Aalto—created his mural Pétales et jardin de la nymphe Ancolie. Recently restored by conservators at the Kunsthaus Zürich, the mural is the only surviving wall painting by an artist known for his tension-filled interpretations of nature. It is the centerpiece of an 80-piece Max Ernst retrospective
called Max Ernst: In the Garden of Nymph Ancolie, which appears at the Menil Collection in Houston through February 15.
In many of Ernst’s works, technology wars with nature, and nature wins. As you study these curious, incongruous visions of plants and birds, forests and mountains, sea and skies, it’s interesting to wonder: What did the artist mean by it all? Call 713/525-9400;      


Listening in La Grange

If you enjoy live music, you’ll find an intriguing alternative to loud clubs or huge concert venues in a listening room called The Bugle Boy, in La Grange, some 60 miles east of Austin. The Bugle Boy is housed in a former World WarII barracks and named after the Andrews Sisters’ 1941 hit song.
Don’t let the retro vibe fool you; the music presented here ranges from jazz and blues to rock and country. The common denominator: The musicians all write and perform their own songs. Thanks to the skills of a professional sound engineer and a house rule that prohibits talking during sets, the acoustics here are outstanding.
Owner Lane Gosnay opened The Bugle Boy four years ago to present established entertainers as well as nurture local talent. Besides weekly Friday and Saturday shows, she holds a monthly Sunday Showcase in which 12 artists perform for a panel of judges and a supportive audience. The winners perform at The Bugle Boy’s anniversary party each January (January 17, 2009).
Austin-based Elizabeth Wills, who’s known for her acoustic pop-folk music, says it’s one of her favorite venues. “There’s nothing else like it in Texas,” she adds. “The audience interaction is wonderful—it feels like you’re in someone’s living room and on stage at the same time. It’s a positive, creative environment … I think it makes the music better.”                                   


Sky High

Attention, sky pilots: It’s time again for the annual SPI Kite Fest, held Jan. 31-Feb. 1 on South Padre Island’s Laguna Madre flats, just north of the Convention Centre. You’ll be able to look into the wild blue yonder and see flying birds and butterflies, cats and dogs, geckos, lobsters, fish, and octopi—all kites, of course. The free, two-day event includes professional kite-flying demonstrations, kite-flying lessons, and dozens of vendors selling kites and accessories.
Featured flyers will show off their 28- and 40-foot delta kites and 90-foot spinsock,as well as a one-of-a-kind, 150-foot, rainbow-colored octopus kite. Local kite-flying teams and a host of amateur kite-flyers will take to the wind, too, showcasing their aerial derring-do to various musical scores.


Image from the book Galveston: A City on StiltsCity on Stilts

When the Galveston County Historical Museum received a gift of some 340 photos in 2006 documenting Galveston’s rebuilding after the disastrous 1900 storm, Director Jodi Wright-Gidley and Curator Jennifer Marines knew they had a treasure on their hands. Arcadia Press, a small publisher of local history, proposed a book, and Galveston: A City on Stilts began to take shape. And when Hurricane Ike ravaged the island once again this past September, the project took on special significance.
The images, taken between 1902 and 1912 by Galveston photographer Zeva B. Edworthy, record a period of growth and change for the wounded but still ambitious port city. Arcadia will donate proceeds to the Galveston Historical Foundation, which is working to help restore the city in Ike’s aftermath.

 Get Your Game On

More than 4,000 athletes, ranging in age from 6 to 70, compete in 14 sports—including crowd-pleasers like soccer, wrestling, fencing, figure-skating, table tennis  and ice hockey—at venues across Frisco for the Winter Games of Texas.
For spectators and competitors, an event called the Celebration of Athletes, held January 17, promises more fun. Here’s your chance to meet past Olympic winners and talk sports with amateurs and pros alike, test your downhill skiing and dance moves on Nintendo Wii games, and enjoy such reliable festival fare as face-painting, food vendors, and carnival activities.


See Art, Shop, Dine, Repeat

With the opening of the new Blanton Museum of Art building in 2006, Austin received praise from the public and the art world alike, with critics awash in superlatives about the building’s abundance of natural light, the sudden accessibility of the museum’s collection, and the creativity of the Blanton’s programming. In November, the Blanton took yet another step forward with the opening of its Blanton Café, Museum Shop, and 299-seat auditorium, all housed in the new Edgar A. Smith Building, which echoes the main museum building’s architecture. Think cream-
colored limestone floors and effused light—plus fun shopping opportunities and an Alice Waters-meets-Austin approach to cuisine. (The “Minimalist”—a panini made with balsamic-glazed, roasted vegetables and goat cheese—might prove a tasteful match to the upcoming exhibition Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury, which opens February 22.)


Take Your Time

Danish artist Olafur Eliasson takes art-making to a new dimension, immersing viewers in light, wind, heat and water, all the while playing with the sense of visual perception. At the Dallas Museum of Art through March 15, you can see—and experience—approximately 20 works that The New York Times called “enchanting, spacious, evanescent, and intellectually stimulating.” The Wall Street Journal called Eliasson “one of the most ingenious artists working today.” The exhibition, Take Your Time, organized by the San Francisco Museum of Art, includes installations, large-scale immersive environments, freestanding sculpture, and photography. Standouts include such innovative Eliasson creations as Beauty (1993), a curtain of mist that reveals a rainbow to viewers; Moss wall (1994), a solid wall of living Icelandic moss; and 360° room for all colours (2002), which immerses viewers in a wash of colors projected in looped sequence by 24 spotlights. And what to make of the title? Explains organizing curator María de Corral, “Take Your Time refers to ‘the time the viewer decides to invest in looking at the work of art, and the time that the work of art engages the viewer and makes him stay to experience it.’”

Wednesday, 06 August 2008 10:07

For the Road: Medieval Southwest

Written by

By Nola McKey


While Lubbock is a relatively new city—the High Plains hub celebrates its centennial this year—the area has surprisingly strong connections to late-medieval Europe. A major exhibition highlighting these connections, The Medieval Southwest: Manifestations of the Old World in the New, opened at Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collection on Aug. 25 and runs through April 4, 2009. Among the items displayed: a chain mail gauntlet, a horseshoe, and two coins from the 1480s, which were left behind by members of Vásquez de Coronado’s expedition in the 1600s as they passed through nearby Blanco Canyon looking for the Lost City of Gold.


The exhibit also includes items from the 18th-Century Mission and Presidio San Sabá sites near Menard, which Texas Tech researchers have been excavating since 2000. The sites have yielded such treasures as a gunstock, knives, mouth harps, dice, glass beads, and kitchen items. Texas Tech scholars at the university’s campus in Seville, Spain, have simultaneously searched the Archive of the Indies in an effort to fill in historical gaps and have found maps, orders for equipment, and other documents related to the San Sabá venture.


Medieval Southwest gives visitors a glimpse of the Southwest as it was at the end of the European Middle Ages and reveals how Old World themes and technologies have carried forward. One example: The Texas Tech campus itself, with its original Spanish Renaissance architectural theme, was inspired by the University of Alcalá de Henares near Madrid, Spain, whose main building dates to Coronado’s times.


For more information, call 806/742-3749. 


Wednesday, 06 August 2008 09:55

For the Road: A Fair to Remember

Written by

By Lori Moffatt


It’s time for the state fair! If it has been awhile since you’ve tasted fried peach cobbler-on-a stick, held hands on a Ferris wheel, admired the mirror-like finish on an automobile-of-the-future, caressed the silken coat of a goat, or simply joined the throngs of Texans who make the country’s largest state fair such a rollicking spectacle, we have one simple word for you: Go. It’s your duty as a Texan. Truly, the State Fair of Texas (Sep. 26-Oct. 19), which has focused attention on the state’s agriculture, industry, technology, and traditions since 1886, is an institution unlike any other.


And thanks to independent Texas filmmakers Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell, the fair’s appeal and history have been captured for posterity. The Mondells’ hour-long documentary A Fair to Remember features narration by über-Texan Barry Corbin, whose soothing drawl fits the tale like funnel-cake dough takes to hot oil. To create the visual aspects of the movie, Allen and Cynthia dug through thousands of images chronicling the fair from its inception, as well as years of archival and newsreel footage. They interviewed dozens of key personalities, such as Skip Fletcher, whose relatives introduced the corny dog in 1942, as well as historians knowledgeable about topics ranging from architecture and art to city planning. In documenting the fair, the film also captures the changing social mores of Texas, and of the country.


“We were astounded by the impact the fair has had on families and their traditions,” says Allen. “People told us—again and again—how they came to the fair as little ones with their parents and grandparents, and then eventually took their own kids and grandchildren.”


The film is available through the Mondells’ company Media Projects.

Learn more about the State Fair of Texas at


Wednesday, 06 August 2008 09:51

For the Road: Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Written by

By Lauren Oakley


Sporting poodle skirts and saddle shoes, and occasionally demonstrating their Hula-hoop finesse, the four members of the oldies group Shake Rattle & Roll take audiences back to the ’50s and ’60s with their spirited rock-n-roll and doo-wop melodies. Lead singer Tavie Spivey of Gilmer created Shake Rattle & Roll—an all-women cover group—to perform at a party a few years ago. The performance was a blast for the group and received so many accolades that Spivey put together a regular line-up: herself, her sister LeAnne Bemis from Longview, Kathy Sutton from Tyler, and Brenda Spencer from Henderson. “Once I heard these ladies sing, I knew right off the bat that they had the voices for Shake Rattle & Roll,” Spivey says.


In November 2007, the group competed in an amateur doo-wop contest in Las Vegas. Their performance of the 1957 hit by The Rays, “Silhouettes on the Shade,” earned them first place, and today, XM radio subscribers can hear the song on the Cool Bobby B Show. The group has more than 50 performances scheduled in the next year, and they’re even working on a CD.


Shake Rattle & Roll will perform at the State Fair of Texas on September 27 and October 18. Along with their big hit, they’ll perform such classic cover tunes as “Lollipop” by The Chordettes, “Lipstick On Your Collar” by Connie Francis, and “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles.


To see Shake Rattle & Roll’s scheduled performances and times for 2008-2009, check out


Wednesday, 06 August 2008 09:39

For the Road: County Bounty

Written by

By Marty Lange


A county fair represents small-town Texana at its very best. Texas is chock-full of these classics throughout the calendar year, and the month of September is particularly rich. Cotton candy, carnival midways, live country music, corn-on-the-cob, community parades, queen pageants, snow cones, 4-H and FFA livestock shows, and rodeos only begin to account for the many entertaining possibilities. We think it’s fair to say you won’t be disappointed. Here’s a September sampling of longstanding favorites to get you on your way to a delightful day of Ferris wheels, funnel cakes, bingo, and community spirit.


Gregg County Fair,

Longview, September 9-13; 903/753-4478;


Colorado County Fair,

Columbus, September 11-14; 979/732-9266;


Washington County Fair (140 years strong),

Brenham, September 16-20; 979/836-4112;


Howard County Fair,

Big Spring, September 24-27; 432/268-9335;


Titus County Fair,

Mount Pleasant, September 24-27; 903/577-8117;


Comal County Fair,

New Braunfels, September 24-28; 830/625-1505;     

Wednesday, 06 August 2008 09:31

For the Road: Singing the Praises of ACL

Written by

By Marty Lange


While having lunch at the popular comfort-food restaurant Threadgill’s last year during the Austin City Limits Music Festival, I met a group of 50- and 60-something Canadians who had come all the way to Austin for the event.


Not only were they attending the festival, but they were also going to various Austin clubs to see as many Texas acts as they could. They shared their joy of interacting with fans, musicians, music-industry people, other festival participants, and the community at large. I marveled at their passion for the music of such Texas artists as Willie Nelson, ZZ Top, Joe Ely, Asleep at the Wheel, Robert Earl Keen, Spoon, Kelly Willis, Old 97’s, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Charlie Robison, Steve Earle, Miranda Lambert, Pat Green, Reckless Kelly, Doyle Bramhall II, Dale Watson, Grupo Fantasma, Beto y los Fairlanes, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lyle Lovett, ad infinitum. This encounter made abundantly clear the appeal and extensive reach of both Austin and Texas music.


Festival curmudgeons may claim that the heat, crowds, parking, traffic, and accommodations can be problematic. But the thrill of experiencing so many diverse artists in a communal setting clearly trumps any hardships. More than 100 acts will perform this year. Join the fun September 26-28 in Austin's Zilker Park. 


For more information visit Austin’s Zilker Park or call 888/512-SHOW.

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