Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dinner Report: Porterhouse Restaurant in Pearsall, TX...

For a while now, we have been driving by a billboard near Lytle for a new place in Pearsall called Hungry Hunter's Bar & Grill, opening in November.  Pearsall is less than 30 minutes from our place near Natalia, so I figured it wouldn't be such an ordeal to take a drive down I-35 and check the place out. 
 Surely, if the billboard was up and it is already the 27th of November, the place would be open.  Apparently not.  The one car parked in front looked abandoned and the place was sealed tight.
Up the street from our intended destination, there was a nice looking truck-stop like Valero convenience store with an attached 24-hour restaurant called the Porterhouse.  Sure, we could have gone across the highway and given Cowpokes another shot, but we both agreed not to make that mistake again.

We really walked in expecting it to be bad, and in fact as we stood in the entry way, I hinted that we could turn around if Eva wanted.  It wasn't anything in particular that gave me a bad vibe;  the place was clean and there were people eating and such, but I didn't want convienience store food.  We ended up taking a booth near the window so we could watch the truck, and settled in to wait for the menus. 

In the booth next to us was a young man who was eating dinner and fielding several calls on his iPhone.  He asked us if we knew how to take it apart to get to the sim card.  Once the friendship was established, he asked us about the next bus headed to Laredo.  I was thinking he was a run-away, but as it turned out, the young man, Sam-Flo as he goes by, is a rapper for Christ, and he was on his way down to Laredo to visit a recording studio.  He asked us to look for his 14 song mixed-tape coming out next year. 
 Eva insisted on having a photo with him, on the off chance we ever tune into Religious Rap Radio and hear him at the top of the charts.
We both ordered up the chicken-fried chicken which came with a dinner salad and our choice of fries, baked potato or onion rings.  Not a bad little salad at all.
Before I could finish asking, our stewardess told me that the onion rings were hand dipped, not frozen and that was all I needed to know.  Eva went with the fries, which were also good.  The onion rings were great, not too crispy and nicely seasoned.  The chicken was not dry at all, a concern I often have, and the breading was very nice.  It was not overly seasoned at all, though dipping in the cream gravy was a nice compliment.  Finally, the Texas toast was perfectly done.
I'm not suggesting you load the family up and head southwest to Pearsall for dinner tonight, but if you happen to be on that stretch of I-35, you could probably do a lot worse.  There is a bar within the restaurant with a juke box. If you are lucky, a rapper for Jesus may serenade you

Sunday Morning Random...

I'm just going to have to get this out of my system right now:  Mulholland Dr. was quite possibly the worst movie I have ever seen.  I was somehow lured into purchasing it from Amazon when a friend posted a link to this incredible scene from the movie on FaceBook.
Okay, as beautiful as that is, there is really no further reason for you to even watch the movie.  Yes, yes, we do see Naomi Watts nekkid, but if you really need that, I'm sure Google is your friend.

Look, people often laugh at me because of my taste in movies.  I proudly admit that I enjoyed Lost In Translation.  I still think that one of the most brilliant movie plots ever put together was It Couldn't Happen Here by the Pet Shop Boys.  I know what it means to have to try to read the mind of the director and decipher symbolism and all that stuff.  But good Lord; David Lynch, please refrain from smoking a pound of dope before you make a movie.  I actually had to search around the Google to find an explanation for the movie.  This guy has one of the best explanations I could find, and he even admits he doesn't fully get it! 

So let me save you some time.  The first 2 hours of the movie are a complete dream sequence.  Everybody you see is probably not who they really are.  Think Wizard of Oz here. Naomi Watts is an actress named Diane Selwyn, but for the first two hours, we know her as an actress named Betty.  Laura Harring is an actress named Camillia, but for the first two hours, we know here as Rita.  Diane and Camillia are lovers.  Betty and Rita are lovers.  There is an extremely weird homeless man who lives behind a dumpster.  He looks like Cousin Itt, and holds Pandora's box.   There is an old married couple who seem a little too happy.  A blue key opens the box, a hit man seems fairly incompetent because as he intends to kill one person, he ends up having to kill several people, and there are two LAPD detectives that seem to have solved the entire mystery, though we only see them in a single scene in the movie.   

Confused?  I promise you, this is a much more coherent explanation than sitting there and actually watching the movie.

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We met friends for lunch down at Luther's on Saturday.  It was a great visit and even this morning, Eva is still raving at how wonderful her bacon cheeseburger was.
I had a mushroom Swiss burger with grilled jalapenos.  Good stuff!  And look at the size of the onion rings.

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The other morning I drove down to Devine to grab some donuts and kolaches to take into work.  There is a new place that is a combination donut shop and chicken emporium.  I don't recall the name, but it is on Highway 173 just west of I-35.  Seriously fresh!

Anyway, just as I was headed back east on I-35, I was roaming through the radio stations looking for something to listen to and I happened upon something at 105.9 FM or there about.  I had never heard the station before, and as I moved closer to San Antonio, it was over powered by a Tejano station on the same channel, so I have no idea what the call letters are for sure, but it may have been KAHL.  Not important.

It reminded me of my recent dilemma, and that is, what should I listen to on my short 28 minute drive to work every morning?  I used to have this really weird rotation of 1200 WOAI, First News with Charlie Parker, then when he talks, switching over to 99.5 KISS with Lisle & Hahn, then when they play a song or go to a commercial, switching to Tejano 107.5 for the Jonny Ramirez in the Morning show with Petersworth (formerly of the Drex show on KTFM (years, and years ago).  What has upset the apple cart is that KISS-FM got rid of Lisle & Hahn, and I can't stand to listen to Charlie Parker.

I mean no disrespect toward the guy, but he sounds like an argumentative loud mouth to me.  In typical radio banter, you can disagree with your co-host (in this case, Charity McCurdy), and still make it entertaining.  When Parker disagrees with anyone, it sounds like he is really ready to get in a loud shouting match over it.  I suspect that he means no harm, but it just comes across that way.  It is actually uncomfortable to hear.

So, I have actually been putting NPR's Morning Edition in my line-up.  When I was stationed overseas, they played NPR on Armed Forces Radio, so I am certainly familiar with the program.  I totally understand why some people feel that NPR should not be funded by the government.  First off, a commercial is a commercial whether it has a funny actors trying to sell the product, or some monotone dweeb reads it from a cue card.  NPR is full of non-stop sponsor announcements.  But that is not the point.  People claim that it portrays a political sway to the reporting, you know, like Fox News, and should therefore not be sponsored by the government.

So the first morning I listen while driving into work, there is this interesting story about the first guy who figured out that the earth was not flat and in fact, it rotated around the sun.  This was an interesting discussion on all the people of the time thought it was radical and even blasphemous.  The report was very well put together, well documented and it really showed how hard it was for Nicolaus Copernicus to go against the accepted view.  As Barney Stinson might say, "Wait for it..."

Of course,  the report concluded with NPR tying the entire earth is round naysayers into the fact that today, it is so hard for progressive scientists (like Al Gore) to convince uninformed nincompoops like the rest of us that Global Warming is the result of man ruining the earth.  Just don't get me started.  Yes the earth is getting warmer.  No, there is nothing mankind can do to make it get warmer faster or make it slow down.  And when the we start to progress to a natural cooling of the environment, man will be powerless to speed that up or slow that down.  Somebody, buy me a few carbon offset credits so Al Gore can pay for his mortgage-sized electric bill this month.

I know, I hate politics too.  All this because Lisle & Hahn got canned.

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Deer make everything better.
 I like them.

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Enough rambling for a Sunday morning.  We have H-E-B Plus shopping to do and if the temperature can be globally warmed up to the 70's, I think there may be some yard work in my future.
 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Random People at Airports...

This is a man we saw at the Tampa airport on the way home.  You can just imagine the lucky lady that ended up seated next to him, you know, with that shirt unbuttoned down to there.
Eva was disappointed to learn that once seated on the plane, he was not in the same row.  Perhaps next time.
We saw this guy on the tram between terminals in Atlanta.  I seriously want one of these phones.  Not just because it looks cool to have an old school phone to talk on, but you never know; what if you answered and it was Leonid Brezhnev on the other end?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review: Happier Than A Billionaire...

I don't think I have ever done a book review before so if this comes across as just me telling you about a good book I read, I won't be offended in the least.  I rarely read books that are new on the market, mostly because I am cheap and simply buy anything that looks slightly interesting at a garage sale, knowing fully that I won't even get around to reading it for at least a year.  On occasion though, if someone makes a suggestion of a book that is humorous or is a topic I am interested in, I'll hit Amazon and a few days later I'll have something else to read a few pages at a time in the comfort of the bathroom.  Yes ladies, this is the real reason why men spend a while in the restroom; we are reading.

So I have mentioned a popular website here before, Jeff Kay's West Virginia Surf Report.  A prolific blogger and a self-published writer himself, Jeff mentioned a book in one of his posts that really caught my attention.  He was reading a book by Nadine Hays Pisani, a chiropractor who along with her husband Rob, sold all of their stuff, and simply moved to Costa Rica to start a new life.  The book, Happier Than A Billionaire - Quitting My Job, Moving To Costa Rica, & Living The Zero Hour Work Week (yea, that is an extra long title) takes the reader on the journey from how the decision to make this move was made, the build up to the move and then the first full year living in Costa Rica.

On the very first page of the book, Ms. Pisani reports that one of her patients farted on her.  She describes the incident as "brutal", causing her "eyes to burn as if sprayed with extra-strength bear mace."  How could you not immediately want to to read more about these people?

The descriptions of her husband, Rob, a real New Yorker who it seems would be the perfect sitcom husband, reveal that he is very cool under pressure and always putting forth a positive attitude, even if he makes an occasional mistake  like hiding all the important family documents and a handgun next to the over pressured water pipes under the kitchen sink.

Through the entire process of deciding to move, selling everything and getting settled in a new country, you can actually feel this couple transitioning from totally stressed out, Americanized personalities into scooter riding, laid back, ex-pats easing into a slower, healthier way of life.

I love the style of the book.  It is written chronologically from stressed out to happy, but each of the chapters is a short story that could easily stand on its own.  The characters that make up the trip - a realtor, a dog lady, a Jehovah with several names, and some fancy Swiss bankers with gassy water are all people you'd like to see in person, but perhaps from a distance.  It is just as well that Ms. Pisani has done the hard work for us.

In the end, for me personally, this book pointed to one of the reasons Eva and I made the big move from Silver Creek to the outskirts of Medina County.  Sometimes you just need a change of pace, and very often, it is a tough decision to make.  But in the end, hopefully you are happier.  While we didn't make nearly the leap that Rob and Nadine did, I know we are much happier, and as you read, you'll see that they are too.

Need more info?  Check out Nadine's blog at happierthanabillionaire.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tampa...

My mom and the first six kids in our family were all born in Tampa, FL.  Later, I would be added to the mix during a brief stint in Okinawa, a possession of the U.S, not unlike Guam, but sometime after my birth turned back over to Japan.  Not important, but the point is, I still kinda refer to the Tampa area as home since that is where my parents and most of my family resides now.  I also graduated from high school thereabouts.
During our brief visit over last weekend, I saw a thing or two worth mentioning.  This is the house I lived in from the 8th grade until I joined the Air Force.  I suspect that tree in the front is the one my dad planted when we moved in when the house was built in 1976 or 1977.  I don't know the current owners but I wish they would do something with the yard, or at least not park on it.

This is my daughter, Roxanne.  Now that she is out of the military and in college full time, she is not required to salute The Captain.
I was in the turning lane behind this guy.  His girlfriend is cute.
This is the view of the bay from MacDill AFB.  My entire military career I tried to get stationed at MacDill, but no such luck.  


Besides MacDill, just a short jaunt down Dale Mabry, you can find Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Bucs.  On the Saturday when we drove by, it was a big University of South Florida (USF Bulls) game against the Miami Hurricanes causing the stadium to be transformed into a college venue.
 Of course, it goes without saying that we had to stop at Steak n' Shake for a quick bite to eat.  I'd just like to point out that when I ask for jalapenos on a burger, I just assume they will be grilled, not chopped and served raw. GeezeNote to self:  Suggest What-a-Burger move to Florida.
 Good news:  There were S'mores included in the trip.  My brother, Tim has a huge fire pit on his land and he went the extra mile to make some big forks that would allow the youngsters to roast marshmallows and such. 
The bad news is, one of the forks burnt away from its stick and landed in the burnt piles of shredded documents stuck to a marshmallow.  Good times!
They also have a cat or two out at their place.  Maine Coons.  This one needed a quick drink.
I've mentioned before that I am the youngest of seven kids.  These are my two older brothers, Tim on the left and Dennis in the middle. I'm the fat one on the right.

Back Out Here...

We made it back from a very brief but enjoyable trip to Florida over a long weekend, just in time for a minute or two of Thanksgiving.
I'll post more soon, but wanted to show you a few pictures I had waiting for me when I walked in the door.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is it That Time Already?

We drove down to the HEB this evening after I got home from work so I could gas up Eva's truck and as we made the exit out of the neighborhood, it occurred to me that the radio was playing a Christmas song.  Can we at least get Thanksgiving over with?
And then I remembered this picture I took over the weekend of a house in the area.  I hadn't posted it because it looks more like some failed attempt at art instead of the investigative reporting of the absolute atrocity that it really is.  Imagine the scale of this thing.  These people have at least an acre or more of property, and it appears that they have attached some form of lighted cheer to every square inch of it.

Yes, my wife can confirm that I simply abhor the entire holiday season, beginning with Halloween straight through to New Year's Day.  My only solace is Superbowl Sunday, and only if the Cowboys or the Bucs happen to be involved.  But I don't dislike Christmas lights, or as they are now commonly referred, Winter Celebration, I actually do enjoy them.  I just don't like them before, say the day after Thanksgiving, at the very earliest.  
I know, this probably makes me a bad sport.  So to make it up, I offer you my very own reindeer.
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I don't speak of work here, but I can hardly contain myself.  This week has been one of the most professionally exciting, adrenaline pumping experiences I have had since retiring from the Air Force nearly a decade ago.  I am skipping out however, to take a very much needed break to visit my parents this weekend.  Work will always be there.  And hopefully, I'll be able to provide some pictures for the blog from a few exciting locations around Florida.  


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Deer Wakes Up...

So we stop by the HEB gas station this afternoon to fill up one of the trucks and as I'm pumping gas, I notice the truck in the lane next to mine has a deer in the back seat. 
Yea, when I say back seat, I don't mean the bed of the truck, I mean literally in the back seat of this Chevy four door.  Of course, my first reaction is, I must get a picture of this.  After all, it isn't every day you see a deer inside the vehicle.  Unfortunately, the picture is really crappy.
If you look in the yellow circles, you can see the nose and the eyes.  The rectangles show the horns.

I stepped from my side of the pump to the other side and of course, startled the older gentleman pumping his gas.  I said, "Gee, I hope the deer doesn't wake up while you're driving."  This was my light, good natured approach to gain his trust so I could ask him if I might take a picture of the decedent in his truck.  He gave me a strange look and said, "What?"

"The deer.  The deer in the back seat?  I hope he doesn't wake up, you know, like Tommy Boy?"  The man just looked at me as if he had no idea on earth there was a huge freakin' deer pressing its nose against the window of his truck.  Apparently my friendly banter was not winning a new friend with something interesting he'd be willing to share with fellow travelers in a game of gas station show & tell.

"It's a movie about these guys in a car and they have a deer in the back seat, but then the deer wakes up and it wreaks havoc in the car."  With this, the man just shrugged his shoulders and climbed back into the truck as his gas continued to pump. 
 And with that, Eva handed me my camera and I commenced to hide behind the gas pump and take a few crappy pictures.  Good times.

Dead Trees Fall...

This past weekend we stopped by the neighbors down the street to help them finish up moving the logs from a tree in the front yard that had fallen.  It is so dry from the drought that as you drive around, you can see where the tops of trees have simply snapped under the weight of themselves.  In the case of the neighbors tree, it just looks like the base of the trunk had rotted out.  
 But the trees on lots that are not being built on, and therefore mostly left untrimmed are sprinkled with these trees that just snap.  Like Sunday night when we were just finishing up some yard work, we heard a little critter rustling around in the brush.  Eva saw the little  ring tail cat that was sneaking around.  Gracie saw it too.  
(This little guy likes to pose for the camera)

We were working on the south side of the yard when Gracie took off running all the way to the other side on the north.  I'm not talking about some great distance, by the way; the lot is only an acre and a half.  But it did take us some time to walk over and see what the ruckus was all about.  As the little animal raced off into the brush and up a tree and then into more untamed growth, Gracie sat patiently at the fence with her tail wagging, hopeful that her little friend would come over to our side of the fence and play with her.
 And when we got there, we realized that the tiny little critter was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak,  because the tree it raced up snapped and the top of it fell onto our fence.
Having a chain saw out here is not some extra toy, it is a necessity.  Thankfully I had just used it earlier with my continuing project to thin our brush pile (from 10 months ago), and we were able to make quick work of the tree on our fence.  I suspect I'm going to need to do some fence tightening.
Speaking of my brush pile...  This burn ban has been going on the entire time we have lived here.  I have often thought of taking a match and letting the entire thing go up in flames just to be done with it, but I don't like the thought of the hefty fine that comes with getting caught.  More importantly, the wind is extremely unpredictable and I have no interest whatsoever in being the guy that burns down the neighborhood.  That pile is about a third the size it was when we started in January, because I can either chip or burn a little at a time.
And when there is no wind to speak of, I can stand around the barrel and pretend I'm enjoying a campfire in the woods, or I'm a homeless guy staying warm.  As you can see, I'm easily amused.

One of these days this pile will be gone, and another tree will fall or it will be time to trim the trees again.  All part of living out here, I suppose.

Veteran's Day...

Both my father and Eva's father served.  I did my 20 years and then some (I still work for the Air Force 30 years after my initial enlistment), and have enjoyed the pride of seeing both my children serve.  We have some veteran action going on here.
(Lt David Stone, CMSgt Al Stone, MSgt Dave Stone, SrA Roxanne Stone)

Enjoy the day off (if you got it) and thanks for your service.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Castroville City Wide Yard Sale...

What a cool idea.  Two times a year, the city of Castroville designates a specific day where everyone who wants has a yard sale, thus bringing in more business for everyone.
We went, just to shop around a bit and walk off the breakfast we had at Sammy's.
If you have never been to Castroville, you can go just about any weekend and find something interesting to do.  There is an abundance of interesting shops, even if you are not looking for antiques.  We just like to see all of the old historic homes and such.
 The Saint Louis Catholic Church makes a nice view in between looking at people's trash and treasures.
The place I found really fascinating was the old Rainbow theater.  Inside, it has been transformed into a thrift shop of sorts, primarily antiques and collectibles called Antiques & More

In addition to going through several shops that had little sidewalk sales, we hit several of the yard sales at private homes and met some friendly folks.  One family had their kids selling popcorn from one of those old style popcorn machines, and in spite of it being extremely salty, it was good.  Another lady had her junk piled up in front of her barn.  She was really nice and told us that if we ever needed to sell some items, we could bring them by her place since she gets a lot of weekend traffic.  How nice is that?

Castroville has an historic walking tour that winds you up and down the residential streets and antique business district.  We didn't actually get out an walk it, but we did follow the signs seeing a lot of the sites.  I think on a nice day, it would be worth walking it and taking a bunch of pictures.
Since we live near Natalia and Lytle, we have found that we are basically due south of Castroville as the crow flies.  On FM 471, we can be there in under 15 minutes, which makes it a convenient place to visit.  Check out the shops, see some interesting buildings, and meet a few nice people.  Are there any interesting places we should eat the next time we go?  I'd love to hear your take; why not leave a comment?