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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Busy Saturday Report: Tile

We got up this morning thinking it might rain but decided to take a chance on a sunny day, and we were right. My wife doing the brunt of the work, we tiled our back patio. Tomorrow, we'll finish the grout and clean things up.

Looks pretty good for amateurs.

Having bathed and removed most of the thin-set from our nails, we are off in search of some vittles.

What did you do with your Saturday?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Speaking of crappy neighbors...

You can skip reading this Austin guy's trashing of San Antonio, and just know that he didn't have much of a positive first impression visiting our fair city. In fairness, he is apparently new to Texas, so we should give him a little slack... or enough rope to hang himself.

What I enjoyed were the comments he got as a responses to the "piece".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You may wish to avert your eyes...

I walked into the room to find my wife inspecting the fur of our big dog, Gracie, and my son taking a very serious look at the belly of our little dog, Panda. At first, this activity might have been confused as a little bit of family rough-housing or perhaps even a game of rub the doggy's tummy to see if their legs shake involuntarily.

No. Sadly, not.

I found both inspection officials to be perfectly straight faced and serious about their duties and both dogs seemed less than playful regarding the thorough going-over of their personal areas.

Before I could ask, my wife called out for me to help my son. Before I could ask what it was I was helping with, he motioned for me to look at Panda.

I should point out that in our family, most consider my son to be the smart one one of the bunch, at least when my daughter isn't around.

"Does this look like a big flea or just a tick?" he asked with great concern.

"Uh, nope." I said, "That there is a nipple."

"Hmmm" the smart one said. "No wonder she didn't want me to pick it."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shopping Report: World Market

I spent most of my childhood and all my adult life living in what we can all agree to be a multi-cultural environment. That is to say, I am not one of those people who reacts with any since of shock or concern if I happen across couples of different ethnicity or families that don't fit the so called standard. I mean, live like you want and treat others with the respect they deserve. That sounds like a good plan to me.

I only tell you this information so you won't think bad of me for the following incident that occurred in World Market at The Rim on Sunday.

I was minding my own business, not so much shopping but really just looking at things when my wife brought to my attention this really beautiful sleigh bed. What beautiful craftsmanship and a perfect selection of patterns and colors for the bedding.

And it was as I was admiring this work of art when my wife said, "Do you suppose many midgets shop here?"

For the love of God; Little People, honey. Little People.


Monday, June 25, 2007

More Stupid Pet Tricks: The Amazing Water Fountain

Can somebody just shoot me now?

I already had to ban Oprah from the TV's in our house, now I'm thinking Animal Planet is going to have to be put off limits.

So I'm minding my own business and I hear a shrieking coming from the living room and it is my wife, Eva calling for me at full volume. Not because there is a special report of some national emergency, but because someone on Animal Planet has come up with a way to convince dogs that they don't need to drink directly from the kitchen sink.

More than a year ago, my wife thought it would be cute to teach our big dog, Gracie to drink from the little spray hose on the kitchen sink. Yes, what a wonderful sight to see. Ha ha.

Well, after we had our fun and I took a few pictures to show the family, we thought we were done with it. Gracie had a different idea. Call us bad Pet Parents, but a year later Gracie will give us a knowing nudge and then head for the kitchen where she will walk right by the regular water bowl and wait for some good clean fresh sink sprayer water.

So the big revelation from the Animal Planet was that they have this continuous flowing water fountain type dog bowl that is guaranteed to make dogs forget the kitchen sink.

Through no choice of my own, we had actually looked it up on the Internet, called the store, and driven to PetSmart in eleven minutes and forty-two seconds. Yes, my wife timed it. I'm happy to report that unlike many other shoppers, we left our precious pets at home.

So, $75.00 later, the little dog, Panda is happy to drink out of this new over sized water trough but Gracie was not immediately sold on the idea. She knew exactly what the new bowl was all about, including the continuous flow of water streaming into the bowl below. I bet she even knew that the water is delivered to the bowl only after processing through a filter system. But she wanted to give the sink one last shot for old sake.

Nope. Attempting to be firm, my wife and I stood by, arms folded and refused to accommodate Gracie and her kitchen sink addiction. Tens of minutes went by.

The little dog drank enough from the new bowl that she required a visit to the ladies.

Finally, Gracie gave in and took her first hesitant sips from this new water delivery system. This $75.00 water delivery system.

We have genuinely lost our minds. First, a dog sweater for Panda, and now this - a dog watering system. What have we become? What's next, will we call upon that little guy who comes to your house and shows you who the leader of the pack is?

Lunch Report: TGI Friday's

I'll make this very brief; The new TGI Friday's at 151 & 410 had acceptable food but bizarre service.

My wife and I had finished up our Sunday sightseeing and on the way back home made several false starts at places to eat. I had even considered the idea of - gasp - just eating something at home.

We drove by Henry's Puffy Tacos on Bandera & 410 even though neither of us wanted Mexican food, but since we had never been there and looking to try something new, we figured what the heck. But, they were closed. I don't know if they are closed on Sunday's or don't open until later or they are really, really closed. Who knows?

Next stop, Jason's Deli. But, my wife said instead of Jason's we should try McAllister's Deli over on 151 since neither of us have tried it. So, I get going to 151 and before we can pull into McAllister's, I see TGIF's and we go there instead.

Okay, to the point. I ordered up a Cobb Salad. In all honesty, I didn't know what a Cobb Salad was, but the last time I was with some co-workers at a TGIF in New Jersey, one of the guys ordered it and loved it.

So, our waitress was friendly and pleasant and such and other than the fact that they seated us between two families with screaming kids, everything was going rather well. I got my iced tea and my wife got some sort of frozen slushy drink and was very pleased to get one of those straws that bends. That is real value if you ask me.

Anyway, we sit there a little bit and before too long, a guy comes from the kitchen to deliver our order. My wife got a sandwich so there wasn't an immediate reaction by her that something was missing. And frankly, when he set down my Cobb Salad, I was immediately consumed at just how huge the portion was. He was gone before it hit me that we had never received any silverware or napkins for that matter.

I sat there for a minute or so and thought that I might get up to ask the hostess for some silverware but just then, our waitress made her way back. "So," she says, "how is everything? Can I get you anything else?"

I stared down at my untouched salad and looked up and said, "A fork?"

I don't know what I expected as a response but she answered with an "Oh? Okay." as if I was asking for something extraordinary. My wife quickly added in a request for some honey mustard and the waitress smiled and said, "sure".

I sat there for another minute or two and I was strating to get this really bizarre feeling like I was either on Candid Camera and Mr. Funt would pop out from one of the booths of screaming kids, or perhaps I was no kidding starting to feel some sort of transferred chemical reaction from having read Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (it has quite a bit of chemical abuse in the book). I mean, this had to be some sort of crazy Twilight Zone thing.

Finally, as my wife was a good third of the way through her sandwich (she was really hungry), our waitress came around as if she too had been reading Mr. Thompson's crazy account of a trip to Vegas, and casually handed me a fork. A single fork, no napkins, not a fork or anything for my wife; just a single fork.

Realizing that there would be no appearance by any TV crews to have me wave and smile, I stopped our waitress before she could move along and said, "I'm sorry. I guess there was a miscommunication. You see, we never received any forks or napkins or any other service items aside from a fancy bending straw, so really, I wasn't asking for just a single fork, I was hoping for the full compliment of utensils."

She leaned in and said, "Oh, there is a slight problem in the kitchen. We are out of forks and knives and things, but I'll get you some napkins."

I then held up my fork and asked her if this one had been washed or had she grabbed it from someone else's table. She got a nice chuckle from that and promised it was clean.

So, in the end, the food was good and in fact, I ate half of it and took the rest to work for lunch today.

I'll offer up my Tasty Treat status for the quality of the food, but you might want to give TGI Friday's at 151 and 410 another few weeks to have the rest of their silverware arrive. Either that or just order sandwiches.

How was your last visit to TGI Friday's? Tell me about it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Report: The Rim and Nature

You might recall that during the Spurs-Cavs Finals, one of the no doubt All-Star caliber announcers ABC saw fit to put on the air made some ridiculous comment, the gist of which was that there is nothing to do in San Antonio. I guess if you must have daily Paris Hilton sightings or can't bother to leave the hotel room unless there is a taping of the Letterman Show to watch, I guess you'd be right.

But sadly, I often hear people who live here who have the same comments. Once they've made the obligatory visits to Sea World and Fiesta Texas, been to the Alamo on a field trip in Kindergarten, and taken a visitor to Mi Tierra, then they are bored to tears. Too bad I say, because either my wife and I are easily entertained or maybe just plain dull, but we find something worth doing in SA and nearby all the time.

Today, we took a short trip out to The Rim to do a little research on the supposed Steak 'n Shake, which by the way, we never did find (not that we would have eaten there, Noreen*), and we decided to check out a few of the parks in the area.

To give you an idea of where I'm talking about, take IH-10 just north of 1604. Fiesta Texas and The Shops at La Cantera are to the west, The Rim is to the east and a little north of there is Leon Springs. Raymond Russell Park is on the east side and Friedrich Wilderness Park is on the west side.

More about The Rim later; first I want to tell you about Raymond Russell Park.

I'm thinking that if you happened to be in the area and you were looking for a place to picnic or maybe have some big family or company event, this would be as cool a place as any. We just took a short drive through, having never been there before, and we noticed a lot of open space where kids could play or perhaps a Frisbee might be thrown if you were into such a thing.

Though the area itself looked very nice, we didn't take the time to get out and really explore. One thing I did notice was that people seemed to be using the park as a good starting point for bicycle riding. The access roads in both directions of IH-10 had cyclists enjoying the scenery and fresh air. Unfortunately, as I mentioned to my wife, my ass was not built for such a small seat. She promptly reminded me that a bike with a seat suitable for my body was waiting for me in the comfort of our bedroom, facing the TV. Uh, thanks.

Either way, if you were a family on a budget and wanted to go to The Rim and take the kids to the Bass Pro Shops, but not necessarily pay for the kids to eat in the restaraunt there, why not pack a lunch and drive up another half mile on the frontage road to RR Park. You'll save money and you can look up and see the rich folks living in the Dominion, just a golf chip away. Wave Howdy to The Admiral.

Raymond Russell Park doesn't compare to the beauty of Friedrich Wilderness Park, but in all fairness, they are for totally different uses. Had we known that we were going to stop there, we would have dressed appropriately, worn some walking shoes and maybe brought a few bottles of water. Plus, I would definitely have brought along my good camera.

We had driven up to Leon Springs (which is a nice trip with lots of cute shops by itself) and made the turn to head back toward SA. I decided to stay on the access road rather than get on IH-10, just in case we wanted to stop anywhere. We would not be disappointed.

As I pulled into the park entry, and man fully decked out in "nature gear" was taking pictures of some wild flowers. He politely motioned for me to drive through, but I wanted to take some pictures of my own.
When we did go in and park, I liked how they made use of bricks and grass to make the lot, rather than asphalt.

We weren't really dressed to make a stay of the park and go down any of the trails, but we did take long enough to wander around the initial entry way. A bathroom and some park maps along with a sort of seating/resting area were close to the parking area, and just a few steps aways were several picnic tables available for someone wanting to eat lunch before or after a nice hike.

We saw quite a few hikers getting ready to hit the trail including people with kids and older folks out to enjoy a bit of nature. My wife was struck by the fact that really, the park is located just hundreds of yards from IH-10, yet the faint sound of traffic seemed to blend into the beauty of the park as if it were a brook off in the distance.

I could understand why when we arrived, the gentleman at the gate was so focused (no pun intended) on the subject of his photography; you couldn't walk a few feet without finding something to take a happy snap of.

My wife is not a big fan of cactus, in fact I had to remove a few from our yard when we first moved to Silver Creek. But out here, safely off the path, they were a very pleasant sight to take in.

This is one of those places we pass by and usually say something like, "Gee, I wonder what that place is like?" and I suspect that there are quite a few people who do the same. But it seems to me that if you can recall at least one of those places a week, there would be no reason to ever think that "there is nothing to do in San Antonio" like the dumbass announcer on ABC.

Both Raymond Russell and Friedrich Wilderness Park are free and available for everyone to enjoy. We have found so many of these gems in and around San Antonio from time to time and it just seems a shame for folks not to enjoy them.

I'll tell you about more of more of our favorite places to visit in the near future. How 'bout you tell me about your favorite places to visit.

*My sister Noreen read about our trip to Wichita Falls and all the places we ate and was extremely concerned about my health. I assured her that we were only splurging since we were on a trip.

Panda Update: Doggy Fashion Sense

If you have ever wondered why otherwise happy-go-lucky, family friendly dogs turn vicious and attack their owners, you need look no further than what my wife has forced upon our beloved little dog, Panda.

I'm sure Panda is eagerly awaiting the first signs of winter so she might make a fashion statement along the runways of Silver Creek.

A disinterested Gracie had no comment.

*Attention PETA: No pets were harmed in the making of this Blog entry.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Report: Beating the Rain...

We always try to make the most of our weekends whether it be a trip to HEB Plus for my week supply of veggies, fruits and yogurt, hitting a garage sale or two or doing some yard work. Today, we got an early start and just got home with only a slight rain to wet our groceries in the back of the truck.

Several weekends ago, we got together with some of our neighbors and did a garage sale of our own. Basically, the neighbors brought over their junk, combined it with our junk, then we all sat around and drank coffee and ate donuts and such while strangers came and dug through our collective junk. The goal of these events is to have all of our junk gone by the time the strangers leave.

Silver Creek makes a good neighborhood for Saturday garage sales because as long as the weather cooperates, you can count on any number of other people with the same idea.
And once garage-sailer's get the spirit, they drive around and hit them all. Of course, there are the early birds who seem to be coming just to buy up anything that will sale on E-Bay or at a flea market some place, but I don't mind.

This morning, we noticed that some folks down the street from us were having a real doozy of a garage sale so we made our way down. I bought a bunch of picture frames and then the "incident" occurred. A lady was looking at a 36" TV for a hundred bucks, and she was using the phone to call someone to ask about buying it. I saw this and thought that perhaps if the lady didn't buy it, I'd get it just to have - I mean, how can you pass up on a 36" color TV for a hundred bucks, right?

When I showed my wife, she told the garage sale proprietor that we would take the TV. Just then, the lady on the phone came up and said she would take it. The proprietor said (and rightfully so) that she would sell it to us since we had basically pulled the trigger first, but I instead said that if the lady on the phone wanted it, she could go ahead and take it. I didn't want to cause a problem and really, I had no idea where I was going to put the TV in the first place. To me, it just wasn't a big deal.

My wife saw it a different way. What I didn't see at the time was that the lady on the phone was gathering up other stuff and setting it aside, yet when a man wanted to actually purchase something the lady had stacked, she told him that the item was already taken. I guess the analogy would be like going into HEB just before Thanksgiving and setting aside all the turkeys, affectively taking them all off the market of other buyers. If you intend to buy it, put it in your cart and get to the register.

In the end, I felt like it wasn't worth a scene but after we left, I started thinking I should have just said "You snooze, you lose" to the lady and taken the TV.

What do you think? Am I just too nice for my own good?

One of the projects that my wife wants to work on is tiling our back patio. Her mother had hers done a few weeks ago and it sure does look nice. So, we have been thinking about it and decided to go to this place over off of Bandera and 410 called Floor & Decor. Wow! Talk about a huge selection and a place you could really get lost in looking at all the different styles and ideas.

We ended up deciding on a checkerboard pattern using a beige and a brown so it will sort of match the house trim and the deck. I'll take a picture when we do it. But I wanted to point out how really helpful the staff was at Floor & Decor. I'm a frequent visitor to Home Depot and
occasionally Lowes, but I find the service at these places to be less than exciting, so I was pleased with the folks at this place.

Anyway, we had a nice young lady named Yen help us out and she was all too happy to pose with the huge load of stuff we bought. Imagine the workout these people get during a regular shift of work.

Believe me, I had to unload it all when we got home.

After dropping it all off, we made a quick run out to the HEB Plus. Walking in from the parking lot, my wife pointed out this little hot rod that warranted a picture.

So what 16 year old (and please, let's hope it is a 16 year old) thought this would be a good look for his "sports car"? These are the things that make me giggle. I especially like his awesome rims.

I got to see our friend Carol, one of the cooking ladies (pictured at the top of the page) who works the main "featured" cooking demo area. She made some serious vittles today including some sort of stuffed chicken, some awesome ravioli and this pasta that she had perhaps been a tad bit generous with the horseradish. Geeze, my innards are still yelping.

Anyway, we got all our stuff and hit the parking lot just in time for a little shower action. Yep, taking the truck to go grocery shopping isn't necessarily the smartest thing I did today.

How was your visit to HEB or around the neighborhood garage sales? Tell me about it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

My GNW HOA Minutes: Okay, Hours Really...

As I wrote earlier, I attended my very first meeting of the GNW HOA on Thursday. I have been planning to attend for years, but never found the time. I’m glad I made it.

The meeting has a format which affords residents wishing to address the board of directors a chance to do so before the formal meeting agenda kicks off. There is also a sign-up which allows residents to speak while agenda items are discussed. I found this to be a great format though the execution was not as formal as it was probably intended.

A few residents to speak had clear, seemingly non-confrontational issues for the board regarding the pools. One lady asked about the diving boards being removed and another asked about hooligans hanging around at the pool. Okay, hooligans was my word, not necessarily hers.

Then it got interesting. A lady chose to ask a specific board director, Mr. Guy Pucci, if he had planned on giving the money he received in a lawsuit settlement from the association, back. She called him unethical for sitting on the board after costing residents $75K for his lawsuit against the very board he was now a member of. Before he could respond, Mr. Joe Martinez (publisher of the Sentinel Newsletter) admonished the board that this woman (whose name I did not catch) was out of order. “Out of order!” he repeated multiple times, to which the lady replied, “Sir, we aren’t in session; how can I be out of order?”

At this point there was a lot of talk between board members and onlookers in the audience, and I could see factions of people dividing like a wedding with the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I realized that the descriptions of board meetings given to me by neighbors who have participated before were pretty accurate. Another lady whose name I did not catch provided a formal letter to the board and then stood there and read it. She had three different complaints, all of which seemed petty to me, but the one that came up again in the formal portion of the meeting revolved around a particular volunteer having been let go by the board some 6 years ago. Whatever. I think audience members and the board all agreed that as long as the volunteer wasn’t doing anything bad now, let’s move on. Agreed.

Two gentlemen fully decked out in motorcycle gear spoke of their desire to form an area motorcycle club that HOA residents could join in and have twice monthly rides, perform community service events and perhaps hold meetings at the lodge. They were seeking permission not to form the club, but to be recognized as residents, and not as Hells Angels if neighbors saw a group of them meeting in the parking lot of the lodge etc. If ever there was a no-brainer, this was it. My gut feeling was that a member of the board would immediately move to have a proclamation of some sort, naming this new motorcycle club as a Friend of the Association or some such ceremonial convention. Instead, board member Ms. Sigrid Long brought up the fact that this group could somehow be a liability to the HOA, and that lawyers would have to be consulted.

Beyond being shocked, I was distressed that during the course of the meeting (which still was not actually in session yet) the “need to consult lawyers” had been proclaimed numerous times by Ms. Long and others.

Mr. Lee Besing, the chairman of the board was quick to dismiss Ms. Long’s concerns, citing that unless the motorcycle club was going to use the name, “Great Northwest Community Improvement Association, Inc. Motorcycle Gang” and perhaps use the GNW logo, there really wasn't any issue. Mr. Austin Sheldon, one of the club founders, confirmed that they would not be wearing leather jackets emblazoned with the seal of the GNW.

Interestingly enough, later in the meeting Mr. Besing noted that a group offered to let GNW board members ride in Corvettes during the 4th of July parade. I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Long would want to consult lawyers for liability issues prior to jumping in for a ride down Timberwilde.

Another topic that came up in the early “residents to speak” session and then in the formal meeting was the use of e-mail addresses. Ms. Kathy Callahan pointed out that one board member; Mr. Pucci in particular did not wish to correspond with her via e-mail. Given an opportunity to explain his reasons, the fact that she was sending mail to his work address, the matter was resolved somewhat. Later, Ms. Long made the suggestion that board members should only be using official e-mail addresses for correspondence with residents and further, that any e-mail sent to one board member should go to all board members. Somehow, this good idea of making board members accessible via official e-mail addresses turned into a free-for-all with board members recounting the various e-mails they had received from their adoring public, and how they responded to them. This was fine, but it seemed as though the meeting never gained any momentum toward getting through the stated agenda because every sentence uttered required some legal review or interjection from an audience member.

During a break, my neighbor Eric introduced me to board member, Janet Doherty and former board member Kathy Callahan, both of whom seemed to be very nice folks just concerned about making the HOA work.

This brings me to the point. For all of the infighting and ruffled feathers over seemingly insignificant matters, these people all seem very concerned about doing the right thing for the community, yet I think there is some one-upmanship and pettiness spoiling what would otherwise be a tough job in the first place. Listening to the temporary accountant and one of the department heads discuss the very real and important issues facing the people who do the day-to-day running of this HOA and all the facilities, it comes across as unsettling to observe otherwise well intentioned people act like 6th graders.

The Great Northwest is bigger than many towns in the state of Texas, and with a budget that far exceeds what I dismissively thought of as a pool and a few security guards. There are many hardworking people (the ones that have not quit, anyway) who have an important job to do to keep our community facilities running. To help guide the direction of the community are a group of volunteers who have been elected by a very small percentage of the total HOA membership (which by the way doesn’t diminish the fact that they are elected). It seems such a shame that the meeting could go on for so long (two hours before I gave up and left) to contain really only 20 minutes or so of real content; the rest of the time taken up by petty sniping and quibbling.

I’m no stranger to immaturity though, so I plan to be back at the next meeting and perhaps I’ll bring a cowbell or one of those air horns to give off an alarm each time someone starts being stupid. I feel like I’m going to like these people; they are my neighbors after all.

* If I mentioned your name, please don’t sue me, but please don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you’d like.

*No, I'm not really going to bring an air horn or a cowbell next time.

Dinner Report: Steak 'n Shake, and a few others

Sunday morning after breakfast with my daughter, we made the trip back to San Antonio from Wichita Falls. I had planned all along to take IH-35 back to SA so we could see how the traffic flows now that a lot of the construction has been completed. Let me just say that traffic wise, the trip up 281 was a lot more efficient and far more visually stimulating.

We hit a lot of rain on and off, especially leading into Ft Worth. It did not surprise me one bit to learn of the devastating flooding up in Gainesville. Aside the from the weather, we got to enjoy quite a bit of bumper to bumper assholishness which proved both entertaining and frustrating, depending upon where I was in relation to the perpetrators. Call me immature, but I enjoy seeing a good case of road-rage between two other drivers when I can observe from a safe distance. It’s a little different when I’m the guy stuck behind an old man in a hat, driving 2 miles under the speed limit and refusing to get the hell out of the passing only lane. But don’t get me started.

We made three stops worth reporting on the way back, in West, Waco and Austin. We first learned about the Czech Stop in West, probably 10 or more years ago on a trip to north Georgia. Our kids were, well about 10 years younger, and we left SA extremely early in the AM. By the time we hit West, I was ready for some coffee and the kids were ready for some vittles. We had never experienced Kolaches before, and raved about them the entire way to Georgia.

Anyway, south bound on IH-35 we had just passed some rain and construction and when we saw the sign for West, I tapped a few clicks into the Garmin and got directions to the front door of Czech Stop. You can smell the fresh baked goods in the parking lot, if you can find a place to park. Even in the afternoon, the place is still crowded with travelers all having the same idea.

We didn’t even eat any of the $16.00 worth of heaven that we bought, still full from IHOP, but I can assure you that lunch for the next three days was pretty good!

Not a lot further down the road, we decided that we needed to make a quick stop into the Dr. Pepper museum in Waco. We’ve seen it and I’m sure it would make a good refresher tour, but my wife just wanted to slip into the gift shop to purchase a few shirts and a shot glass. The gal behind the counter was trying to be friendly, but she was an idiot. Something about a pen that my wife wanted to buy but preferring to let my wife use it to sign the credit card receipt, but not putting the pen in our bag when we were done. It got resolved and we moved on.

If you haven’t ever visited the DP Museum, don’t think that it is a waste of time just because you don’t drink Dr. Pepper. They have on display a really rich history of items about, well, DP but also about the people who made it. I wouldn’t make a trip to Waco just to see it, but if you are going up to join in the Branch Davidians, you wouldn’t be wasting your time by stopping by.

Have you noticed how crowded and crappy Austin is? Actually, now that they seem to have a handle on the road construction, we only had to come to a complete stop once. And the drive from south of Austin to San Antonio is a breeze.

We are huge fans of Steak n’ Shake so I knew from the word Go that we would be doing lunch/dinner there. I can’t wait for SA to get a Steak n’ Shake so we can have yet another place to make ourselves even more obese.

At any rate, my wife and I both ordered the steakburger and fries and a tea. Other than the lady didn’t give us any napkins or forks or anything, it wasn’t a big deal. The burgers are so good and the texture of the bread is so fresh and yummy. Geeze I’m hungry.

Anyway, on our way out, we ordered up some shakes to go. I paid at the counter and was waiting for the order when another customer came up and asked to speak to the Chef. The manager corrected him by suggesting that perhaps he’d like to speak to the “grillman”. Very nice.

So the guy at the grill looks up and I could tell that he was sort of nervous, perhaps a customer was not happy with a booger on his bun or some other minor infraction. Instead, the man told the “grillman” that he had driven all the way from Houston just to eat at Steak n’ Shake, and that his burger made the trip worth it. He then handed the guy a tip of at least several dollars.

You should have seen the look on the young Grillman’s face. He was happy about the tip but easily more pleased that someone took the time to pay him a compliment. And that’s the kind of thing that makes everybody happy to be at a restaurant. Good food and happy customers.

I would have stood up and reported that we were from San Antonio, but it seemed a bit done by then. Regardless, we hit 1604 just in time to see cars backing up in both directions for some big concert out at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. We were pretty pleased to be home and our dogs were pretty happy to see us.

*PETA: Of course we had someone take care of the dogs while we were gone.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

HOA Meeting Tonight: WTF!

After all these years, I finally made time to attend my first open meeting of the HOA for the Great Northwest. Though I could only manage to stay for the first two hours, I got to witness the small assembled crowd made up of existing board members, previous board members, possible future board members, and then one or two curious onlookers like me.

I'll post a few notes of interest as soon as I get a chance, but initially, I'd just like to say that as a homeowner, I appreciate the fact that these people take the massive amount of time it takes to volunteer for these unpaid positions. I got the feeling though that the board and the participants in the audience were people who all feel as though they have been wronged in some way by other people there. I'm not trying to be some junior social counselor, but honestly, I could have turned on two hours of Hannity and Colmes if I wanted to sit there and listen to people play the "gotcha" game.

One example of that is where the board was faced with a person up and quitting from a very critical position within the community on a Thursday. The board made herculean efforts to meet just 24 hours later and hire a person who had previously worked in the same position in the past, someone with knowledge of the HOA, and hire them as a contractor to fill the position if only temporarily. I was immediately proud that the board of directors had acted to go above and beyond to correct the situation - remember, these are volunteers on their own time - and a gentlemen got up and berated the board for failing to meet some unexplained EEOC policy and for failing to get three bids from other contractors.

I'm sure this guy meant well and I'm sure he had some valid point he was making from a previous lifetime; I also remember being deployed to Bosnia because neighbors were fighting over atrocities that occurred a thousand years earlier.

Life is too short. Why is it that I have lived in this neighborhood since 1999 and not once have I been motivated to appear before the board and complain about somebody who is volunteering his or her time? Because I have a life.

Perhaps a sad and pathetic existence spent working and jotting down notes and taking silly pictures for a blog that only a hand full of nice people read, but a life nonetheless.

I'll post more about this tomorrow, assuming I don't get a restraining order from the lawyer of the lady who seemed to think that a group of neighbors who wanted to get together and ride their motorcycles twice a month as a group would be a liability to the HOA. Sweet baby Moses on a Razor in the pool area spraying graffiti on the park; what a piece of work.

Breakfast Report: IHOP on Father's Day

My wife and I wanted to get a reasonable start back to San Antonio on Sunday morning, but with it being Father's Day, we decided to at least stay long enough for breakfast with my daughter. We got to meet one of her friends who is also attending school at Sheppard, so we invited her to join us.

No sense in spoiling the good report from Denny's, we opted to check out an IHOP just off 281. As you might imagine, there was a line starting to form, what with people all wanting to get their feed on either before or after church, or just as a special treat for the Dads of WF. After a brief wait however, we were seated and our waitress, Miss Sunshine came to take our order.

I've never been a waitress (or a waiter for that matter), but I can only imagine it must suck. You have to deal with crabby people in a hurry, people who want way more service then they really need, and above all, you are on your feet the whole time. I get it and there is a special place in my wallet for wait staff who can get through all that and still put on a smile and at least attempt to be interested in their customers.
Our waitress (as I said, Miss Sunshine) was a fairly attractive skinny blonde girl who must have been thinking about how she had been abused as a child or had just lost a favorite pet. She was not happy and there was no amount of being a polite customer that was going to help change her demeanor.
Please don't misunderstand; I am not, nor have I ever been one of those people who want to engage in idle banter with the waitress or be that creepy older fat guy who wants to flirt with the younger, prettier people around him. So this wasn't an issue of me being snubbed. My daughter's friend it turns out, comes from a family that owns a restaurant and she noted right away what a sourpuss this gal was. But, I won;t let a bad personality ruin my day, especially if the rest of the service is good. And, thankfully it was.

One entertaining thing while we waited for our breakfast was a very hungry fellow who was quite engaged in his job; eating! I know it's easy to poke fun at fat people and I only do it knowing that if you ever sat next to me in a restaurant, you might just snicker yourself, but this wasn't a case of a tubby guy wanting to lick his plate clean, this guy was all sorts of hungry. Case in point: who orders dessert after breakfast? Especially after eating a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity? Essentially, breakfast at IHOP is dessert.

So anyway, Miss Sunshine brought us our meals and we were all pretty happy with what we got. I'm pretty standard with pnacakes & eggs, but the girls all ordered fruity waffles and such. We were pretty pleased and a session of picture taking ensued.

When everything was said and done, we got the bill and my daughter, bless her little heart, snatched the bill and paid. And I let her! I'm a good dad. Good & cheap!

I did however decide to leave the tip for Miss Sunshine and when my daughter's friend saw that I was not going to let our waitresses' sour disposition take away from her tip, she commented that I was a "very generous man". I then told her that our waitress was just upset because her pimp called and she had to get back to the corner at the end of her shift. Yes, generous indeed.

Bottom line: Thumbs up for the WF IHOP.

Friend Ouimet and daughter Roxanne -->

Shoe Report: Shoe Carnival

What else would you do when you travel half way across the state of Texas to go visit your daughter? That's right, go shopping for shoes.

We have a Shoe Carnival in San Antonio which is always packed with people going for the buy-one get-one action. I mean, the few times I've been in there, you'd think they would need security to maintain the order. Thankfully, we slipped into the Wichita Falls version before the big crowds arrived.

My wife and daughter went from rack to rack looking for just the right shoes so I pretty much stood around watching people shop. The store manager, Ty Parker seemed like a super motivated sales guy. He walked around with a microphone occasionally announcing specials and reminding customers of the big discounts, etc. I swear, this guy had a voice built for radio. Perfect inflection, a deep, crisp, clear tone, and obvious personality. I joked with one of the other employees that he could be Bob Barker's replacement.

Anyway, very helpful and friendly staff, and they even gave us a Military Discount, even though it wasn't Tuesday, the normal day for discounts.

Merchant Report: Iggy's

My daughter told me that she had not been able to access the Internet from her almost new Laptop, and several attempts by me to diagnose it over the phone were fruitless. It had worked fine at home before my wife sent it to her, so I was thinking perhaps there was a hardware problem caused by being shipped (in the original packing!). When we got to our room at the base, I hooked her laptop up directly to the DSL line and figured by bypassing the wireless card, it would work. No luck. I could see the network but just couldn't get it to work. After over an hour, I gave up and hooked up my Laptop to find some service in Wichita Falls. Thanks Bill, Vista works great. Not!

Long story short, I found an ad on
CraigsList for this shop called Iggy's Buildatorium and as luck would have it, it was located just outside the main gate of Sheppard AFB. With it being Saturday though, I was worried that either they would not be open or it might be some rip-off place. So I walk in with my daughter's Laptop and it turns out that Iggy's is an Internet Cafe and they also do service. $5.00 an hour to use their computer, $2.00 an hour if you have your own computer. They had several rows of teens playing online computer games and Jason, the lead technician sitting back supervising the operation. I explained my dilemma to Jason, the fact that I was leaving town early Sunday etc and I just wanted to get it fixed. Honestly, I was prepared to take it in the shorts but had no other choice. I returned about two hours later and for $25.00 plus tax, the computer was good to go. On top of that, Jason told me about a few conflicts going on with the computer which was causing it to slow down to a crawl and I was able to fix them on my own. Bottomline, I would definitely recommend Iggy's and I gave my daughter several of thier cards just in case she ran into more problems.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sight Seeing: Wichita Falls

Coming from San Antonio, a heavily tourist oriented town, we come to expect that cities of any size will have attractions to keep visitors occupied and out in public as opposed to sitting in a hotel room watching crappy TV and waiting to strap-on the feedbag for the next meal. Wichita Falls did not disappoint, having River Walk-like Park (a river and a walk, but certainly no Dick’s Last Resort), and a few points of interest worth stopping for.

Two places I wanted to see were the sculptures of the Indian Wee-chi-ta showing some fellow Indians how deep the water was, and the Falls themselves. As this link says, the original falls are gone but a replica has been built, conveniently located off I-44. Oh yeah, and they also turn the falls off with a spigot to save water.

The first thing that struck me about the Wichita River was how extremely, umm, colorful it is. The nice lady at the Texas Welcome area told me that it had to do with all the iron ore in the water being stirred up. When we happened a few miles north to the Texas Oklahoma border, we could see clearly why the body of water was called the Red River. I’m sure some people enjoy a nice refreshing swim on a hot day, but I’ll stick to a nice shower in a clean hotel, thanks.

The Falls really do make a nice scenic view from I-44, but I was mostly impressed with the public park created along the river leading to them. We only stopped briefly, but the walking path was very clean, easily accessible to the handicapped, and though I have to confess that I felt uneasy about leaving two laptops, a video camera and my 35mm camera kit in the van as we walked around (and seriously, is that not asking for trouble?), I was happy to find no burglary and also happy to see several female joggers including a senior hitting the path alone – a sign that the park is considered relatively safe.

Again, swimming certainly would not be an option, but I could see this park being used for a family picnic, or just a nice place to take a stroll.

The sculptures on the other hand, though very well done, were in an area of town that I have to guess is less than the Upper End. I used my Garmin Street Pilot to guide the way, only a few miles or so from the base, and I kept thinking to myself that it must be a mistake. But sure enough, we pulled into what at first looked like an abandoned grain elevator near an old bridge, and there it was.

I don’t know the history of the sculpture, though there was one of those self-congratulating markers listing the names of everyone involved etc, but all I can say is, Bravo! Again, with the ugly red water below, there was a very nice little walkway down to the structure and really, well done landscaping to give a good mix of metal (or whatever they make sculptures of) and plants and water.

Before you pack up the picnic basket, make no mistake; this is a place to come, look, take a few pictures and move along. There was a park bench and I can’t over emphasize how well the space was used, but if there was not some otherwise historic significance to the location, I would have placed the beautiful art work back at the park with the falls. Perhaps if you are familiar with story behind this, you can educate me.

When we first pulled up, my wife and daughter decided they would rather sit in the locked van and wait for me while I took pictures. Partly because it was raining, and partly because the place just looked scary in broad daylight. Once they saw that I was okay, they ventured out to see what I could see. Just as they made their way down to the sculpture, we looked up to see some lady standing by the van peering into the windows. In her heroine induced, white-trash state, she was able to determine that for a fat guy, I could probably still out run her and any attempt to bust into the vehicle would be ill-advised. So, she walked away. In fairness, there was a pay phone near where we parked, and she could have simply been making a call. To her pimp. Or drug dealer. With no intention of breaking into the van. While we watched.

After we took a few happy snaps, the rain started to come down a little more than just a sprinkle and the girls decided to go back to the van. I on the other hand decided I had to see the magnificent old bridge to get a few shots.

Oh, as it turns out, the big abandoned structure we saw has been converted into a climbing tower. What an awesome use of space and a great attraction for sports minded people. Once again, my first impression of the place was starting to fade and I could see that the people of Wichita Falls are trying to revitalize and area and make good use of the space.

One last picture I had to share of the bridge. I despise graffiti but there are certain times when a person finds it necessary to deface public property. Apparently, someone came to this bridge to ask that his prayer be answered, quite possibly before leaping off the bridge into a certain need for a bath, what with the color of the water below. If you click on the picture, you should be able to read it, but the gist of it is, some guy wants his wife to quit doing "wrongful and sinful things". Let's hope so.

Have you seen the Falls, the sculpture or ugly river? I’d like to hear your report.

About Your Host

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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