Dave

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Flat Tire Report: What is with the screws?

Can someone provide me a little insight as to what in the hell is going on with all the screws on the road?

I noticed a slow leak on one of the tires on my wife's little truck. So, I go over to the local tire repair shop on the corner of Grissom and Old Grissom and there are several people all with screws in their tires.






You know, I have a floor jack, so technically, I could jack the vehicle up myself. I even have an air compressor and air tools to remove the wheel really quick like some NASCAR guy...But I sure don't have one of those machines that lets you take the tire off the rim so you can repair the hole...Hopefully, this patch will do the trick.

Oh, and never forget to tip your tire man. He could end up being the prankster with the bag of screws that conveniently spills along Grissom Road!

Lunch Report: Village Inn...

My wife and I got a wonderful invite to go see a real-live BBQ cook-off up near Bandera yesterday, from a reader named Rick who lives in Timberwilde, just down the street from us. I was hoping that this morning, I might be posting some pictures of some award winning, lip smacking chicken, ribs, and brisket, but our schedule took a wild turn and we missed it. Next time, for sure!

But we still had to eat, and on our way to another errand, we stopped at the Village Inn over off of Loop 410 and 151. I should tell you in advance that my wife has been wanting to try this place since it opened. Growing up, we had a Village Inn in my home town in Florida, so I think of it as just another version of Denny's or Jim's or something like that, so it wasn't a big priority on my list of places to eat. But, since we were there, and we have already established that I do not like the Buffalo Wild Wings or the TGI Friday's in the same shopping center, it was into the Village Inn.

Maybe we hit it at an awkward time, but the place was fairly empty (which I like). We were immediately seated and our waiter came right away to take our drink order and give us menus. Important note: I always take my iced tea unsweetened. My wife likes hers regular. If you don't write this information down when you take our drink order, you still have a 50-50 chance that you'll get it right when you set the glasses down. Hopefully our waiter didn't waste any money on Lotto tickets this weekend.

I have to admit, I was surprised at the selection on the menu. I mean, lots of burgers, sandwiches, dinner plates, and of course, breakfast. Something that tells me that a restaurant means business in the breakfast department is the selection of sweeteners. Regular sugar is a given. Next up, most places have some Sweet-n-low (pink stuff) as the only substitute. I myself am particular to Equal (blue stuff). The Village Inn went all out and provided, sugar, pink, blue and yellow! (Splenda). Oh, and Smucker's jam on the table! Not bad indeed. Perhaps we'll try this place for breakfast sometime.

On to the vittles. I ordered up a Buffalo Chicken Melt. Instead of fries, I opted for the house salad. Not bad at all. It was fresh, came with a basket full of assorted crackers, had the right amount of croƻtons and the ranch dressing might be a house recipe. And it was the perfect size.

I think you should have a good idea of what you want to eat when you go into a place with such a huge menu selection. I'm a firm believer in fewer options at restaurants. For example, if you want Chinese, you go to a Chinese restaurant. Don't give me the option for enchilada's in Verde sauce once I get there. Likewise, burgers should not be on the menu at a pizza place. This wide variety makes the ordering process entirely too difficult.

So, as we scanned the menu for something to eat, I looked first at the Reuben sandwich, but thought to myself that I had just had one somewhere else recently. Then, I saw a double cheeseburger that looked good, and again, I thought, what the hell, this is the Village Inn, not Whataburger. So finally, when the moment of truth came and the waiter was standing there, uh, waiting, my wife was still scanning the menu and I blurted out, "Buffalo Chicken Melt, no fries, salad; ranch". And a bead of sweat dripped down onto the table below. And when I got it, I thought, man, I wish I had ordered the Reuben.

But, let me tell you. This is not a bad sandwich. And the buffalo sauce had quite the kick to it. I actually took the ranch dressing and slathered it upon the sourdough bun for added flavor. If you like hot wings but don't want to get your fingers all saucy, this is a good option. Thankfully, the napkins were able to sop up the red mess all over my face when I finished.

My wife opted for the Chicken Ranch sandwich which comes complete with strips of bacon. She let me have a little taste of it and I have to tell you, it was light and fluffy - not too hard like some chicken patties I have had in the past.

We did have a minor service issue. Aside from the tea incident, my wife ordered up some honey-mustard to dip her fries in. Our waiter cheerfully left and never returned. Well, he did return when I flagged him down and gave him the international sign for honey-mustard. I must tell you, when we got the honey-mustard, we were very pleased with it. Great taste, and again, it may be a house recipe like the ranch. Or perhaps, they just buy good quality products.

We are not ones for dessert unless it is one of those deals where somebody is celebrating a birthday and they bring you out this huge piece of cake with ice cream on top and enough spoons for everyone at the table to swap germs, so when the waiter comes and asks us if we are ready for dessert, we usually just say, "Give me the damn bill and make it quick, Bub". Not really. But it is nice to be asked.

The Village Inn apparently wants to give Marie Calandars a run for her money in the pie department. They have a huge display case of incredible looking pies of all flavors and texture, and they are having some sort of pie sale going on. Just a note - the good looking pies you see here are not the ones on sale for $5.95.

Anyway, during the course of eating our sandwiches, we looked at the little pie menu about 14 times and finally decided that my wife wanted to try a sliver of some sort of cheese cake topped with lemon. The only problem was, since the waiter had already dropped off our bill with the food, he wasn't coming back. Thankfully, my wife was able to capture the attention of another waitperson who politely yelled for Caesar to get back out to our table. And, he was apologetic enough that he only charged us for a half-slice, but gave us each our piece.

Good stuff!

So, here is the final deal. I think this place is worth checking out for breakfast, for sure. I think the afternoon dinner could be a good option over Luby's or some place like that. The price was not over the top but you can certainly eat cheaper. I am very happy with the quality of the vittles, though I'd have to try something else in order to be sure.

I guess that isn't much help at all, is it? How bout this? If you've tried Village Inn, tell me about it. Leave a comment here using the little comment button below.

Friday, September 28, 2007

GNW Watch Report: Meeting Notes...


Better late than never, right?

My wife and I attended the monthly meeting of the Great Northwest Neighborhood Watch this past Wednesday and I took a few notes which I will keep very brief.

Investigator Kelly Gleason from the Bexar County Sheriff's Office Vehicle Theft Unit came and gave us a great briefing on the auto theft task force that he is part of. First, it is nice to know that we have a multi-agency task force working the auto theft issue. You may have noticed some of the TV commercials playing regarding taking your keys out of your car. If you think this is a ridiculousness waste of money, consider that about 25 percent of the vehicles stolen here have the keys left in the ignition or they leave the second set in the car. Dumbasses.

Oh, and I didn't know it was a crime to leave your keys in your car, but it is.

A few other fun facts: In San Antonio, you have a 67 percent chance that your car will be recovered if it is stolen. I'm sure you will appreciate the beer and puke smell leftover by the little joy riders. If you are thinking that your car is headed straight down to Mexico when they steal it, it probably isn't. The recent war on terror has resulted in a lot more scrutiny along the border, and in fact, a lot of the money that places like Houston, Dallas and SA used to receive in grants for this type of work is now going toward the valley.

Also, every five minutes a car is stolen for 959,000 per year or a total of about $84 million in claims paid out a year. Hearing that makes me feel like my insurance rates are going up by the minute.

Following the theft presentation, Chief Roger Burton of the GNW Security staff provided us with some info on GNW reports in the last month. During the Q&A session, several audience members had some pretty tough questions for the chief regarding trends, follow-up of actions and exactly how the full GNW area is patrolled.

Based on a conversation I had with another resident, I asked the chief specifically about how the area is patrolled by his officers, and more pointedly, was there a fair amount of coverage in all areas. The person I had spoken with has had the benefit of living in both Emerald Valley and Silver Creek, and her observation was that the patrols seemed more frequent in Silver Creek than in other neighborhoods in the GNW. Chief Burton disputed this outright and suggested that, while he does not map out a specific patrol pattern for the security staff to drive, he is confident that his officers hit the entire GNW area several times per shift. Further, he elaborated that in areas where they see problems, they get even more patrols.

Chief Burton did state however that he was not going to simply sit in front of a resident's home, even if he suspected that the teenagers living there were causing problems. This would be harassment.

I am going to discuss this a bit with some of my neighbors and I will gladly consider e-mails from readers with thoughts, but I do have several items that the staff or the board may wish to consider in ways that we as a community may be able to deter some of the problems people occasionally see.

The thing that residents need to remember however, is that our security staff is more of a courtesy staff. They aren't conducting investigations or arresting people, so you can't be upset if they don't whip out the 9MM and start busting caps when some little JD is smokin' and jokin' down the street.

But, I welcome your input.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Seminar Report: Deed Restrictions, Code Violations and Conflict Resolution

How's that for a snappy and inviting topic? Okay, I'll keep it short.

My wife and a few neighbors attended a nice seminar put on by the Deed Restrictions and Architectural Control (DRACO) officer for GNWCIA, Jose Morlett on Tuesday evening and it was well worth the two or so hours.

A few things to consider. Did you know that in the Great Northwest, there are 4,958 homes? Did you know that in Emerald Valley, about 45% of the homes are rental properties?

One of the things we learned was that when a first notice of a deed restriction violation is warranted, the "door hanger" type ticket goes to the home (occupant). On the 11th day, if no action is taken, the letter with a picture of the violation goes to the homeowner. With so many rental properties, can you see the disconnect?

Another interesting thing: From 1976 to 1996, there was no full time DRACO. So, you may have been living here for 20 years with a violation and then all of the sudden, somebody comes up and says, hey, that's a violation!

The DRACO understands this and his intention is to work with homeowners to make everyone happy and work things out in the best interest of the neighbors. Jose always welcomes your reports of violations and will keep your name out of it. So call him at 681-2983 or e-mail him and let him look into the chickens in your neighbor's yard so the issue can be resolved for everyone.

John Kelly, the Code Compliance supervisor for our area gave a really nice and informative presentation regarding common violations and some of the limitations his officers have. He pointed out that the city has multiple ways of contacting his office including via the city portal and a handy code compliance reporting web page here. Check it out.

There were lots of questions from the attentive audience. One smart audience member raised the question about garage sale signs. He stated that if you pay a fee in order to obtain a garage sale permit, should that not include the authorization to post signs for the garage sale? The answer is that at one time it did! But, when some city council member got tired of seeing garage sale signs still up on Mondays, they changed it. Luckily for all of you holders of weekend flea markets, they usually won't take action on the signs during the weekend.

Officer Kelly hit too many other areas to list, but he did mention that on the weekends, they do patrol for garage sale permit violators, for people attempting to use the HEB parking lot as an extension of the Red McCombs used car lot, people selling or giving away dogs along the side of the road, and those guys who post the bandit signs such as "We'll buy your house cheap" or "Vote for Sheriff Ralph Lopez"

I'm not quite sure why I find that funny, but I do.

Ms Sandra Hackard from the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center came and passed out some materials and gave a nice talk on the services provided and the benefits of dispute resolution. Did you know that $15 of every lawsuit filed in Bexar County goes to support the Center? I didn't.

They offer information, referrals, and other information, but they don't offer legal advice. Basically, if you contact them and they can't help you solve the problem on your own (get you to talk with your neighbor first), then they figure out exactly what the dispute is, send out letters to both parties and within two to three weeks, you go and have a resolution session.

The center has over 130 volunteer mediators - people who are lawyers and counselors and such. And, they handle everything from family disputes, child visitation complaints, sold vehicle complaints etc. This is a free service!

And that was that. By the way, the GNW provided coffee, sodas, cookies and sammitches and this was really a worthwhile event. Kudos to Jose Morlett. This guy needs a raise and a bonus!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

HOA Selling Your Home?

News-4 WOAI will do a Troubleshooters report tonight on an HOA that is selling some folks home due to the fact that these people failed to pay the yearly assessment. Not GNWCIA, but it should be of interest to any person who lives in an association community like ours.

Want to learn more about stuff like code compliance and mediation? You can attend a free seminar this evening, 7PM to 9PM at the Lodge of the Great Northwest.

See you there!

Also, in case you didn't hear, The Great Northwest received an Honorable Mention from the National Night out folks for our display about our events. Likewise, Janet Doherty won an award for her event.

The GNW contingent was represented by our own Chief Roger Burton,
NNO Chair Betty Hood, Chairman of the Board of Directors Lee Besing, Vice Chairman Doherty, and several other GNW residents.

Thanks to Lee for the photo and the info.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Artists in Action...

I'm always yammering on about nobody ever seeing people doing graffiti, only finding the results of it. Well, this afternoon, my wife and I had cause to visit the Pep Boys over by SW Loop 410 and Marbach Rd in the greater John Jay High area. Sure enough, we got to see painting action first hand at a bus stop on the corner of Harness and Marbach.

In this case, I don't think these were your garden variety vandals, but probably members of an art class from Jay. My guess is, the homeowner has approved a mural and these kids were putting up something constructive of artistic value as opposed to the nonsensical "FTW" so prevalent around our area.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Strange in 78250: Backwards Driving...

Sweet! My wife and I were out doing some late morning garage-sailing when right before our eyes we witnessed a guy in a truck pulling another guy in his little car. Okay, nothing to see here - moving along, moving along...

Oh, did I mention that the car being pulled was being pulled backwards?

The tandem zipped by us on Tezel quicker than my wife could yell, "You never have the camera when we see something good..." In the mean time I was pulling onto Tezel behind the scene of interest with my camera coming directly from my pocket and into shooting position!

Imagine how hard it is when people back out of parking spots at HEB; this guy was doing it like a pro at 35 miles an hour, around turns and all the while with nothing but the bed of the truck in front of him as a view. I'm impressed.

I have no idea why they chose to pull the car backwards as opposed to frontwards, but it made for a strange* but entertaining sight!

*With apologies to Strange in San Antonio

Friday, September 21, 2007

GNW CIA Meeting Report: My Notes... (be they ever so humble)

As I mentioned in the teaser last night (I stole that idea from the San Antonio Lightning Online Paper), a few of my neighbors joined my wife and I as well as quite a few other residents for meeting of the board of directors, Great Northwest Community Improvement Association. This was a general meeting but one main order of business was discussion of the budget. I'll get to that, but let me recap the events so you can get up to date.

As I have mentioned before, residents have the opportunity to sign up to speak before the board in one of two ways; either as a topic that is already on the agenda or as a topic that is not part of the agenda. For example, if you wanted to simply get up and tell the board you think they are doing a great job, that probably would not be part of the official agenda. If you wanted to speak on the topic of the budget, last night was a good night to sign up for the other section.

Prior to residents wishing to be heard, the GNWCIA was addressed by a Mr. Jeff Peterson from Rep Jose Menendez' office.

Mr. Peterson spoke of recent state bills and such that may be of interest. I would suggest you learn more by going to the web page or calling the office. In my opinion, Jose has been a great representative for this area and I continue to support him until I find something worth complaining about.

Moving along, to the citizens to be heard. I'd like to be very delicate about this. Though I confess to often attempting to approach the information I post with a sense of humor, I have been told that some readers (and at least one director) don't always appreciate my approach. Having said that...

Sweet Sainted Mother of Charles Nelson Reilly! The first resident was, well, quite a plum. This resident, apparently a retired person, who I had not recognized from previous meetings, apparently didn't know the crowd when he got up to make his speech. The audience was filled with previous board directors, residents who have had years of involvement and participation, and at least a lawsuit litigant or two. So it made the speaker's opening statement to the assembled crowd that "You all may be afraid to speak to the board, but I'm not" an awkward confession of his lack of situational awareness.

Though a microphone had been provided at the center of the room, the man felt compelled to wander around and speak without it - for a sentence or two before one lady and several others insisted that he please use the microphone. I think this took him off his game.

The man went on to complain that he wanted to apply for the position of Community Manager, but because he did not use the Internet or apparently read any newspapers, he felt he was not provided adequate information on the process. As a fellow resident, I certainly applaud his desire to speak before the board and make his complaints known, but his approach was simply way off.

The crowd seemed dumbfounded at his long winded yammering about how he should have been able to obtain all information necessary by simply asking a person at the counter in the office. Aside from the obvious legal issues someone might bring up from this approach (okay, it isn't obvious to me, but I am certain someone can make some sort of legal complaint), I think any resident would agree that our next Community Manager ought to at least make it a point of familiarizing themselves with the Official Community Newspaper (Passages) at the official GNW Web Page - both of which have been advertising details of this position for months now.

After almost ten minutes of rambling, and I use that description purposely, Chairman Lee Besing finally interrupted the resident and advised him that he had exceeded the 3 minutes alloted to speak, and could he either listen to a response to the complaint, or at least wrap it up so we could move on. The gentleman questioned the three minute rule and several people piped up that it was in the by-laws, hopefully a document our next Community Manager will become familiar with.

The resident did very kindly take his seat, but not before warning us all that he would be attending future meetings. Bravo to him and I hope he does. He seemed like a genuinely nice man to me; just a tad bit off kilter. I hope that isn't offensive.

Moving along... Another fine audience member, Mr. Robert Rodkey, a former board candidate approached to give a long winded and ill-advised admonishment to the board about arbitrarily raising the assessments for the next budget without first collecting the fees to see how much was in the kitty. Director Richard Garcia pointed out to Mr. Rodkey that in fact, no budget has been agreed upon and further, the purpose of the evening's meeting was to discuss the budget. I had to stop myself from giggling out loud when my wife gave me the eye, but it seemed to me that several people had come to the meeting armed for bear, but really hadn't fully thought out the chronology of events.

Members of the staff got up to give presentations - Acting CM/DRACO Jose Morlett, Temp Accountant Teresa Carpenter, and Maintenance Director, Fred Murphy.

A lot of things worth skipping but a few items to note:
  • Jose mentioned some new hires in the office - working out well
  • Ballot documents ready for review
    • Resident and former director/chair Mr. Joe Martinez astutely noted that the voting was to be done "secretly" and that by allowing a resident to review the ballots and proxies, private resident voting information was made available
    • Director Garcia who witnessed the review of ballots acknowledged that information that should have been secret was in fact available to the residents reviewing the documents
    • Director Guy Pucci suggested a change to the ballot and proxy documents to correct this problem
  • Ms. Carpenter mentioned several accounting related things
    • Director Pucci requested information on the use of the TOPS software and how it might be used for tracking GNW Security calls
  • Mr. Murphy discussed several items involving spending money.
  • Resurfacing of tennis courts - either asphalt which will crack again or a Rhino Court product that will last longer
    • Both very expensive
    • One resident questioned if the Rhino product was suitable for tennis courts
    • Another resident questioned how many people even use the tennis courts
    • Director Garcia suggested that the board put the cost to the residents to decide if it was worth the price to upgrade the tennis courts - ((If you play tennis, you better say something now))
  • Fences at pool to separate bathrooms from pool - this allows the restrooms to be used when the pool is closed
  • New sound system - wireless, about $3,500
    • Just a side note on the sound. I hope that the new system will be fully installed and tested by professionals. Nobody expects the members of the board nor the residents who speak to be professional orators accustomed to projecting their voices as though the meeting was a Broadway play. Yet, most often (unless it is just my wife and I who show) the audience is made up of several folks who may have hearing issues. To get the most of the meetings, I'd push for spending a few dollars on a solid system that would make the important things people have to say, audible to everyone.
  • New GNW signs - need to replace signs around the neighborhood
  • Power washer is up and running to help with graffiti
  • Lodge Painting inside and out - not cheap
Okay - it wasn't until 8:50 PM that we got to the budget. And I'm not going to say much about it. Before the discussion started, resident Mr. Ben Pucci (in case you didn't know, the father of Director Guy Pucci) gave a quick statement regarding how the board ought to proceed. I apologize for not catching it all but the gist was that the group should figure out how much money was coming in, stick to that as a budget and if anything, cut the budget.

Mr. Martinez also spoke citing the need for reductions in several areas.

Smartly, Mr. Besing opened the floor to comments from residents even if they had not signed up to speak specifically about the budget, but he felt there was too much important work to be done without hearing from those attending.


One lady,
Olivia Theriot, spoke of the need to keep in funding for the Parliamentarian. This created a stir from other residents who felt the board of directors should be the parliamentarians. Further, a gentleman stated his opposition to paying the money since now, the current board gets along with the residents who attend the meetings.

Kids, cover your ears.

WTF?


In other words, what this gentleman was saying was that, we needed a parliamentarian because people in the audience - residents - could not be trusted to follow standard rules of good order and discipline if they didn't agree with the people they had voted into office as directors. That statement alone ought to put parliamentarian right up at the top of the list of things to fund!

Okay. I have to confess that my wife and a few neighbors left during the break and my neighbor Merle and I could only hold on until about 9:45PM or so before we left the budget discussions to the hardcore residents.

I urge you to go to the office and took a look at the information on the DRAFT budget proposals so you can learn more about it. It is only a DRAFT! Don't get your panties in a wad - make some suggestions if you don't agree with what you see. But as Chairman Besing was overheard saying, don't tell us to cut the budget, tell us exactly what items in the budget you want cut. Those are good words of wisdom.

So, I apologize for this being so long winded. There is a lot of information that is important to you as a resident. Please, plan on getting out to the next meeting.

Also, if you were at the meeting and I got it all wrong, please leave a comment or e-mail me so I can fix it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

GNW CIA Meeting Report: We did Attend - Notes to Come...

I was joined by several neighbors and lots of residents this evening for the meeting of The Great Northwest Community Improvement Association. It is budget time and I'm sorry to say, I couldn't stay for the entire meeting which will probably wrap up around 1AM or so.

Suffice it to say, I will collect my notes and provide you with a round up of the events by tomorrow afternoon, but in the mean time, you should be proud to know that many of your neighbors are interested in how the assessment fees you pay are going to be spent.

A special thanks to the board directors who made it to the meeting. I must tell you that they handled the peanut gallery with great respect this evening, especially when I wouldn't have blamed them for getting rowdy! I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Graffitti Report: More Encouragement in the Fight...

I was very happy to read a column in the SA Express-News from writer Cary Clack regarding the vandalism we know as graffiti. Mr. Clack talks of the frustration I have shared here about nobody actually seeing these little vandals doing the tagging. I always enjoy Mr. Clack's column and hope you will take a look at it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Reminder Report: GNW Draco Seminar - Sep 25th

Don't forget that Jose Morlett, the Deed Restriction officer for the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association , will be holding a seminar on September 25th at the Lodge in Silver Creek.

This seminar will focus on Code and Compliance and will also feature someone speaking from the Bexar Country Dispute Resolution office. This should be a pretty good seminar to help better understand the rules that as residents, we signed up to.

The seminar will be held from 7pm to 9pm. See you there.

Also, we'll also be at the GNWCIA Board Meeting this Thursday evening. I'll take notes and provide an accounting of who said what soon after. I missed the last two meetings so I am sure the directors missed me! I'm hoping to have several of my neighbors join us. Ought to be a fun time.

Arts & Crafts Report: Challenge Coin Holder

My wife has been bugging me to build a display rack for our growing collection of challenge coins. If you aren't familiar with what these are, you can learn about them here.

I had always been more of coffee mug and later, shot glass collector during my years in the military, but toward the end of my career, people started giving out coins more frequently. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the coins can be made for a lot less money with new technology. Now, most military units and often commanders and First Sergeant's have unique coins to give out as mementos.

Anyway, between me and my kids, we have a few worth looking at from time to time and my wife wanted to have a display for them. We had seen a display for sale for about $75.00 and I casually said I could make one for a lot less.

Note to self: Shut up.

Okay, so after lots of gentle reminders by my wife, she coerced me into a trip to Home Depot to buy wood. I wanted to build one in oak but thought it might be smart to create a "practice" version in cheaper wood. What follows is what I did:
First, I had to bust out a few tools I haven't used in a while. Notice the table? We bought that at a garage sale on Saturday for $5.00. What a deal. Also, notice the box of router bits? My wife bought them for me two or three Christmas's ago. This was the first time I used one of them. And of course, the bit I needed broke half-way through the project, so I had to run back to Home Depot to grab a new bit.Anyway, the design was to create two rows of slots to hold coins, then stack the boards on top of each other to create three levels. After that, I screwed the boards together (I couldn't find the wood glue, so I used screws). Then, a little stain action.And finally, put the coins up for display.I really wanted to do this one for practice so I wouldn't ruin a good piece of wood, but since my wife was happy with this version, I'd say it was done quick and easy.

What did you build this weekend? Tell me about it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dinner Report: We do eat at home...

I have often made light of the fact that this blog is less about our neighborhood and more about the restaurants we eat at, but when a neighbor mentions that they read this blog for directions to their next meal, it is important that I do a quick documentary on the norm!

In other words, we do eat at home!!!

So, as proof, check out our half-time (Cowboys-Dolphins) meal earlier this evening.

And there you have it. Steak doused in Monterrey Steak seasoning and olive oil to coat it; some shrimp soaked in soy, lime and garlic, grilled as I pulled the steak off the grill, and baked potatoes covered in Season-All and cheese.

I promise you; none of the restaurants we frequent can come close to this tasty treat.

Mall Report: Apparently, People Still Shop Ingram Park Mall...

My wife and I had an important errand to run Saturday afternoon at 3PM but through the use of modern cellular communications, we were able to learn that we would not be needed downtown until closer to 4PM. Since we were already on the road and since I had a watch that stopped at 11 o'clock (it was closer to 2), I suggested we run into Ingram Park Mall and get a battery for the malciferated watch and kill a little time.

I really only have a handful of reasons that can get me to the mall these days. One is JC Penny's. I like the slacks they sell and more importantly, you can get into Penny's without going into the mall.

There is also a Security Service Credit Union outlet in the mall, so if for some insane reason you need to make a transaction that can't be done at an ATM machine and it is after 5PM, you can go in there. Oh, and it is at the entrance to the mall, so technically, you don't have to go into the mall.

But on this day, we would have to actually go inside the inner bowels of the mall where one must negotiate crowded spaces with undesirable elements of society - teenagers and such. The little kiosk my wife always goes to for watch and jewelry repair is on the lower level, I think where there used to be a Luby's. I'm not sure if it is still there or not. Anyway, Sears is the anchor on that end of the mall.

So the guy there is extremely nice and recognizes my wife right away from the repeat business and takes a quick look at my watch and says he can fix it up in about 15 minutes. So, what this means is, we had to stay in the mall for another 15 minutes.

We did run into Kirklands and buy a picture but then decided that we better eat. Okay, in theory, the concept of the food court is a great idea. You take a dozen or so diverse restaurant outlets, put them in an open space, then provide shared seating so that people in the same party can eat different foods but sit together. The problem with this is, you have to sit with other people. Mall people.

If you ever have a poor body image, feel as though you are too overweight, have a bad complexion, don't dress right, or are generally ugly, I'd like to offer up a little advice. Take a day trip to the food court and Ingram Park Mall some weekend and I promise, you will come out of there feeling like you could win the Miss Teen USA contest without having to know where America is on a map. You can ask my wife; I'm no fancy dresser and once, I was able to leave the house wearing white socks and sandals (much to the embarrassment of my wife), but after mingling with the people at this food court, I actually looked reasonable.

One word people: Mirror. Look at yourself in the mirror and if it looks good to you, you need to change. That's right. If you are one of the men I saw at the food court yesterday who looked in the mirror at your Capri pants and said, "I look good being a man wearing Capri's" you are no longer able to trust your own instincts. I know gay people who think that men who wear Capri's look too gay to be seen in public.

Okay, so we were in the food court and my wife had a hankerin' for Chic-Fil-A . No thanks. So while she was rounding up some of that, I saw this place that sells Philly Cheese Steaks. I looke over the menu and I saw that they also sell a Muffuletta.

The Muffuletta's I know about come on a big round piece of bread and have some sort of olive salad on the bottom, then covered with the meats and cheeses. This one came on a sub bun, and there was no hint or discussion of olives at all. It was simply some fried salami or something with cheese melted on it. So, in the same way that Subway asks you what toppings you would like on it, I asked the lady for some black olives to go on my fried bologna sandwich.

Hell, I ought to be a sandwich creator because the end result was pretty darn tasty. I ate the entire thing without complaint, other than it wasn't what I thought I was ordering.

In the meantime, my wife and I used the time to observe the unfortunate people put upon this earth to congregate in a place for the sole purpose of providing us reason to feel better about our looks. We aren't shallow people, we just use the tools we are given.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday NIght Report: Sunset and Vittles...

Okay, work with me here.

We were driving home from a so-so visit to Applebee's (more in a second) and my wife noticed this cool looking scene along Grissom Road with the sun hiding behind some clouds.

Is it just me, or does it look like my big dog and little dog laying down in the back yard sunning themselves? I don't know. You hear about people who get visions of The Virgin in their toast or an appearance of Jesus in a a splotch of bird crap on their car windshield. I see dogs in the clouds.

Oh, before I left for work today, my wife had this idea of hitting Chilis for an early dinner this evening. On the way home, I called to tell her I was inbound and she said we ought to change up things a bit and go see Applebee's.

I don't have anything bad to say about Applebee's, although it does seem like they are revamping their "from the freezer to the microwave to your table" menu about every month or two. I tried the Bruschetta Burger. According to the menu, "This 100% Angus burger is juicy, robust—and like no other. It's crowned with a zesty pesto sauce and fresh bruschetta mix, and set on thick wedges of mozzarella. Served between grilled foccacia bread for a delicious crunch. Crispy garlic fries sprinkled with shaved Parmesan complete this classic."

The French fries seemed to be thrown in a small cup and mixed with shredded garlic bread. I suppose, but the appearance made me think that perhaps some earlier customer had left some fries and another customer had left some garlic bread and some crafty cook in the back mixed them together to make my dinner.

But, not bad at all. My hat is off to the creative genius who recycled that into a tasty treat.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tagging Report: Nabbing the Little Bastards...

My good neighbor Gus and I constantly talk about the disgrace that has come of the skateboard park set-up for our area youth in the name of a fallen police officer, Oscar Perez.

While many people may dismiss the graffiti as art or the tagging as a reflection of pride by the skaters, I think those of us over the age of 12 see it as the BS it is: Vandalism.

So, you know how I feel about it; no need to ramble on. But, I was happy to see that someone is apparently doing something to combat this crime.

Read about it here. And assuming that WOAI-TV will discard the link within a short time, the gist of it is that there is an "
undercover plan to crack down on 'tagging' around the city". Yeah!

The report goes on to tell us how bad the problem really is. They say that, "
This year, the city will clean up nearly a million square feet of infrastructure in and around San Antonio neighborhoods."

Am I the only person who thinks we need to issue pellet guns to residents along with a Get Out Of Jail Free Card? I mean, seriously? Are you telling me that you are cool with some punk expressing himself on your fence, car, or public park?


Let's see how things work out for our park.

If you happen to see the little taggers - please, take a picture, get a name or follow them to an address. I'd like to interview a few of them.

River Walk Report: Under Construction...

I had to make a short trip to the downtown office this morning and I stopped to take a picture or two of the folks building up the new extension to the river walk near McCullough and St Mary's Street.Here are a few pictures. You may want to save these and show your grandchildren what it looked like before it was done. I have to admit, it is pretty impressive the way they divert the water using a series of pumps and pipes.I wonder if my company will allow me to park for free when I want to visit, once the thing is done? Not holding my breath.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Motivates You?

What motivates you to do the job you do everyday? For those that work at a bank or a store or in a warehouse, I suspect it takes a great deal of motivation to get up everyday and get to work on time.

I don't have that problem.

I never talk about my job here because this hobby of mine is a release at the end of the day or perhaps on the weekend. I try to avoid any political discussion, though I confess to the occasional dart thrown.

No, aside from mentioning that I have served and that both of my kids are following in my footsteps, and their grandfathers' (on both sides) footsteps, I simply choose to leave it at that and write of restaurants, and parades, and grocery stores and goofy people I spot throughout the day.

But I can't let this day pass without letting you know a little bit about what motivates me to go to work each day, and try. Try is really what I do. Try to make a difference.

I was still on active duty when the events of September 11th, 2001 unfolded. And make no mistake, it didn't take any effort to get the attention and motivation of anyone in the military on that day or the days, weeks and several months that would follow.

But I noticed a really interesting thing happen less than a year after. People around me started to go back to normal. As much as we were reminded every time we traveled that things had changed, we were getting back to normal.

Then one morning, I walked into my office and right at the entryway, I was greeted with a big poster of PFC Matthew Commons. At the age of 21, this young Army Ranger was killed in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.

This haunting picture taken of a young man looking solemnly at his Ranger Buddy's on a helicopter getting ready for battle in a far away land, caught my eye and suddenly, there was a renewed focus to "do"; to try to do, whatever I could to make things easier for Matthew Commons and warriors like him to make it back from places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm no longer in the military, but I see Matthew Commons almost every Monday through Friday where I work. I'm not embarrassed to stop and read the caption on the picture that describes his age and his fate, even though I have read it hundreds of times before.

And just a week ago, I got another reason to be motivated. To try.

Between my two kids, we know several youngsters who serve and do so proudly in both Afghanistan and Iraq. As I mentioned earlier, one of our young friends was taken, all too soon while serving his country.

And you have some TSP reports due? Big deal.

Parade Report: Mexican Independence in Wichita Falls - A Week Early...

We got up Saturday morning and when I walked out into the hall way, I could see the street in front of our hotel being blocked off. A trailer had been parked directly across the street and a podium and seats were being set-up in a fashion similar to a rally or something. I wondered to myself if a delegation of vagabonds was going to protest the lack of soup kitchens or some such madness.

I waltzed down to the front desk so as to inquire within, and none of the assembled staff had a clue as to what was transpiring. Being the curious type, I headed across the street to discuss same with a gentleman setting up a sound mixer and microphones. As if I were Sam Donaldson or some other obnoxious reporter, I held my crappy digital camera in front of me and asked the gentleman what all the commotion was about, and why would microphones and podiums be needed? He helpfully informed me that they were having a parade to celebrate Mexican Independence. I asked him, "From Wichita Falls?" and he promptly laughed telling me no, from Spain.

Now I'm no math expert but I quickly ran upstairs to ask my wife if it was already the 16th of September, and she informed me that it was not. So, as close as we could figure, either the people in Wichita Falls were off on the dates, or all the Mexican people of Wichita Falls will be busy watching the Cowboys next Sunday, and figured they would knock it out on Saturday the 8th. That is flexibility if you ask me, and I like flexibility.

The good news is, I like a nice parade and we had great seats. So, without further ado - a few pictures of the event.

No Parade is complete without a visit from the fire department - Wichita Falls finest...
Lots of nice pick-ups and flags and traditional costumes... High School bands were out in force...And it is good to know that there are portly children everywhere, not just San Antonio.I should mention that at the beginning of the parade, a kind lady annouced that parents should keep an eye on the little ones as some of the parade participants would be passing out candy. And all of the sudden, it was on!This little kid seemed to notice before others!Then suddenly, as if an unexpected verdict had been reached in the Phil Specter trial, there was near pandimonium of youngsters scrambling everywhere... As some kids ignored all rules of civility, others seemed to look for guidance from parents... And then some parents even joined the fray... Finally, one young man had put a halt to the chaos by simply taking all the candy from the other little children. Thank God, it was over.I was proud to salute the Mexican-American Vets as they passed by, in honor of my late father-in-law, who served in Korea.No parade is complete without representation from the Boy Scouts. This proud troop reminded me of our own recent GNW Labor Day Parade and the Scouts who came out.Perhaps at our next parade, the Scouts can have thier own go-kart to enter.Cheerleaders got the crowd back into the spirit following the short mele'...
And then tiny little people dressed in traditional Mexican outfits made an appearance.I don't believe this is the actual Taco Bell dog, at least he didn't talk like him, but the crowd cheered wildly as he walked by. As a side note, they should make tiny little Chihuahua jock straps. This little doggy was swingin'.This parade had many really unique automobiles as participants...Clowns in Clown cars...People on horses...I'm not sure this dude was actually in the parade, but he had a flag, so his bike fit right in...And Grizzly Adams here looks as though he walked off quite a few pounds down the route...And when all was said and done... we danced.
Well, some people danced. We went gambling at the Indian Casinos in Oklahoma.

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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