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Friday, July 31, 2009

Hanging Ten...

Goofing around in front of the Ron Jon on Panama City Beach after dinner with my son.I understand sharks won't nibble shoes; safety first!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trip Report: What to do at Exit 101 in Lafayette, LA...

We took a short little drive down I-10 today just to see what we could see, and aside from a few really dangerous drivers, have nothing exciting to report.

This is sort of interesting. We hit Houston just at the beginning of rush hour but actually made reasonable time. The weird thing was, nobody was using the specially built HOV/Toll lanes.
Think I'm kidding? The lanes to the left of the white dividers are the toll lanes. I doubt those years of construction are paying for themselves. This was entertaining long enough for me to get by it.We stopped in Beaumont so I could grab a coffee and my wife could get a french fry. Nice people at the McDonald's between Magnolia & MLK. But the customers made me nervous.

We eased into Louisiana at a pretty good clip even though we saw at least a dozen troopers and local police with people pulled over from San Antonio to Vidor. Luck was with us, or not with the folks who got stopped.

For several miles, I was behind a guy in a pick-up truck pulling a trailer - one of those 8 foot enclosed trailers like you might rent at U-Haul. Traffic was moving at a pretty good clip - say 75 - 80mph or so but you had to change lanes from time to time to avoid the jerks who insist on going 55 in a 70.

Anyway, for some reason, the guy pulling the trailer forgot (it would appear) that he was pulling a trailer, because I witnessed him simply change lanes in front of three different vehicles with enough room for his truck, BUT NOT THE TRAILER he was pulling. To paraphrase a Jeff Kay'ism, it was enough to make my sphincter wink.
I got the feeling the guy was eager to get to Exit 72.I think that was enough for us to call it a night in Lafayette and make a stop at the convenience store to where I imagined all sorts of whacky shenanigans were taking place (you have to click on the Jeff Kay link to get it). In fact, I grabbed a 6-pack from the cooler and it had somehow shrunk. We'll be sure to pace ourselves...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cool Stuff: Doin' the Rounds at Kelly Field...

I saw this on my way home from work today and thought it was pretty spiffy...

Monday, July 27, 2009

County Tax Office Report: Pleasant...

Doing routine things like going to the DMV or the tax office are pure Blogger fodder for must people who write online journals; you just know there will be something worth reporting back to the handful of readers who tune in for the latest adventure. But really, my trip to the downtown San Antonio office of the Bexar (pronounced Bear for those of you not from Texas) County tax assessor/collector office was actually not that horrendous.

This all started with my son ordering new plates for his car - the fancy Native Texan version. Hey, live like you wanna live, but the only problem is, my son currently lives in Florida, and Sylvia
S. Romo, CPA, RTA (and I'm not sure if she is related to Tony Romo or not) wasn't about to just send them via FedEx, so I had to go down to pick them up. I don't mind stuff like this, as long as there isn't some sort of glitch.

So, I leave work and take the short drive to the tax office. I had checked out their web page in advance and found that they closed at 4:45, so when I rolled in the front door at 4:15, I was pretty cool with things. Then I saw the TSA-like screening area. You have got to be kidding? Of course as soon as I emptied my pockets to fill the little basket with my wallet, watch, security badges, unit coin, comb, keys, business cards, lint and lock-blade pocket knife, I figured there might be a problem. Sure enough, the nice armed woman, Glock at the ready, informed me that the knife would have to go back to the car.

I complied.
Now it was close to 4:20 and I was nervous that there might be some other glitches. But I passed through the security section with no additional body cavity search or pocket emptying needed and proceeded to the line of at least twenty-five or so people. You might be interested to know that as we got closer to 4:30, two different ladies went through the long line of people looking at their paperwork to identify any problems before the people stood in line for the duration only to find they had a problem. Oh sure, this was done as much to help the employees who want to go home for the evening as it was to help the people waiting, but either way, what a great thing to do to save time for everyone.

In my case, my son had faxed me a letter authorizing me to pick up his plates, sent a copy of his insurance and a photocopy of his driver license. I apparently had all I needed. But at least two other people in line failed the test and were spared the long wait only to have a bad outcome.

Then as I continued to wait, creeping slowly along (naturally, the people who had jacked-up paperwork were behind me in line, not in front) I saw a sign that was posted saying that no credit cards were accepted. Nice!

Immediately, I called my son to question him as to whether or not I was going to need to pay any money to get his plates. That would have been pretty upsetting if I had waited in line only to have the lady tell me I owed $56 or something like that. Hey, feel free to rob me, I never have more than $20 in my wallet. I have a wife for stuff like that.

He assured me that as far as he knew, it was all paid for, so I continued my wait in line. And then things started to slow down.

Have you ever noticed that if you are standing in line it really pisses you off if you see employees standing around chatting? Oh sure, not every person who works at the tax office is supposed to be manning a customer service window, but in your mind, if they work there, they ought to be able to help you. The strangest thing happened. When I first walked in, it seemed as though every window had a person waiting on people. They even had a special handicapped window to handle disabled people. Then, as the clock struck 4:30 - fully 15 minutes before operations were to cease, clerks began to disappear, and as available windows closed, obviously, the line slowed down.
I wish I had full motion, time-lapsed video to show the process unfold. Sadly, I can only offer these pictures I discreetly snapped with my phone. Yes, I left the camera in the truck for fear that it might be confiscated as a weapon of mass destruction by Glock-lady. (By they way, Glock-lady would be a good title for a superhero.)

I kid you not; these positions had been fully manned (actually womanned) only moments earlier, and with still at least 20 people in line, they simply un-assed the AO.

Look, I don't want to complain, but don't you think that it would be more efficient for everyone to keep the full staff until closing time to get all the customers taken care of - then we can all go home sooner?

Then again, I used to work at McDonald's and I remember closing all the grills except for one just so when we closed we could finish sooner. The only thing is, we were stupid. As an hourly employee, it would have been smarter to to take longer to close the place and get paid more. Damn, I was stupid.

In the end, my son ganked me for almost $10 because the lady at the window suggested I pay to pro-rate a few months and get a new sticker for the tags. He gets an extra two months and his new Native Texan plates and all I got was a Monday blog entry.

How was your latest visit to the tax office? Have you been frisked by the Glock-lady? Tell me about it or leave a comment below.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guest Lunch Report: John Hardy's BBQ, Rochester, MN

My sister Susan, her husband Paul (the couple on the left) and friends Ron and Kris (You may recall Ron is the guy who sent us the crazy food pictures from China) took a drive today.They all live up in Minnesota, a retirement place for SNL writers. Anywhoo, during their drive, the decided to stop into a BBQ place - yes, all the way up in Minnesota, called John Hardy's Bar-B-Q.Susan tells me, "Thought you'd like some of the food pics for your TX friends who make their way up to the northland."
And apparently, she was pretty excited about the menu - they offer okra. Not like what we have here for kids, all fried-up, but actual cooked okra without any breading to cover the taste of the, well, the okra. Look at that turkey! Far healthier than anything I've had since last Thanksgiving.

She also says, "Okra and black eyed peas, if you can imagine. By the way, we planted okra in our Blue Cross garden again this year, and I learned from Mom to pick it early before it gets tough. Send recipes if you have them - we deliver recipes to the food shelf with any of our non-MN-traditional crops."
She was hoping that the smoked turkey they enjoyed wasn't one of the ones that frequent Steve's (my nephew) bird/pheasant/squirrel/rabbit/vole/turkey feeder in the back yard. Look at those chips. Do you suppose they are regular Lay's or some specialty cooked right there in John Hardy's? I think they are called "Jo jos". Susan says they are also used in Minnesota hot dish recipes. The pork there looks pretty good too.

Really, other than the okra, it all looks might tasty!

Mural Report: There is a Difference...

My wife and I were exiting the Bud Jones parking lot following lunch and pulled onto Verne Street which runs parallel to Military Drive. My wife let out a "What in the world..." and pointed across the street to an auto parts store with an interesting painting on the front.The painting is of two babies looking into their diapers and the caption below seems to read "There Is A Difference".Now we could not decided if the babies were a boy and a girl or two boys. Perhaps the idea was that in comparing parts, there is a difference so you should shop at this particular store. Unfortunately, the store looked like it was out of business, so I guess there was a difference. Who knows?

Lunch Report: Bud Jones...

My wife and I found ourselves on the south side shortly after noon today and when the topic of lunch came up, she casually mentioned Bud Jones amongst a list of several other eateries we had not been to in years.Bud Jone's has been around since the late 1950's and is one of those places that everyone seems to know about. I know I had been before, but I couldn't tell you when it was or what I had - it must have been easily 10 or 15 years ago.

So we pulled in and found parking in the back lot - the place was doing an extremely brisk business, which I suspect is pretty much the way it is all the time there. In case the location might make you nervous, I will tell you that there was a security guard perched in a little deer blind dutifully watching the lot for any shenanigans that might be going on.
We were seated directly across from where people enter and wait to be seated. I wasn't exactly thrilled about the location at first, but after a while, I realized it was a good place for inspecting the clientele. My wife asked me at one point if I thought that many of the patrons seemed to be a little "odd"? Oh sure, I could have simply set the camera up and photographed each party arriving, but that might have been noticeable. Please don't get me wrong; there were plenty of your normal people entering for some after church lunch or perhaps a family get together. It just both struck us that during our 45 minutes to an hour sitting there and seeing every person who entered or left, there was an above average number of circus freaks, twins, oddly shaped individuals and people who seemed to be from other planets. But I like that in a restaurant; it makes me feel at home.Our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. My wife had the vegetable soup and I had the house salad with Ranch. The soup was good and the salad was just right. Oh sure, I would have liked some croutons, but I'm not complaining.My wife ordered up a platter called "The Net" that came with two planks of fish, some shrimp and some great onion rings. The onion rings were simply awesome, though you do need to eat them while they are hot (as it should be). The onions had a sweet taste and the breading was done just right. The shrimp were also excellent. Butterflied and fried, not too crunchy. The fish was Alaskan Cod and my wife enjoyed it enough to join the clean-plate club.As soon as I saw the catfish on the menu, I knew that was what I would be having. It came with 2 smallish jalapeno hush puppies that were tasty, though not as jalapeno'ee as I expected. The catfish planks were huge. In fact, it was almost tough to work with them on the size of plate they give you. I guess I'm more of a catfish nugget person, but the taste was good and like the onion rings, the breading was just fine. The tarter sauce was also good. The plates are really loaded, and though I realize I am not required by law to finish everything they give me, it just tastes so good. I did leave the fries, since I had been stealing onion rings and shrimp from my wife's plate, but my wife says they were good.There are several dining areas within the place and it seems like they have quite a large staff running around to serve everyone. In spite of it being a large place, it feels very homey and old style diner like. I think they probably could stand to remodel, but then again, why bother as long as the food is good, and for us, it was.Have you been to Bud Jones? Got any favorites from their huge menu? Tell me about it or leave a comment below.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random Photo Report: Camaro

I have an ongoing project of scanning in the hard copy photographs that fill boxes of photo albums throughout the house. As I was going through yet another shoebox full of pictures taken over the years, tossed in no particular order, I stumbled upon several pictures of my very first car, a 1973 Camaro.I shan't bore you with details but following a mild head-on collision, my 1973 Camaro became a 1972 Camaro. I spent a few dollars on bodywork and paint (it went from the original gold, to red, to blue) and in the end, in 1982 I sold my baby for $3,200. Needless to say, I'd gladly pay double that (or more) to get it back.Not just a random photo, but several...

Good times.

A-Team Paint Collection Report: A Good Start...

On Saturday the 25th of July, members of the Great Northwest A-Team volunteer group set up a collection point at the Silver Creek soccer fields to take in used latex paint that residents wanted to dispose of. Due to a technical glitch, the announcement for the paint drive did not make it into the July edition of Passages, the community newspaper, so volunteers attempted to get the word out via e-mails to neighbors and the use of marquees and signs.In spite of a slow start, it was apparent that many people driving past the collection point went home and cleared off the shelves in their garages, because we ended up with 50 gallons of paint suitable for recycling through the city of San Antonio's paint recycle program.With a great turn-out of volunteers, A-Team members took advantage of the manpower available and did a quick clean-up of the soccer fields and picnic areas.

Two full bags of recyclable water bottles were separated from regular trash helping to keep the trash cans available for use, and picnic tables were repainted to keep them suitable for families to use.
By noon when the project was complete, A-Team Coordinator, Mike Yager had a truckload of paint to deliver to the city collection facility on Culebra Road, and the A-Team members were looking forward to the next event scheduled for August 29.

If you have Latex Paint, any color that you'd like to get rid of, please consider donating it to the A-Team. Our goal is to turn in the paint we collect so that it can be converted into a single color suitable for covering graffiti and avoiding that ugly patchy look that you may have seen in the past on fences in the area.

If you'd like to donate new paint directly to the A-Team, we prefer Kodiak Brown to match previous work. We will also gladly accept your donation of gift cards from paint sellers such as Lowe's, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, etc.

Need more info? Send me a note and I can get you in touch with Mike.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Strange in HEB: Free Samples...

I received a text message as I was driving home this evening alerting me to the fact that long time reader, Lee, had sent me a picture of something entertaining at the local HEB. I could hardly wait to get home and check it out.

I'm gonna just cut to the chase right here and tell you - and I think Lee would agree; there are just some things that don't work so well in the form of a sample.
I nearly crapped myself when I pulled this picture up. (I know, I giggled when I wrote that, so you can laugh too.)

There is an old Wild Weasel saying, "You Gotta Be Shittin' Me" that I find is quite fitting here. Lee tells me that upon encountering the free samples, he and his wife laughed, imagining somebody dropping trou' in the aisle to take them up on the offer.

Egads. Oh look, they are giving away some Preparation H samples on aisle 3...


UPDATE: Because my wife and I are too silly to leave things the way they are, we had to stop into the HEB in question and certify that Lee's telephone picture was not a fake.
Sure enough, the free samples were still being dispensed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paint Collection This Saturday in GNW...

This is just a small public service announcement for the Great Northwest (and those within shouting distance):

This Saturday, the 25th of July, the A-Team will be collecting Latex house paints, regardless of color. Collection will take place between 9am and Noon and we will be located at the GNW Soccer Fields on Timber Path and Timberwilde.

This is your chance to clean out the garage of those half empty cans of paint your wife has been complaining about for the last several months. In helping you dispose of your unneeded paint (all colors accepted), you'll help us with recycling the stuff into paint that can be used for A-Team projects, like painting over graffiti in the 'hood.

And, if you really feel like donating, we'll even take donations of brand new unused paint (Kodiak Brown sounds like a fine color) or a gift card from Lowe's, Home Depot, Sherwin-Williams or any other place we can buy paint. It is all for a great cause, I assure you.

Need more info? Send me a note and I'll put you in touch with the A-Team coordinator.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strange in 78250: Stylin' Mostly Green Impala...

I'm not gonna sugar coat it; I live for this kind of thing on my drive home after a long day of work. It makes the entire commute through the construction zones worthwhile. It has nothing to do with making fun of the guy who might easily qualify for the $4,500 clunker credit as part of the current stimulus package, but instead celebrating those individuals amongst us who boldly choose to live like they want to live. Don't cheat yourself; treat yourself!I give you the stylish, somewhat green Chevrolet Impala complete with 4X55 Air Conditioning (or in the case of Culebra Road north of Loop 410, 4X 25 A/C). You have to appreciate those older Impalas with the huge trunk. Hell, I suspect you could carry a near household of items in that trunk.But you know you are living large when you have to put the rest of your stuff in the back seat. Nope. No $4,500 in stimulus would get this shrewed car collector to give up on this baby.

Classic. Strange, but classic.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lunch Report: Islamorada Fish Company at Brass Pro Shop...

My wife and I were out and about for our list of Sunday errands when we found ourselves over in the vicinity of The Rim looking for a few odds & ends at World Market. Just a quick question for those of you who frequent the shops in that area.Can you tell me why they have these creepy looking butterflies hanging off the beautiful stonework entry of The Rim? Is this some Christmas in July sort of thing? Anyway, since it was lunch time and we hadn't planned on any special trip to find someplace new and exciting, we decided to give the restaurant inside the Bass Pro Shop a try. We have never heard a bad thing about the place, so there was always a chance we could find something to complain about, and that would be fun.I can't pronounce it, but the place is called Islamadora Fish Company, and they are part of a bigger chain of fish places of varying names - Hemingway's, Blue Fin, White River Fish House and the like. This one, IFC is quite a grand thing. It is very large and actually fits well with the huge Brass Pro Shop it is connected to.

I should tell you now that I failed to take loads of pictures inside the Bass Pro Shop because I was sure that I had written about it before. We went there not long after it opened, and I was sure I gave a full report. But a quick search of the blog did not turn up any evidence of it. So, suffice it to say that A) my wife was right and 2) you ought to go by there even if you aren't an outdoors enthusiast. I dig the clothes they offer and there is lots to see by way of displays. Like Cabela's in Buda, Bass Pro Shop is a zoo for dead things.
Our waiter came and took the drink order and offered us a loaf of bread that seemed extremely fresh. Did you ever go to the Wonder Bread factory when you were little and get one of those little loaves of bread? I thought of that when he brought it out. But it was not sliced, it wasn't in a Wonder Bread wrapper, and for some reason, they sprinkled sugar on top of it. The hell? Really; stop doing that.

When I was little, I would sneak into the kitchen and make sugar and butter sandwiches. Two slices of fresh bread, slathered in butter then covered with sugar and smashed together. No wonder I'm such a fatass. The bread itself was good but please, reconsider that sugar business or at least bring it as a free dessert after the meal.
In spite of the sugary start, my wife wanted to get an appetizer, so we went with the fried calamari. I thought it was really good but my wife went total Happy Dance on me. She insisted it was the best ever. The breading was very light and the dipping sauce was good. If you like calamari, I promise, you'll enjoy this.

The menu is full of wonderful options and we mulled it over for some time. They have buffalo burgers and alligator. But being a seafood place, we both decided to give it a try.
My wife ordered the Fish & Chips. In this case, the chips are not french fries, but actual sliced potatoes like potato chips. The huge pieces of fish were batter fried just right and having tasted a hunk myself, I can assure you the taste was excellent. Mr. Cod could learn a thing or two about portion for price and cooking times. I admit, when the plates arrived, I thought they might be a little overdone, just based on the color. The fish was fine, but I thought the chips were a tad overcooked - maybe IFC could learn a thing from Mr. Cod! Either way, my wife loved them; so there ya go.I had to try the catfish and I was not disappointed at all. If you have read this blog for any time, you will know that I use Clear Springs Restaurant as the standard for comparing catfish. Without question, when someone has asked me where to get some good catfish, I have never hesitated to offer up Clear Springs (and I still won't), but I must tell you that the catfish I had today, combined with the tarter sauce, IFC was better tasting. I suspect my grandfather is spinning in my grandmother's grave (long story) as we speak. He loved Clear Springs but I suspect he would give a thumbs up to IFC as well. It was that good.

I should also throw in kudos for the Cole slaw. Not too dry, nice and creamy and just a good match with the fish.

The price is a little steep for the frugal minded, but not for the quality of the food and the atmosphere. I guess what I'm saying is, don't go into Bass Pro Shop and then slip into IFC thinking it is like the K-Mart Diner where you can get the daily special for $4.00. Appetizer, Iced Teas, and two entrees came out to $37.00 before the well deserved generous tip. But it was well worth it.
As our waiter was taking our plates, something happened and a small bowl of tarter sauce fell from a plate. You should have seen it! The tarter sauce shot out in a skipping motion and streamed across the carpet. Nobody was injured, though some lady walking by did seem to flinch a little thinking that some sauce might hit her shoe. Good times!I often look at the Yahoo and Google reviews that people submit about places we go, just to see how we compare. I suspect the IFC here got off to a bad start based on what I have read. Ignore them. If our experience today is anything like what they are doing on a regular basis, it is safe to go in and enjoy. In fact, Islamorada Fish Company is a Tasty Treat, and we will go back for more. I gotta have the Buffalo Burger.

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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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