Saturday, October 29, 2016

See The World and Never Leave Texas. Part 4: Turkey

Ah Turkey.  The country that conjures up images of East meeting West, the silk road, haggling with traders in old world bazaars, quality hash, late night arrests, stolen passports, dark prisons with slop buckets and daily beatings, forgotten for years in a solitary pit...

Ah Turkey.  The tiny little Texas town (pop. 494) in the panhandle, where the prairie meets the plains giving new meaning to flat.  Stand on a phone book and you can see Kansas, maybe even Canada on a clear day.

Our drive to Turkey in July was uneventful.  It was hot of course and the A/C in the Mercury was not at its best unless we kept the speed over 75, so I duly obliged.  Our actual destination was Caprock Canyons State Park, a jewel in the high plains that is not as well known as its cousin Palo Duro, but no less impressive, albeit on a smaller scale.

The nearest town to Caprock Canyon is the lovely named Quitaque ("Kitty Kay") but the nearest accommodations is the Hotel Turkey in... you guessed it.  The Hotel Turkey is wonderful.  It has about 15 rooms and has not changed its decor since 1920.  We were the only guests and when we arrived the place was deserted save for the cook who could not check us in.  He called the owner (a local rancher) who advised us to pick any room we wanted and would settle up later.  So we basically did the Goldilocks thing until we found a bed we liked.  Clearly Turkey still believes in the honor system and a mans word is his bond.
"I remember you well, in the Turkey Hotel"
We dumped our bags and toured the town on foot which took all of five minutes.  The dust storm that had greeted us on the way in had dissipated and the day was giving way from blast furnace heat to regular old stifling oven heat.  We enjoyed an excellent Tex-Mex dinner at Galvan's (was there even another choice of venue?) and walked it off with a stroll about the quiet streets.

View from our room.  The wagon clearly was abandoned in 1894 and has not moved since.

Another view of the Hotel Turkey

Turkey's main claim to fame is that it where Bob Wills spent his formative years and learned to sing and play the fiddle.  Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys popularized a genre of country music called Western Swing in the 1940's and has proved to be hugely influential (not that you would know it based on the crap that comes out of Nashville these days).  His music survives today, primarily through Asleep at the Wheel and it is the type of sound that gets you foot tapping and puts you in a good mood.

Mr. Wills old tour bus is parked in downtown Turkey, unprotected from the elements.  Every April the town has weekend celebrating its favorite son and thousands descend for the music and festivities.
Bob Wills tour bus

Not much else to say about Turkey, TX.  It is tiny, quaint and unchanged since the 1950's.  It is right out of the pages of a Larry McMurtry novel.  We stayed one night and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast at the hotel.  Caprock Canyon was terrific.  I am still a bit uncertain about why there is a canyon in the middle of the prairie but it something to do with the Llano Estacado (staked plains) meeting the high plains, wind erosion, torrential spring rains, etc.  I will have another entry dedicated to the park.

So as expected Turkey, TX has nothing in common with the country thousands of miles to the east. There was not even a street named after Istanbul (or Constantinople).  And here is a little secret, Turkey, TX is named after the bird.  But it is fun to tell people you have been to Turkey and see their quizzical expression when you tell them you drove... and it was hot and desolate and there wasn't any spices or traders.  But the Tex-Mex was great...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

See The World and Never Leave Texas. Part 3: Dublin

It is fully my intention when in retirement to write a book about Texas towns that are named after other (and usually better known) parts of the globe.  I have had the idea since we first moved to Texas in 1997 and discovered that Paris, Italy, Athens and Palestine could all be viewed without leaving the Lone Star State.  The plan is to visit the less famous Texas town, take in the sights and pen a summary with maybe a humorous attempt to see how it compares to its better known cousin.

Last spring while en route to Fredericksburg, we spent a few pleasant hours in Dublin, TX.  It is renowned in soda pop circles as being the home to Dublin Dr. Pepper (with real cane sugar!), that is until the muckety-mucks at corporate HQ decided to rescind the bottling rights.  The plant lives on though as Dublin Bottling Works (originally established in 1891), producing such fizzy delights as Sweet Peach, Vanilla Cream and a Black Cherry that is said to bear an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Pepper.

Before we guzzled the soda, we ate a very filling lunch at Granny's Clarks, a low frills, no nonsense greasy spoon.  I can recommend the chicken fried steak without hesitation.

There is not consensus on how Dublin, TX got its name.  Per the oracle of all things Texan, The Texas Almanac,  "It was founded in 1854 by A. H. Dobkins and named in 1860, probably for the warning cry at Indian raids, "Double In," for the capital of Ireland, or for the double-log cabins used by early settlers".

Nothing like choices but the local population of almost four thousand would seem to be leaning towards Ireland based on their St. Patrick's Day festivities and street names: Grafton, Shannon and Shamrock.  Wonder if there is a Comanche and a Mesquite Street in Baile Átha Cliath?

Dublin mural - check out the cattle brands

Bill Kloster, who made Dublin Bottling Works what it is today

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Beautiful October weather can bring out the bravado in us all.  I had long wished to put in a 50 mile ride (a half century in biking parlance) and today seemed as good a day as any to give it a go.  The bike had a recent mini-overhaul, sporting a new chain, bottom bracket and cassette and a new rear tire and was about as road ready as possible.

I left about 10am just as the day was warming up and there was little wind as I started out.  My route took me through Keller, Westlake, Roanoke, Trophy Club and back to Southlake.  The first 40 miles went easy enough and I was averaging over 15 MPH.  The last ten were tough.  The wind from the south had picked up and my legs got very heavy and tight.  The last mile or so was ridden in our neighborhood just so I could make the goal.

Based on how my legs feel now after 50.073 miles, I think I can cross the "Hotter than Hell 100" off my bucket list.  Putting in 100 miles in the July heat in Texas seems like torture.

I am in this for the long haul, 50 today brings me within striking distance of 6,000 - which will be my next cycling update.

There are of course the stories of men from Roscommon cycling to Dublin when the Rossies were in the All Ireland Final in 1943 and 1944.  No mean feat on a High Nellie!

As an aside, the late Robin Williams was an avid cyclist and collector and 87 of his bikes are currently up for auction with the proceeds going to charity.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dennis Byrd, RIP

On Jan 8th 2012, I wrote a review on this blog of Dennis Byrd's inspirational book "Rise and Walk".  This morning I was saddened to hear that Dennis was killed yesterday in a car accident in Oklahoma.  He was only 50.

Per ESPN:  "Byrd, who was driving a 2004 Hummer H2, was struck by a vehicle traveling northbound on Oklahoma Highway 88 that veered into his lane. The other car, a 2000 Ford Explorer, was driven by a 17-year-old Claremore youth.
The 17-year-old driver and a 12-year-old passenger in Byrd's car, both in critical condition, were transported to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa."
His courage and determination to fight back after his horrific on field collision in 1992 put him high on the list of Jets greats and he was admired well beyond football circles.
May he rest in peace and I hope the other two involved in the accident recover from their injuries.
Photo Credit:  Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What if the Premier League Moved to Texas?

Thanks to NBC, popularity of the English Premier League is at an all time high in the US.  A combination of novelty and favorable time zones means half of my co-workers enjoy the 7am kick-offs on a Saturday morning. I was trying to explain to someone the intense rivalries between say Everton and Liverpool and suggested that it would be like the Philadelphia Eagles moving to Fort Worth only a few miles from Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys.  He found the close proximity of the soccer teams incredible and that got me thinking, what if all 20 clubs were to relocate to Texas?

Houstonians and Austinites might disagree, but Dallas is the rightful capital of Texas, so the Metroplex gets all the London Teams.

Arsenal, being the best and deserving the best, get the shiny new JerryWorld stadium in Arlington as a capable replacement for the Emirates. Chelsea get exiled west to Fort Worth and TCU.  Spurs, wishing they could be with their basketball brethren in San Antonio, go north to Plano. West Ham get Garland [but play at SMU of course] and Crystal Palace head south to Oak Cliff.  Watford get sent north to Denton, almost in Oklahoma and play at the University of North Texas.

Liverpool being a port city, get Galveston, neighbors Everton get Pearland.  Man City and Man Utd get to fight the humidity and each other in Houston.  United get the old Astrodome for their trouble. City and their oil money fit in well in Houston and get the NRG Stadium.

Norwich being easterners head to Nacogdoches, Swansea being westerners go all the way west to El Paso / Ciudad Juarez.  Back down on the coast, it makes sense to have Southampton in Corpus [within easy distance of Man U and Liverpool when they sell their best players] and Bournemouth get lovely Brownsville for sun, sand and surf.

The midland teams: Stoke get Austin and the Longhorn facilities, even though Waco would make more sense for that lot but Palace already taken over Baylor's new stadium.  We sent Leicester to San Antone, figuring they Foxes would enjoy hanging out with coyotes in the Hill Country.

Birmingham rivals Aston Villa and WBA can never be separated and it is off  to Midland-Odessa for them. They can play under the Saturday Night Lights as the Permian Panthers and Midland Lee Rebels look on.

Finally, it is grim up north as Sunderland get Lubbock / Texas Tech and Newcastle get the all 72 oz. steaks they can handle in Amarillo.

Fascinating, no?!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Go Set a Watchman – The Audacity of Hype

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is an undisputed literary classic published in 1960.  Author Harper Lee then decided writing was not really her forte and instead of using her God-given talent, went on a self-imposed 55 year hiatus.  Happens all the time, right?  Left.   Great writers just do not quit.  See Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Wolfe.  The creative juices insist on output. This woman is not normal.  On top of the world in 1960, we are led to believe she abandoned her craft.  For what?  Booze in her basement?  Meth in the attic?  Who knows.  Speculation about her seclusion is pointless.  She became Boo Radley, the cuckoo in the nest and the shadow in the window.

Fast forward to 2015.   Ms. Lee's sister and caretaker has passed away and we are instructed that Harper Lee penned another novel. Not recently, of course.  She is incapable of working a TV remote.  No, this was written prior to Mockingbird.  Or so her lawyer and publicist would like us to believe.  Now those two wouldn’t have any ulterior motive to see Ms. Lee ca$h in on some dusty old manuscript.  The only surprising thing is these gold diggers did not wait until Ms. Lee croaked but either the will or estate taxes must have dictated otherwise.

The 60 Minutes segment was fascinating.  The fairy tale goes that “Go Set a Watchman” was hidden in plain sight in a bank deposit box.  Several times it had been opened for Sotheby-types to value the contents but they never noticed any “Watchman” manuscript.  The story goes that the box was opened in 2011 and that the lawyer left the valuations guys in the bank for a few hours and when she came back, magically, “Watchman” was there on the table in the bank in the middle of Monroeville, Alabama.  The only thing missing was Merlin and a few prancing unicorns.

We encouraged to lap up that “Watchman” was written before “Mockingbird” and the setting a few decades later.   Scout is back from NYC and Atticus Finch is now a kard karrying kharacter, who would prefer to see them coloreds stay in their place.  Give me a break.  This makes no sense whatsoever.  Who goes from fervently defending Tom Robinson to downpressing his kind?  How does the sequel get written before the prequel but the second book gets published 55 years before the first and the author cannot be asked what the heck happened to the one of the great models for civil rights because she hasn’t granted an interview since JFK was chasing Marilyn in the White House?  Wasn't this prequel / sequel time travel thing the basis for The Terminator?  Maybe Ah-nold knows what happened?

So is Watchman any good?  Well don’t look to the major US newspaper reviews for answers.  They are decidedly non-committal, i.e don’t get in the way of a good old fabricated story.  I went to my usual sources - The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times - and might as well have asked Siri for a review.  According the NYT "Students of writing will find “Watchman” fascinating", which is code for this crap makes no frigging sense.    The WSJ summarizes the story but shies away from a verdict.  No kidding.  The WSJ is owned by News Corp. who also own Harper Collins, the publisher of Watchman.  Don't expect any negativity where Murdoch's coffers are concerned.

Unperturbed I sought and found the truth in the Irish Times.  John Boyne writes: "It was meant to stay inside, locked away, hidden from the world. It was not supposed to be published. It was not supposed to be read. But when all the talk of the reclusive author has died down, and the inevitable articles about extraordinary sales figures have been consigned to the archives, Go Set a Watchman will quietly slip away, not forgotten but little more than an interesting side note to a work of literary genius..."

Sad to say, if you want the truth, follow the money. I will not be wasting $16 on this concocted half-baked tripe in order the line the pockets of leeches.

Monday, July 27, 2015

DC Landmarks at Night

A recent work related trip to Washington DC presented an opportunity to see some of the landmarks at night.  Although the evening brought rain, the sights were still wonderful.  It had been over twenty years since I was last in DC and this quick trip made me want to go back for a longer visit.

Marine Corps War Memorial 

"He was wonderful in Gangs of New York"
The Lincoln Memorial

Washington Memorial and Reflecting Pool

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The the sheer size of the Marine Corps Memorial takes you by surprise, it is unexpectedly larger than life.  The actual flag raising on Iwo Jima in 1945 was somewhat staged but remains an iconic symbol of victory in the South Pacific.

Similarly, the sheer size, scale and grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial is awe inspiring.  A fitting tribute to a truly larger than life leader.  On the walls either side of Lincoln the words to his two most famous speeches are inscribed: the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address.   

It was somewhat fitting that we visited the Korean War Memorial in a downpour.  The darkness and rain added to the eerie scene of 19 soldiers creeping through the jungle, aware that a wrong step or noise could end their lives.