A Rare Media, Well Done

November 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE TV – “It is all the fault of the media elite.” “The media elite hate America, and will do everything in their power to destroy our country.” “The little guy doesn’t stand a chance against the media elite.” That’s Newt Gingrich talking, or saying something close to it. I guess he used surveys and focus groups to determine that the media elite are the easiest way to score points with his audiences. It was said that each sentence in former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign speeches consisted of a noun, a verb and nine-eleven. Well, ol’ Newt has the same problem: The poor guy can’t utter a sentence without that mind-numbing repetitious phrase.

The Media “Elites” by Nathan Forget, via Wikipedia.

Here’s an interesting point: By his usage, Gingrich is turning a positive into a negative. The word used to have this definition: “Elite, (often used with a plural verb) the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.” It comes from the Middle English (1300-1400) meaning an elected official. Donald Trump, before he was an elected official, lived in a multi-storied penthouse in Manhattan and traveled in his private helicopter and aircraft. Yet he branded Hillary Clinton as an “elitist” who was out of touch with the common folk, and it clicked with that minority of Americans who voted for him. It didn’t help Hillary’s cause when she mentioned that she hadn’t driven a car in 16 years.

So we had this elite and that elite, meaning the crème de la creme, the top 1 percent, the best and the brightest. The older among us will remember “Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat.” Now it’s an insult. Awhile back we discussed how names change as with the Cajuns, who were ridiculed as redneck semi-literates until Louisiana realized what a goldmine they had in Cajun music, cooking and culture. Georgia Crackers went the other way, from prominent early settlers (that was the proud name of the Atlanta minor league baseball team) to redneck semi-literates.

Of course, the term was often overused, or used wistfully. Saddam Hussein’s “elite Republican Guard” turned out to be elite only in surrendering. But generally it was a compliment, and most of us would like to be considered elite. Alas, the title has been hijacked, just like compromiser and the Republican Party. Sometimes it is simply a name change for the same animal. A liberal is now a progressive and a Wall Street billionaire is now a job creator. The two groups carefully choose which words to use in describing the other. Those who write letters to the editor are an example. Right-wingers and left-wingers never describe themselves that way, but a conservative will refer to a liberal’s (excuse me, progressive’s) letter as a “screed.” I like that word, it reminds us of screech or the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. Conversely, a conservative’s letter is a “bombast.”

Hero is a much overused title. A recipient of the Medal of Honor is a hero. Those of us who defended San Diego from the Seabees are not heroes. As an aside, that medal is not the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is presented in the name of Congress, and no one “wins” the award, as I was sternly told by a Marine lieutenant colonel. “It’s not a (fill in the blank) contest.”

Where were we? Oh, yes, words and their changing meaning. Do you call that chunk of the Middle East the West Bank or the Occupied Territory? I still like Bombay, Burma and Constantinople. Naughty is now applied to children. Santa knows who’s naughty and nice. But naughty used to mean evil, really bad. Not anymore.

As for Newt Gingrich’s hated media elite, who are they? Probably those who disagree with him, who point out that he keeps preaching “family values” but has had three wives and several affairs, says he looks out for the little man but has a half-million dollar line of credit at the working man’s Walmart, Tiffany’s. Those kinds of elites. We know who they are, and Newt is not totally off base. They are the talking heads on Sunday morning TV panels, the same people every Sunday. The rest of the week they talk to each other at Georgetown dinner parties deciding what America thinks. “The American people today feel that….” Or: “There is a great uneasiness across the land….” Oh, come off it. They wouldn’t know the average American if he bit them on the backside. These pundits only know flyover country if they have a speech in Chicago or Denver.

But they have to stay on TV to uphold their soapbox, their power base. They would probably pay to be a talking head on TV. Once they lose their power base, no group wants to pay them $20,000 for a half hour of “inside Washington skinny.” Just ask Sam Donaldson, Sarah Palin or Dan Rather. When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not, you’re Rudy (Nine Eleven) Giuliani. Now, to be fair, many of these folks are, indeed, experts on Washington, elections and government. It’s good to get the media elite’s take on situations. Put it this way: when watching a sports event on TV, do you mute the sound? No, because the announcers know a whole lot more about the game, and whether Joe “Lightin” Jones can hit a three-pointer from downtown with his left hand on Thursdays. We listen to them because they are experts, and we can learn.

The same with the talking heads. They just heard the very same State of the Union speech you did, but they know the President said exactly the opposite in Akron on Labor Day, and he needs the soybean farmers’ vote in the Iowa primary. They tell us something we didn’t know. So we can’t dismiss the media elites as self-important jerks. That title belongs to ol’ Newt.


Ashby is elite at ashby2@comcast.net

Fall Entertaining Tips

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining, Features

by Cassidy Irish

Texas-based blogger and lifestyle expert Caroline Harper Knapp knows about effortless, seasonal entertaining and style. She recently hosted a Summer Soirée in Dallas featuring Cointreau, the orange liqueur. Knapp began hosting events while living in NYC, and continues to do so in her current hometown of Houston. Here are some of her tips for throwing a flawless party:

Make a Strong First Impression. “Fresh cocktails and inspired décor help set the tone—whether you’re entertaining friends, family or out of town guests, if you greet them with a great-tasting cocktail, it elevates the occasion and lends a personal touch for a memorable moment.”

Set the Scene. “A white base is a no-fail foundation for any Instagram-worthy tablescape. Start with a collection of basic white dishware, then have fun layering in colorful flatware, tablecloths, napkins and glasses. Flowers are a beautiful addition, and can tie in nicely to themes without being overpowering. Décor should be simple and light—adding pops of color in a tasteful way, and should remain in one color family.”

Host a Bar Cart. “Essential to effortless entertaining, a bar cart is the perfect moment to reveal cocktails you’ll be serving. It acts as a mobile kitchen most days—great for meetings and hosting guests. On it you can always find pops of greenery, fun glassware, personal mementos, and my favorite spirit Cointreau to create hand-crafted cocktails.”

A lot of planning goes into entertaining, and it’s important the host enjoys the event as much as her guests. With these tips, you will be able to throw a fabulous party and entertain in style! Check out Knapp’s blog at houseofharper.com.

Bordering On the Ridiculous

November 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MAP – They are all here: Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso, except they read San Antonio de Bexar and El Paso Del Norte. Dallas didn’t make the cut. This map was published by Chas. Knight & Co, 22 Ludgate Street, London. It is entitled, “Central America including Texas, California and the Northern States of Mexico.” Bet you didn’t know you lived in Central America.

By what is shown here, “Lorado,” S. Augustine, Waco Village, Santa Fe, Fort. S. Francisco, Comanche Indians, Apaches, and what is not shown besides Big D, Midland and Los Angeles, I am guessing this map was printed about 1840. Here’s the part that we should care about: there is no northern border of Texas. The east-west lines on the map run parallel, about 100 miles apart, to the north, then just stop near Pikes Peak.

Chas. Knight would have known where to draw that border had he waited a bit to steal a map from a Philadelphia printer named Samuel Augustus Mitchell. He liked details. That’s why he was the first map publisher in the United States to switch from copper plate engraving to steel. Steel produced finer details. According to Copono Press, which is selling reproductions, Mitchell’s map was printed in 1846 just after Texas joined the union (but before the Big Sellout, which we shall get to shortly). Original 1846 folding copies sell for over $10,000.

From Mexico in 1842: A Description of the Country, Its Natural and Political Features…by George Folsom. Courtesy of Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books, Austin, Texas

Here’s the inside skinny on why your ancestors really could ski Texas. Again according to Copono Press, “The founding fathers of the Republic of Texas had set their sights far in 1836. The republic they defined encompassed the entire eastern half of what is now New Mexico, including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. The panhandle they described was in the shape of a stovepipe running all the way north to the 42nd parallel. Today the 42nd parallel makes up the borders between California and Oregon in the west, and between Pennsylvania and New York in the east. It runs through Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. In fact, Point Pelee, Ontario, lies just south of the 42nd degree north latitude, meaning that southern-most part of Canada lay south of northern-most Texas. Claiming the 42nd parallel placed the northern border of Texas in what is now Carbon County, Wyoming.”

To flex its muscle and show ownership in that vast land, in 1841 President Mirabeau B. Lamar on his own formed the Santa Fe Expedition made up of traders, with $200,000 in goods, soldiers and a Mexican guide who deserted them. They went by Wichita Falls and staggered across West Texas, arriving near Santa Fe where they expected to be greeted by eager business owners. Instead, they were forced to surrender to Mexican officials and were taken in chains as prisoners to Mexico City, suffering mightily. That did not stop Texas visitors, although today relatively few are taken in chains to Mexico City prisons. Indeed, half of Houston and most of Dallas have summer homes there to avoid the Texas heat. My mother had a friends who said she stopped going to Santa Fe in the summer. “Every time I walked down the street, I’d meet people I knew from Dallas.”

When joining the Union, Texas’ claim to such a vast wasteland was accepted by the feds in Washington, mainly because there was no there there except wild Indians, buffalo and ski bums. But soon things got sticky. The Mexican-American War established new boundaries, the whole free vs. slave argument came to the forefront, bills were introduced in Congress to split off the west part of Texas and make it a new state. When U.S. troops occupied Albuquerque, Southerners threatened to send their own soldiers.

Then the discussion turned to that great common denominator: money. The Republic of Texas owned a huge amount of lands, and retained them after Annexation. But it also owed a fortune to bond holders. So a deal was struck, the U.S. would buy the western third of Texas for $10 million. (I haven’t figured out how much that is an acre, but it’s got to be less than, say, what Highland Park or River Oaks runs.) At the end of the republic, its debt was officially estimated at $9,949,007, so Texas still had $50,993 left over.

The northern border of today’s Texas was due to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which said that states above that line would be free and those below it could be slave, so if Texas wanted to hold on to any land above the line, it would have to free its slaves. Texas preferred slaves to land. Speaking of which, the compromise also maintained slavery in the nation’s capital, but the slave trade was prohibited.

That resulted in the silly Oklahoma Panhandle – one of its three counties is named Texas (pop. 20,640). The entire deal was called the Compromise of 1850 and avoided North and South from ever having to go to war. This land deal is often compared to the Louisiana Purchase. That transaction involved 828,000 square miles for cash, forgiveness of loans and interest on other loans, for a total of $15 million or $250 million today. It came to a little less than three cents an acre.

Today the boundaries of Texas are 2,845.3 miles long, but if you include the smaller meanderings of the rivers and the tidewater coast line, the boundary is 4,137 miles long and encloses 263,644 square miles of land and another 3,695 square miles of water surface. But think of the wide-open spaces, snow-capped mountains and vast miles of nothing that were, and still could be, a part of Texas. Without leaving the state, even with no passport, you could visit the home of the atomic bomb, Carlsbad Caverns, and those frozen vaults at Roswell where the government hides the bodies of Martians, if our forefathers hadn’t needed that pitiful $10 million. Today that will hardly rent a .300 hitting shortstop for the season.


Ashby deals at ashby2@comcast.net

Harvesting Harvey

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE FRONT YARD – No, this is not another poor-little-me Hurricane Harvey story. This is a story of wealth beyond your imagination, yachts, gold bars and even a cup of Starbucks chocolate latte with whip cream topping. You see, in the wake of that storm, aid is pouring in, like billions, and we need to get our share, but it’s going to require time, patience and our simple animal cunning. Hey, somebody is going to be on the receiving end of this monumental dole, so why not us?

Let’s look at the landscape which, in my neighborhood of Running Rats Acres, looks like Walmart after a Black Friday sale. The Texas Gulf Coast, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico got blasted by Hurricane Harvey, Maria and some I can’t remember. Within weeks FEMA was on the scene in Puerto Rico handing out toothbrushes and soap. (The water to use them was on the way.) Even later President Donald Trump, not wishing to catch heat the way President George W. did by simply flying over Katrina’s New Orleans and gazing out at the drowning peasants below), actually flew to Puerto Rico, went to a nearby hangar and tossed rolls of paper towels to the great unwashed (still waiting for water). Then he returned to Washington, where he tweeted that the residents of Puerto Rico were waiting for someone else to fix things.

Congress sprang into action and voted that somebody do something. It approved $15.25 billion in September for Texas as a down payment to start the recovery process, which included $7.4 billion for a “community development block grant.” Congress then cleared a $36.5 billion aid package for hurricane relief, and Texas was in front of the line for the cash, as is our due. (President Trump has agreed in principle that Texas will get a greater share of federal disaster assistance funds than other states.)

But Texas Gov. Greg (“I hate Washington”) Abbott said those federal funds weren’t near enough, with Texas damages expected to eventually top $150 billion. He wanted $18.7 billion more on top of the $15.25 million, and he wanted it yesterday. Then he went to Washington asking for an additional $61 billion. However, Land Commissioner George P. Bush warned the money must go through a lot of red tape before Texans will see any of it. He said that historically, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has taken from nine months to nearly three years to get that money to the people who need it. So, survivors, help is on the way – in 2020.

As the governments dragged along, private organizations stepped in. There have been chili cook-offs and benefits. Five ex-presidents held a Deep in the Heart concert and raised $2.6 million. Harris County and the City of Houston are spending $20 million buying out flooded houses, and have asked for another $17 million. Houston Texan J.J. Watt wanted to raise $200,000 for Harvey relief and got $30.2 million and climbing. On the receiving end are a parade of groups: The Houston Harvey Relief Fund, the Rebuild Texas Fund, Juntos y Unidoes Por Puerto Rico, the Fund for the Virgin Fund and many. Many more..

How much of those billions will you actually see? Probably zero, so we make our move. We hit up people quickly, while Harvey is fresh, and they give because they are both generous and suffer from survivor’s guilt. I just created the Fund for Doing Good Things, but will also start Veterans Helping Draft Dodgers, or maybe the other way around, Texans Helping Ourselves, the Harvey Fund for Financial Fitness and Flood Victims Anonymous. Money will pour in. Here’s another way to skin this cat. Get some of the loot being passed around. For example, what on earth is a “community development block?” Maybe it’s funds for a block in the community. Our block. It’s getting $7.5 billion, and we deserve a slice. Hit up the Department of Agriculture (be sure to ask for repayment for those 4,000 acres of kale you almost planted) and cash from HUD for the 23 gypsies you took in.

Then there is FEMA, which is dispensing billions of dollars to, well, someone. We may never know. I am dealing with FEMA over the loss of my possessions and damage to my house. They put replacement cost for my den furniture at $34, but are balking at the estimate for my collection of letters from Washington to Jefferson, the Faberge eggs and Dorothy’s red slippers, which they claim were stolen by the gypsies. FEMA wants receipts for most items. Where did you store the receipt for the bathtub you bought in 1982? It’s not just homes. Your business suffered, too. How much does it cost to replace tattoo needles? Thousands. No price can be placed on the goodwill and reputation of your adult book store, but $100,000 is low-balling it.

Oh, sure, we are already hearing about watchdogs in Austin and Washington who will make sure all the donations get to their intended targets. We must remember the U.S. Inspector General who found $30 billion missing in aid to Iraq. It’s not just cash. You need to replace that three-level swimming pool you were going to install. Remember the $30 million spent in Afghanistan for a big facility the Marines never asked for and never used. So I think we are pretty safe in not getting caught.

Here’s another tip: Since much of the west side of Houston survived the actual hurricane, but were flooded when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened flood gates on two dams and inundated scores of neighborhoods, lawyers are in high heat. I’m not sure you can sue the U.S. Army, but if you win you may be paid in either MRE rations or Abrams battle tanks.

So get your cut of the billions of dollars being showered on real or imagined victims of Hurricane Harvey — in 2020.


Ashby raises kale at ashby2@comcast.net

Bidder Sweet Deal

October 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

My latest get-rich-quick scheme didn’t work out as planned. Still, I thought the Hurricane Harvey Weinstein Rebuild & Rehab Center combined the best of two worlds. I had heard of people making a fortune by cornering the gold market or the corn market. I tried to corner the flea market. That was about as bad as my franchise for the Bernard Madoff Investment Advice Co. I tried selling Testosterone Mighty Pills door-to-door, but the FDA said the testosterone fad was a snake oil hoax and my pills were worthless. It was then that I sought out financial help from my long-time money guru, Cash O’Hand. Fortunately it was during visiting hours. “OK, I admit the New Coke bombed,” he said on the phone from behind the glass window. “And I’m sorry about your betting on the Jamaican bobsled team, but this is a sure-fire winner. Amazon.”

“Amazon Grace? It’s been recorded by everyone from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the Black Watch Bagpipe Band.”

Cash sighed his condescending sigh. “No, Amazon, the company that has taken over marketing, selling and delivering everything from toothpicks to hit men, putting Mom and Pop stores out of business quicker than your neighborhood WalMart. Even Macy’s and Sears are reeling because of Amazon. They are based in Seattle, but plan to open a second headquarters, called HQ2. The facility will cost five billion dollars, take up land the size of Idaho, hire fifty-thousand workers, who, Amazon promises, will each earn a hundred thousand dollars annually to start, bonuses will double that amount. So, naturally, governments are drooling at the prospect of landing such a prize. I mean, they are groveling like a Trump cabinet. You need to get in on the greed by brokering the deal.”

That sounded like a good idea, so I began with the State of Texas. Both our U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, had written a letter to Amazon explaining why Texas would be the perfect place to locate HQ2 – top quality schools that finish just below average on virtually every state-to-state comparison, a legislature that imitates Larry, Moe and Curly, and no transgender school bathrooms, something Amazon cannot resist, except that they sell them on-line. Even Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went plugging for the facility, pointing out that Texas has low wages, unions are considered a commie front and child labor laws are actually rather childish. Texas had a good chance to get the new goldmine. Then Michigan said it would bid for HQ2. New York followed. Amazon noted these states had high taxes, and the company wanted a low tax rate. California said it would create a generic tax loophole for any company whose name began with an A and ended with an n, but it must contain the letter z. New York promised to turn over the entire state treasury to Amazon.

 

I was hired on by Texas to push our bid. I discovered that the company CEO, Jeff Bezos, had moved to Houston as a child and attended River Oaks Elementary School, and thus should reward his old hometown. Detroit countered with offering to rename a high school the Jeff Bezos School for Shaking Down Communities. Amazon said the winning city must have a first-rate international airport. D/FW offered to become the Jeff Bezos Intergalactic Spaceport & Fast Delivery Terminal. Atlanta promised no taxes. Amazon said it would levy a tax on Atlanta should it get the prize. I fired back with a plan to rename the Houston Ship Channel the Texas Amazon River. New York City vowed to change Times Square to Bezos Squared. He said he didn’t need the Times, he already owned the Washington Post. The bidding got so rough that San Antonio dropped out. “We thought the Amazon Alamo would do the trick,” a city official sobbed. “But they wanted to sell it stone by stone. We didn’t have enough stones to make it worth their while.”

Some economists who have investigated incentives for companies to move to a town – tax breaks, infrastructure improvements, more schools – say locals are giving away the store. (One particular move, the economists figured, would benefit the host city by 2050.) But my job was to lure Amazon to Texas, and the store could be given away. Speaking of stores, I promised to put a Whole Foods in every company cubicle, with free vending machines. Then I found out Bezos owned Whole Foods. At that point I dropped the idea of putting a church in every lobby.

“I’m not doing very well,” I told my financial guru at our next meeting. He adjusted the phone. “You need to steal ideas from the very best. Buy Donald Trump’s book.” I got out a paper and pen. “The Art of the Deal?” I asked. Cash shook his head. “First of all, Trump never wrote it. Every word was ghostwritten. Besides, there was nothing in it you couldn’t learn from MSNBC on mute. You want his latest book, ‘The Art of the Heel,’ in which the Donald shows how to lie, cheat and twist facts and quotes and get away with it.” So I bought the book and read the first chapter; “Benghazi Blizzard — Accuse You Enemies.” Trump wrote (or someone did) that if you keep pounding away at a lie, some dumb people will begin to believe you. I went on Facebook to anonymously state that Atlanta had been burned to the ground, a hurricane had swept through New Jersey and San Francisco was devastated by an earthquake. All true, I just didn’t say when. New Mexico offered old Mexico, but Amazon demanded its first-born and a sibling to be named later. I made our final offer: Texas would name Jeff Bezos its king for life, if Dan Patrick didn’t object. It didn’t work, and I was fired, but I left the “For Sale” sign in front of the state Capitol.


Ashby’s store is at ashby2@comcast.net

Split-Second Guessing

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE TV – “Nimrod has a good changeup, but isn’t going to make the playoffs. Mugwump, on the other hand, may go all the way.” No, this isn’t a sports show. These are talking heads discussing a political campaign. It isn’t surprising, since there are number of basic appeals to both sports and politics, and in both cases the rest of us get to tell the participants what they should have done. The first similarity is simply that we like to choose sides. Democrats position themselves as underdogs, fighting for the little people, opposing the fat cat Wall Street Republicans, and the cheer for the Mets. Republicans picture themselves as patriotic and God-fearing upholders of traditional American values. They root for the Yankees. Here in Texas we had the Cowboys vs. the Oilers and now the Texans, and it’s easy to figure out who is cheering for whom.

In choosing sides, we tend to salute their virtues and ignore their problems. Baylor fans are still Baylor fans, and there is no such thing as an ex-Aggie. There are even those who would still vote for Donald Trump, while Hillary Clinton continues to sell books. This leads to the nation’s major problem, which is not global warming, Harvey Weinstein or FEMA, but polarization. Some, like Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, are getting rich pandering to this divisiveness, the worst since the Civil War. Fox News leads in ratings by stoking the fires of anger and laying blame, so the worst thing that could happen to that network is for Americans to start agreeing.

Take something as simple as mass transit. For some obscure reason, liberals and conservatives take opposite sides on rails, subways and toll roads. Then there are fight over pollution, immigration, gun control and paper or plastic. This polarization is reflected in Congress, the Supreme Court, elections for almost any office and, still even now, Vietnam. When anything of major importance happens in this country, everyone takes sides.

Sports are a little less important than how we run our governments and who runs them for us. I really don’t think God cares who wins the Super Bowl, although there is this observation: “The man is an atheist. He watched Notre Dame play Baylor and didn’t care who won.” Houston sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz once wrote: “There must really be something to religion. People keep comparing it to Texas high school football.” Amen. Not only do we cheer for our candidate or team, we say tacky things about our opponent. During this past presidential election, the anti-Hillary jokes and cartoons I received via email vastly outnumbered the anti-Trump screeds, but maybe that’s because conservatives are funnier than liberals. We have bumper stickers on our John Deere tractors, we put flags and signs in our front yards boosting our side, depending whether it’s a political campaign or football season.

Those who follow politics also tend to like sports. Richard Nixon, a Redskins fan, even drew up some defensive plays for the team. (I always thought that when a member Congress or a journalist thinks of the Redskins as the home team, it’s time to leave, because there’s a whole other country out there and they have lost contact.) George F. Will, one of the last sane conservative Republican pundits, is a life-long Chicago Cubs fans. (He once descried the club as “in the middle of its 100-year re-building program.”). Will detests football as “embodying all that is wrong with America – a committee meeting followed by violence.” George H.W. Bush was captain of his Yale baseball team, and his son, W., was president of the Texas Rangers. This list goes on, but perhaps our major link between politics/government and sports is Teddy Roosevelt. He once wrote, “In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!” It should come as no surprise that many of his fellow Rough Riders were former football standouts.

Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize for settling the Russo-Japanese War, then came his biggest task: saving American football. It had become so violent in the early 1900s that The Chicago Tribune reported that in 1904 alone, there were 18 football deaths and 159 serious injuries, mostly among prep school players. The Beaumont Express proclaimed: “The once athletic sport has degenerated into a contest that for brutality is little better than the gladiatorial combats in the arena in ancient Rome.” Football was on its way out from school campuses, until President Roosevelt stepped in. Long story short, he saved the game, set up safety rules and created what would eventually became the NCAA.

1902 football game between the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan

Finally, we have this observation from the bully pulpit about sports, politics and the delightful condescension the rest of us practice. It’s rather long, but good, and I think of this quote every time I read or hear some sports columnist or political pundit waxing eloquent on what should be done: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

We bystanders, sports and political fans that we are, should remember Teddy’s observation every time we criticize a candidate or a quarterback. Where’s the remote?


Ashby suits up at ashby2@comcast.net

Guest Work Without Reservations

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby, Uncategorized

THE HOTEL – The nice part about staying in a hotel is that someone else empties your wastebaskets, picks up your soggy towels and puts new little bottles of shampoo and bars of soap in your bathroom each day when you steal the ones put out the day before. My wife and I have been living in hotels since Hurricane Harvey, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, flooded my house. So I have become somewhat of an expert in the business.

For example, room rates. They vary more than airline fares. Book through one of those agencies that guarantees the lowest rates and you are using a “third party.’ This can cause all kinds of trouble if you want to change anything from arrival dates to the sheets. Some hotels book a lot of weekend and holiday business, thus their rates are higher then. Others cater to business people who arrive on Sunday nights and leave on Friday mornings, so they offer good weekend rates. One place where I stayed was so empty on weekends that they closed the bar. Speaking of bars, there are those lodgings which offer a free happy hour each afternoon. Don’t go. They pour the absolutely worst booze on the market. The free breakfasts are just fine, however, if you want to get up at dawn.

This is the perfect segue into what to do when you first enter your new room. Check the alarm clock because the previous guest set that alarm on his last night for 4 a.m. so he could catch the 7 o’clock flight to Goose Bay, Labrador, for his annual baby seal hunt. Time after time I have been awakened in the middle of my first night by the alarm, then spend 15 minutes trying to turn it off. Bring a clothespin. There must be a law that hotel rooms’ curtains must never meet, so that as the dawn breaks – about noon for me – light from the crack between the drapes hits you right in your face. A simple clothespin clamps the two drapes together and lets you sleep. The room temperature: for the last week I have wearing a sweater when it is 94 degrees outside because I can’t shut off the a/c, can’t open the window, and can’t get management to do anything about it. Maybe if I call the front desk and say, “How do I start a fire in the bathtub?” they’ll take action.

Also, you don’t have to be Howard Hughes tromping around the room with your feet in Kleenex boxes, but take certain health precautions. The dirtiest thing in your room, travel experts say, is the TV remote. Give it a good bath under the faucet. Then check out the channels. I am against any more federal rules and regulations, but there should be one ordering all TV remotes and channel numbers to be the same in each town. While traveling, have you ever plopped down to watch your favorite program and it’s halfway over before you find which channel it’s on? Oh, I had a funny situation happen to me a few days ago. I was walking through the hotel room and the local news came on. It was KPRC, Houston, and then it hit me: I was in Houston. I had never stayed in a hotel in my own town.

Conrad Hilton bought his very first hotel, the Mobley, in Cisco, Texas. He then moved on to other West Texas towns. Hilton later observed, “At Lubbock I found that Texas had no use for an imported French chef.” This brings us to hotel food which usually tastes like hotel food. The chef was fired when he couldn’t cut it at Wendy’s. There is the convenience of taking the elevator to dinner, particularly if you are in a strange town and don’t know where to eat and don’t want to be walking the streets at 10. And I can’t make blanket condemnations. I recently had one of the best shrimp cocktails ever at a restaurant at an Embassy Suites.

Hotels used to have ice in a bin in a little room at the end of the hall. The state passed a law authorizing only ice machines that dispensed ice from a chute, after hearings in which all kinds of horror stories were told — one guest reported opening the bin door to find a dead cat. The problem is that they give you these plastic bags to line the ice bucket. The very first cubes to drop in collapse the plastic liner which renders it useless. Another helpful hint. If you are staying at a hotel which doesn’t have a bellboy, porter or Boy Scout in need of another merit badge, and you have to handle the bags yourself, and use one of those wheeled racks or dollies or whatever, pull it, don’t push it. Now you know.

Tips for checking out. Do it beforehand, like the night before, or you’ll be in a long line in the lobby behind every other frantic guest trying to catch a plane. Also, gather up all the notepads, pens and Kleenex boxes in the room. Hotels used to put out matches, but now you can’t even light up a cigar unless you are across the street from the loading dock. My daughter used to work for Marriott and told me that maids usually change rooms, floors and workdays, so don’t wait till the last day to leave a tip. Leave a couple of bucks or more on the bed when you head out each day. I once read that John Kerry, as a campaigning presidential candidate, would leave a twenty-dollar bill at each hotel room, but he’s married to the widow of the Heinz fortune, so you probably can get by with less.

This is all you need to know about staying in a hotel, especially in your own town.


Ashby checks in at ashby2@comcast.net

A Damper on the Day

October 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE DEN – Have you ever had one of those days? The Astros lost, the Texans lost, the Longhorns are dreadful. Oh, and did I mention that my house flooded? The residence is a soggy mess, with everything wet, moldy and/or ruined. I blame the hurricane, of course, and the U.S. Army. But let me give you some background so the same disaster won’t happen to you. A few months ago I did a story on Houston’s water – rain, swamps, drinking and floods. One section dealt with the bayous and the dams, specifically Barker and Addicks dams west of Houston which were built to protect the city after two devastating floods inundated the downtown in the 1920s.

During the interviews, officials from both the Harris County Flood Control District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assured me that the dams, although more than 70 years old, were in prime shape. That seemed right, because dirt and rocks and concrete don’t age. Then Harvey arrived and the rains came, and came, and came. The hurricane was not a hurricane in the usual sense, at least not in Houston. There were no 120 mile-an-hour winds, no tide surge, just rain. That was no big deal here in my neighborhood of Running Rats Acres. It rains here a lot, but even Tropical Storm Allison, which dumped up to 36 inches on parts of the town, didn’t bother us. Our streets all end in a cul de sac (French for dead end) a few hundred feet from Toxic Bayou, which never floods. Water never even reached beyond the top of the curb, so no one around here was worried. Other parts of town started to flood, but not us. TV news showed cars with only the rooftops sticking above the water, but not here. Canoes and kayaks appeared on our screen floating down in streets and freeways. We were safe.

The water level actually began to drop, then began to rise again, and crept even higher, to the top of the curb and then up the front yard, an event we had never witnessed before. Higher and higher, but this made no sense. Why did the flood level drop, the rise? This brings us to the U.S. Army. It seems that the two dams were getting swamped, the water level behind the barriers was getting dangerously high, so they – get this – started releasing more water, which caused the bayou down at the end of the street to spill out of its banks and through the neighborhood. I mean, what’s the point of having a dam to prevent flooding when authorities open the flood gates to flood the town? Am I missing something here the Army knows that I don’t? So the water level, which had actually been receding, began to rise up past the curbs, flow across the front yards, to the door steps and into the houses. The dirty green lines on the walls show how high the water came — two feet.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

That was the highest level of the water, but it seeps upwards into furniture, beds, sheetrock, hanging clothes and cabinets. Floors buckle, drawers stick, then power goes off so that everything in the freezer and refrigerator starts stinking. Speaking of which, the entire house begins to smell. Some say it’s the aroma of backed up sewage. My father’s wonderful old huge oaken roll-top desk which I planned to leave to my lawyer son is warped, stained and bleached white two feet up. Everything in it is soggy, or I guess so since the bottom three drawers won’t open. Sorry son. My computer is ruined, so is my wife’s. Techie nerds are always telling up to back up everything on our computers in case our hard drive fails. No one mentioned to back up in case of a national rain record of 52 inches. Clothes are wet and stink and need to be dry cleaned, but my cleaners says she is so busy she will only take one load per customer a day. She must be, well, cleaning up. Books are the worst. Clothes can be cleaned or tossed and replaced, but most books are a total loss. The pages stick together and rip if you try to pull them apart. The late comedian George Carlin had a routine about his “stuff,” objects he received along the way that he kept for no particular reason. I have mountains of stuff, and I’ll bet you do, too. Here’s a small flag from the French Foreign Legion I got in Marseilles. A paperweight. Who uses or even has a paperweight? Old newspaper clippings, clothes I haven’t worn since Y2K, more stuff. If there is anything good to say about a flood it is that we have to get rid of unneeded stuff. My children and grandchildren were a huge help in moving the heavy stuff, and things really got moving when one grandson brought along his high school football team. Huge guys.

We were told that sheetrock is soggy up to 4 feet from the ground, and must go, so everyone is knocking out walls up to 4 feet, then hauling the mess out to the curb. Running Rats Acres is Baghdad on the Bayou – soggy planks, sheetrock, couches, chairs, stacks of junk – and looked even worse after the flood. Some nice folks even set up a canteen for the neighborhood with bottles of water, Clorox, all sorts of snacks, and one fellow set up his barbeque pit and started handing out hamburgers. There was some other good news as neighbors got to know neighbors, total strangers showed up to help. I noticed next door at the Birdbath’s house that movers were hauling out his gun collection, liquor cabinet and big screen TVs. Later I found out that Birdbath had not hired any movers.

Another positive point is that I have flood insurance from FEMA. I’ll use the money to hire a good flood insurance lawyer and one who can take on the Army Corps of Engineers.


Ashby is wet at ashby2@comcast.net

Hypocrites’ Oath

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby, Uncategorized

THE FRONT YARD – I am looking at the flotsam and jetsam of what was my house, and it reminds me that just when I was getting over Trump fatigue, that non-stop news coverage of our unbalanced president, I was plunged into Harvey fatigue. All Harvey all the time. Morning noon and night. I couldn’t get away from that storm. Still, the Texas Gulf Coast was the star, and we got our 15 minutes of fame. It was only about that long, because while we were still bailing out our basements (actually there are very few basements along the coast, but I like the alliteration) along came Hurricane Irma, and the TV types raced off to cover Florida and the Caribbean. Harvey was so last week.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from Harvey, which won’t be a teachable moment because no one will learn a thing. First, there won’t be another Harvey. Not because we won’t endure another such storm, but because NOAA will retire the jersey number, or in this case, the name. They do that with all the big disasters – Carla, Katrina, Allison, the Astros’ bullpen — and now our own catastrophe will live forever. Another lesson: get flood insurance, or, if you can’t afford it, get FEMA to give you a bunch of money to take care of you. This brings up the obvious question of why buy flood insurance?

Courtesy of https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

We now come to Texans’ take on the federal government. We like to quote Ronald Reagan’s observation, “The government isn’t the solution. The government is the problem.” How many times did we hear Texans chant that as a Coast Guard chopper was pulling them from a rooftop? “Hi, Mister National Guardsman. Did you know you are the problem? But thanks for saving me and my family from drowning when we tried to cross that low-water bridge.”

This brings us to the bridge trolls we all know and love: Texas government officials, both state and federal. Take Sen. Ted Cruz. When he paraded his various statements during his presidential campaign damning Washington for everything from halitosis to rabid dogs, his followers – speaking of rabid – cheered and clapped. That’s hard to do when dangling from a helicopter cable. Some commie pundits called Cruz’s current clamoring for billions in flood relief from the U.S. Treasury “hypocritical.” Cruz called it, well, something but I forget what. It was much the same with Gov. Greg Abbott, who has spent millions and millions of our tax dollars fighting Washington for its “interference” in his attempts at gerrymandering, preventing minorities from voting, blocking efforts to clean up our air and water and bringing back 18th Century treatment of women’s health. And when was the last time you heard the Official State Demagogue, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, praise Washington for anything?

Then there are those who attempt to score political points on a tragedy. TV conservative talk show host Sean Hannity had Gov. Abbott on a show and tried to get Abbott to criticize Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, for the way he handled the storm, likening Houston city authorities’ efforts to those of local officials in New Orleans and the Katrina debacle. The Guv wouldn’t bite. Nevertheless, Hannity continues to lambast Turner. Some people give sleaze a bad name. The American Red Cross has also come under scrutiny for how much of the millions it has raised actually went to helping the refugees. When a top Red Cross official was asked that question on TV, he wouldn’t or couldn’t say.

Here are a few do’s and don’t’s to follow after the storm: Don’t buy a used car or truck in Texas for the next year. Bypass that great deal on a BMW with only 5,000 miles. It has been under water for two weeks. Your first clue is that the windshield wipers are on the inside of the car. Don’t buy a house with a waterline in the den or has a flood gauge in the patio. Also, be suspicious of any house with a periscope on the roof. Don’t do business with a contractor with out-of-state license plates. Do figure out a way to make penicillin from a city covered in mold. Wine is harmed by heat, so when you return to your soggy, hot house, your bottles of wine may taste dreadful, so toss them. On the other hand, if your wine comes in boxes, just toss them anyway, but don’t heap the boxes on top of that pile of trash in your front yard. The neighbors will know what you drink.

What to do with your house? If the place only needs minor repairs, lie to FEMA’s insurance agent. “Those cracks in the foundation weren’t there before Harvey.” Maybe you’ll finally get some of your tax dollars back. If there is major damage, put a baby carriage in a bedroom and sob, “She was our only child.” If your place looks like Baghdad after a shelling, take a page from a city council member in Port Arthur. The town has been in pretty dire financial straits, and faced what to do with an aging and abandoned hotel in what had been the downtown district. No one would rent or lease it, no one would buy it. The town couldn’t give it away. It would cost a lot to level the five or 10 story hulk. The council member suggested selling the hotel to Hollywood for an action movie needing a climatic and fiery finale. Boom! Check with Hollywood.

Well, Texas will get over Harvey. We shall repair or tear down and replace. Our insurance rates will skyrocket, all sorts of anti-flood plans will be trotted out and none will be implemented. Our state and federal lawmakers will be on hand next election to tell us how they sucked out money from Washington, that same despicable city of corruption and interfering power-grabbers — and will be re-elected. I’m getting hypocrite fatigue.


Ashby is drying out at ashby2@comcast.net

Without Rhymes or Reasons

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?
—English nursery rhyme, 1835

The Wall Street Journal – Stocks are up in the UK for rat traps, sacks and kits after analysts say there may be a huge need for such items because a man was going to St. Ives. Of course, these are the same inside traders who touted Enron, steam locomotives and the New Coke.

Variety – Boffo Mystery Thriller: Latest scoop from across the pond is that “a man,” (hackers report it’s Tom Cruise on crutches), comes across another man (Johnny Depp?) with several beautiful babes carrying microchips and tapes, disguised as mice, cats and rats, stolen from the evil Capt. Drano. Working title: Mission Improbable. Our moles in the ‘Wood tell us a pirated copy is easily accessible on the Weather Channel. Also, new musical for Broadway, Cats With Rats, although there is a lawsuit pending by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Press release from FEMA – Death and destruction have hit St. Ives, a small village in England, and our rescue workers are on the way as soon they complete their work along the Texas Gulf Coast, which they are still trying to find.

Fox News – A woman, identified only as Hillary C., was caught trying to smuggle bombs, unused at Benghazi, for ISIS terrorists to blow up an innocent English village, according to what someone said. President Trump, our noble leader, in a 20-second news conference on the third tee, claimed there was blame on both sides: “Cats like rats. Which reminds me, those rats in the White House who are leaking the truth will be hunted down and sent to Guantanamo Bay – a beautiful place for my next spa, beach and water boarding – for enhanced interrogation. Only seven wives? What a bunch of losers.”

Local TV News – This just in! Rats, cats and kittens are running wild right here in our town! Well, not exactly here, but somewhere, just like when we can’t show a good car wreck or apartment fire from here, we’ll show you one from Waco or Detroit or, once, from Johannesburg, South Africa. Remember that one, Sue? Sure do, and by the way, Chip, that’s a nice tie you’ve got on. I’ll bet your wife gave it you. No? Quickly moving on, we’ll be right back with World War Three after these messages.

Press release from the NRA: A small English village has been pillaged by a horde of rats because those cowardly Limies won’t allow residents to carry unregistered AK-47s, much less a decent howitzer, so what can you expect? Defend the Second Amendment or America will also be overrun with rats, cats and sacks. Meantime, give your wives a pink pearl handled Smith & Wesson, just the thing for your next anniversary.

MSNBC – A fascist plot to harm the residents of a quaint English village was thwarted by a brave liberal watchdog when he spotted a man, no doubt a conservative Mormon because he had seven wives, with rats which, scientists say, can carry the bubonic plague. Our sources report Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating a link between this potential epidemic and the White House, specifically the President’s immediately family, plus those on his staff, groundskeepers and most visitors. Subpoenaed emails clearly show that Jared Kushner has used “met,” “going” and “seven” in his messages to, who knows, the Kremlin?

The New York Times – St. Ives, England – A man (homo sapien) was going to this village in Cornwall, a busy fishing port, where he came upon another man with many cats (Felinus) to stop the rats (Rattus) destroying the fishing (Swimeus) gear, although some people argue it was St Ives, Cambridgeshire, an ancient market town and therefore a distinct possibility. Reliable sources say that if the traveler met the group leaving the town and coming towards him, then the correct answer is one, the narrator. But if he overtook them, all going the same way, then the answer is 2,802: 1 man, 7 wives, 49 sacks, 343 cats, and 2,401 kits, plus the narrator. See: Pages 4-12 “History of St. Ives (1340-2017) and Cambridgeshire – Bastion of market towns,” a special 14-page section: “British Country Roads in Need of Repair,” and our lead editorial: “Animals in Sacks — how long the cruelty?”

Exterior of the Seven Wives public house in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, on a summer’s night. By David Bartlett.

Press release from the ACLU – The British government must take steps to rid towns bearing religious names. St. Ives is the perfect example of mixing church and state. If the British can cut ties with the rest of Europe, then certainly they can rename the hundreds if not thousands of towns, streets and, yes, cathedrals, smacking of religion. God help us all!

ESPN – How about this blow-out? The St. Ives Wives scored 7, with seven sacks, while the Cats had 343 and the Fightin’ Kits with a huge 2,401. Remarkable, eh, Rabid Robert? Hey, Rabid Robert, I’m talking to you. Sorry, but he’s had 12 concussions and doesn’t communicate very well.

Tweet from unknown source at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. – President Donald (The Great) Trump visited the Texas Gulf Coast to lend his magnificent presence to those poor (under $100 mil) peasants drowning in a crystal clear sea of oil and mud. They were glad to view in person His Trumpship, and asked for his blessing and $30 trillion. The record-sized crowds continued to shout an old Texas expression about retrieving their vehicles from the flood: “Get a rope!”#your welcome

Mother Goose – Kits, cats, sacks, and wives.
Such a cast gives me the hives.
Like rock-a-by baby, who fell to his doom.
Or Humpty Dumpty they ate with a spoon.
Jack fell down and broke his crown.
Who cares how many went to town?

A Family Escape for All Ages

August 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

Photo by Laurette Veres

Families return to The King and the Prince Beach Resort year after year. Southern hospitality, great beach access, and expansive resort pools are just some of the reasons to love this escape. The resort is nestled along a beautiful stretch of beach on St. Simons Island, off Georgia’s coast. Travelers come from all over the world to enjoy this amenity-rich property.

Steeped in History

Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn opened this regal property in 1935. Fires, grand re-openings and Navy takeovers are part of this seaside tale. During the winter of 1942, German U-boats were sighted off the Georgia coast and the hotel became a radar training facility for the U.S. Navy. It reopened to the public in 1947.

The historic property has been lovingly restored throughout the years. From the stained glass windows to the portraits of King George II and Prince Charles Edward Stewart, you’ll note attention to history at every turn. The Ocean is the star here with most guests spending their days walking, searching for shells or participating in water sports. The beach is expansive during low tides; but only a sliver of sand is left to walk on when the tide rolls in. No worries, the luxurious pool area has two large pools and a kiddie pool; plenty of room to play and relax within the private, gated complex.

Fun for the whole family

Catch the St. Simons Colonial Island Trolley for a historic island tour or visit the shops in the village. Children under five are free at the St. Simons Lighthouse. Fort Frederica National Monument features ruins of an 18th-century town and a fort established to defend the southern boundary of Georgia against Spanish forces.

Golf

The King and Prince Golf course is about a 20-minute drive from the resort. The front nine holes meander through majestic oaks and around lakes in an upscale neighborhood that was once a cotton and rice plantation. On the back nine, golfers veer away from the neighborhood and take wooden bridges into the marsh. Four spectacular holes are situated on islands in the saltmarsh, teeming with wildlife, scenic views and challenges.

Dining

ECHO, serving classic coastal cuisine and handcrafted cocktails, is the island’s only oceanfront restaurant. Enjoy shrimp & grits and find out why the nutrient-rich waters of the Georgia coast create super tasty shrimp. The name pays tribute to the Hotel and St. Simons Island’s history during World War II. Radar was a new technology, and this hotel was the center of it all. The King and Prince bar was an after-hours gathering spot for soldiers, their wives and members of the local Civil Air Patrol.

The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort became a member of the Historic Hotels of America in 1996 and it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. So,if you enjoy historic hotels and beautiful beaches, this is a great wedding destination.

For more information visit:

www.kingandprince.com

www.ColonialTrolley.com

www.SaintSimonsLighthouse.org

www.nps.gov/fofr

Texas Gets Dressed Down

August 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

by Lynn Ashby

THE RESTAURANT – This is a relatively fancy place — not much lipstick on the glasses — but there is something I notice about the clientele: Their clothes. Put it this way, I am the only grown man here wearing long pants. All the other males are in shorts. So are most of the women and all of the children. Used not to be this way, which leads us to today’s discussion: dress codes are changing. Is this good or bad? Will spats make a comeback, and who needs ties? I am all for comfortable clothes, but “No shoes, no shirt, no service,” has become: “No shoes, no shirt, no problem.”

            We begin here in this restaurant. These are the dog days of summer in Texas, when you can fry an egg on your egg. Along the Gulf Coast we can add the humidity. But restaurants are freezing year-round, so I always keep a sweater in my car to bring into eateries. This place is Ice Station Zebra on the Bayou because the restaurant’s staff of bus boys, waiters and cooks is in charge of the thermostat. They are running around, sweating like an immigrant at a Trump rally. They are hot, so they keep making this place colder. As for the customers, we freeze, or at least I do. My own dress code is defined by the temperature, not the ambiance. I am wearing long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and my handy sweater. These other folks eating here are in their shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. They must be newly arrived from Boston. Even the up-town eateries seem to have dropped their dress codes. In years past, men were required to wear a coat and tie. Not now. The more down-scale you go, the dress is casual down to sloppy.

At this point I should note that, if there is no longer a dress code, there should still be a taste code. Over at another table are two of the fattest, grossest men with their bare stomachs protruding out from under their skin-tight T-shirts and their legs look like bear fur. Their female counterparts are fat, sloppy and should be confined to the take-out lane. Yuk.

Dressed for lunch at restaurants can be different. Casual Fridays are now casual 2017. A table may be filled with men wearing sport shirts, slacks and dress shoes or maybe nice boots, but no one seems to wear a tie to work anymore. The women are all neatly dressed for business, but high-heels must have gone the way of men’s ties. At least no one is in shorts. The same cannot be said for your local grocery store. Between Easter and Halloween, shorts are de rigueur on Aisle 5. During the day, young mothers come in wearing their tennis garb. I wonder how many of them really play tennis. Oh, and they all are holding a plastic bottle of imported water and an iPhone. Occasionally, at the grocers, after work you will see guys wearing their green scrubs. This tells everyone: “I am a doctor. Show some respect.”   

                  Over the years what we wore outside of the house, ranch or job at the hog rendering plant was predictable. Clothes were for looks, not comfort. However, if you watched “Downton Abbey,” you noticed how the upper class got all gussied up for dinner. Their dressing started about 4 p.m., but then they had nothing else to do. The ladies wore long dresses with lots of jewelry, and the gentlemen were in a tux. Those times being before dry cleaning, we can only guess what the table smelled like on a summer night. On this side of the pond (the new term for the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s shorter), the Vanderbilts and the Astors did the same. Speaking of the pond, in the movie, “Titanic,” set in 1912, the dress code for the upper crust was about the same. And look at those old photos of people standing on the Galveston beach during the summer. It’s 102 degrees with 100 percent humidity. The women’s dresses were several layers of cloth and went from turtle neck to the ground, while the men were wearing white linen suits, high collars, ties and straw hats. They look miserable.

SMU Central University Libraries, Set 72157648199129764, ID 16208433948, Original title [People Walking on the Beach Boulevard and Sitting on the Great Seawall in Galveston, Texas]

            My father brought home one of the first pair of Bermuda shorts I had seen. My mother wouldn’t let him wear them out of the house. Once as a senior in high school, I and a few other boys decided to attend school wearing Bermuda shorts. We didn’t even get to our first class before we were sent to the principal’s office where we were lectured about proper clothing etiquette, and sent home to change. Today during warm days, students are sent home for not wearing shorts. As a UT student I worked the cafeteria line at a dorm holding 452 female students. (I would have paid for the job). The dress code (or co-ed) for lunch and dinner was a skirt with blouse or a dress, strictly enforced. One time a girl showed up wearing, culottes, and was sent back to her room to change clothes. Now I think that dorm’s dress code is “whatever fits.” Same for their live-in boyfriends.

Today Bermuda shorts are worn everywhere, even to church, and you have been wondering why Bermuda shorts are called that. Guess what? They didn’t originate in Bermuda, although at the Summer Olympics the Bermuda team marches in wearing red Bermuda shorts (red  being the main color in their flag). During World War II, British military wore shorts in tropical and desert warfare, but, being proper King’s troops, they wore long socks. Meanwhile, there was a shortage of clothing in Bermuda, so two banks got a local tailor to make shorts, modeled on those worn by the British military, for their male employees, with long socks, of course. This was the beginning of Bermuda shorts as business attire in Bermuda, a fad which quickly spread to Texas restaurants – minus socks.


Ashby wears ashby2@comcast.net

Kiwi Rising

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

Photo by Laurette Veres

Most Americans dream of visiting New Zealand and— thanks to a new direct flight— those dreams can easily come true!

New Zealand is a commitment.The introduction of a direct flight to Auckland on Air New Zealand makes this commitment much easier for Houstonians. The flight is perfectly timed— leaving at8:00pm. Premium Economy seating includes hearty, and surprisingly tasty food. Air New Zealand has also smartly paired their food with delicious New Zealand wines. The flight also includes New Zealand Films, entertainment, and a high-tech, in-seat console allowing you to instant message fellow passengers. With all of these great accommodations, the fourteen hour flight literally flew by (pun intended).

Mentally prepare for it, enjoy a movie, take a nap, and you’ll be refreshed and ready to greet this beautiful country. The flight lands in Auckland, which is a great launch pad to tour this dynamic country.

The perfect start to a day in Auckland is to go up the SkyTower right in Auckland. Viewing this breathtaking city from 1,076 feet above gives you the chance to really see the expanse of the harbor and to get a look at interesting buildings and neighborhoods. I was there during the holidays, so the giant Santa on the side of a four-story building caught my eye.

I walked to the Langham Hotel and had time to tour the Symonds Street Cemetery. This was the first official cemetery in Auckland, which has been closed to burials since 1886. High Tea at the Langham is a great holiday tradition. Enjoy some bubbly before selecting from over 30 different tea flavors. I opted for the white blossom tea, a delightful blend of white tea handpicked from China’s mountaintops.

The lodge experience in New Zealand allows travelers to traverse most of the country, and see many facets of the land all the while enjoying five-star, luxurious service. Three well- known lodges are American- owned and offer distinct New Zealand experiences. All of them also offer stunning accommodations and first class food overseen by group Executive Chef Dale Gartland.

With their superb cuisine and an exceptional wine cellar, you’ll find yourself looking forward to drinks and canapés each evening before dinner. Many guests follow similar itineraries and it’s fun to see familiar faces as you compare travel stories.

The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs

Because there are no security checks or lines, inter-island flights are fast, easy, and carefree. First stop: Bay of Islands and The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. This quaint lodge is set into 6,000 acres of farm, forest, and beach land. The Kauri trees here are anywhere from 700 to 900 years old. This slow growing tree was previously used to build houses and repair ships. Get to know the property by taking a guided quad-bike tour. Follow Malcolm from SeaToys around the property or see what it’s like to be a farmer with Farm Manager Jonathan.

Although I’m from Texas, I was up close and personal with more sheep and cattle on this excursion than ever before! Ride through the Pine Forest and livestock-filled paddocks while enjoying expansive breathtaking views of the Cavalli Islands and Pacific Ocean. Three private beaches and an on-property waterfall give you the opportunity for a quick swim. The Pink Beach is a great place for a picnic. It’s also a breeding ground for the Tuturiwhatu and other native New Zealand birdlife. Manuka honey is known for its healing qualities; so hop on over to the spa for a signature Manuka honey treatment.

Once a week a local dance troop comes to the property. While we sip on Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, the Kerikeri’s Kapa Haka’s authentic performance offers a glimpse into the area’s cultural heritage. The dancers mingle with the guests, inviting us to get involved in the performance.

Most of the fun is available right on property and with surroundings this luxurious, you won’t want to leave. However, some off-site options include Manginangina, a park where nature walks teach the story of the forest with its massive trees and lush vegetation. Here, see how the forest evolved from young trees to the mature established forest during a guided walking tour of the Puketi Forest. Barbara, from Adventure Puketi, can arrange a private or group tour for you. This is a great activity for team building, conferences, and weddings. The Marsden Estate Winery is also a picturesque place for lunch and a charming rehearsal dinner location.

From my balcony, which overlooked the golf course, I could see the Southern Cross constellation. It definitely made me appreciate the true wonder that is New Zealand.

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

The town of Napier is unique simply due to its unique architecture. It’s one of the few cities featuring Art Deco architecture. The city was re-built after a storm at a time when Art Deco was popular. The land here at Hawkes Bay is extremely fertile making it perfect for ranching, farming, and growing wine grapes. It’s here you’ll find The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, another stop on your luxury lodge tour.

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a working sheep and cattle ranch. It’s also a nature sanctuary with fencing around the property to protect the flightless kiwi from predators. The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand, yet most locals have not seen one. (How many Americans have seen a Bald Eagle?) The Kiwi Discovery Walk is an excursion unique to this property. Two  full-time staffers are committed to kiwi protection tracking 130 kiwis each day. Join one of these experienced sanctuary guides as they monitor kiwi chicks previously released on the property. Get up close and personal as they check the radio transmitters and weigh and measure the birds to monitor their well-being. Finding a kiwi is not guaranteed, but if you’re lucky, you’ll hold one before this tour is over.

A great way to see the 6,000 acre property is to hitch a ride in a jeep as it traverses this vast terrain. You’ll grab the roll bar on this real-life roller coaster ride until you make it safely to the serene beach. You can also visit the shearing barn and learn about the crew of shearers who arrive annually. See vast terrain changes and end up at the largest, most accessible mainland colony of gannets in the world. The gannets have distinctive blue markings around their eyes and a pale gold crown. They are a slightly larger than seagulls. Visiting the colony, you’ll see adults and young nesting. Look closely to see eggs and chicks in various stages of development. You’ll be amazed at how close you can get! It was nothing less than a National Geographic experience. Visitors to the colony will see adults and their young nesting in rows, carrying out their daily routine.

The birds can be seen from September until early May when they leave New Zealand and fly for Australia. In September, they return and build their nests, ready for the hatching of chicks during December and January. Due to the migratory nature of the birds, this activity is only available from September through May. Designed by legendary golf architect Tom Doak, the Cape Kidnappers par 71 golf course challenges golfers of all skill levels. The course is located above the ocean, providing dramatic cliff views. Avid golfer or not, this course is an absolute must.

We only left this property once and it was in search of wine. See the sights on a bike ride that starts, stops, and ends at various vineyards. Lunch at Elephant Hill winery was perfectly paired with the delectable food that they had to offer.

Matakauri Lodge

Just when you think New Zealand can’t get any better, you step foot into Queenstown and the gorgeous Matakauri Lodge. This is the crowning jewel in the trifecta of luxury lodges on our journey. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge stayed here. Need we say more?

Queenstown of New Zealand is the “adventure capital” where bungee jumping was invented. It’s also a cute town with great pubs, restaurants, and shopping. A few minutes from town is Matakauri— a picture perfect location on the banks of Lake Wakatipu framed by The Remarkables mountain range and Cecil Peak. Taking advantage of the view is an absolute MUST. The main lodge and each of the twelve separate guest suites feature a wall of windows that overlook the lake. Speaking of the view; soaking in the tub will become a nightly ritual. For dinner, the view is spectacular. You are surrounded by so much water, it looks as though you could be on a ship. The bounty is local and plentiful with a degustation menu carefully curated to pair perfectly with New Zealand wines.

If you’ve golfed at each stop in New Zealand, crown the trip off with an extreme golf experience like none other. Lift off with Over the Top Helicopters and enjoy a scenic flight over Queenstown before landing on Cecil Peak. Tee off from 4,500 feet at the world’s most picturesque golf course and enjoy a wine and cheese basket to celebrate!

New Zealand is a once-in-a- lifetime trip for many Americans. Why not mark it off your bucket list now and have a honeymoon for the ages?

ESSENTIALS

www.KauriCliffs.com

SEATOYS: www.hendersonbayrentals.com

ADVENTURE PUKETI: www.forestwalks.comwww.capekidnappers.com www.elephanthill.co.nz

TAKARO TRAILS: www.takarotrails.co.nz , www.matakaurilodge.com

OVER THE TOP HELICOPTERS: www.flynz.co.nz

The Art of the Deal

August 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

by Lynn Ashby

U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Republican from Houston, is including language in a foreign relations bill urging the State Department to negotiate with Mexico for the return of the only flag on the Texian side known to have survived the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. It is called the New Orleans Greys flag, carried by two companies of volunteers from the United States who fought on behalf of Texas’ independence. The flag was taken by Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna after the battle and forwarded to Mexico (Santa Anna went on to victory at San Jacinto) where it has remained for the last 181 years. It is held in the Museo Nacional, or I guess it is. I first saw the flag there in a big glass case beside several other Lone Star flags captured in battle. A few years later I revisited the spot and the flag was gone. “It’s being restored,” I was told. Three years later I was told the same thing.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

          This brings us to an interesting tale of several arms and a leg, and the plot for a good movie. The flag is not the Lone Star flag we use today, but is 4 feet by 6 feet, sort of dirty gray in color and made of silk. Across the top of the banner are the words: “First Company of TEXAN” then there is an eagle holding a banner reading, “God & Country.” At the bottom is: “Volunteers! From New-Orleans.” The flag was presented by a pretty young girl to the New-Orleans Greys when they entered Texas in 1836. They were headed for a mission in San Antonio. It is known that at least two other flags were taken into the Alamo, but at dawn of March 6, 1836, when the last assault began, the Greys’ flag was the only one flying. It stood atop the barracks and so infuriated the attacking Mexicans that three different color sergeants of the Jimenez Battalion tried to climb up and rip it down. Each one was killed. Finally, Lt. Jose Maria Torres of the Zapadores Battalion made it to the roof, ripped down the Greys’ flag and, with the aid of Lt. Damasco Martinez, ran up the Mexican flag. Both were killed, but the Alamo flag never flew again.

            Later, Santa Anna sent the flag and a note back to the Mexican government explaining his victory, and his huge losses. He wrote, “The bearer takes with him one of the flags of the enemy’s battalions, captured today.” He goes on to write that the “New-Orleans” on the flag clearly shows “the true intention of the treacherous colonists . . . who came from the ports of the United States of the North.” The flag stayed in a drawer in Chapultepec Castle for 98 years, until 1934, when it was discovered. But it stayed put until the late 1960s when Walter Lord, an American historian, pulled open the drawer and found the Alamo flag with the note still pinned to it.

Since then Texas has tried everything to get it back. A special effort was made in 1986 during Texas’ Sesquicentennial celebration. Mexican officials said that the flag was too fragile for travel. There was a plan to trade the death mask of Pancho Villa for the flag. But the mask had been returned to Mexico a short time before by its owner. In 1991 the Texas Legislature asked President George H.W. Bush to make the flag’s return part of the NAFTA negotiations. Again, no luck. (We lost some bargaining chips when, during the 1950s, the United States unconditionally returned 69 captured battle flags to Mexico.) In 1994, State Sen. Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi said that the Mexican consul in that city, Armando Beteta, raised the possibility of trading the Alamo flag for three Mexican battle flags captured at San Jacinto. Nada. One group of Austinites reportedly discussed paying as much as $36,000 to have the flag stolen or otherwise obtained outside official channels, i.e. a bribe, or hire a cat burglar, maybe trade it for Santa Anna’s leg.

This brings us to the leg and my idea. I quote liberally from others’ research. Two years after the Battle of the Alamo, Santa Anna led a makeshift army against French forces that had invaded Veracruz. After the general was severely wounded, doctors amputated his leg, which Santa Anna buried at his Veracruz hacienda. After he once again assumed the presidency in 1842, Santa Anna exhumed his shriveled leg, paraded it to Mexico City in an ornate coach and buried it beneath a cemetery monument in an elaborate state funeral. However, in 1844, public opinion turned on the president, rioters tore down his statues and dug up his leg. A mob tied the severed appendage to a rope and dragged it through the streets of Mexico City while shouting, “Death to the cripple!”

But the Napoleon of the West had an artificial leg. He had once again become president of Mexico (seven times), and during a battle in the Mexican-American War, the 4th Illinois Infantry surprised Santa Anna, who fled without his cork and wooden leg. The soldiers seized the leg as a trophy and brought back to their home state, where it toured at county fairs before ending up at the Illinois State Military Museum. Mexico’s repeated requests to repatriate Santa Anna’s fake limb have been denied. So we buy the leg from Illinois, which is almost broke and in desperate need of money, then trade it to Mexico for our flag. Or my idea: The heist movie. A Ross Perot-like mogul, who explains he already has the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Magna Carta and Gettysburg Address, (“the ‘real ones’ are copies”), hires Raul “The Cat” LeSneak to steal the Alamo flag. Mexican Detective Jose Garcia is out to prevent it. Midnight roof tops, a fake flag, the car chase, an O. Henry ending. Pass the popcorn. 

 


Ashby directs at ashby2@comcast.net

Tantalizing Taos/ Mountain in Tamaya

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

Photo by Laurette Veres

Just 135 miles from Albuquerque International Sunport and a short, 90-minute drive from Santa Fe, lies the sunny town of Taos, New Mexico. It’s here that you’ll find world-class skiing, hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing, and mountain biking.

Taos is also a city steeped in culture and history. It is home to the country’s oldest continuously-inhabited Pueblo community.

In fact, many cultures blend together in Taos’ rich heritage including Hispanic, Native American, African American, Anglo, and more. The diverse cultural traditions that built this community are beautifully evident in the eclectic art and dining scene.

Other hidden gems include cultural sites like the historic San Francisco de Asis Mission Church (a National Historic Landmark), the downtown plaza known as “El Corazón de Taos,” not to mention a wealth of museums and art galleries.

New Mexicans have a tradition of inviting travelers into their homes and offering incredible hospitality. Bed and breakfast style inns all throughout Taos keep this tradition of hospitality alive. We started our B & B tour at Hacienda del Sol, which is situated on 1.2 majestic acres. The hacienda adjoins 95,000 acres of Taos Pueblo land with Taos Mountain. This stunning, picture perfect vista provides the ideal backdrop for an unforgettable wedding ceremony. We stayed in the oldest of three historic adobe buildings, constructed in 1804. Each morning we awoke to the aroma of freshly-ground, special blend coffee and a delicious breakfast in the air. This property is the perfect launch pad to explore the streets of Taos, or if you’d rather ski, head up to the Taos Ski Valley.

The big news on the slopes this year is the availability of the Mountain Collective Passes.

The Mountain Collective gives adventure seekers a two-day pass to 16 mountain resorts including Taos.

The legend of Ernie Blake, founder of Taos Ski Valley, is alive and well as people are newly-introduced to skiing and snowboarding daily at the Ernie Blake Snowsports School. It is often said that Taos Mountain has the ability to make you a better skier. Blake knew that a long day of skiing could improve your skills but it could also wear you down so, he planned ahead.

He buried martinis in Spanish flasks called Porrons at the base of certain trees along the slopes then marked the trees with a bow so skiers knew where to look. This tradition continues at the Martini Tree Bar where it’s always après ski time.

Also new this season is The Blake at Taos Ski Valley. The Blake, named for the Blake family, is an 80-room alpine guesthouse conveniently located next door to Lift 1 to deliver carefree mountainside adventures to its guests. If you’re looking for a unique wedding venue, The Bavarian Lodge & Restaurant provides a beautiful backdrop to make your Taos wedding celebration even more distinctive and memorable.

We continued our bed and breakfast tour at the Casa Benavides Inn. This property, a complex of several converted buildings, boasts 37 rooms on the property. Each themed room has a different name and décor from “The Blue Lady Room” to a “Painted Desert Room.” Casa Benavides is conveniently located just steps from the main square in the heart of Taos and all it has to offer. We arrived mid-afternoon and were greeted by tea service and a plethora of sweet pastries. The rooms at Casa Benavides are quite spacious with heated tile floors and our large bathtub had a mountain view. Breakfast was spectacular— the homemade yogurt is perfectly sweet with coconut and cranberries, but be sure to save room for the homemade muffins.

Looking to be pampered? Just down the street from Casa Benavides you’ll find the El Monte Sagrado Living Resort, home to the The Living Spa. With a view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; the Living Spa offers all modern spa amenities with New Mexican flair. The couple’s massage room features a high ceiling and a private bath and shower. Here, you will be pampered by some of the best therapists in the area. Don’t skip the “Sagrado High Desert” massage. This service blends indigenous plants such as cedar, sage, and ginger then crafts them into an herb- infused, body scrub treatment. Next, you are wrapped in an ancient sea-clay mask, which they say helps to “draw toxins out of the body.” After a quick shower, enjoy a gentle butter cream massage. When your treatment is over, enjoy refreshing coconut water in the outdoor garden.

Want some down-home, authentic New Mexican food? Head to Orlando’s New Mexican Café in nearby El Prado. Enjoy the outdoor fire and a margarita while you wait to be seated. Husband and wife team, Orlando and Yvette Ortega are consistently “Best of ” award winners for their Grilled Carne Adovada— a pork cutlet topped with their homemade Red Chile Caribe and fresh tortillas.

ESSENTIALS

www.taos.org www.skitaos.com 

www.taoshaciendadelsol.com 

www.casabenavides.com

www.elmontesagrado.com/taos-spa-resort-amenities

THE DRESSING ROOM WEST

by Owner, Christina Ferrara

In the heart to the Santa Fe historical district, a new retail concept is energizing the bridal business. Offering the thrill of a sample sale coupled with the exclusivity of private appointments, The Dressing Room West is a bridal boutique catering to the needs of today’s brides. “Everything here is off-the-rack,” says boutique founder Christina Ferrara. “You can take it home today.”

What a change from the typical bridal gown appointment! All gowns at The Dressing Room West are brand spanking new and direct from designers or designer warehouses. With this constantly changing, curated collection of discontinued or overstocked gowns, it’s the perfect boutique for the girl who finds it hard to visualize her perfect dress. If the dress fits, buy it. Nothing in the store is over $1,200. – LMV

WHAT’S TRENDING NOW?

“Gowns are featuring open backs and the sheer, illusion backs now. Also, sleeves are very popular” says Ferrara.

FERRARA’S TIPS FOR BRIDES

#1 Always have some sort of idea (about what you are looking for)

#2 Don’t bring too many people

#3 Have an open mind

 

Mountain in Tamaya

Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort

On the majestic Sandia Mountains of New Mexico, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa offers a picturesque setting for an extraordinary wedding or honeymoon getaway.

The Tamaya is located on the Santa Ana Pueblo, one of the 19 ancient pueblos in New Mexico. As you enter the property, the scenery is so breathtaking that you just might forget you are heading toward a luxury resort. In fact, The Tamaya blends right into its surroundings like a perfect painting with its pueblo-style architecture against the indelible Southwestern landscape.

In the main hotel, there are three glorious options designed to fit your unique wedding plans. For a smaller guest list, consider the Sunrise Amphitheater, a gorgeous flagstone area set against the canvas of the nearby mountains. The Sunrise is an ideal space for an outdoor ceremony particularly in the early evening. The light is just right for your closest friends and family to celebrate and snap unforgettable photos of your happy occasion. This outdoor space can seat up to 350 guests and the adjoining veranda can be set up for cocktails or act as a backup location in case of inclement weather.

For weddings during colder months or large groups, the versatile Tamaya Ballroom might be a better choice. You’ll love the dazzling chandeliers in this capacious yet functional room that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests.

Perhaps the most unique of these spaces, The House of the Hummingbird, duplicates the rustic charm of adobe pueblo ruins complete with views of the Sandia Mountains and the sacred Tuyuna Mesa. This space has it all; it is the quintessential New Mexican setting. This 8,600 square-foot multi- purpose venue can hold up to 300 guests. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom can make an unforgettable grand exit in a romantic horse- drawn carriage.

The Cottonwoods Gazebo and Pavilion seems so far removed from the hotel’s main property, you’ll forget you are at a resort. The gazebo and adjoining pavilion, located right on the Rio Grande River, is the ultimate space for an outdoor ceremony.

It features a unique indoor/outdoor ballroom that can host up to 300 guests for your ceremony and reception.

If you want to offer your guests a destination wedding with an authentic New Mexican flair, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa is the perfect option.

For more information on the Hyatt Resort:

https://tamaya.regency.hyatt.com

Pops of New Glimmers Old

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Stephanie DiCiro

Courtesy of Visit Mobile

The charming port city of Mobile, Alabama has a character all its own. Deeply rooted within its rich history are streets lined with live oaks and azaleas, time-honored traditions and a remarkable, enduring spirit, all wrapped up in a big dose of Southern hospitality. When you step into Mobile, it always feels like a celebration.

With over 300 years of history brimming with countless stories and traditions celebrated, Mobile can be described as: historic, cultured, celebratory, and above all, unique. Once known as the “Paris of the South”, Mobile has long been the cultural focal point of the Gulf Coast. Even a short visit will provide you with a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find anywhere else in the Southern United States!

Recent revitalization in Mobile’s many historical districts provides a picture window to the past. The Steeple on St. Francis is one of old Mobile’s most inspired new event venues that has emerged from the hallowed halls of an old Methodist church.This vintage space holds history within its timeworn walls although it has been renovated and repurposed to host concerts, parties, and weddings. Couples are drawn to this space because it tells an interesting story while also providing the exceptional aesthetic of immaculate stained glass windows and intricate wood-working details. If you visit in the spring, be sure to hit the Mobile Historic Homes Tour. Ancestral homes, churches and house museums are open to the public for this two-day event to benefit the Historic Mobile Preservation Society.

Mobile holds the distinction of being the original and unsung home to the infamous Mardi Gras parade and celebration. Each spring the parade rolls through the historic streets of downtown with its elaborate and vibrant floats, flooding the streets with beads and pelting the townspeople with Moon Pies. This parade is a grandiose finish to the revelry of a two-and-a-half-week citywide celebration called Carnival! Carnival time in Mobile is a family-friendly time to attend balls, parties, and parades filled with non- stop celebration. In Mobile, the fun doesn’t stop on Fat Tuesday. The Mobile Carnival Museum captures the essence of the Mardi Gras legacy year round, with stunning displays of parade floats, elaborate, century- old costumes and a wonderful history lesson.

Everywhere you turn, Mobile is buzzing with creative souls displaying their amazing expressions of art. Much of Downtown Mobile and in particular Lower Dauphin Street or LoDa, as it is known, is a creative hub for artists to express their talents with studios, galleries and art centers showcasing everything from dramatic murals, contemporary sculptures and abstract paintings, to endless other types of artful creations. The Mobile Arts Council, located in the heart of LoDa, is an agency that partners with art organizations to bring events like the LoDa ArtWalk to the public. The outrageously popular LoDa ArtWalk brings thousands of people together to appreciate the latest in local art, music, food and culture. If carefully curated art is more your style, the Mobile Museum of Art showcases approximately 10,000 eclectic pieces from around the world and hosts exhibits, classes, programs and special events for the community.

The Saenger Theatre brings performance art to life in a historical theater experience; prestige, poise, presentation, and pizazz are all present when describing this glorious concert hall that has played host to local, national, and international performers. From classic and contemporary art, music and dance to luxury hand-made furnishings and homemade crafts, visiting these diverse local galleries and pop-up markets will be an unforgettable experience and will leave you with an enduring appreciation for the southern charm this quaint town has to offer! The arts community in Mobile is flourishing with countless creative and artistic activities and festivals to enjoy. Your calendar will be booked throughout your visit!

Hit the streets of downtown Mobile for some retail therapy where you’re sure to find a hidden treasure or two in one of the local boutiques! After a busy day of shopping, you can choose from a variety of delicious dishes sure to satisfy your taste buds. From the award winning seafood gumbo at Wintzell’s Oyster House to the locally sourced ingredients from the esteemed Kitchen on George, you won’t be disappointed with any food choice in Mobile!

If you’re seeking adventure, whether you take a Delta Safari for an up-close view of local wildlife or take an airboat tour across the picturesque Mobile- Tensaw Delta, Mobile is the perfect place for those of you who love the outdoor life. From boating, kayaking, and duck boat tours to a guided tour of the famous Bellingrath Gardens, this town has the total package for a weekend getaway full of adventure and excitement! Located in the heart of downtown, the Admiral Hotel

Mobile offers a lavish setting and modern conveniences for guests to return to after a leisurely day of shopping and dining. The Admiral has it all; deluxe guest room suites and two delightful dining options on- site, and just walking distance from everything this engaging town has to offer!

Perfect for a family weekend getaway, a romantic escape for two, or even a group of festivalgoers, Mobile attracts a variety of visitors because it provides an authentic experience you can’t find anywhere else!

ACCOMMODATIONS

www.mobile.org

www.theadmiralhotelmobile.curiocollection.com

www.mobilecarnivalmuseum.com

www.mobilesaenger.com

www.mobilemusuemofart.com

www.mobilearts.org

www.thesteeplemobile.com

www.wintzellsoysterhouse.com

www.kitchenongeorge.com

Cabo is Calling

August 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Vicki Dill

Courtesy of Grand Velas Resort

After taking hundreds of pictures of breathtaking views and stunning scenery, I am heading home from the brand new hotel, Grand Velas Los Cabos, that just celebrated its grand opening in December I feel refreshed, tan and ready to book my next trip back to this luxurious resort that catered to my every whim!

Whether you’re planning a destination wedding, a honeymoon, an anniversary trip or just because you’re in love, Grand Velas Los Cabos will go above and beyond at every turn.

Upon my arrival, the smiling hospitable staff warmly greeted me by name. The bold entrance to the hotel features what appears to be a keyhole to a paradise of turquoise waters, purple gardenias and swaying palm trees framing a pristine blue sky. Checking in is stress free when presented with a refreshing welcome drink, a cooling towel and (the clincher) a welcome shoulder and neck massage.

Rooms are modern and sexy with rich, dark, wooden doors, sliding bathtub walls that open to the suite, and a mini bar filled with the promise of lively afternoons and seductive nights. Your own private butler is on hand to ensure that all of your needs are met. Soak up the expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, three infinity pools and the colorful gardens all from the chaise lounge on your own private terrace.

All-inclusive has never looked this good. Upscale, stylish, and award-winning are terms that best describe the dining experience at Grand Velas Los Cabos. With seven restaurants, in addition to several casual dining areas, you’ll want to stay as many nights as possible to enjoy the culinary genius at each unique Grand Velas establishments. The shining star of their gourmet restaurants, Cocina de Autor, was the world’s first all-inclusive resort restaurant to be awarded Five Diamonds by the AAA. Two Michellin Star Chef, Sidney Schutte, prepares meals that ignite your senses and really should be showcased in a museum of exquisitely presented fine food! For an authentic Mexican experience, Frida, a restaurant honoring Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, offers live music and contemporary dishes reflecting the traditions of Mexican cuisine. The French restaurant, Piaf, is romantic and evokes the feel of 1940’s Paris.

You can’t go home without eating at Lucca, their Italian/ Mediterranean restaurant, which is sure to leave you feeling full and happy!

The spa…wow–Just WOW! You begin your spa adventure with a guided hydrotherapy called The Water Journey. This tranquil area of the spa has a massive pool with several small coves. Each cove has a different type of water pressure, designed to massage your muscles and de-stress your body. There are waterbeds that elevate you with hydro pressure, and knead your joints and muscles as you relax. After that peaceful journey, you can add traditional spa treatments like the sauna, steam room, ice room and a series of unique showers. The steam room was a favorite. It features delicate lights that dim and change colors giving you a feeling of serenity. I had a Blue Agave Candle Massage; something I had never experienced and thoroughly enjoyed. A multitude of services are offered and the Grand Velas Spas are among The Leading Spas of the World. It would be easy to spend your entire vacation at the Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort. Spend a dreamlike day at one of the three infinity pools. Keep cool at the swim-up tables and bar and enjoy sipping the specialty drink of the day. The service is attentive, the beverages plentiful, and the menu is perfect for poolside dining. In addition, Grand Velas Los Cabos offers many activities to keep you engaged. There’s poker, darts, water aerobics, bingo, Ping-Pong, and a fully loaded fitness center with classes. There’s also a kids club and a teen club that even the adults will find entertaining.

If you are a person who likes to take in the sights, there are countless ‘once in a lifetime’ adventures available in Cabo! Situated at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the Los Cabos region is well known for deep- sea fishing and seasonal whale watching, but also boasts a lively nightlife. Cabo Adventures is a leading tour and activity operator dedicated to providing memorable experiences for vacationers in Cabo. I was lucky enough to be a guest on their Luxury Sailing Tour aboard the elegant Beneteau Yacht. Our cruise took us to the Sea of Cortes where we jumped off the boat, snorkeled, paddle boarded, swam and enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed great music, upscale, tasty meals, all you could eat and drink margaritas, mimosas, cervezas, and more! Cabo Adventures also offers dolphin swims, camel safaris, scuba diving, whale watching tours, sunset dinners, whale shark encounters, zip-lining, mountain biking, air adventures and even fly boarding.

If you are planning a wedding or a honeymoon, Grand Velas Los Cabos is a picturesque, accommodating and endlessly romantic destination. Their experienced team will assist you with every detail.With so many beautiful and unique restaurants you’ll have many options when planning your wedding events. A Grand Velas wedding is beyond your imagination. Whether you choose a beach wedding among the oceanside boulders or opt for a garden ceremony overlooking the vast ocean, a private terrace wedding or even a wedding in one of their many ballrooms;it will be a day you’ll wish you could relive over and over again.

Grand Velas Los Cabos will exceed your every expectation. Step away from real life for a few days and treat yourself to the luxury you deserve.

ESSENTIALS:

www.grandvelas.com/resorts 

www.loscabos.grandvelas.com 

www.cabo-adventures.com

Gateway Canyons

July 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

Courtesy Laurette Veres

John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, recalls his dad’s love affair with the majestic landscape of Western Colorado. Years later, when he finally took the time to see it for himself, he was hooked!

John regards this part of the world as some of the most awe-inspiring, scenic terrain in creation and his vision is to share it with others. First, he built a ranch. Then he was inspired to add a car museum followed by a café and a few guest rooms to accommodate visitors. Today, Gateway Canyons Colorado Resort and Spa is a full-service, 58-room/14-casita luxury resort.

This one-of-a-kind resort sits at the mouth of five converging canyons, creating a picture-perfect setting for your destination wedding. The exposed rocks near Gateway Canyons are 300 million years old. Most notably, The Palisade is a three-mile long butte and the most prominent geologic feature in the area. Whether you capture it on film from afar or climb to the top, you’ll be in awe of its beauty and grandeur. Surrounded by breathtaking red rocks in every direction, you and your guests will never tire of the scenery here.

As you might expect at a Colorado resort, outdoor activities reign supreme. Whether you’re keen on mountain biking, hiking, riding ATVs or horseback riding, they’ve got you covered. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the scenic heli-tour. Heli-Yes!

For $525 you and four friends can get an aerial tour of these beautiful red rock canyons and the surrounding area.

The resort’s full-time curator, Zebulon “Zeb” Miracle (yes, this is really his name) is on hand to help guests interpret the curiosities of this land. Accompany him on a Rock Creek Ranch Art Hike and discover an ancient world of art and storytelling. Zeb explained that before the Ute Native American tribes inhabited the land, the Anasazi and Fremont people left their mark on the rocks with both abstract and realistic figures. Since none of their descendents remain, we are left to interpret the art for ourselves. If there are youngsters in your group, Zeb is also the guide for the Jurassic Experience, a dinosaur tour that includes a dinosaur dig and a chance to actually see prehistoric footprints. Get a bird’s eye view of the five canyons as you ride an ATV to the top. The stables also offer horseback rides taking you to scenic locations. Still a working cattle ranch, you just might see cowboys at work on your stay.

The bride and her maids can enjoy panoramic views from the treatment rooms at the full- service spa. The women-only outdoor Jacuzzi is the perfect place to kick off the relaxation. Their signature treatment, the Desert Flower Poultice Therapy, is their twist on a hot stone massage. As you enter the room, fragrant sage, lavender and other herbs simmer in muslin sachets similar to large tea bags. In fact, from an auditory perspective, this treatment is reminiscent of a facial due to the relaxing hiss of steam filling your senses. Deep tissue massage is administered using the herb packet.

A rare and unexpected offering here at the Gateway Canyons is the Driven Experience, allowing guests to drive some of the world’s most luxurious cars. Speeding down one of America’s most scenic roads such as the Unaweep/ Tabeguache Colorado Scenic Byway, a spectacular 133-mile road running around the National Forest and the Dolores River, feels exhilarating in a luxury car. Surprise your guests with an airport pick up in a Bentley or take a 4-hour spin in a Viper. Driving experiences such as these and more are available right on property. For a historic perspective of American cars, a visit to The Gateway Canyons Auto Museum is a must; don’t miss the one-of-a- kind 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept car, considered a rare American icon.

Accommodations are five- star, each room containing a balcony with personal fire pit and in-room fireplace. The barn door entrance adds a dose of rustic charm as you enter the full bath with floating bathtub, walk-in shower, double sinks and ample counter space. One and two bedroom casitas are also available. There are 14 in all and a complete buyout for your wedding allows private access to the casita pool.

Your group will surely come hungry and they are in good hands. The Kiva Café is open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The Paradox Grille Patio is the perfect outdoor location for a quick Angus burger, Cobb salad or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Entrada offers fine dining nightly and can cater to any dietary needs. Wedding menus are customized, of course, but you might consider staying true to Colorado character with their signature Garlic-crusted Venison Loin.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SPACIOUS AND ELEGANT VENUES AVAILABLE FOR YOUR CEREMONY AND RECEPTION:

  • The Mission Bell Amphitheatre sits near the center of the property andis the perfect location for a cocktail reception or ceremony. As the name implies, this structure resembles a historic mission reflecting the Pueblo Revival style of the 1920s.
  • Cottonwood Terrace is the perfect grassy area to stage a small ceremony. Views of the surrounding canyons lend a unique sense of place to this setting.
  • Paradox Grille Courtyard is an outdoor brick courtyard perfect for a small, casual reception.
  • Gateway Ponds reflect the red sandstone mesa or the Palisade and can accommodate an intimate ceremony up to 75 guests.
  • The Palisade Grand Ballroom is the largest indoor venue accommodating 200 guests. These functional rooms are mainly used as weather back up spaces.

For more information visit:

www.GatewayCanyons.com

ANOTHER LITTER LETTER

July 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

By Lynn Ashby                                                                       24 July 2017

 

ANOTHER LITTER LETTER

To my constituents:

From time to time, like every week, as your U.S. Representative, I like to bring you up to speed on all the great things I am doing for you. True, some of my political enemies, actually some of my friends, say that sending out such a letter to 600,000 citizens telling how great I am is a waste of taxpayers’ money. I say in reply: what about Benghazi? Let me begin by pointing out that, despite what the fake press is saying, thus far I am not under indictment. To quote a report from the House Ethics Committee: “His dealings are beyond comprehension.” Considering how little House members can comprehend, this is a low bar, but I’ll take it. The photos of me accepting a briefcase allegedly full of cash from the Compost Cable Co., which is having FCC problems, are obviously fakes, not to mention the bag of unmarked bills from the Friends of Smog. I blame the press. Who are you going to believe? Likewise, the hacked emails to the Russian embassy couldn’t be from me since I don’t speak Russian.

This session I introduced a bill to legalize personal ownership of howitzers, but only for home defense. It’s known as the Howie Bill in honor of Bill Howie who made a brave political statement by attempting to fire off a round from his front yard. Doctors say he should be walking within months. The bill is bottled up in the Sub-Committee for Absolutely Stupid Ideas. My effort to make sure any law passed by the Texas Legislature is approved by Congress is being filibustered by some members of the Gang for Total Control because “it doesn’t go far enough.”

There is a movement by do-gooders to redraw my Congressional district. They call it “gerrymandering.” I call it “the perfect Rorschach test.” The district lines simply put those voters with similar political philosophies – like mine — in one group, even if some live in Beaumont while others live in Seguin and Amarillo. Hey, you think I like those 700-mile campaign trips? There have been questions about my lack of town meetings. Again, false. Perhaps you missed my open town meeting to answer all your stupid questions at the Lions Club basement in Waco at 3 a.m. True, it was not very well attended, but I did my part. Actually, I did try to hold another town meeting at the Aaron Burr Elementary School, but it was called off after the SWAT squad couldn’t guarantee my safety. Those of you who tried to storm my home office demanding a face-to-face meeting with me were understandably irritated over the use of pepper spray and fire hoses.

Of course, I have received many phone calls, letters and emails asking about my stand on the administration of President and Grand Kleagle Donald Trump. His health plan, aka Trumpcare, doesn’t mess with those who don’t have health insurance, and I’m proud to say that Texas is Number 1 in that category. Under Trump’s, plan, if you like your disease, you can keep your disease. If you don’t have a doctor, you probably don’t need a doctor. If you like Obamacare, you can’t keep Obamacare. As for the President’s alternative facts, don’t you want a President who sees things differently? That’s leadership! It has been pointed out that photos show Trump had a smaller inauguration crowd than Obama’s, but they didn’t count the invisible majority.

As for voter fraud, it is true: Three to four million people illegally cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton. They are called “Democrats.” The tale that the Time magazine covers showing Trump as “Man of the Century” are fake has been confirmed by Time. But do you expect those snowflakes to keep track of every weekly cover they publish? I say in reply: what about Monica Lewinski? Finally, King Donald has been called arrogant, a narcissist and possibly unhinged. Hey, what do psychiatrists know? Besides, those findings have been clearly knocked down by Fox News with its three-hour special: “Donald Trump – A great president or our greatest president?” Also, I hope you saw the Sean Hannity show: “President Trump – Our 51st State.”

Moving on, there have been rumors that Deep State is attempting to undermine the present administration. For those of you who don’t, or can’t, read more than the label on a Bud can, Deep State is made up of holdovers from the Obama administration still in office, plus commie-lib college professors and, of course, the media, who are secretly trying to sabotage all the new rules, regulations and Tweaks put out daily from the White House. My shrink says I am pretty well cured of paranoia, but those anti-Trump traitors are in place, with their secret handshakes and greetings like “Hello” and “Hi.” I personally have not seen any black helicopters hovering over Lafayette Circle, but at night, from my backyard, I hear the voice of Rachel Maddow chanting, “Russiagate. Russiagate.” This brings us to the scurrilous rumors that President Vladimir Putin secretly tilted the 2016 Presidential elections to Trump by spreading false stories about Hillary, the DNC and global warming. Those reports have been absolutely denied by Breitbart News, and if you can’t trust an objective, down the middle, purveyor of the truth, who can you trust? I, personally, called the West Wing to ask if there was any Russian interference or influence in the White House, and was told flatly, “Nyet.”

So, my dear constituents, I hope this answers all your questions. If you wish to pester me with your looney opinions, call or email me. My staff will be happy to handle your views. I wish I could personally answer you but I shall be on a fact-finding trip to Cancun, Monaco and Bali. I would be back after Labor Day but that is only a short time to the Thanksgiving recess and Christmas is just around the corner, so my work schedule is still undetermined.

 

Ashby votes at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystical Mayan Adventure

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Jade Lewis

Photo by Jade Lewis

After a short 15-minute drive from the Cancun International Airport, you arrive at Kukulcan Boulevard, home to Cancun’s Zona Hoteleria and two JW Marriott resort properties. Prepare to be greeted by name by an upbeat, attentive staff if you stay at either of these 5-Star resorts.

After checking in at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort, the staff provided a mini tour of the property and luxurious guestrooms. The JW Cancun offers 448 elegant ocean-view rooms and suites, all just steps from beautiful white-sand beaches. Featuring five sparkling pools, the JW caters to couples, adults and families alike. The CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort located just up the beach is tailor-made for a family vacation with its tantalizing pool, kid’s club and amazing restaurants. The resorts are connected with a walkway so that you can choose either location and have an unforgettable stay.

Feeling hungry? There are a number of great choices within the adjoining Marriott properties and the nearby local eateriesto have an amazing dining experience. If you have a taste for Italian, Gustino Italian Beachside Grill boasts a phenomenal menu and a 4-Star rating from AAA. During my visit, Gustino’shosted high quality tequila tasting in their private tasting room, offering a sampling of Don Julio Luxury Tequilas in a wide range of vintages. Are you ready for food that is as beautiful as it is tasty? Try the fantastic Sasi Thai Cancun restaurant in the CasaMagna next door. Sasi Thai’s menu is a combination of nouveau Thai cuisine and traditional favorites. You simply can’t leave Cancun without getting out of the hotel and having some great tacos. Although good tacos are not hard to find in Cancun, I was lucky enough to attend the main event of Cancun’s annual Wine & Food Festival, the Star Chefs: Gourmet Taco Competition. This event invites you to taste signature tacos from 16 award-winning chefs along with the best wine, tequila and spirits and vote on your favorites.

With loads of great adventures to be had in Cancun, it can be hard to choose but visiting a Mexican cenote is a definite must! The Cenote Samulà and Cenote Xkeken are located about two hours outside Cancun but this adventure is well worth the trip.

A cenote is a freshwater sinkhole that creates a natural swimming hole of beautiful, refreshing water often surrounded by an underground cavern. While swimming at Cenote Samulà, the sun beamed through the roof of the cave and reflected off the water creating mystical lighting all around us. It was an unforgettable experience! After our swim, we grabbed lunch at El Meson Del Marques, a very traditional Mexican restaurant just like something from the movies. Another “must-do” on the Riviera Maya is snorkeling in the Mexican Caribbean. Visualize yourself navigating the Nichupte Lagoon in a speedboat, then jumping in and snorkeling in the clear, blue coastal waters. What better way is there to spend time with a loved one than exploring the Caribbean together?

After an adventurous day exploring Cancun or if you just want a little bit of heaven, escape to the luxurious spa experience at the JW Marriott. This 3-story Mayan-themed spa offers 17 treatment rooms, plus a steam room, sauna and lounge all dedicated to guests’ health and relaxation. Customized facial, massage and body treatment packages are available or you can opt for the ultimate Mayan traditional massage, the Hunab Ku Ritual. Of the three Mayan treatments available, the Hunab Ku is a mixture of unconventional healing movements and energy flow rituals based on traditional Mayan beliefs. They also offer relaxing couples massage therapy, perfect for honeymooners.

Adventure and mystical beauty await you at every turn on the Riviera Maya.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS:

www.marriott.com

www.mesondelmarques.com

www.wineandfoodfest.com

www.marinabarrcuda.com

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