Prague

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Three Days in Budapest

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog, Uncategorized

by Dick Dace and Joel Hoopaugh

Day One

We arrived in Budapest at eight in the morning after an extremely bumpy and exhausting overnight train from Prague. We blamed the Soviet-era tracks, the heavy-footed brake man, and the Animal House rejects who partied next door. Our hotel was the sister property to our Vienna accommodation, The Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. Conveniently located in the city center and surrounded by

other high-end hotels, it is nestled between the Ritz-Carlton Budapest and two metro stops. There is nothing like staying at the Kempinski, where one is rejuvenated just by walking through its revolving door.

First stop of the day was Memento Park. We caught the 11 a.m. Memento Park Bus less than one block from our hotel, for a short 20 minute drive outside the city. Created in 1993, the park includes several of more than 1,000 communist-era statues that were an intricate part of the intimidation and propaganda campaign the Soviets used to control the Hungarian people from 1945 until 1989. In the center of every community was a statue showing a benevolent soviet soldier protecting a Hungarian peasant, or a three-story tall statue of Joseph Stalin looking down like a mythical God.

Other statues feature Lenin, Marx, and Engels. The statues made me depressed, sad, and angry. Apparently, most Hungarians agreed with me. In 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Empire, citizens toppled the soviet era statues all across the country, and many were melted down to create new works of art.

Hungary even used some of the communist statues to remodel the ones at Hősök (Heroes) Square, originally

built in in 1896 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin. In 1989, the statues of the Holy Roman Emperors were replaced with other important national leaders, and a tomb honoring the Unknown Soldier.

Heroes Square is surrounded by a beautiful park, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Art, and the Serbian Embassy. During the summer the lake is dotted with watercraft, and ice skates gliding on top in winter. It is also the site of the first underground subway station in all of Europe.

As we walked back to our hotel, we stumbled upon a small Hungarian restaurant, Pater Bonijac Etterem. Once inside, the waitress/owner Monika stopped by to take our order. I ordered a chicken dish. She rolled her eyes and exclaimed, “Why you order that? You don’t want that. I bring you what you want!” and off she went. And she was right. She delivered a large plate of chopped veal and her version of potato dumpling for me, and a Gypsy-style meat stuffed crepes typical to Hungary (Hortobagyi Palacsinta) for Joel. Every bite was better than the last.

We decided to take public transportation, then a local taxi to the world famous Formula One Grand Prix racetrack. While most of the track was closed the day we visited, there was a spirited go-kart race happening on one part of the compound, and in another, Hungary’s largest waterpark.

Back in Budapest, we decided to walk along the Danube River which separates Buda from Pest. While admiring the Buda Castle compound across the river, we came upon an interesting grouping of bronze old-fashion shoes on the waters’ edge. It looked like dozens of folks had slipped off their shoes before going for a swim.

We learned later from a tour guide that the shoes are a memorial commemorating the execution of Hungarian Jews by the fascist Arrow Cross members during World War II. The Fascists took the Jews to the river and ordered them to remove their shoes, so they could be used by others, then shot in such a way that their bodies fell into the river.

Day Two

On our way to Buda Castle, we walked along the river to the very impressive Hungarian Parliament. Directly outside is Kossuth Square, a large square with monuments, classical buildings and an underground memorial to the Revolution of 1956. Across the river are Budapest’s most famous landmarks; Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and Liberty Statue.

Atop the hill is Fisherman’s Bastion, built in 1902 on the foundation of a 13th century church. From one of its seven towers, there is an amazing panoramic view of Buda. For the price of meal, one can sit on the Bastion’s terrace walls and enjoy the view.

At the base is the famous Buda Castle. After being almost completely destroyed by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, the castle was painstakingly rebuilt according to historical photos and paintings. The castle is now a museum, where it is possible to see some of the castles recreated furnishings. A 700-car garage is being constructed underneath the grounds.

Because we wanted to see other sites not accessible by public transportation, we decided to hire a car for our trip to Vienna. First stop: Slavin, Solvakia, which provided us with a birds-eye view of Bratislava, Austria and Hungary.

Day Three

Our driver was Gyuri, a moonlighting professional soccer player who had been a high school exchange student in upstate New York. He spoke excellent English, and drove a late model sedan. First stop: Slavin, Solvakia, which provided us with a birds-eye view of Bratislava, Austria and Hungary.

On our way to Devín Castle in Bratislava, (which was destroyed by Napoleon in 1810) we drove over the famous UFO bridge over the Danube river that was built in the late 1960s and early ’70s during the height of Soviet Communist propaganda building spree. It features a flying saucer-shaped restaurant at the top of the bridges only pylon, the largest such bridge in the world.

Our favorite stop was Carnuntum, a Roman army base established in the first century. Over the years, Carnuntum grew to be an important outpost of the Roman Empire, and was the site where the Emperor emeritus Diocletian and the co-emperors Maximian and Galerius granted freedom of religion for every citizen of the Roman Empire.

It is now an Archaeology Park where they have rebuilt The House of Lucius, complete with period furniture, heated floors, heated baths, and water-flushed latrines. You could say life was good for the generals, and the merchants of Carnuntum. They loved their baths, as do citizens of Budapest, who keep four city bath houses hopping.

Resources:

www.Kempinski.com

Pater Bonijac Etterem Restaurant

Budapest 1068

Dozsa Gyongyut 108

DayTrip.com

Foodie Getaway at Rancho Pescadero, July 6-9

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Rancho Pescadero in the artsy, laid-back beach town of Todos Santos, Mexico is hosting a fun and food-filled Guest Chef Series over July 6-9 for foodies around the world. Nestled on a pristine beach of the Pacific Ocean an hour north of Cabo San Lucas and a world away from the everyday, Rancho Pescadero’s weekend-long Guest Chef Series culinary event will feature the talented Jason Dady.

The executive chef / owner is behind the restaurant concepts Tre Trattoria, Tre Enoteca, Two Bros. BBQ Market, The DUK Truck, B&D Icehouse, Shuck Shack, and Dady Premier Catering in San Antonio, TX. He was awarded “Star Chef Restaurateur” by Star Chefs and was a semi-finalist nomination by James Beard.

The full weekend starts with a cooking demo and farm-to-table lunch followed by a traditional tequila and mezcal tasting. The next day entails a Baja wine tasting followed by a dinner of the guest chef’s tasting menu in the resort’s signature restaurant, the Garden Restaurant. Rancho Pescadero sources ingredients for these meals from its on-property organic farm and local purveyors in a 20-mile radius, making each meal extremely fresh and full of flavor. The Baja-specific farm-to-table are sure to delight culinary connoisseurs and casual foodies alike.

For more information, visit http://ranchopescadero.com/special-offers/guest-chef-series.

Three Days in Vienna

June 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

by Dick Dace – Photos by Joel Hoopaugh

Day One

After Joel and I check into the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel, we met our tour guide, Ilse Heigerth, for a walking tour of the city center. With seven hundred years of history, 27 palaces, 150 churches, and more Hapsburg royals, princesses and Emperors than I can count, Ilse proved invaluable with interesting stories and tales about this remarkable city and its people. We walked around the first of 23 districts on the ring road, created when the Emperor tore down the medieval wall, creating a green space with a walking path, bike path and roadway, in the footsteps of Roman soldiers, romantic princes and bloodthirsty assassins.

The Hapsburgs ruled Vienna from 1273 until 1918, and were a dynastic powerhouse that was created by marrying off their fifteen year-old daughters and sons to other royal houses in political alliances. “They weren’t very good at winning wars,” Ilse shared. “So inheritances allowed them to expand their empire, and stuff their treasury.” At one point, their empire included everything from Spain in the west, to the Baltic States (including Hungary and the Czech Republic) to the east, and north to Denmark and south to Rome, Italy.

During the eighteenth century, Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, had sixteen children. Among the ten that survived to adulthood, would emerge a Queen of France, the Queen of Naples and Sicily, the Duchess of Parma, and two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II.

One of Maria Theresa’s children was Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna aka Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. She was Maria Theresa’s fifteenth and second youngest child, and was just fourteen years-old when she married the fifteen year-old future King of France, Louis XVI.

Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were the last Habsburg emperor and empress of Austria. Sisi, as Elizabeth became known to the world, was one of nineteenth-century Europe’s most famously beautiful women. She was known as the world’s unhappiest royal, though not an actual princess (think Princess Diana). She bristled at the traditions and demands of court life, writing in her diary, Marriage is an absurd arrangement. One is sold as a fifteen year-old child, and makes a vow one does not understand, and then regrets for the next thirty years. Love her.

Two of the Hapsburgs most romantic royals were Duke Albert and Duchess Marie Christine, briefly ruling Brussels until French revolutionary troops forced them back to Vienna. Marie Christine was the only child of Marie Teresa’s who was allowed to marry for love. When she died by drinking tainted water, Duke Albert underwrote the cost of building two pipelines from the Swiss Alps to bring spring water to the citizens of Vienna, which Viennese still drink from to this day. He also commissioned a moving memorial in St. Augustin, the parish church of the imperial court of the Habsburgs.

The Hapsburg royals believed in elaborate funerals. They had their hearts buried in the Herzgruft (Hearts Crypt) inside St. Augustin Church, their entrails entombed in the Ducal Crypt below St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and their bodies buried at the Capuchin Church and Monastery. Famished, we were about to be funeral-ready ourselves.

So Ilse invited us to a traditional Viennese dinner in the hills surrounding Vienna. We took their safe, clean underground subway, a tram then a bus, all of which have efficient, intuitive signage event directionally challenged like myself can figure it out. We dined at Mayer am Pfarrplatz in hills above the city, feasting on Wiener schnitzel (think chicken fried steak) roasted pork and potatoes, all washed down by local wine.

The wine tavern’s most famous guest was Ludwig van Beethoven, who in 1817 came seeking a cure to his hearing difficulties, and it is where he completed his Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”

Day Two

The next day we visited both the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces and gardens, which houses an art collection worthy of Emperors. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss is here. The rooms, with their Rococo ceilings and walls, are the perfect backdrop for the art. The Belevdere’s beautiful gardens inspired us to lunch at Palmenhause in the Burggarten Park. It was our first opportunity to enjoy a slice of Sachertorte, one of desserts for which the Viennese are most famous.

A visit to Vienna isn’t complete without an outing at its famous amusement park Prater, and a ride on one of Vienna’s landmarks, the Giant Ferris Wheel, which Alfred Hitchcock made famous in his movie, The Third Man.

The Ferris wheel cars remind me of 18th century a train cars, same red color, made of wood. The view revealed our first sight of the modern skyline across the Danube. The park had a retro feel, with old-time amusements, and tree-shaded beer gardens, which the locals really seemed to enjoy. On the way out of the park, we stopped for dinner.

Vienna is famous for its street food, especially its sausages, so we stopped at Bitzinger near the entrance. We shared a bratwurst stuffed with cheese and pomme frites, washed down with local draft. Our meal was so delicious, we doubled our order.

Day Three

On our last day in Vienna, we visited the former summer residence of the imperial family, Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens. Its last residents, Franz Joseph and Elisabeth (Sisi), are very present in portraitures, and extravagant displays of their personal items in the very same rooms in which they and their children lived.

We discovered Vienna’s love for coffee in our hotel lobby, where from morning to late at night, Viennese gathered and mingled with hotel guests over a cup of Joe. The worldwide coffee culture began in Vienna during the Thirty Years war. People could not afford to heat their homes, but could afford a coffee in the local cafes. The Viennese still expect to enjoy a cup of coffee, a fresh glass of water every thirty minutes, and to read all the local newspapers and discuss the news of the day with anyone who will listen. No surprise the Age of the Intellectuals began here.

Our last meal in Vienna was at Edvard inside the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel, where Executive Chef Anton Pozeg had just won his first Michelin Star, the third star in three years for the restaurant. Chef Anton served us his seven-course tasting menu—adding four other courses that we just had to have. These featured local seasonal produce (he works with a local farmer who brings him this entire crop of fruits and vegetables). Chef Anton’s inspired use of wood ash, for that hint of smoke, and dust he created out of different herbs, layered flavors and textures that left you wanting more.

I can’t say I know where Joel will wind up. But I can tell you that Mr. Dace is not going to heaven when he dies.

You’ll find me at the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel.

Resources:

www.ViennaPass.com

Private Tour Guide

Ilse Heigerth

heigerthi@gmail.com

Wine Tavern

Mayer am Pfarrplatz

Pfarrplatz 2, 19th district,

www.pfarrplatz.at/en/startseite.html

Edvard at Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel

https://www.kempinski.com/en/vienna/palais-hansen/dining/restaurants/edvard/

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel

www.Kempinski.com

NEWS YOU CAN LOSE

June 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

AUSTIN – “City Council voted today to increase fees for bigamists…” “TxDOT is limiting the number of mules on I-thirty five….” “The weekly Festival of Love, Drugs and Flowers will be held….” The local TV news here in Austin deals with matters viewers care about, and more importantly, effects them. To be fair, this is, indeed, our state capital (aka, the People’s Republic of Austin, a worn-out phrase as is Keep Austin Weird), but the news is still relevant. The local TV reporters are inside a state building or courtroom or maybe on the UT campus, reporting on something or interviewing someone on events that matter – like a new football coach.

Yes, Austin TV news programs do have the occasional shooting, apartment fire or car wreck, but not the daily dose we get in Houston, where each program begins with: “Breaking News!!!” Summer will arrive at …. A lost dog has been found and someone got shot. Then we hear: “But first…” then “Prior to that, we have this report on…” Sometimes there are so many stories preceding the Breaking News! they never get around to it. Each local news program probably contains at least: (1) A shooting that requires flashing red police lights, a body covered with a sheet surrounded by yellow police tape. (2) An apartment or house fire preferably with a firefighter emerging from the blaze holding a frightened puppy. And (3) a high-speed police chase with breathless pictures from a helicopter. Here’s one from yesterday, honest. “Naked man found nearly decapitated.” The newsroom axiom is: If it bleeds, it leads. So what we are given each evening is not so much important developments as the police blotter.

When was the last time you saw a report from the City Council, Commissioners Court or HISD School Board? The Texas Legislature just met in its regular session for 140 days, and only at the very end was it mentioned on our TV news. Not so long ago, local stations sent a reporter and photographer to Austin to cover the entire session, because our legislators do important work affecting us. But covering all of that costs money, and our local TV news departments don’t have much. It’s a lot cheaper to pay some free-lance photographer, who prowls the city with his or her police, fire and EMS radio bands turned on, and then races to the crime and sells video tape of it to the station. Sometimes, I swear, if the stations can’t find a good apartment fire or high-speed chase in Houston, they show us one from Dallas or Denver or wherever. I really don’t care.

This brings us to money, which is the core of our problems. No network affiliate TV station in Houston is owned by Houstonians, or even Texans. They are owned by faceless corporations on the Coasts which care not a fig about quality TV news in Houston. We are a red pin in a large map in the corporate board room. We must feel sorry for our TV anchors and reporters, many of who are top-notch journalists, hamstrung by bean-counters in far-off glass towers empowered to maximize profits while cutting costs to the least. Also, it’s much cheaper to follow than lead: Years ago, I visited KPRC-TV studios for something, I forget what, and there was the news director, Ray Miller, an icon of the business, carefully cutting out articles from that morning’s Houston Post and handing them to reporters to follow up. That is still done. Just like national TV news directors pour through The New York Times and the Washington Post for stories, local TV news shows would have trouble with anything beyond the yellow police tape if it weren’t for the Houston Chronicle. (Incidentally, same for conservative radio talk-show hosts, who constantly bite the hand that feeds their feedstock. They wouldn’t have a show if it weren’t for the pile of newspaper clippings on their desk.)

There are a few simple changes for the better. Don’t have a reporter standing in a vacant parking lot across the street from the hospital or court house telling us what happened inside hours ago. Teach the meteorologists the difference in further and farther. And while not all has to be gloom and doom, would Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow giggle and guffaw through “happy talk”?

If you would only get your news about what’s going on in Houston from our TV news programs, you would think this place is Baghdad-on-the-Bayou. Indeed, some years ago the Fox affiliate nightly ran a series, “City Under Siege.” It was a recitation of that day’s crimes, no matter how minor. Imagine a crack CEO and her spouse, a world-famed medical researcher, flying into Houston from Chicago for job interviews. They check into a five-star hotel suite and turn on the TV. “Breaking news!!! A shoot-out at a pool hall has resulted in two deaths and 18 police cars surging to the scene! But first a follow-up on our lost rabid dog story, but we begin with our Strangle in Tanglewood series.” The CEO turns to her Nobel Laurate husband, and says, “Don’t bother to unpack, Chou Ming. We’re going back to the south side of Chicago where it’s safer.”

Back to the local news on Austin TV, which is being told to us by a beautiful young lady with long blonde hair, a product of the Roger Ailes Cookie Cutter Academy: “The fire department is holding classes on the need for a boat when water skiing.” “A scientist at UT has discovered a cure for kale.” “The circus won’t be coming to town. Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey will…” Huh? I swear she said Bros. which rhymes with hose or froze. What’s up, Bros.? The teleprompter gave that twinkie – as the old pros call the good-looking airheads — the word Bros. and she hadn’t a clue it should be pronounced Brothers. Where’s the yellow police tape?

 

Ashby watches at ashby2@comcast.net

Healdsburg

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Head to Healdsburg for a day of wine tasting

Healdsburg, California, is a picturesque escape for newlyweds. This authentic farming town— with its winding roads and rolling vineyards— is located north of San Francisco, a little over an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. Healdsburg features top of the line wine tasting rooms, authentic cuisines, and exciting outdoor activities.

Located one block from Healdsburg’s Historic Town Square, is Hotel Le Mars. Dedicated to the tradition of old-world luxury and European service, the hotel offers complimentary French breakfast every morning as well as wine and cheese tastings in the evenings. Each guest room is beautifully fitted with antique furnishings, which includes a hand-carved four-poster bead, and a fireplace.

 

This charming hotel is a luxurious and traditional getaway for couples seeking a scenic escape or a romantic honeymoon. Whatever you might be looking for, the hotel promises a stay that you’ll never forget and never want to leave.

 

If you’re looking to take in some of Sonoma’s breathtaking scenery, a trip down the Russian River might be for you. Russian River Adventures offers full-day or half-day rafting trips down the river. What could be better than paddling down the Russian River through Sonoma’s vineyards and redwoods? Bring a cooler along and stop for a picnic on the banks of the river.

 

If pedaling through Sonoma’s rolling hills and quiet country roads sounds more like your pace, take a trip around town with Wine Country Bikes to taste the great wine that Healdsburg has to offer. This 17 mile trek includes pit stops at four different local vineyards and wineries. The one-day tour includes a tour guide and a fresh made, locally grown lunch.

 

Or take a hike with Jordan Winery as you learn the history of Sonoma’s wine culture, which boasts the freshest wine closest only to that of Tuscany. Sonoma County has over four-hundred vineyards, so try some for yourself and you can be the judge. We recommend Roth, located in the Chalk Hill region. They, along with their sister company Lancaster, pride themselves on crafting full-flavored wine and superb wine-pairings.

 

If craft beer is more your style, visit one of Healdsburg’s own beer companies: Bear Republic. Located in the heart of Healdsburg’s wine country, Bear Republic is one of the top craft brewing companies in the nation.They feature a wide variety of beers (over 90 in total) ranging from their “Big Bear Black Stout” to their “Hop Rod Rye.” They also offer tours of the brewery, which will give you a glimpse of how their delicious beer is produced. Bear Republic’s goal is to bring you fresh, never-filtered, hand-crafted beer.

 

After all of that wine and beer, be sure to stop at one of Healdsburg’s staples, Mateos Cocina Latina. They specialize in Yucatan food, from chilaquiles to huevos rancheros (rancher’s egg). And with namesake chef Mateo Granados at the helm, you know you’re in for a delicious meal. He has created a signature menu that showcases the local Sonoma ingredients combined with the flavors of his culture. Locals recommend the margaritas. I had a salad tossed in eel sauce alongside a strawberry margarita.

 

However, if you are looking for something fun and unique to do with your bridal party, then Relish Culinary Adventures might be up your alley. Learn how to prepare and create one-of-a-kind authentic food while pairing it with more wine and homemade peach drinks. Most classes don’t require any prior cooking knowledge, but they do offer classes for those with more advanced culinary skills. Learn to make chicken breast with quinoa, for instance, and top it off with some grilled peaches and ricotta cheese for dessert. Relish is sure to be a perfect compliment to your wine country experience.

Three Days in Leipzig

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Photos by Hansjoerg Niethammer

Day 1

The City

Leipzig is known as the city of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation, Johann Sebastian Bach, the St. Thomas Boys Choir, and of the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, which brought down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire. Leipzig is today as it was a thousand years ago, the market place of Europe and the economic capital of the region. To navigate this fascinating city, we turned to Tour Guide Sylvia Rebbelmund.

 

From Sylvia, we learned that the city was founded at the intersections of two main medieval trade routes and was established by business owners from many different cultures. With her binder of photos, which shows the city in all its glory, past, present and future, we discovered that in the 1920’s one-third of the world’s fur trade was conducted in Leipzig. Most of the downtown buildings were built to be trade fairs and sample rooms, which are connected by thirty (somewhat) secret passageways and courtyards. It was these free trade fairs that drove innovations and the exchange of ideas. It was the merchants, not the nobility, who opened schools and music academies, established choirs, and supported the arts. Even during its time as part of the Soviet Empire as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), it stayed true to its friends and its beliefs. Today, with the youngest and most educated citizens in the nation, industry is thriving, high tech companies are moving in, and its unemployment is the lowest per capita in the country. It is also home to the oldest business school in Germany where all the classes are taught in English, the language of business. It is also a very green city with one-third of the city covered in green belts, with a multitude of parks and lakes. It is also extremely multi-cultural and LGBT-friendly.

 

The day before we arrived, 300 anti-immigration protesters marched only to have their speakers muffled by more than 3,000 counter marchers who chanted, “All are welcomed!” and “We are the people.” It was very reminiscent of what happen in 1989.

 

The Peaceful Revolution

No visit to Leipzig would be complete without a visit to the Stasi Museum in the Round Corner, where we met Mrs. Irmtraut Hollitzer, the former member of the the Citizens’ Committee on the Dissolution of State Security. Her personal story of perseverance, struggle, and desire for a life of freedom for herself and her four children is worthy of a Hollywood thriller. She had the foresight, with her son, Tobias Hollitzer, to join a group of fellow citizens in seizing of control of the Stasi Headquarters to prevent its agents from destroying their files so that the world would never forget the crimes of the German Democratic Republic. As she walked around the museum with us, she told us her story.

 

When the Allies carved up Germany at the end of the war, in which 62 million people were killed, Leipzig was included in the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic, also known as East Germany. The Soviets brought their secret police with them, the KGB, which they called the Stasi, and began surveillance of its own citizens, creating distrust among family and friends in a campaign of sociological and psychological terror and intimidation.

 

The Hollitzer family, like so many others, were frustrated with the lack of opportunity, liberty, jobs, and the ability to travel (East Germans were the only citizens in the Soviet Empire which were specifically forbidden to travel to the West). They joined their neighbors and friends at Saint Nicholas Church on Mondays to pray for peace. Over the years, the police and the Stasi gathered names and addresses of those who attended and threatened them with violence. Young Tobias was soon on the Stasi radar because he organized groups to help clean up the river Pleisse, as well as musical performances in the city’s squares.

 

In preparation for their march, they used the mimeograph machine from Saint Nicholas church to spread the word and to invite other congregations to join them. As their numbers grew they took their protest to the streets. They marched for human rights and a free press. They practiced non-violence techniques; they did not throw rocks, and not a single window as ever broken. They lit candles, marched arm-in-arm, and shouted “We are the people!” and “We want to leave!” and “No violence!” They were beaten. Young men were snatched up and taken way for “temporary detention” or were “disappeared,” a euphemism which meant they were murdered.

On October 9th, 1989, just two days after the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, more than 70,000 people from all over the region gathered at St. Nicholas Church and marched on the ring road past the train station, churches, and to the Stasi Headquarters where they placed lighted candles. They knew Mikhail Gorbachev was in Berlin that night, so they also shouted, “Gorby, Gorby, Gorby!”

In the back of her mind, Irmtraut Hollitzer remembered the last time East Germanys protested. It was June 17, 1953, and police and soldiers opened fire on those protesters, killing 55 and injuring 25. She left the march to go home to her daughter, just in case the same thing would happen that night, only to discover all four of her children were at the protest which proved that the power of one voice, joined by thousands, can transformed lives and the whole world.

 

As feared by the protesters, the police chief and his 8,000 armed officers had been prepared to shoot them as they protested. The hospital had been banking blood. Arrangements had been made to detain 1,300 people in solitary confinement. Overwhelmed by the more than 70,000 protesters, the police chief called his superiors in Berlin for instructions. Time after time no one answered the phone, and he refused to give the order to shoot.

 

Eventually the crowds dissipated and the people went home. Four weeks later, the Berlin Wall fell. This protest became known as the Peaceful Revolution and inspired other East Germans to protest as well.

 

When the Hollitzers and the “Leipziger Bürgerkomitee” took over the Stasi Headquarters, they found 1.5 million bullets, 7,000 hand grenades, machine guns, and even 31kg plastic explosives that the Stasi were ready to use on its own people.  They also found evidence that the Stasi stole $32 million in German marks by opening its citizens’ mail during just a single Christmas holiday season.

 

 

 

St. Thomas Church

 

Day 2

A Houston Connection

 

While visiting Saint Thomas Church, we ran into Houston’s own, the Reverend Doctor Robert G. Moore, formerly the senior pastor at Rice Village’s Christ the King Lutheran Church. Moore, along with his wife Kathy, is spending the next three years as a guest pastor at the historic St. Thomas Church and as the Reformation Ambassador for the City of Leipzig and the Director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Wittenberg Center, all the while hoping to perfect his German language skills. Moore is thrilled that his former congregation’s Bach Society is one of the mote than 130 groups who will be performing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach which was inspired in great part by Martin Luther’s biblical translations. Christ the King Church has a long standing relationship with St. Thomas Church. The congregation has served for decades as one of the centers for the work of the Houston-Leipzig Sister City Association which donated a new stain glass window honoring the 20th anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution.

The Peace Window at St. Thomas Church

 

 

 

Theologians like Moore are using this anniversary to reexamine what we know about Martin Luther, reading such major works as The Freedom of the Christian. Musing as to whether he really nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517, Moore is skeptical.

“As a very pious man, Luther would not have desecrated the church door,” stated Moore. “Anyway, during that time, notices were posted on the church door with a bit of wax, not nailed to the door.”

Day 3

From Thread to Art

 

Leipzig still has many industrial building in the suburbs, including the largest cotton mill in continental Europe. The complex now known as The Spinnerei was the largest importer of cotton from the southern states of the USA, before and after the Civil War. It was built to last, with three-foot-thick brick walls and a steel-tiled floor, this massive complex of factory, living quarters, and gardens was home to more than a thousand workers. The building is believed to have survived the unrelenting bombing of the city because they had planted chives on the roof as a cooling agent. Many speculate that at 10,000 feet, the chive covered roofs looked like fields, and thus was not bombed.

 

After the war, the factory went through several owners and different uses before being decommissioned in 1992. It was saved from vandals by artists looking for cheap spaces to work and live. Now known as Spinnerei, it is home to galleries, exhibition halls, a movie theatre, and about 100 artist studios, many of which we visited. The Spinnerei is also home to the so-called “New Leipzig School,” with renowned artist Neo Rauch as its most famous member. With eleven galleries, an art supply store, and a chic café, a visit to Spinnerei is the perfect way for art lovers to spend the day.

 

If you go

WHERE TO STAY

InterCityHotel Leipzig

Trondlinring 2

Intercityhotel.com/Leipzig

Located conveniently near the main train station, Opera House and the historic and downtown district.

 

TOUR GUIDE

Sylvia Rebbelmund

SylviaRebbelmund@web.de

via Leipzig Erleben
info@leipzig-erleben.com

 

WHERE TO EAT

Auerbachs Keller is one of the most famous restaurants in the world, having been immortalized in Johann Wolfgang Goethe drama, Faust. Enjoy traditional Saxon/German Cuisine.

Madler Passage, Grimmaische Strasse 2-4

 

WHERE TO DRINK COFFEE

Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum. Coffee has been a favorite beverage in Leipzig since it was introduced in 1711. Grab a coffee from the bar on the ground floor, or enjoy lunch or dessert at Café Francais or the Vienna Café on the second floor.

 

FOR GREAT VIEWS OF THE CITY

Panorama Tower, Augustusplatz 9. Amazing 360-degree view of the entire city, perfect for skyline photos at sunset. Panorama-leipzig.de

 

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations, Str. des 18. Oktober 100, stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de/site_deutsch/voelkerschlachtdenkmal/ Set in a beautiful park with a reflection pond, the views from the top illustrate why Leipzig is known as a green city.

 

HISTORY OF LEIPZIG

Stasi Museum in the Round Corner

www.runde-ecke-leipzig.de

Goerdelerring 20

 

Forum of Contemporary History also known as the Tearful Palace

Explore the history of World War II in Germany and Europe through artifacts and videos. Tissues are available.

www.hdg.de/zeitgeschichtliches-forum

Grimmaische Strasse 6

 

INFORMATION

Leipzig.travel; Hidden-Leipzig.com

 

Mr. Dace and Mr. Niethammer were the guests of the City of Leipzig.

Leipzig.de

EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

May 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                      22 May 2017

As our Texas legislators wrestled with their latest budget gap of billions of dollars, having been bogged down all session with which students go to which bathrooms, (the Senate did, however, vote to ban wearing blue jeans in the chamber), they agreed we’ve got financial problems. At such times lawmakers might be sighing, “Sully, come back!” You see, once Texas had such a huge surplus of funds that Gov. Sul Ross had to call a special session of the Legislature to determine what to do.

Therein lies a tale worth re-telling in light of today’s squeeze. First, let’s take a look at Sul Ross, the only university president (Texas A&M) I know of who had another university named for him: Sul Ross University, obviously. He was born Lawrence Sullivan Ross near Waco. His great grandfather had been captured by Indians as a six-year-old child, and lived with them until he was rescued at 23. Ross’s father was an Indian agent, so Sul grew up with a greater understanding of the Indians than most Texans. He loved the good ones; he killed the bad ones.

During a summer vacation home from his college in Alabama, Sully led a company of Indians from his father’s reservation against the dreaded Comanche. The next fall back at college Ross may have taken part in the dorm bull sessions. “Hey, Sully, what did you do this summer?’

“Well, we were in the middle of a battle with the Comanche when four of us spotted a little white girl who was a captive. As we were getting her, we were jumped by 25 braves. Two of us were killed immediately. My gun misfired. I got an arrow in my shoulder and was then shot point-blank by a brave. It was Mohee, a Comanche I’d known since we were children together. As I was lying on the ground, Mohee whipped out his scalping knife and was about to scalp me when his chief called him away to kill someone else. My Indian friends rescued me and nursed me back to health. What’d you do this summer?”

“Forget it.”

After college Ross joined the Texas Rangers and at age 21 was made captain of a Ranger company. In yet another battle against the Indians, he caught up with Nacona, a Comanche chief who was responsible for much of the carnage along the Texas frontier. Ross shot Nacona and rescued a white woman who turned out to be Cynthia Ann Parker. When the Civil War broke out, he entered the Confederate Army as a private and wound up a general. Ross participated in 135 engagements, including 112 days of fighting around Atlanta. After the war he took up farming, then got into politics and became sheriff of McLennan County (Waco) and a state senator. Eventually he ran for governor.

In January 1887, Ross was inaugurated governor. He was the first to use the new capitol. That is when he had to tackle the problem of too much money. Part of the trouble was that most of the taxes came in during December and January. The money sat around until it was spent during the rest of the year. Then, all of a sudden, the U.S. government, acting on advice from the Army, paid Texas $927,177 as restitution for Indian depredations and expenses incurred by the state.

The expenses were run up in the 20 years after the Civil War because the Texas Rangers – not the U.S. Army – did much of the fighting against both Mexican bandits and hostile Indians. In addition, Texas patrolled its own border with Mexico, the only state or territory to do so. Washington reimbursed Texas for the cost and made good such losses as cattle rustled by the bandits and the Indians. The sum came to a tidy amount, particularly in those days.

A reporter from the Galveston Daily News went to the state vault, which held $2 million in cash alone, 20 percent of all the money in the state rendered for taxation. He saw not only a huge vault but within it, a safe. He wrote: “The vault contained a large burglar-and fire-proof safe, in which $1,250,000 in paper money was neatly arranged in packages, forming a compact square mass, ten by twenty-four inches, and eighteen inches high. In the same money chest about $25,000 in gold bars was resting secure from moth and rust. Outside the safe a pyramid of silver in bars was built from the floor nearly to the ceiling, resting against the west wall of the vault.

“Another safe was covered nearly to the ceiling with boxes of silver. Several tons of the precious metals were in view. In the corner was a pile of money bags containing silver quarters, halves and nickels. In the safe first mentioned, in addition to the cash, were shown in packages some $7,000,000 in bonds, viz, $2,991,000 of state bonds and $2,276,000 of county bonds, $1,753,817 of railroad bonds, besides $79,400 of public debt certificates.”

Gov. Ross could handle attacking Indians, bandits and Yankees, but he did not know how to handle that huge surplus. On March 27, 1888, he complained to a press conference that he couldn’t sleep the night before, worrying about what to do. “I don’t feel authorized to keep so much money locked up full a year if deferred until the regular session.” So he called a special session to deal with too much money – the only Texas guv to do so — and suggested that some funds should be set aside to pay the state’s bills for the rest of the year, some should go to raises for school teachers, and the state should repay $96,000 borrowed from the university fund. Then the new capitol had to be furnished, the state needed new asylums, and so on. What was left, Ross, said, would still be considerable, and that money should be returned to the taxpayers.

Yes, indeed. Sully, come back!

 

Ashby is taxed at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

Hotel Galvez Annual Wedding Vow Renewal

May 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

Saturday, June 10, 2017

2024 Seawall, Galveston, TX
Couples are invited to renew their vows at the only historic beachfront hotel on the Texas Gulf Coast. Since its Centennial Anniversary in 2011, Hotel Galvez & Spa has hosted an Annual Wedding Vow Renewal Ceremony for couples. The mass vow renewal is scheduled in June to coincide with the hotel’s 106th anniversary and to celebrate the most popular month for weddings. Couples renew their vows as part of ceremony held on hotel grounds and officiated by a Galveston Justice of the Peace. Following the ceremony, couples are invited to a reception hosted by the hotel. Participating couples have the option to book a romantic weekend getaway or simply participate in the courtesy ceremony. Advance reservations are required. The package is available to book online at www.HotelGalvez.com (see special offers) or call (409) 765-7721.

GALVESTON, SANS SANDS

May 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                         15 May 2017

THE MUSEUM — Here’s a picture with an inscription: “I am happy to acknowledge this to be the only correct lithograph that has been taken of me. David Crockett.” We must assume all the others were photoshopped. A newspaper ad: “As these Servants sold for no fault, it would be very desirable to sell them in families.” Now there’s a kindly slave owner. “Between 60,000 and 70,000 Texans served in the Confederate Army. Of these between 20 to 25 percent lost their lives; more than half from disease.” In my own family’s case the disease was lead poisoning – fired from a Yankee rifle.

This is the Bryan Museum in Galveston, and the next time you head for the beach, set aside some time to come here, for this is one great gathering of Texana, even if you don’t like museums. The entire collection consists of approximately 70,000 items, which include 20,000 rare books; more than 30,000 documents in Spanish, German, French, and English; three dozen saddles; over 250 antique firearms; several hundred spurs; a large collection of fine art, religious art, folk art, and portraits; rare maps and artifacts, such as cowboy chaps; Indian stone tools and arrowheads; and a Spanish mission bell. They are not all on display, but you get the picture.

I like museums, especially those that don’t overwhelm me. You walk into the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and stare at a room full of Rembrandts, and I just can’t absorb all of them. Then there are the smaller collections like the one in Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile, which included a photo of two Chilean soldiers proudly smiling while standing over the body of a dead Indian they had just shot. Yuk. The Bryan Museum is just the right size — for several visits. This is my second and I spy all sorts of things I missed before. First a bit of background to help you understand why this is here, who is Bryan and what about an orphanage. The Bryan family goes back to the early days of Texas – Emily Austin Bryan Perry, Stephen F. Austin’s sister, is a direct ancestor. More recently, James Perry Bryan, Sr., was a prolific collector who had amassed a large collection of Texas maps, family documents, and artifacts. He sold his collection to the University of Texas in 1966. His son, J. P. Bryan, Jr., began collecting at around age 10, when he acquired his first two pieces – a revolver and a Four-Barrel Derringer. Both firearms still reside in the collection today. As a student at UT, Bryan the Younger got into the Texana book publishing biz, then began his own collection from books to Texas and Southwest artifacts to art to other stuff.

In 1981, Bryan started an energy company, and moved his collection into the company’s offices. Over the next 32 years, the collection continued to expand until it covered more than 25,000 square feet of the office. He needed more space, and probably got tired of hearing: “Uh, Boss, it’s about all those scalps in the break room.” Bryan and his wife, Mary Jon, discovered this building, the old Galveston Orphans Home, which had been abandoned. (The orphanage itself has a great story which involves the Dealey family, the Dallas Morning News and the namesake of Dealey Plaza of JFK fame, but that’s another story.) The restoration took a while. I had read about the museum and kept going by to see if it had opened. More work, no doubt a lot more money, and more collections: Bryan once bought nearly 500 pairs of spurs and also added over 3,500 documents related to Galveston’s history. It took so long for the Bryans to get everything just right, those old boots, guns and maps had originally been purchased at Wal-Mart. Just kidding, it was Sam’s.

The Bryan Museum opened in June 2015, which may make it Texas’ newest collection, at 1315 21st Street. You can just drive up and park at the front curb for free, however, the museum costs. Check the hours and days it’s open. (11 to 4, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, not your usual 9-to-5.) Walk in and you’d think you were in one of those old Galveston mansions with dark wooden paneling and staircase, high ceilings. For an orphanage, it’s not like where Oliver Twist asked for another bowl of gruel. Actually, it looks like something the Moodys would have given the Sealys for a Christmas present. Incidentally, the grounds are real spiffy, and a great place for weddings between hurricanes.

Start your tour chronologically, ancient spear carriers, then the Spanish, and so on. You might learn something: “Missouri and Texas hosted the most U.S. cavalry units because Comanches and Kiowas and others proved themselves the most trouble.” I didn’t know the Show Me State had massive Indian problems, did you? Except for the Kansas City Chiefs, of course. The 100-dollar Confederate bill features a small picture of slaves out in the fields chopping cotton, just in case Johnny Reb forgot what he was fighting for. A receipt for tobacco, powder, etc. for $450 signed on Feb 20, 1836, by “W. Barret Travis.” A diorama with 1,200 hand-painted soldiers, showing the Battle of San Jacinto. An exhibit of the black cowboy. It’s not just a man thing. There are exhibits of women’s dresses, cowgirls and this: Nancy Cooper Russell’s wedding ring was a small golden saddle. Next room shows saddles, swords and I haven’t seen so many guns since a Trump rally. We go right up to modern times, although I find the old stuff more fascinating. Upstairs are thousands of books, and a lot of Texas and Southwest art. When word gets around, these rooms will be filled with scholars poring over maps and guns, trying to figure out who shot J.R. I have absorbed about all I can for this visit, so I need to come back someday soon – so should you.

 

Ashby collects at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

Suite Summer Escape Package: Honua Kai Resort & Spa

There’s no sweeter time than summer to escape to the poi-fect Maui destination,Honua Kai Resort & Spa!  Invite your readers to give their summer a suite Hawaiian punch, with the resort’s new Suite Summer Escape Package.Including huge savings on the resort’s spacious suites, daily breakfast at Duke’s Beach House, a rental car for island exploration and more, the package makes planning a family vacation to Maui a breeze!

 

Honua Kai Resort & Spa’s idyllic beachfront location gives travelers easy access to the best island activities. Enter a state of indentured surfitude with family surf lessons, explore the island’s natural wonders during an afternoon of snorkeling or zip-lining, or simply bask in the sun on beautiful-Kaanapali Beach.

Are you working on any summer travel stories where this Suite Summer Escape Package would be a fit? I have outlined full package details below and look forward to hearing from you.

Suite Summer Escape at Honua Kai Resort & Spa

  • Complimentary Breakfast for two at Duke’s Beach House – Studio & One Bedroom Suites OR …
  • … Complimentary Breakfast for four at Duke’s Beach House – Two & Three Bedroom Suites
  • A Full Size Car Rental
  • A $20 MCS Activity Credit
  • Complimentary Professional Family Photoshoot with Forever Maui & A 8×10 keepsake photo

Booking Window: April 05, 2017 – June 30, 2017

Stay Dates: June 07, 2017 – August 20, 2017

Rates start at $453.00 per night for a one-bedroom suite.

Restrictions: promotion is applicable to new bookings only. Studio Resort View Suites do not apply

To book this package, call 855-674-1522. Visit HonuaKai.com for more information.

About Honua Kai Resort & Spa

Honua Kai offers a uniquely contemporary Maui experience. Nestled on 38 oceanfront acres of Kaanapali’s pristine North Beach, the resort is designed as two U-shaped buildings with ocean and mountain views, lush landscaping and expansive open spaces. This openness is mirrored in each of the 628 guest suites (one-, two-, and three-bedroom) with the largest lanais on Maui, professionally equipped kitchens, spacious and homelike floor plans, and luxury resort services. An imaginative aqua network of pools, hot tubs, natural pond bridges, waterslide, waterfalls and fountains allows for privacy and play. Dining options include Duke’s Beach House and ‘Aina Gourmet Market. Find out more at http://www.honuakai.com/.

 

Escape to Riviera Maya

May 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

‘Escape to Riviera Maya’ event attendees will enjoy a happy hour complete with expertly curated wine from Jackson Family Wines, gourmet bites reflective of what will be served at the resort during the Lone Star Food, Art & Music Festival, and meet and greets with Executive Chefs as well as Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ personalities.  The schedule of Houston events is as follows:

May 16, 6-8pm: Chef Hugo Ortega at Caracol Restaurant

May 17, 6-8pm: Chef Austin Simmons at Bubbell and Hudson Bistro

June 27, 6-8pm: Chef Hugo Ortega at Hugo’s Restaurant

POLS AND POLLS APART

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

THE BOARD ROOM – “Hi, I’m with Margin of Error Pollsters, and we’d like to poll the next presidential race for only one million….” That’s as far as I got. ABC, The Washington Post and Fox all agreed to throw me out. I only wish they had first opened the door. Yes, the hardest job in America must be pollster salesmen, because they made a fool out of so many in the 2016 presidential elections. So let’s take a look at what happened, especially here in Texas.

The biggest loser was, obviously, Hillary Clinton (we shall call her Hillary so as not to confuse her with what’s his name), who thought she would win because everyone told her so because the polls said so. Twice she had run for president, and twice she had lost. Today she is writing her multi-million-dollar tell-all memoirs, and also penning thank you notes to those who (twice) donated millions to her campaigns and have zilch to show for it. Poor George Soros and all his fat cat friends. Goldman Sachs could have booked a lot cheaper speaker. Alas, when you lose your soapbox, or TV show, your stock falls faster than a speeding bullet. Soon Hillary will join David Letterman and Bill O’Reilly waiting, like everyone else, for a good table at a restaurant.

I couldn’t find a single poll that showed Donald Trump would win the presidency, did you? What happened, we now know, is that more people who were surveyed said they would vote for Hillary than Trump, and they did exactly that. Hillary got 2,850,691 more votes than Trump (65.8 million to 62.9 million). We keep forgetting that the voter polls were correct, but they didn’t matter. How do you poll an Electoral College? Trump won that vote count 306 to 232. The tipping point was all those blue-collar, high school grads in the Rust Belt. Donald promised them good jobs, and they’ll get them, some day. Maybe. On the other hand, perhaps you really can fool some of the people all of the time.

In future presidential campaigns, news organizations will be very leery of hiring polling companies with their very expensive price tags. Wonder what Chuck Todd at NBC will do next go-round? He rose to prominence, and now even has his own Sunday morning talking heads TV show, because of his polls, pie charts and percentages. “Sixty-seven out one hundred Presbyterians over 30 with less than a college degree in Ohio will….” Lucky him. He even kept his job.

Let’s now look at Texas. Did you know you gave money to Donald Trump? If you ever bought a ticket to a Houston Texans game or watched them on TV, Texan’s owner Bob McNair gave the Trump inauguration $1 million. Considering what McNair paid J.J. Watt to sit, injured on the bench, a million is not that much. But don’t let news of that donation get around Houston, because Texan fans did a sharp turn away from the GOP: Back in 2012 in Harris County, Barack Obama edged out Mitt Romney by a tiny .08 percent. Four years later, county voters went for Hillary by a hefty margin: 54 percent for Hillary to 49 percent for the Trumpster. (As for Cowboy fans, Dallas County was even more lopsided: almost 2 to 1 for Hillary: 61 percent to 35 percent.) But overall, Texas is very red, and this being a winner-take-all state, in the Electoral College, Trump got all of our 38 votes. Maybe we’ll finally get a real space shuttle.

In Texas in 2012, Romney beat Obama by a huge 57 to 41 percent. Last November, Trump won Texas by a slimmer margin of 52 to 43 percent. Trump did worse in Texas than all seven GOP candidates running for statewide office, even though two counties – Jefferson (Beaumont) and Fort Bend (Fort Bend) – flipped from the Dem presidential candidate to the GOP nominee. According to Texas Monthly, Roberts County near the top of the Panhandle (pop. 929) went 95 percent for Trump, but in Starr County on the border (McAllen) Trump only got 19 percent. In Kenedy County, which is down on the coast and hosts mostly cattle and oil rigs, Hillary got 99 votes while Trump got 84.

Now we turn to Loving County, out in far West Texas, which is the least populated county in the U.S., with a population of 86. The county is also unique for having the lowest percentage of people with college degrees of any county in the US: 2.6 percent. Loving County has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1972, except in 1992 when the county backed Ross Perot. A 2010 census found only 40 people of voting age, but they cast 57 votes for Trump to 4 for Hillary. Other candidates garnered 3, so 64 votes out of a population of 86 with 40 eligible voters. Loving is not alone. In 2015, eight Texas counties listed more votes than voters. The counties — Loving, Brooks, McMullen, Roberts, Irion, Jim Hogg, Culberson and Polk — listed a combined 52,298 registered voters. But the latest U.S. Census data show only 49,457 voting-age residents in those counties. Trump was right all along: the presidential election was rigged, but in whose favor, as he asked Putin?

So these results show that, while Texas voters were not particularly warm towards Trump, it was “Anyone but Hillary.” We chose the evil of two lessers, and we were not alone: Surveys showed these were the two most disliked presidential candidates in our history. Another reason Trump won was that Democrats are undisciplined while Republicans take their marching orders and obey. An example: You know those instructions beside hotel bathtub-showers: “Put shower curtain in tub before showering.” Democrats will never do that, but Republicans will, even if it takes them 15 minutes to get the curtain off all those little plastic pegs.

 

Ashby votes at ashby2@comcast.net

 

Fogo de Chão’s New BarFogo Menu

May 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining, Entertainment

Fogo de Chão, the upscale chain of Brazilian steakhouses, has always primarily been an all-you-can-eat meat, sit-down churrasco dinner. Meals are usually full-service, as diners sample different meats roasted gaucho style (meaning cooked over an open fire) and carved table side. While none of that will change, On April 25th, the restaurant introduced their new, expanded bar menu—and it’s fabulous.

The new “BarFogo” menu features small Brazilian plates that allow patrons to eat at the bar rather than partake in the full Fogo churrasco dinner experience, if they prefer. Menu items include braised beef rib sliders, jumbo cocktail shrimp, Brazilian empanadas, and crispy parmesan polenta fries. No question about it—the bar menu “bites” are delicious and can be entire meals in and of themselves.

Craft caipirinhas and South American-inspired cocktails are also new at the bar, with names like “Flor de Fresca” ( a delicious blend of Argentinian gin, grapefruit, and honey) and “Brazilian Gentleman” (a tempting mixture of Bourbon and passion fruit). The Mango Habanero Caipirinha is a must-have for chile lovers, and the recipe is featured below courtesy of Fogo de Chão.

For the full BarFogo menu, click here. https://fogodechao.com/menu/bar-fogo

NAME THAT TOWN

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                                    1 May 2017
A Houstonian, a Dallasite and a Beaumonter walk into a bar and…wait. Why do these people, all from the same state, have different titles? Is there an official Texas State Title Shop that issues us our citizenship names? If you are from Fort Worth you are a Fort Worthian. A resident of Waco is probably a Wako. From Galveston? No, you are not a Gal-ves-TEN-ian, but a Gal-ves-TONE-ian. A resident of Ranger could be a Rangerer. Austinite sounds like linoleum or a chemical element. We can only wonder what folks from other Texas towns such as Hutto, Old Dime Box and Cut and Shoot call themselves. If you are someone from Nacogdoches, you are called “someone from Nacogdoches.”

What about residents from foreign places? Someone from the City of Lights is a Parisian, which sounds pretty, a lover of the arts, and is better than Parisite. But if you hail (or heil) from Berlin, you are a Berliner, a tough-sounding name causing feelings of iron and stone, and not in a good way. The Beatles were from Liverpool. That did not make them a Liverspot but a Liverpudlian. Not far away is the Isle of Man. Its residents are not Manmen but Manxmen. No one knows why.

A resident of Rio de Janeiro must have a problem. “Hi, I’m a Rio de Janeiroite.” No, they make it very simple: “Hi, I’m from Rio Janeiro. I’m a Carioca. Not a Cariocan.” A brief lesson to remember the next time you are mugged by the girl from Ipanema. When the Portuguese settled in and around Rio they built houses that the native Tupi Indians called karai oca which meant “white house.” Soon the Portuguese began referring to themselves as Cariocas. This name has lasted hundreds of years and still refers to the local people. None of which explains why citizens of Monaco refer to themselves, not as Monocans, Mononucleosians or Monaco-conspirators, but Monegasques. A white South African of Dutch decent may prefer to be called an Afrikaner. He is also a Boer, but has heard too many stupid jokes by visiting Americans. “A wild boar or just a bore?” It is OK to call someone an Englishman, a Frenchman or a Germanman, but calling someone a Chinaman is considered not PC. Why are people from the Philippine Islands called Filipinos instead of Philippinos? No Ph and just one p. I blame the media. “Hi, I’m from Burkina Faso, formerly French Upper Volta. Don’t call me Burk or Faso, but Burkinabè.”

We call ourselves Americans because we are from America, but so are llama shepherds in Peru, Eskimos whale spearing in the Bering Sea and a Carioca sunbathing on a Rio beach. We are simply the 400-pound gorilla in the room, and have taken over the name. By the same token, Holland is just a big part of the Netherlands. We say England when we mean Great Britain which they call the United Kingdom. For decades we interchanged Russia with the Soviet Union. Today we make the same mistake by getting Trump and Putin mixed up.

Some names have changed meanings. For years the title Cajun in Louisiana was pejorative, a distinct poor, uneducated ethnic minority and the butt of jokes. During the early part of the 20th century, the State of Louisiana tried to suppress Cajun culture by forbidding the use of the Cajun French language in schools. Teachers threatened, punished, and sometimes beat their Cajun students in an attempt to force them to use English. During, World War II Cajuns often served as French interpreters for American forces in France; this helped to overcome prejudice. A funny story: while visiting northern France a few years ago, I was told by a French farmer about the Cajun soldiers yelling at civilians that they were Americans who had come to free them, but their French was a few centuries old. It was like, in English: “Hey, nonny, nonny. Prith thee, kind sir, woudst thou etc. ect.” Finally, the other Louisianans realized what a goldmine the Cajun culture was, and today Cajun songs, food, dances and accents are in full bloom, even seeping over the Texas border to Pote Ar-TURE.

Yankee Go Home and Damn Yankees are not love letters, but Yankees like them. Georgia Crackers were once a proud name for early settlers of the colony, then the state. The Atlanta Crackers were the city’s minor league baseball team between 1901 and 1965, when the Atlanta Braves moved from Milwaukee in 1966. But today Cracker generally means a red neck rural, white racist. If you are from Kansas, you are a Kansan, but if you are from Ar-Kansas, or Arkansas, you are not an Arkansanian but an Ar-KAN-san. (Incidentally, they pronounce their state AR-kan-saw, the last “as” becoming “saw.” Texas also ends in as. Should we be from TECK-saw?)

In the early days, residents of this part of what was then Mexico were called Texians, Texasians, Texicans, and Texonians, along with Thieves, Land Grabbers and Illegal Aliens. Eventually Texian won out, and many newspapers here used Texian in their title. Our elder statesmen, having used the term since the revolution in 1836, used Texian well into the 1880s. However, in general usage after annexation, Texan replaced Texian, while “The Texas Almanac still used the term Texian as late as 1868. And we have Tejano. I’ve always liked that unique title. It connotes the best of both cultures, and means a proud Texan of Mexican ethnicity, although I wonder if, say, those who came here from El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru can call themselves a Tejano. A last French story: A friend of mine, Phillipe, who managed a fancy Parisian hotel, once noted to me: “Lean, people from America zay they are from New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, but people from Texas just zay they are from Texas.” So the next time you walk into a bar, just zay you’re from Texas.

 

Ashby is from here at ashby2@comcast.net

Monarch Beach Resort

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Monarch Beach Resort’s spectacular golf views

California Dreaming

Monarch Beach Resort offers luxurious surroundings and stunning views

Photography and story by Laurette Veres

Nestled along the coast of Dana Point, California is the Monarch Beach Resort. A quick flight from John Wayne airport, where lines are short and luggage arrives seamlessly, the Monarch is a perfect wedding or honeymoon destination. The property prides itself on its rich history of celebrity weddings, special events, and golf trips. Fans of reality TV might recognize the Monarch as the site of Jade Roper and Tanner Tolbert’s wedding on “The Bachelor.”

All 400 guest rooms and suites were recently updated. Each room features sea grass textured wallpaper, luxurious chaise lounges, flexible headboard reading lamps, ocean-inspired artwork, and marble top armoires to complement the full marble baths.

 

Every room and suite includes a balcony, each adorned with modern patio furniture. All of the first-floor balconies also have built-in fire pits so you can spend cozy nights enjoying the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Nestled hillside, you’ll love the coastal paths leading to seaside bluffs as well as the private beach.

We started our trip with the scenic walk to the Monarch Bay Club. (If you don’t want to walk, a quick jitney will take you to the ocean). Impressive California, Pacific Rim style food is served with casual elegance at Monarch Bay Club’s one-of-a-kind oceanfront restaurant. Here we had tasty flat bread and wine before our Stand Up Paddle Board class. Following that, we hurry back to make our spa appointments.

An exclusive spa partnership with Miraval Group focuses on a “Life in Balance” philosophy with their innovative programs and activities. New treatments at the spa are inspired by the coastal location, holistic movement and mediation programing. The program also gives you access to nutrition specialists, healthful culinary workshops, and an expert speaker series as well as a lap pool. Get ready for dinner with a “blow out” at DryBar.

Speaking of dinner, the many options on property will satisfy even the pickiest eater. Stonehill Tavern at Monarch Beach Resort is Michael Mina’s acclaimed restaurant concept— offering tavern fare in an elegant and sophisticated setting. AVEO Table + Bar features a Mediterranean concept showcasing the seasonal bounty of the Californian coastline.

Designed by the renowned Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the Monarch Beach Golf Links is an award-winning, championship 18-hole golf course. Modeled in the traditional Scottish links style, and set along the peerless backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, this challenging 6,600-yard course features rolling greens and tight fairways to entice all golfers. This is also a great location for an Ocean view wedding.

End your weekend on a high note at AVEO Table + Bar’s Sunday brunch. The view of the pools and ocean alone make this a must-attend event— but be sure to request outside seating. The food choices go on and on. Start with vegetarian eggplant or asparagus and Brie soup. Or, for the carnivores, lamb lollipops, flat bread, omelets, eggs benedict, sausage and seafood stew. Huge displays of salmon, shrimp, crab and ceviche satisfy seafood lovers. And for dessert, try white chocolate dipped strawberries, praline encrusted marshmallow, and macaroons at Tres Leches.

Whether it’s for a destination wedding or honeymoon, Monarch Beach Resort is the ideal romantic location.

 

Monarchbeachresort.com

LONGHORNING IN

April 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                    24 April 2017

THE JUNGLE – Trees and bushes so thick you couldn’t walk through them, with high grass in other places. They are on each side of Buffalo Speedway as it turns into Willowbend just south of Loop 610 South. Ah, but the grandiose plans to turn this chunk of Houston into a campus of sparkling glass buildings housing Nobel laureates testing their test tubes, while others think deep thoughts and slowly, thoughtfully, walk through the halls of ivy (or probably kudzu), to suddenly stop, cry, “Eureka!” and race back to their labs to, uh, do something. Whatever. Maybe a new thingamabob. But few of us know what that Eureka is all about, which is why this development is not being developed.

In case you just got out of the ER after flying United, a brief background. In 2015, with no warning shot, UT Chancellor Bill (Bye-bye bin Laden) McRaven announced that the UT System was buying 332 acres of land, equidistant between the Texas Medical Center and the main UH campus, for about $450 million over the next 30 years. This would be its largest land purchase in recent history, with money borrowed from the Permanent University Fund. UH was aghast about this invasion of Longhorns into Cougar territory. Already bloodied by its long-running feud with the South Texas School of Law over naming rights, and its hemorrhaging of head football coaches, UH lined up alumni, lawyers and lawmakers to fight the project. With growing opposition in Houston, questions about financing at a time the Legislature is cutting funds for higher education, the mysterious purpose of the project, and after Gov. Greg Abbott (UT ’81) named new UT regents who opposed the deal, quoth McRaven: “Nevermore.” He tossed in the trowel.

And that was that, sort of. Then white (and otherwise) knights suddenly came to help. Not scientists, deep thinkers and Nobel laureates trying to get out of Cambridge and Palo Alto, but an even more fearsome foe: Houston developers. A just-released report from an advisory group of Houston civic and business leaders figured a vast development like the proposed UT think tank would spur growth in the area: new houses for highly paid PhDs, dorms, upscale shopping centers and – ta-da! – money.

So the battle is not over, and all the old arguments will be dusted off, like “the dump.” The chancellor acknowledged to state lawmakers in a letter that much of the Houston land was an abandoned oil field and a few of the acres are polluted by a former polymer facility on the site. But supporters say that is no problem. (If the projected campus really gets started, perhaps the first structure could be the Toxic Dump Lab, which would work to decontaminate the rest of the acreage.)

There is the question of what to call the place. UT already has a huge footprint in Houston, what with the UT Health Science Center, medical school, dental school, nursing school, M.D. Anderson plus 100,000 alumni (more than any other university). So do we follow the pattern of other branches (UTEP, UTSA, etc.) and call it The University of Texas at Houston, or UTAH? Would the Mormons object? School nickname? The Think Tankers. School song? It has been said that an intellectual in Texas is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” and not think of the Lone Ranger. So how about the students stand and sing: “To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump.” But the biggest blockade of all is that McRaven has never been clear as to why it should be built at all. He referred to the project as an “intellectual hub.” Huh? At other times the goals of education, science and other stuff have been mentioned, and perhaps finding the Longhorns a decent quarterback.

But the buzz word that finally was touted was Big Data. I first figured they were talking about the Burl Ives role in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Big Daddy. No, Big Data, or BD as we laureates call it, means, uh, something smart and important. Maybe Big Data is literally that: lots of very large information such as billboards, advertising signs in Minute Maid Park and tattoos on fat people. And it must be very important: When the proposed project was still alive, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was quoted as saying: “Big Data is the oil wealth of the 21st Century. Texas needs to invest in Big Data, and I am excited that the University of Texas System is leading the way. I can think of no better place to start this initiative than Houston.”

But if the project is still possible, in order to drum up popular support, backers need to be specific. BD must solve problems and answer questions we can relate to. A few suggestions: Do you ever wonder why more and more people are backing into parking places? Isn’t it easier to just drive into the parking slot and back out, instead of trying to back in, maneuvering between two SUVs the size of school buses? Why, in the middle of a sunny day, do people drive around with their headlights on? Do they not know where they are going? Houston needs a good nickname and slogan. Bayou City, H Town, Houston’s Hot and Space City just didn’t catch on like Big D, the Windy City and Deer Park – Gateway to Pasadena. Not far from this jungle is another large area. Find out whatever happened to that massive project that was going to replace AstroWorld. We tore down a perfectly good amusement park for what? Scientists, go to your labs and discover a cure for unruly children in restaurants. Finally, find out what Big Data means, so we can pay for it. OK, we have now put BD on the road to success. As for objections from UH to the UT expansion, just decide it with a football game.

 

Ashby solutions at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

CONTACTED BY CONS

April 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE COMPUTER — “Dear User, Your account has expired, you must renew or your account will be de-activated. Click Here To Renew.” And: “We have detected that your account may have been accessed by an unauthorized individual. As a safety measure to restrict this threat, you are to upgrade your email. Click Here To Re-activate.” There is trying from suspicious devices to login your account.Your (no space) account has been Stopped. Please reactivate your account Now.” These warnings emailed to me daily are urgent messages from my cable company, Disable Cable, except they aren’t. They are simply a ploy to hook me on a scam to get my secret codes. For some time I have been receiving such come-ons, but they have been increasing. Perhaps you are having the same problem: You sit down at your computer to write an email to your bondsman, or maybe a ransom note, and up come assorted emails from unknown, or fake, entities. You have to go through them however briefly in case some may be genuine – your mother’s nursing home really did burn down and you should come get her.

Then there are the banks, or maybe not: “Your account has expired. You are advice (sic) to Re-Activate or your account will be de-activated.” “During a recent review, we identified activity on your account that may be related to fraudulent usage and need you to verify this activity as soon as possible. You must review this activity immediately by clicking on the secure link below.” A new twist: “Wells Fargo invites you to participate in a short survey to provide feedback regarding your recent visit to a Wells Fargo branch.” A bank in that hotbed of international finance, San Angelo, Texas, has $12 million due me. I receive many alarms about “suspicious activities” from banks I never used or, in some cases, never even heard of, but they want me to re-register. It’s good to know that, if I ever do business with them, they will keep a close eye on my account, and drain it dry.

What we (I assume you are getting the same scams) have here is some 16-year-old in Croatia, in his parents’ basement at midnight, churning out these fake requests. A major point: he must be getting good feedback or he wouldn’t keep doing it. Then again, maybe business is slow after the Russians no longer needed so many anti-Hillary and pro-Trump fake news bulletins. Remember the No Call Law passed by Congress a few years ago? One member said it was the most popular bill ever passed by that body – they received 40 million immediate signees. (Come to think of it, that law must be crumbling around the edges, because I am now getting solicitation phone calls.) Well, by the same token to shield me from all these unwanted cons, I have a “Block Sender” line on my computer. It doesn’t work. Somehow that 16-year-old is getting around the shield. Maybe “Block Sender” means that I have been designated my block’s sender.
Here’s a slightly different bait: “Dear friend, I know this letter will definitely come to you as a huge surprise. I am Capt. Henk Thomas. Please I need your urgent assistance. Contact me via my private email for more information. Respectfully, Capt. Henk Thomas United States Marine Corps. Syria.” That’s a pretty vague address, “Henk.” Another strange one: “I got your information online for dance classes. I’m organizing a surprise dance (like flashmob) for my daughter’s wedding, So i (sic) want you to teach the Bridesmaids choreography. Let me know if you can do this? i will also need the below information from you.” I suspect the “below information” includes my address, password to the burglar alarm system, where I keep the family jewels and when I’ll take my next vacation. OK, I don’t immediately see the con with dancing lessons, but there’s got to be one. Maybe he is checking out home safes, and is vault-zing across Texas.

At this point I must wonder, as do you: how did our names get on these suckers’ lists? Somewhere along the line I must have ordered a pet aardvark, or entered a Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. No, my name popped up on the One Born Every Minute list because that Nigerian prince probably lost my address and I never got my share of the $40 million he had in a London bank. Then there those emails which are not scams, apparently, but just sent to the wrong guy, “Dear CEO, At present we want to purchase a batch of Diapers(For the elderly,children).” This guy’s keyboard must not have a space bar. I also got a proposal to sell me manhole covers. Honest.

Each day I find emails from China (perhaps by way of Croatia): “dear sir/madam, first, let me introduce our company for you. we are china import & export trading co., we need  to purchase from your company log cabin (120 sets) from your company.” I do sport some Lincolnesque traits, but no longer build log cabins. One more: “Dear CEO: Wish have a nice day!” This last one is a killer: “The CEO of respect; Our company and the school have invested in three football training schools to train football talents for China. Now we need to invite nine qualified foreign football coach, to China for our comprehensive football training.” Would it be politically incorrect to suggest they check with the coaches at Rice?

My question was answered when I received this: “I obtained your name and address from the international business internet. Now, we are writing to you to hope establish business relations with you.” That explains everything. My name appeared in the CEOs of the Fortune 500 or maybe the Forbes World’s Billionaires list. I was spotted at Davos having drinks with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and the petroleum minister from Saudi Arabia. Next time I’ll register as a Nigerian prince.
Ashby have nice day at ashby2@comcast.net

 

REMEMBER THE A LA MODE

April 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                    10 April 2017

THE ALAMO PLAZA – A man is shouting “Praise Jesus!” as he walks in circles. Nearby are a Haagen-Dazs shop, two Ripley’s Believe It or Not stores, a wax museum, a mirror maze and lots of traffic. This is what some 2-million visitors a year see. We are here because this is the period between the fall of the Alamo, March 6, and the Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, Texas’ High Holy Days. It’s a good time to see what’s happening, for there are plans – repeat, plans – to change the look of the Alamo and its surroundings. Let’s hope so, since this neighborhood has been through some tough times, and not just bodies scattered all over the place. We can run through the first part: the Alamo was built in 1724. Later, Spanish troops occupied the mission and its surrounding buildings — the church was only part of the grounds – then Mexicans forces. By 1836, the place was abandoned, until Lt. Col William B. Travis was sent here by Gen. Sam Houston to destroy the Alamo and march east.

This brings us to March of 1836. When John Wayne (or Billy Bob Thornton, depending on which version of the movie you saw) and 181 other defenders were killed here, Francisco Antonio Ruiz, the Alcalde of San Antonio, was summoned by Gen. Santa Anna: “He directed me to call upon some of the neighbors to come with carts to carry the dead to the cemetery, and also to accompany him, as he was desirous to have Colonels Travis, Bowie and Crockett shown to him.” Ruiz reports: Travis was shot through the head, Bowie was killed in his bed, and so much for the version of Crockett surrendering to the generalissimo.

In 1846, after the U.S. annexed Texas, Edward Everett, a U.S. Army sergeant and company clerk, wrote: “The church seemed to have been the last stronghold, and amidst the debris of its stone roof, when subsequently cleared away, were found parts of skeletons, copper balls, and other articles, mementos of the siege; as were the numerous shot holes in the front…” He went on to condemn the “tasteless hands,” “the wanton destruction” by “other relic hunters or other vandals and iconoclasts.” The army used the church as a warehouse. Then the mission property was sold, much was torn down for commercial development, and by 1871 only 30 percent of the original structures was left. In the 1880s a visitor wrote how he felt “amazement and disgust upon my first visit to the old church…filled with sacks of salt, stinking potatoes, odorous kerosene, and dirty groceries.”

Daughters of the Republic of Texas (my mother was a member of the DRT, but she refused to say which side she fought on) bought the Alamo in 1905, and apparently ran it rather well until 2011 when the state took it over, although I was never sure why. For years visitors from around the world have been complaining about how Texas tacky this area is, right in the middle of downtown San Antonio. (This reminds me, have you ever noticed how many Civil War battles were fought in national parks?) There has long been talk of restoring or improving the Alamo Plaza, but it’s been all hat and no cattle.

But now San Antonio is linked with the state and feds to finally do something. A blue ribbon committee – what else? — was formed and the Plaza Project got underway. There are plans, drawings, committee meetings, and that’s about all. Money is a problem, and opponents don’t like closing off streets and tearing down buildings. (Please, no more “Second Battle of the Alamo.” It’s been used to death.) One major obstacle is that the six-story 1936 Post Office and Federal Building, which recently underwent a $56 million renovation, occupies a big chunk of the mission’s former land. It is hoped the feds will turn over the building to be converted into a museum, and it is noted the FBI has already left because the structure doesn’t pass new Homeland Security, uh, security. But the building is sitting right on a most important part of the battlefield: the north wall. I think they ought to level the building and restore the wall – and everything else.

Incidentally, there is an odd link between the Alamo and musicians. A drunken Ozzy Osbourne urinated on the Alamo Cenotaph, a 60-foot high statue erected in 1939 in the Alamo Plaza, in mid-day of Feb. 19, 1982. The story got changed to him peeing on the mission itself. Only, “It’s just not true,” a guide at the Alamo told the Boston Herald in 2003. “If he had, the police wouldn’t have arrested him. They would have beaten him to within an inch of his life.” Osbourne was banned from playing San Antonio again until 1992, when he made a public apology to the city and donated $10,000 to the DRT. British rock star Phil Collins has one of the world’s best private collections of Alamo memorabilia, which he has donated. He has so much good stuff that a separate pavilion is being considered to house it. Another British rock star changed his name from David Robert Jones to David Bowie because of the knife, not the man.

Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath until the Alamo Project is complete. As mentioned, the task of restoring the Alamo Plaza has been suggested and abandoned over the past 30 years. The city convened groups to study the plaza in 1988 and 1994. In 2011 it even hired a New York company to recommend ways to increase the plaza’s appeal to locals. Perhaps the Texas Legislature could help if we tell the lawmakers there will not be transgender bathrooms. As for the cost of the project, it started at $37 million, has hit $300 million and shows no sign of slowing down. Maybe, like Trump’s wall, we can get the Mexican government to pay for it.

 

Ashby remembers at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WIRE YOU TAPPING?

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE FRONT DOOR – It’s a dark and gloomy night, yet someone is knocking on my door. I open it and there stands a guy in a trench coat, collar turned up, Fedora pulled down low, dark glasses. “The dog waddles in the cumquat,” he whispers. Huh? “Ossie brings bacon from the lug nut.” I start to close the door. “Wait,” he whispers. “Is this 123 Toxic Pit Drive?” I shake my head. “That’s across the street, the Billy Bob Bin Laden house.” He frowns. “Sorry, my mistake, but now you know too much about Deep State. I’ll have to kill you.” He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a stapler. “Oops, wrong pocket.”

I slam the door and return to the den to resume my reading. “White House blames Deep State for leaks.” That’s interesting. “Congress is helpless before Deep State.” Odd, that’s the term that guy at the door was using. Later I turn on Fox News. “Obama is still in control, because of Deep State,” says a panelist, both arms secured in a straitjacket.

As your intrepid reporter, it is my duty to find out just who, or what, this new term means. I go to the Democratic National Committee Building, formerly the Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Underpass. “Deep State is everywhere, but you can’t see it, and that’s all I can tell you. Say, do you think this conversation is being recorded?” That was not much help, so I go to the Republican National Committee Bunker. “Halt!” shouts a guard from his watchtower. “What’s the password?” I think for a moment: “Locker room talk,” I reply. He lets down the drawbridge and I enter the offices of He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken, but he looks a lot like Stephen Bannon. He checks to see if I’m wired, especially my teeth. “What is deep state?” I ask. “You didn’t hear it from me, but Deep State – incidentally, slime ball journalist and son of a coyote, you didn’t capitalize the name – is all that stands between America and utter chaos that would give us a crazed leader who tells lies, changes his policies and says he didn’t, hires his relatives and insults our allies.”

“Wow, we couldn’t survive that,” I reply. At that point I am tossed out. Thus far I am getting nowhere, so my next stop is my political guru, Margin d’Error, who predicted that Hillary would win. “You really messed up on that one,” I say by phone as he looks through the glass. He replies, “I was right by almost 3 million votes. I forgot about the Electoral College. You wrote me about Deep State. It means a shadow government within a government, like they have in Pakistan where the military and the secret police actually run the country. Egypt and Iran have it, too.” Margin looks furtively around, and continues: “Here in America, there is no such thing, but that doesn’t keep the paranoid alt-rights and kooks from spreading it about, like our Ego-in-Chief. Donald Trump believes we have a Deep State and it’s the former Obama administration. Poor guy, in a world of tuxes, he’s a pair of brown shoes, but there still are those who want to spread false news and prevent people like me from telling the truth. Even here….” Before I can ask him another question, a guard slaps tape over Margin’s mouth, puts a bag over his head, and hustles him away.

Reading the reliable Breitbart News, I discover the real reason Barack Obama and his family stayed in Washington after his last term expired: His code name is Hacker Backer, and he and his people still control the federal government while posing as Wall Street billionaires. Maybe so, because I noticed, despite the changes in administrations and wholesale firings in the federal government, my mailman is the same person. Wonder if he is reading my Hustler looking for hidden codes? Later, watching TV, there is Kellyanne Conway explaining that Trump is being sabotaged by Deep State, holdovers from the Obama administration. She also claims that the President is above both the law and the Constitution. When the interviewer begs to differ, Conway notes she is simply citing indisputable “alternative facts.”

At 3:30 a.m. I receive a Tweet. “You have been digging into the President’s administration. Who are you really working for? I’ll set you straight, and it’s HUGE! Meet me at the next meeting of the West Wing, aka Paranoids Unanimous, and watch out for the black helicopters. # Tax Dodger.” I show up at the meeting and see a man wearing an orange wig and a spray-on tan. He leads me aside. “You can’t be too careful. Now, let me explain that what some shrinks call ‘extreme narcissism, secretiveness and delusions of mediocrity’ are simply the art of the deal, which I read. First, there really were five million illegal aliens voting in the election to give Hillary the popular vote. They were disguised as Hillary voters. My inauguration audience was a record 100 million, but Obama’s people doctored the aerial photographs. As for releasing my federal income tax returns, I will as soon as Deep State lets George Washington release his. And I have no conflict of interests in being both President and a world-wide business mogul. I’m interested in them all.”

I reply, “There are rumors that the Russians were behind your election, they have infiltrated your staff and have information to blackmail you.” Tax Dodger laughs. “That’s ridiculous, and you can ask the head of Russia. I call him Pootie.”

It’s late at night and I am back in my home, having nothing to show for my work. There’s a knock at the door. I open it. “Pootie says the mud flaps are made of tangerines.” I start to slam the door. “Wait. I have something for you.” He hands me a package. “What is it?” I ask. He replies: “George Washington’s tax returns.”

 

Ashby is hacked at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

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