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Friday, June 29, 2007


I had so many photos I wanted to post this month that I made them smaller than usual. Just click on the photo and you will get the big picture--so big you might have to scroll to see it all, but I guess that's keeping with the Texas theme. I suggest clicking on the pictures accompanying our ride on The Tahiti Queen (to which I've added a link in the Links column). You'll see West Point from the river in great detail, and if you click on some of the homes, you'll see waterfalls and railroad tracks--almost fairy-tale beautiful. In Texas, look at those longhorn cattle. They're stunningly proud and magnificent. If you click on the dome and star, you're in for a surprise.

After viewing the photos, just click the "back" button, and you'll return to TAT.

Please leave comments or email me. I love to hear from you.


It doesn't take long to realize that Texas is unique. Below most of the American flags flying there's a Lone Star flag. Sometimes the Lone Star flies solo. Sometimes it flies at the same height as the country's Stars and Stripes. The lone star is emblazoned in concrete on the uprights supporting overpasses. It flies above stores and shopping malls. It is incorporated into clothing design. It’s used as an address marker on homes. Texas, after all, was a sovereign country for 10 years. When Texas joined the Union, the treaty it signed with the United States government gave this state the sole right to use its flag in this manner. No other state has this privilege. In a tour of the Capitol in Austin, visitors are reminded of this proud fact. My friend, Barbara, a transplanted New Yorker via California, Colorado, and Arizona, once sent an email comparing the benefits of living in Texas to living in the entire Northeast. Texas won. So this, our first visit to Texas since we drove cross country and crashed in Amarillo for a few hours' sleep in 1971, was a lesson in Texas culture.

Texas thinks big. Even from within, it is divided into sections. Remember Marty Robbins' lyrics, "Down in the West Texas town of El Paso..."? That's not a direction; that's a section. Rob and I were in Central Texas, the Hill Country. A gentleman on our tour bus at the LBJ ranch scoffed. "Hill Country? These are more like speed bumps!" Nevertheless, had there been a Texan in earshot, the tourist would have had to defend himself!

We are in the Hill Country. The Hill Country was formed by the limestone uplift of the Edwards Plateau. There are rivers and nice mountain climbing, canyons and caverns. Of Texas' more than 115 State Parks, at least 18 exist in the Hill Country. This area of gently rolling hills also includes some marvelous cities with interesting histories and attractions unique to themselves. The Colorado River runs its rugged way through one of the State parks, and we visited the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic site operated in conjunction with the National Park Service. We lunched in Fredericksburg, the heart of German Texas, and that's German with a Texas twang!

Texas is a case of location, location, location. There’s more to the Texas State of Mind. It's big! Everything is big! When we left the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum on the University of Texas Campus in Austin, we asked for a restaurant suggestion that would be very "Texas." We were directed to the Hyde Park Bar and Grill. Sounded more like upstate New York to me, but I was wrong. Here's the description of Rob's sandwich as well as it photo. Texas sized.

Here are some more big Texas ideas:
The cattle are longhorn--quite a stretch from horn tip to horn tip!

The distance from star point to star point of the star in the dome of the Capitol measures eight feet across. BIG!

Texas has an anti-litter campaign going. Here's the slogan you see on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and signs. I picked up a few bumper stickers initially thinking they represented the independent spirit of the place, but look closely and you see the highway markers in the pattern. Fines for highway littering are a threatened $1000.00. Big!

There’s even a Lone Star Beer!

Along many of the highways we've traveled are fences. The lands are still ranch lands and open range grazing lands. Even on the Ft. Hood military installation, soldiers on the ranges must be aware of cattle and cease exercises when cattle are present. There are cattle crossings on the roads. Off the main roads, you enter a ranch by driving over gravely, unpaved or old macadam roads, but you pass under an archway--not quite as elaborate as J.R. Ewings’, but an archway just the same--in stone, metal, or a variety of other building materials. The archway proclaims the name of the ranch. This is the archway to The Moser Ranch near Killeen, TX.

Texas is not all old ranching country either. Texas wine country is beginning to flourish, and there is a Texas Wine Trail extending through most of the Hill Country stretching from New Braunfels in the south, through Johnson City, and up toward Lampasas in the northern part of Central Texas. Tours, festivals, and tastings are available, and it looks pretty terrific--and Texas Big. Rob and I drove through a section of it heading toward The Lyndon Baines Johnson National Historical Park, but time did not permit a visit.

When you come to Texas, come to enjoy its enormity and its diversity. I wouldn't presume to go beyond my impressions of this one section of the vast state. I bet the flavor changes radically. Do your research beforehand, and if possible, take your time. Remember, too, that Texas is more than a state; it is a state of mind.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


“Go after life as if it’s something that has to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.” Texas Land and Cattle Company

There’s always a chain steak house, but when we’re in Killeen, TX, and the restaurant is
The Texas Land and Cattle Company, the lure is just too irresistible. So in we go to a big, open, noisy saloon of a restaurant. Even their website proclaims it’s a place “where the virtues of the Old West live on.”

We can tell right away that we are in another Everything is Bigger in Texas venue. That’s fun. There are several cuts of steak on the menu offered in 18 oz and 20 oz. sizes. SEVERAL. We pass and go to other parts of the menu because we’re thinking outside of Texas.

All the steaks are seasoned Texas style and grilled over a mesquite fire. Michael, Rob and I choose the TXLC Smoked Sirloin served with garlic mashed potatoes, and a choice of House Salad, Spicy Caesar Salad, Wedge Salad, or a cup of Steak. Leslie selects the Salmon steak, a Shiner Bock-soy sauce marinated filet, lightly smoked then mesquite-grilled with a Creole mustard aoli. It is served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes. No one is disappointed. We wash it all down with Ziegenbock beer, an Anheuser Busch creation that reputedly is available only in Texas and probably brewed to compete with Texas-brewed Shiner Bock. Works for us.

How do I compare the Texas Land and Cattle Company with the other chains: Outback, Texas Roadhouse, Charlie Brown’s and the like? Frankly, we like them all. Each exudes its own atmosphere, and that’s the fun about these places. The steak is generally all right, and it’s always a good time. Texas Land and Cattle Company has 21 locations throughout the west, primarily in Texas, and they’ve just opened a restaurant in North Carolina. Ironically, their corporate offices are in Wichita, KS. Go figure.


The world of Cormac McCarthy's The Road is ashened black, a dangerous shadow of the world that was. In this 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, we are taken on a dark and frightening father-son journey in a post apocalyptic world filled with unimaginable horror and danger. McCormac's gripping, powerful description ensnares the reader and pulled me into this cold, gray, disheartening world. On the road, a father and his very young son struggle to reach the coast, not knowing what, if anything, they will find there but desperately trying not to lose hope even as the struggle for survival becomes almost more than either can bear.

The destruction of one world creates another for these two--they become each other's entire world. Armed only with a pistol, their total belongings loaded into a cart, they push on together, wary of any humans they might encounter, humans who will capture and use anything they find in any way to ensure their own survival.

Rising above the horror, the man instills a humanistic viewpoint in his son. They are the good guys, and there must be other good guys out there somewhere. It is the job of the good guys to guard the fire. The boy wants to share their meager possessions with people they pass. He convinces his father to help some, but finds it hard to understand why they cannot help everyone. The man hates to make the boy feel he is heartless, but he is concerned with their survival. In fact, the pistol's single bullet’s sole purpose is to prevent the pair being taken by marauders and body hunters.

Yet, this book is not about despair; it is about hope and love. It rises above the moment to reveal tremendous strength, boundless, selfless love, and beautiful faith in the basic goodness that will hopefully bring the world back to life--if the destruction is conquerable. The book becomes a story of love and redemption.

McCarthy's language is powerful and intensely vivid. He interjects biblical and mythological allusions, creating a tale that is horrific and uplifting at the same time. The father saves the boy's spirit and leaves him as a leader in rebuilding a world gone dark and hostile.


In the beautiful Sailfish Marina Resort on Singer Island, Florida is the Sailfish Restaurant, right there on the dock overlooking the fleet moored at the marina. We had breakfast there with a friend on our first day on Singer Island, so we knew we wanted to return to watch the sunset and enjoy a leisurely dinner in this incredibly restful setting.

We took the free trolley from Palm Beach Shores Resort (see April, 2007) to the Marina to participate in the Thursday night "Sunset Celebration," a weekly arts & crafts and music extravaganza. It is a perfect night. (see March, 2007)

But let me get to the restaurant. This is a big, very Floridian venue. There's a huge bar and outside seating. All the front windows totally open, so even inside you're outside. The restaurant is big enough with tables accommodating groups from two to ten. Those bigger tables are shielded by lighted market umbrellas, a wonderful bring-the-outdoors-indoors touch. Even on a night like this when the docks are filled with people, the pagers given as you wait for your table have a range of two miles. We don’t hang around waiting, and our evening never misses a beat.

Rob and I are seated right in front of a window that had been opened so that it took us a few moments to realize there was no glass between us and the outside of the restaurant. We immediately become quiet observers. People-watching is so fun. Opposite us, two women are selling Himalayan Salt Candles and Soy Candles (no soot). The women promote the wax’s salubrious qualities, and couples stop to look and listen. They smell the various candle scents and then, invariably, the women pour the wax on the back of the man's hand. He rubs it in, nods his head, and he and his partner both smell his hand. Then they buy. Fascinating. The saleswomen did not pack up much at the end of the evening.

Boats come and go. One is a very long, sleek racer whose motors roar as it leaves. The driver revs the engine to get attention. The passengers make sure we know they’re going in that cool boat. The sight and sounds are so incongruous to the mood of the evening. But the boat is smashing!!!! We’re not the only people looking. Still we’re glad it quiets down when they leave.

You can imagine how interesting it is to sit there for dinner. It is relatively quiet, and while we are observers, we are also in a world of our own raised above and removed from the dock. Just perfect.

Speaking of perfect, dinner could not have been better. There are so many choices and specialties of the day, and had we been out fishing, the chef would have prepared our catch for us. That sounds like fun.

I cannot believe, however, that we could have done better with our own catch than what we had for dinner. We declined the soup, but I would have tried their clam chowder, and Rob would have gone for the Bahamian conch chowder. Choosing our entrees was difficult enough. One of several night's specials was sautéed swordfish.

Rob chooses Dolphin Florentine, pan seared dolphin topped with spinach, crab and swiss cheese gratinée. He chooses garlic mashed potatoes made with new red potatoes and the summer squash and zucchini combination. When the dish is presented, it is with a flourish. The plate is beautiful, a flower in the center and a banana fritter. The fish is absolutely perfect. Rob says that if he didn't know it was fish, he would think he had been served a very tender pork chop. Finally something that doesn't taste like chicken!!! Ha! Ha!

The squash is excellent! It has an extremely light sauce, and the vegetables are firm enough to demand a knife yet young enough to be served unpeeled. Lovely. The potatoes, too, are excellent—mashed but still chunky with just the right touch of garlic.

I am becoming much more adventurous in my choice of fish. I select "ABACO" Grouper. It is brought in daily, I choose to have it pan seared. It arrives with a golden brown crust from the searing but without any thing to dress it. It is extraordinary, tender, firm yet flaky. I squeeze on a bit of lemon juice. Pure, simple, and scrumptious! I, too, have the squash medley and the garlic mashed potatoes.

I know we should have a lovely white wine with this meal, but the docks and atmosphere make it a night for a good, chilled beer. It goes down just fine!

Here's another wonderful place, off the beaten path but well worth noting. I guarantee you will have a wonderful evening and a very special meal at the Sailfish Marina Restaurant.


You wouldn't think that a vessel named The Tahiti Queen would ply Hudson River waters, but if the name Tahiti conjures up visions of beauty, the Hudson River is the place to be. Berthed in Peekskill at the Charles Point Marina, the Tahiti Queen's snug harbor is easily accessible, and its growing list of event cruises make a voyage very tempting.

The Tahiti Queen resembles an old fashioned paddle wheeler—the kind you see along the Mississippi. Its two enclosed decks offer plenty of seating. On the day we board, tables on the top deck are set for our Father's Day Brunch cruise but also insure that everyone has a good view of the river. The windows slide back, and Capt. Bob Consiglio, who we've known forever, tells us that fans are also used when the weather is warm. On this deck, throughout the entire cruise, coffee and juices are available at no extra charge. Today the DJ is aboard playing a broad range from 1950's rock 'n roll to today's salsa. There's a dance floor, and among the many dancers are fathers dancing with their daughters to Rednexs’ Cotton-Eyed Joe as well as a couple doing a mean merengue. Looks great.

The lower deck has the bar, and the brunch buffet is set up there. The boat’s caterer for the event,
Country Courtesy Caterers does an excellent job. The variety: quiche, sausages, eggs, potatoes, french toast, sandwiches, fruit platters, smoked salmon, bagels, muffins and more. Whatever a person's taste, there is something to tempt it. I'll add here that Capt. Bob's organization prevents long lines at the buffet. Everyone is served promptly. There is plenty of food, and, indeed, offers of seconds.

Some passengers stay on the lower deck, perhaps for the bar, perhaps for the lack of sound speakers, perhaps for the close proximity to the water. There is a niche for everyone on the Tahiti Queen as she cruises for two and a half hours up the Hudson.

I can only imagine the gasps of early explorers sailing up the Hudson marveling at the magnificent, wide river at this end, dwarfing, by comparison, other famous rivers of the world. The palisades rising up the west bank as well as the mountains on the east are breathtaking. Looking north, the river winds through clefts revealing nature's creations at her finest. It is one experience to see these sights from above; it's quite another to see them from the river.

The Tahiti Queen backs out from the dock onto the river proper, and Capt. Bob gives instructions on emergency procedures. Then we're off. The river is alive with activity--other boaters and ski-doos. There's lots of friendly waving back and forth. We head up to the Bear Mountain Bridge, a link between Putnam and Orange counties, and continue up toward West Point.

No one who visits West Point doubts its stateliness, and from the river looking up at the Military Museum, the Thayer Hotel, and rows of homes overlooking the river, and the buildings of the installation seem grand from the Hudson. As we look at the river from West Point’s strategic location, we can imagine the chain that helped keep the British from sailing right down to NYC.

It's at West Point that the Tahiti Queen turns around for the trip back to port. The trip back allows us to spend more time looking at the things we've missed.

The Metro North railroad tracks run along the east shore of the river past quaint stations and interesting homes. The silver streak of railroad cars seems miniature from the middle of the river, and it adds to the moment.

There are more boats and watercraft, and it is all so nice that we are a bit sorry when the Tahiti Queen's Capt. eases her next to the dock.

The Tahiti Queen offers a lovely afternoon with a friendly accommodating crew. At one point when we are on the lower deck, a little girl came down to purchase a bottle of water. She was holding a five dollar bill. The bartender gave her the bottle of water but told her to give her mommy the money. That's how nice everyone is on The Tahiti Queen.
I'm placing a permanent link to the Tahiti Queen in the link list in the left-hand column. Check them out to see the Calendar of Events.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


In some museums, including The Seattle Art Museum and the J.F.K. Presidential Library offer special services for the hearing impaired. In New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (including The Cloisters), audio tours are free of charge, and special devices are available if needed. If you are hearing impaired, indeed, if you have any disability, check ahead to get information on special accommodations.

These days, flight cancellations happen frequently. Keep your airline's customer service number in your cell phone. You can get in touch immediately if your flight is cancelled and, hopefully, have a better shot at getting another flight.