November 19, 2008

What I learned in Concourse B

I missed my connection in Atlanta, as my flight from IAH was delayed by almost 3 hours due to fog. This led me to pass the time--about 5 hours--in various crowded bars in Concourse B at ATL. The one positive aspect of being stuck at an airport when there are loads of delays, cancellations, etc. is the camaraderie that develops among the victims at the airport bar.

On my right at the "Sports Scene," was this enormous tatooed guy in a tank top who introduced himself immediately after noticing my Red Sox hat. He was from Saugus, MA and was trying to return home from Key West, where he went to watch the offshore boat races. Apparently, he went out on a catamaran with a group of people in the morning and stayed out on the water all day--drinking a ton and watching the races. He threatened to show me the pictures he took--reportedly all of the women on the boat took their clothes off at about noon--and then reminded himself to delete some of them before his girlfriend at home got ahold of his camera.

To my left was a chatty engineer from Hot Springs, Arkansas. He had one of those drawls that are so nearly unintelligible that you feel unAmerican every time you have to say, "I'm sorry, what was that?" Eventually, Saugus and Hot Springs started sharing their tales of travellers woe and I sat back on my bar stool and listened to the battle of terrible regional accents over a couple of Yeunglings.

Lone Star Miscellany

We arrived in Austin in search of good BBQ and found the city to be infested with grackles. It was kind of spooky in a Hitchcockian way, but we avoided being mauled by the shrieking flocks and continued our search for ribs and brisket.

My kind of Texas

Artz Rib House was a hole-in-the-wall BBQ establishment recommended by several Texans we met. They had live music (a decent folk/country trio) and cheap Shiner Blacks. We ordered nearly every BBQ item on the menu and the waitress brought plates stacked with smoked brisket, baby back ribs, country style pork ribs, and jumbo beef ribs to go with our beers and various side items.

A display case on the TAMU campus:
"Probably Late 18th Century"

We left Austin in the morning and stopped to get gas on the way to College Station. The gas station had huge tubs full of ice and Budweiser tall boys in front of the register--a strange and frightening impulse purchase for the highway.

At first glance, I thought this simply said:
"White Blood Center." Thankfully, "White"
was someone's last name.

After College Station, we continued on, through rush hour traffic, into Houston, where a creepy towel bunny awaited me in my hotel room. Sure, it looks cute enough, but it's somewhat unsettling to go to sleep with one of these buggers next to your bed.

I swear I woke up in the middle of the night
with this thing sitting on my chest

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November 13, 2008

"a liar, coward and a cur"

Inevitably, our asphalt wanderings led us to Waco, TX.

cue tumbleweeds

After peddling our wares to the students of Baylor University, we stopped at Ninfa's for crawfish enchiladas and margaritas. While I was in the restroom, my colleagues thought it would be funny to tell the server that it was my birthday (it wasn't). After being serenaded by the wait staff and eating my birthday dessert (some kind of fried dough-like thing covered in honey), we ordered another round of margaritas and chatted with our waiter, Ricky.

If Lord Byron is right, there aren't many liars in Waco

Ricky informed us that Waco is the most dangerous city in Texas--with about a murder a day. While, this information was later discredited by multiple sources on the internet (and Lord Byron was proven wrong), we were intrigued as it seemed pretty safe and, well, really dull. Ricky explained that there were a lot of drug-related murders about six-blocks from the restaurant and loads of prostitutes just over the bridge.

Only in Texas

The next morning, I got up early to check out the downtown area, specifically the Tornado Memorial and the Dr. Pepper Museum. We debated the idea of trying to find the former Branch-Davidian compound, but decided that it was too far out of the way and, well, kind of creepy.

I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper, David Koresh was a Pepper, too...

So, we piled in our mini-van and headed South, toward Austin and beyond.

November 12, 2008

Signs of Life in Bleaklahoma

Oklahoma was mostly a blur of badly-maintained highways, roadkill, and bleak landscapes from the window of our white minivan.

Eskimo Joe's in Stillwater, OK (do you want cheese fries
with that derogatory ethnic caricature?)

We started in Tulsa (where I did not see the "Golden Driller"), stopped briefly for burgers at a famous institution in Stillwater, passed through Oklahoma City (where I did not have the chance to visit the Beef Jerky Emporium), and finished the day in Norman--located in the bluest (but, still red) of Oklahoma's counties.

Can you believe that gas is under $2!

After Norman, we drove about 3 1/2 hours to Dallas--passing about 15 billboards advertising Robertson's Ham Sandwiches (and REAL beef jerky).

I never did have one of those ham sandwiches

Finally, we crossed over into Texas, which looks remarkably like Oklahoma.

The end of Oklahoma
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November 06, 2008

Adventures in Tornado Alley


On my way out of the Tulsa airport, I passed a couple of gentlemen in cowboy hats and two middle-aged women smoking skinny cigarettes in their PT Cruiser. The view from my room at the Courtyard by Marriott is of the setting sun reflected in the window of the Embassy Suites across the parking lot. More on this later...

November 05, 2008

November 04, 2008

Dr. Lechtenberg's Magic Pliers

I'm home from work today, sitting on the couch eating chocolate pudding, and watching movies--my faith in dentists (more specifically, oral surgeons) restored by Dr. Lechtenberg and his heavily-accented Eastern European assistant who needed only a few shots of novocaine and about 4 minutes to extract wisdom teeth #1 and #32.

breakfast, lunch, and dinner

5 years ago, a different oral surgeon spent the better part of an afternoon pulling, yanking, drilling, and breaking pieces of the other two wisdom teeth free, leaving me exhausted, sore, and vowing to cling to good ole #1 and #32 forever.

Eventually, on my (new) dentist's recommendation, I decided to give up the fight and went to see Dr. L. He told me ahead of time that I could listen to my iPod to help distract me, so I created an impressive playlist of songs that wouldn't make me freak out. While he only scheduled me for a 30-minute appointment, I prepared for the worst and had about 3 hours of music loaded. Truth be told: I have a very low tolerance for pain and, well, I'm kind of coward when it comes to things like this.

The Void

The first song ("Protection" by Massive Attack) was still playing when he said, "Okay, you're all set." Thank you, Dr. Lechtenberg. Thank you.