Sunday, September 30, 2007

You know you're in the Rio Grande Valley when....

you're driving into the remnants of Hurricane
Lorenzo, which made landfall in Tuxpan, 400
miles south in the state of Veracruz in Mexico.

You realize that "Alice is Buena Gente" welcoming visitors to Alice, Texas, the heart of the Brush Country, was 60 miles ago.

You start seeing palms on the highway

Instead of candy or cigarette lighters on sale at the counter of convenience stores, there are clear plastic cups with cut tropical fruit and a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce to flavor the fruit or plastic bracelets with images of the Virgen Mary.

What McAllen Thinks of U.S. Immigration "Reform"

This banner was posted outside the McAllen Chamber of Commerce downtown.

our skies are bluer

driving back from the Rio Grande Valley today was
one of those days where you conclude Texas has
more sky

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Last Light of Summer 2007

It's been an exceptional summer here in the Hill Country - exceptionally cool (the coolest in 35 years of faded memories; I don't think we hit 100 degrees all summer) and exceptionally wet (the rivers are full and still running swift; I kayaked more days than I swam). So the 90 degree days of late September have been a welcome opportunity to squeeze in some last blasts of summer, even while the humidity has lifted to the point the thermometer out back read a chilly 60 degrees at sunrise this morning.

So I went down to the river for a last summer swim (the fall swimming season starts tomorrow) and took my time splashing up to the first big rock, pausing long enough to look around at the cypress trees just beginning to turn, checking out the action underwater; the water finally has cleared to a pale aqua-green and fish and turtles are easy to watch.

The water surface was calm, a translucent white sheet reflecting the sky. The air was warm. 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere was dreamy. Two kayakers were coming downstream. A young guy shirtless showing a chest and belly decorated with tattoos and a girl in a swim suit top and blue jean shorts walked in the shallows. Swimming upsteam towards the setting sun, I wondered if this is what going to the light is like when you're dying. I wondered if it could be as good as this.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


A few years back, a former Texas Monthly colleague, Emily Yoffee, wrote about the disappearance of frogs. The decline of the amphibians was another depressing sign that we humans have fouled our nest to the point of destroying it.

But this summer, which has been marked by abundant rains and cooler than normal temperatures in Central Texas, refutes that argument. I have never seen so many frogs in my adult life. There are frogs living around our outdoor shower, frogs in the flower beds, and lately, frogs hanging around our windows including tree frogs that I've never seen before.

Andrew Patoski recorded a few images of one cute little booger hanging around the rainwater filter outside my window. May they flourish with the rains.

Cathedral of Junk, Austin, Texas

My buddy John Morthland celebrated his birthday at his neighbor's, who happens to have one of the world's great folk art monument, dubbed the Cathedral of Junk.

Vince, the creator, has built a structurally sound wonderland open to the public.

For a look-see, go here
And here:

Call Vince to make an appointment to check it out: 512. 299.7413 Donations are encouraged.

It's the kind of place where even a bozo like me can feel like a King.

photograph by the Great Wyatt McSpadden (

It's the pits: custom pits of the Brady Goat Cookoff

Like cars, homes, and other possessions, Texans like to customize their barbecue pits. While judging the Brady World Championship Goat Cookoff on Labor Day weekend in the town that is the literal Heart of Texas, I happened to snap a few personalized cookers.

The goat was pretty good too, as always, although the buzz is good goat is getting pricier due to growing demand from Muslims.

Refinery pit

Simple pit

Concession stand pit

Steeple pit

Dual stack pit

Triple exhaust pit

Custom dual exhaust pit