Tag Archives: Texas

The Courtyard Fountain

I was in Texas on business this week and took a few hours to visit my favorite haunt. The courtyard at the McNay in San Antonio is such a beautiful, peaceful place. I sat in the shade amidst the serene quiet. I listened to the cry of the doves on the roof and the trickle of the fountain. Monet did a wonder with water lillies on canvas (the McNay has a lovely example in their Impressionists gallery), but there’s nothing like the genuine article of creation. I didn’t have my fancy camera with me, but my iPhone does a pretty nice job. So, for photo Friday, here you go.

The Latest 04-24-2016

The past two weeks were dominated by last weekend’s production of Almost, Maine. Wendy and I were cast before Christmas and the curtain finally rose on four performances April 14-17. The play is a series of nine vignettes that take place in on the same night, at the same time, in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. The scenes are all reflections on love and relationships.

The challenge and opportunity for both Wendy and me were to play multiple characters in the show. I played five characters and Wendy played three. It is not unusual for actors to play multiple roles in a show, but the multiple characters are often bit parts or walk-on roles. It is another thing altogether to develop 3-5 fully developed, differentiated characters in one show. From an acting perspective it is an exciting challenge to walk off stage, change costume in less than 30 seconds and walk on as a completely different character. To pull it off and make it believable for the audience was a really, really fun stretch for both Wendy and me.

The show went well. Attendance was slightly above average for a spring show in our community theatre. For both of us, the fun was all about the experience of being directed by our friend Kevin McQuade who is a brilliant director and who pushed both of us to new heights in our acting experiences. In addition, we loved, loved, loved our fellow cast members who were focused, disciplined, and really fun to work with.

Production weekend was fun, but took a lot out of us. The cast socialized after every show. Opening night we had a party here at Vander Well Pub and the last guests to leave meandered out the door around 1:00 a.m. Friday night the cast and crew stopped at the Cellar Peanut Pub and then enjoyed drinks and eats at Monarch’s. Wendy and I enjoyed a nightcap at McQuade Pub and walked home somewhere around 2:00 a.m. Saturday night the cast and various friends enjoyed after show festivities at Kaldera. The closing performance on Sunday was followed by set strike and a cast party at McQuade Pub.

Oh…and I preached two services on Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third Church.

It was wonderful to have Suzanna, Taylor, my folks, Jody, and Emma join us over the weekend to see the show. It’s always a bittersweet experience having loved ones come to town to see the show, but then not having the time or space to actually spend time with them.

McNay Stags Head

We got home from the final cast party on Sunday evening about 9:00 p.m. and I immediately had to pack for a week-long business trip to Texas. I flew out first thing Monday morning and spent five days in San Antonio and Laredo. It was a long week, for sure, but on Friday I got to meet Tim and Kumi for a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse between San Antonio and Austin. It was fun to hear about their recent vacation in Japan to visit Kumi’s sister and to see their photos. I also got to spend a couple of hours at the McNay Art Museum before flying out for home.

This weekend has been blessedly quiet. I mowed a crop of weeds on Saturday and tried desperately to groom our pitiful lawn so that it wouldn’t completely shame the neighborhood. Though, our weed infested lawn is an admittedly nicer sight than the apocalyptic wasteland that was our lot last year. We ended Saturday with a wonderful evening on Matthew and Sarah’s deck.

ICubs Game

We headed to the early service this morning and enjoyed the message from Roger DeWaard before making the trek to Principal Park for our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. The I-Cubs sucked wind and got blown out by Oklahoma City, but Wendy and I sat in the sun and got our first sunburn of the season.

It’s a momentous week ahead. My 50th birthday is this coming Saturday. [sigh]

TBT: Two Lovebirds

Tom and Wendy Honeymoon - 2I’m in San Antonio this week on business. San Antonio is where Wendy and I honeymooned back in January of 2006. We had planned on New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina suddenly scuttled the plan and we sort of haphazardly chose San Antonio as our backup choice.

It was a great honeymoon full of great memories, and I never visit San Antonio without a flood of memories from that week ten years ago.

For Throwback Thursday, here’s a picture of us lovebirds.

Happiest Place on Earth

McNay

Last Sunday afternoon Wendy and I had the opportunity of visiting the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. We visited the McNay for the first time on our honeymoon  ten years ago. It’s come to hold a special, sentimental place in my heart. I posted to Facebook:

You can have Disneyland. Ever since Wendy and I visited the McNay on our honeymoon 10 years ago, this has been, for me, one of “the happiest places on Earth.”

The courtyard at the McNay is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I’ve ever been and I could sit there for hours, especially with Wendy. On our visit last Sunday I couldn’t help but take this photo with my iPhone. There’s nothing extraordinary about the photo and I know it can’t possibly capture the true beauty of the place. Sometimes the power of shot has nothing to do with being great photography,  rather the ability of a shot to transport us back to a powerful time or place is what makes photography great.

The Latest 10-11-2015

Long week on the road this week, which began with a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Des Moines on Monday. Was on site with client in San Antonio Monday through Wednesday morning, then made the drive down to Laredo for more meetings Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. Finished up about 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Redemption for the long week of business travel began on Thursday night about 10:30 p.m. when Wendy arrived. Last summer our friends Kevin and Becky informed us that, for Becky’s birthday, Kevin had given her tickets to see Counting Crows at Austin City Limits in Austin, TX this past Wednesday. Looking at the calendar we realized that I was going to be in San Antonio and Laredo that week. So, we conspired to have Wendy fly down and for the four of us to meet in Austin for the weekend.

Wendy and I headed north from Laredo about 10:00 a.m. on Friday, arriving at our hotel in Austin about 2:00. We grabbed a shuttle into downtown Austin where Kevin and Becky met us to being what amounted to our 24 hour Austin blitzkrieg.

We were starving so we Uber’d to South Congress for some Home Slice pizza and dessert at the Cupcake truck across the street. We then did a little shopping before Ubering it back downtown. We did Happy Hour at Malverde’s where I was introduced to El Cubico, a cocktail made with tobacco leaf infused tequila, vanilla infused brandy, grilled pineapple juice and volcanic saffron-infused salt on the rim. It was like drinking a fine cigar. Wow!

We made our way to Stay Gold, a bar with live music, a nice courtyard, and a food truck (Toaster’s) that made a mean grilled cheese. We ended up spending the rest of our evening there and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves enjoying some foot-stomping old-timey southern gospel from the McMercy Family Band:

By the time McMercy Family ended and Meatloaf Spaceship began, we were into our third band of the night. It was late, so we called it a night and took Uber to our hotel.

Kev and Beck picked us up at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and we high-tailed it over to Gordough’s Doughnuts, a food truck that makes speciality doughnuts. I had the Sin-a-Bomb doughnut which was topped with cream-cheese frosting and a liquid cinnamon and sugar glaze poured over the top. Wendy got the Naughty-and-Nice which was coated in sugar and cinnamon and then came with honey butter for dipping. I’ve gone entire weeks without that many calories!

We stopped by Hope Gallery Park after breakfast. It’s the shell of an old building terraced in the side of a hill. Graffiti artists have continually transformed it with their work (as well as random visitors with spray paint). It was a fascinating place. We got to watch and talk to one of the artists who’d been painting there for a short period of time after moving from California.

For lunch we’d decided on visiting a place called Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden. The menu is nothing but different kinds of unique and gourmet sausages (they even have a Turducken sausage). What was really impressive, however, was the more than 100 beers on tap. Kevin and I each did a flight of four different beers. I did the dark and roasty stouts while Kevin did the IPAs. Of course, we all shared and enjoyed the variety. Wendy even got herself a pint of Funnel Cake Beer (I’m not kidding) which actually smells like and leaves a hint of funnel cake on the palate. Quite amazing, really. We had a good, long lunch together and really enjoyed ourselves.

Despite the fact that we were stuffed, we decided that we might as well go over the top by stopping at Amy’s Ice Cream where Wendy and I enjoyed a salted caramel fudge sundae over dark chocolate ice cream.

That’s when my stomach exploded.

Not really, but it was  touch-and-go. Time had slipped away, and it was time for Kev and Beck to catch their flight home. They dropped us off at our hotel where our car was waiting. Wendy and scooted down south to San Marcos and met my brother Tim and his girlfriend, Kumi, at Kent Black’s for a drink and a chat. Wendy and I then drove the rest of the way to San Antonio where we were scheduled to fly out on Sunday.

All of our socializing had the two of us relatively pooped, so by the time we got to the hotel we were ready for some relaxation and quiet. We watched the Cubs beat the Cardinals in game 2 of the NLDS and then got some take-out to bring back to our hotel room for supper. We had the Mets-Dodgers game on as we ate. Then I laid down on the bed and remembered no more.

 

We took our time getting ready this morning. Made a quick trip to Wal-Mart for a few items and got Wendy a treat from McDonalds. We checked out of the hotel and went to the McNay Art Museum. When Wendy and I honeymooned in San Antonio 10 years ago we’d made our first trip to the McNay. It’s become a special place to us and we enjoyed a gorgeous Sunday afternoon walking the grounds, sitting in the courtyard, and touring the collection.

All good things must come to an end, and after our time at the McNay we headed to the airport for our flight home. It’s been a really fun weekend, but we’re looking forward to being in our own bed tonight!

An Open Letter to Buffalo Wild Wings

source: mike mozart via flickr
source: mike mozart via flickr

Note: I tried to send this to you privately via your website but 1) the location I visited wasn’t listed on your website and 2) you didn’t give me enough room on your contact form to share my experience.

I am a loyal BWW customer. I travel around the country on business and always seek out BWW because 1) your naked tenders are [relatively] healthy 2) I’m usually alone and your Trivia is a fun way to waste an evening, and 3) I can watch my beloved Cubbies wherever I happen to be in the country.

I’m in San Antonio, Texas tonight and went into your Windcrest location at I-35 and I-410.

Disclaimer: I’m a 20+ year Customer Service consultant, which gives me a lot of empathy for companies and their Customer Service challenges. It also means that I’m very sensitive to customer expectation, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. I also sought out your BWW location and drove 20 minutes in rush hour traffic to get there rather than eating at the Chili’s across the street from my hotel.

I entered about 6:10 p.m. It seems to be a new location for you. The crowd was light. There were more staff members than customers. A manager was parked at a table with a stack of applications or some kind of “new hire” sheets. Cool. Spacious. Clean. I’m impressed.

For the record, I’m a creature of habit. My routine when I’m by myself on the road is to go straight to the bar and order 1) a tall, cold Miller Lite 2) four naked tenders, hot bbq, and fries 3) the Cubs game on just one of the 3 million screens before me. Tonight, I stuck to my routine.

The nice bartender immediately asks for my I.D. I turn 50 next April, and am almost completely gray, but I appreciate the law, am respectful of the request, and am always happy to pull out my I.D. The bartender asks if she can take my Drivers License to show her manager. My immediate reaction was to laugh and think, “Sure! I don’t care. I’ve got nothing to hide.” As she disappeared through the kitchen door, however, I thought to myself: “Wait a minute. I’m in Texas, which is a border state. What if she’s making a photo copy of my license? What if she’s scanning it? Have I suddenly become the victim of identity theft?!” (Disclaimer: My hotel room in Texas was robbed in January, making me a little sensitive and a wee bit cynical.)

The bartender returned a few minutes later, a manger behind her, and gave me back my license. I asked her what the problem was and she told me that she had to have it approved since it was an out of state license. I get it. In retrospect I would have appreciated her asking the manager to come and take a look at it rather than disappearing in the back with my license, but okay.

I settled in. I thought my request for the Cubs on a screen was fulfilled when FoxSports1 did a live look in, but then realized it was just a cameo. I asked again. This time it was a different bartender (the one who took my license seemed to have gone off shift). A few minutes later he asked if the game was up yet. I told him it wasn’t. He asked again.

As at Sam’s Cafe American in Casablanca, “Time Goes By.”

My food arrives. “Is there anything else?” the bartender asks.

Yes, I still don’t have the Cubs on any of these screens.”

He apologizes and leaves to get a manager who comes and says they’ll take care of it. Still no Cubs. Manager comes to check a few minutes later. Nope. No Cubs. They start asking each other what channel.

It’s 665,” I tell them. I’m a fan. I have DirecTV. I’ve been in countless BWWs and I know you all have DirecTV too. They are impressed. Me, less so.

I’m eating. I’m waiting. Into my fourth naked tender the Cubs game appears on three screens.

There you go! Three screens!” I’m told.

Thanks,” I think to myself as I sink my teeth into my final bite of naked tender. It’s 6:45. I’ve been there over a half-hour, and am almost done with my meal.

As a loyal BWW customer, I’m telling you that this experience fell below expectation. However, I feel better having gotten it off my chest. Thanks for listening.

Keeping Tragedy in Perspective

From musaeum via Flickr. A wall containing the names of 5000 children who died in collapsed schoolhouses.
From musaeum via Flickr. A wall containing the names of over 5000 children who died in collapsed schoolhouses, the victims of an earthquake.

Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
    but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.
Proverbs 14:13 (NLT)

We witnessed a lot of tragedy in the past week. In the U.S., we were bombarded with non-stop coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured over a hundred victims. I found it interesting (and sad) that a factory explosion in West Texas received far less news coverage given that it killed and injured more people (many of them valiant first responders), and displaced many people out of their homes. I wonder if it won’t have far more devastating effect on the a small town than what will ultimately be experienced by the city of Boston. Of course, these two events hit close to home which is why they were on our televisions non-stop, but I couldn’t help putting these two events into perspective with a whole series of bombings that killed and injured far more people in Iraq last week. There was also an earthquake in China that killed two hundred and left 11,000 people without homes.

Isn’t it interesting what media chooses to report, what we choose to watch and feel, and what we choose to ignore. I’m not making judgements. I’m just pondering the facts and trying to figure out what they mean for me.

I have come to realize, and over the past few years I’ve come to appreciate, that most people’s smiling faces conceal heavy hearts. The heaviness could be the result of lost loved ones, broken relationships, miscarriages, the invisible scars of various kinds of abuse, personal tragedies, and grave injustices. In each case, a person will get on with life, or at least make an attempt of doing so. We eventually get back to the daily grind. We will go out on the weekend, have a good time, and laugh with our friends. Still, the grief does not disappear.

God’s message reminds us again and again that life will be full of tragedy. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, nor should we expect anything different. We live in a fallen world and it is ludicrous to expect that we will escape without experiencing trials and tragedies of many kinds. The question is not “if” we will experience grief, but when we will experience it and how we will respond. When we respond well, the process of working through the pain and grief generally results in depths of character, wisdom and perspective we would not otherwise achieve. God even tells us that He will use these tragic experiences to mature us and complete us. If we don’t respond well, it may bring our journey to a virtual stand still and throw us into a perpetual loop in which we are constantly moving but never advancing.

I do not want to make light of the tragedies we’ve witnessed in the past week, but I also don’t feel it important for me to go overboard in my reaction and response. I’m simply trying to keep things in perspective as I cover my own heavy heart with a joyful face and advance into another day, and another work week of the journey.