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Category Archives: Texas

If you follow the media, or politics, or the Web, you may be forgiven for concluding that we Texans are a bunch of inbred pistol-packing sociopathic illiterates.

I should like to point out that this is not altogether true. We have a well-established literary world here, and every once in a while a reasonable chunk of it gets together and talks books. And publishing, and writing, and selling.. anything to do with books…

Being a lifelong book junkie*, I tend to like to sneak up and listen. In spring there’s a book festival in San Antonio; in fall it’s in Austin. This being spring, I spent last Saturday on the grounds of the San Antonio Public Library Central, walking and talking with book sellers, writers, publishers, and even a stray bookbinder or two.

And as always I shot a few pictures, just because I could.

Library External

I LOVE the color of the San Antonio Library. Reminds me I’m not at home. Houston doesn’t DO that.

typewriter rodeo

This is the “Typewriter Rodeo.” Poets with vintage typewriters, creating poetry on the spot. Some of it’s surprisingly good. Some of it’s unsurprisingly not.

notebook jewelry

She’s a nice lady who sells jewelry, including postage-stamp size notebooks on neck chains. Maybe they’re “I are a writer” badges?


“Tortuga” (that’s his nickname) binds blank journals. They’re a little low on pages but look nice. I’ll keep doing my own.


There were costumed “superheroes” for photographs at the other end of the street, and real ones for answers at THIS end. Guess where I stayed… (I kept my smartass tendencies in check and asked about a couple of old books I’m looking for. She found one of them but the price was absurd. I was somewhat shocked she’d ever heard of it.)

panel dialog

I ducked inside to catch one of the panel discussions that looked like it might be of interest for another thing I’m toying with. (Probably won’t go anywhere….) Robert Jackson Bennett and Lila Bowen were the two panelists for Joe McKinney’s Panel Discussion on WorldBuilding for Science Fiction and Fantasy authors. Short version: Do as much as you have to but talk as little about it as possible.


And then I visited the bookstore in the basement, and then back outside to the market, where of course there were books to buy

courtyard reading

And places to sit down and read them


And, eventually, a bus to catch.

So back to camp I went, and then off in the dawn to Goliad, where The Other Texas had a story to cover. Sort of. That’s coming in a day or so.

* Nobody really remembers when or how I learned to read. I think it was about the time I learned to walk, give or take a few days. Books have just always been there. Both my parents were heavy readers, and reading to the kids was part of the everyday routine until we learned to read ourselves to sleep. We talked books over dinner and frequently wound up with several scattered around the dining-room table when it was over. Dad, for all his flaws, was a magnificent storyteller as long as you didn’t care how true to the book the stories were – my SCUBA-frogman stories included Batman cameos from time to time. Pretty sure that wasn’t exactly in the author’s intent, but it sure made the stories more fun. Mom tended to stick to books as written, but she’d drive me to the library at the drop of a hat and help me carry my stacks to the car, and she’d argue with the librarians when they wanted me to leave at least a couple of books for the other kids. Never underestimate what parents teach, even when they’re not trying.

Couple years ago, for reasons I don’t remember but that made sense then, I signed up for a Yelp! account. Last night I was skimming one of their “latest and greatest” email summaries when my writing partner sent me a message that we needed to get together today. Okay, I thought, this place looks interesting… Let Us Go Explore, because we’re writers and that’s what writers do, right?

The barista is Heather. She rocks.

So we did, and… Long story short, I now have a new favorite coffee shop. The Campesino Coffee House is in an old brick house (maybe 1940s?) on Waugh Drive just off the Westheimer Curve, and they have some parking (never enough) and a patio and lots of nice understated color. It’s basically a hip little joint with a Latin flavor – coffee, drinks, etc. from Points South – and it’s not a hard guess that I’d go for that, right?

The café de olla (If you don’t do Spanish you could get away with Café de Oh YEAH!!!) was just right, dark, smooth, and spicy, with just the right bite at the back edge from the cinnamon and spices. Partner was all over the cappuccino, which she said was a good match for the version she drank when she was working out of Rome…

Several other things on the menu look very interesting; there’s a “Maya Mocha” which is reportedly a combination of coffee, chocolate, and cayenne with a hint of cinnamon. I’m the only gringo I know who actually LIKES the combination of chocolate and cayenne, but I’ve been called weird enough times that it doesn’t bother me any more. They have at least a partial kitchen, offering sandwiches and empanadas and the like, but I’d had a late breakfast/early lunch so I took a pass this time. It won’t matter as I’ll be there fairly often.

Decor is sort of funky mishmash with art and color and bits and pieces of Central American (Salvadoran) folk art fitted in. The front room features a vintage (possibly prewar) Philco radio Just Like Grandpa Used To Have, though from the sound it’s not the original innards. Their website (here) says they’re going for the old Montrose Boho Vibe, and I’d say they’ve got it… It wasn’t crowded at midday midweek, so I can’t say I’d want to be there on Weekend Mornings, but it did seem like a good place to sit with a laptop and work when it’s not busy, and I didn’t notice anyone having problems connecting or staying online (and you can usually tell when it’s not working), so I’m guessing the Free WiFi is solid.

If it weren’t almost ten miles away, it’d be the new Home Away From…

And it may get there anyway.

I’ve never been to Peru, but it’s only one line on the map away from Ecuador, where I may end up, so when the folks at the Houston Museum of Natural Science announced that Peru would be the focus of the February “World Trekkers” gathering, I decided “Eh, close enough!” and sprung for a ticket. So last Friday evening I hopped a bus to a train and then started walking…

A bit of background…

Every few months HMNS hosts “World Trekkers,” a sort of Cultural Night for Members (and Their Kids). It’s mostly for young families to bring their younger persons to the museum, where they get to “experience” a little of another part of the world, in the form of children’s crafts, edible goodies, and usually a folkdance or music group. And, with luck, they learn that there’s more to the museum than a big room with a bunch of old dusty bones and rocks and such.

Mind, a big room with a bunch of old dusty bones and rocks and such was always enough for me as a kid, but back in those days we didn’t have iPads or virtual reality – we only had fire after big storms, and nobody really trusted those “wheel” things anyway… But the world’s changed, mostly for the better, and getting kids to think of learning and having fun in the same sentence is always a good idea.

I digress. Frequently. (Old folks do that. Deal with it.)

As I expected, the event was mostly “kid stuff” – paper mask making, a “Help paint a blanket on the llama” booth, a “Make your own quipu” table, (which drew as many adults as younglings) and so on.

For adults, there was music to listen to, and kids to watch, and a display of incised gourds, hand carved and colored. This is an old Inka art form, now mostly sold to tourists. I stopped to admire.

These are about three inches across, which makes the carvings about as intricate and precise as you think they are. The tops of these are geometric patterns, but if you look down the sides you’ll see traditional scenes of rural life. Others had illustrations of animals, landscapes, and jungle scenes. Sure glad I don’t have to carve those, but I suppose patience is a cultivated skill.

And then, over the speakers – “dancers start in five minutes, right here in the main hall…” and I started looking for a spot.

The performance troupe, Raices del Peru, is local. They’ve been around for years.

This is Roberto Cubias and Beatriz Rozo performing La Marinera, the “National Dance of Peru.” It’s from the northern Highlands.

Most of the dancers in the Raices troupe are young, and the little Panasonics I had with me aren’t really good for fast action in low light, so that part didn’t work so well. The shots that weren’t blurred were out of focus, the shots that were in focus were blurred. I wasn’t getting anything, but couldn’t get to a spot where I could work within the cameras’ limitations without disturbing most of the audience, and I hate it when people do that… so in the end I put the cameras down and just enjoyed the dancing.

I did grab the “shoot the dancers in front of the backdrop” moment, though, because these clothes are so beautiful that I wanted to show them to you.
Textiles and tapestries are one of the major art forms in the Andes, and these are nice examples of the better work.

On the way out I stopped to meet the petting zoo… a squirrel monkey, a guinea pig (cuy), and a chinchilla, and over to the side a young vicuña. I gave some thought to photographing them but I would have had to use flash, and they were skittish already after two hours of being petted, poked, and pestered by a small horde of younglings, so I decided to leave them alone.

Next time for that, too.

Anyway. Reality calls. Time to get back to it.

If you’ve spent much time in rural Texas, especially in the plains, you’ve seen these – the iconic old Aermotor windmill pump. They’re getting rarer now; fewer farms, fewer farmers and, one suspects, more electrical pumps. But they’ve been around, more or less unchanged, since 1888 and that slow squeaking and creaking has been a West Texas soundtrack almost forever, it seems. Change the geartrain oil about once a year and your basic Aermotor will keep on going until the world stops. It’s that simple and that solid.

Had to run up to the old stomping grounds over the weekend to say Bon Voyage to a very old friend, and while I was there Mom pointed out that another friend had noticed the new plantings outside her apartment and commented that “those are so pretty someone ought to take a picture of them.”

Made sense to me….

Expecting (hoping) to spend more time on the road this year.

Home is where you stash the bedroll. And the computers and the cameras…

It’s sort of a monster, but it’s big enough to live and work in for a couple of weeks at a stretch, and I can handle it solo as long as the wind stays cooperative. Also camping is a LOT cheaper than hotels.

So the next step, on a clear and somewhat warmer day, is to spray it heavily with Scotchgard and seal all the seams (it’s already guaranteed waterproof but a little more insurance is worth it.) and let it dry.

On the way to Goliad as soon as I log off here, to see Los Pastorales – a reproduction of an old play/performance the monks at Mission Espiritu Santo and the other early Spanish Missions used to teach the Christmas Story to the Mission Indians. Supposedly it goes from the viewpoint of the Shepherds. Should be interesting, though it’s done in Spanish and that might make it interesting. Words and a gallery to follow.

And there are several hundred pix from MECA’s Las Posadas last week, just waiting to be edited down and have words attached. That’ll have to wait until I get back, though.

That’s all gonna be happening over at The Other Texas, though.

Just for checking, in, though… here’s the first clean photo from MECA:

(Joseph and Mary, having wandered the streets of Bethlehem (with the Old Sixth Ward standing in for the little town) looking for a place to stay, eventually wind up back at MECA, where it’s about to be Party Time.)

Been camped in Mom’s back room for a few days doing the stuff you do when your elders get elderlier, and woke up this morning to find Fort Worth gone all winter wonderland and whatnot….





That’s not actually snow, it’s ice – we had a sleet storm come in about weird o’clock. Something over a hundred crashes this morning around the area, and my truck has neither studs nor chains. Looks like I’m here for a while.

I have food, coffee, running water, and crossword puzzles to work with Mom (one of our long-term hobbies). And intermittent Net access. All life is suffering.


Well, except when it’s not.

Last week I was wandering around at Bastrop, looking at fire damage and getting depressed. Then I found these guys, and they reminded me that there’s nothing to be sad about. It’s just the Wheel turning.

Sometimes you’re on top of the world, and sometimes things just run right over you…. but the Wheel keeps turning, either way.

Let’s hope 2015 has more up than down.

So the batteries are charging and we’ve got a bunch of blank cards; it’s a new year and time to hit the road.

Found myself wrestling with a bad case of cabin fever yesterday afternoon. Lots to do, as always, but the only thing I really felt like doing was throwing on a pack, grabbing a camera bag and my staff, and hitting the trail.

So I did. (It’s pretty hard to get lost here in the Big City with major streets everywhere, but you can lose the sightlines in the park and it FEELS much more “out there” than it actually is.)

It was a very grey day, which kind of limited the possibilities, but I found a few others…

They’re over HERE. Go look. If you’ve got money burning a hole, you can even acquire copies of your very own, suitable for hanging over the sofa, or the desk, or… (And if you don’t have money, or have better things to spend it on (food, housing, whatever) you can still look. Looking remains free.)