Monday, May 13, 2019

MMs - 5.13.2019 - "...I am NOT spontaneous!!"


adjective: performed or occurring as a result of a sudden inner impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus.

Our son and grandson were in Vancouver last week, exploring one of British Columbia's prettiest cities prior to boarding a cruise ship headed to Alaska. It's a Senior Graduation trip for our grandson (and a bucket list item for our son).

When Barb and I go on a trip, I have a notebook full of schedules, maps, time-tables, telephone numbers and emergency contacts. And duplicate documents reside on my iPad. And some of them also reside on a thumb drive that I carry on my key chain. The travel book, in all its forms, is the culmination of a well-developed, time-tested check list that currently has 54 items to tick off before we're ready to go. I am a nervous traveler, and I am NOT spontaneous.

But the title quote about spontaneity was not from me. It was from my son, and because he is my son this trip was just as carefully scripted. I didn't see his check list, but I did see his folder. This trip was carefully scripted, with all the stops, sights and attractions carefully arranged and in good order. 

I'm proud of him.

So it was a little surprising to receive a message with a photo of a soccer game getting underway between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers. Obviously they were at the game - and I knew it was not on the itinerary.  The accompanying text said, "This is what happens when you vacation with a son who says, as you walk past the stadium, "Hey look, they're playing. You want to go?" And it was followed by another text that said, "You guys need to know I am NOT spontaneous!!"

I'm not exactly sure why, but this brought to mind a moment of spontaneity... on the part of  my father. I would not describe my father as a spontaneous person, though I recognize from my own behavior that age has a great deal to with spontaneity, so I may not know the whole story. Nevertheless. One evening in 1955 or 1956, my father, mother and I were returning to Breckenridge from a week-end visit with my aunt in Fort Worth. It was probably a Sunday evening, and as we approached the outskirts of Mineral Wells at dusk, my father saw that the movie "Oklahoma" was showing at a drive-in theater. He pulled in, paid the attendant, and we watched Curly woo Laurey away from Jud (poor Jud) with song and dance!

I thought my mother was going to get out and start walking home.

The conversation was brief, but intense, and I suspect there was a paucity of conversation for the next week or so, but my father - who was not much of a movie-goer - wanted to see Oklahoma, and it was showing at a drive-in near us, and it was the right time of the evening, so we stopped to watch it.

And so it was that my son and his son were passing a stadium, and secretly they always wanted to watch a professional soccer game, and it was the right time of the evening, so they turned in, paid the attendant and watched it. And nobody threatened to walk home.

I'm proud of them.

Monday, May 6, 2019

MMs - 5.6.2019 - Port A - after the storm

Just off the ferry, Port Aransas looks deceptively normal; the Souvenir shops are lined up as usual - though with fresh paint. There’s a new hotel right by the ferry landing, and here and there signs of construction and remodeling, but all-in-all, surprisingly normal. It has, after all, been almost 2 years  since Harvey devastated the island. Our first response was “Everything is back except the Sand Castle,” our condo of choice for the past many years.

Then you begin to notice the RVs and trailers parked on almost every previously open space. And that many of the businesses you pass are not actually open. And there are chain link fences blocking access to a lot of beach front properties. There are gaps here and there where houses and businesses have been bull-dozed and the debris hauled away. No Castaways restaurant on that corner. An A-Frame house peeled to the structural timbers on this block,

Barb has been calling the Sand Castle on a regular basis, checking on progress. Each call results in longer and longer estimates of guest readiness. Then we began hearing that the Sand Castle might not ever recover. She's called a few other places, but they were too expensive, or too far from the beach. Finally she found a place worth trying. Plus, she was getting very beach needy.

We’re staying at the Beach Gate condos - a little less than a mile further down the beach from the Sand Castle. The room is nice; spacious, all new appliances, furniture and decor (of course), comfortable chairs and 3 couches to nap on. Normal sized widows don’t allow the best ocean viewing, but there’s a spacious balcony. You can hear every step the upstairs neighbors make (and I’m sure the downstairs folks hear us as well). Biggest drawback; the elevator is in the adjacent building and there’s a long, circuitous path to get here from there. It’s that or very steep stairs. We don’t do stairs well. Or stairwells.

Port A is desperate for business. We were warmly welcomed at Beach Gate. The manager fetched a dolly and stacked our bags and boxes of beach-needs on it, then led us on the roundabout route to our room. He carried in our baggage, demonstrated our fancy key-less door lock and assured us that he was on premises 24 hours a day.  Call him if we needed anything. We give it a "we can stay here" - if the right rooms are available.

We mentioned the rumors that the Sand Castle wasn’t coming back. He said there was an owners meeting last week, and they were told it would be 2 more years before repairs could be completed. He said all those owners were still on the hook for mortgages, dues and insurance in the meantime, with no revenue stream and hopelessly bogged in an insurance and relief claims quagmire. He seemed to doubt its viability. We drove by to take a look, and while scaffolding no longer surrounds the building, there are no visible signs of any work going on.

With the exception of the now-demolished Castaways, all of our favorite eating places are open and eager for business. We ate at Fins Wednesday night, with the waitstaff very solicitous of our comfort. “It’s pretty cool in here. Are you all sure this is okay?” And there  was no visible indication that the storm parked a big boat or 2 in the dining area of Virginia’s on the Bay. And the slaw and beans sides are still served in tiny 1oz cups. Business as usual.

The Coast Guard station that was adjacent to Virginia’s is being demolished. As we were leaving, we heard a big bang and looked up to see the metal infrastructure toppling to the ground. Went by the UT Marine Biology facility that was severely damaged and saw only work vehicles. Glass installers for the most part.

Trout Street had a big "NOW OPEN" sign. Our waiter said they could have opened earlier, but there wasn't enough tourist traffic to warrant it. Everyone is really hoping that this summer will be the turning point, tourist wise.

Most satisfying, though was to discover that my favorite eclectic coffee and gelato shop was still in business. And they were just as happy to see us. That’s where I snapped the picture of the quote above.

Monday, April 29, 2019

MM's - 4.29.2019 - Related, or not related. That is the question.

Several years ago I spit in a test tube and sent it off to to run a DNA check and tell me who my ancestors were. Or, at least, where they came from. I did this before it became known that these DNA tests could identify you as the scoff-law who did not come to a complete stop at a stop sign on the corner of N10th and Willis, back in 1965. But what's done is done. I took the test.

And said I was (surprise) descended from folks from England and Ireland, with a few other tribes mixed in, which were something of a surprise. Specifically, they said my Ethnicity was made up of the following estimates:

Great Britain 46%
Ireland/Scotland/Wales 21% 
Scandinavia 14% 
Europe West 12% 
Iberian Peninsula 3% 
Europe East 2%
Finland/Northwest Russia 1%

So, small as the percentages were, it was surprising to see Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula and Northwest Russia in the mix.

So, a few days ago I got an email from saying that my "distribution was now more precise." They went on to say, "Your DNA doesn’t change, but the science behind it does. Using our latest research, Ancestry implements regular ethnicity updates to keep your results as precise as possible." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I sort of think that it says "Earlier, we took a SWAG estimate, but we've sort of figured out what we are doing, so this one is a little closer to the Right Stuff.

And the new Ethnicity Estimate listing is:

England, Wales & Northwestern Europe: 59%
Ireland & Scotland: 38%
France: 2%
Germanic Europe: 1%
No more Scandinavians, Iberians, or Rooskies in the mix. I confess that with today's political climate, that does make me feel a little better - and it does seem to be a better fit for the actual ancestors that I know about.
Frankly, I'm still unsure what it all means, except Ancestry .com says there is a very high chance that I'm closely related to Steve Alfred, Jacob Gann and Chadric Head - along with about 2000 other 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins,

And I'm pretty sure the statue of limitations has run out on that stop-sign thing, no matter what the DNA evidence says.

Monday, April 22, 2019

MMs - 2.22.2019 - A small mystery

Barb came across this ring the other day - tucked in the back of a drawer. And it is the small mystery that I refer to. Small, in that it won't fit on an adult's finger, and a mystery as to where it came from and what it was doing in her drawer.

I have, in my life, purchased 4 rings. The first was my high school senior ring. Hail to the Buckaroos.

The second was an engagement ring, purchased from Hugh Bowie, a jeweler in Abilene who became a wealthy man selling engagement rings to ACU, HSU and McMurray college swains, in 12 easy payments. I recall that I secreted that ring away inside a can of tennis balls until it was time to present it to the girl I was going to marry. Luckily, none of my roommates were into tennis at the time.

The next two rings were matched wedding bands that Barb and I picked out and purchased from a jewelry store in Port Lavaca. I don't remember the name of the store, or how we paid for them at the time. A quick look at old newspaper records from Calhoun County show only adds from Cantu's Jewelry and Pawn. I don't think that was the place, but hey! We were poor college students at the time.

So, that brings us to the mystery ring. We're pretty sure Barb didn't buy it. Apart from her wedding ring, she's not a ring-wearer. She has an assortment of necklaces that she has acquired; some of her choosing and more than a few as gifts from her Burmese Ladies, who make such as artisans, but no rings.

It has a "Made in China" tab on the bottom of the box, so I'm pretty sure it is not a long-lost ring of great value and will not be listed in the Estate - although, if you look very, very close (and that photo was taken with the assistance of a 10X magnifying glass) there are teeny, tiny bits of gem-like glittery things on this ring. Two in the setting and a number of smaller (if possible) ones on the sides. You never know.

So, if you are a small person who wants a ring with teeny, tiny bits of gem-like glittery things on it, that may, or may not, turn your finger green, come on by.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday Meanderings - 4.15.3019

We meandered this week!
Yep. The wildflowers are abundant this year, so we took our triennial trip into the Hill Country to frolic among the flora. Johnson City, Fredricksburg, Willow City Loop and Llano.

Some observations:

It takes a lot of wading through construction and highway congestion to get to the Hill Country these days. Not only the utter chaos of I-35 construction and the crawl through the Y at Oak Hill, the route is just an extension of Austin traffic congestion far into the countryside. Dripping Springs - once a little wide spot on down the road - is now nearly in the Austin city limits.

Fredricksburg continues to have the highest concentration of tourists per square inch than anywhere else in Texas. On a Wednesday. With schools still in session.

The Hill Country should be renamed the Wine Country. Forget Napa Valley - the wineries here are more numerous than tourists. And we lost count of the breweries and distilleries and brew pubs along the route. Producing adult beverages is driving the business boom in these parts.

The wildflowers were beautiful. The right-of-ways were continuously colorful along the entire route. We thought at first that the Willow City Loop was going to disappoint, but about half-way through the drive, swaths of White Prickly Poppy standing tall above fields of Bluebonnets and Paint Brush began to dominate, providing photo opportunities like the one above.

About the only disappointment of the trip was not being able to work out the timing for a stop at Cooper's in Llano, but we did have BBQ in Fredricksburg, so all was not lost.