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Monday, August 18, 2014

My Trip to Port Aransas, TX: Goodnight Summer, Goodnight Beach

photo credit: wikimedia

My last trip of the summer takes me to the Texas coast. It's time to go after days of play, but I need one last moment on the shore. 

A few others are there doing the same. They stare out at the gilded waves reflecting the new morning sun. Two thoughts undulate in my head—someone bigger than we are had to organize this, and timelessness mixed with newness. Saltwater and waves have been around since the beginning, but the life within is new and ever-changing. Ancient Greek tragedies and comedies, settlers, explorers and travelers find their stories' epicenter in the ocean. I then remember I'm not alone in my adoration. The opening paragraphs of Moby-Dick speak to humankind's shared fascination with water:

"There now is your unsular city of the Manhattoes, belted by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there…

Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

…There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries…Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever."
Tim Burdick Photography

He goes on to say if landlocked man would find the nearest pond or stream. Artists of landscapes always employ an element of water. A poor man from Tennessee invests in a trip to the beach instead of buying a much-needed coat.

"Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all."

Herman Melville said it best. I have nothing else to say. Now on to fall!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The First Amendment and NYC

A man with long white hair and a beard leans back against the steps reaching up to Federal Hall on 26 Wall Street. He plays the national anthem on his flute. Like the mild summer air coming off the Atlantic, the anthem ubiquitously floats around the Financial District reminding our small group where it all started.

This site was New York City’s 18th-centry City Hall where you could say the First Amendment was born. It’s no wonder newspaperman John Peter Zenger won his fight to print government corruption in his publication—the United States was born out of an intolerance for authoritarian, monarchial governments. Zenger’s acquittal marked a most important founding moment in our history—the freedom to expose injustices is no small potatoes. After all, the press is considered the fourth branch of the U.S. government, and essential part of the checks and balances system.

It was a great surprise to stumble onto this site during my latest NYC trip. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The New York City Cab Driver Who Changed My Life in 10 Minutes

The (New) World Trade Center: Tower 1
My last night in New York City the cab driver taking us to dinner asked me where I was from. “Texas,” I said defensively. Everyone thinks Texans are wealthy because we are from the “Land of Bush and Oil,” so I deflected and asked him where he was from. After more prodding, he started to tell me his story, and it moved me to tears.

He grew up in poverty in Bangladesh but left for New York City 25 years ago at 40 years old. His family wasn't able to come to the U.S. until 12 years after his move.  It took him that long to get legal citizenship and safely bring them over.

He labored long hours for years as bussing tables in a restaurant at an age when his body was already tired. His English was broken, but from what I understood, he said the restaurant owner noticed his work ethic, asked him work as a cook. He soon after applied for his green card. He said after five years he took an exam and then got approval for citizenship.

The mere mention of that day un-furrowed his brows and brightened his eyes. He missed his family and could now move them to New York with him. All this time, his wife and six children were living back in Bangladesh—a country so poor he said most people work 12 hours to earn one American dollar.

Once a legal citizen, his family moved, and he hoped to provide them with a world of opportunities not available to them at home. He started driving a taxicab. He said, as a cab driver, his extended family at home considers him wealthy. He sends a few hundred dollars back to them in Bangladesh. It was obvious from his tone that this act was his pleasure, not a burden or obligation. 

He said he spends his life suffering for others and future generations, as he felt he should. His frame was small, his head and face, bald, and his eyes big, sweet and brown. He looked like a boy with wrinkles. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, but painted a picture of self-sacrifice most of us Americans can’t comprehend. The Dalai Lama calls the U.S. the most individualistic nation in the world—a culture that tends to fend for themselves and nobody else. But Mother Theresa reminded us through her selfless acts that joy is found in serving others. When we serve ourselves it is never good enough.

The cab driver became passionate and said first generation immigrants in America never have it easy so why would he. He then asked about my forefathers. I said my family goes back six or seven generations in the U.S. and five in Texas alone. He reminded me that they probably didn’t have it easy when they first came from Ireland and Scotland to have what I have today. I was humbled. 

In just one generation, he changed the direction of his family's path. He said in the U.S. all you have to do is work hard, but in Bangladesh working hard still ends in suffering and poverty. His hard work is manifest in his six children’s success—his eldest son has his MBA and works in finance, his daughters got their education degrees to teach, and his younger twin sons will soon finish their masters in chemical and electrical engineering.

I learned in my tour of the Financial District that the first immigrant processed through Ellis Island was 15-year-old Annie Moore. She traveled alone with her two little brothers for 12 days at sea. Her parents were already in New York looking for work and new opportunities. They eventually reunited, but the road wasn't easy. She married young, had 11 children but only five lived into adulthood. She died at 47 of heart failure. I can't help but wonder where her descendants are now, but this New York Times piece gives us some clues. 

The cab driver said if he were born in the U.S. he would have studied hard to be a doctor. In Bangladesh he said he was a shaman-like character helping cancer patients and treating other ailing people who couldn’t afford medical care. This guy was not just a cab driver. The bus boy is never just a bus boy, a mother not just a mother, a CEO never just a CEO, and a homeless person never just a homeless person. 

Everyone has a story. We all have something to learn from our fellow humans. 

After ten minutes we arrived at the restaurant. I tipped him and said "thank you for sharing your story." 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Vote for Fort Worth's Best (New) All Around Restaurant

The Assistant Manager,
Tony Hayman.
My vote for best new all around Fort Worth, Texas restaurant in 2014 (never thought I would say this based off the Dallas location in NorthPark) is...wait for it...Kona Grill!

Situated on the corner of 7th and University Drive, this place has great views from the inside out.

The food was fantastic, atmosphere contemporary-chic (whatever that means), and the place kid-friendly. See Tony here? He checked on my son several times. Then the chef came out three times to high-five him.

The place is like a theme park for adults too with their indoor water features, LED-tipped cosmetic trees and fish tanks at eye level. It was loud enough that my 2-year-old could make monkey mating calls and not offend others, but not too loud that I couldn't hear my sister and mother speak.

"My toddler and my tummy were in heaven." 

Then there was the food. It was the best. I got the Miso-Saké Sea Bass with shrimp and pork fried rice and a side of Pan-Asian ratatouille. It was perfectly prepared. I order sea bass almost everywhere I go, and this place got the flakes and flavor just right.

Their kid's menu was brilliant and had many not-so-unhealthy options. My 2-year-old's food was served in an unbreakable massive bento box that he couldn't throw at me (too heavy). It was filled with sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese penne pasta, panko-crusted chicken fingers and a fresh orange carved into the shape of a teddy bear.  WHAAAT? (I know, you wanted to eat that teddy? Me too). Loved it...until he dipped it in ketchup and savored every last bight. Oranges and ketchup, really?
Child's Bento Box (teddy orange in top left mom thought it was a starfish...see below information).

Not to forget that Wednesdays are half-price-bottle-of-wine night, which we didn't know about until we arrived. My mother ordered the table a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay (mostly for herself). I guess all moms need a break.

Monday, March 31, 2014

You Can't Beat Yucatan Taco Stand's Happy Hour

While researching for a story about margaritas for a local magazine, I stopped by Yucatan Taco Stand on Magnolia Ave. Little did I know their tacos are $2 from 2-4 p.m., and their house margaritas are $4. I walked away with a tempura fish taco and a grilled vegetable taco topped with their cojita cheese and fresh cilantro, and a margarita. The total bill was $8.

"You can't beat that," said the cashier.

Nope, you can't.

Muddled jalapeño and cucumber, Republic Plata tequila, 
fresh lime juice and simple syrup served on the rocks.  

If you're wanting a custom margarita, don't be afraid to ask. They have 103 different tequilas to choose from, and ingredients like cucumber, jalapeño, coconut, cinnamon, mint and more to create your perfect margarita.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fort Worth's Friday on the Green is Around the Corner

I love everything about Friday on the Green in the hospital district just off of Magnolia—it's family friendly, has great food trucks, local breweries' beer, fantastic music, and it's free to the public! Not to mention it is more fun to be outside any day (unless a snownadocane strikes...or it's August in Fort Worth). This year they kick off their 6th season 7-10 p.m. Friday April 4.

Friday on the Green only runs Spring through late fall on the second Friday of each month. There will not be an event in August due to the aforementioned horrid August heat. I tried to go in August once and thought I just might die, so I am glad to see they canceled this one. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pizza Snob

It's a good thing you don't have to tip at Pizza Snob (by TCU). It only seems fair to pay for the amazing gourmet ingredients you pick and watch coalesce into a delicious pizza. 

I say this because the service was unorganized, and employees frazzled. I guess that's why they seemed snob...ish.

Maybe they had a bad night.

However, it's a foodie's dream. You get to drool over ingredients like rosemary goat cheese mozzarella, smoked provolone, candied jalapeños, roasted baby portabella mushrooms and buttermilk sauce.

As you move through the line you pick your aforementioned ingredients but are only allowed up to four. Every pie goes for $7.99, and salads start at $2.99 for the tiny one, $5.99 for personal size, and a shared table salad is $8.99. We tried the kale salad, which came pre-dressed. It was pretty good, but a little
sweet for my taste. The ingredients were fresh and tasty even if it wasn't savory. 

You know how I feel about atmosphere—as you can see by the pictures it is warmly lit, friendly and well designed. I really liked the feel of the place. The only problem was my friend couldn't hear my small voice over the loud room. 

Overall, I would recommend this place. It is a new way to do pizza, but not the fast-food-feel I expected from my experience at Pie Five. They had the doors and windows open, which brought us outside on a beautiful night. 

And don't forget to order one of the two delicious craft beers they have on tap—Revolver's Blood and Honey and Rahr & Son's Blonde!!

Spicy Italian and Custom Veggie