Thursday, November 29, 2012

Count on Texas to Do It Up Big

Houston to San Antonio
November 27
We got to Houston just in time for what we imagine will be the first of many tasty Mexican meals.  We spent the morning visiting some of the city’s underappreciated unique attractions, then were on our way to San Antonio, about three hours away.

Here are our Houston highlights:

 Glenwood Cemetery:  Dick saw a photograph of a majestic oak tree at the Telfair Art Fair last month, and scrounged the internet to figure out where it was. We made a special trip to find it here.  (We also found the grave of Howard Hughes.)

 Catalina Coffee: You would never notice it if you weren’t looking for it, it is in a pretty undistinguished neighborhood across the street from the Goodwill Store, and the furniture inside looks like it was probably purchased at Goodwill, but this place is packed, and once our lattes arrive we understand why.  They are beautiful to look at, and the coffee is the best we can remember tasting anywhere. I hover around the espresso machine hoping to see how they make the delicate designs in the foam, and the Barrista, Max, is happy to provide a detailed demonstration of his technique (the secret is in the consistency of the foam--not too airy, so that it pours pliably, then there is the part about gently sort of painting with a thin stream of foam that I will have to practice a bit at home). 

More than Mount Rushmore: David Adickes has sculpted a huge collection of gigantic Presidents’ heads, and they are lying all over the place around his studio in Houston.  Some are behind a barb wire-topped fence, but Barack Obama and George Bush are right out where you can touch them if you want.  Bill Clinton is behind the fence looking over President Obama's shoulder--how symbolic is that? 

And, if 20 foot tall President heads aren’t enough to get excited about, at the back of the fenced in lot, the Beatles are sculpted over six times life size.

 “39,000 cans of beer on the wall, 39,000 cans of beer . . .”:  That’s right, this house is aluminum sided using beer cans.  It has a front gate made of beer can lids, a unique beer tab curtain/wind chime hanging from the eaves over the front porch, and many other whimsical design elements fashioned from beer cans.  John Milkovisch decided to decorate his home with beer cans after he retired in 1968, and he spent the next eighteen years creating this masterpiece, using cans from beer he and his neighbors consumed. He died in 1988, and the home is now owned and maintained by a folk art preservation foundation.

 There are lots of other offbeat and larger than life attractions scattered about Houston, but we must be on our way.
We are getting hungry around Columbus, Texas, and see a sign for Jerry Mikeska’s Famous BBQ, which doesn’t look like much on the outside, except that the parking lot is full of pick-up trucks.  Inside, WOW, the walls are covered with stuffed animal heads and big fish, and the smell is heavenly smoky.  The old guy behind the counter is Jerry--we recognize him from the many pictures of him with celebrities like Miss Texas Teen USA and politicians, including Rick Perry.  He takes a pile of bills from the register, kisses it, and heads to the back room before making the rounds of all the tables to greet his friends and neighbors and ask us where we are from.  He’s been in business 66 years, and still comes to work every day, but he has cut back to just six hours a day--“It makes a difference to have the owner on the premises,” he says.  And, no, he did not shoot all the game on the walls, he bought them.

Once in San Antonio our first stop is the Greenhouse Gallery, where we spend a very long time looking at very good paintings, but not buying anything--yet.

 Then it is time to check in at O’Casey’s Bed and Breakfast in the beautiful Monte Vista Historic District, where we will actually stay for two nights, a welcome respite to our daily driving routine. 

 The Australian B&B owner, Madonna, recommends a couple restaurants within a short walking distance, and later shows up to order take-out at the Italian restaurant where we are dining.  She ends up joining us for dinner, and we end up learning about her eclectic life, with grown children scattered on three continents and a six month old baby here at the B&B, but not for long, since her family is moving to West Point in two weeks, where her military husband will work for two years until he retires, and she will live amidst snow for the first time.  Her energy is enviable, and by this time, our energy is about gone.

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