Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Winter Walk (San Antonio Style)

It has been two weeks since Mark and I walked on a Sunday morning.  Today made three but I decided late in the morning to go to Hardberger Park for a walk.  We’ve had a few cool days but today started a little warmer than normal at around 60 degrees.  The grayness of the sky gave the walk a winter feel despite the mild temperature.
Most of the trees have lost their leaves and many of the bushes joined the trees in their nakedness.  The ground cover has started to change brown, but significant green remains.  Green never disappears during a normal South Texas winter.  The loss of foliage reveals many fallen trees, some due to nature and some due to park maintenance.  These remnants are left where they fall to rot in place.  Some of the man-made tree trimmings are lined parallel to the paths or nearby in straight lines, also left to decay in the park.  The neatness of the straight line piles belies the primitive feel to most of the park but also hints at some reason or plan.
Although I walked at my normal fast pace it was a reflective walk.  Only a few other people were out and I wasn’t hampered by bikers, dogs or other walkers.  The thinning wooded landscape reveals how close the trail is to the parkway.  Previously I had noted only two or three glances of the parkway.  Now long stretches are visible and a group of homes can be seen through the trees.  Roadway sounds are more noticeable, more annoying.  I looked and found signs of small animal trails through the brush. 
Signs of the various paths through which rain water flows are apparent.  Rocks line these tell-tale water paths as they meander towards the two or three larger park creeks that feed Salado Creek.  Salado Creek can be a killer during the torrential South Texas thunderstorms.  Today the feeders of Salado Creek seem incapable of being part of a larger deadly entity.  Grassy and muddy, harmless.  But sudden storms will morph these shallow dips in the land into the source of flooded streets and worse. 
Winter has bared the park to outside view.  It is no longer an isolated realm, no longer an escape for the city-dweller to pretend he or she is in the country.  The barren park reveals more of itself to the walker.  Life and death exist side by side.  A bird flies by seeking some seed or insect.  Deer nestle hidden in the deeper reaches of the park, seen earlier this year but not today.  Perhaps the scent of dogs has driven smaller animals further away.
The quiet grayness of the park creates an artificial scene, painted by an unseen artist.  A pause to inhale the earthy scent of rotting leaves and trees hint at a once living place.  I patiently wait to see the park go dormant as winter deepens; winter will surely pass and spring will bring life.  
Hardberger Park once again will hide the outside and I can pretend I am in the country once again.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayan Calendar

If you are reading this then world didn't end on December 21, 2012.  The Doomsday Predictors are wrong.  The reason the Mayan calendar ends is:

They Ran Out of Stone

My regular blog will resume on Sunday.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

G is Green Garden

G is a very good letter. Lots of words start with G: gross, garbage, geek, ghoul, galoshes and the title of a new TV show – “Go On.” The show like these words is not giving me inspiration.

Garage and gardens works better for me today. Not much in common you might think. Well think again. Several years ago I started getting my cars serviced at a local garage ( that was highly recommended, after receiving a gigantic repair estimate from a local unnamed-dealership. The cost was considerably lower and with a slightly different emphasis on the essential repairs needed. Three years later the car is still running, and running quite well.

Needless to say the repairs were excellent and I have continued to use this local business. Ownership of two cars, one of which is over ten years old and the second six years old, requires regular visits for basic maintenance and occasional repairs. Our normal family routine is for me to bring in one of the cars at 8 am and my wife will then drive me to work. Later in the day one of my co-workers will drop me off at the repair shop.

You would think that after many visits to the automotive center and the fact that we pass the shop during our normal course of travel several times a month that you would notice various details about the shop. It is near our veterinarian’s office, there is a transmission repair business behind it, a dry cleaning shop next door, across the street is “head shop” and it is down the street from a “hyrdo-colonscopy” center. Don’t ask about the sign on the outside of that business, too weird for words but I have included a picture for your edification.

On my last visit I did notice something that I missed on previous visits or drive-bys (not shootings). A small patch of the grassy parking lot was fenced off and I wondered about it.

“Louie, what’s that?” I asked Louie Jr. when I picked up my car.

“Oh, that’s my dad’s garden.”

Garden and Garage

Louie Jr. went on to tell me that his father maintains the garden during the spring and early summer and grows tomatoes, eggplants, and a small variety of other vegetables. During the peak of the San Antonio summer (plus 95 degree days) he lets the garden go because it is too hot for him to properly work it.  Then as the weather cools down he prepares a winter garden (something that is rather easy in deep South Texas).
Winter garden preparation - December 2012
On my web site ( ) I have a Public Art section that includes a section on a community garden ( in San Antonio. It is unusual for my Alpha-blog series to link to my other interest of documenting the Public Art in San Antonio, but given the chance there is nothing like self-promotion.

One garden is for personal pleasure and the other is for community good. But I am sure that the participants of each enjoy and value their gardens equally.

At least two Oriental restaurants in the area have gardens where they grow various fresh herbs for their use. Once Iris wondered about lemon grass while dining at a Vietnamese restaurant and was given a tour of their garden, tucked between the building and parking lot.

I am a city boy and my gardening skills are limited. My motto is if it is green, it is grass. When I moved into our first home I created and worked a fairly ambitious backyard garden for two or three years. One year a mischievous worker at the garden center switched green peppers to jalapenos to my surprise. At that time I didn’t care for jalapenos but now I rather like them on occasion. My assistant (Iris) fled the garden after too many insect and worm encounters. The heat finally finished me and the garden.

Two years ago I attempted container or patio gardening. A few big containers of tomatoes were planted and maintained for brief time. The heat again killed the plants and my efforts. The concrete patio and containers held too much of the South Texas heat. These days I prefer the farmer’s markets for in-season vegetables and the supermarket the rest of the year.

The message I want to convey is: Gardening is better when left for farmers and auto mechanics.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Bee's Last Thoughts

Roses and colorful flowers entice me constantly. With eagerness and pleasure I seek their sweet, moist and energizing essence; I love them, I need them. I flitter from one to another attracted by their scent and imbibe the flower’s nutrients. One plant to another I float, what a joyful life.

Sometimes clumps of flowers attach to my feet and wings. I deposit them on other plants as I move around, gifts of life as I move from plant to plant. It is my job, my purpose. A cycle of life I am told. What a joy. I drink in life and move bits and pieces of seeds to other places.

I am a traveler, a life giver.

Gusts of wind move me further and further from my nest. I should return, I try but can’t. Now I am lost.

The wind holds me in its grip. I travel without control. High and low I sail, away from the scents and colors near the sandy shore. Trapped by the wind, I go where it takes me.

My wings vibrate to no avail. I can’t return to the land of flowers and sweetness.

Below me is salty water. To drink it is to die. Ahead is a dark mass, solid. Not water.

I urge my weakened body towards the dark mass. The solid mass offers a spot to land and rest. My strength wanes and I drop towards the solid place. No aroma. Nourishment is missing. But I can rest. My wings slow and then stop as I land on the solid thing.

A pink mass is nearby; it projects an aroma of life and moves this way and that way. Closer to my resting spot it comes. I am too weak to flee as it stops next to me.

I garner my diminishing strength and move to it. It is alive. It has an aroma that stimulates me. My proboscis springs to seek sustenance. A dark salty liquid streams out, it is bitter but I drink without hesitation. Not a rose or any other flower I know; despite the bitter taste it is wet and I am thankful for the moment. Perhaps it can give me sufficient energy to return to my beloved roses.

A shadow covers me, air moves and the pink mass crushes me. I die, but not before my apitoxin flows into the pink mass.


Later a man has an anaphylactic reaction and only vaguely remembers the reason.

Inspired by the chance meeting of a bee and me on November 29 while on a cruise ship in port.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

H is Happy to be Home

“Hello Ruby, we’re home.” I call to my dog.

“Happy, man is here. Hungry.” Ruby thinks. She can’t speak but her tail action speaks for her.

We’ve been gone for nine days, our longest vacation in a long time. We had a house sitter (really a dog sitter, but house is an H letter) to watch the house, feed the dog, take care of the mail, feed the dog, take out the garbage, feed the dog, and water the plants; you get the idea that feeding the dog was her primary function. And taking care of any by-products that she may accidently produce indoors.

“Boy, it’s good to be home.” My wife interjects between hugging the dog and hauling in our luggage.

“Hope the dog didn’t leave us any hidden treats.” I begin a search of her habitual spots for depositing hunks of dog by-products (I call them landmines in the backyard). None found, good dog gets a treat.

We left right after the Thanksgiving Holiday with a stop in Houston at our favorite Houston restaurant, Kenny and Ziggy’s Deli . It is our habitual first stop. Kenny and Ziggy’s is across the street from one of Houston’s busiest mall, and it is Black Friday. Horrors. Hordes of shoppers and traffic. I could use a vacation just after this experience alone. Fortunately, my fears were not fulfilled. It was crowded and there was a bit of traffic but bearable.

Corned Beef and Pastrami Sanwich on Rye
We had a great trip except for a wasp bite in Jamaica, a bounced credit card charge due to an entry error and upon return to port found that one piece of our luggage went missing. About 70 miles from home we receive a call, our luggage has been found. Another cruiser picked up our luggage and just arrived home to discover their error. Luck was in our corner because they lived in San Antonio and we would pass by their home to pick up that piece. They now had realized they left a piece in Galveston. It is strange how one person’s luck can be another’s misfortune.

We just drove 260 miles from Galveston Texas to San Antonio and are just happy to be home. The dog is obviously very happy to see us, so she promptly pees. After her initial excitement she drops down and watches us unpack, start laundry, put unworn clothes away and a bevy of other activities. While we are busy and not paying attention to the dog (normally the center of our attention) she pees again.

“Welcome home people. Don’t leave me again.”

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Sunday, December 2, 2012


The previous two posts, Old People Graph from NPR, and Imagine (I in the alphabet soup series) were written and scheduled ahead of their post dates to automatically post during my vacation.  I will post my vacation thoughts soon.  But first I must greet my dog, help my wife with a pile of laundry, dig through a pile of mail at home, emails from both home and work and stare at the empty refrigerator.
My next full blog post will hopefully have been drafted during my vacation, the old fashioned way.  On paper, in my journal.  I don't plan to take my laptop computer with me.  The only electronic gadgets I'll have with me is my Nook Tablet and digital cameras.
A vacation is nothing to do and all day to do it.  The hardest part of a vacation is returning to reality.  I hope the country and world have not gone off the fiscal cliff or to war this past week.
This post was also written before my vacation. 


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