Saturday, September 22, 2018

Hat Man Returns


For as long as I can remember, every year at the State Fair, Big Tex as been front and center in his usual spot.  Even after the fire a few years ago most people just take it for granted that he'll be right where he always is and people have no qualms saying "Meet me at Big Tex."

But since he's not a year 'round kind of guy, Big Tex needs help getting up and around every year.  The raising of Big Tex has become a yearly event that attracts not just the media but plenty of spectators.  It's been almost 15 years since I've attended personally so I decided to go this year.  But first, here's a look at the video I shot way back when:

They've managed to streamline the process over the years and can now get him up pretty quick.  If you plan to go next year, here are a few of the things you can expect:

The Press is There - A Lot of Them

All of the local news channels want to start their evening broadcasts with a shot of Big Tex going up on that day.  There can also be some stations outside of the DFW area that show up: Tyler/Longview, Sherman/Denison, etc.  You never know who wants to make the drive out to see the iconic moment.  There's also tons of stringers, freelancers, photographers, bloggers and anyone else who wants to capture the first moment the big guy makes his yearly appearance.

Spectators Are Into It

It's not uncommon for the crowd to bring lawn chairs and a picnic basket for the event.  Like I said earlier, it used to take a lot longer but even now it can still take a few hours to get Big Tex fully dressed (boots and all) and ready for the adoring crowds.  You can see the kid above doing his best Big Tex cosplay and entertaining the crowd.   The event can be a nice little diversion from day-to-day stress.

People Get Inspired

It's not just the Big Tex kid above who gets creative but other local artists as well.  This year local painter Eric Hanson was creating a portrait of the man of honor while the instillation was happening.  Also tons of professional and amateur photographers get shots that might just be entered into next year's Creative Arts contest.

Everyone's In a Good Mood

If you've ever visited the State Fair before then there's a good chance you have at least one fun memory about it.  If you've been several times then you've probably got several good memories.  Since Big Tex is the personification of the fair, seeing him again is a great reminder of all the fun and happiness the fair can bring.  And that shows in the delight people take in the big guy's return.

We live in an overly harsh world so it's always nice when people can come together to ride some rides, eat some food and have a little fun.  And with Big Tex's return, those good times are right around the corner.

Welcome back Big Tex!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Theater Scene

Welcome to Anarene, TX, home of the melancholy and the wistful.  It's the setting of the movie "The Last Picture Show," based on the novel by author and Texas literary icon Larry McMurtry.  The film's setting is in the town of Anarene, based loosely on McMurtry's own small Texas hometown of Archer City (near Wichita Falls).

Archer City has embraced their favorite son and the film that was filmed there so it's still easy to find some of the locations, most notably the downtown movie theater.

The Royal Theater plays a semi-prominent role in the story and ends up going out of business at the end of the movie.  But the real deal is still alive and kicking.  It doesn't show movies anymore but hosts musicians and theater productions instead.

It's on the town square, where most of the action in the movie takes place, and directly across from the courthouse.  For some reason there's very few good shots of the courthouse in the film but I got a pic of it for your viewing pleasure:

The entire film was shot in the small town and parts of the surrounding areas so there's plenty of more filming locations to discover.  Which is what I'll do the next time I'm in the area.  Until then, we'll have to get by on the town's sense of nostalgia:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Here's the Beef


Hope you're hungry because it's time to take another trip to Dairy Queen.  The Minnesota based chain frequently makes an effort to play up its Texas ties and loves to hype up its Lone Star street cred.  They're latest effort involves including a sports icon.

Yep, the Ryan Express is headed straight to DQ Country.  As many know, after breaking records in the MLB, Ryan doubled down on his Texas roots and returned his focus to ranch life.  Over the years his cattle raising hobby turned into a second career.

Nolan Ryan Beef has been available in restaurants, ballparks and grocery stores across the state and beyond but now you can get an NRB burger at your local Dairy Queen.  (Why not Whataburger?  We may never be privy to how the Food Gods, or the Marketing Gods, debate those kind of things).

Any time I post pictures of food on the blog I usually feel the need to apologize.  Food just genuinely needs an entire photography setup with lights and whatnot to really look good.  That's hard to do when you're just trying to discreetly use your phone while trying to not look like one of "those guys" that takes pictures of their food in restaurants.

But, good news!  The 1/3 Pound "Hall of Famer" tastes great!  Or at least it tastes as good as a regular Hunger Buster...which is usually pretty tasty.  I just don't think I have a refined enough palette to tell the difference.  But I do like the idea of eating beef raised by a legendary Texan so I was perfectly satisfied.

Now all I need is a little Mean Jo Green Salsa Verde and we'll really have something...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Good to Go Part 2

Previously:  Good to Go Part 1

Let's have another look at some Dallas shooting locations of the unjustly canceled Fox series "The Good Guys." This time our stop is Fair Park!

In episode #4 "The Dim Knight", an out of town chemical supplier meets with his translator right outside Centennial Hall. As they talk you can see the Hall of State in the background. (Later they go get hamburgers in a part of town that is not too far from there.)

In episode #8 "Silvio's Way" a duo of incompetent thieves target pharmacies. For some reason the producers thought that the Coliseum in Fair Park would make a great pharmacy in the episode...and it seems to work. (Later in the episode the thieves try to rob Raven's Pharmacy in south Dallas.)

In episode #12 Little Things" the guys take part in training kids for the police sponsored "Juniors Officers" program. They conduct the exercises at the Leonhardt Lagoon which is behind the Museum of Nature & Science and in front of the Cotton Bowl.

All right Junior Officers, I've only got one more episode of this show to watch so we'll see if our heroes managed to visit any other famous Dallas locations.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Roadside Highlights: Tyler, TX

If you are anything like me then you agree that it's the odd roadside attractions that make a trip go from good to great. The weirder and more arbitrary, the better. But, like me, you might not think that they all deserve their own blog entry. If that's the case then you might group several geographically approximate roadside attractions into one blog entry.

What a coincidence, so did I!

And since I was recently in Tyler, TX, let's start there.  Awhile back I visited  the historical markers and memorials in downtown's courthouse square but there was one we missed. It is under this unassuming tree on the southeast corner of the square:

And it memorializes Tyler's most beloved squirrel, "Shorty."

Shorty was the beloved courthouse mascot and upon his tragic passing he was honored with this tombstone.

And if dead animals are your thing, you can find plenty at the Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum:

I was going to go on and on about the seemingly endless displays of exotic taxidermy but there is clearly one stand out:

Yes, "Monkeys Playing Monopoly" is truly a work of art and is eerily reminiscent of a recurring childhood nightmare I used to have quite a while ago.  Take a moment to soak in all the elaborate details, from each player's individual name takes to the one monkey brandishing a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

If that's not enough animal hi-jinks for you then stroll down Teddy Bear Lane in the Children's Park to see two giant "wrestling" teddy bears.

It's a nice little park that's hidden away yet relatively close to downtown...and it has giant cavorting teddy bears that look like they're straight out of a Bjork video.  Can't beat that.

Lastly, when you are on your way out of town you can stop and get some coffee at Kickerz.  It's easily identified from the road because...well, you know.

This one is technically in Whitehouse, TX which is just south of Tyler but the draw of a giant hat shaped coffee shop is easy motivation for the 5 minute drive. I recently learned that they are hoping to start a franchise so I'm sure that cowboy hat shaped buildings will soon start popping up everywhere.

And that would be awesome.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sandwich Tour of Dallas Part 2

My Sandwich Sense is telling me that it's time for Part 2 of our Sandwich Tour of Dallas (you can find Part 1 here).

My first stop was a home run. Jimmy's Food Store at Bryan Street & Fitzhugh is part specialty food shop, part sandwich shop and all Italian. It's a small place but it is packed with wine, meat, cheese, sauces, spices and everything that you would need to cook an authentic Italian meal but can't find anywhere else.

The lunch rush was busy but manageable for a newbie like me. Sandwiches are ordered (and made) in the back at a butcher station where you could also pick up any number of meats and cheeses. You can tell the quality of a food spot by a good mix of clientele. Yuppies, hippies and everything in between were ordering the day I went. Good food is truly a unifying force.

But on to my order...check out the Muffuletta. This was a good life lesson for me. Apparently I have no sense of size because I ordered the 9 inch muffuletta instead of the 6 inch and was staggered at how big it was. It could easily feed three people (maybe more). It comes with Mortadella, Ham, Provolone, Genoa Salami, Olive Salad.

The olives were great and meat and cheese are very complimentary to each other. If I have any complaint it's that there was a lot of olive oil. It was really good olive oil but there was too much of it. That being said, I still haven't finished this monster (but I will soon). Next time I'll get the smaller one.

The Angry Dog in Deep Ellum is known for its heavy-sitting, yet tasty bar food. I usually get their signature chili dog but thought I'd go with something lighter to cleanse the palate. They offer a vegetarian sandwich called "The Natural" so I decided to be "that guy."

The Natural comes with Guacamole, Grilled mushrooms, sprouts and Monterrey Jack. While it may seem somewhat minimalist, it actually works well as a filling meal. The large size doesn't hurt either. The guacamole was smooth and creamy and I could have actually used a little more of it (of course, I really like guacamole) but it was relegated to the supporting role that condiments must play in the theater of sandwich.

The mushrooms work well as the "meat" but I could have used a little more "zing" in the seasoning. The bread was soft and for once the texture of toasted bread didn't irritate me. I usually don't get sides (I'm all about the star attraction) but this comes with fries. I would give you some flowery detailed breakdown of them are fries.

The Angry Dog may be known for its "Angry Dog" but Wild About Harry's in uptown also slings wieners for the masses.   Or it least it did for a good, long while.  Unfortunately, this location recently closed but they do still have their Deep Ellum location.

They were known primarily for their elaborate hot dog menu and custom custard but, you know me, I'm all about the sandwich (I don't count hot dogs as sandwiches. Hot dogs are hot dogs and sandwiches are sandwiches.)

I picked up the Italian Beef Sandwich and didn't regret it. Not too big, not too small. The main difference between this and your standard cheese steak sandwich is that they use mozzarella instead of provolone and I have to say I'm glad they did. It creates a melty, gooey mesh with the beef and adds another level of texture to what could have been a by-the-numbers meal.

The meat wasn't fatty but it could have used a little salt or seasoning. The Au jus (which may just be my favorite all time liquid) was great and was readily soaked up by the soft bun.

What other wonders does this town have snugly nestled between tow slices of bread? We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Mysterious Superman Store in Dallas

As I was driving home from the comic book store last Wednesday something odd caught my eye. In the middle of what I assume is the Korean section of Dallas there was a mysterious storefront. While I couldn't read the Asian characters outside of the store there was something distinctly American that I did recognize.

BAM! Superman symbol! With the inverted colors you are probably tempted to refer to this as a Bizarro Superman symbol but notice that the "S" is not backward which makes this strictly non-Bizarro.

But what the heck is this place? They wouldn't be the first non-WB entity to try and use the "S" shield to promote something but I couldn't tell what. Other than the Superman motif there was absolutely nothing to indicate what it is or was. 

And for those that might dismiss this as just a playful decoration that the proprietor thought looked cool, check out the small sign to the lower right of the Asian letters:

Yep, it says "Superman" all right. So what's the deal with this place? I gotta know. This is the point in the blog where you are probably thinking, "Well go inside and ask them, genius!" But, alas, this place was locked up tighter than the Fortress of Solitude:

So it's not a business or at the very least it's not a business where the public is welcome. A new branch of Cadmus Labs perhaps? Did Supes get jealous of Batman, Inc. and start a franchise of his own? Will we ever know for sure?

If you aren't laying awake tonight considering the possibilities then, let's face it, you probably hate America.