Sunday, October 21, 2018

Eat and/or Be Eaten

As you can imagine, the "East Texas Zoo and Gator Park" in Grand Saline is packed with various wildlife but the main event is definitely the gators.  And the best part of watching gators is: feeding time!  Each day at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM a park employee will bring out the feeding bucket the frenzy begins!

The gators' menu seems to consist of (at least during scheduled feeding times) chopped up chicken parts.  When a piece hits the ground it doesn't take long to end up inside a gator's belly.  Here's a little glimpse at supper time:

 If watching that makes you work up an appetite then the Park has a way to turn the tables and put you in the role of predator by offering a small selection of dishes with alligator meat at the Park's Grill (bottom left):

Behold the Gator Kabob!!

A little small for the price but the gator meat was fantastic.  It was perfectly seasoned and well textured.  The old cliche is that it "tastes like chicken" but this had more of a red meat vibe, probably since it was grilled with similar spices that would be used on a steak.  It wasn't gamey at all.  The veggies were good too!

So whether you're interested in gators eating or eating gators, this place is definitely worth a stop!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Jobe to the Future


"Amazing Stories" was an ambitious mid-80s attempt to capture a little Twilight Zone lighting in a prime time bottle.  As with any anthology, there were hits and misses but it's widely regarded as a show that was "pretty good."

The third episode of the series caught the attention of a young "me" since it featured a world famous landmark I had recently visited...the Alamo!  The legendary Texas battle site was having a bit of a Hollywood renaissance with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Cloak & Dagger making use of the location and now it was time for a small screen adventure.

The elevator pitch for the episode is: a fifteen year old volunteer from the Battle of the Alamo is transported to present day (A.K.A. 1985).  And that's also pretty much a summary of the episode too.  It's not what you would call a very plot heavy entry into the time travel genre.

The story begins during the battle (and uses footage from the John Wayne Alamo movie from 1960) and our hero Jobe (Kelly Reno from the Black Stallion movies) name checks fellow Alamo heroes William Travis and Davey Crockett and is given instructions to take a note to "General Lefferts" on "Shuttlecock Road."

While this is going on, Jobe keeps seeing 1985 tourists pop up in the mission, seemingly unaware of the carnage surrounding them.  He even hears some unfortunate news about the ultimate fate of the Alamo defenders from a tour guide (who probably hasn't gotten to the part about adobe or corn yet).

Sure that's a freaky thing to see but Jobe's a totally pro and is determined to deliver the note.  But now it's his turn to time travel on his way out of the Alamo.  After a quick visit to the 1985 gift shop he's kicked out by one of the staff.

If I were to ask you, does that door look familiar?  You'd probably say, "Yeah, that's the door to the Alamo."  But you'd be wrong.  And I'd really stick it in your face in the smuggest way possible.  And then you would walk away from me and I'd be left alone once again with my useless trivial knowledge.

That being said, the Alamo doesn't allow people to film there.  So any time you've seen a movie or TV show at the Alamo, you've seen a sound stage.  This particular faux Alamo door was built for the film "Cloak & Dagger":

And at this point, just as Jobe must come to the realization that he's in another time (which he never really seems to do), we must realize that this episode is passing off Los Angeles as San Antonio.  But at least they make an effort to hide it.  Check out this matte shot:

Well now it's time for some fish-out-of-water shenanigans as Jobe hijinks his way across pseudo-San Antonio in the 80s, while encountering tons of sights and sounds that should freak him out but never really do.    It wasn't too long before it was time for a a classic trope:

Yep, out-of-towner guy meets hip guy.  In this instance the "hip guy" is a break dancer who tells Jobe that he digs his "funky cap."  Just as Jobe seems mildly curious yet mostly uninterested in the future things he see, the people he meets seem to feel relatively the same way. 

I guess seeing somebody walking around San Antonio dressed in buckskins is like seeing someone dressed as a Disney princess in Anaheim.  After awhile it just becomes a fairly common part of your work week.

After some additional fun involving bus rides, pay phones, a stolen horse and a police chase, our hero finally gets to his destination.  There was no "General Lefferts" involved with the real Alamo and the real San Antonio doesn't seem to have a "Shuttlecock Road" so don't feel obligated to go on your own Jobe-esque quest the next time you're in town.

The fictional Leffert had a fictional descendant who runs a fictional antique shop where Jobe finally ends up to deliver the note.  Mission Accomplished!  With that done he returns to the Alamo and presumably his own time.  But before he gets there he gets directions from this helpful citizen:

So does this mean that Jobe survived the Battle of the Alamo and had kids?  It's not really clear and I'm not anticipating a follow-up any time soon so we'll all just have to write our own Amazing Stories fan usual.

So once again our beloved Alamo has made its presence felt in popular culture and we all plan our next family road trips to the real San Antonio.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Top 5 Things For Sale at Corpus Christi in the 80s


The Legend of Billie Jean was a teenage rebel movie that was smack dab in the 80s.  It was released in 1985 and takes place (and was filmed in) in the Corpus Christi/Padre Island area.  Helen Slater stars as a well meaning teen who (after an unfortunate chain of events) has taken just about as much crap as she's gonna take and goes on the run from the law with her friends and kid brother.

According to IMDb, the entire film was shot on existing practical locations so you get a good look at that area of Texas in the 80s.  And since the kids always need provisions, you also get a good look at some of the old products that were on the shelves at the time.

So instead of the usual gift shop browsing I thought I'd take a look at what I thought were the Top Five Things For Sale in the movie...or rather the Top 5 Things For Sale Corpus Christi in the 80s.

5.  Gasoline

Any rebellious road trip requires frequent fuel stops.  Movies like these can be snapshots into the culture of the time and one of the things I always keep an eye out for is gas prices.  In the movie gas clocks in at $1.05 per gallon, which seems a little high for '85 but South Padre is a tourist spot so things can get a little pricey.

4.  Almost Home Cookies

Like a lot of discontinued food items, Almost Home Cookies have a bit of an online following.  They were billed as a "homemade" style cookies and were one of the first "soft baked" cookies on the market.  A lot of people forget about the stranglehold that crispy cookies used to have on the market and these were meant to push back against that crunchy agenda.

3.  G.I. Joe Solid State Deluxe Walkie Talkies

This must have been product placement because these babies get a nice close up.  The gang needed to communicate with each other and in 1985 you needed a wheelbarrow to carry around what passed for a cell phone so walkies were the next best thing.  Like most kids of that era, they came in handy when outwitting authority figures.  Another great character touch in the film is the I.O.Us the gang left behind when they needed to "acquire", ya know...they mean well.
 2.  LaserDisc Players

The Lasers Disc format came and went in what seemed like a hurry.  People will swear that they were only around for a year or two but they actually hung on for several years and made an appearance in the movie.  Billie Jean and friends essentially invent social media by recording messages on a "Betamovie" camera and sending them to the media, thereby gaining "followers" of their exploits.  So maybe Laser Discs and Beta tapes weren't particularly prophetic but people's reactions and the cultural influence of self-created media definitely was. 

1.  Matchbox City Garage  

I guess Matchbox didn't have deep pockets like Hasbro because these things were stuck in the background.  For a young boy in the mid 80s there was nothing better than rolling your toy cars around a beauty like this.  Hot Wheels had a similar model but the City Garage has a little more charm if you ask me.

Honorable Mention:  These Wig Holders

These things caught my eye and while they're not technically for sale (the wigs are though) I thought I'd give them a participation trophy.  Mainly because they reminded my of the neck work done by stretchy superheroes like Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four.  I've seen plastic heads that hold wigs before but never the stretchy neck variety.  And now you've seen them too.

So that's a lot of nice finds for a movie I had never heard of until a few months ago.  Surprises are nice but surprises involving laser discs, G.I. Joe and cheap gas are the best.

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.