Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: Bamboo House

Previously:  East Texas Burger Company 

Typically in Texas (or across much of the U.S.) "Asian Cuisine" is usually found in strip mall buffets filled with radioactive red sweet sour & sauce and deep fried shrimp that would best be used as packing material.  Occasionally though, you can find the rare cherry blossom tree among the thorny briar patch of subpar "Take All You Want, Eat All You Take" establishments.  Which brings us to the Bamboo House in Bonham, TX:

The outside windows boast "Sushi" and "Pho" so that's what we decided to try.  But the menu was fairly extensive and could surely provide enough options for the most eclectic groups of dining companions.  So let's head inside:

The mellow, intimate atmosphere easily lends itself to cozy conversations regarding menu selections and topics like: "Wow, that looks good!  Let me try some!"  We got there a little after the lunch rush so the crowds had gone which makes it hard to gauge the quickness of service with very few other patrons needing to be served.  But everything came out in a timely manner.  So let's start with the first course:

Let's start with something simple:  "Salmon Sushi."  It's a simple starter that's reasonably priced but it sets the scene for a satisfying meal in the simplest way: with the high caliber ginger and wasabi.  You might not think that there is a big difference between great garnishes and mediocre ones but the sinus clearing effect of even the tiniest amount of this wasabi proves that the good stuff makes a big difference.  Let's keep eating:

Course #2: "Tuna Roll"!  Sure, we're keeping it simple as far as sushi goes but it's not too hard to be hesitant when ordering raw fish this far away from the ocean.  But fortunately this one was also a winner and could easily go toe to toe (or fin to fin) with the equivalent from some fancy pants place.  Onward we go:

Final Course: "Pho Dac Biet"  We finished off our meal with a big bowl of their famous pho described in the menu as "Rice noodle soup w. special combination of steak, well done brisket, & meatballs"

The great tasting, flavorful broth compliments the three types of meat, each with their own unique taste.  It's a great finish to a not so common Texas meal and a great way to refuel on the road to your next adventure. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cowboy (Back) Up

Last year we were there when the historic Neon Big Tex came down from his perch at Centennial Liquor on I-35 in Dallas.  It was a roadside highlight along the highway for many years but all good things must come to an end.

But the good news was that our glow-in-the-dark buddy was acquired by the great State Fair of Texas and, just like his historic big brother, will be making yearly appearances at the Fried Food Capital of the World:

You can find him between the Cotton Bowl and the Lagoon during the Fair.  Due to various regulations, he has to come down after the Fair but, rest assured, the plan is to bring him back every year.

So in between corn dogs and Tilt-A-Whirls take some time to visit a little State Fair history in all its bright light glory and feel free to give him a great big "Howdy!"

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Junk Find Five: First Monday Oct 2016

It's time to revisit one of our favorite recurring blog entries where we go to flea markets and swap meets in Texas and find five interesting things for sale. They may provide some interesting insight into Texas Culture or they may not.  But they are the five items that caught my eye on that particular trip.

This time we head to First Monday in Canton, TX for multiple reasons:  it's one of the biggest, some say it's the best and, most importantly, it's relatively close to where we live.  Let's see what we found!

So this time, instead of just scoping out an arbitrary selection of oddities, I decided to go with a theme.  Let's call it "Nature."  All our finds today either had to be dug up, skinned or otherwise liberated from mother nature.  Here's what nature's bounty had to offer:

5. Skulls - Various Animals/Sizes

The best part here is the variety.  If you're in the market for the a small mammal skull then odds are you can find what you need at this booth.  What's your pleasure?  Muskrat skull?  Skunk skull?  With jaw?  No jaw?  One stop shopping.

4.  Barite Rose Rocks

The official state rocks of Oklahoma are so rare that they are almost only found in the Sooner State.  These aren't the best formed ones we've seen but their still pretty good.  The unique way they are formed makes them look like their namesake roses and the Oklahoma red dirt gives them their appropriate color.

3.  Bear Skin Rugs

So apparently bear skin rugs are a real thing.  They usually only exist in cartoons and 1970's cologne advertisements but it looks like they can also be found at First Monday.  Even though the usual cliche is to relax on one of these in front of a roaring fireplace, these guys seem a little too creepy to be relaxing.

2.  Big Honkin' Rock Slab Tables and Chairs

If you ever wanted to feel more like Fred Flintstone in the comfort of your own home then these beauties are for you.  Sure they're a little pricey and probably extraordinarily difficult to move but you can't deny how cool these things look.  Can't wait to see their rock slab recliner and loveseat.

 1.  Cobra Vertebrae Necklace

You may be "cool" but are you "Cobra Vertebra Necklace cool"?  Probably not.  Only a certain kind of person could pull off adorning themselves with the bones of a poisonous snake.  If you're not sure that's you then you can work your way up to it with the Cobra Vertebra Bracelet.

It was a great haul this time around.  We'll see what we get at the next flea market...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

State Fair (1962) at the State Fair!

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "State Fair" has been adapted to film several times.  The setting is the Iowa State Fair but my favorite film version was made in 1962 and the setting was changed to the "Texas State Fair."  It starred Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and Ann-Margret and was filmed at Fair Park home to the State Fair of Texas!

The film follows a family as they take their prized pig to compete at the fair.  As they head to Dallas you can see how the skyline has changed over the years:

The majority of Fair Park's art deco architecture is all pretty much the same today as it was in the sixties.  You can see that the main difference at the front gate today is the addition of a handy DART Station:

You can see that Big Tex has changed a little too, particularly his hat and his waving hand.  Like many celebrities might have had a little nip and tuck as well:

The midway arches are still around and still welcome excited kids to come play and ride.  Since there are a couple of arches at the Fair Park, I'm not sure if the arch in my picture (bottom) is the same one from the this scene of the film but you can tell that the design has stayed the same:

The trees near Big Tex have grown as you can see in these comparative shots of the entrance to the Grand Place building.  Big Tex is barely visible through the trees today:

And some of the art deco decorations on the outside of the Tower Building made a good backdrop for the film and are still appreciated by Fair visitors today.

So check these places out when you visit this year.  And if you'd like, feel free to frequently break into song like the did in the movie.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

When World's Kaleid

The great thing about the "World's Largest" things is that they typically are NOT the world's largest.  But it's not about the size, it's about the chutzpah of deciding to claim that this particular object is the biggest in the world without actually confirming it.  There's nothing more Texan than that.  So with that, we present the "World's Largest Kaleidoscope" in Dallas:

We need not mention what may or may not be in Mount Tremper, NY, and instead we check in at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.  The hospital is designed from top to bottom to be appealing to kids.  From fresh popped popcorn to elaborate train sets, there is plenty of distractions for sick kiddos.  Not the least of which is the "World's Largest Kaleidoscope" which come complete with a plaque that says so:

Take note of the ever important caveat that this is in fact a "Leaded Stained Glass Kaleidoscope" which lends legitimacy to the "World's Largest" claim.  These are the types of details that are important when making claims about an object's place in the world.

All it takes is a push of the very pushable Big Red Button on the left and the show begins.  Nothing left to do but sit back, watch and let the meds kick in.


The still pics don't really do it justice since, you know...it's kaleidoscope...and it moves but that's all you get today.  And if you're wondering if there is more of a Texas angle than just location then check out the Texified stained glass:

Starting at the top and going clockwise, we've got the state of Texas, a longhorn, a cowboy hat, a space shuttle and a group of oil derricks...not to mention the big Lone Star.  That's more than enough to qualify as an interesting bit of Texana.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Matchbook Memories: Aquarena Springs


Yes, the touristy mecca that was once known as Aquarena Springs still exists in some form today and, yes, they are doing good, educational work but for those of us who were there in its heyday, there is nothing like the original product.  Which brings us to our next Matchbook Memory:

In case you're not familiar, Aquarena Springs was a magical tourist destination in Central Texas where pigs swam, mermaids drank soda under water and...I don't know, do you really need more than that?

There were also glass bottom boats and a hundred other cool things that Disneyland couldn't come close to touching. At some point it went out of business and now exists as a part of the Meadows Center For Water and the Environment and is run by the state.

Pretty much all that remains from before are the glass bottom boat rides with more of a focus on education instead of finding dead bodies in the river.  But of course, we can always relive the good old days via vintage postcards from the 80's:

You can see on the map below that the park was surprisingly sprawling and a lot of care went into providing unique attractions.  Also worth noting in the map are artistic renditions of a dwarf salamander (which was one of the native wildlife boasted to be thriving in the park) and the star of Aquarena Springs, Ralph the swimming/diving pig!

With the heyday of the park in the past, mementos like these are the best way to remember the charm of an old school roadside destination.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

History in the Making

A recent trip along the back roads of East Texas led us to a quick stop at the Rusk County Depot Museum which had tons of history on display in the form of documents, antique equipment and restored buildings.  There is way too much to cover in one blog entry.

I also didn't have a lot of time for this stop so I spent most of it strolling the grounds to check out the old buildings.  One thing I learned was that I was genuinely interested in knowing how brooms were made.  I honestly didn't know this until I came here.

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All right, so brooms don't grow in the wild...we've learned that today but there's an even bigger lesson to take away here.  In my opinion the most memorable building on the location is the "Arnold Outhouse":

Sure, it may not be as exciting as the See-Thru Bathroom in downtown Sulphur Springs but it is historically significant.  So much so that it has its own Historical Marker:

The marker reads:

     "Prominent Henderson businessman and civic leader John R. Arnold moved his family to this property in 1908. He added a second story to the home (razed in 1966) that already existed at the site. He also built a number of structures around the property, including this outhouse. It was larger than most standard outhouses of its day, and the milled pattern on the door and window facings matched that of the large Arnold house. The Arnold Outhouse is preserved to illustrate part of the lifestyle of 19th and early 20th-century Texans."

But that information is no substitute for witnessing an outhouse firsthand:

Yes kids, that's how it used to be.  This was the best case scenario for getting your "thinking done."  Ask your grandparents why there are catalogues and corncobs in there.

And when you start thinking about how bad the world is now, I would encourage you to always look on the bright side.  Despite political, economical and environmental turmoil...at the very least...we get to poop inside.  And sometimes that makes all the difference.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Postcard From the Past

If you have lived in Dallas at any time in the last several decades then you are familiar with the local ABC affiliate WFAA.  One of the biggest and oldest stations in the area, it is well known for local programming including "gone but not forgotten" gems like Peppermint Place, 8 Country Reporter (A.K.A. 4 Country Reporter, A.K.A. Texas Country Reporter) and Dallas Bandstand.

I recently ran across this vintage postcard from the early 1960's:

It seems a little weird for a TV station to have their own postcard.  That's more of a thing for National Parks, vacation destinations and "World's Largest SuchAndSuch."  But I'm definitely cool with it.

On the back they boast about their top of the line technology:

I feel pretty confident that they've upgraded their equipment since the 60's. As an added bonus, here's an advertisement for the above mentioned Peppermint Place, which was required viewing for kids growing up in the 70's and 80's:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ref Comedy Jam

There are two things that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban loves: yelling at referees and attention.  After a long series of confrontations with officials and tantrums over NBA regulations, his two passions intertwined in in a way that could only have been destiny.

In 2002 Cuban suited up in the black and white stripes and filled in as a referee for the Harlem Globetrotters.  It was a one of a kind publicity stunt and we were there at the American Airlines Center to shoot video:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Are You Being Served?

In the interest of full disclosure, I've never actually watched this movie:

But only because it looks absolutely horrible. "Serving Sara" came out in 2002 and the other day I scanned through it to pull these stills. So, with that complimentary introduction, let's get started!

Our first stop is what I like to call "the dome thingy outside Comerica Bank Tower" in downtown Dallas. In the film it was a steak restaurant:

But the most recognizable Dallas location is Pioneer Plaza (also in downtown). It's featured in a foot chase scene with Bruce Campbell and a sweaty, bloated Matthew Perry.

Campbell then runs past the Pioneer Plaza Cemetery and the Confederate War Memorial (which is in the opposite direction that he was running in the Plaza...movie magic!) on his way into the Convention Center.

And then some other stuff happens and then the movie ends. Roll credits!

In the interest of maintaining some educational content in the blog, here's a video segment we shot on Pioneer Plaza: