Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tour of Texas Dinos Part 2

Previously: Part 1

If you've ever visited Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, you have definitely seen the two big greeters up front.  T-Rex-esque and Brontosaurus-esque (or whatever you're supposed to call brontosauruses now) statues are just past the park office, near the entrance, and they're happy to pose for picture after picture with visitors.

Many a foggy road trip vacation memory was made by these beauties.  As the years passed many people would remember seeing them but the details would fade away like a dream at dawn.  Where they really there?  Where did they come from?  How did they get there?

They've been standing guard at the park since the 70s.  And while the area has a lot of well preserved, easily viewed dinosaur footprints, it's seems unlikely that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service would have the funds to commission such cool looking, yet budgetary frivolous, conversation pieces.

And of course, they didn't.  The origin of this species happened closer to the Atlantic Ocean than the Paluxy River.  They were originally a part of an exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York.

As was the style at the time for World's Fairs, the Sinclair dinosaur exhibit was big and there was lots of it and it was big!  It included nine of these custom made behemoths and "educated" fair visitors about the connection between the dead dinos in the ground and the gas they put in their car.

It's easy to get excited when you're planning a big fair exhibit and it's easy to get swept up in the "Let's build more dinosaur statues!" hype but eventually the fair closes and you're left with nine great big dinosaur statues on your hands.

There was apparently some attempt to get the Smithsonian to take the herd but I guess there just wasn't enough room for this "Breakfast Club" of monsters, so Sinclair tried to put them to work.

It was time to hit the road.  A few of the specimens went on tour.  This was a little before my time but if I, as a young lad, heard about a touring troupe of fiberglass beasties, I would have totally been into that.

I imagine there's a huge amount of novelty that comes along with the job of driving a giant brontosaurus around on a flatbed trailer, but I would also imagine that once that novelty wears off, it doesn't come back.  So eventually the gang needed a forever home.

Which brings us back to the Lone Star state.  There was a lobbying effort to get a couple of dinosaur statues at what would eventually become the "Dinosaur Capital of Texas" and the oil company decided that the free publicity that comes with donating giant dinosaurs is much better than the costs of storing giant dinosaurs and the prehistory...

If you plan to visit the park, I would definitely recommend it.  Mother Nature did a great job of crafting a great little getaway spot with cool dinosaur tracks to see and cool water to swim in.

Our two friends eventually got some company in town as the area embraced the modern stone age philosophy and and other statures can be seen at the nearby Dinosaur World park and outside the Glen Rose visitors center.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Good to Go Part 1

"The Good Guys" was a short lived 2010 Fox comedy cop show about two Dallas detectives that starred Bradley Whitford and Colin Hank.  It's a shame that it was cancelled because it was a lot of fun and it really took advantage of the north Texas scenery.

It was during a mini golden era of TV shows filming in DFW including Prison Break, Chase and TNT's Dallas continuation.   So today we take a look back and some of the location highlights of the show starting in Deep Ellum:

Behind our heroes Dan (Whitford) and Jack (Hanks), you can see St. Pete's Dancing Marlin (I recommend the Cobb Salad, it's awesome...and HUGE) with the big American flag painted on it and the Angry Dog (get the hot dog...hold the onions). You can also see part of the downtown skyline.

In this episode the boys investigate a pawn shop and shortly before it explodes, they hit the street. Now, the bulk of this section of the street is vacant but the windows with the blue trim belong to Buzz Brews (I haven't eaten there yet so I don't have any recommendations. Although they serve breakfast and I definitely like that).

In episode 8 the boys run afoul of some psuedo-mobsters and wacky hi-jinks ensue. The episode starts off at "The Thirsty Coyote" which is just a re-dress of the Dancing Marlin again. (They didn't even bother to take down the giant marlin from the sign.)

So later in the episode we see that the pseudo-mobsters hang out at "Mama Mia's Italian Restaurant" which in real life is "Mama Mia's Italian Restaurant." Convenient, huh? They didn't even need to change the sign. I've never eaten there and it seems like a good thing because a quick Google search did not reveal very positive information about the establishment.

So when Jack has to stake out the restaurant he parks his car across the street at "Rudolph's Meat Market" which in real life is, you guessed it, "Rudolph's Meat Market." It's a great example of incorporating the actual physical area into the scene/story because this place really is across the street from Mama Mia's.

In another episode the guys are on the trail of bank robbers in downtown Dallas. Jack and Dan have the place staked out (Thanksgiving Tower) and as Jack waits in their sweet Trans Am, you can see the Press Box Grill behind him.

A lot of times in TV shows and movies they don't shoot different angles of the same scene in the same location but this place really is across the street from Thanksgiving Tower.

Once the bank robbery is foiled you can notice the unique tiles that are in front of the building:

You can also see that they put up their own signage for the show ("Dallas Trust & Loan") which is, of course, not there in real life:

There are plenty more DFW filming locations used by the show which I'll dive into in Part 2 of our look back at The Good be continued!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Matchbook Memories: Under the Dome


Houston's pride and joy (or at least it used to be) has been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and was home to a legendary Texas Team.  But the Astrodome has been known for a lot more than just the Astros.  Here's a quick look at a few of the times it's popped up in pop culture:

Starman V1 #25 (DC Comics, 1990)

Starman never caught on the way so many other DC characters did.  Every so often the publisher tries to make a go of the guy and when they do they usually create a character to be the "new" Starman.  That's a common practice in comics and is sometimes used to create conflict.

I mention all that because the plot of this issue involves the son of the original Starman getting pissed at the current (at the time) Starman and challenging him to a fight.  Guess where...

Anyway, during the fracas, the new guy takes a pretty good smack which launches him sky high and gives the artist (Dave Hoover) an opportunity to draw a bird's eye view of the Astrodome:

West Coast Avengers V1 Annual #2 (Marvel Comics, 1987)

Yeah, the Avengers are bi-coastal.  Typically the New York team is made up of A-listers like Iron Man, Thor and so forth.  And the L.A. team has...other people...that being said, occasionally the two groups indulge in some good old fashioned team building exercises like an annual softball game!  Guess where...

This has to make the stadium's insurance rates go way up because the whole gang isn't shy at all about using their powers to win the game.  So when Thor uses his hammer to take a swing at Wonder Man's fastball, he sends it flying straight up to the roof.

That thing "comin' back again!" is the Silver Surfer who is heralding some crazy nonsense and as soon as ya know it, the whole gang is whisked away and are forced to fight each other or somesuch.  But since none of that takes place in

The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (Paramount Pictures, 1977)

The sequel is fairly forgettable and really only know for two things: 1. There's no Walter Matthau and 2. The kids play at the Houston Astrodome for some reason.  The film does do a good job of showing off what an impressive structure it was.

If you watch the movie, keep an eye open for cameos from some of the Astros at the time.  If not, then just Google it. 

There's lots more fun that's been had under the dome but it'll have to wait until I track down those particular comics and/or movies.  Once I do, let's meet back here.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sandwich Tour of Dallas Part 1

I typically eat sandwiches on a regular basis. I also post stuff on this blog on a regular basis. I'm also in Dallas often. You can probably see where I'm going with this...

Welcome to a Sandwich Tour of Dallas" Part 1! I plan to explore this town via sandwiches so feel free to tag along. Let's start with P.D. Johnson's Dog Day Deli:

Located on McKinney avenue in the uptown area, this place fancies itself the "Kick Ass" deli and plays up the tired "Johnson" angle (spoiler: it means "penis"). Despite the unoriginal marketing they serve up a darn fine sandwich. Behold the "Hot Johnson" (I know, I know...sigh):

It comes with roast beef, turkey, bacon, cheddar, mayo, bbq, "horseymayo", lettuce, tomato, onions, green peppers, pepperoncinis. (I ordered mine sans onions & peppers).

Now sandwich enthusiasts like you and me might be wary of so many ingredients on one dish but this one surprises with an almost harmonious symphony of tastes and textures. Of particular note is the mixture of BBQ sauce and whatever horseymayo is. I may not know what it is but I know it plays well with the other ingredients.

If I have a complaint it is that the roast beef seems to take a back seat to the other ingredients and let's face it, roast beef should always be the star (yeah, that's right bacon, you are a supporting character! How do you like that!)

Next up on our tour is the Great American Hero:

This place has whatever every sandwich place should have: a drive through window! Because, let's face it, sometimes I'm driving around and I want a sandwich but I just don't want to get out of my car. Brilliant! Located on Lemmon Ave., not too far from 75, this place is also "Dallas' First Pennyless Store", meaning they round the prices up or down to the nearest nickel.

But enough non-sandwich content...on to the sandwich content!

Say hello to "The Italian" a.k.a. the #1. It comes with Genoa Salami, Cappicola, Baked Ham & Provolone Cheese and all their sandwiches come with Fresh Shredded Lettuce, Onions, Tomatoes, Blend of Canola & Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Spices & Oregano. The one pictured is, of course, sans onion.

It's a great old school cold sub and the bread (there are several bread choices, this one is sourdough) is very light and tender...flavorful but not attention-seeking. It's a mellow compliment to the sandwich, which is what all great sandwich bread should be. I like to go with their oil, vinegar & spices in lieu of any condiments like mayo or mustard. It adds just the right balances to the spicy cured meats.

Moving on, instead of a sandwich, what if you are in the mood for a "sammich"? Uncle Uber's has you covered:

Located on Commerce St. in Deep Ellum this place specializes strictly in sandwiches, er sammiches. Burgers, salads and desserts are also on the menu but never mind that stuff, this place is a cathedral in the church of sandwich worship. Old favorites like roast beef, grilled cheese and the Cuban abound but they're not afraid to experiment with the genre.

Check out what I got:

Your eyes are currently beholding the Bacon & Goat Cheese Sammich. I'm always reluctant when bacon is the main player in a sandwich (see above) but their crisp, flavorful pig strips are more of a character actor leading a quirky ensemble cast of characters (think Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire).

The goat cheese is a bit restrained (in a good way) but has a great creamy texture and just a touch of sourness that is a great counter balance to the avocado, which is always welcome on my sandwich. And surprise, surprise, the big guest star here is the cucumbers, giving some crunchy texture to the meal. It's a great surprise and a great change of pace.

Hungry for more? Don't worry, I'm in the prime of my sandwich eating days. More Dallas sandwich shops (and other towns and other foods) are coming soon!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Follow the Leaders


Check out the headline:  "Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Missing!"  It's time, once again, to dive into another Dallas Times Herald Marvel freebie comic.  This time it's not just superheroes doing their thing, we get America's Sweethearts as special guest stars!

The year was 1982 and our adventure begins with Peter Parker and his childhood friend Fran finishing up a shopping spree at a north Texas Sanger-Harris (who sponsored the comic).

After the stiff wind of exposition blows through Dallas, it's replaced with the rain storms of plot advancement as the cheerleaders get lost on the way to their performance at Fort Sage (which seems to be in California).

Instead of finding the army base, they find an army base and decide it's probably the one they were looking for.  After all, it's not like the people there were acting suspicious or anything...

By the way, that lady in the cowboy hat appears to be legendary former DCC director Suzanne Mitchell.  I was wondering if "Fran" was also based on a real person, and I found a Francis Roberson that was an assistant director around this time period but I couldn't confirm if she ever knew Spider-Man.

After the "army" guys get the girls situated in the conference room with promises of hot coffee and not being murdered, we get to see what's really going on in this facility.

Yep, it's the Leader, an evil mastermind who was mutated in a similar accident that created the Hulk.  But instead of increasing his physical strength, the gamma radiation increased his mental abilities making him super smart (according to him).

Well, it doesn't take long for Fran and the gals to get suspicious.  She sneaks around the base to find a phone (remember the 80s?) and call her old pal Peter Parker.  So Peter's alter ego, Spider-Man, starts the hunt!  When he turns up nothing, his only recourse to arbitrarily swing around the desert.  It doesn't take too long before he runs into another old friend...

The Hulk was just wondering around the desert (as he does), punching tanks (as he does) when he ran afoul of the fake army guys.  It doesn't take too long for Spidey, the Hulk and the Cheerleaders to all converge on the Leader's compound for a final battle.

Nothing gets things sorted out like a great big explosion.  With the bad guys defeated, the Hulk wanders off and the Cheerleaders were free to go find the actual army base where they put on one their best shows.

And Peter Parker was able to get the pictures.  Although it looks like, instead of the Daily Bugle, he may be freelancing for "Cheerleader Butts Magazine."  C'mon Pete...we know what you're least try to be subtle.

And the story ends as it begins with Peter and Fran doing some more shopping at Sanger-Harris.  Most adventures end with a sense of relief and maybe a trip to the emergency room but this one ends with a job offer. 

I'll leave you today with a Superman-esque character tempting readers with the idea of a Dallas Times Herald paper route:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lightnin' Strikes


There's no shortage of Texas music legends.  But some of them have flown under the radar despite the efforts of those who try to keep their music and their spirit alive.  Such efforts to preserve the memory of a lesser known musical icon have manifested in memorials in at least two different cities.  So today we're going to take a look at monuments dedicated to the late great blues musician Lightnin' Hopkins.

While Hopkins was born in Centerville and was widely known for playing in Houston, it's the town of Crockett that wanted to honor him with a statue.  It sits across from the Camp Street Cafe, a local live music venue, and was erected in 2002.

A more abstract monument can be found in Dallas along others honoring with fellow Texas music legends Buddy Holly, "Blind" Lemon Jefferson and others. It's a part of the "Texas Music Alley" in the Dallas Alley of the once great (but now kind of dried up) West End.

While the tributes are great, nothing honors a musician more than keeping their music alive so, before you go, sit back and have a listen to Hopkins belt out the "Katie Mae Blues":