Repatriation

First fireworks show in Houston, after my first American baseball game in four years. Credit: Scott McKenney

I live in Southern California now, which feels like I’m in a semi-permanent state of vacation. I have already consumed a green juice from a juicebot, taken the ubiquitous electric scooters of West LA for a ride, taken a Megaformer class (Pilates on steroids) and gotten an excellent tan. Next I need some Botox and I will be all settled in! (Just kidding about the Botox, I spoke to my Korean dermatologist about that — since Seoul is the plastic surgery capital of the world, natch — and he said do not start fillers too early because they won’t work when you need them later.)

We live in West LA so the beach is a ten minute walk from here. And you can just go, anytime. Because the girls are not in school yet, feeling sand between our toes and splashing around in the Pacific is something that we do almost every day.

I am very happy to have graham crackers back in my life, as I didn’t realize how much I missed them until they returned to me. I write this as I eat Salt & Straw ice cream from the Venice location, using honey lavender ice cream as a vector for graham crackers.

Five days after we landed in LA I left for Houston, where the Asian American Journalists Association gathered for its annual convention and I promptly caught the rare August cold. After I parked it for seven hours at a Lupe Tortilla the first night so that I could see various friends who came by and eat flour tortillas and queso for the entire duration, I lost my voice the first morning there and found myself hopelessly jet-lagged the entire time. But the reunions were rad! Not just AAJA pals but also my old Texas buddies, some of whom hosted a little happy hour for me on Thursday and we caught up and gossiped and talked politics just like the good ol’ days. On Friday my lawyer friend Brian arranged for me to see the Astros from his firm’s seats behind home plate and let me just say, those seats were adequate. The best part was the buffet before and during the game for season ticket holders, which consisted of meat, a side of meat and some more meat. Plus all-you-can-eat ice cream and candy! Fireworks every Friday meant I got an all American show after the Astros fell (again) to the Mariners.

Back in LA now.

Surf lessons, next.

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Sunset

Texas sunset just outside Fort Davis.

For the second time in three months, a distant friend has died by suicide. Both outsized personalities are being mourned by their outsized communities. First, in November, the Houston super-lawyer and Democratic donor Steve Mostyn left us at age 46. This week I learned designer and writer Dean Allen, who was just in his early 50’s, left too. They were from different countries — Texas and Canada — but in their self-possession and their wit and their size, remarkably similar. They were both “magnificent bastards.”

On Steve, longtime Texas journalist Davey Joe Montgomery wrote the obit for The New York Times. His friends, meanwhile, rather than make too many public statements, are part of a big group text chain wherein they send one another photos of sunsets that Steve would have loved. Steve was prolific but he always seemed like he still lived in East Texas. My memories of Steve are watching him in court, confront opposing counsel with his size and his smarts. He had cool comebacks most of the time, but when his temper flared it erupted. In 2010, he bought controversial full-page newspaper ads against Rick Perry during Perry’s gubernatorial re-election race against former Houston Mayor Bill White. That led me to sit-down with Steve for an interview at his home in Houston. But the timing was tricky. Steve was on hella painkillers after a near fatal accident on his ranch. (He flipped his four-wheeler and it pinned him.) I remember him being more lethargic than usual but still displaying his trademark quick intellect. He was generous with his time and with his stuff. Unlike other political donors, access wasn’t difficult with him. He was easy to text or call for an interview or background. When a group of us did July 4th in Marfa one year, Steve wasn’t there but he let us onto his giant ranch near the Marfa Lights Observatory to hang out.

For Dean, his friend Om captures him movingly, and so did Jason Kotkke. (Update: Friend Matt, without whom I wouldn’t have met Dean, just shared this remembrance.)

I hung with Dean only once and didn’t know him in his prolific blogging days. We shared an email back-and-forth for the better part of last year which I enjoyed so much because he gave such good email. I knew immediately that I would like him when he criticized a book by calling it “just a series of podcast notes.” HA! Succinct burn. And he would know, he was a big podcast listener! He said he listened to FOUR pods a day, which has to put him on the top end of listenership, right? In one of his final emails to me, he said we would have to hang out again, “if only so I get to do the Glen Weldon impersonation I’ve been honing.” (That’s a reference to one of the hosts of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, in case you’re not a supergeek.) Dean was culturally literate about what seemed like everything, asked biting questions and never held back his opinions. And why should he have? He was usually right.

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to life up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” -Charlotte the spider, in Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

Steve, Dean; we are all lesser without you and your friendship. Thank you for helping so many people in your short lives. I wish you peace, wherever you are.

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What to Eat And Drink in San Antonio: Your Recommendations

God, it’s so hard to be away from Texas. I miss it so much. The only state my 1.5 year old daughter can identify on a map is Texas, a testament to how obsessively we harp on and on about a state where Eva’s never lived.

I certainly don’t make it back enough to get a regular dose of the drinking and eating that made my experience in Texas so delicious. Things are getting desperate. As HeyElise readers know, it wasn’t that long ago I went home to Austin for a few hours and consumed 4,000 calories in 30 minutes.

Austin, Dallas and Houston were my homes. I even lived in Waco for gloomy nine months. But San Antonio, for all its charms, I’ve only visited. One time I ran the city’s marathon. It was miserable.

So I called upon you all to help come up with recommendations for the great eating/drinking available in one of Texas’ most underrated cities. I love the Tex Mex at Rosario’s, and drinking fancy cocktails at Hotel Havana, Liz Lambert’s relatively-new joint. Here’s what you had to suggest for my editor Uri, who is headed there tomorrow:

Breakfast (which mainly consists of breakfast tacos)
Taco Haven
Get the Torres Special – beans/cheese/bacon/guac or the Dos-A-Rita
Las Palapas

Tacos:
Tito’s Tacos
Taco Taco Cafe

Cocktails/Drinks:
Friendly Spot
Feast
The Esquire

TexMex:
La Gloria
Mi Tierra
Los Barrios
Guajilo’s
Acenar

Pizza:
Dough

Burgers:
Madrid’s
Chesters

Bakery:
Guenther House for enormous, delicious sticky buns al fresco.

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The Hole

Decided to title this post “The Hole” since it is both the multimedia room where I stow myself away and the vortex in the time-space continuum many of us at The Texas Tribune have disappeared into as we make our final push toward next Tuesday’s launch. Whoa. Next Tuesday is November 3rd. Conceptually, it’s tough to wrap my exhausted and excited mind around.

It’s a significant date because it’s launch day… the unveiling of the first iteration of what will be many versions of The Texas Tribune.  The goal is a rich, satisfying site full of context – which our founder will explain much, much better on day one.

I’ve never worked on a campaign. But a lot of commenters on our Facebook site have made that comparison. I guess we’re working for a cause (public service, the reason why we wanted to be journos in the first place) and toward a certain drop dead date (the aforementioned November 3rd), but perhaps the most apt similarities are the frenetic pace, sleeplessness of staff and piling up of food containers everywhere.  I took a picture of a typical end-of-a-working-weekend trash pile yesterday, but decided it was too gross to put up, even in this personal blog space.

I haven’t seen or talked to many of my closest friends in the past few weeks. So I’m really sorry, and I miss you. Also, a huge thank you to the friends who have already supported or are planning to support The Tribune in one way or another. This is a non-profit organization dependent on support from ‘viewers like you’, so it means a lot. Until we can come up for air, I’ll make better use of this cyberhole to communicate. Much, much more to come.

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