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Mama Jewel, Queen of East Austin

July 25, 2014

I am a visitor in the neighborhood of East Austin, Texas for a couple of weeks. On the first day of my visit I was walking down my street and met Jewel Thomas Lusk sitting on her front porch. She is the neighborhood watch, the historian, the social director, and godmother to some of the kids around here. If you live here you know her, or at least she knows all about you. I like talking to her about the way the neighborhood developed. She has lived here for more than 58 years, so she is well informed on the subject.  I wanted to interview her on video but she would not give her consent.  She has a strong accent and told me she does not want anyone making fun of her.  She also has a job working at a law office once a week and does not want any kind of publicity to mess up her deal with the lawyers.  I do understand, but I still wish she had agreed to talk to the gentle readers.

She is a Baptist who enjoys dressing up sharp and singing on Sundays.  This weekend there is some big to do a the Tabernacle that will include all the Baptist churches around here.  She is planning to wear a fancy green outfit with a brimmed hat.  I do wish I could see her all dressed up because I am sure it is impressive.  She also enjoys Coors silver bullets, which she informed me she was responsible for finally getting in this town.  We had a little difference of opinion about when Coors actually arrived in Austin, but sometime in the 1960′s is correct.  This beer was highly prized and personally imported ( that’s right, imported) from Colorado, which was the only state where you could buy it.   Jewel told me she used to buy it in Ft. Worth and bring it down here, but was finally able to convince the mayor of the city to help her bring Coors to Austin. I have no doubt that this story is true.  She can literally tell you everything about everyone who has lived around here.  I do hope somebody will talk her into recording her stories on video so that they will not be lost.

When I went to college here I was 17 and could not get into bars to hear music…with one exception.  The black clubs on 6th Street did not discriminate against the white youth, and let us into their clubs.  I got to see BB King and Bobby Blue Bland one night playing about 10 feet in front of us.  We were 4 or 5 teen white chicks in an all black club having a wonderful time.  No problem.  I can’t remember if they served us alcohol or not, because we were not really drinkers, just BB fans.  Jewel and I reminisced about those clubs and that music for a while, and I wondered if she and I had ever danced together back then.  She still likes to dance, but says for dancing she switches to Crown Royal because beer is not the thing for dancing.  She is a remarkable woman, representing a front porch attitude that has faded with time….but not on her corner of the world.  I am grateful to be her neighbor for a couple of weeks.  She is the essence of cool.

Austin Ashiatsu, Better than Your Average Bodywork

July 24, 2014

I had the deep pleasure (pun intended) of experiencing for myself the talented feet of Cathy Royder.  I can admit to being a bodywork pig.  But I am a picky and discriminating bodywork pig.  At home I am a patron of the “hospital spa”, Supportive Care for Healing at the U of A Cancer Center.  The public is welcome to use the facility, with or without cancer.  The very best therapists in Tucson give 1 hour treatments there for just $40, which is hog heaven for a bodywork pig like me.  I do patronize some therapists in their private practices as well, but usually I get those bargain treatments because I can afford more of them.

On holiday now I am in exotic splurge mode because that is what holidays are intended to be.  Lucky for me Austin Ashiatsu is literally right down the street from my temporary home in the hood.  A quick check of the map, an easy to navigate appointment made on the website….and voilá….I found myself under the very capable feet of Ms.Royder,L.Ac, MAOM, LMT.  She asked me what kind of pressure I wanted and I replied that she could go all the way.  After a couple of minutes I had to tell her to lighten up a bit. I was astonished how such a small person could exert so much pressure.  We arrived at the perfect pressure for me, and I drifted into happy land for the next hour.  The treatment was lovely and I feel very balanced and refreshed as a result.   If you live in Austin, make yourself an appointment for a super mini holiday at 1306 E 7th St.  If you are visiting the city I recommend this experience to make your time here extra special.  I recommend this service to anyone who likes to feel good.  She will whip out the tuning forks in certain circumstances…I might need to return for that!!!  Tuning forks on acupuncture points is a very powerful way to treat the body.


Pleasures and Politics of Whole Foods Market

July 24, 2014

Whole Foods, the behemoth distributers of the natural lifestyle, started in Austin. A visit to the flagship store is both awesome and creepy. The produce, no matter where you are in the country, comes mostly from California. Right there you have strike one against the concept that by shopping at the store you support happy, healthy, local organic growers. Get real, folks. Whole Foods is responsible to the shareholders of the corporation. Their mission (and their mandate) is to make maximum profit for those shareholders.  I think that is all good.  I do not begrudge any healthy business a healthy profit.  When I enter the door I expect to pay more for what I buy, but I also expect a vast selection and very high quality products.  In history, before the rise of the hipster class, hippies managed the distribution of health food and natural products, often by forming cooperatives.  I was always involved with a coop in my youth.  This meant that you actually had to contribute some kind of labor to the cause.  We saved money on our healthy foods, but most importantly, we provided a source that did not exist in the retail market.  I am still a member of the Food Conspiracy, which I actively helped found in Tucson, but I am also the poster child for the Whole Foods Market customer.  I now have more disposable income and less inclination to organize a group buying effort to obtain what I want.  I am still a hippie, but a lazier one.

This is how I look at the whole picture at Whole Foods.  I do grow food in my garden, prepare many products at home, and shop extensively at farmers’ markets.  I would be pleased if all my food could be obtained locally and make some effort to keep my purchasing power close to home.  I visit my Tucson Whole Foods about 10 times a year for the specific purpose of buying certain items I can only find there, as well as to go on a splurge.  When I arrived in Austin I went directly to the flagship store to buy supplies because I am on a holiday, which implies I will be splurging in any way I please.  I did not travel here to save money.  I am here to enjoy the cultural delights of the city.  I love to be able to buy interesting things I do not find where I live.  The Whole Foods does not disappoint in that regard.  They carry everything from clothing to cosmetics, local brews to baked goods…it is all available for a price.  Speaking of price, I generally ignore the cost and just realize that it is not a place to buy day to day items, but is the ultimate shopping heaven for natural products and foods.  I can’t help but notice that there are three very large skyscrapers being constructed in the vicinity of the store at 12th and Lamar.  I believe they will fill with tenants very quickly when they are finished simply because of the proximity to all that highly sought after merchandise.  This is what they call the trickle down effect, I think.  Money will trickle down from those buildings right into the Whole Foods cash registers.  Bon Appetite.

French Legation Museum, Austin

July 23, 2014 6 Comments

There is only one foreign diplomatic residence in the United States outside of Washington, DC. It was the home of the French government’s embassy to the Republic of Texas.  The Republic only existed between 1836 and 1846.  The city of Austin was a town of about 800 people, including slaves.  The French wanted to trade with the Republic because they built ships and wanted the wood in Texas.  They believed the Texans, with a long shoreline, needed ships. They also thought the people on the frontier would buy French wine.  They sent a young man in the diplomatic corps from Washington, DC to Galveston to do a study to determine the feasibility of setting up a relationship with Texas.  This man was Alphonse DuBois.  He came back with  glowing report, and landed the job of charge d’affaires to the Republic of Texas for himself.   His diplomatic skills, or his ability to adjust to life on the frontier, were lacking.  He bought a giant piece of land above the town and built a grand Creole style home for himself.  He got into a serious altercation with a local about some pigs who broke into his corn.  This became the Pig War, and was the downfall of Mr DuBois.  He left for New Orleans, supposedly for his health, but when he returned to Austin Sam Houston was carrying on most of the Republic’s business in Travis County.  His career was never the same after that.  He was eventually recalled to France.

A visit to the French Legation Museum is well worth the time.  The guided tour, which is done very professionally, is only $5, which hardly pays for the air conditioning while you are there.  On the second and fourth Sundays of the month real French people show up to play pantenque and have a potluck.  The public is invited to participate.  The park’s outdoor spaces are open to the public.  They have an agreement with a group of sculptors who maintain a high quality display of local artists’ work on the grounds.  It is a very special place to visit. The front porch has a protected view of the capital building, which is pretty sweet.  Nobody can build anything that blocks the view.

Tamale House East, Austin

July 22, 2014 4 Comments

Juan, happy camper

Juan, happy camper

chilaquiles breakfast

chilaquiles breakfast

busy kitchen

busy kitchen



daily tomato use

daily tomato use

la tamalera

la tamalera

the kitchen

the kitchen

Another day in Austin, another fabulous place to eat!!!! My brunch experience at Tamale House East today was out of this world…. or at least out of my normal world.   I cook Mexican food and have made plenty of tamales myself but there is always a regional and personal style to every dish. I have a world wide competition on the best preparation of huevos rancheros (classic), chilaquiles (subject to MUCH interpretation), and nopalitos.  The contest got started when some of my friends in Tecate were bragging that they made the best nopalitos.  I said, “Well, let’s see.”  They would bring me different versions of their specialties, all delicious. I would declare a tie (what kind of fool would declare a winner when the nopalitos were still flowing?).  The tie in nopalitos continues, just in case some of my commadres read this.

They are not big on the nopalito thing in Texas, but the other two are to be found in abundance. Taking my landlady’s advice again I went to Tamale House East. This old establishment is popular with the hipsters.  When I arrived they were playing Mexican music.  When the hipster busboy arrived he switched to obscure rock, and the student clientele started to stream in the door, around 10 am.  Lots of places around here do not open until 11 because methinks the collegiates are still sleeping until that time.  The plates are large for the breakfast specials, and include some very good beans and a couple of hot flour tortillas.  I could have gotten corn tortillas, but did not request it, so I enjoyed what I had.  They gave up lard, like most restaurants these days, because most people are no longer into it.  They still make one pork tamale with lard, but vegetarians will not be ordering that anyhow.  The place is spacious, comfortable  and colorful.  The staff is friendly and attentive.  The real reason to come here, though, is for the food.  The tomatillo salsa was just right with my chilaquiles topped with an egg.  I tried both of the house salsas on offer because that is how you know if you like the place.  Both were outstanding.

I went to the kitchen to give my compliments to the ladies who made my food and was met with a very warm reception.  I discussed tamales with the tamalera, who is from Guerrero (the state where Acapulco is).  She was very cool and told me she makes green corn tamales at home.  This is a Sonoran specialty not often found outside our zone.  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone.  If you have never tasted tamales, this is a great place to start.  If you are like me, very selective about your Mexican food, you will be more than pleased with the authenticity, the ambiance, and most of all the cuisine.  Y’all come. You will not be disappointed.



El Chilito, Austin

July 21, 2014 2 Comments

My landlady leaves a book of recommendations in the Airstream for her visitors which I have found to be helpful. There are way too many choices for Mexican food and I only want the best. Her statement about El Chilito is that they have the best breakfast tacos in town.  I have been here for 5 days and have not had a single tortilla, so I followed her advice and drove to Manor Rd for some tacos.  The menu is extensive, with plenty of options for vegetarians.  I had a migas taco and a bean, cheese and egg taco which were both full of flavor and very satisfying.  The style is double tortilla (you can order it with flour, but I always prefer corn) soft taco.  The only seating is outdoors, but the foil wrapper keeps the food hot for a while if you want to take it with you.  They also have a large selection of aguas frescas and other drinks.  They even serve mimosas.  Funky, original, and perfect…El Chilito is the real deal.  If you visit this fine city and are hungry for Mexican food check this place.  Prices are low, just like their overhead.  I plan to return.  I don’t need to try all the other breakfast tacos.  I think my landlady is right.

7 Highly Effective Habits of Eagles

July 21, 2014 1 Comment


Very impressive

Originally posted on pgcps mess - Reform Sasscer without delay.:


Eagles. For centuries, these seemingly larger-than-life birds have fascinated and inspired us with brilliant leadership characteristics. When eagles come to mind, people commonly imagine some enormous hunter soaring above wide-open spaces on outsized wings. Indeed, eagles are among the world’s largest birds of prey. We venerate them as living symbols of power, freedom, and transcendence. In some religions, high-soaring eagles are believed to touch the face of God. Legend holds that Mexico’s Aztecs so revered the birds that they built Tenochtitlan, their capital, at the spot where an eagle perched on a cactus.

Man for many years have taken Eagles as a symbol of beauty, bravery, courage, honour, pride, determination and grace. What makes this bird so important and symbolic to humanity is its characteristics. Seven important characteristics of eagle has been closely associated to leadership and is widely researched and the facts accepted globally.

  1. Eagles Flock Together. When…

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German Free School in Austin

July 19, 2014 3 Comments

Many Germans were settlers in Texas. I noticed in the Oakwood Cemetery lots of headstones noting birthplaces in Germany or Prussia, and some were inscribed in the German language.  As I was walking downtown Austin on a Saturday I passed a sign for the German Free School.  I was curious to see kids at play in the courtyard.  I asked a lady next to the gate if there was a museum in the building.  She was very friendly but on duty with the kids who come on the weekends to learn German.  She directed me to another adult upstairs who took me on a quick tour while the kids were still on play break.  It is small, but very well preserved.  When there are no other events taking place they rent it out for weddings and parties.  It would be a very elegant place for any affair.  The library is full of books in German or about Germany, and a wonderful collection of antiques gives the full impression of German artistic flair.  Ornate carved furniture, that must be priceless, fills the main room.  The courtyard is also very well designed with nice statuary.  I want to show the gentle readers what I saw on my lucky personal tour of this historic landmark.  Achtung Baby!

Hulu on the Road

July 18, 2014 4 Comments

I have a mixed relationship with Hulu Plus. I do have an account, but I have a life that precludes spending much time watching TV. What works for me is to watch it for a month, binge on my favorite exclusive Hulu shows, and then freeze the account for the maximum amount of time, which I think is 3 months. I would not know it had returned if not for the PayPal notice telling me I have paid my dues. My Hulu month started last week, so I caught up on some Moone Boy and East Los High episodes for starters.

Now I am on holiday without a TV, and am perfectly fine with that. I did not travel to watch TV in another city. Since Hulu is my only option I have discovered there is more to the Hulu menu than I knew. Last night I watched a black and white movie in Danish with subtitles that was a heavy period piece about witch burning in the 1600′s and religion. The story is based on an event that really happened in Norway.  The cinematography was haunting and spooky, although primitive because of the age of the film. They wore amazingly great costumes in the film, everyone looking sort of like Martin Luther (the hat part, anyhow).  The movie was shot in 1943 (very interesting time in Europe) and is called Day of Wrath.  It opened my eyes to the vast collections accessible through Hulu.  I am going to purposely search the menu to find other interesting productions to watch as part of my holiday entertainment.  Maybe Hulu and I can have a much better relationship.  They have also added an option to allow you to play trivia before the show to avoid commercial interruption.  This is the most important upgrade to me because Hulu plays the exact same commercials on all the shows in a geographic area. I quickly tire of seeing the same ad 20 times a night.  At least by moving to another location I am seeing different ads this month.  Do you use Hulu, and if so, are there any tips about getting the best experience you can share with me?  Thanks, gentle readers.

Food Truck Infatuation, The Juice Well

July 17, 2014 4 Comments

One of the ways I enjoy travel is by trying all kinds of gastronomy. In Austin the food truck craze is very advanced. There are more trucks than I could have imagined, most with permanent locations. I found a barbecue place close to home yesterday and was tempted by the cheese jalapeño grits they serve as a side. When I stopped to try the grits, the Juice Well was open next door. Now I have a problem.  I have fallen so deeply in love with the food at the Juice Well that it will be hard to move on and try anything else.  This vegetarian juice and smoothie bar goes to great lengths to prepare natural, homemade sandwiches and entrées that compliment the liquid delights.  I was thrilled with my Merlin’s Magic juice blend that was spiked with garlic and lemon juice.  The sandwich I ordered, the Kraftwork, may honestly be the best sandwich I have ever tasted.  I am hooked.  They make their own sauerkraut with red cabbage which is to die for. Pickled green onions and other veggies are all made in house.  The result on the sandwich is fantastic, beating the hell out of the dill pickle relish we normally find between bread.  I do want to try other trucks but I need to go back to the Juice Well to taste more of the dazzling creative specialties they are making right around the corner.  To complicate matters I found a Colombian restaurant near here that had a super long waiting list for lunch. The Colombians serve arepas, and even if they are not exactly Venezuelan style, I love me some arepas.  I have to find a time when Casa Colombia is not overflowing with customers.  I was really thinking TexMex, but there is more exciting food to eat around here that we don’t have in Tucson.  I have my work cut out for me as gourmet taster.


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