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No pretension.

Rooster’s. No pretension.

For lunch today I got together with some old friends that I had worked with for many years.  We met at Rooster’s, an oil-refinery-worker-friendly joint.   A number of us had regularly eaten lunch at Rooster’s in Baytown since the late 1970’s.  Nearly everything is still the same.  My “Henburger” came out on the plate the same way it did decades ago: the patty, bun, lettuce leaf, tomato and onion slice, and steak fries were identically arranged on the plate.  They have moved the front of the building from one side to another, though.  And it’s not $2.75 anymore.

Our table.  No pretension.

Our table. No pretension.

As we were ordering, one of my friends asked about the steak fries.  “Are they battered?”

“No,” the waitress replied.

“They used to be battered.”

“We’ve never battered our steak fries.”

“Maybe not now, but I remember you used to.”

“No, we’ve always cooked them this way.”

I had to intervene.  “It may have been a while back.  We’ve been coming here since before you were born.”

Later, one of the more senior waitresses came over and apologized.  Yes, for a few months several years ago they did batter the steak fries but people didn’t like them, so they stopped.  Our waitress was just too young to know this.  It is not entirely impossible that we had been eating there since before her parents were born.

The Birthplace of Texas

April & new baby

April & new baby

Saturday morning we got up and watched the live birth of the giraffe on the internet.  “What kind of giraffe is that?” CVH asked me.  “I think it’s a Rothschild’s”.  CVH found it very exciting to watch.

After the big event, we decided to relive some Texas history.  We were staying in Deer Park, a block away from a replica of the cabin in which Sam Houston and Santa Anna signed the initial treaties after the Battle of San Jacinto, establishing the Republic of Texas.

Here the kids are posing in front of the cabin.birthplace.of.texas

We then went up the road to the San Jacinto Monument.  They’ve expanded the museum inside quite a bit since I had last visited.

There’s a famous painting of Santa Anna being brought to Sam Houston after the battle to surrender.  It hangs in the Texas State Capitol.  The man at the far right in the painting is John Milton Swisher.  He and his uncle Henry Swisher fought at the battle.

"Surrender at San Jacinto"

“Surrender at San Jacinto”

I am descended from a line of Texas Swishers on my mother’s side.  The family legend is that we have relatives who fought at the battle.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s our family legend.

Here are the grandkids outside the monument, with the Battleship Texas in the background.girls.and.battleship

We visited Sylvan Beach and had dinner at the Main 101 Grill and Bar in La Porte.  Their spinach pizza is delicious.  That evening I was relaxing in the whirlpool at the hotel and my wife told me I looked like one of those people in the hotel brochure – sunglasses, big smile, pasty white skin.

The Best Part of Texas

The Best Part of Texas is that you can get Blue Bell there again, which is still not available in Louisville.

We flew down to Houston today on United (aka Republic) Airlines.  I got a seat with a lot of legroom, although like all airline seats these days, there was no padding, so it’s like sitting in a plywood chair the whole way.  At least I did not get dragged off the plane.


It’s amazing how some airlines have managed our expectations so well.

zoo.rhinoWe went to the zoo with the grandkids.  It was a beautiful day.  We saw the rhinoceros exhibit.

We saw the gorilla exhibit.

Granpa is getting fat.

Granpa is getting fat.

We saw the African village exhibit (GC2 is in the background, playing the drums).zoo.africa

We saw the cheetah exhibit.

Granpa is still fat.

Granpa is still fat.

We saw the birds exhibit.zoo.bird

Then we went to Guidry’s seafood for dinner.  It’s the way food is supposed to be: everybody crammed into a big room, a roll of paper towels on the table, and the waitress dumps a pile of boiled crawfish and boudin and sausage and corn and potatoes and everybody just digs in.  People in the Midwest do not eat this way, to their loss.

And Get Off My Lawn!

imagesSpringtime, and I go to the store to get a new air filter and spark plug for the old lawnmower.  As I’m heading out to the shed, CVH asks what I’m doing.

“I need to gap the new spark plug for the lawn mower,” I said.

She says, “Well, I don’t know nothing about gapping spark plugs.”

“That’s why you keep me around.  In case you need a spark plug gapped.”

She pauses for a second, then says, “You’re right.  If I were to get me some new young thing, he wouldn’t know how to do anything.  I think all they know how to do is fool with their phones.”

You’ve got to be kidding

imagesToday I noticed that my dental floss has an expiration date stamped on the package.  I mean, really – if a Twinkie can last thirty years, why can’t my floss last two?

All Things Are Temporary

And vacations must come to an end.  Today is our last day in Chicago (unless we decide to chuck it all and stay here).

After a bitterly cold Wednesday (even the local weather forecaster termed it “unseasonably cold”), today it’s seventy-five degrees.  Unbelievable.  I had to go to the Post Office and buy boxes to ship all our sweaters and jackets home, as we couldn’t bear to wear them and there was no room in the suitcases.

The 1910 Chicago Flower Show - not much has changed

The 1910 Chicago Flower Show – not much has changed

The highlight of today was visiting the Chicago Flower Show, held annually since 1847 (although I suppose they might have skipped a few war years).


The utility company had a witty exhibit of a garden with little windows in the ground showing you what might be lying under yours and therefore why you should call 811 before digging.  Over where the water pipes were shown, the garden had a fountain squirting up, over where gas pipes were shown, the garden had a burning fire pit, and so forth.  Cute.

Bird and nest sculpted from old stuff found in the attic

Bird and nest sculpted from old stuff found in the attic

CVH loves birds, and there was a garden that showcased bird-themed sculptures by Chicago artists.


The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences had a garden promoting using urban spaces (rooftops, etc) for growing food so that more food could be locally sourced.


I enjoyed the butterfly garden where you could feed butterflies.  Once they saw my red shirt, they flocked to me (I guess they thought I could be a flower).  One landed on the side of my neck and I cried out “Oh no!  The vampire butterfly!”  CVH rolls her eyes.  I had trouble leaving the netted area because they really liked my red shirt.

water garden

I also found the water garden entrancing.


CVH loves tulips.


Of course, there was the “Home and Garden Marketplace” where we spent too much money.

We had lunch in the Navy Pier food court.  I was able to finally get me a Chicago Dog.  I also had the Peanut Butter Milk Shake at the DMK Burger Bar.  You are not going to find the nutritional information posted for that.

A Wrinkle in Time

The edition I read

The edition I read

This evening we went to a staging of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  (I wanted to see American Idiot, but got outvoted by CVH.) You read the book when you were a kid.  You are thinking that it would be hard to put on the stage.  You are right.  But for $20 a seat, the performance was a very, very good value.

The actors were much better than I was expecting at a venue that was at the next-to-last-train stop.  The kid who played the genius little brother, Charles Wallace, had even had a small part in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, and you don’t get even a small role in a Spike Lee film without some serious chops, which this kid surely had.

It was small on the outside.

It was small on the outside.

Before the show, we ate at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant that was so good we thought we were back in Houston.  I went back after the show to get a dessert, but although his sign said open, he wouldn’t make me one, so don’t wait too late to put your order in.

It was small on the inside.

It was small on the inside.

But you had a full view of the kitchen; Peter Freeborn would approve.

But you had a full view of the kitchen; Peter Freeborn would approve.


Windy City Café Pancake Burger

windycityAround the corner from the Intuit Gallery is the Windy City Café.  I had one of their house specials, the Pancake Burger: a burger served with a fried egg between two pancakes.  It works much better than it sounds, and keeps you going (you either spend a fortune on taxis or you walk a lot in Chicago, and I did not spend a fortune on taxis).


Bees are in Trouble

I saw this from a CTA bus:  “Bees need lawyers too”.

If true, we are all in big trouble.


Year of Darger

T310 PL 97-52After filling up my swag bag at the vendor area, I headed uptown to the Intuit Gallery of Outsider Art.  They have proclaimed 2017 as their “Year of Darger”, the 125th birth anniversary of Henry Darger.  (You may know Henry from Natalie Merchant’s song about him on her Motherland album.)  Henry lived in Chicago nearly all his life, and did all his work there.  Most of his work, to the chagrin of the Chicago art community I am sure, is at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.  I had seen some of the collection there and was looking forward to the display at Intuit.  The exhibition did not disappoint.  There were many iconic illustrations from In The Realms of the Unreal, and a recreation of Henry’s one-bedroom apartment with many of his actual belongings.  Not to be missed by any Darger fan.