Saturday, June 24, 2006

Austin (I)

Operation Keep You Safe

Violent crime is on the increase in South Central Austin. The safety of the public is the Austin Police Department's number one priority. To keep individuals from being a victim of robbery or aggravated assault, we are launching Operation "Keep You Safe."

The East Riverside area is home to a large concentration of bars establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. As a result, violent criminals have been drawn to the area to prey on intoxicated patrons after they leave these establishments.

To combat violent crime, a zero tolerance approach for public intoxication for the East Riverside area will be taken by the APD. By arresting intoxicated individuals, APD hopes to significantly reduce the opportunity for violent crime.

APD hopes that responsible drinkers will rely on moderate consumption of alcohol, designated drivers, or public transportation to arrive home safely. Information on outreach programs for substance or alcohol abuse problems can be found by calling the hotline number, (512) 472-HELP.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fredericksburg, Texas

The most famous son of Fredericksburg, Texas is Chester W. Nimitz, the hero of the Pacific theater in World War II, and the United States' last 5-star admiral. The Pioneer Museum has a small display on Nimitz; Nimitz's house is now a museum; and Fredericksburg is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War.

But by signage alone, you'd never know the the Nimitz Foundation runs the museum. Indeed, you'd never know that the museum is about Nimitz at all, because everywhere in Fredericksburg the signs read

National Museum of the Pacific War
George Bush Gallery

"Oh no, he's not from here," the woman in the Fredericksburg Visitor Center tells me of Bush. She's so earnest about telling me what a hero he was that I don't have the heart to point out that Fredericksburg already has a bigger, more important, and more interesting war hero of its own. When I ask the Museum security guard why there is so much emphasis on Bush, she brushes me off.

The only place that actually reads Nimitz Museum is the museum gift shop, on Main Street. The "National Museum" is the entire collection and gardens; the museum itself is the Chester Nimitz museum.

Or was, since it's now closed, and only the George Bush Gallery, and the gardens, are open.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

San Antonio

At the Alamo I forget where I am and ask one of the "Alamo Rangers"—essentially a glorified security guard—why he has a handgun. He's perplexed by the question. In California, a gun generally means you can arrest me or write me a ticket. Not in Texas. In Texas, a gun means you went to the store and bought one (or someone went out and bought one for you). Sitting outside the Alamo as it closes and all the visitors file out, I realize that a significant number of shoulder bags and bulging pockets carry machines made for effectively killing a person.

Gun culture runs deep, and people here tend to glorify it. Texas celebrates its outlaws and extrajudicial heritage like no place I know of. Every museum has an exhibit on the lawmen and outlaws of the old west, and often there are exhibits on men with little or no connection to Texas, like Billy the Kid. In the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, among the Texas history wax sculptures, are sculptures of tens of Texas killers, with labels that read:

John Wesley Hardin
Killed more than 40 men

Billy the Kid
aka Henry Antrim
Killed 21 men

California has an outlaw past as well, with bandits like Black Bart and Joaquin Murrieta, but we tend not to celebrate it. The outlaws are a sidebar in the 4th grade history book; they are not glorious reminders of the good old days, and they are not, even Murrieta, heroes.

Inside the walls of the Alamo, I am struck by how pointless the whole battle of the Alamo was. While San Antonio de Bexar was certainly a strategic location, and the Texian rebels were going to engage Santa Anna at some point, the siege and battle at the Alamo didn't serve any strategic purpose. There were about 200 Texians at the Alamo; Santa Anna had 6,000 Mexicans. Instead, the Alamo defenders—called "heroes" everywhere at the site—died at the Alamo for no reason except their own stubbornness, a stubbornness to prove themselves, to prove that they were men unafraid of death, a stubbornness that shows to what extent they value a life, any life, including their own.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ozona, Texas (I)

Roberta, the woman who runs the Crockett County Museum, is a very patient person, judging from my plethora of questions regarding Davy Crockett, former Senator from Tennessee and King of the Wild Frontiertm, who is not even in the Crockett County Museum. This is because Davy Crockett had nothing to do with Crockett County.

—Maybe he camped here once.

—Not as far as we know.


—No connection whatsoever.

However, Roberta tells me, the Davy Crockett Memorial across the street does have an interesting story. The statue was originally commissioned by the town of Crockett, near Nacogdoches and 400 miles from Ozona and Crockett County. Unfortunately when the artist delivered the statue, Crockett, it turned out, didn't have the money to pay him.

It's not a bad work, and so the fathers of Ozona offered a better-than-nothing price. Being better than nothing, the artist accepted, and soon Ozona became the proud home of a brown highway sign and a Davy Crockett Monument.

Ozona, Texas (II)

Fort Lancaster

by Alex Herring

Because there was no protection on the road from Texas to California, it was easy for natives to attack the travelers. To solve this problem camp Lancaster was upgraded to Fort Lancaster in 1856. Fort Lancaster was located in the western part of Texas right below Live Oak Creek. Not many soldiers were stationed there until 1857. 1857 was when Fort Lancaster was really busy because there were many battles there. By the time it was 1860 things weren't looking so good at Fort Lancaster and by the time of the Civil war, the fort was abandoned. Today you can see the fort in ruins.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fort Stockton, Texas


s I walk across East Dickenson to the Mi Casita restaurant—which I have chosen because its parking lot has pickup trucks blocking in other pickup trucks, next to still more pickup trucks—a junk dealer looks up at me from his plastic lawn chair. He doesn't look happy to see me. He's missing a tooth, and his "shop" is a rolling door with an unsorted blob of used consumer items oozing out.

"What happened to your car?" he sneers.

Inside the restaurant, I wait in the "foyer" between the inner and outer doors, until there are no more regulars left to sit. The head waitress is back from Odessa, where she goes to college, and lots of "Where ya been?"s echo across the dining room. She knows most everyone by name. Periodically, the other waitress brings a small paper cup of rainbow sherbet, for free, to patrons who look like they've finished.

The Mi Casita menu lists both dishes and their ingredients, and the chile relleno is one of the two dishes without meat. It comes reasonably quickly; and when it does, next to the spot of rice and the spot of beans is a pyramid of ground beef. The chile is underneath.

I scrape the meat away, eat, and tell the waitress that everything is really excellent.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Big Bend National Park

(For scale, look at the picture above the picture of me very closely. There are two tiny people on the cliff.)