Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

On September 6th 1995, I began to realize that professional photography wasn’t my calling. That was the day that Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s “Iron Man” record, playing his 2,131st consecutive game.

I wasn’t exactly a big baseball fan, let alone an Orioles devotee. This was the pre-Nationals, post-Senators days, when the Orioles were the de facto home team of the DC area. So I possessed at least a vague allegiance. Add to that the fact that the Iron Man record was one of those big deal, unbreakable records, and you had a game worth watching. Unlike like DiMaggio’s 61 56-game hitting streak though, Gehrig’s record did break, taking my photojournalistic aspirations along with it.

A baseball game becomes official after the completion of the 5th inning. At that point in this game, the applause began. And it kept going. And going. After a solid ten minutes of applause and one curtain call, Ripken’s teammates shoved him out of the dugout, whereupon he took a victory lap around the field, waving to fans and giving high-fives. It was completely spontaneous, which made it seem all the more special.

But amid the celebration, there was one element that seemed out of place. As he finished his lap around the field, a gaggle of photographers crowded around him, shoving their lenses in his face. They seemed to be in the way. I looked at these grown men chasing another grown man around and began to wonder: do I want to chase people for a living? I loved the idea of photojournalism, but I had always been uncomfortable with the idea that most people didn’t actually want their picture taken by a stranger.

Writing this blog has given me a new lease on my photographic ambitions. After all, you never need to worry about getting food’s permission before shooting, right? Well, that’s what I thought until I went to Texas Rib Kings.

Texas Rib Kings is located in a run-of-the-mill strip mall in the shadow of the 183 decks, near Burnet Road. But once you walk inside, you definitely feel like you’re in BBQ country.

While I was in line, I started shooting, capturing a few shots of the cutting board. I usually feel pretty comfortable taking faceless shots like this with someone’s permission. It’s face shots that make people start to feel uneasy. The cutter didn’t seem to mind. The cashier, however, was a different story.

When I got to the checkout. He growled at me, ”ARE YOU TAKIN’ PICTURES OF MY MEAT?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Is that okay?”


“Well, can I post some on my blog?”

“Oh, a blog I can’t do anything about,” he said with a sigh. Smiling now, he added, “As long as you write good things.”

“I’m sure it’ll be good,” I assured him.

He then went on to explain that someone had previously used pictures of “his meat” and logo for some kind of for-profit use without permission. He hadn’t seen any money, a fact that he was not okay with. I wondered if maybe part of the reason he hadn’t worked out a deal was because Charm School here didn’t exactly know how to ingratiate himself.

So how was “his” meat? The beef ribs were a little dry. They had probably been out a little too long. But the brisket glistened with ample fat. It was excellent. I’d go back for the brisket. I may leave my camera at home next time, though.

NOTE: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak was 56 games, not 61, as my friend (and actual sports fan) Rob informed me.


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Welcome to Texas

People who have never visited Austin often don’t realize that it is a pretty progressive city, a blue dot in an otherwise deeply red state. And for those of us who live here, you can often go days at a time without thinking about the the fact that Rick Perry is your governor.

But even in Austin, reminders of what Sarah Palin might call “the real Texas” are everywhere. I spotted this truck on the way to work this morning.


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Gold’n Crisp, La Grange TX

Almost back in Austin, we still had room for one final road meal. But we were off the Roadfood map, and not exactly in an area with any Yelp reviews. It was time to go old-school and pick a place based on looks alone.

We encountered this promising sign in La Grange, Texas. La Grange is the little town made famous by the Chicken Ranch, otherwise known as in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Yes, it was actually a real place. The town’s reputation was further cemented by ZZ Top’s eponymous air guitar standard.

Lagrange 1

Lagrange 2

Lagrange 3

What’s better than a little fried chicken across the railroad tracks from the cemetery?

Lagrange 4

The Gold’n Crisp lives up to its name.

Lagrange 5

A little advice for all you young fellas out there: Never underestimate a woman who’s comfortable tearing apart some chicken on the bone.

Lagrange 6

And with that, our week of eating on the road was over. (Oh yeah, I guess Eliza’s high school reunion was in there somewhere, too.) It was good to be back home after the equivalent of a work week in the car. And it was even better to realize that after all that time couped up in Eliza’s CRV, we weren’t even sick to death of each other.

Lagrange 7

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Shear Heaven

When we passed this sign in La Grange, Texas, I demanded that we turn around and go back for a photo.

shear heaven

Conveniently located just across the road from the cemetery, I have to wonder if Curl Up and Dye gets most of the funeral business in town. I imagine the beauty parlor from Steel Magnolias and the Truvy type carefully coifing and making-up the local dead.

When my Grandmother died, I went to the Statesboro Clinique counter in search of lipstick to wear to her funeral. She always wore lipstick and encouraged me to, so I thought she would approve. The woman working there quickly selected a berry shade and told me that it would be perfect. Then she leaned in and whispered that if I got up to the casket and found Grandma looking a little pale, I could pull out that same tube and give her a quick touch-up.

I suppose Berry Freeze is the perfect color for everyone.

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Avalon Diner, Houston TX

Originally, our plan was to have breakfast in Houston, but it didn’t work out that way. Breakfast became lunch, and this was to prove a theme of the trip. Of course, the nice thing about driving is that when plans change, it’s no big deal. So we had burgers at the Avalon Diner in Houston instead of eggs.

We read about the Avalon in Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood. And while the burgers, onion rings and milkshake were all pretty solid, it wasn’t exactly our idea of “road food.” It was really a neighborhood diner (and a bit out of our way). It turns out that Roadfood’s idea of road food encompasses not only highway fare, but also meals in “city neighborhoods.”

Can you see the heat in these photos? It was absolutely unbearable out there.

Avalon 8

Eliza puts in the order. The service was a bit surly, which we liked.

Avalon 7

Jaxon cooled off with a little beverage.

Avalon 5

Onion rings: excellent and plentiful.

Avalon 4

Prepare for insulin shock.

Avalon 3

This is probably the most awesome photo ever taken of me. Thanks, babe.

Avalon 2

And finally, Jaxon settles into the journey. Everyone was feeling good except for Ben, who needed a nap about 20 minutes after hitting the road. The chocolate shake was a bad decision.

Avalon 1

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