Charred ends


There is an unassuming little joint right off Highway 71 near Bastrop, Texas, in the middle of what used to be called the Piney Woods. The sign reads “Billy’s BBQ,” because the owner is Billy and that just made good damn sense.  We used to go there when we were passing through, a two-meat platter with potato salad, nothing fancy or famous but just staples of Texas that one grows used to.  Now barbeque has become such an ordeal, with restaurants like Franklins where lines last for hour simply for the pleasure of licking the charred end of a brisket. Presidents, celebrities, everyone’s cousin, and friends from California all want to know what’s the best, what’s the greatest, and who on this great earth makes the best sausage stuffed with jalapenos and cheese.  It’s all a big show these days, one restaurant claiming that “it’s had the same pit fire burning for over twenty years.”  For heavens sakes.

I was born and raised in a small town in Texas, where barbeque was consumed at almost all events without much thought put to it, like picking up a sandwich. You never had to worry about hipsters, wanting peached iced tea and pulled pork with cilantro.  I order the same thing every time at Billy’s, the burned ends with sausage, cole slaw, salad.  It’s hearty and filling, and it makes me feel like home.

The last time I stopped in I was wearing something sharp and black, coming back from a meeting in Houston, and although I ordered it to go I just didn’t feel like leaving.  Billy’s daughter, a heavy-set blond woman, had taken my order.  She seemed worn and tired from the monotony of things, but she offered a beleaguered smile as she handed me the Styrofoam box and bread.

I sat in the back, inhaling all that was familiar.  Billy was there with his wife, who kept meddling and interfering in things until their daughter told her momma to shush, that she had work to do.  But as mothers do, she stood up and shuffled to the cash register, her knee acting up again. Or so I assumed.

I went up to Billy and shook his hand, told him how I often came here, how it made me feel warm and comforted, like I was back in my grandfather’s sand and gravel shop in Kerrville. There was a Tom’s vending machine on the back wall, twenty-years past working with the cord hanging to one side, overseen by the deer heads with their proud antlers, mounted to the walls.  “Thankya,” he said in all one word, the same word he used for 31 years of being in business, cooking meat and scooping up beans, walking around in starched wranglers with a pearl button flannel shirt regardless of the season.

An old black man came in, a little toddler bounding in behind him.  Billy called out his name, said what a cute granddaughter he had, and the man beamed with pride.  Later another man, wearing wranglers and a fishing shirt and a straw cowboy hat, came in and started talking without even placing an order.  Billy’s wife was tired, it seemed to me, but she dished him up the usual and asked him about the bulldozer business.

There was an ease about the place, a familiarity with the smallness of it all, comfort taken that the food is always the same, the coleslaw sweet, the soda cold.  It is as if nothing ever changes here but the weather, which is the topic of much conversation.

I try to stop in every time I pass through.  I just rush in and order, eat until my belly’s full.  No one really knows me there, and it’s nothing to write home about.  Except that it is home, with the linoleum and antlers and salt shakers half filled. This is the Texas I know: a friendly and warm and welcoming place, where brothers shake hands and talk about land west of town for sale at a decent price.  These are people who love hard and don’t change and wear wranglers not out of fashion but practicality.

I’m so damn proud of you, Billy.  All these years you’ve made it.  You must be nearing 90 by now, the way your skin sags and you have to catch yourself as you stand.  You remind me of Papa, the quiet way you talk, the blurring together of words, the way your gait is uneven and your hair thin. I see the dark spots on your forehead, the ones you get checked every year to make sure the sun didn’t burn you with cancer.  You’ve likely braved the storms and heartbreak that are bound up in marriage, business, the pit fires that burn.

I’m going to keep coming back to see you when I’m heading to Houston.  I’ll get the two-meat platter, the cole slaw and salad, and smile at the non-working Tom’s vending machine.  I’ll sit for a while and listen to the random, idle conversation.  Because this is my living room and my heart and my history.  My personal nostalgia, all wrapped up in the charred ends of a cow.

The Election and Talking Dogs


This is my one and only political post.  It’s more about talking dogs, really.

I read the Mike Rowe story focusing on voters, and not encouraging blind voting based upon flippant celebrity endorsements. I’ve read that and a hundred other stories on how we got ourselves into this hot mess to begin with.  #nevertrump and #neverhillary.  Who is left? A 40-year old write-in candidate? Gary freaking Johnson?

I dunno. I kinda like celebrities pretending they know something about NATO and China’s economy.  After all, they are actors. They can pretend.  But aren’t they also Americans, who actually might care?

So maybe voters (or voter fraud, who knows) put us into this mess to begin with regarding two very unpopular presidential candidates.  And while I understand Rowe’s point, that we should all be educated and take our role as voting citizens seriously, do we dare take it to its logical conclusion, that the uneducated populous should refrain from voting because it’s somehow irresponsible?  After all, it’s a right not a duty, and who wants to be irresponsible when exercising a right? Would we want mental health patients firing weapons? Do we want people who believe their dog can speak voting for president? If voters don’t read books on economic theory, are they even qualified to vote?

I think the answer is simple.  Yes.  A resounding yes.  Even people who believe the world is flat and believe the moon landing was a contrived government conspiracy.  Even they should vote.  Because it’s part of who we all are as American citizens.  We are privileged to have this right.  Even people who eat nothing but cheese and pickles have a voice in who leads us, even if the majority of us think they are misguided.

The rights we are endowed with to assemble, protest, vote, and speak our own voice are not just an assurance that the best ideas and best candidates come forward – it’s a hope that we as a nation of citizens should have a voice in leadership, and that we can all participate in the marketplace of ideas.  I would hope we value every unique person and every heart and every opinion, even if it differs from our own. Although the Constitution does not, at the present time, allow talking dogs to vote. There is always hope in the future.  Amendments happen.

Rowe’s theory, while understandable, can be a slippery slope toward an age where wealthy white men of privilege, the “educated ones,” the people who are “responsible voters,” get to make decisions while the undereducated masses (minorities? the poor?) simply trust the “smarter” few to make decisions for all. Who decides who’s smarter and more responsible? What if dogs really can talk? How the heck do we really know.

In my opinion, voters have brought forth a candidate like Trump because they are living in a state of fear.  Fear of terrorism, fear that they have become unheard, fear in the wealthy, fear that all the diversity and social change have somehow gone too far, and something snapped in our collective consciousness.  Many people grew so angry that no one “believed in anything anymore” that they needed to take a hard-line position.  They needed someone to tell them what to do.  To make promises, even if they were only half-believable.  To say “political correctness” is just a heaping pile of shit, which is what folks were thinking anyway.  And this boldness in speech was so refreshing voters lined up to subscribe to this ideology, this anti-establishment.  An authoritative populism emerged that was similar, in fact, to Hitler’s own rise to power.  After all, Adolf was attacking the monopolies, wanting to make Germany great again, stressing the importance of country and loyalty, and showcasing his power of media and influence.

So yes, maybe we as a country did it to ourselves, but we need to ask why it got to this point.  Why the masses felt it was so important to shift the tide. Are Trump voters all dumb sheep with no coherent thoughts? I don’t think so.  I think it’s growing anger and fear that drives this train.

Sadly, addressing fear with brute force, isolation of certain groups, and marginalization will not be the fix our country. If there was only a way to put a salve on the wounds of the hearts of our citizens.  To have someone who will protect, shoulder, act as a parent who does not hurt but heals.  Someone who may actually listen to the heartbeat of a country who feels disenfranchised, and yet help them rise above it, love each other, and re-focus the hate into mercy, grace, and self-sacrifice.

We hunker down, and we shall live with the election results that come. We may believe this world is not our forever home, that the struggles of this life are not eternal.  But the impact we have upon our fellow man on earth does linger.  It creates a rip-tide of calm, like antacid in the stomach. People are bubbling over. And it’s up to us to speak for ourselves, our children, or families, our communities. We can peacefully stand up as our great brother Martin Luther King, Jr. once did, fighting for equality without rage or malice toward our fellow man.  We have to remain strong and vigilant in love, fighting for what’s right and providing an outlet to so many who seek a leader.

What this means is that we refrain from harsh words.  We don’t always one-up our neighbor. We get low, and serve others before ourselves.  We don’t always unfriend someone for an unpopular opinion.  As hard as it might be, we guide our path toward greatness as a nation with gentleness, self-control, goodness, patience, and all other fruits that are produced by good and strong trees.  So invite a Trump supporter to coffee, even though the Donald makes your blood boil.  Try to understand why women have such a positive reaction to Hillary being the first woman president, even though you don’t trust Clinton as far as you can throw her.  Try to open your mind, be understanding, and with every single person you come in contact.  Work to eliminate fear.  Muzzle the harsh speech.  Touch their arm, smile in their eyes.  Connect, and be human, and bring them into the light of love.

One nation, under God, indivisible.  That’s the only way we’ll survive this. At least that’s what the talking dogs tell me. And I, for one, believe them.



(three w’s)

Kale is evil


Forever a culprit of modern society’s overbearing influence to be thin, I’ve been on some form of low-carb diet since college.  I eat normally for a while, then end up loading up on sugar, regret how that makes me look and feel, and end up eating nothing but protein shakes and salami until my pants […]

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Weeds among us


I was struck today as I sat on my front porch about the number of weeds that proliferated my front yard, mixed in and amongst the grass, swaying in the humid air. I was also thinking of the number of people I know on social media, outspoken and outraged, furious at our country’s politics and […]

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10 Ways to be More Excellent Humans


  Control your Inner Troll. When I was on The Apprentice, many people commented online. “You look like a Bohemian transvestite,” one guy said. What he didn’t know is that I took that as a compliment that I was obviously good at singing and had good taste in make-up. Ha ha, troll. But it’s so […]

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Letting go


As I get older, I’m becoming keenly aware of what letting go really means. Admittedly, I have control over small things. I choose what to cook for dinner. I choose what clothing to wear. Menial choices through the day I dictate. Sometimes, just to shake things up, I brush my teeth last or shampoo before […]

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Roots Down


zinnias from the garden that I pluck by the handful and stick in random jars — I live on a stretch of land between country and town, a tiny little Ranch, Jr. that allows me to carry out my farm-like fantasies but still be close to a Whole Foods and organic strawberries. Without having to grow […]

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An End-of-School Letter

Dear Teacher, Well, it’s almost here. Thursday is the last day of school for our little munchkins. Can you believe it? The last day you’ll see my daughter’s hair half-brushed with nests of tangles curled up underneath like nobody would notice. The last day a jumper is thrown in the dryer with fabric softener so […]

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Sun-stripped {a post on love and anger}


Today I was particularly struck by the harshness of our modern world’s landscape. It is a desert, a sea of sandy dry dunes, with no quenching water. We are bombarded with articles and advertisements that guilt us and tell us how to make our lives better. We envy those on facebook who cook well and […]

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Sewn Together Strong


If I could go back, what would I change? Would I go back to the time when the nurse stuck her hand inside of me, feeling my cervix, with full knowledge that infection would spread and my gut would nearly rot and I’d turn my head to the left toward that little green plastic chair? […]

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