How Buffy the Vampire Slayer buys shampoo. Or at least how she should.

Dear Reader, I have unlocked the secret to buying shampoo in the most efficient way possible. So grab a notebook and calculator and play along at home. You’ll also need access to the Internet and a dispassionate perspective on your cranium. Your take-aways will be (1) a budget-conscious methodology to buying shampoo and perhaps other personal hygiene products, and (2) a reduced anxiety from being in Aisle 30 of H-E-B, where the shampoo and other hair products are located. After this beginner level application of my methodology, you may learn that you can apply the process also to your purchases in the dairy section, finding the optimum size bag of Tater Tots on Aisle 15 (toward the front) and even how much brisket to allot per person if the body mass index varies more than 20% among your guest list. (I must warn you, however, that an incomplete understanding of this process regarding the last application may leave some of your guests without enough brisket and others “over-served” and asking to sleep over in the spare bedroom.)

First, to shampoo.

As Buffy The Vampire Slayer once famously said, “It’s all about the hair, and never forget it.

Not only is it all about the hair as a forest, but it’s also about the hair as individual trees in that forest. To wit: as you all know, Buffy spent most of the show’s seasons as a blonde, or close enough. According to most studies I’ve seen — which is one or maybe two if you count the one I saw 15 years ago — blondes generally have more hair follicles than brunettes or redheads or blondes-in-a-bottle. If you are reading this and you are a blonde-in-a-bottle, please adapt the instructions below by multiplying my formula by 1.04, and you should have an accurate figure to calculate your optimal shampoo purchase.

As I was saying, blondes have the most follicles, about 150,000. (True.) Redheads have only 90,000 on average (also true), so you redheads can either multiply my formula by 2.2 to get the optimum shampoo purchase, or you can die your hair blonde and multiply by 1.04. Same result.

Now, here’s the beauty of what I have to share.

The way to buy shampoo is not to look at price, nor — as H-E-B would have you do — at cost per ounce, what they call unit price. No, the way to buy shampoo most efficiently is ounce-cost per hair follicle.

You see, I thought I was doing right by getting Alberto VO5 recently, because at $0.98 for a 14oz bottle it had the lowest “unit price,” $0.07/ounce, of all the shampoos on Aisle 30. That’s cheap, right? The correct answer is “maybe.” If I was Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and had a full head of blonde hair with all 150,000 follicles intact, this $0.98 bottle of VO5 would cost her $0.00000047 per hair: that is, $0.07 per ounce divided by 150,000 follicles. (See where I’m going with this?)

But Sarah Michelle Gellar wouldn’t buy VO5, would she It’s a shit shampoo.

Sarah Michelle Gellar would probably buy Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo. (There is no “.” after B) Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo has 11 L-Amino acids, protective silk, wheat and soy proteins that repair hair “at a cellular level.” Suffice it to say, my VO5 doesn’t have the soy part. If you Google it, reviews list the number of “Pros” in favor of Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo as 9. And “Cons” against? “None.” It’s basically the perfect shampoo. Imperial. Russian. Putin bought a tub when he was 28 and needed to look good hanging around the KGB water cooler getting the skinny on western…ahem, imperialists…, and he still has some left. Not a lot, but enough to last him.


$169 per 12oz tub. That’s $14.08/oz, or $0.000094 per hair for a blonde. That calculates out to 200 times as expensive per hair than VO5!

Now here’s the fun part, H-E-B shoppers: at nearly 60 years of age (on May 17 if you want to send a present or cash), and even though I grew up as a blonde, I have far fewer hairs than Sarah Michelle Gellar. I have more than Putin, but fewer than his Slayer. My guess is that I have aboouuut 23,000 active follicles. So for me, buying Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo would be enormously cost-prohibitive on a per-follicle basis. Like pouring liquid gold on my head, which I think is actually the point. So change that simile to a metaphor. Even using my VO5 costs me $0.000003 per follicle, which is 6.475 times more than it would have cost me if I were to buy it when I was 28 and had all 150,000 follicles.

But I don’t want you to think this post is merely a sauntering through hard mathematical realities.

We’ve come to the practical ways to apply this ingenious formula. Here are some actionable take-aways I can implement starting immediately, and perhaps you’ll come up with your own:

  • WASHING MY HAIR: Instead of the high cost of VO5 (based on the number of follicles I’m actually washing), I could use a lower-priced cleanser, like whole milk. At $0.03/ounce, it would be $0.0000013/follicle, 57% less expensive than VO5. But if I wanted to give my remaining follicles a little zest while still keeping costs down, I could use Hill Country Fare Lemon Lime Zero Sports Drink, at $0.04/ounce, still 43% less expensive than VO5.
  • PURCHASING TATER TOTS: Let’s apply the general principles suggested by my formula — that it’s not about unit cost but rather about end-unit affected (ounce-cost per hair follicle, for instance) — to purchasing Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Tater Tots. According to the label on the back of the bag, there are ~99 pieces, constituting 11 servings of 9 tots each. We know we can’t eat just 9 tots along with our burger. We’re talking more like 15 or 22 tots. Therefore, my formula would be applied as (3oz serving size) divided by (an 8 out of 10 Hunger Index) x 100 = 37.5% likelihood of having more than my allotted serving size according to Ore-Ida. Actionable step: buy two bags.

Let’s move to our third application:

  • BRISKET: This requires an advanced formula, to be implemented only after practicing with shampoo, Tater Tots, at least five types of yogurt and three different brands of tortilla chips, one of them being Central Market.
    • Let say you wanted to buy an H-E-B Prime 1 Packer Style Beef Brisket like the one shown, which is about 14.5 lbs and costs $3.99 per pound. (By the way, for those of you who are doing the math in your head, this is $0.24/oz and, if you were to somehow render this even to 50% liquid, it would be much less expensive to wash your hair with it than using Imperial Shampoo. We’re talking 29 times more cost-efficient. More expensive than VO5, but if you’re Sarah Michelle Gellar…just saying.)
    • You buy a 14.5 lb brisket and are having ten people over for dinner. This is an even allotment of 1.45 lb per person. Wait…that’s a helluva lot of brisket per person. Are you serious?! No way, invite another 12 people, and you’ll be able to serve a little more than half a pound to everyone.
    • Everyone has a hunger index of between 6 and 8 out of 10.
    • The heaviest guest, your cousin Ralph, weighs 260 lbs. Big boy.
    • The lightest guest is your other cousin Jane’s newborn baby girl, who won’t be having brisket, so this changes the formula, but not enough that I care to figure it out. In fact, you might decide to tell Jane to please get a babysitter, which gets us back to our original formula.
    • So then our lightest guest becomes Aunt Ruby, 82 years old and a chain smoker, now weighing 98 pounds. (Jane is only second lightest, even after losing her baby fat.)
    • Here’s how the formula can be applied:
      • ($0.24/oz brisket unit cost) divided by (number of people = 22) = $0.011 unit-cost/person.
      • (Average weight of all guests = 185) x ($0.011 unit-cost/person) = 2.035 units of potential hunger (PH).
      • (2.035 PH) x (7.3 average hunger index) = a final 14.86 actual hunger (AH) rating.
      • You’ve reached an inflection point. An AH rating of 14.86 is not great. Ideally, at least for Texas, it should be at least a 16, if not 17. So do you increase your AH rating by buying more brisket? Or do you keep it as is, ensuring that you won’t be invited to Thanksgiving at Aunt Ruby’s? (And, just for the record, it’s not Ruby who would uninvite you. It’s her asshole son Ralph, the heavy one with a hunger index of 8, who would.)

I’ve given you the tools.

It’s your choice what to do with them.

The shampoo aisle scares me the most

coffee at Pint and Plow in Kerrville

There’s an echeveria succulent on my table at Pint & Plow. Monday morning… a day I actually like even on a workday, which this is not. I gave myself the day off, since I accomplished a work goal last night after a long couple weeks. (“Accomplished.” Seems a dissonant word for a blog about coffee and, soon enough, getting one’s money’s worth at H-E-B using a coupon for Hill Country Essentials paper products. Oh yes, Dear Reader, we are indeed going there. I know you want to, because I know all three of you quite well.)

So: coupons.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the “big H-E-B” on Main Street. I say “big,” because we have two H-E-B stores in Kerrville. The other is on Sidney Baker South, and it used to be an Albertson’s. But H-E-B bought it out, because H-E-B in Texas is to Albertson’s what In-N-Out Burger in L.A. is to Whataburger. (Whataburger is not in L.A., as you probably know. Closest it gets is Phoenix, where there are 13. There are only 16 In-N-Out Burgers in the same area.)

So I’m in H-E-B yesterday — good grief, I wish I didn’t have to do that shift-shift-shift thing when I use the capital H, E, and B and the en-dashes in between, but WordPress doesn’t use predictive text to fill in the store name the way my iPhone does. (H-E-B: please buy WordPress. We know you already own Apple.) I’m in heb yesterday, near the end of my shopping list in Aisle 22, where paper products are, and soon to be in shampoos. Let me tell you, Dear Reader, of all the aisles and products in H-E-B, it is the shampoo aisle that most intimidates me. I am less intimidated by parking my cart in Aisle 39 so I can use the nearby restroom. If you don’t know Aisle 39, it’s where the “Maximum Absorbency Underpads” are. IYKYK, as those under 30 say, and since I turn 60 in May, the last thing I want is to return to my cart and find Schreiner College soccer players snickering at me for being next to the underpads. All in due time, my meal-plan friends.

But with 1,454 different shampoo-related items — ranging in price from “worth the cost of what I put in my hair for literally only nine seconds and then wash down the drain” to “Should I buy shampoo or pay off my student loans?” — I opted for VO5, which cost $0.98.

Dear Reader, an iPhone can render the outdated symbol for “cents” when you hold down the “$” key and move your finger one slot to the right, but the MacBook Air keyboard does not, to my knowledge. When you hold down the “$” key on a Mac, it comes out “$$$$$$$$$.” It’s an indication that pennies are increasingly worthless, but the good news is saying, “Well, that’s my two cents’ worth” is increasingly accurate. Imagine when two cents was a lot of money. (People in Colonial America actually gave a damn what you had to say.)

I had not yet had to skim the bottom row of the shampoo aisle looking for products measured in cents and not dollars, and I was in front of the toilet paper and paper towels. I couldn’t remember which we needed; I knew it was one of them. And then I saw a yellow coupon hanging from one of those metal loops that look like they’ve been liberated from three-ring binders. It promised I’d get $2 off my cart if I bought $12 or more in Hill Country Essentials paper products. Well, I figured, we’ll surely need both of those at some point, so let’s go for it. And this brand of toilet paper is much higher quality than say, Scott 1000, which touts “1000 sheets per roll.” This is great marketing, because you need 500 sheets per bathroom visit. So when you buy a 12-pack for a family of five today, you’re headed back to H-E-B for another pack tomorrow at 2pm before school lets out.

I plucked a coupon and after running the shampoo gauntlet headed for checkout.

I had 22 items — more or less — because if there’s a doubt if I have 10 for the self-checkout or 15 for the Express lane, I will count and count again, because the last thing I want is for someone behind me to send me evil looks the way I do to them. As I always quote from the Good Book, “And ye shall surely judge those who are merely doing the best they can in line at H-E-B and expect that when they shall judge you, ye shall surely remind them loudly and clearly and in the presence of others ‘who’s the damned judge and Who is not’.” And attention H-E-B shoppers: doesn’t it make you slightly uncomfortable when the store employee roaming along the congested checkout area tells you to take your overstuffed cart down to the empty Express Lane to ease overall store traffic, and then you start unpacking, all the while worrying that someone with 14 items will show up behind you and you’ll have to use your well-rehearsed line, “Haha! The lady who works here sent me down here. Haha!” And they give you a slightly judgmental stare, so you actually quote for them your life verse.

There actually is a story about the coupon — about how the cashier didn’t ring it up and I was strolling away and noticed that my receipt didn’t show a deduction and by that time I was near customer service and they retrieved the coupon from the cashier and then, checking my receipt to make sure I had bought $12+ in Hill Country Essentials paper products, which I indeed had, handed me two dollars and 13 cents (for the tax) — but what I really want to say is that I just stepped away from the table with the echeveria succulent to use the men’s room and came back to find my computer still here.

It’s Texas after all, not New York City. And then I went to ask for “more” coffee and not “another” one.

Because Texas itself is a “more” kind of place.

Foxes vs. coyotes vs. werewolves

A friend of mine brought me two dozen eggs yesterday from her farm.

I learned that hens produce more eggs in warmer months than in colder ones — which stands to reason, unless you’re from new York City, where eggs are produced in air-conditioned grocery stores year-round and 24/7 — and with it getting warmer here lately — it’ll be in the 70s+ for the next ten days — the hens are doing more of their hen thing. (What do they actually do besides lay eggs? And doesn’t the verb “lay” conjure up only two nouns: bed and eggs? More New York questions that I share with only you three who are reading this.)

I happened to ask her about foxes, given their rather too-cozy relationship to hens — “cozy” as in being the “big spoon” to their little one until hunger overcomes them and spooning transitions to dining — and given my experiencing a mysterious sound the other night that Karen later determined was indeed a fox and not a werewolf. (I was not about to admit that I experienced horripilation — read the post HERE — over a fuzzy red dog that probably was a hundred yards away.)

My friend said that, yes, there were foxes, but a bigger issue was coyotes. We discussed the unique bark of a fox — my now having expertise in distinguishing a fox bark from a werewolf growl — and then she said that coyotes, too, have a unique bark: “They sound like a bunch of drunken frat boys,” and she played a video on her phone taken from her property where, indeed, the pack sounded like inebriated males with underdeveloped frontal cortices. Grinning, I concurred with her comparison, though my smile was only half-sincere since she was not aware that I, too, had sounded that way when I was in college, and I didn’t have a fraternity membership to blame for it.

Bobbing for apples near the United Nations

My friend John sent me a Facebook Messenger note earlier this week saying he was coming to Kerrville and would I be up for a late night or early coffee the next day. “Absolutely!” I replied. First thing I thought was, He’s not coming to Kerrville; he’s coming through Kerrville. Or near Kerrville. I was right, he was driving on I-10, which runs by Kerrville. Prepositions matter. They betray intent.

John was a grade school classmate at Trinity School in New York City. The two most vivid things I remembered about him were his nearly always smiling face and bubbly personality, and that he had a birthday party during 2nd grade where we got to bob for apples. Now, I’ve been to birthday parties later in life where we go paint-balling, and that can be loads of fun provided you’re wearing five pairs of sweatpants you don’t mind throwing out afterwards. But the worst thing that happens when you bob for apples is that you might get the collar wet on your Star Trek t-shirt.

He and I reconnected on Facebook a few years back and, as many did, he stayed connected after Tuesday, November 3, 2020, when — as you might remember — the country held an election. We did have an election that day; that is undisputed. What is also undisputed is that people had a dispute about what actually happened that day. And what is also undisputed is that some interpreted the dispute as treason and that those who disputed exactly what happened that day shouldn’t be allowed to fly on airplanes, which in a sense was all fine and good because no air carrier serves Fresca anymore and gas was still cheap on November 2, so I might as well drive wherever it was I wanted to go. (After all, I’d be driving through “fly-over country” anyway, and they have Fresca along the way.) The fact is that those of us who chatted it up before, on and after November 3 were having a “gay old time,” as the Flintstones theme song went. There were others who, too, were having a gay old time in the Fall of 2020, and many were themselves gay, or black, or gay and black, or Hispanic, or poor, or immigrants from Iran or Asia, or union members in Flint, Michigan. The main people who weren’t having a gay old time were straight married women in their 40s who wore yoga pants and drank matchas at Le Pain Quotidien on Manhattan’s Upper West Side after school drop-off and before walking over together to the 11 AM class at SoulCycle. They were not having a gay old time. Instead they were making pink pussy hats and marching down Fifth Avenue, as if The Met had projectile vomited Pepto Bismol toward Trump Tower. (By the way, pink pussy hats on eBay are trading 10:1 for vintage Star Trek t-shirts.)

pink pussy hat

So John and I re-connected some time before things got treacherous and stayed connected when they got downright expensive to drive and dangerous to have needles stuck in your arm ostensibly to make things less dangerous.

While in New York and until his father’s work brought them to California after his fourth grade year, he lived in 50 United Nations Plaza. It’s an apartment building nary a block uptown from the United Nations itself. It’s nice. There currently is a 3-bedroom, 3,000 square-foot condo up for sale for a cool $8.4 mill. And, yes, that’s almost $3,000/sq ft. That’s an abstract number. Let me contextualize it for you: when we moved from New York to Texas, we got three times the living space for half the cost. We also got a landlord here who doesn’t come over to fix a faulty toilet and tell you on his way out that you needed to clean the kitchen or it would attract roaches.

So the morning rolls around after a night during which John and his son did indeed stay in Kerrville, and he and I met for coffee at La Quinta Inn on Sidney Baker. My coffee was free, because he was a guest, and having arrived early I just helped myself. If I had so chose, I could have helped myself also to Fruit Loops, raisin bread toast or oatmeal. Which, if I’m hungry and in the area some other morning, I might just do. Because you totally could. Just smile at the receptionist as you pass like you had retrieved something from the car. In fact, that is exactly what you’d do in New York City if you needed a restroom: confidently walk into a hotel and ask anyone who works there where the bathroom is. Because the Starbucks in NYC have bathrooms open to customers only, if they have bathrooms at all. And the bathrooms that do exist have five digit codes that change every 30 seconds and require fingerprint verification. At least before COVID they did. Now it’s facial recognition.

We had coffee and chatted. John was still warm and bubbly and gracious as always and kept a big smile. He still hugs you when you say hi and again when you say bye.

In the end, he and I will have different lines on our foreheads.

SPECIAL NOTE: The editor is aware that this author’s content dips into an area that is political in nature and, therefore, possibly inflammatory. The author also told us this story, which may offset the scorn some of our readers feel. He made a comment the other day on an Instagram post about the tragedy of 9/11 and, in passing, placed blame on those who were at the time identified as responsible. His opinion hasn’t wavered: those who were held accountable were those who were indeed accountable. But because he allowed only for the remote possibility that the government may have been aware beforehand (that’s what intel is for, after all), and because he didn’t agree that the government was “behind” the attack — yes, another damning preposition — he was called all sorts of names by those who believed the Bushes orchestrated everything and was told by one person to “eat a d _ _ _, you idiot,” using an eggplant emoji for the word itself. (iPhones have made insults so wonderfully metaphorical.) The common thread is humanity. The editorial board of Biscuit Aisle unanimously believes that the only absolute truth we can all agree on — about ourselves or others — is that humanity is constitutionally flawed. That is why there is mercy. That is why there is grace.


The sound of a fox barking is not what you might expect. Not, at least, what a city kid might expect. It wasn’t the sound of a deer snorting a warning to its tribe of my predation when I was out back yesterday at 3:00 AM under the stars. I well know that muffled staccato of an alert that serves both to make its kind aware of me and gives notice to me of it. It’s what my middle son when quite young sounded like when trying to smell Karen’s coffee, only he did it in reverse. Or a deer stomping. I’ve heard that sound over the years more times than I can count, going back to our childhood at Fire Island, where there were so many deer and so few rifles and cars that my father, tending to his vegetable garden, would see them often within arm’s length and, as he phrased it, “I could have reached out and strangled them. And I wish I had.” During this same childhood and to ward off those deer, he’d request that we ask our barber for hair trimmings from the barber shop floor. He said that the smell of humans repelled deer. (Yeah. No.) So he’d tie up some hair trimmings in old pantyhose — yes, we obliged our father’s request — and, like heads on pikes, place them on top of wood stakes along the garden’s perimeter.

Yet the deer were more fearless than Goths.

You can imagine that in the stillness of 3:00 AM, a moment more like a photograph than a video and under stars that were brighter-than-usual pinpricks in the celestial blanket that covered all those still asleep, when I heard a noise that was unfamiliar — a sharp shriek that punctured the silence — my little hairs stood up. And they really do — my little hairs: on the back of my neck and on my forearms. I can feel them pressing against whatever sweater or hoodie I’m wearing. There’s an interesting and sadly ineffective reason for this. When we’re afraid, adrenaline stimulates the body to pull on the roots of our hairs, making them stand up. The purpose of that is to make us look bigger to the enemy we feel threatened by.

I gave you the interesting part. Now let me tell you the “sadly ineffective reason” part.

The sound I heard was not a deer warning its young or mate. Believe me, as soon as I came inside, which was not long after I heard the noise — defining “not long after” as being the time it takes to Google “What the fuck was that” — I searched for what a deer sounds like when threatened. I got videos of the snort and the stomp and even, when I scrolled down, deer stags with mating calls. I knew then that I’d scrolled past a possible answer. I didn’t find online anything like what I’d heard until last night, when Karen played for me the sound of a fox barking.

I swear to you that yesterday morning, my hair follicles were trying to make me look bigger and more threatening than a small canine that would have been no match for me. (Most likely.)

Sadly, adrenaline didn’t help me stand my ground. It made me want a cup of coffee in front of my laptop.

The baguette’s in the oven

The plan is to make a baguette, and if I want to eat it tomorrow, I must start tonight. I am using a recipe that its creator calls “Baguette (The Easiest Recipe).” In fact, it’s so easy that it’s a “no-knead” baguette. In case you’re wondering, the baguettes to the right are not examples of the “easiest recipe” baguette, which while it requires mixing only four ingredients and saves your forearms from kneading 10-15 minutes, it still takes overnight to rise.

The baguettes to the right are from a different recipe called “French Baguette Recipe,” which takes a total of 30 hours 18 minutes to make. The recipe creator’s online profile photo shows a young American woman who claims to be a “busy twin mom,” but she’s smiling and wearing make-up that’s not smudged, the photo was taken in Paris, and no twins are to be seen anywhere. This means, obviously, that she goes on holiday and stays at the Ritz and drinks champagne from 3 o’clock on, while someone else watches the twins and her husband works two jobs. She totally has a day and a half to make French baguettes.

What makes this latter recipe “French,” you ask?

Certainly one would expect to invest the time and attention to a food that is distinctly French. The model in the above photo looks French and, truth, doesn’t it look at first glance like she’s flipping us off? Seriously: ad directors, photographers with ascots and the French in general are famously subversive and would pull this stunt. After all, it was the French who came up with the linguistically subversive phrase double entendre, even if it was American country music singers who perfected its use in their song titles, like Jerry Reed’s “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).”

“Oh!” you say. “THAT’s not a double entendre! It’s merely about how much the wife got when she and her no-good husband split. You have a mind as dirty as coal itself.”

To which I reply, Well if it wasn’t a double entendre before, good luck thinking it isn’t one now.

Few things are as comforting as a warm baguette just out of the oven with cold unsalted butter in chunks.

Apropos of that word itself being French and also in the broader category of food, I started using the H-E-B app yesterday for my shopping list. I’d been using the OurGroceries app, but after posting the use of it on my Instagram story a couple days ago, an H-E-B partner sent a message and reminded me that the store app is good not only for finding where an item is or if it’s in stock (previously my main use of it) but also adds those items to a list, organized by aisle number and store location, and even shows where coupons are offered.

This post was drafted on Saturday morning and finished this morning, Monday. The baguettes came out beautifully. I have never had a freshly baked baguette right out of the oven, sliced it and heard the crisp crust give way to a soft, chewy inside. Then spreading cold unsalted butter on it and biting into it, hearing that crisp crunch again.


Never, ever steam. Or GTFO.

An everything bagel, one of my first batch.

If you don’t know what a “schmear” is–where the word comes from and why its etymology makes its application to bagels clear and unarguable–go HERE. And if you want to experience a bagel from the vantage point of an experienced bagel-eater, go HERE and HERE. As you can see, I’ve given the subject some thought, more thought even that I’ve given to pizza, which somewhat surprises me since I eat pizza more often. I think it’s because Little Caesar’s deep dish pepperoni is so greasily satisfying and Comfort Pizza is such a symphony to my palate that I don’t worry about not getting pizza that’s not like “real New York” pizza. Only Home Slice in Austin offers me that and, even then, they try to Austinize it, and it doesn’t always work.

That is not the case with bagels.

San Antonio’s Boss Bagels are decent, and these are what is served at PAX Coffee Shop downtown. (As an aside, and only Kerrvillians will get this, I like what appears to be a name alteration: from “PAX Coffee and Goods” to “PAX” or “PAX Coffee Shop.” The former made it sound more like a mercantile business, which it has never been. It has been and is a coffeeshop, and new owner Katie has trimmed off any excess nomenclature and made substantive changes to its interior, a couple that I like and a couple that I don’t, but all of which show PAX’s evolution into a pure coffeeshop. And that, I like.)

There are a couple bagel places in Austin that are good in my opinion — Rockstar Bagels and Wholy [sic] Bagels — but most of us have to rely on the closer Boss Bagels, whose one of two locations is beyond the TSA checkpoint at SAT. That’s actually quite smart of them; bad for us.

Rockstar Bagels, center right: “A transcendent bagel experience”?

It was time to make some Freeman bagels.

I decided to use THIS RECIPE, mainly because the writer claimed to be a “real New Yorker.” Anytime someone claims that, it is ballsy and requires other “real New Yorkers” to kick the tires. And in the end, it’s as arbitrary as finding a recipe for a good meatball written by someone who didn’t grow up in Italy or near Arthur Avenue in The Bronx. In the end, it’s all about taste and very little to nothing about the cook’s street creds. Those are useful only in marketing.

A few observations about the process:

  • I had never worked with yeast. I was told to use Active Dry Yeast and, after letting it sit in some warm water with sugar, I was told to stir it till it dissolved, which was a chore. My mistake was that the yeast-water-sugar mixture never bubbled. It may not have been ready to be stirred.
  • Kneading the dough for ten minutes was exercise! Because of the yeast (?), it was rubbery and bounced back, rather than being like biscuit dough, which has no yeast and calls for kneading only so much as necessary. Good grief! Bagel dough, and I assume all dough meant for bread products, gives you Popeye forearms and calls for a good shoulder massage afterward.
  • Dough didn’t rise to “twice its size.” It was maybe 125% of its size after resting for an hour. Probably not sitting in a warm enough spot.
  • Shaping the dough into bagels was both easy and hard. After dividing the dough into 8 separate pieces, getting the dough into round balls was difficult for me. The technique suggested in the recipe was unnecessarily confusing, and even the writer said it sounded more confusing than it was. Let’s just say that it wouldn’t have been so confusing if I’d watched the accompanying video which, like the men of the 1950s driving across the country with the family and not wanting to stop and ask for directions, I wasn’t about to do. Full steam ahead!

And speaking of “steam,” if you have ever eaten a steamed bagel, you know it’s more like eating a marshmallow with sesame seeds on top.

Just don’t.

Writing while naked

The space heater is on the higher of two settings and is about five feet away on the floor and exhaling — exhaling only — toward me under the desk. It is slightly unpleasant.

I stretch my neck and lean forward to look over my computer screen at it. Black, it’s shaped like a decapitated pyramid. If it was moving, its vent would be a hypnotic spiral.

It’s been raining this morning, so my normal ritual under the stars was abbreviated to a standoffish admiration from the back porch. To the left, watching our black cat consider its next steps. Listening to heavy drops hit something metallic at the house to my right. Not original drops; drops, rather, that had already fallen and were falling again from roof or gutter onto an aluminum surface of some kind.

How many times does a drop drop?

I’m in flannel pajama bottoms as I start to work, which was about an hour or more ago. My t-shirt is one that I wear every morning. I wash it occasionally. It and my other morning t-shirts are perfectly normal shirts — it’s not like they have profanity or naked ladies printed on them — but I wouldn’t wear them in public. It’d be like wearing underwear to shop for groceries.

And yet, I can work like this, at least for a little while. I can certainly write like this.

I could probably write while naked and maybe one day soon I will.

Why wouldn’t I?

Let your nose smell the roses and your eyes see the sky

The Supergiant star Betelgeuse and a “titanic convulsion” in 2019, as recorded by Hubble observers.

Twice a day and both times in the dark, once at night before bed and again in the morning just after waking up, I walk out back to the 6th tee box on the golf course where we live and I admire the heavens in all their created glory. The temperature dropped to 30 degrees overnight, making the well-trimmed ryegrass feel like walking on a frozen crewcut.

At night I have my ritual of looking in particular for the constellation Orion and the surrounding stars and also for “nearby” Mars. (So odd that I would refer to these celestial bodies as if they sat on the circumference of a spherical boundary rather than existing on billions of concentric hyperbolic planes that constitute no barrier to travel.) Last night I found Betelgeuse and then, down and to the West, Sirius.

This morning I found the Big Dipper, and I remembered that it’s handle pointed toward some significant body. And indeed it did, to the quite bright Arcturus, which I looked up on Stellarium. That iPhone app also showed me that a Starlink satellite was passing overhead. Fricking cool.

This post might be boring to some, and now it constitutes a meta statement, which is also boring, even to me, but the experience itself is ineffable.

Smell the roses overhead.

I “love my H-E-B”

Gotta be honest with you, I was a bit put out. Now that I think about it, that’s a great phrase: being “put out.” Random 4-hours-sleep-last-night thought: raise your hand if you saw the Flintstones cartoons and remember how the cats were “put out” of the house at night.

“Some day, maybe Fred will win the fight… Then the cat will stay out for the night…”

Used to be that at night people put out the empty milk bottle and the cat. That’s just what you did. You can see for yourselves in this closing to one of my favorite cartoons that they’ve literally been doing this for 100,000 years. Sadly, the milkman, Bronto Burgers, driving on I-10 using only your feet for propulsion and putting the cat out at night have gone the way of the… (I think it’s worth noting that purple dinosaurs were around long before Barney.)

In my case, and to my seemingly irrevocable sorrow, I was put out by H-E-B.

Now, you have to understand something about H-E-B and my fanboy status around this national grocery store of Texas. (“We” Texans love H-E-B so much that there are Texas-shaped stickers printed with the common saying “Love my H-E-B.”) My quick rise to fanboy happened in 1996, and I won’t recount the story here but rather refer you to it HERE. Whether or not you read that post now or were one of the three who did so then, you should know that this site is inspired by H-E-B. For a New Yorker who grew up on real bagels, real pizza, and had smörgåsbord, sushi/sashimi and Ghanian by the time I could vote, I developed early on a prejudice toward not only food that wasn’t Gotham-found but also any grocery story that wasn’t called Fairway and didn’t require the skill of a Formula-1 driver to maneuver around the end caps and jockey for position at the express checkout line. If you have watched the Netflix series, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, you’ll know that cursing out the shopping cart driver who tries to overtake you is not unheard of. In fact, it’s encouraged.

You may not know this, but many Fairway shoppers themselves have sponsors ranging from Dave’s Killer Bread (this is indeed the Team Red Bull of grocery sponsors) to Post cereal to Le Colombe Coffee Nitro. At H-E-B, however, no sponsors are needed. No jockeying is needed. In fact, people are not even in a rush. Even the red scooter-basket-cart that people sit in go only as fast as a Chevy Suburban idling up Hilltop Drive.

I have veered so far off the subject.

Back to it.

I was put out.

Put out like a cat in the Mesozoic.

In addition to this site’s being inspired by H-E-B, I consistently post on my Instagram the items I buy from the store and cook. I also get responses from the store in Instagram DMs about my feed and stories that mention them. I am such a devotee that their coffee brand Cafe Olé is practically the only brand I drink. (We also occasionally drink Aldo’s Coffee from Greenport, New York, and Cuvee coffee I got at PAX here in town, but basically it’s all Cafe Olé.)

So I thought I’d try to become an “ambassador” for the brand and get free coffee for posting various kinds of H-E-B products. (Let’s be real, Red Bull-sponsored F-1 driver Max Verstappen drinks that swill publicly, but he probably eschews it privately. I, on the other hand, would drink Cafe Olé no matter what. Or would I…?)

I DM’ed H-E-B on Instagram, and they gave me the email address to write to in order to ask about becoming a brand ambassador. So I did.


Four times. Crickets. Not even an auto-reply.

So I complained, like a little pissy New Yorker who doesn’t get his way grocery shopping:

Gary Gulman with a riff about Trader Joe’s, that bastion of yoga-panted and entitled midday-shopping white women.

H-E-B’s Instagram monitor(s) have consistently responded to my questions and proactively commented on my posts and stories. It was obvious that if I wanted a response to my selfless (“yeah…no”) offer to be an ambassador, I’d have to ping the IG crew rather than wait for responses to my emails.

So I did.

And like a pissy New Yorker who thinks that grocery stores revolve around me — although they kind of do: me and every other customer. Ok… low blow. But pissy nonetheless, like I said — I even called the lack of a response to my emails, “rude.”

I said that. I know: harsh language.

You can imagine what I’d say to a New York City-based grocery store. In fact, you wouldn’t have to imagine it. I could show you how I responded to Gristedes one time if only I could find the post from my old blog.

H-E-B wrote back.

They wrote back and promised a follow up. And you know what? They followed up, because later THAT DAY, a woman named Shannyn wrote a very kind email and said that H-E-B didn’t have any ambassadors for the Cafe Olé brand. Shame, if you ask me. BUT, she added:

While we don’t have an official Café Ole ambassador program, we appreciate the love and really are glad you love brewing Café Ole!

We’d love to send you some Café Ole to say thanks- and if you post anything, wonderful — but if not, just know we appreciate you being such a fan!

Gracious H-E-B response to pissy New York complainant

Yesterday a box arrived. A heavy Box. From H-E-B with, I soon learned, a packing slip with Shannyn’s name on it.

In it were eight (8) pounds of flavored ground coffee, a 2lb bag of flavored coffee beans and various swag, including a “Love my H-E-B” sticker, which was quickly affixed to my otherwise pristine MacBook Air. Market value was easily more than $100.

Can you tell I love my H-E-B?