Sorry, Dad, icebox cake over angel food any day



Icebox cake is what I think of most for a refreshing dessert on a hot Texas afternoon. Fit for a weekend when summer is unofficially passing into fall.

Perhaps it’s because of how it’s made — relatively painstaking, if simple; and few ingredients: chocolate wafers (shown here at HEB; the packaging seems to have changed little over the years and even shows the dessert — the only dessert? — it readily produces; I don’t know a soul who eats these by themselves) and whipped cream.

But not just any whipped cream. It must be homemade. Whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar. My mom showed me that part when I was a boy.

It was Dad’s favorite dessert, and I had it first at a long-gone BBQ restaurant (Smokey’s) on 24th Street and 9th Avenue, of all places. Later, we’d make it at home for his birthdays or other special occasions. (Dad’s other favorite dessert was angel food cake, which I found to be difficult to eat, since cutting through it with a fork was like trying to cut through a pillow with one.)

Last night a storm moved through with much needed rain, and this morning there was sun, which was not promised but welcomed.

I just heard more thunder out back.

If I made an icebox cake tonight, it’d be hiding away till next month, but I’d be ready with fork in hand in less than 24 hours — less than 1 day — and it just might be ready, too.

“Watch for deer”


Around here, these need little explanation.

One’s for a student, the two others for adults.

“There are only 10 or 12 left. You better hurry,” he said when I called Fitness First, one of only several places to get tickets to tonight’s season opener Tivy Antler football game. (Asking Siri “Where do I buy Tivy football tickets?” results in only the stadium and the high school as choices.)

It occurred to me last week that — in light of the kind of roadkill we have around here — we are perhaps one of the only high school football teams nationally which regularly kills its mascot. And that’s just driving home. That doesn’t include the weekend, when we grab the .30-06, sit on the commode, and rest the barrel over a windowsill as we wait for an unsuspecting buck out back the house. We’d fare slightly better if we were the Tivy Armadillos or the Tivy Skunks but, then again, we’d yet see our mascot regularly plastered near the double yellow line on Bandera Highway.

The student ticket, of course, is for our junior son; the middle son is at Texas Tech in Lubbock and has his school’s season opener tomorrow; the oldest is working full-time locally. He has struck and killed two mascots while driving home, and two more have run into his truck while it’s moving. He could care less whether we’re the “Antlers” or not; just so long as we’re not the Tivy Elephants.

It’s highly doubtful our junior son will sit with us. Now 16 and an upperclassman, his attitude alone needs its own section. Aside from too-many-Marvel-Avenger movies to count, I recall when the two older boys sat with me in 2006 at another sporting event. Through our church in Massachusetts, we had scored tickets to a NASCAR race in Loudon, New Hampshire. Ninety thousand people packed into the stands and another several thousand in RVs into the infield for the Sylvania 300. Of those 90-odd thousand, there were probably 4 attendees without tattoos, because my boys and I went with a tattoo-less friend, and my arm wasn’t inked until ~2008. We sat along Turn 3. My friend was a racing aficionado originally from Alabama, and a Jeff Gordon fan. We rented the boys, then 7 and 6, sound-blocking headsets, and we rented headphones that you could tune to the different drivers and pit crews. My friend taught me about a vehicle being “tight” or “loose,” when in my younger years those adjectives applied only to drinking behavior.

We saw three wrecks, none fatal. And that’s frankly what made it fun. The boys got scorched in the unshielded sun. Took us five hours to get out of the parking lot after the event.

At tonight’s 7:30pm kickoff, the air should be about 89 degrees, and humidity is currently 33%. I heard the head coach speak at Rotary Club a couple Wednesdays ago. Passionate guy. Has had great success here so far.

Long live the Antlers.


Culturing the milk is only part of it


It may appear to the casual reader that I disrespect PAX by writing about its paucity of schmear on bagels.

As someone devoted both to bagels and also grammar, I must quickly confess my own transgression by using a noun (“disrespect”) as a verb — even an informal Google search results in a clear if unwitting remonstrance of this use as “informal” and therefore is an abomination unto me — but this crime is nowhere near so foul as turning incentive into incentivize and then into “incent” as a verb. As in, “Let’s incent this ornery New Yorker into coming to PAX by offering him a token schmear on his bagel, and then maybe he won’t disrespect us by writing about us so critically. Bless his soul.”

Interestingly enough — yet I digress still from schmears and bagels because, again, grammar is just as important as these foodstuffs, and even more damage can be done by using poor diction than can be done with under-schmeared bagels; the pen is indeed mightier than either the sword or the butter knife — a cursory look at the use of “incent” via Ngram (a blessed feature of Google) shows this curious trend since 1800 (in printed pieces):


It’s clear that around the time of the War of 1812, Americans needed to incent the freed colonists to once again fight the Lobsterbacks. It’s also clear that merely the use of this word, incent, kept the war mercifully brief and resulted in a concomitant and precipitous drop in its usage. It had served its purpose and was put out to pasture.

Until the Civil War when, once again, the (grammatically manipulative) Powers That Be decided to resurrect the word to get us to fight each other. We Yankees were more concerned with calling people “Johnny Reb” while we sipped our formerly English tea, so as a result of being incent-ed the northern tea drinkers sent the freed slaves and poor whites down South to do their dirty work. (Tea drinkers were equally incent-ed in later wars.) With the Civil War concluded and the North writing the post-mortem, we once again put incent on mothballs until the 1980s, when the Gordon Gekko’s of America found ways to incent us to buy bonds with adjectives like “junk” as modifiers. Apparently, many of us since 1776 have welcomed being incent-ed, even if it involves fighting a Crown we liberated ourselves from, beating on the crowns of our cousins, or losing all our crowns on one day in late 1987.

And “crown,” believe it or not, brings us back to bagels and schmears.

My humble request of Kerrville eateries is to make their own cream cheese (comprised in part by culturing milk) and slather it generously on a bagel made with water not from around here.

I know this is asking a lot.

But I recently met a woman who works at a Kerrville business on Sidney Baker and who grew up in a mid-South state. Her mother owned a bakery. The mother was originally from Long Island, and the business would ship in water from out of state to make their bagels. Their bakery was apparently very successful.

How can I incent y’all to do this?

Lying on my back, I.


I looked northwest, pulled over above next to the entrance to Kerrville-Schreiner Park, and saw the grey curtain dropping somewhere past Medina Highway, maybe even as far up as Hunt. I checked the native weather app on my iPhone and saw that rain wasn’t predicted here until 8pm. It was now 4:15.


I’ve fallen into the bad habit of relying on the weather app to tell me what’s going on outside, instead of actually sticking my head out the door. Or looking at Google Maps to check the route ahead rather than using common sense and an innate sense of good direction. (Which I’ve always had with respect to the compass, if not my choices.)

But there seemed to be enough wiggle room between what was visible in the northwest and my desired stand-up paddle-boarding session on the Guadalupe that I decided to take a chance.

I pulled into the park and heading down toward the lot. My season parking pass had expired in March, and I was hoping no official would notice. Especially since I didn’t have it with me, and especially since it was printed with the license plate of my old Ford Contour — for astute readers here (you 3 or 4), that vehicle I bought in February 2018 for $650 and sold in May, when it was no longer running, for $200 through Facebook Marketplace.

There were only about four other vehicles there — school had let out only an hour earlier and Friday afternoons on the Guadalupe are apparently not the thing to do. It was patchy sun, though, and hot. Felt good. I unstrapped the board — having not found my bungee cords nor the ratchet straps I’d bought, I used two white electrical extension cords I found in the garage, tied together with a bowline and square knots — and locked my valuables in the truck.

This truck is a 1988 Ford F-150, a gift from friends to my oldest son, now 20. It was a ranch truck and not driven that much, so in its first thirty years, it saw only 80,000 miles. The same month we got the truck, February 2018, we also got the aforementioned and short-lived Contour (I spent 15% of its total cost just to get it detailed on the inside, because its previous owner was a chain smoker and chain McDonalds customer and a chain not-cleaner-upper), and a 16-year-old Lexus with nearly 200k miles on it. Our total cost for three vehicles was $3,650. Two are still with us. My (heavily) used SUP board cost $40, including paddle, purchased from the very generous owner of Kerrville Kayak and Canoe.

I paddled hard up to the first set of visible tree trunks — 1/4 mile downriver? — then took a pause. I turned the board perpendicular to the river and lay on my back on the deck, looking at some of those clouds I’d seen to the west and north. I relaxed and breathed. Thinking that nothing on the shore really mattered that much right then. I decided I’d better not get too comfortable, so I turned to my stomach and did a plank on my elbows and toes, counting slowly to 30, my abdomen jiggling from months of fast food and inactivity, from driving and reliance on coffee for motivation.

I hopped back to my feet and paddled hard back upriver, with a warm slight breeze to my back, switching sides now and then with a hop. Four strokes on this side and switch grip; four strokes on the other side. HOP! Four strokes and four strokes more. HOP! I could feel my sides burning with a good burn.

A man called out from a small motorized boat with two raised fishing poles stuck near the transom, “You’re gonna be sore tomorrow!”

At first, I didn’t know how to respond. This guy didn’t know me; he didn’t know whether I did this every day or not and whether I’d be sore or not. I started to take offense.

Then I realized that, even 50 feet away, it was evident to any casual onlooker that my effort here was not a daily ritual.

Dripping with schmear


I needed a snack and, as a father of three sons — two who are naturally fit (or at least thin) and one who just started working out like a whirling dervish (that’s a phrase my parents would throw out every now and then so, “That’s for you, Mom and Dad.”) — and since I did an earlier morning workout at the Kroc, I decided a bagel with cream cheese was an acceptably healthy alternative.

Acceptable since, truth be told, PAX was out of scones. (Last week, they had blueberry & lime ones. Have you ever?!)

Now, I’ve been critical of PAX and its bagel street cred, or lack thereof, in the past. In fact, I’ve been so twice.

I’ll make this a hat trick and add an additional “encouragement” here, ending with a rousing endorsement of the establishment itself, which is one Kerrville’s jewels in its downtown crown.

The Yiddish word schmear (/SHmir/, from shmirn), as most of us use it today, has retained largely only one of its two original meanings. Its primary meaning is, “a corrupt or underhanded inducement; a bribe.” The verb form meant to “flatter, or grease” (as in palms). Today’s teens and 20-somethings might say instead, “You’re biggin’ him up.” Brown-nosing. You get the picture. (Or, hopefully, maybe not.)

The point is, a “schmear” is not a slight compliment. Nor is it oblique, subtle, or roundabout. Neither is it an insinuation, a muttering, or a lullaby sung in sotto voce.

Rather, it is pronounced, clarion, unmistakable as being a remark meant obviously to curry favor and receive a desired outcome. Stentorian in delivery. Your palm is clearly covered in grease.

Heretofore, so may PAX’s cream cheese schmears be on their bagels, which are remarkably good for Texas water-made bagels. Let the staff’s schmears toward their customers be obvious, even fortissimo. The schmear should have me staggering backwards from the initial impact, licking the edges of the bagel before the flattery drips from them — again, close the bagels, please: open-faced bagels are an abomination unto me — and using my napkin to make sure the greasy marks are no longer visible at the corners of my mouth.

So, may I suggest to the wonderful establishment between Rita’s and Francisco’s, let us have a symphony of inducement!

I do thank you.

“Kerrville is the new Kerrville”

To the left of the numbers 32, 25, and 43 I sit, in Pint and Plow, working at a table with a flower in a vase.


Kerrville has a growing sense of itself.

I don’t mean that it never knew what it was.

What I mean is that the city — I so want to call it a “town,” a pueblo but it is outgrowing its quaint diminutives — has an awareness of what it has been and also what it is becoming. We even have a plan.

My understanding from my late father-in-law, who grew up here, and others is that for a long time NIMBYism ruled. One still sees it on Facebook posts, but Facebook these days — at least for me — is irrelevant except in informing me when birthdays arrive for family and friends, and so I can “Like” their awesome photos. That and in letting other countries decide who gets to be POTUS.

With a new Mayor, two new City Council members, a dynamic Chamber president, a City Manager whose recent role was managing Dallas (!), and others who have grown up here and yet have embraced that “Kerrville is the new Kerrville,” the future looks bright.

Just hope it’s not so bright as Times Square at 2am.

That happens, and I might just have to move to a small town.