Naturally, I thought I was the smart one. Naturally. I pretty much know my way around Kerrville roads by now. Generally speaking. In almost any setting, I have an intuitive sense of how to get from here to there using shortcuts and a sense of traffic flow that even Google would pay me to consult on. You know: blue, yellow and red areas to tell you where the slow-downs are. I wouldn’t give Apple Maps the time of day. And Waze is too proletarian.

Yesterday ended my traffic flow consulting practice even before my first client signed on the dotted line. But the consolation was that not even Google would have known that the Loop 534 bridge was closed due to the Kerrville Triathlon.

“Wait,” you command (you did use the imperative tense, so I must write it that way). “Didn’t you see those electronic signs? You know. The ones with the digital orange letters on the black background? They were as clear as the Lite-Brite games we had as kids. Are you trying to tell me that your ambition to consult Google made you forget your childhood?!”

Certainly not.

For starters, as a game, Lite-Brite sucked.

There were plenty of other games of its era that were better and more worth the time we spent not on Pong. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, to name just one. To press those right and left-hand jab buttons and finally hear the satisfying grind of your adversary’s ridged and anodized metal neck popping his head upward gave young boys a sense of impending manhood. It was the MMA of 1970s bedroom carpets.

And look at this photo of Lite-Brite. I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to be, but my guess would be an outerspace unicorn that just let loose a rainbow fart. That’s way too big to be a wing. But you decide.

Does its low resolution compare with the high-res and creative freedom found in an Etch-A-Sketch? And what about hand-eye concentration? Someone adept at Operation would scoff at those who with limited artistic ability stick colored pegs in a black background any which-a-way — do you see the parallel here? With Lite-Brite, you can call anything “art.” (And, as many of you know, I have to tread lightly on this topic…) But even with Play-Doh: it was great for sculpting and even better as a late afternoon appetizer. It was only after several budding artist-wannabees tried using the colored pegs as tapas that they printed “Choking Hazard” on the box. They should have printed: Only For The Feeble-Minded.

Second, consulting Google would come with lifetime free 100GB storage. So there’s that.

But back to my story.

I went to Daily Donuts yesterday to do the right thing and get donuts and kolaches for the boys. It had little to do with the extra jelly donut I purchased, and you will be hard pressed to find a witness to say otherwise. My boys were sleeping when I returned. So: no loose ends.

Let’s get back to the “return” home part, which for a while seemed to be in doubt and then most assuredly was in doubt.

On the way to Daily Donuts, I took Bandera Highway down to Medina Highway.

“Did you see not only the signs but that the loop bridge was closed?” you ask.

Well, sure! What do you think?! Do you think that a Google consultant with 100GB of free storage and who can compare the bridge-closed sign to Lite-Brite would be so feeble-minded to have missed that? So: yes. But being who I am, I figured coming back would be different. You know: the ol’ doing the same thing thinking the outcome would be different That kind of head-spinning mental agility.

Besides, turning onto S. Sidney Baker from Bandera was a hassle. Like, it took three minutes instead of thirty seconds.

After I got two large kolaches, one with cheese and jalapeño, and six donuts, including two jelly donuts, one which I was actively eschewing, I got back on Main Street. Just so you know, getting on Sidney Baker from Daily Donuts is quicker through the broken concrete parking lot in front of the auto loan place. Google doesn’t show that short cut. You learned it here.

I decided that I’d try my luck with the Loop 534 bridge from that side of the river. On the off-chance. I mean, what if those who live at the VA want to go to Brew Dawgz? Are they expected to drive all the way down to Sidney Baker and then Bandera before they can get a burger with onion rings? Seems a bit much, if you ask me. And what of ordering Papa Johns? Should the driver go to Sidney Baker to deliver to third-shift workers at the hospital? And, getting cold pizza, do you tip? Or do you stiff the guy and contribute to a lowered living wage all because a person in tights riding a $2,000 bike is blocking your delivery guy’s 2005 Honda Civic from getting through? Or if you wanted to go to Gravity Check down Bandera Highway at 9:00am and wait till Noon for it to open?

Truly I say to bikers: Share the road.

Getting from Daily Donuts to home is normally a 5.1-mile and 10-minute proposition. That’s according to Google Maps. And, more importantly, according to me.

On my way home, I approach the Loop and, lo and behold, it’s closed. I slow down and kind of glance at the police officer standing at the intersection as if to say, Seriously?! I just came from downtown and am more than a little surprised, Officer. This is actually the best way home, and my vehicle contains a jelly donut that I eschew but will not eschew in approximately 7 minutes.

Turns out, he ignored my look.

At this point, I made a strategic decision within a millisecond. One must do this while driving. I could go back to Sidney Baker and home the way I came, swallowing my pride, putting my Google contract in jeopardy and adding on the 7-10 minutes that I lost, or I could continue south on Highway 27 and use another crossing.

I continued.

Pointless of course to turn through the gravel company because it would have led me to Riverside, as would of course the turn onto Riverside itself a bit further down toward Center Point.

Remember those words: Center Point. It’s the key to this whole story. As is the phrase Damn, I spent way too much time eschewing that jelly donut. That, too, is key.

The trick now became how to cross the Guadalupe since they stopped using the wooden ferry 175 years ago. Even then, it’d be unrealistic to expect a ferry made of cedar trees to support a 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

I knew for a fact I could cross at the Center Point River Road in a few minutes. I mean, what if I lived right there? Even if they had it closed, could they stop me from bringing donuts and kolaches to my children before heading out to the swimming hole?! No, they could not. (In my mind at least.)

But they could. And they did. And the police officer, hiding his authoritative amusement behind dark glasses, easily ignored my plaintive look.

I continued on.

When I hit Sutherland Lane, a final way to cross over via Center Point River Road, and saw that it too was closed, I admitted defeat and decided it would be a nice drive to go through Center Point itself. I hadn’t been down to San Antonio Street in a while, and I can’t recall when I’ve ever driven from Center Point to Bandera Highway via San Antonio Street itself. (And isn’t it odd that farther north I could have crossed the Guadalupe on foot much more easily and quickly than in car? I’d simply have carried my plastic bag of donuts and kolaches and listened to Joe Rogan on Spotify along the way. This is what the early settlers did, minus the plastic bag.)

To summarize, pride and a desire to have free Google storage space turned into a trip that was four times the miles and three times the minutes it would have taken going home the way I came to town.

But like I said, Lite-Brite sucked then, and it sucks now.

Creation in a new light

Since February 1 of this year, I’ve been taking photos from our backyard looking northwest. More precisely, it’s probably west-northwest.

I take each photo ten minutes after sunrise. Sunrise on February 1 was 7:35am Central Standard Time, and sunrise today was 6:52am Central Daylight Time.

I’ve titled this series — which by no means includes each day but rather does include multiple days from each week since the start — #10MinutesAfterSunriseInTexas. If you go to Instagram and do a search for similar posts, you might find a series called “10 minutes after sunrise,” but there are only four such photos, and they don’t announce mornings in the great state of Texas but rather in places like Maine, where the sun actually rises only about seven days a year, in late June.

So I became interested in what I could learn about the sunrise here.

Previously, only a spectacular sunrise or sunset would earn my attention. It dawned on me that because I pick and choose what I want to see, I might be missing something even more spectacular.

See these two galleries below, followed by an observation I had. I’ll save others for later.

  • Gallery 1 is four photos from the first half of February. (Earliest is upper left and moves clockwise to later dates.)
  • Gallery 2 is two photos from the first half of February contrasted against two from the first half of May. (Earliest is upper left and again moves clockwise.)

To the naked eye, we can see differences, especially when sunrises are separated by a few months.

The camera — machine #1 — picks up differences further still. One day, I was sure it was an overcast-gray only. But the camera picked up more blue than I had noticed. The camera didn’t operate on preconceived notions about what it wanted to see.

It just reported.

Then, I added a second machine to see what I might be missing and to “say” what the camera didn’t have the tools to.

Adobe Capture is an app that allows you to create various patterns from photos. It also can compile a “swatch” of five colors that it deems dominant in that photo.

The series on the left is from early February — February 1 at top, February 14 at bottom. The series on the right, like the gallery, shows the first two February photos at top and the last two May photos at bottom. Move the vertical slider back and forth by clicking and holding the “< >” to compare and contrast.

On left is a machine impression of the February photographs. On the right is a machine impression of the first two February photographs (on top) and two photographs from this month (on bottom).

There are six conclusions I’ve made so far from looking at the photos over time, not through my eyes but through the eyes of two unbiased machines, that of my camera and Adobe Capture. I’ll share just one for now:

The sun doesn’t make the difference; the clouds do.

This was my problem at the start. My idea of a “great” sunrise or sunset not only was that it was sunny, creating a “golden hour,” but also that it was brilliantly so. Nothing wrong with that, granted.

But it is the clouds, playing off the sun, that create various shadows and shades of blues, browns and greens that I had missed until I filtered them through these two machines.

#10MinutesAfterSunriseInTexas is my way of seeing creation in a new light.

More to come.

“Biscuit Aisle” podcast launched: focuses on food and family

One of my favorite podcasts out there, offered on Spotify, is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Carlin is a journalist-turned-historian, and he says he likes to focus on extreme human behavior, especially in wars, both ancient and modern. He details these over the course of 5- and 6-hour episodes. Listening to two back to back, you’d almost be able to drive across Texas. Another of my favorites is The Allusionist (about language and words) and yet another is 99% Invisible, which is about the “process and power of design and architecture.”

Likely, I’m not the only one out there who sees something cool and says, “I’d like to do what that person does.” Well, I’m no historian, English language expert, or design guru. One of my main attributes, however, is that I’ve spent more than two decades asking questions and listening as a nonprofit fundraiser. Typically, this happens over a good meal that someone else pays for. Seems tailor-made for a podcast like the one I’m doing now.

This honed skill of probing for truth and then listening for it, between bites, could be turned into conversations that might be helpful, or at least entertaining, for a listener.

I’ve done two interviews so far with fellow “foodies,” who more often than not are much younger than I and who look a sight better in a spaghetti string dress. (I know this to be fact.)

Instagram is the social medium platform I use to post photos of the meals I make, and many of those I’m connected to just happen to live in Texas, Canada, India or the U.K. Typically they are between the ages of 25 and 44, overwhelmingly female, men skewing slightly younger than women, and are active on Instagram chiefly on Thursday mornings at 9:30 U.S. Central Time. This would make sense, given that the times in the U.S. and Canada, the U.K. (6 hours ahead during Daylight Savings) and Mumbai (10.5 hours ahead) are waking hours for everyone in this group.

I say that there are a lot of foodies who fall into these demographics, but of course this is the “audience” that Instagram algorithms have chosen for me based on the small snowball of my early follow choices and which then rolled downhill gaining size and momentum.

Against that backdrop I decided to interview other foodies and hear about their passion for the subject. A lot of food posts on Instagram at large are marked as #foodporn or #burgerporn etc., not unlike others marked as #architectureporn. Anything visual can be turned to an idol of fascination, if the visual is both the first and last stop of engagement (there is in fact no porn itself on the platform). But food posts usually represent a person having lovingly created the dish, which is typically enjoyed at a restaurant with a friend or lover, or at home with family. An #architectureporn photo might be of a glistening skyscraper containing hundreds of people. Or not. We can’t tell from the looks of it. Or it might be of an ancient building that hasn’t heard laughter in centuries.

But food posts have an immediate history and an active present. Lip smacks and closed-eyed smiles, laughter with the person next to you, sometimes grimaces and the word “interesting” being bandied about, and always clearing the plates afterwards.

I’ve conducted two interviews so far on “Biscuit Aisle.” Another episode is coming soon with a man who has become a part of the food scene in the greater Kerrville area. The first two interviews are with foodies from Houston and Toronto. Their Instagram accounts are below.

Please visit their pages, listen to the interviews and subscribe to the “Biscuit Aisle” podcast! Thanks.

“Spaghetti-Western” Cuisine

“Spaghetti-Western” films were gunslinger movies shot in Italy or other parts of Europe and directed mostly by Italians. Perhaps the best-known example is Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” An eminently watchable movie in its own right, it also was the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino to become a filmmaker, according to Tarantino himself. (You can read about that below.)

Clint Eastwood’s smirk with that cigarillo — lit with a match struck on his boot sole, or maybe it was against his eyelid, one can’t be sure — and its lazy smoke caught beneath the brim of his hat and perhaps irritating his left eye and causing him to squint. The occasional dialogue that looked very different when you watched the actors’ mouths and what you heard. Evil men who were never children; they were born as 45-year-olds wearing black hats.

My question today is: didn’t those people ever get hungry?

If indeed “Blondie” — the “Man With No Name,” played by Eastwood — or the other actors suffered from a lack of acceptable cuisine out in the salt flats near Granada, Spain, I’m here to help. I’m developing a new cuisine just for those kind of characters. They might be unsavory, so I’ll provide the savory for them. (Ba-dum-dum. I’ll be here all week, folks.)

It’s called “Spaghetti-Western Cuisine.”

“El Paso Porco”

Let’s put this in context.

You’re Clint Eastwood.

You’ve just endured a Mexican stand-off.

No, not “endured.” Not by a long shot (you might say).

No. You’ve kind of sauntered into and out of this life-and-death scene through which the viewer and other two gun-slingers tip-toed. You shot your main opponent and he rolls into a shallow grave. Then, approaching the other opponent, whose revolver you had sneakily unloaded, you shoot the dead man’s hat from the side of the grave into it. And then his revolver.

You might be a great shot, but you get hungry like everyone else. You don’t want a caesar salad. Not after shooting like that. You don’t want avocados, though those are plentiful not far from Durango, Mexico, where a portion of the film was shot. If you slung guns today in Rancho Santa Fe, California, avocados would be great, thank you.

No. You want meat.

Enter stage right: the “El Paso Porco.”

el paso porco

What is the “El Paso Porco”?

On my Instagram account, you’ll see the write-up, but I’ll expand here. I wanted to combine something Italian with something western. Not long ago, I made chicken-fried chicken parmesan. That attempt was nominally successful in terms of integration. In terms of taste, it was a home run. But the only “western” thing about the dish was that I soaked the chicken in buttermilk first. It was nonetheless a move in the right direction.

Generally, when any of us says, “a move in the right direction,” that seems to imply that we’re moving away from a wrong direction, and that we’re moving away from something.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, my father worked for CBS, which aired a lot of westerns. These movies became so predictable and tired that Dad and his coworkers took bets on how they’d end. The American-made westerns became tired, like lunchmeat in grade school. Baloney sandwiches, which had long been ripped from their original Italian context of Bologna. (See why we have all this culinary dysphoria?)

Onto the scene of that dusty and tired backdrop strode in Italian directors like Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, Duccio Tessari and Franco Giraldi. These four, according to Quentin Tarantino, are the four greatest Italian movie directors. Tarantino, as any fan knows, often uses the trope of a “Mexican stand-off” as portrayed masterfully in the Leone classic. And he uses similar epic music. His latest movie, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” is a direct descendent of Leone. (For the record, I don’t see the lineage. I see it in “Pulp Fiction” and of course in “The Hateful Eight.”)

In fact, it was Leone more than the others, who made a deep and lasting impression on Tarantino. And it was “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” that for Tarantino was a primer in how to make films.

What’s more, Leone even influenced now-arcane video games like Billy Frontier:

But getting shot by or shooting a blue alien and chaps-wearing upright bull can make any gunslinger downright hangry.

For this man or for the woman identifying as a cigarillo-smoking gunslinger, spaghetti-western cuisine is heavy on carbs but is also designed for the paleo alpha male or, again, the woman who identifies as an alpha male. (If, however, she’s a beta male then the deal’s off; she can bloody well go to Dairy Queen.)

Sweet Italian sausage on a toasted baguette. Jalapeño relish and a creamy chipotle sauce.

A great experiment and a new addition to the line-up of “Spaghetti-Western Cuisine.”

my own summary of the “El Paso Porco”

How do you make “El Paso Porco”?

Thanks for asking. It’s really not hard. The hard part is the condiments. The meat is sweet Italian sausage with that hint of fennel. (Even a gunslinger has a sweet side. You might not see it, but it’s there. His mother can see what we can’t. Except for the ugly one. He had no mother.)


If you’re eating a sausage, you’re basically eating an Italian hotdog. It’s Italian meat delivered in dachshund form. You might be tempted to put it on an Italian bread like a ciabatta or focaccia. But those are too seasoned and don’t look like hot dog buns. So instead you choose the Italian baguette. It’s a French type of bread with the word “Italian” modifying it. An Italian hot dog bun. Lean into it.

I made my relish using THIS RECIPE. The jalapeño pepper definitely enters the room without knocking. That’s why we have a doorman.


That’s right. Cream. Chipotle to keep the palette fiesta going strong. And sauce to make this scrumptious. The recipe I used is HERE.

The recipe calls for the “cream” to be European-style yogurt or Mexican crema. Unless the European-style yogurt is of 19th century Spanish origin, I’d have none of it. I wanted authenticity, and our local and awesome H-E-B stocks Mexican crema. It’s about three feet to the right of the Hill Country brand, 128-ounce satchel of shredded Colby Jack cheese.

Despite its slight kick in the throat from the chipotles in adobo, it mercifully softens the tightening, noose-like effect of the relish. So: good-cop-bad-cop. But you’re still gonna be crying mommy.

Toast the baguette under the broiler, and skip any additional cheese. The Mexican crema serves a dual purpose.

Add sides like butternut squash and organic beets as urban sophisticates to your brutish entree, and you are good to go. Time to get more bad guys. And ugly ones, too.

As an alternate to the hot jalapeño relish, try my Billy Dobbs Rough Stock Salsa.

How “spaghetti-western” food differs from other food

Why does there need to be a “spaghetti-western cuisine,” anyway? Aren’t there enough food choices out there already? Furthermore, isn’t this a bit too niche: hungry gunslingers? Well, I’ll concede that latter point, because most hungry gunslingers either died a violent death 150 years ago or are aging conservative Hollywood actors who live off lime jello and cottage cheese. So, yes.

But, if you look at Instagram, there is a glut of food but absolutely NO choice for NextGen gunners. Say: gamers. We’re talking serious scale here.

Instagram has a cacophonous display of food (as it does with architecture, thatched-roof hotel huts over crystal waters or big-breasted Slavic women). How Instagrammers get people’s attention is using hashtags and obscenely beautiful photography and now video. The photos and videos don’t display how we live. Rather, they underscore how little we have. They are market-makers. I’m here to fill a hungry market. A market with a hole in its stomach. I’m on a mission of mercy.

According to Hootsuite, the most popular hashtags have little to do with these images. I find consolation in knowing that the #1 hashtag is “love.” I don’t know what “#instagood” means.

Back to food and “spaghetti-western.”

I won’t even go into all the food photographs. Anyone on Instagram has seen everything from the seven-patty hamburgers with American cheese dripping over the side — who’s gonna actually eat that?! — to the white-plated anorexic portion of wagyu beef on thin toasted bread, a bite that cost the Instagrammer “120$,” but was “so worth it.”


Have you a hearty meal draining your kid’s 529 College Fund.

“Texas Takes on Italian Classics”

Spaghetti-Western Food — what I also call “Texas Takes on Italian Classics” — is a fusion of comfort-food and rustic Italian food, mostly southern Italian but also some northern. An homage to what puts meat on our bones — meat that a gunslinger needs to keep slinging guns, whether in Dead Man’s Gulch or Palermo — and Italian cooking that’s been passed down through the generations.

Chicken-fried chicken parmesan was another example. I made a tiramisù, but it was traditional. No gunslinger whom I’ve met would eat something with “lady fingers” in it. The “Texas-take” on that would be to substitute tequila for the cognac.

And of course there are Texas items we can put on pizza or over pasta, but we need to tread lightly there. We’re tip-toeing around tradition. No brisket or salsa as such on a pizza, and definitely not Velveeta. That deserves a showdown at dawn. Jalapeños? Yeah. Venison sausage? Sure. Especially in a ragout.

The fusion also blends the Texan “sovereign swagger” and the “bigger-is-better” ethos with the Italian stability of two thousand years of culture and European dominance. A Dallas Cowboy running back father mated with a woman identifying as a Roman centurion.

And because of an innate “manifest destiny” of the Lone Star State and its residents, don’t be surprised if you see Italian tradition on four wheels driving into a town near you.

About Galveston, Texas | ShotsByRayRay

If you want to know more about Galveston, Texas, check out the photos on the Instagram account, @ShotsByRayRay.

Raymond Cruz’s photos are evocative and emotional, and of late I’ve seen a lot that use standing water as a mirror on his subject in the top half of the frame.

Much like Monet did with his Water Lilies series, Ray revisits certain spots when the light and clarity of air are different. This gives the outsider, like myself, a more rounded picture of Galveston, and I grow in appreciation for this classic Texas town.

Below is just a small sampling:

  • about galveston texas

For more about Galveston, Texas, visit his IG account.

And if you want to be able to write about anything you want to, and make money doing it like I do, join my Writers Team here.

Where To Buy Moleskine Notebooks in Texas

my moleskines
My moleskine notebooks. Only recently did I allow myself to go 4-color. I did the whole NYC black thing for a long time. There are 35 of them, and yes, on the left stack, third from the top, is the Batman edition.

This is going to be a really fun article to write, because I’m writing about not only a product I think it beautiful but also one I use every day, sometimes several times a day. In fact there are 10 million of these products sold every year.

Moleskine notebooks.

To be specific: classic black hardcover pocket Moleskine notebooks. These have become an essential travel tool for me, yet in rural Texas, finding retailers is not so easy. Of course Amazon is a solution, as it is to almost any product need. But wouldn’t it be nice to know where to go to get one and support a local economy?

I’ll be looking at where to buy one, and also a bit about the notebook itself.

{If you want to buy one now so you can read in peace, knowing one’s on the way, CLICK HERE}


Most of us learning for the first time about Moleskine notebooks aren’t familiar with their history or even how to pronounce the name.

moleskine notebooks
My go-to: hardcover, blank pages, 3.5 x 5.5 inches.

The product dates back to the 19th century but actually disappared from stores and the public during the latter half of the 20th century. Before that, famous writers such as novelist Ernest Hemingway and playwright Oscar Wilde made them famous, kind of like Michael Jordan did with Nikes. (I don’t sense that Nike is going the way of the Moleskine.)

As for pronunciation, the company that relaunched the product was French, so before then it was called MOLE-skeen, and when it moved to France they added a syllable and called them MOL-ey-skeen. To us anglos to stomach that pronunciation, we’d need it spelled “Mollyskiing.”


If you want to know more about why it’s even called “Moleskine,” click here.

moleskine coToday, the Italian company that manages the brand — after buying it from another Italian company that had it publicly traded on the Italian stock market after they bought it from the French company — delisted it from the stock exchange. They have 500 employees.

It seems a bit unusual to consider its quixotic market appearances. One wonders how a brand stays alive. But between its pedigree as a tool used by famous artists and its durability and simply beauty, it finds a market among discriminating writers and poets, sketchers/artists, architects, musicians, even CEOs, and others.

The importance of its cover and its paper

Durability and beauty, shaped in simplicity, are why Moleskines enjoy such loyalty from its users. Moleskines in particular are also somewhat of a rebellion against a world gone digital. They provide solace in focus, retreat from sound and movement…just the pen or brush or pencil moving across a cream surface.

{for pens and pads and cozy slippers for those mountain mornings…CLICK HERE}


Gruppo Una
People who use Moleskines — writers and artists and so forth — often throw them into backpacks or shove them in their back pockets, and they sit on them, lay them down on wet surfaces, place them on rocks by cliffs overlooking raging ocean surf, or any number of things that would ruin a lesser journal.

And if you Google “Are Moleskine covers real leather?” the nearly 800,000 results will convince you that it looks and feels enough like a lower grade leather that it doesn’t really matter if it is or isn’t. It’s simply beautiful.


This next fact will anger some, especially given the events of recent days (March – June 2020).

Moleskine is quite proud of the fact that they produce the notebooks in China (source: Yup. You heard right. The reason lies with China’s (true) historical expertise in paper manufacturing. The Chinese invented paper, after all.

Shinola store in NYC

The paper is indeed one reason I use Moleskine. I’ve tried Shinola notebooks, made in Detroit and which has admittedly a very cool store in SoHo, but its paper is inferior in my opinion. At least it is for writing with a fountain pen.

I also tried a Daler/Rowney, which is a good art company and the notebook wasn’t bad all in all — good paper to hold the ink, and durable cover. But it was so close to a Moleskine but not a Moleskine, that I said, “Why? Why would I want an imitation?”

Answer: I don’t.

If you’re already seeing what’s below and can’t help yourself, CLICK HERE.

The inspirational power of Moleskines

In this section, I’m simply going to show a few of my favorite Moleskine-borne creations.

Why do I like these?

I put the writers’ journals first, because that’s the way I use them, and that’s what made them famous and, I believe, kept the brand alive (used by Hemingway, Wilde, etc.). A Moleskine wouldn’t be complete without crossing out and corrections. I included Tina Bu’s time planner, because so many people I know of use an analogue device for tracking time and projects, and I really admire that. I’ve never been able to do that; I’m digital for tracking my activity.

Then there’s the art, which I could stare at for hours. Nowadays, the creations have to jump to the opposite page, even play off there being a gutter, and often bleed off the edge in some thematic way. Some have made creations that are truly 3-D.

Where to buy Moleskine notebooks in Texas

  • Living in Kerrville, the easy way is to order through Amazon. I absolutely will not go to Walmart to buy a knock-off. Google Maps says they have Moleskines; they don’t. Entertainmart (the former Hastings) on Main Street might.
    reef blue
    Yes…my newest color
  • But an hour south, in La Cantera Mall near San Antonio, there’s a Barnes & Noble, and they have a fairly good selection.
  • Austin has six different retailers.
  • The Dallas area, in Carrolton, apparently only has one.
  • There are four in Houston.
  • Lubbock: Barnes & Noble.
  • Same with El Paso — Barnes & Noble.
  • Moleskine’s own global store locator here appears to be useless, so don’t bother.

Every morning…

I get my coffee, sit down in my leather armchair — kind of the only time I do — and get out this reef blue notebook (until I get another color; a canary yellow is on deck) and my Parker Sonnet brushed black metal fountain pen, and I write. Whatever is on my mind.

Sometimes there’s not much.

But that’s not often.

For an updated review, CLICK HERE

I have posted some new thoughts on Moleskine journals, for writers and for artists.

Why do we live in small towns?

Greenport NY abstracted
Abstract expressionist painting of Greenport, NY, plan view. 2014. artist: Karen Freeman

Why do we love visiting small towns?

Whether it’s here in America or elsewhere, there’s something about small towns that draws us in and makes us feel…at home, right?

As I write this, I’m not sure how I’ll answer my question at the top, but I’m a restless wanderer, as maybe you are, and home is what I seek. In the end.

Small Town, Big City

I’m from New York City, and when anyone outside the city hears that, they immediately think of Times Square.

“How could you live there?!” they think or say. Meaning the city, but thinking of Times Square.

They’re not wrong. Nobody really lives in Times Square. New Yorkers themselves don’t even go there! Unless they have to.

We New Yorkers live in neighborhoods, just as you do who hail from small towns. I believe this is part of the answer.

Neighborhoods, Not Cities

I was born and raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The Upper East Side is pretty much where “all the rich” live. Seriously. From our living room window on the sixth floor of our

Looking east at buildings along Fifth Avenue from a Central Park perspective.

pre-war building on 96th and Madison, I would watch as different U.S. presidents — Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama — went to a particular building across the street and halfway to Fifth Avenue to do fundraisers. That one building. My family even has a photo of FDR driving below our building to the same destination.

Historically, 96th Street was considered such a line of demarcation between the rich and the poor — the rich lived to the south of it and the poor to the north — that in the 1970s a friend of mine bought a penthouse duplex apartment on Fifth Avenue and 97th Street for $70,000. Fifth Avenue was where the rich among the rich lived. Down the street from this apartment, on 97th between Madison and Park Avenues, two adolescents had been kidnapped and held hostage for two days before police rescued them. It made the front page of newspapers. But a couple years ago, my friend sold his penthouse to a famous “Shark Tank” star for nearly $10 million.

My point here is that neighborhoods were clearly marked, and northeastern residents were stereotypically known to associate with people of different races and social classes, but they lived separately. Apparently the stereotype of the South was the opposite.

“Small towns” even in New York City

After college, I moved from the Upper East Side to the Park Slope neighborhood. In the mid-80s, there were still sketchy areas, but it was a true neighborhood: clear lines of where it started and stopped, with a variety of people living there and a variety of stores and restaurants catering to people of all races and social classes.

(Top row: lady walking with parasol on near the former American Bible Society; oranges in front of our local grocery store, Broadway Farms; yes, even the subway can feel “local;” Middle row: a friend of mine in Harlem who told me about the nature of growing up in his neighborhood; a kid with melting ice cream; last two photos are my friend Hans Honschar, who creates sidewalk art.)

Fast forward and I lived for a total of 14 years on the Upper West Side (with a 10-year exodus to New England), also a mash-up of different people. We all converged, though our kids, in the local public elementary schools, where our young children learned to see each other and make friends despite the differences we adults saw in each other.

It was all about having fun and being together.

This, too — fun, togetherness — is part of the answer to my question.

West 4th Street Court, "The Cage"
The West Fourth Street Courts, aka “The Cage.” A premier spot for amateur basketball in NYC.

Even the famous “Cage” basketball court on West 4th Street and Sixth Avenue feels like a neighborhood place. There is an aliveness to them.

“Alive” is another word to help answer my question.

The artistic composition of small towns

You may have noticed that the heading of this article was an abstract expressionist painting. (Full disclosure, there’s no coincidence between the artist’s last name and my own.)


wings and town

There is an artistry to small towns, both in the “plan view” from above and also at elevation (looking straight ahead). I’ve always thought that the organic growth of small towns — from the first humans to early civilized towns to European towns and now modern towns and cities — mirrored nature.

Nature itself has given us the model of how towns look when they’re healthy.

Artists over the years have picked up on this and portrayed them that way.

Why do we love visiting and living in small towns?

We love them — towns or neighborhoods in small cities — because we have always lived that way. Even before we knew we did. We have always gathered by clans and families, separated because of differences or opportunities or selfishness, and created a new part of the larger whole.

german street art
Building art in a German neighborhood. Photo: Velvet Escape

But each section of the whole did make the whole both larger and more cohesive.

Why do we love small towns?

Because whether we like to admit it or not, whether we live in a big city and boast about it — yours truly included — or live in a small town and feel suffocated, we have always lived this way.

It’s where we come alive.

Or, at least, it’s where we can.




The forgotten Lenape

IMG_0240Though my office at the moment (3:22pm) is PAX Coffee & Goods, with the photo of Johnny Cash strolling into Folsom Prison in 1968 facing me, for my 1:30pm call with our consultant I chose the luxury of sitting in the Dallas Daughtry Memorial Pavilion.

So that you don’t have to Google him, Mr. Daughtry was a local, died relatively young (57) from cancer, and one of the things his obituary noted stood out: “…he loved God by loving people: his family, employees, and countless people who thought of him as their best friend.” If more creatures on Earth than your dog counts you as their best friend, you’ve done something both rare and eternal. Apparently, Mr. Daughtry found the key to living successfully.

But this pavilion was my office for an hour-long phone call, and a pleasant, if warming, hour it was.

This photo was untouched except for converting it to BxW. The reflection of the trees at right was crisp; the sun sparkling off the water was pointillistic; the variation of greens in the river was distinct; the blues of the sky and whites of the clouds were in high contrast.

Below me, a group of five people waded across from the town side of the river to the park side, carrying red 5-gallon buckets. Downstream, a man kicked water at his black dog, which each time whirled delightfully around in a circle in mid-air. Just north of the dam, two people swam near the park shore. This is Tuesday, midday, in September, during school hours, downtown. Swimming at midday sounds awfully good to me.

One end of the Goodnight-Loving Trail was north and a little west of Kerrville.

When taking a picture of these trail maps, I failed at the time to note the name of one in particular that I find enticing: The Goodnight-Loving Trail. It sounds a bit like “Lovers Lane,” right? Not really. “Spanning” from Texas to Wyoming — and you know whenever the Lone Star State is included in a “span,” the distance is automatically doubled — the trail was blazed by Charles Goodnight (a former Ranger) and Oliver Loving (a cowboy) in the 1860s, before names like “Goodnight” or “Oliver” would curry little street cred in this “dangerous Indian territory.” (I can imagine “Goodnight” being a nickname for a Western gunslinger. E.g. Jesse ‘Goodnight’ Mcgillicuddy. “My apologies for the spill, Mr. Mcgillicuddy, sir, your next whiskey’s on me.”)

A view from the Water Street entrance to the pavilion looking southwest over the Guadalupe and Louise Hays Park.

And while we’re on the subject of “Indians” — also known as people whose forebears were here “umpteen generations” before them and not just “3” or “5” or “10” generations before — there’s a special posture Texans have with this group of fellow humans. There seems to be a yoked disregard and deep respect. A disregard that, by golly, we’re going to take this land and make our shingles (as they did in Kerrville) or raise our cattle (everywhere else) and

Alabaster sculpture by Oreland Joe at The Museum of Western Art on Bandera Highway.

shoot you right between the eyes if we need to. But a respect that honors the way of life, the art, the humanity, the “co-existingness” — as contradictory as that sounds — of the indigenous peoples. Many Texans still live close to the land and, living so, they regard the land itself, animals, and other people differently than does the average city dweller who chooses his meat and people off the shelf and as easily discards them into the waste bin when no longer needed. The Dutch took “Mannahatta” island from the Lenape Indians and, as far as I know, there’s not a Dutch or English descendant in New York City who doesn’t think that Lenape is a mispronounced coffee drink.

There’s an ecology in Texas, almost a closed and sustainable ecosystem, that eludes me.

I may understand it in time.

I won’t understand why Texans drink Big Red. Nasty stuff.

I hope we can agree on that.

Popping pick-ups and paywalls

Saturday morning round-up of Things That Don’t Really Deserve A Separate Post But Which I Wanted To Mention.

Each has the import of a sentence of mostly initial capital letters.

First there is this photo of a red pick-up truck, which I converted to black and white, since a photographer once told me that the color red can really pop when seen in BxW.

Red pick-up in front of “Olympic” pool on Singing Wind Drive.

Doesn’t that “color” really pop? Very cool.

Speaking of color, the bush out front of our house–which I learned was a sage bush–not our house, that is, but the bush (thank you, dangling modifiers)–sprung into summer action after the rain the other day.

It bloomed a few days later:

Photo taken with Focos
Detail of sage bloom. Busy bee at work.

Y’all know that this blog tries to keep to BxW photos (or sepia, silvertone, etc.), but that bloom was vibrant. I forgot to take a comparative photo last night, when the fuchsia had turned lavender or muted purple. Suffice to say, that the bloom had gone off the bush; the bees had returned to their Queen.

Back to black and white.

For those who really wanted to see the broken down drunk grandfather of a shed, sitting in his yellowing boxers in the living room chair:


You have to admit–well, I’d like you to admit with me–that it kinda belongs there now. Let him sleep it off. He’s sitting off Friendship Lane on the south side, just west of Walmart.

And last, but certainly not least, there was the article that appeared today in the Kerrville Daily Times about Karen and her art, but it’s behind a paywall. (How I hate paywalls. They are evil. Make the content free and pay for it with ad revenue; people don’t subscribe to diddly squat anymore. If I put this blog behind a paywall, how many of you 8 readers would pay?! See?)

Go to my Facebook to read the article and see the photos.

Y’all come back.