Round Rock revealed

I’ve come across several people who’ve joked about Californians and New Yorkers moving to Texas, and I’ve even heard a few become quite concerned.

A group in Houston, worried about overcrowding and public safety, has gone so far as to replace the “Hollywood” sign with a warning.

Just kidding. I know that there are still a few spaces left here, so the sign was more for public relations than anything else. Right? Tell people to stop moving here, and what do they do? They want to move here even more.

It makes sense; it really does. What’s not to like about Texas? Or about Kerrville? I mean, we just got a brand new H-E-B. This new store even has like six or seven brands of non-alcoholic beers. IPA beers came out after 1994, and I’ve always wanted to try one. Now I can.

So, I get it: the sign in Hollywood is actually to encourage alcoholics to move to Texas.

My iPhone native weather app has a new icon available. For weather that is forecast to be below freezing with ice or snow, there’s now a little thermometer with a snowflake at the top.

This weekend, I checked the long-range forecast and by this Friday the overnight temperature was supposed to hit 14. But there was no snowflake thermometer. Five minutes ago, apparently after an update to the app: snowflake thermometer. Two minutes ago when I wanted to make sure I was describing this correctly for you: no snowflake thermometer and lows only in the mid 20s.

So I have it figured out. The more I check my phone’s weather app, the warmer it gets and the more likely it is that alcoholic Californians will move to Texas, despite a warnings by the Houstonians.

And, God bless Houston, but it’s no New York City. (New York, that is, under healthy circumstances, which I write with a heavy heart.)

There’s always been a steady stream of Californians and New Yorkers moving back and forth between the coasts’ major cities. Usually for work. And for culture, and for the vibe and so much more. But, in fact, this polarity is also the reason that both LA and New York lack good Tex-Mex, and the closest they get is Pappasito’s Cantina in DFW’s Terminals A and C.

Which is another reason that Houstonians should want Californians to move to Texas, at least for a while. They could be trained in authentic Tex-Mex and then extradited to their state of origin, where they’d be charged with avoiding high taxes. In the meantime, they could all live in Round Rock, which is where they want to be anyway.

Speaking for myself, I’m just glad Kinky Friedman and I got here before the billboards started going up. (I have a “bit” less street cred here than Kinky who, though he was born in Chicago, moved here when young and graduated from Austin High School.)

But one of Texas’s exports — New Yorkers might believe –is the Naked Cowboy.

This guy is real. I and many others have seen him with our own eyes.

Full disclosure requires me to admit that Robert John Burck, the name his mother prefers, was born in Ohio, and in 2012 he ran for president, representing the Tea Party. So: not a Texan.

I have yet to meet someone from here who would be caught dead in their underwear in the snow in Times Square.

Of course, I don’t know many people in Round Rock.

HEB Kerrville | Is “gleaning” in the works?

HEB Kerrville

When someone says something like, “I know I’m stepping on the third rail here, but…” they’re admitting to touching a topic that one shouldn’t touch and expect to survive.

I’m from New York City, now living in the Texas Hill Country, and I’m going to risk a few hairs getting frazzled by my talking about HEB in Kerrville, which requires a lighter step than does crossing the tracks between the uptown #2 and downtown #3 trains at 72nd Street and Broadway.

HEB Kerrville
1:Cover 2:Power rail 3:Insulator 4:sleeper 5:Rail (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

The two HEB stores in Kerrville, Texas, are arguably bigger deals than other local attractions claimed online: The Cross at Kerrville (#1 spot according to Trip Advisor), while visually impressive, doesn’t get as many visitors even on Easter as does HEB before Thanksgiving; James Avery is not so central as HEB is; and at least this year, we’ll have to see if the Folk Music Festival, rescheduled for October, will get the same attention as Texas’s beloved grocery chain.

I know that these contrasts are not exactly apples-to-apples — HEB is a necessity in our daily lives, unlike the others — but all are part of the Kerrville or Hill Country DNA. I’m aware also that HEB should be typed as “H-E-B,” but frankly I’m too lazy to do that each time.

I’ll add this: because of his creation of this amazing company, the founder (“H___”) is one of the few H’s whose first name I’m proud to share.

My intention here is to express both my appreciation and suggested tweaks for this growing and much-loved company, a reputation that is wholly deserved.

HEB Kerrville and its biscuit aisle

Let me say at the outset that when I moved to my wife’s hometown of Kerrville, I started a blog whose title was inspired by HEB. It was borne of my first visit here, in 1996.

“Biscuit Aisle” was a tip of the hat to the copious display of not only that product but also many others (brisket, tortilla chips, cheese, cokes, salsa, etc.) that had shelves and frontage for days, all devoted to multiple brands and varying dosages.

Velveeta is sold like lumber.

Currently, the Main Street store’s biscuit aisle now has yogurts of all sorts, including 4% Fage, which you can’t get at the other HEB (a.k.a. the “Little HEB” and former home of Albertson’s).

Bottom line: I love HEB as much as the next guy.

HEB high points

YAKULT, for example

Along the biscuit aisle and to the right of Fage is a product called Yakult.

It’s a Japanese drinkable probiotic yogurt enjoyed elsewhere in Asia and in Australia, and now in the U.K. and U.S. (as of 1999). A Filipino friend of mine said she drank them all the time as a kid. You who are local to Kerrville probably know we have a strong Filipino community here and also a large Filipino community in San Antonio.

It’s not surprising that HEB would offer such a product, because by all accounts it is a customer-focused company.

Yakult is merely an example.

In my experience with the company, if you want a product to be offered, you can talk to the store manager, as I did once. She promised to talk to the head of grocery (it was a food item), who checked with the warehouse regarding supply chain, and a man called me within three or so days to ask more questions and hear my request.


For a company this size, I don’t think I could ask much more from HEB. Of course, that’s exactly what I’m going to do in this Opinion piece. Hopefully in love and respect.


Speaking for myself, I’m a big fan of the check-out experience.

Not only do I not have to wait long in line ever, but the cashiers are super quick, asking you how you’re doing each time, and the folks bagging the items are quick, efficient, and courteous. (Though I rue the day when one asks me if he can help me get my groceries to the car.) I realize these staff habits are probably the result of good training, but the effect on the customer comes across authentically.

And “attaboy!” to the training department.

I also like how HEB made a change in its card machine: apparently people were leaving their cards in the machines after check-out, so the process was changed so that we remove our cards before we approve the total.

Cheesy stock photo. No, not exactly what it’s like at HEB, but both sides leave happy. (SOURCE: Finance Buzz)
Perhaps I’m like George H.W. Bush, who marveled over a food scanner that had been operational for years. But I don’t think so: I do at least half if not more of the food shopping, so I saw this change in almost real-time. It was excellent.


Though COVID has changed a lot, hopefully temporarily, who doesn’t love the free food here and there?!

I’ve had new kinds of chili at the little HEB on Sidney Baker South and spicy California roll sushi at the big HEB on Main Street.

After tasting the outcome of a cooking demo at the big HEB that featured a jar of Cookwell & Company Two-Step Spicy Chili Mix — yes, I know using a sauce like this is kind of cheating — I bought a jar, made chili — and it was a big hit with the kids.

HEB Kerrville
Cookwell & Company chili mix, demo’ed to me and others at HEB

As long as the chili is good, the diners don’t care what state appears on the chef’s birth certificate.


The sensitive response HEB showed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, its nationally-newsworthy Ninja Supply Chain skills, and its rapid response to other disasters, make it a company worth praising. It also ranked as a top company to work for.

The list, as you all well know, could go on.

Here are some of the items on my “wish list” for HEB going forward.

My HEB wish list

There are certain products that are either temporarily unavailable, infrequently available, or they are items I hope will always be available.

  • SafeCatch Tuna | I first got this canned tuna fish at the little HEB in the Fall of 2019 when I was trying to eat a lot of protein.
    • It’s low in mercury if it has any at all, and its ocean-to-canning process seems humane. It costs a little more, yes. But health and taking one tiny step toward sustainability make it worth it.
    • SafeCatch to my knowledge hasn’t been offered at the big HEB, and it’s made sporadic appearances at the little one. My wife brought it home last night, putting a big smile on my face.

HEB Kerrville

  • Bernards Gourmet Salsa | My favorite salsa. It is not offered at the small HEB, and it was regularly offered at the big HEB, until it wasn’t. Again, it’s a bit more expensive, but when the alternative salsas are made with water or tomato paste (which itself is part water), neither of which Bernards is, why not buy one carton less of Coke and spend money on amazing salsa instead? (That’s a call to action for my fellow shoppers.)
    • I know as with any item anywhere — grocery store or otherwise — if a product doesn’t sell, the manager can’t take up shelf space for it.
    • That said, I know that people would buy more if they only had the opportunity to try it. (This is addressed below.)
  • Dave’s Killer Bread | Aside from being about the best store-bought bread anywhere, if you’ve not read the history behind Dave’s Killer Bread, you owe it to yourself to Google it. It’s a story of redemption, human triumph and entrepreneurship, and we customers would do well to buy it and keep it on the shelves.

So here are two suggestions to remedy the above situations. (I say “remedy,” realizing I might well be the only one disturbed.)

I’m a writer and wannabe photographer, not a retailer or merchandiser, so these suggestions could be worth less than the paper this article is printed on. But since I’m a devotee of HEB and also spend the exorbitant amount of $11.99 on this domain each year, giving me a very small platform to spout off on, and since I shop a ton at the store, I’ll give it a shot.

  • An “R&D” area | Foods like SafeCatch currently sit alongside competitors like Chicken of the Sea. The latter retails at about 10 cans for a dollar, or something like that. Many of us view SafeCatch and similar higher-priced items as luxurious alongside their shelfmates. So we pass them by.
    • SOLUTION: could HEB take a small area of the store toward the back corner, stock it with low-selling but high-profit products and brand the area like an “R&D Zone” for shoppers? A place for customers who consider themselves early-adopters to try something new that might be higher priced but which they’re willing to take a chance on. Maybe there’s even a coupon up front as they enter.
  • “Gleaning” | HEB is said to operate on “Christian principles,” as its founder set in motion. Many of us value the store for that very reason.
    • SOLUTION: Gleaning has been part of a local area’s social welfare for millenia and is woven into the Judeo-Christian fabric. Could HEB provide a portion of a side or back wall that could contain small amounts of products that people could sample or take with them. These would be items that HEB might not want to take up prime shelf space for, but perhaps there’d be an accompanying coupon that satisfied customers could return and register their “vote” to have the items restocked. They’d be prepared in safe conditions within the Deli department.

These could be and probably are poor solutions, both practically in terms of execution and realistically in terms of market behavior. I believe in the free market system. I also believe that “what we do well today, we can do even better tomorrow.”

Is all of the above my personal opinion expressing my personal whims and wishes?


But if HEB were more like the Massachusetts-based chain Stop & Shop, which a comedian I heard once parody as “Stop. Shop. Now get the hell out,” then I wouldn’t bother.

But since I love HEB, I bother.

What to do in Kerrville | “Walkability”

If you visit our fair city and wonder, “What is there to do in Kerrville,” there are in fact a host of attractions, both in downtown Kerrville and nearby.

Some of these we’ve reviewed or discussed already, and others we haven’t yet got to. There are even some things that are in the works — the refurbished Arcadia Live, for example — that will be a regional draw and which we haven’t talked about.

So: plenty to do.

But there’s one thing you can’t really do after about 7pm, and definitely not after 9pm in downtown Kerrville: that one thing is anything.

“Seriously?! You roll up the streets?”

what to do in kerrville

That’s what I’m saying.

Intentional or not — and I’d be shocked to learn it was intentional — yes, Kerrville downtown is largely shut down. And not just because of COVID. It’s relatively non-functioning under normal circumstances.

The other evening a little before 9:30pm, no later, we were driving on Earl Garrett heading toward Water Street (the place and direction pictured above). As we turned left on Water, Karen noticed there were some people sitting at the wrought iron tables in front of Francisco’s. They seemed to be drinking and enjoying themselves. Not drinking too much, mind you, but enjoying themselves just fine, as one should when sitting downtown on a beautiful evening in a beautiful Texan town.

snake river farms
SPECIAL OFFER from America Downtown // For Father’s Day, use code 10FORDAD to get extra savings on wagyu steaks.


On Mon/Tues/Wed, Francisco’s is open for lunch only, but on Thu/Fri/Sat it’s open for dinner as well, closing at 9pm. Francisco’s is like the rodeo belt buckle of downtown; it’s a downtown mainstay, and other businesses appear to rest in its shade as if under a large tree in the middle of a many-acre field. Schreiner’s department store, across Earl Garrett, closed and re-opened as a design studio, high-end shop on one end (Schreiner Goods), and extending back into a multi-use facility (bank, event venue, and restaurant spilling out onto the City Hall parking lot).

A lot of, well, nothing

Across Water Street is a lot of…well, nothing. Two office buildings — like Oreo cookies: dark at night — with the empty cream filling of a parking lot between them. A parking lot, by the way, that only employees of those buildings may use and seems uncertain as to its permitted use after everyone leaves at 5pm.

Around the corner on Earl Garrett is PAX, which closes at 9pm on normal nights but at 5pm during these COVID days, and on Water is Yeo-Bo’s, a (very good) Korean restaurant that closes at 8pm on Wed/Thu/Fri. Saturday night, when people want to hang out downtown, it’s closed. Even when we don’t have a global pandemic.

So Francisco’s, like the buckle, fastens the waist of the sagging pants of a downtown that is desperately trying to bulk up.

And yet it, too, closes at 9pm on a Saturday night.

Walking around downtown

The good news is that unlike areas of New York City, even wealthier neighborhoods like the Upper West Side, a vacant street doesn’t mean that pedestrians are likely to get mugged. In fact, unlike my hometown of New York, a mugger here better be prepared for a muggee to pull a weapon.

That comforts me in some perverse way.

what to do in kerrville

This mini-map is a combination of snark, information, and love.

  • It outlines the official “Downtown Kerrville” area: Earl Garrett Street between Main Street and Water Street, and a T-shaped section of Water Street.
  • There are, of course good shops and restaurants on the adjacent streets, as well as along Clay and Jefferson Streets, but this is what has come to be known as “Historic Downtown Kerrville.”
  • If you’ll follow that last link, you’ll see that not only does the area currently have some spots worth visiting, but there are matcha sourcealso coming online soon that will surely supercharge downtown revitalization.
  • The Arcadia Live is but one thing I and many others are quite excited about.
  • At 5:01pm on Earl Garrett Street after 5pm right now on a Monday, the only thing you will find to do is park your car and walk to the Daughtry Pavilion — a gazebo across Water Street and overlooking the river; quite nice actually — and wait for the sunset. At least it’s free.
  • On a Tuesday or Wednesday at that time, you could go to Wine-O-Bout It wine bar or Turtle Creek Olive and Vines.
  • If you want later hours, you’re going to have to drive south or north, and your chances of encountering karaoke, like it or leave it, will be about 20-30%.
  • Yes, those are tumbleweeds I placed into the parking lot that sits between the Vast Unknown Buildings on either side.
  • At some point there will be a hotel going in on Water Street south of that parking lot. Another reason for optimism. (Truly.)

Walkability begets business

Right now, Earl Garrett past 5pm is merely a street that gets me from Main Street to Water, or the other way around. And at night, when the light at that intersection becomes a blinking stop sign, taking a left or right turn onto Water is tricky, because seeing cars coming up Water from the south is partially blocked due to foliage and furniture. It’s an indicator of how little car traffic there is and how much less pedestrian traffic there is.what to do in kerrville

The former Heritage Kitchen, flagged on the map on Earl Garrett — this is my old Google Map screenshot — has now become Liberty Kitchen in Ingram. It’s frontage is quiet. A perfect spot for a mugging. If this were New York City.

Seriously, what is there to do in Kerrville, Texas?

And why am I writing this article with my “SCHOOL OF (th)OUGHT” banner? (Namely, my editorial series.)

Because I care deeply about my adopted city and wanted to editorialize about it. (Some people know that even New York was my adopted city. For my first couple weeks as a bun in the oven, I was in Southern California and Florida.)

I care that Kerrville has places to go to for out-of-towners. And I think we’re getting there.

Before COVID, downtown was certainly more lively and will be so again.

No doubt that The Arcadia Live will bring in other restaurants to the immediate area. I, for one, would love to see a place where teenagers could hang out at on weekend nights, spilling out onto the sidewalk with all their loud and boisterous vivaciousness, like a commercial dog run for adolescent humans. I’m also hoping for an ice cream shop that I can make excuses for avoiding at least 5 out of 7 nights.

For 175 years (since 1846), Kerrville has been growing, and merchants have been hanging their shingles since Joshua Brown and crew first started making shingles.

I hope and trust more shingles of note and lasting influence will continue to be hung along Earl Garrett Street and the surrounding area in the months and years to come.

Decidedly, a problem…

…When you want to work for an hour from a coffee spot and there’s nothing on this side of the Guadalupe except Denny’s and you don’t want to take the trouble to go across.

Clearly there is a coffee business in someone’s mind called “West Bank,” “Left Bank,” or even “Rive Gauche.”

Kerrville is ready for this.

Turning lanes

Let’s talk about driving. And parking. Specifically, turning lanes and Corvettes taking up two mall slots.

First, Corvettes and mall parking spaces. That’s the one that burns me up a little, so let’s expunge this little rant like last night’s jalapeño poppers.

Rude ‘Vette

I described the scene above to Karen, who said, “Ooh. He’s just asking for it.”

It needs no further qualification. It is anything that falls into the category of things he–and you know it’s a “he”–didn’t want to happen to his Precious Ride, so he took more spaces than God granted him in this great country. IT DOESN’T MATTER TO ME THAT THE LOT IS LARGELY EMPTY. That’s not the point, Dear Reader. The point is justice. The point is fairness. The point is that he was the camper in 8th grade who had the last cup of “bug juice” at the cabin table during lunch and didn’t abide by the “you kill it, you fill it”

Manspreader to left; hapless manspreading victim to right.

rule, which every kid on Planet Earth knows is right and good and beautiful. This is kind of like manspreading on the NYC subway, except that I wouldn’t personally tangle with most manspreaders. They manspread because they know no one’s going to mess with them. But a Corvette parked like this is “asking for it.”

Now, on to the kinder side of driving.

The turning lane.

The turning lane is a wonder of ex-urban driving, which practically doesn’t even acknowledge lanes. Having got my license at 17 in New York City and as a former Uber driver, I can tell you that driving there is like a video game: Competitive…leveling up…finding the “easter eggs”…always multiplayer and never campaign mode. The turning lane here changes things. Softens things. Makes life pleasant. Creates smiles. Reduces manspreading.

Imagine you’re coming out of the Take It Easy RV Resort (where Karen’s paternal grandmother once lived) on Junction Highway. You want to go to Hometown Crafts, which is really just a few hops and a skip north. Only about 75 yards, in fact. BUT…you’ve got some serious traffic between those two places. Well, you could drive in the breakdown lane going the wrong way. But that would not be Driving Friendly, as they do in Texas. (They really do. If you pull onto the shoulder on a highway to let a faster car pass, they wave out the back window or, at night, tap the breaks a few times to acknowledge your thoughtfulness.) No, you don’t drive in the breakdown lane the wrong way. That would be wrong. That way is for Corvettes. That’s the way of Darkness.

What you do instead is pull out into the Turning Lane.

Now, there is actually a raging debate about the proper use and the misuse of this Gift From God which is the Turning Lane. Even the Kerrville Daily Times has covered this. It’s a thing.

But in any case, let’s say you’re a sweet Kilgore grandmother, and you’re simply going from your RV to Hometown Crafts to get, say, some fake ferns to decorate the front porch. I mean, right? Not a big deal. You pull gently out into the turn lane–all the Super Duty trucks whizzing to and fro with their dual exhaust pipes the diameter of large shop vacs–and sally forth the 75 yards north. Then waiting for the red ‘Vette and the three Dodge Chargers to pass, you make a gentle left…a slight swing…a smooth curving 90-degree arc like a graceful figure skater of old, the kind we don’t see anymore on TV–these days we see them flipping three or four times so fast our heads spin and give us whiplash and they’re all probably using those steroids and such–no, I’m talking about a gentle turn, a smooth graceful arc, DAMNED be the dual exhaust on those big ol’ white Super Duty Ford trucks a-rumbling down Junction Highway–and you gracefully turn into Hometown Crafts to get your fern. You are smiling. Others who pass you in the parking lot are smiling. They have their ferns. You almost have your fern.

All because of the Turning Lane.

And that is why Turning Lanes are good and Corvettes are bad.

On your bumper

Before I get into the matter at hand, I want to point out for those of you who haven’t seen it, that they painted the Heckler Building logo background turquoise.

I have no idea which building owner is going to be offended by my italics. Most likely they will never read this blog. I have you faithful 22, and that is enough.

Now. To the matter at hand.

I was pulling out of HEB (which, again, I know the store name has hyphens between the letters, but I am too lazy a typist to do that; I know I need only put caps lock on and type it out, and even this explanation of my laziness would be like four or five H-E-B efforts, but, you know), so I was pulling out, and the logo of the Ford F-350 truck opposite me caught my eye.

The King Ranch Ford is named after the 1,289-square-mile King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. Its 825,000 acres slightly eclipses Rhode Island. This vehicle is like my having a “West 84th Street Hyundai,” except it’s real. (And King even has New York City roots, so how about that?!)

I was impressed to learn about this truck model–I mean, heck, with a state wingspan of 14 hours’ driving from side to side and a GDP that makes it the 10th largest economy in the world, ahead of Canada and South Korea, it sort of deserves its own truck. I also like the actual brand itself, that squiggly W. It’s reminds me of a camel, or maybe hot dogs for some reason.

Then I looked down at the bumper sticker:

It says, “My liberty is more important than your stupid idea.”

I learned back at the house that bumper stickers like this, for $4.99, can easily be found on Amazon.


Frankly, my stupid idea involves temporarily suspending the driver’s liberty to affix a hot squiggly W on his tailgate.

These two gents

These two gents have been working on the façade of The Heckler Building on Earl Garrett between Water and Main Streets, across from Schreiner Goods. I’m sitting on a metal bench toward the east end of the store.

I’m not going to research anything about Heckler. It’s pointless. Because anything I learned about it or said would have been already learned, digested, and written about extensively with original sepia photographs by Joe Herring Jr. here. He probably knows the history of the typeface of the name and why the border around it looks like a loaf of bread in elevation view.

But back to these two guys.

I watched them on Tuesday as I had coffee with a friend on this bench. The coffee was from PAX across the street. My friend’s treat. We chatted about important things: guy things, spiritual things, and drones (the personal kind). All important.

One of the gents is now cleaning the masonry dust off the street with a large shop vac, which has a hose no smaller than some of the exhaust pipes on the Super Duty pick-up trucks around here, the kind that pull up next to me on Sidney Baker and spew diesel exhaust into “Gracie,” my 20-year-old, shuddering and gasping Ford Contour.

“Please, sir, can’t you see my car can’t breathe?” I whisper to the man tapping his hand on the steering wheel while Kenny Chesney sings “You and Tequila.” Yesterday, I was with one of my sons near the “small” HEB, and a Super Duty pulled up with spikes on its hub caps.


Did he think Gracie was a threat?

Gracie couldn’t hurt a flea.

Gracie can barely make it up the hill on Washington Street.

“Please, sir, do not Mad-Max or Gladiator us into the breakdown lane,” was my immediate thought.

So, you see? It’s pointless for me to write about the history of Heckler, because it’s been done better than I could ever do it. I enjoyed my PAX coffee the other day, so that too is done. And my talk–with my friend about guy stuff and drones (the personal kind)–is between us guys, so that’s off the docket.

All I can do is to sit here and admire the hard work of these two guys–no, I’ve not forgotten about them pining about Gracie’s rapid demise–getting the Heckler building looking renewed and ready for business.

Oh…and there was this tag on the end of this metal bench that my friend and I found on Tuesday. The QR code on back leads you to an art event highlighting Schreiner U seniors and held at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center (about 50 yards to the left of this bench).



That’s what the sign said.

I must tell you, I was half expecting it.

Trip Advisor lists The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden off Benson Drive–about 50 yards from where I bought my $650 car, for those of you who are keeping score–as the “#1 of 24 things to do in Kerrville.” I had to see it, being now a Kerrvillian.

The cross itself has not been without controversy. Some have even said it is an “ostentatious display.” (To call it that, though, is to be somewhat blind to the historical reality of the prototype, which was meant to be exactly that: a display to the Roman-ruled public to get back in line or else.) Since its erection, it’s reminded me of what I heard my parents say about Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Annenberg Building, “an austere rusted steel high-rise.” My parents had no choice but to see the building from their living room five blocks away. Nor do many Kerrvillians this cross.

Perhaps that’s the point.

So I, the contrarian, was skeptical driving up there, nigh 1.7 miles from my apartment, just across Route 16 from Dairy Queen and situated next to the Used Chevy dealership. (No, I was not required to walk the road to Calvary, since many here would have to do it in the heat and dust unlike–…never mind.) I parked and was alone in the lot. First, I surveyed to the west across Sidney Baker and Kerrville’s hotel row. Lowe’s in the foreground. Then I started to walk through the garden itself, past the statue of Jesus–whose bronze “skin” was more like what I’d expect the historical Jesus to look like than the A&E Cable TV version who just graduated from UCLA film school. The Lion of Judah was on a trailer with his own license plate, ready to move to a “good home.” I continued to walk past the fountain, whose spewing water was being blown about by a brisk morning wind. I had to crane my neck up to see the “Coming King” seated on a white horse and holding a sword. The horse’s veins seemed unusually emphasized. I thought, couldn’t the Risen Jesus’ horse be a bit more chill?

Past that was the cross.

It is open (hollow) and 7 feet deep; the cross itself is 77 feet, 7 inches tall. (All three dimensions: 7. Seven is considered the perfect number, hence one less–“666”–is the most imperfect or demonic number.) There was piped-in music that was forgettable.

An older gentleman approached from the west. We greeted each other. As I exited the cross, he entered, took off his stetson, put his left forearm against the wall and leaned his forehead against his arm and, I assume, prayed. It has been reported that at least seven people who were considering suicide prayed here and then decided not to. Ailments and addictions have been cured, so the reports say. I walked around to the side, having spotted the FREE GOD STUFF sign. Frankly, any time “God” is sandwiched between “Free” and “Stuff,” I find it hard not to turn a bit atheistic. Or at least modestly misanthropic.

It was in that foul mood that I continued around to the left, or west, of the FREE GOD STUFF shelter (which was like an aluminum car port), that also had a small Igloo cooler of bottled water and a spare wheelchair, and found the rock garden.

I stopped.

Hundreds of rocks ranging from a few inches wide to nearly a foot in length, and on which people had drawn pictures but mostly had written prayers, were carefully laid in a bed of brown mulch. I read one, and then I found I wanted to keep reading. This truly was the most personal part of the site–this was my mountaintop–made possible by the man who started the whole schbang, Max Greiner.

Two-thirds of the way down the mulch bed I came across a small, heart- or even shield-shaped rock with a Sharpie-drawn message, written–one would assume–by a young child. It read simply, “Peles God We With My Family.” There were hearts drawn on it as well as a crude cross.

For that child’s visit, I am grateful.

H-E-B 101

I will never be “a Texan” like I was “a New Yorker.” Not that I wouldn’t want to be a Texan. I’m simply not allowed to be.

Of course, that’s not exactly true, as many on Quora and elsewhere point out. Being “a Texan” is more a state of mind that, for instance, compels the non-Texan to say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could!” It’s a willingness to identify.

Perhaps I’m experiencing Statehood Dysphoria.

People who come to the Big Apple, on the other hand, consider themselves New Yorkers after some quirky milestone or major event, such as:

  • They find themselves no longer looking up at the buildings.
  • They take the subway more often than they take cabs, and they never take the bus unless forced to, because it slows you down.
  • They find themselves annoyed when tourists who are walking on the sidewalk drift left or right out of their “lanes” and into their paths. (So annoying. “Get the F@#K out the way!”)
  • They lived through 9/11.
  • They fold their slice of pizza lengthwise and eat it while walking, quickly, careful to avoid the drifting tourists who are busy looking up at the buildings. They never order pizza with broccoli or pineapple on it.
  • They got mugged and still renewed their lease.
  • When going to their parents’ house outside the city for the holidays, they return to the city, throw their keys onto the coffee table, flop on the sofa and think, “it’s good to be home.”

There is a length of time or an event or series of events that will cause the transplant to say one day, “I am a real New Yorker.” Some of these will stay; some will move. Of those who move, most will cease to call themselves “New Yorkers.” They might opt for, “Oh, well, you know—I’ve lived all over.”

For a non-Texan to move to Texas, it’s like a foreign word coming into the French lexicon. It happens seldomly. At least not without a full background check on pedigree or certain qualifying attributes (one was born here but as an infant was whisked away criminally, etc.). I mean, “Le Breakdance” really doesn’t sound French now, does it? Is it possible that occasionally the State agencies at work might make a mistake and let in a forever-foreign element? I worry.

When I first came to Texas, I apparently needed an introduction to the way things are done. Or, more to the point, what real grocery stores look like.

My fiancée at the time, Karen strolled me up and down row after row of copious food and copious people. Our cart was the size of a Chevy Suburban. The aisles’ end caps were wider than the span of Bevo’s horns. Karen recalled and lamented the narrow New York City grocery store aisles with shoppers inching toward each in a slow-mo game of “chicken,” and then we came to the dairy section. In front of us was a forty-foot long refrigerated case filled to the brim with Pillsbury products. Orange rolls. Croissants. Grands. Etc. and etc. I imagined a polite, red-shirted stockboy must have come every couple minutes to replenish the inventory. Labels were facing out. The case itself was clean and humming.

“Now this,” she pronounced with a sweep of her arm, “is a biscuit aisle!”

Jimmy Dean sausage, rarely found in New York City grocery stores, plentiful in Kerrville, TX.