The Parking Lot

October 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                25 October 2010

THE PARKING LOT – It is raining and windy, and the lot is full, so I hunt around until I spot an open space just this side of Pampa, park, then race through the elements to the store. In front of the entrance are several empty slots, noted by their blue stick-man-in-circle which indicates these spaces are reserved for the handicapped.

As I am running by, a young woman pulls into one of these choice spots. Her privileged status must be legal because she has a blue handicapped tag hanging from her rearview mirror. She pops out of the car and races into the store like a Jamaican Olympic sprinter. To add insult to perjury, she is wearing a jogging outfit.

I am sorely tempted to hunt her down and ask, “Lady, just how handicapped are you?” But I would probably find her in the fitting room semi-nude, she would scream, I would be arrested and handcuffed by an off-duty constable and end up on the 10 o’clock news: “The long-sought serial pervert was caught today in the Sprawl-Mart peeking into women’s dressing rooms. Connie Bonnie Sue has that story with tape from a security camera we can easily see his face that…”

People, healthy and hearty (or hardy) who park in disabled parking slots should be sentenced to three hours of “The Wit and Wisdom of Harry Reid” or forced to listen to Pat Buchanan shouting down Bill O’Reilly in HD. You and I obey the law on such matters (incomes taxes are another situation completely), so why is it that a few people think the law is for other people? These are the same blackguards who didn’t re-wind their rented VCR tapes, refuse to turn off their cell phones in theaters and, despite the plaintive plea of the little sign on the wall, don’t wipe out the sink in an airplane restroom after using.

This disregard clearly annoys a lot of people. Recently Annys Shin of the Washington Post ran a story about abusers of handicapped parking, and was inundated with callers and e-mails wanting firm action – like beheading – for the scofflaws. Shin began her article with the tale of Martena Clinton of Maryland whose Lexus went missing for 24 hours after Secret Service moved it during a nearby appearance by President Obama. She said she had parked the car in a handicapped space using her husband’s placard. Poor Martena got no sympathy from Post readers.

Families have been known to pass permits down as if they were heirlooms. Thieves covet them: Last year, 19-year-old Thais Miller of suburban DC was arrested for stealing placards from cars. He ignored global positioning systems and stereos to grab permits which he could sell for $50 each.

Shin reported that a 2007 investigation in the Boston area discovered, of nearly 1,000 placards observed, about a third appeared to be in use by someone other than the handicapped driver. Forty-nine were registered to people who had since died, including nine that were renewed after the person’s death. A 2004 sampling by Seattle officials found that more than 75 percent of disabled placards were being used improperly.

Texas has more than 4-million handicapped people. In the greater Houston area alone there are more than half a million citizens with disabilities and more than 300,000 residing within the city limits. Approximately 60,000 handicapped parking permits are issued per year in Houston, but a percentage of these are renewals. Depending on the type of your disability, you may be issued either a temporary or a permanent placard. The temporary placard is valid for up to six months. The permanent placard is good for up to four years. Or you may receive disabled license plates, which I find very hard to remove.

The number of accessible parking spaces is governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law passed in July 1990, and are also covered in the Texas state law under Texas Architectural Accessibility Standards. In Texas, fines for abusing the disability-only slots range from $550 to $$1,250 for multi-violators, plus community service. This crime is not real high on cops’ priorities, but Maryland police have done two sweeps this year and easily found dozens of permit abusers. Also, just because some people don’t appear disabled doesn’t mean they are not suffering from MS, arthritis, heart disease or other health conditions that affect their ability to walk across the parking lot.

Some towns have trained volunteers who go around sticking a little leaflet under the windshield wiper of offending cars. It’s not a legal ticket, just a note explaining that this is a parking slot reserved for those with disabilities. The Texas state agency that deals with such matters suggests to avoid violence: “It is recommended that the reminders be used only when a vehicle is not occupied to protect the safety of all concerned.” A good idea. You don’t want to be chased across the asphalt by a widow in a walker.

Of course, some towns get a tad testy. Here’s a windshield wiper notice I particularly like: “As you have parked in a disabled parking space, but have not displayed your Disability Parking Placard, please complete the following as it applies to you.” The notice then lists such choices to check off as: “Sorry, I forgot my Disability Parking Placard.” “I’m an idiot & enjoy making disabled people struggle.” “I’m just lazy and couldn’t be bothered to walk.” “I want to be disabled and am just practicing.” “The voices in my head told me to park here.”

As for that young woman who jogged from her parking slot reserved for the handicapped into the store, I hope she gets into the check-out line behind me – me with the wrong size sock purchase that needs exchanging, the missing credit card, where are those coupons? and oh, I wanted a blue dog muzzle, not black. Hold my stuff. I’ll be right back. Then I’ll limp away.

Ashby parks illegally at

Late Night Snack? Sonoma Retail Wine Bar and Restaurant

October 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Dining

Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant

2720 Richmond Avenue.
Houston, TX 77098
713-526-WINE (9463)

Texas Governors

October 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                18 Oct. 2010

So who do you like for governor? Kathie Glass or Deb Shafto? They’re both on the ballot. Actually, it will probably be Rick Perry, again. He has never lost a race, is already our longest-serving governor and the first Aggie to hold the job. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is behind in funds raised and in most of the polls. If elected, he wouldn’t even be the first governor named White.

So let’s look once more at Texas’ leaders, both presidents and governors. We’ve had ranchers, lots of lawyers, a former prisoner of war, fervent Rebels and equally fervent Unionists, oil drillers and, worst of all, journalists: Gov. Will Hobby was editor of The Houston Post. Another governor-to-be, Ross Sterling, owned that same paper. Both Price Daniel and Oscar Branch Colquitt were newspaper publishers. Colquitt was considered a reformer when, after his election in 1910, he abolished use of the bullwhip in Texas prisons. W. Lee O’Daniel was a flour salesman turned radio star who once fired the Light Crust Doughboys, including Bob Wills. O’Daniel was the only governor who could not vote for himself, having refused to pay the required poll tax.

Dolph Briscoe, Jr. was the largest individual land owner in Texas. Bill Clements was so wealthy he paid to have the Governor’s Mansion re-done. Jim Hogg was so poor when he left office he had to borrow money to move. Later he invested in the Spindletop oil field and became enormously wealthy. John Connally was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald but survived. Beauford Jester was the only one to die in office. Actually he died in a Pullman as the train came into Houston. George W. Bush was the only Texas governor to become a U.S. president, but Sam Houston was elected president (of Texas) before he was elected governor.

We could say our first governor was Francisco de Garay who came from Spain in 1523, but let’s skip forward to 1836. We’ve had a couple of Indian fighters. Another prosecuted murdering Indian warriors in court, won and they wound up in Huntsville. One lost his bid for re-election due to Mexican bandits, another governor had been a Forty-Niner but didn’t like California.

Gov. David Burnet challenged Houston to a duel. James P. Henderson was governor when the Mexican-American War broke out. He turned the state government over to his lieutenant governor and led Texas troops in the war. Sul Ross was a Texas Ranger and Confederate general. (He was in the raid that rescued Cynthia Ann Parker.) Pendleton Murrah was born in South Carolina. His parents’ birthplace and dates are unknown. Throughout his life, there was a rumor that Murrah was illegitimate.

In a case of irony, after Texas’ secession, President Lincoln offered to send Union troops to keep Houston (an anti-secessionist) in power as governor. Houston refused, and was forced out of office. Later a scalawag governor, Edmund Davis, called on President Grant to send in Union troops so that Davis could stay in power even though he had lost his re-election bid to Richard Coke. Grant refused, but Davis wouldn’t leave. So for several days Coke and his legislature held forth on the second floor of the capitol while Davis and his old legislators passed their own laws on the first floor.

James “Pa” Ferguson was impeached for using state funds for his own expenses. He was kicked out of the governorship with the legal decree that Ferguson could never hold state office again. No problem. A few years later he ran his wife, Miriam (“Ma”), who won, and Pa Ferguson was back in the Governor’s Mansion.

Only four, including Perry, have been Republicans, but all have been Protestants.  The youngest governor was Dan Moody, 33. Most of our governors received at least some higher education from Texas schools, but several held degrees from Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Virginia Military Institute or the University of Virginia. George W. Bush was only one of three governors born north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and is our only recent governor not to have graduated from a Texas public high school.

Preston Smith, who owned a string of movie theaters and was our first governor from West Texas, succeeded John Connally as governor, becoming the first lieutenant governor to go directly to the governorship by election since 1857. Rick Perry doesn’t count because he was elevated to the governorship after Bush won election to the presidency, then Perry was elected on his own. Gov. George T. Wood rode a mule around Texas. At night Wood took a rope and tied one end to the mule and the other end to his ankle. Wood refused to wear socks.

We take good care of our governors. The Constitution of 1876 put the governor’s salary at $4,000. Today it is $115,345. And they get free housing. (The Texas Constitution states that the governor also has the use of the Governor’s Mansion’s furniture.) In 2007, the Perrys moved into a gated community while the Mansion was being re-built. Taxpayers paid $9,900 a month in rent, and I didn’t even get a thank you note. While the Perrys were touring Europe, an arsonist burned down a goodly chunk of the Mansion, so they stayed on in their rented digs. Fortunately for the taxpayers, the rent was cut to $9,000 a month. Bill White likes to point out that the final bill will be $362,700, plus another $197,000 annually for related expenses like utilities and butlers.

While the office of governor of Texas is not as strong as in some other states, the Texas Constitution declares: “He shall have power to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the State, to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions.” Alas, the governor used to have specific powers to call out the troops to chase Mexican bandits and marauding Indians. He lost that authority in 1999. Yes, indeed, in 1999.

Ashby governs at

Zimm’s Little Deck

October 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Dining

Now Open in Montrose

by Laurette M. Veres

After weeks of disappointing drive bys, we drove to the new Zimm’s last night and it was finally open! A friendly staff was eager to please and serve.  The décor is minimal with fleur-de-lis garnishing the bar and the smell of deep fried grease garnishing the airways.  The outside deck runs along Richmond Ave. and frat boys were playing Petanque.  This is Houston’s only official court for this French version of Italian bocce or English lawn bowling and should be an interesting addition to the neighborhood.

The menu is mainly seafood and mainly fried: fried oysters, fried po-boy sandwiches and the like.  We tried the slow roasted lamb sandwich (they call it a rich-boy), ceviche, pulled pork sandwich and fried oyster po-boy.  All were good.  Not great, but good.  The sandwiches come with homemade potato chips, which are great.  The most interesting feature at Little Zimm’s is the wine list.  There isn’t one.  Each evening, three categories of wine are available: cheap, good and fancy.  The owners are purchasing odd lots of great wines at discount pricing and passing the savings onto customers.  For instance, last night the fancy wine was a Cabernet Syrah Pere et Fils. This was a great value for $34, but here were only four bottles in house.  When we left there was only one.

601 Richmond Ave.

On Oct 13, 2010, at 12:54 PM, Laurette Veres wrote:

Old Folks’ Parties

October 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                11 Oct.  2010

THE PARTY – “I’m OK because I’ve switched to the generic Lipitor, but I’m still wearing designer Depends ever since the leaches treatment.”

“Medicare doesn’t cover hypnosis, so I’ve gone straight to weed.”

“The hip replacement became infected. Do you know a good malpractice lawyer?”

My mother, in her later years, said that she stopped going to parties because the only thing her friends talked about was their health. I have been noticing this situation among my aging friends. Not that I’m elderly myself, you understand. I still get carded at the bar. Got zits. Can do100 yards in under10 seconds – if my XC-JetWalker is working. But it is true that older people talk a lot about their heath.

This is due to several reasons. One, there’s not much left for them to discuss. Work? They retired, were laid off or put on an ice floe and pushed out to sea long ago. So there’s no jobs to discuss. Sex? Get serious. Politics? They all watch the Fox talking heads, thus there’s nothing to debate. While on the subject of TV, note the ads on the 5:30 national news — every commercial is for medicine, erectile dysfunction and bladder control. The networks and advertisers know the only people who have time to sit on the sofa and watch TV at 5:30 in the afternoon are the geezer gangsters. Same goes for the “Lawrence Welk Show.”

This doesn’t mean they have no opinions about Washington. They are against big government and high taxes. They are also absolutely in favor of Medicare and Social Security, and any move to reduce these costs “violates a contract” with them. They see no conflict in these positions, much less rampant hypocrisy. Retired military are really jazzed up about this subject. They’ve been getting a government check in one form or another since they joined the NROTC at age 19, so the defense budget, which includes their pension, and VA funding are sacrosanct.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is trying mightily (without success) to prune our gigantic military budget, and one cut he would like to make is in health care. He points out military health care costs rose from $19 billion to $50 billion in a decade. Active-duty military and their families do not pay for health care. But what retired military pay — $460 annually per family — has not risen in 15 years.

Don’t mention the federal budget, either, around these seasoned citizens. The budget is bloated, they say, needs trimming and we should pay as we go. But don’t note that the silver-haired posse will saddle an estimated $200,000 debt on every single grandchild because, uh, the geriatric generation doesn’t pay as they go, or pay as they went. Also, if anyone says, “We need to privatize Social Security. I know how to handle my own money,” don’t reply with, “And how did your life savings fair with Enron, A.I.G. and Lehman Brothers?” (A recent poll by the Rasmussen Reports shows that 71 percent of Americans support requiring a national vote to approve any changes in Social Security passed by Congress.) Finally, when it comes to the federal government, remember that death panels are not fatally flawed wall siding.

Another point: Be careful what you say about AARP. Some old folks love it; some hate it. Former Sen. Alan Simpson once described AARP as “33 million Americans bound together by a common love of airline discounts.” Don’t refer to senior centers as “God’s waiting room.” But it is safe to mention the Luby’s specials at dinner time – which is usually about 4:30 in the afternoon. Senior discounts are popular subjects, especially during a bar’s Happy Hour, but most of those who qualify for the discounts don’t like the noise levels. And the music is not only loud but unintelligible. What’s more, most bars don’t serve Metamucil. Often quote Maurice Chevalier’s observation: “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” Just don’t mention the alternative.

You can see what a quicksand these conversations can be. However, one safe category for discussion is grandchildren. Not children, but grandchildren. You see, by the time the senior citizens get together for a party, they’ve known one another’s children since Indian Guides and Brownies, so there’s not much new to say. The conversations go like this: “Your remember Nimrod. He’s the slow one.” “Ellen June may finally get married.” “No, we still haven’t declared T.J. legally dead.”

In conversations about this subject, older folks have one thing in common. They will tell you all about their grandkids, but the minute you start to tell them about yours, they aren’t interested. You start in and they say suddenly, “Oh, there’s Jimmy Earl. Haven’t seen him since the Tea Party rally. Good talking with you.” It is OK to dig out pictures of grandchildren to show, unless you got them from a post office wall, but don’t expect your listener to be interested.

That leads us back to health as a safe topic. If you are going to be around octogenarians, learn to use a few words and terms. “Doughnut hole” is a must. You know what a doughnut hole is in Medicare terms. It’s when you’ve spent all your savings on medicine and have to live off day-old doughnuts at the Salvation Army mission. They go great with Alpo. It is also safe to mention your luck at last week’s bingo tournament, and the cheapest package tour to Branson, Mo.

If you’re pushing 80, it’s OK to discuss some medications or to compare prices (Canadian vs. Pharma). Incidentally, you know you’ve reached a certain age when your pharmacist not only knows you by your first name, but your number of refills. Make sure you can tell the difference in prostate and prostrate.

Uh-oh. Here comes Pops O’Malley. “Hi, Pops. Want to see pictures of my grandchildren?”

“No. But did I tell you about Maurice Chevalier’s hip replacement?”

Ashby is aging at

Instead of serving it cold… Don’t serve it all

October 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Edit

By Robert Wilson

On a summer day in 1973, my 12 year old sister was riding her horse on the quiet streets near our house. There was a little more traffic than usual as two cars came toward her from opposite directions. Cindy rode onto the well-tended lawn of a stately two-story house to get out of the way. While she waited, her horse relieved himself. She then rode on, unknowing that her steed had left a pile of manure on the emerald zoysia grass.

Cindy was two hundred feet down the road, when a car sped past, then skidded to a tire-squealing halt in front of her horse. The startled horse reared up; throwing Cindy to the pavement below. A man leapt out of his car, then without asking if she was hurt, started screaming at her for allowing her horse to defecate on his lawn. Crying and in pain from bruises to her back and arms, Cindy struggled to her feet, then managed to catch her horse who had only wandered off a few feet.

She apologized profusely, but the hysterical homeowner would not be satisfied. He insisted she walk her horse back to his yard, where he forced her to remove the horse droppings with her bare hands. Then without offering her an opportunity to wash her hands, he ordered her off his property.

I was enraged when she told me the story. As a hormone-filled sixteen year old, I wanted to retaliate on her behalf. I told her I would get two hundred pounds of salt; then under the cover of night, use it to write a message on his lawn. Within a few days, alphabet-shaped sections of his grass would die. Revenge would be sweet as his neighbors read in brown letters the profane words that described the true nature of his character.

Fortunately, my sister is more forgiving than me, and refused to tell me which house the jerk lived in. Cindy’s wisdom probably kept me out of jail.

Revenge is a powerful motivator. It is a survival instinct that dates back to our caveman days. If we were attacked and did not retaliate, then our enemy would attack again and again until they succeeded in killing us.

The problem is that when someone hurts us today, that primal urge still rises quickly. It doesn’t take much – it can be an emotional injury, an insult or a rejection – to stimulate that response within us. If we act upon it, we usually find ourselves feeling worse than before the slight. And, if we get too carried away, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of the law. As Mahatma Gandhi observed, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The trick is curbing that response, and using that powerful motivation in a positive way for ourselves. I like the way psychologist and author, Vijai P. Sharma, puts it, “It is better to let the other person get away with it, so that you can get away from it.”

We can control our instinct and put it to work for us instead of against us by using that energy in positive ways. Exercise is a great way to blow off that initial steam you feel. I like to get out on my in-line skates and skate ten or more miles. Not only does it burn energy, the repetitive activity is meditative and allows me to put things into perspective.

Loving yourself by investing in your personal growth and development is another way to thwart those primal urges. Use your time to get better at what you do – pour that energy into your business and hobbies. Treat yourself to a massage, a gourmet meal, or a mini-vacation. And, surround yourself with friends who know and love you best. As Welsh poet, George Herbert, said in 1630, “Living well is the best revenge.”

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit

Now Open: Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

October 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

Now Open: Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

By Laurette M. Veres

Bayou Bend, a long-standing museum featuring American paintings and decorative art, completes significant interior renovations and debuts a new visitors center.

Photo Credit Robb Williamson

The new visitors center includes space for special programming and a publicly accessible research library.  The programming provides a major new resource for broadening the understanding of American’s heritage, art, culture, and history

Notable:  LEED Certification

The building has receive LEED Silver Certification for its incorporation of environmentally friendly design:

  • Contractor recycled nearly 4,500 cubic yards of waste
  • Building’s materials contain 11 percent recycled content, from steel products to carpet to window

6003 Memorial Drive (@ corner of Westcott St.)

Family Party in the Houston Zoo’s NEW African Forest Exhibit

October 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

What: Family Party in the Houston Zoo’s NEW African Forest Exhibit
Theme:  “JUNGLE JAM – Come Have a Swinging Good Time!”
When: Friday, April 15, 2011 beginning at 6:00 pm
Where: Houston Zoo, African Forest Exhibit
Benefiting: The Houston Zoo broad support including creation of specific projects and exhibits, the purchase of zoo animals, support of the veterinary hospital, building renovations & educational efforts.
Chairs: Trish Whitcomb, Kelli Weinzierl, Catherine Rentz
Honorees: still being negotiated
Attire: Casual Jungle Chic – Easy to Jam in!
Caterer: still being negotiated
Entertainment: Unlimited Carousel, Jumpies, Rock Wall, Live Music
Music: Award Winning “Leah White and the Magic Mirrors”
Contact: Houston Zoo Director of PR, Brian Hill,  email, cell 281-380-5232
Ticket Prices: Underwriter Tables of 10 – $1500; $5000; $10,000, $25,000. Also, Family 4-packs $450 (no more than 2 adults)
Party Notes: Come be among the first to explore the Houston Zoo’s NEW African Forest Exhibit, unlimited carousel rides and enjoy live music from award winning Leah White!

October 15 – 17, 22- 24, and 29 – 31 Zoo Boo

October 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Events


A Naturally Wild Spooktacular October 15 – 17, 22- 24, and 29 – 31

Bring your little ghouls and goblins to the Houston Zoo for a frightfully enjoyable adventure: Zoo Boo!  Houston’s largest family-friendly Halloween celebration is back and better than ever – this year spanning 9 days!  Enjoy safe Halloween trick-or-treating, music and fun activities with a “naturally wild” twist Friday, October 15, 22, and 29 from 9 am to 1 pm and Saturday and Sunday, October 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31 from 9 am to 4 pm.

Pick a “child-sized” pumpkin to paint and decorate from the Fiesta Mart Pumpkin Patch; channel your inner artist and contribute to our Monster Mural; visit our Gardere Wynne Sewell Tatzoo Parlor.  All this plus Halloween-themed Meet the Keeper Talks and animal-themed Trunk-or-Treat candy stations.

All Zoo Boo activities are included with paid Zoo admission.  Zoo Boo is FREE for Zoo Members.

Zoo Boo Activities

Friday Events (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 15, 22, 29)

Fiesta Mart Pumpkin Patch

Monster Mural

Halloween-themed Meet the Keeper Talks

Gardere Wynne Sewell Tatzoo Parlor

Pirate’s Cove (Children’s Zoo)

Animal-Themed Trunk-or-Treat candy stations

Saturday Events (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31)

“Thriller” Dance Party with Aldine Dance Co. 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Costume Parade 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Children’s DJ

Fiesta Mart Pumpkin Patch

Monster Mural

Halloween-themed Meet the Keeper Talks

Gardere Wynne Sewell Tatzoo Parlor

Pirate’s Cove (Children’s Zoo)

Animal-Themed Trunk-or-Treat candy stations

Founded in 1922, the Houston Zoo is an exciting live animal adventure that provides a unique educational and conservation resource serving 1.7 million guests annually.  Set in a 55-acre lush tropical landscape, the Zoo is home to more than 6,000 exotic animals representing more than 800 species.  Operated by the not-for-profit Houston Zoo, Inc., the Houston Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species, the provision of engaging educational opportunities and the creation of stimulating exhibits that broaden the experiences of our guests and encourage their curiosity.

The Houston Zoo is located at 6200 Hermann Park Drive in beautiful Hermann Park.  The Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during Central Standard Time (last admission at 5 p.m.) and from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. during Central Daylight Time (last admission at 6 p.m.).  The Zoo is closed Christmas Day.  Regular admission is $11 for adults, $6 for seniors, $7 for children ages 2-11 and FREE for children under 2.  Visit the courtesy booth at your neighborhood Fiesta Mart and purchase an adult Zoo admission for $9 and a child Zoo admission for $6.  Zoo memberships start at only $55.  For information on all the great benefits of becoming a Zoo member call (713) 533-6713 or visit our Web site at

Ride METRORail to the Houston Zoo from the Fannin South Park and Ride lot.  With frequent service, METRORail is a convenient answer to traffic congestion in the Texas Medical Center/Hermann Park/Museum District corridor.  For METRORail information, visit

The Houston Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things.  With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats.  For more information visit ###

Mr. & Mrs. Newcomer

October 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                     4 Oct. 2010

Welcome, Mr./Mrs. Newcomer,

If you are one of the 4 million or more folks to move to our fair state during the 2000s, we think you’ll like Texas and eventually will become a Texan. As a starter, you should know that we are big on the Official State (fill in the blank). We’ve got official state rocks, birds, mammals (big, little and flying), official state shells, ships and shrubs. All of which brings up Earl Campbell, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

You may know our state bird is the mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) and the state flower is the bluebonnet, but which bluebonnet? The Lupinus  subcarnosus or the Lupinus texensis? Actually, any kind of bluebonnet. We don’t just end there. We’ve also got the state Bluebonnet City (Ennis), the Bluebonnet Festival (Chappell Hill) and the Bluebonnet Trail (Ennis again). The state bluebonnet song is called “Bluebonnets,” naturally, adopted in 1933.

We’ve got all sorts of state foods. Chili is our state dish, the state pepper is the jalapeño, the state fruit is the Texas red grapefruit, the state vegetable is the sweet onion — I think the Aggies invented it. Even our state tree bears food: it’s the pecan tree, Carya illinoensis, which sounds more like something from Chicago’s South Side. This means our state health nut is not your personal trainer but the pecan. Our state fish is delicious: the Guadalupe bass. Some of these are cooked in the state cooking implement, the Cast Iron Dutch Oven.

Now here’s a strange one. The state pastries were sopapilla and strudel from 2003 until Jan. 31, 2005, when apparently they were voted off the island. Perhaps that’s because in 2005 pan de campo (cowboy bread) was recognized as the state bread. Maybe they are too similar. That’s fine and dandy, but I’ll bet a lot of official state Germans were ticked.

We must note that no one can just proclaim something to be an Official State, etc. willy-nilly. The Legislature (our official state leaderless mob) has to get involved. It follows the Official State Code, which is Title 11. State Symbols and Honors; Preservation, Subtitle A. State Symbols and Honors, Chapter 3101. State Symbols. This edict requires that all sorts of hoops are jumped through before anything is honored, such as naming the official state dinosaur, or Brachiosaur sauropod, Pleurocoelus as we scientists call it. And, no, our lawmakers don’t have anything more important to do. They’ve solved our budget problems, crime is nonexistent (except in the legislature), the governor is coasting to his 16th term, and all is well in Austin.

Moving on, the first Official Anything was our flag, adopted in 1839, not as a “state” flag but as the Republic’s flag. It was not until 1933 that the Lone Star Flag was described in detail and made official. After the flag came our seal, 1845. The state song is, of course, “The Eyes of Texas.” Well, actually it’s not, but should be because so many non-Texans think it is. Our state song is, “Texas, Our Texas,” which no one can sing. Our state motto is “Friendship,” but probably should be, “Shoot Friendly.” We don’t have an official joke, unless we consider our presidential primaries which, like the state song, no one fully knows. Nor do we have an official embarrassment. How about the State Board of Education?

This, being Texas, it should come as no surprise that our state sport is the rodeo, state tie is the bolo and state footwear is the cowboy boot. I can’t explain why the state gemstone is the blue topaz. As far as an official state play, we don’t have one play in three acts. We have three plays.

Many people think the state insect is the mosquito, but it is actually the monarch butterfly. We can only imagine the debate in our legislature as learned lawmakers angrily shouted, “I say the Danaus plexippus is clearly the best choice, no matter what the honorable idiot from Waco thinks.”

“Wrong, honorable cretin from Laredo. The Culicidae is far superior.”
When it comes to mammals, we’ve got the bases covered. The state flying mammal is the Mexican free-tailed bat. Our small mammal is the 9-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), but you already knew that. No, our state large mammal is not the Aggie. Just the opposite: the Texas Longhorn. Likewise, our state dance is not the Texas Two-Step or even the Macarena. It’s the square dance. It is obvious that our official amphibian is the Bufo speciosus, aka, the Texas toad, but you’ll never guess what our official state Tejano Music Hall of Fame Museum is called. It’s – hang on — the Tejano Music Hall of Fame Museum, in Alice.

Being new to our fair state, you may be wondering, “This all just fine, but what is the official state mugger, like we had back in New York?” We don’t have anything in that category, but we do have our own air force, will that do? The Confederate Air Force was approved in 1989, but by 2002 our history had been scrubbed so much that the group became the Commemorative Air Force. Next thing you know we’ll ban Dixie Cups and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Mr./Mrs. Newcomer, does New York have an official state vehicle? What is ours? The Aston-Martin DBS? The Bentley Azure? Perhaps all those rich and sophisticated Texans you have heard about chose the Rolls Phantom? No, it’s the chuck wagon. And you thought Texans don’t have no couth.

All of this brings us to our official state heroes. We’ve had lots of candidates who would qualify – Vicki Lynn Hogan, better known as Anna Nicole Smith — springs to mind. However, there have been only three: Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. But in 1981, Ralph Wallace, a member of the Texas State Legislature, proclaimed Earl Campbell an Official State Hero of Texas. That’s better than having your coonskin cap retired.

Ashby is officially at