January 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE TV – “In other news,” the anchorman intones, then goes on to tell about wars, hopes for peace, etc. Notice what he did not say, what did not happen? Not a single panic-stricken word about Ebola. In America it is the Disease That Dissolved. When was the last time you heard any mention of Ebola? For a time the nation was terribly frightened about the disease. Every TV network news show began with that story, aided by maps, pictures of men in haz mat suits wheeling a canvas-covered stretcher through the back door of a hospital, and we heard from learned medical experts who kept saying for us not to worry, or not to worry too much, because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had it under control. We preferred to panic.

Much of this overwrought fear was encouraged by the press. Its mistakes are pointed out ad nauseam, and some of the media did indeed drop the ball on this story, scaring the bejesus out of us. I had a friend who cancelled a business trip to New York City because a doctor had returned there from West Africa and everyone was in a state of panic because Typhoid Mary could infect all of Gotham. Two school girls who moved to New Jersey from Rwanda were kept from attending their first week at an elementary school for fear of the disease spreading. But Rwanda is nearly 3,000 miles — actually 2,775 miles — from West Africa where the Ebola outbreak occurred. That is farther than Los Angeles is to New York City. What? We worry? Last October Glenn Beck screamed about how government incompetence is “literally going to be the death of all of us” and declared that millions of Americans should demand a ban on travel from West Africa. Dr. Beck also said that the Ebola crisis will spiral out of control, because: “Every time somebody new gets the Ebola virus, it mutates.” It didn’t and it doesn’t.

The scare hit close to home in Texas when, as we remember, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas sent an ailing Thomas Eric Duncan home with aspirin to take for his illness. Turns out Duncan had Ebola and died soon afterwards. The mistake cost the City of Dallas $155,000 including $27,000 to quarantine and observe the dog of a nurse who became infected. In addition, the hospital said it lost $1.8 million in revenue. Some official guesstimates didn’t sooth our worries. The CDC estimated that by Jan. 20, 2015, (that’s about now) there would be a total of approximately 550,000 Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization (WHO) said as of Jan. 14, 2015 there were 21,296 total deaths from Ebola. WHO and the CDC admit the figures are underestimates, given the difficulty collecting the data. I found Ebola figures all over the chart.

Now we come a really stupid situation. For 17 months during this time of vaccines, haz mat suits and fear, the U.S. did not have a surgeon general. One had been appointed by President Obama: a highly regarded physician, Dr. Vivek Murthy, an MD and an MBA who practices and teaches at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and teaches at Harvard Medical School. But the NRA told Republican Congress members not to approve the nomination because a group Dr. Murthy had founded, Doctors for America, supports stricter gun control laws, including background checks, mandatory safety training and banning certain semiautomatic weapons. He finally got the job — the Senate vote was 51-43 – but the Ebola chaotic fire drill might not have happened if Dr. Vivek liked semiautomatics. Incidentally, why does our surgeon general always dress like an admiral? Why do we see TV ads of some Swiss guy blowing an Alpine horn as a voice sings out; “Eeee-bow-la!” And why did we name the plane that dropped that A-bomb on Hiroshima the Ebola Gay?

Now we consider how Ebola began, why is it called that and what about the chocolate crop? Scientists say the disease first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in the Sudan and the other in the Republic of the Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, thus the name. Good thing it wasn’t first spotted in Waco or Pampa. Medical experts thought Ebola originated in gorillas, because human outbreaks began after people ate gorilla meat. That pretty well narrowed it down in my neighborhood. Then suspicion spread to humans having close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas (again), fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforests. That included most of Texas. The latest suspect is just the fruit bat, so carefully read the contents label on your soup can.

About the threat to your M&Ms, Snickers Bars and Butterfingers: One of Ebola’s deadliest regions is the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cacao, the raw ingredient in those candy bars. The Ivory Coast has yet to experience a single case of Ebola, but shut down its borders with Liberia and Guinea, virtually halting the workforce needed to pick the cacao beans just as the harvest season begins. Prices are already rising.

Finally, as we can see, it is impossible to get accurate figures on the number of Ebola sickness and deaths in West Africa, but we should give the poor beleaguered CDC and this nation’s other trained health professionals a round of applause (wearing Latex gloves) because in the U.S. the only people who died from Ebola were two who had arrived already carrying the disease. (Compare that to flu deaths during the same time.) Others contacted it here but survived, even the nurse’s dog. So despite all the viewing-with-alarm, showboating public officials and media overkill — or maybe because of it – thus far we have dodged a bullet. But no one thinks about what didn’t happen.


Ashby feels ill at ashby2@comcast.net






January 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby


THE TOBACCONIST – This is where I pick up my imported cigars, especially rolled for me by a little man east of the Urals. Well, not exactly. My boutique cigar store is Samuel’s Exclusive Club for Discriminating Clientele (some of you shorten it to Sam’s) and my expert connoisseur is Billy Joe, who prefers “a chaw of tabacky to those hoity-toity Swisher Sweets.” I am here today in pursuit of the long-missed Cuban cigars. A bit of background: Most of my friends and neighbors agree that President Barak Obama is the very worst president we have ever had, and should be tarred and feathered. But he did restore diplomatic relations with that commie island of Cuba, which means cruise ships will be arriving in Havana harbor, the quality of our baseball players will vastly improve and car collectors who like to restore ’52 Studebakers are probably waiting at the Miami airport.

Then there are those of us who wait for the more civilized quest: a fine Cuban cigar. As you know, they have been off-shore and off-limits since 1960. I could get them in Mexico, and I noted that duty-free shops catering to U.S.-bound planes in Toronto had boxes of Cuban cigars stacked almost to the ceiling. “Can I take these into the U.S.?” I ask. “Certainly,” says the clerk. I figure the U.S. customs agents in Chicago, Detroit and other points of entry have enough confiscated cigars to start their own second-hand smoke shop.

So here I am, looking around for those fruits which were forbidden these many decades. There may be a problem, because this situation reminds me, as it does you, of Coors beer and Krispy Kreme. For years Coors was brewed and sold only in Colorado. It had to be kept cold from the brewery to the house refrigerator. So back in those days, frat rats on their skiing vacations in Aspen would pack iced cases of Coors and bring them back to Texas. It was nectar of the gods, until Coors started selling its beer in Texas, and no one thought it was so special. Krispy Kreme was welcomed to Houston when it arrived, because the millions of Yankees who moved here kept telling us how great Krispy Kreme was. Alas, the company closed all of its Houston locations seven years ago, citing a disagreement with franchisees and lousy sales. Last year, Krispy Kreme had 249 locations, down from 338 a decade ago. Now the company is trying again in Houston, hoping this time we will all agree with our new neighbors from the north that KK really is the best.

My cigar problem, and maybe yours, too, is that I cannot drive my ’56 Hudson to Havana and pick up a trunk load of cigars, because those goodie two-shoes at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection say, initially, U.S. visitors won’t be able to bring home more than $100 worth of Cubans for personal use. Indeed, plain old tourism is still banned. Also, telling the real Cuban from the fake won’t be so easy. Counterfeit versions are everywhere. Here’s an interesting news item: “Most people are not getting what they think are Cuban cigars. Many are made in Mexico, with a facsimile of a band that appears like a Cuban band.” Let’s check these labels in this store. “Little Havana.” OK, that section of Miami is pretty close. “Smoked by Cuba M. Gooding, Jr.” “Made especially for Mark Cuban.”

There is yet another problem. In 1960, the CIA considered a plan to kill Fidel Castro by injecting poison into his favorite cigars. Nothing came of that, but Castro is still alive, if not well, and may have a long memory. (While we’re at it, don’t buy any Cuban pigs in a bay.) On the other hand, we need to tell those mules on the Rio Grande smuggling teenagers and drugs into the U.S. for a small price that they are working for chump change. An authentic box of Cohiba Behikes in the U.S, can go for as high as $1,000, according to Cigar Aficionado magazine. But remember that among those appearing of the cover of Cigar Aficionado include Bill Cosby and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s the same curse as being on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  

Rudyard Kipling wrote, “And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.” That may be the dumbest thing anyone ever wrote. Upon hearing this, Sigmund Freud observed, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Which brings us to Thomas Riley Marshall, 28th vice president of the United States, who, one day, turned to John Crockett, chief clerk of the Senate and remarked, “What this country needs is a good five cent cigar.” That is the only remembered quote by Vice President Marshall. When Will Rogers heard of Marshall’s statement, Rogers replied, “This country has plenty of good five cent cigars. The trouble is, they charge 15 cents for them.” Finally we have the observation of cigar-smoking Mark Twain, who wrote, “More than one cigar at a time is excessive smoking.”

The habit peaked a few years back when the economy was booming. It caught on, not only among men but among women, too. It is acceptable for women to clip off the end of a cigar, but not for men. Have you ever seen a movie where John Wayne takes out his little clipper and snips off the end of a cigar? Of course not. Men bite off the end, then spit it out. Real men bite off the burning end and swallow it. Cigars are older than cigarettes. Indeed, “cigarette” means, “little cigar.” The word, “cigar,” comes from the Spanish word, “cigarro,” which comes from the Mayan word for smoking, SEEK-ar. Apparently the Mayans didn’t have a word for “throat cancer.” In any event, as with Coors beer and Krispy Kreme, these long-awaited Cubana cigars may not be as good as remembered. It wouldn’t be the first time Castro was blowing smoke.


Ashby is fuming at ashby2@ccomcast.net































January 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE OFFICE — Look to the left of that tree. It’s another tree, or so I’m supposed to think. That bush was not there last night. Here comes the postman. What do you think he really has in that bag? By the way, do I know you? No, I am not paranoid. I am a journalist who once engaged in satire. That means there is a big target on my back. Tomorrow morning when I go out to get the newspaper, cover me.

I should be perfectly safe here in my home-office in Running Rats Acres where the only crime against mankind is that flock of pink, plastic flamingoes on the Gutwalks’ front yard. But a group of cartoonists, writers and editors should have been safe at a Wednesday morning meeting on the second-floor of an office building in downtown Paris. Suddenly the door was flung open by two angry readers. When that letter to the editor was finished, 12 people were dead, more were wounded, three critically, plus a policeman was killed coming to their rescue. Collateral damage included freedom of writership, readership and, most important, my own safety.

By now the civilized world even unto Oklahoma knows the story of how gunmen mowed down much of the staff and Stephane Charbonnier, editor-in-chief of the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, (Charlie Weekly), which I had never heard of before. The journalists’ crime was lampooning the Muslim religion, along with every other faith, politician, the media itself and a lot of French society. Poking fun at some people means they poke back, with NRA-approved AK-47 semi-automatics. Let’s discuss this situation in a civilized and intelligent manner, so put down that epithet.

First, for the press these are dangerous days (that’s why we call them “deadlines”) and the situation is getting worse. More than 700 journalists have been killed worldwide since 2005. Last year alone, 119 journalists were kidnapped, 178 were imprisoned and 66 were killed, according to the nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders. Incidentally, this is the only civilian organization that keeps tabs on how many of its members meet violent deaths each year pursuing their profession – the only group that does so, or needs to. Don’t you love the couch commandos who harrumph about the American press while James Foley and Steven Sotloff were having their heads cut off? Missed those beheadings? No problem, they were videotaped. ISIS has instant re-play.

In the past I have urged, on your next trip to Washington to visit your money, you make a brief tour of the Newseum, a sobering yet sometimes lighthearted museum dedicated to the Fourth Estate. One exhibit I like contains the eyeglasses, pencil and notebook of Mark Kellogg. He was an AP reporter assigned to cover Custer at Littlebig Horn, and, no, he didn’t side with the Indians. There is also a wall containing a growing list of the names of American journalists killed in the line of duty. But the name of William Cowper Brann isn’t there. He was a Texas newspaper editor. In 1898 he was gunned down on a Waco street corner by an irate reader. A journalist’s life has its drawbacks. So does his death. After Brann was buried, someone fired a bullet into his tombstone. As we reporters say, update my obit.

Working in the field of occasional satire and lampooning, I have found over and over that hard-right wingers have no sense of humor which, of course, makes them a much easier target. To laugh at yourself requires self-confidence. The only funny comedian on the right is Dennis Miller. He worked “Monday Night Football” one season and it didn’t fly, but he’s still funny. Hard-left wingers can laugh at themselves, except for Stalin and Castro, and today write most of the comedies on television and the movies. Compare the shrillness of Pat Buchanan to the sophisticated wit of Jon Stewart.

My own beginning in this endeavor was while a student at The University of Texas when I took an English course on satire, since I was one of maybe three students in the entire UT enrollment writing satire for a student humor magazine, the Texas Ranger. In the midst of the course, in the midst of a class, I was thrown out by the professor. “Get out!” he said, satirically. The man had no sense of humor. For a time I thought of going into more dangerous work, such as a fact checker for “Morning Joe” or become Al Sharpton’s food taster. Maybe work for Obamacare, seeing if I could keep my own doctor.

“Satire is what closes on Saturday night,” said George S. Kaufman, after his play, “Strike Up the Band,” closed in Philadelphia before it could even make it to Broadway. For satire is a delicate art form, and appeals only to smart people like you, who understand the basis before you understand the twists, ridicule and balloons being popped. In America we have yet to experience blood-letting of the Paris persuasion, but do not fool yourself for a moment. The constant drum beat of us-versus-them, the anger of KTRH hate radio and others, are sowing evil thoughts in sick minds. Just wait.

Journalists like to trot out the French writer, philosopher and deep thinker Voltaire who is often quoted as writing: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As usual, the press got it wrong. The quote was written in 1906 by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who simply wrote those words to reflect Voltaire’s attitude. No matter, Voltaire wasn’t even his real name. It was François-Marie Arouet, but he changed his name after everyone disapproved of what he said. Still, we need to update that quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to death.”

Come look out this window. Notice those three garbage cans on my curb? I only have two. Update my obit.


Ashby is hiding at ashby2@comcast.net



5th Annual Sugar Land Home & Garden Show

January 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Events


Vendors representing the best of Sugar Land, Missouri City, Fort Bend County, Katy and Southwest Houston will be on hand to present their products and services to homeowners who have the desire to surround themselves with beauty, elegance and color. The goal of this popular one-stop home-improvement annual event is to provide all of the tools necessary from current trends in interior design to creating a burst of spring color, a tranquil greenspace or functional outdoor living area to help attendees define and design their personal space.
Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24 and 25, 2015; Time: TBD
Stafford Centre. 
Located at 10505 Cash Road in Stafford, the Centre boasts 20,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Ticket information will be available on the sugarlandhomeandgarden.com  website closer to event time.
Photo courtesy of Thompsons Landscape

Bayou City Music Center

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Live Music


Open since 1997, Bayou Music Center has been home to countless events over the years, including Coldplay, Nickelback, Etta James, James Brown, Robin Williams, Velvet Revolver and Steely Dan just to name a few. Known for it’s incredible sightlines and superior soundsystem, a concert or special event at Bayou Music Center is not to be missed.

Where: 520 Texas Ave Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 713-230-1600
Email: juliejohnson@livenation.com
Website: http://www.bayoumusiccenter.com/

Toyota Center

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Live Music

toyota center


 Toyota Center is dedicated to enhancing the concert-going experience for our VIP customers. We understand that waiting in line for concessions, tour merchandise or restrooms can detract from your evening. We know that relaxing with friends in a comfortable environment before the concert is important to you. That is why we are offering you the opportunity to purchase passes to the WOODFOREST CLUB, LEXUS LOUNGE or PLATINUM LOUNGE for select concerts!

Where: 1510 Polk Street Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 713-758-7200
Website: http://www.houstontoyotacenter.com/
Events: http://www.houstontoyotacenter.com/events/all

Warehouse Live

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Live Music

warehouse live

Just beyond the gleaming office buildings of Downtown Houston lies Warehouse Live, a 1920’s era warehouse repurposed as a one-of-a-kind concert and event venue. From the moment guest arrive, Warehouse Live features a vintage, 20 foot neon marquee welcoming and branding your event from the start.

With its prime location, just three blocks from Minute Maid Park and directly behind the George R. Brown Convention Center, Warehouse Live has quickly become one of Houston’s signature multipurpose facilities, offering the versatility to accommodate groups as small as 50 and as large as 1,500.

Warehouse Live has been configured to offer unrivaled flexibility in layout and production. The complex encompasses two fully independent spaces – the Ballroom and the Studio – each with their own entrances and exits, restrooms, bars, flat screen LCD and Plasma TVs, stages and sound and lighting systems. In addition, the entire facility is wired for high-speed internet access.

While parking can often be a problem downtown, Warehouse Live benefits from ample non-metered street parking throughout the Warehouse District and has access to three dedicated surface lots adjacent to the facility. Additional lots are nearby, and valet parking can be arranged for specific events. Outside caterers are always welcome at Warehouse Live.

Where: 813 St. Emanual Street  Houston, TX 77003
Phone: 713-225-5483
Website: http://warehouselive.com/
Event Calendar: http://warehouselive.com/calendar#2015-01

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Live Music

cynthia woods

Surrounded by lush forests, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, presented by Huntsman, is an outdoor amphitheater that provides the Greater Houston region with an array of performing arts events, educational outreach programs and contemporary entertainment. The picturesque venue is the Summer Home of the Houston Symphony and Home Away from home of Houston Ballet. The Pavilion is also known as The Center for the Performing Arts at The Woodlands, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, and is governed by a volunteer board of directors

Where: 2005 Lake Robbins Drive  The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Phone: 281-363-3300
Website: http://www.woodlandscenter.org/welcome.html
Events: http://www.woodlandscenter.org/events.html
Email: info@woodlandscenter.org

House of Blues

January 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Live Music


The House of Blues grew out of founder Isaac Tigrett’s love for the unique American art form known as the “the Blues”. Weaned on this music during his early childhood in Tennessee, one of Isaac’s goals was to introduce the world to the music of the rural south, including the Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jazz and Roots-based Rock & Roll.

The very first House of Blues opened its doors in a converted historical house in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992 and is home to live music, original folk art, and delta-inspired cuisine.

The House of Blues is dedicated to educating and celebrating the history of Southern Culture and African American artistic contributions to music and art.

Where: 1204 Caroline Street  Houston,TX,77002
Phone: (888) 402-5837
Website: http://www.houseofblues.com/houston
Concerts: http://www.houseofblues.com/houston/#calendarsearch
Gospel Brunch: http://www.houseofblues.com/houston/promos/GospelBrunch


January 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

“I’m from Texas and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control.” — Willie Nelson.

“Doesn’t Texas sometimes seem to resemble a country like Saudi Arabia, with its great heat, its oil wealth, its brimming houses of worship, and its weekly executions?” — Martin Amis, “The Palace of the End,” The Guardian, March 4, 2003

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” — Molly Ivins.

Yes, it’s time once again to see what people are saying about us – outsiders, insiders, critics and people who just don’t know any better.          Let’s start with politics, always good for a laugh. “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.” – State Atty. Gen. (and future Gov.) Greg Abbott. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock harangued an innocent park ranger in front of TV cameras about a shutdown-shuttered war memorial in Washington, insisting that the ranger and her colleagues should be “ashamed of themselves.” Rep. Neugebauer, who had voted for the shut-down, later apologized in a letter to his constituents. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas cemented Franco-American relations with: “We’re not French. We don’t surrender.” Outgoing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told a Tea Party gathering: “I don’t know about you, but Barack Obama ought to be impeached.”

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land said that the government is becoming secular because “we stopped realizing that God created this nation that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.” “How can you look at the Texas Legislature and still believe in intelligent design?” — Kinky Friedman. “Crucial to understanding federalism in modern day America is the concept of mobility, or ‘the ability to vote with your feet.’ If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol — don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.” – Gov. Rick Perry. And this Molly Ivins quote is particularly relevant right now: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”

Blasts from the past: Gov. Perry quoting another governor, Sam Houston, at a Tea Party rally in Austin: “Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.” Next up: “Anyone who has seen the auto factories in Detroit and the oil fields in Texas, knows that Japan lacks the national power for a naval race with America.” — Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Van Horn [Texas] is so healthy, we had to shoot a man to start a cemetery.”– Bill Goynes, who coined this civic slogan for the town. Then he was gunned down during an argument and was the first man buried in the Van Horn cemetery, in 1892.

Where’s the remote? Oprah Winfrey, who has hosted her show in both Houston and Dallas, was asked (in Dallas) which Texas city was the best host. She answered, “Dallas won! If you have a rivalry, Dallas won!”

Keep changing channels. Conan O’Brien (in Dallas): Houston is “650 square miles, all of it comprised of burning garbage piles. Houston’s smog is the eighth worst in the USA, and it’s home to every serial killer that’s alive today. It’s industries are known for pollutin’, and it’s the favorite U.S. city of Vladimir Putin. And here’s my last line, and I don’t mean to be callous, but if you drive near Houston just keep going to Dallas.” No wonder O’Brien got fired.

“Don’t Mess With Texas” Now of world-wide fame, it was born in 1985 when the then Texas Dept. of Transportation (now the cutesy TxDOT) asked two Mad Men, Mike Blair and Tim McClure, to come up with a slogan to stem the $20-million-a-year cost of cleaning up Texas’s highways. McClure, spotting all the trash along a road near his house, remembered his mother telling him that his room was messy. The slogan now ranks up there with Hook ‘Em Horns.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a letter to his brother, Edgar Newton Eisenhower, on Nov. 8, 1954: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

This is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about folks from Texas: “If someone in a Lowe’s store offers you assistance and they don’t work there, you may live in Texas.                         If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong umber, you may live in Texas. If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Texas.”

ESPN personality Colin Cowherd: “There’s only one side of the argument to be on: Johnny Football created this whole entire mess. Tough talkin’, rigid, all-about-cops-and-laws Texas, all lining up today, defending a law-breaker, who lied to his coach, lied to his teammates, lied to the cops — I thought you were all about accountability in Texas? … And it makes you look like hypocrites.”

“For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.”
John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley.” And finally, the final words from James Michener’s “Texas”: “Never forget, son, when you represent Texas, always go first class.”

Ashby is quotable at ashby2@comcast.net













Galveston Restaurant Week: Jan. 10-24

January 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Dining, Foodie Events

Join us and celebrate delicious at Galveston Restaurant Week from January 10-24!

For a full list of participating restaurants and more details, visit www.galvestonrestaurantweek.com.

Don’t forget to also vote for your favorite restaurants!

The Caribbean’s Cinnamon Isle

January 5, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Words by Dick Dace, Photos by Kim Coffman

If your definition of a deserted island includes seven natural pristine beaches, azure waters, and five-star cuisine, then Caneel Bay Resort is the place for you. Nestled inside the 5,000-acre United States Virgin Island National Park, the 170 acres of the Caneel Bay Resort provide blissful, beautiful access to Danish Colonial ruins, sugar estates, Arawak Indian petroglyphs, romantic picture postcard beaches, and pampering accommodations.

I was booked into room 7B, the largest room at Caneel (“cinnamon” in Dutch), complete with dressing room, dining table, lounge area and terrace, just sixty-two steps away from the sands of Paradise Beach, and a stone’s throw from the fabulous cuisine the resort offers. After enjoying the best egg-white omelet I have ever had, served with fresh tropical fruit and skillet potatoes, I was off to enjoy my first resort activity – cave diving.

One cave my companions and I dove through was just near the surface, a bare 20 feet down, where the waves pushed and pulled you inside the crevasse, like breaths of a giant beast. Once through the cave, we looked up to see a sheer wall of rock, smooth and monolithic. To our left, a giant tarpon was chasing a massive school of silver minnows, which blinded us like billions of pieces of mirror as they twisted and turned to escape. But soon physical exercise would give way to a more decidedly spiritual and relaxing take on resort life at the appropriately named Self Centre.

A mind-body-spirit retreat high in the treetops above the beach at Caneel Bay, the Centre offers a menu of mind-body approaches for stress relief, relaxation and rejuvenation. There, I enjoyed a brief Chakra Meditation, Taoist Inner-Chi Yoga and Qi Gong. Invigorated by my session, I set off to snorkel the cove of Paradise Beach.

Snorkeling through crystalline waters, I encountered aqua and purple parrot fish, and hundreds upon hundreds of conch – so evenly spaced apart, they looked like they were on a chessboard. Now, I have eaten my fair share of conch fritters and conch chowder, but I had never seen one alive. They have coal-black bodies, with spade-shaped heads and two long, thin arms they use to eat the algae growing on sea grass.

As I swam east through Turtle Bay, I spied its namesake resident, a giant green turtle with two long, bright lime-green sucker fish attached. On my return swim, I witnessed a stingray playing hide-and-seek by trying to bury itself in the sand, hopping, skipping and jumping its way before me. Now it was time to enjoy the equally impressive wonders shoreside.

That evening at dinner in the ruins of the Sugar Mill, local history expert Chuck Pishko regaled our table with tales of the rum trade, while we dined on a five-star meal of mahi-mahi served with grilled breadfruit paired with a delightful California Wine. As the torches burned down and the stars sparkled bright above our roof-less room, casual acquaintances became new friends, and promises to return to the spectacular cinnamon isle were made.

Mr. Dace and Mr. Coffman were guests of Caneel Bay Resort.

Dick Dace does Lunch for a living.

Kim Coffman is a photojournalist based in Houston.


Trip Resources:


Caneel Bay Resort, A Rosewood Hotel, www.rosewoodhotels.com

Chuck Pishko, St. John Historian, tcpishko@vipowernet.net

Chris Sawyer Diving, www.sawyerdive.vi


– end –


January 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE GROCERY STORE – Every year about this time these trashy magazines we see in racks by the checkout counter stop running headlines such as “Did Rob’s Baby Have Horns?” or “Jana and Lance – Kidnapped By Martians?” I have no idea who Rob, Jana and Lance are, and really don’t care. But these lurid headlines are suspended for the January issues while some soothsayer predicts the upcoming year. And annually it’s the same thing: A great person will die, there will be strife in the Middle East and some Hollywood couple will divorce. Well, these messengers of mischief and mayhem have nothing on us. So stand by while I say the sooth.

JANUARY – In his inaugural address, Gov. Greg Abbott vows to fully fund Planned Parenthood, uphold EPA anti-pollution rules and stop constant lawsuits against Washington,  then adds to an apoplectic audience: “Just kidding.” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declares himself to be the Official State Icon. Super Bowl reaches record viewers when it is announced the halftime show will feature “The Rockettes’ Wardrobe Malfunction.”

FEBRUARY – Rush Limbaugh again denounces global warming as a “gigantic hoax perpetuated by the drive-by media,” this time from the rooftop of his Florida beach-front mansion, which is under water. The State Board of Education discovers a mention of evolution in Texas students’ reading material and demands that the publishers “Stop the chisels!”  Bill Cosby’s one-man show at a Chevron station in Billings, Mont. Is cancelled.

MARCH – The New York Times Best Seller list is topped by “Killing Bill O’Reilly.” Prior to the season openers, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers decide their chances of winning would be better if they joined the Texas League. “The Interview” finally opens widely in the U.S. to scathing criticism, but receives glowing reviews and plays to massive audiences in Pyongyang. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave it two thumbs up, and blames his reputation outside his country on “the liberal press.”

APRIL – The NRA proclaims April as Go Postal Month. Halliburton merges with Qatar. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warns of “creeping progress in the Legislature.” President Obama vetoes a bill to ban murders in his hometown of Chicago, calling it “selective prosecution.” Occupy Wall Street organizers form a corporation and file to be listed on NASDAQ.

MAY – To howls of laughter, the Koch Brothers make a bid to buy California’s Electoral College votes. The Texas Militia announces that, due to its “over-powering presence,” there have zero immigrants trying to sneak across the river into Texas. It is then pointed out they are guarding the Red River. Gov. Abbott files suit against Daylight Saving Time, explaining, “Typical Washington interference in our private lives. We don’t need to save another day.” A Texas Monthly reader discovers an article among the ads.

JUNE — The Koch Brothers again make a bid to buy California’s Electoral College votes.

The State Board of Education considers approving some non-religious subjects taught in K-12. The motion dies for lack of a second. President Obama holds a press conference to note the stock market hits 20,000, unemployment is the lowest in 50 year, there is a budget surplus and no American troops are in combat. Karl Rove denounces it as “nothing new.”

JULY – Wendy Davis admits she’s not a real blonde. She also acknowledges she was not wearing pink tennis shoes during her famous filibuster, explaining, “My feet are pink.” Also, she said her real name is BettyLou BonnieSue Hogwarts, not Wendy. “It’s OK, because I was conceived in a fast-food drive thru.” The Tea Party denies it is named for Revolutionists who dumped tea in Boston Harbor. “They were left-wing, liberal terrorists who were traitorous to our beloved leader, George III. We blame the press.” A Houston driver uses his turn signal. After an extensive search, CNBC finally discovers an anchor who is not British and is not named “Simon.”

AUGUST – The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers stand a mathematical chance of finishing the season. Texas Democrats annual convention is called off due to lack of a quorum of five delegates or more.  Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes demands that Stephen Colbert stop saying: “The title, ‘Fox News,’ is an oxymoron.” Says Ailes: “Fox viewers are not oxen or morons – for the most part.” Merchants start putting up their Christmas decorations – for 2016. Gov. Abbott files suit against owners of the copyright of “Happy Birthday” for demanding royalties. Then withdraws it when everyone starts calling it “Greg Abbott’s birthday suit.”

SEPTEMBER – The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers finish at the bottom of the Texas League. Oil drops to $40 a barrel. Midland is repossessed. Gov. Greg Abbott sues himself for frivolous lawsuits. Former Gov. Rick Perry announces he is running for President and will campaign in all 49 states. ISIS terrorist leaders captured and shot. An ISIS spokesman blames the press for ‘bad publicity.”

OCTOBER — The State Board of Education joins the NRA in proclaiming October as
“Texas Public Schools Three Rs Month – Remington, Rimshots and Reloading.” Speaker John Boehner demands that Hillary Clinton explain how, while she was Secretary of State, Ebola was spread to Benghazi, transmitted there by illegal immigrants on welfare.

NOVEMBER – Trashy magazines record circulation highs after changing their names to Readers’ Digest, Mensa Quarterly  and Texas Monthly With No Ads. President Obama vetoes Congress. The University of Texas and Texas A&M play on Thanksgiving Day after Johnny Manziel returns to the Aggie football team, explaining, “That NFL sucks.”

DECEMBER – The State Board of Education prohibits any school Christmas caroling which includes the line, “Don we now our gay apparel.” The Koch Brothers give up trying to buy California’s Electoral College votes and simply buy California. Sen. Ted Cruz denounces Obama’s immigration policies, explaining: “We’ve got too many immigrants here now.” Sen. Marco Rubio agrees with a simple: “Si.” Israel and Palestine sign a perpetual peace accord – just kidding. Rob’s baby is dehorned, Jana and Lance are found on Mars and I still don’t care.


Trashby is at ashby2@comcast.net




January 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

It is time to ring in 2016 with joy and anticipation. OK, maybe fear and trepidation. Either way, we now make our annual predictions. To refresh your memory, last year I was 100 percent correct: A great person died, a plane crashed and a movie won the Oscar. True, peace did not come to the Middle East, despite the plans and expectations of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team. We must give their strategy more time. Enron did not come back, nor did Wendy Davis. Anyway, stand by while I say the sooth for 2016. Clip this column, put it on your refrigerator door, make sure it won’t fall off, and we’ll get together next January for a celebration of our brilliance based on this knowledge.

         January –Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues the Obama administration for “attempting to interfere with states’ rights by allowing our opponents to vote.” Rick Perry announces he is back in the race for President. No one notices. UT students demand the Student Union stop using Dixie Cups. A total eclipse blocks out the sun. Newt Gingrich blames “the elite liberal media.” Congress approves the Home Howitzer Bill. It cost the NRA a fortune. A customer at Sam’s speaks English. The Iraqi Army flees in a rout after discovering that attacking ISIS forces have a gun.

       February — Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin exchange Valentines. Super Bowl begins in Houston with a six-hour pregame warn-up, then a film on, “Concussions Are for Wussies.” The half-time show features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Aida, and a re-enactment of the Battle of San Jacinto. Following the two-hour post-game show, a panel discusses the day’s best TV commercials. The game itself is called off due to lack of time.

March – Rick Santorum announces that he received 90 percent the vote in response to a recent poll. Unfortunately, the response was, “Rick who?” 500 Syrian refugees are settled in Newark. Ted Cruz finally shows up in the Capitol to vote on a bill. The sergeant-at-arms arrests Cruz as a trespasser. In his trial for felony fraud, Texas Attorney General Paxton’s attorneys accuse the prosecution of “playing the political card.”

April — On the 15th of the month, the Houston Chronicle does not feature a photograph of .Carolyn Farb. Attorney General Paxton’s lawyers accuse the prosecution of “playing the facts card.” Gov. Greg Abbott declares: “The river is closed. The border is secure.” Oklahomans object. The Texas State Board of Education conditionally approves the wheel. The Dept. of Homeland Security announces it has arrested “a known terrorist who is plotting the end of America as we know it today.” Sen. Bernie Sanders denies it.

May — I stop writing 2015 on my checks. Gov. Abbott orders the Texas State Guard “to monitor the actions and possible takeover by an invading army.” Abbott cancels the order when he discovers it’s a convention of the Salvation Army. Hillary Clinton astounds a NOW gathering by declaring, “A woman’s place is in the home.” Then adds: “The home being the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” After the Memorial Day recess, Congress begins its Fourth of July recess.

June – Merchants begin their back-to-school promotions. Donald Trump demands to be declared the 51st state. In an ominous move, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick begins dropping the Lt. from his title. Rush Limbaugh wakens from another overdose of OxyContin and finds someone painted “Goodyear” across his stomach. Occupy Wall Street dissolves, and no one notices. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz issue a joint statement: “There are too many immigrants here now. We don’t need anymore.” Their cousins in Havana disagree.

July — 500 Syrian refugees in Newark asked to be resettled in Damarcus. The Texas Democratic Party finds itself pictured on the side of milk cartons. CNN points out that no one has seen Col. Sanders and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the same time. Calling it “government interference in our lives,” Gov. Abbott decrees 911 be made an unlisted number and the Texas Rangers are ordered on the No Call list. Merchants begin their Christmas specials.

September – The Texas State Board of Education approves a textbook which refers to state executions as “a permanent condition relating to inhaling and exhaling.” Global warming deniers hold their convention at Dallas Beach. Texas A&M announces it has finally found a quarterback. Says Coach Kevin Sumlin, “She’s good.” A headline writer is fired for using “Cruz Control” 15 straight days.

October – The U.S. Department of Calendars notices that there was no August. Everyone agrees that August is always too hot, anyway. After intense grilling, Sears and Neiman’s confess what they did to Roebuck and Marcus. It isn’t pretty. President Obama begins wearing sandals, a thobe and Arabic headdress, explaining, “Just call me Hussein Obama. I’ve been radicalized.” Gov. Abbott, noting that last year Texas had 35,073 births to teenagers at a cost of $1.1 billion and that Texas ranks third in teenagers’ birth rates, stops all state funds to Planned Parenthood, explaining, “Give abstinence a chance.”

November – The Rev. Al Sharpton calls for a boycott of merchants’ Black Friday, calling it “racist.” The Houston Texans are arrested for impersonating a football team. In a landslide, George H.W. Bush is elected President on the None of the Above ticket. Lindsey Graham demands a recount. Santa Claus announces that the most popular item on children’s lists this year are drones. With the new campus-carry laws in effect, UT professors vote to flunk any student wearing a flak jacket and lecture only behind bullet-proof glass.

December — Fox News wins a Pulitzer for “best fiction writing.” The local TV news shows can’t find an apartment house fire or a shooting, and run 30 minutes of their test pattern. Santa Claus is in critical condition after his sleigh is hit by a drone. Donald Trump claims he was born in a manger, and his birth was witnessed by “tens of thousands of Muslims gathered in New Jersey.” Your refrigerator door falls off.


Ashby is predictable at ashby2@comcast.net