Good gourmet burger? Beets me.

Mine eyes have seen less glory in the last two decades due to aging, heredity or for whatever reasons that might develop. I started out with prescription glasses but eventually found I could do just fine with cheap reading glasses that somewhere along the way have been dubbed as “cheaters.”

I usually take my glasses along if I anticipate reading. Often times I don’t take them and later wish I had. Then sometimes it doesn’t really make a big ice sculpture whether I do or don’t need classes.

Most times I have glasses when I visit a place to eat that I have not previously visited. There is no telling what type of font or print size on a menu one might find nor may one predict the lighting. Even with glasses, especially cheaters, I might not possess the ability to read a menu with ease. Who knows what one might order.

But last week while staying at a Marriott near Houston’s Galleria I did not have a clue where I wanted to eat or what I wanted to eat. I was by myself, I was on foot — I have been told by a doctor to stay off my feet for more than a month ago due to a foot ulcer — so I likewise chose not to venture far.

As it turned out, there was a little strip center just around the corner from where I was staying. It was actually across the street from the huge mall but I had already taken one tour, at least partially, through the center. So I was pretty tired and was hungry.

I try not to eat more than a burger a week, it being my favorite, for weight and health issues. Although, sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Using such irreversible logic, I decided upon a darkened little restaurant called the Burger Palace and Bistro.

The sign on the window made mention of its being Houston’s best destination for 100 percent Akaushi American Kobe beef. That pedigree being mentioned I could see dollars slowly fading from my debit card. Having been a hamburger cook at a 4-star flea market cafe — hey when I say “4-star” what they hell does it mean anyway? — I could cook a burger that would make Wendy and Ronald McDonald go into hiding.

Now all sectors of the farming and ranching industry these days put out all kinds of smack about their food. An old friend from high school works as a PR guy for a statewide farm association and he is on the warpath with the anti GMO folks. Me I could care less. Two things food is basically about. One is sustenance. The other is taste. Then, somewhere down the line is health. And yes, I agree, that is three. So sue me!

I must’ve been lost somewhere down the line. But all these foreign names for beef don’t impress me. That is why I chose the Mitsubishi, sorry, I mean Akaushi, which is a strain of Japanese cattle. Kobe originally meant beef sold by tall, dark professional basketball players. No, just joking. It’s a city in Japan, silly.

Once inside the Burger Palace, back to no glasses, I could hardly see what was on the menu. Out of the 50 or so imported beers, I did make out “Estrella Damm” as the kind of light Spanish beer I might like to have with or before my dinner. It was a nice light beer, reminiscent of Olympia, which was the only American beer I could find worth a damn in Asia back in the Navy. And way back before Oly became synonymous with Old Milwaukee,

Speaking of the Navy, I visited a few ports in Australia back when I rode a destroyer in the Western and Southern Pacific. That nation had some delightful oddities in their food and it had nothing to do with chewing rough kangaroo feet. Australians had some great variations on food we ate as a matter of routine in the U.S. Among that cuisine was fried eggs or pineapple slices on their hamburgers.

Australians also were very fond of beets — they call them “beetroot” — and found them to be a very fitting additive to a hamburger. I ate eggs and pineapple on Aussie food, but I never tried beets. It just didn’t seem right. Not on a hamburger. Not in my stomach.

But last week in the Burger Palace and Bistro, at 2800 Sage Road, #1100, I tried beets on my burger, called the what else? the “Down Under.” Here is what comes on your burger, mate:

“Grilled Pineapple, White Cheddar, Roasted Beets, Fried Egg with Duck Fat or olive oil & Homemade Aioli.” Aioli is a garlic-flavored yolk sauce. I don’t know if there was any “duck fat” on it. I hope not.

But it was a very delicious burger. The beet left a reddish color to the bun and the gooey-ness made the sandwich somewhat difficult to navigate as a hand food. But it was just as good eaten with a fork.

The burger, which I ordered with a side of upright fries, was $10.95. The imported beer and tip came out to about $20. It was kind of pricey for a quick meal alone. But This seemed to be favored by couples and small groups.

The menu displays a variety for just about anyone’s pallette including vegans. Just tell them to leave off the duck fat.

The Burger Palace and Bistro
2800 Sage Rd., #1100
Houston, Texas 77056
(713)877-9700
Monday-Saturday 11a.m.-10 p.m.
Closed: Sunday

Finding Jesus at the taqueria

Just looking at the news headline on my local daily’s Website I have to say that I wasn’t totally disappointed to find the headline:

 “Texas man sees Jesus Christ on a tortilla”

Perhaps it would be more appropriate, depending on where one was located, to say “Texas hombre ve a Jesucristo en una tortilla.” That is just one translation. Apt? Correcto? At least the story had a humorous lead:

 “Holy, holy, holy. Pass the guacamole.”

It seems that someone is always finding Jesus in some foodstuff. If one looks closely at the tortilla pictured in the linked story one might believe the irregularity does resemble Jesus. Or maybe the Zig Zag man.

Christmas-time being the time millions of Christians celebrate as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth so would it seem an appropriate time for people to find images of Him on tortillas, toast, screen doors and so forth. The many visions people have of Jesus and his associates and relatives, make sense considering how many different beliefs people attribute to him.

Some, forgive me, jackasses, such as those commentators on Fox News always seem to believe there is a “War on Christmas.” Actually, they mean that it is their opinion that a war exists between government paired with those secular suckers versus those who believe in some narrow — narrow by millions and millions though still narrow looking at the world at large — construct of of Christianity.

But in reality, people find Jesus in a tortilla here, a plate of grits there and perhaps here, there and everywhere. So who is stopping Jesus? The Supreme Court? That Kenyan boy who is president? There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of Jesus or “Hey-soos” either one, at least in the minds of those who believe in Him, and however they believe him. So those of you who worry Christmas is under attack, just go to your local taqueria, get you a plate of something good and make sure you order some hot tortillas. Perhaps if you stare long enough — and perhaps drink some stout margaritas — you too might find a sacred figure in your tortillas.

Three tacos and a flashback of a side of empathy

It is another rainy Southeast Texas day and I felt like wherever I ended up is where I should stop for lunch. As the work clock ticks down to about 10 minutes — I thought I was supposed to start at 3:30 p.m. but beginning time is instead 1:30 p.m. — I will have to quickly relate my lunch and flashback.

Where I ended up was Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp, 5555 Calder, Beaumont, next to the popular Willy Burger and their new pizza place. I have eaten at Willy’s a few times. It is usually crowded and though the place is aesthetically funky, and the food is good, it’s far from my fave local joints Chuck’s Sandwich Shop (486 Pearl St.) for its wonderful old cheeseburger basket, and Daddio’s, up the street on Calder at Lucas, with their wonderful buffalo burger and hand cut fries.

Tia Juanita’s has gone through quite a few incarnations of food places. But it still has the huge covered patio and a darkish inside setting. While it has a Spanish name and a Mexican owner, the place is, unsurprisingly, seafood-oriented. The menu includes fried fish and shrimp as well as poboys, gumbo and tacos of a different variety. When I say that I mean fish, shrimp and beef. You can order a three-taco plate with either or a combination of the three. One also has the choice of flour or corn tortillas. So I chose shrimp tacos on corn tortillas. The three tacos for $10 ($9.99)  comes with a small salsa cup with a great-tasting spice enough to last through about nine tacos. It’s hot yet very delicious. It likewise comes with an equally small cup of charro beans. I likewise got an industrial-sized glass of unsweet tea.

The tacos came with cooked and spicy salad-sized shrimp, cilantro and shredded red cabbage inside two small corn tortillas each. With the salsa it was delightfully spicy and a treat. Although I really didn’t leave hungry, I was a bit put off at the size of the bean amount. Of all that was served, the beans were certainly not made of gold so the serving could have been twice the size I received easily.

Also, I am unsure if chips and salsa are automatic or if they are an extra charge. The waiter asked if I wanted anything else, I suppose I should have asked her what else was there, without sounding like a smart ass.

While I felt I waited a bit longer than normal for my food, I didn’t mind it at all. A large screen with ESPN Sports Center was on as well as a rather loud stereo system playing a number of tunes from the 60s and 70s by Jerry Jeff Walker, James Taylor and even Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Buffett. The rain also played a steady, though not heavy, beat outside the fenced patio. It was watching the rain and hearing Loggins and Messina’s rather sugary but nonetheless pretty “Danny’s Song” that I had a flashback from my military days overseas.

This recall was not from war. It was from sitting inside a pizza joint in Olangapo outside the Subic Bay Naval Station. I chose to order a few cold beers inside the big picture windows of the Cork Room Cellar watching the goings on of a hot, dusty day on Magsaysay Drive. Passing by those large windows to the world would be the whores, the Philippine constabulary in their fatigues, boonie hats and M-16s slung around their shoulders, as well as those who did everything from selling cheap trinkets to picking pockets. Inside, listening to the same songs from the same Loggings and Messina’s albums I remember feeling such sadness for those who made their living from can to can’t. Maybe it was — at 21 years old — my first discovery of empathy for those I felt who were less fortunate than I. Perhaps not the first, but perhaps the first time as an outsider of a foreign land looking in. Or maybe it was just the cold San Miguel catching up with me. I don’t know. But today I remembered it as if it was earlier this week.

The tacos were great though. Were I not scheduled to work later, and had an icy San Miguel been around — doubtful, as you don’t see San Miguel around too often in these parts — I might just have stayed for awhile.

Is it true: That you’re never too big for jury duty?

Just now I have filled out a jury summons for Monday, June 30. I have pinned the summons back on my bulletin board.

The summons says I am to report for a “petit jury.” The word “petit” comes from the French word for “small.” I have never attempted to avoid jury duty but I always wondered if I did, whether I might try the “large” card? In other words, I am almost 6 feet tall. That’s not gigantic when you think of people like a pro basketball player, but it is still above average height.

At some point in time, one summoned for jury duty is asked: “Do you have any reason why that you should be excused from jury duty?

Me: “I do.”

Clerk: “What is the reason you should be excused?”

Me: “Is this the petit jury?:”

Clerk: “Yes sir. It is.”

Me: “Then do you have a jury for one that is ‘petit-plus?'”

Clerk: “I beg your pardon, sir?”

Me: “Well, it is my understanding that the word ‘petit’ comes from the French word for “small.” I mean, I’m not LeBron James, but I am 6-feet-tall and weigh 280 pounds.”

Clerk: “And your point, sir?”

And so it goes. There is little, pardon the pun, potential that a juror may say short of: “Um, I shot the sheriff. But I didn’t shoot the deputy. Oh, and I smoke a little ganja too.”

There you go, off the jury and take a little drink (or a little smoke) and you land in jail.

But why would you not want to make the jury? I say “make” because it seems like the less you would want to serve on a jury, the less chance you have.

I served on one jury in my life. It was a worker’s compensation case. I don’t really remember the details or what verdict we delivered. I just remembered the food. You see, I was unemployed, broke, impoverished. I had no money to buy food or feed my monster Doberman-great Dane. I couldn’t buy gas. I had to hitchhike from the farm house I lived in to town, about 15 miles to the courthouse. I was summoned for two days. The second day there wasn’t a trial as we sat around all day while the parties bargained.

The first day of jury duty, I put on my only suit — three pieces — and walked up the road next to the house to hitchhike to town. A family in my minivan gave me a ride and a guy from the jury who lived on down the road gave me a ride home. Not much trouble hitchhiking when you wear a three-piece suit. I mean, maybe it should be. Let’s say if you were a mobile killer. Oh well, I brought home some scraps from dinner for the dog.

The second day, I don’t remember. I do remember both days we had doughnuts and coffee for breakfast. Man, those doughnuts rocked. We had dinner that evening because we were deliberating. It was from Shepherd’s Restaurant, it used to be a great downtown restaurant. It was also where the inmates had their food made. I suppose that’s why the place had such a recidivism rate back then. Just kidding.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the courtroom. Most of it as a journalist. I miss it, come to think of it. I don’t miss sitting all day, waiting for this or that. But I miss the drama. I miss reporting and writing on interesting tales. Like I’ve said, I’ve only been on one jury, but I’d be happy to do it again. It’s a great responsibility we are afforded in our country to assist the judging of our peers. Plus, you can always likely find a doughnut and a hot cup of coffee. There’s a lot to be said for that.

On a Friday, afternooon

Methinks I will make a chili dog.

 

 

The finer things in life, baloney! Seriously!

Here I sit eating pieces of beef jerky. I have often wondered why is it that I do not find myself in a position in which someone will ask me: “How is beef jerky made?” To which I would answer: “Well, first you start with a very, old cow.”

I couldn’t say if I ate jerky as a kid. I can long remember eating Slim Jims, which are the same as jerky only different.

In many cases there are numerous foods today which were not available to the general public when I was growing up. A major reason for that was or is geography. I grew up in a town of about 2,000 people which was some 60 miles from a “metropolitan area.”

The first Mexican food I remember eating was actually what is identified today as Tex-Mex. That makes sense geographically since I grew up and live in Texas as well as Texas standing next door to Mexico. My mother would buy these enchilada and tamale TV dinners with frijoles y arroz, which we knew, of course, as beans and rice. Although I had eaten at a few Mexican restaurants in Texas and the South, I was never exposed to honesto a dios Mexican food until the time I spent in the El Paso-Juarez area and in Southern California. The first “authentic” Mexican food that I found in a restaurant outside of the Southwest was in Lufkin, Texas, of all places.

First of all, I went to college in Nacogdoches, which was just across the river from Lufkin. Casa Morales was the name of the restaurant. Located in downtown Lufkin, the place had great food and an ambiance to match. As well as a good plate of chile rellenos, one might search through the racks near the cashier for historietas, the graphic novellas which were more lurid and even pornographic than comic. Casa Morales later built another restaurant in Redland, a community closer to the Angelina River that separates Angelina and Nacogdoches counties.

Growing up, pizza was something my mother made with a Chef Boyardee Pizza Kits. I probably first had pizza in a pizza place in high school when I traveled to the Beaumont area, where I now live. Since that time I have eaten pizzas in the northeast U.S., Chicago, the West Coast as well as Australia and New Zealand. I must note, I have never visited New York, though I have had so-called “New York-Style” pizza.

There was some standard fare growing up. My mother made wonderful fried chicken. I remember her fried tripe was excellent although some people I know might gag at the sound of the entree. By the way, I had some really good menudo the last time I stayed in El Paso with my friends. Menudo is known, of course, for its magical powers as a hangover cure though I didn’t eat it for that reason on that particular occasion and it was still delicious.

Other dishes from my mother’s hands included, probably my best-loved dish that she made, her pigs-in-a-blanket. This was long before I heard the term kolache, but this was very near what her pigs were.

We were country folks and as such we would eat some dishes not-so-mainstream growing up. One of my sisters-in-law told of her being stunned to see on one of her initial visits, served on my family dinner table, a cooked baloney. Of course, that is considered soul food in some parts of the country today. My Dad, himself a good cook having served as a merchant marine steward in WWII, would buy a billy goat for the 4th of July that he would barbecue. The meal, especially using meat of a kid goat, today is known more by the Mexican method as cabrito.

I would be remiss not to mention a concoction my dad would make that he called “Son of a Gun.” Now my brothers and I have discussed this many times although I am not sure we arrived at a collective agreement as to what this meal was and what all it contained. Some of my siblings said it was my Dad’s version of “Sonofabitch Stew,” the old cattle drive fare that included just about any ingredient of a cow or other edible meat and lots and lots of hot sauce. But this stew my Pops whipped up was more like a Slum Gullion Stew, which is a watery stew of practically any ingredient handy.

In my Dad’s case, this thin stew consisted of potted meat and some type of canned tomato product such as tomato sauce or tomato soup or perhaps canned tomatoes. I surmise he added hot sauce, salt and pepper and he would often bake up some homemade corn bread as a side. It was truly some righteous stuff.

I have eaten barbecued monkey meat on a stick in the Philippines. I added an egg to a hamburger in Australia but turned down the “beet root.” Today you can get just about any kind of meat or vegetable depending on how much you want to pay and how far you want to travel. But sometimes the simplest meals one may find are the things no farther than one’s pantry or local grocer store. It is all the better when you know the food is made at home, and for love just as it is prepared for sustenance.

Happy Pi Day. Go eat a pie!

Happy Pie Day, ya’ll.

pipi

An honest to Archimedes Pi pie.

Yessiree, this is the day you should go out and get you a big ol’ pie and share it with someone you love. Or you might share it with someone you lust for, or hell, just eat the whole thing yourself!

Actually, pies are just a manifestation of what is really “Pi Day.” It being March 14 (3.14) which is the number closely related to the arithmetic constant pi, or the symbol π. Now I’m sure you might have encountered pi at some time or other. That is, if you ever had geometry in high school or college, or you are a mathematician. Other than seeing pi on ridiculous, made-up holidays such as this, I can’t recall seeing the symbol, especially if it was used in its real setting as a ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The common mathematical approximation being 3.14149 which rolls on out to either something akin to infinity or just to a point in which you are tired of another number popping up so you just want to blow it off.

So π has really as much to do with pie as a frank does to being frank or even being a man named Frank. And please, no images of frank pie, a.k.a. Weenie Frank Pie.

MS2  Joshua Derode from Minneapolis, Min., prepares pecan pies for the big Thanksgiving dinner aboard the carrier USS George Washington. U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Rex Nelson.

MS2 Joshua Derode from Minneapolis, Minn., prepares pecan pies for the big Thanksgiving dinner aboard the carrier USS George Washington. U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Rex Nelson.

I’m not much of a pie-eater. A few times a year I might divulge into a slice of something handy and inviting, or vice versa. I like cake better, as a rule, and a candy bar even better but those too are seldom tasted by these lips. I am not much of a sweet-eater of any kind these days, and even when I was, I still didn’t touch much candy, cake or pie. Well, maybe certain types of pie.

My favorite is pecan pie. I think in some parts of the world it is pronounced PEE-can pie. Where I am from it’s Pee-CON pie. Six of one slice, half a dozen of the other. Since I was a big sweet eater when I was a kid, I don’t know why I wasn’t a fan of pecan pie. Goldarn it is sweet, why it’s as rich as six feet up a bull’s a**, as some firemen I worked with would say. I can’t say they knew all that much about a bull’s anatomy. Several of the guys I knew were real cowboys and I remember them talking about jumping up and down on top of a calf to get its heart started after a bovine cardiac arrest.  Well, maybe it has something to do with breeding cattle. Either way, if one might make it up that far inside that orifice, I would just have to say “Good luck, mate!”

l can’t remember for sure if my Mom made pecan pie. I’m sure she did and I bet it was good. It’s just been so long since I remember. A few pecan pies I remember in more recent years. I do recall this female friend in college making one from scratch. I mean she went out in the yard and picked pecans and made them into a pie. Even if it wasn’t the best I’d ever eaten, I certainly had to give the girl a big ol’ Alpha for effort.

The best pecan pie ever was at this popular Galveston restaurant called Gaido’s. This across-from-the-seawall seafood place has been there for years. Texas Monthly  has, for probably the past 30 years, rated it one-star for “extremely good restaurant” with prices averaging $31-50.  It may be one-star but that is one hell of a star as far as I’m concerned. It’s been a year or two since I have been to Galveston. I can’t remember if Gaido’s still has a motel beside it. I stayed there one weekend along some fellow newspaper people for a convention. One of those nights we all ate with one of the tightest bosses I had ever known footing an “eat what you want” bill. Boy howdy did I eat what I wanted, and then more. I was afraid to eat any desert for fears I might explode! But my boss’ daughter, who was my best advertising rep ever, talked me into “just a little piece of pie.”

Lord almighty that was the richest, best pecan pie or any kind of pie I ever had. A bunch of us went to a room and we watched “Barnaby Jones” reruns as we sat there like mummies, wrapped tight in big sweet pie crusts. I don’t know how much we all spent on Alka-Seltzer that night.

 

 

 

 

 

Mickey Ds new idea that came and went and will probably come back again

One must wonder if the Golden Arches are succumbing to that old age droop? For instance, a very curious story appeared this morning — I don’t subscribe to the source so I will just have to encapsulate it — that says McDonald’s is considering extending its breakfast hours past 10:30 a.m. It makes one ask: Is the company going back to the future or what?

A McD’s franchisee named Herb Peterson co-opted the idea of an eggs Benedict-like sandwich from Jack-in-the-Box in late 1971, according to a historical timeline on the Mickey D Website. Thus was born the Egg McMuffin. Funny little name. Say it: Egg McMuffin.

McDonald’s had several breakfast items by the end of the 1970s such as the Big Breakfast. The fact that McDonald’s would not sell anything but hamburgers and fries after 10:30 a.m. became an article of faith for McDonald’s and was pretty much a punchline until people stopped thinking it was funny and just said “To hell with it. I’ll go to Jack-in-the-Box.”

I understand McDonald’s has been making the late-night drunk crowd happy in some places where it has sold breakfast items late at night. So, now the Mickey D folks have thought about expanding breakfast like, how many, fast food places already do.

One must admit though, as far as fast food places are concerned, McD’s has a pretty fair breakfast food product. They even now feature an egg white Egg McMuffin for all you health nuts out there. I’m not saying McDonald’s or any of the other fast food places make that great a breakfast meal. I actually like the Sausage Cheese and Egg Biscuit although it is definitely not good for me. But it is possible to drive down the freeway, while eating one’s Egg McMuffin, Hash Browns, drinking a cup of coffee, reading the morning news paper, talking on the cell phone while also taking selfies of you and the mannequin you brought along to pass for a fellow traveler riding through the HOV lanes.

McDonald’s probably will make millions off the more Egg McMuffins they sell after 10:30, enough so that some manager will slap himself in the head like the person in the V8 commercial upon being informed by a bean counter that the company made another $100 billion. But really all those mornings in which we were screwed over by some young kid who says, with a sneer, “we ain’t servin’ no breakfast no more to-day” do they count for anything? Well, I suppose not.

There is no free lunch (at McDonald’s)

Read this story.

If the facts are 100 percent correct as alleged by this McDonald’s worker then it would be enough for me to say: “I’m not ever going to McDonald’s again.”

What the hell. I hardly ever go to McDonald’s anyway.

Basically this girl alleges she was fired from her job at McDonald’s after paying for some firefighters’ meal after they returned from a house fire. Then another group came in and she felt they should get a comp as well. She texted her boss to ask. That was the straw that broke Ronald’s back, allegedly. McDonald’s say there is more to the story of her firing than was stated. Oh, but they can’t say anything because of privacy laws. How freaking convenient.

I guess this rubs me the wrong way in more than one way. The biggest irritant is that the fast food joint doesn’t make cops pay but apparently not other public service types. This has been and, apparently still is, a practice at more than just the golden arches. A bit more than 30 years ago when I was a firefighter that was the widespread practice in the town in which I lived. Not that you work for the perks, but hell, sometimes people do appreciate the job you do. You are risking your life when you roll out of the station.

People seem to have more of an appreciation of public safety people now, more so than they did before 9/11. Still, I guess some of the restaurant people figure they can only give out free food only to so many. Okay, when that grease trap you didn’t ever clean catches fire and puts the place into an inferno, go call your hero coppers to put it out. Sorry.

I do remember some girls bringing cookies to our station one time. It was a couple of days after we helped get them back inside their house after they locked themselves out.

Once, I do recall eating at a McDonald’s after a fire. It was an early Sunday morning, must have been early January because the college still was out and there was zero traffic. I was riding in the open jump seat with someone. Can’t recall who. Mike was driving and Mason was lieutenant. I don’t remember who all was on the other pumper either. I guess I remember those two guys because they are gone after relatively early deaths. I remember it was sleeting or snowing that day. A car with a guy, his wife and kids, passed by and looked at me and my fellow firefighter riding the jump seat like, “These guys must be freezing.”

This was back when I was still young. Really pretty young. I guess I was about 23. Man, I had fun back in those days.

We ate breakfast, a Mickey D’s Big Breakfast as I recall. And I remember Mason paid for it. I don’t recollect if Mason paid for those of us on both trucks but he did pick up Engine 309’s tab. That’s more than I can say for Mickey D.

The Trans-Louisiana express: Unearthing friendliness in the Pelican State

Wednesday saw me take what might be called a “whirlwind trip” to Louisiana. I had to do safety inspections in Lafayette and Alexandria, then drive back home to Beaumont in the same day. It has been awhile since I covered that much ground. My best guess is that I drove about 300 miles. I’ve not had time to study the odometer readings I had to write down for my work vehicle.

The sun was rising above all the huge petrochemical pipe towers when I neared Lake Charles. A perfectly clear morning. It was even more a spectacular sight when summiting the Interstate 10 bridge over the Calcasieu River.

It was on that same trek to Lafayette that I found myself being serenaded by the fiddles and accordion as well as the soulful sounds of Cajun French lyrics. Although I live in what is called “Cajun Texas” this area I found myself in is the real Boudreaux. The station, KBON 101.1 FM in Eunice, La., is a channel I have listened to many times on the internet and somehow just forgot about it.

The two-step Cajun music, as well as a little Clifton Chenier zydeco thrown in, recalled my younger days when I would drive from my Navy base in Gulfport, Miss., maybe once a month or every couple of months to my Texas hometown near Louisiana border. Rather than from this side of Lafayette, I would pick up a station after traveling through Baton Rouge and the long bridges on I-10 of the Atchafalya Basin. I don’t know if it was the same station or call letters. Back then I only had an AM radio in my car. Not only would I heard the music of Acadien but some of the lesser-known songs of “hippy” music, the kind of B-sides or album cuts you hear when someone puts the record on, but aren’t the more popular tunes. Either way: “Looka!” I done found myself in the land of Ca-juns!

I made my first trip to downtown Alexandria. It was pretty underwhelming from the area in which I saw it. It’s not as bleak as our county neighbor Port Ar-ture (Port Arthur, Texas), but at least from the view presented from I-49 Alexandria definitely lacked curb appeal.

The trip home was a bit confusing to say the least. I intended to take U.S. Hwy. 165, which would bring me back to I-10 in Iowa (La.) and not a long trip from Iowa back to Lake Charles and the Texas line. But I didn’t see any signs, for some reason, for Hwy. 165. I did see ones for U.S. 167, so that was the road I took. I eventually came to this nice-sized eatery and grocery store that had the look of the famous Buc-ee’s with the cleanest restrooms in Texas. Or so they say. I figured, why not stop, especially since the name of the place is “Y-Not Stop.”

This place was more like Buc-ees than I had imagined. It even had clean restrooms and a couple of terminals in the restaurant from which you could place your order, extract a ticket and sit down. They would call your name and you could pay or you could pay and they would still call your name. That’s not to say it was a knock-off of Buc-ee’s. It just had some similarities.

While waiting I looked at the map function on both smart phones I had with me — a Blackberry from work and an iPhone that is my personal cell — for a road to take me home. My preference was finding Hwy. 165. Both phones proved useless, mainly because the hair-trigger screens are a nightmare for a person with tremors in his hand.

I finally resorted to the old-fashioned way of navigation. I asked for directions.

First I asked a guy sitting across from me. He wasn’t from the area but he did his best. By then I had received a catfish sandwich with a fried filet halved and placed on a wheat bun with the dressings I ordered. I knew I shouldn’t but I also ordered their onion rings. Oh my, they were lightly crusted with a light-brown look and it felt like eating, well, a ring of onion, only one with a light crust of corn meal, flour and whatever secret seasoning that was concocted for this delight.

Before finishing, this big ol,’ good ol’ boy came walking undoubtedly on his way out.

“You need directions to Highway 167? I grew up around here.”

I told him I did. He told me to go down “this road take a right, go over the bridge, you’ll cross under I-49 and you’ll come to  167 in Woodworth.”

Woodworth rang a bell. I had asked directions of the people I met in both Alex and Lafayette. They told me about Woodworth and told me to watch my speed because the place was a speed trap.

“And,” said the good ol’ boy, “Watch your speed when you come to Woodworth.”

I was doubtful about the directions because it put me on a narrow, paved road. The road crossed a wood bridge and it snaked around what looked like a river or bayou that mirrors the larger Red River nearby. This was a reddish-clay type water body and that same redness coated leaves lying about the previously flooded areas. It reminded me of the area around Nacogdoches, TX, where I spent many younger and semi-younger days. Eventually, I crossed under I-49 and came to the town of Woodworth. I saw the speed limit of 35 mph, so I set my cruise control to 30. I finally got out on Hwy. 165, still going 30 for quiet a ways. Good thing, because I saw a couple of police cars had someone pulled over. After awhile I came through the casino town of Kinder, home to the Coushatta Indian casino, then knew I had only an hour or so before getting home.

It was quite an interesting day, despite having a continued bout with a bum knee. I have no idea what’s wrong with it. I am waiting to hear from a specialist about an appointment. I thought about how Texas had the motto: “Friendship.” It was apparently from the days the Caddo roamed the then-virgin pine forests of East Texas. I always liked to think Texas had the friendliest people in the country. It might not seem so these days with our opportunistic Gov. Good Hair, folks like the jackass freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the assortment of nuts that make up the Tea Party arm of the GOP in the Texas and U.S. legislatures.

But I had to say, for today at least, our neighbors to the east can be pretty worthy of that “friendship” motto. Thanks to my Louisiana friends.