I can’t believe it’s barely the end of May. Growing up in Ohio, that was the first of weather warm enough to hit the pool, and still far too chilly for 8:00 AM swim team practice. I remember the year it snowed on the last day of school, June 5th. I know this isn’t Ohio. Still, I don’t expect it to be 96° (“feels like 108”) by mid-afternoons in May. I dawdled, this morning, over coffee and conversation. I’d planned a long walk in the park, and meat to leave early, while it was still in the 70s or lower 80s, but didn’t get out until around 4:30 this afternoon. I should have gotten up and out and taken that “morning constitutional” with purpose and vigor!
I gradually let a few pounds creep back in after our daughter’s wedding, last year. Not all of them, mind you. I didn’t allow them to bring friends and take up residence on my hips, like last time. But still, I could have been at my final goal weight months ago, had I just stuck to the plan. Somewhere between Christmas and mid-March, “Birthday Season,” I get celebratory and complacent. It’s cold, and a few extra layers help keep the chill at bay. Now I’m wishing I’d just crocheted a blanket, instead. Something I could strip off in the middle of the night, unlike skin and fat.
To motivate myself further, I did a search for “parks near me” on my phone. There are at least three new-to-me parks on my list of places to explore. I love Kickerillo-Mischer, but have come to associate it with exercise, more than adventure. The gators are “old hat,” now.
They’re also mysteriously missing, since Hurricane Harvey.
I doubt they drowned.
I could practically walk to this one from my house, if it were cooler. I think I mentioned, in my last post, that it was hot enough outside to melt your face off? Well, when your face is sliding down to your chin, like melted candle wax, it’s damnably hard to breathe. And if you can’t breathe, you can’t walk, so that’s that. I drove. There’s no parking, except on the residential side streets, but finding a spot to slip into was not a challenge today. For some reason, two trucks were trying to shimmy themselves against the curb between the “No parking here ANY TIME, EVER, we MEAN it!” signs, leaving me lots of space on the other side of the little bridge.
Mandolin Gardens is built around two water features, full of “reclaimed water” that’s only fit for turtles and heron to drink, apparently. Maybe fish. I saw a couple of folks with rods, reels, and tackle boxes, but I’m pretty sure they’d be lucky to catch a stray pop bottle or the attention of a bemused turtle. There are signs suggesting visitors be alert to snakes and gators, too, but I’m not worried about spotting an alligator in the middle of a quiet little neighborhood. I wonder if this is where the Kickerillo-Mischer gators wandered off to, though. Snakes, insects, dragonflies, bees, turtles, herons, and a red-winged blackbird are all I spotted today. Would you believe I live only a few minutes’ drive from this hidden gem, and only just learned about it a week ago?
It’s easy to understand why this is a favorite spot for taking portrait photos.
Isn’t that better than clouds in your coffee?
Towards the back of the park, there’s a reminder that a creek flows through this area, sometimes, and I wonder how much of this little park – if any – was underwater during Hurricane Harvey. I could walk from here to Kickerillo-Mischer – again, if it weren’t a face-melting 96° – but for that, I need to leave the civilized concrete path and venture out onto the path less traveled.
I guess there’s just no graceful way to end a sidewalk that leads nowhere… There’s a leasing office sign, or what’s left of it, out there. I don’t know if it was carried off by naughty gators, or floated there during last year’s hurricane. But I continued along the path, and it led me out to one of the main streets. If I’d followed it for about a mile, maybe less, I’d wind up at Kickerillo-Mischer’s back door. I may do that tomorrow, but only if I set out early enough to avoid the blistering, face-melting sun.
We usually eat dinner out once a week, and last night was the night. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of favorite, familiar places and forget that the point of the weekly outing was originally to discover new ones. Last night, rather than wait for the usual three-way chorus of “Where do you want to go?” and “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” and “Anything’s good, why don’t you just pick a place,” followed by “No, not that place,” I built a Collection, on Yelp, called “Places to Try.” I handed my phone to my husband when he walked in the door, the list sorted in order of distance from our home. He picked one called, Brixology Crafted Cocktails. An offshoot of the original Brix Wine Cellars, Brixology shares the same menu but focuses on mixed drinks. They make all their own juices and syrups, and have an intriguing list of signature cocktails – a bit heavy on those involving bitters, for my tastes – and I found one that wasn’t just a drink, but an experience. I saved it for nearer the end of the meal, for reasons that will become apparent. If you’re in Houston, you can’t really go wrong, here. My son isn’t a drinker, but I think he enjoyed the food. My husband and I enjoyed both.
We started with an appetizer of lump crab, spinach & artichoke dip – Italian artichokes, spinach, lump crab, Romano and Parmesan cheeses, served with warm corn tortilla chips. After that, our son and I had the Brix Burger, which is served medium rare, with pancetta, caramelized onion, and Cambozola cheese – topped with a fried egg, if you wish – on a pretzel bun, with a generous portion of tasty truffle fries.
And then, I had the Ginger Buzz. The drink consists of Smirnoff vodka, lime zest, ginger puree, Rooibos tea, lemon juice, ginger beer, and a Szechuan button. The drink is refreshing, but it’s that intriguing little flower bud, stuck into the top of the straw, that makes it an experience.
I imagine our grandmothers would laugh. Szechuan button is also known as “toothache plant.” I’d never heard of it, though. “You pop it into your mouth and chew thoroughly for about 30 seconds,” our waitress instructed. “Take a few sips of the drink first, then chew the button, swish it around to get it all over the inside of your mouth, then drink the rest of the drink. See how the flavor changes.” At first, I mistook them for the flavor-changing “Miracle Berries” that were all the rage a few years ago. But no… not quite. I chewed and swished and started to giggle.
“It’s a POP-ROCKS flower!” I exclaimed. My whole mouth was tingling, amazingly effervescent. Afterwards, but only briefly, there’s a slight numbing effect (I imagine this is why it’s called “toothache plant,” but I can’t imagine it’s sufficiently strong or long lasting to help much, other than as a momentary distraction from the pain). There isn’t much of a flavor to the flower bud, but it mingles nicely with the ginger and there’s enough booze to give “buzz” a nice double-entendre. Imagine ginger ale and a million tiny Pop-Rocks that just don’t quit. Delightful!
My husband wished me a happy anniversary, earlier today. I blinked, then remembered the date. I might not have had to think twice, had it been pouring rain. Today is the 34th anniversary of our engagement. It is usually marked by massive floods, beginning with the one that happened in Tulsa, the night we got engaged. We had a lovely dinner out, with my parents. Around 2:00 AM, my mom called me at my apartment. My first thought was that someone had died; the rule I grew up with was, you don’t call after 10:00 PM unless someone is dead or dying. “Aren’t you watching the news?” she asked.
I wanted to say, “Are you high?” but this was my mom, and I knew she wasn’t likely to be smoking anything stronger than Viceroys. “Er, no… I was sleeping… why are you up watching the news? What’s going on?”
“Have you looked outside your window?” she asked.
“Why would I do that? No, I was sleeping.”
“Go look outside your window. But don’t leave your apartment.” In the two seconds it took to cross to the window and look out the blinds, my brain conjured up scenes from a post-nuclear apocalypse. What else could drive my mother to call me at 2:00 in the freaking morning? To wake me up, just to tell me not to go outside? I opened the blinds and gasped. The bowl-like grassy depression between the complex parking lot and the highway was now a lake, and in the glow of the street lights, I could see the whitecaps on the waves.
“What the heck?” It had been raining heavily when we left the restaurant a few hours before, but this was ridiculous.
“The whole city is flooded. The Arkansas River has overflowed its banks.”
In 2015, we were in Dallas for our engagement anniversary. There were floods in three major Texas cities, and I broke my ankle stepping in a soft spot of mud after the rains.
I’m amazed it didn’t even sprinkle, here, today. That may be a first.
I’ll take it. I like my romance without deadly drama.