Category Archives: Texas

Texcapade: The Austin Bats and the Dilly Surprise

After coming back from Jordan, I spent about 3 and a half weeks in the New York area. First I did an awesome teaching program through Columbia’s Teachers College called the Klingenstein Summer Institute for Early Career Teachers, and then I hung out with dear friends for a few weeks. Then, I made my glorious return back to Texas to do…. nothing. Besides attending an AP Calculus workshop in San Antonio for 4 days, I have been laying low and loving it and that’s just about my whole plan until I head back to Jordan on August 19th.

But while I’ve been here, I’ve been struck again at how the State of Texas is really the Republic of Texas. It feels like a different country down here. When I lived in New Orleans for a few months, I was struck by the very same thing – New Orleans has its own food, very loose liquor laws, its own dialect, and you know it can’t be in America, because there is literally zero Bank of Americas in the entire state of Louisiana (I just looked this up, all of these states don’t have BoAs: VT, WV, AL, MS, OH, WI, MN, SD, ND, MT, WY, and CO… who knew?) But Louisiana had a very laid back, we’re-our-own-country-but-we-don’t-really-care-either-way, type of feel. Texas is different. Every day at our AP Calc conference, we would do the Pledge of Allegiance facing the American flag, and then turn slightly to the right to recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance to the equally large Texas flag. This is how it goes: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.” Wow.

So I thought I’d share a few things that are unique to Austin as a glimpse into Texas life. These aren’t quite as Texan as Chicken Sh*t Bingo, a Texcapade from last summer, but they are pretty interesting nonetheless…

1. The Largest Urban Bat Colony in the World

Almost in the heart of downtown Austin, there is a bridge over Congress St. under which lives the largest urban bat colony in the world. More bats live under that bridge than live in the entire city of Austin, around 1.5 million bats at its peak. The cool part is that they all fly out from underneath the bridge at the exact same time right around sunset, all off for the night to go hunting for some tasty mosquitoes. If you’re ever in Austin, this is a must see, can’t miss. You can either stand on top of the bridge, sit on the bank of the river down below, or paddle around on the river in a kayak to view the spectacle. They just pour out from underneath bridge for what seems like forever, but is actually around a half hour. They’re not as much fun during the day – there’s a running trail that goes beneath the bridge, and whenever I run underneath it I almost puke. They smell really bad.

2. The Dilly Surprise – A Shaved Ice Delight with a Hidden Pickle

Right down the street is South Congress, a fun little section of Austin with great restaurants, cool stores, and a couple of food trailer parks. That’s right, abandoned parking lots with a bunch of trailers that all serve various tasty delights. The good one on South Congress street has a Thai trailer, Hey Cupcake (guess what they serve), the Mighty Cone (not an ice cream place, they serve delicious savory meals in a tortilla cone), and the Frigid Frog (serving about 100 different flavors of shaved ice). Well, since it has been over 100 every day since I’ve been here, I’ve somewhat a fan of the Frigid Frog. My favorite offering of theirs is the Dilly Surprise, a pickle juice flavored shaved ice that has a real dill pickle hiding inside of it. It’s not much a surprise anymore, and it’s actually a little gross, but I like foods that are a bit of a challenge. And each time I have ordered it, I have struck up some real good conversations with people who are like “Whaaat?” Only in Texas.

Texcapade: Whiskey’s New Friend Rocky

Whiskey absolutely loves toys, mostly stuffed animals. He came from his previous owner with a whole bin of toys, his favorites being the pink lamb (whom he slowly dismantled and consumed) and a stuffed football (which has impressively survived). He uses his toys to greet guests – whenever someone comes in the house he goes to his bin and picks out a toy to show the visitor – and as bedtime companions – he always has something in his mouth on his way to bed.

But the joke is on us for buying stuffed animals for him, because Whiskey’s new friend Rocky was free, he found it himself and even has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Rocky is a rock. And Whiskey treats Rocky like he would any of his other toys. He awkwardly tries to pick shim up (Rocky is a little bit too big to fit comfortably in his mouth) gingerly carries shim around in his mouth, gently nibbles on shim, brings shim to the door to show me when I come in the house and takes shim to bed to cuddle for the night.

There’s a John Stuart Mill quote that basically says “It is better to be [Socrates] dissatisfied than a pig satisfied?” but I think Whiskey has proved him completely wrong. I would be much more popular if I could make friends with inanimate objects

Texcapade: A Dog named Whiskey

Have you ever bought anything on Craigslist? How about a dog? ًOur beloved family dog Daisy died before we left New Hampshire, so when we moved to Texas we decided to get a new family dog (slash my mom decided that she needed a new friend). Naturally, the first place she looked was Craigslist. After we tried out a few dogs that were listed as “mixes” we learned that when they don’t specify the breed, it’s usually a crazy pit bull mix. And then we stumbled upon Whiskey. Whiskey’s former owner was about to die from cirrosis, a liver disease caused by excess alcohol (so he was a guy who loved alcohol so much that he named his dog after it). He was happy to give Whiskey to a nice home and sadly enough died the day we got him.

And Whiskey is absolutely hilarious. We have no clue what type of dog he his, but it turns out that we adopted the exact dog on whom Doug from the movie “Up” (picture above, video below) is based. Whiskey looks like him and even has the same “SQUIIIIRREL!?!” personality.

The novelty of having a dog named Whiskey has still not worn off after a year and a half. As funny as it is calling “Whiskey” out when you’re trying to get him to come to you, it’s not nearly as funny as hearing the little kids who live at our school talk about him. One little boy went to school and wrote on some sort of assignment “I love Whiskey”, which probably gave his teacher something to talk about with his parents at parent-teacher conferences.

Overall, better use of Craigslist than this hilarious jerk.

Texcapade: Chicken Sh*t Bingo

My parents moved to Texas from New Hampshire about two years ago, a distance of 1690 mi (2720 km). This is almost the exact same distance as the distance from Amman to Munich, Germany (1694 mi), Amman to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1595 mi), Amman to Moscow, Russia (1648 mi) or even Amman to war-torn Southern Afghanistan (1625 mi). It’s pretty mind boggling to compare the cultural differences that come with the distances overseas to the same distances in our behemoth of a country… at first glance. Americans (or maybe most travelers?) spend 84% of the time they travel or live abroad pointing out differences between their homeland and their current locale, but I’ve realized that you don’t need to fly across an ocean or the Gulf of Mexico to get that adventurous experience.

TEXCAPADE #1: Chicken Sh*t Bingo
Ginny’s Little Longhorn, or Little Ginny’s, here in Austin, TX hosts a hilarious Sunday afternoon activity called Chicken Sh*t Bingo. The name probably speaks for itself, but in case you need an explanation, it’s fairly simple:

  1. First, you buy a ticket ($1) that has a number on the back of it.
  2. Then, seventy-something Ginny herself places a chicken in a cage that sits a board divided into squares labeled with numbers.
  3. After waiting, cheering, and yelling at the chicken, it eventually poops.
  4. If the chicken poops on your number, you win!

With the band playing Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, signs from the 50s adorning the walls (along with decade old Polaroids of devoted patrons who have passed away), dusty old bottles lining the shelves and free self-serve chili dogs sitting in a crock-pot on a table in the corner… the background for Bingo is straight from a movie set, exponentially increasing the hilarity.

I had the pleasure of playing the game myself, alongside my older brother Mack and cousin Joe, but unfortunately I drew a number tucked way in the corner, where the chicken’s butt did not frequently go. Joe had the square, however, that was the right distance from the edge of the cage so that when the chicken was trying to get food from Ginny, her butt was hovering directly over his square. Perhaps it was this lucky draw, or perhaps it was the expert chicken intimidation at the right times, but after about 12 minutes, the chicken’s feathers opened up like the clouds of the sky and a poop rained down on Joe’s spot like a gift from heaven. Judging by the size of the poop, I think the chicken had snuck one of the free chili dogs when Ginny wasn’t looking.

$120 richer, “New Hampshire Joe” as he came to be known, promptly bought a beer for everyone at the bar (the $120 went a long way when the beers were only $2). All this at 4 pm on a Sunday. We’re not in New Hampshire anymore.