Destination: Texas

The ‘Bill Clinton Ate Here’ Effect

Wherever former President Clinton eats, crowds follow. Writes David Segal: “[F]ew phrases are more bankable to restaurants around the world than this: ‘Bill Clinton ate here.’” Here’s why:

It’s widely (and correctly) assumed that he has good connections everywhere he visits, so he’s unlikely to wind up at a dud. More than most celebrities, he seems like a person who appreciates good food, and before he had heart surgery, he was known for his wide-ranging appetite.

And when Mr. Clinton visits a restaurant, everybody in the room knows it. Douglas Band, an aide who frequently travels with Mr. Clinton, says that his boss introduces himself to every diner, as well as every waiter and every kitchen staff member. He will always pose for photographs and sign guest books. Someone from his staff will send a thank-you note a few days later.

Anyone who trails in Mr. Clinton’s dining path will eat well, but should know that his taste in restaurants, when he actually selects them, runs to the bright, lively and unfussy. The white table cloth, 10-course prix fixe experience is not his style.

I’ve happily followed in Clinton’s dining path, here in D.C. and elsewhere. I regret waiting until my final day in Little Rock, a Sunday, to track down one of his favorite spots. Alas, it was closed.

Travel Morality Tales

Travel Morality Tales Screen shot from commercial for DIRECTV

Parsing the hidden travel advice in two DirecTV commercials

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Which American City Spends the Most on Food and Drink?

That’d be Austin, TX, per this cool graphic posted at Flowing Data. As the chart’s creators note, that’s a lot of Torchy’s Tacos. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

The Big Picture: Hurricane Ike, Before and After

On the one-year anniversary of the devastating hurricane’s passage through Galveston, the Big Picture bloggers have put together a fantastic before/after photo essay—click on the photos of last year’s destruction to see the same cleaned-up locations today.

Travel Song of the Day: ‘Crystal Frontier’ by Calexico

Samurais and Maharajas: It’s an Asian Art Summer

I’m fortunate to live in a city that’s home to one of the best Asian art museums in the world—the Smithsonian’s Freer-Sackler Gallery—but I’m not averse to traveling to see a really great museum or exhibit elsewhere. In fact, on a trip to Dublin last fall, I spent an entire afternoon immersed in the wonderful Chester Beatty Library, gazing at Persian paintings and Islamic manuscripts. I know, I know—I was supposed to be out drinking Guinness, but I couldn’t help myself.

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Keeping Austin Weird: The iPhone Slideshow

Armed with her iPhone during the South by Southwest festival, Valerie Conners roamed Austin's streets and captured the town's indie spirit

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What Some Locals Have To Say About SXSW

Twitterers are all a-twitter about the fun they’re having at SXSW in Austin, and the party is only just getting started. But are long-time locals having as much fun being descended upon by the hipster masses? I polled a few of my Austin buddies about the fun they’re having ... or not.

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Headed to Austin for SXSW?

Well, consider me envious. The sprawling festival somehow stays right on top of the music, film and new media/tech scenes, and it’s hosted by one of the country’s favorite smaller cities to boot. Just in case you haven’t already got your every minute mapped out, I’ve rounded up some last-minute recommendations and ideas.

The SXSW Insider’s Guide has a hot thread debating the year’s must-see bands (and hey, some of the posters even give helpful rationales/context for their picks), while the Screengrab bloggers offer their picks for must-see documentaries (parts one and two) and narrative feature films.

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Who Says Texas Has No Seasons?

Who Says Texas Has No Seasons? Photo by Sophia Dembling
Photo by Sophia Dembling

In my previous, non-flyover life in New York City, the first signs of spring were when the forsythia bloomed in Central Park and a ripe and not-unpleasant scent started wafting through my neighborhood from off the Hudson River.

One complaint I’ve heard many times about my current home state, Texas, is that it has no change of seasons. Balderdash. Texas has all four seasons, but they are more subtle than in Northern states.

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Confessions of an Introverted Traveler

Confessions of an Introverted Traveler Photo by Sophia Dembling

Sophia Dembling has a different style of traveling, and she's tired of hiding it

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Feeling Seasonable?

Four Season, Houston. Photo by alan5o5 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

So, let’s talk Four Seasons. Not the actual seasons—we’re getting plenty of winter fun here in New York—but the hotel chain. Worldwide, the Four Seasons is luring guests with third-night-free packages at about 40 properties. The offer’s ubiquity is what makes it such a value, though you should hurry as it expires come the end of March.

Down in Texas, you needn’t even spend the night to get a taste of Four Season goodness. The Houston and Austin properties have special offers for visitors who want to check out the facilities. Austin’s package features a massage, lunch and day-long use of the steam room for about $160 bucks; in Houston, you can drop $20 for access to the pool on weekends. Depends on how much you’re spending on a day at the spa in the first place, but should your plan to survive the economic downturn involve finding a sugar mommy or daddy, the outlay may prove worth your while.

Going to SXSW? Put the Harry Ransom Center On Your Schedule.

Evelyn Waugh's inkwell Photo by Eric Beggs
Photo by Eric Beggs

The South by Southwest (or SXSW) film, music and interactive festival is less than a month away. Got your plans and reservations yet? (And did you know that many Austinites flee the city as you arrive? Too much traffic and other mishigos.)

I realize that SXSW is all about the future of this, that and the other, but while you’re in town, I urge you to carve out some time to pay your respects to what many consider a dying art form, the written word, with a stop at the free galleries at the Harry Ransom Center.

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Would You Rather Live in a Big City or a Small Town?

Would You Rather Live in a Big City or a Small Town? Photo by Sophia Dembling
Photo by Sophia Dembling

I keep a file titled “Good Reads,” into which I tuck stories and articles that I enjoyed reading and like to revisit from time to time. The other day, I pulled the file out and found a photocopied page from the book O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.

I copied the page for a particular speech, spoken by Carl, who has just left Chicago, to Alexandra, who is trying to keep things together on her family farm on the Nebraska prairie. Read the quote after the jump.

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The Music Lives on in Lubbock (Sort Of)

The Music Lives on in Lubbock (Sort Of) Photo by Sophia Dembling
Photo by Sophia Dembling

Eva has gotten the conversation rolling about today’s big anniversary—it was 50 years ago today that a plane carrying Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens crashed. This is particularly poignant here in Texas, where we feel possessive of our homegrown icon.

Holly’s death was, arguably, the most tragic in rock history. His sound is unique, he was a pioneer in recording technique—that’s a cardboard box providing percussion in “Not Fade Away” and he plays his knees in “Every Day.” Holly influenced our greatest rock legends and his legacy continues. (Marginally related, Mac Davis, who also grew up in Lubbock, Texas, once told me that he would see Holly driving through town with a car full of girls and decided he wanted some of that. And then he went on to write, “Happiness Was Lubbock Texas in My Rear View Mirror.”)

We are much poorer for never hearing what Holly might have produced as he matured.

Rock fans should be required to make a pilgrimage to the excellent Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas, which takes his music and legacy as seriously as he did. (Those are the glasses he wore the night he died—they’re on display at the center. They sat forgotten in the desk drawer of a sheriff until the 1980s.)

I’d post a video for you, but Holly also was a pioneer in protecting his intellectual rights and his estate continues to maintain tight control. I respect that. We’ll settle for this right now:

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