Tag Archives: San Antonio

Happiest Place on Earth


Last Sunday afternoon Wendy and I had the opportunity of visiting the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. We visited the McNay for the first time on our honeymoon  ten years ago. It’s come to hold a special, sentimental place in my heart. I posted to Facebook:

You can have Disneyland. Ever since Wendy and I visited the McNay on our honeymoon 10 years ago, this has been, for me, one of “the happiest places on Earth.”

The courtyard at the McNay is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I’ve ever been and I could sit there for hours, especially with Wendy. On our visit last Sunday I couldn’t help but take this photo with my iPhone. There’s nothing extraordinary about the photo and I know it can’t possibly capture the true beauty of the place. Sometimes the power of shot has nothing to do with being great photography,  rather the ability of a shot to transport us back to a powerful time or place is what makes photography great.

The Latest 10-11-2015

Long week on the road this week, which began with a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Des Moines on Monday. Was on site with client in San Antonio Monday through Wednesday morning, then made the drive down to Laredo for more meetings Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. Finished up about 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Redemption for the long week of business travel began on Thursday night about 10:30 p.m. when Wendy arrived. Last summer our friends Kevin and Becky informed us that, for Becky’s birthday, Kevin had given her tickets to see Counting Crows at Austin City Limits in Austin, TX this past Wednesday. Looking at the calendar we realized that I was going to be in San Antonio and Laredo that week. So, we conspired to have Wendy fly down and for the four of us to meet in Austin for the weekend.

Wendy and I headed north from Laredo about 10:00 a.m. on Friday, arriving at our hotel in Austin about 2:00. We grabbed a shuttle into downtown Austin where Kevin and Becky met us to being what amounted to our 24 hour Austin blitzkrieg.

We were starving so we Uber’d to South Congress for some Home Slice pizza and dessert at the Cupcake truck across the street. We then did a little shopping before Ubering it back downtown. We did Happy Hour at Malverde’s where I was introduced to El Cubico, a cocktail made with tobacco leaf infused tequila, vanilla infused brandy, grilled pineapple juice and volcanic saffron-infused salt on the rim. It was like drinking a fine cigar. Wow!

We made our way to Stay Gold, a bar with live music, a nice courtyard, and a food truck (Toaster’s) that made a mean grilled cheese. We ended up spending the rest of our evening there and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves enjoying some foot-stomping old-timey southern gospel from the McMercy Family Band:

By the time McMercy Family ended and Meatloaf Spaceship began, we were into our third band of the night. It was late, so we called it a night and took Uber to our hotel.

Kev and Beck picked us up at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and we high-tailed it over to Gordough’s Doughnuts, a food truck that makes speciality doughnuts. I had the Sin-a-Bomb doughnut which was topped with cream-cheese frosting and a liquid cinnamon and sugar glaze poured over the top. Wendy got the Naughty-and-Nice which was coated in sugar and cinnamon and then came with honey butter for dipping. I’ve gone entire weeks without that many calories!

We stopped by Hope Gallery Park after breakfast. It’s the shell of an old building terraced in the side of a hill. Graffiti artists have continually transformed it with their work (as well as random visitors with spray paint). It was a fascinating place. We got to watch and talk to one of the artists who’d been painting there for a short period of time after moving from California.

For lunch we’d decided on visiting a place called Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden. The menu is nothing but different kinds of unique and gourmet sausages (they even have a Turducken sausage). What was really impressive, however, was the more than 100 beers on tap. Kevin and I each did a flight of four different beers. I did the dark and roasty stouts while Kevin did the IPAs. Of course, we all shared and enjoyed the variety. Wendy even got herself a pint of Funnel Cake Beer (I’m not kidding) which actually smells like and leaves a hint of funnel cake on the palate. Quite amazing, really. We had a good, long lunch together and really enjoyed ourselves.

Despite the fact that we were stuffed, we decided that we might as well go over the top by stopping at Amy’s Ice Cream where Wendy and I enjoyed a salted caramel fudge sundae over dark chocolate ice cream.

That’s when my stomach exploded.

Not really, but it was  touch-and-go. Time had slipped away, and it was time for Kev and Beck to catch their flight home. They dropped us off at our hotel where our car was waiting. Wendy and scooted down south to San Marcos and met my brother Tim and his girlfriend, Kumi, at Kent Black’s for a drink and a chat. Wendy and I then drove the rest of the way to San Antonio where we were scheduled to fly out on Sunday.

All of our socializing had the two of us relatively pooped, so by the time we got to the hotel we were ready for some relaxation and quiet. We watched the Cubs beat the Cardinals in game 2 of the NLDS and then got some take-out to bring back to our hotel room for supper. We had the Mets-Dodgers game on as we ate. Then I laid down on the bed and remembered no more.


We took our time getting ready this morning. Made a quick trip to Wal-Mart for a few items and got Wendy a treat from McDonalds. We checked out of the hotel and went to the McNay Art Museum. When Wendy and I honeymooned in San Antonio 10 years ago we’d made our first trip to the McNay. It’s become a special place to us and we enjoyed a gorgeous Sunday afternoon walking the grounds, sitting in the courtyard, and touring the collection.

All good things must come to an end, and after our time at the McNay we headed to the airport for our flight home. It’s been a really fun weekend, but we’re looking forward to being in our own bed tonight!

An Open Letter to Buffalo Wild Wings

source: mike mozart via flickr
source: mike mozart via flickr

Note: I tried to send this to you privately via your website but 1) the location I visited wasn’t listed on your website and 2) you didn’t give me enough room on your contact form to share my experience.

I am a loyal BWW customer. I travel around the country on business and always seek out BWW because 1) your naked tenders are [relatively] healthy 2) I’m usually alone and your Trivia is a fun way to waste an evening, and 3) I can watch my beloved Cubbies wherever I happen to be in the country.

I’m in San Antonio, Texas tonight and went into your Windcrest location at I-35 and I-410.

Disclaimer: I’m a 20+ year Customer Service consultant, which gives me a lot of empathy for companies and their Customer Service challenges. It also means that I’m very sensitive to customer expectation, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. I also sought out your BWW location and drove 20 minutes in rush hour traffic to get there rather than eating at the Chili’s across the street from my hotel.

I entered about 6:10 p.m. It seems to be a new location for you. The crowd was light. There were more staff members than customers. A manager was parked at a table with a stack of applications or some kind of “new hire” sheets. Cool. Spacious. Clean. I’m impressed.

For the record, I’m a creature of habit. My routine when I’m by myself on the road is to go straight to the bar and order 1) a tall, cold Miller Lite 2) four naked tenders, hot bbq, and fries 3) the Cubs game on just one of the 3 million screens before me. Tonight, I stuck to my routine.

The nice bartender immediately asks for my I.D. I turn 50 next April, and am almost completely gray, but I appreciate the law, am respectful of the request, and am always happy to pull out my I.D. The bartender asks if she can take my Drivers License to show her manager. My immediate reaction was to laugh and think, “Sure! I don’t care. I’ve got nothing to hide.” As she disappeared through the kitchen door, however, I thought to myself: “Wait a minute. I’m in Texas, which is a border state. What if she’s making a photo copy of my license? What if she’s scanning it? Have I suddenly become the victim of identity theft?!” (Disclaimer: My hotel room in Texas was robbed in January, making me a little sensitive and a wee bit cynical.)

The bartender returned a few minutes later, a manger behind her, and gave me back my license. I asked her what the problem was and she told me that she had to have it approved since it was an out of state license. I get it. In retrospect I would have appreciated her asking the manager to come and take a look at it rather than disappearing in the back with my license, but okay.

I settled in. I thought my request for the Cubs on a screen was fulfilled when FoxSports1 did a live look in, but then realized it was just a cameo. I asked again. This time it was a different bartender (the one who took my license seemed to have gone off shift). A few minutes later he asked if the game was up yet. I told him it wasn’t. He asked again.

As at Sam’s Cafe American in Casablanca, “Time Goes By.”

My food arrives. “Is there anything else?” the bartender asks.

Yes, I still don’t have the Cubs on any of these screens.”

He apologizes and leaves to get a manager who comes and says they’ll take care of it. Still no Cubs. Manager comes to check a few minutes later. Nope. No Cubs. They start asking each other what channel.

It’s 665,” I tell them. I’m a fan. I have DirecTV. I’ve been in countless BWWs and I know you all have DirecTV too. They are impressed. Me, less so.

I’m eating. I’m waiting. Into my fourth naked tender the Cubs game appears on three screens.

There you go! Three screens!” I’m told.

Thanks,” I think to myself as I sink my teeth into my final bite of naked tender. It’s 6:45. I’ve been there over a half-hour, and am almost done with my meal.

As a loyal BWW customer, I’m telling you that this experience fell below expectation. However, I feel better having gotten it off my chest. Thanks for listening.

Robbery, and the Chain Reaction of Praise

San Antonio Robbery“Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
    and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
    How long must this go on?’
Habakkuk 2:6 (NIV)

How ironic that this verse should appear on the page this morning.

Two nights ago, while on a business trip in San Antonio, someone broke into my hotel room while I was away having dinner with my brother. I was staying a Courtyard Inn and had a first floor room on the interior courtyard. The thief or thieves broke the plate glass of the patio door, snatched my backpack, all my electronic gear, and all the training materials I needed for a week of customer service training and coaching. The thieves got away without the hotel’s security cameras seeing them. It appears that they knew exactly what they were doing to avoid being seen.

I’ll be honest with you. The first thing that popped into my mind when I realized I’d been robbed was a not-so-nice exclamatory word. The second thing that popped into my mind was “chain reaction of praise.”

For the past several months my local gathering of fellow Jesus followers have been focusing on incorporating a simple formula in our lives:

Praise God in all circumstances (especially the bad ones)

which activates your faith…

to pray powerful prayers…

and overcome evil…

preparing us to live and reign with Christ

So, there I stood in my hotel room with a nervous hotel assistant general manager and an apathetic police officer who seemed more interested in getting to the donut shop than investigating the break in. I began going through the litany of things missing. It was a lot. Personal laptop, work laptop, iPad, folio with all my work files, two irreplaceable pens (I’m a collector),  external hard drive with ALL my photos, etc. and etc. I was shocked and sad and frustrated and violated and confused and really, really pissed.

And through my mind, over and over again, went the chain reaction of praise. And, Jesus’ words:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?”

I continue to cycle through all sorts of emotions, and most of them are not positive. It’s part of the process. In the midst of them I’m continuing to choose into silently, in my spirit, whispering praise for all that I have which can never be taken away. I’m choosing to pray for those who have stolen from me, and hoping that they get their lives straightened out. Neither of these choices are coming very naturally to me, but I learned a long time ago that faith is often about choosing the path that feels the least natural. Leap, and the net will appear.

Today, I will spend my day assembling the list of things missing, finding serial numbers, going through files looking for receipts, and trying to piece my personal and work life back together from back up drives and the cloud. I will talk to insurance agents and be told all of the things they will not cover and the high deductible I will pay out-of-pocket for the things they will. If you run across me you may find me grumbling not-so-nice exclamations under my breath, or you may find me praising God and whispering a prayer for the thieves. It will depend on the moment. I’m still in process.

Top Five Favorite Places in the World (So Far)

Last Friday I wrote of my limited travels and it got me thinking over the weekend about all of the places I’ve traveled and seen. Among all the places I have been on this Earth, here are five of my favorites places:

Sunrise, Rainy Lake
Sunrise, Rainy Lake (Photo credit: jck_photos)

5. Rainy Lake, Minnesota: Sentimental reasons. I grew up going to Camp Idlewood with my family two weeks of every year. This is where some of the most glorious memories of my childhood are sourced. It will always hold a dear place in my heart.

Courtyard of the McNay Museum, San Antonio
Courtyard of the McNay Museum, San Antonio

4. The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX: Sentimental reasons once more. Wendy and I discovered this gem of an art museum on our honeymoon. The courtyard at the McNay is one of my favorite places. I could sit there for hours, and I even get to return there a couple of times a year on my business travels.

beefeater @ london tower 031909 LR

3. London, England: I can’t name one place within London. I just loved the whole city: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the Globe Theatre, the All England Club, the Tower of London, etc., and etc.  I can’t wait to return someday.


2. Mount Arbel, Israel: Just off the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Arbel is most likely the place referred to when it was written “Jesus went to a mountain side to pray.” From the top of Mount Arbel you can see across the Sea of Galilee and the towns and villages that dot its shores. I looked down and heard Jesus words: “See the fields white unto harvest.” It is a thin place and my brief time there left an indelible impression on me.


1. Vander Well’s Playhouse, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri: There are a number of exciting and exotic places I’ve visited, but as I pondered my favorites – well this special place tops the list. Like Mount Arbel, it is a thin place. So many precious memories of family and friends combine with a place of quiet refuge and retreat. How blessed to be able to return there often! :-)

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Dragonfly on a Flower

Canon EOS 6D  f/4  1/125  ISO 100
Canon EOS 6D f/4 1/125 ISO 100

Last week I had a chance to spend an hour or two at the McNay Art Museum while in San Antonio on business. I snapped this shot of a dragonfly resting on a flower in the courtyard fountain. I loved the brilliance of the lavender flower in bright sunlight against the green hues of the lily pads and water.

Seeing the Saint on the Forest Edge

Jean Arp's Saint of the Forest Edge; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio
Jean Arp‘s Saint of the Forest Edge; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio

As I was leaving the McNay Art Museum, I looked back and saw this sculpture by Jean Arp through the full length windows by the entrance. Sometimes art captures me, not because of the piece itself, but because of the artwork in it’s particular space. In this case, I was struck by the small sculpture framed in the giant portrait window with a flood of light that wasn’t directly behind it, but slightly off to one side. The image of the sculpture in its space became an artful vision of a piece of artwork. I shot this photo from outside the museum. If you look at the high res image you can barely see my ghost like reflection taking the picture.

Sometimes, the title of a piece adds to its impact. In this case, “Saint of the Forest Edge” was ironic, since it sits just inside the window looking out over perhaps the most beautiful grounds of an art museum I’ve ever experienced, yet forever trapped inside.