Photo: South Texas Rattlesnake – Revealed!

When I opened my email and saw this photo, my first thought was HOLY SH*T!


Read the full story of the snake, here.

This is the photo of the rattlesnake that “joined” my Mom and her friends for dinner at Snoopy’s Restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas, recently. I love how it’s just his tail end, as if he’s making an escape, hiding his mug shot, but in reality, the snapshot leaves NO doubt that this was a diamondback rattlesnake! You’re guilty, buddy!

When I moved to New York four years ago, I did feel like I left behind a vast wilderness. Texas may receive a lot of bad press (New Yorkers love to hate Texas), but in its more rural parts, it remains untamed in a scary-but-good way. What’s a dose of historic reality if not a rattlesnake joining you for dinner?

A Slithering Surprise – Texas Rattlesnake Says Hello


For most residents and many visitors, Snoopy’s Restaurant on the Laguna Madre in Corpus Christi, Texas, is a must-visit. The seafood is fried fresh to order, and the sunset views from the outdoor tables are simply spectacular.

I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and never have I heard of what happened to my mom and her friends last week. She reports that while a large group of her friends were eating and laughing, they noticed:

Some strange activity by two people who were pointing and peering out to the table behind me. Ann (Mom’s friend) finally heard their warning that there was a rattlesnake under that table and blurted it out to the rest of us. You never saw our group jump up any faster!!

After much fuss, the snake “slithered in the opposite direction to escape down a drain hole. [Two of mom’s friends] got a picture before the staff came out with a shovel to do away with said snake. They were too late – he escaped! We decided to leave … I looked at the picture in a friend’s viewfinder and couldn’t quite believe the very vivid markings and rattle that showed up. His head was already down the drain, but …we guestimated his length to be about 3 feet.”

While I certainly never saw a rattler at Snoopy’s, rattlesnakes on Padre Island are elusive but fairly common (or once were – like all fragile creatures, they are in decline). They hunt rabbits, birds, eggs (bird eggs, sea turtle eggs being too scarce these days) and little rodents.

The only time I got face-to-face with Texas rattlesnakes, sadly, was here: Freer Rattlesnake Round Up.

Yes. Horrified? Intruiged? Read more about rattlesnake roundups from the National Geographic.


The Beach Trash You Can See Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg


I constantly have a rotating set of water bottles at my desk, because I often buy new bottles of water, even though we have a perfectly good water cooler here where I can refill my bottle. As I replace an older bottle with a newer bottle, I can’t bring myself to toss the old one — we only have paper recycling here, so I know it will end up in the trash.

Anyway, this article about the shocking amount of plastic floating around in the Pacific, and a heart-wrenching photo of a “sea turtle with a plastic band strangling its shell into an hourglass shape” has made me feel incredibly guilty about my water bottle habit.

The good news is that NYC recycles plastic. The bad news is that a lot of it isn’t recyclable, and often washes out to sea after storms. And many New Yorkers are terrible litterbugs — virtually every time I am on the street, I see people tossing gum wrappers, cigarettes and fast food bags with no shame at all. Is there anything more tacky than littering?

This is, of course, a problem everywhere. Growing up in Texas (the photo above is of a “low trash day” in Port Aransas, Texas), the beaches were often covered in plastic and tarballs that had washed ashore from oil rigs, oil tankers and even from the Mississippi. It’s yet another weird perspective I grew up with – I thought every beach had tar on it.

Tony Amos, a Texas marine science professsor, and one of my favorite personal acquaintances, has done years of research on the trash, and determined that was just the tip of the iceberg, noting in a St. Petersburg Times article that “the debris that lands on the bottom is just the garbage that won’t float. The chemical buckets, hard hats, wooden planks and plastic sheets that are blown overboard by the wind or tossed off illegally have long been a major problem on the Texas coast.”

It’s likely the same thing over in the Pacific, too — the floating trash is just the beginning.

If Bloomberg Runs, He’s Got My Vote

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had any sort of interest in politics, especially at the federal level. For the last two elections, I was a classic independent party voter: I felt like marking the ballot was a choice between “the lesser of two evils” and not “someone who rocks.”

And I still feel that way about all the currently named candidates — boring, boring, boring.

But, if Bloomberg runs, he’s got my vote. He would be like a glass of iced tea on a sweltering day, or, better yet, a slap in the face to American politics (and apathetic voters like me). In other words, someone who rocks.

Random Pretty Photo and Recipe: Mariachis, Fruit Cup

Believe it or not, sometimes I run out of things to say. That’s when I take the easy way out and post a random pretty (archive) photo. Or recipe.

Here’s one of each:


Mariachis at friends’ wedding.

Recipe: South Texas Fruit Cup, Joy-style

Ingredients (best served with pre-chilled fruits)

– Watermelon, sliced into bite-size squares

– Cantaloupe, ditto on the slicing

– Strawberries, sliced in half

– Pineapple, bite-size slices, too

– Optional: Coconut slices or shavings & any other melon. Note that citrus fruits don’t work too well in this, flavor-wise.)

Chile powder

– Salt

– Lime juice. Fresh is best, but bottled works OK too

Directions: Mix fruit up, and drizzle generously with chile powder, salt and lime. Serve in large cups with a fork, like this.

Astoria Rocks


My last post on the devolving real estate situation on 14th Street in Astoria got a ton of traffic. Which is great — perhaps with enough good luck (and blog links), someone in an important position will read my post, and begin to think more thoughtfully about how to keep Astoria a treasured, beautiful neighborhood. In spite of my disposition about so much of the available real estate, I think Astoria rocks.

Why do I care? Aren’t I short-timer? Yes, but before I moved to Astoria, I lived in two neighborhoods in Manhattan. Sure, they had their charms. But I was never thrilled to be home after a long workday — “home” being the sights and smells of my neighborhood. Now, though, when I get off the bus or train, I’m happy. Astoria is solidly middle-class, smart and diverse. With the best (Greek, Thai, Czech, Hungarian, Italian) food ever. And big trees. And the gem that is Socrates Sculpture Park. So if/when I move back, I want it to be the same smart, diverse and beautiful place I left.

So, here’s a shout-out thank you to the Queens Crap blog, which gave me a shout-out earlier this week, leading to my post getting picked up in several more blogs.

And I’ll keep the photo shows coming. I think it’s the photos of the crappy buildings that perhaps evoke the most thought.

Oh, Astoria, Please Stop Changing

A jaunt down 14th Street south of Astoria Park is a reflection of the real estate development issues in Queens, and greater New York. How do you build new, cheap homes that house a lot of people but aren’t totally gross to look at?

Let’s take a look. First, you have this:

Astoria House

Quite lovely, no?

But, sadly, as is the case in any city where developers have little oversight, many of these homes — which would normally be landmarked and untouchable — have been torn down and turned into crap like this:

Crappy Unit

Note that, for some reason, the developer hasn’t yet torn down the Gothic steel gate, which includes an inscription from the early 1900s.

As a result, Astoria has become an architectural mishmash of breathtaking mansions, brick row houses and boxy, boring, Stalin-esque apartment units, often with tacky features like this:


Not only is this facade crammed with too many patios, doors and window air-conditioning units, it’s also got the typical Nuevo Queens Style of driveways replacing grassy front yards, with all trees being torn down in the process. It’s rather unsettling to walk by, especially when it’s so close to the Victorian home. It’s like watching the Blob digest the block.

Full disclosure: I live in one of these new, ugly apartment units, not far from 14th Street. It wasn’t until I moved in and became more familiar (and in love with) Astoria that I realized what stood on the lot before they built the current building: a historic farmhouse.


One more thing: Another terrible quirk of Astoria is all the damn power lines. Here, the view of the Triboro Bridge is obscured.

Power Line Insanity

Precious No Matter the Lighting Conditions

I have a very fancy camera — a Nikon D50 — yet I rarely experiment with the manual functions. I used to know all the fancy tricks back in college, when I took a photojournalism class, and even had to process my own photos in a dark room.

But, that was many years ago, and now I’m realizing that while my photos are good, they could be better.

So, here’s one experiment. While sitting on my bed with my dog, I wanted to see the difference between using the flash, or not.

The ruling: He’s damn cute either way.