Category Archives: Favorite Places

That month when I lived in Europe.

Tonight is my last night in Europe. It’s been a long day–a long week, actually–full of buses, trains, and long distances on foot. Considering this, the idea of being back home in Texas is actually rather appealing. I look forward to driving a car again; to playing golf; to going 2-3 hours without spending money on something. I look forward to Mexican food and AM Donuts. I look forward to seeing family and friends. And, finally, I look forward to slowing down, getting rest, and resuming normal life.

Of course, I have no doubt that once I’m back, I will almost immediately wish I was still here. There are many things about being abroad that are fantastic, and I will most certainly miss them. I will miss the ubiquitous, daily encounters with so much history and culture. I will miss never-ending options for beautiful places to sit and read. I will miss the peace that comes from, if even for a short and fleeting time, escaping certain worries and anxieties that come with “home.” And, strangely, I will miss walking everywhere. For real.

My students flew home last week, and I’ve spent my time since then on two quick trips in opposite directions. I first went or Cardiff, Wales for the weekend, and then I spent the last couple of nights back in Paris. Some of the highlights:


^ The keep at Cardiff Castle, which is right in the middle of the city center.


^ A view of Cardiff city center from the top of the keep. I got very lucky with the weather, as you can see.


^ The lake at Roath Park in Cardiff. I unknowingly booked an AirBnB right across the street from Roath Park, which is a large, gorgeous, and very pleasant park in the northeast part of the city. This picture is of the lake, which is only a portion of the park. Beautiful landscaping and ample places to sit and relax run throughout the property. This turned out to be one of my favorite places in all of my European travels.

Once I got to Paris on Monday, it was starting to hit me how tired I was from the past month. Summer classes are quite busy, and once my students left I sort of had a moment of realizing that I had spent lots of time everyday doing stuff for the class (as well as the on-line course I was teaching). With that moment came an unexpected onset of fatigue, which really hit me once I got off of my EuroStar in Paris around 9:30pm on Monday night. I still made the most of my two days there, but I definitely didn’t do as much as I had planned.


^ I got an up-close look at the Arc at night, which was so much bigger than I thought it was. I have no doubt that I’m far from the first person to sheepishly say that.


^ The fatigue didn’t prevent me from returning to L’As du Fallafel. This time I went with the traditional falafel pita sandwich; it didn’t disappoint. This will be a place I always visit if I’m lucky enough to make more Paris trips in the future.


^ An illegally-taken picture of me reading my favorite book in my favorite room of my favorite bookstore in my favorite city. This is the copy of The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy in the Sylvia Beach reading room at Shakespeare and Company. I sat down and read the first chapter, and then I realized that I couldn’t wait until I got back home to re-read the entire thing, so I went downstairs and bought another (I think this will be my 3rd?) copy.

I didn’t end up going to any more museums during this trip, but I did meet a few people with whom I shared a few drinks, which was great. Things start and end much later in Europe than in the States, and I found myself walking home last night at an hour that I haven’t seen in a very long time. This might have been the first and only time that I felt a bit unsafe while in Europe, but this is mostly because of how late it was and my lack of any phone service. I made it to my hostel in one piece, unscathed. But I had a few hours yesterday and today of simply walking through the streets of Paris, listening to music and soaking up the city. On paper, how I spent my last few days here don’t look very glamorous, but I’ve found that I’m simply not a glamorous traveler. And I’m totally okay with that.

The highlight of my last week in Europe, though, happened right here in Oxford a few nights ago. I got the chance to have a night of conversation and laughs with the owner of the pub down the street, the Rose and Crown. It’s claim to fame is being Thom Yorke’s favorite pub, which is something I talked to Andrew (the owner) about at length. He had a few stories about Thom and the Greenwood brothers, and he also gave me an eye-opening lecture on why Tottenham is undoubtedly the best team in the English Premier League. I have officially become a Hotspur supporter. At some point during the conversation, he asked me to get him a pint. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, and then he pointed me behind the bar and told me to pull a couple. I, of course, had him take a picture of it.


^ My proudest Oxford moment: pulling a pint for the owner at the Rose and Crown. He wasn’t particularly impressed with my pint-pulling abilities.

Now that all of the trips, classes, and meals are over, I find myself a bit overwhelmed by the incredible opportunities I’ve had for the past five weeks and of all the places I’ve been and things I’ve done. I’ve made trips to Bath, London, Liverpool, Paris (twice), and Cardiff. I’ve been to countless museums and seen some of the most iconic artifacts and pieces of art in the world. I’ve been to the Open Championship, to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and to the ancient Roman baths. I’ve gotten to talk about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Baldwin with an amazing group of students. I’ve been to two Oxford productions of Shakespeare plays. And I’ve gotten to sleep, eat, walk, learn, and live in a place steeped in culture and history. It’s been amazing, and I think that it will only become more amazing once time goes by and I truly get to appreciate how great the opportunity has been.

My biggest regret from my college experience is that I never studied abroad. I’ve never heard anyone say anything other than how great it was. Now that I’ve done it myself, I know firsthand how true this is. And part of me is glad that I never went as a student, because I think it made this experience even better. Although I was teaching the course, I was learning just as much about Europe as my students. I was right alongside them trying to figure out the metro system in Paris, or which coins to use to pay for our ice cream, or where in the world to go to find a public bathroom. I loved sharing these new experiences with my students, and I think they loved seeing their professor be as doltish and tourist-y as they felt.

Being abroad changes you. You learn so much about the world, how it works, and how it doesn’t work. You learn about other places, but you also learn even more about the places you know best. In order to really understand and appreciate home, you have to leave it. I am so glad I had the chance to do so. I just hope the lessons don’t fade away too quickly, and that I’m able to come back as soon as possible.


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Filed under Favorite Places, Food, Life

Life after Paris


“There were no problems except where to be happiest” – Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I spent three nights and four days in Paris last week with my students. All of my travels, trips, and excursions in the States and abroad will hereafter reside in two categories: Before I first visited Paris, and After. After around 72 hours there, it is far-and-away my favorite city in the world. I’ll do a rapid fire of pictures, and then I’ll write a bit about why I loved it so much.


^ The main entry-way of the Louvre. To say that the museum is big is an understatement. It’s scope and breadth is simply unbelievable. I was tired before I even got through security.


^ A picture of everyone else taking pictures of a famous picture.


^ One of the many looooong Louvre hallways.


^ One of the famous panels of Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie, which was my personal favorite of the museums I went to in Paris.


^ Not sure why, but this one (Konto by Kazuo Shiraga) really grabbed my attention. I stared at this for a couple of minutes, completely perplexed yet totally captivated.


^ The amazing stained-glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle.


^ The best food I’ve had yet in Europe. The schawarma pita sandwich at L’As du Fallafel. Simply perfect.


^ My students at our awesome, memorable evening picnic on the lawn right next to the Eiffel Tower. A couple of students and I simply walked down the street, found a butcher shop next to a bakery, and told them we wanted to have a picnic. They loaded us up with a variety of meats, cheeses, and breads, and we were not disappointed.


^ The view from the mid-way point up the Eiffel Tower. From here, we made our way to the very top, just in time for the first twinkle at 10pm. It was a very long process from getting tickets to actually getting to the top (about 2.5 hours), but my students were thrilled and it ended up being worth it.


^ And, of course, Shakespeare and Company, which might be the most famous bookshop in the world. I was in there three times during my trip, and each time I could have stayed longer. It oozes literary history, and the collection of books (although over-priced) is superb.

Many authors have written about the allure of Paris. I’ve read so many of these, and I’ve never been able to quite understand what it was about this particular place that was so special. Now that I’ve been there, I still don’t quite understand it completely, but I know exactly what they mean. There’s simply something about the city that is perfect for someone like me: someone that appreciates food, art, literature, and more food. Paris is a huge city, and I know that residents do not spend every day walking along the Seine, reading great novels, and eating expensive meals. They have jobs, they have problems, and they have the same daily aggravations that we all have to deal with. But, as a tourist, the city is absolutely perfect. The options for places to eat, drink, and/or read are endless. I spent time outside of cafes right next to the Louvre eating cake and reading; I spent time in the Tuileries Gardens sitting by a fountain enjoying lunch; I spent hours walking down the river, listening to music and browsing through the bouquinistes stocks of old books and random posters. All of this time was peaceful, and somehow I was able to feel comfortable, unhurried, and even uncramped. I don’t know how this is possible, because there were people, cars, and movement all around me. But something about the river, the old buildings, and the cafes creates some sort of subconscious peace for someone like me. To put it simply, it was exactly what I’ve always hoped for in a foreign place.

Most of my students are equally enamored with the city. We didn’t see a fraction of what Paris offers, and most of what we did fits squarely into the “classic tourist-y things in Paris” category. That didn’t matter. We all loved it. We did a Fat Tire bike tour; a boat ride up and down the Seine; and we went to the top of the Eiffel. We ate lots of great food, walked around 35 miles total, and overpaid tremendously for canned sodas. We were able to sit in the same spots and walk through the same door frames as the people we’ve been reading in class, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Baldwin. All of these experiences together created something that I will never forget. I hope they don’t, either.

– – – – – – –

This is our last week in Oxford. The plan:

  • Tonight: Dinner and then Much Ado about Nothing at Wadham College.
  • Tomorrow: Walking tour of New College.
  • Wednesday: A visit to Wheatley to find a specific sandwich shop, and then an attempt to find C.S. Lewis’s house and/or grave.
  • Thursday: Farewell dinner at the Trout.

Once my students head to Heathrow on Friday morning, I am catching a train to Cardiff, Wales for the weekend. I have absolutely nothing planned, but I’ve been told that it’s a great city. Back to Oxford on Sunday afternoon, and then one final trip before I return to Texas: I’m heading back to Paris for two more nights. I simply didn’t get enough last week, and I couldn’t resist the chance to go back. More reading. More walking. More food. And, this time, ample libations.



Filed under Books, Favorite Places, Food, Life

Like everyone else, I love it here.

A lot has happened in the past week. One thing, in particular: I officially decided that I love it here. I’m not original in that thought, and basically anyone that makes a Europe trip says the same thing. But there’s a reason why everyone says it; it’s an amazing place. I’ve been asked what my favorite thing has been so far, and, to be honest, it’s been the simple, day-to-day life. Walking to and from the city center; buying cheap takeaway meals; spending hours in places like Blackwell’s. The famous sites and places are great, but they take second place to the simple, seemingly mundane aspects. That being said, here’s a look at what I’ve done in the past week or so:

Last week, my students and I did a day trip to London. We started by going to the British Museum, which is towards the top of the list of attractions for almost anyone that visits London. It’s an absolutely huge museum with all sorts of pieces, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary African art. The biggest “No way!” moment was seeing the Rosetta Stone. I was a bit speechless at the sheer historical and cultural magnitude of seeing it. But, beyond that, here’s two of my favorite pieces from the British:


^This is a Netherlands boxwood microsculpture from the 1500s. It might be hard to tell, but it contains various mini depictions of Biblical stories, all highly detailed and exact, and from one piece of wood about the size of a football. Absolutely impossible to imagine how someone did this.



^This might be my favorite thing I saw all day. It’s Crowd Looking at a Tied-Up Object by Henry Moore (1942). What exactly is the object under the sheet? Why are the people transfixed? I was mesmerized.

After the British, we had a quick lunch right on the Thames river at a place called PizzaExpress, which was right next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Aside from its cliche name, the food was fantastic and the view was even better. We ate quickly so that we had plenty of time at the museum next door: the Tate Modern. I always love modern art museums. I got to go to the great one in D.C. earlier this summer, and I’ve been to MOMA in New York. The Tate did not disappoint. As soon as I got in the door, I knew I was going to love it. I gave my students two hours to browse on their own, and that time seemed to go by way too quickly. A few of my students would disagree with that, though…


^ George Braque, Mandora (1909-10). I felt very fortunate to see this famous modernist piece. Ironically, I had this piece on a PowerPoint I showed my students earlier in the class without realizing we’d get to see it in person.


^ There was also an entire room of Rothko pieces. Perhaps no modernist painter inspires the “What the hell?” and “I could do that” sentiments than Rothko, and an entire dimly-lit room of his huge canvases was quite the experience.

The tip to London was a success. The city is huge, and we had a few moments of not being sure exactly which street to take or towards which underground station to head. But we enjoyed ourselves, and we all made it back safely. That’s really all I cared about.

As soon as class ended on Thursday, half of my students caught a bus to Heathrow for a weekend trip to Rome. A couple of others spent the weekend in Scotland, while a few stayed here in Oxford. I woke up on Friday morning and caught my train to Liverpool for the one Europe trip I’ve had planned for many months: The Open Championship. I arrived in Liverpool early afternoon and went directly to my AirBnB, which happened to be literally next door to a significant site:


^Goodison Park, home of the Everton Football Club. I’m not kidding: it was right next door. I could have hit a pitching wedge from my front porch to the middle of the pitch.

I then had the entire afternoon to spend in Liverpool. I caught a bus and headed to the city center, which turned out to be so much more than I expected. To be honest, I knew nothing about Liverpool other than it being the home of the Beatles. Turns out that its city center is a lively, hopping place full of open-air shopping for what I would guess is a good square mile. I really enjoyed my time walking around, eating, and of course sitting down and reading for a few minutes in an awesome bookstore. I then killed a few hours seeing Dunkirk at the Odeon in the middle of the shopping center, which was a great place to see a movie. The movie was good, although there were parts of the narrative that fell flat for me and/or begged for so much more explanation (something I’ve found to be the case in all of Nolan’s movies). After the movie I headed back to my rental, grabbed a quick pint at the local pub (pictured below), and tried to get some sleep.


^Liverpool’s city center. On the right you can see a sliver of the largest and cleanest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen.


^The friendly (and very inexpensive) pub right down the road from my AirBnB.

I didn’t sleep very well, because I was too excited about my trip to Royal Birkdale the next day for the 146th playing of the Open Championship. I woke up early, walked about a mile to the nearest train station, and figured I’d be ahead of the pack. I was very, very wrong. When I got on the train, it was standing room only. This was at 8am, and the first tee time wasn’t even until 9:30. Regardless, I was able to get on the train and get to the course, through security, and in the gates by 9am. Birkdale didn’t disappoint. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the experience. I was very fortunate to get to go to the Ryder Cup last fall in Minnesota, which was also an awesome experience, but the Open exceeded it. The course was amazing, and the fans were so much better than American fans. There’s a level of knowledge of and respect for the game of golf over here that simply isn’t there in America. I’ve always rolled my eyes when Open commentators have made comments about this in the past, but now that I’ve been in the middle of it, I am convinced it’s true. The weather was perfect, the course was everything you want for an Open, and the golf was top-notch. I feel so lucky to have gotten to go, and another trip to the Open is now officially on my bucket list. Next time, though, I’d like to be with a group of friends.


^A panorama I took from greenside on #12 (the par 3). I got to this spot early and had a perfect spot for the first 7-8 groups that came through. This picture is looking back towards the clubhouse and the rest of the course.


^A look at #18 green from the spectator crosswalk. This is the spot where I just watched Spieth receive the Claret Jug on tv. His performance on the last five holes was unreal, although I have never been as frustrated as a golf fan than I was during the 20-minute delay waiting for him to figure out his drop on #13.

I ended up leaving Birkdale around 4pm, which was right about the time the leaders teed off. That might sound ridiculous, but I had been there for 8 hours and was envisioning an absolute nightmare trying to get back on the train heading to Liverpool alongside 80,000 other people. I don’t regret the decision to leave early at all, other than the fact that the minute I got off the train and started my mile-long walk back to my AirBnB, it started raining. And then, right about the time all of the trees, awnings, and phone booths disappeared, it started really raining. I went from being annoyed that my shorts were damp to accepting the fact that I was going to be absolutely, 100% soaked. If you’ve ever been caught in the rain with no option for escape, you know the feeling. I ended up taking refuge at a gas station, but the damage was already done. Luckily I was able to put my shoes, shorts, socks, shirt, and underwear in the dryer as soon as I got back.


^ My classy escape from the torrential rain in Liverpool. I was standing by the door to the station, looking exactly like a vagrant. I ended up buying a soda from inside because I felt bad for loitering.

A few more pints that night at the same pub, a good night’s sleep, and then my long, 4.5 hour trip back to Oxford, which involved three different train changes and a bus from Banbury to Oxford. I was able to get lots of grading and reading done during the trip, though, which was a blessing. And I also had the chance to step outside of the train station in Stafford during my hour-long layover. Right across the street was the amazing Victoria Park. A small, seemingly taken-for-granted park here, it was better than almost any park I’ve seen in the States.


^My view from the walking bridge in Victoria Park in Stafford.

My trip to Liverpool was a resounding success. Combined with my trip to Bath the previous weekend, I’m realizing that a longer trip to another European country isn’t even necessary; the UK has so much to offer. In fact, I’m now thinking that rather than going to Amsterdam or Spain once class ends, I might simply catch a train to somewhere like Whales or Edinburgh for a few days. I’ll probably change my mind multiple times between now and then, though.

Coming up:

My students and I head to Paris this coming Wednesday. We are doing a bike tour of the city that night, will spend the day on Thursday seeing famous expatriate spots around the city, and will be spending the entire weekend in a hostel right on the canal. I plan on staying in Paris for an extra night and then heading back to Oxford to prepare for the last week of class. I’ve actually been rather busy with schoolwork since I’ve been here. Anytime on trains, in bookstores, or between meals is spent either reading or grading for class, which reminds me: This is actually a work trip.

Rough job, right?


Filed under Favorite Places, Golf, Life


Early observations from my first few days in Oxford:

  1. I’m honestly not sure if it’s cheap or expensive to be here. I have this feeling that so far it’s been surprisingly inexpensive, but I also think that I might be totally wrong. I’m thinking that if I were to actually check my bank account, I would have clarity about this, but I’d rather continue to live in this limbo state. I’ve been to the grocery store twice, and both times my total bill was under 10pounds. I’ve had a few meals in cafes and small restaurants that cost under 5pounds. And every pint I’ve had so far was at most 4pounds. These are all examples of life so far being inexpensive. But, I’m afraid that this is all actually evidence of it being expensive, and that I’m simply deluding myself. I guess I’ll really know in a month.
  2. We are spoiled in America in regards to personal space. The bathrooms here are tiny, and the process of getting in and out of the shower–or on and off the toilet–takes a certain amount of strategizing. This is undoubtedly something I’m not used to, as room and space seem to be common luxuries in the States.
  3. The British are spoiled in regards to scenery and architecture. Everywhere you go in Oxford, you are surrounded by beauty. The buildings, the parks, the sky–it is all quite wonderful. I can’t stress this enough. The best part is that being surrounded by this on a daily basis inherently carries over into your attitude and demeanor. Don’t get me wrong: I have no doubt that people get just as miserable and unhappy here as we do in the States. But for someone that is simply here for a month, the surroundings push towards a more peaceful and optimistic approach to the day. Even when it’s raining–which it does often–it’s beautiful. I walked all the way to the city center in the rain and never once found myself frustrated or annoyed by it. If it rains for 15 seconds in Abilene, you can guarantee that the sidewalks are empty and no one is outside.
  4. I am spoiled to be here. I have my own apartment within the house, with a private bathroom, kitchen, office, and bedroom. My workspace where I am currently writing this–although it’s not huge–is as pleasant a spot as I’ve ever had the chance to plug in my computer. The fact that I am getting paid for this is, to be frank, ridiculous. I have eight students, all of whom so far have been energetic and interested in the course material, and I get to teach them in a room with large windows looking out on this beautiful city. Once class is over, we all grab lunch and then plan our afternoon adventures. Today we will be heading to see Christ Church and then to George and Danver’s for ice cream. It’s a rough gig, to be sure.

I’m not one to take pictures, but I’ve been told adamantly to make sure I do so on this trip. Below are a few I’ve taken so far:


^A view of the backside of our house on Canterbury Lane in Oxford. I took this from a picnic table where I was reading last evening around 8:30pm.


^A view of Oxford’s city center. It has a sort of Diagon Alley feel too it. Apparently during the summer, many students (high school and college) travel to Oxford for language school and other programs. Every time I’ve gone to town so far, the streets have been packed with people, most of whom do not seem to be Oxford residents.


^The Norrington Room at Blackwell’s, a large bookstore in the middle of town. I will spend many, many hours here over the next month.


^Awesome British versions of some of my favorite books. Apparently, British versions of books have different covers, which is a problem considering I now find myself wanting to buy the British version of all of my favorites.


^The Oxford Museum of Natural History, and an example of the type of building I see the entire length of my walks throughout the city. Buildings like this are the norm here.


^This was my first-night pint at the pub that is less than 5 minutes from our house, The Rose and Crown. Apparently this is Thom Yorke’s favorite pub in town. I hope to see him and have a conversation about In Rainbows.

I’ll post more pictures as I take them. Coming up in the near future:

  1. This weekend: Open travel around Britain. Not exactly sure yet where I’ll go.
  2. A day trip to London next week with my class to see the Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
  3. Next weekend is my trip to Liverpool for the Open Championship. I have tickets for Saturday’s round.
  4. Paris the following week.


Filed under Favorite Places, Life

My favorite place to: Play Golf


This is the view from the first teebox at Stevens Park Golf Course in Dallas. As an avid golfer with a pretty minimal budget, I consider myself extremely lucky to live in a city like Dallas because it offers a variety of quality, close, and affordable public golf courses to choose from. I love them all, but my favorite has to be Stevens Park.

Like many other historical courses around Dallas/Fort Worth, rather than build an entirely new course or start over somewhere else, the city made the decision a few years ago to bring in a team to overhaul and revamp the already-existing layout of Stevens Park. It’s safe to say that the decision was the right one. I never played Stevens before the overhaul, but the new course is absolutely fantastic.

As you can tell from the picture of #1 above, when you play Stevens Park you don’t feel like you are ten minutes from downtown Dallas. From the first teebox to 18 green, the course offers unique shot after unique shot. It only measures around 6200 yards from the tips, which seems almost ridiculously short. But this distance can’t be compared to most courses built in the past 20 years, because Stevens is at its core an old-school course. What I mean by this is that while it only measures 6200 yards, it doesn’t play as a driver-sand wedge on every hole. For example, the third hole, a par four, measures at a whopping 339 yards from the back tees (and, honestly, it’s probably more like 295). On paper, this hole isn’t much to speak of. But when you get on the teebox, you realize that this 300 yard hole actually plays more like a 375 yard par four due to the fact that you can’t hit anything more than a 5- or 6-iron off of the teebox, leaving yourself second shot of around 100 yards. Still, 100 yard second shot? No big deal, right? The problem is that the shot is straight uphill, around 25 yards above the level of the fairway, to a pin that you can barely see on a green that is already tough to hold. Is it the toughest hole in Dallas? Not even close. But it’s much tougher than most 325-yard par fours, and it also makes you hit a shot that you’d have a hard time finding anywhere else in the metroplex. The hardest part of the third hole? The next shot, which is nothing more than an 9-iron or PW from the par-3 No. 4. Of course this one is straight down that 25-yard hill you came up on the last hole, with a ball-swallowing water hazard a few paces over the back of the green.

This type of unique, variegated, and sometimes daunting shot progression is one of the key factors that makes Stevens Park such a great course. When I play Stevens, I hit no more than four drivers all day long. But one of these is a pretty big hit (around a 250-260 carry over the creek and between trees on No. 9), and the other ones all have out-of-bounds not far off. The other tee balls are mostly shape shots, trying to fit a 4-iron between bunkers or cozying a hybrid to a safe distance from the green. It’s a course where you can be aggressive and make a lot of birdies, but it’s also a course that has teeth and can penalize you, especially if the wind is blowing and the greens are playing fast. The greens are only a couple of years old, so they are still pretty tough to hold, but they roll true and they beg for aggressive attempts. It’s one of those courses where you can have 4-5 birdies and not even realize it, which is a fun way to play golf.


^This is a view from 18 fairway, looking up at the green. Stevens is always the one of the greenest courses in the area.

The golf course is great, but its location and the views it offers are maybe even better. Stevens Park is right in the middle of Kessler Park in south Dallas, which is an awesome neighborhood right off of I30. If I could pick any spot to live in Dallas, I would pick Kessler Park. The houses are all fantastic and it’s very close to both Bishop Arts district and the new Trinity Groves areas by the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. And as far as views go, I don’t know if there is a cooler spot to look at downtown during the day than the view from 15 teebox and 16 green at Stevens Park. And the best part: on the day I took the pictures above, I paid $17 for my green free (I was walking; it would have been $32 with a cart).

Of course, I’m not the only person to notice how awesome Stevens Park is. It’s almost impossible to get a weekend tee time out there before 3 or 4 in the afternoon; if you don’t call by Tuesday, you aren’t going to get on the course that weekend. And recently, it was rated as one of the Top 50 municipal courses in the country by GolfWeek Magazine. And on that list, I’d be surprised to find another one that would cost less than $20. It’s a great spot that’s starting to get the recognition it deserves, and I can only imagine how good it will be when the greens age a few more years.

If you’re ever in Dallas and you are looking for a golf course that is far removed from the large-scale, big-production, over-hyped and over-priced golf courses that seem to exist all over the place, I highly recommend taking the Sylvan exit off of westbound I30 (or Hampton from the east) and making your way to Stevens Park. You won’t be disappointed.

– – – – – – – –

On another note, two weeks ago my friends and I had our 7th annual reunion, which we call Back Porch Formal. This year’s theme: Night at the Movies. Here’s a picture of the roommates and me:


^ Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski, Sodapop Curtis from The Outsiders, and Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

This year we had 39 adults, 4 small children, one pregnant wife, and a whole lot of good times. Now I just have to come up with a theme for next year.

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Filed under Favorite Places, Golf, Movies

My favorite place to: EAT

Next stop on my favorite places in Dallas: Company Cafe.


This has been one my favorite spots in Dallas since I moved here four years ago. They recently re-located the Greenville location a couple of blocks south (right across from the new Trader Joe’s), and the new building is a big upgrade. It’s a great spot for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the menu. Company Cafe is the epitome of a local restaurant in that the majority of their ingredients are from local farms and dairies (which they list on the menu), including their consistent selection of local beers on tap. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner (brunch on weekends), and I’ve never ordered anything I didn’t like. For my first couple of years, my go-to order was the seasonal salad with salmon. I’ve never been a big salmon guy, but something about the smokiness of the salmon and the mix of candied nuts, cranberries, and vinaigrette was absolutely perfect. I’ve since changed to the Company Burger, made from grass-fed beef and with your choice of local cheeses. It’s served with a choice of regular or sweet potato fries, and I recommend the latter.

Company Cafe is the spot where I take friends that come in town, which I was able to do last week with a friend of mine in from New Orleans. Luckily the weather was very un-Dallas like, meaning it was cool, sunny, and not too breezy, so we were able to sit on the patio. This time, I decided to switch it up: I went with the spare rib sandwich with a side salad and sweet potato fries.


The picture really doesn’t do it justice. Although the bun wasn’t much to speak of, the spare rib was really great. It reminded me of some of the bbq sandwiches I’ve had in West Texas–something that is hard to find in Dallas. And, of course, the sweet potato fries were fantastic. My friend ordered the salmon salad, and she too found it to be perfect. Here’s the after shot:


If a burger or salad isn’t your thing, they also have unique takes on dishes like chicken fried steak and chicken and waffles–theirs comes with pancakes that have bacon and jalapenos baked into them, which is as good as it sounds. All in all, it’s a great spot that I highly recommend. It’s in a really cool location in an area on Greenville that has been revamped and has lots of offerings, and if you’re in Dallas it’s worth stopping in for a beer and some local food.

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Random Note: I’ve been playing on a softball team since I moved here with some old high school buddies, and as crazy as it sounds we’ve actually won the league a few times. Even crazier: someone from Dallas Morning News came out to take pictures of us and did a write-up. Here’s the link:–on-the-field-or-anywhere-else.ece


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Filed under Favorite Places, Food

My favorite place to: Study, Read, and Buy Things

Although I really don’t feel like it, I guess I’ve slowly turned into a Dallas person. Or, at least, I feel like I’ve lived here long enough to actually know the city: the places to go, the places to avoid, the things to do, etc. I know which streets to avoid at certain times, or which parking lots usually have a few open spaces, or which Cafe Brazil can squeeze in a table of four the quickest. I don’t know if I’ll ever really consider Dallas home, but I definitely no longer feel like an outsider. Although Dallas deserves lots of the criticisms thrown its way, I’ve realized that there are lots of things about the city that I really, really love. Sure, lots of people drive Mercedes and eat at Nick and Sam’s Grill and legitimately think they are cooler for it. Yes, downtown Dallas is far inferior to Fort Worth. And of course I agree that traffic on 75, or 35, or 30, or 635, or the tollway can be brutal. But every city has its problems, and Dallas has more than enough redeeming factors.

So I figured I’d post about the various places and things about Dallas that I find to be so great.

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If I’m going to talk about Dallas places that I love, there’s only one logical place to start:


If you are like me and spend your money on books, movies, and music, then I really hope you are familiar with Half Price Books. I’m lucky enough to live a few blocks from the flagship location in Dallas on Northwest Highway. It’s the biggest bookstore I’ve ever been in; it’s in a huge refurbished warehouse (or at least that’s my best guess of what the building was before), about the same size as my local Tom Thumb grocery store. It’s stocked to the brim with movies (DVDs and VHSs), music (CDs, vinyl, cassettes), and books. When I say books, I mean tons and tons of books. Comic books. Cooking books. Children’s books. Nature books. Romance novels. Political books. Coloring books. Religious books. First editions. Fiction. Non-fiction. Biographies. History. If it’s a genre, they carry it. And I don’t just mean they have one bookshelf labeled “History” with a bunch of beat up old copies of 8th grade textbooks. Everything is organized: alphabetical by author, categorized by topic or country or language. There’s even a coffee shop and cafe inside. What more could you need?


This is the section where I usually spend my time. I haven’t counted exactly, but I’m guessing there are about 20 rows of 7-8 ft. high bookshelves in the Fiction/Literature section, filled from top to bottom. Do they have every single title you could imagine? Of course not. Does Amazon have a better selection? No doubt. But I have consistently been able to find a much wider and more reliable selection here than I ever do at my local Barne’s and Noble Booksellers. There’s also a large “Clearance” section with around 2 full bookshelves of titles that are priced from $1.00 – $3.00. And, surprisingly, there are always bestsellers and critically-acclaimed novels included in this section. For example, I’ve purchased a large percentage of my Toni Morrison and Philip Roth titles from the clearance section.

But perhaps my favorite part of the store is 20-25 sturdy wooden tables spread throughout the place, perfect for studying and working. There are two different areas specifically partitioned as work areas, each including 8-10 tables, and there are also around 5-10 other tables spread out randomly amongst the rows of books. For someone that does a large portion of my work at home–but hates actually being at home to do this work–a place like this is perfect. The atmosphere is reliably quiet, there’s free Wi-Fi, and in one of the work rooms there is usually artwork displayed from local artists. I’m usually up there at least twice a week working, and during my comprehensive exams year I spent anywhere from 10-20 hours there every single week, reading and taking notes. I highly recommend it for someone in Dallas looking for a spot besides the nearest Starbucks to quietly work on something.



^This is a picture taken from one of the workstation tables.

But it’s not just books. They have an impressive selection of movies, tv, and music as well. I’ve personally purchased seasons of shows like The Wire and Mad Men there, along with most of my cds or even audiobooks. The best part about it: all of this stuff is–at the most–half off the list price. So those seasons of The Wire only cost me $19.99 instead of $40, and the cds are usually $6 or $7. And this is the most you’ll pay; lots of times it will actually be even cheaper.

The prices are great, and so is the selection, but those really aren’t the reasons why it’s one of my favorite places. To be honest, it’s just a great atmosphere. It’s a huge store that employs people that know a whole lot about the products they are selling, and this is something that I appreciate. It’s quiet, it’s clean, and it’s fully stocked with things that I love.What’s not to like?

Looking for a guidebook for working with some random software? Check the “Manuals” aisle. Need a Spanish/English dictionary for your daughter’s 8th-grade Spanish class? Check “Dictionaries.” Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars? There’s two of them in “Pop/Rock.” A first edition of Louis L’Amour’s Hondo? “Collectibles.”

If you’re a book-lover and you’re in Dallas, I highly recommend exiting Northwest Highway off of 75 and stopping by the Half Price Books. You won’t be disappointed.

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Filed under Books, Favorite Places