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Fin De Semana! 6-5-15

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Back when El Paso was a rough town full of pistoleros and Juarez was calm.

Eh, it’s monsoon season anyway.

Whataburger soldiers through the egg shortage.

What I’m Listening To:

Man, is it good to have Dwight back.

What I’m Drinking

Shiner Light Blonde- It’s the light American lager from Texas’ favorite brewery! It tastes pretty much like “cheap beer!” Sometimes, when it’s really hot, that’s all you want! Listen! Whataburger cut back breakfast, Blue Bell is off the market, I was worried about Shiner! It’s going to be ok! It really is!


Fin De Semana! 3-13-15

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How Mexico Learned To Polka

Bill Richardson, who as governor of New Mexico saddled some of its poorest counties with a tax to build a spaceport, is now lobbying for a group building a competing spaceport in California. Meanwhile, the New Mexico spaceport is still vacant with an uncertain future.

The Tigua tribe had a pretty nice casino, and used the money they made from it to do a lot of good for their community. The Texas Legislature shut them down and now the Feds are accusing them of violating that injunction. 

What I’m Listening To

Ryan Culwell-Flatlands Steeped in West Texas heart, shot through with echoes of Springsteen and as atmospheric as an abandoned house out on the plains. Flatlands covers a lot of ground, stylistically, but maintains the high-plains heart of The Flatlanders. I can’t wait to play this through my truck speakers while heading north out of town, out where the mountains finally give way to the plains. Out there, there’s nowhere for anything to hide, just the bare earth, light and shadow, and the ever present wind. That’s kinda how this album works, you get the same feeling of space and honesty.

What I’m Drinking

Protein shake. Off to the gym. Have a good weekend.

Fin De Semana! 2-6-15

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We’ve probably reached Peak Marfa.

Can’t wait until the Coen Bros make this into a movie.

A somewhat more sensationalistic look at el Valle de Juarez.

New Mexico’s favorite industry is back in business.

What I’m Listening To:

Dwight Yoakam-Secondhand Heart

Man, I am really glad to see Dwight Yoakam back on a major label and making new music. He’s going out on tour again, and Sam Outlaw is opening for at least one date if you want a great night of California country, that’d be the one to see. Dwight’s always played with form and sound, trying to meld a lot of different things. His newer stuff seems more ragged and rockin’ drawing more on Liverpool than Bakersfield. I’ll take it.

What I’m Drinking

Shiner Birthday Beer. I try to pick up a sixer of these every year. This is certainly one of the most memorable of their birthday beers, a chocolate stout that tastes pretty much exactly like a chocolate cake. This one’s good in small doses, since it’s heavy and rich. Definitely best enjoyed on it’s own or after dinner.

Whataburger vs. Blake’s Lotaburger: Burger Showdown

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I saw that New Mexico stalwart Blake’s Lotaburger has opened a location on El Paso’s West Side. It didn’t have any of the familiar markings of a Blake’s, such as this long legged dude:


So maybe they’re going incognito, seeing as how they (and most Texans) aren’t that far from Whataburger.

In the name of absolutely attracting attention and starting an argument, here is my run down on the two regional burger joints.



What can I say about Whataburger that hasn’t been said? They’re all over the place, open 24 hours, and have an ever-expanding and shifting menu to compliment all the old standbys. Buns are buttered and toasted (unless you ask them not to) and everything is cooked more or less to order. You can get insanely specific with your order at a Whataburger and they’ll generally get it just right without having a full-on freak out in the kitchen. Your patty is your standard fast food burger patty, although wider in circumference than BK or Mickey D’s and nowhere near as salty or fake tasting. They pride themselves on being able to customize a burger pretty much anyway you want (within the confines of their offered menu items; they’re not putting truffles on your burger no matter how much you scoff and harrumph, Yer Highness). There are chicken sandwiches and patty melts as well as some speciality burgers with A-1 or green chile (more on this later). Breakfast consists of breakfast tacos and sandwiches with eggs and your standard choice of sausage or bacon, plus the usual pancakes. Some locations have huevos rancheros, but I’ve never tried them. Whataburger is a franchise and can differ a bit in quality and price from location to location, but they manage a consistent standard of service across their far-flung burger empire. For many Texans, Whataburger is the fast food joint that was always there, when they were kids getting rewarded, as teenagers hanging out, as college kids filling up on food after a night at the bar, and as parents looking to reward their own kids with burgers and fries. Even though they’ve been around since 1950, they’ve managed to stay current and even have a very entertaining and well run twitter account. 


Blake’s Lotaburger

The burger choice for New Mexicans since way before Walter White was buying them, Blake’s still cooks all their burgers to order with big beefy patties that show all the charming (and delicious) irregularities of a hand-formed patty. The menu isn’t quite as large, and quite frankly, most of the non-burger menu items are pretty bland, institutional quality meals. What Blake’s does well is Green Chile Cheeseburgers, a New Mexico speciality that the rest of the world needs to just hurry up and adopt already. Adding tangy, mild long green chiles to a burger is the single largest improvement to the All American Meal since someone slapped cheese on a patty. Blake’s uses chopped green chiles, which I actually prefer a bit more than the strip (you get a more even distribution of chile that way). Blakes fries are also handsomely irregular affairs, not the thin, nearly uniform fast food fries most places offer, but rough hewn, hand cut looking potatoes covered in a mix of salt and pepper. They’re a tad greasier than your average fry but a tad more delicious too. Blake’s doesn’t have a drive through window and it closes at night. They only started serving breakfast burritos in the last couple of years. Service can be a little slow because they’re cooking all your food to order, but if you did the right thing and ordered a Green Chile Cheeseburger, it’s gonna be worth the wait. Such is the renown of the Blake’s Green Chile Cheeseburger it’s been ranked by National Geographic as the Best Green Chile Cheeseburger in the world and the #4 burger in America.

My Verdict

There’s no better burger than a good Green Chile Cheeseburger. Whataburger has been horning in on that racket for the last couple of years and they’re not half bad. Blakes just gets the GCGB though. Blake’s might not have as many things to choose from but they do one thing exceedingly well. Expanding the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail down into Texas is a bold move, and they’ll have to step up their game to avoid going the way of some other New Mexico only chains. In the end, I’m going with Whataburger. They’ve got the broader menu selection, longer hours, speedier kitchens and the well worn charm that comes from catering to a clientele for over half a century. But man, knowing there’s another place to get a Green Chile Cheeseburger nearby, it feels like we all win.

Fin De Semana! 5-2-14

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After all the scandal, demolition and construction, El Paso’s new Triple A baseball team is finally playing a home game. I plan on watching a couple of games, and hey, it’s closer than Albuquerque. I even kinda like the name. The El Paso Chihuahuas. The stadium might be a boondoggle, but I kinda hope this is a success.

Speaking of boondoggles, what if you build it (a spaceport) will they (space tourists) come? This article lays out the facts and holds on to the sliver of hope, that maybe, just maybe, one of the worlds richest men didn’t just screw one of the nation’s poorest states.

Texas likes whiskey. Texas makes whiskey. But what makes a whiskey a Texas whiskey? (I’ve been to the Ranger Creek facilities and even drank their Rimfire at my wedding. I’ll get around to reviewing it sooner or later…)

Speaking of smokey Texas delicacies, why do so few women run a barbecue pit in the Lone Star State?

What I’m Listening to This Week



The Bigsbys- Goodwill Suitcase. The Bigsbys combine good ol’ crunchy 90’s alt-rock with a rootsy sensibility that puts me in mind of the first Kings of Leon album. But less hipstery. If you like rock and roll and America you will like this record. If you hate rock and roll and America, you might be reading the wrong blog. Either way, I’ve really been digging what the Bigsbys are putting down.

What I’m Drinking

It was 50 degrees out and gloomy when I left the house this morning. Cool weather still won’t leave us alone. With that in mind, I’ve been working on a bottle of Lismore single malt. The guy at Specs said “this isn’t the best bottle of scotch you’ll ever drink, but it is the best bottle of scotch you can buy for 20 bucks.” He was right. It’s a Speyside whisky (if you’re a Scotch aficionado who notes such things) with big heather, honey, and smoke flavors with a pleasant finish. I put back a bottle of Basil Hayden’s to pick up this bottle and I don’t regret it. Thank you Specs guy, you were right. That was a very enjoyable way to spend 20 bucks.

Here’s One For the Road

The Tejas Brothers sound to me like a Saturday night oughta.

The Counselor, a place to start

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As a place to start this blog, The Counselor is as good as any. It sits at the nexus of so much I want to talk about here. The Modern West (not the Kevin Costner band, but I’m sure I’ll get around to that eventually), El Paso/the Border as well as the style and culture of all those things.



It’s like Traffic, but….well….look at Fassbender!



First, let me say, leave it to Ridley Scott to make a movie in which the first scene is six minutes of Penelope Cruz begging for various sex acts to be performed upon her and have the result be well shot but strangely boring.

Beyond that, this film is superficially set in El Paso and  surrounding environs. Utah and England stand in for El Paso more often than not, but there’s some great pick up shots that manage to alllllmost capture El Paso, but not quite. And here’s why:

El Paso is a strange bird and hard to capture on film. It’s certainly Texas-y in a cowboy, wild-west kind of way, but it’s also very Mexican, sitting across the river from Cd. Juarez, with whom it shares a symbiotic relationship. (the two cities form the largest international metroplex in the world) There’s also a subtle international flavor to El Paso due the college, the military base, and all the cross-border commerce. We don’t have the West Texas drawl (that ends in Ft. Hancock) or a lot of cultural threads common to the rest of Texas (dancehall culture, oil, etc.) El Paso is closer to Phoenix and Santa Fe than Austin. El Paso and Juarez are very much the nucleus of their own little universe, and have been for a very long time.


El Diario de Juarez would have had this headline. (And better reportage on drug violence.)

For the most part, The Counselor could be set anywhere in the Southwest except El Paso and Juarez feature so prominently in stories of the drug wars. It doesn’t make as much sense to set this in say, Tucson. Michael Fassbender is the titular Counselor, who goes into some narco business with his weird club owner buddy Reiner (Javier Bardem looking like the sort of burnt  super-fresa club owner guy I could kinda see living here.). Penelope Cruz is Laura, The Counselor’s love interest (she doesn’t get to do much) and Brad Pitt is Westray the cocaine cowboy wearing the same stupid 70’s western suits that every costume designer thinks SOMEBODY has to wear in this sort of movie. Cameron Diaz plays Malkina, Reiner’s girlfriend, a femme fatale who sets the wheels in motion for everyone to die. There’s some pretty obvious symbolism. (Malkina has cheetah spots tattooed on her, Reiner owns cheetahs. The cheetahs are loosed in an ugly bout of drug violence. Cheetahs are predators. So are jaguars. Jaguars are native to Mexico and the border regions, though they’ve been hunted to near extinction. Jaguars making a reappearance as Mexico erupts into horrifying spasms of violence would probably have been too obvious, I guess. And too Mexican. This movie seems strangely white washed for taking place in a city that is 82% Hispanic.) There’s some trademark McCarthy pondering that sound great despite the fact that no living human would ever utter such a thing in a real conversation. In general, you get your usual Hollywood scenes of grime covered Mexicans (who don’t listen to Mexican music or speak Mexican Spanish and only seem to work really grubby jobs) doing drug things while yuppie types fret about money and morality. The two rarely meet and when they do, it’s ugly and bloody.



Almost no one dresses like this unironically anymore. 


As a portrait of life in El Paso, it fails. It also fails the first test for all artistic endeavors, it’s not very entertaining. Better direction could have taken the tension in McCarthy’s screen play and ratcheted it to a bloody denouement. As commentary on the modern West and the world in general it doesn’t have much to say beyond pointing out how abysmally disappointing humans can be when you throw money and power at them. McCarthy’s novels (and this screenplay) are essentially brainy action movies. The Coen Bros. seemed to grasp this with their adaption “No Country For Old Men” and they made a more passable stab at capturing the rhythms, culture and look of West Texas. If you stick with me, I’ll try to do the same.