Domingo Martinez, a 2013 National Book Award finalist, recalls Sunday luncheons with his family in South Texas eating pit-roasted barbacoa:
As soon as I was old enough, which in rural Brownsville was around fourteen, it was my job to get up before anyone else those mornings and drive to the barbacoa place for our ration. I was expected to have the food on the table before the rest of the family woke up. Dad would leave $20 on the dining room table the night before, and I would find my favorite mixtape and then zoom off about seven-thirty or so in my sister’s Volkswagen Rabbit. I looked forward to those Sunday mornings—the simple rush of freedom as I pulled away, that transcendental sense of liberation when you lock into fourth gear and hit 55 on a dirt road, as some ageless punk rock blares from the speakers. It should give you a sense of how malnourished the rest of my life was that this was magical to me, this drive to some nearby colonia where Dad knew someone who was making backyard barbacoa in a burst of free enterprise that may or may not have been legal, churning out tortillas in their garage on a tortilla-making machine (I don’t know what those are called). I took my job very seriously, though I didn’t really understand why. I just wanted to take the car out for a spin.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4385 words)
An installation by Playboy riles residents in the small town of Marfa, Texas and has everyone wondering: Is it art or advertising?:
Dick DeGuerin, a subscriber to the Sentinel, was at home in Houston when he read the news. A week later, the lawyer was flying his Cessna back from a spa day with his daughter in Mexico and decided to stop in Marfa for a Jimmie Dale Gilmore concert. The bunny, which had gone up in a matter of days, was all anyone could talk about. Some people got a kick out of it: there was Bob Wright, the white-mustachioed owner of Marfa Realty, who had initially put Playboy in touch with six area landowners, and Ty Mitchell, a rakish cowboy who’d had a part in True Grit and helped persuade the Eppenauers to lease their land. (Though Sheri had twice rejected the lease, when Playboy allegedly tripled its first offering, to $20,000 for twelve months, she sought the permission of her preacher and the school principal before signing.) Some ropers and mechanics expressed excitement, and a few creative types, such as Marfa Film Festival director Robin Lambaria, thought it made a funny contrast to the town’s serious art scene.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5238 words)
On Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and an oral history of the "outlaw country" movement that coalesced in Austin as a reaction to the polished "countrypolitan gloss" in Nashville, led by RCA executive Chet Atkins:
"Liquor by the drink had finally become legal in Texas, which prompted the folkies to migrate from coffeehouses to bars, turning their music into something you drank to. Songwriters moved to town, like Michael Murphey, a good-looking Dallas kid who’d written for performers such as the Monkees and Kenny Rogers in L.A. He was soon joined by Jerry Jeff Walker, a folkie from New York who’d had a radio hit when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band covered his song 'Mr. Bojangles.' In March, Willie played a three-day country festival outside town, the Dripping Springs Reunion, that would grow into his Fourth of July Picnics. Then he too moved to Austin and started building an audience that didn’t look like or care about any Nashville ideal. By the time the scene started to wind down, in 1976, Willie and Austin were known worldwide."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 13, 2013
LENGTH: 45 minutes (11438 words)
Our story picks of the week, featuring Texas Monthly, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Times Magazine, Washingtonian and Paris Review, plus a guest pick by Drew Grossman.
As head coach for women's track and field at the University of Texas, Bev Kearney won six NCAA championships and coached athletes who later competed at the Olympics. An affair with a student forced her to resign and her legacy is being tarnished:
"She was a magnetic, inspiring presence, and not only because of her success in Austin. In a near-fatal car accident in 2002, Kearney had been paralyzed from the waist down, and yet she now walked with two canes, like a mountain climber in a blizzard. Added to her already impressive life story—she had risen from a poor and rootless childhood, overcoming countless obstacles—the accident made her a formidable role model and a universal symbol of perseverance. 'Failure is not an option,' she liked to say, and she was living proof of her own maxim.
"That is, until this past spring, when Kearney was nowhere to be found at the 2013 Texas Relays. She didn’t ride onto the track on her burnt-orange scooter. No Divine Divas or Gents of Distinction were honored by her Pursuit of Dreams Foundation. At the parties held that weekend, there was no sign of the woman who had inspired so many people. That’s because right after Christmas, to the shock of many in the world of track and field and beyond, UT and Kearney had bitterly parted ways."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 3, 2013
LENGTH: 52 minutes (13126 words)
A visit to the Sierra Blanca checkpoint in Texas that has busted Willie Nelson, Snoop Lion, Fiona Apple, Nelly, Armie Hammer and many other travelers passing through with pot in their cars:
"Meanwhile, my fingerprints were recorded on an inkless electronic touch pad such as I’d never seen on a television cop show, and my picture was taken with one of those egg-shaped digital cameras that nobody would use but a government agency with no interest in flattering you. Then I sat there in handcuffs for hours while my prints and mug shot were circulated to cop databases around the nation. This is a worrisome process for anyone. Who among us can ever be sure we haven’t pissed off a government computer somewhere?
"The rationale for all this effort was later explained to me by Carry Huffman, the deputy chief patrol agent of the Big Bend sector. “Every pothead isn’t a bad guy,” he said. “But every bad guy is a pothead.” By detaining people for a couple of joints, the Border Patrol, which since 2003 has been part of the Department of Homeland Security, is able to investigate everything about them, and this can occasionally lead to catching some genuinely bad guys. Car thieves and fugitives and completely clueless big-time smugglers—not to mention terrorists—all can be snared in the follow-up to the canine alarm. Of course, that happens only rarely; nationally, the Border Patrol has caught just one so-called terrorist, a University of Houston student practicing paramilitary operations in the Big Bend. But it’s not backing off."
PUBLISHED: July 30, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3383 words)
This week's picks include stories from the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Walrus, Texas Monthly, Outside and The Awl, plus a guest pick by Rustin Dodd.
After serving two tours in Iraq and returning to civilian life in 2006, the writer decides to embed as a journalist in Afghanistan seven years later:
"We humped the three kilometers back to the school. It was early afternoon and there was plenty of light left, so we loaded our packs into two ANA trucks and began our march back to the compound for the night. By then the Afghans appeared to have all but lost interest in the mission, scattered around us, groups of them disappearing behind qalats, walls, and buildings, then reappearing in smaller numbers. As we pushed on through another open field, in a wedge formation, machine-gun fire opened up about a kilometer away from a small village to our three o’clock. It was followed immediately by mortar fire. The gun rounds were close, kicking up dirt and rock as we rushed for cover. I jumped into a hole with Ray just as several rounds snapped between us, cracking inches from my head. 'Holy shit, Ray!' I gasped."
PUBLISHED: June 30, 2013
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8993 words)
Our picks this week include fiction from The New Yorker, plus FT Magazine, Texas Monthly, Washingtonian, The Verge and a guest pick by Margaret Ely