Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mary Baird: Continually Ruling at Exercise

I have body issues. I always have, and I always will. I eat healthy, I exercise and for whatever reason it never seems to be enough. Last July I started training for a half marathon – my high point was running about 22 miles a week. To some of my more crazy friends - and like half of the population of Austin - that’s like…. Nothin’. But I was super proud! I trained running from 10-22 miles a week for seven months and completed a half marathon on January 31st, 2011. Did I lose any weight? NO! NO!?!?!?!? You may be thinking “Mary, if you eat a whole pizza every day because you’re running, well, that won’t work. You won’t lose weight even IF you’re running.” Well you shut the hell up! I didn’t eat whole pizzas. In fact, I didn’t alter my diet at all. I hardly ever eat out, and I try to make healthy choices. Sure, if have my weak moments like everyone. But truth be told, I hardly ever eat what I want. And it sucks.

Let me also say, I hate working out. I thought if I did it long enough I’d grow to like it.. but… nope. Never once have I been like “wow, that was a great workout.” I always leave the gym like “eff, I’ve just wasted an hour of my life that I will never get back.” If I had my ideal sitch here I would be one of those skinny people that can eat like vacuum cleaners and NEVER have to work out.

Despite all the effort, recently it has occurred to me that I’m going about fitness the wrong way. I decided cardio is NOT my friend. The other day I went to the gym and just glowered at the elliptical and treadmills and walked away.

I walked around the basketball court, and went to an empty exercise classroom. There, I found a medicine ball. I played with the medicine ball, and did exercises with it. What did I discover? Well, I kinda like the medicine ball. I also discovered, the following morning, that the medicine ball is a sonofabitch. I was SO SORE the next day! That means it’s working though, right? Yep. So this morning I knew what my next step was. “I SHALL BUY A MEDICINE BALL!” I announced to Kevin. But there’s no athletic stores here. None. In fact, there are exactly two grocery stores, and exactly one department store – and that’s Bealls. CRINGE.

Remembering this fact, I told him of my dilemma, saying “I WANT A DAMN MEDICINE BALL BUT I CAN'T BUY ONE HERE!” “So order one online,” he says. No, okay? I don’t like ordering things online. They just never live up to your expectations. Plus, I wanted instant gratification. I wanted a medicine ball IMMEDIATELY. Not in five to seven business days. So Kevin scampered out of the room and promptly returned with a small bag. In the bag was a bowling ball… with his name engraved on it. Nerd. “Use this!” he proudly exclaimed.

Needless to say initially I was skeptical. But it’s twelve pounds, so eventually after some speculation I gave it a try. AND OH MY GOD IT’S EFFING AMAZING.

The great thing is, it involves DANGER! INTRUIGE! POSSIBLE MAIMING!

If I’m doing circles with it I might drop it on my head and get a concussion. If I’m doing the medicine ball “wood chopping” exercise, I could completely obliterate one of my toes. Nay, my whole foot. And if I don’t? Well hey! Success! Next time you see me I will be RIPPED UP boyyyyyyy! And if people ask me, “Mary, what on earth did you do to get so svelte?”

I’ll simply lob a bowling ball at their FACE and say “that’s how baby – and training starts now.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

This Desert Life

Hey all. Did you miss me? Don't lie, I know you did.

Life is different out here. The pace is much slower, but I have a lot more to do. Also, my creative writing is now a shared niche being occupied by my blog and a creative non-fiction class I'm taking at Sul Ross. Now I greatly prefer my blog as a writing outlet, but seeing as how I'm not graded on it, and I AM graded on what I produce in my writing class, the class takes precedence. More on that later.

----Here's some pictures----

Greetings from Alpine, y'all!

My favorite - the twin peaks mountain. Obviously I've adjusted the picture...slightly....

Amelia with a good friend of mine outside the theater. Two-screen theater baby!

Apparently we're finally in line with the inner workings of the universe, because things are going swimmingly. Kevin's found his calling, and is doing everything from helping to run turkey shoot tourneys to studying (taking tissue samples from) pronghorn antelope. He's also about to start tracking mountain lion kill sites. Basically that means he gets to ride around on a four wheeler and just makes observations about the areas that the cats are killing and the aftermath of the site. I don't know about you, but to me that's pretty much as awesome as it gets.

Me, well, I'm just focusing on studies. I'll get more involved in geology next semester as I make my way up to the upper division courses. In the meantime I'm ruling. 4.0 baby.

That being said, I've had little time to let my creative imagination flourish. Instead I've been working on a "creative" non-fiction article, which I will now post for you to read. Let me just say that I've explained who Everett Ewing Townsend is in this article -and it's perfectly understandable if you haven't heard of him. I hadn't prior to moving here. But HERE his name is, in recognizability, on par with Abraham Lincoln. So yeah. Here y'are!

Bye Bye Allie, Sweetheart

My journey into the culture of the Big Bend began just over a month ago when I moved my husband and two year old daughter from Austin to Alpine. I moved for a variety of reasons, but mainly I longed to see the sprawl of land, having tired of my daily battle with the cement jungle. I missed the flat rolling plains of the Texas panhandle where I grew up, but the adventurer in me wanted to start afresh in a new place - create a new life. The very thing that drove pioneers to this area over a century before the thought of striking West ever graced me.

Since arriving I've found a hobby in collecting stories about the veritable cornucopia of interesting and legendary people who developed the area, now long gone. Of the many I've read, dreamt of, desired to emulate in the corners of my mind, Alice Townsend stands out among the rest. We all know and respect Everett Ewing Townsend, father of the Big Bend and preserver of this remarkable area. But who was Alice? What was her story?

Under a case of glass in the Houston Museum of Natural Science sits a holster and a Lady Smith .22 gun belonging to the first woman to ever enter the ranks of the Texas Rangers - Alice Townsend. In 1931 Alice, better known to all as Allie, was honored for her extraordinary service to the state of Texas and inducted into the organization under the title of "Honorary Ranger." Every day prior to this celebrated moment was a life spent pioneering the wilderness and keeping vigil over the very area today we call home. And that life began by a chance meeting in Marathon, Texas.

In 1895 E.E. Townsend was riding down a road after a devastating blizzard when he noticed a buggy down the way abruptly come to a stop. When at last he approached it, he found two women and an unruly horse terrified out of its wits. Obstructing the buggy's path were two dead burros, casualties claimed by the bitter cold of the recently departed blizzard. Townsend assisted a one Ms. Alice Jones and her companion in calming the horse, and proceeded to remove the burros so that the ladies might continue their journey. In speaking of Allie and this first encounter, Townsend said "Allie manifested the same cool courage in managing that unruly horse that she has ever since shown when called to the test, and I guess I fell for her right then." After their meeting, Townsend, a Ranger who was then stationed at Presidio, made sure his ranging expeditions frequented the Marathon area where Allie resided.

Before long the duo became Mr. and Mrs. Townsend, and from then on were perpetually on the move with E.E. Townsend's rangering duties. During their first year of marriage, Allie went on scouts with her husband that covered a thousand miles. During their scouting expeditions they encountered every type of weather - dust storms, blizzards, rain and bone-chilling winds. Hardly any modern woman's ideal honeymoon, to be sure. But Allie, having been orphaned at age twelve, was no stranger to adversity. She ran a clean camp and kept stomachs full - she always made the best of it. "She was a royal pal and ever strove to do more than her share of the labor" her husband said. Having the hard times hade the good times they had much more memorable. E.E. Townsend describes Allie looking at the work of "ole Sol" creating magnificent sunrises as if painting the sky with a paintbrush. She loved to marvel in wonder at the glorious colors that were created, and would sit for hours discovering figures in the prismatic clouds of the Big Bend.

After their many scouting missions, Allie remained at home to look after their daughter Margaret and protect the homestead. "Bye bye Allie sweetheart" her husband would say as he trekked away with a heavy heart to fulfill his duty. Always a daunting task, Alllie worked diligently to keep their home and land in good working order. She darned socks, sewed buttons and took care of the family. She was never short on adventure, which brought both hilarity and danger alike. Several times when strangers approached on the horizon, Allie donned Mr. Townsend's clothing and a formidable looking weapon desperately hoping it would be enough to keep unwanted and unknown visitors away.

Today, it's hard to imagine having that type of life in our world. I don't exactly inspect the horizon for outlaws prior to entering my front door. When my husband comes home from a long day's work and I'm not feeling particularly productive, ordering a pizza is certainly not out of the question. If a button needs replacing, there's a chance I might consider the work involved, weigh my options, and favor ordering a new garment online. Bearing this in mind, as I pour over Allie's biography so lovingly written by E.E. Townsend it never fails to move me. I can't help but long to be as she was. To have my actions, even those diminutive daily tasks, mean something. While she may not be quite so in the limelight as her husband, the part she played in making the Big Bend what it is was formidable. As a "guardian of the West" her desire to protect its beauty was equally as profound and resonating as Mr. Townsend's. He said of her, "knowing its beauties, its strange and unnatural elements, as well as its ugliness, Allie was an enthusiastic booster and worker for the Big Bend International Peace Park and some day her dream and my dream will come true." And it did.

Six years after her induction into the Rangers at the age of 66, Allie fell ill and was confined to the hospital. Reflecting on her last days, E.E. Townsend wrote "I could write many more pages as a tribute to this noble woman, whose love was an honor to me. The doctor had told me that afternoon that barring accident she would be with me another three months. The next morning, answering an urgent call I returned hastily to the hospital and found that she had just gone - God bless you, Allie Dear, bye bye sweetheart."

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I can't believe it ... it's 2 days until I move. I'm not sure how it got here, but it did and I can't seem to find enough time to see who I want to see and get what I need to do done. AND as if the emotional part wasn't difficult enough, I'm sick! Well, sort of. Actually it's only reinforcing my desire to leave, and by that I mean I have brutal allergies. The dry mold count is off the charts right now and I feel like I have a mix of cold/flu. Is it cold slash flu? Nope. It's my horrid mold allergy. So what I'm doing right now is alternating packing and sleeping. As of now I only have laundry to do, then some light cleaning. But, as always, even with that little to do it's more time consuming than it sounds.

Anyway, we move in the wee hours on Wednesday. I'll be sure to update the blog with pictures and our misadventures along the way.

Adios Austin!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Awkward Encounter at The Help

Yesterday evening I went with 6 friends to see The Help. A few of the girls had read the book prior to seeing the movie, so they had some inkling of what to expect. I'd only seen one preview - and I didn't know what to make of it because I'd only caught the tail end. It seemed almost as if it was going to be civil rights movement meets quirky joke-a-thon. Those concepts didn't quite seem to marry to me, but hey - at least they hadn't decided on seeing Final Destination 5 (GAG!)

When I got to the theater, it was overrun. Never did I think I'd see that many people waiting in line. Of course, it had been awhile since I'd been to a mall theater. One thing I'm going to absolutely miss about Austin is going to Alamo Drafthouse. I'm totally spoiled with that.

So basically it was like a mob had descended on the place and of course, everyone was there to see The Help. I think the last time I saw a crowded theater like that was when they released Twister into the Cinema 6 (back when there were only a few crappy theaters) in Amarillo in the early 90s and Len Slesik, the weather man, was there dressed in galoshes giving a severe weather warning over the loud speakers.

Almost immediately we realized that we, as a group, would not be able to sit together. So I separated from the other five girls with one brave companion and sat in the handicapped aisle.


The handicapped aisle allows for unhandicapped people too, ya know! So we sat down in two seats and next to me sat a woman and her father, who was in a wheel chair. Jennifer, my friend, and I were chatting along merrily when all of a sudden I noticed that there was a woman in my crotch.

I saw it happen, in reflection, but the immediate realization was...
"holy shit, this woman is in my crotch."

The woman in question was attempting to go get a concession before the movie started and was walking down the handicapped aisle with her companion, wildly gesturing with about five or six dollar bills in her hand - and didn't see the gentleman two chairs down from me in the wheelchair.

So while wildly gesturing (dolla bills waiving) to her friend, she managed to trip over his prosthetic leg and land face-first in my crotch. She was just as shocked as I was. In fact, she was so shocked she didn't move. She just looked up at me with her giant bouffant hairdo apologizing over and over in a heavy Southern accent. "I'm sorray! I'm just---I'm just so sorray!!!"

I obligatorily said "it's okay" about four times before she finally got up. She stood there for a moment - still in shock - the seconds ticking away like hours.... before she finally turned around ready to bolt away from this disastrous situation.

Unfortunately when she finally decided on the bolt she didn't look where she was going. Promptly after turning around she slammed into someone else like a pinball with bad poofy hair before finally escaping the theater to get her snack.

All I could think was "literally this is the most uncomfortable thing that has ever happened to me." Luckily, thank GOD, the previews started shortly after.

I was not prepared for The Help. It was fantastic and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it - I absolutely loved it. You should go see it! Just watch out for space cadet women who might unsuspectingly end up in your crotch.

Friday, August 12, 2011

12 Days Until the Move

I will, Alpine. I will. I'm so ready for the cooler weather! Yes, it's the desert, but it's been in the 80s there WITH RAIN. No rain here in Austin and for the past few weeks we've had temperatures around 107. I'm ready to go!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Sawd a Gowzt

Ah, a lot of memories came up when reflecting on working at the Crystal River Inn - so I thought I'd share some more of them. Many interesting things happened during my duration there. For example, a raccoon died underneath one of the guest houses. Our guests began to complain of a smell, guessing that there was a gas leak or a clog in the pipes. I went out there to investigate, and immediately knew what was wrong.

You see, I was super into my forensic anthropology class and had done some field exercises with my professor. While I cited that as the source for my knowing the smell's origin, it was pretty easy to tell even for a layperson. The guests that had alerted us to the problem were old, and I'm sure they knew. They just wanted me to stumble upon the dead thing and be shocked and saddened. Little did they know they got ME. Someone who majored in dead things and badassery.

I looked all around before deciding to explore the outside of the house, and on my second turn around the property I noticed a small entrance to the crawl space. I went and found a giant flashlight, and then a man. You know, so the man could haul out whatever carcass it was. I may be somewhat of a tomboy outdoorsman, but look - if I can find someone else to fish out an animal carcass I'm going to do it. So I crawled under the house, and here's what I saw:

Only dead, smelly and covered with...well, you know. "Stage 3 decomposition" I proclaimed - and sent my man servant in after it.

Then there is Mo. There were two apartments that were part of the Crystal Inn property that were both rented out. One of the women that lived there had a dog, and the dog had puppies. All of them were immediately adopted, save one. The little puppy that was left behind didn't get chosen because she had some health problems. She was the runt, and needed some sort of gum medication. Well, my roommate Brittany had been expressing interest in adopting a dog for months - and this little pup was perfect, I thought, and presented herself at just the right time. And she was TINY which was good because our apartment wasn't exactly what you would call big. The woman sold her to me under the condition that she would agree to pay for the first two months of medication. I was very proud of myself for that negotiation.

I brought the pup home and Brit was elated. She was so easy to love, tiny and infirm. Adorable. We named her Mo short for Captain Morgan. Because we were college students and alcohol was the coolest thing we could think of to name her after. But Mo quickly grew up and she was the biggest holy terror of a dog that either of us had ever seen. Even the guys we knew hated her, and as I've discovered men have a slightly higher patience tolerance of dogs. They regularly suggested having a barbeque with Mo as the main course.

She WRECKED our apartment. The carpets were ruined, the couches were ruined, she even ate my CHI straightening iron (SWEET JESUS NO!). Her favorite thing on earth was to streak back and forth as fast as the speed of light down our tiny hallway, sending all of my carefully arranged runner rugs flying up on the walls and rendering our artwork askew. I swear some days we'd come home to this:

Then Brittany and I would just look at each other, collectively say "eff this" and go get some cold beer and sit by the pool instead, until we'd gathered up the courage to face it.

However, Mo finally grew up to be a REALLY GREAT - and more importantly - chilled out dog. Though I think she may still feel guilty about her defiant adolescent years...

Without question, the most noteworthy occurrence at the Crystal River Inn I had was the ghost.

Across the street from the main house, were a couple of rooms in a historical house that the CRI annexed. Downstairs there were two apartments that were unaffiliated with us. But when you walked up a very long and narrow staircase there were three small efficiency apartments that shared a breakfast bar. Those were ours, and in constant occupation in the summer. Every year the CRI allows guests to choose a murder mystery party package. It's super fun. They have multiple scenarios they use, and guests and employees and the owners are all involved. There are cigars, chocolates and brandy in the parlor awaiting the guests upon their arrival - the whole act.

Anyway, we had a group due to check in at 4pm. So at 2:30pm I ran over to the annex to make sure the beds were straightened and nice, the rooms scented, and the breakfast bar fully stocked. The first room I went to looked good, so I just freshened it with some potpourri. The second room, I decided, needed some pillow fluffing. So I walked over to the bed and arranged the pillows the way I liked them - and began fluffing. All of a sudden, I saw a gentleman at the door. He was wearing a bowler hat and a suit. He was starring at me, expressionless. Then, he turned and walked from the doorway towards the breakfast bar.

Because of how he was dressed, it was obvious he was one of the murder mystery crew... and he was an hour and a half early. Somewhat exasperated, I sat the pillow down and began talking. "I'm so sorry your room isn't ready sir..." was as far as I got. I was going to tell him that the brandy and chocolates were waiting across the street in the parlor... but he was nowhere to be seen. I would have heard him going down the staircase, I thought to myself. I'd only seen him seconds ago. There's no way he could have already left.

The hair on my neck began to prickle, and I felt like I was about to have a heart attack I was so scared. I left everything - including the room keys and bolted for the main house. I couldn't find anyone. Finally I went to the laundry room, where I found Alicia from the previous blog entry loading sheets into the washer. Sputtering, I told her I thought I just saw a ghost. I set up the scenario, but she cut me off. She said "did he have a bowler hat on?"


I lost my balance and fell into the laundry room wall.

Me: what?
Alicia: he had a bowler hat on, right?
Me: yes....
Alicia: he's a regular.
Me: a REGULAR????
Alicia: I've seen him too, we all have. We just don't tell new employees.

I went directly home after Alicia consented to finishing my work at the annex. I never went over there without having another person with me, but I thankfully never saw him again.

....and I probably won't sleep tonight.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Tom Selleck Jr.

When I was in college, I had a work buddy named Alicia. She and I worked together at the Crystal River Inn Bed and Breakfast in lovely San Marcos (or San Marvelous, as we called it - a joke, because it was anything but).

I loved working at the Crystal River Inn. My mom and I actually stayed there multiple times before I started working there when we came to tour Texas State University, where I went to school. It also afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot about cooking. I still use recipes I learned there.

Anyway, the CRI was also responsible for throwing me in league with Alicia. Alicia was from Columbus, Texas, and her father (as she told me) was a "coon ass." I had no idea what that meant, and it terrified me. I didn't even inquire as to what a "coon ass" could be, because I didn't want to know. All I knew was that Alicia had to be from .... interesting stock. In addition to the "coon ass" remark, she had her own sense of language. She said "fet-ew-cee-nee" instead of fettucini. She said "dij-ih-cul" instead of digital. Despite my having corrected her about a hundred times, she persisted.

Now I knew all of these things - but after being initially shocked by them, I came to embrace the diversity. Thus, when she invited me to her homeland to attend a crawfish boil (which she boasted would involve 1,000 pounds of crawfish) how could I refuse?

After work, I ran and packed and we headed aft towards Houston. When I arrived, I was thrilled to discover what I had pictured was absolutely spot on. She lived in something resembling The Burrow where the Weasleys from Harry Potter live. Her parents' house, I believe, had initially been 2 bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen. However, as they had children I believe they just began piling things on. By things I mean rooms. And a screened in porch. There was odd Louisiana relics all over the place. It was as if I stepped out of Texas into a bayou swamp house. Nets, fishing rods.... Alicia even joked that we were having possum for dinner. I didn't think she was kidding, but luckily she was. I also discovered what a "coon ass" was - and it's someone who is cajun. Slang for a very cajun person.

Her dad arrived the next morning, having just made a run to Louisiana in a TRUCK. That was now COMPLETELY FULL OF CRAWFISH. I went out to the backyard to observe the crawfish activities. They had GIANT - and I mean GIIIIIIIANT vats in which they were planning to throw the crawfish in once they reached a boil. I'd say that they were the size of a large wading pool. And there were three.

Bigger than that, actually, if memory serves.

So the boil began at 6am. I watched the beginning, and went back to bed. When I awoke, there were a freaking billion crawfish, ready for the eating. Alicia's dad planned on selling two of the vats, and eating the third. So we got started. And I don't think I've ever been more full in my entire life. After all, they were prepared by a coon ass. And we all know how good coon asses are at preparing crawfish.

The next morning, we prepared to leave. I was so SO ready. But I decided, last minute, to go back and look at the vats. I just had to see them one more time - in awe of what they had produced. As I was observing, I looked down and saw him. One sole survivor of the crawfish genocide. A tiny little dude.

Naturally, I immediately decided he was mine. Out of the billions of crawfish that had been cooked, there was only one who was mischevous enough to escape and survive....and STAY next to what would have meant certain death for him. I decided he needed to be kept and cared for. He was a badass, after all. Next to-do, he needed to be named. So I named him. Tom Selleck Jr.

Tom Selleck Jr made the trek with us from Columbus Texas back to San Marcos, and lived in my sink for 2 months before I decided he needed larger grounds. Especially considering that in that time, he'd grown to nearly the size of the sink itself. I had cared for him well, obviously, giving him minnows and adding some plant life. Why did I not get an aquarium??? I'll never know. For some odd reason, it simply never occured to me. I guess it was because imagining a crawfish as a long-term pet is somewhat ridiculous.

So I headed down to the Guadalupe, said some words, and let Tom Selleck Jr. go. He was the man. I imagine he's still alive today, because that's what he does. Survives with badassery. He's probably struttin around some popular crawfish hang out right now, pickin' up chicks.

I miss you TSJ!'re welcome. Alicia invited me back to her house, but I never accepted. I'd had enough coon ass for one lifetime. And enough pet crawfish as well.