Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving is here!

Well it's almost here... Thanksgiving! I can still smell my grandmother's homemade rolls baking away in her 1966 GE oven. It was olive green, had knobs instead of buttons, no digital read-out, and it lasted as long as she did (that's when they used to make appliances that would last forever), God rest her soul. Since she passed away, Thanksgiving hasn't been the same (same with Christmas for that matter). It's still good don't get me wrong, it's just not the same. My grandmother is missing and that means a piece of me is missing. All I know is that I am trying to teach my children that tradition is sacred, because it is! You just don't realize it until it's gone (like the Texas A&M aggie bonfire).

So, speaking of tradition, I thought I would give you a quick lesson on The History of the Pilgrims as written by geopolitical writer Chip Wood. It's a link my wife sent me. It's does have a political overtone (not too bad though), but it gives you an excellent history of the Pilgrims you may not have read before. And they're the ones that brought us Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween is coming!

It's that time of the season when one day it's hot and the next day it's cold. Rainy one day, sunny the following day. Football season is in full swing (pun) while baseball is coming to a close (will the Yankees do it again?) and basketball is making its first push. I love it! In October you seem to get all four seasons packed into just 31 days.

And then comes Halloween. I remember when I was a kid, Halloween was the second greatest day of the year behind Christmas. You got to dress up in your favorite costume (I was usually a ghost because it was cheap and easy) and go door to door in your neighborhood saying "trick or treat", and amazingly people would put candy in your bag, bucket, grocery sack, whatever you could find that was big enough to hold a neighborhoods worth of candy (I used a pillow case). Then you'd go home and pour out all that candy on the floor and separate it into your favorites (Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, Tootsie Roll's) and the one's that weren't your favorites. You'd hide your favorites for later (although I would have to have a couple of favorites to begin with) and start in on the others that were good but not as good, and you'd be happy to share this candy with anyone who would like some. You'd eat candy until you couldn't eat anymore! Good times.

Then came the year that someone in our neighborhood (mind you I grew up in a nice neighborhood) put razor blades in some apples. Halloween was never the same. After that, for Halloween we could only go to peoples houses that our parents knew. Right then, our haul of loot went from 200 homes to about 20-30. Bummer to say the least. Then came stories of people poisoning candy with syringes making it difficult to tell if someone had tampered with it. My parents then made us pour out our candy, and they would inspect each piece individually. It really took a lot of the fun out of Halloween.

Here in the last decade or so, I've noticed that Halloween has made a resurgence of sorts. More kids are getting out and trick or treating and they're going to every house that has a light on, looking for that sugary treasure. I even see more adults decorating for Halloween. My neighbor down the street always has a mini haunted house. He has probably a dozen life-sized monsters that move and talk as well as one larger than life monster (it's a huge pumpkin ghoul about 10 feet tall and it scares me) and a bunch of other scary creatures that he makes you walk through to get to his treats. People come from all over the Katy area just to see what he's going to do each year. It's really great to see cars parked all up and down my street with parents and their children, in costume, heading towards Don's house. Did I mention he plays that scary music from the movie Halloween? He does. It's creepy.

So Halloween is back right? For now, but they're trying to take it away again. I keep hearing in the news that Halloween has too many religious overtones, and that with the separation of church and state in this county, we need to get rid of this special day because it may offend some people. Get serious! For one, if anybody was ever offended, why haven't we heard of it. I mean they want to get rid of Halloween before it offends someone. That's a new one on me. Preemptive offensive. Is that an oxymoron?

Well, I did some checking, and it seems Halloween has almost no religious overtones. And, the religious overtones it has, were put there by the church in the 9th century to dampen the effect of the pagan festival that took place on that day.

The Pagan festival that took place on October 31st each year was called Samhain, a festival to celebrate the end of the "lighter half" of the year and to usher in the "darker half" of the year. It was also believed that on this day, the spirit world had an easier time of crossing over to the living world. Hence the costumes, which were made to keep the bad spirits away.

Now stay with me here. The word Halloween comes from "All Hallows Eve", which is the eve of "All Saints Day". All Saints Day was on May 13th of each year until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved it to November 1st, which back in the era of the Florentine calendar, each new day started at sunset of the previous day (October 31st). With the Gregorian calendar, All Saints Day is now on November 1st. So Halloween is celebrated the day before, or the eve (e'en, evening) of a religious event, not the event itself.

So what do we do? Do we change the name of Halloween back to Samhain? Or do we get rid of Halloween altogether? Or move All Saints Day back to May 13th? Maybe we should just let people decide if they want to take part in an age-old tradition that started well before this country existed! If you don't want to be part of Halloween, don't. If you do, let's go trick or treating!

Question. When did we quit getting to choose?

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mike McGuff

If you don't already know, Mike McGuff has been blogging about me and my where abouts for the past several months now. I've given him an exclusive interview and wanted to post it here for all of you who subscribe to my blog. Thanks for your support, and go check it out.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Guest Host on "The Sports Animal" 790 KBME

This just in!

Just a quick blurb. I wanted to let you know I'll be guest hosting with Ted "The Monster" Deluca on KBME 790 AM tomorrow morning Tuesday October 13th, 2009 from 6am-8am and again from 11am-3pm if he'll still have me. With as much as Ted knows about sports and as little as I know (save for Tiger Woods) about sports, I wouldn't be surprised if Ted decides to fly solo for the second part, but I will give it my best shot. If you would like to call in, I would welcome the support. Their phone number to the studio is 713-212-5790. If you want to listen on-line just go to their website and they provide a link.

Talk to you soon.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Festa Italiana Houston!

Welcome back!

Houston's tribute to all things Italian is coming! Festa Italiana will be at The University of St. Thomas (3800 Montrose) October 16-18.

For the past several years they've had Festa Itialiana at the Farm and Ranch Club at Bear Creek Park, not the greatest place for a festival of this nature (maybe a rodeo), but it was a place for Italians to get together and party and it was close to my home which made it awfully convenient. I have to give the Farm and Ranch Club props because they did have plenty of parking. For a while they did have the Italian Festival downtown in front of City Hall which most people (not including myself) think was the best place to have it. It did bring in the crowds, that's for sure, but it didn't' have that Italian feel. It was just a big party where you could get some good chicken marsala over a bed of orzo from Piatto's restaurant (now that was some good stuff). Unfortunately, 9/11 happened and not only did the world change as we know it, it brought attendance to a festival in a downtown of any major city to record lows. Festa Italiana suffered greatly. My favorite place they've had the festival is when it was at St. Anne's Church on the corner of Westheimer and Shepherd. The architecture was very Roman and you felt like you were in Italy. My fondest memories are from those days (the wine, the women...). Before then and before my days at the Italian Festival (I've been going for 19 years now) they held it behind Sacred Heart Hall from 1978-1990.

This year we head to the University of St. Thomas and start a new era of Festa Italiana memories. Here's the details. The festival runs three days from Friday October 16th through Sunday the 18th. All three days the gates open at 11am. Here's a tip, if you get in the gates before 4pm Friday, admission is free! So, get there early. Friday and Saturday the gates close at 10pm (that's way to early) and Sunday the gates close at 6pm. How much does it cost? Kids 12 and under get in free and everybody else is only $6.00.

Let's talk parking. Now there are plenty of places to park for free if you can find them, just make sure you don't park in a tow-away-zone. But for those who want to make sure that won't happen, you can park in the Moran Center Parking Garage for just $2.00 (save some money because you pay when you leave). My guess is that garage will fill pretty quickly.

So, what can you expect at this years festival? Plenty! Let's see, there's a grape stomping contest on Saturday, a sidewalk art contest, a bocce ball tournament, pasta eating contest and the Italian-American Idol Competition! There will be three stages this year, the entertainment stage, the educational stage and the epicurean stage (which is educational as well). Let's not forget the kids. There will be marionette puppet shows, a petting zoo, pony rides, those inflatable slides and moonwalks you see at birthday parties and a rock climbing wall.

There will be plenty of food from local restaurants (and it will all be good), pastries, wine, beer and arts and crafts from local artisans as well as native Italians. There will be something for everyone in the family.

Of course if you need more information, you can go to their website Festa Italiana and you can get all the details I'm not willing to expand on here or just click on the links above.

It's going to be a great weekend of fun, family and frivolity and the beginning of a new chapter in Italian Festival history in Houston. The location is centralized and should bring in more patrons, so it will be crowded, weather permitting. I hope the weather holds up because I won't be able to take my wife's complaints about her hair and the humidity (I'll be sleeping in the dog house tonight). If you're going, make sure you look me up and say hello. I'll just be wandering around with my brother-in-laws checking out the sights!

See you there!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Katy's Annual Rice Harvest Festival


As many of you know, my family and I live in the Katy area just west of Houston. We've been living out here since 1992. We LOVE it! The schools are great and the people are just what you would expect from a small Texas town, everyone either says hello or they'll wave at you. It's a nice way to raise children while still living in a big city.

Every year the city of Katy has its Rice Harvest Festival. This year will be Katy's 29th annual Rice Harvest Festival. Of course the festival celebrates the harvesting of the rice fields which still exist west of town (some 9500 acres). This year will be like most other years, a very big deal. The Festival will take place the weekend of October 10th and 11th in the usual place, the historic downtown Katy which goes from 1st street to 4th street and avenue A to avenue D (you can see a map by going to The gates open on Saturday at 10am and don't close until midnight. Sunday the gates open at noon and will stay open until 6pm.

Every year they kick off the festivities (10am Saturday) with the Rice Harvest Festival Parade which is a hoot for all, especially the kids. After that, it's all entertainment, food and fun. There will be over 500 entertainers on two different stages this year with Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's, Zydeco Dots and the Grateful Geezers just to name a few. There will be 20 food vendors to satisfy your culinary demands and boy do they have some excellent sausage on a stick! All the food is tasty and reasonably priced (as I write this my stomach is growling and my memory is watering). There are plenty of beverage stations for the children and adults, so whatever mood your in, the Katy Rice Harvest Festival should have the drink for you.

Do you like carnivals? Well, you guessed it! Katy's Rice Harvest Festival has one heck of a carnival. Of course they have the huge Ferris Wheel (being afraid of heights makes it one of my favorites), all those rides that spin around much too fast for me, plenty of kiddie rides and all the carnival games needed to win that stuffed teddy bear for that special someone. The atmosphere at the Rice Harvest Festival really is like something out of one of those movies where the boy meets the girl at the country fair and that's where the love story really gets going. Did you ever see Doc Hollywood? Kind of like that. You're going to love it! Now the rides do cost and there are two ways to deal with it. You can pay by the ride (I don't recommend) or you can buy and all day/all ride pass for $20 per person. You will get your money's worth! The lines at the rides are long but they know what they're doing at the carnival and you won't be waiting for long.

But that's not all. The Katy Rice Harvest Festival will have around 250 arts and crafts booths. With Halloween right around the corner, you'll find all kinds of things to decorate your yard or house with. So if you're looking for decorating items for the house, maybe picking up a birthday present or two, or doing a little early Christmas shopping, you can find it all at the Katy Rice Harvest Festival.

Alright, how much does it cost to get in? Great question. Great answer. It is only $6.00 for anyone 13 and older. Children under 12 get in free! And, senior citizens as well as members of the military get in free (you will need ID). During these economic times I can't think of a better, more affordable way to spend your weekend. And, a portion of the proceeds go to Katy's project graduation and project prom, so you're helping out the community! Does it get any better? Yes it does. There is a free shuttle service to take you to the festival if you can't find a place to park close by. It's located at the Outdoor Learning Center on F.M. 1463. For more information just go to the Katy Chamber of Commerce website at where you can get all the information you'll need.

My family and I hope to see you there this year. We've been going to the Rice Harvest Festival for 17 years now and I can tell you it is an event you will not soon forget and will want to make it a part of your life each and every year. Also, with it being college football season, you might want to wear your Alma mater's shirt or your favorite college team jersey. You'll see a lot of A&M wear for sure. I'll be wearing my Longhorns shirt and my wife will be sporting her Texas Tech Mom shirt. What will you be wearing?

Again, for more information on the 29th Annual Katy Rice Harvest Festival, go to and I look forward to seeing you there.


P.S. Coming up! All the scoop on this years Italian Festival.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Italian Expo at the GRB

Hello and welcome to Darby's Alternate Route!

I just wanted to let you know that my family and I went to the Italian Expo at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Sunday. What a fantastic event! Thanks to Spec's Liquors for putting on the event. The expo ran from Friday until Sunday and from the sponsors and volunteers I talked to, Friday and Saturday were jam-packed with people. I'm glad I went on Sunday. I thought it was packed then.

They had everything Italian in there, from dozens of different kinds of cheeses (they had a goat cheese that was my favorite) to sausages, baked ziti, lasagna, chocolates, italian ice creams, proscuito, olive oil, crackers and about 100 different kinds of italian wines. And you could sample them all for free! A good time was had by all! They even had a fashion show which my daughter must've watched three times. All the vendors were very friendly and well educated on all of their products.

I highly recommend this expo the next time it comes to town and want to thank Paul Tilotta at Spec's for the tickets. Paul tells me that Spec's plans to bring back the expo this coming spring. I'll definitely be there and I'll let you know all the info when I get it myself. Coming up is the Festa Italiana in October. I'll have all the information on that good time coming soon. Stay tuned.

Thanks to everyone who came up to me with well wishes. It really means a lot to me.

Talk to you soon,