Category Archives: Rescued

From elsewhere.

Goodbye, Two Graf Life!

Sometimes, a project fails. Sometimes, it’s completed. And sometimes, a project with no real plan never goes anywhere. That’s what happened to Two Graf Life, a good idea that I never really gave a chance. In its nearly 3 years in existence, I managed to write only 27 posts for it.

So I pulled the plug. I deleted the blog, let the domain name go and moved on – just a few days ago. Now, those 27 posts along with the About page that introduced them are here for you to enjoy.

After all, you deserve more than a one graf life.

About Two Graf Life

Welcome to Two Graf Life, a secret blog project by Gip Plaster. You see, I started this blog without promoting it online or telling anyone about it. So if you’ve found it, I hope you’ll consider yourself lucky. There’s some really interesting stuff here. And if you know me personally and have found it, you’re doing even better.

This is a personal blog cut down to size — without fluff. It’s simple in a way that those bloggers who write 2,000-word posts could never imagine. Every post is just two paragraphs. Why only two paragraphs? That’s plenty of space to address any one issue or comment on any one thing. If I have more to say, I’ll say it another time. My time is valuable and so is yours, so there’s no point going on and on about any topic. When you’ve made your point, it’s time to stop.

The 27 Posts Of Two Graf Life

A First Post That Says It All

April 12, 2016

Maybe I shouldn’t give everything away in the first post, but I’m doing it anyway. This is really a test post to make sure the blog is working right, but lots of things in life are about testing the waters. I’ve created this blog because I’m a forty-something guy who still hasn’t figured out the purpose of my life, and I’m going to explore life’s many purposes here with you — just a couple paragraphs at a time.

Here’s what I know so far: a meaningful life must include people, places and things that feel important. It doesn’t necessarily include travel (as so many bloggers suggest) or a big family (as so many bloggers suggest). But what are the essential components of a good life? What needs to be rejected? And what does it mean when a test post sets such a broad pathway for a blogging project? Let’s find out.

 

Another Blog Nobody Reads

May 3, 2016

Is that really what the world needs? There are thousands — maybe millions — of blogs online that no one reads. Why should I start another? But some blogging projects are more for ordering the minds of the people who create them that for reaching an audience. Still, I suspect people will soon be reading — and commenting, even on old posts like this one that no one saw at first.

There’s something very liberating about writing for no one to read. You’re free to say what you like. I write thousands of words for my writing clients every day, and some of those never get read either. It makes sense that I’d write a few for myself as well — even if they never find an audience. It’s cathartic if nothing else. Besides, there’s no harm in writing a blog no one reads. The words may eventually reach someone who wants or needs them.

 

When You Need A Plumber…

May 7, 2016

When you need a plumber, the first and smartest choice may be to become a plumber — at least for a few minutes. When it was time to replace the inside of our toilet tank recently, I kept putting it off because I remember how hard it was last time. But I have experience now. While I could have shelled out a couple hundred dollars to have my toilet fixed, I opted to use $12 of my money and less than an hour of my time to solve this minor plumbing issue. It worked out fine, and it was much easier and quicker than I remembered it being.

I like the idea of being the change you want to see in the world. I like the old Army advertising slogan encouraging you to be all you can be. And sometimes, what you need to be is a plumber. There’s nothing scary about it or even particularly complicated. You simply have to learn the skill in the same way you learned to groom your beard, paint your nails or blow into a trumpet. And the sound of a perfectly functioning toilet after months of gulps and glurps is indeed music.

 

It’s Time To Get This Started

June 11, 2016

Finding ways to express myself is important to a more stable and happy future. Could the same be true for you? I’ve found it difficult to find happiness and fulfillment recently, and one of the biggest obstacles standing between me and greater contentment is a feeling of being disconnected, stifled or unable to connect with others. Sharing two paragraphs with a very small audience won’t solve that problem, but starting each morning by focusing on offering a positive message based on my life experiences certainly can’t hurt in my quest to move forward with my life.

So it’s time to get this blog project started. I’ve put up a few explanatory and test posts in the last few weeks as the idea for this project was formulating in my head, but I feel like I’ve reached an important point in my life — one from which I can now move forward. More on that later. For now, I hope you’ll find a way to move forward from whatever challenges you face as I use this blog project as one of the tools to help me have a happier and more fulfilled life.

 

Crisis Point

June 13, 2016

I can’t pin down exactly what’s been happening in my life that led to a lower level of happiness and satisfaction than ever before, but I know that I’ve reached the crisis point and am ready to climb out, move forward and reach greater heights than ever before. As a tall person, achieving the height of personal satisfaction should come more naturally to me.

I can’t point to any incidents that have resulted in reaching this crisis point, but I feel it within in me. And I feel a stronger desire to overcome this mid-life obstacle than ever before. Life can wear us down at times because there’s so much to do, so many negative influences to which we can succumb and so many ways we could have done better in the past. But the future holds endless possibilities when we put aside our insistence on dwelling on the negative and look at how many circumstances are working toward our good. I feel pretty good right now, and I hope you do too. Let’s maintain some positivity as we move forward from our crisis points and move in hope toward a future with so much potential that it can’t be contained.

 

Maybe The Good Life Doesn’t Need To Include Travel

June 14, 2016

So many people advise that travel is an important part of reaching a full understanding of life and your place in it. But I’ve always had a problem deciding how I feel about that. I’ve been inspired by churches, natural beauty and human-created marvels in cities near and far, but I often don’t sleep well in hotels and don’t like driving or riding around all day. Sometimes I wonder if my mind has the ability to create better experiences that I can find by exploring the world.

I don’t have an answer here. But I think this much is certain: life isn’t empty, hollow or narrow if you can’t or don’t travel. Travel is one way to expand your horizons, but it certainly isn’t the only way. Meditation, attending local events and meeting new people also expands your viewpoint. The important thing, I think, is to keep doing new things to challenge yourself. Otherwise, life gets dull and stagnate.

 

Midlife Crisis

June 16, 2016

What’s a midlife crisis? According to my dictionary, it’s a crisis of identity and perhaps self-confidence that happens to some people as we get to early middle age. That sounds like what’s happening in my life. It’s interesting that many sources also include the idea that people start buying things they don’t need and start trying to act younger as they enter a midlife crisis. But I don’t want to be young again. And I don’t want any more stuff.

In fact, I want less of most things. I’ve found that being surrounded by things makes me nervous and even unhappy. To find greater happiness, I need less junk, a clearer head and more meaningful and interesting things to do that make a real difference in the world. I don’t need a Corvette, and I hope you don’t either. My midlife crisis is about simplicity and usefulness, not about showing off how many things I’ve acquired. And some definitions of a midlife crisis include erratic behavior that hurts people, and I don’t want to hurt anyone.

 

I Think It’s Called Contentment

June 16, 2016

The feeling that I’m searching for in life is an elusive thing called contentment. It’s more than just moments of happiness. It’s a long-term and perhaps permanent feeling that everything’s okay — and maybe even very nice. It’s a consistent baseline feeling that I don’t always have. Having contentment means there’s no room in your life for despair and that temporary setbacks like bad news and bad circumstances don’t completely derail your life.

The goal for my life — and perhaps for you — is to expand the contentment that I sometimes feel to form a safety net under my whole life that keeps low moments from going too low. With that net in place, it’s easier to recover from the hard times because the climb back up to normal isn’t as steep or as high. I’m on a journey toward permanent contentment, and I’m glad you’re with me.

 

An Appointment To Get At The End Of The Line

June 17, 2016

When a tire store near me first started offering appointments, I set one up to have my tires balanced and rotated. When I got there, they told me there was a long wait. That’s no problem for me, I said, since I have an appointment. I was informed, however, that an appointment qualified me to get at the end of the line when I arrived. Years later, I tried an appointment at the same shop and arrived 15 minutes early. When I asked what was taking so long to get started since the shop wasn’t busy, I was told that they were waiting for my appointment time before starting on my car.

Yes, those things actually happened. Even though the people at the store seemed reasonably intelligent, they couldn’t see past their misunderstanding of company policies to see how ridiculous these two situations were. They were caught up in rules. Why make an appointment to get at the end of the line when anyone walking in can do that? And why delay the work of someone with an appointment until the clock looks right? If you don’t understand the problem with these two situations, you just might be too caught up in silly rules and nonsense yourself. And I hope you aren’t.

 

Writing Is My Compulsion

June 21, 2016

As you’ve probably already guessed, writing is a kind of compulsion for me. You see, I don’t usually plan what I write when I’m writing these essays. I simply start typing, and a relatively well-organized bit of text emerges. The process of writing like this helps me arrange my thoughts in a way that I can’t do if I’m not writing. The process of putting a couple of paragraphs of heartfelt prose into the world makes me feel better. This doesn’t happen when I’m doing writing work for other people, however. It’s something special that happens when I write without an agenda.

Do you have something in your life that you feel compelled to do by some inner force that you don’t understand? If you’re compelled by money, a family member or something else, that’s not the same thing. But if there’s something in your life you feel motivated to do for no particular reason, it’s probably really important. And you won’t find happiness unless you find ways to do it.

 

Am I Actually The Luckiest Guy In The World?

June 22, 2016

Some might say that I’m among the luckiest (or most blessed, most fortunate) people in the world. I have someone to love and have since I was 17, I have a job writing, which is something that I love — and I set my own hours. I rarely work all day, and when I do, it’s by choice. But why do I often feel like something’s missing from my life?

I know that my life doesn’t involve as many friends as I’d like and it doesn’t involve as much variety or as many new experiences as I’d prefer. But really, is there all that much wrong? Do you have the same problem I do? Do you often wish for and hope for things toward which you aren’t working? And do you fail to notice just how much you already have going for you? You may be a lot luckier — more blessed or even happier, perhaps — than you realize.

 

Writing Is Also Therapy

June 23, 2016

I mentioned that writing is a compulsion for me — something I must do. But it’s also a kind of therapy that helps me organize my thoughts and get things off my chest. In fact, when I don’t have a blog project or some other way to express my feelings, I don’t feel right. No other means of expression impacts me in the same way that writing does.

You must have something like that in your life. What do you do to clear your head, improve your perspective and simply make you feel better? I’ve heard others mentioning that swimming, hiking and doing jigsaw puzzles can have a therapeutic effect. For me, it’s typing words onto a page, just as I’m doing now. I feel better already.

 

Finding Time For Happiness Instead Of Work

June 29, 2016

I write hundreds of words every day — and thousands of words many days. Yet most of the time, it’s only the writing that I do for myself and my own projects that really makes me feel good. Interestingly, I have trouble finding time to write these two paragraphs for Two Graf Life even though I’m always writing. In a way, that means I’m having trouble fitting happiness, satisfaction and contentment into my life.

Are there things you really enjoy doing? And do you have trouble finding time to do them? If that’s the case with you as it is with me, I would suggest that there’s a flaw in how your life is organized. While it isn’t always possible, why not put pleasure ahead of all else? You, your family and others who are important to you come before work, errands and chores, don’t they? So why are our lives organized as if work is what’s most important? It just doesn’t make sense.

 

Are The Sore Shoulders From Writing Or Worrying?

June 30, 2016

When I type a lot in a day without much variety in my activities, my shoulders get sore. Or at least I think that’s what happens. I sometimes think that worrying about hurting myself by working too much is harder on my shoulders than the work itself. If I could take a more relaxed attitude, there might be less pain in my life.

Do you do things every day that cause you pain? Could it be that the pain is the result of worrying about the things rather than the task itself? It may seem like a strange idea to you, but I believe most of my pain issues are caused by stress, worry and attitude. While typing can cause pain, so can stress and worry. So why not join me in trying to put aside actions and thoughts that derail your life unnecessarily?

 

“I Failed To…”

August 27, 2016

I have a relative who often says “I failed to write that in my checkbook” or the cashier “failed to give me a receipt” — when what she means is “I didn’t” or “he didn’t”. It must be really hard on your self-esteem to consider every small misstep or tiny variation from the usual routine a failure. I’ve never failed to do anything, but I have made a few mistakes along the way.

Even if you’ve experienced something that seems like a failure, it’s important to realize that the situation is only temporary. If you’ve failed someone you love, failed to write something on your grocery list or failed an important test, you’re not a failure. You’ve just experienced a temporary blip, a momentary power failure or a fleeting fowl-up. But when you let failure language creep into your everyday life, you’re setting yourself up for real failure. And you don’t want that.

 

I’m Focusing On Medical Issues For A Season

October 22, 2016

With some members of my family focusing on medical issues for a while, I’ve decided to focus on a few medical concerns of my own and get a physical. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the doctor. Dwelling on health issues seems to magnify them, so I prefer to avoid them. Doesn’t it make you feel worse to think about your chronic issues? Isn’t it easier when you just ignore them and get on with your life?

But some health issues can’t be completely ignored. While I don’t like the idea of focusing on what may be wrong with me, I’m allowing it in this season because there’s already a lot of talk about medical problems around me anyway. And there are some things with my own health that really need attention. I hope that by the time spring comes, I’ll be experiencing a renewal in my own life. And then all this focus on medical issues can fade into the background — where it belongs.

 

Rethinking The Medical Profession

November 1, 2016

On my old blog, So Much More Life, I wrote a post called Does A Simple, Minimalist Approach Work With Health Care? I didn’t express an entirely favorable view of the medical profession. And I still don’t like the idea of placing our health in other people’s hands. But some recent health issues in my family have proven that excellent medical care is available in some cases.

Still, the American healthcare system is needlessly complex and often uncaring — and I don’t like big systems much anyway. But this system works in many cases. When you need healthcare, I hope the system works for you. When combined with prayer, meditation, a positive attitude and support from others, our medical system can be one part of staying healthy. But I don’t recommend that you turn your well-being over to anyone — even if they’re trained professionals.

 

Questioning The Benefits Of Being A Complainer

November 8, 2016

I’ve never been shy about sending an email when I don’t like something about a restaurant or store. I even complained to the state insurance board when an insurance company refused to issue a refund I deserved — and eventually got it. But I’m questioning the idea of complaining to big companies and institutions now. I’ve noticed that fewer companies respond or offer any compensation now, and I don’t think putting all that negative energy out there in the universe really does any good.

As a side job, I’ve written some management responses for online hotel reviews for a large Internet company in India. I write a lot of content for them too. I know that when I write the review response, it means the people in charge at the hotel may never read the review. I also know that all the complaining I read in those reviews seems petty, silly and useless. Who cares if the gravy at breakfast wasn’t very hot. And does it matter that a tile on the bathroom floor was cracked? Do I sound that way when I complain? Do you? Complaining may not be part of a happy life.

 

Building A Full Life From What’s Around You

November 15, 2016

I believe it’s possible to build a great life from what’s already around you. If you live in a situation that isn’t your ideal — too rural, too high up or too noisy, for example — you can learn to make the best of it. If you live with people who don’t support you fully, you may be able to adjust your interactions with them to make the best of what they have to offer without being brought down by their negativity.

You see, it’s tempting to say that life will really get going once you solve some of your problems. But those problems are life. You’ll always be surrounded by issues that need your attention as well as people and situations that are less than ideal. But there’s no reason to let those small failings become major obstacles for you. Life is, as they say, what you make it. While it may be motivating to strive for more, what you have now could be plenty for today. Don’t you agree?

 

Growing Up To Play Games

January 3, 2017

I didn’t participate in sports when I was a kid, and I didn’t play many other kinds of games either. I may have played Chinese checkers with my parents or messed around with Connect Four, but I didn’t allow much time in my life for game-playing. I certainly didn’t watch others play games like football or baseball on television. But I find myself playing games now.

In 2016, I got involved in two different hobbies that are essentially scavenger hunt games. And I like them. My work as a writer keeps me inside, and these games get me out and around. I’ll tell you more about the games later, but I thought you might find it interesting that I had to grow up before I became interested in games. I’m in a phase in my life where I welcome frivolity, and I hope you are too.

 

Don’t Be A Hard Shell

June 23, 2017

When I was a teenager, I overheard a conversation between my mother and the pastor of the church that she and I attended. She was telling the pastor that some of our relatives are “hard shells” — which he correctly understood to mean they were associated with the Hard Shell Baptist — or Primitive Baptist — church, a very conservative sect. The denomination doesn’t believe in working with other congregations on mission boards and other projects. They keep to themselves and practice the old ways.

“Maybe someday, somehow, that shell can be cracked,” our pastor said. Maybe. My relatives involved with the sect died years ago, but it still exists. And I’m happy to let people practice whatever religion they want — as long as they don’t try to interfere with other people and their beliefs. But I don’t like the idea of being old-fashioned or rigid. Do you?

 

You Deserve More Than A One Graf Life

July 6, 2017

There’s a reason this site isn’t called One Graf Life. Life isn’t meant to be a one-act play, a short story or a single paragraph. I believe life is meant to have multiple phases, facets and sections. If you’re living a one paragraph life — where everything aligns to a single idea — you’re missing so much of what this world and your existence have to offer.

When you get a chance, change the subject — or at least approach the subject of your life from a new way. Try to live a two paragraph life — or one that’s made up of three, four or even more parts. When you do, you’ll see that some of your firmly held beliefs slough away. What’s left is your core. It turns out that when you explore life from multiple perspectives, you learn more about what matters most to you.

 

A Focus On Words In 2018

January 10, 2018

For 2018, I think I’ll focus on words. Words are my job, and words are my passion too. Today, even simple messages are often presented in a graphical format — like memes, for example. But great words stand on their own. They very literally speak for themselves. In generations past, generating images wasn’t as easy as it is now. And communication was deeper and more thorough, even if was less often.

Maybe this will be the year when words rise again, at least in my life. I work with words and play with them too. I use them as I was trained to use them, and I break a few rules when it suits me. I ask questions. I give answers. I offer advice. I comment. And for all of these forms of expressions, I use words. I love images as much as anyone — and I take a lot of photos. Sure, sometimes a picture can speak a thousand words, but words can conjure up great images too. Will you join me in focusing a bit more on the unmatched power of words?

 

RVs Were The Original Tiny Houses

January 11, 2018

During a discussion with a full-time RVer recently, I had an unoriginal thought: RVs are the original tiny houses. While tiny houses are part of the downsizing movement that seems to be sweeping — or at least creeping up on — the world, thousands of people have been living by choice in travel trailers, recreational vehicles and similar abodes for years. They’re saving money and sometimes saving their souls.

I think a lot about housing situations because I’m not entirely happy with mine. Yet I already have what most people are striving for: safety, comfort, just enough space and a rural setting, among other things. So what am I worried about? I’m concerned that there could be a better way for me to live that I haven’t discovered yet. And it would be foolish not to consider all my options. Are you living your best life in the best possible living situation?

 

Not So Routine After All

(unpublished)

Yesterday, we left the house a little earlier than usual for a day when we didn’t have any scheduled plans. It was getting cold later in the day, and we wanted to be home before that happened. I find comfort in keeping to a regular routine sometimes, but I also really enjoy doing things differently when it suits me.

By leaving early, we got home early, and I got a lot of writing work done that I wouldn’t have finished otherwise. We also saw a sheep and some goats at the mall, which we hadn’t planned or expected. (They had been brought in for a morning children’s program.) When you shake up your routine, you might find the unexpected as well. Isn’t it time to throw out the program, at least for a day or two?

 

Putting Clean Laundry In Dirty Baskets

January 13, 2018

When our washing machine stopped working a few months ago, we visited a laundromat for the first time in about 12 years. We saw something that I think is incredibly strange: people would bring in dirty laundry in a dirty basket, wash the clothes, fold them carefully and then put them back in the same basket to take them home. They were putting clean clothes in a dirty hamper.

I see all kinds of life lessons in this action. Most importantly, someone who puts clean clothes into a dirty basket can’t be present in the moment, careful or mindful. And they certainly aren’t progressing very far in the game of life. Do you make mindless mistakes like that in your daily life? If so, why not be more attentive? Why not be good at everything you do? Why not be careful, mindful and sensible? When you pay attention to the details of life, you may find that life treats you better.

 

“You’re No Different Than Everyone Else”

January 26, 2018

That’s what the dentist told me. He said that most people think their dental problems are unique, but most people’s issues are actually very similar. He said the mouthguard he recommended and that I bought would work for 98 percent of people. But mine didn’t. Fortunately, he’s a person of integrity, so after trying to make adjustments, he gave me my money back.

It’s true that we share many things in common with those we think are different. There’s a lesson in that. But do we really share similar dental issues? I’m beginning to think mine really are unique, and that’s okay. There’s a lesson there too. Sometimes, we’re alike. Sometimes we’re just slightly less alike.

What Is The Boar’s Head And Yule Log Festival In Fort Worth?

With only four performances over two days in January, it’s easy to miss the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival, a decades-long tradition at University Christian Church. But many people intentionally skip the event because they don’t understand what it is.

Truthfully, it’s difficult to explain even for those who’ve attended several times.

On Epiphany weekend at University Christian Church near TCU in Fort Worth, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. That’s because the annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival — usually called simply “the Boar’s Head” by those in the know — is an event that never quite culminates. But a lot happens. More on that later.

Simply put, it’s a festival of processions. People in lavish costumes wander around, generally in search of the Christ child. There’s music from handbells, soloists and an orchestra. It’s quaint, strange and charming.

[This article originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, which has been discontinued. It’s from April 2016.]

About The Boar’s Head And Yule Log Festival

If the name suggests to you that this festival is something ancient, you’re on the right track. The festival is based on the legend of an Oxford student who kills a wild boar with a book of ancient philosophy when the unfortunate animal interrupts the presumably self-important student’s studies.

A few churches around the world have turned the celebration of this so-called triumph into a Christian festival, giving it additional significant and added symbolism. As told at University Christian Church in Fort Worth, the boar represents evil that has been overcome by the teachings of Christ.

The church has put on the festival every year since 1976. It concludes the 12 days of Christmas and is held on the weekend nearest Epiphany, January 6.

A cast of brightly robed kings, peasants, Beefeaters, dancers and others join musicians from the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra to put on the event. Some 300 people participate while hundreds gather in the church’s sanctuary at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to watch.

Enjoying The Boar’s Head

What do I mean that this festival never quite culminates? In most church events, the procession comes before the main event, but at the Boar’s Head, the procession is the event. It technically all culminates in the opening of some doors to view the baby Jesus and his family, but the show is about the processions of peasants and kings alike.

When you attend the Boar’s Head, you’ll see a ritual that has changed very little since the church first started putting it on. Costumes have gotten brighter, many faces are different now, of course, and the music has been slightly updated, but it is essentially the same presentation.

You can enter for free and no tickets are required, but paid reserved seating is available.

I used to attend this event regularly but now find that a visit only every few years is plenty. Since I remember in great details the details that rarely change, attending every year isn’t essential or entertaining anymore.

Still, this festival about the church overcoming evil influences is somehow still relevant and somehow still managing to draw full or nearly full houses for its four performances.

To say that nothing ever happens during the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is being unkind, but to say that there’s no culmination of the event and little satisfaction as it draws to a solemn but hopeful end is, unfortunately, accurate. Nevertheless, it’s a spectacle that everyone needs to see once — and then you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth experiencing again.

Good To Know

  • Arrive an hour early for a good seat. Paid attendees sit at the front, but they miss much of the action. Since the size of the event is part of the spectacle and since all the players move up and down the aisles, the best seats are somewhere slightly back from the middle of the sanctuary.
  • Attending the later presentation on either day may mean waiting outside to get in, and the weather is often cold that weekend. Attending the earlier one means you can walk right in.
  • Photography is generally only allowed at the 3 p.m. event on Saturday. Call ahead to verify this if you plan to take any pictures.

Learn More

University Christian Church

Live Music At Central Market Fort Worth: Great Bands At A Grocery Store

Central Market isn’t a secret at all, but free live music isn’t something people expect from a high-end grocery store. Still, hundreds gather every Friday and Saturday night from March through October to listen to Fort Worth music acts that vary from great to poor in quality and cover many musical genres.

While the idea of a grocery store as a music venue takes some getting used to, I’ve listened to more live music at Central Market than anywhere else. That’s because the price is right, the atmosphere is fun, the regulars are generally agreeable people and many of the bands are top quality.

[This article originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, which has been discontinued. It’s from April 2016.]

About Live Music At Central Market

The Fort Worth Central Market has offered live music for more than a decade, since shortly after the opening of the store in 2001. The massive patio — one of the largest in town — along with the ample parking and the convenient location make it a natural live music venue that draws listeners from all over the city and beyond.

The connection between the Central Market brand and live music goes back even further. The original Central Market location in Austin opened in 1994 and also has a generous patio with an adjoining private park. Other locations in the chain feature music, too, but the original Austin location and the Fort Worth location are the only ones with large, accommodating patios that draw in big crowds.

Central Market is a high-end chain from H-E-B, a grocery store company with a long history in Central Texas that has only recently brought its large and impressive H-E-B grocery stores to the Dallas-Fort Worth market. The idea behind Central Market is to provide an upscale grocery experience and upscale take-home food as well as classes and other amenities that draw people to the stores. There are now nine locations, all in major Texas cities.

Bands at Central Market Fort Worth play most Fridays and Saturdays in March through October, usually from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Music At Central Market: Getting The Most From It

I’m a regular for the free live music concerts at Central Market and have been for many years. The quality and type of music provided has varied considerably through the years. Things seems stable these days, however, with more good bands than bad. There’s also more variety that in some years.

Crowds got large and out of control in years past, and management stopped booking some audience favorites, opting instead for solo acts and acoustic groups in an effort to limit attendance. Imagine that: a venue trying to keep guests willing to shell out for food and drinks away. Fortunately, saner ideas prevailed and management is once again booking a good mix of bands.

To make the most of your Central Market live music experience in Fort Worth, watch the store’s online events calendar to help you decide what nights to visit, then call ahead to make sure the announced band is actually performing. Last-minute schedule changes and weather-related cancellations are common.

Be sure to check out bands you don’t know much about by seeing if they’re popular on Facebook and looking at some YouTube clips or listening to some MP3s on the band website, if there is one.

Remember that arriving early is essential if you want a seat on the main patio section near the stage. Many guests arrive before 4:30 p.m.

Some seasons, I’ve had strong negative feelings about Central Market because I’ve made the mistake of taking a personal interest in this venue. Many assurances to me have turned out to be just so much talk, but the live music at this grocery store has been an overwhelmingly positive part of my life in recent years — and one that I miss when it occasionally flakes out.

Good To Know

  • It’s impossible to overstress the importance of arriving early. The best tables are almost always gone by 5 p.m., and crowds come even earlier on the best evenings. If it’s cold or excessively hot, however, few people show up even if the music goes on.
  • Bring a cushion of some kind because the wooden chairs are uncomfortable for many. I get around the discomfort by sitting on a towel — and standing up a lot!
  • Outside food and drink is prohibited, but this is a grocery store and café, after all. Coolers are also prohibited. Prices for food and drinks are generally expensive, but there are some affordable choices, like a one-price fountain drink you can refill all night, child’s spaghetti, macaroni and cheese and sandwich meals and relatively inexpensive chips, bulk dips and fresh-made breads.
  • Most prepared foods are served chilled, so make your selection early enough to take advantage of the microwaves inside.
  • When the patio is full, try the second-floor balcony. There’s also an inside dining room upstairs with a microwave and the best free wifi reception in the store.

Learn More

Central Market Fort Worth Events

The Fort Worth Civic Orchestra Has Remained A Relative Secret Since 1977

You might think an organization that’s been around since 1977 would develop a following, but if that’s happened for the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra it’s difficult to tell.

While yearly Teddy Bear concerts aimed at collecting stuffed animals for the Fort Worth Police Department draw crowds that sometimes come close to filling the venue, many concerts don’t draw much of an audience.

That’s a shame.

[This article was originally from my Fort Worth Secrets website, which has been discontinued. It’s from April 2016.]

About Fort Worth Civic Orchestra

Fort Worth Civic Orchestra has four concerts each year. They’re free, open to the public and held at the Truett Auditorium at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The orchestra also performs as part of the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival at University Christian Church every year in early January.

The purpose of the orchestra is two-fold: to provide the community with great symphonic music and to allow musicians who want to play but aren’t necessarily professionals an outlet. In recent years, seminary student musicians have also been included in the orchestra.

The group was formed in 1977 to bring classical music to the area at a reasonable price and to serve as a reading orchestra for volunteer musicians. It quickly reached 65 members and performed across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Early members included teachers and students as well as retired professional musicians and others. In the years that followed, community outreach was added.

In 2002, the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra came under the baton of current director Dr. Kurt Sprenger. In 2009, the orchestra moved to its permanent performing home at the seminary, where Dr. Sprenger teaches. Still independent but with a performance venue, rehearsal space and storage, the orchestra seemed poised for great things.

But why don’t more people know about this orchestra and attend it’s events? It’s probably because of a lack of advertising, infrequent updates to its website and Facebook page and other marketing lapses. While hundreds experience the orchestra during the festival at University Christian Church, it seems that relatively few of those attendees realize the orchestra has performances of it own.

My Experiences With The FWCO

Since the orchestra moved to the seminary, I’ve attended nearly every concert. I’m no expert on symphonic music, but the music ranges from excellent to lacking polish. Often, however, the performances rise nearly to the level of the Fort Worth Symphony and other professional organizations.

The type and quality of the programs presented varies considerably. Some recent concerts have offered less than an hour of music and left some audience members dissatisfied, but other programs seem well-crafted and professionally done. This inconsistency may be part of why audiences are sometimes small.

The Teddy Bear concerts usually feature a singer and a performance of two pieces written by children’s carol competition winners. Special performance pieces have also sometimes been performed at other concerts, and sometimes the programs veers away from only classical music.

While I’d like to see more consistency, more attention to programming and more people in the audience, Fort Worth Civic Orchestra concerts are usually vibrant and interesting events. And Truett Auditorium’s rotunda lobby space is something to experience. While everything looks very Baptist and is clearly a bit worn around the edges, this area and the auditorium itself are great for the purpose.

But it’s a shame that more people don’t get to experience the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra and it’s four-concert season for themselves. Will I see you there next time?

Good To Know

  • While wheelchair access is available from a side entrance, the building is not very user-friendly. There are no handrails on the grand staircase outside and there are steps into and out of the rotunda before reaching the auditorium.
  • Parking is free and close. Park in any of the spaces in front of the auditorium, even if they’re marked for faculty.

Learn More

Fort Worth Civic Orchestra

Granbury Gallery Nights Are Laidback Day Trip From Fort Worth

If you’re looking for a simple, quiet and perhaps even romantic way to spend an evening, why not get out of the city for a while? Granbury is a quick and easy day trip from Fort Worth or anywhere in North Texas and has more to do than most cities its size. I recommend trying out a gallery night, held the last Saturday of every month. It’s a laidback way to see some great art, meet some interesting people and get to know this quaint little town.

Granbury has all the things you’d expect from a small Texas town: a historic courthouse square with unique shops, some home-cooking restaurants you’ll enjoy and more. Plus, there’s the especially scenic lake right in the middle of town. But you may not know that the city has a small-but-determined visual arts community. This includes a real art gallery downtown as well as several other venues on and near the square that also display surprisingly high-quality artwork at affordable prices.

[This article originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, a project that is now discontinued. It is from August 2016.]

Getting To Know Granbury Gallery Nights

Many people who visit art galleries never buy any art, and I suspect that’s the case with most of the visitors to Last Saturday Gallery Night & Art Walk in Granbury. Organized by The Galleries of Granbury, this even is similar to the twice-yearly gallery night events in Fort Worth, but Granbury’s event happens every month.

While not all galleries participate every time, venues that stay open late — usually from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. — for gallery night include:

  • Artèfactz, a store with many different booths inside. One belongs to an artist who is usually present, and you can often find an artist demonstrating outside this shop as well
  • Dora Lee Langdon Center, a historic home where art from a featured artist or group of artists is displayed. Meet the artist and learn more about the home too.
  • Shanley House, a historic building that shares a parking lot with the library. Amateur artists are often on display, but check hours since this venue sometimes opens late.
  • Uptown Arts, the backroom of a boutique called The Bridge. There’s art jammed into the room everywhere and a nice patio out back where you can get a breath of fresh air.
  • Your Private Collection Art Gallery, a real gallery displaying works by professional artists. This is the hub of gallery night activity and perhaps where you want to start and end your evening.

Other venues sometimes participate as well. Most venues offer refreshments including hor d’oeuvres, wine and beer, and many artists are present to meet you. A trolley can help you get from one venue to the next, but all within easy walking distance of each other. The details for each month’s event is available on the Galleries of Granbury Facebook page.

My Experiences In Granbury

To make a gallery night in Granbury a complete experience, you need to venture beyond the galleries a bit too. You can easily visit all the galleries on foot and see everything within an hour and a half. But I encourage you to take things a bit slower and to see what else in town might attract your attention.

First, some other shops on the square may be open late for you to enjoy. You might also be interested in booking some tickets for the current show by the Granbury Theatre Company at the Granbury Opera House, also on the square. Several restaurants surround the square too.

If you’re looking for familiar chain restaurants, most of those are out on Highway 377. The array of choices is larger than in most small towns. If you want dependable chain near the square, try Babe’s Chicken Dinner House or Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. Fuzzy’s is a great place to stop after you’re done with gallery night and grab a taco if you aren’t already full up.

A great city park hides behind city hall and next to the Shanley House. Sunken below the road, you can step in and step away from your art walk experience to enjoy some time to yourself. A walking path will take you off into the sunset if that’s what you want.

Lake Granbury is a long, narrow lake, so it seems to be everywhere you look in Granbury. There’s even a small public beach with boardwalk just off the square that you might enjoy. You can also book a room near downtown and stay the night. If you’re a foodie, Granbury’s huge H-E-B grocery store might be an attraction for you since most of us who live in or near Fort Worth don’t have access to this affordable chain that also offers gourmet choices.

Whatever you decide to do in addition to visiting the galleries, make Last Saturday Gallery Night & Art Walk your reason for visiting Granbury. Then expand the experience into a completely fulfilling trip by exploring some of the other things to see and do in Granbury.

Good To Know

  • There’s plenty of free parking around the square in Granbury, and public restrooms are available too. I usually park at city hall and have never had to compete for parking. You can park around the courthouse or in another lot closer to the lake as well.
  • Ignore what may appear to be rudeness and customer-unfriendliness at some of the shops around the square. You may see signs warning you about bringing your children inside some shops or indicating that the shops don’t have public restrooms. But enjoy these shops anyway if they happen to be open when you’re there. Most shopkeepers seem to be much friendlier than their signage indicates.

For More Information

Galleries of Granbury Facebook page

and also

Historic Granbury Merchants Association
Visit Granbury

 

Free Film Screenings At The Kimbell Show Off Art And Unusual Auditorium

One of the most unique and unusual auditoriums in Fort Worth is often open to the public for showings of films that you might not otherwise see. While many of these films are as entertaining as they are educational, there’s no doubt that you can learn a lot about art and the culture that surrounds many of the Kimbell Art Museum’s exhibitions by attending some of these films.

The auditorium of the Kimbell’s Kahn building is put to use many Sundays at 2 p.m. showing films that in some way relate to what’s happening at this respected Fort Worth museum. An added bonus is the opportunity to see the unusual and unusually comfortable deep and narrow auditorium that’s behind closed doors most other times.

[This article appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, a project that is now discontinued. It was published in September 2016.]

About Free Films At The Kimbell

There’s a lot to like about the Kimbell Art Museum in general. It starts with the Louis Kahn building. Completed in 1972, it’s widely regarded as Fort Worth’s architectural crowning jewel. When you consider it today alongside the understated but also masterful Piano Pavilion, added next door in 2013, it stands out all the more.

And according to what I’ve seen and read, that was the intent. Adding the Piano Pavilion focuses more attention on the beauty of the Kahn building and allows visitors without ability issues to easily reach the front door of the Kimbell for the first time. Visitor have been entering the Kahn building through a back door in the basement for decades.

Visting the Kimbell to see a free film allows you the opportunity to study the unique vaulted design of the Kahn building, which consists of six sections of vaulted ceiling with thin skylights where they join the walls that allow in natural light. The north portion of the easternmost of these vaulted rooms is the Kahn Auditorium. With terraced seating that descends into what should be part of the basement, the room is stark and cold-feeling but somehow seems the perfect plain backdrop for a film about art.

Seeing A Film At The Kimbell

Films are often planned to coincide with special exhibits at the Kimbell. They may include documentaries that examine the surrounding culture, fiction movies based on the times or circumstances depicted in exhibits or specific examinations of works, artists or periods. If it somehow related to something at the Kimbell, it’s fair game for the Sunday afternoon movies.

You’ll notice several things when you enter the auditorium. The first is that the room is long, narrow and deep, a shape that’s unusual. You’ll also notice as you choose a place to sit that the auditorium features individual bucket seats, another rarity. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the skylight area similar to those where natural light comes into the galleries of the Kimbell is awkwardly filled in with red to keep the sun out in the auditorium, adding a splash of color to a building that has very little.

I’m never pleased with the brightness and image quality of the films, perhaps because I’m used to the glowing and intense picture quality at the nearby Modern Art Museum and at today’s digital movie theaters. I’ve actually asked the Kimbell about this more than once and my inquiry has resulted in some bulbs being replaced, but you may still be dissatisfied with the brightness and quality, especially when artwork and other images meant to be carefully examined are being shown. But remember, the presentations are free.

Most of the films shown are available on DVD, so you could order them and watch them at home. But seeing a film with other art lovers in one of the most beautiful buildings in town is an experience you shouldn’t miss. And it’s a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Good To Know

  • If you enter from the side of the building facing the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, called the East Entrance, you must climb an imposing staircase or take an elevator to the second floor. Entering from the side of the building near the Piano Pavilion involves fewer steps but is not wheelchair accessible. Those who use wheelchairs must enter through the East Entrance and use the elevator. Drop off near the door to this entrance is possible.
  • The entrance to the Kahn Auditorium is located in the dining room of the Buffet at the Kimbell. Look for the double doors at the south end of the dining room.
  • Doors don’t open until 15 minutes prior to show time, and there’s usually no reason to line up in advance. While many shows are well-attended, the auditorium is never full for these events.
  • There’s a beautiful auditorium in the Piano Pavilion where concerts and other events, including occasional films, are held. Most of these events have an admission charge. For a complete list of events at the Kimbell, visit their Calendar.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy the artwork while you’re there. There’s a reason the Kimbell is called one of the best small museums in the country, and viewing the permanent collection is always free. There is a charge for special exhibits, which are now hosted across the lawn at the Piano Pavilion.

Learn More

Films at the Kimbell

 

A Wichita Falls Day Trip Or Weekend Trip Is More Interesting Than You Might Think

Wichita Falls makes a great day trip from Fort Worth — or anywhere in North Texas. If you’ve never been to this city of 100,000 people located 120 miles to the northwest, you may be surprised that it’s a vibrant college town with plenty to do.

While the downtown and some other parts of the city still appear largely neglected, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Locals insist there is slow improvement in many areas of the city.

When judging any town against the vibrancy and variety of things to do in Fort Worth, it’s sure to fall short. But if you’re dying to see something different and get out of the Fort for a day or two, you should consider some time in Wichita Falls.

Since I grew up in declining Jacksboro — halfway between Wichita Falls and Fort Worth — I experienced both towns regularly as a kid. It’s obvious which became my favorite, but Wichita Falls has more to do than ever. And that unique red dirt makes you feel like you’ve left the Metroplex behind.

[This post originally appeared on my Fort Worth Secrets website, which I discontinued. It was written in September 2016.]

Wichita Falls, Texas Points Of Interest

There’s plenty to occupy your time in Wichita Falls. We focused on nature and art during our Tuesday through Wednesday visit in September 2015 and weren’t disappointed. Here are the places we visited:

River Bend Nature Center
A highlight of the trip was the River Bend Nature Center, which has a small entrance fee. If you come with children, there are activities that could occupy the family for hours. For us, the visit started with a quick walk around the educational area to see the insects and snakes exhibited there. A young and knowledgeable guide who considers the creatures on exhibit his personal friends made this enjoyable. We also explored the glass conservatory with the required docent and visited the prairie dogs and butterflies. Then we ventured off on the nature trail on our own. There is both a well-maintained accessible trail and a rougher version on which we managed to get lost.

Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU
Located on the campus of Midwestern State University, this museum is larger than you might expect. But don’t expect any classic works of art. And strangely, getting to the building requires going through a shopping center parking lot. Once there, you’ll find a cavernous main gallery and three smaller ones. The main exhibit when we visited was an uninspiring look at works by a Metroplex artist. Two of the smaller galleries were more compelling and featured some local works. Allow only an hour or less to see the museum, but it’s worth a stop, and there’s no admission charge. The building features a new performance area just outside the front entrance.

The Kemp Center for the Arts
Another highlight of our Wichita Falls trip was the free Kemp Center for the Arts. This historic building features rotating exhibit space and an outdoor sculpture garden. It was easy to see from the surrounding neighborhood why the building has an overstated fence around it. The center also hosts events in it’s elegant Great Hall and houses the Wichita Falls Symphony offices. Be sure to see both floors of art inside, and slow down a bit and wander around outside in the garden area if the weather permits. The receptionist downstairs will point you to the best bits.

The Museum of North Texas History
The strangest of the things we visited in Wichita Falls, the Museum of North Texas History is dominated by junky and fading exhibits and hand-typed note cards. But there are interesting miniatures, lots of military history exhibits and a display about how oil wells work. Plus, they have an iron lung, a medical relic I had never seen before. Since it’s free, it’s worth a brief visit, but you won’t find exhibits of the quality and interactivity that you expect from modern museums.

Wee Chi Ta Sculpture
Located in a poorly maintained area of town near a free veterinary clinic with a line of people waiting outside it the morning we visited, the signage and trails around the sculpture are a bit rough as well. But the sculpture is beautiful and compelling. It’s based on a legend about the how the town got its name, although most agree the legend couldn’t be true.

We weren’t able to visit these attractions during our two-day stay:

The Falls in Lucy Park
I remember the campaign to build the falls when I was a kid. And I remember that the river was so muddy on dedication day that they pumped in water from fire hoses for the dedication so it wouldn’t look so bad. Today, there’s a nice walking trail from the Lucy Park parking area to the falls — or simply view them as you pass on I-44.

Kell House Museum
Closed on the day we tried to visit, the Kell House Museum looked a bit rundown from the outside. Still, it’s promoted as one of the most significant buildings in the city from an architectural standpoint and is billed as featuring original furnishings, costumes and decorative arts. Guided tours are available, but they aren’t open on Wednesdays.

You don’t need to worry with the World’s Littlest Skyscraper. While the story is interesting, it’s only a small antique store down a narrow alley.

If you find that the town doesn’t impress you, use up your remaining time wandering Sikes Senter Mall, a mainstay of the town for decades. Plus, choosing to visit during one of the many Wichita Falls events helps ensure a better experience for certain travelers too.

You may also enjoy:

An iron lung at the Museum of North Texas History.

Things To See Along The Way

From Fort Worth, you can access Wichita Falls from Highway 199 — which merges with Highway 281 at Jacksboro and is called Henderson Street or Jacksboro Highway around here — or from Highway 287. While Highway 287 is a better road, taking Highways 199 and 281 makes more sense unless you live where you can easily access the larger freeway-like road.

If you take Highways 199 and 281, your trip takes you through Jacksboro and Windthorst. Neither town is particularly interesting, but there are two points of interest worth noting. You’ll enjoy seeing all the new wind turbines along the way too.

Just outside Jacksboro, a very modest town with less than 4,000 residents, is Fort Richardson State Park (fee required), where you can see ruins and reconstructions of post-Civil War era buildings, enjoy a small lake, camp for the night or walk the nature trails.

In Windthorst, a tiny blip of a town with about 400, you may enjoy a peek inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a beautiful and unique church with a famous grotto outside. Be sure to drive across to Windthorst General Store — also called the Old Weinzapfel General Store — an authentic mercantile that’s still in operation.

A Few Thoughts Before You Go

Maybe a Wichita Falls day trip or weekend trip isn’t as exciting as a drive down to Austin or San Antonio. Even Oklahoma City has more to do.

But when you choose to go to Wichita Falls, you’re choosing a route with less traffic and a town with absolutely no pretense. It isn’t a big town, but it’s an important regional hub with several worthwhile attractions. And it isn’t a beautiful town, but it has some beautiful and interesting spots you won’t want to miss.

And if you can’t find enough to do, you can always keep moving. There’s a casino and the striking Wichita Mountains just to the north.

Learn More

No Matter What Changes, I’m Home In Downtown Fort Worth

I wrote the following post a few months ago for a contest. The prize was something I didn’t want very much, so I didn’t win. At least, I guess I didn’t. They said they’d let me know. They didn’t. Now, you get the post — and I don’t get a prize.

After growing up in a small town near Fort Worth, I moved to an apartment on Camp Bowie as soon as I could. (Living downtown wasn’t even really an option two decades ago.) For me, identifying with Fort Worth rather than my small town roots was a choice.

Then the need for cheap housing sent me packing to Parker County more than a decade ago. But I still consider myself a Fort Worthian. This town is where I spend my money, spend my time and live my life.

Downtown is a great destination in its own right for many reasons – and when there’s nothing else to do or see in town or you don’t want to spend much money, there’s always downtown Fort Worth. You can explore the galleries or shops like a tourist, marvel anew at the Water Gardens or simply choose a restaurant patio where you can enjoy an afternoon or evening.

And as someone who likes to walk for exercise, the streets of downtown provide a nice occasional alternative to wandering around in a park, on a trail or at the mall.

Perhaps downtown Fort Worth’s best asset is its abundant free and cheap parking. When I’m on a weekend trip to Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City or some other distant and exotic locale, it’s always amazing to me how hard it is to park. How can I access what the city wants me to see and do if I can’t even park?

No matter where I go, it’s always good to get home to Fort Worth.

Like so many people who are from small towns around here or who have chosen to live outside this city’s limits for the space or the value, I call Fort Worth home because that’s how it feels. It’s hard to imagine how it could feel so special to me without such a diverse, interesting, walkable, accessible and ever-improving downtown.

I may sleep in Parker County, but I live in Fort Worth.

Gip Plaster identifies so strongly with Fort Worth that he calls himself the Fort Worth Copywriter, and you can find him online at fortworthcopywriter.com.

“Lost in Space Forever” (Obscure DVD Review)

These things aren’t usually any good, but this one is.

Documentaries about old television series are often just collections of clips held together with a bad voice-over by an anonymous announcer. “Lost in Space Forever” is different, though. Actor John Larrroquette, a surprisingly good host, joins the Robot on a reconstruction of the series’ primary set. The tribute show’s script makes sense of the series’ style variations, explaining how it evolved from a black-and-white pilot without a villian to a psychadelic reflection of the time of its production rather than the time of its portrayal. Of course, modern interviews with the cast are there, too. Everything you expect from a retrospective finds its way in.

Before, I go any further, however, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen an episode of “Lost in Space”. I grew up after it had ended its three-year run and at a time when reruns of it weren’t available in my area. I like anything related to science fiction, so when I found a nice copy of “Lost in Space Forever” on clearance recently, I took a chance. I was pleased to find this presentation makes a perfect introduction to the series. I can’t imagine a better way to get into it.

Series fans will likely be pleased to see Jonathan Harris and Bill Mumy briefly reprise their roles as Dr. Smith and Will Robinson for a new scene at the end of the documentary. A behind-the-scenes featurette even shows Harris and Mumy walking onto the new set for the first time. Lengthy clips of special effects film and Guy Williams’ original screen test for the part of also included, along with a CBS presentation to potential sponsors that features clips from the original pilot.

The documentary was produced for television to help renew interest in the series to coincide with the release of the (apparently dreadful, although I haven’t seen it either) 1998 “Lost in Space” film.

If you, like me, are wondering what you’ve been missing, this is a great way to pick up a little knowledge of this cult favorite series. Like the Star Trek original series and Britain’s classic Doctor Who (two of my favorites), it looks a bit campy, but what’s wrong with that? I probably won’t rush out to buy the whole series anytime soon, but if I find it on clearance, I might take a chance again.

This post was rescued from one of my old blogs and was originally posted July 7, 2009.