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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

A Uniquely American Evening When Fear And Scarcity Seemed To Fade Away

What’s your idea of a pleasant evening in America?

I don’t watch reality television shows or participate in politics. I don’t spend hours endlessly looking through celebrity Twitter feeds or trolling Instagram. I even limit my time on Facebook.

Further, I’m not very patriotic. I’ll never fly an American flag because I don’t believe America is better than other nations or that my way of life is superior to another.

But I enjoy having unique experiences that make me feel good about myself and about the world. I like feeling proud to be part of the human race.

Yesterday evening in Fort Worth was a good one for me – something that’s perhaps only available f

or experiencing in today’s America.

It started at Chadra Mezza and Grill, a restaurant owned by a Lebanese couple where there’s pizza, pasta, gyro, hummus and Greek salad on the $8 Wednesday night buffet. There’s a beautiful patio where some men were enjoying a hookah and a family was enjoying the food. Inside, we ate plenty – and so do did the Catholic couple who prayed before their meal and then made the sign of the cross before eating lots of cucumbers, pita chips and mahummara.

One older woman enjoyed three plates of food while her husband worked his way through a single piece of pizza.

When we were done with dinner, we made a conscious effort to see what everyone else was doing by visiting Sundance Square Plaza downtown. There was a private party in progress apparently celebrating American Airlines and their new service to China.

We were surprised to see American success story Luke Wade headlining the party, and there was plenty of room for the public to have a seat and watch. Luke is a small town boy like me, and he has overcome physical illness and injury to find success, thanks in large part to, ironically, a reality show.

While he sang, Chinese businesspeople passed around cowboy hats, at fancy food from the Reata and stood around taking it all in. And people of all kinds stopped to sing along with the music and dance a bit.

One group of women particularly liked Luke’s version of “Lean on Me”.

In a shelter at the back of the pavilion, a group of young people played cards. A few tables over, a young man sat down facing Mecca and said his evening prayers. A few minutes later, his friends did the same thing. I was pleased to see that, especially since I had seen a Bible study group in that same shelter a few months ago. It just seemed right.

At the restaurant and the plaza, I was among people who were enjoying themselves and each other.

As the show ended at the plaza, the Muslim guys headed to the same parking garage where we parked. And we all went on with our lives here in America.

It made me feel proud to have a great experience in a great American town. I didn’t see any flags.

And it enhanced my experience to see that others of diverse background, religions and ideas were enjoying the same evening in the same town – doing pretty much the same things we were.

Today’s America makes that uniquely American evening in Fort Worth possible. Freedom allows diverse people to come together and share their interests at the points where their interests touch and cross over.

Today’s America is a place where everyone can do what they like and others have no reason to interfere, judge or feel limited. It’s a place where there’s plenty for everyone and no reason to feel scared or concerned when others get their share too.

For me, being free in today’s America trumps everything else.

7 Things I Never Knew I Would Have

There are more than seven, of course. But these are the first things that came to mind. These are seven of the things I have that I never really thought I would.

Life takes mysterious and interesting turns all the time. As I’ve navigated the ride of my life, I’ve picked up:

A tablet computer. Don’t I sound old calling it a “tablet computer” instead of just a tablet? The original version of the tablet computer came and went in the late 1980s and early 1990s. No one found much need for one. Today, I own a simple $80 tablet I picked up at an electronics store. I can download YouTube videos and read Kindle books with it, and that’s all I need to do. I don’t have an iPad or anything fancy. That just wouldn’t fit my personality — or my budget. Besides, I do my real work on an old-fashioned desktop computer.

A George Foreman grill. I rarely give in to consumer pressure, but I wanted a George Foreman grill because I’d read how you can make great grilled vegetables using one of these machines. And supposedly, hamburgers take half the time as in a skillet. The problem is that I don’t like my food pressed down and dried out, and skillet cooking is actually quicker in many cases. So I’m having trouble figuring out what to do with this

well-regarded and carefully promoted device.

A beard trimmer. Who knew I’d ever be able to grow a respectable beard? It took a while. Every guy owes it to himself to get the best stubble trimmer, best beard trimmer and best hair clippers available. When I was a kid, stubble wasn’t in, but things change. Attitudes change. The large number of attitude shifts since I was a kid extend far beyond facial hair — and that’s a very good thing. Plus, my writing work has involved researching stubble trimmers more times that I care to admit.

A Weed Eater. I always assumed I’d live in an apartment in town. But when the rent on the apartment we lived in for 11 years went up by more than $100 a month, we decided to try out the semi-rural life. We spend just as much time in the heart of the city as ever, but we sleep a few miles outside the big city. And after more than a decade of that, I’m ready for something else. The weeds are taking over the house anyway — because although I have a string trimmer, I don’t use it very much.

A stable of websites. I can never remember how many websites I have, but I think it’s 21 or so. Each of them makes me money in one way or another. Many of them are Amazon affiliate sites, but one of them — Fort Worth Copywriter  — is simply a site that tells people I’m a writer. I haven’t been actively promoting it for very long, and it’s already brought be a few writing clients.

A writing career. I never thought I’d make it as a freelance journalist, but I did for a while. Then when I returned to writing a few years ago, I never thought I’d make it as a web content writer. But I have. It’s a great feeling to work every day doing something I really enjoy — and something that improves the world. Many websites need much better content than they have now, and I can help with that.

A good life. I never really saw much future for myself. But armed with my George Foreman grill, 21 websites and my clunky little tablet, nothing can stop me. That may not be exactly what you require for happiness, however.

Your life probably involves many things you never thought you’d have either. A bit of unpredictability makes life interesting, doesn’t it?

One of the keys to a good life is to shed the people and things that weigh you down and fill your life with things that matter to you. That’s not something to be taken lightly and is, in fact, serious business.

My Everyday Or Pantry Chocolate Cake Recipe — Perfected!

Since discovering a recipe for an everyday chocolate cake in an old Everyday Food magazine, I’ve made it several times. But it never seemed quite right. Unless you add frosting, the cake never seemed to have much going for it.

After some experimenting, however, I’ve come up with an everyday chocolate cake recipe that you can make from things you probably keep in the house — with no milk, eggs or refrigerated ingredients. In fact, depending on how you feel about sugar, this could even be considered a vegan recipe.

And since you mix it right in the baking dish, there’s less cleanup than with most cake recipes.

Here’s the simple recipe:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Whisk the following ingredients together directly in an 8-inch square baking dish:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Once combined, push the dry ingredients to the outside edge of the dish and add the following to the middle:

6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup cold water

Using a whisk and a spoon if necessary to get into the edges, combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until a relatively smooth batter forms. Then cook for 35 minutes. Cool before cutting.

Here are a few tips:

  • It’s essential that you cool this cake before serving it, and it will stick to the pan a bit.
  • If this version still isn’t sweet enough for you, you can make an icing or use a canned icing. You can also drizzle with chocolate syrup — preferably one without high fructose corn syrup.
  • If your vanilla extract is a good brand, you may not need quite so much of it.
  • Keep in mind that this isn’t a decadent restaurant-style cake, nor is it a diet recipe. But it makes for a good dessert to have a couple hours after a quiet dinner at home. And it won’t leave you feeling guilty.
  • This recipe makes excellent muffins. Just decrease the cooking time and add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or nuts, if you like.

So there you have it. A simple pantry chocolate cake you can have at your home every day. In fact, you probably have everything you need to make it right now.

And since there’s essentially no cholesterol or animal products, there’s no reason not to have a second slice.