Thursday, July 29, 2010

the hotel San Antonio

the hotel San Antonio
Originally uploaded by Mark Bonica
'Relax,' said the night man,
'We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!'


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

patates douces dans le style de l'hôtel

Before heading off to the see the 2010 Army Soldier show tonight, the 5 Bonicas dined upon patates douces dans le style de l'hôtel (sweet potatoes in the style of the hotel), my latest creation.

cooking in the hotel

Served with brats fried in Lone Star beer.

The soldier show was terrific. It always amazes me the talent that you can find in any community. Beautiful singers, dancers, rappers - and for none of them music was a full time job. They will do this tour and then go back to their units all across the Army. The music was a retrospective going back to Irving Berlin, and then covering Frank Sinatra, Journey, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Alicia Keyes and Jay-Z, and others. Of course there was the obligatory Lee Greenwood song, concluding with the Army Song.

So to make patates douces dans le style de l'hôtel, you slice a medium sweet potato into fries, then nuke them for about 4 minutes (2 minutes, stir, two more minutes)

toss the sweet potato with oil in the wok, fry for about 8-10 minutes until tender but not mushy. cube the banana and toss with the sweet potato. add two packets of honey from Popeye's that you have on the counter. I almost added the pack of BBQ sauce, but decided not to at the last minute. Serve when the banana is slightly browned on your finest plastic.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm a Lone Star, I'm Rock Star

Mmmm... Not! This is truly awful stuff. Not sure why I was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to buy a 12 pack, but I had to have it.

Now I do like Shiner, in particular Shiner Bock, so I am not morally opposed to Texan beer.

I think it may have been that we spent the afternoon swimming in the sun at Canyon Lake. Pretty lake. Look forward to getting back there. Both Randolph Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston have recreation sites on the lake - we took advantage of Randolph's today. We'll have to check out FSH's another time.

I tried to convince the kids that tubing on the Guadalupe river was a blast, but they were uninterested until we crossed over it and they saw all the happy people tubing on it. Now we've got definite plans to get there soon!

The Witte Museum

We visited the Witte Museum in San Antonio yesterday. Located off of Broadway near downtown, it was easy to get to from our digs at Fort Sam Houston. Admission was reasonable - $6/head because of our military status, but if you aren't military, it's only a dollar more. The museum was hosting a Dinosaur exhibit for which they were charging an additional $3 fee, but we decided to skip it since it seemed oriented towards younger children.

Nonetheless, the first room you enter as you pass into the Witte is dedicated to dinosaurs, including ordinarily a stegosaurus skeleton which had been shipped out to have adjustments made to it.

dinosaur measure

Only a few feet from the dinosaur entrance you encounter a room hung with paintings of 18th-19th century scenes of Texas culture - cattle drives, saloons, etc. The juxtaposition is characteristic of the eclectic nature of the Witte.

(That's N. doing her best gangsta imitation, yet another juxtaposition to add to the experience. We can provide her as a guide to the museum for a modest fee.)

Perhaps the highlight of the visit for the kids was the portion of the museum dedicated to science for children. There were interactive exhibits dedicated to electricity, sound, water, the weather, physics, and other topics.



This display explained the idea of levers and gears by letting the kids crush a penny and imprint it with "The Witte Museum."

crushing pennies

Everybody got a laugh out of this pipe instrument that you played by slapping the bottom of the flip-flop over the opening. N. promptly figured out how to play Fur Elise with her flip flop.

"Noise Waves" exhibit

Back inside the main museum there were natural history displays, some with live animals, talking about the natural environment of Texas and conservation. More paintings of romanticized "Old West" scenes, and then upstairs a remarkable collection of gowns used in the "Order of the Alamo" coronations - a pageant that is part of the annual San Antonio "Fiesta". These were truly stunning costumes with beautiful detail. My girls were fascinated by them, and I confess to enjoying trying to capture bokeh shots.

Gown Collection

Gown Collection

Gown Collection

The Witte was eclectic by any definition. We enjoyed it - even though the kids initially thought it would be too little for them. The science museum section would be really enjoyable for elementary school-aged children. I would have liked to have taken a little more time with the art. All said, it was worth a visit. I'm not sure we'll go back, unless they have a traveling exhibit that really catches our attention. I follow them on Facebook now, so I'll watch also for special events. It's a nice facility, well maintained and curated. Recommend it especially for families with younger children.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Being separated from your "stuff" for an extended period forces you into new modes of thinking. You have to improvise to make yourself comfortable, finding ways to bend the environment to your needs. It's a primitive way of being - a hunter-gatherer mindset, every day a different problem to be overcome, and the capital you invest has to be general in nature, applicable to many situations.

hotel breakfast

I gathered this wretched thing on the way back through the hotel's "free breakfast" this morning, thinking initially that it would be my morning meal. (It's like the raided a gas station convenience store to stock their "breakfast" - it's that good.)

hashbrowns in the skillet

But when I got back to the room, I started rummaging around. We had a potato that made the trip with us from Virginia. There was some deli meat in the fridge. Some eggs. A plan came together.

Cube the potato, nuke it for a couple of minutes, then into the ubiquitous wok with a little hot oil. Hashbrown base.

add the eggs

After the potatoes were browned a bit, add the chopped ham, stir fry a bit more, then make a space in the middle and dump in the scrambled eggs.

The eggs cook slower if they're deep, so you have to mix them a bit without letting them stir out into the potatoes and meat right away. When the eggs have solidified you can chop them with the spatula, and then mix them with them into the potatoes and ham. Holding off to mix them in keeps the eggs a little chunkier, which I like.

almost there...

Last step - add some cheese on top.

Serve right out of the pan, or in a tortilla. Either way, it must be eaten with copious quantities of hot sauce.

huevos hotel

Life's always a choice. "This or that", as my new boss likes to say. The road isn't easy. Change is hard. It's something we (my family and I) haven't done in a few years, and it's harder than I remembered. But we're trying to choose to embrace it, rather than accept what's handed to us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The River Walk! Finally!

The San Antonio River Walk

After two weeks, we finally made it down to the main part of the River Walk! The kids were underwhelmed. They were hot, tired, and cranky and had no patience for shutterbug parents tonight. Looking forward to going back and getting some night shots - sans enfans. They did enjoy ice cream at Hagen Das, but regretted not having held out for Justin's gelateria. Kandie and I got a crazy English toffee covered candy apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Yum!

beer and sausage

Cooked up another decent dinner in the hotel tonight - beer and sausage. simple, not particularly elegant. fried up some green pepper and onion; cubed a potato, nuked it to soften, then added it to the mix; then sliced up some kielbasa - all into the wok. Salt, pepper, and a splash of Warsteiner. Not bad for a single skillet meal. The Warsteiner on the side really helped.

Waiting on the results of our house negotiations - we should have an answer tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fine Dining, Hotel Room-Style

Just to be clear, we're not talking about room service from a fine hotel restaurant.

fine dining, hotel room-style

Pre-cooked Tyson's brisket in onion gravy, and pre-cooked mashed potatoes (not sure the brand) were not bad - a bit like eating someone else's pretty good left overs.

Served with carottes à l'hôtel:

carottes à l'hôtel


slice up the pre-pealed baby carrots into 1/2 inch nuggets.

nuke them in the microwave that is so old it doesn't have a carousel for 3 minutes (because it also is really weak).

heat your wok on the single burner hot plate you bought at Wal-Mart.

throw in the pat of butter you took from the hotel's free breakfast.

when the butter is melted, add the carrots. saute for approximately 5 minutes.

open the 2 packs of honey you have from Popeye's Chicken and add to carrots. stir thoroughly and cook for one more minute.

serve with pre-made mashed potatoes and pre-cooked brisket you bought at the grocery store.


on a lighter note, we've decided to make an offer on a house out in the community - wish us luck!

Monday, July 19, 2010

San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden


Nestled in to old San Antonio, the Japanese Tea Garden is a nice respite from the city.


Lovely flowers throughout:



Bamboo, banana, and palm:

Palm tree

...and of course, koi the size of small blue whales:


obnoxious photography competition

Everybody's trying to get into the act!

Actually it was kind of cool to see three professional photographers doing photo shoots in the garden.

At mid-summer, I think some of the flowers are past their prime, so there is a bit more gray than perhaps you would see in the early spring. But the paths are well maintained and the waterfall is lovely. At the perfect price of free, it's well worth taking an hour to walk slowly through and enjoy the gardening efforts.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

All Through the Night

Sleep my love, and peace attend thee
All through the night;

Combat Medic

Guardian angels God will lend thee,
All through the night,

Guardian Angels

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
All through the night.
- popular version of Welsh traditional

Some night shots on Fort Sam Houston. The first is of the Combat Medic statue in front of the Army Medical Department Museum, the second is of a retired MEDEVAC helicopter in front of the Army Medical Department Center and School - where I will start teaching soon. In the Combat Medic picture, the building in the background is the old Brooke Army Medical Center building. My oldest daughter was born there. If I remember correctly, the recovery ward windows were in the row of windows below the raised section. I held my first child while looking out those windows.

Today we looked at houses off post. We're really looking forward to getting into a new house and making it our home.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Change of Command

My friend Chuck took command today of a battalion at Fort Sam Houston. Kandie and I arrived too late to get good seats, so I didn't get the best pictures I could have. But I think I was able to get a few that show you what the change of command ceremony looks like if you aren't familiar with the tradition.

The Staff, ready

The battalion is a major tactical unit within the Army. Chuck's battalion will consist of 800 men and women. It recently deployed to provide humanitarian assistance in Haiti and is on standby to return in case of any sudden decline in conditions there. Here you see the "staff" - officers who represent the major functional areas of the battalion - personnel, military intelligence, operations, and logistics - at the front of the formation waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Troop the Line

Here you see the outgoing, incoming, and next higher commanders trooping the line - which means they are performing a ritual inspection of the assembled troops.

Passing of the Colors

Here you see the tradition of passing the colors. The "colors" refers to the unit flag. It is presented one final time by the senior non-comissioned officer (in this case, the battalion sergeant major) to the outgoing commander. He then passes the colors to his commander, who then turns and passes the colors to the incoming commander, who then passes them back to the sergeant major.

This is the symbolic moment when command passes from the old to the new.

The Commander

Here you see the new commander preparing to give the order to "pass in review."

The US Army Medical Command Band

Following the change of command, the troops pass in review in front of the new commander. Here you see the U.S. Army Medical Command Band leading the pass in review. The band is not part of this battalion, but since they were participating in the ceremony, they came through first. If you ever get a chance to see a military band perform, I highly recommend it. They are wonderfully talented musicians and soldiers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Josephine Street Cafe

Dinner out tonight with Kandie's cousin and his wife (and our kids of course). We went to the Josephine Street Cafe which bills itself as a "Texas Road House."


Food was basic, but good and reasonably priced. I got the 12 oz. t-bone with slaw - medium rare. Very good. The place is busting out with ambiance. A tree trunk is in the middle of the dining room going up to the ceiling, the bar has well worn look to it, and you can look into the grill while you wait for your food. Wait staff was pleasant. We're definitely going back. I'm thinking about asking the manager if I can take some photos inside - it's a very cool place - had a great vibe. It's off the beaten path, but not as much as it once was. It's in the shadow of I-35, and the whole area around it is undergoing urban renewal. In particular the Pearl Brewery buildings just around the corner are being converted into retail space, and an extension of the River Walk comes all the way out there.

DSC_0050 copy

After dinner, we walked down to the River Walk and walked a little ways looking at what the city had done.


That's an intimidating bunch if I ever saw one. But check out those fish hanging from the I-35 overpass.

Fish, I said. Giant sunfish.


I guess they get lit up at night. We were just a bit too early to see that. I'd like to go back when it's dark.

There were a lot of people out exercising, including this one mad unicyclist

DSC_0030 copy

Not that there are other kinds of unicyclists, but this guy almost ran us down.


We saw a family of ducks enjoying the river, as well.

Pearl Brewery building

It's not completely gentrified yet, but it's getting there.

DSC_0052 copy

I hope the Josephine Street Cafe keeps its style when all the old buildings are gone or gutted.

Thanks M & R for showing us around!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

waves of laundry

waves of laundry
Originally uploaded by Mark Bonica
we've been homeless for two weeks as of today.

We're fighting to get our turns on one of the four washing machines and one of the four dryers. We have clothes hanging all around the room drying. When you live your life in two rooms, everything has a secondary purpose.

Monday, July 12, 2010

wounded warriors

When I got back to the hotel after work tonight I pulled in next to a large black pick up truck only a moment after it had parked. I was fumbling around with my ID and the hotel room key-card and other junk when I glanced up to see a young lady come around to the passenger side door of the truck next to where I was parked. The passenger door opened and a young man turned himself to sit sideways as the young lady lifted a wheel chair from the bed of the truck and began to set it up. It was then I noticed the young man was missing his right leg from below his knee. There was an ace bandage wrapping it from below the stump to mid thigh. He was wearing shorts and his remaining leg was a contrast to the missing one.

I suppose this was a moment when a better man might have thought of something to do - perhaps offered to help (though they seemed to be getting along fine) - or even said something appropriate. Instead I sat in my van for another minute while they worked together to situate the young man. Then I stepped out of my car and walked quietly to the building. It wasn't until I got to the door of the hotel that I realized I had left my bag in the car. I went up to the room instead of going back.

I came out later to make an attempt at capturing a picture of the Center for the Intrepid, one of the Army's amputee care centers. (We are staying in a hotel across the street from it.) The healers there work some amazing miracles, and I felt a need to participate in that process somehow this evening, if only remotely.

Center for the Intrepid

I've spent almost two decades in the Army Medical Service Corps, and sometimes I wish I could do more than I do. By which I mean, something direct for our patients. But I suppose I'm not that type of person, and it wasn't what I was meant to do. We have to own our strengths and weaknesses at some point in our lives, and come to terms with them.

As I crossed the road after taking various shots of the building and approached the hotel, I saw off by the side entrance of the hotel this wheel chair, standing alone.

wounded warriors

I don't know if my picture transmits what it made me feel in that moment. Alone.

I considered my more than twenty years of service and the fact that I have never been called to serve over seas, even though our country has been at war almost continuously since I first enlisted. It was only months after I finished my basic training that we invaded Panama, and only months after I finished my AIT that we repelled Saddam from Kuwait.

I looked at that wheelchair tonight, considered the building I had been photographing, considered the young man and the young woman with him, and could only think, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fort Sam Houston Aquatic Center

Fort Sam Houston Aquatic Center

Met up with some friends from Virginia who happened to be visiting family in San Antonio today and went to the Fort Sam Houston Aquatic Center for a little fun in the sun. This is A., their oldest boy, coming off one of the three large slides they have at the pool. Very nice facility. My kids are going to make good use of it this summer I know.

Water Bender

The spray around her hands made me think of that Avatar movie I got dragged to the other day (beautiful sets, nice effects, really bad acting - kind of like the latest Star Wars trilogy).

show boating

This big man around the pool was showing off for all the girls. Kind of liked the modest silhouette I got as the sun was coming down behind the slide.

Cat in the bag

Cat in the bag
Originally uploaded by Mark Bonica
still in the hotel, trying to figure out how a family of five + 2 cats can live life in 2 rooms. Could be up to 2 months like this. We bought a hot plate today so that we could venture beyond microwave cooking. I'm longing to actually cook a real meal, never mind actually eating it.

El Gato loves bags. He seems to have settled in to life in one room pretty well as long as we're around.

Hoping maybe to get a few evening shots over on post tonight for my shot of the day, but if not, this might be it.