Art Acevedo is going to beachier pastures. Miami hired him because of the “national profile” he created for himself by hugging on BLM protesters on camera while his underlings arrested various protesters for no particular reason. Unfortunately, those that prefer symbolism to action ate it up and only helped Acevedo’s popularity. As Texas Monthly reported, the hero myth is real.
While the murder of George Floyd gave a national profile to the need for police reform and improved police-race relations for which Houston could have been an example, Acevedo took the opportunity to attack judges and activists who supported and worked toward police and bail reform. His tough talk laced with crocodile tears made for great centrism and avoidance of the problems faced in our communities. He’s perfect for Florida.
Frankly, with Acevedo gone, Houston has an opportunity to hire a police chief who will have the guts to take on the cops union and join forces with leaders who support police and bail reform. Police and bail reform should be a national priority that requires more action, and a lot less hugs and weightless platitudes for the cameras.
That’s really all that needs to be said. Also, he probably decided he couldn’t beat Matthew McConaughey.
Early on in this pandemic, I wrote about how much cooking I had been doing since I committed to staying at home, other than for essential tasks (work, groceries, family errands). It’s safe to say that, other than a couple of hamburger pick-ups at Jack in the Box, my kitchen skills continue to get honed during these days.
This weekend, I decided to conquer that Chicano (and Mexican) delicacy–Menudo! Some non-brown folks will automatically respond with, “Isn’t that for hangovers?” Kind of annoying, actually.
While its medicinal value after a night of drinking has been documented by various drunk uncles (me, included), the fact is that it is something that many of us actually enjoy eating every now and then. And while the thought of eating the stomach lining of a cow may gross some people out, it is actually pretty good when made right. For the most part, unless it was made by our mothers, actually ordering at restaurants was something that required research (mostly word of mouth) about how good a particular restaurant’s menudo was. Not all menudos are equal; in fact, some really suck. One local place that has some pretty good menudo is Andy’s Home Cafe in the Houston Heights. And the Ruchi’s on Richmond/Sage has been known to have some good stuff. And Balderas’ Tamales in Cypress, too. But, as is always said, homemade is best.
For years, I would see Flo (my Mom) make this stuff on special occasions. Or, sometimes, just a regular late Saturday night so that it would be ready for Sunday morning. As a kid, I was grossed out when seeing her washing and cutting the main ingredient–honeycomb beef tripe. The smell wasn’t all that great, either. Usually, one would have to go deep into the local meat markets to find the stuff. Nowadays, you can find it next to the ham hocks at HEB, though, my find was different: Beef scalded tripe–a 5 lb package, though not honeycomb. It’s all they had, so I bought it, since most menudos aren’t 100% honeycomb tripe.
What did scalded mean? It means HEBs butchers will scald (parboil) it in hot water before packing it. So, while the usual directions for honeycomb tripe will have you cutting larger chunks to make up for any shrinkage in the cooking of it, the scalded one seems to have little shrinkage, little fat, and little gaminess. After washing, cutting into bite size rectangles with kitchen shears, and then washing again, I marinated the chunks in lemon juice. This helped to tenderize and also get rid of any gaminess that lingered. After 30 minutes to an hour, it was ready for one more washing before heading for the stock pot.
I placed the chunks of the tripe into the pot and added enough water to cover it. Also, one cannot forget the pig’s feet. After a long while to get the pot to a boil, I covered it. And then began 4 or so hours of boiling the tripe. In between, I added some crushed pepper (for a kick), a couple of bay leaves, a medium onion, and 4 cloves of garlic. I may have thrown in some oregano, though some only use it as a garnish. The smell of goodness started filling the air.
While you wait is a good time to make the red chile paste, as I prefer red menudo to green. After de-seeding, de-stemming, and cutting and washing a couple of packets of dry chiles anchos, I brought them to a boil and let them sit for 30 minutes. After adding some salt and another garlic clove for good measure, I pureed them in the blender throughly.
Once the tripe is cooked and soft, you add the puree to the boil, along with a couple cups of water. I, then, added a couple of 16 oz cans of white hominy. Of course, I forgot that my family loves hominy in their menudo, so an extra 32 oz can was added later. Cook for another 30 or so minutes and it was ready.
I remembered Flo usually skimming whatever grease happened to move to the top of the boil, but, to my surprise, no skimming was needed in mine. Sure, it was there, but nothing to really skim. After tasting a few pancitas (the tripe), the soup, and ensuring the softness of the posoles, I deemed it ready for consumption.
Garnishes like diced jalapeños, diced onion, and oregano go quite well with menudo. Some have corn or flour tortillas with it, while others have bolillos (or my brother-in-law-made sourdough bread) to dip in the soup. When I order it, there’s usually an auxiliary taco or two, but I gave all my time to the menudo-making. It’s all good, as long as the menudo is piping hot.
I think I made my Mama proud with this first attempt at menudo. At least, I think it would be “someone else’s” menudo that she would actually enjoy. It also brought some good memories of seeing my Mom and Pop in the kitchen working together creating whatever we were eating during the holidays.
Coming soon: Tamales! But, first, a bowl of re-heated menudo!
During the pandemic, Baca took care in keeping himself safe–virtual concerts on Wednesdays to make a few bucks via Paypal donations, and mostly living off of his savings. Eight months later, with savings depleted, Baca hit the road again to pay the bills and ventured into danger.
Trump’s promises that the pandemic was a temporary thing that would disappear were outright lies that fed into a disinformation campaign to keep people confused and acting stupidly; but, the reality is that it is long-term, cutting into most performer’s ability to make money and pay their bills. And that included Baca’s band Los Texmaniacs.
After whittling down his life savings trying to stay afloat while the coronavirus pandemic brought his live performances to a grinding halt, Baca knew he needed to look outside of his hometown of San Antonio for gigs to pay the bills.
That desperation took the guitarist and vocalist to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he found a few paying gigs playing with a stripped-down version of his Grammy Award-winning band Los Texmaniacs.
“I still gotta pay my mortgage because there’s no such thing as a deferred payment” from his lender, Baca said, noting that all his bills were urgently coming due.
It was a decision that has now put his career in jeopardy.
San Antonio Report, 11/22/2020
Baca contracted COVID-19 and has spent almost a couple of weeks in ICU recovering.
Another reality is that federal CARES funds that helped many small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic were quite complicated for musicians and performers to apply for and receive. The competition was fierce for the funds, not to mention that they were limited. And Baca, unfortunately, did not receive any funding. Now, he’s fighting COVID-19, on top of no performances, no health insurance, and the extra $600 in unemployment payments about to end.
For many performers, the gigs are their livelihood, and we have seen a recent uptick in live performances at clubs and event centers around the state. And all of this during the current COVID-19 surge. Are these the next super-spreader events that we are not hearing about in the news?
Because that is the reality: Crowded performances mean more infections if CDC protocols are not followed. And it seems the maskless and easily offended by the CDC always win in Texas, thanks to Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick. Still, venues and performers have a responsibility to enforce CDC protocols, including testing before performances–even requiring it for attendees of these indoor events. There is very little (or none) of this happening.
Houston recently announced a program dedicated to helping musicians and music venues get through the pandemic. Musicians are eligible for up to $5000, while venues are eligible for $50,000 to $100,000 depending on budget size. Unfortunately, we’re only talking about $3,000,000. But it’s something.
Some bands have built a good infrastructure to continue despite COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of them did not have the ability (or maybe confidence) to create a strong virtual presence. Bands like The Mavericks have taken to pay-per-view concerts based on a loyal fan base willing to pay the virtual door fee. Intocable were one popular band that were able to do a mini-tour of outdoor parking lot concerts in various parts of the state to some success.
And there are others in the Tejano industry who have done Facebook Live gigs asking for donations. Unfortunately, virtual gigs don’t give a band the feel of a live show with an energetic crowd. Still, it’s an opportunity that some of these Tejano bands have not fully utilized and that fans have not fully appreciated (through good donations).
There doesn’t seem to be much of a solution and as long as COVID-19 surges, there will be an eventual shutdown–or more limits on attendance. It is easy to tell these bands and venues that they have a responsibility to keep people from attending super-spreader events, but somewhere along the way, musicians were left to fend for themselves with little to no help. Thus, some are back on the road with no CDC compliance and a fan base that feels invincible to the disease (until they find out they aren’t). It’s a vicious circle.
While the HEROES Act passed by the Democratic US House sits in limbo because of a vindictive Republican US Senate and President, at the very least the $600 of extra unemployment benefits must be extended beyond Christmas. A better solution would be for Republicans and Trump to get off their asses and pass/sign a HEROES Act that takes care of gig-to-gig performers and artists whose talents have always been taken for granted.
Wear a mask. Wash hands. Stay home. And if you must work or be out and about, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance yourself from people outside of your home circle.
After Los Texmaniacs reported that their leader Max Baca had contracted COVID-19, I was really worried. Sure, he’s a Grammy winner and an accomplished bajo sexto player, but he’s also a really nice guy and always willing to have a conversation about his craft so people like me can write about it for posterity. Thankfully, good people like Hector Saldana at the Witliff Center at Texas State University kept us posted on his own FB feed after actually speaking to Max.
At this writing, Baca’s been in the ICU for a grueling 10 days.He says when he was admitted, his blood oxygen level was critically low.Healthy lungs keep blood at about 95%.
Max Baca: “I got here and my oxygen level was 70%. And so now due to the breathing exercises that they have me do and then they have the therapy and treatments have been able to breath 95, maybe 97 on my own.”
As a measure of how sick he got, he spent several days on a ventilator.
Max Baca: “I was on for a little bit, for three days. But thank God (now) I’m able to talk and I’m able to breathe. And you know, thank God for the medical facilities and all the doctors and nurses and everybody has some blood transfusions, things that other patients have made it (through COVID-19), was able to help me out with that a little bit.”
“And also, you know, it’s kind of sad here in the E.R. You just hear people coughing and coughing all around you. And then all of a sudden they stop coughing and then they roll them out on the bed with a blanket over the face because they didn’t make it.”
Texas Public Radio, Nov 20, 2020
¡Hijole, que susto!
Here’s hoping the worst is over and that Max heads home soon to fully recover and rest after this ordeal.
This is just a reminder that COVID-19 is real. I’ve seen a lot of musician friends head back on the road for shows, since the work provides for their families. Some practice safety protocols, others not so much. The crowds at these shows don’t seem to care much about masks, though. As much as I love live music, I’m fine watching a livestream from home and I’m even happier to give a donation through their paypals, venmos, etc.
Whether you’re a musician or a fan: Wear a multi-ply mask! Wash hands! Stay home! And if you really need to be out and about (or working) practice safety protocols to take away any opportunity to get infected.
Like a few other folks from Houston (it seems), I was ecstatic after watching Culiacan, Sinaloa’s own Julio Urias strike out the last batter as the LA Dodgers won the 2020 World Series this week. But my own celebration was tamped down by the revelation that Justin Turner had tested positive for COVID-19 and was taken out of the game in the 8th inning.
How do you get COVID-19 when you’re enveloped by the professional sports bubble? And why, after Turner’s first test was inconclusive (or positive?) was he even allowed on the field, anyway? And, why, after being taken out, was he allowed on the field for the celebration and team photo? The story is he forced himself out there despite efforts to stop him.
Turner’s comment that while he tested positive, yet, that he had no symptoms and felt fine, shows the ignorance that is still rampant in America about COVID-19. You can still spread the disease when you feel fine. Feeling fine isn’t enough. You must quarantine and not get back to your daily duties until you have finally tested negative.
No doubt, most COVID-19 infections have happened because of either carelessness or irresponsible behavior. So, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that a scene of maskless (or masks pulled down) fans celebrating in LA is now making the rounds in the media. In the latest COVID Hunter vid, Dr. Joseph Varon gives us the best reason the numbers are climbing: We are stupid and not following simple steps–wearing masks, distance, wash hands.
Meanwhile, in the real world, COVID-19 is still rampant and on the rise again, especially here in Texas. Yet, schools are open, restaurants are filling up, and people continue to shirk their responsibilities by not wearing masks (or not wearing them correctly) at small and large gatherings.
But, that’s OK. We have a dismal presidential and Texas gubernatorial administration who have set the example by forcing open school, bars, businesses, and encouraging the nonchalant attitude that endangers us all.
Anyway, here’s the latest COVID Hunter video. It’s quite informative regarding mask use, the latest attempts at vaccines and therapeutics.
We see the daily attacks and debate regarding Dr. Fauci. We sometimes see local vaccine authority Dr. Peter Hotez giving us his knowledge about what is to come regarding a vaccine. But have you watched UMMC’s Dr. Joseph Varon on his youtube and facebook Q&A show, COVID Hunter?
As COVID-19 enters a new surge in Fall 2020, these informative shows by Dr. Varon will help us get tips on avoidance, prevention measures, and the latest ways that he and his team at UMMC are treating patients with COVID-19. Further, he pushes away at myths about the pandemic that you may see on social media, or that come out of the mouth of Trump.
I caught his Episode 9, which he offers half in English and half in Spanish. Among the questions answered and expert comments offered were:
The 2nd wave of COVID-19 is definitely here and will probably last longer than the first, and even be worst that the first.
Varon believes schools should be closed and taught online to prevent community spread. He states that even though half of children may be asymptomatic, they are still able to spread it. If they catch it at school, they will spread it to family members. As families are more and more multigenerational, this could be catastrophic.
As far as avoiding COVID-19, the best way is to WEAR A MASK, physically distance from others, and sanitize (wash) your hands. Stay home as much as possible, but if you must be out and about or at work, then mask-up.
Other preventative measures include eating healthy, take Vitamins C, D, and Zinc to boost your immune system. And if you are among those who have underlying conditions, maintain your treatment and healthy nutrition.
If you do get COVID-19, he states that it must be treated early, rather than waiting for the symptoms to worsen. He added that treatments such as Remdesivir and others work when COVID-19 is in the first week after transmission as the meds try to tamp down the virus. Worsening symptoms, such as inflammation, pneumonia, and blood thickening are treated through other clinical means.
If you are wondering about Trump’s outcome, he was treated early, sent to a hospital early, and was given the drugs to tamp down the virus.
Finally, he stated that his hospital, United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) on Tidwell will treat all COVID patients regardless of whether they are insured. But, go early in the symptomology for treatment as one has a better chance at beating this thing in the early stages.
Dr. Varon is one of the most informative docs out there as he is on the front lines treating patients everyday. We need the best information that can be disseminated to the people, rather than hair-pulling debates on the cable news channels. Thanks to Dr. Varon for offering his perspective.