Eric Benson’s dispatch from Reynosa in the February issue revealed yet another disturbing consequence of the cartel violence that has swept through the border towns. As the crime syndicates have become more powerful, they have infiltrated Mexican newsrooms and intimidated journalists, going so far as to dictate what can and can’t be written.
On a recent road trip, I found that there’s a treasure of culinary decadence if you know where to look.
I started in Monroe with a stop at Cotton restaurant. Here, local celebrity chef, Cory Bahr, churns out classic Southern food including perhaps the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever tasted. A tip from a local sent me to Big Mama’s Fine Foods, another “Monroe must” for some of the tastiest fried chicken in the state.
Half an hour before tip-off in the December 10 matchup between the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs, assistant coach Becky Hammon was at work on the floor of the AT&T Center passing basketballs to Spurs players. Hammon, a star in the WNBA for sixteen years who has never lacked for confidence—a necessity, perhaps, given that she stands at a modest five feet six inches—moved nimbly around the court.
New agriculture commissioner Sid Miller announced that his first official act would be to grant “amnesty” to cupcakes by publicizing a 2014 policy change to state school nutritional standards that he said ended a 2004 rule prohibiting schoolchildren from bringing sugary desserts to celebrate class birthdays.
This is a song about fictional people who used to farm near a place I used to fish,” James McMurtry says from the stage before launching into “Deaver’s Crossing,” a track off Complicated Game, his first studio album in nearly seven years. It’s a head-scratching bit of banter, which is not surprising coming from a songwriter whose lyrics lean more toward the imaginative than the confessional.
“El Paso—Rayo Reyes, a musician, in an unwary moment, crosses to the Mexican side and is robbed of everything he had with him by highwaymen. The hold-up was a most thorough one, and included the taking of Reyes’ clothes. He was afterwards forced to recross the Rio Grande in his underclothes.”
—Shiner Gazette, March 4, 1909
For years, Cleveland Turner was a fixture of Houston’s Third Ward, riding his bike every day, foraging for cast-off flowers, misfit toys, and other brightly colored urban detritus to decorate his home at 2305 Francis Street, the third location of the Flower Man House, his decades-long, ever-evolving masterpiece of African American yard-show art. But when Turner fell ill with stomach cancer in 2013, the house ailed as visibly as he did.
Black Beauty, Elana James (Snarf Records, February 24)
As Hot Club of Cowtown’s fiddler and singer, James is best known for playing western swing and hot jazz. Black Beauty is a reminder that her training—studies in classical and North Indian music, a sideman gig with Bob Dylan—ranges much further. And so: a disparate bunch of original compositions, an Azerbaijani folk song, and covers of Dylan, the Dead, and, hmmm, the electro-pop duo Yazoo.