Meanwhile, in Texas . . .

  • The Brenham owner of the world’s largest barbecue pit, which can cook four tons of meat, put the grill up for sale on eBay with a starting price of $350,000.
  • A first-grade teacher in New Braunfels announced that she would donate one of her kidneys to a six-year-old student suffering organ failure.
  • The Rosenberg Police Department released a sketch of a robbery suspect wearing a ski mask.
  • Texas Tech students protested as a bulldozer knocked down an eleven-foot-tall “snow penis.”

The Fixer

James A. Baker III has seen it all. The Houston lawyer didn’t get involved in politics until he was 40, but since that time he has commanded the national and international stage like few others: running five presidential campaigns (one apiece for Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and three for George H. W. Bush) and serving as White House chief of staff, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, and all-around political fixer.

The Checklist

Books

Unplayable Lies, Dan Jenkins (Doubleday, March 17)
Contrary to what the subtitle says, this is probably not “The Only Golf Book You’ll Ever Need.” There are, of course, all the other golf books Jenkins has written. Still, here are forty pieces, half of them new, half of them revised and republished from Golf Digest, showcasing the master’s deep golf expertise and (if you can bear the occasional tedious bout of PC-bashing) sharp wit. 

Chico and the Postman

Last October, as Leila Melendez navigated her way through El Paso International Airport, she stopped and noted how heavy her suitcase was and began to laugh. She laughed because inside her luggage, alongside toiletries and changes of clothes, were items that would have baffled anyone who wasn’t from El Paso: twenty pounds of chorizo, asadero cheese, and tortillas from Barron’s Superette, in El Paso’s Mission Valley neighborhood.

iRoberson

When Chris Roberson first outlined his comic-book series iZombie, he was thinking Hollywood. “I was very mercenary about it,” the Duncanville-raised writer says. “I structured iZombie as the pitch of a TV show.” For instance, in the comic’s first five issues, there are only three interior locations, which would cut down on a show’s production costs.

A Tale of Two Sites

Jackie Young turns her car into the parking lot of the Food Town grocery store in the Houston suburb of Highlands and pulls up near the entrance. “Let’s people-watch,” she says. Within a few minutes, a woman carrying a shopping bag falls in the parking lot, her legs buckling beneath her. Two men help her to her feet. Then Young’s mother, Pamela Bonta, arrives and begins passing out health flyers to shoppers.

Roar of the Crowd

Found among the voluminous inrush of response to our latest cover was a distinct subset of disgruntled reader: the protester who returned the March issue, in whole, to our post-office box. Often, these declarations of dissatisfaction also carried with them a bit of hand-written commentary: “WORST ISSUE EVER (with the exception of the article on Becky Hammon)” came scribbled across one.

Relax. Reset. Renew.

Relax

There is nowhere you’ll feel more spoiled, more rejuvenated, or more mindlessly blissful than at Lake Austin Spa Resort.

Unwinding doesn’t usually come naturally to me, but by my second day at Lake Austin Spa Resort I was wearing my robe to dinner. Even the most tightly wound can morph into hard-core hedonists after just a few days at this secluded retreat twenty miles west of the Capitol. The spa’s nineteen waterfront acres have been, in past lives, a fish camp, a short-lived nudist colony, a bull-riding school, and the Bermuda Inn Reducing Resort; then, in 1997, two Louisiana State University fraternity brothers bought the property and transformed it into a sanctuary of repose. For years now, discriminating travel experts and publications have rated Lake Austin one of the top destination spas in the world. Not surprisingly, it’s also a major splurge: a three-night stay will cost you more than $1,700. Despite the price, Lake Austin doesn’t feel snobby or rarefied, like so many other posh asylums of pleasure, which makes it all the more relaxing. Plus, you get what you pay for. 

When I arrived I was given a little light reading: a twenty-page “Making the Most of Your Stay” booklet with descriptions of the hundred-plus spa treatments offered. The variety of activities and amenities available was almost comically overwhelming and my time finite: a Tibetan yoga class or a sculling lesson? A seaweed scrub or a Manaka tapping treatment? How would I choose? It took a full 24 hours to acclimate to my good fortune, but, oh, how I acclimated.

I hiked. I ate lobster ravioli. I lazed by the pool. Every morning, I’d consult the day’s schedule and pick one new pursuit to try: tai chi in the “tree house” studio, aqua aerobics in the pool barn, Hydrobiking on the Colorado River (imagine a waterborne stationary bike mounted on two huge bananas that has the turning radius of a semi). One afternoon, I skipped the cooking demonstration by the “cowgirl chef” so I could go to the fitness hoop-dance class but ended up skipping that too in favor of a nap. In the evenings, I’d slip into my thick white robe and powder-blue flip-flops and pad down a long gravel path beneath vine-covered trellises to the 25,000-square-foot spa—which is also open to day guests—to be buffed and kneaded and polished from face to feet. From there, it was off to the dining room for saffron squash risotto or grilled Cornish game hen served with the greens that I’d seen chef Stephane Beaucamp snipping from the garden earlier in the day. Afterward, back in my room, I’d slide into a lavender-scented bath before conking out while watching Downton Abbey, which I’d checked out from the front desk.

Though the resort’s Wi-Fi signal was strong, I posted nary a tweet or a photo online and barely glanced at my emails. I didn’t want to crow about my stay to friends and family stuck slogging through work meetings and rush-hour commutes back in the real world. And I wanted to practice being fully present in the moment, whether I was learning how to make goat-cheese soufflés in the French cooking class or swaying in a hammock under a tree as an equally unperturbed squirrel dropped bits of its snack on my head. 

I saved the spa’s signature Tour of Texas treatment for my last night. Over the course of two hours, I was exfoliated with a prickly-pear scrub and slathered in agave nectar before being swaddled like a papoose in soft linens, then anointed with warm essential oils and worked like dough by a masseuse who looked as sweet as a schoolteacher and had the hand strength of a steelworker. I retreated, massage drunk, to the famed Blue Room, a sky-hued lounge filled with antique chairs and Moroccan pouf ottomans, to nibble on dried apricots and unsalted almonds before tightening my sash and walking out into the night, under the stars. 

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