Q: I’m heading down to the beach this Labor Day for the first time ever, and I have heard that the jellyfish can be really bad on the Texas coast. How do you avoid them, and what do you do if you are stung by one?
Justin Torres, Arlington
A: The Texanist, thank God, has never tangled with any of the three jellyfish most common to the Texas coast. Nor has he endured the venomous lash of the hated Portuguese man-of-war. He does, however, harbor vivid memories of a bloody childhood incident that involved having his bare foot impaled to the hilt by the barbed dorsal spine of a washed up hardhead catfish, but that is a fish tale he’ll save for his fish therapist’s couch. When beachgoing, the Texanist is always coated with a liberal slathering of cocoa butter and always has his full, uncut chest, leg, and back plumage on display (no manscaper he). Perhaps the ample vegetable fat and body hair, like armor, have unintentionally protected him from the medusa’s torturous tentacles, or maybe, somehow, it has something to do with his sure-footed swagger. The Texanist can’t be certain.
The point is that while blooms of jellies can be abundant along the Texas Riviera, a skin-scalding encounter with one of the stinging gobs of goo need not ruin your getaway. The most important thing is to disregard any “100 percent guaranteed remedy” that involves a list of cockamamy ingredients including but not limited to shaving cream, beer, mayonnaise, tomato juice, buttermilk, or butter. Especially avoid the person insisting on the most persistent of old-wives’-tale-jellyfish-sting remedies: human urine. Even in the face of a red and throbbing leg engulfed from toe to knee in nematocysts, the Texanist would sooner have it sawed off than be peed upon by a chuckling chum. Experts recommend splashing (avoid rubbing) a bit of vinegar on the wound, applying a paste of baking soda or sand, scraping the area clean with a straight edge, and then going back to the vinegar. The Texanist would add that two jiggers of gin, some tonic water, and one quarter of a Mexican lime over ice wouldn’t hurt either.
Q: Recently I went to a Mexican restaurant and it was obvious that the waiter spoke both English and Spanish. I have a basic knowledge of Spanish and I tried to practice my foreign language skills by ordering in Spanish, but he responded in English. Did I insult him?
Andrea Tucker, Houston
A: It is entirely possible that you did encounter a less than simpatico server. However, it is just as possible that the poor man simply found himself adrift on the vast sea separating what you wished to say from your ability to actually say it and became annoyed. Is it possible that your “basic knowledge” of Spanish is not even so basic as you thought? Perhaps your waiter was trying to politely steer you back around to terra firma. It is always useful when operating a foreign tongue to imagine the myriad ways in which good intentions can go horribly awry:
What you intended to say: “I would like some coffee, please.”
What he heard: “I love myself to please a brown napkin.”
What you intended to say: “What do you recommend on the menu?”
What he heard: “I want to have a suggestive idea from you.”
What you intended to say: “And I’ll have the migas plate, hold the cheese, and a side of toast.”
What he heard: “We were drinking one crumbled dish to cancel the cheese for a lake of bread.”
Q: During the hot summer months is it okay to wear shorts and flip-flops while working cows?
John Drewett, Jaybird Ranch, Thurber
A: Short answer: No! Long answer: Hell no! Absolutely not. The Texanist is loath to even imagine the picture of you sitting atop poor ol’ Hurricane with the cornrowed mane and Hawaiian-print saddle blanket, loudly singing along while your Jimmy Buffett-loaded iPod blares “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” What’s wrong with you? If you had come to the Texanist with this curious query during the actual blistering heat of summer, he could have attributed it to an overheated brainpan, but here it is only late spring. What gives? Shorts and flip-flops! What’s next, a bandanna full of dreadlocks, a commemorative Margaritaville hacky sack, and a nimbus of dope smoke? Dancing the lambada with loose women? Have you ever had a venereal disease, sir? One of those really awful ones that cause hallucinations and feverish dreams and make you rue the day you put in for shore leave in the first place? Neither has the Texanist. But think of the herd, son. Consider your responsibilities. You must continue to dress your part. Put on your dungarees and your Western-style bib shirt, pull up your boots, break out your straw lid, and don’t forget your gloves, chaps, and jangling spurs. Good gosh almighty, if this type of behavior were allowed, the Texanist is as sure as the sunrise of what the sorry outcome would be: a bunch of unworked and sorely embarrassed cattle.
Q: Salt, lime, tequila; or tequila, lime, salt; or lime, salt, tequila? What’s the right way to shoot tequila?
Stanley Brown, El Paso
A: Traditionally, gulps of Mexican rotgut have been taken with the salt first, then the tequila, and then the lime, followed by a lot of puckering, wincing, and fanfare. But the Texanist would urge you to have it however you prefer it, whether that be with additional ingredients or slurped straight from the navel of a giggling Swedish dental technician late one night in the Cattle Baron Suite at the Driskill Hotel in Austin after a Jerry Jeff Walker birthday celebration that overlapped quite pleasantly with an international oral hygiene convention.
Q: When having vegetarian friends over for dinner, is it necessary that I become vegetarian myself for the evening?
Jeff N., Austin
A: The particular dietary path that your anemic acquaintances have chosen to follow is all their own, and they should not expect you, their good host, to have to go down it too. Would these malnourished so-called friends be expected to give up their own herbivorous ways were you visiting them for a meal? Of course not. The Texanist, for one, cannot bear the sight of another portobello cap taking up the rightful grill estate of a ribeye. Misery loves company, but company should never make you miserable, even for just an evening.