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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My final days

Weather again this morning was in the upper 60s. News reports talked about yesterday's weather: we were one degree from breaking a record: it reached 78 degrees yesterday. Temperatures will fall almost 20 degrees in the next two days, though, bringing the weather back to normal for February. We only had 1.66 inches of precipitation for January.

I'm just about done with all that I need to do, and spent some time this morning after sunrise having a leasure breakfast in town. I had always heard about how great the breakfasts were at Lil' Texas restaurant on 535 S Main Street in Copperas Cove, so I had to check it out. All these months that I've seen the restaurant as I drive by on a daily basis, I've never eaten there. The parking lot is always full and the building itself is large. It's a popular hang-out for the town's retired and church crowd. Since Coryell County is on paper a dry county, there are no pubs to visit and chat with locals, so food is the reason why people around here gather to socialize and share the latest gossip.

I was a little disappointment in my breakfast. Although it's not difficult to make a tasty egg breakfast, my hash browns were barely golden and looked like they had just come out of the box and were warmed over a heater. The hash browns were warm, but they were salty. I ate everything because I was hungry; I didn't have dinner last night.

The interior was nice and homey: blue and grey vinyl chairs and tables filled the two large dining rooms. Commercially-made Dream Catchers and prints of feathered American Indians in deer skin decorated the walls. The young servers stood against one wall and cautiously watched over their customers, always willing to offer refills on coffee.

Tara, my young server, brought me wheat toast that was buttered. I always order my toast dry. "Oh, the cook messed up" she said. But Hon, I thought, ~YOU~ should have also quickly scanned the order to make sure the cook got it right, too. Servers can't blame all the fault of bad food on the cooks alone. Tara quickly brought me two slices of dry toast. All was well.

My bill came to $6, rather steep for two eggs, toast and salty white hash browns and coffee. The coffee was an additional $1.25. "Was everything OK?" the hostess asked me as I paid the bill.
"It was OK..." I replied, refusing to give details unless asked but those questions thankfully never came. Perhaps the servers are used to customer complaints. My one consolation is that I won't ever have to come back to this place.

Two blocks from Lil' Tex is another local burger joint, Mel's Burger Joint, on 302 South First Street. It was voted "Best in Town in 2002 and 2oo3" according to a Fort Hood website. I had eaten in that place last month to try it out. The servers were very attentive, Mel, the owner, along with her husband Don Steele, walked around and greeted all her customers, even took their bills at the front register, and smiled the entire time. The place was crowded even during off-hours.

The cheeseburger was delicious and the portion more than filling. The patty was hand-formed, the bun plump and warm. But the price of $9.47 for a cheese burger (with real Swiss cheese), fries ("A half pound!") and iced tea seemed unreasonbly high. I won't be going back there again although if I lived here indefinitely I think that would be a nice place to sit and chat with the locals over iced tea. I'd eat elsewhere, though, although I have never minded supporting local businesses and friendly people like the Steeles. Their restaurant is a Cove icon and hopefully will remain one.

There are a few other good places in town that I've eaten at over the years. Some, sadly have gone out of business. Others closed before I could gather the gumption to try out the eats, like the Monster Burger joint in Cove's downtown that has been standing closed since November at least. Or the Chicago Pizza restaurant that opened in the summer of 2006--the owners were from Minnesota--and that shut its doors a year later. A new Italian place is next door but I haven't tried that place yet, being a fan of the more established Giovanni's in the town's shopping plaza. That place can still make a decent and affordable baked ziti dish that isn't swimming in excessive marinara. There's a pizza place I may try out before I leave; perhaps I can go there Thursday before my movie?

What would I chat about with the locals? The high school's BullDawgs that lost (again) in the final 4A Division I state championship football game? Copperas Cove has been especially proud of its football team; banners and signs all over town give hommage to the boys in blue. The LadyDawgs basketball team? They are also doing well this year. The warm weather? The election? The Iraq War? No one talks about the Iraq War anymore. Even the presidential candidates are making the economy their number one campaign issue because none of the candidates have a viable solution to the Iraq War anymore. They had to find something they could talk about that would sell to the American voters and which strikes home.

It's Super Tuesday today and it's not even a topic for Texans since the state primary is still a month away. All the news channels are broadcasting analytical programs over who may win the 24 states voting today, if only to make the Republican and Democratic candidate more clear. Will it be McCain or Romney for the GOP, Clinton or Obama for the Democrats? Even I can't tell for sure. All I know is that the more Romney talks to McCain, the less I like him.

I know the economy has struck me personally and will even more so in a few months. It's gotten expensive lately to eat out, even to eat fast food. I'm going to have a hard time keeping my food budget to under $20 a day if I want to eat out somewhere different every night and meet people. I could save plenty of money if I bought my own sandwich supplies and slapped on my own cheese tortilla wraps in BBQ sauce every night, but where is the beauty in travel when I eat alone?

The local Cove theatre will show "Mad Money" starting Thursday night at 9:45pm. It stars Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah. I will walk from the apartment to the theatre to finally see a movie in that old town theatre!

I paid my final rent at Dewald Properties earlier today, closing out that chapter. Although the apartment complex I stayed at was sufficient and convenient to me, the rent of $455 for a small efficiency apartment--364 sq feet-- was also on the high side. Dewalf Properties can afford to charge high rent because many of the tenants are transient tenants from nearby Fort Hood, and many of the tenants are coming and going from on-going deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They never hurt for occupancy because the military is their business. All that aside, the complex was quiet and safe and maintenance personnel were quick to repair/replace equipment. The administrative staff was also pleasant. In the summer months the two swimming pools are croweded with young children...and I'm sure the pool has a high urine content!

My one big complaint about Dewald Properties was the very strict no pet policy that is repeated several times in the lease. If you are caught with a dog/cat/bird in your apartment, you will face eviction and/or a daily fine until the animal is removed. That is one more hit against all the homeless animals in Texas who are discarded like trash every day on Texas streets.

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