Biannual roundup of an ad-free blog


This blogger has blogged so prolifically she has used up all the free space WordPress has to offer. This is good news for you because ads will no longer pop up at the bottom of posts, but it was bad news for me because I actually have to pay a small amount to engage in this form of therapy. I’m not complaining though, because I have never understood how WordPress can afford to offer this service at no charge. I’m grateful for enjoying a free ride for several years.

This list represents the most-read posts during the past 12 months, and interest in the Alamo and its plaza rose to the top once again. But thanks for continuing to give me the freedom to wander around the globe and send postcards back to San Antonio as well.

The numbers in parentheses represent the rankings from six months ago:

  1. Don’t Let Battle Zealots Overrun the Crockett Block, 2016
  2. The Madarasz Murder Mystery: Might Helen Haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (1)
  3. Take pleasure in little unauthorized treasures along the River Walk before they vanish, 2015 (7)
  4. How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?, 2011 (3)
  5. Please put this song on Tony’s pony and make it ride away, 2010 (5)
  6. Postcards from San Antonio a Century Ago, 2016
  7. Playspace of Yanaguana Garden bursts into bloom October 2, 2015 (8)
  8. Postcard from Madrid, Spain: Flavorful food memories, 2015
  9. Postcard from Puebla, Mexico: An unlikely trio of favorite restaurants, 2015
  10. Reviving Dia de los Muertos, 2015
  11. Postcard from Sintra, Portugal: Masonic mysteries surface at Quinta da Regaleira, 2014
  12. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Settling into La Biznaga, 2016

Thanks for dropping by every once in a while. Love hearing your feedback.



The grinch who stole Pocahontas


Like a lump of coal in your Christmas stockings, I’m writing this for the next generation: Cecil, Bill, Lawrence, Tarrall and Kate.

I don’t mean to be a bah-humbug type, but it’s a lot worse for your mothers and me. We grew up told we were Indian princesses, the 13th-great-grandchildren of Pocahontas (Pocahontas “Rebecca” Powhatan Matoaka Rolfe, 1595-1618). I don’t think we promised you that you are the 14th with the same degree of certainty.

But we were told this by your Great-Great Aunt Mary (Mary Virginia Williams, 1894-1967), a rather intimidating Victorian-type woman whom we did our best not to cross and who, thank goodness, has no idea that we produced offspring who might pronounce her title as “Ant” Mary.

As long as she was alive, no one challenged her story to her face. And would she lie? Well, maybe, if it were something she viewed as extremely important, such as qualifying for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Diluted through generations, Pocahontas never could provide enough Native American blood to qualify for scholarships, but she added something exotic to our ho-hum English-Irish combative combination.

But it’s time to strip that false heritage away once and for all.

Your Great-Great Aunt Mary fudged, or her “professional” genealogist did. The shortcut to Pocahontas they took was through Elizabeth Bernard in the 1700s. While we have an Elizabeth Bernard, the one they claimed was married to John Lambeth, Jr. (1726-1813, your 6th-great-grandfather) actually was married to Philip Gooch.

The line of our Elizabeth Bernard (1750-1796) definitely takes us back to daughters and sons qualifications, which I don’t think any of us have considered tapping into, but not to Pocahontas. If you are related to Pocahontas, it’s not direct. At most, Pocahontas might be something more like the 4th-great-grandmother of your 1st-cousin 6-times removed.

You are losing Pocahontas, but, hey, there are a ton of people (many fudging like Aunt Mary) who claim to be her descendants. Instead, it’s time to put away your moccasins and embrace your Spanish blood.

Yes, it’s true, or possibly true, you have Fernandez blood lurking in your veins. And that was a pretty rare infusion in Virginia in the 1800s.

A remote cousin who I have never met and I both have come to this conclusion. Her leap might be based more on fact than mine, and, if it’s wrong, I’ll blame her.

But we think your 4th-Great-Grandfather, Nicholas Marshall Tarrall (1809-1852), married Ann Biddle Fernandis (1815-1884). Ann and her brother Joseph P. Fernandez (1817-1876), a shipmaster before the Civil War demoted to a watchman afterwards, lived in Norfolk, Virginia, but were born in Maryland. Ann Fernandis was christened in Saint Paul Protestant Episcopal Church in Baltimore. Alas, poor Joseph drowned in the Norfolk Harbor.


1850 Norfolk, Virginia, Census: Nicholas Marshall Tarrall 1809-1852: Ann Biddle Fernandis Tarrall 1815-1884; Mary B. Tarrall Nottingham 1835-1886; Henry Alberti Tarrall 1836-1907, your 3rd-great-grandfather; Secluseval V. Tarrall Bryan 1840-1893; and Sarah Virginia Tarrall 1842-1850.

Now these Spanish roots might be part of Aunt Mary’s disapproval of Grana’s background, your great-grandmother (Thelma Virginia Tarrall Williams, 1899-1999), but the joke might be on Aunt Mary. We’re not positive when our Fernandis ancestors first set foot on American soil, but there were not many around and only a handful living in Maryland.


Pedro, or Peter, Fernandise (1652-1736) was born in Valenciana, Spain, and died in Marbury in Charles County, Maryland; although his body has gone missing. Two of his sons served in the American Revolution. I’m hoping they represent our Fernandez roots. If so, Pedro might be your 7th-great-grandfather.

Sorry about Pocahontas, but paella is part of your past. So put on some flamenco music for the holidays, stamp your feet and douse your pasta with extra olive oil. Olé!




Postcard from Madrid, Spain: Parting shots from ‘los jubilados’

To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.

Charles Baudelaire in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

Saw a tweet the other day and wish I’d saved it. Asked to define her career goals in a job interview, a woman responded: “I want to use ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ as verbs.”

Not sure that proved a job-scoring answer, but I loved it. Because one of the best aspects of getting older is the freedom to wander. No one holds you to two or three weeks a year any longer. Slow travel.

We used to ponder whether our goal should be to become boulevardiers or flaneurs when we “grew up.”

Okay, time for a confession. We have failed.

Both words seem more than a tad decadent for our traveling lifestyle. We don’t stay in hoity-toity hotels. We stay in small apartments. Breakfast is not spent in cafes, but in our home-away-from-home.

As the Mister says, we are not really vacationing as much as temporarily switching zipcodes. According to the Mister’s Fitbit, instead of occupying seats in trendy spots, we traversed about 50 miles of sidewalks a week in Madrid. We only ordered a cocktail seated at a bar once. Instead of late-night barhopping and tapa-feasting with the Madrilenos, we settled in for a light salad or homemade vegetable soup en casa.

Hardly deserving of the title boulevardiers or flaneurs, we admit.

On the other hand, the word “retirees” does not have a nice ring to it. The English word sounds so exhausted and past tense.

After all, the Mister is still a bluesman, and I’m still writing. The tools of our chosen avocations – guitar and computer – accompany us everywhere. But we use those on our own schedules and because they are our passions. In Madrid, sundown generally found us at home, nestled in our basement quarters contentedly plucking on guitar strings and pecking on computer keys.

A month spent wandering in Madrid, and we are leaning toward a more optimistic-sounding Spanish term for those who no longer are hemmed in by or defined by work.

So here are some random, parting shots from los jubilados.

Hope you don’t mind switching continents, but the next slightly postdated postcards will be “mailed” from a zipcode in Puebla, Mexico.