• Best snow cone in Austin

    Put simply, I am a snow cone connoisseur. When I was a kid, a snow cone stand painted with a picture of Winnie the Pooh sat around the corner from my house, and buying a snow cone there signaled both the beginning and end of summer.

    As a college-bound 18 year old, I lived in a different house, but a snow cone stand still sat at the nearest HEB. In the weeks before I left for college, I visited it every day, hell bent on tasting each and every one of the offered flavors.

    Now, as a college student, I live mere blocks away from the Sno-Beach trailer on Guadalupe, and though I have not sampled every flavor, I am certainly a frequent patron. Below, find a list of the best flavors at the three best snow-cone stands in Austin, compiled by your truly.

    1. Casey’s New Orleans SnowBalls on 51st and Airport

    Yes. It’s worth the drive. Casey’s tops the list because it has variety, not just of flavors, but also of add-ons and sizes (a big plus if you dislike getting the giant ‘small’ size at Sno-Beach.) Casey’s flavors come in two varieties, cream and regular. The cream flavors have cream mixed in, and taste like the perfect in-between: not quite ice-cream, not quite snow cone, light enough for a summer day but heavy enough to support cream-based flavors like chocolate.  The best of all is that despite all the variety, the service at Casey’s comes in one only one flavor: amazing. The employees are cheerful, helpful, and make each snow cone like the treat is the only thing between you and a great day. Which, considering how good these snow cones are, it just might be.

    2. Jim-Jim’s Water Ice on Sixth

    No, a “water ice” is not a snow cone. The texture is, as you might suspect, more watery, but their breaking tradition is forgivable because of the juicy, fresh-fruit flavors that Jim-Jim’s trades in. Get the mango or the strawberry, but skip the cream: it’s too thick, they put too much on, and it ruins the light, juicy flavor of the treat.

    3. Sno-Beach on Guadalupe

    At sno-beach, get a small (their sizes are larger then most), and order Almond flavor with cream. Or peach with cream. Or horchata with cream. If you suspect the flavor would taste good when added to vanilla ice cream, adding the snow beach cream mix will make for a great combination.

  • A runner's perspective on the Boston marathon

    To the rest of the world, runners are crazy. We wake up at 5 a.m. every morning, risking shin splints, nasty falls, back problems, IT band syndrome, pulled muscles and stress fractures. And for what? To continue our hobby, which non-runners liken to torture.

    The media portrays running as glamorous, filmed in slow motion: muscular men smiling at the camera alongside tall women with long hair that flows behind them in the wind.

    Running is nothing like that.

    It’s sweaty, and painful. A constant conflict where the cramp in your stomach, the lack of breath in your chest and the weight of your legs fight against your willpower and dignity, which won’t let you quit even when everything else begs you to stop.

    Why do we do it? We love it. How is that even possible? If you don't understand, then you probably can't. Nobody can. Except for others like us.

    When we run past each other in the mornings, we’re exchanging more than just polite greetings between strangers. The wave-and-nod is a sign of mutual respect because we know exactly what the other person had to sacrifice to be right there on the sidewalk moving at a seven thirty pace past us.

    In this religion we call running, races are holy days, where we hope that the gods of running will grace us with good weather and a personal record. Like druggies, we start small with mile runs leading into 5Ks, 10Ks, and eventually work our way up to harder stuff like half-marathons and marathons, which are seemingly never-ending stretches of agony, that test both your physical and mental endurance.

    If you happen to be a man who finishes the 26.2 miles in under 3 hours and 5 minutes, or a woman who makes it in under 3 hours and 35 minutes, you qualify for a long distance runner’s dream: running in the Boston Marathon.

    And, for those lucky few who achieve that, it's among the very best days of their lives.

    Unless somebody decides that it shouldn't be and all the ice baths, tempo runs, foam rollers, bloody nipples and blisters that led up to the event aren’t as important as hurting and killing wonderful people.

    And I know they were wonderful people. They were runners.

    If I had seen them on my daily route, I would have said, “Good morning,” and they would have smiled and said it right back to me. And then we would continue on our separate paths, enjoying the serenity of a quiet city that can only exist while everybody else is still asleep.