Category Archives: General

Happy Father’s Day, Steve Hurtik

Father’s Day always reminds me of how terrible I am about picking out gifts for my dad. All the typical dad gifts don’t work. Ties? Never seen him wear one. Tools? The man sold them for five years and has worked with them for 30. Golf clubs? Nope. He is an avid fisherman, but you can only buy a man so many bags of plastic worms and rattle traps before it starts feeling inauthentic.

So this year I decided to use my only real skill by writing about him.

My relationship with my dad has always been based on respect. He never laid a hand on me, but I was still scared to death of him every time I screwed up. When I accidentally broke my parent’s bedroom window with a baseball while trying to emulate Bobby Witt (hey, I was a Ranger fan in the mid-90s), I immediately ran bawling to my grandmother and begged her not to tell my dad. Of course, when he found out, he said it wasn’t that big of a deal. Boys will be boys. Things happen. It was such a big deal to him that the temporary cardboard he put over the hole in the window stayed on for 10 years.

I had a huge fear of letting him down. When I quit football at the end of my sophomore year of high school (mainly to focus on becoming a rock ‘n’ roller), I didn’t tell him for a week because I was convinced he would flip out and ground me. This was ridiculous, because that’s the exact opposite of how my dad has always worked. When I finally told him, I could tell he was a little bummed, but he just told me to keep my grades up.

I now realize that those moments helped shape my outlook and personality today. I like to think I’m pretty even-keel. It takes a lot more than a broken window to get me riled up.

My dad leads by example. He still shows me what true hard work is by heading to his shop every day in the summer heat to crawl under 18-wheelers. Even at 52, he’s still doing back-breaking work to provide for his family. During his stint selling tools, he spent his weekend working on trucks on the side so he could pay my college apartment rent. He’s not the most emotional guy, but he doesn’t need to be with me. His actions say it all. That and when he ends almost every conversation we have with “Check your oil.” It’s his way of saying, “I love you, son.”

He’s a true man’s man, more than I’ll ever be. He restored his father’s 1932 Ford Model A, turning it from potential scrap metal into a beautiful, running tribute to his dad. He also turned my first car–an $800 1987 Silverado–into a legitimately bad-ass truck, while letting me feel like I had a large hand in the overhaul. When that truck broke down during my junior year of college, he drove down to Austin, towed it home and fixed the transmission. He sold it to his friend and surprised me with a new truck.

He also set a really high precedent for being a cool dad. I always had the coolest dad among my friends. He would throw the football around with us. He would take us fishing and tubing. As we got older, he would not kick us out of his garage when The Riffters invaded and even claimed to enjoy our music (not sure if I really believe him). To this day, Joel will still give dad a call when he’s having car trouble. My dad’s answer every time, “Bring it over and let’s take a look at it.”

So today I just want to say, thanks dad for all of the above. You really are the best dad and I can only hope to set as good of an example for my kids.

And don’t worry. I’ll check my oil.

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Tornado journalism

It’s been an especially vicious and tragic tornado season for the Great Plains and beyond. You’ve surely seen and read about the destruction in Tuscaloosa, Joplin and, now, as it comes out of greater Oklahoma City. Few disasters captivate us the way tornadoes do. We simultaneously marvel and cower at them. And with good reason. Some of the best, heart-wrenching stories come out of them, too.

The Jarrell tornado. Also, remember when gas was $1.12?

As I’ve been reading about these tornadoes, I couldn’t help but think back to my final story I wrote in my college (academic) career. For Bill Minutaglio‘s advanced feature writing class, we had to recreate an event in history. I chose to re-tell the story of Jarrell, Texas, on May 27, 1997. Then, an F5 tornado wiped out most of the small town right of I-35 just 45 minutes north of Austin. Twenty-seven people were killed.

So I decided to share my story, not out of look-at-me motivations, but as a reminder of the impact these twisters have on people and communities, and that we shouldn’t forget about Joplin or Tuscaloosa going forward.

Disclaimer: It’s long and part of it is slightly graphic. Oh, and it’s also unedited (it was for class!), so forgive the rough-around-the-edges quality of it. It begins after the jump.


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A New Year, a New Hurt-ik Locker

Taking a simpler approach to the Hurt-ik Locker. Don’t want to sit and watch it rot. I had one heck of a Holiday break. It was great to see Amanda and John for extended periods of time and to catch up with Joel and Stephen, the oldest buds I have.

We did some Riffter reminiscing, and it was fun to go back and listen to our old tracks, talk about how much cooler we’d be now as 16-year-old musicians and admit that we’re getting old. It’s not often that I feel compelled to share memories of our scrappy-yet-crappy garage band.

So I’ll leave you with the dramatic evolution of your favorite Richland High School rock ‘n’ roll band.


Victorious at our Battle of the Bands debut at the Door Fort Worth.


Album cover the never released masterpiece: "Mongolian Oligarchy"

2007: The College Years/Permanent Hiatus

2010: Grown men/wondering what could have been

I must say, quite the dapper group of gentlemen.

And I know you’re dying to actually hear what our crappy band sounded like. So go here to our ancient purevolume and enjoy a bunch of 16-year-olds living their dreams and trying to be Led Zeppelin.

We're already planning on playing Richland's 10-year reunion.

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What a ride

Do you realize that a few weeks from now, boxes upon boxes of shirts that say “Texas Rangers, World Series Champions” will be unloaded in some poor country, giving the needy much-needed clothing and, let’s face it, the coolest shirts they have ever owned.

In all seriousness, that’s pretty fucking cool.

Tonight, just like most of you, I watched my Texas Rangers lose the World Series. I watched Brian Wilson strike out Nellie and get mobbed on our mound. I watched Mitch Kramer tie up the AL MVP. I also heard a “Let’s Go Rangers” chant break out as the Giants celebrated.

And yet, I’m OK. Sure, it’s a bummer. But after getting past the Yankees, the World Series has felt way less stressful. Maybe the players felt that way too, and maybe that’s why their bats went silent. Hell, the Rangers got the monkey of their back (winning a playoff game and series) and exorcised their demons (beating the goddamn Yankees) all in one whirlwind month.

Being a Ranger fan for the past, oh, 18 years has taught me to enjoy the ride. For years, all I really had to look forward to was hoping guys like Kason Gabbard or John Koronka would put together a promising September with the Rangers 10 games out of first place, providing hope for spring.

Yeah, the Rangers looked bad in this series. Couldn’t hit worth a crap. Mitch Moreland was the only guy to consistently show up and the dude’s a rookie. Sure the bullpen had a meltdown and Cliff Lee lost twice (aside: to anyone calling Lee a “goat” for his performance in the Series is stupid. The guy just showed that he was human in Game 1 and made one bad pitch in Game 5. The offense is your goat, folks). But what the hell. We went so far above expectations against the Rays and Yanks that it seemed inevitable. And quite simply, the Giants out-Rangered us. If I’m going to lose a World Series, I’ll lose it to a team like San Francisco every time. I love the way their team plays and for all the jokes about Lincecum or Brian Wilson out there, I’d take either in a heartbeat.

But I’d also keep any of ours. This team was the most fun to watch in Ranger history. And all of the best parts are going to be back, even if Cliff is wearing pinstripes. We’ve got an owner with money, a young corps of suddenly playoff-tested players and a rejuvenated fan base. Next year should be fun.

Thanks for 2010, Rangers. Can’t wait for spring training.

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It’s been a while (cue Staind)

So my promise to have our Colombia trip all blogged and ready in a hurry didn’t exactly work out. That may have had something to do with the fact that I had a week upon returning to find a place to live in and move to San Antonio. In case you didn’t know, I got a full-time job with the San Antonio Express-News. I cover high schools and the University of Incarnate Word. It’s pretty cool so far.

In the mean time, I’ve been working, obviously, and adjusting to a new city and living on my own. It’s different, that’s for sure. I plan on blogging about my adventures in this new city. I’ve got my first one already planned about a recent trip to a great BBQ place here in town.

But before I can do that, the Locker must deal with this Colombia situation. So, how about a slide show? It will be quick and dirty and photos are much more interesting than my rambling writing, right?  I couldn’t figure out how to add captions, but the order of photos are Villa de Leyva, Rio Claro, Medellin, Cartagena and Santa Marta. Have a particular question/comment about a place? Comment!

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The Great Colombian Adventure: Bogotá

Amanda and I on top of Monserrate, overlooking Bogotá.

So we made it. Colombia wasn’t a land full of coke-snorting outlaws and deranged guerrillas. Well, at least we didn’t run into any during our 16-day, cross-country trek. Overall, the country was everything we thought it would be.

We quickly realized that this wasn’t a vacation. We didn’t spend all of our time lazing on the beach and zip-lining. A ton of time was spent waiting for buses/planes, on buses/planes and trying to figure out where the hell we were going. But that’s what made it not a vacation, but an adventure. Our airline went bankrupt. One of our Colombian airline’s planes crashed. A car bomb went off in Bogotá when we were there. And it was one hell of an experience.

And trying to put all of this short trip (believe me, we met dozens of travelers along the way, and none were traveling for less than a month) into a neat and tidy blog post is pretty impossible. There is no way I can get in every detail/observation without writing for six hours straight and sounding like a douche in the process.

So to avoid being a douche (always a priority in my daily life), I’m going to try to capture the magic of this Colombia trip in a brisk form. I’ll give my thoughts on all of the cities we saw and end it with a list of some casual observations about Colombian life over a few blog posts over the next few days. Just click on the pictures for larger views.

At the end of the day, I realized that traveling needs to be a big part of my life. There’s just too much world out there to stay in one place your whole life.

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En vísperas del viaje

Fly Mexicana: The fun is not knowing if your return flight exists!

T-minus 9:40 until we depart DFW for Mexico City and then Colombia and I’ve got a lot racing through my mind.

I think I’m done packing but I’ll never feel like that’s completely done. Did I pack to much? Am I forgetting anything? Will there be enough room for the cocaine?? (joking…) But seriously, that little backpack seen in the previous post has swelled to more than twice that size like a tick full of all things travel related. And yet I still wonder, will I be OK with less pairs of underwear than there are nights of our trip?

Hopefully I won’t smell too bad.

We’ve got 90 percent of our hostels/hotels booked but still feel like things are pretty up in the air. I’ll call it my fear of things being lost in translation. Getting responses like this don’t make you feel all that confident that things are actually set up: “I confirm that I have taken are booking.” And that’s the one reservation I actually did in Spanish. Well, at least I know that they are using Google Translate, too.

And then there’s the matter of our airline declaring bankruptcy and suspending the majority of its international flights indefinitely the week of our trip. They canceled half of their normal flights to Bogotá, but ours are still operating…as of now. But I think as long as we get there, we’re good. We can always find a way home, and Mexicana assured us that if our return flight gets canceled, they’ll arrange for us to take another airline.

Other than all of that nervousness/uncertainty, I’m pretty dang excited. So excited, that I’ll share with you our complete itinerary so that–if you care enough–you can play the “Where are Amanda and Blake in Colombia today?” game. Try it! All the cool kids are doing it.

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Travel prep enters overdrive

I plan on smuggling a small Colombian child into the U.S. in that 75-liter pack. (Photo credit: Mama Hurtik with Blake's recently purchased camera, the first of his life.)

Things are happening, my friends.

Amanda and I leave for Colombia in a mere eight days, and I’m doing my best not to freak out. It helps when you have a seemingly endless amount of things to plan for: reserving hostels/hotels, figuring out what all we have to buy, pacifying an eternally worried mother, combating scary diseases and the like. So we’re entering crunch time here and I’m learning a few things.

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