Monday, June 30, 2008

Had a huge time at the blogger meet in Kerville...

But I haven't gotten the pictures fixed yet. I'll post some later on. Until then, I'm goin' through my emails and an old canoing buddy sent me this. Enjoy.

Why the hell doesn't THIS bastard run for president! I always loved ol' Newt.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend fun.

Ok, this is gonna be a short one. Denise and I are goin' to a blogger meet in Kerville this weekend. Leaving today and coming back Sunday, after which we'll go over and take Mom out to eat dinner.

I'm really looking forward to this trip. We'll be swimming and fishing in the Guadalupe river, and sitting around getting to know one another. There will be good food and good drinks and lots of cool folks to get to know. I'm really looking for ward to meeting a few of the folks that I've been reading for a long time, and also some other folks that I've never read before.

You guys have a great weekend and when I come back I'll see if I can get around to posting something about that food show last weekend, and everything else that's going on. Busy as hell, but not complainin', too much.

You guys take care. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Woods, Part Six.

I can't remember exactly when it happened, but some time around the summer of 1973 dad came home from the base there in Kansas City and told us we were movin' again. I couldn't believe it, but I must have been expecting it. We did it on average every three years, and this was the third year.

I was so happy in Missouri. I didn't want to leave. The place was almost a paradise to me. I'd gone from being the new kid to having lots of friends, including one or two close ones. I had all these little kids who thought I was cool, followin' me around like I knew somethin'. I'd grown to love and feel very comfortable in the woods around the neighborhood and I couldn't believe I was gonna have to leave it all and start all over again somewhere else, but this was my life.

I'd even begun to think about girls again by '73. You remember the chick in England who was draggin' me off into the woods and flashing her stuff in school? Well, there hadn't been any other girls in my life since then. Then, one day, out of the blue, I met up with this girl out in the woods, along the path everyone used to get up to school and the strip mall where the TG&Y store was. I was climbing one of the tall trees there and she was already up in it, sittin' on a big limb.

I found myself falling into a conversation with her, and I was enjoying it. Normally I wouldn't have been so open to such a thing, but the freedom and happiness I'd found there in the woods had begun to change me. I felt comfortable there, able to be myself. I guess I was at the age when boys start to awaken to different thoughts about girls. The music of the time helped a little in that process. At some point around there, my friends and I started to hear this song wafting out of our little portable AM radios. I wanna tell ya, this was some hot sexy stuff, when I was about 11 or 12.

Of course, I didn't know what the song was about. I didn't even know what sex really was back then. I'd never even gotten close to kissing a girl. I hadn't even discovered the private joys of "self abuse" (what a stupid term for such a natural and fun thing). It would be years before I found out about all that. I guess I was still just a baby.

Anyway, I found myself enjoying the experience, talking to this complete stranger. I eventually realized that it was time to go home and eat, so I made plans with her to come back after dinner and meet her back up in the tree. I went home to eat and then, with the summer sun still shining, I ran back there. I climbed back up into the tree and waited, but she never showed up. I never saw her again. I never even got her name.

When the sun started to go down I climbed back down and went home. Of course, being who I was, I took it hard. I assumed that it must have been something bad about me that made her not want to see me again. I guess I was wired to think such things, unable to shake it off and think something like "Well fuck her then! Her loss, not mine." I wish now that I'd had someone to talk to about it, but I really didn't, so I just filed it away in my mind and moved on.

Pretty soon after that mom and dad told me that before we moved to dad's new job in Texas we were gonna have to move into base housing there in Missouri. They told me that I was not gonna be able to wander around the base with my bow and arrow, and that cool big shield and spear that I'd made were history too. I might as well not even pack them.

To my folks, all those things were childish toys that I needed to outgrow, and this was as good a time as any. Yet again, after getting comfortable with my world and growing to discover a little about who I was, the time had come to give it all up and start over again. I was devastated, but there was nothing I could do about it. I was just a kid, with no say in anything. A leaf, blown around by the wind.

The next thing I knew we were livin' in a dumpy little house on base and the only place I had to play was the basement. Most of our stuff was in storage, waiting for the big move in a few months to Texas. I didn't have any friends. We didn't live there long enough for me to develop any. In time I started to run with a few guys from the housing unit, but they were never really friends. I sat around in that basement watching TV most of the time and got fat.

When the next school year had started I'd been put in a Catholic school near the base. It was basically an orphanage filled with much tougher, more worldly guys, and I was lost there too. I wan't even Catholic. I didn't know anyone, or have any friends. I just shut down again, living in my own mind, ignoring school work and trying to stay out of the way of the bullies that roamed the place, the worst of whom were the fucking nuns that ran it.

Once again, it was back to square one. I was alone and miserable, and my parents couldn't understand why I wasn't happy and doing my homework. I guess in my mind, there were damn few things in my life that I really controlled. In a self destructive way, unconsciously I guess, I decided that I'd get back at my folks by flunking out of school and giving them as much passive aggressive shit as I could. The stuff I read in the encyclopedia was much cooler than the stuff in the school books anyway, so I just ignored them. The more upset mom and dad got, the better it was.

What an idiot! Of course, I payed the real price for all that stupidity. I got a reputation as the class dummy. I didn't know what a Noun or Verb was until I was in high school. My math skills have never recovered. I missed out on a LOT of basic stuff that made the rest of my school life harder, but there you go. I wish to God now that I'd had something like an older brother then. A friend who could show me how to live my life better and deal with my parents and all this crap that was going down, but I was alone. My older sister was usually wrapped up in her own world, dealing with things in her own way and useless to me. She'd left to go to college by this time anyway, so I was really alone.

Eventually we relocated to San Antonio, where dad had been put in command of a communications group at Kelly Air Force Base. We moved into a nice house at the end of a street, the top of a hill, where there was one of those circles that cars can turn around in. When we got there and got everything packed away I discovered that this cul de sac was where all the kids on the street played ball.

I'd tried to sneak my bow and arrows onto the moving van back in Missouri, but somehow along the way they had disappeared. I never saw them again. The folks had interceded on my behalf, at least in their own mind. I was supposed to grow up now and do the stuff they though all the kids should do. Once again, I guess I decided to fight back by refusing to go along.

My first experience with the neighborhood kids was interesting. I came out one day to find everyone out in the circle playing kick ball. I went out there and they let me join in. It was my first meeting with all of these kids, so I was nervous. They asked me who I was and why we'd moved in and I told them. About 15 minutes into the game I found I needed to go back into the house to go to the bathroom, so I excused myself and went in. When I came out again moments later everyone was gone. The street was deserted. I was very confused. I felt like I'd been the butt of a practical joke, so I just went back in the house and stayed there. It turned out that little joke set the mood for my entire stay there in San Antone.

Long story short, I hated it there. It was worse than the snake pit we lived in in England. We were there until 1975, after dad retired from the Air Force. I was put in one or two private schools by my mother, who was trying to get me to study and snap out of my funk, but when one school that was basically for special needs kids tried to get me and a few others into the Special Olympics my mom blew her stack. Her son might be weird but he wasn't retarded, so she took me out of that school and tossed me into the public school up the road from the house in the middle of my seventh grade year.

I showed up there and found that in my absence from the public school system all the kids had gotten girlfriends and boyfriends, and I had no idea what that was all about. My years of screwing around in the woods and not studying in school made my transition back to the public school that much more tough. I didn't really fit in there in any way. I felt like all these kids were several years older than I was, in terms of their maturity, and they all seemed to know instinctively that they could push me around and get away with it. Something about being outnumbered and alone made me feel like the best way to get by was to back down, so I did, over and over. Each time I did I guess it just encouraged the assholes there to try again, and reinforced in me my own since of weakness. It was like being in England all over again, only worse.

Oh yea, the woods. Well, there weren't any there where we lived in San Antone. I did manage to find an interesting drainage ditch to explore one summer. That was the summer when "Streaking" had become the rage. I actually saw some dude, probably a high school kid, jump out of a car buck nekkid and go runnin' down the road there, as his buddy kept nudging the car forward, not letting him back in. It was hilarious.

At some point around there, when I was about 14 or 15, this little number started to get regular air play, and just about made my head explode.

I far as I could tell, there weren't any girls around there who were in the least bit interested in me. There was one chick that lived across the street from us, but she was just a tease. She liked to make all of us think that she might go all the way, but she never did. Never even let anybody kiss her. Once, while we were all riding bikes around the circle there late in the evening, I noticed that she and two of my friends had laid their bikes down and were heading over into the shadows between two houses. I laid my bike down and started to head over there, but as soon as I did they all came back out again, with the guys cussing me for obviously messing things up for them. of course, I wondered why I was being excluded, but again, I just filed it away and told myself "of course, why would they want me around?"

Anyway, about half way through our stay there in San Antone one of my neighbors pulled out a bow and arrow and started messing around with it in the front yard. I got excited and picked it up, filled with confidence in my ability to hit almost anything. I took aim at a tree in the neighbors yard, drew back and promptly missed. The tree was only about 5 feet away. I was stunned. How could I have lost it so quickly? I didn't pick up a bow again until I was in college.

I kept a feeling of love for the woods in my mind all through my adolescence and into adulthood, but there really weren't any opportunities for me to be much of a woodsman. I didn't know anyone who hunted, or even went camping, so I didn't do any of that ether. Every time we went up to visit my grandparents and cousins in Bell County, they'd say stuff like "Why don't you stick around and go fishin' with is?" But we never did stick around. My dad tried to get me interested in golf, but it was useless. I basically just stuck to my room and my books. I developed a love for Native American bows and archery, and did a lot of thinking about how cool it would be if I could make my own stuff. Years and years later I learned how to do all that, and it's still a huge love in my life today.

Next time I'll tell you how I finally started to get back into the woods, in the early 1980s. Cheers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hows about some very early Fleetwood Mac?

Damn! I hate it when they cut off the fucking solo!

Aaaaa, it's kickin' in now. Feelin' better. thanks.

family drama.

Well, I had another busy weekend. We had fun, but the fun was mixed with a bit of drama and sadness.

We took a trip to Houston with some good friends. We all got rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and attended a huge food show Sunday at the convention center there. Denise and I hooked up last year when we both went to a similar food show in Dallas with these same friends of ours, so it was a special trip this time. An anniversary of sorts.

These friends are the same pool playin', chili cook-off folks you've seen in the pictures from Terlingua and Seguin. They teach cooking and restaurant management here on base, so for them the show was a professional gig. We were just taggin' along for the fun, and there was much fun to be had. Before all that though, I've got to do some venting. You'll forgive me if I rant a bit.

Mom dropped a bomb of sorts last week. Ever since dad died I've been standing by watching my family fall apart. My mother, whose income has been cut in half, is at odds with my jobless, deadbeat, useless, hippy princess of a sister. Up until dad died they were givin' her about $3500 a month to live on. Now mom has been tellin' sis that she's got to get a job and sis has been in a panic. They both use me as a sounding board, telling me the latest crap that's gone down. My sympathies lay with mom, but I also know that mom is mostly reaping the crop she's sown. It's just the sort of drama that makes me want to spend every weekend I can out of town.

I called mom about mid week to see how she was feelin' and found out that she'd decided after yet another $500 repair bill on the jeep to go ahead and buy sis a new car. After all the screamin' fights, after all the tough talk since dad died, sayin' she was done bailin' sis out, that sis would have to go out and get a job, she turns around and decides to do this. I couldn't fuckin' believe it!

Dad gave sis a nice, used red 4-door Jeep Cherokee back about ten years ago. He'd gone out and gotten it for himself after I got my own black 2-door Cherokee. He didn't want me to get it, but when I did and he saw what a great car it was he went out and got himself one. A few years later, when the car she was drivin' started to have trouble (from neglected repairs and oil changes and the like), he just signed his car over to her. He'd given her his mid-80s Cougar to drive years before, and I think he just wanted it back. He was always a Cougar guy. Owned several in his life.

She's been drivin' that jeep into the ground ever since. Burned out one engine just a few years after he gave it to her. Turned out she'd never changed the oil. Dad just paid to have a new engine put into it and bitched about it whenever she wasn't around to hear it.

That's the sort of thing dad always did. He was the man with the big pockets. He derived a HUGE amount of pride at being Mr.moneybags, and felt like he could always show us how much he loved us by makin' sure we all had nice cars to drive. The other side of that was that we grew up havin' things given to us, spoiled as hell, unable to do for ourselves when the time came to be on our own because we didn't ever get the chance to learn that we could do for ourselves.

Mom was the same way. Everything was always done for her. She never talked to a car dealer in her life until last year when she went out to get her new Buick. I was so proud of her. I can't tell you how scared I was the first time I went out to buy my own car! I was ignorant as hell and wishin' dad was there to bail me out, but he couldn't be. he wasn't really "dad" any more. So I did it myself and did a damned good job, deriving a HUGE amount of confidence and wisdom from the experience.

So mom decided that the three of us would meet at the car dealership there in Temple and see what we could do. Mom had seen the ads for the Volkswagen Jetta, offering payments like $198 a month for a new '08 model. She was thinkin' she wouldn't be able to afford anything more. The deal was called off though when mom got up Friday feelin' puny. I was thinkin' maybe it was stress, but she said not.

Anyway, the appointment was moved to this morning. I got up and drove over there to be the big guy behind the little women, only to find my sister really running things, the way she always does. She just keeps talking, chattering away about stupid shit, eventually driving everyone around her to distraction and embarrassment. I glared at her a few times and told her to shut up, but that never works. Just sets her off even more.

I leaned over to her once when the salesman was out of the room and told her that this guys JOB is to fuck us out of as much money as he can, and that she should shut the hell up and let mom do that talking. She just glared at me and said something about how I was just jealous that she was getting a new car.

After about an hour of sitting around while the salesperson fidgeted and shuffled papers I told them I had to go. I had to get to work by 11:30. So I left the two of them there in the office, praying that mom would be strong. I wanted her to get up and walk out of there and let me take the time to look around for a good deal. I told sis that if it was up to me she'd be gettin' a friggin' used Hyundai. In the end I just drove off, turnin' the music up LOUD and lit a cigar.

After my lunch time classes were over I called mom to see what had finally gone down and found out that she'd eventually given in to my sisters squealing and bought her a brand new Pontiac. Red two door Vibe with a sun roof and automatic everything. Turns out in the end mom's gonna have to pay $270 a month. She said something about docking sis the money from what she gives her for rent a kibbles each month, but I don't believe it. One good thing... Mom talked the dude into giving her $2000 for trading in that old Jeep. Nice work there.

It's all a mess, but there's nothin' I can do about it now. I'm just ashamed of my deadbeat sister, and I wish my dad had done a better job preparing her, and me, for the real world. I wish we'd been poor. Poor folks have no choice but to learn about the way the world works. Hell, that's how dad learned about things. I guess he wanted us to have a better, easier life than he'd had. I guess that's backfired a bit.

Anyway, I'll tell ya about the booze up/Food Show later. it was fun. Take care. Cheers.

Friday, June 20, 2008

An interesting point of view.

I'd heard about the Cubans finding oil off their coast, but this guy puts it in perspective. Hell, Cuba's only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. If they've found some new well of oil, why the hell aren't we drillin'? And China? Shit. Bomb them NOW! Glass. Huge fields of glass. No more cheap flip flops for a while, but we'll get used to it.

And what's with all this friggin' space at the top of this post that I can't get rid of? Friggin' blogger! Glass. Huge fields of glass.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Now HERE's a collector!

I sent these pictures out last night, right after my shooting buddy Dave sent them to me. They purport to show Charlton Heston's basement gun room.

Another friend looked it up on the web and found that, as we suspected, it wasn't Chuck's basement, but the collection of another long time NRA member who's recently passed, and who's collection is now up for sale. Supposedly they've already sold off half the collection and raised something like 35 million dollars!

Bottom line dudes, the bar has been raised! My question to you is, if you could reach into one of these pictures and grab one thing, just one thing, what would it be?

Me? I dunno. Maybe that German 20mm Solothurn anti-tank rifle there in the second picture, on the table with the full clip under it. That'd be fun to have. maybe one of the many BARs there on the wall. I dunno. Too damn many to chose from. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boys and their toys.

Seen some cool stuff lately on base. Here's a peak. Beautiful eh?

Someones done some work on this baby. Looks like it's just out of the shop.

Can't ya just feel the thunder? Hear the throaty rumble? Mmmmmhmmm!

needs to close his door better though.

I came around another corner in the lot and this dude was smilin' back at me.

Dodge Ram Charger... with a few extras. I used to always dream about havin' somethin' like this when I was a kid. I imagined painting a muscle car to have the same cool camouflaged paint job as an old fighter plane, like an ME 109. You know, white on the underside and mottled green cammo on top, with some sort of brilliant nose emblem. This guy's obviously had similar ideas.

Mom's Irises.

Denise and I went over to Temple last Friday to visit with mom and eat Chinese food. Yep, the generals chicken was in effect, as was the shrimp fried rice and egg roll. I won't make you look though. That would be too cruel. Anyway, I didn't take a picture, so you're spared the trauma of the look at the juicy Chinese goodness. Next time.

After the feed we went back to the house and spent some time in her garden. She and Denise plucked old buds from the rose bush as I went around taking pictures.

The plant that always gets my attention are the Irises. Those suckers are almost as tall as I am.

Beautiful, ain't they?

We'll be headin' back over there this Friday for the same old goin's on. Always a treat. Mom's doin' fine by the way. My big sis is still a huge pain in her ass, but she's found a new way to pay her back a little. Way too much stupid drama. More than I wish mom had to deal with, but she's doin' fine. Proud of her!

Anyway, I'll see ya later. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My newest toy.

You may remember, Denise and I went to Dallas this last weekend to pick up a new toy and get together with some friends. We went north at about noon and got to Market Hall by about 2:30PM. My gunsmith, a big gregarious dude named Randy Kline, had emailed me the week I was off fishin' in Canada to say the gun was finished. It had been a long wait, but it turned out to be well worth it.

I'd given him the parts set about a year ago, but in that time he'd decided to move his shop to a little town near Tyler, so the build was delayed. I'd actually lost contact with him and was beginning to sweat it, wondering how I'd get ahold of him again when his email came my way. HUGE sigh of relief there.

The parts set I gave him was Bulgarian. It was a demilled AKS-74 (a brand new Bulgarian service rifle sawed in half so the parts could be imported and sold). The furniture was a mix of Russian wood foregrips and a Romanian plastic pistol grip that looks very similar to Russian grip. I'd put the parts set, the furniture and sling and a new American made receiver in a box and handed it to him at a similar Market Hall show. Here's what it looked like when I got it home Sunday evening (that's a Polish plastic magazine, made for a Tantal).

That's a Russian sling and rifle bag there too (that it's laying on). We went in and I walked directly over to Randy's table (always in the same place) and shook his hand. He pulled this baby out from under the table and I was in love! BEAUTIFUL! It had been so long since I gave him the parts I'd forgotten which parts I gave him, so the look of it was a nice surprise.

Denise and I then walked around the place for a bit, looking for another friend of mine. Dave Waters, my shooting buddy, had called me as we were driving up. He said he was sitting up there with a friend of his, trying too sell a few things. As Denise and I walked around looking for Dave and his buddy at least five guys came up to me wanting to see my new toy, asking me what it was and would I sell it. It was hilarious fun. It's cool when other people appreciate your stuff like you do. We also ran into Holly and her hubby, who we'd later meet again at Phlemmy's party. Holly was walkin' around, waiting for her custom made ear protection to be finished.

After spending about 45 minutes at the show we drove over to the Hyatt to get into our room and freshen up for the party. Then we drove over, new toy in hand, to Phlemmy's newish loft apartment to finally meet her and a bunch of cool new folks. It was like a Blogger meet, with several folks ( like this guy, and this guy, and this guy, and Holly, and at least two or three more who I can't remember the blogs for - sorry folks) that are friends of Phlemmy's showing up to celebrate her new life and place and share stories about the gun show and blogging. It was a lot of fun. I particularly wanted to introduce Denise to some other bloggers, so she'd see the sort of folks I spend so much time with on the web (not as much time as I used to, but I have a life now, so there).

I brought the new toy out of the bag and very quickly a few of the guys were on it like flies to honey. Can you blame them? It turned out to be a great ice breaker. I should have started bringing guns to party's 30 years ago. Phlemmy set out wonderful food and drinks, and there was lots of fun conversation to be had by all. She's talking about making this a regular gun show thing, everyone getting together at her place after the show. I hope so. It was great fun, and I can't wait to get back there.

Denise and I left at about 10:15 and headed over to the West End and the Hoffbrou Steak House for dinner. I won't make you suffer through the pictures (the camera stayed in the car), but we started out with fried mushrooms and bread. Then she had a nice juicy steak and I had grilled shrimp over rice. After all that, and a few tall beers, I was stuffed to the gills. We walked down to Gators and tried to sit through a set with the band on the roof, but this time it turned out to be less than fun, so we didn't stick around. Once you've heard one garage band butcher a Beatles song, you've heard 'em all. We headed back to the hotel and popped a bottle of wine. I'd forgotten to pack a corkscrew so I'd taken it as an excuse to buy a new pocket knife at the gun show. The Swiss are so cool about all those gadgets.

Sunday we slept in till almost kick-out time. We grabbed some coffee for her and a diet Due for me and headed back to the gun show for a thorough walk through. Three or four hours later we were on the road back to Killeen. I'd plunked down a few more bucks for a half dozen cigars and I'd had a blast showing Denise all the cool stuff to be seen and fondled there. You should have seen her light up when I put a little snub nosed .357 magnum revolver in her hand and it fit. Hilarious! I'm gonna turn this little British girl into a gun nut before she knows it.

After we got home I started thinkin' about that new toy. I decided to change out the plastic pistol grip and replace it with Russian wood, to match the forgrips. Here's the procedure.

Easy peasy! One screw. That's all it takes. Pop the top, take out the spring and everything else, put your finger on the nut inside the receiver that the pistol grip screws into and start unscrewin' it. See that long screw there? Easy peasy!

Take off the plastic grip and replace it with the wood, screwing that long screw back into that nut. Tighten it up and shazam! There you have it. A fully authentic reproduction of what some folks call a "Khyber Pass"... The kind of Kalashnikov the Soviet Airborne troops used in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That's a Russian magazine there, red Bakelite, Izmash manufactured, replacing the black Polish one in the other shot. And there's a magazine bag (holds four mags and a cleaning kit), and a few stripper clips of ammo (those white tip rounds are East German blanks). There's a red Bakelite bayonet there on the right. Again, Izmash manufactured. And then, of course, there's the silencer (pregnant pause)...

Ok, before you call the ATF, the silencer is fake, milled to be an exact replica of the real thing but not to the tolerances of the real thing. If I tried to use it it would probably blow up on me, but it looks cool as hell. Screws on just like the real thing.

So, now I've made a vow to myself. No more toys till I get a nice safe to put them all in. The memory of coming home in December of 2005 and finding all the drawers out and the closet empty of guns still horrifies me. That will never happen again. I already have the safe scoped out. I just need to set some money aside for a few months and get it. It'll happen, I promise.

So, I hope all of you had a fun weekend and Monday flew by without a hitch.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers Day!

Back a few months ago when daddy died and mom was goin' through his stuff, decidin' what to throw away and what to keep, she found an old Fathers Day card I'd sent him back in about '97. I sent it to him while I was livin' in San Marcos and goin' to grad school briefly to get qualified to teach Government. That means 18 hours of grad level credit in the subject. 6 classes. I started in the summer and went through the fall, keeping a 4.0 for the first time in my life. I guess I'd grown up a bit since the last stint in school.

I found a hilarious card that really summed up what I was feelin' at the time and wrote a letter to send with it. I wanted to tell him some of the stuff I'd figured out in the previous few years, since leaving the teaching gig on the ships and moving back home. I'd bought a cheap, reconditioned Brother word processor to write papers on and was getting back into the mood to write stuff down. Funny how writing all those papers will do that to ya. You get long winded, needing to fill pages with crap that sounds profound, tryin' to make the Prof think you know a thing or two.

I guess I'd figured a few things out by then and wanted to tell dad about it. In retrospect it's way to wordy and needed a lot of work, but I didn't have a few years of bloggin' under my belt then. It's amazing what I've learned about writing from actually doing it, and from reading all of your posts. You've all taught me so much. Anyway, here's what I said in that letter, along with a few little explanations.

Dear dad,

All joking aside, I just wanted to take the opportunity of Fathers Day to give you a few words expressing my love and profound admiration for you, and your choice in a spouse.

You know that we've had a sometimes arduous and distant relationship, and I must admit that there was a long period in my youth when I considered you to be my enemy. I think now that our life settings and experiences were so profoundly different, and our temperaments so profoundly similar, that we were destined from the outset to be in contention (sounds like a college boy, don't it?).

When I was growing up, I didn't see you as the father that I needed or wanted, and you seemed eternally disappointed in me. You were, it seemed to me, too busy being in charge of everything, both at home and at work, to allow me or anyone the chance to know you as anything but the boss, and usually you were a boss to be avoided.

We've been through a lot of trauma over the years, both individually and as a family. Miraculously, we made it through as a family, and I think you would agree that, despite the normal differences that we still encounter, we are now better able than most families to express our profound love for one another, and my tremendous respect for the both of you.

I began to see both of you in a different way some time in my 20s. I think it was both a function of my maturing and your mellowing, but I know it was heavily effected by your health issues. I guess our relationship went through some profound changes when you were laid out on that table and couldn't be the boss all the time. I was finally allowed to see a vulnerability and a need for me that I had missed before (that last bit is a reference to his heart attack and the side of him that I was allowed to see when he was weakened by that trauma, and I was thrust into a more adult role).

Equally important was our move back to Temple. I finally got a chance to see where you and mom had come from, and was able to appreciate how lucky Margaret and I were that, unlike many others, our parents had the drive and gumption to get out of Bell County and make a better life for themselves and their children (that's a reference to the fact that all of my dad's brothers stayed there, and stayed poor, though their kids grew up happy and well adjusted, which my sister and I always envied).

Both Margaret and I grew up feeling a bit weird because we hadn't had the "normal" upbringing that others had had. We both, without expressing it to one another, shared a sense of inferiority to many of our cousins who grew up in one place, and who had the opportunity to grow up with friends and extended families. As I grew to see the way things really are around here for myself, it began to dawn on me that sis and I were truly fortunate.

Rather than making us weird, the exotic experiences and places of our youth have made us better people, and we have both of you to thank for that. There is no way that either of us can ever repay you for all the things that you've done for us (not better people, but maybe more open minded and well rounded).

I simply want you to know that we both love you more than you can ever know, and that we both know that you love us, and that no matter what happens to us, or where we are in our lives in the world, our love for you is endless, and that we four will always be one, indivisible family unit.

Love, your son.
Happy Fathers Day!

Well, You know I was ballin' like a fool when I reread that so soon after his death. I'd totally forgotten about it. Looking at it again I find myself really glad that he lived long enough to relax a bit and let me be his friend, and that I'd found a way to forgive him for all of his shortcomings. Growing up puts a lot of things in perspective. In the end, he knew that I loved him, and I knew that he loved me.

I know there are a few of you guys out there who have a huge hole in your heart because you never heard those words from your father. My cousin Bob feels that way. His dad died too young, at about the age he is now, before he got old enough to mellow out and get sentimental. I know he suffers for that now, though he knows in his mind that his father loved him deeply. There's something about hearing the words that really matters, or not hearing them.

I'll never forget the day I heard them from Dad. It was some time in the early '90s when I was in my early 30s, home between ships. Out of the blue he asked "Did I ever tell you that I love you?" I was totally taken by surprise. I said something like "Uh, yea. I think so.", and he said "Well, I never heard that from my father. I just wanted to make sure you heard it." You could have knocked me over with a feather! Of course, I knew he loved me, but there's something about the words, spoken aloud, making it official somehow.

I hope all of you guys out there know how much you're loved, and express it, as often as you can, to your own kids. There's nothin' better in the world. Cheers, and Happy Fathers Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The weekend.

It looks like we're in for another good time this weekend, but before I tell you about that, let me tell you about what happened in one of my classes last night.

I started a new semester Monday with four History classes and one Government class on base. Two are daily classes, from 11:30 to 1:30 every day. Two are Monday/Wednesday night, from 4:45 to 10PM, and one is Tuesday/Thursday nights from 7:30 to 10PM. last nights 7:30 class got loud for a short time when one of my students said something that set a few folks off.

This guy is an older soldier, originally from Massachusetts. His accent is thick and fun to listen to. He likes to chime in regularly as I lecture, usually bringing up some vaguely relevant information he's seen on the History Channel, or somewhere else. It's an occupational hazard... Students who hear something familiar in my lecture, who've seen something on TV and want to put their two cents worth in. I'm usually cool about it. Lots of time I've seen the show too and it helps me to explain what I'm talkin' about, but this guy does it a bit too much.

Anyway, last night I was talkin' about the Age of Exploration and the first confrontations between the Spanish and the Aztecs in the early 1500s. I described it, in technological terms, as a case where the late Stone Age was confronted by the late Middle Ages. This guy chimes in, saying something like "Well, that's like the thing between Northerners and Southerners. Northerners being more sophisticated, quicker with better technology."

I just stood there for a second, looking to see if he was serious. In seconds people in the class were laughing but one guy in the back came very close to standing up and askin' him to go outside. I wanted to say something like "Mother fucker, get the hell out of my class!", but I held it together and made a joke out of it. Thought later I should have said somethin' like "Hey, you know why Yankees are like hemorrhoids? If they come down and go back up it's cool, but if they come down and stay down there'll be a HUGE pain in your ass!"

Now, no offence intended guys, but DAMN! What a typical load if arrogant Yankee bullshit!

Anyway, we're lookin' forward to a good time this Saturday. Denise and I are gonna drive up to Dallas early, check in to the Hyatt and then head to the big gun show at Market Hall. My gunsmith emailed me while I was off in Canada fishing to tell me he'd finally finished my new AKS-74 and he was ready for me too pick it up. He does good work, so I'm lookin' forward to getting it.

I gave him the parts set for the build about a year ago and I've been waiting patiently since then. In the last year he's moved his shop from Burleston, South of Ft. Worth, to somewhere in East Texas, so I knew there'd be a delay. He specializes in building FN FALs, but has built me about five nice Kalashnikovs in the past and I've always been very happy with his work.

After the Gun Show we'll be heading over to a good friends apartment nearby and attending a party. We'll be meeting up with a sweet lady who's been a great friend, sister and confidant of mine in the last year. I can't wait. There'll be other bloggers there too, so it should be fun.

We'll head back down here Sunday and try to get some more yard work done. It's pilin' up again, as it always seems to do. You guys try to relax, stay cool and have a good time, and we'll get together again on the other side. Cheers.

Fishing - the flora and fauna.

The scenery up at Gan is always fun to float through. This particular rocky island is a prime Pike fishing spot. This and other unposted shots can be viewed at my site over at FlickR.

I learned to love watching these Blue Herons fly by and fish while on canoe trips in Arkansas back in the early 1980s. It's always fun to watch them. So majestic. So prehistoric looking. I like to think I'm watching something like a a pterodactyl drift by.

One regular visitor at our little cabin was the local house cat, Remington. I petted him enough, he got to where he'd come when I called. He reminded me of two of my own little hunters. He doesn't really like to be held for long, as you can see in the expression on his face.

He's a cutie. We particularly loved to see him go after chipmunks that were also common visitors to the yard and bushes around the cabin. There's nothing like watching a pure hunter go on point and start stalking.

Some of the scenery around the lake is almost too pretty to believe.

At one point we found ourselves fishing under an Osprey nest.

The daddy (I assume) was actively fishing while the mom stood guard. Who knows, but they sure were cool to watch.

Now and then we found ourselves fishing next to a Loon or two, or three, fishing themselves, darting under the waves and coming up with mouths full of little wigglers. They're fun to watch, and to listen to.

This is a shot of the fish we caught and ate on Friday night. There were two Crappie, two Pike and one little Sunfish, just so a few of us could see what they taste like. They were all cut up, bathed in a mixture of milk and beer, covered in bread crumbs and fried in a mixture of lard and bacon grease. Yummmmmy!

Friday evening, the same evening of the fish fry, we found a turtle tryin' to cross the road outside the cabin. I said Box Turtle, but Scott corrected me, saying Painted Turtle. It was a purdy little critter.

We put him down next to the picnic table and eventually he wandered off.

There were lots of flowers around, the folks who run the place living there and taking great pride in the place, as you'd imagine. Most of my flower shots came out blurry though (damn autofocus), so here's the exception.

On the last evening, as we took the boats out of the water, this little critter swam by and joined us.

A few mornings earlier another snake was found in one of the boats as the guys got into it to start fishing. Friendly little buggers, eh?

Anyway, Hope you enjoyed the pictures. I sure enjoyed takin' them. Next year we'll do it all again. Later.. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


As you might guess, I had a great time on this recent fishing trip to Canada. It's an annual trip that I take to fish and visit with my cousin Bob, who lives in Pennsylvania. He's become a great friend in the last decade or so. Beyond that, he's one of a few very close friends that I'm lucky to have now that act sort of like older siblings to me, helping me figure out a few things about growing up and trying to be a better man. I always wanted someone like that in my life growing up but never had it. Somebody to show me how everything works and giver me a clue now and then about what's cool or really important in life. Now as I get older I'm lucky enough to have a few big brothers out there, and it's a hoot, I wanna tell ya. You know who you are, and you know I love ya.

Anyway, this annual trip to Gananoque was interrupted last year when the college I work for moved the schedule around and shifted my days off between semesters to a point where I couldn't make the trip. I was sooooo pissed off, but there was nothing I could do about it. What made it worse was that after a few uneventful trips where I didn't catch many fish, 2006 was my year. I tore the ass out of that lake, catching more fish than anyone else, and catching the biggest pike and bass I'd ever caught in my life. It was glorious! When I called Bob to tell him that I wasn't going to be able to come I told him that it was probably a good thing, since now he and the others would have a chance to catch some fish. So, going back this year was gonna be fun, but it was also gonna be my chance to see if the good time I'd had in 2006 was about luck or skill.

It turns out I must know what I'm doin', because I had just as much fun this time, and caught the biggest Pike I've ever caught, as well as the biggest Bass I've ever caught. The overall number of fish caught by everyone was probably down from previous years. Other fishermen in other groups also voiced the feeling we had, that the number of big fish was down from previous years. We were all catching lots of smaller Pike, but the Large Mouth Bass were everywhere.

In earlier years the big Bass were always along the shore, guarding the little fry from the pan fish. All you had to do was toss a little plastic worm over there and you could catch one lunker after another. If the locals saw you doing it they'd hit the roof, since you were fishing for bass out of season, but the temptation to see those fuckers jump and wiggle at the end of your line was too much for us to resist.

After a few trips where we pretty openly caught as many bass as we wanted, we've begun to try to respect the rules. At the same time, the authorities have gotten a bit prickly about the whole issue. Jim, Bob's buddy, told us that as you leave Canada the cops stop trucks that are pulling boats and ask to see the pictures in your digital camera. Every shot of a big bass left on the camera costs you a $200 fine! The idea is that we all catch them without meaning to, but if you pull it out of the water and take a picture of it it's a fine. So needless to say, we didn't get any shots of any of the nice Bass we caught on this trip.

Also, the challenge of catching a nice sized Pike has overcome the fun of easily hooking a huge bass. That will never get old, but there's nothing like hooking a huge Pike and fighting it in to the boat. The challenge is much greater, and the bravado from success is much greater. By now we've all caught big bass up there, but bringing in a huge Pike is still something we'll all sit around the dinner table and want to relive, again and again.

I was lucky to bring in a nice fish right at the beginning of the trip in 2006, right on the first evening of fishing. It turned out my luck was the same this year. Here on the right is a shot of my big '06 pike. They get a hell of a lot bigger than this, but none of us have ever seen one like that. So this was big for us.

I always joke with Bob that his fish always look bigger in these pictures because he's such a runt (He's a tough, ex-Penn State football player and almost as big as I am). I tell him that my fish always look smaller because they have me behind them.

Anyway, here's my '08 Pike, in Bob's hands.

The reason why he's holding it and not me is funny. I was actually jiggin' for Crappie, tryin' to get another big one that we could fillet and fry for dinner when I hooked this fat dude. I was usin' a soft plastic blue/green twisty tailed worm, tossin' it into the water just beside the boat and movin' it up and down in about 12 feet of water. This dude zipped out from under the boat and took that worm right in front of my eyes. I said something like "Oh shit!" and set the hook. I told Bib I had one and began to reel it in, trying not to pull the hook loose in the process.

I pulled it up to the boat and Bob reached down into the water to get it. We didn't have a net so he had to grab it by hand, trying to avoid both the hooks from the lure and the sharp teeth in the fishes mouth (they're like Barracudas or Gar, with lots of sharp little teeth). When he pulled it up I told him to hold on and let me get a picture, but he said "No, you hold it!" I insisted on getting this shot, then put the camera down and reached out for the fish. Just then it wiggled out of Bob's grip and up and over the side of the boat and back into the water, never to be seen again. I said something like "SEE why I wanted to get that shot?", and we laughed and he congratulated me on the catch. You can see it was a fat, heavy one, in comparison to '06. It's probably a female, full of babies. It turned out to be the biggest Pike caught and boated on the trip. "Boated" is the key there.

On about the third day, Jim (Bob's buddy and a regular on these trips) and I were fishing on his boat when he hooked a monster Pike. He got it to the boat and we were both amazed at the size of the thing. I grabbed the camera as he tried to get ready to reach down and grab it by the gills.

Just as I took this picture the fish shook itself out of the water, popped the lure out of it's mouth and disappeared under the waves, never to be seen again. It was a huge bummer, but that's fishing for ya. The ones that get away...

Most of the pike we caught on this years trip were about the size of this one, caught by Jim on the same day he hooked that monster. Even these little ones will give you a decent fight, so it's all good fun.

Bob's son-in-law Scott even caught one that was so small, he joked about it being smaller than the lure he used to catch it.

You can see the lure du jure there on the boat deck. We found that the Pike and Bass were drawn to different shades of yellow, green or orange, mirroring the colors of their major food source, pan fish.

Here's my set of weapons, layin' conveniently in the top of one of Bob's tackle boxes (since I fly up there I just use Bob's gear - he has a lot, so it's no big deal). You can see the blueish part of the blue/green worm I used to catch that Pike there on the bottom right.

The rattle trap hangin' there, second from left, is the one I used to ketch my big bass. We were fishing a line of weeds in a cove on the second morning, Saturday morning, when I hooked it. Every once and a while we'd screw with one another by casting our lines toward one another's boats. There's nothing like getting a strike right in front of the other guys boat, taking a fish away from them. It's all in good fun.

Anyway, I did that in this case, casting my line down wind towards Bob and Jim and then reeling it back up the weed line. When it got about 1/3rd of the way back I felt the big tug, and within' moments we all saw the big baby leap up out of the water, the way Bass are prone to do. It was obvious this was a big one, but my initial response was one of disappointment. "Shit, another Bass!". Then, getting it to the side of the boat and getting a close look at it, I realized that it was bigger than any other I'd ever caught. It was at least 20 inches long, and fat! I thought later that I should have taken my phone out on the boat and taken pictures of it with that, sending the pictures to my email address and then erasing them from my phone. What the hell. There'll be another one next year.

It was Saturday evening when my time came to really shine. We went out after dinner (a thick steak, baked beans and my last Yuengling in a chilled glass) and bob chimed in with a wager. The first Pike landed in the boat didn't have to clean up and do dishes. That sort of wagering is a common feature of these fishing trips. The first evening, Wednesday evening, I'd won a similar bet, first fish of any kind landed in the boat, by rigging up a little worm on a small hook and bringing in a palm sized Rock Bass in about 30 seconds. I was done fishing for little ones by Saturday though and wanted to get a few more pike before the trip ended.

If you go back up to that picture of my lures you'll see the pretty green and orange dude with black stripes in the front center. That was my weapon of choice Saturday evening. I just kept tossin' it out there like a machine. Sure enough, each of the other three guys went back to the pier empty handed, but I landed three and got a fourth to the boat before it got off the hook. It was great! What made it all even better was the fact that Jim and I had gone to the store in town the night before and it was all the lures that I'd purchased that turned out to be the best ones that day. I guess I do know a thing or two.

Anyway, eventually I'll have these shots and many more posted over at the FlickR site so you can scroll through them. I'll post something later this week about some of the other critters, besides fish, that we encountered on the trip. We'll talk about all that later. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I flew into town Sunday at about 6:15, pooped and ready to get back to work. It's nice when your vacation tires you out to the point where goin' back to work sounds like a good thing. I'm tryin' to get the pictures fixed so I can post them. I may be able to get that done some time today. I came back to find that Denise had cleaned and vacuumed my car (which she'd been drivin' while I was away - hers is in the shop), filled the gas tank, vacuumed and cleaned the house, cleaned and scrubbed the stains out of my carpet and cooked me a fabulous dinner. I tell ya, I'm a lucky bastard!

I also came home to find my email all hosed up. Goin' away for a week meant that my mail box filled up and started kickin' peoples emails back as undeliverable. When I tried to get in and empty it the system wouldn't accept my password. Couldn't friggin' believe it! So I had to call Earthlink Monday and get them to fix it. Turns out they'd canceled my password due to some security thing. Still not really sure what the hell that was all about. Pain in the ass!

Everything is back on line now and I'm steadily goin' through all my emails (like 350 of them!). Turns out I got some really cool news last week. My gunsmith has finally finished my AKS-74! He'll be in Dallas this weekend at the gun show so I'll be able to pick that puppy up. Denise and I are goin' 'up there to attend a cool party at an old friends new place. So now I have multiple things to look forward to this weekend! Woooohoooo!

Another email came in from an old student and good friend of mine. It's hilarious, so I thought you might enjoy it too. Here goes.

The Buffalo Theory.

I don't think I've ever heard the concept explained any better than this .

Well you see, Norm, it's like this . . . A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.

Love the hell out of that.

Anyway, I'll probably be back on here this evening with fishing trip pictures, so chill out and we'll talk later. Cheers.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Watch out folks.

The Knights and Dragons have headed out on that road trip to the big city, and workers at a chain of budget hotels are being given advice on how to deal with naked sleepwalkers.

It follows an increase in the number of guests found wandering around in the night with no clothes on. A study by Travelodge found there had been more than 400 cases in the past year, almost all involving men. Sleep experts blame stress, alcohol abuse (Dark beer abuse?) and lack of sleep for the disorder. The research, conducted in 310 Travelodge hotels, found sleepwalkers (Streetwalkers?) wandered all over the building. A number had walked into the reception area asking for a newspaper or saying they wanted to check out (like walking up to the cute little night shift receptionist and saying "Check this out?" or asking "Where's your hard drive?"). Travelodge said it was sending notes to its staff on how to deal with the problem.

The advice includes keeping a supply of towels in reception to help preserve a guest's dignity. Chris Idzikowski, an expert at the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said: "These figures are a surprise. "Sleepwalking is most likely within an hour or two of going to bed, when first slipping into a deep sleep. "Part of the brain switches into autopilot and can manage well-learned movements such as walking, bending or sitting." He added: "Sleepwalkers will awake quite unable to recall any of their actions." The study also found one in 10 sleepwalkers had injured themselves on their travels.

Yea, like getting "it" caught in the elevator door while you're "sleepwalking" down to the computer room to check for comments.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Woods - Part Five.

I almost forgot to tell you about my one huge sports achievement, which also took place in Missouri. It's not a woodsy thing, but what the hell. One day, out at recess, I became the unofficial Tetherball champ of the school. Cool eh? What the hell, you ask? Not a football or baseball story? Nope, Tetherball!

You guys ever play Tetherball? You've got a long iron pole comin' up out of the ground with a rope attached to the top of it. At the other end of the rope is a yellow leather ball. the object is to hit the ball and keep hittin' it till the rope wraps around the top of the pole. You've got an opponent on the other side that's tryin' to do the same thing you're doin', tryin' to get the ball away from you and wrap it around the other way. Whoever wraps the rope first wins. That was one time when bein' freakishly tall turned out to be an advantage. The other was on the monkey bars, but that's another story.

You wouldn't think it but it really took great timing to be good at that game. The trick was to time your hits and angle them up so the opponent couldn't reach the ball to bat it down. I found that after a while I was really good at it. The competitions out at recess usually came down to this one really athletic girl and me, facing off against one another. Lots of kids would line up to play but it would always come down to the two of us, and you never knew which one of us would win.

It was fun as hell, and easy to get so focused on the game that you didn't notice what else was going on around you. That's probably how nether of us noticed one day when the huge, scary PE coach walked up to us and began talkin' about how he could beat us all. He was such a prick!

He was probably in his 30s then, and looking back I can see that he really wasn't such a bad guy. He was just a grownup with power over us, who seemed then to have a special love for scarin' little kids. He had a HUGE paddle that he used to keep us all in line. The friggin' thing was like a cricket mallet, with holes drilled into it. We were all scared to death of him and that friggin' thing. I think I only saw him use it once, but that was enough. Kept my ass in line, but then my nature has always been to stay away from trouble anyway.

So he walked up to us one sunny day, I think it was in the fall or early spring, with us in the middle of a game. He stepped into the path of the ball, stoppin' everything and started sayin' how he could beat us all. It was probably some sort of attempt on his part to motivate us or somethin'. Somehow, I'm not really sure how, he and I ended up in a match. Everyone on the playground gathered around us and wanted to watch. It was my moment, but I don't think I was aware of that then.

As I said, my height had always been an advantage, but now that went away. This guy towered over me, so it was gonna be my skill with the ball that won the match. Sure enough, I managed to angle the ball up and hit it fast enough that he couldn't get a good hit on it and start knockin' it back the other way. I have this vivid memory of the rope and ball wrappin' around the very top of the pole and all the kids cheerin' me. It was glorious, for a moment, and then recess ended and we all went back to class. "All glory is fleeting", someone used to say.

Oh, the monkey bars thing? Well, they had these exercise bars out in the field, just beyond the paved playground. At some point a game evolved where the other kids would get up on the horizontal ladder part of the thing and I'd try to jump up and grab hold of them. I'd get a running start and try to surprise them as to who I was gonna grab. I guess we turned my being freakishly tall into a game. I'm sittin' here now wonderin' why someone didn't show me how to dunk a basketball at that age, but whatever.

I remember it being a huge amount of fun. I'd jump up and grab hold of a bar and pull myself up further while they dodged my reach, giggling the whole time. When we weren't playing that game we were using those bars for what I assume was their intended purpose.

We'd climb the few ladder rungs on there side and swing, hand over hand, till we reached the other side. Of course, being bigger than anyone else (accept that coach), I made it my thing to reach farther than anyone else, skipping a few rungs between hand holds and making it across faster than anyone else. Again, it was between me and that other athletic girl, as far as who could skip more rungs. At some point she came up with another game that I was initially too scared to try. She'd get up on a horizontal bar, hang upside down by her knees, and start swingin' back and forth.

At some point she'd swing completely free of the bar, flip over, kick her legs out and land on her feet. It used to blow my mind watchin' her do that. She started to show the other kids how to do it, standin' next to them as they swung and holdin' their hand as they took their first flips. I was too big and heavy to clear the ground in the flip and never got the hang of it. The bar was too low. Hell, she was probably in some gymnastics class out of school and learned it there. Anyway, it was cool as hell to watch. I never could quite get it though, but had fun tryin'.

We spend so much time out on those bars that I developed huge calluses on my palms from all the swingin'. This was WAY before I was usin' those palms for any other, more sensitive, secret activities, or even thinkin' about that stuff. That was at least a few years off.

One day, while I was swingin' from one rung to the other out there at recess, the callus on my right palm came completely off. It just hung there, floppin' around and freakin' everyone out. It was like a huge blister had pealed away and the skin just hung there. For whatever reason I don't remember bein' too freaked out myself, and I don't remember it hurting too much ether. I just went to the nurse and she wrapped my hand in a bandage. I walked home after school and everyone who saw it freaked out, but it wasn't a big deal. It seems now that it healed very quickly and I was back to my old monkey bars in no time.

Well, I hope you're gettin' some sort of fun from readin' this stuff. If not, fuck it! I'm enjoyin' the tellin', and the further remembering that comes from the tellin', so you may have to put up with a little more of it for a while. Anyway, cheers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dinner and a concert...

Or, how we spent our Sunday evening in Austin and Bee Caves.

This is all that's left of what's called the Del Mar plate down at Pappasito's, after about ten minutes of my piranha-like ass chowin' down. It's a hot, sizzlin' plate of chicken and beef fajitas for two, with all the fixin's, and four of those lovely brochette shrimp tossed in for the pure sin of it. You can see one left there, cowering next to that little bowl of butter and white wine sauce. He's not long for this world! OK, we were hungry and in a hurry so I forgot to get the "before" shot. You'll have to settle for the "after' shot. Believe me, it was gooooood!

We got to the venue, The Backyard, in Be Caves, west of Austin, and got in there at 6:30.

It was a Lone Star for me, for patriotic reasons, and a 7&7 for Denise. Most of $20 shot. Damn!

The fun folks were out and about, but not anything like you'd see at a festival type concert. There was no cloud of Patchouli to be avoided, though I did recognize a certain familiar concert odor once or twice. Old folks are still blazin' up I guess.

The place is nice, with plenty of spots to eat and drink inside the venue, and lots of cool old oaks to provide shade.

Joe Cocker came out and was wonderful.

I tell ya, he can still belt out those tunes. His voice is still amazing, and his band was great.

The main act was Steve miller. He came out at about 9PM and started playin' all the familiar hits from the 70s. Then he teased us, tellin' us he had a few guests that were gonna come out in a while. Soon enough, Erick Johnson and Jimmy Vaughn came walkin' out and plugged in.

This was a huge surprise, but maybe it shouldn't have been. You know these guys grew up, like I did, lovin' Millers sound. And they're both local boys.

They played with Miller for about 45 minutes, doin' lots of old blues numbers like "Smokestack Lighnin'" and "Crossroads". Then they left and Miller finished the next hour or so with the rest of his great hits. In the end, the final encore was "Space Cowboy". Loved it!

During the gig Miller made reference to about 45 tracks he'd just recorded, old blues numbers, with Led Zeppelin's old arranger. That might be a cool set of tunes to look for.