Friday, July 31, 2009

Opinions differ.

There's the traditional method, or...

Man, that's cool as hell! But, is this really something that should require "research"? I mean, it's a friggin hard boiled egg for Christ's sake. And lets hope ol' Homer there doesn't blow any Swine Flue germs all over your egg. Eeeew! I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bloody frogs!


"Is there anyone else up there we can talk to?" LMAO

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Bloody Peasant!"

My favorite scene from this movie, with subtitles for the beginners.

For your info: Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of the anarchist movement which focuses on "workers" and the notion of class equality. "Syndicalisme" is a French word, ultimately derived from the Greek, meaning "trade unionism" – hence, the "syndicalism" qualification.

Anarcho-syndicalists view their movement (yes, they're still around) as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the State (government) with a new society democratically self-managed by workers. They seek to abolish the wage system, regarding it as "wage slavery," and state or private ownership of the means of production (factories), which they believe leads to class divisions.

In English... fuckin' idiots, communist bastards who think that the "workers" should all own the factories and share the profits equally, as if they'd built the place and knew how to run it. How the "workers" will ever keep the factories going, designing new products and keeping Wal Mart or the fucking Chinese from taking over everything isn't really clearly thought out. Nor is the way the new capitalists (the workers who are sharing all the money) will keep from evolving into the very thing they got rid of. You know, the smarter, more ruthless "workers" elbowing their comrades out of the way and giving themselves some sort of special privileges. But that's Liberalism for ya. Flash will always trump substance with them. So long as everything SOUNDS more equal, reality will always lose out, and the tax payers will always end up takin' it in the ass.

I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Headin' out again.

We're headin' up to Dallas this afternoon, beginnin' the first leg of a two week road trip. The trip will originally take us to Kentucky, where we'll spend a week or so with Denise's kids and grandkids. But, like I said, first we're goin' up to Dallas.

There's a concert tonight at the State Fair Grounds, at what used to be called The Starplex Amphitheater. Anyway that's what they called it back in the day... back when I saw Elton John there, and Steely Dan, and my first Lollapalooza concert in '94. But now it's called the Center. These things are so transient. Thank God some things are eternal, like the heat of a Texas summer night out under the band shell awning and good, loud music, like this.

And maybe some of this.

And then... well, the main attraction will take the stage. You're sayin' "Main attraction? ZZ Top ain't good enough?" Oh no. Not sayin' that at all! But they're just the lead-up band. The main attraction will sound somthin' like this.

And this.

After the gig we'll drive as far east as we can stand and find a hotel room somewhere along I-30. Then we'll drive on to Bowling Green, Kentucky in the morning, and spend the week with Denise's family. There'll be a short trip from there during the week, up to Ohio to visit with another friend and check out the Air Force Museum. Then, the next Monday, I'll drive Denise down to the airport in Nashville so she can fly home.

Turns out she could only get one week off, so she's got to head home early. It's a huge bummer, but what can ya do? So I'll drop her off, give her a big goodbye smooch 'n squeeze and then head east on I-40 and spend a few days with some other good friends. Then we'll all get in our cars and drive west along the length of Tennessee and spend two nights doin' this sort of thing.

Beale street, Memphis Tennessee. We'll be within' easy walkin' distance of Beale from our hotel, so there won't be anything to get in the way of the fun. We should also be in easy walking distance from a hand full of cool sights during the day, like the Sun Studios Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. We've all done Graceland before, so we'll let the King rest this time. It'll be two days and nights of Blues, booze and BBQ, or somethin' like that. I can't WAIT!

By the end of that week it'll be time to head home. I'll say goodbye to my friends there in Memphis and head west, but then I'll take a short trip north on I- 55 to try to find another good friend. Then, after a short get-together, I plan to drive on home, or as close to it as I can. I should be back here by August 1st, and the homecoming should be great!

Yep, Road Trip 2009 looks like it'll be a great time. So you'll have to excuse my absence. I'll be back here in a few weeks. I'm not sure if I'll be able to post much from the road, but you know I'll be takin' lots of pictures to show you, and I've set up a few things to post themselves while I'm gone.

So, you try to have some fun and we'll talk about it all on the other side. Cheers!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Many a Saturday morning, back in the day...

was spent watching this TV show. It was called You Are There, and it was hosted by Walter Cronkite.

The coolest episode I can remember now was The Fall of Troy. You can imagine, me bein' a HUGE history nut, how cool the show was. It was the first thing I thought of when we walked into the house tonight and I found out that Mr. Cronkite had passed away. Whatever you think of him, you have to respect him.

Having said that, I don't respect the way he allowed his political feelings to mingle with his reporting. I don't respect the way he allowed his star power to turn him into a pundit.

I think he started much of what's wrong with journalism today. I'm sick of hearing what some reported thinks about an event. Cronkite should have gone to Vietnam in '68, as a journalist. But he never should have done the editorial after he came back. There are too many reporters doing editorials now. But you have to respect the way he handled the Kennedy assassination, and his heroic coverage of WW2. He was a real hero then. To me, that trumps much of what came after.

I was just a kid in the '70s. I remember seeing him on the news every night, and of course, every Saturday morning. He was another Texas boy who grew up to be somebody. May he rest in peace.

It's Friday again...

So you probably know what's comin'.

Plans are to head over to Salado and get my hair cut at about 4:30. Need to be purdy for the road. Actually, my usual 6 weeks are up and it's time to get sheared. Plus, I always look forward to seein' my cousin Peggy. She's a hoot.

After I get all cleaned up and sheared we'll drive up to Temple, pick up mom and head over to Dynasty for the big Chinese buffet feed. I haven't been there in a good while, so you know I'm lookin' forward to it.

Aside from all that, I got up early this mornin' to get out in the garage and install my new satellite radio before the temperatures climbed into the "Oh shit, it's hot" range. I just about made it too. I just got the whole thing finished and it's only 95.

My system is a Sirious InV2 radio, with an external FM antenna that's supposed to boost the FM signal going to the satellite radio. My car stereo doesn't have a plug in it to allow me to wire the thing directly into the system. I can't find my old cassette adapter, and I don't know how to wire the thing into the back of my stereo, so this is the way I had to go.

I got the thing installed, running the antenna wire through the window duct and through the trunk, up to the front dash. I mounted it in what seems to be the perfect place, just below the radio, with the mounting bracket stuck to the ash tray (which I use as a trash can). Mounting it this way means I can still use the ash tray, and I can still toss my cigar cutter and lighter and other sundry crap in the space on the dash below the radio. It's perfect. I'm proud of myself, the way I figured out how to hide the wires and all. I guess all that experience changing out car stereos and speakers in those old Firebirds and Camaros in the '70s finally came in handy.

Thing is, I'm havin' a hell of a time finding an FM channel around here to run the satellite radio through. It seems like ever tick of the dial has ether a channel or some bleed though from another channel. The lady on the phone from Sirious said I needed a channel with "pure static" Well hell, I don't think there is one! I drive around the neighborhood changin' the FM channels and resetting the Sirious receiver and the radio still has a little static comin' through. Drives me nits!

I'm hopin' that all of this will fade away when we get the car out on the open road. Maybe then the static will fade away and the thing'll work the way I expect it to. If not, hell, I'll just take it to some fuckin' kid at Best Buy or somethin' and have him wire the thing directly into the radio. Anyway, it should make the drives to and from San Saba a bit more interesting.

Did I tell you how I got the radio? Denise gave it to me for my birthday last year. Yep, it's been sittin' there since last November, waitin' for me to go out and put it in the car. It took this upcoming road trip to inspire me to go out and tackle the job. Now that it's done I'm pretty happy with myself.

Yep, road trip. The annual drive back east to see the folks is commin' up. There'll be more about that in Sundays post. Suffice to say that I'll be away from home for two weeks. It should be a lot of fun. We've got some good times planned. I'll be takin' pictures of it all, as you might have guessed, so you'll get a full report in the wake of it all.

So, it's time to clean up. Denise should be gettin' home from work soon, and then we'll be off to the shearin'. Then I'll see if I can dive directly into a vat of the Generals chicken. Hot, sweet, steamin' goodness. Mmmmm. You think they'll have me back after? We'll see. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One of the guys in my high school class is posting pages from our Senior yearbook on his Facebook site.

No, that's not me with the goofy expression. Remember, it's been 30 years. 1979.

Damn, I was a good lookin' kid. I wonder what the hell I was afraid of? Amazing.

Thanks Ron. I haven't seen these in ages. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Arc Angels at Antone's.

Denise and I drove down to Austin Saturday night and saw a great show. It was the return of the Arc Angels, a local band that's become a local, home town cult favorite and nationwide sensation.

The band began in the early 1990s, built from the sturdy Blues/rock foundation of the recently deceased Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section, Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. They were joined by two singers/guitar pros, Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton, both of whom studied at the feet of the master (SRV). Beginning with sessions at the Austin Rehearsal Center, which gave them their name, they grabbed the imagination of many who missed SRV and wanted to see something new grow from that seed.

They hit it big for the first time in 1992 when they released their self-titled debut CD. They were on track to be HUGE, doing national TV shows and quickly developing a national following. But then the band imploded, breaking up due to various issues, including rumored Heroin issues with Bramhall. The guys all moved on to other bands and solo work over the next 12 or 15 years, but now and then they'd tease their fans by reuniting for a gig.

Denise and I were lucky enough to attend one of those shows late last year. The original four members got together for two shows, one in Dallas and another in Houston. Apparently, the experience was so much fun they've decided to get back together again for real, with one exception. The bass player, Tommy Shannon, has "retired", unwilling to trudge through the grueling schedule of gigs at his age.

He's been replaced by a guy named Mark Newmark, who doesn't show up in any of the bands new press shots. I'm guessing he may be the bass player du jure. I hope the money's good. Anyway, after those gigs late last year, the guys apparently decided that the chemistry was so good, the feel so satisfying, they should officially reform, hit the road again and produce some new music.

Based on what I saw last Saturday night at Antone's, there's no reason why they shouldn't hit it big again. The sky's the limit. But first, lets talk about the lead-up band.

When the lights went low at Antone's Blues club last Saturday night, an announcer came up on stage, welcomed us to Antone's and said we had something special in store for us. He introduced a group called the Iron City Soulshakers, and a gaggle of musicians took the stage.

Then the lead singer ran up to the microphone and the show got started. Kristi Johnson spent the next hour or so doing an amazing Tina Turner/Janis Joplin imitation, belting out the lyrics to such tunes as Ruth Brown's "The Richest One" and Sam and Dave's "Hold on I'm Comin'".

They put on an energetic show, but I'm afraid the music was less interesting than the lead singer. The guys in the band did OK, but they didn't really wow us with their instruments, with the exception of the saxophone player (I could swear I've seen that dude somewhere before).

They were OK, putting on an energetic show, but they just didn't do it for me. I got the distinct impression that if their lead singer wasn't such a stunner, both in looks and singing talent, they might not be getting so much attention. Having said that, they played for about an hour and the crowd at Antone's loved them.

After the Soulshakers moved on and the gear was switched out, this old gentleman slowly made his way up to the mic to introduce the Arc Angels. By then the crowd had grown and the place was packed, wall to wall. He once again welcomed us to Antone's and thanked us for supporting the place, and for supporting local Austin music scene.

He said that his old buddy Clifford (Antone passed away a few years ago) would love to see this crowd and these artists taking his stage. He told us that this was the 34th anniversary of the club, which opened it's doors in July of 1975.

He talked about the Arc Angels, and how they all started here, wandering around the place as kids. He talked about Bramhall following around after his daddy, and learning the guitar at the knee of his godfather, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Click on that link and check out those tunes. DB2's daddy sings and plays drums. Enjoy.

Both Bramhall and Sexton started early, with Bramhall evolving quickly into a guitar whiz, brought up on stage here in Austin in his early teens, and Sexton gracing the cover of Spin magazine at 18. He said that they are all truly local boys, and asked us, would we all welcome them to the stage.

At that point the crowd went crazy and the really great music began.

Bramhall and Sexton both brought a truck load of guitars to the show, switching them out after every tune. Bramhall played, among others, a gorgeous Les Paul Junior on "Paradise Cafe," and a beautiful, brilliant red Stratocaster on "Sent by Angels".

Now and then the guitar teck would hand him this old, pic scarred Starocaster and he'd send us all on one another beautiful trip, bending those notes and winding us all up so that we could feel the love. Sexton switched back and forth between a beautiful black Epiphone and a Les Paul Sunburst, among others.

And just as everything would be going great, some jackass would take a picture with their fucking flash on. I couldn't believe how many people did it, right from the start of the show. And I couldn't believe that the band didn't stop at some point and ask them to refrain from doing it. But they didn't. They just ignored it. Some of it was press, but mostly it was fans with too much stupidity to know how using a flash in a gig like this drives everyone around them nuts.

But even with the occasional light show, there was a special energy in this gig. Older fans like me were expecting a preview of some of the music we might hear on their new release. There's a live CD/DVD set to be put out in the fall, which is reported to include some new tracks. And then, the word is, the band will release a totally new CD some time next year.

So, the buzz last Saturday night was palpable. Along with classic tracks from their 1992 release, like "Living In A Dream" and "Shape I'm In", the band included one of Bramhall's tunes in the set, "I'm Leavin'", off of his second solo release, Jellycream, which Sexton contributed to, among others. Now and then they played some new music, including "Too Many People", and another called "Crave and Wonder." The true surprise of the evening was a rendition of "Outside Woman Blues" which was written by "Blind Joe" Reynolds and made famous by Cream when they recorded it for Disraeli Gears. Based on what I heard, I'd bet good money their new release is destined for success.

Now and then, as DB2 (as Sexton referred to him) would get into the guts of a great riff, Sexton would wander over and groove with his buddy, as if wanting to bask in the glow. The great thing about Antone's... the band was so close, we could all bask in that glow. It was amazing. Thrilling. I almost wanted to pinch myself a few times to make sure I was really there.

The rhythm section worked it's magic too, grounding the blues/rock music of the evening with Mark Newmark energetic groovin' on the bass and drummer Chris Layton keeping an eye on Bramhall.

It was amazing and hilarious to watch the expressions on Layton's face switch back and forth from surprise to a steady professional detachment. Now and again, as Bramhall would seem to be wandering in a thrilling solo, he and Layton would make eye contact and everything would wind up to a crescendo. It was easy to see why Layton is seen as one of the best drummers around today.

In the end we waited through the traditional "We're gonna pretend to leave now," walk-off, which gave us the chance to cheer loudly and bring the band back for the climax. After returning to the stage, Sexton (who does most of the talking to the crowd) thanked us for coming and the band finished the show with "Spanish Moon" and the closer, "Too Many Ways to Fall."

As I told you before, that one is my favorite. Sexton's lyrics speak volumes about the trepidations of life, and the choices we face:

All we have is here and now

Tomorrow may not come true

There's a million people who walk this ground

Who might steal your wish from you

A million people or maybe not

A human one in all

There's just one way that we can stand

Too many ways to fall

The mother says now baby boy

Your gonna have to choose

There's good and evil, love and greed

And they're all inside of you

And just as sure as gravity

No one escapes the law

'Cause there's just one way they we can stand

Too many ways to fall

Lets hope the guys figure out a way to keep it together this time, through all the conflicting demands of their lives and careers. If they can make it again, the great music they make should be all the reward. Cheers!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Headin' down to Austin' tonight.

We've got tickets to see the Arc Angels at Antone's tonight. It should be a blast. I'll try to get some good pictures. It'll be standing room only, and with them being such a popular local band, I'd bet it's gonna be a zoo. Can't wait!

When we saw them late last November in Dallas, they put on a great show. They saved my favorite tune of theirs for last. Here's a great version of it, from Austin City Limits. Enjoy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

We lost another great one a few days ago, but you'd never know, with all the MJ coverage.

No doubt, the most tasteless joke in history...

Or at least the worst one I've heard lately.

Wait for it...

What do Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, David Carradine and Billy Mays all expect to get for Christmas?

Drum roll...

Patrick Swayze!

Ok, I'm goin' to hell. But that's funny right thar. You laughed. Yea, you did, once the shock wore off.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Went up to Dave's place and did some shootin' this mornin'.

Even ol' Red had more sense than to go out in the summer heat, but we were on a mission.

It was gonna be hot today (it's hovering around 100 as I type this), so we decided to start the shoot early. I got up to Dave's place, northwest of Gatesville, around 8:30 AM.

By the time the other guys got there and we started to head out to his back 40 it was 80 degrees and rising, in of the shade of his porch. But, again, we were on a mission.

My reason for coming was to finally get a chance to shoot my AR-15. I've had it for months, but haven't had a chance to throw any lead, so I was lookin' forward to it.

I also wanted to see some of my friends more recent acquisitions. My buddy Joe Reeves here had recently picked up his class 3 papers and a sawed off 12 gage. Note the chest rig of shells. There flechete and friggin' flamethrower shells in there. Lets just say... he's a bit overzealous, but he means well. He's also got a brand new M-4 carbine there that he'd yet to shoot. So it was gonna be a fun day, even if we'd end up sweatin' like slaves by the end of it.

Another friend, and another Joe, Joe Walker, had a new Civil War cavalry carbine to try out. And when I say "new", I mean new to him. It's a fifty caliber Maynard cavalry carbine. I think he said he payed $1300 for it. Some Yankee cavalry soldier used this thing in the war.

Joe had had to clean it up so that it would fire, so this was his day to test it.

It worked beautifully. We all got to take turns with it. I really enjoyed handlin' such a cool piece of history.

Joe and Dave worked on it, tryin' to figure out how to shoot it strait. The sights are offset a bit, so it's kinda weird.

I blasted away with it. Huge fun. A friggin' .50 that's the size of a kids bb gun. Amazing.

The think I really love is how these old guns break open. If I ever have the money I might need to let my collection drift in this direction.

While Joe worked on his carbine, Dave took out his .357 and started blasting away with it. Again, we all took a turn.

Joe Walker had another little pistol he wanted to shoot. I love that 'birds head" grip. It fit's so well in my hand.

Of course, the time eventually came for me to take "it" out. Now, get your mind out of the gutter!

We were puzzled a bit when the first two rounds failed to go off. We decided that the firing pin might have been stuck from sitting on a shelf for a while. Who knows? Anyway, I pulled back on the charging handle and let it slam back harder into the gun, and from the third round on it blasted away like a charm. And it produced a decent palm sized group, with a few stragglers here and there. I was happy. Very happy.

But we were all interested in seein' that sawed-off in action.

I was inspired to strike a pose... my Bruno pose. Joe took it up close to the targets and I got the following action on video. Sorry, no sound, but you can imagine for yourself what it was like.

He let me have a go too, but I decided to shred some rocks and trees in stead of doing any more damage to Dave's back stop. It was fun, but I think I prefer to fold up my AK and blast away with it. You know, home protection!

Then Joe blasted away a bit with his M-4. I think he emptied a clip. You know, just a bit overzealous. Aw hell, I tossed a new clip in mine and we killed some rocks and bushes. That shit is FUN, and it'd be even more fun if we got the local Sheriffs deputies to drive by again like we did the last time we were here. I need to get that stuff on film. Too funny.

Eventually even Dave took a turn with my AR. He even looked a bit more authentic, with the Boony hat and sweat soaked green shirt. He almost looks like a "Victor Charley", accept for the jeans and hearing protection. I don't guess they used that stuff back in the day.

By the time we got back to Dave's place the heat had gone up to about 90 in the shade of his porch, but the thermometer in my car said 98. Yea, it was hot.

We sat around in the shade for a bit, and Dave showed off his M-1 carbines. He's taken great care to see to it that they are authentic, with the correct parts and stocks. He's got two... one made by Winchester and the other made by... I think it's Inland. Not sure. Anyway, he's got a wealth of knowledge about these things, so I always take his word for it.

Anyway, by the time I drove home and started workin' on these pictures I was beat. It's amazing how the heat takes it right out of ya. But I've got to go. Gotta go to the store and get some pork chops for dinner. Bein' off from work like I am I've become the kitchen bitch. And you know, I loves it. It's fun as hell.

So, you guys enjoy the pictures and I'll chat with ya later. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Had a busy fourth.

As usual, it started on Friday. Denise and I got up early and she finished packing for her trip. I drove her down to Austin and put her on the 11:45 flight to Wisconsin. She was going up there for the weekend to attend a baby shower for her youngest daughter who's expecting in September.

After seeing her off on the trip I made a few stops in Austin, checkin' out a few things, and then I headed home. I got the idea along the way to stop for lunch at the new Genghis Grill, Mongolian Stir Fry place in Harker Heights. Denise had found a brochure for it on her windshield last week and looking through it, I'd decided I needed to check the place out. But Denise isn't into spicy food, so I figured I'd check it out on my own. And it turned out to be really good.

When you go in, the waitress asks you what you want to drink and brings you a small metal bowl. Then you begin your journey down the buffet line, only all the stuff on the line is raw! You start with a selection of about a dozen proteins. You chose between the meats you want and spoon them into your bowl. Then you choose between about a dozen spices, another two dozen veggies, and then you pick the sauces you want. Then you hand it all over to the cook and tell them if you want ether steamed rice, fried rice, Udon noodles, spiral pasta or tortillas. The cook pours the contents of your bowl out on a large metal wheel where six or seven others toil away, and he stir-fries your meal. In a few minutes he shovels the finished product into a large red plastic bowl and your waitress brings it to you.

I was new to this process, so I ended up filling my bowl mostly with proteins from the start of the line. I had chicken, ham, shrimp, crab, and calamari filled up to the edge of my bowl. Then I tossed in a few spoon fulls of pepper. Then I squished all that down a bit so I could spoon on some cilantro and pineapple slices, and topped it off with an egg. I filled another small black bowl with my sauces... Island Teriyaki and Honey Soy, and handed it all the the chef, telling him I'd have fried rice with it. The end results were wonderful, and very spicy. I was sweatin' like crazy and my sinuses were cleared. I can't wait to go back.

After that I went back to the house and piddled around for a few hours, sittin' in front of this thing. I took the time to start reading some blogs, catching up with folks that I usually don't have time to keep up with any more. It seemed that in no time it was time to head East and pick up mom. The plan was to eat Chinese food at the regular place. I drove over, got my laundry from the dry cleaners and headed for mom's house.

When I got there I found that sis was going with us and plans had changed. They decided to go to BJs in stead of Dynasty. Sis has never been, so mom decided we might as well go, so we did. It was great, as usual. Mom had a salad and then half a sandwich from the lunch menu, sis had fish tacos and I went with some shrimp and pasta. It was all good, and after eating I took the ladies back to moms place and did some chores.

Mom has a tree/bush next to the front door of the house that was in need of pruning. I got the ladder out of the garage and went to it. Then she and I picked up the cuttings and that was that. Then I went upstairs and fixed my sister's toilet. The rubber hose had come unattached from the gizmo that refills the bowl with water. Took me about a minute to figure out what was up and fix it. No worries. I think I installed the works in that thing years ago, so it was easy to figure out.

After that we sat around and chatted for a bit, and then I hit the road. I went over to Academy Sports and Outdoors and looked at the prices on some new running shoes. Yea, I'm thinkin' about takin' up runnin' again. I need to do something. Prices ranged from $29.95 to well over $100.oo. Can't imagine someone payin' that much for athletic shoes. In the end I decided to wait. No nead to get the shoes now. I'll wait till the eagle shits a few more times and the bank account is a little richer. Truthfully, I bought cigars and concert tickets instead. Priorities.

After that I drove downtown to a pub in Temple, sat at the bar and smoked a cigar. They poured me a Pauliner Hefewiezen from one of the 40ish taps and I sat and watched a Ranger game. You know, the friggin' Texas Rangers have been winnin' ever since we went to that game. Bastards.

Saturday morning I set the alarm for about 8:30 and headed for Belton, arriving just in time for the annual Fourth of July parade.

Not having ether Dad or Denise to take care of, I parked down at the end of the parade rout and walked it's length toward the spot where my cousin's and my uncle usually sit.

When I got there I was surprised to see that none of them were there. They'd ether decided not to come or overslept.

So, I found a place in the shade under an awning and watched the parade.

There were the regular folks riding along, driving motorcycles, four wheelers, dune buggies and tractors, all mixed in with folks on horseback and in horse drawn wagons.

At one point this huge John Deere 9030 series tractor rolled by. I decided I needed a picture for Bruno. Sorry dude, but all I had on me was the phone.

At some point a new little friend walked up and my attention was distracted away from the parade.

He had a flea collar, so I assume he belongs to someone. He kept trying to get into the door of the building I was standing next to, so I assume they're feeding him. Sure was a cutey though. I picked him up to keep the little kids there from scaring him and pulling on his tail.

He laid down on my arm and went fast asleep. Even the loudest motorcycles, muscle cars and dune buggies didn't disturb him. I think he was the tamest little kitty I've ever handled. My house cats would have been hittin' the hills, just at the sight of all the people.

The regular folks all showed up for the parade. The Shriners rode by in their little cars and go carts.

I've always thought it would be fun to join an organization like the Shriners... but I don't fit in those little cars. Love the fez though. May have to go there some day.

Now here's my choice for a ride. Very cool. Wish I'd had the camera and could show you a better shot. It was a very cool, tricked out dune buggy. Ether that or the Dodge Challenger that I didn't get a picture of. Yea, that's the ticket.

As the parade came to an end I had to decide whether or not this new little friend of mine was gonna be cat number seven. I sat there with him in my lap as the parade gave way to the clean-up. All the folks there told be that he'd been there as long as they had, since very early in the morning. I have to assume that he lives there, and that the people there are feeding and taking care of him.

After laying quietly on my arm for an hour or so, he came alive when the parade ended and people began to scatter and the clean-up crew came out. The street sweeping machines came by and he hit the bushes. I decided that was my chance to make an exit. If he'd tried to follow me I would have had to pick him up and these other six would have a new little brother.

But when he hit the bushes, scared by the noise the street sweepers were making, I made my exit. I walked all the way down the other end of the parade route and drove back to Harker Heights to find my friends who were competing in a chili cook-off. I found them at the local VFW hall, or rather, out back in the field behind the VFW hall.

I sat down with them chewed the fat for a while. These are the same folks we went to the food show with a week ago. Before I left I walked over to the pavilion and got a cheeseburger the vets were selling there for $2. It was a good little burger too. After that I made my exit, driving back home. I needed to cook some food and head south to the home of some friends who were having a Fourth of July pool party Saturday evening.

I threw together some ham and cheese kolaches, and while they were in the oven I grilled some chicken, cutting three breast pieces into smaller bits and then covering them in General Tso's sauce. The kolaches are always popular, and the chicken bits turned out to be popular too. I don't think anyone can beat the General's sauce.

The pool party was a great time. The salt water pool ended up being full of kids and grand kids, so I decided to bide my time sitting up with the grownups, drinking adult beverages and eating party food. By the time the brisket and sausage came off the grill we were all stuffed. Of course, that didn't stop me. One of the guys there, Joe, a retired Army pilot, told hilarious stories from his years in Vietnam. I love hearing that sort of stuff.

He told us one story about his first flight over on a Braniff jet. He says the jet blew and engine and couldn't take off from Hawaii, so they all were put up in a hotel by the airline. They kept having to show up in the morning to see if the plane was fixed, but it never was, They figured out that if they stayed in the hotel and ordered all their food and booze on the room, Braniff would pick up the tab. They had a great few days and nights, but then the airline flew in another plane and they all continued their journey to Vietnam.

He told another one about something that happened to him when he was training in Georgie to fly slow, low flying, two seat spotter planes for the army (he'd flown Hueys in his first tour). He said that the Navy jets were supposed to fly at a higher level and the army slow movers would fly at a lower level so the two would never interfere with one another. He said he looked up one day and found a Navy F-4 Phantom on his wing, practically blotting out the sky.

The huge fighter was flying at the lowest limit of it's capability, all flaps and landing gear down. His instructor, who'd come close to falling asleep in the back seat, woke up with a start and tried to contact someone on the radio. Joe says that when the Navy pilot saw the back seat guy wake up he flipped the both of them off, hit the afterburner, raised his landing gear and zoomed off in a flash. You should have seen the gleam in Joe's eyes as he told these stories. I loved it!

The party broke up and I left there at about 8:30PM. I headed home, but only briefly. I stayed just long enough to grab a cigar and a CD and headed over to the West side of town to park and watch the fireworks display from Ft. Hood. I tossed the CD, Dark Side Of The Moon, into the player and drove over to a spot I usually got to on these occasions. I parked, turned off the engine so that the music could keep playing, I pushed back the seat, opened the sunroof and watched to thirty minute display. Would you believe, it seemed that the fireworks were almost set to the music. It's always fun.

After that I drove home. I talked to Denise and told her about everything. She was having fun too, but looking forward to being home. I picked her up in Austin at 11:15 Sunday morning. I told her to show up with an appetite, planning to take us to Pappasito's on the way home. The lunch there was wonderful, as usual. I don't know how other Tex-Mex places stay in business. Seriously.

After that we stopped in Roundrock and walked through the IKEA store. I needed to replace a few beer glasses that've been broken in the last year or so. Then it was a short trip to J.C.Penny's, and then the drive home. By the time we got home we were both pooped. I laid down on the floor in front of the TV and fell asleep. Denise lasted a bit longer, but eventually conked out on the couch. Long story short, we both napped till about 10PM. I was amazed that I was able to get to sleep later on, but I was. I must've been tired.

So, that was it. I'm supposed to go shooting this Wednesday morning. First chance I'll have to shoot the AR-15. I'll probably have pictures to show you by the end of the week. This next weekend is lookin' calm by comparison to the last one, but it should be fun. I have two tickets to see the Arc Angels at Antone's Saturday night. So you guys have fun and we'll chat later on. Cheers!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Fourth folks!

Happy birthday America! I hope everyone has a great time. I'm gonna try to. Plans are to go to the parade in Belton this morning and see some of my relatives. It's always a fun and emotional experience. I'm sure I'll tear up when the soldiers from Ft. Hood march by. I always do.

Then I'm gonna try to hook up with some friends who are supposed to be involved in a chili cook-off somewhere in Temple. I can't imagine standing around a drum full of red hot charcoal in the friggin' 100 degree heat, but this is Texas, by God, and we do that shit.

Then there's the pool party at a friends house out in the country south of Killeen. I could very well spend much of the day drinking, eating and swimming in a nice salt water pool. Then we'll watch the fireworks on Ft. Hood to end the day.

So, you have a great day my friends. Try not to think about all the problems we have now. Remember how dark things were in the summer of 1776, as the British were beating Washington and his fledgling army like red headed step children, from one end of Long Island to the other and then through New Jersey.

We've been through tough times before, and faced worse enemies than this current group of fools. In the end, our national character has always shined. It still does. You'll see it shining in the eyes of those old folks and veterans who rise up to watch as this generations young heroes walk those beautiful flags on by.

God bless all of them, and all of you. Cheers!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Had a great time over the weekend.

First, we drove over to Temple and took mom out to eat last Friday night. We went to BJ's, as I'd predicted. It was great, and a funny thing happened. As we were led in to our table, I looked up and saw a former student of mine sitting there at the next booth with his wife and kids. We shook hands and then the waitress moved us off to another booth. Mom loves a booth.

Anyway, we ordered our drinks, appetizers and main dishes, and then about ten minutes later the waitress showed up with another round of drinks for all three of us. Turns out, my former student had told her to bring us another round on him. What a cool surprise. I guess it is good to know people.

You should have seen mom, smilin', lookin' at that second top shelf margarita and sayin' "Oh, I really shouldn't." Yea, she did. I think she killed most of it by the time we left. It was a great evening. We went by her place after dinner and visited with mom and my sister. Then it was home to chill and think about our upcoming weekend.

We got up at the normal time Saturday and laid around, resting. Then we packed and headed up to Ft. Worth, arriving at about 6PM. The hope was that we'd be able to change at my buddy Jim's house but he and his wife Terry were both gone, so we had to figure something else out. In the end we were both able to get dressed and head over to my High School pre-reunion dinner at Joe "T" Garcia's on the north side of town, near the stockyards and Billy Bob's.

The dinner turned out to be a hoot. I didn't recognise most of the folks that were there, but I did reconnect with one guy that i hadn't seen in twenty years, and he told me how to get reconnected with another guy. The restaurant had changed a lot since the last time I'd been there. It's a beautiful place, with huge outdoor gardens loaded with fountains and a pool where you eat. But the Mexican food there was not up to our Pappasito's standard, and the outdoor setting was beautiful, but it was about 100 degrees, so I was wishin' we'd made arrangements to meet somewhere else, indoors.

After the dinner we drove over to De Soto and got into our hotel room. Early the next morning we met our friends at the Dallas Convention Center and spent about three hours walking through the Southwest Foodservice Expo. It was fun, just like it always is. We spent the afternoon sampling all kinds of food and adult beverages, fending off vendors who wanted to know what sort of restaurant we had and could they send us information. I'd just smile and say "No thanks", and we'd walk on by. Kinda sad, to tell you the truth. I'd hate to be one of those folks, searching the passing crowd for any inkling of recognition or interest.

We bugged out of there at about 2PM and headed back to the hotel to freshen up. We had ideas about getting together with our friends, following them to their hotel, but it didn't work out. So we went back to our place and relaxed for a while. Then we drove back over to Ft. Worth to hang out with my friends over there before going to the game.

It was great to see Jim and Terry again. He's in town from his job in Pennsylvania and was doing some work on his mother-in-law Judy's barn. We sat around and got reacquainted. They floated an idea that we should join them and most of Jim's family in a year, next June, for a cruise to Alaska. The more we think about it the more we want to go. Some time around 6:30PM we got back in the car and headed for Arlington. We parked at the Ballpark and got into the place just as the teams were starting to take the field.

It's a beautiful place, The Ballpark In Arlington. Home of the Texas rangers. Built by the local tax payers back when George W was a part owner. While we were at Jim's place he noted that we never get pissed off at the Rangers for never winning anything. I agreed with him. We both reasoned it's because they never have been worth a damn. We expect more from the Cowboys because they've won the big one several times. The Rangers just plod along, looking really good from time to time, but then always sucking up in the end. Sunday nights game was no different.

I was ready for the food and drink to be expensive, but it was still a shock. $6.75 for a beer, $4.50 for a regular sized hot dog, $4.25 for water.

I plunked down $12.00 for this Margarita for the little woman. Later on I went up to the vending area and got a chili dog. A foot long dog with chili and cheese and grilled onions... $9.00. But it fed the both of us and was really good.

We had decent seats, just up from the visitors dugout, about eight rows up from the grass. Denise had never been to a professional baseball game before. I told her "Don't get too excited. It's the Rangers. There's college teams that could beat their ass."

At some point they did the dot race up on the score board, but then the real thing started out there on the field. It was hilarious. Denise was perplexed. "Why don't we see all this stuff on television?" "Commercials darling. Commercials."

In time, the game evolved in a bad direction. The Rangers kept hitting pop flies out near the back of the field while the Padres got base hits. The Rangers hitters got on base twice from bad Padre's pitching, but normally they were getting out while they tried to get home runs rather than simple base hits. The Padres hit the ball out between the outfielders, got on base over and over again and got two runs in. They ended up winning by two to nothing.

In the 9th, when the Rangers had one chance left to score, the mascot came out and stood on top of the Padre's dugout to get the crowd motivated.

The second baseman came out and gave it a decent try, but again, knocked it out into the glove of the left fielder and the game was over. It ended very quickly with no fireworks or hoopla. I was sorry that Denise didn't get to see them win. But she loved the game, so we'll do it again. Sure enough, the Angels came to town after the Padre's and the Rangers started to win. Last nights game was exciting as hell... tied at seven till a last minute homer by a Ranger won it. Too bad that team didn't show up when we were there to see them.

We sat in our seats for a bit to let much of the crowd dissipate, but then headed to the car. The sight of the new Cowboys stadium at night was stunning. You can't really tell from these pictures, but the place is friggin' HUGE. I can't wait to get in there and see it from the inside.

After that we went back to the hotel and crashed. Early the next morning, Monday morning, we got up and drove back up to Dallas to join our friends at a free breakfast being put on by one of the vendors at that Food Show. Prairie City Bakery was having a big feed at the Fairmont, so we headed over there and found our friends already there, chowin' down. While we were there we found out that they had plans to go to the Dallas Zoo after breakfast. Sounded like a good plan to us, so we decided to join them.

I hadn't been to the Dallas Zoo in about fifteen or twenty years, so it was interesting to see how the place has changed.

Since it was hot as hell, with temperatures in the upper 90s (a cold front having blown in), most of the critters were relaxing in the shade.

It was hard to find any four legged friends who weren't conserving their energy...

Takin' a cat nap, or something.

If you had some water to slop around in, chances are you were sittin' in it.

Of course, if you live in a water park, the heat really wasn't an issue for you.

Just get with your people and take a collective dip. We had a great time watching the critters, four legged and two legged, and you can go to FlickR and check out the rest of the pictures. You can also go there and see more baseball shots if you want to.

After the zoo, Denise and I headed over to Ft. Worth for the last time and headed over to see Keith's Mom. I'd talked to her earlier in the day and found out she was still working part time as a tutor and that she'd be home after 3PM. So, with both of is exhausted after walking around the zoo for three hours, and with a lot of emotion in my mind, I drove over to the old house I'd known so well thirty years earlier.

Denise and I walked up to the door and I rang the bell. There was a clamor of barking when the bell rang, reminding me of the Irish Setters the family had always had. Keith's wife, Pagel, and his adult daughter came to the door, and two big Setters, barking and straining at their collars. They were just dyin' to lick us to death. Pagel and I hugged, I introduced Denise and we went in and sat down on the couch.

As we were visiting, Keith's mom came home from her tutoring job. There was a lot of squealin' and we shared a big hug. Seeing her again, I remembered just how she looked and sounded. It was a wonderful reunion. They filled out a lot of the gray areas in my mind, telling me how things had been in the last three decades. They told me that Keith had held two long term jobs in that time, one as a handy man at a local school and the other at a local toy store. They told me that the toy store job had made him very happy, giving him the opportunity to fill their house with a combination of Star Wars and Batman toys.

Looking at what was left of his collection, it reminded me of another friend and his toy cars. Only it sounds like Keith had gone totally nuts over collecting. There was a method to his madness though. I told them that when he started collecting Star Wars figures, we were still in high school. He had them all tacked up on his wall, still in the plastic. I'd say stuff like "Why the hell don't you play with them you idiot?" Well, this "idiot" eventually sold all those original Star Wars figures for about $20,000! I couldn't believe it, but then I could. Keith wasn't stupid. That wasn't his problem.

His mom said that he'd eventually lost both of those jobs. She said he'd gotten into an argument with his boss and lost the handy man job, and that he'd lost the toy store job when he'd turned in another employee for something, who then turned him in for something else. His mom said that he'd fallen into a deep depression when he lost that job, and that it was several months later that he'd killed himself. He'd secretly bought a pistol, but had also horded pills from his father, who'd died of cancer a year or so earlier. In the end, having pledged to Pagel that he'd never make a mess of it, he took the pills.

It was all very sad. Apparently they sprinkled his ashes in the back garden, where his fathers ashes had been mingled with those of many beloved family pets. When I heard that I half jokingly said, "Well, I guess that means you can't ever move." They laughed and agreed with me. We talked about a lot of old times, and I tried not to get stuck, draggin' lots of morbid details out of them. In the end, Denise and I got up to go and we all hugged. I told them I'd keep in touch and we headed out. I'm really glad I went. I just wish I'd done it a few years earlier.

After that, Denise and I went over to Jim and Terry's place again and relaxed for a while. They gave us more details on this Alaska cruise. Jim also posed the idea that we all go to England in a few years and do the Farnborough Air Show. So, we've got all sorts of plans to work through. We'll see how that all goes down.

After that, Denise and I headed over to Pappasito's and had dinner. It was wonderful, and made me wonder how places like Joe "T" Garcia's manage to stay in business. Then it was a 2 and 1/2 hour drive home, where we collapsed from exhaustion.

Since then I've been sleepin' in, workin' on pictures and relaxing while Denise goes to work at 6:30 every morning. It's been rough, but I'm holding up to it well. This upcoming weekend is the Fourth of July, so it'll be busy. Denise is flying to Wisconsin tomorrow for a baby shower, but I chose to stay home. My friends from the food show are competing in a chili cook-off in Temple, so there'll be good things to eat. And then there's the official fireworks display at Ft. Hood. It's always a fun time. I just have to try to be sober enough to drive down to Austin and pick Denise up Sunday morning.

So, you guys try to have some fun, have a wonderful Fourth, and we'll talk again later. Cheers.