Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday in San Saba.

Yep, it's Friday, and I had to drive out to San Saba to make up a few of the classes I've missed this month. No problem. Gives me a chance to catch up with my buddy John, who spent last week on a hunting trip out west, and also to go to the Dairy Mart and get another one of those wonderful jalapeno sourdough bacon cheeseburgers. Mmmmm, good!

This week's been busy, with me gettin' started with my new Ft. Hood classes. But along with work, there's also been fun.

I played pool Wednesday night, after driving back to Killeen from my evening class here in Saba. I got there at about 9:15 and sat there, drinkin' a beer and smokin' a cigar, watchin' my teammates play before my match came up. When my time finally came up, I ended up havin' to play another 5. But it was fun. I played well, and I kinda had a revelation along the way.

For those of you who don't know, pool players, like golfers, are handicapped based on skill levels. I think it probably ranges between a 1 and a 10. Right now I'm a 3, which means, depending on which version of me shows up that night, I'll ether suck, or I'll play really well. It's a toss up, but lately I've been doing well. The last two weeks I played well enough to beat two guys who, based on their ranking, should have beaten me easily (the best players around here, that I ever see anyway, are all 7s).

Anyway, all of that ranking means that different players with different skill levels have to win different numbers of games in a match to win the match. This last Wednesday night, I was in the middle of my second game. The guy I was playing is another 5. He's really good, but I've beaten him before.

In the first game he'd just about cleared the table. I thought I was screwed. All of my balls were still out there but he'd sunk most of his. Still, I ended up sinking all of mine before he could finish his and then I sank the 8 ball to win. My team leader, Dave, smiled and cheered me on while my opponent racked the balls for the second game. I couldn't believe I'd pulled it out.

In the second game, we started out the exact same way. He sank all but one of his balls before I had a chance to sink anything. But I still came back to win. He ended up being blocked from having too many clear shots, what with all of mine still out there, And he tried too many fancy shots, with me standin' there and wonderin' why he didn't just shoot. Then, with victory in sight, he missed the 8 ball about three times, which gave me a chance to sink the rest of mine and bank the 8 ball for another win. That was the match. He had to win five games, but I only had to win two, so it was two and out. I couldn't believe it.

Somewhere in there, thinking about it all, I guess I had an epiphany. I stood there, drawin' on my cigar, watchin' him try to sink the 8, and thought to my self "Well, I guess it really doesn't matter how it starts, does it?" I thought about it some more, lettin' the notion sink in. "Nope," I thought. "It really doesn't matter how things start. It matters how they end!" Damn strait! That's a fact.

You know, I've gone on and on now and then, talkin' about how I've pissed away so much of my life. 30 years, give or take, bein' stupid, hidin' in my room. Well, I guess the lesson from the match pertains to this as well. It really doesn't matter. Folks, good friends have told me that before, but it's hard to accept, me knowin' how much fun my friends have had in their lives. It's hard not to get depressed, thinkin' about all that time I can't get back. But I guess it really doesn't matter how things start. What matters is how they finish. I guess that'll be my new mantra.

Maybe some day, some kid will look up at me and wish he could have a life as rich as mine has been. I won't tell him about the thirty years... or maybe I will. It'd be a great lesson. It's all about the here and now, right? It's all about how the rest of your life works out. It's a journey, right? And the journey isn't even close to bein' over.

Well, I've got to head back to the jail now. My 5:30 class will end at 8pm and then I'll drive home to Killeen. The weekend will be good. there are no trips planned. The fishing trip up to see GuyK in Oklahoma was cancelled. They had to go home early. So I'll do some work on a toilet, replacing the innards. I'll work on my garage tonight, making room for my new safe, which will be delivered Saturday morning. And I may take a trip up to Gatesville. Dave Waters has ordered me another M-1 Garand, a Winchester, and it's come in. And then there's dinner with Denise and Mom on Saturday.

So, you guys have a great weekend, and we'll see you next week. I'll post more shots from Orlando then. Cheers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Orlando, Part One.

Denise and I flew out to Orlando Florida last Thursday night to join her British family at their time-share there. It's a once-a-year thing, them flyin' over, so we need to go and let her spend time with her brother and his family. That's about all the family Denise has left over there.

The trip to Austin to catch the plane was a nut cutter. We thought we were gonna miss the plane. But I left her off with the bag to check it and pick up the tickets, and we just made it in under the wire. I had to park my car in the long term parking, way out in the ass end of the lot, and then run about a mile back to the terminal. I told here, as we stood waiting a few minutes for our seats to be called, "Some bastard's gonna get to sit next to a sweaty fat man!"

From then on, the flights went well. On the flight from Atlanta to Orlando, I got to have a short conversation with a banker/former marine, who shared many of my own opinions about the current goings on in the world. That's always fun... finding out who it is you're sitting next to and what they've done in their life.

After landing in Orlando, renting a car (upgraded to a van at no additional cost!), and driving to the condo, getting in at about 1:30 in the AM, we visited for a bit and then Denise and I crashed on the couch/roll-out bed. The next morning, still a bit bushed from the trip, all of us piled into two cars and headed for Denny's.

Denise and I chose the "Moons Over My Hammy," with hash browns and a big glass of milk. Denise ordered the half sandwich, and a brace of sausage on the side. If you haven't tried one of these sandwiches, I suggest you do, It's WONDERFUL! It's a grilled ham and egg sandwich on sourdough bread, with Swiss and American cheese. Mmmmm, good.

Everyone ordered their breakfast of choice, and then we all set down to the task of finishing it all off. As I looked around, I noticed something about all my English companions, even Denise. Some things never change.

Notice how this gentleman is using his knife and fork, prongs down, using the knife to pile the mix of egg and hash browns on the BACK of his fork! Amazing eh? I'll never forget, being a kid in England in the late 1960s, going to a little local diner with my folks and seeing Brits use their forks this way for the first time. I think I said something to my dad like "Hey daddy, don't they know that if you turn it the other way, stuff stays on there better?"

I still remember sitting for a long time and watching some dude in a business suit, with a bowler hat on the seat next to him, trying to pile English peas on the back of his friggin' fork. No wonder we've grown to be a fatter than the Brits. Over time, I started using my knife like this, but they never got me to turn the fork up-side-down. Some things are sacred, after all.

After breakfast and a short trip to Wal Mart for provisions, we all joined back up out at the pool.

When I got there, I set up my base of operations right next to the Tiki Bar. I knew from last years trip that they have Yuengling on tap out there, and nice tables with umbrellas that will shade me from the direct rays of the sun... While I drink adult beverages and smoke fine cigars.

It turned out that there were many large clouds wafting by that Friday afternoon, which also did their part to shield me from the direct rays of the sun. Of course, this was inexplicable to the Brits, all of whom are sun worshipers from a dark, wet and dreary island in the North Atlantic. They lather themselves up and lay out to soak up each and every ray. I mostly avoid the lotion, preferring to swim for a bit, soaking up just enough heat to turn a darker shade of pink, and then I duck under the umbrella and relax in the shade... While I drink adult beverages and smoke fine cigars.

At one point, the guy who kind'a runs the pool area, doing drawings of people for $20, drug out a box of noodles (foam tubes that people use for flotation), and announced there was gonna be a "noodle race". All the kids, 10 and under, were invited to join in. The prize... a free drawing of the winner, done by this guy. The kid closest to the camera, the biggest kid in the group, easily won. It was rigged. One kid actually cried, having to be consoled by his parents. LOTS of therapy some day. LOTS.

Meanwhile, I sat back, blowing smoke and sipping, in this case, a Yuengling off the tap. At other times, it could just as easily be a PiƱa Colada. I'm easy, and I can be had. Martin, Denise's brother, had a tab goin', but a lot of the time I'd just pay for a drink myself. I hate livin' off other folks. Rankles me.

I'd ask Denise, who was usually relaxing at the edge of the water, "Are you ready for another one Daaaaling?" And she'd usually answer in the affirmative. I'd get up, get her her Crown and Sprite (they didn't have the proper makings of a 7&7), and walk it over to her. I gots to take care o' my wowman.

Now and then, between drinks and cigars, I'd decide to jump back in. I'd swim around, usually under water, and often as not I'd slide back up to Denise, grab a'hold of her and try to cuddle a bit. Can you tell in this shot she was tellin' me to put her ass down? That thar's my wowman.

That's me at my perch, FHB the Great, about mid way though happy hour (which lasted like three hours). Like the Egyptian head gear? I loves it! It works too, keepin' the sun off my bald spot, neck and shoulders. I see why they used to wear 'em this way, livin' in a friggin' desert and all. I can't remember how many drinks I'd had by then, but it was WAY over my usual consumption.

Well, that's enough for now. There'll be more on the rest of the trip later. If you want to see a few more shots, click here and head over to FlickR. later. Cheers!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's a personal record.

The week after my visit to Kentucky was a busy one. I managed to attend three great concerts that week. One on my own, one with my buddy Glenn, and another with Denise and a few great friends of ours.

I flew home on Columbus Day, the Monday. I got home at about 6:45PM and set to work fixin' and emailin' all the pictures I took of the new baby. That took me most of the evening. It was weird bein' there by myself. The cats didn't know what to do. They wanted their momma, who spoils the hell out of them, gooin' and gushin' over them all the time.

Bein' busy, I mostly ignored the occasional soft nudge at my leg, but would put a hand down now and then, only to have them scurry away. I guess I've grabbed 'em and squeezed 'em too many times, so now they don't trust me. That's cool. They don't wake my ass up meowin' in the middle of the night ether. Toss enough pillows at them and they get the picture.

I went to work Tuesday in Florence and San Saba, and then I drove down To Austin Tuesday night to see the Black Crowes at Stubb's BBQ.

They have a little outdoor stage behind the place, which turned out to be a great place to experience a concert. I'd seen the Crowes a few times before, but I'd never been to Stubb's, so it was a special event for me.

The concert was great! I elbowed my way up close to the stage and tried to take some decent pictures. You can click over here and look at the rest of them, or click over here and read a full report.

It was great! In the end, I picked up a few new t-shirts and a CD, and was home workin' on the concert pictures by midnight. I think I stayed up till about 3AM workin' on 'em, but I knew I had to get them done. There were still shots from the previous weeks gig, the Kings of Leon, and I had to get them all done. I knew there were more to come.

Friday night, Denise was scheduled to fly back to Texas, but I couldn't be there. Months earlier, my buddy Glenn and I had bought tickets to see the Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic in Dallas. The concert started at 7PM, so there was no way I could be there at the airport to meet Denise's plane. So I got another friend to follow me out to our local airport Friday afternoon and I left Denise's car in the long term parking. I left a ten spot on the dash for the parking fee, called her and told her where she could find her car.

Glenn lives up in Waco, between here and Dallas, and he gets home from his day job, teaching at a local elementary school, at about 4:30PM. So we planned for me to swing by about that time, pick him up and we'd head up to the gig. We thought there might be some traffic issues, but we figured if we left his place early enough we'd be able to avoid much of it. Famous last words.

I was in my first bumper to bumper snarl almost as soon as I hit I-35. I was about a half hour late pickin' Glenn up, and then we ended up havin' to explore side roads to try to avoid the snarls we hit north of Waco. It was ugly, and incredibly frustrating. We both wanted to see the lead-up band, Widespread Panic, and we were afraid we'd end up missing them entirely.

By the time we got to Dallas we thought we were home free. Again, famous last words. We ended up getting tangled up in State Fair traffic, and then having to park about a mile from the concert venue.

By the time we got in there, Widespread Panic had finished most of their set. Derek Trucks had come up on stage to play a long jam with them, so we took the time to grab a hot dog and a beer and took our seats under the awning to enjoy the rest of the show.

By the time the Allman Brothers took the stage we'd traded our lousy seats on the edge of the awning for empty ones more towards the middle of the stage. Those proved to be excellent seats. So, thanks, to whoever didn't show up that night. We enjoyed it!

The Allman Brothers are a band I've always loved, but I'd never seen them till last Friday night. There are only about three original band members left, but the folks that have ether passed away or left the band have been replaced with other excellent musicians, Like Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks (who's uncle, Butch Trucks, still plays drums in the band). So there's no excuse for not goin' and enjoyin' all that great old music.

This years concert tour is designed to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Album Eat A Peach. At the end of the concert, as the encore began, Greg Allman came out from behind the organ and played the acoustic guitar to Warren Haynes beautiful electric, on the old song Melissa. Here's a taste.

That guy in the black shirt with the long hair, makin' that wonderful noise, is Warren Haynes. What you see there in that video is what we got. The line-up you see there is about what we saw the other night. Maybe the bas player is different, but everyone else is the same.

They played beautifully, and we soaked it up till the end. The final encore was Whippin' Post, which has always been one of my favorites. In all, they played for about two hours, letting up at about 11:45 PM. It was wonderful.

The most touching part of the concert for me was when they superimposed the image of Derek Trucks with the images of long passed band members like Allen Woody and Dwayne Allman.

You can go here and see a few more shots. Glenn and I drove home after the show. By the time I made it home and slid into bed beside Denise it was close to 3AM. Still, it was a great reunion. I was really missing her.

Saturday morning, as pooped as I was, I had to get up at about 9AM and drive over to Salado to get my hair cut. I wasn't shaggy or anything, but I knew that by the time another free Friday or Saturday rolled around I would be.

By the time I drove home from gettin sheared, Denise was up and we were gettin' ready to drive down to Bastrop, where we ere scheduled to meet some friends and attend an annual charity concert down there, benefiting the local Boys and Girls Club.

It's called the Jazz Jam, and includes performances by locally born artists like the Jazz performer, Hannibal Lokumbe, and guitar great Eric Johnson.

We drove down, got into our room at the hotel and met our friends, Jim and Terry, at the hospital where the benefit is held.

See what I have to deal with. Witness protection program, fer sure.

The concert always starts out with these guys, local musicians, who play the hell out of those guitars.

Then Hannibal comes up and joins them. They jam for about a half our, and he plays the hell out of that trumpet.

Then, the highlight of the evening has Eric Johnson, who was born and raised in Bastrop, coming up and doing about forty-five minutes of his best stuff. In the end, we were all happy, giving them all a standing "O" and making plans to come back next year. You can go here and see the rest of those shots.

We met up the next morning for the complementary breakfast, and then headed over to Austin to attend their monthly Gun Show. It turned out to be lame, with only about a third of the tables set up that they normally have. I did get a chance to show my new .45 to Jim though. He approved.

After that we went over to Pappasito's for lunch. After some good spicy queso and fejitas, we all finally said our goodbyes and parted ways. Denise and I drove home, and then I crashed. I was pooped. I think I had about a three hour nap. Then , taking advantage of the remaining sunlight, I spent about and hour trimming weeds in the yard, tryin' to police up the place so the code enforcement folks don't come knockin' on my door.

So, that was one hell of a week. This week has been placid in comparison, but it has had it's own excitements. I started a new semester Tuesday night on Ft. Hood, and now, as I type this, we're packing for a flight to Orlando. Denise's brother, his wife, sister-in-law and their parents are all flying in from England to their time-share and we're gonna spend the weekend with them. It'll be a hoot. they're all fun folks to hang with.

So, enough is enough. I'll reconnect with ya next week. Try to have a good weekend yourself, and try to remember my buddy Mushy and his mom in your thoughts and prayers. Cheers!

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to become, and/or stay a fat hairy bastard, in a few easy lessons.

Lesson one: Spend most of your life eatin' every fuckin' thing in sight, so that in time, you develop, along with a nice set o' man boobs, a jelly belly and a dick wrap, an amazing capacity for overindulgence. It's easy. Go ahead. Really. It's fun!

Case in point: On the way to Nashville (flyin' out of Killeen), the evening after we went to that Kings Of Leon concert, Denise and I stopped for a two hour layover in Dallas. We were there long enough to enjoy a few drinks and a comfortable visit a T.G.I. Fridays for dinner. OK, it's not my favorite place, but in a pinch... They just happened to be sending wonderful, delicious smelling aromas wafting through the airport terminal. Being an eating machine, that's usually all the prompting I need to make these kinda decisions.

There now, doesn't it look GOOD! That's one of their Jack Daniel's Burgers, with Provolone cheese, a few strips of bacon on a toasted bun, with their special Jack Daniel's glaze. Mmmmm, good! And the onion rings were good too. It all hit the spot.

We landed in Nashville at a little after midnight, rented a car and drove up to Bowling Green. When we got there, at about 1:30 in the AM, Denise got her first look at her new granddaughter.

Check out the glee on her face. Her daugher doesn't want us to post any pictures of the baby, so I'll respect that wish here.

Saturday afternoon, Denise and I drove up to Elizabethtown. Her other daughter, Chantell, was having a birthday. We all got together at the Texas Roadhouse and enjoyed a good dinner.

Mmmm, that's one of their Bacon Chedder burgers, It's a ½ lb. burger topped with cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and onions, with big wedge fries on the side. It comes as you see, so you have to hoist one half of the thing onto the other yourself, smush it together and try to fit it in your mouth. Of course, being a professional, it's never a problem for me.

Denise and I provided the birthday cake. It's a mint chocolate chip cake from Baskin and Robbins. It's Tilly's favorite. Back when I was just a little eater, my favorite was a conventional chocolate chip cake. Mom would bake me a chocolate cake for my birthday and then maybe a lemon meringue pie, but now and then she'd get me one of these B&R cakes too. That kina hints at another road towards becomin' a fat hairy bastard. But I'm not gonna go there. I own my own blubber. Mom might have driven me there, but I'm the one who keeps goin' back for extra helpings.

The next night, back down in Bowling Green, Denise decided to treat her younger daughter a nice English meal at their house. It was a traditional British Sunday roast, with a beautifully baked roast beef, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, and Yorkshire Puddings.

I'm not much for gravy on my roast beef, so I tossed a little General Tso's sauce on there and chowed down. Mmmm, it was all good. I used to use BBQ sauce, but the general has shoved that stuff aside, at least on some things.

My flight left Nashville Monday afternoon, so after sayin' goodbye to everyone and givin' Denise a parting squeeze, I drove our rental car back down to Nashville and began my return journey. I spent just enough time in Dallas to get from one terminal to another and then landed back in Killeen at about 6:40PM. Surprisingly, they didn't loose my bag.

It was good to be home, but with Denise stayin' behind in Kentucky, I'd be lonesome for a week. I had to keep myself busy until Denise flew home on Friday. I'll lay out how I did that in the next post. Cheers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

OK, here's some stuff I've been up to in the last few weeks.

First, a few weeks ago, as I drove out to Ft. Hood on a Tuesday evening to give final exams, I drove up behind this dingy, bird shit spattered old Taurus. I saw the bumper stickers, and bein' a bumper sticker kinda guy, I eased up for a closer read.

Hmm. Maybe this stupid bitch should take some of her own advise. And I don't even own a truck.

The next evening, with the finals "done and dusted", as my wowman would say, I finally got a chance to meet another blogger that I've admired for a long time.

GuyK and his lovely wife "Sweetthing" are on a road trip, driving up through Texas on their way from Port Lavaca to Lake Waurika, Oklahoma. They'd driven over to Texas from their home in Florida to visit some bloggers and attend an impromptu blogger meet on the gulf coast.

Denise and I couldn't get down there the previous weekend, having other stuff to do. But Guy said he was gonna drive up near me on the way to Oklahoma and stay in a KOA park just south of Belton. After spendin' the night they'd continue up to Lake Waurika, set up a base camp up there to do about a months worth of catfishin'.

Well shit, that KOA place is just about twenty minutes from my house. So we decided that Denise and I would drive over there and sit a spell Wednesday evening, but only a spell. We had plans for that night, and our own journey to take.

We drove over to Belton, found the KOA camp just next to the Expo Center, found their trailer, rousted them from it's dark confines and spent the next twenty to twenty-five minutes gettin' to know one another a bit better. It was wonderful. I'm constantly amazed at the fun I keep having, meeting some of the cool folks I've gotten to know through the bloggosphere.

During our conversation, Guy mentioned that he'd visited the old fort at Goliad while they'd stayed down in Port Lavaca. The place is a shrine to those of us who know some Texas history. It's where lots of Texas patriots died... were murdered, during the war for independence from Mexico in 1836.

Guy got a bit agitated as he told me that he'd gone into Wikipedia to read up on the massacre, only to come away shocked and angered by the bogus stuff he'd read there. Apparently the author of the piece believed the Texans who'd fought against Santa Anna were just fighting to preserve slavery.

I guess he kinda got his wars mixed up. Anyway, Guy wanted me to go in and try to edit the piece. So, a few days later, I went in, clicked the edit button and rewrote the "Background" part of the piece. Click over there and see if you think I did a good job.

After that great visit, with Guy holding a big, thick book I'd loaned him(my friend Jim's recently published book on Custer and the Reno drama), we all shook hands, hugged, took a few pictures and parted company. You can see him leanin' on the book there in the picture above. It's excellent. Check it out.

Denise and I enjoyed the visit tremendously, and we're planning to drive up and join them in Oklahoma, to camp out and go fishing in a few weeks. But again, Denise and I had plans for that night, so we had to go. We had tickets in hand, and had to drive up I-35 to attend a Kings Of Leon concert in Dallas that was starting in only a few hours.

We got into the American Airlines Center just as the lead-up band finished their set and the roadies came up to set up gear for the Kings. That was on purpose. I'd looked on YouTube to see if the lead was gonna be any good. Didn't take long to decide that by missin' them we could spend those extra minutes chillin' with Guy and his lovely wife. Worked out all around.

The Kings of Leon were wonderful. This is one of the bands my buddy Mushy has turned me on to. Thanks man. It really was one of the best concerts I've been to in a while. I was familiar with about half the music they played, and even the stuff I didn't know was really good.

For the most part, the lighting for the stage was set very low and subdued. So I was afraid that my pictures wouldn't come out well. If you go over to FlickR, you can see the rest of the set. I think most of them turned out pretty good, but realize, I take a LOT of pictures. The cullin' process is ugly.

Anyway, that's enough for one post. There's a few more in the works, and there'll be more pictures to work on after this weekend. I'm goin' up to Dallas again this afternoon with my buddy Gary and we're gonna see the Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic at the Center (at the state fair grounds). I can't wait! It's gonna be wonderful.

Denise will fly home from Kentucky this evening while I'm up there enjoyin' myself. I've left her car in the long term parking so she'll be able to get home without shellin' out $20 for a taxi. Long term is only (only?) $8 a day. She'll land around 6:40PM, and then I'll roll back into the house from the concert at about 2AM, and then we'll get reacquainted.

I'm gonna get a haircut in Salado at 10AM Saturday, and then Denise and I will head down towards Austin. We're gonna meet two of my best friends, Jim and Terry from Ft. Worth, down in Bastrop, East of Austin, and attend the annual Jazz Jam. Eric Johnson will play a set there Saturday night (he lives down there in Bastrop), along with a few other local artists. It's an annual benefit for the local Boys and Girls Club. It's a fun time. We'll eat dinner there at the gig, and then spend the night at a local hotel. We have a reservation. And then we'll see what kind of trouble we can get into Sunday (there's a gun show, but it's not on the agenda for sure).

Anyway, shit, I know. No wonder I'm pooped. Well, what can I tell ya. I guess I just don't want to miss anything. So, you guys have a great weekend and we'll get back together on the other side of this one. Cheers!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My buddy John sent these today. I think they speak for themself.

A Vietnam Vets tribute to his war, and the folks who were there with him. God bless him, and them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shit, it's been a while.

I've been so friggin' busy lately, I haven't had a chance to post anything here. Been to about three or four concerts, and another's on the way this Friday. Flew to Kentucky last weekend so Denise could see her new grand daughter. Started a new semester here in San Saba and ended one on Ft. Hood. There's been family drama, and other drama too. Believe me, BUSY. But I should have the time, stuff to blather about, and pictures to show ya in a few. Hope everyone is doin' well. You know if I don't have time to post anything, I probably don't have time to read posts ether. I'll slowly catch up. Later then. Cheers.