Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Of course, I've had to use every moral fiber in my being to resist finding out her email or telephone and contacting Liz. See what Liz is up to. See what is going on with Liz at work.
And so on.
As you may recall, I posted a little over a week ago asking for a vote as to which of two locales Billy Ray and I should make our next fishing trip. After an overwhelming response of two (2) votes, which resulted in a tie between locations, I told Billy Ray we were in a dead tie as to the blog voters. You can read that stuff here VOTE NOW: Pick the next place Billy Ray and I go fishing...
We were trying to decide if each of us should actually each get one vote but Billy Ray said no matter how I voted, he would vote for the opposite location, which would result in us still being in a tie. I suggested a secret ballot, which launched Billy Ray into a tirade about freedom of the press and the right to bear arms that really had little to do with our discussion, but since he did actually attend law school for three semesters, he fancies himself quite the constitutionalist.
After some discussion, we agreed that the Hill Country is getting drier by the day in this horrible drought, and so maybe we ought to head to the coast for our fishing. This begat another idea, that of suggesting an alternative location in the coastal region to the beach fishing trip we had discussed.
In the Baffin Bay and adjacent areas, which lie between Padre Island and the Mainland south of Corpus Christi, there exists a thing such as a rental barge. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department licenses somewhere around 160 of these floating cabins, such as they are, which many owners rent out to guys like me. Some are privately owned and not rented out, but you can easily find 40 or more for rent with just a little googling.
Basically, it's a cabin that is anchored or tied to piers in a fixed location. You get there and leave by boat. Since neither of us are currently boat owners, you have to rely on the boat shuttle service offered by the floating cabin owner to get there and back.
This concerned me because I have been out bay fishing on more than one occasion where it was a beautiful day with no rain predicted when a killer gulf black cloud of rain and lightning came from literally nowhere in a flash, moving in from the Gulf of Mexico. These storms are no place to be, and I don't think I'd care to be anchored to a lightning magnet with no boat to escape.
After expressing these concerns to Billy Ray, this is what I got back from him:
Location of a floating cabin is not an issue for me. I am an expert wilderness swimmer. I can swim many miles in the worst conditions. If bad conditions arise I will swim to shore and at some point will send help to you. Of course after an invigorating swim I will need to rest then get something to eat. I will also need to make some calls and probably do some web surfing for vintage guitars. I will assume that you will make it even if I forget to send help.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
As a guy who came of age during the Charlie's Angel TV series starring, amongst others, Farrah Fawcett, I think I was like many other male teens of that era: the above iconic poster graced my bedroom wall for several years. Over the years I had the opportunity to meet her, and she was always very nice. I certainly didn't know her well at all on any level, I just had the opportunity to meet and talk with her a couple of times for a few moments in the 70's and the 80's.
Rest in peace, Farrah. And as importantly, I hope your dear sweet father is watched over from heaven above during this difficult time, as well as the rest of your family.
I came to know Farrah's father James Fawcett, or Jimbo as he is called by his friends, back in 1976. Working as a busboy at Champion's Golf Club, like many of my male peers, I not only had a Farrah poster on my wall but several Farrah t-shirts. One day, I wore a white Farrah t-shirt under my white dress shirt and black bow tie. The red bathing suit image of Farrah was pretty visible through the dress shirt. While I thought that was pretty cool, my matronly manager, Bettye, did not.
As I was being gently lectured by Bettye about the atmosphere of quiet elegance that the noted golf club restaurant sought to create and why my Farrah shirt was interfering with that plan, the older man who owned the janitorial service and who always sat in the bar of the restaurant drinking coffee was laughing out loud.
While his crews readied to clean the restaurant as it closed, the older gentleman regularly drank coffee and sat in the closed bar part of the restaurant as the customers left and we began setting up for the next day. He was a fixture at Champions, and was always pleasant and kind when I asked if he needed more coffee during his near-nightly visits.
When he began laughing as I was being redressed by my manager, my manager conjured a rare smile and sort of haughtily said to him "Well, I've got the wrong audience for this lecture, don't I?"
That made the man laugh even harder. Bettye then introduced me to Mr. Fawcett. I didn't believe her. Although he was a very nice looking and well groomed man, I couldn't imagine that Farrah's dad would have to work, even as the owner of a janitorial company.
I already knew that Farrah's parents lived in Champions, the subdivision that surrounds the world famous golf course sharing it's name. I lived in a nearby subdivision that was plenty fancy and nice but not as upscale as the Champions area. I also knew that he was basically a retired oilman from the Corpus area, and the word on the street was that he had been quite successful in those endeavors.
But Mr. Fawcett, or Jimbo as he immediately requested I call him, was a very modest fellow. The uniform I saw him in over the next twenty years or so was basically a white short sleeve dress shirt, khaki slacks, white socks and white Ked's deck shoes. He aways wore pressed clothes with a crease in his shirt sleeves and pants, Jimbo used to tell me that as a man your shirts and pants needed to be pressed with a visible crease because it looked sharp and commanded respect.
During the five months or so that I worked at Champions, I talked lots with Jimbo. He liked to walk me to my car after my shift, because he thought I had a very nice car. It was a very hot-rodded 1970 Mustang Mach One, and it looked fast when it was parked. He always liked to hear me start it, and if he heard some unusual sound in the very loud engine of the Mach, he'd let me know it sounded like my timing was off.
One night, he brought Farrah and his family up to the club for dinner. I worked there with a schoolmate named Brad Hamilton, who had gotten me the job, and he was as enamored with Farrah as I was. Let me assure you, no water or tea glass at that table stayed less than totally full as they received the five star treatment.
When the restaurant had cleared out, we were invited to sit and visit with them for a few minutes. Farrah gave us some t-shirts and a photo and it was quite exciting. She acted as if she was very happy to meet us and talked to us about our lives for a few minutes. I thought I was a cool dude.
I got to know Jimbo pretty well over the next few years, as I grew into adulthood. I'd run into him at the gas station, stores and restaurants. Whenever we'd run into each other, we'd usually visit for 15 or 30 minutes. As I grew from kid and drummer to college student to police officer to law student, he was always very interested in what I had going on. Just a genuinely nice fellow.
When I got out of the police academy at age 21, I wanted to buy a state of the art bulletproof vest. We were issued *just ok* vests at that time by the department, but there were new vests that featured thin steel plates in the heart/lung area to better stop bullets. The high-tech vests cost over a grand back then, with several carriers. I wanted to establish some credit and went to the local bank for a loan to buy the vest.
Although I had a paid off Z-28 that was only two years old, because I had not ever had any other credit the bank v.p. was skeptical of loaning me the money. When I had entered the bank, I had found that Jimbo was hanging out in the lobby, drinking coffee in his usual attire. His janitorial service had the cleaning contract for that bank. We spoke for a few minutes while I waited to meet with the loan officer and bid each other goodbye.
As the loan officer was giving me a hard time, Jimbo appeared in his cubicle. Jimbo asked what the problem was, and the loan officer got nervous and stuttered and stammered, finally giving his opinion that since I had no credit history other than a paid off car that he was wary of giving me the loan, despite my law enforcement employment.
I found it strange that Jimbo was able to receive this level of information, being just the janitorial contractor, but I figured they must be friends. Jimbo then told the loan officer that he knew me personally and that I was a "good feller". The loan officer simply said "Yes sir, Mr. Fawcett" and Jimbo winked and walked away, styrofoam coffee cup in hand.
The loan officer left his cubicle for a moment and quickly returned with a much more courteous demeanor, and a check for the requested amount. I signed the necessary papers and was getting ready to leave. I asked the loan officer what had changed his mind about me.
The loan officer sort of winced and told me that "Mr. Fawcett owns a great deal of this bank, sir. He just does the janitorial service for something to do. I'm so sorry if I was difficult with you earlier, there was really no reason for it."
I thanked my friend Jimbo on the way out.
Later that year or perhaps the next, I was working an off-duty police extra job at the Astrodome. I had gotten lucky and gotten a regular spot working off-duty at the Dome, which paid well and offered frequent opportunities to work the myriad of events held there.
I was working one Sunday night at the exit where the Oiler's exited after the game. We were there to insure they got to their vehicles because fans waited for them there after the game. It was mostly crowd control, and certain players and coaches could park in that area, so that they could reach their cars without passing through the hordes that gathered there.
Farrah came that night to pick up her then boyfriend, Oiler's QB Dan Pastorini. Wives and girlfriends of players were allowed to come pick them up behind the barricades we had set up for crowd control. After she got behind the barricade, Farrah exited her vehicle and talked with me and some of the other officers that were working. She was very friendly.
I reminded her that I had met her some years before at the golf club, and that I was a friend of her dad. I'll never forget her response, something to the effect of how impressed she was that I remembered meeting her. I know she didn't remember me, but she sure was nice about it. A really nice Texas girl who had been brought up right.
I never saw Farrah again, but often ran into her dad over the next ten years in the neighborhood. We often laughed about him helping me get that loan, and he told me he had a lot of fun doing that.
A few years later, as I was a young DA, my dad called me and said he had run into a friend of mine who told him to tell me hello. It was Jimbo, and they had become aquainted at a local breakfast restaurant near their homes. It seems they had been seeing each other eating breakfast for several years, always speaking in passing to each other but never knowing who the other was.
One day, they were introduced, and of course both already knew who the other was. For many years thereafter, they were breakfast buddies, sharing family stories and solving the world's problems several times a week.
I haven't seen Jimbo in a long time, but if I could I'd tell him how sorry I am. She was a good girl with a great mom, dad and sister and they all had a great deal of love for one another. Some people like Jimbo make such a lasting impression upon you. A man with class, with southern manners, Jimbo always reminded me of a combination of a less ill-tempered Mark Twain and a Will Rogers type of guy. Funny as hell, nice as hell and smart as hell.
But above all, he loved his wife and daughters. My heart grieves for that nice man.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I hit Starbucks this morning, as I occasionally do for a double tall latte, and lo and behold the CD at the checkout counter was Dylan's new one entitled "Together Through Life", which contains this most excellent new Dylan song:
If you ever go to Houston,
Submitted by sphinx
If you ever go to Houston, better walk right
Keep your hands in your pockets and your gun belt tight
You'll be asking for trouble if you’re looking for a fight
If you ever go to Houston, boy you better walk right
If you're ever down there on Bagby and Lamar
You better watch out for the man with the shining star
Better know where you're going or stay where you are
If you're ever down there on Bagby and Lamar
Well I know these streets, I’ve been here before
I nearly got killed here during the Mexican War
Something always keeps me coming back for more
I know these streets, I’ve been here before
If you ever go to Dallas, say hello to Mary Ann
Say I’m still pulling on the trigger, hanging on the best I can
If you see her sister Lucy, say I’m sorry I’m not there
Tell her other sister Betsy to pray the sinner's prayer
I got a restless fever burnin' in my brain
Got to keep right forward, can’t spoil the game
The same way I’ll leave here will be the way that I came
Got a restless fever burnin' in my brain
Mister policeman, can you help me find my gal?
Last time I saw her was at the Magnolia Motel
If you help me find her, you can be my pal
Mister policeman, can you help me find my gal?
If you ever go to Austin, Fort Worth or San Antone
Find the barrooms I got lost in and send my memories home
Put my tears in a bottle, screw the top on tight
If you ever go to Houston, boy you’d better walk right
This new Dylan Cd seems to evoke, for me at least, memories of playing the blues down in the Quarter in NOLA. Dylan has had so many stages that it would take months if not years of blogging to adequately cover them all. I like about 15% of the stuff Bob has done, but I'm liking the shit outta this new CD.
There's been other songs about Houston I liked, but I can only think of two right now. "Houston", by Dean Martin, of course, is the one everyone knows. But "HPD", by Rocky Hill, the less famous brother of Dusty Hill of ZZTOP, is one of my all time favorite Houston Poh-lice songs. I had shared some time and some music with Rocky in his later years, and despite some troubles in his life, I always liked him. Here's a short obit: http://delta-slider.blogspot.com/2009/04/rocky-hill-december-1-1946-april-10.html.
I can't seem to find the HPD lyrics online, so sometime later I'll dig out that CD from the eighties and post them. I know that there have been other songs about Houston, including a recent one I have not heard (and am not likely to hear) by REM, and no offense to REM but I think it's gonna be hard to top these three songs about Houston.
When I was a kid growing up in Houston, sitting in Sharpstown watching Dean Martin sing "Houston" on TV, I was proud that there was a song about my city.
No, in the fifties and sixties it was a real newspaper somewhat like the Houston Chronicle and the now long defunct Houston Post. And Sigman Byrd was a columnist, nay, more a philosopher, who wrote often about the seamy and less-priviledged sides of Houston. Sig Byrd wrote a column at one time in the fifties and his moniker was "The Stroller".
My high school journalism teacher had briefly worked for the Press upon moving to Houston in the fifties, and had a bad case of hero worship for Sig. One of his books about Houston was required reading for her Journalism II students. Only you couldn't buy it at a store, you had to borrow her well-worn copy, and you best return it quickly and and in good condition.
My teacher had been an overseas wire service reporter for one of the news agencies back in the 30's and 40's before marrying some kind of Houston oilman she met in her travels. Not content to sit at home and live the society existence of a Houston oilman's wife in the seventies, she taught journalism.
I was on both the newspaper and yearbook staffs for most of my high school days, more as photographer than reporter. This was, of course, way before the instant gratification of digital cameras, back when you shot your photos on film and developed them yourself with nasty, stinking chemicals in the darkroom.
So my introduction to Sig Byrd began in high school, and continued on through college at University of Houston, where several of my lit professors were big Sig Byrd fans as well.
Sig Byrd comes up because every now and then the Houston Chronicle will reprint one of his columns. Here's the one they ran today, talking about the lack of lightening bugs back in the fifties. I like the part where Sig laments the long-gone easy days of the twenties. http://www.scribd.com/doc/16539316/byrdcolumn and http://blogs.chron.com/bayoucityhistory/2009/06/sig_byrd_what_became_of_the_lightning_bugs.html;
If this peaks your interest about Houston of old, when Market Square was a place you avoided after dark and Congress Avenue and Main street were more known, particularly but not always after dark, for it's whores and homeless (we called them winos and drug addicts then, in those non-politically correct days), then I've got some cool links below that talk about Sig and the Houston of days gone by. You'll see that Houston has always been a rough and tumble city.
I laughed when I saw the reference in the above Sig article to what readers of that day wanted to see in the paper, and it's not much different than the Houston news of our day and age, more than fifty years later: Murder, Sex and Animals.
I remember that as late as the early 80's, there existed some sort of XXX bookstore on the Congress Avenue corner of Market Square, this I know because as a young officer I extricated an infant from the back of a van parked in it's parking lot, whose child's father was selling Mexican Black Tar heroin out of the van whilst the child's mother turned tricks in said van next to the infant. CPS, with our assistance, secured the infant and ultimately the child was taken from the drug addled parents and placed with a hopefully better family through the courts. You do this long enough, you begin to wonder at times what happened to that infant and where that person is today, some 27 years later. But you don't think about things like that too much...
I found this cool article on Sig Byrd and some Houston Blues music icons written by Lorenzo Thomas in Liveable Houston magazine in 2000. http://www.livablehouston.com/good/articles/thomas.html. Thomas writes a brief if not good history of some of the music icons and places of the blues, and offers these observations about Sig Byrd:
"Bonner´s realistic vision of the city was shared by newspaperman Sigman Byrd. Seen through Sig Byrd´s eyes in the early 1950s, downtown Houston was harsh and gritty—grimmer than any bluesman´s vision. Much dimmer then were the streets that now ring with chatter from credit card-carrying citizens strolling blocks seemingly composed of nothing but trendy restaurants. A true flaneur in the tradition of Baudelaire, a strolling philosopher like Walter Benjamin, Byrd reveled in his dyspeptic appreciation of urban life. He was naturally, indeed magnetically, attracted to the “gray asphalt and grimy concrete,” enamored of that “old, crowded, tired avenue once so proud, so bright with gaslight and hearty laughter. Sam Houston walked this avenue. So did Mirabeau Lamar, Gail Borden, Audubon, Dick Dowling, and other great ones.” It was not Main Street that Byrd celebrated, but Congress Avenue, which like other downtown streets near Old Market Square in those days was skid row—populated by hustlers and a few absent-minded shopkeepers, dope addicts, and other losers.
Byrd also loved the streets of Houston´s black neighborhoods, particularly the Fifth Ward area around Lyons Avenue and Jensen Drive known as “Pearl Harbor, the Times Square of the Bloody Fifth.” Today there´s nothing there but vacant lots and a few boarded-up buildings, but for decades the area bustled with restaurants, bars, and small stores, a fabled locus of lowdown glamour and hair-trigger confrontation. It was also, Byrd once wrote, the proving ground for rhythm and blues singer James Wayne “and all the other Fifth Ward boys who had functioned right and gone high in the world of boogie, jive, and bop: Illinois Jacquet, Gatemouth Brown, Arnett Cobb, Goree Carter, and Ivory Joe Hunter.”
You can read more about Sig in this excellent article by David Theis in the modern Houston Press, from back in 1994. http://www.houstonpress.com/1994-11-10/news/the-lost-houston-of-sig-byrd/. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of that excellent article that sums up some of what I've said about Byrd:
"Back in the late '40s and early '50, Vinegar Hill was one of Sig Byrd's best-loved beats. Once celebrated, yet now all but forgotten, Byrd wrote the Stroller column for the original, daily Houston Press. Byrd ranged for copy far and wide in the Houston of his day. He listened to the alcohol-treated stories of the merchant sailors in the bars on 75th Street, near the Ship Channel. He ate chicharrones and drank Jax beer with Don Antonio and the Laredo Bar regulars (who knew him as Don Segismundo) just off Navigation. He hung with the Fifth Ward's assorted cats. But it was downtown and its environs that Byrd had a particularly strong feeling for. It was possible to make a human connection with downtown then. The way Sig Byrd wrote it, at least, it was impossible not to, not if you had any feeling for raw, unadulterated humanity.
Vinegar Hill was particularly fertile ground for stories. Byrd said it was "a kind of arrogant slum ... scowling down on a good portion of the proud new city itself." Little did Byrd know that even this "new city," already considered thick with skyscrapers, would itself be leveled in a matter of years. In his eyes, and in his voice, Vinegar Hill appeared eternal.
Preston Avenue dies a natural death each sundown, and then, when the traffic dust has settled and the fetid smell of the bayou creeps up the dead-end streets, the avenue comes alive again. But in a curious way. The old pensioners from the walk-up hotels, the laborers from the Market, a few railroad men, the winos who live under the bridges and in the flophouses, the scufflers and hustlers, the dingoes, bums, punks and slobs, all the characters and squares of skid row, gather in the electric twilight before the bars and in the doorways of closed stores and watch the drab mystery of the downtown night unfold.
This is the kind of writing one used to find in a Houston daily. And this is the kind of writing that -- under the Sig Byrd byline, at any rate -- used to seem appropriate for a city that some claim has no heart, has no center. Byrd found that heart. But then again, maybe Byrd himself was that center."
I hope someone finds this rambling interesting. Now I'm off to work and to play on the internet and find at least one of Sig's books, hopefully on Amazon or at another online used book dealer.
One last downtown Houston memory. It is almost exactly 24 years ago today that one of my good friends was gunned down in Market Square. Late at night, Maria had absolutely no business being in a place like Market Square was then. She was there with her boyfriend Mike and another couple, having just heralded last call at one of the few bars then present in 1985 that didn't cater to winos, hustlers and thieves. But once out in Market Square, they decided to take a rest before making their way to what was then a dorm for University of Houston Downtown students located in the old Harley Hotel at 1o1 Main Street.
A man came up and grabbed Maria's purse from behind, and when she held onto the strap and resisted, he pulled a gun and shot her to death. He was never caught.
Rest in Peace, Maria.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"The only time the Washington Post has sought my opinion was on the subject of Phil Spector's hair. Was it real? the Capitol's paper of record wanted to know. What was its effect on the courtroom? Spector, of course, arrived at his post-arrest hearings and subsequent two murder trials in an array of alarming wigs -- disturbing for their eccentric appearance as well as what the wigs implied of the thoughts seething inside their wearer's head.
"Just so you know?" Rachelle informed a somewhat startled Karas. "Phil doesn't wear a hairpiece."
I think Los Angeles prosecutors Alan Jackson and Truc Do did a bang up job trying the Spector case, which ended up with an 18 year sentence for Spector. If I were Spector, at his advanced age, it's not the last five years I'd worry about, it'd be the first five.
And what’s the one suspicious thing that he’s said on his site? That he’s not in Thailand. Which, of course, means that he is probably in Thailand.
And if he is in Thailand, we have to ask why. And I think I know the answer to that question.
He’s looking for the killer of David Carradine.
We know from R.J.’s prior posts that he’s a big believer in Kung Fu. http://macreadysicehouse.blogspot.com/2008/12/foot-fist-way.html. And if you believe in Kung Fu, then your two superheroes are Carradine and the late Bruce Lee. And if he is off investigating what is the holy grail of Kung Fu, he could be in Thailand where Carradine met his demise, or more likely, the epicenter of all things Kung Fu, Hong Kong.
Frankly, his loyal readers deserve to know more. If you read MacReady’s Icehouse regularly, then you recall the post about the “glove shoes” (see the Foot Fist Way above) that his brother (the one with the stronger Kung Fu) gave him for Christmas. I have this vision of MacReady, all decked out in khaki slacks and shirt, replete with khaki Stetson, a safari outfit if you will but replete with the FIVE FINGERS CLASSIC shoes his brother gave him, trekking through the jungles of some asian country seeking the truth, seeking the masters of Kung Fu, seeking answers to the mysteries of the demises of Bruce Lee and David Carradine, and most certainly, seeking a cold beer because you know it’s hotter than Houston in August in the asian jungles.
And I take part of the blame for this. A few weeks ago, I told him about the theory of Carradine’s demise, as espoused by the non-internet having friend of mine The Master Carpenter, who feels that perhaps some random group of hard core Bruce Lee worshippers or fans, mad because Bruce Lee did not get the title role in the Kung Fu series, caused the ultimate demise. Yeah, I'd have a hard time proving that theory in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt, for sure.
So who out there in blogland will join me if I decide to get a wild hair and take off looking for R.J. this weekend? Jason from Cigars Donuts and Coffee ? So and So from Life after Esq. ? Perhaps even the esteemed but highly mysterious Arthur Seaton from Saturday Night and Monday Morning ?
If'n I find out that he's gone to the Far East without telling me, I'm not going to be happy. You see, there are some kickass guitars made by a company called Tokai in Japan, and Tokai actually makes better copies sometimes than the real thing, meaning, Fender Stratocaster guitars. So if R.J. is in Japan, I'd be wanting him to pick me up an early-80's Tokai Strat copy for a song at a used instrument vendor.
And I'd also want him to get me one of the very cool Shimano Tribal travel fishing rods, which for some stupid reason are not available in the US of A. There is some japanese company selling them on ebay, as with Tokai guitars, albeit for a frickin' astronomical price. So if R.J. was over in that part of the world, I'd be expecting a Tokai strat and a nice Shimano Tribal travel fishing rod upon his return.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I can probably convince Billy Ray (..."As your attorney, Billy Ray, I advise you to abide by the decision of the blog readers") to go along with this, since the two trips presented below for your choosing are trips we've done before either together many times (random road trip fishing expedition) or trips we've done individually with other folks (midnight beach run sunrise fishing trip). Billy Ray is easily influenced when it comes to fishing trips, and has a very fishing-trip-tolerant wife
Both involve driving 400 to 500 miles round trip. So the gas differences are neglible.
So here it is. A. or B. Pick one.
TRIP A: MIDNIGHT BEACH RUN SUNRISE FISHING TRIP TO EITHER Port Aransas OR The Padre Island National Seashore.
This trip is pretty easy to do if it is not raining. You arrive at the beach sometime around 4 a.m. and set up your camp and get those already rigged rods out there in the surf. You can plant in a sand spike rod holder one or two long casting rods with live or dead bait and use a smaller bay fishing rod to actively fish near shore with either artificials or live bait.
By the time the sun comes up, you're often in the best window for fishing for either school trout or reds. Croaker, sand trout, flounder, hardhead and gafftop catfish are also usual catches from the beach. I generally catch more fish on the mornings when the tide is moving in, as fish are searching the newly flooded beach for edibles, and as the small fish and shrimp come close in so do the big ones seeking the small ones.
But I've also caught fish when there was outgoing or even no tide action. In any event, a nice pot of coffee cooking on the camp stove at sunrise in a spot where you can pull up right near to the waterline with the back of your truck serving as a camp base is a nice place to be in the morning. You can fish until the fish stop biting or until the sun gets too hot around noontime.
Then it's off to rent a room for the day, catch some sleep and eats and then do a little late in the day fishing for a few hours until sunset. Then either off to hear live music or back to the room to crash for the next days ride home. You can add a day if you can only find a two day minimum at a beach hotel, which is not unusual. * Honey, yeah, we have to stay an extra day down here fishing because the motel has a two day minimum*
As with my previous posts about the monster kingfish my friend caught recently on North Padre, my interest in surf fishing has been piqued, although I did have a good round of surf fishing last March at Port Aransas.
But after seeing the king they caught a few weeks ago, I'm inspired to hit it again.
TRIP B: RAMBLING THROUGH THE HILL COUNTRY FISHING RANDOM STREAMS, CREEKS AND RIVERS
This trip entails heading on a whimsical course in any number of different directions, generally starting from places like Austin, San Marcos or San Antonio. One can go in many directions where there is lots of "live water" and plenty of public access. Occasionally, inexpensive private access can be found, like being allowed to fish at a ranch or a campground. I've had several farmers and ranchers that I stopped along the road to talk to who let me fish at their place, for little or nothing.
Basically, this is what they call the "blue lines" trip. You take your "Back Roads of Texas" book, along with local county maps and perhaps "Fly Fishing in the Texas Hill Country" and you can find all kinds of remote fishing, particularly on large creeks that feed major rivers and are very fishy and not often fished.
Billy Ray and I have not fished the Junction area much, and that area is rife with wild springs and spring fed creeks, not to mention the North and South forks of the Llano river. But on this trip, you look for the blue lines (creeks) and find country roads that cross them. Usually these are low water crossings where you can easily fish, and often these low water crossings are adjacent to gravel bars or are amenable to wading.
The Junction area, particularly that between Junction and Mason, is truly part of what Pearl Beer used to refer to in it's commercials as "The Country of 1100 Springs". The water is clear and relatively clean.
Often times on these back road jaunts, you can find country stores with old men gathered and talking or encounter landowners near the road repairing fence or mowing or crop-tending. A prime opportunity to ask about places to fish or people who will let you have free or cheap access to nearby creeks.
If you're nice and polite, I have found that folks will almost always take a five or a ten, and sometimes gratis, and allow access to their place.
In any event, Billy Ray and I have found some real nice places all over the state using this method of blue line county road driving over the years. It's a nice chance to talk about all kinds of stuff, and to listen to a lot of music. Over the years, Billy Ray and I along with another fellow named Ricky Ray have done a lot of recording ourselves of mostly original music, and pretty much no one but us likes to listen to these hours of CD's that we've accumulated.
So it's a good opportunity to ramble parts of the state we don't see very often, do some fishing, stay in some small town motel, basically with little or no planning. You can do this trip on a "leave at midnight" schedule too, but if you do that it's nice to have a few initial destinations in mind so that by sunrise you're in a fishing position.
And that's where the Fishing Musician likes to be...in a fishing position.
So vote and let me know where we ought to geaux.
First, the fact that the leaders of the group, Bob Bogle and Don Wilson, were two friends who remained life long friends. Although popular in America throughout the 1960's, in the US during the 1970's they faded, and then regained cult status in the 1980's and 90's. Bogle himself toured with the band pretty much as long as it was playing until four years ago when his illness slowed him down.
Secondly, that's pretty damn impressive itself. He and Wilson picked up guitars in 1958 and by 1960 had the #2 hit on the Billboard Top 100 with "Walk, Don't Run". Damn impressive for a couple of masonary workers. There after, they scored another big hit with the theme to "Hawaii Five-O". Another of my favorites is their version of "Telstar" originally done by The Toronados.
Other than "Walk, Don't Run" and "Telstar", if someone wanted to pick a Ventures album to hear some fan-fricken-tastic lead guitar driven instrumental rock music, then one would want to get the "Hawaii Five-O" album from 1969, which features killer versions of "Galveston", "The Letter", "Spooky/Traces/Stormy" and "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in" in addition to the well-known TV show theme song.
H5o is one of the songs that got me hooked on wanting to play drums in my youth.
The Ventures have sold over 100 million albums. The Japanese have apparently been infatuated with them from day one, and one source said their albums outsold the Beatles two to one back in the day. They tour Japan regularly and are apparently still enjoying a live touring career.
They came back pretty regularly in the 1980's, and I remember back then they were playing regularly at The Palamino in North Hollywood (NoHo), and I tried to get tickets to one of their shows and it was sold out weeks in advance. Instead, I went to see Billy Vera and his Orchestra out in Reseda, I think the name of the Joint was The Country Club but that's a long time ago.
It's not unusual these days in that we have scores of "old dude" bands touring and in some cases, recording. The Ventures were different, I think, in that they never really broke up, they kept on playing. I think the mid to late seventies were probably pretty lean for them, but they came back pretty well in the 1980's and thereafter.
There are so many old groups that had long ago broken up or retired that are back on the touring scene, in some cases chronically. Many speculate it's because they're broke, and maybe that's true, but you GOTTA have respect for someone that plays in a touring and recording rock and roll band for 46 years! Heck, anyone that does anything steady and decent for 46 years is some kind of role model.
This leaves Don Wilson, the rhythm guitarist, as the only original member of the band. Which is still together and still touring.
I think Mr. Bogle should be commended on his healthy ego. During the first few years of the band, Bogle was the lead guitarist. It was his crazy whammy bar work on "Walk, Don't Run" that impressed all of us folks who like great guitar work. But a few years later, the founding bassist Nokie Edwards told Bogle that his (Nokie's) talents were being wasted on bass and that he (Nokie) was a better guitarist than Bogle was. Bogle agreed, and immediately switched to bass and learned the parts quickly and then played bass at least until Nokie quit the band in 1968.
I'm not sure if Bogle stayed on bass after Nokie left in 1968. But the fact that a guy who was already a star and had a couple of big hits would have a healthy enough ego to switch from lead guitar to bass is damn impressive to me. I know A LOT of very good lead guitar players in several countries, some semi-famous and some just regular joes, who play many different genres of music, and I can only think of a few who would be able to subjugate their identity and ego and just basic "guitard" existence and admit inferiority to another player and switch to bass. Most would sooner commit Hari-Kari.
I've seen it happen one time and that was in a local band that went nowhere and that didn't last very long. So it is indeed impressive and rare that a founder of a band, who began on lead guitar, would happily bow to the superior guitaring of his fellow founding bassist and switch to bass for the better of the band.
That attitude is probably one very big reason that The Ventures have lasted so long.
On another level, it's kinda weird because Bob Bogle was just 1 year younger than my dad. I can't imagine my dad playing guitar much less being in a band. But I guess there were free spirits then like there are now and that the lure of rock and roll caught some oldsters way back when my parents were living the American suburban dream.
Shit, I guess of of these memories and Bogle's passing is just another sign that I'm freakin' old.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
That's not to say there are not some good tunes on his stuff after the early 90's. It's just that much of the later tunes don't speak to me, or to many of my friends and family, the way the old stuff does.
And Jimmy does very well at making money doing what he likes, which is making music. And that is so frickin' rare that it has to be admired. And he made it without the help of the radio industry, who in it's day controlled to a large extent who made it and who didn't. So Jimmy made many of his own rules as he went along.
But despite being rich, probably beyond the comprehension of all of us, he can still be a good guy.
At the Bonnaroo Music Festival, going on right now in Tennessee, a musician from Cape Verde named Ilo Ferreira was brought to the US by Buffett after Buffett and some of his well-heeled world adventurer buddies heard the singer on a recent trip. You can read one story about it here http://www.bonnaroo.com/artists/ilo-and-the-coral-reefer-allstars.aspx.
According to the media reviews coming out today, Buffett absolutely stole the festival from the rest of the performers, and Ilo received a great American reception.
Buffett is not the sort of performer normally seen at mega-festivals like Bonnaroo. I've never been, but over the years I've kept up with who plays there. Bonnaroo seems more the type of festival for jam bands like Phish, who might be able to play 2 or 3 whole songs in an hour and a half set.
Now it seems this year's Bonnaroo is going out of the way to cater to some of the old guys like me who might not be Phish phans. A quick glance at their lineup shows Bruce Springsteen, Robert Earl Keen, Al Green, Elvis Costello as a solo act, The Beastie Boys and even the hallowed Merle Haggard. Yeah, there's other famous acts I can't get excited about, like Wilco, Snoop Dog and Nine inch nails. Each to their own.
A further look at the line-up shows some GREAT musical acts that are not as mainstream and as popular as some of the guys above. Acts and artists you might not be familiar with (but who are either critically acclaimed, jazzy or popular in their region/country) like Bela Fleck and Toumani Diabate (who says a banjo can't rock?), King Sunny Ade and the African Beats, Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, Alejandro Escovedo and a host of other bands.
Spinner.com has a review of Jimmy's and Ilo's performance at high noon on Saturday, June 13th, 2009, which quotes Buffett's opening line as: “Well, it may not be the breakfast you’re used to, but we’re going to serve it”.
I'm not sure who exactly was in the Coral Reefer Allstars, but the press releases only mentioned longtime guitarist Mac McAnally (who has been with JB forever) and female backing vocalist Nadirah Shakoor. Although some of the articles about their Bonnaroo gig implied or even said that Ilo brought his band from Cape Verde, after looking at the pictures, I don't think that's the case, unless back home Ilo has a bunch of middle aged white guys playing in his band.
No, the Coral Reefers Allstars looks like just an abbreviated Buffett Coral Reefers. You figure he's got to have keyboardist and main man Michael Utley, and then probably the regular bass/guitar/drums guys from the Coral Reefers. Word is that a few years ago, maybe back around 2006, Buffett trimmed his Coral Reefer band down from the huge sized carnival it had grown to over the 1990's.
Now, I realize, regular readers (and the few people who actually know who I am) are losing massive amounts of musical respect for me. Among my many musician friends, only a few like Billy Ray and Amarillo Scotty Ray are big Buffett fans. And it's been that way as long as I can remember.
One more golden Jimmy Buffett memory lane story and then I'll get back to the main focus of this post. The first time I saw Buffett was opening for the Eagles in the summer of 1977 in Houston at an outdoor stadium. I was already listening to him, as his radio hit Margaritaville was already out, and the folks I was sailing with at the Houston Yacht Club were big listeners and had all of his tapes. This is so long ago that they had his eight track tapes.
In fact, my friend and I were listening to Buffett and Eagles 8-track tapes as we drove to the concert which was at Jeppensen Stadium at University of Houston off Cullen. In his parents faded pee-yellow station wagon. But it had a raging stereo system and an 8-track.
We were having a good time, sitting on the field about 50 yards from the stage, except we had to move because some random older lady about 50 or so kept playing with our hair and trying to get us to drink whatever kind of whiskey she was drinking. She wasn't phased by our leaving at all...she just turned her attention to the fellows sitting next to her.
It was the Eagle's Hotel California tour, and Joe Walsh was playing with them by then. Probably the best Eagles line up ever. I'm not sure who Buffett was playing with, but I remember he played a very long opening set.
So, back in the day, I thought Buffett was just it. I was sailing and fishing and on the water for much of my life, and it seemed his songs were the soundtrack to the life I was living back then. We still like to listen to Buffett when we hit the beach, but I don't listen to him constantly like I did in my teens and twenties.
But Buffett grabbing some guy literally out of a working bar in Cape Verde reminds me of the Buffett I used to think I knew. Not the mega-millionaire Buffett. Not the restaurant and gift shop owner Buffett. Not the Casino operator Buffett.
But the Buffett who took chances. Who sang songs from his heart. The Buffett who once worked the waterfront bars of the south before he was famous and lived in his car in the early days. The Buffett who claimed he had a band on his first few albums. Although he called them the Coral Reefers, it was a fictitional band, with members like Al Vacado, Ms. Kitty Litter, Marvin Gardens and Kay Pasa.
Like the Buffett who in 1978 wrote a song about his African Friend, maybe Jimmy has come full circle with his assistance to Ilo. I think it's cool he has not forgotten where he came from.
And if you or your people are reading this Jimmy, I'm available as a drummer.
And just for the record, the coolest Jimmy Buffett song EVER is Tampico Trauma, followed closely by A Pirate Looks at Forty.
And even if you don't need me as a drummer, take this tip, Jimmy. There's a band out of Baton Rouge that I've played with that covers many of your songs called Hannah's Reef. The leader of that outfit, a cat named Gerry, has an original song called Sunday Morning in New Orleans. You can find that song here, http://cdbaby.com/cd/hannasreef1, just scroll down the song list on the left to #6 and tell me that song doesn't kick ass.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Amongst many other things and irons in the fire, Joe Nick just authored the biography Willie Nelson: An Epic Life . I'll bet it's good, because he writes very well and since he's been a part of the Austin culture for so long, I bet it has lots of good stories and some pretty righteous insite into Willie.
Joe Nick's website is here http://www.joenickp.com/. If you look at some of the topics to the left of his page, you'll see stuff like Texas, Travel and Water. Behind these icons you can find some of his excellent articles. Say you're planning a trip to the Guadalupe for some fishing, then you'll want to go here http://www.joenickp.com/water/guadisgreat.html.
If you wanna read more about the Devil's River, he talks about it here http://www.joenickp.com/water/devilsriver.html. Of course, I think it is a pre-requisite for some Texas Monthly writers to have great experience with the Big Bend area, and Patoski is no exception. http://www.joenickp.com/travel/bigbendhike.html and here http://www.joenickp.com/texas/bigbend.html and here http://www.joenickp.com/travel/roadtonowhere.html and even here http://www.joenickp.com/texas/westtexas.html.
There's handy stuff to know in those articles, and you feel like you are almost there with him, so vivid are his descriptions. And usually, they take me away to places I've visited and places I'd like to visit. It's a wonder my path has never crossed his.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This just makes it all the more cool, that he caught this huge, fighting, jumping, surging fish known for stripping massive amounts of line off of reels on the sort of rig that one might more commonly fish for bass in lakes featuring thick, weedy cover that you sometimes need to horse a lure through or drag a fish from. A heavy freshwater rod.
So, when the pics come, I'll post it.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
At this point, I'd advise you to go to this myspace page for Ryan and listen to some of his music, particularly the fifth tune down, Take it easy, Mama http://www.myspace.com/ryanbinghamThere was a time I would have not only heard of but would have met (and probably have the cell phone number and email of) Ryan. At the very least, I would have already seen him playing live on several occasions and quite possibly would have already had the opportunity to perform or jam with him. He runs with a crowd I know well, the troubadours of Texas who sing the song of it's people, places, loves, losses and lives. Joe Ely. Terry Allen. Butch Hancock. Robert Earl Keen. Guy Clark. Even a wacky olden days rock star named David Bourne, who likes to hang out with real people like the musicians mentioned above. Well, I know a couple of those guys pretty well.
I fell into knowing that bunch of folks strictly by accident. I was in a band in the early 90's, and we had recorded some studio tracks to both a DAT master as well as to an 8 track master tape. The DAT belonged to me, and just sounded wonderous. It was made at the board at the time of recording by the recording engineer, the late Phil Davis of Shadow Productions of Houston, Texas. Basically a raw mix from a live, multi-track recording that went via individual mics for vocals and instruments to an 8 track tape.
I was going to Austin a lot back then, both playing music and hanging with friends ***and of course lots of Hill Country fly fishing***, and one band I sat in with one night when their drummer was severely ill was called Johnny Law. They had a regular weekly gig at the now burned down Black Cat Lounge on 6th street and often played at all the good clubs in town. I became fast friends with their lead guitarist Brady, and through him met everyone that was working in original bands in Austin, and a few big name (to me at least) folks.
Whenever I would come to Austin, I would head over to Brady's apartment or hunt him up if it was at night and they were gigging. Despite having no cell phones, no email, no twitter in those days, I did remarkably well. Brady convinced me to take my DAT master to a place on 5th street in Austin for mastering and eq'ing, a place called LUBBOCK OR LEAVE IT (LOLI), owned by one of the Flatlanders, Butch Hancock.
Butch is not only a gifted guitarist/singer/songwriter, he is also an accomplished artist, and LOLI was his performance venue, art gallery for his and his friends West Texas artworks and recording studio. One thing the recording studio did was master and equalize DAT recordings of bands and make mass cassettes for selling at gigs. The band I was in at that time wanted and needed to have something to sell at our shows, which often packed local Houston venues like Rudyard's, where we regularly performed.
So it just so happened that a seminar was being held a week or so after Brady convinced me to master our tapes at Lubbock or leave it, and I was able to get work to send me to that seminar. Although I had attended that particular boot camp type seminar in the first year of my legal career, I decided to attend it again to have the opportunity to spend my evenings mastering the DAT at Butch Hancock's place.
And so I did, and so I met Butch and the Allen family and many of the folks that would pass through there in a week's time. Nearly every night that June at Lubbock or Leave It resulted in some sort of jam session that went on and on, attracting musicians, their friends and fans, and various artists.
It was a fun week, and certainly one of the best legal seminars I ever attended. We ended up with a great cassette tape of our band, and forever more when I go to Austin there is almost always someone from those days that I know that I run into at one of the usual musical haunts in Austin.
So anyway, taking the long way home here, this guy Ryan Bingham is the real thing. Not only has he lived the life, walked the walk and talked the talk, he's quite talented on guitar and in his singing and sings great stories about taking the road less traveled.
He reminds me there is a real world, of the Texas I used to live in before I pursued my various establishmentarian crafts, beyond courtrooms and politics, beyond the myriad of things lately that just "taint right". Who the hell knows, maybe I'm the one that's all skewed here. But I don't think so.
You can read some interesting stuff and a review of his new album at these links:
Discusses Ryan's hard-scrabble upbringing and life.
Some anecdotes about places he's lived and hung out in Texas
A review of his sophomore album, produced by a Black Crowe. I've heard it rocks.
Discusses Ryan's part in the soon-to-be -released movie CRAZY HEART, where Ryan not only performs with his band but also has some bit acting parts.
I already know I'm heading to some store tonight where I can buy this new CD, and hopefully his previous ones, even though it'd be easier to buy it online and download it. Maybe they'll lead me through this dilemma with some word of wisdom or musical answer, as the works of some of his friends like Ely and Hancock have done for me in the past. Perhaps there is some truism that can explain why the blue pill world doesn't seem to work right sometimes in one of those songs.
So I would've known long ago who Ryan was if I was still as active in Texas musicianing as I was even just a few years ago. I'd have already heard him playing in some bar in Marfa or Alpine or Austin. But then, if I had heard of him previously, it wouldn't be helping through this right now.
And Lord knows, I need something to calm my mind. Sometimes, my mind has a mind of it's own. I guess my biggest dilemma is actually one of the eternal and infernal questions that at times bothers all of us in this business...what part of "To Protect and To Serve" don't you understand?