Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Wrapped Up

This was our Christmas Card photo:
Sylvia felt strongly about it, but I'm keeping my choice private in case it's needed in the future.

This one was probably #3, but would have required a return trip earlier in the evening and on a partly cloudy day to fill-in the black sky top-right:

Christmas trees are kinda cool in infrared:

A photo from the last Televators show:
Wish I could remember the photographer's name to give him proper credit, but it's my opinion that pics of me given to my band are fair game for blogging.
Bet he's as mystified as I am by club owner's lighting choices--they're like crows and ferrets fascinated by bright and shiny highlights moving around.

Here's my personal favorite from the Tennessee trip:
Nothing special--guess I just like the view. Means something to me.

For a change I tried staying "in the moment" this Christmas instead of looking for photo-ops, and concentrated on prep and hosting during our party.
It was a bit of a relief at the time although I kind of miss not getting anything worth sharing, now that I look back.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Christmas Card Search

I know some of you look forward to this particular yearly tradition here at Views Of Texas. It's a favorite of mine, too.
With my wider usage of Facebook in 2011 I'm a little more in-touch with friends and family than in years past, and have been surprised and touched by how many people have mentioned that they keep and maybe even frame my card photos. Thanks for the extra pressure y'all--as if I wasn't stressing hard enough already!

Between my trip to Tennessee and learning songs for the Televators show two weeks ago, there wasn't a lot of time to look for likely candidates. Add all the recent rain and recording studio sessions to that, and we managed exactly ONE photo excursion. A record low if your mathematical savvy is limited to "more = better". Fortunately I was working fast and smart, with few mistakes.

We went downtown on December 6th, and it was more than a little breezy with temps in the low 40s or maybe even less. I was wearing flannel sleep pants under my jeans and several layers on top plus scarf and hat. Syl and I were both toasty-warm most of the time, but in order to manipulate camera buttons and tripod parts I only had a fingerless biker glove on my right hand so the tips were frozen solid. I need one oversized mitten every December.

We started on the Riverwalk, mainly because this is the first year with the new LED lights.
Most locals hate them. A LOT.
Personally, I think the old lights which were draped over the top of the big trees looked pretty, but didn't illuminate the trees themselves all that well so it was rather a jumbled mess of colors in vertical lines. Boring, and random. At least now you can see the shape of the trees.
Part of the problem might also be the colors.
Before, there was mostly red, green, and yellow bulbs. Mostly blue now.
I'm not going to comment on the digital camera white-balance issues with LEDs--saving that for the CFL discussion when the USA finally tries to outlaw tungsten lightbulbs.

There weren't many people getting in my shots due to the cold, and the long shutter speeds usually made them all but invisible so long as they kept moving. Sylvia yelled out "Free beer at MadDog's" once to unclot a major artery, though. I'm a lucky man.
Hated the big illuminated H E B in front of the Alamo tree. A classic case of a sponsor crossing the line far enough to shoot themselves in the foot. We truly love HEB as a store, company, and local patron of all good causes but whoever thought this was a good idea needs to be busted back down to grocery bagger.

I do a new "Rivets" shot every single time I'm on the Presa street bridge. Looks like a new paint job--very smooth. Went for focus on the distance rather than the near rivets this time, and like it a lot. 45 seconds well spent, then moving right along to the next photo-op which will probably include one of the little arched footbridges over the San Antonio River. Sometimes a theme becomes apparent after-the-fact.

Someday, this view will be perfected.
I liked it a lot last year (or was it 2009?).
All I know is that it makes a really nice wallpaper on my new Dell widescreen monitor.

The newspaper recently ran a story about how squirrels are chewing through the wires on our new lights, among other failures including overwhelmingly negative public reaction.
The original plan was to remove the bottom 10 feet or so in January but leave the rest of the strings up all year, but that's just wishful thinking now. They finally realized that the old lights draped over the canopy were out on the fringes of rodent territory. The new ones are speed bumps on squirrel highway--I bet they're chewing on them for the same reason that I want to set fire to the big annoying rubber speed bumps in my neighborhood.

During our final choice card photo's long exposure, a cranky old grammity stopped and asked "Do you live here? Do you like these new lights?"
When advised that yes we actually do, she replied "Not me--I hate 'em! I miss the old dingley dangles."

There's a joke in there somewhere...

Friday, December 23, 2011

December Miscellany

Went to a fine Christmas party, but only took one picture, and it was in the bathroom:
Wonder if anyone noticed a big flash in the gap under the door?
Sometimes I would rather drink and play with fire than take pictures.

Spotted at Target:

Doing yard work, I discovered that someone's been camping in our alley:
Five blankets/comforters, two pillows, and 2 books--'Garfield's 30th Book' and 'The Biggest Loser Calorie Counting Guide'.
When I tell this story, the reactions are evenly divided by gender.
Every woman says "How sad" and every man gets a little annoyed that there was a bum right behind my house for who knows how long.

With several weeks of regular rain the campsite was a soggy filthy useless mess, so I filled up our trash receptacle and it's long gone.

Remember this post from last year?
We finally know what the steam engine looks like with all it's lights:

I had forgotten all about this:
They contacted me a few years ago and asked permission to use my photo, which was nice considering how many times I find my work on sites that never asked and don't give me credit.
If you click on the pic it goes to that image on my Flickr pages, which is why I remembered. Trimming the fat, I was about to delete it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Memphis Bonus

Our cousin Bruce in Memphis is an extraordinary man--something we've always known.
We were shocked and delighted that time in the '70s when he showed up at our door with no warning just before Christmas, having hitched rides from Tennessee to upstate New York during a blizzard.

When he had a kidney removed, our mom sent him this plant:
That was 40 years ago, and he's kept it alive and well since then. Our mom was as special to him as his mom is to us, but I was amazed at his dedication and got a little misty eyed.

Then he brought out some treasures that left all three of us choked-up:
The shotgun on the left is a Browning Auto-5 12 gauge semi-auto made in 1950. On the right is a commercial German Mauser 98K that was re-barrelled for the .22-250 varmint cartridge in the early 1960s.

These were my father's guns.
Just...Oh My.

Dad had left them with our uncle Jim so they would be there whenever he might find himself near that part of Tennessee and have a day to spare for hunting. One of the perks of being a pilot in the USAF back then is a certain amount of flight time under your own control if you knew how to massage the paperwork.
When uncle Jim died Bruce took it upon himself to safeguard these pieces of our heritage and return them to us.

As we took the shotgun apart a few days ago there was another misty-eyed moment when we found our father's initials engraved upon a hidden piece of steel by his own hand.
I'm not taking apart the rifle any time soon, but when I do it will be with an eye peeled for fingerprints because I'm pretty sure the last person to handle what's hidden inside the walnut stock was dear old dad.

Three or 4 years after he went missing in action in 1966, my mom got rid of his guns. The collection of firearms, ammo, and reloading gear was so heavy it collapsed the legs on the pool table in our garage.
Only one, a military surplus Springfield M1903A3 that he was in the process of turning into a Texas-style deer rifle survived, stashed deep inside a trunk in the basement--but I pretty much finished that project back in the 1990s. It was something, but the loss the rest of the collection was one of those things that has always chewed on my guts every time I thought about it.

Having these fine pieces suddenly show up again is beyond my wildest dreams--it's hard to find the words to express how much it means to me.

Back in 2008 I shot this photo called "The Duck Hunter" while testing some then-new flash gear, and really liked it:
The bird book was the oldest thing in the picture, from 1936 I think, but it had a satisfyingly vintage feel overall.

A few days ago I re-shot it with my father's shotgun, and even managed to find the same page:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


After a short but excellent time in Clarksville, we headed west to Memphis where a fourth cousin lives. He put us up for the night, then took us on a tour of his company followed by a trip to Beale Street and other downtown sights.

Former home of those bastard Grizzlies, the pyramid is being gutted and will soon be a Bass Pro Shop. No shit!

Ken and I on the banks of the Mississippi River, a stone's throw from Cybil Shepard's townhome.

The famous Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King met his untimely end.

On Beale St.

Rudy Gay banner on the parking garage at the FedEx Forum, new home of the Grizzlies.

Elvis stencil graffiti.

We also went to the Peabody Hotel, where those famous ducks live on the roof then ride the elevator down to splash in a lobby fountain with the turtles.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Been working my ass off learning songs for tonight's show.
Televators will be at Hot Tin Roof Saturday December 10th @ 10pm.
(Southeast-bound IH10 access road between Callaghan and 410--was Mama's back in the day)

We're going to be kind of loose in spots, but it's a very solid band.
A lot of our song choices might surprise you, but I think you'll like the way we interpret them. Still bummed that I couldn't get any Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb stuff in the mix, but maybe next time...

You can hear our original songs there, and sign up for free crap.
Hope to see you there.
No shots, please--I have a million notes to remember, and they have to be in the proper order.


The show went better than I expected--there were people who knew our original songs, and the way we played many of our covers went over really well.

This is the rarest of photos--me singing.
I'm a team player, and happened to have a mic...
The song was Hashpipe.

In response to the exclusion of RUSH yet again in this year's crop of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we played the 2112 Overture + Temples Of Syrinx.
At the end, someone in the crowd shouted "Play the whole fucking thing!!" and I think that's possible with this band.
To confuse the nosy, it was the 1812 Overture on our setlists.
Kind of wild that in just a few weeks (plus a century) it'll actually BE 2112.

And here's the actual setlist from my very first paid gig that didn't involve a garage and someone's parents on vacation:
Note that the 4th set was listed as simply "2112". We played the entire 1st side of that album as well as we could. History repeats, eventually. Sounded a LOT better tonight.
Lots of other great classic tunes on that list...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Made It!

After an agonizing morning spent on the foggy backroads, we were finally in familiar territory, although with 20 years worth of changes.

A convenience store on the last corner was a bit of a shock, so it was comforting to see that the driveway we were looking for was the same as it had been all our lives:

Likewise the house that holds so many memories:

It was a great visit--I only wish we could have stayed longer.
Got to visit with our aunt and three of the cousins on Thanksgiving day and part of Friday, along with new (to us) extended family. You can see how happy we were just being there:

The crops and cows and chickens are long gone since there aren't as many mouths to feed these days, but evidence remains:

When we were kids, this barbed wire was loosely wrapped around a much smaller tree:
It marked the end of the homestead, and the beginning of the wilderness where only us kids bothered to venture.
Lean-to campouts, the springs and the caves, running with the dogs, swinging on vines, being immersed in nature and was our playground.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Homeward Bound

Rather last-minute, my brother and I drove to Clarksville Tennessee for Thanksgiving.
We grew up in San Antonio and upstate New York, but no matter where we were living our true second home was always in the woods along the Cumberland River.
For a month at a time in the summers, or when life was handing us lemons, that's where we went to reconnect with family and the earth.
Our uncle schooled us in hunting and fishing, taking our late father's place.
The herd of cousins (all older than me) schooled us in smoking, rock albums, sneaking out, and according to the stories--playing doctor.
We were tight, and it was a shame that Ken and I hadn't managed to go back in 20 years.
Mainly we went to see our aunt.
Words can't describe what she means to us.

The drive up was rough.
18 hours non-stop.

Gridlock in Austin, of course:

Same thing in Belton or Round Rock or whatever:

Not too bad in Salado, but that probably didn't last long:
In fact, it was stop-and-go from Austin to Waco.
NEVER drive IH35 on the day before Thanksgiving if you can help it.
Always heard it was bad, but this was my first time.

Once we could open it up, the miles flew by fairly quick.
Here's the rented Mazda 3 at a pitstop somewhere in west Arkansas:
Nice little car.
Fast, with nimble handling in the twisty back roads later in the trip.
35 mpg--a big help.

Crossing the Mississippi River into Memphis--the beginning of the end:
Had I not been driving, could have messed with the GPS app on my phone to find a better route for the home stretch. As it was, we spent a lot of extra time going 30 mph through small towns and hitting tons of red lights and stop signs.
Lesson learned, and I managed to improve the results on the way home somewhat although the final tweak wasn't made until just before navigation went back to big signs over the highway. That's what we deserved for not even bringing a map.

I had never used any kind of GPS before, and at times it was wonderful.
Even bombing down IH35 on the way home it was cool to have a constantly updated ETA.
Just should have practiced with it before leaving to learn the quirks and traps of a free phone app.

More to come...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back In Texas, I'm Number Two

Our Thanksgiving trip entailed a ton of driving and other stuff, which I'll detail soon.
I averaged maybe 4 hours of sleep per day, with long stretches of none.
So imagine my delight at having to serve jury duty on my first full day back.

The Bexar County Courthouse is great, as are the people who run things.
No complaints there.
It was just the idea of getting up really early and off-schedule yet again, then sitting on my tired old butt for another full day that made me sad.

After 2.5 hours of boredom I was trying to keep from snoring when the guy next to me started a conversation about my book.
Terrific--a new best friend. Just what I need.
He had never heard of author Elmore Leonard (Seriously? Must be a heavy rock you live under) so I opened up to the page with "Also By..." and pointed out the ones made into movies like 'Mr. Majestyk' and 'Get Shorty', among others.
Right then the bailiff started the first real action of our day by announcing that they were assembling two 20-person jury pools who would meet in the hallway.

Mi amigo kept talking at me, so I almost missed it when my name was just the 2nd one called that day.
Wow--a huge surprise. So soon!?!
Also a mixed blessing--easy instant escape from Lenny Chunkbutt, but what if I end up on a long trial that jacks my entire holiday plans?

So the 40 of us line up in order out in the hallway (I'm still #2, hehe) and it's explained to us that we've been selected to provide two juries for 2 different courtrooms...pause...pause...BUT that because the threat of a actual jury trial has come along this far, both sides have suddenly settled.
Sweet relief on the part of everyone.
As soon as we can trade our juror badges for a card certifying that we've fulfilled our obligations, every man woman and idiot among us is free to go. Again, I was #2.
I liked the part where they said " can go to work or back to bed. Your boss has no way of knowing you got off so early".
Like I said, the folks who run things at the courthouse are great.
Funny, honest, friendly, helpful--typical San Antonians.

I was starting my truck for home by 11 AM, and am looking forward to spending my $6 check on beer once it arrives.

Want to point out that I really did enjoy the educational aspects, and was honored to participate in our court system yet again.
The only reason I sound at all cranky was that I've been living on a 3rd shift kind of schedule for most of my life so mornings aren't my strong suit by a long shot, especially when I'm completely wiped-out from the previous week of hard travel and minimal sleep.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope all my readers have a nice holiday this week.
I'll be on the road, so check back next week to see for yourself where I've been.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SA Rock and/or Rolls Marathon

Wow--the new blogger interface doesn't work worth a crap with our more advanced browsers. Bet it shines out like a shaft of gold with Internut Exploder. Please excuse the wonkiness and crowded writing. Apparently all the Blogger lessons I've learned are "out" and it's going to take me some time to figure out how to make this supposedly easy interface work properly. Sylvia did the SA Rock And Roll Marathon for the fourth straight year last Sunday, and of course I'm proud of her. After treating the first two like advanced classes in shootting crowds and sports and then missing 2010's, I decided to concentrate on my job re: bringing fresh clothes and a ride home. Still managed to take some pics. Two days prior, all the runners we know met for a carb-loading party. The biggest hit was this cake:
If you ever need one of these fancy theme cakes like you might see on TV, contact me and we'll hook you up with the designer/baker. She's just starting her business and does great work. Deliciousness!

Waiting for your runner after the finish line is torture. A million sweaty people wandering about and breathing hard (me included). A dude puked right in front of me, but I got off lucky with that. Another runner died not too far away at the same time. Some people want to blame the organizers but hell, you're running in South Texas which can hit 100F on any day of the year. It was a humid 80F at the time, which isn't all that bad. It's a shame that he died, but the odds of it happening during a marathon are 1 in 50,000 so it's not exactly rare and the organizers do the best they can.
Imagine my surprise seeing these guys playing the main stage. I was their soundman for many years, yet never got a call for this gig. Screw 'em. Would have turned them down anyway, so no harm done.
After the lost child announcements, they re-started Metallica's Enter Sandman, and a metal couple of marathoners (sp?) had enough gas left in the tank to mosh around. Nice.
It's ironic that Vince Neil's drunk bloated ass was headlining this healthy and fit event. I would have loved to be in his hotel hallway an hour prior, since most guys like him have zero direct experience in the concept of 11AM. Never saw Motley Crue live unfortunately, but I dig a bunch of their songs. Mick Mars is a great guitarist, and Tommy Lee kicks ass despite his retardation and compulsion to suck whoever's ass is considered "cool" at any given time. Nikki Sixx is a cromulent bassist and slightly above-average heavy rock songwriter. And then there's Vince... His autobiography is a fun and wicked read, though. That's Dana Strum on bass, and the other guys from Slaughter in Vince's band, BTW. Here's Sylvia's medal:
They get better every year. I like how they used the bell tower from Mission Espada.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011

I'm very proud of my father's Distinguished Flying Cross and his Air Medal (awarded 5 times) but I can think of none more meaningful than the Purple Heart.
Skill and daring are wonderful things, but sacrifice is the essence of military service.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Just Checking In

Hmmm...what's new?

After the show, I took off the strings and gave my 4-string bass a good cleaning.
Rosewood fretboards like some lemon oil every year or so--otherwise they get too dry and might crack.
Under the strings around the pickups there's usually a LOT of what looks like dust, but is mostly skin cells and (if you're playing it hard enough) pulverized pick.
Not going to clean the other bass until I get new strings for it. Taking off 8 strings and putting them back on is a royal pain.

Halloween went well enough.
The kids started coming before dark, so the early-birds missed the fire and smoke and lights.
We only had 45 tricksters, which is a tie for the lowest since I've been keeping records.
Only 1 teenager got TacoBell sauce, and two little ones managed to fall down on our porch.
I had some photos, but accidentally deleted them from my CF card, thinking they were already on the PC. No great loss.

It rained just enough on Monday for the roads to be as slick as goose poop.
Some guy in his 20's driving a nice new-ish Dodge Charger didn't look and pulled-out 30 feet in front of me, then stopped.
I hit the brakes and started sliding, and he put it in reverse and spun his wheels to no effect.
Time slowed way down until the impact with his front fender, which wasn't enough to move his car more than a couple inches.
We cleared the street (something everyone should do--the cops aren't going to be reconstructing anything unless there's a fatality, so get the hell out of everyone's way!) and surveyed the "damage".
He was all "That dent was already there, and this scratch is no big deal".
I took that as a good sign and said (in my jolliest voice): "Let's look at mine!"
Then: "I got nothing. Wanna call it good, and be on our way?"
With that we shook hands and took off, which is NICE.

Some people get too wrapped up in procedures to look at the big picture.
The police probably had 250+ minor accidents to deal with that day, which would mean at least a 45 minute wait, and the "damage" was below any possible deductible, so what's the point?
Live and learn--he's sure to look both ways from now on, and I'll continue to be a perfect driver who's only accidents are someone else's fault. Or something like that.
My neck DOES kinda hurt a little...

Ever try to sign a little girl out of school when the relevant paperwork has been misplaced? Not so easy in this day and age. Adventures in babysitting. The whole time we waited, the kid was begging for my phone so she could play Angry Birds, then they finally tracked-down mommy in Las Vegas. Verbal permission isn't really kosher, but apparently I was so calm and patient and understanding (compared to A-hole parents?) that a correct judgment call was made in my favor.
Here's my little nugget Jada 6 years ago:
They grow up so fast, or so I've heard.

My new band has a show coming up in December so I'll be busy learning more songs for that, plus we're recording a Christmas Carol spoof I first wrote about 15 years ago. I'll post a link when it's done.