Late October Adventures
On Sunday the 22nd, M joined me for a day trip to the piney woods of East Texas. Our mission? Chase and photograph the Texas State Railroad's passenger train from Palestine to Rusk and return. The clock is ticking on the TSRR; due to a state parks funding crisis, the TSRR might be forced to shut down after the 2006 season. I had ridden the TSRR four years ago -- K and I took L down there in April of 2002 -- but I had never spent any time chasing and photographing the train between Palestine and Rusk. I figured October 22 might be our best opportunity, and as it turned out, we couldn't have picked a better day...
We arrived at Palestine around 1040, about 20 minutes before the eastbound train's scheduled departure time to Rusk. The train was powered by 2-8-0 # 300. It looked great, and sounded even better... I could listen to that whistle all day. A couple of other fans were on hand, and joined us during part of our chase as we followed the train east to Rusk. We got photos at five locations along the way, broke for lunch when the train stopped at Rusk, and then resumed our chase as the train made its return trip back to Palestine. A good time was had by all, and... O! The weather! That may well have been the best railfanning weather I've experienced in the past 10 years... it was a bit on the cool side in the morning (low 40s) but was perfectly sunny the entire day, highs in the mid-60s with a light north wind. And I came home with plenty of nice photos (see below)... in the event that they DO eventually shut down, at least I'll have a few nice shots in my collection.
My partner in crime takes a break in Rusk.
Adventures in Internet Radio
Back in June when my days off changed, I was excited to have Thursdays and Fridays off, as that meant I might catch an occasional live broadcast on hardcountryradio.com, the new home of Bruce Kidder (former program director at KHYI, exiled since last March). Bruce and his cohort Brian Bradley (aka "Bad Cover Brian" have been broadcasting occasional live shows, usually on Friday or Saturday evenings. I had missed their one Sunday broadcast back in September -- which they did during the Dallas Cowboys' bye week. I posted a comment to the Hard Country Radio list on Yahoogroups, asking if they'd consider another Sunday show on the 22nd, since the Cowboys didn't play until Monday. Bruce agreed, so M and I ended up having to really scramble to get home from Palestine in time to catch the show.
All previous shows had been broadcast from Brian's garage, where the guys purported to be restoring a '71 Ford F-100 while guzzling Busch tall-boys and spinning classic country and modern Americana tunes. This show was a bit different; retreating from the grarage due to the fact that "it's too damn cold", Bruce and Brian broadcast a "fireside chat" from Bruce's house, and invited email requests from the listening audience (which, for all I could tell, might only have numbered in the single digits. Oh well, it was everyone else's loss...). I emailed a request for some Kinky Friedman or Johnny Paycheck, neither of which they were able to fulfill. They thanked me for representing the Keller Chapter of the Redneck Freak Show and spun the next best thing... an obscure Bob Dylan tune. Later I sent them a Kinky Friedman song, "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed", which they promptly played. I was proud to have a small part in the programming of the show.
Besides kicking me props and playing my Kinky song, they also featured a "chick run" (songs by Carrie Rodriguez, Tish Hinojosa); a "man run" to counter the "chick run" (Eleven Hundred Springs' "Raise Hell, Drink Beer", Banjo & Sullivan's "I'm at home getting hammered while she's out getting nailed"; the traditional "bad cover" which in this case was two competing versions of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues"; and lots of other great stuff ranging from James McMurtry to Gary Stewart to Jack Ingram. Even when HCR is on "auto pilot" (just playing the tunes) it's probably better than whatever you're listening to on the radio. Check it out sometime at www.hardcountryradio.com/ , and monitor the hardcountryradio list on yahoogroups to stay informed on the live broadcast schedule.
Adventures in Fried Chicken
When we want good barbecue, we know we're gonna have to do a few hours of driving (see Oct 30 report). However, when we're hungry for fried chicken -- as we were last Saturday -- it's just a short drive up Highway 377 to Babe's in Roanoke.
Babe's in Roanoke
Babe's is essentially the north Texas fried-chicken equivalent of Lockhart's Kreuz Market or Smitty's. Babe's has more than one location (Burleson, Sanger, Garland) but the original is located just north of Fort Worth in downtown Roanoke. If Babe's ever offered customers a printed menu, it'd be a short one, because you only get two choices: fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. If you order the chicken, you'll get four pieces; when you order the steak, you get a fried steak so big that it hangs off the edge of your plate, leaving little room for sides (seved family style) like creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Babe's traditions include an hourly Hokey-Pokey dance, lots of kitschy wall decorations (such as a life-size Darth Vader urging diners to "come over to the dark side... try a thigh"), and a juke box loaded with great classic and modern country music, along with some 1950s rock 'n' roll to boot.
One time a few years ago, I met some friends for lunch there; one of them was joined by a young woman from New Jersey who had justarrived in Texas on a business trip. An hour earlier she was on a plane and now here she was, her first time ever in Texas, sitting down to lunch at Babe's. I always wondered how much that warped her impression of Texas!
... and neither is Babe's.
... L checks out the juke box. Sorry, no Avril Lavigne songs here...
Suffice to say, if you're hungry for fried chicken, and you're anywhere in or near north Texas, Babe's is worth checking out. When friends or family visit us from out of town, we don't let 'em leave until they've been to Babe's. If nothing else, we figure they'll come back the next time they want some quality fried chicken...Adventures in tv advertising
I generally view tv advertising as a necessary evil, but that doesn't mean I watch a whole lot of it. When commercials come on, I'm usually fumbling with the remote, switching to a different channel and then switching back (if I remember) a few minutes later, to what I was originally watching. Such habits, unfortunately, carry an inherent risk of occasionally missing a real gem of a commercial.
During ESPN's SportsCenter, for example, I'm reluctant to change channels during commercials, for fear that I might miss one of ESPN's promo spots. I've really been enjoying the one where Peyton and Eli Manning are on an ESPN studio tour, and are punching and kicking each other as they walk along behind the rest of the tour group... pure genius. Another ESPN promo I enjoyed was the one a year or two ago, where Steve Irwin (the recently deceased "Croc Hunter") exits an elevator, sees the Florida Gators mascot standing there, and immediately wrestles him to the ground, yelling, "Crikey! Isn't he gorgeous?" I'm telling you... that stuff is PURE... FLIPPING... GENIUS !
And on the subject of commercials featuring college mascots, I really dig the Alltel spot where Lee Corso tells the Michigan State Spartan, "you're my favorite", without realizing a bunch of other mascots are standing nearby. Of course, they all get mad, and Lee is forced to apologize: "I'm sorry, I didn't know you guys were there". Am I just easily entertained, or are these some of the best tv ads to air in a long time?
Whiskey's World Series of Pop Culture (Part 6 of an occasional series)
6) In 1982, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney teamed up on a duet entitled "The Girl is Mine", which appeared on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album. A year later, the two recorded another duet. Name the song.
If you think you've got game, respond by sending me an email, or post your response in the "comments" section below.
nr: John Steinbeck - Tortilla Flat
np: ESPN - SportsCenter