Thursday, November 23, 2006

Unfinished Business

I was in a bit of a hurry when I typed yesterday's entry, and didn't have time to properly expand on a few items. So here's the rest...

Unfinished Hayes Carll Review

I guess my concert reviews probably don't mean that much to someone who has never heard the performer. I'm not even sure how to describe Hayes Carll and still do him justice, but I'll try... Imagine a blend of vocal styles from John Cougar (Mellencamp's first album, when the record company wanted him to use an "edgier" last name) and Lyle Lovett, with poetic lyrics set to a southern rock sound with a Texas twang, and maybe the slightest hint of jazz. The softer, acoustic songs ("Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long", "Flowers and Liquor") have sing-along / hum-along melodies, while the more up-tempo songs ("Little Rock", "Highway 87") are guitar-driven and really rock.

Hayes Carll, last Friday in Denton
A month or so ago, the Ft Worth Star-Telegram listed him as one of five artists who could become "the next Pat Green". That should be your suggestion to go see him -- NOW -- before he's selling out the Smirnoff in Dallas. I'm selfishly hoping he doesn't make it THAT big, because I'd like to see a few more of his shows before he's hits the big-time like Jack Ingram or Pat Green. Maybe there's hope -- IF he stays on an independent record label (and I've heard that he has done just that, having recently turned down a contract from a major label).

But you still might want to go catch him soon... just in case.
Unfinished Dallas Cowboys Report

More than any other sports team (college or professional) the Dallas Cowboys have won my allegiance through over 30 years of exposure to their games on tv and in person. Other folks have their college teams (mine was rebounding from the NCAA death penalty the year I started school there, and hasn't won more than 6 games in a season since), or their parents' college teams (in my case, that's Ohio State, which is all well and good, but a school whose campus I've never set foot on is hard for me to relate to -- especially since it's over 1000 miles away), or whatever. I have the Cowboys.
The earliest football games I can remember were Dallas Cowboys games. My dad was a Cowboys fan, and I remember our family watching them on tv when I was 4 or 5. And I remember going to some of their games when I was around the same age. When we lived in Temple and San Angelo, it seemed like we were always driving to Dallas once a season to catch a game.
And then there's my cousin in Ohio, who not only acquired my dad's affinity for the Cowboys, but who holds the Cowboys in almost mythical regard (rightly so, come to think of it... few professional sports teams have enjoyed the presence of coaches and players as deserving of such respect as Tom Landry and Roger Staubach.) He probably catches a world of hell for it, but it's good to know that the Cowboys have such a vocal fan contingent that far north.

Cowboys vs. Colts - Sunday, Nov 19
There have been years that I did not closely follow the Cowboys, and others when I watched almost every game. During the 1980s, Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker aroused boyhood aspirations of becoming a running back, and Danny White -- good but never quite good enough -- made us long for the return of Staubach. The early 1990s featuring Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin were fun times, especially a trip I took to Atlanta in January 1994 to see them win Super Bowl XXVIII against the Bills -- one of the coolest opportunities I've ever enjoyed. (It helps to know the right people, or have parents who do!) Suffice to say, the Cowboys have always been MY team.

For the first 6 or 7 years of my railroad career, I worked practically every Sunday and was unable to watch most of the games, but now that I hold a schedule with Sundays off, I've been watching again. It has been painful at times, especially during times of questionable coaching and incompetent quarterbacks. Running for 1 or 2 yards and a cloud of dust on every play is not my style of football. A running game is fine, especially if the backs are getting some good blocks and occasionally breaking free for runs of 15 or 20 yards. But what I really like to see is a good passing game: skilled receivers, a talented quarterback, and a tough offensive line providing the protection. I enjoy the kind of game where the quarterback is airing it out for multiple touchdowns per game -- the kind of game that's fun to watch -- the kind of game that makes me proud to be a fan of the team -- the kind of game the Cowboys played against Tampa Bay today. Can they hold it together for the rest of the season, win the NFC East, and advance to the playoffs? Well, I'm more optimistic than I've been in a long time... Keep it going, 'Boys, keep it going...
Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot

It has been a few years since I've taken train pictures on Thanksgiving. The most memorable (and possibly the most recent) time was in Ohio in 1998. We were in the Canton area for my cousin's wedding and I had to drive to the Cleveland airport to pick up K, who was arriving on Thanksgiving Day -- a day or two after the rest of us. While I waited for her flight to arrive, I killed some time at Berea Tower, hanging out with a few of the local fans and shooting the last Conrail trains I'd see before the Conrail split. (Time well spent, in my opinion.) I didn't know it at the time, but the Thanksgiving Turkey (train) Shoot was something of a Cleveland tradition.

This year, with K and the kids out of town, I accepted an invitation from my friend Randy (who used to live in Cleveland) to re-enact the Turkey Shoot, Texas style. It sounded like a good plan to me. I'm usually more of a loner at trackside, preferring to do my shooting by myself instead of with others, but sometimes it's nice to have some company. We ended up introducing each other to a few new photo locations. We caught two southbounds on the BNSF Ft Worth Sub between Justin and Krum, and then headed west past Decatur and Bowie and found a couple eastbounds to chase back to town.

Southbound Roadrailers approaching Justin

Eastbound coal load near Decatur

Oh, did I mention that the weather was obscenely beautiful for this time of year? I associate Thanksgiving more with ice storms (even in north Texas -- remember the Leon Lett Bowl?) than I do with sunny skies and highs in the 70s. Don't tell me all the negatives of global warming without mentioning a few of the positives...

The Whiskey family celebrated Thanksgiving last Sunday before K and the kids left, but I still took time today to reflect on things I'm thankful for -- for my family and friends; for my job and my income; for my home; for my health and my family's health; for the gifts of life, music and being an American; and for being able to live in north Texas this time of year. Watch for a slowdown in Blog activity as we gear up for the Christmas season, but I'll still post an occasional entry here as time allows. Until then...

nr: Ted Conover - Coyotes
np: MTV - Beauty and the Geek

Live music, football, and trains

The Return of Hayes Carll

At least they spelled his name right this time...
When you see the blue marquee, it means just one thing... Whiskey has been to a show at Dan's in Denton. Last Friday, I caught Hayes Carll, the first show I've been to since last month's Old 97s show in Dallas. This was my second time to see Hayes -- I caught him at Dan's back in June but didn't get any pictures. Last time around, the Sidehill Gougers opened; this time, it was Corb Lund -- who I would liked to have seen, but I didn't get off work until 2230 and didn't make it there in time. I did catch all of Hayes' set, though. Hayes and his band started playing around 2315 and played til 0100 or so. They opened with "Hey Baby, Where You Been?", the same song they opened with last time. They had a guest guitarist with them this time -- Jesse Dayton, a rockin' rockabilly player from Austin who really, well, rocked. I'm gonna have to get a hold of some of his cd's. As far as the Hayes Carll set, they played most of the songs from both of their albums -- Flowers and Liquor and Little Rock.

Hayes Carll at Dan's in Denton - Friday, Nov. 17

Jesse Dayton and Hayes Carll
They sounded great, I'm glad I went, and I'd highly recommend catching one of their shows if you have a chance.
Game of the Year?

The Dallas Cowboys had a lot of "big games" on their schedule this season, but possibly none bigger than their matchup against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Nov 19. It so happened that K and I were able to attend that game. After several seasons of disinterest, along with an unfavorable work schedule, I have managed to attend one game per season during the past 3 years. In 2004, we caught the Cowboys' loss to the Saints (well, what do you expect when Vinny Testaverde is your starting QB); last season we caught an overtime win against the Giants; and this season it was the Colts. I calculated that even if the Cowboys didn't bring their "A" game, at least we'd be seeing ONE good team. And I'm reasonably familiar with the Colts; our local networks seem to pick up quite a few of their games... I've probably seen almost as many Colts games as Cowboys games on tv during the past two seasons. Of course I was hoping for (but not necessarily expecting) a Cowboys victory. It was nice to see them pull off the "W" though.
Anyway, it's always fun to take in an NFL game between two powerhouse teams. Between the rowdy fans, the tailgaters, and the teams themselves, it's quite a spectacle -- a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

tailgaters outside Texas Stadium

Brokeback Manning?

home of the Dallas Cowboys - for a few more years

the Cowboys take the field

Peyton Manning gesturing wildly before the snap

Time running out... 21-14 would be the final

Our seats were in the third row of the upper deck on about the 25 yard line... a great view! It was cool to be able to attend such a high profile game, featuring an improving Cowboys offense led by Tony Romo, against an unbeaten Colts team. The crowd was loud enough to be a factor during the Colts' possessions, and Dallas played well enough to hand the Colts their first loss. With the Eagles' loss of Donavan McNabb decreasing Philly's likelihood of reaching the post season, and the Giants recently exhibiting poor showings against the Bears and the Jags, could Dallas really be the top team in the NFC East? I guess the prudent thing to do would be to wait and see how they do against the Bucs tomorrow.
Another Monday, another day by the tracks

For the second Monday in a row, I spent some time shooting trains. After a couple hours in Saginaw, I headed over to Dallas to see what was running. It was a great day to be out (full sun all day and a high in the 60s), and I caught quite a few.

coal load at Saginaw. 11/20/06

UP westbound, west of downtown Dallas

Whiskey's World Series of Pop Culture

No correct answers were received for question # 8 (Name the characters played by actor Brian Doyle-Murray in the movies "Waynes World" and "JFK". )

Answer: In "Wayne's World", Brian Doyle-Murray played Noah Vanderhoff, the owner of a chain of video arcades. In Oliver Stone's "JFK", Doyle-Murray played Jack Ruby.
I'll post another question next time.

nr: Ted Conover - Coyotes
np: Devil in a Woodpile

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reflections at mid-week

A grungy day in Roanoke

Tuesday found three Southern Pacific locomotives -- each more grungy-looking than the last -- on hand in Roanoke, Texas (UP Choctaw Sub, originally T&P). I took a short break from my bike ride to photograph each of them, more or less for posterity. I'm somewhat amazed that... 1) Ten years after the UP-SP merger, locomotives are still running around looking like these and... 2) that un-rebuilt GP40-2s are still active on ANY Class One railroad.

Southern Pacific 7619 - Roanoke, TX - 11/14/06

Some people dismiss today's Class One railroads as being uninteresting (i.e. "everything looks the same"), but as long as there are gems like this holding down assignments on branch lines and industrial spurs, I'll beg to differ.

We don't know how good we have it

A couple years ago, I read a couple books about the immigration situation between the U.S. and Mexico. One -- Coyotes, by Ted Conover -- is an auto-biographical account of the author's experiences living and working with various groups of illegal immigrants during the 1980s. The other -- the Devil's Highway, by Luis Alberto Urrea -- chronicles an ill-fated crossing of the southern Arizona desert in May 2001, when 14 illegal immigrants died from dehydration and exposure after their guides lost their way and abandoned the group.

I've just finished reading The Devil's Highway for a second time, and am now in the process of re-reading Coyotes. Besides putting a human face on the immigration issue, both books serve as a sobering reminder of the lengths to which some of our neighbors to the south will go to improve their standard of living... to move incrementally closer to a lifestyle that many of us in the U.S. take for granted. It seems especially appropriate to reflect on this as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

Living in one of north Fort Worth's newer neighborhoods, where many new houses are being built, we see a lot of construction workers in our area. I'm not exaggerating when I say that probably 95% of the workers are Hispanic, and I'd hazard a guess that a large portion of them are illegals. I wonder what stories they have about crossing the border, what hazards they've endured, what sorts of lives they'll be going home to when (if?) they decide to return to Mexico. I'm not always as appreciative of my life -- of my healthy family, of our nice home, of my cushy little job down at the train dispatchers' office -- as I should be. Books like Coyotes and The Devil's Highway really put things in perspective, and help remind me of how truly fortunate I am.

If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend one or both books -- they're two of the most interesting and captivating current events books I've ever read.

Whiskey's World Series of Pop Culture (part 8 of an occasional series)

I received simultaneous correct answers to question # 7. The Bubble Boy's father drove a Yoo-Hoo truck. Congrats to Shawn Levy and also "Ft. Worthian", who both submitted the correct answer. I'm not sure who was first -- Shawn responded via email and Ft. Worthian posted a comment on the page -- so we'll call it a tie.
I was a big fan of the Seinfeld series. I believe the "Bubble Boy" episode ran during the fourth season (the same season as the legendary episode "the Contest") which, as far as I'm concerned, was the best season by far. That year's season finale provided a nice finishing touch when it featured several of the minor characters seen during the season (including the Bubble Boy) watching the "pilot" episode scripted by George and Jerry. Classic!

No one attempted to answer my extra credit questions, so I'll make those the next question...

Question # 8) Name the characters played by actor Brian Doyle-Murray in the movies "Waynes World" and "JFK".
Respond via email, or by posting a comment below.
nr: Ted Conover - Coyotes
np: King of the Hill reruns

Monday, November 13, 2006

Going through the motions

Some days, a guy just has to go out and get this train stuff out of his system. Monday dawned unexpectedly sunny. It wasn't too cold to go for a bike ride, but I convinced myself that it was, and instead I loaded up the camera gear and headed to Saginaw. Between articles in the Star-Telegram's sports page (way to go, Dallas Cowboys... nice win against Arizona yesterday; it almost made up for that pathetic loss to the 'skins) I photographed a few interesting trains.

"Devil in Disguise" - BNSF 599, recently renumbered from Santa Fe "666", made an appearance in Saginaw on Monday.

GP40X 3035 - Southbound yard transfer - Saginaw, TX

It's good to get out there and go through the motions once in a while -- stay familiar with the camera, chase a few trains, make sure you're in tune with how the railroad is operating. When interesting stuff shows up, that makes it even more enjoyable.

Getting in touch with Whiskey's feminine side

Well, today I dusted off an old Sugarcubes cassette and played a few songs, followed by a track from a solo album by Sugarcubes' vocalist Bjork. That's the kind of stuff that would have K saying "you know how I know you're gay?" if she caught me breaking out those tunes. "Just a walk down memory lane, Hon! Now just a minute while I cue up the 11-minute dance re-mix of 'Chains of Love' by Erasure..."

I'm not sure what made me want to listen to that stuff, but Bjork's hauntingly gorgeous voice never fails to give me goosebumps. High and powerful, with tremendous range and a thick accent, I can't always understand what she's saying, but on songs like the Sugarcubes' "Birthday" or Bjork's "Human Behavior", it just conveys such a sense of tragic beauty and delicate power. I've never heard anything like it.

"Well, I'll be God damned... that Whiskey's gone plumb loco! What's he talkin' about, Bubba"?

Some of you who have known me for only a few years might be surprised at how radically my musical tastes have changed during the course of my life. Here's a brief run-down of what I've been interested in, and at what ages:

7-11 (1979-1983) - Top 40, i.e. whatever Casey Casem was playing

12-14 (1984 - 1986) - heavy metal - Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Anthrax

15-16 (1987 - 1988) - punk / hardcore - Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, Black Flag

17-20 (1989-1992) - alternative - the Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order

21-26 (1993-1998) - alternative in a broader sense as "alternative" became more "mainstream" - Pearl Jam, Lemonheads, Red Hot Chili Peppers

27 - present (1999-2006) - mostly Americana / Texas country - Ray Wylie Hubbard, Waylon Jennings, the Gourds, Wayne Hancock

The thing is, since I've never thinned out my music collection much, I still have most of the stuff I was listening to back when I was 21 and 18 and even 16! Of course, a lot of the old stuff is on cassette -- or VINYL, which I can't listen to right now because I don't have a turntable set up. But I do still have an operational cassette deck. And occasionally, like it did today, the mood strikes me to hear something from way back. Now sometimes, I'm forced to admit that the stuff I listened to ad nauseam 16 years ago sounds like total crap today. A year or two ago, I put on a Sisters of Mercy (late '80s, wanna-be goth/industrial band) cassette and I barely had the stomach to make it through three songs. (During my junior year of high school, I went entire weeks without listening to anything other than their "Floodland" album.) My tolerance today for the Cure and for Depeche Mode -- also heavily featured in my late 1980s playlists -- isn't much better. Strangely, I can still listen to New Order without any ill effects -- well, except for the heavily overplayed "Blue Monday", which I didn't care for much even back then. I do dig New Order's sound... always have. It has survived the test of time a lot better than Sisters of Mercy or Depeche Mode. But it's good to hang onto some of that old stuff; if nothing else, hearing a song for the first time in years -- especially if your musical tastes have changed -- will sure put it in a different perspective.

Before you finish that Christmas list...

I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but everyone's starting to assume "Christmas mode". God knows, I've been getting the 3rd degree about what the kids and I want for Christmas. Here's an ad that appeared in our Sunday paper that would have had my wheels turning... if I didn't already own a digital SLR!

The only thing missing is a Santa hat...

So, does anyone remember Carmen Electra? Let's see... she was a hostess on the MTV game show "Singled Out", then she married Dennis Rodman... but what has she done for us lately? Not much that I can recall. I guess that's why she's appearing in Wolf Camera newspaper ads. Oh well, we'll see if they don't sell a few more cameras this holiday season...

Whiskey's World Series of Pop Culture (Part 7 of an occasional series)

No one has submitted an answer yet for question 7, so I'm re-submitting the question.

7) In the "Bubble Boy" episode of Seinfeld, actor Brian Doyle-Murray played the Bubble Boy's father. What was his occupation? (for extra credit, name the characters that Doyle-Murray played in the movies "JFK" and "Waynes World")

To play, simply email me with your response, or post it in the "comments" section below. No prizes will be awarded; all you get is the satisfaction of being right.


nr: Ted Conover - Coyotes

np: Wally Pleasant - Houses of the Holy Moly (stay tuned - sometime in the near future, I'll have to dedicate an entire blog entry to the genius of Wally Pleasant)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Canada good, Cowboys bad

A taste of Canada

No, I'm not talking about Molson or Labatt, but rather a pair of Canadian locomotives that appeared in Roanoke during my bike ride on Monday. Until Monday, I hadn't photographed a Canadian Pacific locomotive leading a train in over 10 years!

CP locomotives - southbound at Roanoke, TX

Seeing this train reminded me of a trip I took with my parents to the Canadian Rockies in 1983, when I was 11 years old. Our tour group visited Edmonton, Calgary, Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise (all in Alberta) and Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. The scenery was spectacular, but what I remember most were the trains. Along the course of our trip, we saw countless trains on the CN (Canadian National) and CP (Canadian Pacific). As a boy growing up in a west Texas town with minimal rail activity, I had hardly even heard of the Canadian railroads -- let alone seen any of their freight cars or locomotives! I was fascinated by how different they looked from the Santa Fe trains I was used to seeing back home. CN locomotives dressed in red, white and black; CP locomotives and cars displaying CP's "multi-mark" logo; yellow cabooses... I had never seen anything like them!

Also, I remember that my dad had purchased a copy of Model Railroader magazine for me to bring along on the trip. The magazine survived the vacation, but returned to Texas with tattered pages and dog-eared corners from repeated readings. And the page I was most attracted to was the full-page ad for that month's issue of Trains Magazine (real trains, not models) whose cover featured a tele-smash photo of an SP EMD locomotive in mountainous desert scenery.

Today, I look back at that trip in 1983 -- when I stared wide-eyed at exotic, Canadian freights and gazed longingly at a photo of a locomotive I thought I'd never see -- as the event that pushed me hopelessly over the edge toward a lifelong interest in trains and railroads. It was as big an influence as anything else in my life. When we returned home, I convinced Mom to order me a subscription to Trains. And the rest, as they say, is history. (23+ years later, I'm still a subscriber). And I've worked for the railroad for 11 years now...

Back to my Roanoke bike ride, I was sure surprised to stumble across a pair of CP units on a southbound freight in north Texas! CP 5989 still had its multi-mark and looked for all the world like (and may well have been) one of the very same engines I saw during that trip to Canada in '83. It's funny how some things seem to get frozen in time while the clock is ticking all around them.

CP 5989 - Roanoke, TX. 11/6/2006

CP 5989 displays the multi-mark ("Pac Man") logo

The CP-led train also had a few Canadian grain hoppers.

Ride 'em, Cowgirlz...

Wasn't I telling anyone who would listen last week that it would be just like the Dallas Cowboys to -- after beating the crap out of Carolina -- to then go up to Washington and lose?

Last Sunday's loss to the 'Skins was an ugly, ugly game... Dallas had so many chances to win, but can you really expect to come away with a victory when you give up over 150 yards in penalties, when Owens drops key passes, and when the coaching is as suspect as i've seen since the Barry Switzer era? Case in point... after taking over on downs from Washington at their own 1-yard line, instead of running a pass play to get a few yards away from the end zone and give themselves some breathing room, Dallas ran the ball and promptly gave up a safety... and it went downhill from there. Going for a 2-point conversion early when they should have gone for one, Owens dropping a pass that would have resulted in a sure touchdown (T.O. must have been distracted, thinking about what he was gonna do for his next end-zone celebration), and penalties, penalties, penalties. Penalties cost Dallas that game. Thank you, Mr. Owens, Witten, Williams, Gurode, Kozier... well, the list is just too long. But who ultimately bears the responsibility for properly motivating the players to play smart enough to refrain from committing these penalties (besides the players, themselves)? Uhhh, that would be the coaching staff.

When Parcells came to Dallas, he was widely heralded as the head coach who could help return the Cowboys to glory. Why hasn't it happened? I think a big factor is that Parcells' best years as a coach are behind him. Maybe he's just no longer up to the task, especially in terms of being able to motivate players to play "smarter". I will give Parcells credit for replacing Drew Bledsoe with Tony Romo -- it was definitely time for Bledsoe to go -- but if I see any more games coached like the Washington game, and if the players' lack of mental discipline continues to run rampant, I'll be ready for Jerry Jones to show Parcells the door. Bring back Jimmy Johnson!

As Dallas limps along with a 4-4 record at mid-season, I'm forced to admit that any anticipation I had of them reaching the playoffs was premature at best. To borrow a phrase from Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green from a few weeks ago, "The Cowboys are WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!" Some bad, some good... but not good enough. Not yet.

Whiskey's World Series of Pop Culture (Part 7 of an occasional series)

Congrats to Bryan of El Reno, Oklahoma for his correct response to question # 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.) The answer was "Say, Say, Say". I heard that song on the in-store PA system at a Walgreen's store last week and thought it would make a good question.

We'll fast-forward to the early 1990s for question # 7...

7) In the "Bubble Boy" episode of Seinfeld, actor Brian Doyle-Murray played the Bubble Boy's father. What was his occupation? (for extra credit, name the characters that Doyle-Murray played in the movies "JFK" and "Waynes World")

To play, simply email me with your response, or post it in the "comments" section below. No prizes will be awarded; all you get is the satisfaction of being right.


nr: Luis Alberto Urrea - The Devil's Highway
np: Johnny Cash - "Murder" cd from the "Love, God, Murder" collection

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Late October Adventures

East Texas Day Trip

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.

Texas State RR westbound approaching Palestine, TX. 10/22/06

walkaround inspection at Palestine

Also at Palestine: Texas State's MRS-3 locomotive # 8

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, 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 , 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.

inside Babes

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.

M tries the hokey pokey...

... 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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Vacation re-cap Part 6

Round Rock wedding
Two days after we arrived home from Port Aransas, we hit the road again. On October 14, K's younger sister got married in Round Rock. We would all be taking active parts in the wedding: K as a bridesmaid, L as a junior bridesmaid, M as a ring bearer, and me as the photographer. Additionally, K had spent lots of time during the past few months assembling flower arrangements, corsages, boutonnieres and bouquets.
It was a busy weekend, but we enjoyed it, especially getting to visit with lots of K's family from out of town.
The ceremony was very nice; congratulations to Keri and Eric. It's not every day that you get to attend a wedding between two people so perfect for each other. Here's to ya!
the happy couple

four generations: K and L (right) with K's mom and grandmother

This concludes Whiskey's Vacation Re-cap; we'll return you to regular blog programming beginning with the next entry.


nr: John Steinbeck - Tortilla Flat

np: VH-1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 1980s