Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas past and Christmas present

Whiskey family Christmas -- Temple, TX, 1975
... when I was 3 years old.

As a kid, nothing in life could match the anticipation of those final few hours before bedtime on Christmas Eve. I'd hang my stocking, read "The Night Before Christmas", and leave some snacks for Santa, tremendously excited by the idea of waking up the next morning to find a generous pile of gifts for me under the tree. On the more spritual side of things, I remember joining my parents for Christmas Eve church services many times. Even at a young age, I could sense something special in the air that told me that THIS night was different from all others -- that something wonderful was happening, above and beyond the presents that would be waiting for me at home.

These days, it's unfortunate that so many of us look at Christmas with a "let's get it over with" attitude, something that interferes with our already hectic lives. (Yes, I often count myself among that crowd). There are presents to be purchased, wrapped and mailed; cards to be signed and sent; decorations to put up; kids' activities to attend; meals to plan; family visits to coordinate. It can all be tremendously overwhelming, preventing us from focusing on the spiritual significance of this time of year, and distracting us from finding true joy in the season.

The true Christmas spirit usually doesn't find me until a few days before "the big day". I start to feel it when: the parking garage at work is already half empty when I show up to start my day; when KHYI plays Christmas songs like Willie Nelson singing "the First Noel" or Gene Autry doing "Here Comes Santa Claus"; when mysterious packages begin appearing under our Christmas tree; when I watch certain movies with my kids; when co-workers' cubicles are overflowing with trays of home-baked cookies and snacks; when the kids start bringing home Christmas-themed artwork from school; when we have a strong cold snap or snow during the third week of December; when I slip a few bucks into a Salvation Army collection bowl; when my train crews begin telling me "Merry Christmas" at the end of their last trip before the 25th; when the streets are empty late at night on Christmas Eve.

Here's hoping a little piece of that sense of Christmas magic finds you this year. Take a deep breath, give yourself a well-deserved break from wrapping presents, maybe set aside 90 minutes or so to take in a favorite holiday movie like "A Christmas Story" or "Polar Express" or even "Christmas Vacation". Read "The Night Before Christmas" with your kids. Attend a Christmas Eve church service, and see if your heart doesn't glow with joy during the singing of "Silent Night".

Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for reading my blog, and I'll see you again soon.


nr: The General and the Jaguar: Pershing's Hunt for Pancho Villa - Eileen Welsome
np: Asleep at the Wheel - "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Gourds and Six Flags

An evening with "dem Gourds"

Last Saturday evening, the 16th, my friend Mike and I caught the Gourds at the Wreck Room in Ft. Worth. I've seen several shows at the Wreck Room: Eleven Hundred Springs / Willie Heath Neal, SpeedTrucker, Split Lip Rayfield, and the Gourds two or three times before. The first time I went in there was right after the Great White concert fire in Rhode Island, and I could easily imagine this place going up in smoke in about 3 seconds if someone ignited any sort of pyrotechnic device. But I've never seen a bad show there... well, maybe that last SpeedTrucker show...

Anyway, it's always great to see the Gourds.

the Gourds at the Wreck Room in Ft. Worth 12/16/06

To the uninitiated, the Gourds are from Austin, and they're best described as a roots-rock / bluegrass / Americana combo. Their live shows are always tons of fun; they'll play covers ranging from Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings to Snoop Dogg and the Rolling Stones, as well as plenty of their own songs. The guys switch instruments after every couple of songs... on Saturday we got to see: Max on acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and steel guitar; Kevin on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and mandolin; Jimmy on bass and electric guitar; and Claude on accordion, acoustic guitar, keyboards, and maracas. Drummer Keith usually just plays drums, but will play tambourine on a song or two.

Kev on six-string, Jimmy on bass, Claude on squeezebox

Kevin rocks!

I've never seen Claude without that Detroit Tigers cap...

Max on fiddle

Jimmy on six-string

I used the text function on my cell phone to compile a set list. I might have missed a song or two, but I think I got most of them. So here it is, the Gourds set list from Saturday, December 16, 2006 at the Wreck Room in Ft. Worth.
Lower 48
Take me Back to Tulsa (Bob Wills)
Pill Bug Blues
Mister Betty
Give me back my Wig (Hound Dog Taylor)
New Roommate
Ants on the Melon
El Paso
Illegal Oyster
Pine Island Bayou
Jesus Christ with Signs Following
Burn the Honeysuckle
Layin' around the House
Waxie's Dargle (Pogues)
Last Month of the Year (Vera Ward Hall)
Feliz Navidad

an afternoon at Six Flags
On Sunday, I took L and a friend to Six Flags for the "Holiday in the Park" festivities. I had taken them to Six Flags back in August, right before school started. I sort of tentatively promised L that we could go back for "Frightfest" during Halloween, but we never got around to it. So I figured I'd make up for it by taking the girls during "Holiday in the Park". What sets "Holiday" apart from the normal summer operations? Well, imagine the park with about half the rides closed (but still with the same size crowd), Christmas music blaring from the PA system, and Christmas lights everywhere. That's pretty much it. We still had a pretty good time, riding the Shock Wave three times, the Titan twice (easily the best ride in the park), and the Superman Tower of Power once. The girls also rode a couple of other rides, and won some stuffed animals at the midway games.

L and her friend on the Shock Wave. See the loops reflected in the water? We'll be going through those in about 15 seconds...

Arms UP!

I was 12 the first time I went to Six Flags, when my cousin Tim was visiting from Ohio. The Judge Roy and the Shock Wave (both of which are still operating) were the first roller coasters I ever rode. And I returned several times during high school, and a few more times during college. Suffice to say that Six Flags always brings back some memories... now my daughter is making memories of her own.

playing the midway games

A relaxing ride on the carousel to end the day
Y'all come back, ya hear?
Check back in a day or two... it's December 22 as I type this, and I'll try to squeeze in one more entry before Christmas, most likely a feeble attempt to describe my feelings (both positive and nagative) about the holiday season.
nr: The General and the Jaguar: Pershing's Hunt for Pancho Villa - Eileen Welsome
np: the Highwaymen - Born and Raised in Black and White (on KHYI 95.3 FM)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mid-December Ramblings

Friday Night Lights

Read the book!

Well, I haven't seen one episode of the series on prime time tv, but I finally got around to watching the movie (Matt, I'll get your dvd back to you eventually). I thought it was ok -- but maybe a little over the top. My advice... skip the movie and read the book. I'm reading it now. Friday Night Lights documents the 1988 football season of Odessa Permian High School. I was a junior that year at San Angelo Central (which at the time was in the same district as Permian; we played them every year). Naturally, the book has helped bring back a flood of memories from my high school experience... of growing up in west Texas, of west Texans' attitudes toward politics and race relations, of attending a 5-A high school where football was a pretty big deal, of life as a teenager in the late 1980s, of the west Texas economic situation during that time. If you've ever wondered what life in 1980s west Texas was like, or if you experienced it and want to re-live some of it, read the book. The movie only scratched the surface.

the real Dallas Cowboys - exposed?

Did you SEE the debacle against New Orleans on Sunday night? Man, was that ugly! It sure called into question the likelihood of a Cowboys Super Bowl run. All I can say is, if this is the Cowboys team that we're going to see going up against a good team, in a game that MATTERS, they ain't gonna get very far in the playoffs (if they make it there at all). I'm thinking we'll see them rebound against Atlanta, but I've been wrong before. And then there are the Eagles looming on the schedule for Christmas Day... it's gonna be an interesting couple of weeks.

In other news, the Cowboys organization recently unveiled its plans for the new stadium in Arlington, which will open in 2009. I was amused by the comments of Ft Worth Star-Telegram columnist Gil LeBreton, who described it as looking like "a giant cell phone". Hmmm, could it be that the stadium design is actually an architectural homage to one of Terrell Owens' more infamous end-zone celebrations? Oh, wait... you say that wasn't T.O. who stashed a cell phone in the goal post; it was Joe Horn? I could've sworn that was a T.O. stunt...

At any rate, I just hope I'll be able to afford to go to a game at the new place... it looks like it'll be about a million times nicer than that sh** hole Texas Stadium! Texas Stadium was a decent facility in its day, but one could certainly argue that it has outlived its usefulness as an NFL venue.

Whiskey's week in review

M joined me for some Christmas shopping last Sunday. Best Buy and Target were absolute nightmares... the epitome of the phrase "a-holes and elbows". Remind me next year to do ALL my shopping on line, and to avoid the stores at all times except during weekday mornings.

On our way to go Christmas shopping, we had to wait for this coal load to clear...

It feels like Spring again. For the next several days we'll be seeing highs in the 70s and lows only in the lower 40s to upper 50s. I might total a hundred miles on my bike rides this week!

December 14... another great day to ride

A former Milwaukee Road hopper -- in fairly good condition --
was in Roanoke on December 13.

Holiday wishes from Whiskey

Merry Christmas from the family...

I'm starting to get pretty busy with Christmas preparations, and who knows when I'll get around to posting my next entry. So in case I don't get around to it later, here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or alternate winter solstice holiday of their choice. Thanks for reading my blog -- especially those of you who take the time to post comments or send emails. And tune in during 2007 for more of the same.
np: Blue Highway - Marbletown
nr: H. G. Bissinger - Friday Night Lights

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No time for the blog...

... just the pictures.

Nov. 29, 2006... a windy day in North Tarrant County. 24 hours later, the flags were blowing the opposite way, and we were getting sleet and snow.

Snow and ice on Nov. 30.

This is the neighbor's house across the street.

The day after... a dusting of snow on the tracks in Keller.

The sun is out once again.

M orders lunch at Whataburger...

Enjoying a healthy lunch at home. Photo by M.

L helps decorate the tree at Grandmom's...

A new SD70ACe leads coal loads over the Trinity River in Ft. Worth.

Dec 5, 2006.

This is what passes for fall color in north Texas.

Keller, Dec 6, 2006.

Boxcars rolling southbound through Keller.

Dec. 6, 2006.


nr: H.G. Bissinger - Friday Night Lights
np: King of the Hill rerun