Wednesday, July 25, 2007

buZ blurr fan club

the buZ blurr phenomenon

If there's one thing that's cool about watching trains, especially in the era of widespread aerosol graffiti, it's the occasional sighting of a less obtrusive form of unauthorized railroad art, the freight car moniker. For several decades, hobos, railroad workers, and other aspiring artists have used chalk, lumber crayons or grease crayons to scrawl monikers on the sides of freight cars. Examples of the work of the more ambitious artists probably number into the tens of thousands.

a nod to Jack Kerouac - buZ blurr sketch on a boxcar at Roanoke

Witness the above drawing by a man known as "buZ blurr", or alternately as "Colossus of Roads". For several years, I've noticed his sketches of a benevolent-looking, pipe-smoking, bearded man in a stetson. Mr. blurr is reported to be a retired Union Pacific brakeman living in Arkansas. His drawings are usually accompanied by some sort of cryptic phrase or slogan, often a play on words or something capable of more than one interpretation. Some of the phrases make reference to trips he has taken.
At any rate, they're fun to watch for. Seeing one roll by is like receiving a friendly wave from a familiar stranger. And many of the signature phrases will make you think... "What did he mean by that"? In a world of mind-numbing spray-scrawled "F*** YOU"'s and unintelligible aerosol bombs and tags, it's refreshing to see something that hints at the use of one's intellect... to see something mystic, something clever, something poetic.
A bit of googling turned up a fair amount of information on buZ blurr, including descriptions and examples of his non-railroad related artistic endeavors and even his own blog. (It's not frequently updated, but it does provide a bit of insight into the meanings behind some of the slogans as well as admissions of his modus operandi: "I dove down to Hope to have access to railcars.")
In recent years, Mr. blurr's train sketchings seem to have attracted something of a cult following. The website of North Bank Fred -- proponent of train-hopping, railcar graffiti, hobo culture, and other things unseemly and illegal relating to railroads -- contains hundreds of buZ blurr drawings. buZ has been the subject of a number of interviews by journalists and art students researching the relationship between trains and graffiti. And a couple years ago, a pair of independent filmmakers travelled to Arkansas from Reno, Nevada-- by bicycle -- to track down the mysterious buZ, unsure of whether they'd find him and what to do if they did.
buZ bio on North Bank Fred's site:
over 70 pages of buZ blurr photos:
So I offer a tip of my hat to buZ blurr, whose drawings are seen daily on trains rolling throughout North America. As a fan, I watch for them every time a freight rumbles past. And as a dispatcher, it's cool to think that his sketches might grace the sides of a few of the cars on one of MY trains. Keep it up, buZ... I'll be watching.
np: Bill Monroe - "In the Pines"

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hank III at the Ridglea

The night Hank Williams III came (back) to town
(or "When the wife's away, Whiskey will play, part 2)

If you want to get up near the stage at a Hank III show, be prepared to dodge stage divers and slam-dancers, to see crazed young women lift their shirts, to see someone get beaten up (and possibly take an errant punch or two yourself), and to have a damn good time. And then maybe question the future of American society when it's all over.

I caught Hank Williams III at Ft Worth's Ridglea Theater on Monday the 16th - one of the wildest shows I've ever been to, and I've seen acts ranging from Fugazi to Anthrax / Public Enemy to the Butthole Surfers. If you wouldn't expect a country show to draw the sort of audience who enjoys mosh pits, slam dancing, and crowd surfing, you're obviously not familiar with Hank III. The grandson of the legendary Hank Williams, and son of "Bocephus" (Hank Williams, Jr.), Hank III has been performing "Hellbilly country" and speed metal / hardcore for several years. Many of his country songs are extremely up-tempo, with machine-gun drums and raucous steel guitar and fiddle-playin' presented with "outlaw" attitude... the hillbilly equivalent of Metallica or Megadeth. I'm sure you can imagine the kind of crowd that might attract.

Typical of Hank III's performances, Monday night's show was broken into three parts, beginning with the country set. I was mainly interested in experiencing his country material, since the last time I saw him I arrived late and missed most of that portion. It's the part of the show that draws the biggest crowd (a sizeable percentage of the audience departed when the metal started), and for my money, was easily the most entertaining. When Hank III replaces his cowboy hat with a trucker hat, the country stuff is over and the band delves into their speed metal and hardcore set. The third part of the show is the "Assjack" performance -- Hank III's band with a different vocalist replacing Hank. It's even louder and noisier, and I didn't stick around for that part.

My evening began when I arrived at the Ridglea around 8:30 pm. I had already missed the two opening acts, and I had to stand in line 20 for minutes or so since I didn't already had a ticket. Cover was $17. When I went inside, the lines at the bars were too long, so I just headed on down as close as I could get to the stage so I could take some pictures. Hey, I owe that much to my loyal blog readers, don't I? Hank III and his band took the stage around 9, opening with "Straight to Hell" followed by "Thrown out of the Bar".

Lining up outside to buy tickets

Hank Williams III drew a sizeable crowd, especially for a Monday night...

Other songs they played included "Dick in Dixie", "Not Everybody Likes Us", "Pills I Took", "Country Heroes", "Low Down", "I Don't Know", "Cocaine Blues" (Johnny Cash cover), "Long Haired Redneck" (David Allan Coe). They even dedicated a song to the late, notorious punker GG Allin. The mosh pit started around the third song ("Smoke & Wine"), right in front of where I was standing. Then the crowd mellowed out for a song or two before starting it up again, and more or less kept it up, with varying degrees of intensity, throughout the remainder of the set. Some of these idiots were even slamming during Hank III's slow-tempo cover of his grandfather's "I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive"! The moshers opened a gap in the crowd so I was able to get up even closer to the stage for more photos.

Hank Williams III at the Ridglea

Hank III and his band

Always a showman - it must run in the family...

The scariest looking man in country music? Hank III's bassist "Joe-Buck" performs at the Ridglea...

Joe-Buck and Hank III

The crowd looked like what I'd describe as "Saturday night at the trailer park" -- lots of wife-beater tank tops; Slayer t-shirts next to Kevin Fowler t-shirts; women in revealing, low-cut halter tops and too-short miniskirts; bad teeth; mohawks; shaved heads; long-haired heavy-metal types; piercings and facial hair galore; and tattoos, tattoos, tattoos.... a white trash meltdown in every sense of the word -- not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with that, but I suppose it was probably a good thing that K and the kids were out of town and couldn't go.

a disorderly crowd...

At least three women climbed up on stage during the show and raised their shirts (receiving copious applause) before jumping into the crowd. And about halfway through the show, a guy and a girl were punching and kicking some skinny punk who had fallen down right in front of me. Hank stopped playing right in the middle of the song until some of the bystanders helped him get back up. It was a little unnerving to see a guy physically assaulted right in front of me, especially with one of the assailants being a young woman. Of course, I had no idea what he had done to provoke the attack -- he may well have deserved it! The guy seemed ok afterwards (he was pretty "out of it") and he wasn't attacked again. I noticed a handful of other minor altercations (people trading trash talk, shoves, and punches)... some people really need to grow up or else lay off the booze and drugs when they go to a show.
I'm sure the audience was a little better behaved farther back, but since I wanted to get some photos, I had to brave the rough stuff so I could get closer to the stage. I never really feared for my own safety, though; even at 35, I feel like I can hold my own in the pit... hell, I've got 20 years of experience -- way more than a lot of the snot-noses in the crowd at the Ridglea! And it was cool to feel that same adrenaline rush I remembered from some of the shows I used to go to. At any rate, consider yourself warned -- when Hank III comes to your town, will you be ready?

Was I glad I went? Oh yeah... I'm familiar with most of Hank III's songs, so it was cool to hear them performed live. He and his band played with tons of energy and sounded great. It was a fun show, and one I'll remember for quite a while. Wonder how soon his next show will be...
np: Billy Joe Shaver / Waylon Jennings - "Oklahoma Wind"

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Friday, July 20, 2007

While the wife's away...

... Whiskey will play!

K and the kids were out of town for a few days earlier in the week, allowing me something that has become a rare luxury -- railfanning with few or no boundaries! No one to tell me where I can or can't go, when I have to be back home, or what I have to do when I get home... So on both of my rest days, I was out chasing trains most of the day. I had considered an overnight out-of-town trip (Rich Mountain on the KCS seemed appealing) but in the end I decided to stay closer to home. Here are some of the highlights...

I began my day on Sunday by chasing a trio of Ferromex GE's east on the UP Baird Sub (the former Texas & Pacific west of Ft Worth). What a catch! They're shown here approaching Santo. July 15, 2007.

On Sunday afternoon, I caught a pair of UP gensets switching the Del Monte / Saddle Creek warehouse in Saginaw.

I finally got some sunny shots of the BNSF Gensets -- BNSF 1228 at Saginaw.

A switch crew takes a break at Saginaw. BNSF 1228 and 2351 provide an illustration of motive power transition in the background.

Sunset at Herman on the BNSF Wichita Falls Sub (former Ft Worth & Denver northwest of Ft. Worth) .

On Monday, I was back out on the UP Baird Sub in time to catch UP 7625 (my first catch of a 7600) leading eastbound stacks west of Cisco near Dothan.

My camera setup for the previous photo...

Cryo-Trans reefer "Big Beaver" rolls through Roanoke on Monday afternoon...

End of the day on Monday... BNSF SD70ACe 9395 leads a coal train through Saginaw.

That's all for now; stay tuned for my next entry as I review Monday's Hank Williams III show.

np: Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder - "Get up John"

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Milestones & a picture show


On July 11, the odometer on my mike rolled past 5,000 miles. I've had it for not quite two years, meaning that I have averaged a little over 7 miles of riding every day of the year the time I've had it. Four days later, I was headed west on I-20 to do some photography near Abilene and I passed 60,000 on my truck. I've had it for just over three years, so I'm averaging less than 20k a year... WAY down from my years of 25k+ miles when I had the Durango and before that, the Ram Charger. I guess marriage and fatherhood have slowed me down some...

5k on the bike, 60 k on the truck

Picture show

A few photos of some of the stuff I've seen during the first half of July...

This 1-car derailment caused a small amount of excitement in Saginaw on July 6.

Grain trucks line up at the Saginaw elevators.

A Ferromex GE switches at Roanoke on July 11...

The nature of this company's business wasn't immediately made clear. Cisco, TX, July 16.

Double stacks roll past my window...

... westbound on the former Texas & Pacific near Cisco.

I finally caught UP's George Bush locomotive! UP4141 displays Air Force One colors in Fort Worth on July 16.

Coming next... "While the wife's away, Whiskey will play", featuring two days of train watching and my review of a Hank Williams III concert. Stay tuned!

np: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" on AMC

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Endless Spring

Rain and more rain

We've received measurable precipitation during every day in recent memory. We're still seeing highs only in the upper 80s to low 90s. It feels a lot more like late April or mid-May than July. I sure don't mind the cooler temperatures, but we really could use a few days to "dry out" so the ground will be able to hold more water from the next wave...

On July 2, the clouds inspired M to impersonate a well-known Edvard Munch painting...
ominous clouds over the neighbors' houses

David Finfrock on the Channel 5 weather
Big Island flashback
Check out this page from a recent REI catalog. The landscape looked very familiar to K and me, since we experienced it first-hand back in April. The location is the Pololu overlook on Hawaii's Big Island.
REI catalog page photo from Pololu overlook

K at Pololu overlook, April 2007

Boxcar sightings
Even when very few trains are running ( and due to the flooding up north, there sure haven't been many though Keller lately), something interesting always seems to show up, even if it's just a boxcar sporting an interesting logo from some faraway railroad. Here are a couple I've noticed during the past week.

Stockton Terminal & Eastern boxcar seen in Roanoke TX on July 1

Columbia & Cowlitz logo - Roanoke, TX, July 4
np: Kids in the Hall - Season 3, Disc 1

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