Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saginaw fog

I spent some time in Saginaw on Sunday morning during a heavy fog. The train traffic was what I like to call "crazy busy". A crew on a yard job was stopped on the BN transfer waiting to get into Saginaw yard. Every time I thought the dispatcher might be ready to finally let them out onto the main, another train would appear out of the fog. I enjoyed the chance to do some shooting in some different weather conditions...

The 308 yard job waits patiently as a northbound rolls past...

Approach signal for a coal load at CP-10

A UP track inspector waits for track and time to cross the Saginaw Interlocking.

Tired of waiting, the track inspector sets off and drives around.

Track flags, train, and fog. Saginaw TX. Jan 27, 2008.

np: Flatt & Scruggs - Big Black Train

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dallas ghost signs

More from January 10, in and around downtown Dallas...

Chase Bag Co.

Meletio Electrical Supply Co.

India Tires


Battery Corp.
np: Hank Thompson - "Six pack to go"

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Neneh, meet Townes

I picked up my Townes Van Zandt "At my window" cd a few days ago, and thought I had grabbed the wrong one. At a glance, the Van Zandt cover looks surprisingly similar -- in color and composition -- to the cover of Neneh Cherry's "Homebrew". See for yourself...

different, but similar...

Not that it really means much, but I found it interesting that cd's featuring two vastly different styles of music would have such similar covers. Even more interesting, each cd contains one of my favorite slow-tempo, reflective, somber songs -- soft, soothing, contemplative, and ideal for relaxation, especially on the heels of a tough day.

Featured in the Wim Wenders film "Until the End of the World" (and on its soundtrack), Neneh Cherry's "Move with Me" features a striking blend of an apocalyptic, sorrowful melody and passionate, soulful vocals uttering haunting lines like, "I'm just a grain of sand walking in a sea of people, I look around me and my name is just 'someone'". It was easily one of my favorite tunes of the 1990s; the movie that featured it wasn't bad, either.

I used to love to listen to this song while driving across the west Texas desert, watching the scenery roll past my windows -- yuccas and ocotillos dotting endless prairies of yellow grass, with rugged gray mountains on the distant horizon -- a perfect visual background for such an amazing song. A phrase I've used to describe most of Mazzy Star's catalog (also entirely appropriate for west Texas) comes to mind -- lonely and beautiful music for a lonely and beautiful place.

The simpler of the two songs, Townes Van Zandt's "the Catfish Song"features Van Zandt's forlorn and rugged voice singing a poetic, metaphoric tale of dying love. Employing a "less is more" approach, the only instrumental background is provided by a simple piano and just a touch of violin. "I'll kindle my fires with the words I can't send you and the roads I can't follow and the songs I can't sing, I'll wander alone on the sleighbells of winter with the stars for a diamond and the world for a ring." Verses like these are textbook examples of the kind of work that has helped build Townes' reputation as one of the most talented lyricists of our time. Wasn't it Steve Earle who said, "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that"?

It doesn't really matter if the cover art causes me to get these cd's mixed up; I could listen to either -- or both -- of these songs all day long. As a matter of fact, I just might...


np: Johnny Bush - "Blaines"

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Deep Ellum murals & street scenes

A final batch of photos from Dallas' Deep Ellum district...

west wall of Trees
flag mural
Home Concepts

Periodic Table of Dallas

Save Deep Ellum

Commerce Street - looking west toward downtown Dallas

B Cool Gallery

alley and railroad tracks

Tile street name - 200 block of North Crowdus

Stay tuned for a final set of photos from Dallas.
Half a Lifetime Ago - update
Check out a new entry on my "Half a Lifetime Ago" blog...


np: Bruce Robison - "Red Letter Day" from KNON's Texas Renegade Radio, Vol. 2

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Deep Ellum blues - 2

More from Dallas' Deep Ellum area on January 10...
Brian shoots the T&P mural on Elm St.

Texas & Pacific diamond logo
Machine shop

Santa Fe Paint

Suits AND guns available under one roof!

Stay tuned for more...
np: Guy Clark - "New cut road"

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Deep Ellum blues - 1

Here today, gone tomorrow. Those four words pretty well sum up the bar and nightclub scene in the once-thriving Deep Ellum area east of downtown Dallas. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, dozens of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, art galleries, tattoo parlors, trendy furniture stores, and other business lined the streets of Elm, Main, and Commerce in the aging warehouse district east of downtown. Located at or near the locations of prohibition-era blues and jazz clubs, bars like Clearview, Dada, 2826, and Trees were staples of Dallas nightlife, especially for those interested in the local music scene. Crowded sidewalks and gridlocked streets were the norm, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Even on weeknights, something was always happening somewhere. And then things began to die down...

Deep Ellum welcome sign

With the resurgence of the bar scene on Lower Greenville and the growing popularity of the South Lamar area, Deep Ellum has begun to empty out. Early last year, the Gypsy Tea Room, one of the last of the "big name" music venues, padlocked its doors and quietly shut down. I'll fondly remember the shows I saw there, like Hagfish (a Dallas-based punk outfit) and local alt-country favorites the Old 97s. Trees, a club I began visiting during my freshman year of college (in 1990), has been closed since the end of 2005. I couldn't begin to guess the number of shows I saw at Trees over the years -- acts ranging from Tripping Daisy to Deep Blue Something to the Lemonheads... and an especially memorable "KISS cover night" on Valentines Day of '91 when various local bands, some donning KISS makeup, performed nothing but covers of songs by Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace. And Trees and the Gypsy only begin to scratch the surface of the long list of Deep Ellum's late 80s / early 90s hotspots that are no longer around.

Trees night club / bar - closed since 2005

As if the closure of many of the area's premier attractions wasn't bad enough, recent acts of violence and other criminal activity have worsened the situation, tarnishing the neighborhood's reputation and scaring potential visitors away. Some business owners interviewed by the Dallas Observer attribute the trouble to the opening of a handful of 18-and-up dance clubs which attract a lower scale of clientele -- "thugs and gangsters", as described by some of the longtime locals. ( Click here for full article)
Still, there seems to be at least a small amount of hope for the neighborhood's future. The Blind Lemon, a favorite spot during my senior year of college (1993-94) is still going, stubbornly refusing to close up shop. Club Dada still features live music three or four nights per week. A handful of smaller bars and restaurants are still around, as is the venerable Sons of Hermann Hall. And DART is extending one of its light rail lines into Deep Ellum from the downtown area. Maybe someday those sleek yellow and white trains will carry a new generation of club-goers to some of the city's most popular night spots.

Those repeated boom-and-bust cycles of economic activity have helped make Deep Ellum an especially rich target for photography. Plenty of remnants of the neighborhood's industrial and pre-industrial past still exist; along with the occasional rusty smokestack, you'll find brick store fronts whose decades-old fading letters still advertise "Machine Shop", "Paint Co.", "Suits", or "Guns". The more recent exodus of bars, shops, and galleries has left a new generation of ghost signs -- that is, the ones that the landlords didn't paint over or take down when the tenants left. Last Thursday, my friend Brian joined me for a brief walking tour of the area, documenting ghost signs, fading ads, and other topics of interest.
The Arrangement Southwest Furniture

Boyd Hotel

Bell Paint Co.

Jones-Blair Paint

Hope you enjoyed this first set of photos; stay tuned for more...
np: Hank Williams - "Long gone lonesome blues"

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wayne the Train in Denton

An evening with the World's Finest Purveyor of Juke Joint Swing

Last Friday after work, I caught another Wayne Hancock show at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton. Wayne put on a great show, as usual, belting out original numbers like "Flatland Boogie", "Big City Good Time Gal", "Highway 54", and covers like Hank Williams' "Long Gone Lonesome Blues", Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues", and of course the immortal "Route 66". (That's "route" -- rhymes with "out" -- not "root".)

Wayne Hancock at Dan's Silverleaf. Denton, TX Jan. 11, 2008.

taking a break to replace a string

Once more, with a flash. Wayne always has plenty of smiles...

Wayne's either on the wagon or he's off; on Friday, he was "on", but there were still plenty of jokes about the kind of cigarettes he planned to smoke during the break between sets.

He and the band played past the bar's 2 AM closing time; twice he begged owner Dan to let him play just one more song, boasting that his shows cost half as much as Junior Brown's but he plays twice as much. "Some of those other guys, they charge twice as much and play twice as less!" Or something like that. I had a good time, even though all my friends who said they were gonna go bailed on me so I ended up hanging around there by myself. Go see him sometime; he puts on a hell of a show.

np: Speedtrucker - "Truck Drivin' Man (Give it all I can)"

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You can't spell "crocodile tears" without "T.O."

God bless WBAP's Hal Jay for putting things in proper perspective yesterday morning following the Cowboys' playoff loss to the Giants.

"Is this worse than Vietnam?"

"Would you rather wake up in the morning with Jessica Simpson lying next to you, or win the Super Bowl?"

And my favorite: "Do y'all think this is worse than Britney Spears' parenting abilities"?

The playoff loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but that doesn't change the fact that this year's team gave us a great regular season (well, the first 12 games, anyway) of entertaining football. Their 13-3 record exceeded my expectations for the season by 3 or 4 wins, and they were a fun team to watch. At this point, the phrase "wait til next year" sounds like little more than a stomach-turning, half-assed attempt at an optimistic outlook, but really... what else are we to do, other than try to keep things in their proper perspective?


np: Townes Van Zandt - "The Catfish Song"

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Scratching the itch

Sometimes, it's good to just get out and see what's on the neighborhood rails. I didn't do much train-watching during mid- to late December, and I was getting the urge to see something -- anything -- on flanged, steel wheels. So I made a quick stop through Roanoke a few days ago. A northbound rolled through town while I was there, but the most interesting sightings were the monikers and logos found on cars tied down in the cement yard and storage tracks.

a familiar face on a cement hopper...

I think I've seen this one a few times before...

"Ewok" is commonly seen on covered hoppers.

I'm not quite sure what this is supposed to be...

Chessie auto parts boxcar

Still sleepin' after all these years -- the Chessie kitten

Wisconsin Central crest
One last look at holiday excess
For a number of reasons, I didn't blog much about the Christmas holiday season this past year. First and foremost, I was already feeling burned out on Christmas crap by early November, especially since the stores had their decorations flung all over the place even before Halloween.
I won't normally subject myself to an inordinate amount of trouble just to emulate what the masses are doing. When most of our neighbors were risking life and limb to install their outdoor Christmas lights, I decided the Whiskey family could survive the season simply by placing a lighted tree in our front window. But if the masses were truck drivers, and their rigs all looked like this, could you blame me for finally wanting to join the party?
'Twas the season at our local Peterbilt dealer...

Whiskey's concert calendar

Friday, Jan 11 - Wayne Hancock in Denton (Dan's)
Sunday, Jan 13 - Ray Wylie Hubbard in Ft Worth (Clubhouse Concert /White Elephant - 7 PM)
Thursday, Jan 31 - Gourds in Denton (Dan's)
Friday, Feb 1 - Gourds in Fort Worth (Aardvark)
Saturday, Feb 9 - Wayne Hancock in Fort Worth (Lola's)

nr: John Steinbeck - Grapes of Wrath
np: Jim Lauderdale / Ralph Stanley - "Oh soul!"

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

December leftovers - 2

More leftover photos from December...

Owl Cigar ads on east wall of Tindall Storage building - downtown Fort Worth

Post office, Grocery & Market - Fort Worth Stockyards
Rominger & Co. Horses & Mules - Fort Worth Stockyards

L.L. Herring Tavern - Fort Worth Stockyards

A foggy day in Saginaw - December 14

Catching up with the Frankenford

I've seen this unique truck on the freeway a couple of times while driving to work. A few Saturdays ago, I caught up with it for a closer look, parked behind an oil change place near the corner of Western Center and Beach.

"the Frankenford"

A partial parts inventory is listed on the hood.

rear view of Frankenford

nr: John Steinbeck - Grapes of Wrath
np: Scott Miller & Commonwealth - "Ciderville Saturday Night"

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