Friday, February 28, 2014

Parades Be Rolling...

If you wondered what to do this weekend it's not too late to head down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Of course there are problems that can occur on a short notice trip to the big easy. I am kind of an expert on this but as rockabilly singer Ronnie Self said in his 1957 recording of "Aint I'm a Dog" "forget about the danger, think of the fun." 

We all wen  to New Orleans a couple of weekends ago for some early Mardi Gras fun. Parades were rolling but they were walking parades and the floats were of a satirical nature featuring local, nation and global issues that need to be made fun of, exposed for their foolishness and are just down right stupid. Great entertainment but they did not throw many beads as the big motorized floats this weekend will.  There was a lot of shall we call it adult themes involved in the float construction and on a family page such as this we won't post those but I can come over to your house and show you the etchings I made of them.  

Her's some Mardi Gras photos I made of the parades and the family. See if you can pick out the relatives from the innocent bystanders. 
Throw me something mister! 
Parade theme

As you can see Warren and Coraline survived their first Mardi Gras. I survived another one. There will be more. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Goldie, Cigar Box Build #29...

Gold hardware, piezo pick up and a really good electric sound for cigar box build #29. Check it out as it sits among the late winter blooming bulbs. It's for sale and if you buy it I expect you will soon be as famous as me as you travel from town to town playing and singing your songs. 

Of course there are those that embark on a career such as this and they tell me, "Mudbelly, I had those blues you always talking about and they weren't all that bad." To this I reply "Those were not the Mudbelly blues you had."

Here's the photos. Buy the blues

for $75.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Live Music New Orleans...

Frenchmen Street is where all the hot local music plays these days in New Orleans. This street is an easy walk outside the Quarter and the music tumbles out of almost every door with the bands changing every couple of hours into the late Louisiana evenings. There are still some good bands and touring shows to be seen uptown at Tip's, the Maple Leaf and Rock and Bowl but Frenchman Street is pretty easy especially if you are staying in the Marigny.

This is a show I was excited about and was the best I saw. It's the Tin Men so called because the instruments are tuba, Washboard and resonator guitar. I now have two of their cds and like it a lot.  
And here is what they sound like:

Another guy I am following is Luke Winslow King. I saw them at the Three Muses on Frenchman Street. Did not see the whole show as it would have been a good idea to come early, snag a table for dinner and sit for the whole show instead of standing three deep at the bar. You live and learn and the Three Muses is a small quiet venue worth a more worthy evening than I could give it. 
Here is another youtube:

I support cool music. If you don't know what's cool, call me. 

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pictures of My Food...

I don't post photos of my food. I know as soon as I hit the "publish" button folks will start to come over, call, and email that I post pictures of my food. Well maybe I have and I know I have posted quite a few photos of my food before it was cleaned, plucked, skinned and so on. I guess maybe some folks get ideas what this blog is about that are not really what it's about. You might have seen a picture of my food and I was really talking about something else. You might say I was using a literary device and the task at hand for my device today is the great food at La Peniche restaurant in New Orleans. 

We discovered La Peniche last year. It's a 5 minute walk from the Kerlerec Guest house where we stayed. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day except for maybe one day a week it closes early and opens late the next day. It's a small place with breakfast specials each day. This is when we usually ate there but I would like to go in at 3 in the morning just to check out who might be getting up to have breakfast at such an early New Orleans hour.  It also has a full menu of po boys, pork chops, fried seafood and so on. Breakfast is so good I could never bring myself to try anything else. Here it is, my breakfast:
This ladies and fat men is a red beans four egg omelet with biscuit, potatoes and cheese grits. I ate it all. In the upper left corner is a breakfast samich that Ali ate and it was no slouch of a meal either. I had the basket of butter for dessert. Bad thing about a breakfast like this is after eating it I would not be hungry till 5pm. I think that made everyone else mad at me because they would all be hungry and wanting to eat and I was not. I kept saying "Guys, we are going to have to eat breakfast earlier than 3pm for me to be hungry again by supper!" 

Anyway here's all the people madly glowering at be for being too full as they sit around the table at La Penichie. Left to right is Katie holding Coraline, Peter, Juan holding Warren, Miguel not paying attention and Mary paying attention for Miguel. 
I hold down the other end of the table with Ali. She is holding her breath that I will break the lens due to the shear weight of food swimming in my belly. 
Mardi Gras fun continues this weekend in the big easy. I got to work. If you are having fun eat one for me. You can see I ate one for you when I had to. 

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Lost Are Not Found...

It was a very nice place we stayed in the Marigny. It's an old neighborhood and the newer part near the river is where white Creole gentleman set up households for their mistresses of color in the early 19th century.  The musician Jelly Roll Morton was born there in 1890. By the mid 20th century it was a crime ridden area but when the worlds fair came in 1984 the commercialization of the Quarter drove many of those long time residents to this area of French/Spanish/Caribbean styled homes. Here's a photo of the display in the home of Marie Laveau's Father dating from the early 1800s, which was visible if you walked out out gate and looked right. 
I guess I discovered New Orleans right before the World's Fair of 1984. Although I can still remember warehouses along the river where there are now malls I guess you have to lump me in with the johnny come lately skinny legged britches crowd of hipsters and bachelor party celebrators. Here was a card we found on the dining table of the house. The proprietors said it was made by someone's mom for a bachelor party group in case they were separated and lost
This card and the possibility that you might get so drunk you can't find your way home brings to mind an experience from the late 80s that Cathy and I had at a Mardi Gras. We were young and not yet in our prime earning years so we had opted for a chain hotel on the West Bank. We had no car having splurged to fly from Houston to New Orleans. You could still get those 40 minute flights in those days for about 25 cents. After a night of parades we needed a cab to get back across the river to our lodging. 

Maybe it was a different time still closer to the old than the present. Maybe it was just we were new to each other and in love. What ever it was you could find and see things you were not expecting in the French Quarter. Now you find about what you find on any tourist gut in America and there are those that can't tell the difference but back then the old ghosts still roamed and walked like natural men. It was a night like this that we hailed a cab that drifted toward us with two men sitting in the front seat. 

It was a beater of a cab. An unlicensed job driven by a wizened  old black man trying to make a few extra bucks off the tourist trade and confusion of Mardi Gras. The ragged car smoked, stunk, backfired and if I remember correctly we stopped and fueled once. The passenger sitting by the black man was a young clean cut white man wearing no shoes. It seemed that the cab might be taken but the driver motioned us in when we hailed. 

As I directed the driver to our hotel I mispronounced the Spanish name of our hotel. One of those times when my East Texas possum hunting ancestors got the best of me and my tongue stumble over the unfamiliar words of the big city. The young man curtly corrected me on pronunciation. This caused the driver to explode. He said, "well at least he know where he staying!"   

As we rode the story came to light that the young man wanted to also go to his hotel but was left shoe less by his friends and could not remember which hotel he was staying in. Remember this is way before cell phones and I bet this is a common problem in New Orleans, maybe even the mother that made the address cards had it herself. The old school morals of the taxi driver kicked in and he proceeded to lecture the younger man on "just what kind of friends are these?" It was unimaginable to him that your friends would run off and leave you in a strange place lost and shoeless.  The driver then dropped us at our hotel. He and the younger man drove together off into the early river morning. 

I think back on these people and I bet the old taxi driver is dead. The car is certainly in a junk yard. It needed to be on the day we rode in it. The other man seemed a few years younger than us so that would make him a good 50 years old or better now. Maybe the ghost of the old taxi cruised through the Quarter this past weekend and the old man picked me out of the crowd and remembered giving me that ride. Possibly he turned to the ghost of the man next to him with the cold pale bare feet and said "see, he have his family with him."  

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Courtyard with a View...

I am relaxing in our rental's courtyard. It really does not have a view. Maybe a view of the blog but it is a private place where I sit, write and listen to WWOZ on the radio. That's kind of how all the sitting places down here are. You can't see much but there there are not many who can see you. There are a few other tenants in the apartments ringing this hidden place. I think this little complex has the capacity to sleep 32 people in the various spaces. There is not that many here but I could be mistaken. New Orleans is a world of things to do. I think a person comes here to do a thing of his choosing and it may well not be a thing that you yourself ever imagined. I think that is one of the things that makes the world great. All scatter out and see what you want. I don't like a bunch of people infringing on my schtick anyway. 
The kids and their others all made it down and have begun departing. All are headed back to the world. Katie and Peter are still here and are scheduled to leave tomorrow but for now they have wandered to the Quarter. Mary and Miguel left early to visit Don Miguel in the hospital in Houston where his recovery continues. Morgan and Ali left this morning and found out yesterday they have a house they bid on under contract. Rose, Juan and grandkids left a few minutes ago as Rose and Coraline have school tomorrow. Hopefully this little weekend will recharge all theirt energies to continue to work, play and love each other. 

As you know I have been busy capturing as many photos of tuba players as I can. Here are a few of the family. 
It did not seem like people were as drunk as the last time I visited Bourbon St. but there were certainly plenty of folks there. Of course by most standards I was in bed before the real fun started. 
Miguel tells Juan about the two old boys down on Dumaine. They both had a dress the same. That's ok I am not making fun of them at all. Just look in these photos as see how many folks are having the same big old green drink of some kind. 

Of course I will devote special time to grand kid photos but for now as all head back to their homes, thanks for coming down to celebrate. 

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Friday, February 14, 2014

So Many Tubas So Little Time...

I'm down here in New Orleans. I brought a couple of instruments with me and for a few minutes each day I sit in our little courtyard and quietly strum a tune or two. I do it quietly because there are other guests in the surrounding apartments. Not to be judgmental but I can make an educated guess that there is going to be one in the crowd that thinks I am too smart for my britches in the way I have strung wire, wood and cigar box together to make these sounds, these old songs. Probably good thing I did not bring a tuba. 

In addition to the loud factor that keeps me from disturbing other guest with a tuba there are a couple of other little things. One of them is some nasty noise ordinance politics that have been happening between city residents, club owners and city government that I don't even begin to understand. The other is the fact there there are tuba players out the wazoo around here. To start latest Tuba Tales I'll post photos of guys I did not see play a note.  I caught them in off guard moments and this is a guy I saw in in Jackson Square. 
He looks a little lonely sitting with early morning (I like early mornings in the Quarter best, we know what's down there at night) sunlight glinting from his bell but actually his girl is on the other side of him. I did not see him play but folks were forming pick up bands and I hope he made some good tips for the day. 

I saw this guy walking along Frenchman Street. 
I have done a lot with the tuba in my life. Most of it was early on and my chops have faded a bit as I seem to be reduced to playing Christmas songs, nursery rhymes and general farting noises. I don't think I have ever done like this guy and carried a tuba and led two dogs around by leash. In fact I don't think the guys sitting in the chair has every been smelled up and down by a tuba player's dog. What ever their purpose for the evening tuba, man and dogs drifted on off toward Decatur Street and what ever adventures await for the evening in the Quarter. 

I saw this group gathering for a day of Jams in Jackson Square. It was the same morning I made the other young man's photo. Don't know which guy was the tuba player but I wondered if you can have too many tubas in the square. Some in my vicinity think you can with too many with the number being one, meaning me. 
This tuba belonged to the tuba player in Dorine the clarinet player's band. I have one of their cds  I bought years ago and they can still be seen playing around the Quarter. I think Dorine used to be married to the tuba player but I am not sure if she still is. I did not see this group play and one reason I am not sure of her martial status is that a couple of hours later when we were eating at a neighborhood boil house located the other side of Claibourne Avenue across the street from Ernie K Doe's Mother in Law Lounge Dorine came in and sat a the other end of the communal dining table from us. Just like this tuba she was by herself. 
You know what? I have never played a tuba gig where  they said, "hey wait a minute, we gotta strap a microphone on that thing so you can be heard better." Maybe if I hang around in New Orleans it will happen for me. Or as singer song writer Todd Snider says, "maybe not." 


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Easy Southern Living...

We are in New Orleans. It's one of our favorite places. It's where me and Cathy went on our second date. It's where we went on our honeymoon. It's important and we are having all the kids down to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Actually the date is June 24th but since there are Mardi Gras parades and lots of things to do we came on down now. Katie and Peter are here and the rest of the kids will soon be drifting in. 

We are staying in the Kerlerac House. We rented the house across the courtyard last year and we are renting a different section of the complex this year. It was built about 1808. The voodoo queen Marie Lavue's father's house is down the street so you get the idea of the neighborhood vibe. Here's the living area. 
Heck with going out. I think I'll sit arount in turn of the century, 19th century comfort. 

Looks like this will be where the blog posts for the next few day originate. Hope it will be kind of like church for you too. 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Welcome to the Center of the Universe...

A long time ago I read a story. It was by one of the great science fiction writers. I can't remember which one (they tell me this is going to get worse) but I remember the story well. Some guy goes back in time, steps on a butterfly and on returning to his own time finds everything has been changed by this seemingly minor. action. Now my wife tells me not to believe that I am the center of the universe and that the things I do are influencing events elsewhere. It's getting a bit harder for her to hold this story line down when folks stop her on the street and say "I loved what you did on the blog!" I can make my case with two stories that appeared in the last two issues of the magazine Texas Observer. 

The mission statement of the Texas Observer has a nice ring. They claim to "hew hard to the truth" and " human values above all interest..." to never ..."serve the interest of the powerful..." and so on you get the idea. They are nice folks. The first story they ran that I was connected to was on the questions surrounding the death of Alfred Wright. Alfred was a young PTA in Jasper. He once worked for the same company as me. I met him and worked with him one time and we covered each other's patients a couple of other times. He was a nice guy and the FBI is now  looking into his death. The next month a story ran about a fellow holed up in the East Texas woods near Melrose with a bunch of guns hiding out from the local law. He was hiding on an old friend's land who noticed a suspicious trail and alerted the authorities. I won't name the friend since he was not named in the article. Let's say I hear it through the grapevine.  

So there you have it. Make up your own mind. I'll be going to bed soon but first I have the newest issue of the New Yorker to browse through. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

An Anniversary...

I don't have a good photo for this story. That's why I use this tuba picture. It's always been there and though sometimes it sits in the corner unplayed I'll always have it. The thing this anniversary marks is the loss of the job I used to have at the old paper mill. I though I would always have that because my dad and mom worked there and for so long it was such a stable place. I guess if they had not met there I would not have worked there for the 25 years I did. Times change and the mill was shut down. February 8th marked 10 years since I walked out the door for the last time.

I actually drove by the place today on my way into town. Not on purpose but just because it is the route I always use to the particular destination I was headed to. There is some kind of oil reclamation business using a small part of the grounds but the rest is being torn down. I guess I could have made a photo of the destruction but I didn't. One day a grandchild will drive me past the flat spot in the ground where the place was and I'll try to explain that I worked in a big factory right there and they will think I am crazy. It does seem like a dream. All those days and nights spent out there are distant. Much has happened in the last decade and it has been a good one for me. 

The short course is I did fine and many of you know the story from following the things I have written about on these pages the past few years. I hit the ground running, went to school, changed my life. I had help in the form of the support of my wife, family and school money available to people that lost their jobs under  the circumstances I did. I had help through various mentors in my field. I had good companies want to hire me. 

I know things did not go so great from everyone that lost the good blue collar jobs the mill represented. I am thankful each day that I have a good job that is interesting, in a nice facility with smart, pleasant coworkers. I probably have another decade or so to work. I think I can stand it because if for some reason I have to reinvent myself again I know I know how. 

Friday, February 07, 2014


I did not go duck hunting this year. It's something I did with my dad and something I do and have done with various of my kids at one time or the other as they had time or it held their interest. Sorry guys, family only allowed on this trip. No Duck Commanders are permitted. Looks like we were so busy that there was just no time for a trip to the woods, lakes and sloughs of East Texas this year. I guess I'll just have to write about it to enjoy it. 

Ducks and birds in general symbolize many things to me. Flying, freedom, travel and beauty just to start naming the easiest ones. I thought about that as I watched several flights of 15 or 20 canvasback ducks each pile up against the leeward side of an island on the lake when we were fishing the other day. Photos are grainy because I cropped them up as I could not get real close to make a professional style shot. It's still probably better than I could have done with a shot gun as I said I hunted ducks. I did not mention killing any. 

Not killing any brings to mind a trip from years back. Seems after my father's passing I did not do much duck hunting for a few years till the kids got old enough. They soon learned ducking is one of those things that don't always turn out like you like. You are cold. It rains. The boat won't start. And of course sometimes you lose your way. There are people who think I have lost my way with this blog but what I am now talking about is lost in the woods. It once happened to me and Morgan.  

Last weekend as Morgan and Ali went through old photos and scrap books this document was discovered. Here's the cover. The text is cursive writing so I am guessing third grade. 
First paragraph details where we went, that I shot at a wood duck and we saw a beaver lodge. Good solid reporting where, what, how. Then the last paragraph reads as follows and I quote:
"Then we got lost! So we went to bed. In the morning we got on a road. Then we saw the truck and went home." 

I hope the rest of my days on this old Earth slide by as effortlessly as a story told by a small boy. 


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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Big Pink Heart...

This has been the winter of wood getting. May be even the year of wood getting as I have cut firewood on at least 5 occasions in less than the past twelve months. That a good thing because I thought I had lost my chainsaw chops. Seems I have them back.

Some one asked me "what are chain saw chops?" Well just like you got some electric guitar chops, some tuba chops you got chain saw chops. It's what I imagine to be East Texas hipster slang and if you want to keep your chops up you have to use them.  Now I don't keep my tuba chops up like I should but that old chain saw had me huffing an puffing and I thought that I might be too old to cut like when I was younger. Turns out I was getting worn out cranking a 15 year old chain saw and with the purchase of a new 20" cut Ryobi  (I am now an official endorser) I can cut as well as ever.

This wood is from a tree that fell on the back of my property last spring. It leaned on my neighbors barbed wire fence landing right on top of a metal fence post but did not damaging the wire. Using the old saw I cleared it off the fence but wore down working with the cranky saw leaving the big trunk at a lean all on my property. I returned to the task this weekend cutting and splitting this wood for some friends. It's good stuff. 
This was some kind of oak. It has a colorful pink heart to it. It's nice to know it will burn keeping folks warm. That's what everyone should do with their heart, burn so it warms those around us. I would have never elected to cut this great tree as it stood but in the world a time comes for all things. It fell. I cut. It showed us something beautiful. 

I split all this wood myself and by then I was tiring. A careless hit with the maul and I cracked the handle. I'll have to replace it before I cut more. Here's a couple of photos of Morgan splitting wood when we cut downed trees on his property a few weeks ago. He has the same motion and good body mechanics as when he was a child and trying to split wood with this very maul.

So this is a story of how I got my chain saw chops back. I have a written agreement with my children to inform me if I start to loose my tuba or guitar chops to please tell me. And speaking of pink as Floyd said, ""Be Careful With That Axe, Eugene."."

Sunday, February 02, 2014

When I Said Be Ready to Fish...

I did not know you were going to be this ready. Morgan was in for the weekend. As he prepares to rent the Hearne house full time the agent thought the boat might be a liability issue for careless tenants so he brought it to Lufkin. I can assure you I am never reckless in a boat and will only use it properly. 
Morgan and Cathy rack up a double. Action was not too fast, lot of small throw backs but we did manage 13 keepers which lead to a fish fry with Ali and her parents Kim and Nick in attendance. Kim and Nick live in Texas City but have bought a home near us. There will probably be more days like this. 
While you see Cathy covered up here it was a pretty mild day on the lake as the spot we fished, deep off the old river channel was sheltered from the wind. 


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