Friday, April 28, 2017

Chicago Blues...

Of course we went out and saw some blues in Chicago. The world famous blues lounge Rosa's Bar is just minutes from the PK house. Most blues bars in Chicago and there are a quite a few such as Buddy Guy's, Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S, have what they call the vertical gig thing going on. Each night of the week, the same night of the week the local talent plays somewhere as their regular gig. On the night we went we saw the Matthew Skoller Band with them backing Detria Farr the second set. 

Rosa's is a good place to see a band. It's civilized meaning it has tables and a bar to sit at and we did make a reservation to make sure we had a place but that's also civilized behavior . That's missing in many live music venues these days, civilized behavior and a place to sit. The audience is often packed in like cattle. If you look at old pictures of the New York punk venue CBGBs they sat at tables even there back in the wild punk days. 

Speaking of the audience there seemed to be people from all over. There were some Irish sitting at a table behind us and since we had a couple of open spots at our table be invited a British man with a lady who was Argentine to sit with us. I also heard other accents I did not recognize. 

Here's the Matthew Skoller band. They are just back from Europe and the new cd is Blues Immigrant. As you might guess there was some political material here. One of the tunes is called "big Box Blues" a lament about the death of mom and pop business. He also referred to the days when we had Presidents with humanity.  

Good band, great dynamics. Matthew set up a Fender Super Reverb amp for his harp and that kind of amp usually means loud. At their softest playing the singers could be heard with out microphones. I have only seen one band that pulled off dynamics like this and that was Oceola, Arkansas born blues man Son Seals.    

Look them up on you tube. Skoller can be seen playing with many of the greats. 

Second set was Deitra Farr. A blues singer somewhat like Koko Taylor but smoother. Short and round she sat on a stool in front of the stage. She kept up a stream of jokes asking what was everybodys favorite place in Chicago. All the blues tourist of course hollered "here!" She said her favorite place was the airport because that meant she was leaving Chicago to make some money playing the blues somewhere else. It's always hard to be a prophet in your own hometown.   

A shot trying to catch the vibe and decoration of the place. 

A video with Chicago Blues man Lurie Bell. We saw him a few years ago at B.L.U.E.S. 

I bought Skoller's cd. I told him I was buying it because he was making a political statement with his music I agreed with. He thanked me and asked where I was from. I said "Texas." He said "You must not have many friends down there with politics like yours." I could only laugh. I mean, do I?  

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Play a Train Song...

That's what singer song writer Todd Snider said and what we did was take the Amtrak Texas Flyer from Longview to Chicago. Several folks have asked how it was so I'll do my best to give a review here. I think I am pretty qualified having ridden mass transit trains in Chicago, Europe and the good old USA. This was our second Amtrak ride. The first was a couple of years ago from Springfield Ill. to Chicago which from what I have learned was probably consider a local. As I post photos I'll give my impressions and tips. 

We caught the train in Longview. The station dates form the 1940 although the railroad has been through there since the 1870s. I think the Texas Flyer originates in San Antone. 

There's the train stopping for us. Some stops are pretty quick, pick up passengers, some longer are called smoke stops and occasionally the train pulls to a side track to let something faster pass. If it's a get off break as our final stop in Longview was on return be careful. One lady went in the station for a coke and the train was gone when she came out. 

Pop and Geneva in the dining car. We found the best ticket rate was to buy a coach class ticket for day time riding and have the status of that ticket change to sleeper on one of the stops. Once in the sleeper car we got two meals included in the ticket. You can order anything from the menu depending on meal with separate choices available breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pretty tasty dishes, hot sauce on the table with shrimp, chicken, steak or veggie each meal. I got the surf and turf for dinner which while I would not have paid the posted price it was a hearty well cooked meal and the steak was good quality.   

 We were a party of four so we were always  seated together at meals but it seemed nice that singles and couples were seated with strangers and makes for nice conversations. 

This is Pop in the observation car. This was my favorite place to spend time. Good views and as you can see not crowded. I never felt crowded by people on the ride. Cell phone charging, good wifi and daytime reading light. 

The coach car seats were good, reclining with a foot rest. Maybe a bit better than the upgraded coach class on a flight to Europe. I probably could sleep in those seats better that a plane or bus but the observation car was so pleasant I mostly stayed here.   

Rest rooms were about like an airplane. I think there were showers but I did not use them. I carry a man bag when I travel and I stuffed it with a book, a modest toilet kit, pajamas, and cell charger while the rest of the luggage was checked. Next time I might pack house shoes or flip flops. 

The Great Hall at Union Station in Chicago. Built in 1925, 110' ceiling and the third busiest station in the USA.  

Here's an out the window photo of a drunk guy that had to get off the train. It was no United Airlines deal as the crew and the police got him off without violence. I think the conductor might have had his hat knocked off. There was also an early morning stop that Pop and Geneva witnessed where a sick crew member was picked up by ambulance.  

St. Louis Arch at sundown through the observation car window. 

The Mississippi at St. Louis. 

Cathy in our sleeper car. 

Me sitting across from her. The bottom seats pull together to make a bed and there is a fold down that makes a top bunk. Other accommodations are available but I don't know for sure the details except they are not as good a bargain. 

On the ride to Chicago I took the low bunk. Cathy wanted to switch for the ride back but I could not tolerate the top bunk. I felt claustrophobic like I was in a coffin and had to switch back. I have felt like that before on rare occasions in large crowds. Entering the top bunk really was not a problem and Pop and Geneva were both able to sleep there.  

Amtrak is really not a profitable enterprise and requires government subsidies. I think the north eastern corridor of amtrak is profitable due to the fact of heavy commuter use and some of these profits are used to make ends meet across the operation. Looming budget cuts are a threat to the cross country trains. This should tell us commuter trains are possible and we should have them in Texas. The top speed of an Amtrak train is 150 MPH with speeds around the world ranging from 150 to 267 MPH. At speeds like this you can live in Lufkin and commute for the big bucks in Houston.   

I found train travel to be quite civilized. One compliant was the lost and found. If you roll your teeth up in a napkin and stash it in your bunk they won't find it for you.  


Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Got my on little zoo out back in an old dead pine. I should have kept notes on when this pine died and how long it's been standing. I have been saying for about a year it's going fall next big wind. 

I am not sure what kind of critters make these holes but there are owls, woodpeckers and squirrels all about so I think everybody probably shares in the lodging plus any dining that goes on with the bugs that are bound to be in the dead wood.   

Hard to really get a look all up and around because of the foliage of other trees but it looks like a regular apartment house with many different holes.  

Woody is at work here. The birds sing so loud they wake me at 4 in the mornings sometimes. 

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Friday, April 14, 2017


Lots of talk these days of resistance. Sounds of war drums in the air. Strange treatment of humans on airplanes and in prisons. Seems like it may portend things to come. I don't think so. These things have always been with us and I am writing today about a historical thing that happened to a 21 year old German woman named Sophie Scholl and a nonviolent resistance movement she was a member of in the city of Munich in 1943. 

The info I am going to summarize is available on Wikipedia. The photos are my own made at the University of Munich this past summer. 

Sophie was religious and influenced by the sermons of Cardinal John Henry Newman which were about a "theology of conscience." Sophie joined a group called the White Rose that advocated passive resistance to the Nazi government. The White Rose had distributed a pamphlet authored by Sophie's brother Hans. Horrified by reports by Sophie's boyfriend, a German soldier deployed to the Eastern Front of Nazi war crimes against Russians and Jews the group proceeded to author three more pamphlets. The writings used Biblical and philosophical reasoning to support intellectual resistance to the Nazis. 

Outside the University of Munich pages of the pamphlets are set in the brick walkways just like they scattered them when Sophie, Hans and Christopher Probst were arrested on campus Feb. 18, 1943.       .   

You may have noticed that in the good old USA trials take time. Guilty or innocent you get time to prepare a defense in a free country. In a dictatorship no such luxury. On Fed 22 the trio was tried and found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Sophie's only defense recorded were these words:

Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did.

A cell mate's letters later reviled her last words before going to trial:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

At 1700 hours the same day as the trial Sophie, Hans and Christopher were beheaded by guillotine. The sixth pamphlet that had been written by the White Rose was smuggled out of Germany and dropped by the millions of leaflets as propaganda against the Nazis by Allied forces.   

The internet tells us that the White Rose is remembered as an example of spiritual courage and social dissent against a "society of  violent repression, censorship and conformist pressure."

So that brings us to strange doings today. People singled out and dragged from airplanes. Death row inmates hurried to execution because of approaching expiration dates. Rumors of war, which I guarantee is making many young men nervous tonight. What's next? 

Maybe to tie things up here is another photo I made. It's a wall of a building with shrapnel damage in Munich. It's a one of a kind because from the impression I get is that most of modern Munich has been built since 1945. German war memorials are pretty low key and simple. It's not a mother of all bombs but people did die on this street just like Sophie and friends did on the execution block. 

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Time to Give Away a Big Screen...

Well if you are a pretty new blog reader you may not have got in on a big screen give away. It's kind of like those public radio or TV fundraisers. It's what keeps us on the air. We have not had to have one in a while since the last one raised $39,000.  I know that's a surprising figure to some but you know how expenses are. They go up just like the green fees on a golf course that Trump just bought. 

The donor of our latest big screen prize wishes to remain anonymous. That's what it seems to me because while on a bike ride this evening on a shady cool deserted East Texas dirt road I found it sitting there all alone, owner no where in sight. 

Now you must admit that's a pretty ugly appliance. In an age of flat screens it wore out a welcome long ago. I'd dump it also, just in the proper place which I note is at the City of Lufkin Recycle Center where there is a little tin garage for TVs, computers and other electronic gadgets that folks like this donor have grown weary of. 

In case you are wondering about the orientation of the photo I am sitting on my bike (of course, a helmet mom) and the TV is upside down in the ditch. Somehow as I stand here the whole of modern life parades past me in a mind movie newsreel upside down just like the TV and it all seems like it is a reflection of what things have come to be. Everybody's hair is messed up because they are upside down and I can see up all the women's dresses. It's some kind of holy allegory of life that a poet greater than me might grasp but all I can do is check my back pocket for a comb and avert my eyes from types of underwear I did not even know existed. 

So if you send me some money or better yet just give it to me when you see me and I'll enter you in this contest. If you want to check out the prize just drive past my road and take the second left. Be looking down and to the left. I left it there and you may wonder why I don't pick it up. That's not my role here is this newsreel. There is a Samaritan somewhere and he's gonna think something different about this big screen.  

Click the label links below and find out more about our history with the big screen.  .  

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Canoeing Lake Naconichie...

Took the canoe out for a paddle on Lake Naconichie. This lake is listed at 642 acres an is north of Nacogdoches off Highway 59. It has nice facilities, a boat dock, good launch ramp, swimming area and the toilets while housed in good clean structures are of the pit variety.   

Here is a look down the lake from the bridge. I was thinking, there's a fish by every stump. 

Other than the chicken houses in the distance nice view of the swimming area and the kayak launch

It's jungle with lots of downed and standing timber. I was expecting some panfish on little spinners and at least some small bass on this lake that becoming famous as a spot to catch large bass. I did not catch a single bass and the only bass bite I got was a swirl at a top water lure. Of course I was a bit limited in range of spots to check as I was paddle powered. Most boats seemed to be following a marked creek channel on upstream to farther away parts of the lake.  

My only catch of the day. At least I kept my two year string alive of always catching a fish out of the canoe when I go. I could use about a dozen of these tasty critters. 

I guess I am a little spoiled fishing on Rayburn in spots I have used for going on 50 or so years, many which my dad showed me. I might be a little to set in my ways to develop new tactics on a new lake. Maybe I'll hit this lake in a few more weeks and see if warming water brings on a good bream bite. 

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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Cigar Box Guitar Selling...

Had a fun day selling cigar box guitars at the Heritage Antiques Vintage Flea Market in down town Lufkin. There was a parking lot full of vendors at the antiques store and more vendors lined downtown First Street which was blocked to traffic as the first City of Lufkin Market Days which will take place the second Saturday of each month. 

Here's my booth all set up ready to go. Time for this event was 9-2pm but I have found with these thinks the hardcores set up at 6:30 or 7 and that was the time I was there to begin. 

 Of course no cigar box booth would be complete without a celebrity endorser present to kiss girls and hug babies and Banjo Bill was once again on hand on tenor banjo to lay down a solid old time groove. 

Overall a totally interesting day. Sales were a bit different from the pattern these things have followed in the past. I sold one nice tin banjo and a bunch of the one string diddly bow stuff. It was unusual that none of my percussion sold but I did give one shaker away to a guy that bought two one strings. 

I met a guy that was to say the least, an usual looking dude.  While interested in the booth he moved on but when I got home I found he was a beginning builder and had added me to his friends list on the Cigar Box Nation Forum. 

One of the other vendors, a book seller has planted gourds. He promised me some for instruments. I promised him a free instrument if he provided me with some good ones. 

I bought 5 used records, an old Firefall I had on 8 track as a kid, a double Little Richard Hits, Glenn Campbell Galveston, a Betty Davis and an old Tony Joe White. At a buck each I have buyers remore this morning that I did not buy more. 

Saw two very clean looking Peavy speakers that looked just right for putting together a Meatsweats sound system.  The vendor even came down to a price that was exactly the amount of money I had made in my booth. Downside of this was that I would have had to spend more money on a power amp and speaker cables so I passed on the deal.  

I ran into an old high school friend who recalled an old story about how I came in one day in 1976 with the record Frampton Comes Alive and said "boys I believe this is going to be a hit." I still recall that day also and that those guys had never heard of Peter Frampton. The record was a big hit. My friend was glad that I was still into music just as passionately this day as I was in 1976. He made no comment on the fact that all that talent and promise of a good ear had devolved into the  lo-fi tone of one or three strings and the company of banjo players. Maybe that will be a story he will tell someone else, "hey guess who I saw..." 

Seems like there were less kids in my booth this time. There was a teenage girl who seemed to be with the folks in the booth across the way who came in the booth several times. I could tell she was very interested but shy and Bill got her to pick up a one string but she grabbed it left handed and we asked she said she was a righty so we told her to flip it over and after touching it for 30 seconds and struggling a bit to figure out which end was which she said "too hard." I could write a blog post that goes on all day about this subject but I think you know what I mean.         

Thanks again to Heritage Antiques. Some one told me they donate all their proceeds from this event to an organization to end world hunger. I did spend some money in the church scout troop booth to help them out but I'll probably buy a lawn chair I saw on sale in today's paper with some of my profits.  


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Shameless Self Promotion...

This weekend, April 8th I will have a booth selling cigar box guitars at Heritage Antiques for their Spring Vintage Flea Market. Time will be about 9am to 2pm. There will also be something new going on along 1st Street called Main Street Lufkin Market Days. The Market Days will be an ongoing thing the second weekend of each month. 

Got everything lined up and priced. Guitars that have been in inventory for a while will be priced to go. No reasonable offers refused.  

Three good playing gigable guitars right here. 

Cathy called this a girl guitar. 

As you can see there is something at every price point. One and two string can curiosities, all playable instruments are priced to move.  

Got a batch of percussion and electric drum boxes that I will let go for $5 each. Every guitar purchase gets a free copper slide.  

Also appearing with me on tenor banjo will be my celebrity endorser Banjo Bill Cooney. He will play banjo, kiss girls and hug babies all for free. 


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