Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shepherd Dr to S Shepherd 3/30

John Lomax and I decided to take another break at the Buffao Bayou. Unlike White Oak Bayou, which at Shepherd has been concreted in for flood control, Buffalo Bayou still has its natural banks and is much prettier.
There's a lot of nature around Buffalo Bayou. I am blessed to be able to see it close up at least once or twice a week, as the Buffalo Bayou trails are where I do my running program. My usual run is from the Houston Club downtown (Milam at Rusk) to Shepherd drive (along the south side of the Bayou) and then back to the Houston Club along the north side trails and up the Sabine to Bagby promenade. It's a great run. You get to go through the Art Park, the frisbee golf route, the dog park, the Waugh Drive bat colony (twice) and past the Jewish cemetary. The halfway point is obviously at Shepherd and on the days when I'm not totally kicking it hard I take a break there. One of the things I noticed is that original Shepherd bridge over the bayou is extremely old and originally was built as just two lanes opposing each other. Later, two extra lanes plus some skinny sidewalks were added. You can see the original footprint of the bridge from the top surface as you stand on it, but if you go underneath, you can see how it was engineered and built. It's very old-fashioned, with steel braces and additional piers. The original structure still bears the brunt of the weight and was obviously built very well. Still, I'm surprised they haven't rebult this bridge since it's easily one of the oldest bridges in town that is used heavily. There is constant traffic over it, including medium weight truck traffic, dump trucks and the like. John and I went beneath to check the structure out, listen to some songs about hanging out under bridges on the IPod , and take a break. Underneath, we encountered a homeless person's nest, plus several different human waste depositories, various items such as bikes and a full-on centerfold taped up to a concrete retaining wall, and I found 16 cents. The story is actually funnier, but I'm sure John will write about it in his Houston Press article, which was the whole reason we took the trek. Here's a picture of the underside of the bridge. It's much better in person- I recommend checking it out if you're into that stuff.
As we walked along past the River Oaks Shopping Center and its two Starbucks across the street from each other I couldn't help but remember how run-down that center used to be. I think it says more about me than anything else that I used to shop there much more often for a variety of dfferent purposes when it was a dump.
Just past that, near the corner of Pelham and Shepherd is a house whose resident has sort of "Orange Showed" his or her driveway up. The telltale sign of early 80's Mercedes cars in shoddy condition in the driveway leads me to believe that whoever did this is one of the "old rich" still populating the innards of River Oaks. Two really nice and somewhat subtle installations here. Just enough to be really cool, but not enough to rile up the neighborhood. These were not here a few years ago, by the way.

We stopped, had a beer and ate our first (and my last) meal of the day at the new Red Lion Pub at Shepherd across from where Leo's used to be. This is also spitting distance from the Arby's on the corner of Shepherd and Fairview, which was, in a better life, the Popeyes Fried Chicken I worked at back in '89. Back then the west side of the long block consisted of Popeyes, Kojak's Health Food Store, Pizza Hut, Lukes hamburgers, Jamail Bros grocery store, and Frost Bros dept store. Now it's Arby's, a vacant tract, the Red Lion, Petco, and crappy condo/apts (Human mini-storage) Lame.
The service and food at the Red Lion was pretty good. It's a nice place with good booths and soccer on TV. St Pauli Girl N.A. is their non-alcoholic beer. That's in my top three, so that was cool.
By this time it was about 5:15 PM and I had to be at the Continental for the Aqua Velva show before 7:15 so I told John I was going to break off. He decided to break it too, since Shepherd between 59 and Rice is all residential and not only lives back there but also grew up there. I got a Starbucks while he walked to West Alabama Ice House to meet Greg Wood for a beer. I met them down there and saw Opie Hendrix loading in for a gig at the place. The Alabama Ice House always amazes me to some extent. Laid back everything, plus all the late night drug dealers in the area start their day out there. It's sort of comforting in a really bizarre and almost sick way. Once again, I'm glad I don't do drugs- that way I can be cordial and/or distant at will with no baggage at all.
Took this picture of Nicoletti's- how many more years will this be here? What a fine building. Selling lampshades. I have a feeling one day I'll drive by and there will be condos. Say it isn't so!
I had to split after a few words with John, Greg and his friend Emma at the icehuse, so I decided to utilize the hours left on my Metro day pass and catch the somewhat spotty W Alabama bus #78 back to the Continental. The smart thing was I knew I was pressed for time, so I started walking. It was good thing, for even after walking from the ice house past Montrose, there was still no sign of a bus. Right as I was pretty much decided that I would make it back to the club on foot before even seeing a 78, Gerard Choucroun's old friend Janice Rubin pulled up in her pickup and offered me a ride. That was really nice and helped me get to the show on time with a little time to spare after setting up equipment, changing clothes and all the rest. The show went great and at 2 AM I crashed HARD. Lots of walking for one day, and totally worth it!

North Shepherd to Shepherd, Part 2

After a couple of O'Dell's for me and Lone Stars for John at Buffalo Fred's we hit the road once again. I have seen the Safe Way Motors sign for years but never from this side since the traffic flows one way in the opposite direction. Here's another reminder of how much more you can see when walking. I would kill to have this sign for virtually any purpose, like opening a burger stand in Marfa called "Prince's" that also functions as a convenience store and small bowling alley.

We passed W 11th coming into town (and one of the last original era Popeyes buildings on same corner). At this point the places to dine change from such and such "shop" or "diner" to names like "Thai Bistro". This is to forewarn you of the gentrified state of the Heights, I guess, and the corresponding prices.
Something that can infuriate me if I think about it to much is the removal of railroad lines for really any reason. There are so many ways to reposition rail lines or at least rail right of way in its existing state for public and or private transportation use. Here's a pic of the former rail line property under the Shepherd rail aqueduct just north of I-10. I remember the rail yard just west of this location about 8 tracks wide. We used to walk around there and look at trains in high school.

Stopped at the Valero on I-10 and Shepherd for hot coffee. I noticed that Muddy's Ice House on the northeast corner of same intersection is closed and that "Mike's Big 10 Tire" on the NW corner is now "Vic's Big 10 Tire" That's too bad- I liked Mike. They did a bunch of good work for me on the Murgatroyd over the years when they were on Washington and called "Buddy's Big 10 Tire". Buddy is Mike's dad.
I've been meaning to go to Mojo Risin' coffeehouse, but haven't yet. It's near the Time Out Sports Bar, past Jax and the rest of "restaurant row" or what Keith Coit used to refer to as "the Zone". If you knew Keith, you can guess what that meant. Anyway, here's a pic- they were closed and are apparently mostly a lunch place.

The last active East/West RR tracks through downtown are the UP tracks near Center St south of I-10. These tracks are the same tracks that go all the way to Marfa. Here's a shot.

I was very surprised that I saw ZERO Mexican men waiting for work on the tracks. I guess John Culberson sent some fat white guys who drink Diet Coke in their office cubicles to "defend America" and got rid of them. Here's a picture of me holding up a nice sign I found on the ground there.

Far North Shepherd to Alalbama, Friday 3/30 Part 1

I answered the call from John N Lomax, Music Editor for the Houston Press, to walk from where Shepherd drive ends (at I-45, Little York exit) into town where it ends at Rice U.
10 Am John met me in front of the Continental Club and we boarded the light rail down to the Downtown Transit Center, where we made a connection with bus #8 (Yale). Bus #8 was slow, but eventually got us the the North Shepherd Transit Center, about one block shy of the end of N Shepherd.
We walked down the sidewalks of Shepherd towards better known neighborhoods such as Garden Oaks and saw the sights. That outer area of Shpeherd is mostly closed down fast food joints, auto repair shops and auto graveyards. The street is 4 lanes wide on either side and the speed limit is, I think, 45. For the most part there was nothing much of note along this section except its general state. we did get yelled at by someone in a passing car, saw several shopping carts overturned along the sidewalk ((Price Buster Foods, Walgreens, Food Town) and some dead animals. Mostly we just talked and checked out the barrenness of the surroundings.
The auto parts/graveyard section of the walk ends at about Crosstimbers or so and opens up into a more average mishmash of computer repair stores, pawn shops, plumbing supply companies and the like. I liked this area. At around 43rd st we saw a great combination plumbing supply/ trailer court place called Leslie Plumbing supply. They also had a really neat little mascot out front made of PVC and toilet parts. Here's a pic.

Back in the day I used to come out N Shepherd a lot for car parts, car repairs, musical equipment (pawn shops) and the like. I was surprised at how well I still knew the street. The most familiar territory to me outside the Loop is the Garden Oaks area. The Sears there has been a regular stop for appliances and tools and LD systems (sound company) is back in the warehouse/commercial area east of Shepherd on 34th St. I got two nice pics of the architecturally interesting and very dated Sears bus stop out front. That's a HUGE piece of property, by the way, and either Sears owns it or has a million year cheap lease because there's way too much underutilized space.

Crossing under the Loop we made the decision to continue on via Shepherd (heading against traffic) rather than Durham. Both streets are one way from Buffalo Bayou all the way to just outside Loop 610 and run parallel.
Shepherd was the right call, as we rambled into Buffalo Fred's Icehouse, an Asian run Mexican and biker icehouse just inside 610. Surprisingly, this is a very nice bar. Wood accents, an incredible backyard with an L.A. sized palm grove, and cold beers. Very little English or Spanish spoken here, but good stuff on the jukebox. I recommend it. Here's some pics.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

SXSW and Austin Part 2

I checked out the TXRD Banked track Roller Derby bout at the Austin Convention Center Thursday night. I was jonesing for Derby since there was supposed to have been tow exhibition bouts hosted by the TXRG (flat track) girls during the day. That got cancelled due to the owner of the vacant lot getting cold feet. The new Bob Ray Roller Derby movie was showing, but I'm waiting to see that some time other than the SXSW film festival, which is a pain in the neck to say the least.
For more info about my banked track experience, go to my new Roller Derby blog/podcast site at . I should have that stuff up by tomorrow at Noon.
More band stuff- OK, the Allen Oldies Band played our two shows- 1-3 PM at Jo's Coffee out on the big stage and the 10 AM (GET THERE AT 9:30!) at Mojo Nixon's Mayhem show at the Continental Club. Both shows were a big success. I evensang a little backup. Mostly I just blew on the trumpet. Part-time oldies horn player jeff Johnston joined us for the Friday set and the audience's complaint was that the horns were in somewhat good tune with each other. THAT would have been a first!
Teen Idol actually made it to both shows and didn't leave early. He did bring a date for the weekend fup from Houston, whom he promptly ditched once she started bugging him. He slept in his car the first night and disappeared Saturday withiout a trace. I stayed at Landis' house but actually slpet in the Murgatroyd (in the back) Wedensday night since Landis was already asleep and I didn't want to wake him up since he had about 4 shows the next day. That worked out OK, actually since the Murgatroyd is now very spacious in the back and I had my drum mat plus the removeable bench seat cushion from the front seat to sleep on. Landis woke me up the next morning and we went to get coffee before he had to go do a radio show. 2 nights ina row in the Murgatroyd would not have been so good, so thankfully I slept on Landis' couch the next two nights. Saturday night I drove back to Houston after the Swampp Dogg set to miss traffic and to get to wake up in my own bed for Roller Derby day Sunday.
Conrad hung out with us on the Oldiesmobile after Saturday's morning show (pictured). Also, we ran into old friends Brooke O'Brien, Clayton Maxwell and Laura Pelligrino. Way back from the day- it was great to see all three of them! That's them in the pic- they look just like they did in college.
The baby is Lulu Wertheimer, the heiress to the Continental Club dynasty. She's very cute and gets a lot of attention, since she is actually a celebrity of sorts.
Jim Henkel and Jeff Johnston are looking good in the Oldies show uniforms after Friday's set in that pic.
Also, there's a shot of Laura Pellegrino and Allen on the Oldiesmobile. Laura's also a great vocalist/ frontman. Her Austinheyday was as the leasd singer for the original Atlantics Soul Revue but she has done more than that over the years. She's currently got a brand new CD and has been living and performing in Argentina. She moved there to Tango dance several years back. She may be back in Austin soon. Speaking of back in Austin, Mary Cutrufello was in town for SXSW and is moving back after taking a few years to rest her voice. She's been in the Twin Cities and loving it, but is ready to come back and kick it in Austin again. That will be fun to see her around.
OK, that's the short story for my SXSW. I guess I didn't really talk much about hanging out with Mojo and Skipper and the guys, but that's so normal now that I feel like a true veteran musician, which I am, I guess. Lots of talk about Marfa, of course, with mostly very enthusiastic reactions. I think everyone from the music business wants to see me go out there and try to make it work- better me than them! It's gonna be a blast- I'm looking forward to next year's SXSW when we'll be open and I can go with a tangible product description.
I got a prety decent sunburn too. My new sunglasses are GREAT. Very dark. My new "transition" lenses are not dark enough- so it's sort of like the old days, except you can see my eyes when I'm indoors and wearing my regular glasses. You definitely can't see my eyes with my new ray blockers, though.

Monday, March 19, 2007

SXSW and the rest for last week part 1

Oh, man- I had a great time in Austin at SXSW this year. I lucked out into grabbing a drumming gig with Beaver Nelson for a free Guero's dinner. It was really fun and Beaver played a great show. Matt Eskey played bass, and Scrappy Jud Newcomb played electric guitar. great crowd, rockin times.
I had a heck of a time getting into town. Drove the Murgatroyd through some stiif Houston traffic and then hit glae force winds and flash flooding between Hempstead and Brenham. Water got up into the motor and Murg started to cougha and stall. Meanwhile visiblity was down to about 10 feet and the sky was black. I was already cutting it close since I had a million errands to run before leaving town for 5 days. It always takes forever to get out of town unless you give in and don't try to accomplish jack before leaving in the morning.
I made it to the gig and, of course, Austin traffic was far worse than Houston's. This is always the case, however, I learned this back in '99 when we were doing the Bingo happy hours and pulling in every Thursday at rush hour from H-Town. There are shortcuts and tactics you can use, but the best thing is just to admit that it's going to take 20 minues to go four miles in Central Austin.
it's Lent so I'm not drinking at all. This made SXSW cheap and also made it easier just to hang oiut outside clubs and listen to music. I spent hours each evening in fornt of the Continental Club and never evene entered the buliding until Friday afternoon. The Continental "Gallery" was a different story, as they were showcasing instrumental funk/rock/jazz bands from Austin. Mike Flanigin (Hammond B-3) is the best act of all of them and he played virtually every day. I saw many of these bands and was treaed to smoking shows from Gnappy, McLemore Avenue, Dave Robinson and friends, and a bunch of others. That Meters/Booker T/Chuck Willis thing was nowhere readily available in Austin ten years ago. Now it's part of the local sound, big time. I credit the Continental Gallery for some of that, since it gives those bands a place to play regularly and great acoustics. There is no sound system in that club.
I don't believe I saw any official SXSW showcases other than Saturday night's Swampp Dogg show, which was excellent. He is great. He still has a great voice and reminds me a lot of Archie Bell. Landis, Chris, Kevin Remme and Patrick Benfield backed him up (McLemore Ave). It's very obvious that Swampp Dogg loves Landis' guitar playing.
I did see a whole lot of other cool acts including Dale Watson, The Small Stars (pictured- Miles Zuniag and Jeff Groves- 2nd pic Landis and Jeff Johnston), Chris Masterson (pictured with female mandolinist whose name I forget), The New Duncan Imperials, Shandon Sahm, Eric Hisaw, Kelly Willis, L'il Cap'n Travis, John Dee Graham, James McMurtry, The Dansettes, Ian Moore, and a lot more.
The big show I got to see (from backstage even) was the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard/Ray Price/ Asleep at the Wheel show. Landis got me in backstage since he was playing in Paula Nelson's Band, which opened the show. This all took place at the Backyard. Tickets were being scalped for $125 apiece. It really was a great show and had much more energy than the times before that I have seen Merle Haggard and Ray Price. Willie has good energy most of the time, so his part wasn't so different. I like Ray Price live so much better than on record. His songs have much more life live than on the original recordings. There was a huge buffet backstage athat I was happy to help consume, plus juices and tea. That was nice. No booze backstage, surprisingly.
Let's see- my rock and roll highliget was Shandon Sahm. I have seen him before a few times and never really got it. He basically does a bunch of his dad's songs and some hard rock originals and jumps around like a glam rock star. this time I GOT IT! There was NOBODY there at his outdoor shos and he rocked the socks off of it. Pure rock and roll. i say this because he was having fun and so was I and the other 25 people there. It was loud as hell, but sounded good (outdoors is always better) The stuff he said was hilarious as were the songs. Plus, he did a great version of SDQ's "Groover's Paradise" and basically lectured the audience in a really fun way about what rock and roll really is. Two of the pics here are of him. Check the rock and roll threads. So good. I am a total convert.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ROLLER DERBY podcasts have begun

We've been working on setting up the roller derby podcasts. we've almost got it working as we want it- just a few things to do to make it easy and look good.
Bill Shirley and I recorded four chapters yesterday- two are up now. The first one is just a general intro (kind of a test) and then the second one talks a little about Roller Derby in Houston.
We'll post the next two up over the next few days. all before the first bout on Sunday March 18th. We'll have more by mid-next week. And, no, you don't need an IPOD to listen, just a computer.