Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blast from the past

Yesterday I went down to the Houston Continental Club to see my brother's band The Small Sounds play a show. Roller skated there and back, with an obligatory skate/beer stop on the way back to my folks' house at Rudyard's.
At the Continental Club I ran into Lee Gettys, my former boss at Mercado Caribe, where I tended bar, worked door, cleaned, and did general help stuff from early '91 until spring of '92 when I quit- the only job I ever stormed out of (and probably should have handled it better). There were no hard feelings, and I learned a TON from working for Lee. Lee is out of this world; somewhat crazy, but a gifted madman. I can't go into specifics about much, but he was the one who taught me, in no uncertain words and by drilling it into my brain over and over again that "sometimes you just have to say "F-- IT!" " Also, if you're painting a floor, you can never have too much paint on that floor. So much more. I remember physically working harder there than maybe at any other job I ever had at times. Once I worked 40 hours out of 48 during a Pecan St festival weekend. By the end, I finally had to go home because I could barely walk and I had blisters on my feet. It took me days to recover. So much more...

A few daily highlights of working at Mercado Caribe:

Me being the only person besides Lee who wasn't constantly smoking pot.
Always working with really great looking girls, most of whom had some sort of "affiliation" with Lee.
Paid in cash-always and sometimes arbitrary- sometimes short, sometimes big bonus.
Street vendors on a daily basis setting up their incense and jewelry kiosks in the club.
Rasta musicians drinking Heineken every night with attitude.
Papa Mali, Michael E. Johnson, Yellowman, Timbuk 3, House in Orbit, I-Tex, Irie Jane and a million other great bands (spies Like Us, Under Pressure, E.R. Shorts, Chris Thomas King in the house all the time.
Setting up and taking down a huge reggae-ready outdoor PA system Fridays and Saturdays.
SXSW with the Samples, Sublime, Killer Bees, Timbuk 3 and more- all on the same day under the evening sun.
Broken pedicabs.
Occasional dangerously insane situations involving firearms.
Jogging to and from work since my car's transmission was out.
Re-painting the place in Rasta colors every year.
Driving Lee's '67 Chevy pickup with minimal brakes to run errands for the bar.
Seeing Alan Haynes for the first time.
Becoming friends with Paul Sessums and the rest of the door people on 6th Street- club courtesy.
Learning about playing defense in a club setting and also about "teaching" your customers how you would expect them to act in your venue.

So much more... Thanks, Lee! - David

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thinking today about my St John's School career

I grew up in Houston and went to an exclusive private school called St John's from 1st grade through 10th grade, at which point I transferred to Lamar High School, literally across the street but worlds away.
My SJ career was pretty poor on the grades side of things. I remember the day, near the middle of 2nd grade, that I was assigned too much work and couldn't finish it. This made me kind of mad, especially since some kids had no trouble at all with it. Others were more like me, and there were kids dropping out and getting held back every year. It was at that point that I realized that I really didn't have to do all that work. It was also then that I decided not to do it all unless it was reasonable, in my mind. Thus was the first chapter of the end of my SJ career.
Fast forward through years of crappy grades and good teachers, great classmates, fistfights, mediocre athleticism and a serious problem communicating with females (until about 7th grade when I became better friends with some of the new girls- our class size doubled in 7th- and also with some rebellious and brilliant types such as Whitney Vaughan)
Through all these years my old friends were, one by one, leaving SJ to go to other schools, mostly private, and they were replaced with the best and brightest Houston had to offer. No diversity, of course, but seriously smart people. Meanwhile, David Beebe went from being average to basically being one of the "dumber" kids. Not having a photographic memory and also having an imagination that runs wild while I read was a double whammy for me. By the time I was asked to and agreed to "consider leaving" I was ready to go for sure. I approached every day at school starting near the end of 7th grade as a new adventure and made sure to have as much fun as possible. Even my parents had to laugh when I was busted skipping study hall given detention for "lounging with the girls" on a back lawn. Not so funny for me was the "Saturday Work Hall" I received for streaking down River Oaks Blvd one day after school hours and not on school property. That was the point at which it was explained to me that I was a representative of the St John's family 24/7 and that I could and would be held responsible at school for things that could happen out of school. Needless to say, I had a whole lot of crazy but harmless stuff my friends and I were doing on a near daily basis that would have qualified for punishment under those terms. It was time to go.
Ironically, I am still on great terms with St John's and never really was on bad ones, even as I walked out the door for the last time as a student. And even more ironically, in the company of certain people in Houston, my actions in life (most of my public activities have been pretty positive) still do reflect indirectly on St John's. Wow.

Lastly, I just recently attended my St John's 20th class reunion and it was amazing. We always had a really strong and fun class. We still do and, not surprisingly, everyone is doing really well and looking good doing it. I would not trade Lamar for anything- best move I ever made- except maybe going to UT- but St John's does actually pretty much live up to its billing- especially if your kid is about 20% smarter than I am! - David

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Musings about the real Marfa

I have spent the last 2 days walking and knocking on doors in the more aged and also less wealthy sections of Marfa giving away Christmas CDs. The gist of it is that I knock on a door, and if the resident is not there and/or then I leave a CD on the porch with a short letter explaining that I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as councilman and that the Christmas CD is my gift to al Marfa residents. That being said, I doubt I will get to the more gentrified neighborhoods, as I am splitting for 2 weeks to H-Town and have a good but of work to get done just to facilitate that alone.

No matter- I have met some incredible people who are extremely kind- plus some folks who rarely leave their houses. Pretty wild- I identify with the south and southwest sides more so than the not and northeast sides of town, maybe only because I lived in my Airstream for a long time and now still live in a very borderline house on the south side. Different world- and I really like the people.
Marfa is pretty real, despite whatever you read in the New Yorker. - David

Monday, December 07, 2009

I can't believe

I can't believe it's been two years since Rory Miggins passed away from cancer. I can't believe it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coming back to blog for a while

I haven't blogged in ages. Too much to say, too busy to write. I'll sum up the last 9 months in the following paragraph.

We opened the club. It's busy and going well. Lots of cooking. Equal drinking. City council is relatively stable; the city is in the black slightly. Moved into a house and parked the Airstream. Will be moving back into Airstream in Feb after I overhaul it a bit. Tied up some loose ends in general but not all. Created a few more loose ends. Gained weight, lost weight. Hair is very long. Will continue to grow it until it's long enough to donate to the Locks of Love (10 inches all around). Got another 9 months plus to go- driving me crazy- reminding me of how lucky I really am. Determined to travel more and work less; 2010 will be the year. Found out I still, after all these years, like girls for real- another problem. Blood pressure is slightly up even with meds; addressing that with exercise and diet. Club is open 6 days a week. The only thing I do in Marfa is work minus an occasional dinner party or lunch. Decided I will run for re-election next May when my term is up- not gong to be easy, I think. Played some music with The Conrads for a three show set- we're going to do a lot more from now on- it was altogether great. My Brown Suburban (the Brown Chariot) is really pretty worn out- to the point that I think I need a new highway car- like a diesel Mercedes from the 80's in better shape than the one I have. No money for that right now.

That's it for the last 9 months. Right now I'm in Austin on a rainy day drinking coffee after a really fun wedding of my friends Jeremy Radcliffe and Linsay Brauchle. It was great to see all my old Houston buddies from that crew. We played some music and danced and shot the bull until late in the night. It was at a ranch in Round Top- very beautiful. The skies were overcast and there was a breeze- actually perfect weather for this time of year. I was a little chilly in the night but I believe the whiskey kept me from freezing. I didn't bring a jacket because I flew from El Paso to Austin and was determined to travel light. I'll be in Austin for the next day and a half before returning to El Paso and then Marfa. Getting out of Marfa every so often is very important- and logistically somewhat difficult, so to leave for only a 24 hour trip is really kind of foolish. I really have no real business in Austin, minus seeing a friend tomorrow, but am here just for a breather before heading back to work. The holidays are ahead. Way too soon for that.

I have a feeling that the decisions that I make and that are made for me in the next 6 months will determine the next three years. That's not a very comfortable feeling; it makes it all the more important that I really pay attention.

That's it for now- Happy Sunday!- David

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Posting elsewhere but plan to do it here too

Hi y'all. Obviously I haven't posted up here since before SXSW. Padre's opened for business the Tuesday following SXSW to a packed house and business has been strong and fun ever since. We have awesome loyal customers here in Marfa who look out for us as much or more as we try to look out for them! It's great- THANKS!

In the craziness of opening up this as a business and not a never-ending construction site I have recently been able to start some blogging again. Since my whole waking day (every day) revolves around the activities at 209 W El Paso St here in Marfa I have shifted over to posting up some on Facebook for Padre's (see link at right) and also to posting on the "Gringo's Padre's Blog" on the club's website at . Currently I m in a rivaling posting duel with my friend and part-time employee Beanie (also known as Benny Oslo). Check it out! I should be back on here once I establish a more consistent and full-time kitchen staff other than myself and John Davenport, my valued right-hand man.
Thanks for reading and, yes, I am doing well! - David

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This year's SXSW schedule for David Beebe

Although I officially retired from being a full time musician at the end of 2006 (and then had vocal cord surgery) I still get to play shows from time to time- usually with some pretty great musicians.
The SXSW music conference and festival every spring in Austin is definitely the time every year when I get to play the most often per 24 hour period. This year I'll be playing bass, percussion and harmonica with 4 different acts.
Thus far. I am scheduled to play 10 shows- 7 of them on Saturday. Saturday is always the wildest day- and by that time I am half running on fumes and half running on adrenaline.
Here's a rundown of the shows with times, places, acts and the instrument(s) I will play.

Thursday March 19th-
4:15-4:50PM for a KOOP Austin 91.7 Radio party at Lovejoy's with the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. I'll be on bass guitar and this band features Jon Langford, Sally Timms and Bill Anderson, among others. Classic country tunes mostly with some Langford originals thrown in. The band has a new record with Rosie Flores and she will be performing on the PVC shows this year. Great, great people and music in this group.

Friday March 20th-
12:45 PM until 1:20 PM- Andre Williams at Yard Dog gallery, S Congress Ave. I'll be on percussion, backup vocals and harmonica. The Black Godfather- need I say more. Free- no badge required.
11:00 PM- Pine Valley Cosmonauts w/ Rosie Flores at Momo's - an official showcase in support of the new record. I'll be on bass.

Saturday March 21st-
GET THERE AT 9:30 AM- for Mojo Nixon's Mayhem featuring Allen Hill and His Oldies Band and jalapeno pancakes. Continental Club, 1315 S Congress. Free and it fills up quick. Get there at 9:30!
10:30 AM- THE TWANG- Germany's most awesome country band. I'll be on percussion, backup vocals and harmonica- Continental Club, GET THERE AT 9:30 free
11:30-12:15- Allen Oldies Band at Jo's hot coffee, across from Continental on S Congress. The most popular Oldies Band in the world. I'll be playing harmonica and percussion, emceeing and singing backup.
1:15-2:30- Roy Head and Barbara Lynn at the Butler Bros' party, E 5th St. Not sure if this is public- ask Allen Hill. I'll be on percussion, harmonica and backup vocals.
3:30-4:15- Andre Williams, Mojo's Mayhem, Continental Club- still free and if you have been there since 9:30, you're probably drunk. I'll be on backups, percussion and harmonica. Free
4:30- Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Rosie Flores and Jon Langford- Yarg Dog gallery, S congress Ave- I'll be on bass. Free show!
11:00 PM- I'm sure to be in great shape by this hour. I'll be on percussion, harmonica and backup vocals in Andre Williams' official SXSW showcase show. Continental Club!

By the way, this year instead of completely quitting drinking for Lent (too much to do, opening a bar, etc) I have restricted the drinking only to when people offer and/or retrieve a drink for me. You would be surprised at how little I have had to drink since this went into effect. Anyhow, if I look thirsty in Austin, that'll be why.

Enough of that- see you music fans there- David

Padre's opening, SXSW and general update

Last weekend I spent about 50 hours in Houston working on some stuff and attending Little Joe Washington's 70th birthday party. I got to play the show on drums as well, doing some singing and also backing up Little Joe for some of his time on stage. That was nice.
I dropped off the shuffleboard table we have been working on here for several months. Unfortunately, the straps holding it to the trailer gouged my new finish, so I have some work to do when I go back. I started the repair job when I loaded it into the back room of the Big Top, but it will require several rounds of TLC before it's really ready to rock. That table will eventually be the centerpiece of the soon-to-be Big Top back room and game room, which may take shape over the net 3-9 months.

My new dancehall/ restaurant/ live music venue/ game room/ sports on TV and general community meeting place Padre's will finally be open as of Tuesday March 24th. Our grand opening weekend will be Memorial Day Weekend all the way at the end of May, but we are going to be open from Wed-Sat for lunch and dinner and into the night until then. Hopefully after the grand opening we'll ramp up to at least having the building and bar open 6 nights per week.
Tuesday the 24th will feature a free show by German country rockers the TWANG, old friends of mine who come to the US every 4-5 years or so to do a few shows and camp out in Big Bend. That Tuesday show we'll have food, BYOB, games and music from 8PM to 10PM. No cover charge. Allen Hill will sub in on bass and I'll sub in on drums. The girls will run the club here along with John Davenport in the kitchen. To start we'll be serving Hebrew National hot dogs, burgers, a few types of general sandwiches, Zapp's potato chips and non-alcoholic beverages and set-ups. BYOB until we get our liquor license. That could be anytime within the next 4 weeks or even further out. The application is being processed in Austin and thus far, so good. It's kind of a mystery to me exactly how the TABC really functions deep within.
Anyhow, the next night (Wed 25) Allen Hill, myself and Jim Henkel will play another free show here at Padre's from 8-10 as the "David Beebe three" aka The El Orbits, circa 1999. By the way, we also have 2 shuffleboard tables, 2 pool tables, Ms Pac Man, Galaga, Burger Time and 4 vintage pinball machines in the back room. That, plus a CD jukebox for the big room and 2 different 45 rpm record jukeboxes in the back room.

I am psyched to be done with the big deal construction and now, instead, to be dealing with the operations side. Our kitchen is starting to look like it will be a really great one. We will also be recycling not only aluminum, but also cardboard and all colors of GLASS. Yeah, the only bar in the Trans-Pecos to do it ALL. That, plus our glassware and dishes are all re-usable. It'll be more work on everyone's part, but I am very, very happy about this- especially about the glass, which almost surely wasn't going to be able to happen until I had a great meeting today with Mark Battista out of Alpine/Sunny Glen, who re-processes glass into landscaping "tumbled" aggregate. I just bought 2000 pounds of green bottle aggregate from him for $50 to decorate my cactus garden and we worked out a deal where I'll bring the flatbed trailer with 32 gallon Brute containers of separated glass to him whenever I fill them all up, drop them off and leave the containers with him and then, next time, bring another set and take back the empties. All containers will be marked as belonging to Padre's. The total cost to me besides time and some effort will be the cost of doubling my garbage can inventory, but that will pay for itself in TWO months since I will be able to keep the small sized commercial dumpster and not have to move up to the next price range, which is about an extra $75 per month.

We are going to do things the right way here from the start. It's my dream- never been able to do it. Kind of like living next door to train tracks and also in a space as small as an Airstream.

SXSW is coming up this week and I'll be playing shows with Jon Langford, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts (w/ Rosie Flores), the Waco Brothers, The Allen Oldies Band, Andre Williams and TWANG. Busy, busy. I am trying to firm up the schedule and will post it here when I get my itinerary straight. I may sleep in the Suburban again this year- it was easier that way last year since I brought my bicycle to go from gig to gig and never moved the truck from Wed until Sunday. Traffic in Austin is already the worst in Texas and SXSW is quadruply bad. Anyway, I am excited. Too busy to really do this stuff this year, but half of it's PR for me and the new club/dancehall. It's extra important for me to be there and be me since we're beginning to book and will be open directly following the festival.

Lastly, and on that note, bands looking to play at Padre's can email me at All bookings will be handled by email. Phone calls cost you brownie points. Materials may be sent via US Mail to Padre's PO Box 38 Marfa TX 79843. Give me at least 3 weeks to listen and/or look at that stuff before you email. If you have less than 75 minutes worth of music you should not go on tour at all. If your band is crappy, please stay in Austin. Finally, there are only 2000 people here on a good day and about 50% of them are over 65, so if you think you'll make any legit money coming out here just for this and not as a tour stop on a comprehensive West Coast and/or New Mexico/Colorado run, then please bring dad's gas card and your girlfriend's paycheck.
Sort of kidding on these, but not entirely. Looking forward to some great acts here playing great music! - David

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Some of my favorite places to eat on Hwy 90 and I-10 between Marfa and Houston

This is a short list

Frank's restaurant- Schulenburg- check it out- great sauerkraut and German sausage plus great homestyle. Also, they have the "Love Tester" machine in the lobby

Carmelita's- Mexican Food in Del Rio, a block east of Don Michelino's. Great breakfast and cheap

Sammy's/Haby's Alsatian Bakery- Castroville- similar in a way to Frank's. Old school and excellent.

Roundhouse restaurant- Sanderson - The old roundhouse building. I think that's the name of this place. Anyway, there are so few in Sanderson that you can figure it out- on the South side of the road. Delicious coffee and good food.

Popeye's Fried Chicken in the TA truck stop, east of San Antonio- I believe this would be exit 572- possiblt wrong on that. One exit east of the 410 loop on on I-10 east. I always get it to go since the atmosphere in this place is terrible. Chicken and dirty rice is still great. Ask for a couple of packets of Cajun Sparkle, the secret free bonus seasoning they have, and enjoy twice as much flavor.

Flying J trucks stops, San Antonio and Brookshire- kind of expensive for diner food, but good food and bottomless coffee, of course. Great is you need a long break from the road and are truly hungry. Read the paper and eat.

Tony's restaurant, Sealy- family style restaurant with good food and service. So close to Houston, though, that I normally skip it and eat something exotic, cheaper and faster in the big city.

That's about it, really, for that drive. I did not iinclude places within Houston, San Antonio or Alpine since that's more of home turf and a trip away from the road for me. I was thinking about this today while I was driving in to Houston from Del Rio. I'll be in Houston until Tuesday AM busy with some Continental Club stuff and then some Padre's stuff. - David

Monday, March 02, 2009

Marfa City Council 2/10/2009

Here it goes- from my notes about the meeting and the preceding Public Hearing on Feb 10th.

At 5 Pm we met for a Public Hearing regarding the proposed change of zoning from residential to C-3 for the parcel of property on HWY 67 across from the Border Patrol and in front of Felipe Cordero's mobile home park. This has been a contentious issue and has been debated for the last few months by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The P&Z Commission forwarded us a recommendation to change the designation. The vote on same eventually followed this public hearing during the 6PM regularly scheduled council meeting.

We heard from a number of citizens, for and against the change, and most brought up good questions regarding the greater question of what we, as Marfans, want Marfa to look like in the future. Some questions regarding the details of the proposed 44 room hotel project were asked and, later, during the council meeting, representatives from the owner of the property (Sammy Bhakta) responded to questions fielded both in the public hearing and during the regular meeting. No big surprises on the answers.
Other issues discussed were potential infrastructure costs (covered by city or landowner?), whether the property could automatically revert to R-1 if the hotel project is not built, and the general history of Marfa's zoning ordinance. Overall, the meeting was civil and 3 members of the Planning and Zoning Commission were in attendance and each addressed some of the questions as to how the P&Z came to vote as they did. Conspicuously absent (in my opinion) were the formerly vocal representatives of the 2 existing hotels in the city limits. Anyway, I feel progress was made on communicating the citizens' concerns to both the council and the representatives of the hotel project.

Regular meeting notes:

All members in attendance

1) Citizen Comments:
Ken Whitley got up and expressed his concerns over the recent suspension of the police chief and how it had made front page news, how communication of his offense had not been made to the public, and , generally, how the city administration should be more forthcoming with the reason(s) for such actions, especially concerning a law enforcement officer.

2) Approve Minutes: No minutes to approve- last meeting's minutes not yet available.

3) Mayor's Report:
The mayor announced an Emergency Services District (Creation) Meeting to take place during the week. The city currently shoulders the EMS burden for much of the county and is unable to bill for it. The creation of an ESD would allow for a separate taxing district and potentially reduce the tax burden to Marfa citizens. The county's discontinuation of EMS assistance funds this year has pushed the 2 EMS providers (Cities of Marfa and Presidio) to look into this option.

The Texas Regional Advisory Council awarded their JRAC award of $13,500 to the Marfa EMS dept for outstanding service. Yay!

Lastly, the new accounting system and software for the city is awaiting data conversion from the old system. Otherwise it is done. This job is currently past due, but the service provider has assured that it will be completed soon.

4) City Administrator's Report:
The Texas Water Development Board had comments regarding our sewer plant renovation project and would like us to address these comments and re-submit the project out to bid. We have to re-apply for a TCEQ extension on our sewage permit since we won't be able to re-submit bids until March.

With regard to our new generator, the pad will be poured within the next 10 days. The generator is at the manufacturer awaiting delivery to us.

The air conditioning work for the front of the AmVets building will be finished this week.

Applications to run for city office for the May election are available through March 9th at city hall (Aside- no I am not yet up for re-election).

The census bureau is looking for volunteers and paid workers. Contact city hall for more info.

The city administrator's office was burglarized several times in the past few weeks. Nothing of value taken, but papers rifled through, candy bar left on desk, other items disturbed, Locks will be changed.

5) Councilmember Comments: None

Agenda Item 8: Listen to proposal from Southwestern Equipment Co for the city to lease operate and eventually purchase our own garbage collection system.
Lease for all equipment minus spare truck: $6595.00/month

This was a non-action item. We looked at the city's cost to take back our garbage pickup so that we would not be subject to yearly increases, profit margins and the whims of Duncan Disposal, our only other option besides the even pricier Texas Disposal Systems.
This is a complex issue- one I'll address in more detail later (and if you go back in the archives, one I have addressed before) but it looks to me like Marfa will have to at least attempt to regain direct control over our costs, given the rate hikes we've seen over the last 2 years and the incredible burden it places on our citizens. I was happy to see some numbers that look reasonable, for a change.

Item 9: Old Business:

1) Zoning for Hotel Project: We listened to a presentation from Sammy Bhakta's group. Some of the details provided include
a) Marfa Inn & Suites will provide the infrastructure required for the 4" water line they will need.
b) Currently there are 2800 vehicles per day passing by the property on HWY 67.
c) The Border Patrol says they will put 42 people per day at Marfa hotels for the government's agreed upon price.
d) Marfa Inn & Suites will be ADA compliant
e) Their financing is solid, they are committed to the planned project.
f) They vow to employ local workers, during the construction period and also for regular operations.
g) They have an approximately 90 day time frame from this current date to begin construction.
h) They are willing to have a deed restriction put on the property designating any commercial zoning to be limited to a hotel (this was at Mayor Dunlap's request).
i) The estimated cost is to be $2 million (I hope they know where they're building- try 3!)
j) Sammy Bhakta originated the concept for this hotel 5-6 years ago and is a regular visitor to the area. His brother will be living on-site as the manager. Dedictaed to being a long-term part of the community.

After further discussion about landscaping, signage, parking and commerce in general the motion to grant the zoning change was made and the vote was unanimously in favor.

Item X- New Business:

Sheriff Danny Dominguez sent in former Marfa Police Sgt James Davis (now current PC sheriff deputy) to make a presentation asking for the city to pitch in over $7000 to this year's dispatching service budget. When asked to provide details that had been expressly already asked in memos from our city administrator he had abso9lutely no information. I, personally, was angry that the sheriff would send in a representative that had not been properly informed about either side of the issue other than "we need some money" and had not bothered to even answer the questions sent to him by memo before sending in Mr Davis to receive a lecture from both myself and Scott May. The bottom line (and I feel a little bad, but not much) is that I have quickly grown tired of other governmental agencies coming in and asking us for money since we now have a balanced budget and are solvent. Be it the county or the school board, I would like to see a preponderance of evidence suggesting as to why it's in our best fiscal interest to contribute monies to their separate budgets. Please no guilt trips about "the children" or one division of government shouldering all the burden. I understand both those arguments, but please be aware that anyone coming to the council asking for a favor needs to be forewarned that we are weary of unbudgeted expenses- and we do not have ANY ROOM for error with regard to our own finances. That is why we have only 100 streetlights on right now- not as many as many would like.
Anyway, on this issue, I agree that the city, since it uses the county's dispatch system, should shoulder a portion of the cost. I would like to have a presentation, in person, from the man in charge who can actually answer some simple questions regarding the efficiency and professionalism of the dispatch system we are being asked to help pay for. Since that's what I wanted, I made the motion that Sheriff Dominguez should appear himself and make a presentation with some accompanying information regarding training, quality control and the like and then we could consider adding some pro-rated funding to our budget. Motion passed with Scott May opposed.

State of Texas MAC building lease request- 5 more years- no rental increase.
This is a touchy subject- we really want the State of Texas to continue leasing the space they occupy in the MAC building, as we have no real use for it otherwise. On the other hand, no rental increase is tough to swallow as it is cheap already. We opted to propose that the rent increase to $1,182.96 per month- a 25 cent per sq ft increase. Hopefully that will be accepted and we can enter into another 5 years. We do incur expenses- fairly substantial ones occasionally regarding maintenance. Unanimous.

Next- the potential repeal of Ordinance 07-07, giving the City Administrator the power to discipline employees. Councilman Garlick brought this one to the agenda, as he is very disappointed in the treatment of Chief J.D. Wilbourn by City Administrator Jim Mustard. Specifically he is requesting that City Council be given the responsibility of hearing disciplinary cases. After some confusion it was determined, when the motion was made by Couoncilman Garlick, that this would apply to discipline of all city employees and that it would go to the Mayor, not the city council.

I could go around and around on this one, but one of the main points made as we went back and forth on this one were that, in Councilman Garcia's opinion, giving the council the power to discipline would break Texas law. Additionally, the Police Chief had the opportunity to appeal his suspension, take it to the Mayor, and then take it to council, but he did not go through that process. Thirdly, councilman May and myself didn't want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" and re-organize a system that works properly 99% of the time. Many of us, including me, agree that the situation could have been handled with at least more documentation and a little less harshly.
Councilman Garcia went on to quote the State Law that applied here. its main points are that:
1) The Mayor is the CEO of the municipality
2) the Mayor shall perform and exercise the powers authorized
3) The Mayor has power over the conduct of subordinates
4) the Mayor has the power to delegate his authority to the city administrator.

In 2004 an organizational chart of the city powers was adopted that supports our current form of government.

Once we had been around this a few times Councilman Garlick accused Mustard of lying to Councilman Baeza about being able/unable to reprimand recycling Center/code enforcement employee John Johnson. Mustard denies the nature of the wording.

Once it's time for a motion, Rusty makes one stripping the administrator of the power and handing it back to the mayor. Vote is split 3/2- May, Garcia and Beebe against, Baeza and Garlick in favor. Motion defeated.

Before I move forward, I would like to state publicly (here on the internet) that I am neither on the Police Chief's "side" nor on the City Administrator's "side" in their dislike for one another. Frankly, after all the BS I have had to listen to from everyone who has thoughts on this mess, I can't say I actually give much of a damn anymore. Now, some might think that that would mean that any way I might vote on termination/demotion of either party might not matter to me. This is wrong. I am on nobody's team here but mine, which I believe to be the one of just the truth. No bias in either direction. so therefore to be swayed one way or the other is going to take irrefutable proof of wrongdoing by one or both parties. That means no hearsay, no "he said/ I said", none of any of that. I very well may be the only individual on council who has not made up his mind on where he stands if push comes to shove here. That, to me, makes my impartiality and potential vote in any motion regarding this matter all the more important. Bottom line- I will no longer discuss this situation with anyone- please forward any evidence you may have regarding any accusations to someone who can make a case on either side to eventually present to council- or not.

Now I'm worn out.
Last item- Monthly expenditures and revenue Report: Passed unanimously, no big surprises.

Anyone who wishes to participate in a hands-on way in city government (and also school board) is cordially invited, by me, to register to run for on of two city council positions up for re-election and also the Mayor's spot. I will say now that I plan to support the incumbents, as currently there are no other potential candidates registered as running. The deadline for filing is March 9th. Applications available at City Hall.

That's it for now- David

Catching up

Tonight I will try to post up the summaries of the last 2 council meetings that actually occurred. Last Thursday's meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum. That will make the Feb 10th meeting last forever, so if you plan on going bring some coffee, a book and a pillow.

More importantly, I checked out the newly reopened Sandy's 7-11 gas station/convenience store this morning after hearing about their selection of Moon Pie flavors the other day.
Mot only do they have Strawberry, Orange, Chocolate, Banana, and LEMON (my favorite) Moon Pies, but also they have 20 ounce cold RC Co-colas and ZAPP'S potato chips! Unreal- especially the Zapp's which we will be serving here at Padre's instead of french fries with burgers (no fryers here, despite my Popeyes Fried Chicken pedigree). Check out Sandy's, just south of the stoplight (our only one) on HWY 67 towards Presidio. My new favorite in-town grocer (besides the Get Go) - David

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hosting my radio ahow tonight (Tues!)

Well, I guess I owe two council write-ups, since I just got out of one and haven't posted the last. I am pretty exhausted these days- lots going on including the upcoming soft opening of Padre's (March 25).

Today we had a huge windstorm. I was driving Murgatroyd back from Alpine (to pick up wood and bolts and to recycle cardboard) and could barely get through the headwinds. Sustained winds of up to 55 mph and gusts in the mountains of up to 80! Rough. Anyway, the radio station's rooftop transmitter to the tower blew out and I have been given the option to not host my weekly Tuesday night soul and R&B show, the Night Train Express. We are still broadcasting via the live stream on the web and the station should be fixed up by tomorrow afternoon, barring more winds like today. The long and short of it is that I'm heading down there anyway to host the show. The phones will surely be totally dead, but it'd be cool if people tuned in on the internet. The site is and I'll pretty much play anything. No internet access while I'm in the control room, so telephone is the way to get requests done. 432-729-4578. The show runs every Tuesday night from 11PM to 1 AM Central time and usually later. I'll probably pack it in tonight around 1 AM, which is rare, but I am swamped and the council meeting wore me out more than I would have been without it, of course.

Anyway, that's the goods on this particular Tuesday night out here in the middle of nowhere- David

Friday, January 23, 2009

A few Continental Club Houston Christmas Party photos

I'm in Houston, working on restaurant/bar and sound system supplies and returning to Marfa late Monday. No walk with John Lomax scheduled this time, as his and my schedules were too full, but hopefully next time (could be April).
I was playing some bass guitar at the Big Top Lounge Wednesday night and remembered that the Continental Club's employee Christmas pasrty was there this past Dec and I have some pics. For any Marfans out there, I am pleased and proud to still hold shares of both of these clubs. I lived upstairs for 7 years in two different apartments and watched the neighborhood change for the better. he completion of the Light rail line (which I rode downtown today) was a major high point then and now for what has become a relatively safe and cool neighborhood. When I moved there in 2000 it did not even qualify as a "neighborhood" but only as a "hood"- a virtual Chernobyl of crackheads and abandoned buildings. What a great turnaround!

The master of ceremonies is non other than Pete Gray, manager, general partner and bigg boss man of the Houston Continental and Big Top. Sorry the pics are out of focus, but my camera is not working so well in the dark.

I scored an awesome AIRSTREAM BIRDHOUSE at the White Elephant gift exchange- the first year I actually got my dream prize (usually I don't try- this time I had to have it!) - DB

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marfa City Council meeting 1/13/09

Here's a recap of the meeting held on Jan 13th.
We began the evening with a public hearing on the proposed noise ordinances for the city. Few people were present (unlike last time), and I fault the holidays, new year and the fact that the paper has not been published for a few weeks (they take 2 weeks off for Christmas) for the low turnout. The meeting was peaceful and most people seem to be happy with the proposed regulations. More about this later as it was an agenda item on the regular council meeting.

We opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, as usual. Councilmembers in attendance were Manny Baeza, Rusty Garlick, David Beebe, and Scott May. Rudy Garcia was absent due to the extremely unfortunate illness of his son, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Rudy will likely be missing a few more meetings as the treatment is going on in San Antonio. My prayers are with the Garcias.
City administrator James Mustard and Mayor Dan Dunlap were also present, as was city attorney Teresa Todd.
The first item was the citizen comment period. Although a few more citizens had trickled into the chambers by this time, there were no comments.

Next up we approved the minutes (with a few small changes) of the last council meeting from Dec 16th, which was mostly met in closed session (discussing inter-governmental business regarding leases, sale of property offers, etc. Unanimous.

The brightest spot of any recent meeting occurred next during the Mayor's report. Mayor Dunlap honored Alex Leos, the retired animal control officer for Marfa, who had served loyally for ten years. He was presented with a gift and was given a very nice speech by the Mayor commending him on his work. Applause came from the whole room.
Next, since the city administrator had not put anything on the agenda for his comments, he was unable to give us his regular update.
Same went for all councilmen, who are now required to place all items for even casual discussion on the agenda. None of us did, so we were silent.

An aside- Attorney General Greg Abbott's opinion of the interpretation of the Open Meetings and/or Public Information Acts was recently updated and now holds us to these new "silent" standards. I understand the rhetoric behind the ruling, but, to me, this new interpretation of the same rules actually results in a less transparent government and cloaks operations and governing officers' opinions from the general public. There is a lawsuit challenging this ruling, and Alpine city councilman/Sul Ross professor/movie theater owner Avinash Rangra is one of the ones involved in the lawsuit. I think his/their chances of winning a ruling so we can go back to a more (literally) responsive way of doing things at public meetings will fail, but I am rooting hard for him.

Next, we went on to "Old Business". This is business that has been brought up and wither postponed and/or tabled by the council. The first item under this header was the request from the "little Dribblers" to use, free of charge, the basketball court in the MAC building for practices from the present through Feb 28th. The Little Dribblers are 7 teams of very young local kids. The coach/organizer (I forgot to write down his name- shame on me) made a compelling presentation and promised to clean the building and lock it up properly following each practice. Practices would occur for several hours four days per week. After it was confirmed to the council that the building would be kept clean and that any equipment that became broken or damaged would be replaced at his cost, we approved the request unanimously. Hopefully those kids will have a great season. I am glad that the city, despite our somewhat precarious financial situation, can still sometimes provide a venue that is valuable to the community at large and to kids specifically.

Next up we discussed proposed city ordinances 09-01,09-02,09-03 and the repeal of 95-02. These are all noise ordinances. The potential repeal is the blanket ordinance from '95 that is essentially unenforceable and doesn't serve the realities of our city well. The new ordinances deal with "quiet hours", "non-quiet hours", and noise from vehicles (boom box cars, engine braking, idling diesels overnight, etc). I could go into intensive detail regarding these ordinances but won't until we finally pass the finished product(s), which looks pretty imminent. City attorney Teresa Todd had reviewed the language and the premises of the three separate ordinances that we on the committee worked on and had some suggestions, all of which had validity to varying extent. Once she had made her presentation about her suggestions and/or misgivings about the documents we discussed them and there will be several of her ideas that the committee, which will surely meet once more, will almost certainly adopt. The main addition will likely be a wording of a permit application for a variance to the noise rules which would go before council to vote on (rather than the administrator and/or police chief). Also, there will likely be a sliding upwards scale of fines for repeated violations of the ordinance. A reminder- all violations other than vehicle violations would require an official warning before a ticket could be issued. Council voted to postpone taking action on this item to give the committee and council more time to work on it. I abstained, but otherwise it was unanimous.

Lastly in old business we discussed the lease/purchase from the county of the land upon which our recycling center and animal shelter rest. Once we decided in closed session to make an offer to the county for the land research on surveys, etc was done deep into the catacombs of the files by the city administrator and it was discovered that we were deeded the land by the county years back, so there's no need to sign a lease or purchase land we already own. However, to out it into perspective, for years the city has provided free water (to the tune of over 2 million gallons per year- in the DESERT!) in lieu of rent. For land we already OWN. This should give you an idea of how murky inter-governmental policies out here have been for years. This is another example of why the adage I hear out here so often (It's all the same taxpayers' money, therefore the same money) is so untrue. If it were true we would all share the same bank account, budget and equipment. It is NOT the same. I made a motion to rescind making an offer to buy property we already own and it was seconded and approved unanimously to some laughter from the audience, which by this time had grown to be fairly large.


We voted, with some but not a lot of discussion, to approve the Planning and Zoning Board's submission of their recommendation to approve the zoning change from R-1 to C-3 of the property upon which the future Marfa Motor Inn (also known as the non-La Quinta La Quinta) is slated to be built. The P&Z vote was 3-2 in favor of changing the designation. What the council's action means is that we accepted the P&Z commission's submission to us and now will have a council-based Public Hearing on the matter on Tues Feb 10th at 5PM. A vote of official approval or disapproval of same issue will be on the agenda of the council meeting to follow the public hearing on that same evening. Citizens present in the audience this night who have had some impact on this situation included (but were not limited to) representatives for the new development, county commissioner Felipe Cordero, Tom Schmidt (P&Z), Lucy Garcia (P&Z), Cory Van Dyke (P&Z) and several local citizens associated with the Thunderbird Hotel and/or Ballroom Marfa. Surely the Public Hearing on feb 10th will be well-attended.

Next we discussed and voted on ordinance 09-04. This ordinance allows the city to require developers, large and small, to conform with city regulations and enter into contracts/agreements with the city regarding water and sewer line requirements, restrictions and regulations in order to hook into the city's systems. This is a mere formality of basic sanitation and building issues. Essentially, this is an actual wording of what is practiced nationwide when dealing with a new building seeking water/sewer service. Unanimous.

Next up we discussed Mayor Dunlap's initiative to turn back on more streetlights along selected streets that are dark and have some significant traffic. Other lights included are lights requested to be turned on by the police department (mostly along the drainage ditch from Mimm's Draw that runs along the Abbott street right of way north of the RR tracks). All of these streetlights (unless I missed one) were included as lights to re-light on my "compromise" study from last August/September during our council budgeting committee meetings. After some discussion and consternation from some residents who did not want lights near their houses turned on versus some other citizens who want all the lights on that we can possibly afford, a vote was called with no serious animosity in the room (thank goodness). Unanimous with Manny abstaining.

Lastly, we went through the monthly accounts payable and budget/reality check sheets. The renovations to the MAC and AMVETS buildings were discussed at length, as was the expensive and inconclusive maintenance work to our ancient city (steam)roller, which will need to be in working order once the Southwest side wastewater renovation project gets underway and the streets are torn up to facilitate that project. There were a few other items, but the long and short of it is that the city is currently able to pay all its bills within a 30 day window. Now that is GREAT news. Let's keep it that way.

Rusty made the motion to adjourn- unanimous. - DB

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tuesday Dec 22nd- H-town

I had a particularly good day on Tuesday December 22nd. I invited some friends to have lunch, drinks and play pool at The Houston Club, the businessman's downtown club that I am proudly still a member of.
John Eikenburg, Charlie Earthman, Eric Feighl, Allen Hill, Christy Kern and I got together and had a really nice time. We walked at length, had some gumbo and other great food, and then drank some Christmas cheer. Here's a shot of us in Allen's Landing (the bar).

Christy Kern, Charlie Earthman, and Allen Hill in Allen's Landing, The Houston Club, 811 rusk, 9th Floor

Allen Hill, Eric Feighl, Christy Kern, David Beebe, and Charlie Earthman in Allen's Landing, The Houston Club. (not pictured, John Eikenburg) Christmas 2008

Later that night I went to The Boondocks to see Little Joe Washington play. If you search Youtube for Little Joe Washington you can see 2 videos of him taken this holiday season. One I took from this particular night. The other is in black and white and was taken of Little Joe playing with me, Allen and Jim Henkel at the Big Top the following Saturday. His video has much better sound. Here's a couple pics of LJW doing his thing. By the way, his show at Boondocks is weekly and it's free. Catch this Houston blues legend live before you die. - DB

Bush/IAH to N Main - the longest walk yet- Part II

Please see two posts below for Part 1 of this walk, which took place Sunday Dec 28th 2008.

After we ate the excellent tacos at the taco truck sundown was beginning to approach. The clouds had mostly cleared and I was no longer worried about rain, but the colder night air had me slightly spooked, as I was barely staying warm as it was, and we were maintaining a very brisk pace most all of the day. Through the parting of walls, stores and trees down a partially abandoned cul de sac for a sickly newer development we spot the most glorious view of Greenspoint I've ever seen! Ah, yes, the Emerald City of the Greater Houston area. This picture (although kind of dark- click on it for better view) is surely what the real estate barons of the late 70's and early 80's were envisioning for the area now more commonly known as "Gunspoint".

Oh, turn back a bit- before we hit the taco stand, I nearly forgot- and I thought I took pictures, but apparently not- we walked by an extremely messy strip shopping center that housed, not one, but two different chapters of AA. These were announced with big signs, and right between them was a bar. Actually the whole mess of the place looked shut down. There were old couches and TVs scattered about the sidewalks in front of the storefronts and cars in various state of disrepair in the lot. We passed the place and then were both drawn back to it- something was really wrong with this scene. A closer look revealed that the bar and several other shops were not only closed but in a total shambles; the cars in the lot were all inoperable, and the AA storefronts may not have been what they stated. I got really bad vibes after I walked around the ruins of the former bar and got the heck out of there. Meanwhile, John noticed a faceprint embedded in a shattered windshield of a Pontiac with a flat tire. Really, really rough.

Anyway, back to near sundown- at this point we are inside 610 and the road, at some point around here, changes names from Aldine Bender to Airline Dr. We're still well in the 5 digit addresses, but there are more taco trucks and cantinas, plus more traffic and human activity in general. I stop into a Fiesta Mart hoping to get a sweatshirt, but this one doesn't have any clothes. Next door there is a discount closeout clothing outlet and I get a very "bummy" looking large flannel/poly/cotton long sleeved overshirt that would look at home on any guy waiting around in front of Labor Ready. Now I'm warm and rejuvenated. Walking, walking, seeing more and more of same- auto shops, boutiques, taco trucks and Spanish everywhere. A new phenomenon of Houston cruising makes itself known to me- the blasting of speakers within the grilles of cars and trucks. Kind of like the old boom box trucks but less bass and more direct volume. As we get closer to the Airline "Los Garages" as they are sometimes called, there are more and more cars blasting rap, conjunto, rancheras and tejano out of external speakers. Wow- new to me and such a logical progression from bass boxes!

John picks up a shopping cart as his feet and the load of I-pod jam box and general reporting gear begins to wear on him. We've been out for over 8 hours by this time with only one short stop off our feet. My feet are aching as well. We have miles and miles to go to get to home territory. By the way, we have seen relatively few shopping carts on this trip and essentially zero homeless folks.

It's Sunday night and it's hard for me to believe that Airline drive out here (past Canino) is a hot spot for cruising, upper Westheimer style. We are nearly the lone pedestrians and there are piles of junk in vacant lots along the way, burned out cars here and there, etc, but mostly just fences and weeds along the sidewalks.

The street activity gets more and more hectic and we finally find ourselves just further out than the corner of Airline and Tidwell when we come across the fables "Garages". This is the most amazing flea market I have ever seen- Sunday night and there's live Tejano, thousands of booths, food everywhere, families, more music and good times for all. Everything in the world- new and used- is sold here and I will be going back as soon as possible.

This is a cultural jackpot. Plus, there was a nice Airstream Bambi next to a booth.

We could have stayed there all night, but things were getting ready to wind down there and we needed to keep moving if we ever planned on getting home. Mike Haaga had called and wanted to possibly meet up with us as we got nearer to his place (Airline at Crosstimbers area), so we were beginning to look for a hangout we could sit down at for a while.
The area between the "Garages" and I-45 reminds me slightly of the Golfcrest area in southeast Houston.

Like Golfcrest there are homes built in the 50's and 60's in various states of disrepair, a mishmash of businesses, but few recognizable name brands of much, and a few old school established restaurants that have toughed it out over the years. This BBQ joint is clearly one of those. I love the name "Hungry Farmer BBQ" The hickory burger at Lucky Burger back in the day was called "The Hungry Farmer" The jalapeno cheeseburger was called "The El Capitan". I still order them by that name and get a blank look from the cat who has worked there for the last 15 years! Anyway, that's my Hungry Farmer story.

Just past Little York we finally find our pit stop. John has heard of this place before and it has some heritage, plus a nice stage, great jukebox, pool tables, good service and smoking permitted if you are not too obvious about it (yes, we are now finally in Houston City Limits and John is a light smoker- I don't smoke). It's the Cedar Lounge, and since it's Sunday, this is one of only three nights a week that's not "Tejano Night". Despite the billing, the crowd is mixed and, as I said, it's a great place to stop off for a drink.

Mike Haaga in front of the Cedar Lounge sign

John calls Mike and he shows up a good 15 minutes later with the bad news ( we already knew) that we have quite a long way to go. It's nearing 9 PM and I am fading slightly as the lack of sleep, cold, walking and Christmas break in general is catching up with me. Not lost on me is my drive to Marfa with a stop at the State Comptroller's office in Austin the next day.
Mike, John and I have a nice chat about this and that and I am thrilled that the black guy sitting next to me who buys a drink for a pretty hispanic chick about my age across the way looks like he may have a made a good new friend in her. About 15 songs on the excellent jukebox later and it's time to go. Haaga gets in his car for the safe ride home and we set out again on foot.

About an hour later we stop at another bar, this time it's clearly a Spanish language only place. We walk in and have a shot of Cazadores tequila and a Budweiser each and relax. Ten PM- we are getting near 45, but it's clear this walk will last past midnight before we get into our turf.

Walking, walking, more and more amplified cars drive past and there's some street racing and at least one cop bust going down. John reminds me that as we get closer to 45 the prostituiton activity picks up. That and everything that goes alongside that is what we're heading into. By this time my legs are kind of numb, but my foot pains have leveled off. Not so for John, whose feet are in just as bad a shape at this time as they are usually when he wears the Crocs.

Another hour or so of walking and we are at Crosstimbers. John opts to go iiinto a gas station to get us a beer and I wait outside with his I-pod jam box and sit on the curb. One of the drunkest men I have seen in recent years stumbles across the esplanade and comes over to me. He is not speaking even remotely clearly, but in his hand are three crack rocks and he is obviously looking to sell. I turn him down politely and he becomes slightly upset. Once John comes out I let him know that we are dealing with a new frontier in our walks, plus a true idiot. At thie point the guy gets pretty upste when John turns down the crack. Luckily for everyone, a police car with its lights on drives fast and spooks the guy. We take the opportunity to ealk off and he is standing in the lot, talking loudly and incoherently. We are now officially in the hot-sheet motel zone.

Passing over a giant aqueduct, John and I are debating the indisputable merits of the Isley Brothers, their history and excellent covers of classic rock tunes. He dials some up on the jam box and the misty cold night is made whole.

Airline between Crosstimbers and North Main is a mix of appliance stores, light industrial, the ancient and small original farmer's market and a bunch of questionable convenience stores, motels and excellent Mexicna food joints. By this time of night things are relatively quiet in the streets and at the corners. We get hit up for money and use of John's cell phone(!) at the corner of 45 and Airline by a group of older homeless balck guys and a crackhead 17 year old white girl. Rough stuff- everyone is walking too fast, and so are we.

John's feet are killing him and we are both beat. I don't know the mileage at this point, but it's after midnight and we agree to get to the corner of North Main at Airline and catch the bus or a cab down Main to Warrrens and talk over the recap.

A call to Yellow Cab is met with 45 minutes of nothing and because of our fatigue we make the totally out of character amateur move of waitng for the cab across the street from teh bus stop and narrowly miss TWO buses. Idiots. I am out of practice.

Waiting for the cab across from Spanish Flower at another burned out Conoco. John Lomax sitting.

Finally a cab shows up and we feel the pleasant relief of the state of relief. The cab driver is talkative and nice and takes us to Warren's. The cab smells like puke. In Warren's I mention this to John and we both notice that we can still smell the puke. Next thing you know John is stripping off his favorite sweatshirt and tosses it. Puke from the cab on his sweatshirt! Sunday night in H-town. A drink later and it's about 2 AM and time to git. One more cab back to his place and the night is done. What a heck of a walk.

Admittedly, although I had far fewer drinks than I had on a couple of these walks I was as delirious as I have ever been by the end. John's feet were getting ready to start bleeding and he had been noticably slower over the last few miles. Night had fallen for real and Sundays, even in Houston, are mundane in the late hours. It was a walk cut short of downtown, but not short at all; I believe we covered more mileage and wlaked faster in general than ever before. Days later my calf muscels were still sore.

Conclusion- "Los Garages" are not to be missed under any circumstance; Bush?IAH is much further than I thought. - DB

Marfa noise ordinance public hearing Tues 1/13

Here's a notice from me regarding our noise ordinance. Your chance to be heard on the issue will be on Tuesday 1/13 at 5 PM, city hall, for a public hearing on the new noise ordinance(s). Please attend. We are scheduled to vote on it at the regular council meeting following the hearing. Copies of the propsed ordinances are available at city hall (right now!) Thanks- David

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Beyond Bush IAH to North Main- the longest walk

It was great to be back in Houston for Christmas break. As much as I love living in Marfa, I had not been back to Houston since right after Hurricane Ike and the continuous stress of managing a major construction project here had me worn out. My policy on visiting my parents for holidays is now as follows: I do not return for Thanksgiving, but I give them at least a week at Christmas. This has been the case for the last 2 years and it works better for me than two short trips back, to say the least.
I'll give a short wrap-up of Christmas break before I get to the final day in Houston, which was a fourteen hour day of walking.
On the way back to Houston from Marfa I stopped off for a night in Austin and dropped off a local Marfan who needed a ride to Austin to pick up a truck he bought. This cam as a result of posting a rideshare notice on Anyway, it worked out well and I decided to go ahead and catch Jesse Dayton at the Broken Spoke since it was a Thursday night. That was a great show and packed to the walls. I got to play bass for a few songs since Billy D, Jesse's current bass player, was very ill and had to take a break from the stage. I ended up the night at, where else, the Continental Club and caught a great new act, whose name escapes me at the present. My night ended with some good sleep on a flat surface and a large hot cup of Jo's coffee in the morning on the way out of town.
I got to Houston around 11:30 and immediately got on Bus #82 to go to the Galleria, where I met friends and business partners for a long lunch at Del Frisco's. Great company and food- a great way to start Christmas break. The night ended up at the Singalong club with a bunch of Roller Derby girls. The next day I took care of some shopping a a few other errands, like taking the Padre's sound board to LD systems for repair and cleaning. Long and short, I had a great Christmas, got to play a show with the 1999 version of the El Orbits at the Big Top, did electrical work at the Continental Club, got great gifts and had a great time with my family, and overall got little sleep.
We did our walk on Sunday Dec 28th. The night before was a four hour show for me at the Big Top with Allen and Jim and I got little sleep since I stayed up late and drank a good bit of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I was to meet John Lomax at his house at 8:30 in the morning but slept through the alarm and made it there around 9:45 AM. Bleary eyed and tired, I opted to wear my new work boots since I knew this walk would break them in. For once John wasn't wearing his Crocs, but instead was wearing real shoes. I had, in my hasty exit from my parents' house, forgotten to get a heavy coat for rain and wind protection, and that was a concern for me starting as soon as we set out from his house to walk to the Med Center transit center to catch the rail to the airport shuttle bus downtown. John lives near Southside Place and West U very close to the Little Woodrow's on Holcombe, so we began the day with that walk all the way down Holcombe to the Med Center transit Center, reminiscing about the Gallant Knight, bad crime that used to be in the area, and the glory of the Tides Motor Inn, Shamrock Hotel and its amazing pool. Damage from Hurricane Ike is still visible up and down the road, and particularly on the larger towers. The Prudential building is still there, but I suspect that not even the economic downturn will keep the medical center machine from bulldozing that and putting up another pink or creme colored med tower. My favorite old building left that is not on the list for the wrecking ball is the under-appreciated Bank of America building on the corner of Holcombe and Main (it has another name but I can't remember it). It looks plain from far away, but both sides are curved and the lines are quite subtle and nice. There are some marble panels missing from the storm- I hope they are able to match new marble with the old when it gets fixed.

The weirdest and most desolate place in this mini-walk is the fountain/ walkway that replaced the Shamrock. This neo-classical promenade is called the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park, not to be confused with the amazing Gus Wortham fountain on Allen Parkway. On this day, as on many days, the fountain is actively spouting water columns to nobody, as the fountain downtown on the light rail line is supposed to do (but is always messed up). This bizarre guilt trip tribute to the concept of public space mixes elements of a grand promenade with Vegas style accents contrasting with the feel of a confined and secluded corridor. Its out of the way entrance and low visibility from Holcombe is probably why I had never seen it before. This is a very good park to go to if you don't want anyone to find you. I couldn't help but picture Nixon and Kissinger walking side by side alongside the fountain and columns planning the next offensive maneuver in Vietnam.

We finally made it to the Metrorail station and got picked up by a train within a matter of minutes since they were on the return trip down the line from dropping off fans at Reliant for the Texans game. We rapidly made it down to the Downtown Transit Center, next to which is a nice, new temporary building in a parking lot. This is where individuals can catch a plush, fast, shiny new commuter bus for Intercontinental Airport which costs $15 and leaves every thirty minutes. The lobby has free hot coffee, clean restrooms, comfy chairs to wait in and a friendly staff. That being said, John and I were the only two folks on the bus on a Sunday following the Christmas holidays. Metro is going to have to do a much better job of promoting this service if it's going to catch on.

Our driver was courteous and got us there fast. To my surprise, we headed out 59 north instead of 45 or the Hardy Toll Road, and to the driver's surprise, we asked him to please let us out before we got into the airport gates. Somehow he took however we asked it to mean that we were trying to get out to the airport but didn't want to let and police see us (?!). Anyway, we pretty much went with that and he dropped us off in the cold and windy drizzle at Will Clayton Parkway and Lee Rd- on the far side of the airport from our eventual destination- Warren's Inn downtown. By this time is was around 11:30 Am or so, slightly dark, kind of cold and kind of wet. I was determined to keep moving to stay warm and I also was concerned that the weather could degenerate into something like our Long Point walk, which was colder than Marfa (hard to believe, but wet is colder than dry, no matter the temp).

The walk down Lee Rd southbound is basically a walk through pastures and airport barrier green space. Twice people stopped and offered us a ride to Aldine Bender, our next major destination. The first guy was, I think, looking to pick up or something. The second guy was an older gentleman who seemed to actually be looking to save us some time and legwork. We declined both, of course, and noted that this is the very first route we've walked where we've been offered any sort of ride.


Lee Rd is long, and we finally ended up at the Beltway, still a few miles away to the East from Hardy Rd and JFK Blvd, the traditional entry point to Bush IAH for most Houstonians. Nearly 2 hours had passed and now we found ourselves walking the noisy, busy and culturally desolate feeder road of Beltway 8 trying to get to Aldine Bender, which eventually turns into Airport Blvd, our pathway back to the junction of Airline and North Main (Spanish Flower, to most folks) which was the symbolic ending of any sort of foreign turf for us. This part of Houston we had just been through to get to the Beltway (and, of course, most of unincorporated Harris County/ Humble,/ Aldine, etc) has virtually no sidewalks and still has a rural feel, in the types of businesses set up (metal buildings, razor wire fences, falling down barns full of junk) and the number of dogs (lots).

One convenience store we stopped at was replete with the requisite 8-liners and multiple cheap cigarette signs (all on special!). We spotted a couple of places on Lee Rd that looked as if weekends might include cock or dog fighting, and plenty of semi-closed or totally closed junkyards. No other pedestrians thus far other than a group of juvenile delinquent looking kids wandering around.

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The Boyz2Men Day Care- coed, by the way

John Lomax and some local scenery.

The 15000 block of Lee Rd, Beltway just ahead!

The Beltway is a major change, as I mentioned before, and not necessarily for the better, as the landscape is extremely boring and sprawling. Freeway exits are a mile apart or more and business parks, empty and full, dot the landscape. I predict some serious bankruptcies for some of these mega-office park developers out here, as many are empty and others are under construction.
At some point we are starting to make progress in getting to where we planned to start walking on this trip, and it's already been over 2 hours. The buildings and office landscapes start to look more and more "perfect" and at one point I mention that things are starting to look very "Halliburton". Sure enough, the very next complex, complete with ducks and geese in the deep fake blue/green colored pond out front, is a giant Halliburton campus.

Must have been some sub-conscious memory from the time The El Orbits drove this same service road to play Sundance Head's wedding at a corporate style party room (great gig, by the way!- pre American Idol and Roy song with us off and on all evening).

An excellent "waterway of Harris County" along the BW 8 service road. It was still drizzly at this time.

Hours of walking pass and we're finally approaching Aldine Bender, gateway back to civilization. Not too far south of Beltway 8 is the Aldine High School complex; school grounds, baseball complex, other sports venues, administration buildings, etc. Quite a clean and nice arrangement. Very close by is an ancient Dairy Queen building converted into a Mexican food joint. I love that.

Aldine Bender is the beginning of regular sidewalks; seldomly does the sidewalk start at a new office development and then abruptly end. Aldine Bender, though, does have a plethora of animals, much like Lee Rd. We see horses, ducks and chickens running wild together in a vacant lot next to a convenience store, dogs, cats and hawks in the air. I like this next picture, as Aldine Bender has as many used car parts places as North Shepherd, but most are smaller and may or may not be open.
The name of this one, "Aldine Bender" drew out my camera.
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Oh yeah, and what's the deal with this? We walk further and further, and not until we are well, well near Loop 610 do we get near "713" territory. All "281". I thought that was for outside the Beltway- like long distance almost. This area gets no respect.

Aldine Bender seems to last forever, a nearly un-ending procession of car lots, auto parts stores (John points out, correctly, that besides fast-food, the only national chains that set up shop in this part of town are the auto parts stores), small beauty parlors, junk shops, and yards of garbage guarded by barking dogs. Thankfully for me, the rain clouds have mostly dissipated into cirrus clouds and the brisk walking we are doing keeps me warm. We finally come across our first open neighborhood bar and I decide we should duck in. We do, and I take a hair of the dog that bit me the night before with a cold (and ancient) Lone Star.

The Northside Saloon- a friendly place if you're in the neighborhood

This bar is the typical Houston hinterlands neighborhood spot, where everyone clearly knows each other and the Cowboys game is on TV, since it's Sunday. There are 2 dogs running around, and since we are still outside Houston city limits (even after about 3 hours of walking) everyone is smoking. There's a big iron bell with a string hanging down from the striker over one side of the bar. A sign above says, "If you ring this bell you will buy the whole bar a round of drinks." For some reason this strikes me funny. Everyone warms up to the two weird strange guys that walked in from the cold, and we make some small conversation before I am ready to go. I can already tell that sitting, even for a few minutes, is going to make me freeze once we get back out in the windy, cold humid air. Sure enough, that's the case, but out of the corner of my eye as we walk past a muffler shop right before we cross over the Hardy Toll Road I see another great Houston "Muffler Man"! Awesome. We both pose for pics and then cross the great divide that is the tollway and several sets of railroad tracks.

This is a bar we didn't venture into. John wanted to go in, but some sense told me that this wasn't a good day for us to go here, although maybe next time.

The near side of Aldine Bender is more industrial, at least for a while, than the further end. Lots of warehouses and fewer auto parts shops. As we get closer to Loop 610 an aging residential component is added- older suburbia. Signs are more and more often in Spanish only and there are actually shopping centers. The "great walls" that are sound barricades to the neighborhoods from major thoroughfares crop up on either side of us. There are sidewalks, but since nobody actually walks alongside the "great walls" they are caked with mud and the remaining mess from Hurricane Ike. Two stray dogs begin to follow us, and I don't notice them until they have been a few paces behind us for at least a while.

Dogs love to walk in really busy streets.

When we stop walking, they stop and look at us. When we start again, they amble right along behind us. John states that is one or both of these dogs follows us the whole way that it will have a home at his house. Less than a minute later both dogs turn back.

The "great walls" finally part and we are looking at a closed down bowling alley and a shuttered Conoco with our first Taco truck of the day in the parking lot. Why? Doesn't matter, as we're both starving. It's about 4 PM and I have had nothing but a large coffee all day and John has only had a small breakfast at home before I got there. We order some tacos and it's the best Mexican food either of us has had in ages. Incredible food for less than $5- really great, and not just because we were hungry. Houston has got the best taco truck scene in the world.

An aside- this is the first time, I think ever, that I have seen a closed down gas station with the prices still posted on it where the prices of an open gas station within view are lower!

Click on any picture for a larger view- note gas prices. I would guess this Conoco closed sometime in late spring of 2008.
We cross Loop 610. This story will be continued in tomorrow's post- it's late, late!- DWB