Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Pork And The Pea

The true Southerner is a funny character with many peculiar habits. Most of us like to hunt and fish. We all talk funny, have gun racks and drink ice cold Miller. Oh I might pop a Shiner every now and then but I've managed to keep Miller in business for many years.

One of our most unusual tastes is for our friend the pig. In fact, it would be an accurate statement that I've probably fried more bacon than any other household in East Texas. I've got a number ten skillet so black from pork fat it shines like a mirror made from wet tar and I'm happy to say I'll  be heating the iron once more as I prepare for the New Year's tradition of black-eyed peas.

I think a true Southern cook would find it most interesting that this custom dates back to the Babylonian Talmud compiled around 500 CE which was like a book of rules or laws for the Jewish community. Within it were recommendations of eating certain symbolic foods that were thought to bring good luck.

"Now that you have established these good-luck symbols, you should make it a habit on your table on the New Year."

Qara (squash)
Rubiya (black-eyed peas)
Kartei (kind of like an onion)
Silka (beets or spinach)
Tamrei (dates)

Knowing this, I'll have to ask all my Jewish friends to look away as I'll be adding Porky to the table like any good Southerner would. I'm so sorry my Jewish brothers and sisters but you just can't cook black-eyed peas without pork.

From the table of Paula Deen, I bring you...

Spicy Black-Eyed Peas


4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (16-ounce) package dried black-eyed peas, washed
1 (12-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water


In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, crumble, and set aside to use as a topping for the peas. Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until tender. Add the peas, diced tomatoes and green chiles, salt, chili powder, pepper and water. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Add additional water, if necessary. Serve garnished with crumbled bacon.

Aside from the luck the black-eyed peas will hopefully bring you this year, I wish you the best for a healthy and profitable 2012. 

From me to you, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Original Underdog

Time and time again we are reminded that the best things in this world are in such unexpected places. It's very much like the book and the cover thing as we lean towards judging something due to it's appearance. It's the very reason for the success of Susan Boyle due to the shock factor she delivered to the crowd when she performed on Britain's Got Talent in 2009. Out walks this older and extremely frumpy looking older lady with a voice that managed to bring the house completely down.

Such is the story of Charlie Brown and his less than perfect tree selection in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas. Much like Charlie, it's a loser. Or at least that's how his peers see it when he shows up with a tree that in their opinion, will never amount to anything. And if you know the whole story, the tree shines in the end as a symbol of hope for us all. The little tree that could barely hold up just one ornament.

Life is like this for all of us as I'm a firm believer that God rallies behind the underdog. The Christmas story is no different as two souls journey across the desert only to find room in a stable full of animals. Both of which had to be exhausted which was followed by labor pains and then a delivery on a dirt floor. And nobody ever talks about Joseph in all of this as I would wager to say he was probably in a state of shock given the environment. I've seen that four times and even in a hospital, the whole thing is just disturbing. I don't care what some granola says about it being beautiful as they don't know what they're talking about.

One would think that Mary would have said, "Hold on there Joe. This is the Son of God Himself. Where's my limo? Where's my four star room at Presbi? And make sure you order the epidural." But she didn't as like her Son, she was also an underdog. A pregnant woman riding a donkey for at least 70 miles taking anywhere from 6 to 8 days in travel time. I don't know about you but donkey and pregnant woman really don't go together very well. For the record, I got reamed out on several different occasions for hitting every pothole on Hillcrest from Stanford all the way to Park Lane. Literally a ten to fifteen minute drive but I digress.

Every year, we get caught up in our own holiday hell. I don't particularly care for all the commercialism that surrounds Christmas and I have to remind myself what it's all about. And if you really take notice of the story, you'll see that it's about the underdog. The original underdog that came to save us all in the very humble surroundings of a barn. Not the Ritz Carlton but a barn.

Take heed this Christmas my friends. You never know where you'll find a treasure as they always show up in the most unsuspecting places.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Protesting to the Blind

2012 Civic Natural Gas ©2011 American Honda Motor Co.
In their now third attempt to stir up a market that's hard pressed to buy, Honda has launched the new 2012 Civic Natural Gas. I say it's hard pressed as I'm sure there will be some folks that will purchase the car. For instance, in 2008 the state of Utah made a huge move installing natural gas stations due to gas prices and a little jump in sales occurred within their market. To put that in perspective, only 800 natural gas cars were sold in the U.S. back in 08 and 200 of them were sold in Utah. But this is a mere drop in the bucket when you consider that there are probably 150 thousand gas stations in the U.S. with an estimated 150 million cars on the road.

Protestors in Washington, November 2011 - Note: Markers are made from Petroleum.

In November, the all knowing environmentalists marched in Washington to protest the Keystone XL pipeline project as in their opinion, it posed a danger due to potential leakage. And to them, getting it postponed or reevaluated is considered a big win. Hooray!!! Hooray for what? Managing to push a project into next year is the the best you can do? Showing up in Washington parading around with a bunch of signs is your idea of change? Excuse me for wanting some originality but this kind of exercise got old during the Vietnam war and none of us with a brain in our head will find this to be a successful and tactical solution. Don't even get me started with the whole occupy Wall Street thing.

So what's the solution for our gas guzzling appetite?

I was asked about natural gas cars a couple of weeks ago from a young person and my response was they are a wonderful invention. They burn clean and would be ideal for around town excursions. Not to mention we have plenty of natural gas and with the device you can purchase for your home, you can easily fuel it right in your own garage.

So what about electric cars? Same thing. Cool concept and would work just fine for around town excursions. Drive around town, come home, plug it in and your off to the races the next day.

So why is this such a hard sell?

People have a hard time with change. And not because we can't but because it means functioning differently than what we've become accustomed to. We have now lived for 100 years with the ability to get from point A to point B whenever we want. If I need to get to Dallas, it's as easy as jumping in the car and I'm there in an hour or so. Giving up this kind of freedom would mean a 90 degree turn in my behavior and even if it made all the sense in the world, I would still have a hard time shifting gears. It's just the way we're made.

A great example of just how ridiculous we can be when it comes to changing our habits can be found in clear Coca-Cola. Coke is actually colored using a food coloring and the color adds absolutely nothing to the taste. Coke decided to sell the drink without the color in 1992 and couldn't move one bottle or can off the shelf. Tastes exactly the same but it was clear so we're not drinking it which sounds like an irrational child refusing to eat something at the dinner table because it's green.

When you step back to examine yourself and the effects your behavior may have on the world, the environment can be a big issue. I'm really not bashing the environmentalists as I do believe we should take care of our planet. What I am bashing is a failure to make a difference through solid creative thinking as well as changing the way we live. Especially when we can control these things just by adapting our behavior.

For example, in 2008 gas prices got so high that it became a real challenge for employees to get to work. The cost to fill up was effecting their home budgets and for a lot of people, that meant cut backs in areas that are a little tough to cut back on. Kind of hard to fill up your stomach when you have to keep filling up your tank.

To help with this problem, we started letting employees work from home three days a week while only coming in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This put us on technical duty loading all files on-line which allowed staff to exchange working documents as needed either through email or straight off the server. By doing this, it saved our back sides when Dallas was hit with record ice and snow in 2010. The ice was so thick underneath all the snow that it stranded our designers within their own homes for a whole week. No worries as we were already set up to work at home and we never missed a beat.

So with technology flowing in more places than filling stations, why doesn't America see this advantage? Do we all have to go into the office every day? How much time is wasted in mindless meetings? I've seen it first hand and granted you have a good work ethic, you'll get the work done come hell or high water no matter where you are.

I'm not saying this is a solution for everyone and I'm also not saying that it would work every day. It helps to get that one on one time with people especially when you need to bounce ideas around and stay on track with tasks. But if it were made possible by companies everywhere, just think of the difference we could make? What would this do to our pollution levels? Where would our fuel prices go?

I have a real hard time with protestors and seeing any real change that resulted from someone holding up a poster board. If you want to change the world then take a stand. Stop drinking artificially colored Cokes, put down those idiotic signs and create change with yourself. We hold the keys to this country so let's all grow up and drive it. 

And nowadays, you can even use natural gas to fill it up.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Christmas List

This time of year always brings out the best in me at some point. I always have a hard time getting into the Christmas groove but the cold weather along with the relentless Christmas music playing gets me every time. Not to mention it looks like Chris Kringle vomited in my house. The little boys appear as though they have been drinking Starbucks coffee all day just waiting to rip open any gift tucked underneath the tree.

I miss those days as it seems like Santa forgets grownups. We all get the shaft with new socks and an occasional pull over. Oh...I'm not complaining as it's a real kick to watch the kids on Christmas morning but I have to say that just once, I wish old Santa would remember me.

So this year I launched a pretty extensive campaign with Santa for adults like me who want more than socks and sweaters. After several conference calls and market studies presented to the North Pole, I'm extremely pleased to deliver this message from Santa Clause himself. I hope all of you will take a little time out of your busy schedule and let him know what you want for Christmas. I'm giving you permission to be a kid just once more. 

So be a kid.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When Pigskins Replace Canvas

Football Illustration by artist Hall Groat II

If you've been reading my short but sharp comments on Facebook these days, then you know I'm not a big fan of what our government has done regarding our debt. Fifteen trillion dollars in the hole and still spending daily like some crazed old lady with a credit card glued to the shopping network. Where does it all end? Is our society on it's way to a repressed existence much like the popular book The Hunger Games? Which by they way is a pretty good little read.

But this rant isn't about our government. At least, not in so many words as this is more about us. A society that has lost their way and can't seem to see it either because we can't or we just refuse to.

In August of this year, the state of Texas lost 900 jobs in local school districts. This was due to $4 billion in cuts to Texas public schools and the blood bath is just beginning as according to the proposed Texas state budget for 2012-2013, Texas faces a huge shortfall, estimated to be between $15 and $27 billion.  Education stands to bear a significant portion of the proposed cuts in the next two-year state budget, which currently reduces education funding by 10% (nearly $5 billion). Approximately $771 million of the reduction will come from colleges and universities and they tell me several financial aid programs will stop accepting applications.

Prior to this in April, our State House killed funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts slashing $3.5 million in contributions. The Commission and its programs affect 2.2 million Texans statewide providing funding to a wide variety of events and programs, from the Austin Shakespeare Festival to the Amarillo Opera. It also provides marketing and promotional services to help rural Texas towns attract tourists.

The commission also uses funds to promote arts in education, providing grants to Texas students across the state through its Young Masters program, which last year gave 22 students grants of up to $2,500 in financial assistance to pursue the arts for up to three years.

But hold the phone my friends as this won't hurt the football program will it? It would seem that like Mr. Holland, the football program stays while everything else gets cut. And if that doesn't make you ashamed, then you are an idiot.

With America essentially in bankruptcy while an apparent group of monkeys given the name of Super Committee fail to make any changes whatsoever, we the people remain in denial refusing to change our way of life continuing to throw good money after bad.

For example, say hello to Allen High School. Back in April around the same time the TCA was being slashed all to hell, the city of Allen approved the construction of their new high school football stadium. The cost? A mere $60 million dollars. Yes my friends, you read that correctly as I said "high school" football stadium....sixtymeeeeeeeeeellion dollars.

Now I'm all about a good football game and as most of you know, I'm a tailgating fool. But get real folks. When was the last time you witnessed a running back solving dire economic challenges? Or better yet, creating a product, service or piece of art that essentially changes lives for the better? I won't argue that there have been some rare exceptions but Jack Bechta, a well known sports agent, was quoted in saying he was totally convinced that 75% of all professional football players will go broke about three to five years after leaving the game. This due to their outlandish lifestyles as well as shortcomings within their own educational background. So what do we do? We pull money away from the programs that actually further education and culture in order to keep feeding this machine.

As mentioned, it's hard to beat a good football game but the idea that we are this out of touch with what's really important has a terrible price associated with it.

Our entire well being of who we are as a society is based upon creativity. We are but a mere product of the ultimate Creative Himself who I'm convinced thrives on the things He has molded within His own hands. Wouldn't it stand to reason that our main purpose in life is to create and learn? To further His purpose and stand with conviction on the importance of a better society? A creative and learning society that actually contributes to this world rather than take from it?

It is with this that I close with Mr. Holland. Or as it was for me and my senior class, 
Mr. Keith Hooks. A man forced to leave his passion in order to provide for his family because our society refuses to invest in what is important. 

Take heed my good internet folk. If we are to make a difference in this world we must invest in our future. And for all of us, this means the education and creativity of our children as well as our very own society.

None of us are as creative as all of us. –Steve Jobs

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cast Iron Crazy

When I was five years old, the greatest movie in the world would hit the big screen starring John Wayne. The Cowboys would make it's debut in 1972 engraving one of two frightening childhood memories that have remained in my mind for years. The first would be the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang while the other is of Bruce Dern as Asa Watts who almost made me wet the bed. But aside from all the crying when John Wayne loses his life, I was always amazed that they had apple pie on the trail ride. How was this possible? Where was the oven in the wagon?

It wouldn't be until later in my years that I would begin the long hard road of cast iron cooking. And yes, it is possible to cook an apple pie on a trail ride granted you have the right cast iron pot.

Dutch Oven cooking is no small task as I mentioned to someone the other day the older I've gotten the more my toys weigh. Seems like everything I own now that's worth playing around with has to be pulled on a trailer or hauled in a truck and a Dutch Oven that's going to cook in great capacity is not exactly easy to maneuver around. But once you've got it seasoned and ready, the flavor that follows remains unmatched by any cookware in the kitchen.

The preparation of cast iron is one that I have practiced for over twenty years now. I've been frying eggs in a black skillet since I was old enough to stand but cooking with Dutch Ovens came about in my twenties as I began to learn the art of cowboy cooking.

There's plenty of misinformation about cast iron when it comes to seasoning and cleaning and I don't claim to know everything but twenty years of messing with it has helped me learn what to do and more importantly, what not to do.

Before I go into the seasoning process, it's important to point out the difference between a new cast iron piece and an old one. Old cast iron before WW2 was made completely different than what we have now as the old skillets are smoother and lighter. This was due to the excellent machine work done on the skillets at that time as soon after the depression, they began to cut back on expenses leaving them heavier with a rougher surface. Both of them work well for different things such as eggs are cooked better in an older skillet and meats are cooked better in a heavier skillet. They both retain oil for seasoning but the older ones are a little trickier.

Granted you buy an old skillet in a flea market that has the smooth bottom, you'll want to strip it just to be safe as quite frankly you don't know what's been cooking in that thing and these days you can't be too sure. Place the skillet in the oven open side face down and start the oven cleaning process. This will burn off all the old oil and take it down to the metal.

After the oven shuts down, pull the skillet out and take it outside to dust off.

Wash the skillet with water and dry it off with a towel. Now coat the entire skillet with Crisco and place open face down in the oven to bake at 250 degrees. (It is so much better to do this on a gas grill as it really makes for a big mess in the oven.) Leave it in for fifteen minutes or so pulling it out to wipe it down with a paper towel. You want to leave some oil on the skillet but too much will make it tacky. Especially on the old skillets that have a smooth surface as oil gums up if you don't wipe it down. Place it back in the oven.

Pull it out after a couple of hours and you should be good go. From now on, you can season the skillet on the stove top using Crisco. Simply coat it and get it hot. When the oil starts to swim around on the slick surface and you see a little smoke, cut the heat off and wipe it down using a paper towel. Note I said a little smoke.

Cleaning your cast iron is extremely simple once you've got it seasoned. Pour hot water in it and let it sit for a few minutes. I recommend wiping it clean using one of these sponges that has an abrasive side. Be gentle though as the new ones are a bit harsh and can take off the seasoning. I prefer using an older one.

Preparing to cook with cast iron is really a pain in the back side but once you've got it seasoned there is no better way to go. And anything worth having at all is worth the time you put into it.

Now go season your cast iron. You're burning daylight.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Old Stand By

With four boys running through our house, we go through five gallons of milk in a week. That's a little over a gallon per boy bringing the total on milk alone to around eighty dollars a month. This is the standing joke with my family and the punch line is always that we should buy a dairy cow and put her in the backyard. Of course I know my wife would love to milk her twice a day which I'm told will render two gallons putting you around fourteen gallons a week. Instead of a lemonade stand, perhaps we could sell milk to all the neighbors.

My grandfather was a farmer and they had two milk cows which produced twenty eight gallons of milk per week. They actually used it not only for themselves but to make butter and feed the hogs.

A favorite stand by for my grandfather was cold milk and corn bread and not separately but mixed together in a tall glass and eaten with a spoon. I've done this on many occasions which has raised some interesting looks from my family but it really is good. Especially with left over corn bread.

I'm not going to give you a recipe for putting corn bread into a glass. Hopefully you're smart enough to figure that out on your own but I will give you a great cornbread recipe.

The trick to making good corn bread is to heat the skillet first. And if you don't have a well seasoned cast iron skillet then you should purchase one and season it yourself. Take some time and do your homework on the proper care of cast iron. It lasts forever and really bakes better than any other material I've used in the kitchen. Or on the ground.

Down Home Cornbread

First, make sure your cast iron skillet (# 8) is well seasoned. Use non-stick spray or Crisco coating the inside of the skillet. Place the cold skillet in an oven and then start the pre-heating process to 450 degrees.

2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons melted butter
Single drop of Mexican Vanilla

Combine the buttermilk, eggs and baking soda and beat it well. In another bowl, sift together the cornmeal, sugar and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture, butter and vanilla mixing well.

When the oven buzzes reaching 450 degrees, take out the skillet and pour in the mixture. Bake until golden brown.

Serves 8 to 10.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Little Boy

In March of 2012, I will be faced with a young man eighteen years of age. For years, I've always heard they grow up fast but I had no idea. I kept telling myself that I've got three more under him and I could bury my feelings within the comfort of having the remaining three still at home.

What is so painful I think is to see myself in him on so many different levels. It is absolutely shocking to watch him shake hands and mingle with his friends, all the while reaching for manhood. A man that in my eyes is still a small boy that used to collect dinosaurs. I have to excuse myself and catch my breath as it feels like someone pulling my guts out a great deal of the time.

Lately I've had a lot of fear dealing with him growing up. And within this fear is an uncertainty of direction as he travels with the talents God has given him. Over drinks with a friend in Dallas, I spoke of this fear as it deals with the road traveled by musical people. He is seriously hitting this road with the maturity level of a 25 year old kid and not a seventeen year old boy working tirelessly on his voice as well as piano in his down time. Yes...he considers that down time.

My fear is always the same. How will he make a living doing this? What kind of job will he land? A world so foreign to me regardless of the musicians that I've had the pleasure of hanging around with for so many years. I took the road most traveled which is a career, the corporate life. Well...sort of.

When explaining all of this to my friend, he softly said, "I've heard him sing and he's great. Do you really think Stevie Ray Vaughan ever worried about where his next meal was going to come from?"

Which led me to a verse from Matthew which reads, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

A verse we all struggle with as it's just plain hard to swallow. It's why we have savings accounts but I guess that's down right laughable as most folks have lost a great deal or all of their retirement due to the recession. These days, the market is like going to Vegas.

Aside from all of that, I'm still trying to get my head around leaving him at a college dorm room. What the hell will that be like? He sleeps, wakes up, feeds himself and then goes to class? Are you kidding me? I couldn't even find my Spanish class and still have nightmares about it. "SeƱor Holt, how nice of you to finally join us." It's the definition of an anxiety attack except I'm not naked with socks on like most classroom dreams I have.

Standing over six feet tall now, he towers over us all and I still have no idea if he's a boy or a man. I can only hope that the man he is becoming will never lose the little boy that I used to throw in the air. The little boy that used to sing in the back seat of my car. The little boy that threw a baseball through my den window...twice. The little boy who will soon leave me to create a life for himself and become a man.

It is with this thought I leave you a message from the heart. I have met many a man who lost the little boy that lived within them. Life is not easy as I've seen a great deal of hardships the older I've become but I've tried to keep that little boy alive as best I can. He shows up around Halloween to toilet paper a house or a hot summer night to play harmonica with a bunch of brothers in the hood. He is what makes me who I am and I can only hope and pray that my son will know this little boy for himself. The little boy that makes life worth living.

The great man is he that does not lose his child's heart.

Here's to the anxious and worried parent. God be with us all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Paperless World

When I graduated from college, it took me forever to find a job. The savings and loans had all gone bust and the oil market had fallen on hard times. Much like the environment of today, work was scarce but I finally found a job working for a smaller firm in North Dallas. The second in command of this firm was a Jewish man by the name of Ross Mandel. Coming from New London and a predominately southern environment, I had never really had that much experience with a Jew. I had always heard the stories and stereotypical descriptions on how they were all very shrewd with business and for the most part, Ross was just that. He immediately took me under his wing and began teaching me the art of negotiations which was always kind of funny as I'm a designer and not much of a business man. But Ross would hear non of that as when it came to pricing out the goods, he was like a coach whispering numbers and percentages in my ear as I haggled with a printer or media company on the phone. I will always hold him in high regard as he was and is like a big brother. My Jewish big brother that made me understand business.

Ross said something one day while going to lunch that has stuck with me for the last twenty years. While driving in the car entering the tollway, Ross made the statement that in our lifetime we would experience a paperless world. Well we all jabbed at him and told him he was crazy. "You've lost your mind," we all told him as we lived and designed within a world of paper. I have been studying print now for my entire career and love everything about the printing process but these days I'm beginning to wonder if Ross Mandel had it right all along.

Over the last ten years, newspaper has declined like nothing I have ever seen before. It is enough to break my heart as I love the paper and good journalism. I love to write myself but I'm not all that great so I have a tremendous amount of respect for a person that can jam out story after story each and every day. To me, that would take a hell of a lot of creativity and I've only got a few bullets in my gun.

And it isn't just the paper that's falling down. I have all but stopped watching television and will only turn on the news when a storm is blowing in. My wife will order a series from Netflix and watch it on her laptop at night when everyone finally leaves her alone which is just plain weird when you think about it. I grew up with four or five channels as a kid and you could only see cable if you went to the big city. Now it's reached a point of insanity as you can watch anything and everything whenever you want. Networks struggle to peak our attention long enough to sell some ad space around ratings as more and more people turn to the computer to spend their time.

In the beginning of this year, I met a guy named Reid Slaughter. Reid started Park Cities People newspaper when he was just a kid. He's a few years older than I am so we would still like to consider ourselves kids even though we now have to pretend we're responsible adults. Reid sold the paper, produced TV for seven years, built and sold a magazine publishing company, then sold it all and went on a mission trip to make the world better. While on the trip, Reid met Jeff Hinson who had just sold his radio stations. Sitting in the Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba they began a conversation on the future of media, journalism and how we, the market, are receiving information. And more importantly, how we are not receiving information. After a year of research, they developed an innovative new approach that combines local journalism, business, entertainment, and philanthropy — all presented through video. And not just regular video, but stunning, cinematic short stories. Reid's vision was to break the mold of tired, one-dimensional promotional video (a staple of local television) and create beautiful short films that connect with audiences and move them to action. He interviewed almost a hundred videographers before choosing the handful of filmmaker/editors who form his amazing team. Jeff & Reid then built a multi-million dollar online platform (no banner ads, pop-ups or other annoying stuff!) and back-end system to house the content.  You+Media is the very first on-line video magazine focused on local markets. 

I don't think either one of them knew where this thing would go as it seemed to be more of an experiment rather than a business plan. One of those, hey I've got an idea, let's put vodka in this thing and see what happens. No one could have predicted that they would become one of the most networked and talked about web sites in Dallas with plans now to launch in five other major cities next year.

At some point, television is going to combine with the internet. In some homes, it already has but I believe that network television will have to reinvent itself as we'll soon live in a world where demand is king. You want it, you click it. And that can be anything from a show to a recipe to the family home movies. And within this world, there will be no paper so perhaps Ross Mandel was right all along.

But there are still some things we'll need paper for. Halloween is just around the corner and I've got four boys who love to decorate the trees.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Little Buddy Charles

My wife's sister has two little boys and they are known simply as James and Charles. It's never just James or just Charles but said together as if they are one being with two heads. They come and visit us on occasion which is a scene when you consider six boys under one roof. The last time they came, we all went dragon hunting deep within the East Texas woods. Armed with swords and semi-automatic weapons, we ventured through the dense forest in search of this demonic beast ready to kill and bring it home for dinner.

Charles, the younger of the two boys couldn't make the trip into the woods that weekend. For a while now, a big question as to Charles's ability to do a great number of things has tabled much discussion. Perhaps he's just delayed was the usual standard answer as the last thing you want to think about is something serious. And although a lot of the signs were there, I don't think any of us were prepared to learn he has Muscular Dystrophy.

Charles, who is just four years old, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Out of the forty types of this disease it is the most common and lethal form of muscular dystrophy. Simply put, Charles does not produce a protein call dystrophin which is more or less an active ingredient helping form or structure muscle cells. Kind of like not having a good mortar mix when you're laying bricks together as it's hard for the bricks to stay in place.

When learning of this, his mother jumped in full throttle into education mode taking up the staff of leadership and forging a path for Charles as well as the rest of us. What she found was all kinds of information and help led by The Muscular Dystrophy Association which has been fighting this disease for sixty years.

Charles, like so many other children that have this disease, has a chance. Through donations, new treatments are discovered daily as well as the ongoing pursuit of overall awareness.

To help Charles and kids just like him, all you have to do is simply

Text the word "CURE" to 90999 

and $5 will be donated to Coach to Cure Muscular Dystrophy.

It's that simple.

Do this for Charles. The world needs more dragon hunters and less dragons.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How I Got My Blues Name

Introduction by Edwin Holt

At the age of twenty one, I would begin one of the most interesting journeys of my life. And that journey would begin on Grand Avenue leading me into the depths of South Dallas. For my entire college career in Texas, I played full time in an all black five piece band in just about every juke joint on the South side of town. I don't elaborate on a great deal of these memories as for me, they are very personal. Things that I hold dear to my heart and selfishly, my memories are the only things that I can call my own. When I got married, those days began to slow and the idea of me staying out until three in the morning would become a very hard sell to the wife.

However, before I left my weekend ventures in the ghettos of South Dallas, I brought someone else with me. David Brashier was and still is my guitar player and is probably the most underrated guitar man in Dallas. David essentially took up where I left off within this diverse cultural scene and like me, found this world to be just as entertaining.

On Monday of this week, I received a piece that he had written detailing three years of experiences in South Dallas. It brought back so many memories that I decided to post it this week. They are his memories and I can promise you they are all true. As mentioned, my memories will stay in my head until they put me in the ground but David has generously granted you, the reader, permission into a world that we lived in for a number of years.

Enjoy the read and my hats off to an open heart from David Brashier, the big brother I never had.

How I Got My Blues Name
by David Brashier

I’ve been playing the guitar since I was eleven. At this point, that’s 41 years. It’s so much a part of what I have done for so long that I cannot imagine it not being a part of my life. I took about a year’s worth of lessons when I was twelve at the Boyd Guitar School in Oak Cliff, Texas. This was the place of one of my great regrets in life.

Mr. Bill Boyd was a large, bald, bowling pin shaped man who was always in a coat and tie. His shop was a small storefront on Beckley Avenue that was painted 1950’s elementary school green, adorned with a few posters of movie stills of singing cowboys from the forties. I had one lesson with him, my first. Then I was given the choice of continuing lessons with him or with his assistant, Jesse. Jesse was a thirty-something hispanic guy, who taught more contemporary songs than Mr. Boyd was willing to teach. Venus, Light My Fire, Proud Mary and so on. Given the choice between songs like that and Pennies from Heaven, September Song, Autumn Leaves and countless other songs that my parents would listen to, I made the natural choice to rock. Not only were the songs more to my liking, they were easier to play. So, most of the chords were right out of the can, and I never had to learn many of the finger numbing nuances of the augmented and diminished chords that Mr. Boyd’s material was fraught with. I’m certain that I would have become a better player had I chosen differently. But I’m not at all certain that I would have had as much fun.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned who Bill Boyd was. Those posters in his studio were actually photos of him and his brother Jim. They were founding members of The Cowboy Ramblers, who recorded a big western swing hit called Under the Double Eagle in 1935. Bill was featured in a half dozen cowboy films, made hundreds of recordings on the Bluebird label, performed with the Lightcrust Doughboys, Jimmy Rogers and others. The Cowboy Ramblers had their own popular radio show, The Bill Boyd Ranch House. Bill was honored for his contributions to radio with a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Who knew? Not me. At the time I was only interested in learning the bridge to There’s a Bad Moon on the Rise. In addition to taking the easy road to learning the guitar, I also missed out on a wealth of stories and history that I was not even aware of until almost twenty years after the fact.

But this is not the story of my entire guitar playing history. It is more about how I got my blues name. 

In high school, I played in a mostly covers band that did a bunch of Allman Brothers tunes, and various other Southern rock songs. Then in the early eighties, I was in an all originals band called the Symptoms, that was, well, eighties music. We were heavily influenced by The Police, but were more of an Americanized version. The Security Guards would have been an apt name. It was tons of fun, and the very talented guys I played with are still lifelong friends. After college, careers and marriages called, and we all set off along those paths. I still continued to play, but not publicly. I also went through a solo folk performance phase, which was enjoyable, but I don’t think I was ever truly committed enough to it to pull it off. Throughout all of this, I always had an appreciation for the blues, even though it wasn’t deeply reflected in the material I was playing and writing at certain times.

In the nineties I would occasionally go to blues jams. That was fun, but also kind of cliquish. I’d wait around for two or three hours listening to shuffles, slow ones followed by more shuffles, waiting for a chance to get up and do the same. And I was at the mercy of the emcee as to when, or even if, I would play, and would invariably get stuck with drummers who overplayed, or bassists who played once a year and tonight was the night. Needless to say, it was not very gratifying. At some point in 1994, I met a fellow graphic designer and singer/harmonica player named Edwin Holt. After developing a friendship based in large part on our mutual appreciation of blues music, Edwin informed me that he was producing a blues festival in East Texas, and he wanted me to play with him. I would be joining him and the house band (Hal Harris and the Lowlifers) from a Dallas institution called R.L.’s Blues Palace. The Lowlifers would be playing behind a number of different performers on the bill, including Edwin. He gave me a cassette tape of the songs we would be doing and said we would meet to rehearse in about a week. The rehearsal was to take place at R.L.’s on a Sunday afternoon at 2:00. I showed up at 1:45. This was my first introduction to a phenomenon known only as “blues time.” R.L.’s is at the corner of Grand and Meadow in Sunny South Dallas, a location that can only be described as at the very heart of “all up in there.” I parked between the club and the liquor store, and tried to seem inconspicuous while marvelling at the constant parade of winos and crackheads that make up the Sunday afternoon population of that particular corner. It is, to understate it, a neighborhood with a considerable amount of character. About 2:30, someone finally showed up to let me in, and I eagerly set up my gear to begin on what was certain to be a memorable adventure.

The guys in the band had all played there the night before. There was not a lot of room on the stage, so I stood on the dance floor about three feet beneath them. This placed me in sort of an intimidated posture, but my enthusiasm was not to be deterred. The first song was a Johnny Lang song that I forget the title of. Because of the tape I had been given, or the poor quality of my boom box, when I was learning the tune it fell somewhere between the key of A and A flat. Listening to what the guitar part was doing, I decided that it had to be in A. The Lowlifers launched into the tune, but came to a screeching halt because they were all in A flat while I was boldly wanking along in A. There was a discussion of what key the song was in that I’ll never forget. Raymond Green, their keyboardist, was pretty insistent that it was in A flat. I was pretty insistent that, given what the guitar part was doing, it had to be in A. I thought maybe Raymond was kind of crotchety because he had to be back at the club at 2:30 in the afternoon after only having left there at 2:30 that morning, but later learned that he was pretty crotchety at any given hour.

Raymond said “But the song is in A flat.”

I replied that “It’s whole lot easier to play in A.”

Then Raymond gave a withering glance down at me from the stage and said, “Oh, so now we get to the point of it. We’re supposed to make things easier for you.”

Mind you, I had only met these guys about ten minutes prior. I put my tail between my legs and said that A flat would be just fine. It wasn’t until some years later that I found out that Johnny Lang tunes his guitars a half step lower, so while playing stuff in an A position and fingering, he was actually playing in A flat. Mr. Green, I humbly apologize. The rest of the rehearsal went without a hitch. The festival was a week later and featured the inimitable Bobby Rush, blues legend Bobby Bland and a host of others. I thought it was a tremendous success. It turned out however, that Edwin lost a pretty good-sized piece of his ass on that one. Never daunted, he put on three more Pinetop Blues Festivals before finally getting out of the concert business. After the first festival ended, Hal Harris, the head Lowlifer in charge, said that if I ever wanted to come sit in with them at the club, I was always welcome. It was a tremendous compliment, and turned out to be the beginning of a musical odyssey that would lead me ever closer to my blues name.

A bit more about blues names in general. I don’t think any genre of music has a richer history of assignment of nicknames based on physical features or deeds in one’s past. There’s Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Walter, Little Walter, Little Milton, Big Boy Cruddup, Pinetop Perkins, Lightnin’ Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Big Mama Thornton and Sleepy John Estes, just to name a few. There’s even a blues name generator online that states: “Make your own Blues name Starter Kit: a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Melon, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.). For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jackleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not “Kiwi.”) But gaining a blues name is not as simple as plugging some factors into a website generator. It has to be earned, and also assigned by someone from within the fraternity. But more on that later.

After the first Pinetop Blues Festival, I ran into one of the drummers from the Lowlifers, Charles “Sugar Boy” Meyers, who played with the late, great Freddie King in the seventies. I was in a McDonald’s in South Dallas and saw him sweetening coffee at the beverage stand. I was about 70% sure it was him, but could not remember his name. Was it Honey Something? Sweet Something? Finally I walked up to him and asked if he was a drummer.

He said, “Yeah, I remember you! Edwin’s guitar player, right?”

I said yes and that I was sorry, but I could not remember his name.

“Sugar Boy,” he said.

“Right, I knew it was something like that. But I was afraid of walking up to a strange black man in South Dallas who’s putting sugar in coffee and saying, Sugar?, Boy?”

He laughed and said, “Yeah, if I had whipped your ass, you would’ve known you got the wrong cat.”

Eventually, I took Hal up on his invitation and started going to the Blues Palace about twice a month. It was great because, unlike blues jams, the band was tight, and they played more than just straight blues. There was a good deal of soul, funk and jazz mixed in as well. And as long as I musically stayed out of the way, I could sit in with them as long as I liked. I would usually go for the first set on a Friday, then pack up and go home by 12 while they played on into the wee hours. I was, in essence, a blues volunteer.

Their guitar player was a guy from Arkansas named Jerry Jines, who could not have been more gracious. He’d tell me what key we were about to be in, and would nod to me on occasion to take a solo that normally would have been his. I’ve always prided myself on listening to what other players are doing and playing parts that fit into the scheme of things. I think Jerry appreciated that. Or he may have felt some kinship toward me because there were now two white faces in the club. Whatever the case, I am ever thankful for his generosity. There was another white guitar player there before Jerry named Paul. They bore absolutely no resemblance to one another, and even after being there a couple of years they still sometimes called Jerry “Paul.” For the longest time, I had no name there at all, and was referred to only as “Edwin’s guitar player.” Or occasionally, “Paul.” I didn’t look anything like Paul either.

When Jerry wasn’t playing there, an immensely talented guitar player and keyboardist named Lucky Peterson was. As talented as Lucky is, his career is equally as baffling. At the age of 5 he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and What’s My Line. He was tutored by none other than Willie Dixon and has a huge following in Europe and Japan. I could not for the life of me understand what he was doing playing in Dallas for sixty bucks a night while in between world tours. Spend a minute or two watching footage of him on youtube and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. There have also been times in Lucky’s career when he’s been less than dependable. One night I showed up to do my volunteer duty only to discover Hal in the parking lot, half panicked on the phone trying to find someone to fill in for the night. He said, “Can you play tonight?” I told him I definitely could. He then asked for and entered my phone number into his little black address book.

The first night of playing there for real is a bit of a blur. And was kind of a trial by fire. The house band plays a sort of a revue behind three or four different singers throughout the night. And because they’d been playing the same material for so long, they usually knew what song was coming next, and would just launch into it. Several times, all I heard was “1,2,3,4...” not knowing what song we were doing, what key we were in or where we were going next. Sometimes I would get a clue, like when for instance, a singer named Harold Walker would holler “Bobby Bland!” It’s important to note that Bobby Blue Bland recorded thirty some odd albums over his career, so, at an average of 12 songs each, that’s over 360 songs. But when Harold Walker called Bobby’s name, it meant Don’t Cry No More. I did not know this at the time, and Jerry was not there to hold my hand.

Somehow I managed to get through it, and apparently passed the initiation. A couple of weeks later, Hal called me again because either Jerry or Lucky couldn’t make it. This time it was on a Saturday, and the intensity of the situation was ratcheted up a notch or two. On Saturdays from 11:00 to 12:00 p.m., they do a live radio simulcast from The Blues Palace on KKDA, Soul 73. And the crowd is usually about double that of an ordinary Friday. The club holds about 400, but there seemed to be a lot more than that. It gets so crowded on Saturdays that in order to go to the rest room, it’s best to pick some big mama who’s making her way in that direction and fall in behind her like she’s a pulling guard. The fact that the first set was going to be on the radio didn’t exactly calm me down any either, although looking back on it, the listening audience was probably not a great deal larger than those in live attendance. Once we started though, the fact that we were on the air quickly faded from my consciousness, because once again, I was just trying to hang on for dear life. After we were done, Hal complimented me and said, “I was listening to you, and it sounds like you’re starting to get it.” That was a huge relief because I was still feeling like I was sticking out like the sorest of all thumbs. Every once in a while, one of the club’s patrons would say something to me like “You play like a black man” or sometimes even “You don’t play like a white boy.” I always took it as a compliment but was never really sure what to say. Then I came up with what I thought to be a classic response. I’d look shocked, stare down at my outstretched hand and scream “What!? All this time I thought I was just real light brown!”

The calls from Hal were becoming more frequent, and I was becoming more familiar with the band. Then he called to say that Jerry was having back surgery, and they needed me to fill in for three months. By now, some of them even knew my name was David. But I don’t think they realized the dichotomy this was creating in my life. It was like the opposite of six degrees of separation, in that I felt I was the only person on the planet who, in the same day, would have a conversation with the CEO of Halliburton and Pork Chop the parking lot attendant. It made me feel eerily unique.

Not everyone at Blues Palace has a nickname, but several do. There’s singers Little Nicki, Sugar Mama, and Big Charles Young. Raymond Green on keys was sometimes called Catfish, but mostly, out of respect or fear, he was referred to as Dr. Green. Tutu Jones is a guitar player that came in from time to time and I have no idea what his real name is. Drummer David Burns was called Booty by some, and Rock Bottom by others. Rock Bottom was a cartoon character bulldog from the sixties who always had a stub of a cigar in his mouth. David has a habit of playing with a cigarette in his mouth that burns all the way down to the filter, goes out, then stays there. The barbecue man at the club was just called Fat, and the security guy was Lowdown. Harold Walker had no nickname that I know of, but was never referred to as Harold, or Walker, but always Harold Walker. He’s the one I owe thanks for bestowing my blues name upon me. During the weeks of Jerry’s recuperation, I was getting more and more familiar with the band and the material. I’ve always had a pretty good memory for keys of songs, and changes within them, and the time on stage was also helping to cement things into my brain. The only real uncertainty I felt was with what to wear. The Blues Palace is a grown folks club, and for the most part, the attire is pretty flashy. Sometimes I would go as far as wearing a brightly colored tie, or socks, but going any further than that just never seemed right. One night a guy we called “Super Stevie” who sold CDs and assorted trinkets in the club came up and handed something to me. He said, “Here you go guitar player” then hurried away. I looked down and was pleasingly astonished to see that it was a cheap gold chain with a giant gold dollar sign on it. I guess he thought I needed a little more flash. I still have it, but have always had some trepidation about wearing it. Harold Walker on the other hand, harbors no such reservations. Orange sequined outfits, purple slacks and a matching vest with no shirt, bright white suit with a matching admiral’s hat – every night was a sartorial feast. But it’s show business, and he had more than enough flair to pull it off. Not to mention a voice like smoked velvet. A cross between Barry White
and Teddy Pendergrass, both of whom were artists that he covered.

One night (morning actually) when the club had emptied and we were waiting to get paid, Harold Walker came up to me and said “David Wishbone, did you get your food stamps yet?” It took me a minute to understand that he meant “had I been paid,” and I was equally confused by the Wishbone part.

“Why did you call me David Wishbone?”

“Cause you just look like you were wishing for something” he said.

So there it was. I was now David Wishbone.

Jerry came back to work there after recovering from his surgery, so I returned to volunteer status, with the occasional call to fill in. A few months later, Hal called to tell me that Jerry was moving back to Arkansas to deal with some personal issues, and he asked me to come back to work for him. It’s hard to believe now, but I then spent every weekend of the next three years in The Blues Palace. And most of the time, as Harold Walker would put it, looking like I was wishing for something.

A lot of times when there I was wishing I could breathe. The smoke was so thick at times that when the front door was opened it looked like the place might be on fire. One night a group of guys were occupying the table to my left and immediately below me. There were five or six of them, and every one of them was smoking a cigar. By the end of the evening, I felt like a cured ham. Every time I came home from a gig there, I had to leave my clothes on the back porch to air out. A couple of years ago, the city banned all smoking in bars and clubs, and I thought that Blues Palace might not survive, but it’s still going as strong as ever.

Friends of mine would come to see me on occasion. They’d sometimes ask if I was nervous playing in a place where everyone was searched for weapons upon entering. “Are you kidding?” I’d reply. “I’d be a lot more nervous if they weren’t doing that.” But as I said earlier, it’s a grown folks club. And during all my nights there, I saw very little foolishness. Whenever tempers did flare, all parties involved were ushered out the door so fast that there was hardly ever time for anything to escalate.

The greatest regular moments of excitement came at midnight on Saturdays right after we went off the air. As soon as the radio simulcast would end, we would launch into Hey Bo Diddley, and R.L. would start saying, “Can I get a hen up here?” Women would line up by the stage stairs and one at a time, come up on the stage while leaving their dates and all traces of modesty behind. It’s all videotaped, and some of it can be found on line if you look deep enough. So even from my vantage point at stage left, I could look at any of the several TV monitors in the club and get an up close and personal look at what color thong a hen might be wearing. I saw drunken headstands collapse into the drum kit, weed falling out of bras, bumping, grinding, shimmying and shaking of all imaginable shapes, sizes and ages.

One night a hen wearing a fishnet dress was grinding on R.L. and her dress became inexorably tangled with one of his rather large shirt buttons. They tried for a while to become disengaged, until finally some guy on the dance floor whipped out a buck knife and cut, not the button, but the dress to set her free. I thought about the size of that knife and guessed one got by the security detail at the door that night.

From time to time, the area surrounding the club would also provide a certain amount of excitment and entertainment. There was a constant parade of stuff that one could buy from guys pushing shopping carts down the street, especially around the holidays. Bootleg DVDs, pants, used tools, small appliances and gloves were available if you were willing to take a chance. I even saw a guy pushing a cart full of plants for sale through the parking lot one time. One Fourth of July weekend also comes to mind. Before we started playing, I was on the parking lot and I noticed that the City of Dallas was beginning its annual fireworks display. I had a great view of the bursts of color set against a backdrop of the downtown skyline. Once every few minutes, a smaller rocket would ascend from the apartments that were about two hundred yards away on Grand Avenue. I thought it was cool to have both a distant and near view of the celebration of our nation’s birth. Two hours later, we were on break and I came outside to get out of the smoke and give my ears a rest. There were 12 or so kids in front of the apartment building, and an equal number was in front of the retail strip on the opposite side of Grand, which is a four-lane, major thouroughfare. An all out fireworks war had erupted. They were not only shooting stuff at one another, but practically anything that moved, including passing cars and buses. And they were not merely armed with roman candles or wimpy little rockets – the big guns had been brought out. A fire truck showed up, and they scattered into the darkness, but as soon as the firemen left the skirmish erupted again in full force. Once in a while, a stray salvo would come close enough to make me uneasy, so I ducked back inside to avoid becoming a civilian casualty.

Another memorable incident occured when I was on the parking lot later that summer. I heard a lot of sirens to my left, and then saw a police cruiser that came to an abrupt halt after sreaming up Grand to my right. Looking back to my left, I could see a white Delta 88 doing about sixty with four or five police cars in hot pursuit coming up Meadow Street, which fronted the parking lot I was standing in. Before reaching Grand, the driver took and impossible left turn down an alley that was across the street from me. His pursuers followed. They went speeding down the alley, took a right behind the laundromat, through the parking lot, across grand (amazingly avoiding all Saturday night traffic) and into the aforementioned apartments. Apparently, the driver then bailed and disappeared somewhere within the complex. It was straight out of Starsky & Hutch. As I was standing there gawking, Red, one of the parking lot attendants came by.

“They ain’t gonna find Bobby in there,” he said. “But he oughta have more sense than to come down here when he knows they’re looking for him.”

Not only had I witnessed a high speed chase, but I also knew a guy who knew the guy being pursued. I puzzled at this unexpected connection and thought “Run Bobby, Run!”

Aside from the regular night in and night out house band gigs, once in a while a touring act would come through and do a show at the club. One night we opened for Buddy Miles and his band. When we were done, I was walking past a table where Buddy was sitting with Big Charles before Buddy and his band went on. All I heard was “Hey man!” I looked over and Buddy Miles was kind of beckoning to me with his cane. I walked over, and stuck my hand out. Buddy grabbed my hand, and without getting up, pulled me into a bear hug that lasted long enough that I began to wonder what was up. Finally he released me and I came up for air. He asked me what my name was and I could not resist replying, “They call me David Wishbone.” I don’t remember much else about what was said, but I do remember walking, on air, away from that table and thinking that I just got props from a guy that played with Jimi.

Little Milton was another national artist that came through from time to time. And in addition to the shows he did at the club with his band, we also did some three night mini tours with him where we acted as his band. One night in Temple, Texas we were playing a club that looked like it used to be an automotive repair shop. It was on the other side of the tracks from a cotton gin. How fitting is that? The stage was small, and was on about a ten inch riser that was surrounded by a wrought iron railing. Milton was seated directly in front of us on a stool on the parquet dance floor. About 1:00 a.m. I noticed some movement from the middle of the crowd. I recognized the throwing motion, but did not know if it was going to be a bottle, ash tray or what that was soon to be hurtling at the stage. It missed Milton, and hit the railing. There, on the dance floor to his right, was a white, patent leather pump that looked to be about a size thirteen. Mr. Triggs, our ancient security detail for these shows, shuffled over to retrieve it, but Milton stopped him. “No man, I’m keeping it,” he said. After the show, this older, very drunk woman with one white shoe on came hobbling toward the stage with her arms extended like she wanted a hug. Apparently, the throwing of her left shoe was meant as a sign of affection. The next day when we were getting on the bus to that night’s show, I asked Milton, “In all your years on the road, has anyone ever thrown a shoe at you?”

He said “No, that was the first. And it was a big one, too!”

We were doing a show in Tyler with Milton, and in the second set were doing an instrumental portion of one of his songs as he was brought onto stage. It was cookin’. A few bars after Milton had came on stage, he did kind of a quick cock of his head to the right and a slight hunch of his right shoulder. We cooked on. The lights were in our eyes, so Little Milton was sort of silhouetted, and he cocked his head and shoulder again. We kept right on groovin’. The third time he did it, I caught on and started trying to get David “Rock Bottom” Burns’ attention, but it was too late. Milton turned, came back to drum kit, cocked his head and shoulder again and yelled, “This means break it down, god dammit!” Later, Burns said, “Shoot, I didn’t know. I thought he had a tic.”

The rest of the night, he rode David mercilessly about tempo, dynamics and just about everything short of the tuning of his drums. David just said “yes sir” and soldiered on. The funny thing was, the next day, he asked R.L. if David was available to go on the road with him. The only thing we could figure was that Milton had never met a drummer who could take a whuppin’ like that.

We would also head out from time to time and do shows in East and Central Texas. R.L. had bought an eighties era trailways bus from Little Milton that was painted purple with a big panther on the side of it. We never took it more than 120 miles one way, which was probably about as far as they trusted it to travel. We went to Kilgore to play the grand opening of a place called Betty’s Blues Club. Before leaving, David Burns noticed a couple of flies on the bus and said. “Ya’ll better get off now. Gonna get down there and get your asses kicked by some of them country flies!” After a couple of hours on the bus, we pulled up next to a dilapidated looking place that was painted pink and had a sign that said “The Queen of Clubs.” Burns looked at the place and said “Oh my lord.” I thought that something didn’t seem right, because we were supposed to be playing at a place called Betty’s. My suspicions were confirmed when we discovered that Betty’s was the dive that was located in back of the dive we were parked next to. Inside Betty’s the paint fumes were pretty strong, and as it turned out, the paint was still drying. Betty was a large woman who’s very pointed bra made it look like she was armed with two intercontinental ballistic missiles. We could tell that she was a little nervous, but intensely proud of the place at the same time. Surroundings aside, we had a great time that night and rolled back into Dallas about 4:30 in the morning.

These short jaunts into the country gave me a taste of what it must be like to be a touring musician, and the taste can only be accurately described as “tired.” A few months later, Hal called to tell me we had a gig booked at a place in Hearne, Texas. When I asked where that was, he said only, “Down by Waco.” It turns out that Hearne is about 70 miles to the East of Waco. We were supposed to leave at 3:00 p.m., which seemed kind of early to me. I got to Blues Palace early (still hadn’t adjusted to “blues time”) and was settling into the bus. I’d forgotten something in my car, and as I was reboarding I noticed directions on the dash to a club in Ft. Worth. I asked Hal about this, and he said we had to go there first to pick up Vernon Garrett’s band.

“Who’s opening?” I asked. My mind was racing at this point.

Hal looked confused. “What?”

“Who’s going on first, us or Vernon?”

“We are,” Hal said.

By this time, the bus was starting to roll out of the parking lot and I was grabbing my guitar, running to front of the bus and hollering for “Blue” the driver to hold up.

“Let me off, I’m going to drive” I said.

R.L. had this confused look on his face that seemed to say “Why don’t you want to ride on my bus?” I had played with Vernon and seen his act before. He’s an incredibly gifted singer and showman, but can be a little long-winded at times. Factoring that we were going to drive 30 miles West to Fort Worth, then to Hearne, then play, then wait for Vernon to do his show, then drive back to Fort Worth before finally heading back to Blues Palace, I thought I might be able to shave some time off of this gig. I took my time driving down, stopped for dinner and still beat the bus to the venue. We finished playing at 10:45 and I was on the road home at 10:52. Our drummer for the night was a guy named Big Bo, who hitched a ride back with me. Bo stands about 5’11”, and pushes four bills, and completely filled the passenger side of my little SUV. Even after dropping him off at Blues Palace, I still managed to get home and be in bed by 2:45. The bus arrived at Blues Palace at 9:15 that morning. Score one for the Wishbone. R.L. even gave me some gas money, not realizing that I would have gladly paid him to be let off the bus for that one.

Back at Blues Palace, a routine was taking hold. Fridays were the hardest, because after working until 5:00 as a designer, I would head to the club around 9:30 and get home around 3:00 in the morning. It made for a very long day. There was usually a pot of coffee there on Fridays if Willie Mitchell was there. He was a gravelly voiced promoter that worked for KKDA. I once spotted Willie behind the bar and asked him for a cup of coffee, if there was any. Willie poured some for me into a styrofoam cup and asked “You want it black, or do you want cream and sugar and all that other shit?” I could tell from his tone that the correct answer was black, and said so.

“Good’ he said. ‘If you want coffee, drink coffee god dammit. If you want hot chocolate, go someplace else.” The grind of being there every weekend was starting to wear on me. By then I was so familiar with the material that during some slower numbers, I could actually close my eyes and catch a brief semi-nap without missing any of the changes. It seemed that more and more time was being taken away from my family, and the fact that every weekend of my life was spoken for compounded things. That the money was not too great did not help either.

The irony of the situation was that after all the time I spent trying to fit in, I finally did, because like the rest of the band, I looked at it more as a chore than an opportunity. I gave my notice, and am now the all points emergency, first call alternate guitar player. Which is a step up from being a volunteer. But I fostered relationships there that have led to other gigs, learned a lot of music and about playing it, and gained a lifetime membership to the Lowlifers, albeit in absentia.

And come what may, I will forever remain David Wishbone.

It’s not the end. Just the end of this page.

All photos are property of Ric Moore, Photographer. © 2011 Ric Moore Photography