Monday, February 25, 2013

i've developed a kind of fascination for amarillo, another west texas town, slightly smaller than lubbock but with a better downtown, a little more character, and a major highway running through it, lots of songs too. one song in particular is panhandle rag which a lot of musicians in the area are fond of and play often, finally i decided i'd better learn it. turns out it's what's left of bob wills, really, it's his song, it's from the area, it's fast & it's good. people like to play it on the slide guitar which you set out in front of you on a stand.

playing a lot of music in the area i've come to like their high standards and general lack of good fiddlers, also people are very friendly & really know a wide variety of things. i can't play such songs as dixie soldier of course and they give you only a quick round before it's the fiddle's turn to take a run. i'm guilty of not knowing how these songs start, or what key they're in, so i can't lead much. but they have a whole brand of music called red-dirt and some of it is really fun. the texas persona kind of takes over, after a while, i guess.

so a whopper snowstorm-blizzard raked the area, and amarillo of all places got 17 inches of snow and 75 mph winds. we, an hour or so south, got only 5 inches, but that was still a lot for this area and everyone was kind of surprised. it's not like they'd never seen snow before, but, this late in february, it's still a bit unusual. school closed down for a day and won't open for a couple of hours in the morning while they check out the conditions. the storm kind of gathered up down here and then moved on up and out toward kansas which had already gotten quite a bit of snow. it was like a temporary visitor. high winds, violent skies, a warm southerly (from the south) wind hitting up against this wall of gray turbulence, temps crashing, a big wind & blizzard you could hardly walk in. they don't have plows, to speak of (somebody said they might have one at the airport), but it was ok because the sun came out as usual and melted places where the cars drove a lot. tomorrow it might be frozen over; it might snow again tonight and it might get pretty cold.

the weather maps show the panhandle - and it has maybe forty counties in it, texas has hundreds of these counties. they are the same size as counties in other states, it's just that texas itself is so big, if they want counties that are hundred-mile by hundred-mile, then they have to have hundreds. i'm not sure, actually, how big they are, but i know there's more of them, than i can count or keep track of, and it's probably pretty cool to be the guy who goes around and researches the courthouses of each one. one of these days, i'm going to go see a few of them.

off to bed...panhandle rag is still in my mind, and i want a way to play it again; I need to find me a steel-guitar player. chou

Sunday, February 24, 2013




Sunday, February 17, 2013

one local park, my walking park, has been taken over by dogs, hundreds on a given spring afternoon, to the point that nobody else really wants to use the place. i watch carefully and walk gingerly around the edges. tonight i'm too tired; i'm staying home and blogging and going to bed. but spring has sprung. the dog wallow is hopping.

spring here means a steady hard wind, about thirty mph, that puts sand in your teeth sometimes but otherwise keeps the air fresh and the sky blue. they say that once they start plowing the fields, and that will be soon, more dust will blow and it'll get a little dusty out there. for now, it seems like a thin person or a kid might blow away, but mostly you want to just stay on the right side of some building, if you want to sit out in the sun. lots of kids are out jogging, biking, playing football even. they don't seem to mind the sand in their teeth, maybe they like it.

going to dallas in late march; this is because i have another tesol presentation on the topic of how technology has messed with everyone's brain, to the point that they haven't learned stuff. for example, if spell-check checks it, you don't learn how to spell. an entire generation doesn't learn how to spell. people rise to a certain level, in a place where spelling is necessary, and realize they've never learned to spell. but spelling is just the tip of the iceberg. remember, they never learned to multiply or divide either. they reach for the calculator instinctively, even if they're multiplying by one. it doesn't make sense to ask oneself the question, is the calculator really necessary for this one? that would only happen in my generation.

so the question becomes, who cares if they know how to multiply when they don't have their calculator. in fact, my presentation is about grammar-check software and what happens to people who are learning the language, and at the same time being told what to do with it. it's not pretty. it's like if the mechanic told me over the phone how to remove my transmission, and i was on the side of the interstate.

i see that blogger now has spell check, or at least something that's putting red lines on what i write. you must get a lot of that, you might say, since i don't have a capital letter anywhere in sight. yes, to some degree, i'm used to it. but it demonstrates a point. if blogger itself is building in the check-hardware, then basically everything is upgrading, even as we speak, and as they make better developments in this situation, virtually every word-processor has spell-check of some kind, and they borrow each other's upgrades, and the world gets a slightly higher standard. A sorely needed higher standard.

they've actually had what i'd call a hard winter here, lots of cold and hard-blowing wind, some freezing temps, some days when it's hard to walk and almost impossible to ride a bike. it's dry too; it sucks the moisture out of you til you're chapped and brittle. but it's fresh, and it's always sunny. people have money; they play to win; they watch football and they support fracking for the most part as they've always made their money pulling stuff out of the ground, one way or the other. it's a little unsettling, the fact that they already do it, so extensively, and ruin what little water we've got. i'm just a visitor though; it's obvious i won't change much. i wonder about their logic, but then, i wonder about a lot of stuff. folks sure are friendly, for what it's worth. the wild weather doesn't seem to set them back much.

Monday, February 11, 2013

a bar with texas in the name, up on 50th, has an open jam every sunday night and has apparently done this for twenty, thirty years. i didn't know what they meant by "open jam" so i brought my fiddle. i didn't prepare anything, though; i wasn't ready for the fact that it was a kind of open mike, everyone signing up to play a few songs and then stepping down for someone else to get up there. it was a bit smoky. a large texas flag stood behind the musicians.

a couple of guys and rotating drummers played backup, and they were good, if only by virtue of having backed up hundreds. even in the night i was there, there were dozens, and some people wanted them to do almost all the work. others took over the stage and let those three take a break. there was a wide variety of kinds of music, hendrix, rock, red dirt country, blues, you name it. just about everything but bluegrass. i was interested in the red dirt country. it's texish, country, a little faster than your usual. i don't know much else about it.

i sat near one musician who i got along with and we watched a parade, some better than others, until about midnight when i couldn't take it any more; i was tired and my eyes itched from the smoke. but i heard impressive music, all texas, all well made. and one fairly incredible thing: no fiddles. none. one entire band had three guitars, no fiddle. people were friendly to me. it was strangely as if all the good fiddlers had moved off to austin or wherever, and there was nobody left, and everyone needed a good fiddler because the world was full of pretty good guitar players, but there weren't a whole lot of fiddlers around. this in fact was what it was like playing bluegrass too. they may be out there, those good fiddlers, but they all have work and don't need to go haunting around on sunday night looking for someone to play with.

a couple of the musicians were excellent. the bar was busy and waitresses came around a lot serving beer and whatever, though much of the crowd performed at one time or another or was related to someone who did. "open jam" was kind of like what we would call "open mike" up north, with lots of people signing up and performing various things. i think you see a parade of people's dreams, of being on stage, playing the crowd and all, and you know not everyone's going to make it. that's ok. i snuck out southbound, came home and took off my smoky clothes. the music is not bad, i could go in the direction of red dirt country, and might give it a shot. they seem to need fiddlers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

i've been hanging around twitter for a while; it's like a busy city street with lots of ruffians and people who drive too fast. i almost spoke up when everyone was glorifying chris kyle, this guy who was a sniper in iraq and killed 150 people, then wrote a book about it. in the end, i didn't though, and after i read this i was glad. i don't need people threatening my life just because i'm not crazy about a sniper.

got a little behind, though, on other important stuff. i've been walking and swimming a lot, and totally destroyed a pair of shoes, but also had to keep up with the family and my classes, and the weather has been beautiful here; i have an impulse to just go out and sit in it. but instead i'm glued to twitter, watching the world in a raucous free-for-all, over the ravens, or chris kyle, or whoever. there's no way one could make a difference in this world, though everyone's trying. it's quite incredible. people fill up their tweets with hashtags and send them out to different communities, where people look up everything mentioning the #ravens or #kyle and then they go from there. certain topics are "trending" and then people go there and mix in. it's like a city full of people who are all seeking out trouble...but, in fact, there's a boisterous energy to it too.

out on my walk, stars shine above the park. traffic is busy. lots of runners and dog people. the hoys go for swimming lessons in the evening and we've taken to walking home from school in the beautiful weather. we don't get out of lubbock much. but, it's ok; in spite of it being a city, the air is fresh, the clouds keep changing in the sky, and you never feel especially penned in. super bowl night, the streets were empty, not a soul out there. it gets quiet at night too. that's lucky; i've gotten a bit behind in my work.

found some musicians, though, that was a relief. anything to be able to play a few tunes. they play things fast in west texas; "texas" country is actually just fast country, rockish country. i'm studying it. i'll let you know what i find out.