Friday, September 15, 2017


A friend of ours, who has Dallas Cowboy season tickets, gave two to me and Jackson for the November game between Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs.

I am super stoked! I have only been to one NFL game in my life: September 13, 1985, a rare for the time Thursday Night Football Game (on ABC) between the Chiefs and the Los Angeles Raiders. Chiefs beat the hated Raiders. Since then, the Raiders have moved back to Oakland and are soon to move to Las Vegas. Life moves fast.

I had looked into buying tickets for the Chiefs-Cowboys game. Kansas City doesn't make it down to Arlington too often. But tickets are ridiculously expensive. I had decided to watch the game from the comfort of my couch. However, tickets fell from the sky.

My son has recently began to show interest in watching football. He's been to plenty of high school games and SMU games, but he really hadn't shown interest about what was going on on the field. This year he seems interested in the outcomes and understanding the game. He watches and asks questions.

I am conflicted about football. Concussions and CTE are a serious problem. NFL owners are greedy. Many college programs are corrupt. The players are often not the best role models. I know this. My son says he has no interest in playing organized football. But I want him to be able to converse with people in his life about a major topic of conversation in these parts of the United States of America. Watching football can bring people together and I don't want him excluded on the playground or later in life at watch parties.

So he's excited about going the game. He's a Cowboys fan as well he should be. Although I'm a Chiefs fan, I'm proud that he roots for his hometown team and isn't some bandwagon fan of a team that doesn't make geographic sense.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Bike

I love to bike, but I haven't had a decent bike in years. About fifteen years ago I bought a cheap mountain bike at Walmart, a 26 inch Next Breakpoint Pro. I retrofitted the bike with quick release wheels and a new seat. It was a real tank of a bike, heavy and durable. After several crashes and long use, it began to show its age.

So I finally bought a new mountain bike, a GT Aggressor Pro. GT is a well respected bike manufacturer known for making fast and sturdy bikes. Now, I'm not a hard core trail rider. But I didn't want a cheap bike either. I ride a lot. So I spent around $500, which believe it or not is considered fairly cheap by serious riders.

I had done my homework and the reviews were excellent...even in reviews in serious Mountain Bike magazines. The typical review said it was a great bike for amateurs and professionals, a high level bike that won't break the bank. These are magazines that usually ignore bikes under $1000. But they all loved this bike.

I was immediately impressed by the difference between the GT and my old bike. The new bike is so much lighter. Climbing is a breeze in comparison to the old bike. The gears shift so much more smoothly. The shocks have much more travel.

It took me a few rides to get used to how responsive the bike is. If I think it, the bike does it. It's like I've been running with ankle weights for years and I've been released. If anyone tells you there aren't real differences between bikes and price, they have no clue what they're talking about.

I've been riding a lot since I got the Aggressor last week. Every time I'm done with a ride, I want to immediately go back outside and ride some more. This bike is that much fun to ride.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Grand Tetons

After five days in Yellowstone we headed south through the Grand Tetons. We spent most of one day in the park. One day in the Grand Tetons is definitely not enough. But if you have to leave Yellowstone anyway, you might as well go through the Tetons.

The Grand Tetons are another freak of nature. They seemingly rise out of nowhere. The contrast from plain to mountains is startling and breathtaking. The morning we were there started out cool, misty and rainy. We did get hit by a sudden hail storm that lasted only a few minutes. We were in the parking lot of a visitors center at the time and the storm didn't slow us down much.

We spent the day hiking some easy trails and taking it fairly easy. After Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone we just wanted to relax and look at nature. I wish we could have spent more time in the park. It's quite a bit smaller than its massive neighbor to the north. The services are a bit more rustic. The Tetons seem more designed for real campers, hikers and fishermen. Although we saw sightseeing buses there weren't nearly as many as in Yellowstone. And the place was a whole lot less crowded.

I would love to go back there someday and give its due. Amazing scenery. I really wish I had brought my bike. Hopefully I'll get back up there and ride some trails.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017


Yellowstone was beyond words. The scenery in some places is phenomenally beautiful. In others, the scenery is phenomenally weird...and beautiful. It was unlike any place I had seen on earth.

Favorite moments...

Old Faithful is fantastic. I watched it erupt five different times over the five days we were there. We also saw the Great Fountain Geyser and Volcano Geyser erupt. The Great Fountain is even more impressive than Old Faithful in some ways. We saw many eruptions of several geysers. It never got old.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is unbelievable. Artist's painting of it look hyperbolic. But it really is that spectacular. We hiked the rim and just couldn't believe our eyes.

The wildlife in Hayden Valley. Bison, Elk, bears and more!

Bison and bears blocking traffic. Worth every minute of stoppage.

Hiking to waterfalls. 

The wagon ride and cowboy dinner.

The mudpots and painter's pots and all the other strange bubbling and gases and emanations of the earth. The clear, crystalline blue/green pools and springs that will scald if you get too close. The Grand Prismatic Spring. Wow.

In the park we stayed at Grant Village. Our accommodations were pretty nice. I would definitely recommend staying near Yellowstone Lake, Grant or Old Faithful area, if you can get a room.

Some of the drives were quite harrowing, steep cliffs and switchbacks. Other drives were peaceful and smooth. There were places that were crowded. But we never had a problem parking since we made it a point to be up early. Places got really crowded after lunch. We planned the popular hotspots in the morning and did our more remote hiking in the afternoons. This worked out great for us.

I know I'm leaving some great stuff out. Yellowstone was one of the most magical places I've ever seen.

Tons of photos on my flickr site

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Absaroka Mountain Lodge

Despite calling for reservations 366 days in advance, all the rooms at the Old Faithful Inn were already booked up. Almost every lodge and hotel in the park were booked up by 8:00 am when I called. I was lucky to book three nights at Grant Village before everything got swallowed up. But we wanted to spend more than just three days at Yellowstone so we booked our first two nights at the Absaroka Mountain Lodge which is just a few miles from the East Entrance to Yellowstone.

It was a wonderful place, nestled in a narrow canyon with cliff walls that towered over each side of the grounds. After exiting the highway you cross what they called a creek but what was actually a raging mountain river. There is one lodge house that serves as a restaurant surrounded by very nice little cabins. Our cabin had two rooms and two bathrooms.

It was at the Absaroka Mountain Lodge where we had one of our most memorable experiences. We got there in the early evening and headed to the lodge which was right next to our cabin to eat a nice big dinner. After dinner Jackson traipses out of the lodge looking at the ground. He did not see the grizzly bear standing by our cabin, fifteen feet in front of him.

Kim and I were about ten feet behind Jackson when we saw the bear. A young looking bear, not a cub but probably about two years old according the lodge owner's later estimate, was right there. I yelled "JACKSON STOP!" Jackson stopped. The bear stood up on his hind legs. At that moment, the owner of the lodge who was also cooking happened to see the bear out his kitchen window and burst out. He placed himself between Jackson and the bear and thrust him back toward us and gestured for us to get inside. He waved his arms and the bear ran off into the forest next to the canyon walls.


From that moment on I carried my bear spray wherever we went.

The resort was very nice. We only stayed two nights and didn't spend much time there since we drove to Yellowstone each day. But they had bonfires each night and there were a lot of outdoor amenities that we didn't get to take advantage of. Our cabin had two rooms separated by a curtain and two bathrooms...a pretty posh cabin. I would highly recommend it if you can't get a spot in the park.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Custer State Park

We hadn't planned on stopping at Custer State Park while during our Rushmore trip. But some friends told us it was well worth a visit. They were right. Sylvan Lake is beautiful and weird. The Needles Drive through the park is a winding meandering road full of switchbacks and one lane tunnels. Many of the tunnels were built to provide views of Mount Rushmore in the distance. The drive is not for the faint of heart. Steep drop-offs and roads that actually make 360 degree turns appropriately called "The Pigtails" can really try the nerves. The amazing scenery is definitely worth it. Another place worth more than a day's visit. But we were glad to have had the time to spend there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Crazy Crazy Horse Monument

The Crazy Horse Monument often provokes skepticism. I've heard it derided as nothing more than a family fundraiser for the Ziolkowski family. I've heard people say they've returned twenty years later to the monument and haven't seen discernible progress. They've been working on the sculpture for fifty years and there is no end date in sight.

Still. It is a staggering achievement. And when you've seen the photos of progress from the beginning, it is astounding how far they've come. Finishing the face in 1999 was a big step. Seeing Crazy Horse's face really helps one envision the direction of the project. When you see it in person the scale of the thing blows your mind. It is much much larger than Mount Rushmore.  All four of Rushmore's heads could fit in just the head of Crazy Horse.

Now they could get this thing done much faster, if they accepted government assistance. The United States Government has offered assistance in the past and I have no doubt with taxpayer help this they could get done in twenty years. Right now there seems to be less than ten guys working on it at a time. I saw three or four working on it while we were there. The crew is small and the project enormous.

But they will not accept money from the United States Federal Government. That would defeat much of the point of the serve as a counterpoint to nearby Mount Rushmore...that these lands were Native American lands and if you're going to honor American presidents then you need to honor Native American leaders as well. And the Federal Government has a horrible record in keeping promises and treaties with Native American tribes. In fact, was there a treaty the U.S. Government ever honored or kept with the American Indians?

The museum at the base of Crazy Horse is extensive and impressive. The story of the family building the sculpture is fascinating. Korczak Ziolkowski was definitely a man possessed. His family is certainly not becoming wealthy off this project.

We ended spending half a day there. We rode a bus closer up to the base. We saw them jack hammering away on Crazy Horse's hand. We had a great time and definitely recommend paying the fee to get in. Ignore the naysayers who say to just stop on the side of the road to look at it for free. Go to the museum and visitor's center. Ride the bus up there. We really enjoyed the Crazy Horse Monument.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mount Rushmore

We finally got to South Dakota and checked in to the Holiday Inn Express in Keystone. I recommend staying in Keystone if you wish to spend any time at Mount Rushmore. Keystone is right in the center of the action, a mile or so from Rushmore and very close to Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Monument. Keystone is a bit tourist trappy but it's fun and our hotel was right around the corner from the main drag.

Our plan was only to spend two days in the area. But you could easily make it a longer vacation stop. There's lots to do and see. Helicopter tours, panning for gold, cave exploration...all kinds of stuff for kids and adults.

But our main objective was Mount Rushmore. I had seen it in 8th grade and yet I was still impressed. It's hip to say you were disappointed, that it wasn't as big as expected. I can't say that. It's massive and worth the trip. They've made major improvements to the base area since I visited back in the late 1980's. The observation area has been expanded and designed to spread the crowds out. The parking situation is much better with a multi-level garage system.

They have a newer trail called the Presidential Trail that takes you much closer to the sculpture since last I visited. The trail provides amazing close-up views of the four presidents. When you buy a pass to the monument, it's good for a year so you don't feel rushed (no pun intended) to move so quickly. We were able to leave and come back later in the evening for the night lighting of the presidents.

It is a bit surreal to drive up the highway and boom! there's four massive presidents looking down at you. Mount Rushmore is the ultimate American roadside attraction. We had built in a full day to visit so we checked out all the exhibits and various visitor centers at the base. We had a great time. I even enjoyed it more as an adult.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Detours in Nebraska

Last year when discussing our summer 2017 plans our son wanted really badly to see Mount Rushmore this summer. Both my wife and I had visited Mount Rushmore as kids. We decided that Rushmore would be the first leg of our summer vacation.

We decided to drive to give us more flexibility. Finding fights into Rapid City and then out of a town near Yellowstone was becoming too complicated. Getting rental cars to and from completely different locations was becoming a hassle.

So we drove. And drove. And drove some more. Our Dodge Durango was perfect for the trip and handled everything great.

We drove up north from Dallas through OKC and Wichita, hitting I-70 at Salina. We then shot north on US Highways at Hays, Kansas. We were going to sleep in Ogallala, Nebraska. As we were approaching a town called Alliance in Nebraska, my wife saw a sign for a roadside attraction called Carhenge. She said let's take the three mile detour and check it out.

I'm glad we did because Carhenge was pretty cool. Years ago, a Nebraska farmer had recreated England's famous Stonehenge with old cars. He had arranged them just like Stonehenge and painted them gray. This was worth stopping for. Talk about a classic American roadside attraction in the middle of nowhere! There were other sculptures on site as well, all made from old cars. Admission was free. We were all glad we made the unexpected stop.

We had packed picnic lunches and stopped at Chadron State Park in the Nebraska National Forest. Who knew that Nebraska had such beautiful topography. We drove up a small mountain (who knew Nebraska had mountains?) and ate lunch overlooking a fantastic forest. This was an unexpected highlight of the trip. That's one of the benefits of driving across America. You see all kinds of oddities and scenery not mentioned in the high tone tour books.

That first night we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Ogallala, although it was it's last night of operation as a Holiday Inn. A new Holiday Inn Express was set to open across the freeway and the old one was converting to the Lonesome Dove Lodge. Nonetheless we had a good night's rest before heading out the next morning for South Dakota.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Epic June

Yeah, it's been a few weeks since I last posted. End of the school year was the normal mad rush. Then in June I was only home for six days out of the thirty days of the month. And I'm leaving soon for another trip, this time to see family in Indiana and Oklahoma. 

On May 31st, I flew out for my annual trek to Salt Lake City to grade AP World History Exams. I was a Table Leader once again this year. This was my third year as a TL and tenth year (10!) to grade AP exams overall.

Had fun in SLC. This year the timing was fortuitous. The United States Men's National Soccer Team was in town to play a friendly against Venezuela. I got tickets several weeks in advance. I had seen a game at the Rio Tinto stadium, but to see the USA was something special. Back in 1993 I had actually spent some time in Venezuela so that experience made the match even more interesting. I still have a soft spot for Venezuela especially since they are going through so much turmoil.

The game ended a tie. The game experience was phenomenal. We had a lot of fun riding the train to the match. Super time.

I also once again made it to the top of Ensign Peak which overlooks Salt Lake City. It's quite a hike but well worth the view. I also saw it as high altitude training for our upcoming trip to Yellowstone.

I'll post soon about our epic trip to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. It was a busy month of June. But it was an amazing ride!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New Buds

I had been looking for new earbuds for quite awhile. The stock earbuds that come with my iPhone weren't that bad. They just kept getting loose in the ear with any kind of head movement which lessened the sound quality considerably.

I didn't want to fork over a lot of cash, but I wanted some good quality earbuds. After several weeks of research and seeing lots of good reviews I decided to give Symphonized a shot. They were only $25 so it wasn't a huge risk. 

Three months later I can say I'm very pleased with these buds. I got the Symphonized NRG 3.0 Wood In-Ear Noise-isolating Headphones with Mic and Volume Control. 

They came with three sets (small, medium and large) of silicone earbud covers to customize the fit. I spent a week switching the three sizes out before finally going with the small set. The customizable covers allow you to determine which size best seals off the ear canal for best noise isolation.

It did take me a little bit to grow accustomed to the fit. I was used to loose fitting earbuds, which was the initial gripe I had with the Apple set. My first couple of Apple stock earbuds came with cheap foam covers that worked well enough for a time. They just didn't last long. And I could never find replacements at any store. And the last couple of stock sets didn't even bother with earbud covers. 

So the tight fit of the Symphonized buds, which does provide for better sound and less annoyance because they don't fall out, did take some getting used to. And after an hour or so they could be a little uncomfortable. But that soon went away as I grew used to them. The better sound quality is definitely worth it. Now these things seemed formed to my ear. 

Yeah, they're not as good as my big Audio-Technica studio cans. But for on the go purposes, they are fantastic. The wood frame really brings the best out of the sound. 

The official specs:
  • Natural Wood Housing for Better Bass Response and Acoustic Performance
  • Soft silicone ear buds provide a super comfortable, noise reducing fit
  • Built in Microphone
  • Gold-plated 3.5 mm audio jack for premium, no-loss sound connection to your audio device.               

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

End of the Line...

This week marks the last week that our son will play baseball for the Southside Bombers. He's got a game tonight and Thursday. Then he hangs up the cleats. After five seasons with the Bombers it will be bittersweet to say goodbye.

Jackson simply wants to try something new next fall and spring. He wants to take tennis and golf lessons. He also wants to continue with his piano lessons. And of course, basketball is a must. So something had to give and he was ready for a break from baseball.

Not sure if he'll come back to the game or not. He was becoming a pretty good fielder. And he regularly made contact at the plate...he just needed to work on hitting the ball out of the infield!

It's been a nice run and we had a good time with the Southside crew.

Monday, May 08, 2017


Back in college, in Oklahoma City, my buddies and I who dug jazz, used to hang out at an old record shop called Charlie's Rhythm and Blues. Charlie carried almost exclusively records and tapes, which by the mid-1990's were surpassed by CDs. So records stores were becoming more and more of a rarity.

We would go to Charlie's and hang out and talk jazz. Charlie had great stories about some of the giants of jazz and their visits to OKC. It was amazing to me that a place like Charlie's could stay in business, a real record store that focused on jazz, blues and R&B.

Last February, Charlie passed away at the age of 71 and many thought that would be the end of Charlie's Records. But I came across this article today in the Daily Oklahoman. Apparently Charlie's grandson is keeping the place open and carrying on his legacy.

It's nice to know some places are still around. I haven't been to Charlies in twenty years. May have to make a stop the next time I'm in Oklahoma City. I'm glad there's places keeping it real. I got good memories of that place.

HERE'S the article or direct your browser ->

Monday, May 01, 2017

May First

May 1st was chosen in the late 19th century to commemorate the contributions of workers and labor unions. The first day of May was chosen to remember the victims of the Haymarket Massacre. 

From Wikipedia: 

The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square[2] in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the previous day by the police. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tense Times

My students are nervous.

When I was a student I was often nervous. As a kid, me and my friends were convinced that we would all die in a nuclear war launched by the Soviet Union. We didn't think about it 24/7...but it was always there...gnawing at the back of our minds. We would grow very nervous any time tensions ran high between the United States and the USSR. Nothing made me happier than to see the Soviet Union fall apart in 1991.

After 1991, rightly or wrongly, fears of an existential catastrophe faded a bit.

After 2001, terrorism was on the minds of many. But for my students, terrorism was a problem far away. Even New York City seemed far away for my students. Terrorism wouldn't seem so far away for my students who enlisted and served in the Middle East. Still, there wasn't fear of a cataclysmic event that would destroy us all.

But now my students are scared.

My Muslim students are scared of being deported to nations that are not friendly to moderate Islam.

My undocumented students are fearful of being deported to Mexico and other Latin American nations. They even avoid needed medical treatment in fear of being found out.

My female students are afraid now that they have to register for a draft, being that women now have to register with the Selective Service for the first time.

Russia and Putin are scaring my students.

North Korea. My students are fearful of war with North Korea.

Super high student loan debt is scaring some of my kids from going to college.

I've been teaching for eighteen years. I've never seen my students so fearful and cynical about the future.

I try to assuage their fears and concerns. But many of their fears are not naive. These are not irrational fears. I feel badly for them. Young people should not be afraid of the future. Young people should see the future as bright with possibilities.

I wish that for them. I really wish they could see hope in the future.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Why Now?

When your approval ratings are at 35% you bomb things far away. It's what you do. Bet his ratings go up ten points by next week. 'Merica. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I have been off of all social media for the past few weeks.

No Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

I do respond to direct messages on those platforms. social media making noise in my life.

I must admit, it has been very nice.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


My NCAA bracket was busted early. I had SMU winning the whole thing. They lost in the first round. I choose my picks with my heart, not my mind.

I did have Xavier, Gonzaga and Kansas in the Elite Eight. Only Gonzaga made it the Final Four. But it's Gonzaga's first trip to the National Semifinals. I'm definitely rooting for them to win.

Full disclosure: I'm not even sure where Gonzaga is...somewhere in Washington...right?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Staying True

Baseball is still popular despite the fact that it's a game that has been played since the 19th century. It draws millions of fans to beautiful stadiums every year. Most of these fans don't complain about the rules. Most of these fans don't complain about the  mustiness of the game. There have been changes to the game over the years. Designated hitters, time limits between innings, wild card teams in the playoffs etc etc etc.

Yet the basic rules of the game have remained fairly intact. Despite some changes, like this year's big change of allowing a manager to call an intentional walk from the dug out, baseball looks very much like it did when I was a kid, or when my Dad was a kid. No one is calling for the removal of second base as superfluous. No one is calling for the addition of an outfielder. People seem very happy with the basic structure of baseball. That continuity is one of the things that makes baseball great. It transcends generations.

So it drives me crazy when people who wish to maintain some basic traditions of jazz are dismissively labeled as neo-conservative or traditionalist. The battle between those who wish to radically alter the definitions of what is considered jazz and those who desire to hold on to some important distinctions has been going on for decades. But I was reminded of the debate while watching the multiple Oscar winning film, La La Land.

The main protagonist, played by Ryan Gosling, is a jazz traditionalist. He has left a lucrative musical career in pop music so he can continue to play jazz the way he thinks it was meant to be played...acoustically. He is lectured by an old buddy of his, played by John Legend, that jazz was always meant to be progressive. The giants of jazz are giants because they broke boundaries and took the music in new directions is his argument. He says's Gosling's character is stuck in the past and that attitude is killing jazz.

Anyone who listens or plays jazz has been engaged with this debate. I tend to fall on what some call the traditional side. Generally I consider myself progressive when it comes to music. When it comes to Rock and Alternative music, my favorite musicians are those who play in wildly original ways. Indie Rock is my favorite genre of rock music because of its inventiveness.

But when it comes to jazz, there are those who take it so far it doesn't even resemble jazz. That's fine and that's the prerogative of those musicians. Just don't call it jazz.

There are some rules of jazz. There's nothing wrong with having rules. Without rules you have the crappy fusion albums of the 1970's.

The rules of jazz are actually guidelines and they leave a lot for individual interpretation. That's the beauty of jazz. Some of those rules include...

Its gotta be blues based.

Its gotta swing.

It has to allow for improvisation.

There are other guidelines. People debate these all the time. You don't want to hamstring jazz with too many defining characteristics. But I think those are a start.  I personally think jazz should be acoustic although I will allow for a Jimmie Smith type organ or an electric guitar in certain circumstances on my iPod.

These guidelines allow for a lot of freedom and yet allows jazz to remain true to its roots. If, as a musician, you wish to move beyond these structures go ahead. Just don't criticize those who wish to stay true to something beautiful.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Genius Anywhere

So I'm reading this biography of Charlie Parker and the author tells a bit about the life of Buster Smith who was a huge influence and mentor to Bird. Buster Smith revolutionized how people perceived the alto saxophone. He played with everybody...Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald just to name a few. But he only recorded one album as a leader. But back in the 1930's he was huge.

But one thing stuck out in this passage. Stanley Crouch says Buster Smith was born in a small town near Dallas but didn't say exactly where. I live near Dallas so I did some quick internet research and found that Buster Smith was from Alsdorf, Texas. I had no idea where that was, had never heard of it.

Turns out Alsdorf is not too far from where I work. Right down the road less than 20 minutes away. But from what I can tell on Google Maps there's nothing really there. At it's height, it was the site of some cotton gins and had a population no more than a hundred folks. The post office closed in the 1920's and the last population data from fifty years ago has the population around 40 people. Today it is an unincorporated area halfway between tiny Rosser and Ennis.

I'd like to take a drive down that way. In its hey day Alsdorf had three businesses. I doubt there's any businesses there these days. Google Earth shows a few mobile homes and some farm homes scattered about. Pretty crazy that one of the great early purveyors of American jazz grew up in that spot. Smith traveled around but eventually settled in Dallas. He died in 1991 in Dallas.

I would be surprised that anyone living on Old Alsdorf Road today knows that a musical revolutionary once lived on their road. Wish a sign or something could be put up on the side of the road or something. Maybe I should contact a county commissioner or something. That would be a pretty cool thing...a lonely signpost reminding the few passersby that genius once resided there.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Grovey in France

This is The Roy Hargrove Quintet back in 2007 in France. Such a great concert. I don't usually like to watch concerts on video. I prefer just to listen. But this is so good. Grovey has had some tough times since this gig. But he seems to playing a lot more these days. I wish him nothing but the best. Wish he'd come back Texas way...after all he went to high school just down the road from where I teach!

Monday, March 20, 2017


We're squinting in this picture. The sun is in front of us. Dallas and the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is behind us.

Well, we're back from Spring Break. We stayed around home. It was a nice break. Ate at good restaurants, took long walks to the park, went to the movies, watched Netflix, cleaned out large swaths of the house and generally relaxed.

44 more school days until summer. This has been a chaotic school year. Construction, moving classrooms and a restructuring of my Advanced Placement courses has made for a rather stressful school year. But we're in the homestretch. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Nothing more American than baseball and jazz. Listening to some Coleman Hawkins while the boy practices. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Some of the Good Stuff...

Friday before Spring Break. Foggy and gray outside. Good time for some of the good stuff. The Jay McShann Orchestra featuring Charlie Parker on the alto saxophone. Early 1940's.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

McShann the Man

Just bought this book ^ last night on the Kindle. Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of  Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch. I will let you know how it goes. Charlie Parker is one of my favorite musicians. Stanley Crouch is one of my favorite essayists and critics. I got big hopes. 

It's starting off well telling stories of the Jay McShann Big Band back in the 1930's. I had the honor of meeting Jay McShann in 1994 or 95 at the Charlie Christian Jazz Festival in Oklahoma City. He was getting up there by that point but could still play like fire. His small group burned up the stage. There wasn't a big crowd which is a tragedy since more people needed to see this master who died in 2006. 

So afterward I watched in amazement as the crowd just kind of dissipated and Jay was still on the stage with his group just talking. So I walked up there and introduced myself. I told him I was from Kansas City and had grown up listening to his music. I told him I was a big fan and he had been a big influence on me and my playing. 

He was the nicest guy. Super friendly and generous with his time. We talked for about thirty minutes about Kansas City, Charlie Parker and jazz. This guy didn't have to give me the time of day. Here I was, a skinny white college kid just walking up and he was willing to chat about the old times. A legend willing to hang out and talk with me. 

So yeah, this book is starting off right. Jay McShann should start off more books. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017


Heck of a sunrise on the way to work this morning. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


It's raining this morning so I'm listening to Charlie Parker.

Yeh, you can use any old excuse to listen to Bird.

And he's from the town where I grew up. That's a good excuse too.

Monday, March 06, 2017


Gonna go check out Rushmore this summer. Maybe also Crazy Horse...

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Friday, March 03, 2017

Last Soccer Night

This is my last night to work soccer. For the past seven seasons I've served as the P.A., scoreboard operator, music supervisor and ran the clock for the Kaufman Soccer Program. I've had a lot of fun calling goals in the spring. It's been a fun gig.

But these late nights are wearing on me. And I'm missing a lot of my son's practices and events due to soccer nights. I figured it's about time to hang up the mike. Plus, they are getting a brand new press box for the stadium this summer with a new sound system and scoreboard. I really don't want to have to learn a brand new system when I'm kind of ready to give it up anyway.

It was a good seven years. I had fun watching more than 100 soccer games over the years...and I got paid to do it! Part of me will really miss it. But it's time.

"Welcome to Lions Stadium. It's Soccer Night in Kaufman, Texas."

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Tribes Again

I mentioned this album a couple of days ago but I mention it again because it's blowing my mind. 

Wynton Marsalis Live at the House of Tribes. Blue Note Records. Recorded 2002, released 2004.

This is my favorite album by Marsalis and that's saying a lot for me. This is what jazz is supposed to sound like. This was an underground performance by one of the most establishment of players. Fifty people crowded into a community theater in the East Village, New York City. The crowd literally is right there in the music. There are times when Wynton is in the middle of the people. Man, I wish I coulda been there. I've seen Wynton Marsalis twice and both shows were transcendent. 

Here at the House of Tribes show there are shouts and calls and responses almost like a church service. Jazz is not meant for cold concert halls where everyone is silent and polite. Jazz is a two way street between the performer and audience and you can hear the energy. I always played better with an active audience...not like Wynton Marsalis...but better than my normal self. Sometimes I'd wonder where that solo phrase came from and wished I could get it back. 

Not only can you listen to this album you can watch the show. This is an amazing watch and listen and if you like jazz I would to salve my soul from the confusions of existence. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


Today is Yellowstone National Park's 145th birthday. The area which became Yellowstone National Park was first protected on this day by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1872.

I didn't know that two days ago when we finalized our booking for Yellowstone. We are going this summer. We've never been. I hear it's amazing, like walking on another planet. I also know it's basically a super volcano that hasn't erupted in millions of years. If and when it does go off again, it will be catastrophic. Hopefully it won't blow this year.

We are also going to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument on the way up. Our son really wanted to see Rushmore. I saw it back in 8th grade and it was indeed spectacular. I hear now that you can get even closer, like right up to the sculpture itself.

It's going to be a long drive but I'm sure well worth it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

House of Tribes

Beware, listening to this album on your computer will turn your computer into a machine that will kill unoriginal thinking and pre-planned ruts.

Wynton Marsalis Live at the House of Tribes. 2002

Monday, February 27, 2017

La La

I watched the Oscars last night. I'm not a big fan of quantifying art but my wife enjoys watching the fashion. The spectacle can be entertaining. Was glad to see La La Land win six Oscars last night. Very strange how it all ended. I haven't seen Moonlight so I'm not able to weigh in on its merit.

I did see La La Land and can say it is well deserving of recognition from the Academy. Great film. Nostalgic yet innovative. As a fan of acoustic jazz I had great appreciation for Gosling's character. Typically, musicals aren't my thing. But La La Land was a reminder of what makes movies great. It really captured the magic of the cinematic experience. It was a hearkening back to the glory days of Hollywood, yet placed the story in a modern context.

Often I haven't seen many of the nominated movies before the Oscar show. I had seen Arrival, which is very good and probably deserved a bit more attention. Hidden Figures is also an excellent movie. Rogue One definitely deserved more technical awards. But it's hard to argue with The Jungle Book receiving technical attention. It was a good year for movies.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


^ That's how I feel right now. ^

Friday, I received news that one of my former students had been killed in an automobile accident that morning. I had heard about an accident. It had occurred right before school on the state highway that runs through Kaufman. It had shut down traffic and buses could not get through. We were told not to count students tardy to first period because of the traffic shutdown. I had heard that someone had to be CareFlighted to the hospital.

I didn't realize at the time that one of my former students was the victim.


Jacob was a fine student. Class of 2012. He had been one of my Advanced Placement students his sophomore year. He was a baseball player. He was very respectful. He had a fine future ahead of him. An awful tragedy.

I have a list of over a dozen former students who have passed away in the past eighteen  years. That list is way too long. It would be much too long if only one student had died. But over a dozen? It's hard to process. All these fine young people, lost so soon. Car accidents, suicide, health issues, drugs... All sorts of circumstances and all sorts of tragedies.

So today, I remember Jacob. And I look out at my current students and I tell them to be nicer to each other and to make good decisions and to enjoy life as much as possible. But I often wonder which one will be next. Which one will be taken too soon.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

storage space

Another day at school. Some essentials.