Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Great To Be Back

OK, I guess I can say that the true vacation begins now. I'm done going places, and now I get to do one of the most enjoyable types of time off--being right here and having almost nothing to do.

The conference went great. I could have all kinds of great quotes, but they wouldn't make sense out of context. I could also post some great jokes, but I like to keep this blog "PG-13" just 'cuz you never know who might stumble across it (and yeah I know "PG-13" is really a dude in Florida and I'm "PG-32"--laugh if you get the joke). A few of you may get to hear the nun joke, though...

The trip back was kinda frustrating. I've made a few mental notes on how not to have this happen again:

1) Allow for enough time between planes on connecting flights. In Atlanta, I had about thirty minutes from the time that I landed in terminal C until the time that I took off in terminal A. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Atlanta airport train system is awesome; I just needed a little more time to actually get to the gate. I was pretty much O.J.'ing it tonight (that's running through the airport, not killing people; you have to clarify that now). I arrived at my gate out of breath and was still one of the last people to board.

2) Middle seats=bad. After my mini-marathon, I got to my seat, which was a middle seat. I haven't minded them before; didn't really mind the one on the way up here on Sunday. This time, however, it was bothering me...especially when the girl in front of me reclined her seat all the way back around 20 seconds after takeoff (no exaggeration). They might as well have put up a sign reading "Welcome to Claustrophobia Central." (Keep in mind, I'm not usually claustrophobic, just in certain rare situations.) Thankfully, I was able to bust out my Discman pretty quickly, and Spymob made the trip go by faster; they're quickly becoming my band of choice for trips under less-than-ideal conditions.

Oh well--live and learn, I guess. I can specify certain things the next time someone else books me a flight, so that shouldn't happen again.

So it wasn't my best day of travel. Add to that the fact that I got stuck in High Five construction on my way home from the airport. I also ended up paying actual money on the George Bush, because I had to leave my TollTag at home. It seems that, although the airport is set up to take them, it's not set up for the cheap remote lots...so if you have it in your car, it'll read it and charge you the close-in fee ($18 a day...ack) no matter where you park. That won't be fixed for a few more months.

On top of that, my days were all screwed up when I got back, so I missed out on a chance to eat Chick-Fil-A because I thought it was Sunday (almost all Sinfonia events end on Sundays) and they would be closed. After stopping elsewhere, I drove by the still-open Chick-Fil-A, remembered that it was actually Tuesday and said..."d'oh."

OK, rant almost over. Only thing left? Umm...my feet really hurt. As my friends know, I never wear shoes in my house (that's Fun Facts #9 if you're playing at home), and having to wear them almost constantly the past three days was getting to me; I think the Asian culture has the right idea here.

But all in all, as I said, I had a great time while I was there, and that's the part I'll remember more than the travails of travel. It's nice to be back.

Oh yeah, and poor Halfling had his wisdom teeth out yesterday, even before they came all the way in. He said he was literally screaming with pain when he got home, the poor dude. He also said he looks like a chipmunk; this I have to see (Alvin the Demon Halfling?).

CULINARY TIPS: If you ever end up in the Evansville area, I recommend a couple great eating places: The Gerst Haus downtown, and the Darmstadt Inn in (where else?) Darmstadt, the next town north (home of Don Mattingly, whose house we passed to get there). Good stuff. Incidentally, the Darmstadt Inn offers a brain sandwich on its menu; I can't imagine why nobody at my table ordered one...

FUNNY AIM QUOTE: I collect all the really funny quotes off my AIM conversations and keep them in a file; some will appear here. This one seemed fitting for tonight (I was talking to a friend and former coworker who doesn't usually appear here, so I'll "censor" his screenname).

KevPG32: just got back from a conference in indiana
g*******232: ?
KevPG32: a fraternity thing
g*******232: lol I thought for a min you typed india
KevPG32: lol
KevPG32: "you are correct, sahib"

And that got me to imagining how bad a flight back from India would be in the center seat, behind a "recliner." I think I'd rather swim back, sharks and all.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Kev, Live From Evansville

This is just a quick'un to say that I got here in one piece--survived the all-nighter and the 5:45 a.m. flight (which was full--ack--why would anyone choose to fly that early?) and am now getting ready for another day of meetings and stuff. I'll have more when I'm back tomorrow.

Oh yeah, Demon Matt: Your cellphone called my cellphone again a few minutes ago...except this time you were in Florida and I was here in Indiana. Haha.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

"My Name Is Kev...I'll Be Here All Night"

Since I've been out of college, I haven't pulled very many all-nighters. Even if I'm in the middle of some huge project, it's not usually on an urgent deadline like homework used to be, so I've at least been able to get some sleep. This is definitely something I wouldn't want to do all the time anymore.

The reason for my all-nighter? I'm flying out for Indiana at 5:45 in the morning. (That time was not my idea...SO not my idea.) It's for a Sinfonia conference at the national headquarters in Evansville, Indiana. Basically, I missed a portion of the national convention this summer because I was teaching Jazz Camp at the college (a whirlwind week about which I posted earlier on). So they're having a "mini-camp" for the Governors who missed those meetings or have been appointed since then.

As I said, I don't pick the flight times; it's whatever costs the fraternity the least money....but I've drawn the short stick twice in a row now in regards to getting a flight that leaves before 6 a.m. At least this time I'll know to eat breakfast first (learned that the hard way last time; nothing's open that early at the airport). And I'll get there in enough time before the start of the meetings that I should be able to get a hearty nap in somewhere.

Not much has gone on since I got back; being here less than 30 hours between trips, I know how the business travelers who "live out of a suitcase" must feel. I really only had time to do two things: help Halfling with his UNT audition (with a mandatory Chipotle trip in there, since I hadn't been in a week and we both had gotten Burrito Bucks for Christmas) and then go over some tunes with Miles and Andrew for the upcoming New Year's Eve gig.

So in the meantime, here I am....mostly packed, talking to lots of friends on AIM and doing some light reading. I don't know if there will be a "Live from Evansville" entry or not; totally depends on whether or not my hotel has a "business center" with free Net access. And when I'm back, I'm back for the duration...a whole week left to chill (yay) before the schools start back up. Should be a nice time.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

The Take

OK, I'll answer the obvious Christmas question here: "So what'd you get?"

First of all, I didn't ask for a lot; Mom and Dad have been helping a lot with stuff for the house, so it sort of spreads Christmas out over the entire year (gotta love that, in a way). But I did ask for DVD's, since I got the player as an early Christmas present right after Thanksgiving. And, believe it or not, I basically got everything I asked for! Here's the list:

This is Spinal Tap
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Blues Brothers
Season #3 of The Simpsons

So I say: SCOOOOOORRRRRE! Add that to the ones Fizban gave me on Sunday (Office Space and Super Troopers), and I now have quite a nice li'l DVD collection going. That'll make for lots of Movie Nights at Casa de Kev next semester.

As for the rest of Christmas, it was definitely different; first of all, my parents and I played nine holes of golf today! I hadn't done that since May of 2000 at Firewheel, and it had been longer than that since I'd played with them. And you know what--I didn't suck nearly as much as I usually do. More of my drives became airborne than didn't (they often look like croquet shots *sigh*), and I even out-drove Dad a few times...and Dad plays two or three times a week. Also, Dad tends to "over-coach" me at golf, but this time it was a combination of him not doing so too often, and it not bothering me when he did. Maybe I was a ball of focus out there today.

And tonight, we seriously kicked it old school when we watched some old home movies. (I used that term while we were doing so, and then had to explain "kickin' it old school" to my parents. Heh heh.) I don't mean videos, either...I mean actual 8mm movies. The newest one was 17 years old (scary), which was right before my parents got their camcorder, I guess. The amazing thing was that the projector still worked! At any rate, it was cool to see me as a baby, my sister as a baby, and our awesome old family pets, Zip the lovable mutt and Sinbad the Siamese cat (who was way nicer than Tasha could ever dream of being).

There's Christmas in a nutshell. I'm headed back home tomorrow, before I hop a plane for Indiana on Sunday...then I'm back for the duration on Tuesday night. Hope your Christmas was great too.


Sometimes, in my group of friends, the actions of one will prompt similar actions by another, or several others. You might call this copycat behavior, or you might call it the "oh yeah, I should be doing that too!" factor. At any rate, it's happened many times. One recent example:

Oct. 11, 2003: Kev writes first "Fun Facts" installment.
Nov. 10, 2003: Kev updates "Fun Facts" and posts about it again on this blog.
Nov. 11-12, 2003: Fizban, Halfling and Dingus all post "Fun Facts" on their own blogs.

And now we have another one:

~Spring, 2003: Fizban sings with the choir (correct me if I have the semester wrong).
December, 2003: Dingus sings with the choir.
December 24, 2003: Kev sings with the choir.

Say whaaaaat? That's right, I sang with my dad's church choir last night for one of the Christmas Eve services.

Now understand, despite the fact that as singers go, I'm a really good saxophone player (haha), I'm not a total novice to the art. I've done plenty of choral stuff in Sinfonia over the years, so I think I sing well in groups, even if I'm not sure you'd want to hear me sing a solo. But I hadn't been in an actual SATB choir since maybe music camp in high school. *shudder*

So how did this happen? Well, Mom was taking some new medicine and it wasn't making her feel too good. Dad was singing at 7:00 and 9:00, and Mom and I were going to go up there at 9. When she decided she felt too bad to go, that left me with two real options: 1) Sit by myself in a church where I don't really know anybody, or 2) Sing with Dad. Obviously, I chose 2).

Now I was not an unfamiliar entity to this church's music program; last year (in my pre-blogging days), I had played a soprano sax feature on "Silent Night" as an offertory for two Christmas Eve services. It was great; Dad was on stage in the choir, and that was really the first time we had ever collaborated on a musical event (he just started the choir thing about 7-8 years ago, I think). This year, nobody thought to ask me to bring a horn until I was 15 minutes away from home on Tuesday, so that didn't happen (much to the dismay of the choir director's wife, who really liked my playing, I guess).

So anyway, everything went fine; it felt really weird wearing a choir robe (someone should've taken a picture), but I sang pretty well for 15 minutes of rehearsal and had a good time up there. I also now have an open invitation to bring a horn whenever I'm in town. And I can tell Fizban and Dingus that I've "joined the crowd," even if for only one day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: (From a conversation in the choir room after the service)
CHOIR LADY (to me): Thanks for singing with us tonight.
WISEGUY IN CHOIR: Yeah, it was nice to have a real bass voice in there for once (a slam aimed at Dad)
DAD: I heard that! I'll remember that...
WISEGUY: No you won't! You're an old man; you forget everything.

So much love in the room...especially on Christmas.

Christmas Greetings

KEV, LIVE FROM SUGAR LAND, PART 3: Merry Christmas to you and yours, in whatever configuration that might be. For those of you who know the Reason for the season, let us not lose sight of that amidst the songs, presents, lights and so on...and for those who aren't familiar with the Reason, may it become a part of your life during the year ahead. No man-made present could be better...

As I celebrate a quiet Christmas here--just the three of us, Mom, Dad and me, for the first time since before my sister was born--I'm reminded that there doesn't have to be a great deal of pomp or fanfare, traditions can change and so on...but really, besides the spiritual aspect of today, this holiday all comes down to people. And while my sister and her family, as well as all of my friends, are somewhere else besides Sugar Land, Texas at the moment, a day like today makes me sit back and value those relationships even more. So to all my friends that read this site, Merry Christmas, and thank you for being you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Kev, Live from Sugar Land, Part 2

Yeah yeah, original title. Anyway, some random thoughts on the eve of Christmas:

A sweet history: It really does seem appropriate to be in "Sugar Land" on Christmas, doesn't it? I didn't grow up here, but my folks moved here after my sister and I were out of the house, mostly to be closer to the golf course, which they are--as a matter of fact, they can ride there in their golf cart if they want. (That would be golf cart #2, by the way; the first one spontaneously combusted in the garage a few years ago. For real. Fortunately, nothing was damaged except the cart itself, but still...that's just weird.)

Sugar Land got its name because it started out as the home of the Imperial Sugar Co., which had a plant here until just little over a year ago (the building still exists as a hulking landmark to the area's past). It was truly a "company town" at the beginning, and some of the original company-built houses, rather barracks-y in nature, can be found in the old section of town. It was also the inspiration for the movie The Sugarland Express, a train-robbery tale that marked the directorial debut of a young Steven Spielberg.

Now, of course, Sugar Land is just another tony suburb, as Houston has grown around and past it. My parents' neighborhood alone has been home to the likes of Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell, former Houston Rocket and Dallas Maverick Rodney McCray (he lived in the house with the really tall front door, of course) and billionaire John Moores, who gave so much money to the Unversity of Houston that they named their school of music after him; he also owns the San Diego Padres. (None of these people live there anymore; evidently, that was just their "starter neighborhood." Yikes.) My folks don't live in something as big as any of those houses, but it's still really nice.

At any rate, it's somewhat entertaining to drive around here on Christmas Eve, so I can have "visions of Sugar Land dancing in my head." (Foil me now, guys.)

Christmas spirit: Dead or alive?
Reasons the Christmas spirit might be dead, as seen today:
1) Rude guy who pulled out in front of me in traffic before I could even have a chance to motion him in.
2) People honking at each other incessantly in parking lots.

Reasons the Christmas spirit might be alive, also as seen today:
1) People actually donating to the Salvation Army kettle in front of the shopping center.
2) Random lady wishing people (including me) a Merry Christmas as she walked down the sidewalk at the same shopping center.
3) Retail clerks who were courteous to a fault, even though it was 4:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Moral of the story? Umm, people were really nice this holiday season, until you put them in their cars. (Sounds like the rest of the year?)

It's not just me... I think everybody was late with Christmas this year. Perhaps it's just that life is more complicated, people are busier...but, as my mom pointed out, we "lost" a shopping week since Thanksgiving was so late this year. Most of the people out shopping this afternoon (and they were out in droves) probably didn't want to be shopping on Christmas Eve, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. The more I've talked to people, though, the less I feel like a slacker for putting my lights/tree up on Monday and shopping today. Everyone's doing it, so it seems.

So I hope everyone's Christmas Eve goes great. I may be doing something unusual tonight, at least for me; if so, I'll put it in the next entry.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Kev, Live from Sugar Land, Part I

I guess this is just a little 'yo' to let everyone know I made it here in one piece....earlier than usual, even, which never happens to me on roadtrips. I had a reason to be early today, as I was meeting one of my Sinfonia chapter presidents for lunch to catch up on some business that couldn't get done during the semester. It just happens that this guy grew up in a different section of my old subdivision (though on the other side of the school-district line, so we wouldn't have likely met even if we'd been here at the same time). Despite having no idea what the traffic would be like, and leaving later than I wanted to, I got to the old neighborhood within three minutes of my goal.

After lunch, I had to make the obligatory trip through the neighborhood itself, "just because." I also passed my old elementary school coming out of the restaurant; I hadn't been that way in quite some time (it's off the main roads, unlike my old high school). Needless to say, it looked quite different, though I still recognized the houses of old friends whose parents had long since moved away, just as my parents did.

When asked to describe the main difference in my old neighborhood, it always comes down to one thing: The trees have gotten taller. The area itself is quite well-kept, even though some of the houses are 35 years old now...but yeah, the trees are what stand out. They're mostly pines in that area, and they do grow quite tall (especially the seedling I planted for Arbor Day in fifth grade, which now towers over the house). So sure enough, when I told my folks I'd made the side-trip, they asked how it looked, and I gave the obligatory answer: "Great...the trees have gotten taller."

They say you can't go home again, but it's always nice to see the place where I spent my formative years. My old house, my schools, the neighborhood...while they don't necessarily represent the greatest of times--and there's no way I'd trade what I have now no matter how deeply I found myself in the throes of nostalgia--they were a part of me for a long time, and the things I experienced then and there helped make me who I am today.

The house is actually vacant now, as the people who bought it from my parents downsized and moved closer into town; it's going back on the market next month. I got nostalgic for it the other night when I was at Halfling's parents' party and I realized how much the downstairs of their house looked like its downstairs.

Other than that, I'm just chillin'; I may get some more shopping done for my sister and her family while I'm here (they're going to Colorado for Christmas, and I won't see them till New Year's Day). Oh, and I'm pretty sure I have a New Year's gig; it's not a high-dollar big band thing like I've had before, but it is a place to play. More on that later.

Also, I guess tomorrow I'll chime in on why this place is called "Sugar Land."

NOT ON MY CHRISTMAS LIST: Here is a description of an actual book I saw advertised today: "Walter is a wonderful dog, except for one small problem. Gas. He can't help it. Billy and Betty love him anyway. Father says he's got to go. Find out how his problem becomes his salvation."--Walter the Farting Dog, by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray. Seen in an ad for Whole Earth Provision Co., which maybe should stick to selling Birkenstocks if this is the best they can do in the "literature" department. Heh heh.

Needless to say, I won't be buying this one for my nearly three-year-old nephew anytime soon...

Monday, December 22, 2003

Let There Be Lights

I'll admit it: I'm a Christmas light fanatic. While some may say that exquisite lighting displays are simply a symbol of the over-commercialism of Christmas (this goes all the way back to, oh, Snoopy's doghouse in A Charlie Brown Christmas), I think it's great. I love driving through some of those "showcase" neighborhoods and being bathed in the colors of the season. To me, it doesn't symbolize commercialism at all, but rather it's an earthly manifestation of the Light whose entry into the world we celebrate. Oh, and it just plain looks cool too...

I have my favorite places in D/FW, of course--some of which I visit every year no matter what, and some of which I mean to visit but don't always get around to doing. Here are Kev's Top Three in the area, plus a few other places of note:

1) DEERFIELD (Plano): This is one of those neighborhoods where almost everyone participates; even those who don't celebrate Christmas will have up little menorahs or what-not. Like all good light-show neighborhoods, this one has lots of cul-de-sacs so that traffic can move smoothly without turning around in the middle of the street. They also have horse carriages for hire, and the area is a prime spot for limo tours as well. (I caught this one last night.)

2) SPRING PARK (Garland): This one not only has lots of cul-de-sacs, but it also has "theme streets" where everyone does things like Elvis, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, the Grinch, etc. Last year I finally figured out how to traverse the entire neighborhood without having to double back... (I'm going there when I get back from Houston this year.)

3) INTERLOCHEN (Arlington): This is not that far from Six Flags, and there's a similarity between them: along the road leading to Interlochen, there are signs saying how long the wait is from whatever point you're at, just like the line for the Batman or something. The bonus of this neighborhood is that two of the streets back up to a canal, so they not only do their front yards but also their backyards all the way down to the water. During peak times, they have cops directing traffic, roads coned off, and little sidewalk lemonade or hot chocolate stands (depending upon the weather) for thirsty viewers. (I get there every few years or so.)

There are also a couple of individual places worth noting: a house on DOGWOOD TRAIL in Rowlett that is totally awesome, but it has so much neon, it's a wonder how the neighbors sleep (there must be a 'light curfew' or something), and a house near HEBRON PKWY. and SIERRA in Carrollton that has a Santa-copter on the roof and a full-blown Santa's workshop in the garage, plus several window dioramas.

One thing these places all have in common is that they're in really nice neighborhoods also. I like gawking at the houses apart from the lights; maybe some Christmas I need to go to Fairview, which I wrote about in the early days of this blog.

Anyone have any local sites I missed? Use the comment section below.

Oh, and despite my love of lights, my own lights didn't get up until this morning *sigh*. It was a combination of too busy, too dark when I wasn't busy, too rainy when I wasn't busy and it wasn't dark, and too busy. But at least they're up and I won't be a "Scrooge" anymore (my term for the people in those showcase neighborhoods who don't have any lights going).

I'll be in Houston (Sugar Land to be precise) for the next few days, but I'll have full computer access and will post a few "Live from..." entries while I'm there.

THIS IS WEIRD: I've never had my teaching music follow me around like this, but tonight in Chick-Fil-A, I heard snippets of two tunes in a row that people are playing for Solo & Ensemble: the Pachelbel Canon (a.k.a. the "Taco Bell Canon"--another story for another time) and the Troika from Lt. Kije Suite. They weren't the originals--they had pop songs written around them--but the classical pieces were still very apparent.

THE ELECTRIC SLIDE? You have to see this clip of a dancing trombone player; it's totally hilarious (even if he fracks the last note). I wonder if Fizban is jealous that the guy whose site this came from claims to have "the first bass bone blog on the planet."

AND NOW, A LOOK AT THE WEATHER: It was the first day of winter in Texas, but you couldn't tell at first...and then you definitely knew later.

1:00 p.m.: 70 degrees, sunshine
8:00 p.m.: 54 degrees, nasty north wind, big lightning clouds off to the east.

How do we ever know how to dress here? We sometimes go through several entire seasons in a single day. I think Demon Matt may have a point with his hoodie-and-flip-flops motif; at least he's 50% right all of the time...

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The "Two-Party System" is Part of What Makes America Great

No, I'm not doing politics on the blog again. The title comes from the joke I left on my AIM away message last night when I went to not one, but two Christmas parties...and my friends' gig....and an early breakfast.

It's been this way for the past couple of years: Everybody I know throws their Christmas bash on the same night. I'm certainly not going to choose between them; that's not my style. Instead, I'll be Super Kev and go to everything, and the trick is just in the pacing of it all.

Last year, I started north and moved south: My friend and colleague Kris and his wife had a party at their new home in Denton; Kirk from big band and his wife had their annual shindig in Richardson, and I met up with a few of the guys in 15th Street Jazz to go to Sambuca in Deep Ellum and see Shelley Carrol, my old college buddy who's one of the best tenor players in Dallas.

This year was the opposite, compass-wise: I started south and moved north. First up was Halfling's parents' (the Elderhalflings?) party in Rowlett, followed by Kirk's in the middle again and then up to Ke Davi for the 15th Street Jazz "reunion" (where all four of the members who made the CD were together for the first time since August). I had roughly from 7:00 to either 11 or 11:30 to accomplish this feat (15th Street would play longer if the place was full).

I stayed at Halfling's for quite a while; the food was great, it was cool just to hang with Halfling and Angie and Dingus, and it was probably my last chance to see Dingus before his family takes a weeklong trip to New Orleans (I recommended all my old haunts--well, ok, most of them, heh heh--for them to check out). Fizban's parents were there but not Fizban himself; I later learned that we missed each other by about five minutes (Fizban and Halfling live on the same street, so I wished his parents a "safe walk home" on my way out).

By the time I left there, it was 9:40 and time to at least make a cameo appearance at Kirk's. He and his wife throw a huge bash; the food and beverages are amazing, and even though I know almost nobody there, it's still a part of my annual tradition.

Except this year was different, because one thing had changed since last year's party: the rise of Combo PM. So I did know quite a few people there, as several of the "adult" students were in attendance. The 30-45 minutes I had planned to spend there quickly turned into an hour, and I could have stayed even longer. However, this social butterfly flapped his wings once again, said his quick goodbyes and headed up the road to Ke Davi.

I could tell when I pulled into the parking lot that they were still playing, so I ordered my coffee and got ready to chill, until Chris came up to me during the guitar solo and said "hey, The Chicken is next; grab your mouthpiece and get ready." Yes, for the third week in a row, the last tune of the night at Ke Davi was The Chicken. Sure, my college groups "borrowed" the idea from 15th Street, but it just seemed like the thing to do. So Chris and I did our friendly duel (more "Luke and Yoda joust with little plastic lightsabers," just like me and Fizban the other night) and the gig was done. A third Saturday night in a row ending at Ke Davi, except for two things: 1) I wasn't in charge of the gig (whew), and 2) the night wasn't over. We all went to Cafe Brazil near SMU (they serve food and are open 24 hours) until about 1:30 in the morning, and it was great to catch up.

So there you have it--my holiday party time squeezed into one night. I don't know that any one group of people got the attention out of me that they deserved, but at least it's great to have all those groups to hang with in the first place.

GIMME FIVE: The first new ramp of the High Five--eastbound LBJ to northbound Central--opened Friday morning (and within twenty minutes of it being open, there was a wreck on it, much to the delight of radio traffic reporters everywhere), and I got to drive on it this morning for the first time. It is indeed quite...high...but it's not tilted too steeply or anything, so you don't necessarily feel that high (except for looking down on all the tall buildings). The ramp is nearly two miles long, though I think it'll connect to Central sooner when they get all the other stuff done. At any rate, it's nice that they replaced the old left-hand-side exit; that was the finest 1967 had to offer, but it sure didn't work now.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Blow Out The Candles

Happy Birthday Dad! I rarely get to see him on the actual day anymore, but at least I'm there within a few days of it. And no, we don't usually spew out numbers on this blog, but suffice it to say that the number now associated with Dad is a lot larger than it seems like it should be. Not only did I gain the "youthful genes" from both him and Mom, but I also can learn a lot from them about growing older gracefully.

I always felt bad for him when I was a kid, what with his birthday being five days before Christmas and all. The way his "birthday celebration" usually worked was like this:

1) Take one present from under the Christmas tree and say "happy birthday." Only the fact that it wasn't wrapped in Christmas paper kept it from looking like any other present down there.
2) Take him out to dinner on his own credit card. (This wasn't as tacky as it sounds; Mom was a stay-at-home mom, and even in high school, when I had my fast-food jobs, I wouldn't have been able to chip in much.)

However, he took it all in stride, and still does; I think he considers it more of an early Christmas than anything (if he even considers it anything besides "just another day"), and Mom loves the four months that he's a "year older" than she is.

CHALK ONE UP FOR THE GOOD GUYS: In a surprise setback for the beleaguered recording industry, a U.S. appeals court ruled Friday that record labels cannot force Internet service providers to name customers who illegally copy music online.

(Read the whole story here. If you're wondering why this musician considers file-swappers the good guys and not the recording industry, read my Ranting Against the Machine post.)

'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY TIRED, CRANKY AND ASSAULTED ON ALL SIDES BY RUDE CUSTOMERS: I ran across this great site last night about the adventures of a onetime Barnes and Noble employee and his encounters with, shall we say, "difficult" customers:


It's long but worth the read--very funny. Anyone who's worked retail will be able to relate to it. At some point, I'll collect the random stuff from all the years I worked weekends at Brook Mays and get them on this site as well.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Happy Christmas Winter Ehh, I'm Not In School So I'll Still Call It Christmas Break

A long and challenging semester ended today, and now it's time for a couple weeks of Necessary Down Time Where I Don't Make a Lot of Money but Enjoy Recharging My Batteries Anyway. If nothing else, I should be able to get caught up on my reading and get back on a consistent sleep schedule (I won't see 6 a.m., at least as a wake-up time, for nearly three weeks--yay!).

I do have a mini-rant that had to do with this last teaching day of the semester; it's aimed at school administrators who change their school's schedule at the last minute. This happened to me again today.

I had two, maybe three students to teach--one in first period, one or two in third, depending on if one guy got back from a doctor's appointment or not. This school was on trimesters, so they didn't have exams, but they got the same early dismissal that the other (exam-taking) schools got because not doing so would royally mess up the bus schedule. I had been given this schedule several weeks in advance (a rarity), and set my own schedule accordingly. I decided to teach the first period student during the second half of class so as to miss the before-school traffic (another rant for another day). Once I found the guy and pried him away from his card game quiet reading time that emphasized multiple standardized-test objectives, we sat down to play. About three bars into the first movement of his solo...a bell rang. Huh? This was a good twenty minutes too early.

That's when I found out that the shortened schedule was itself being shortened--that's right, a special-schedule-within-a-special-schedule--for an assembly that they were supposed to have in their advisory period, until they remembered that they weren't having advisory due to the already-short, lunchless day. The directors were told about this change weeks in advance so they could notify their private teaching staff this morning, as in with literally no time to warn us. These are the worst kind of missed lessons because I can't collect for them; they're not my fault or the student's fault (but how nice it would be to be able to march down to the office and collect my funds from them, since their disorganization got in the way of the learning process and pretty much stole money from me...yeah, and then I woke up). I basically found out that I wouldn't be able to teach anybody for the next two hours, which gave me plenty of time to get a haircut but really hacked me off.

I sometimes wish these administrators would peer out of their little ivory towers long enough to remember that there are people out there who work in more than one school. It's not just my colleagues and I who do this; there are undoubtedly folks like team-teaching band directors, speech therapists, etc., who go between different schools. Saving big scheduling decisions until the last minute will mess us up in ways they couldn't even imagine, but I wonder if it ever crosses their minds.

(UPDATE: I was talking about this with Demon Halfling tonight when the subject of dress codes came up. This idea has enough material in it that I'll save it for a later post. You're not gonna believe what was banned--and why--in my school district when I was growing up.)

At any rate, despite a glitchy morning, it's great to be on vacation. I'm sure I'll post more during this time as well.

SEE ME, HEAR ME: Someone has posted a QuickTime movie of me playing with the Rowlett jazz band last week--the subject of a previous post--on the Web now. Since I haven't managed to get any MP3 clips up on my website yet, this will be a great addition; I'll link it there and on the sidebar here as well. (And no, you're not hearing things; I did in fact quote "The Christmas Song" on the bridge...all in the holiday spirit, heh heh.) Thanks to Demon Matt for the link. (UPDATE: I found out this only works on broadband connections at the moment; if you're on dial-up, go to the main RHS band page and click on the link about me and the jazz band. You can email the guy and he'll send you a compressed version; I was kinda bummed when I found out my mom and dad couldn't watch it at their place.)

Thursday, December 18, 2003


What can I say; The Return of the King lives up to its hype. Sure, it was three-and-a-half hours long (ironically, the same as the amount of sleep I got the night before; that must be some kind of record), but it ties up all the loose ends neatly and has pretty much everything you could want out of a movie: character development, well-rendered scary creatures, tug-at-your-heart emotions and really cool battle scenes. I won't discuss plot quite yet, for the benefit of the two or three people who haven't read the books, but suffice it to say, I got my money's worth and then some. Fizban, Dingus and Will would concur, no doubt. I'll be back again soon, maybe even today, but in the meantime, if you haven't been yet, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this blog and go! *smirks*

And on the way home, I thought about how cool it will be in two years when Firewheel Town Center is open and we don't have to go to Plano to go to movies or Chipotle. Sweet times ahead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Let's Go Bowling (My New Orleans Bowl Trip)

Today, I woke up in New Orleans--at 4:00 a.m.--to the sound of a cell phone alarm playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (a tribute to yesterday's birthday boy). That's not the normal way to start a teaching day, just like going to see a 3 1/2-hour-long movie will not be a normal way to end it. But here I am, filling in some of the spaces between then and now.

Part 1: Getting There
The flight to New Orleans was fine, if a bit bumpy. It was interesting in that I found out I had stuff in common with both the other random people in my row. I was seated next to an off-duty flight attendant who had been visiting her mom in Garland, where I live now. She gave me one of her mom's "peanut patties"--basically like pecan pralines only with peanuts (duhh). Great stuff! (And in case you're wondering, guys...she was older and had a big rock on her finger, so no "did you get her number?" jokes this time.) Seated next to her was this high-powered hotel-franchise salesman who turned out to have attended UNT when I did and was also an extra in Necessary Roughness just like I was. You've probably heard the stereotype that all hotel owners are from India, and sure enough, he said over 60% of his clients were named either Patel or Bhakta. I even found out why there are so many Patels from India; it's not just that it's the counterpart of Smith. Evidently your last name is tied to your profession; I believe all the Patels were farmers once upon a time. Interesting stuff, actually.

We landed in New Orleans and I was there all of five minutes when my fraternity brother Marc called my cell and said he was waiting outside (yay, he was awake!). We got back to the hotel and then went over to this huge indoor "tailgate" party at the Hyatt. It was in the same exact ballroom where they had IAJE in 2000 when I was there.

I was blown away by the size of the party. I've mentioned before how impressive the crowds were at home games this year, but this was really something. There were more people in that ballroom than there were at some of the games when I was in college--no joke. They had a live jazz band, part of the Green Brigade marching band was in there for a bit playing the fight song and so on, and there was a huge food spread.

Looking back, I'm surprised I was still walking after my little "snack sampler," but I had to try a little of everything. Here's what I had:

Red beans and rice, jambalaya, catfish, a hot dog, a small bag of Zapp's potato chips and some apple cobbler (I know that stuff had fun mixing up in my stomach). I also had a drink called Mr. Green, just because it was there and was so closely associated with school colors and all.

Afterwards, we headed to the Superdome (connected to the Hyatt by a small but upscale shopping mall). To get across this elevated open area, we had to go through the "gauntlet" of Memphis supporters, who were evidently having their tailgate party right there. They had a live blues band and everything, and we felt more than a bit conspicuous walking through the sea of blue with our green shirts and Mardi Gras beads and pompoms. (I almost felt bad that I'd led everyone that way, since the president of UNT and his wife were following us and thus subjected to the same gauntlet.) We went in and got to our seats.

Part 2: The Game
The Superdome was by no means full (it holds something like 69,000 people, and this is only a third-year bowl), but it was loud. The UNT and Memphis bands both did pregame shows, and everyone pounded along raucously with the green and white ThunderStix we'd been given when we got to our seats. (The lady next to me was very percussively-challenged...ack.) I was of course trying to get just the right timbre with mine, except that one of them kept deflating all night. At any rate, it was loud and rowdy and fun; we were primed to go at kickoff time.

As for the game, well...it didn't turn out as well as we wanted. Memphis all but shut down our running game, blocking every gap that Patrick Cobbs would usually race through all season (he had been leading the nation in yards per game going into the bowl). We took the early lead, but only on a field goal. Memphis' quarterback, Danny Wimprine (dang, I bet he got kidded about that name in elementary school) threw some amazing long passes, usually after we had them pinned back at third-and-long. One of them led to a touchdown that ended up giving them a lead they would never relinquish; fortunately, the vaunted Eagle defense got back on track and held them to only another field goal, which should have made the score 10-3 at halftime.

Unfortunately, the play on which the game probably turned happened next when a UNT receiver on special teams tried to run back the kickoff that was probably nine yards back in the end zone. He should have just left it alone, because he ended up fumbling and Memphis recovered. Four plays later, the Tigers marched into the end zone for a 17-3 lead at the half.

Halftime was cool; the Green Brigade did the "Sing Sang Sung" show again (the tempo is still so slow when you have to march to it) and everyone liked it. I'm still so psyched that my buddy Nick got the the director's job. After the Memphis show, they had this contest where two people tried to hit a target 20 yards away with a football, and they were just...horrible. Nobody even clapped when they were done.

We rallied a bit in the second half, bringing the score back to 17-10. (At that point, I was visiting with some fraternity brothers next to the band, and I stayed there out of sheer superstition since the team was doing better. I also noticed that the stands in that section of the Superdome shook whenever we stomped up and down a lot; I hope that was supposed to happen.) The teams traded touchdowns to make it 24-17 with seven minutes remaining, but a couple of costly penalties against UNT helped Memphis get close enough to kick the game-icing field goal; final score, Memphis 27, UNT 17.

Sure, we could gripe about the officiating; it seemed like the Eagles were called for every little bit of contact on pass defense while the Tigers got away with murder. But it all came down to the fact that a team we didn't know much about (they hadn't been to a bowl in 31 years!) played a very good game on a night when we didn't. Sure, a victory would have been nice, but I'm glad I went; I had been to the Cotton Bowl before, when my sister was going to Texas A&M, but it was more fun on a personal level since this was my alma mater. Hopefully, we'll be back again next year to keep the string going.

Part 3: Postgame
Thankfully, despite the shortness of my trip, there was still a chance to take in a little bit of the French Quarter. New Orleans is one of my favorite vacation spots, and, in case you're wondering, it's really not about the partying; I could go there, not touch a drop of alcohol, and still have a great time enjoying the music, food, architecture and overall funkiness of the place.

My fraternity bro Marc and his friend (also named Marc), my gracious hosts for the night, weren't up to walking all the way to the river, so I couldn't have a shrimp po-boy at Cafe Maspero or beignets at the Cafe du Monde, but this was a trip on the cheap anyway, so we settled on Popeye's.

New Orleans is a different place, as I've said. For one thing, there's a huge homeless population downtown, so things like "restrooms for customers only" have to be strictly enforced. This Popeye's almost went overboard on that, though, as they didn't even have a condiment table; you had to go ask this guy for whatever you wanted (maybe the homeless would make a meal out of ketchup otherwise?). This particular outlet was also a bit unprepared for the post-bowl crowd: no bread for po-boys, not even any tartar sauce! The restrooms were chained off and guarded by an employee; I went up there, receipt in hand (just in case), but even that wasn't enough...

ME: Hi, I just finished my meal; may I please use the restroom?
EMPLOYEE: The restrooms are closed, sir.
ME: Even for people who bought food here?
EMPLOYEE: I'm sorry, sir (said with the most "no, I'm not really sorry" look on her face as possible)

But at least we were able to catch the sights and sounds for a while. When we left Popeye's, some guy was playing drums--really well--on two pickle barrels of different sizes. The neon on Bourbon Street, combined with the music (mostly jazz and blues) blaring from the various clubs, made for quite a sensory experience. Thankfully, the guys were pretty tired, so I didn't have to make a big stand about why my beliefs would keep me from going into a strip club (they would've gone, trust me). It was fun to shout "Go Mean Green" to anyone decked out in school colors and hear them shout "WOOOOOOOOOO!!!" in return. I'll be back soon enough when I can go to more of my favorite haunts, but at least I got a taste of the Big Easy for the first time in nearly four years.

Part 4: Going Home
My flight out was at 7:30 a.m.; this meant very little sleep, but it also gave me the chance to see New Orleans at a really unusual hour of the morning. Since I was the first stop on the airport shuttle's route, I got to see what the French Quarter looks like at five in the morning (yeah, I'd been here for conventions before, but I don't think we ever stayed out past, umm....four, maybe).

The surprising thing was that there really were more than a few people out. Some actually looked like they were working, but there were a few straggling partiers stumbling out of the Quarter, even though the Bourbon St. lights had long since gone dark. It had been a slow night the night before anyway; a cold front had come through while we were at the game, so the wind whipping through the buildings made it feel more like Chicago. Needless to say, nobody was earning beads that night...

That's about it, other than to say that my flight home had to be at least 50% UNT people, most still decked out in "mean" green. Despite the loss, it's still cool to see my alma mater move it up a level in prominence like that.

Oh yeah, and if you recall a post from a while back about Zack forgetting to feed my cat when I was out of town...well, it almost happened again. He did forget at dinnertime, and it finally happened at 4:40 a.m., after he got home from the midnight LOTR showing. No wonder Tasha was so content when I got home a few hours later.

Some random quotes from the trip:
HOTEL FRANCHISE GUY: "It's really pretty easy to buy a hotel franchise, as long as you have good credit....and $250,000."
OFF-DUTY FLIGHT ATTENDANT and ME (pretty much simultaneously): "If..."

"One of my noisemakers is having Viagra issues."--Me, when one of the ThunderStix kept deflating during really exciting parts of the game.

"That sure reinforces the Tennessee stereotype, doesn't it?"--Me, remarking on the fact that the Memphis colorguard and dancers all performed barefoot.

"We just lost the game. Ask somebody from Memphis."--Marc's friend Marc, when approached by a homeless guy for money (shockingly, one of the rare times that happened this trip)

WEIRD JUXTAPOSITION OF OLD SCHOOL/NEW SCHOOL: "I've been coming to these games for 51 years"--elderly Memphis fan after the game, who then paused to answer his cell phone, which had an annoyingly trendy ring tone rivaling that of any high school or college student.

Monday, December 15, 2003

A Few Measures of Rest

The long string of performances is finally over; I can hang up the gig clothes for a while (maybe even wash 'em first, haha). I can also now claim the fact that I have done the guest-artist thing for a band without a single rehearsal (granted, on a tune I've played about 18 zillion times).

So how did it go? Well...people liked it. Was I among the people? Umm...I guess it was OK. There were a lot of unexpected things going on, like the backgrounds not coming in every second chorus like we always do at the college. I had forgotten till I got there that there was no chording instrument behind me--very different (and the bass dropped the last four bars after the unison lick)...also, I wasn't miked for the "SNL" opening solo, which really felt strange.

But, all that aside, I did get to have a little friendly "battle" of choruses with Fizban, which is always fun--Luke and Yoda jousting with plastic light-sabers, if you wish. Fizban said on his site that I annihilated him, but I still felt like I left a lot of my good stuff in the warmup room (driven away by the distraction). Maybe we can reprise the battle again another time after I've been able to be there for at least a soundcheck or something.

So I chalk this up as a learning experience, as are all gigs...yes, I'm still learning; anyone who thinks they've stopped learning is either 1) fooling himself or 2) dead. I guess the next step for me is to be so "on" for a performance that any sort of distraction or mishap won't faze me in the least. I found out on Friday that my onstage "ball of focus" is immune from, say, having a mike fall off its stand into my hands, but I obviously need to work on making my own strong statement through the horn even if the rhythm section has less emotion than Band-in-a-Box. It's also possible that I got myself too hyped up for this one, just because so many people who are so important to me were going to be there. The thing is, they supported me anyway...but it's all good. I'll learn from it. I will be better.

(UPDATE: After sleeping on this, I decided that the thing that put me most out-of-sorts last night was the whole thing of not being miked. You simply have to mike a saxophone playing over a big band in a large auditorium, or the player will have to change the way he plays to get an acceptable volume, which will make all kinds of other things not-so-acceptable. The director, a trumpet player, may not really be aware of this, as a trumpet can soar unamplified over a big band like few other instruments [Dingus had the same problem I did on his trombone feature of getting buried in the texture]. I didn't press the issue when the director said "well, nobody else has been miked tonight" because I didn't want to come off like a prima donna...but next time I'll hold my ground.)

I did test out a sort of extreme version of Inspiration Theory tonight: from about 1:00 this afternoon on, my car was radio station KLUK--all Chicken, all the time. I must have rolled the Jaco "Birthday Concert" version with Mintzer and Brecker at least seven times before I got to the school. It definitely gave me some more licks for that tune, even if some of them never left the horn.

Oh yeah, and Dingus had a feature too (was supposed to be his trombone instructor's, but the guy bailed on it a day or two ago). He talks about it here so I'll let your Dingus do the talking (laugh if you get that really, really old joke).

So now it's about time for the New Orleans Bowl trip. It's a mini-trip, really; I'll be there less than 24 hours. I doubt there'll be a "Kev, Live From New Orleans" entry like Demon Halfling did recently, because I'm not likely to be near a computer when I'm there (though we are staying in a Marriott Radisson, so who knows...this is assuming I actually get any sleep to begin with). I'll leave in the morning after a short stint teaching four three beginners (one already called in sick). This will be the shortest trip I've taken to the Big Easy since I saw Sonny Rollins at the House of Blues in '99 and stayed there about 16 hours, but it'll be nice to have a change of venue for a time, and very cool to cheer for my alma mater on the big stage. Go Mean Green!

SECOND-BEST QUOTE OF THE DAY: (excerpted from a conversation between me and a high school student I teach at the store)
ME: Do you have exams this week? I didn't know if your school was on semesters or trimesters.
HSS: My school's on semesters, but there are a lot of girls at school on "trimesters" alright...

Scary, but true, no doubt.

BEST QUOTE OF THE DAY: (excerpted from a phone conversation between me and the fraternity brother who's letting me crash on his hotel floor in New Orleans)

ME: So how's everything going out there? Having a good time so far?
HIM: Yeah, it's been great. We got our picture taken with an actual pimp!

And I'm staying with this guy? Forget what I said about getting sleep...

OK, I'll be back here on Wednesday with a full report and a non-review (can't give away the plot *snickers*) of the new LOTR, for which I secured tickets tonight. (Btw, to the guys going: the tix were $7.50, but they tacked on a .75 charge per ticket for buying over the Net, so it was $8.25 total. So Will, I want my two quarters back, plus another one. *grins*)

A Holiday Cornucopia

More random stuff from the last couple days:

As always, I passed my favorite Sonic sign on Friday afternoon. They have at least fixed it to where you can now try OUR new Mint Blast...but the SUPERSONIC ANDRINGS remain untouched. I still say that would be an excellent name for a rock band...

Speaking of rock bands, we played a U2 song in church yesterday. I think that's a first.

Fun Facts is now up to 45; it should be finished really soon.

Happy belated birthday to Ryan V. on Saturday; welcome to the "big table" now (heh heh).

And of course, I was blown away to tune the radio to KRLD for a weather report yesterday morning, only to find out that Saddam had been captured. Yay for the good guys (the division that captured him, incidentally, was from Ft. Hood right here in Texas).

The Homestretch

VERBOSITY ALERT: Three posts in one day! Keep scrolling to read 'em all...

I can finally see this semester's "light at the end of the tunnel"--and I'm fairly sure it's not attached to an oncoming train.

I took a period off today (yeah, a rarity for me); I just had so many errands to run, college grades to submit, etc., and with one more performance tonight, I really needed more than a 15-minute inhaled lunch of Burger King. Besides, the kids I gave the "day off" are at Coyle, which is preparing for its trip to Chicago for the Midwest Clinic this week, so the director will be happy to have more of her band in rehearsal instead of in lessons today. (She should have a lot of them; most of my married counterparts are taking the week off anyway, since they have the extra income in their household to buy holiday stuff with.)

So let me just catch up a bit since Friday night:

Saturday started really early with a trip to TCU for the Sinfonia induction. They started at 7:30 a.m. *shudder*, so I left my house a little after six, powered by java and Spymob (that's java the coffee, not the programming language), cruising through the chilly winter morn. Obviously, I can't discuss our secret ceremonies here (though a password-protected "brothers only" section of this blog would be interesting), but suffice it to say all went well, even if most of the brothers had been up all night the night before. Some people were literally falling asleep on the table at IHOP afterwards.

After an afternoon nap, I met up with Combo Too at school for a pre-gig rehearsal. It was frustrating at times, because people were late and concentration was low at times (Miles the bassist and I were commiserating over dinner about the difference between people who had lots of off-campus gig experience and those who had none), but we got done what we needed to get done and still had time for a quick dinner before setup time and an 8:30 start to the gig.

Generally speaking, the gig went well. It was a long, long night, playing from 8:30 until past 12:30, but almost everything came off without a hitch. There were a few times when someone would take an extra chorus (or three) of a solo because they got lost in the form, but overall it was good and everyone liked it. There were way more people there than last week, probably because hot drinks on a cold night appealed to a lot of people. The sound of the combo and the size of the crowd cemented what we had talked about last week: groups from the college playing at Ke Davi on a monthly basis.

Yesterday was relaxing, as it was meant to be--just trying to get caught up on stuff before tonight's gig with Lakeview and the New Orleans trip tomorrow. It's been a long, crazy, rewarding, taxing semester, but it's in the homestretch now.

Friday, December 12, 2003

One Down, Two to Go...

The second straight Gigful Weekend is upon us, and the first portion was a lot of fun.

Tonight was the concert at Rowlett; I was the guest for one tune (In A Sentimental Mood) that they'll be doing at IAJE next month with Chris Vadala. Micah came back from TCU to be featured on the other one: an arrangement of A Night In Tunisia that I think was originally done for Allen Vizzutti, so it made sense to have a trumpet play it in the first place.

It wasn't exactly a great night for a concert; the weather was my least favorite combination: cold and rain. I don't mind one or the other, but I could do without them simultaneously. At least I got to the school without incident; Ryan V. almost had a wreck on his way there when he got run off the road into a ditch by a truck. You could still see mud on him when the concert was over. However, there was a decent crowd, and that's always more fun when it's full of people.

There was almost a comical incident before it was time for me and Micah to play (his tune was right after mine): We were walking around backstage and noticed that the main stage door was locked. We checked out the other one and it was locked too! We were trying to figure out how that was gonna work--enter from the audience?--when the assistant director realized we weren't back there, figured something was amiss, and unlocked it for us. Comedy averted...

So it was my turn to play, and I realized it wasn't the same mic I had played on in rehearsal this afternoon. None of the mics had those twisty gooseneck things that saxes like to use, and this one would barely even angle down towards me. At one point, it came off the stand into my hands, but it didn't faze me like it might have in the past; I guess you could say I was a ball of focus in that I blocked out anything not having to do with playing.

At any rate, I think it went pretty well; I actually liked some of the stuff I did (I'll pause a moment while you fall over from shock on that one). It had been a while since I'd done a ballad feature with a big band, and I definitely felt more "in command" than the last time. I think with all the tenor playing I've been doing lately, I'm finally feeling more comfortable playing in Bb. With the perfect pitch thing, and having played alto and bari for so long, I just tend to think in Eb most of the time, and sometimes, when I'm on a Bb horn, the ideas get tangled between mind and fingers. Tonight, everything flowed smoothly. (Also, Inspiration Theory gained some more credibility tonight, as I had Joshua Redman going not just on the way to the gig, but all afternoon before that. I really think this works.)

I stayed backstage and listened to Micah's feature; as I said, it was originally done for Vizzutti, so it was pretty demanding. He not only played the head, but soloed, played lead over the shout chorus, soloed again and played the head out! He was getting pretty warm up there, he said. But of course the audience ate it up; nothing like the "hometown boy made good" coming back and showing what he's learned since graduation...and if you had to choose someone to be the subject of all this adulation, you couldn't pick a nicer guy.

Fizban came up for the concert, so afterwards, he joined me, Demon Matt, Micah and his "entourage" (his GF Carly [sp?], a couple TCU friends, and random Rowlett jazz band members) at the local Chili's for a round of food and great conversation. Micah and Fizban and I are looking forward to hanging over the holidays and then again at TMEA, where we'll all buy way too many CD's again.

One down, two to go....this was one of the good ones.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Bebop and Burritos 101: The Exam

Today I gave perhaps the coolest final exam in the history of my college teaching career.

The "exams" in jazz combo have never been an arduous undertaking; the actual final for the class is the final major performance of the semester (usually the fall/spring concert). We are required to meet with the class at the designated day/time/place during exam week, but that's often a brief discussion of the semester, followed by a much more lively discussion of where we want to go eat. In many past semesters, it's been Jack Astor's, or sometimes before that, the Owl-Themed Home of Friendly Attractive Female Servers. But this semester, we knew it was all about the Chipotle...

Between the monthly "Bond with the Band Bashes" in Combo Too and the almost-weekly trips with Fizban and Dingus after Combo PM, we brought the home of the big burrito a ton of business this semester. Evidently, this did not go unnoticed, as a few weeks ago, the manager on duty came up to me and said "You've brought your school group here a lot, and we want to treat you to lunch or dinner." Needless to say, this was cool by me, and I suggested the exam day (today). I ran into this same manager on a weekly basis and we continued to confirm the day each time we saw each other.

Last night, when I was there with Demon Halfling, I asked for the same manager to re-confirm the day....and found out he was in Mexico this week. Uh-oh...was this gonna fall through? The cashier suggested I talk to the manager on duty that night....who also recognized me from my many trips. She said the other guy had told her about it, and we were good to go. *whew* Here I had promised everyone free burritos, and I sure couldn't afford them myself this month.

So we have a rehearsal for Saturday night's Ke Davi gig (which was frustrating, because two horns were absent and one guitarist was quite late), and then we all get ready for the food portion of the "exam." I talk to the same cashier from last night, and she's confused again. I know that last night's manager left at 3:00 today, but she was supposed to leave a note for everyone. I'm now told that I can talk to yet another supervisor. *bangs head on counter* But wait, this supervisor recognizes me too! All is well (this is the reward for being such a regular--and visible--customer).

After we finished, I was on a mission; the exam was not yet complete. For you see, Fizban and Dingus weren't able to be there, as they had a gig with "Mini-MOJO" at a Starbucks in (so I thought) Mesquite. So I get their free burritos "to go" and head south. I opt for Central-to-LBJ over George Bush just to miss all the stoplights in Rowlett, only to find a few miles later that Central is its own parking lot. No way is rush hour still this bad at 6:45...is it?

After waaaay too much time just sitting there, I find out that it's a bad wreck blocking two of the lanes; I pass it, and it's smooth sailing again. I get to the Starbucks only to find...no band. Huh? This was right after Fizban had called me; he had to leave to go help his dad with a broken-down car and he wanted his burrito. I had told him I'd be there in five minutes, so where is everyone?

I call Fizban back and say, "uhh, what Starbucks are you guys at again?" Turns out it was the one on Centerville, an exit four or five miles earlier from where I was. Ack. I think I had it in my head that it was Mesquite because Dingus had said something about playing there last week, and about it being in "the opposite corner from where we sat last time." Well, I had never been to this Starbucks with the guys before, so my confusion was justified. At any rate, I got to the right one, only to find out that Fizban had bailed, so I took his place in the combo (no, not on trombone, haha). Demon Halfling and I did Mr. P.C. with the rhythm section, then Dingus and Will joined us for Blue Monk and everyone's obligatory closer, The Chicken. I didn't put this one on my list of gigs because I didn't know how long I would be there, but it was a nice warmup for the weekend (Rowlett tomorrow night, Ke Davi with the combo on Saturday, and Lakeview on Monday).

Oh, and Fizban finally came up and claimed his burrito at around 9:00; we had a nice talk about all kinds of stuff and called it a day. Anyone in college reading this could only wish that their final exams went this easily...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Hap Birt t M

Oh yeah, I almost forgot...it's my half-birthday today! :-D Exactly six months between the last one and the next one. I always wanted to give someone half a greeting card on their half-birthday and make 'em wait the other six months for the punch line. But hey, I like the June birthday thing...spreads the presents out equally during the year.

SONIC HIGH SCHOOL? One of my schools almost won the "I kan spel az gud az Sonic" award today when their marquee advertised a band dinner this weekend in their CAFATERIA, but fortunately, it was corrected by the end of the day.

Validation, Part 3

Just a quick post this morning to say yeah, I'm alive and well...just busy as always and not a lot of note to post about recently (though I would have done one last night if Blogger hadn't been down for a few hours).

Last night was Phase II of All-Region Band, and it turned out great; all but one person that I sent there actually made the band. I have two going to Area--a senior (expected; he's been there before) and a freshman (wow!). Even though that means I have to listen to those dreaded three etudes for another month, it's obviously worth it if someone gets into State. I had said in the past that the strong finish by my students made me feel validated in the way I do things, but this one was, in a way, even more special. The 4-out-of-5 at Region Jazz was awesome, of course, but (within all modesty) almost expected, because I think I'm really good at teaching jazz...yet many times, these same people and others would go to the "legit" auditions and get buried. I vowed to be better in my approach to that, and I guess it's working. It's not as easy sometimes to motivate saxophonists to play classical, just because 1) the opportunity to make a meaningful living playing classical saxophone is almost nil, and 2) jazz is just so much more fun. But this year, it turned out well on both fronts.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

A Giggin' Fool...

Whew...I'm done with the most concentrated portion of my "eight gigs in a week-and-a-half" frenzy, as four of them happened this weekend. I'll comment chronologically:

Friday night
Starting the weekend off was the holiday gala at the college, where the administration throws a big dinner for the people who donate scholarship money to the school. Combo PM played in the atrium during dinner (which is always wonderful, by the way, especially the dessert table) and then the big band did one opening number and two closing numbers during the showcase concert portion and chilled backstage in between. Everything went well, although there were some nervewracking moments at the beginning when it was ten minutes till downbeat and we had no trumpet players. I told the combo to "stretch a little" on Blue Bossa and they followed me to the letter; the tune clocked in at around 20 minutes! Dingus opened up with an eight-minute solo, and Fizban followed him with six minutes of his own. Then they both disappeared for dinner during everyone else's solos, finding themselves stuck in the dessert room when it was time to play the head out (an act of complete dingosity on their parts). The group ended up stretching so much that they only needed three tunes to kill 50 minutes before the speeches began. Despite the fact that "Let it Snow (x3)" started off about 30 BPM faster than I counted it off, the rest of the gig went off without a hitch.

After the big band finished, Fizban, Dingus, Demon Halfling and I went to see The Last Samurai, which unfortunately was a 10:35 show (we got to the theatre at 8:30, so we bought our tickets and chilled at a nearby Starbucks). Not only is it a long movie (got out at like 1:15), but we chilled a little too long at Starbucks and got back to the theatre to find only front-row seats left (ack). The neck strain notwithstanding, it was a really great movie.

After a relaxing day (sleeping till noon, etc.), Fizban and Dingus came by to carpool over to the Combo PM gig at Ke Davi. You may recall that this is the fairly new coffeehouse near the college that I discovered when 15th Street Jazz played there a few times since the end of the summer. I got to know one of the owners at their last gig and we talked about having a place for the college combos to play, and this finally happened tonight...and from the way things went, there'll be way more to come.

I wasn't even sure that we could totally fit Combo PM in the space that they use for a stage (compared to 15th Street, they're Dingus-sized; 15th Street is a quartet, while Combo PM is a nonet), but it worked out just great. I was also concerned about volume, but the only people who went outside when they started playing were those who were talking on their cell phones.

I was also concerned with the small crowd at first (as were the owners, of course), but then eventually it almost filled up, mostly with people from school (hanging those flyers did make a difference) who were at or playing in the guitar concert. They cheered loudly not only for their friends but also anytime I said the name of the school; some of them even started dancing during The Chicken (the obligatory closer, but we replaced the usual big band "SNL" intro with a gospel-waltz version of Silver Bells).

It was also fun for me personally because I brought the bari (it was one horn not already represented in the combo, and I never get to play bari enough anymore) and got to play on my Vandoren ZZ reeds, which I'd had since UNT homecoming but hadn't had a chance to bust out yet. It's the first time that Vandoren has made a bari edition of a specialty jazz reed, and I have to say I like 'em. They make a nice big sound and seemed to make doing jazz inflections much easier. It was fun to play and I helped kill a bit of time.

Anyway, the evening was a total success; everyone had a good time, no major flaws, and the owners want to talk about having regular performances by school groups every month, which would be great for the school and should be great for Ke Davi's business.

After playing my usual two services at church, I went to the next stop on my way-too-packed Sunday: my first-ever gig at a grocery store.

This is no ordinary grocery store, mind you; Central Market is a specialty store for foodies--people who are really, really into food. The fact that I'm rarely even home to cook should tell you that, yeah, this was my first time in one of these places. It looked cool enough from what I saw of it; I think they have a lot of unusual items at the expense of some of the mundane ones. In other words, they might not sell laundry detergent, but they have 57 different types of oregano. They also have things like a cafe, a sit-down deli and an extensive floral department; while we were playing, they brought in the Giant Poinsettia Ball From Hell and set it up in the front of the store (I think it ate one of the workers that was moving it). This sounds like a place I might not frequent until I have Mrs. Kev on board (or maybe I should pretend to be into food and possibly meet her there??).

At any rate, I was playing for two of the four hours with the Judy Hester Group, which was like old home week for me. Judy used to sing in the college big band back in the day, and we worked together in Just in Time before it went on hiatus. The bassist and drummer, Frank and Brian, were not only in the big band a while back but also anchored my own combo in the mid/late '90's. And Scott, the pianist, is in the TI Jazz Band and also played in the Six O'Clock Lab Band when I directed it at UNT. Even though I hadn't played some of the charts in over a year, (and was sightreading some completely) it was a good time. It was especially funny to look at people's reactions when they realized there actually was a live band on the balcony; it was possible to not see anyone if Judy wasn't singing, since the rhythm section was a bit farther back. Several customers did a double-take when they caught a glimpse of me playing for their shopping pleasure. Oh yeah, and Jazzy G was there for a second; it was her grandmother's birthday so they took her out there. I guess grandma is a "foodie" too...

It's always fun to play with old friends, so hopefully I'll get to do some more stuff with them. I could only stay for a few hours, as I had the DFWAAA holiday dinner to attend in Las Colinas. That's always a good time; a lot of the wives show up and there's always great conversation. Today seemed to be a lot of reminiscing about college days, as almost all of us went to UNT. Oh, and I found out that the Chipotle in Denton is supposed to open tomorrow--good news for Demon Halfling and Dingus (and maybe Demon Matt) when they make it up there eventually.

Speaking of Dingus, this post has grown to Dingusoid proportions (maybe even as long as a chapter of the I-Lee-Ad), so I'll stop now and get some rest (and give your eyes some as well).

PLAYING THIS WEEKEND IN THE KEVMOBILE: Spymob, Sitting Around Keeping Score. I raved about this band in an earlier post, and now their CD has finally been released. Even though Fizban pointed out that I was flouting the Inspiration Theory by listening to a rock band on the way to last night's gig, I couldn't help it; these tunes are just too catchy. Go to their website and download a few free mp3's; you can order the CD from there too.

Friday, December 05, 2003


I just had to laugh...a lot. Yes, the Sonic Drive-In whose sign I make fun of on a regular basis is at it again. Today when I drove by, it said:


I've never had "andrings" before, have you? I wonder if they taste like chicken...

And I bet if you asked the sign dude, he'd say "umm...delicious." (Go here if you don't get the joke.) The funny part is that there was plenty of room on the sign, but absolutely no effort was made to separate the "and" from the "rings."

(Also, as Dave Barry might say, "Supersonic Andrings" would be an excellent name for a rock band.)

But wait--there's more! On my way back, I got to see the other side of the sign, which was almost priceless:


So I'm trying to decide: Is the sign dude (or dudette, maybe) from a foreign country and just learning English, or is he just a functionally illiterate American? At any rate, I wonder if the managers have any idea how ignorant it makes them look--not that I'm complaining, mind you, because they've now given me blog-fodder for three months in a row.

Oh well--at least they're not serving hungry coneys anymore.

MORE RANDOM STUFF FROM THE DAY: A quick conversation this morning at the Starbucks in Super Target as I read my paper...

STARBUCKS WORKER: Where did you happen to find a newspaper?
ME: Umm...in my front yard.

OK, that wasn't as odd as the response to the mayonnaise question, but it threw me for a second; I thought you could get a newspaper almost everywhere in suburban Dallas. The way it was phrased made it sound like today's paper was as rare as the first issue of Superman comics or something. Her explanation clarified things, though: it turns out that a lot of people come in looking for a paper, and the Super Target Starbucks don't sell any. Still, it was the weirdest question I was asked all day...

THE SPLAT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD?: As I left my last school today, the director suggested to me that I should leave pretty quickly so I wouldn't get caught up in the "flower war" they were having next period behind the school by our parking lot. I was thinking that was a pretty sissy name for a war (political correctness run amok?) until I realized he meant it was a flour war, as in a reenactment of the American Revolution using flour fired out of toy muskets (or maybe they just throw it at each other?). That didn't exactly sound like something I wanted to get all over Kevmobile 1.2, so I did in fact beat a hasty retreat. On my way out, I noticed that two of the characters were already there--just like in the famous painting, there were the snare drummer and...the trumpet player? Wait a minute--there wasn't a trumpet player in that picture! I guess they couldn't scare up anyone to play piccolo--or was it a fife? Good fife players aren't exactly a dime a dozen, ya know. At any rate, I hope they had fun being messy without me.

BLOW OUT THE CANDLES: Happy birthday to Chris C., Wyatt and Andrew D. (the latter two born in the exact same year).

Looking for Relevance? Try This...

(A while back, I tackled religion on this blog. Today, I'll try my hand at the other taboo--politics.)

First of all, let me state that this will never, never happen. But still, we can dream...

There's been a lot of talk lately about the United Nations being irrelevant, especially in light of the actions of President Bush's coalition in the Iraq war, which left the U.N. scratching its head on the sidelines. Since then, many have questioned its purpose, its very reason for existence. This certainly makes sense when you have things like Libya heading up the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission. But I have an idea that, if implemented, would not only make the U.N. more relevant, but it might even change the world. It would involve a simple, if groundbreaking, change to the charter in regards to membership requirements...

Two words: No dictators.

Let's face it--that form of government doesn't work, at least not for anyone besides the dictator himself and his family/cronies. In these supposedly more enlightened times, there is no reason for the sole power in a nation to be concentrated in the hands of one man. As the old phrase states, power may corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. This was reinforced with the discovery this week that Saddam Hussein siphoned off (pun intended?) 5% of Iraq's oil profits from 1970-1991 and deposited it in offshore accounts, to the tune of several billion dollars. This form of government simply has no place in the civilized world.

Granted, nobody can force dictatorships to abandon this method of ruling (and it's not like the dictators will give up their power willingly). Nations can still choose to be governed that way, but in doing so, they would forfeit their U.N. membership, along with the economic and humanitarian aid that membership entails. The politically-correct notion that all nations should be treated equally is now horribly outdated, since the aims of democracies and dictatorships are often at cross-purposes.

There are some questions that would need to be ironed out, such as where a constitutional monarchy would fall under these rules. As I said before, this will likely never happen, but imagine how the world would be if it did....

(I've meant to write about this for months now, but time has gotten the better of me; besides, I felt like a lone voice shouting in the wilderness. What prompted me to post this today was a column I read by syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, who goes me one farther and suggests a League of Democracies, which could actually compete with the "other guys." Check it out; it's a good read.)

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Long and Longerer

Man...I just thought yesterday was long. Today was even longer. Combo PM (which has gigs two days in a row, if you've been following all this) went an hour longer than usual, just so we could learn the Christmas holiday songs (they can be Christmas songs again on Saturday when we're off campus *grins*) and run everything for both nights (tomorrow is a sort of "wallpaper" gig--dinner music for the holiday gala--while Saturday is a full-blown listening gig). Add to this the fact that we had to break in a substitute guitarist; Andrew from Combo Too filled in for the vacationing Alex and he did great, but we had to copy all the charts for him and all that. Oh, and Fizban and Dingus couldn't make rehearsal; they were involved in a Christmas parade *shudder* in downtown Garland. I hope they can play the holiday charts without rehearsing with the rest of the group--let's have faith in their "mad sightreading skillz" here.

At any rate, despite this frenzy of assembly, I think everything will go fine the next two nights. Thankfully, we had a Chipotle break between combos today; that always hits the spot, but it was especially good today...and next week is the freebies (more on that later too).

Oh yeah, I added it up, and between yesterday and the 15th of this month, I will have had eight gigs in less than two weeks. (I added one for Sunday that I'll post about later.) Not all of them pay, but enough of them do that it'll give me some spare holiday shopping cash, or at least subsidize part of the New Orleans trip.

And if you're wondering (as I've seen this phrase really catch on since yesterday's post), today I was definitely not a "ball of focus;" I was back to being my happy, distractable self again. Teaching college relaxes me anyway (is it the staying in one place for a long period of time, or the fact that most everyone I'm teaching really wants to be there?), so I'll save the BOF for much hairier days than today.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Ball of Focus

Today was a hellacious day. Wednesdays tend to be somewhat nonstop as it is; the only time I have between lessons is the time to get from one school to the next. On some Wednesdays (not today, thankfully), the only time I get for lunch is at 10:00 in the morning (it's either that or 5:00 in the afternoon, which no longer qualifies as "lunch"; never mind the fact that I would have passed out by then). By the time I'm finished teaching at 7:00 (sometimes later), I'm pretty much toast.

Now take that day, compress most of the lessons into two fewer hours, and add to that a trip to near-downtown Dallas at 5:00 in the afternoon. That was my day today after I got a call a few days ago from Bryan with 15th Street Jazz, wanting me to fill in for Chris on the West Village Starbucks gig. Normally, it wouldn't start till 8:00, but they were having a Toys for Tots drive tonight (with free drinks on top of that!) and those were the two hours that various merchants were doing it citywide, so they wanted it to be coordinated.

So how did I make it through this demanding day? Some would call it single-mindedness; some would call it tunnel vision. I prefer to say that today, I was a "ball of focus." From the moment I woke up (on the first ring of the second alarm clock), I moved purposefully from task to task, never thinking about the next one until the current one was over. I may have felt like a machine at times, but it got me through the day.

If the ball were represented as a picture, it probably would have some fire along the edges. I hope that nobody got scorched in its wake, though I probably did seem like I was ignoring a few peripheral people when I passed them on my way up to a school. It was nothing personal; I was just on my way to someplace and nothing else mattered at the moment.

So did the ball help me? It sure did in traffic. Even when the inevitable slowdowns occurred at the High Five construction zone (and a few other random times), I was cool as a cucumber. (Those of you who know me well are aware that this almost never, ever happens.) Certainly it helped that I was going against the flow of traffic, and I was able to allot a full hour for a trip that only took forty minutes door-to-door...but the fact that I didn't waste any energy getting mad at other drivers sure left me with plenty for the gig.

Oh, and the gig itself went OK; we weren't in the same back area where we usually play (the manager wanted us closer to the "action") so the acoustics were kinda funky (really hard to hear the bass). Also, our usual crowd of friends wasn't there, so we were basically playing for ourselves (though we did get some nods and smiles--and tips--from the regular clientele). As I told the guys, most of whom had never played for anything but the "home crowd" before, welcome to the wonderful world of wallpaper.

So maybe there's something to this "ball of focus" thing. I wouldn't want to always be that way, because my usual stop-and-smell-the-roses, take wonderful detours, fairly ADD-addled world is a lot of fun sometimes. Now I just have to figure out how to un-detach when playing a gig, because jazz, of course, is mostly about spontaneity and feeling...but hey, the focus worked for today, and that's all that counts right now.

BLEEDING GUMS GUTS MURPHY?? According to news reports this week, a man in Moldova sold one of his kidneys so he could afford to buy a saxophone.

...I just hope it was a Selmer Mark VI and not something awful.

(Thanks to Jazzy G for the alert.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Gigs Aplenty

I mentioned that this week would be extra-busy, and sure enough, the ball is rolling. Tomorrow I will be playing with 15th Street Jazz (as the regular sax player and not a guest; Chris C. can't make it up from Waco for this one) at the Starbucks in West Village from 6-8 p.m. (yeah, a horrible time to drive to almost-downtown Dallas, but....*shrug* a gig's a gig). It's also now confirmed that Combo PM from the college will be playing at Ke Davi in Plano on Saturday night from 8-10:30, and Combo Too will be there the following week. Watch this site and the gig page from my other site for more details.

Oh yeah, and after a lot of research, number-crunching and agonizing (as in, "can I afford this?"), it's basically official now: I'm going to the New Orleans Bowl. Yay!

Monday, December 01, 2003

Short Sprint to the Finish

Man, there's no Monday like the Monday after a long holiday, is there? I was dragging by my third lesson or so (that happens when someone comes in and just stinks up the joint early in the day), and I saw more yawning, dorky mistakes, and generally invoking the "Monday excuse" (i.e. saying "it's Monday" to justify a particularly dumb error) than usual.

But hey, this'll be a good few weeks: Gigs aplenty, the general happiness of the holidays, and quite likely a trip to the New Orleans Bowl in a few weeks (I have a ticket; just have to iron out the logistics of getting there when I only have about 24 hours to spend on the trip), followed the next day by the opening of Return of the King...and then it's basically off for the holidays after that.

So it's a short sprint to the finish line now; just have to conserve a little energy and try to have a good time along the way.