Friday, April 30, 2004

Not a Very TAKS-ing Week This Time, Either

This week was the TAKS (state testing) in every one of my schools, and even though I felt a sharp pain in the wallet area from the missed lessons, the timing of it all really couldn't have been better.

The earliest I had to teach on the three days (Tuesday through Thursday, or TWR in college schedule-speak) was 11:45, so I actually did get caught up on some sleep from the trip. I got to do late-night jams with Halfling on several occasions, which is always cool; we pretty much have our Foosball cadenza outlined, or at least as much as we're going to. I also got to head to Denton Wednesday night to have one more Tomato run with J-Guar before he heads back to Minnesota for the summer. I also got quite a bit of harmony parts written out for the combos.

So the allergies are still bugging me, and it won't be much of a weekend, what with teaching at least three lessons tomorrow and a DFWAAA meeting on Sunday...but I'll pace myself as best I can and hope that the storm that's going on right now knocks all the bad stuff out of both the air and my system.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "TAKS...a test created by the intellectual elite of Texas, for the millions of illegal immigrants in texas, and to make sure that us white guys know the most basic stuff possible."--from a student's away message on AIM this week.

Colon blow? Believe it or not, Stout regained the 2BC speed record last night. The previous record, held by Micah since last summer, was 13 minutes and an undetermined amount of seconds; Stout bested him, barely, at 12:58. He really, really, didn't look like he was enjoying himself either; I don't see this record falling anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Colorado Chronicles, Part II

SATURDAY: After a decent night of sleep, we strolled down to the lobby of our hotel (in the same lounge where Rufus Reid played last night) to hear Jaztet One perform. The atmosphere was fairly friendly, as the judge was an old schoolmate of Kris's and mine (Kris told him to "ignore the bass player," which was himself). Even though big band made up most of the audience, that was big enough in the small venue. The group did well, with Jazzy G and Shilah the vocalist getting special recognition for their solo work.

From there, we went over to the convention center to hear a few bands before we played our own set. We were especially interested in the band from Miami-Dade Community College, because their director was listed as "Dave Brubeck." We were all thinking, "certainly that can't be the Dave Brubeck," figuring that a man of his age and stature probably didn't need a teaching gig....but hey, you never know. It turns out that we were correct in that assumption; the Brubeck fronting this band was probably young enough to be the famous Dave's grandson. They had a lot of energy, and their program leaned towards the Latin and Tower of Power genres.

Then it was our turn. After a quick warmup and a run-through of certain spots with our hired-gun bassist, we took the stage. The lower level was about 1/3 full, mostly high-school and middle-school band members, plus our combo members who aren't in big band. The microphone placement was weird (off to the left instead of the right), but we dealt with it and started the show.

Basically, our set went pretty well. There were a few things that were off between the bass and drums, which is to be expected when the two have only played together once before. Otherwise, things ran smoothly. I was much happier with my Misty solo than I was when we were in Boulder (I even threw the Four quote in again). The judges were evidently happy too, as I garnered a soloist award (heh, Kris forgot to list that I was faculty, I guess).

After the gig, we went to a favorite haunt that's just a block away from our hotel: The State Armory. It's a historic building built in 1921, a former National Guard training center that's now a funky little bar and grill. The highlight (lowlight?) of past visits is that Kris always goaded everyone into eating the local, umm, delicacy, Rocky Mountain Oysters, although nobody took him up on it this time. Still, they serve some interesting stuff, like bison burgers (which I had this time) and something called a "jiffy burger" with bacon, cheese, and, yes, Jif peanut butter.

The other thing about the Armory (besides the fact that it has an airplane hanging from the ceiling in the very back) is that there's a game room upstairs, and on the past two big band trips there, I absolutely owned the place in air hockey. This streak was very much in doubt this time; I've lamented the apparent loss of my "mad air hockey skillz" in previous Bowl-a-Rama posts. However, there must be something in the water up there, because I managed to beat Ben five games to none and Pat three games to two (winning the rubber game 7-6). The pucks were flying everywhere as usual; Pat even sent one over the railing and down into the bar (thankfully not striking anyone).

I ended up taking a walk to campus that afternoon, as described in a previous post, and then had pizza at this little downtown place called Corleone's. The place looked more like a bar/game room than a restaurant, but there was evidently a kitchen back there somewhere, as the pizza came out eventually and was quite good.

From there it was on to the final evening concert. This night featured an all-star group of the clinicians opening up for the headliner Kenny Wheeler. I had missed him at UNT a year ago, but had heard a lot about his innovative compositions, so I was looking forward to it. After a long "thank you to everyone" speech from the festival coordinator, Wheeler came out to join UNC's Jazz Lab I. At 74 years of age, he sat down when he wasn't playing, but he still had a lot of energy through the horn.

Wheeler's portion of the concert started out with something that was announced as being in "multiple movements," and they weren't kidding. "The Sweet Time Suite" was an amazing work, although it clocked in at around 38 minutes. Joining Wheeler and the big band onstage was a (sadly-uncredited) soprano singer who was matching lead trumpet parts more often than not; she was basically another instrument, singing words only once. The music was not as avant-garde as I was expecting from Wheeler (which was fine with me), and overall the evening was very enjoyable.

From there, I high-tailed it back to the hotel to catch Rufus Reid's second night. I stayed for the whole set this time, sleep not being much of an option with a 6 a.m. departure time. Once again, the musicianship and interplay was amazing. I got to greet Jim White this time and we talked for a bit; I hadn't seen him since we were in school together. I also talked for a while with some people from West Texas A&M, another school who brought its jazz band (though we didn't get to hear them, since they performed right before us). One of the guys I talked to for quite a bit turned out to be a Sinfonia brother, which is always cool.

SUNDAY: After two hours of sleep; we departed at 6 a.m. We were going to take a detour through the Royal Gorge, but the weather was so cruddy in Colorado Springs that we vetoed the idea. It just seemed like a waste to pay fifteen bucks apiece to go into this park and then only be able to stand outside for maybe five minutes because of the cold rain. We did get to see some of the mountains, and we got snowed on twice during the trip...and then it was near 70 when we hit Dallas. No wonder my allergies are going haywire this week.

Other than that...well, it was a typical long bus trip. We did have an unusual experience in Childress for dinner, when we got to eat indoors at a Sonic (I think it used to be a Burger King, though they appended some of the typical drive-thru stations on the side as well). The bus got back to Plano at 12:15 a.m., and I greeted the new teaching day way too tired on Monday.

"We do serve you breakfast on this shuttle."--DFW shuttle driver, who then proceeded to hand me a Life Savers "Cream Saver" and a very small bottle of water.

"Sorry please."--Foreign guy who bumped into me as I was retrieving my stuff at airport security.

"Hey look guys, while we're in New Mexico, we're gonna go through Royce and then Clayton."--Kris, recalling former Rangers shortstop Royce Clayton.
"Oh yeah? Are we gonna make a 'short stop' in either one of those towns?"--My reply.

"I got a meatlong football.....umm, I mean a footlong meatball."--Ben, describing his sandwich at Subway.

"It's about nine levels of dirty in there."--Adam the drummer, on the condition of the Amarillo bus station where we had to stop to change drivers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Colorado Chronicles, Part I

(Dingus-sized post alert, for both this one and the next...)

THURSDAY: I'll start by taking up where I left off at the end of this post. After a quick shower, I headed off to the college, which is a reeeeally lonely place at four in the morning. I parked next to all the other big band people's cars and went out to the DART bus stop where I told the shuttle company I'd be waiting. Armed with a reading light that Halfling loaned me, I dug into a Sports Illustrated during the wait.

The driver was about ten minutes late, and he still had to pick up someone else at his house near Spring Valley and Abrams. Seeing as how it was already 5:00 (two hours before flight time), I started to get a bit nervous--unfoundedly so, as it turned out, since we got from Abrams/LBJ to the airport in fifteen minutes. I guess the freeway system really does work when nobody's on it...

Unlike my last flight experience, which was recounted here, everything went without a hitch. The food places and the newsstand were actually open before six. My flight left on time (maybe even early) and landed ten minutes ahead of schedule. This was important, because I was supposed to land at 7:55, and the Denver-to-Greeley shuttle departed at eight. If I missed that one, I'd have to hang at the airport for two more hours. I took the underground train to baggage claim, where my suitcase was rolling towards me on the carousel. I then stepped out to the appropriate traffic island to find that not only was the shuttle still there, but I was its only passenger! I was at the hotel by a little after nine, where my room was ready and I was able to take a beautiful two-hour nap (surely this is "positive payback" for all the miserable trips I've had recently).

In the afternoon, we departed for Boulder and the University of Colorado, where we were to have a combined rehearsal with their top jazz band (Kris is friends with their head director, which is how this all got set up). We played first, and whether it was due to people being tired from the bus trip, getting used to a rehearsal hall whose acoustics were the polar opposite of ours, or the fact that their band was sitting across the way staring into our souls, things didn't go as well as we'd planned. I was not happy with my own solo at all (Miles came up to me afterwards and asked if I had been in a different key), nor were other soloists with their own efforts. (At least I didn't nod off during the performance like a few people did.) I vowed to work some more on the mental game before Saturday; I had tried too hard to be "different," and what came out of my horn was definitely not me.

The campus, however, was beautiful; the architectural style of the buildings made the place look more like a resort than a school, and there was this huge mountain overlooking everything. To top it all off, it snowed for a bit while we were there. On the way back, I got some news from the home front; Halfling called to tell me that the gig with a subset of Combo PM had gone fine that afternoon. Despite Combo PM being a Dingus-sized combo, the only ones available were Halfling and the rhythm section. Everything worked out great, and the people in charge were quite impressed.

After coming back to Greeley and having dinner at a nice local Mexican place, we went to the first night's concert: Kurt Elling. I had seen him before with the TI Band last year and raved about it, but I had also heard that no Elling concert is complete without his piano player, Laurence Hobgood, and he and the trio (Rob Amster, bass, and Frank Parker, drums) lived up to the hype.

The concert started off with a mild hiccup when the clueless emcee introduced him as "Kurt Etling," but he handled it with class, saying that while "Mr. Etling" hadn't made it yet, he'd fill in for him for a while if that was OK. The program was heavy on new stuff from Man in the Air (which I've also discussed here), including "In the Winelight," "Resolution" (from Coltrane's A Love Supreme) and the title track, which was spun out to epic proportions. For the last tune of the concert, he did what I was hoping for: "Minuano." Even though I still wish he'd included the crazy middle section of the original Metheny tune (which would've sounded great with multitracked vocals), it's still a great rendition. He had to use the slightest bit of a backing track to break into harmony in those couple of places, but it worked; it had a rather mystical quality when those disembodied backup singers "appeared" out of nowhere. A great way to cap an awesome show.

(UPDATE: I forgot to mention this initially, but Kurt has occasionally been a blogger! He doesn't do this all the time, but he kept a journal of a couple of his tours and called the whole thing The Guerrilla Diaries. His writing is a lot like his lyrics, so it's a great read.)

FRIDAY: This was our day to take a side-trip; we did so to Estes Park, a charming little mountain town about fifty miles west of Greeley. Kris had a nice surprise when his wife took the day off and flew up to meet us; she called when we were maybe five minutes into the trip, so we had no problem with going back to get her. We started hitting the picturesque part of the area in Loveland, just west of I-25, and the road got more and more winding and mountainous as we got into Estes Park. We took about 10 seconds in the public library to get on the Net and see when the Rockies game started on Saturday, and I made one of the shortest posts in the history of this blog, for it was no time to be indoors.

We walked through the town for a while, looking for a mountain to climb, but they were pretty much all fenced off. We did get to come nearly face-to-face with a live elk, which was just hanging out on a street corner. Jazzy G got pictures of some of this stuff, so I'll add them eventually. We ended up at a place called Bob & Tony's Pizza, a funky old place where even the wall graffiti dated back to 1977, and had some righteous pie of the Italian variety. There was just enough snow on the ground to throw at people, so we did that (Anna was the most common target, along with Kris, naturally). I caught a righteous nap on the way back...

The concert o' the night was the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (formerly Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra before that). Opening for them was a new (as of this year) salsa combo from UNC. The group had as many as 14 people involved at different times (shades of Combo PM) and was a lot of fun to listen to. Then out came the Vanguard, opening up with the same "Mean What You Say" that I'd heard the Nine O'Clock do the other night (but this was more authentic, since several of these guys had actually played with Thad). Their repertoire was a mix of Thad charts and newer works from their current principal composer, pianist Jim McNeely. He wrote all the works on the CD they had released the last time I saw them ('97), and now they've commissioned him to do another one, which should be great--I really like his writing. The featured artist for the after-show, Rufus Reid, was holding down the bass chair as a special guest, which only whetted my appetite for things to come. Oh, and the concert closed with "Cherry Juice," which has one of the most unplayable sax soli's ever written. (I found out later that the second tenor player, who was a sub, was sightreading the part! He has my sympathies...)

It's amazing to think that this group grew out of a few gigs at the legendary Village Vanguard all the way back in 1966...and they still play there almost every Monday night! Many of the players in there (lead alto Dick Oatts, lead tenor Rich Perry, lead trombonist/spokesman John Mosca, lead trumpet Earl Gardner, bass trombonist Doug Purviance) date back to at least the Mel Lewis days, if not further. Longevity in big bands is not usually a current state of being, but these guys haven't lost a step. This is far from a "ghost band" in any way; they're very much alive and keeping the music moving forward. I need to fill in the gaps in my CD collection with everything they've done since '97.

But wait...the jazz wasn't over. Rufus Reid was playing in the lounge in our own hotel! The legendary bassist/educator was joined by some of the other festival clinicians: a tenor player named Don Aliquo, whom I'd never heard of before the festival but who impressed me a lot; pianist Dana Landry, the director of jazz studies at UNC; and drummer Jim White, a veteran of Maynard and the One O'Clock whom I knew from my UNT days. I'm pretty sure they hadn't played together before the festival, but they sounded like they'd been a working unit for years. I didn't stay for the second set that night, so as to rest up for the gig in the morning, but what I heard was really, really cool.

(to be continued in Part II)

Fun nature fact: Most wildlife is allowed to roam freely through the streets of Estes Park, which means that the elk we saw on a street corner was no big deal to the locals.

It's a beautiful day way-too-early morning in the neighborhood: The other guy who was riding my shuttle to DFW was introduced to me as "Mr. Raja." I guess that means that I was reliving my childhood by visiting Mr. Raja's neighborhood...
*dodges foil at next burrito night*

Monday, April 26, 2004

Smells Like Money

OK, I got in from the trip at 12:45 last night and then had to teach starting at 8 this morning, so I'm more than a little bit wasted at the moment. I will recount the tale of the weekend sometime within the next few days, as I have mornings off during TAKS testing at the I'll catch up on sleep, and getting stuff done, and of course blogging. There are a few good stories and a lot of quotes, so stay tuned.

I guess I might as well go ahead and explain this "smelling the money" thing while I'm thinking about it: I mentioned that Greeley smells like cows sometimes; this is due to all the cattle-raising (and -slaughtering) facilities around the area. Sometimes, when the wind blows the wrong direction, it's pretty overwhelming. Supposedly, the locals get used to it over time (Demon Matt has an aunt and uncle who are profs at UNC, and they've evidently gotten acclimated over the years), but to a visitor, it can just about knock you over.

So three years ago, on my third trip to the festival, a bunch of us in the band with day jobs flew up a few days after the bus trip (much like I did this time). When the Greeley shuttle made its first stop, the door opened, and the stench just about made us pass out...except for this one lady--obviously a local--who just took a big whiff, closed her eyes and smiled, and said, "Smmmells like mmmmmoney!" (referring, of course, to the dramatic impact of the cattle operations on the local economy). The rest of us, of course, looked at her as if she were from Pluto. My personal thought was, if my money smelled like that, I'd burn my wallet...and the pants they were in, on general principle.

I'll catch up on the rest later.

This is totally wrong on so many levels...Today at lunch, I was waiting to use the restroom (it was a one-seater). I heard animated conversation coming from the other side of the door, which seemed to signify that someone was using their cell phone in the bathroom (eww). Then a door opens, and it turns out that this guy was not only doing that, but he was also in the women's bathroom at the time! There should be some sort of penalty for that...maybe, say, a good old-fashioned Singapore-style caning.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Kev, Live from Greeley

OK, I didn't think I'd be doing another post, but I took a walk over to the UNC campus this afternoon, stumbled upon their student center, and lo and behold, there was this computer place. I walked in like I knew what I was doing, and nobody said anything, so I've cleaned out my email boxes to avoid a deluge when I get home...and here I am. Anyway, more updates: The Vanguard was awesome last night (and hey, J-Guar, they opened with "Mean What You Say"), and the UNC Salsa Combo that opened the show was really cool too. Today, Jaztet One did a really good job, and big band went great...I was even happy with my solo *shudder*. Tonight is Kenny Wheeler with the top big band from UNC; should be really good; I missed him when he was in Denton a year or so ago. We're taking a small detour through Royal Gorge on the way back tomorrow, so we may get in at midnight (or later) instead of eleven, but....*shrug* it's not like they have topography like that in Dallas or anything. I'll update sometime Monday once I've recuperated a bit.

Oh yeah--maybe it's because of the rain/snow of the past few days, but we've hardly "smelled the money" here at all (I'll explain that to the uninitiated when I get back). I've also avoided the dreaded Colorado Reed Syndrome for the same reasons (yay).

Friday, April 23, 2004

Kev, Live from Estes Park

This is just a quick one, as I'm in an awesome little mountain town here and won't be inside in this library very long. Anyway, I got here fine, Elling was awesome last night, tonight is the Vanguard, and I'll have a lot of stories when I'm back.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Colorado Bound

It's 2:00 in the morning on a weekday. Why the $#*&@# am I doing a blog entry now instead of sleeping like a civilized person?

Well, it turns out I'm on one of my famous all-nighters again, which can only mean one thing: air travel. I'm notorious for getting stuck on really early flights when I'm traveling to national Sinfonia events (I've written about this before), but this time it's something different--I'm about to join the college jazz band trip to the UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival "already in progress," as they'd say on TV.

The rest of the band got on a bus about 20 hours ago. Why wasn't I on that bus? A few reasons...

--I would've had to get a sub for improv class, which only meets once a week, and nobody that I'd feel comfortable with as a sub was available.

--Believe it or not, it was cheaper for me to fly a few hours from now than it would have been to miss a whole Wednesday (a notoriously long day) of teaching.

--Hey, if you could avoid one end of a 16-hour (each way) bus trip, you'd do it too.

The only thing weird about all this is the logistics: I'm having to shuttle from the college to the airport so that my car will be parked in the right place when we get back on Sunday night. The shuttle in question is picking me up there at *shudder* 4:30 a.m., which means I only have a short time left to keep myself from accidentally drifting off over here. Sleep will come eventually--on the plane, on the shuttle to Greeley, at the hotel...probably all of the above.

So let me update to this point--that'll use up a little of my stay-awake time...

This afternoon, Halfling came over to work on our little side-project, which I hinted at on Lab Band Madness night and will reveal now: We're gonna play Foosball. No, not the table game, but rather the tune whose formal title is "Overture to the Royal Mongolian Suma Foosball Festival." It's a Lyle Mays chart off Lab '75, and it has a righteous tenor battle at the end. Halfling and I will do our own take on said battle at the final LMOJO concert next month. A lot of it will be improvised, of course, but we have to have a framework, and we're now 2/3 of the way done with that. I can't wait; it's gonna be a whole lotta fun...

Improv was weird tonight; it was not as poorly-attended as last week, but it took until 6:45 before the last of the four people in attendance actually arrived. We got a lot of stuff done, but the people who have missed two weeks in a row have dug themselves a Dingus-sized hole. I did thank those who were there for allowing me to only have to do one leg of the bus trip.

Afterwards, I went to Denton to hear J-Guar play with the Nine O'Clock at the Syndicate. I was hoping to get there in time to hear some of the Eight as well, but I hit Lewisville and saw the unholy flash of red...what, rush hour?? Now?? Sure enough, they had 35E down to one lane for a couple of miles, with no warning for me because KRLD was doing a Rangers game instead of doing their traffic reports every ten minutes. I sat in stop-and-go hell, breathing truck fumes all the while, for about 45 minutes, in which time I traveled three miles; thankfully, I got to the Syndicate just in time to see the Nine take the stage.

[rant] While it's great that they're doing this construction at night instead of during the day, I think that the 8 p.m. starting time is just too early...especially on a road that's the only thoroughfare in its area (as 35 is near the Lake Lewisville bridge). Maybe the work hours should be restricted from midnight-6 a.m. to avoid congestion like this (sure enough, when I came back, that side of the road was moving much better after midnight). [/rant]

At any rate, the Nine was quite enjoyable, playing an eclectic mix of styles and eras with a lot of energy. J-Guar had some nice solos and also was the ringleader of the "Dancing Monkeys" (you had to be there?) on Duke Ellington's "Ko-Ko" (no relation to the Bird tune of the same name). I downed my first dose of coffee (at least one more to follow) on the way back home and cranked TMBG on the stereo ("It's So Loud In Here" is a great one to play at high volumes while driving).

So here I am. Almost time to hop in the shower and head out. This all-nighter hasn't been too bad, talking to Zack on AIM as I have been. It'll be a good festival (seeing Kurt Elling tomorrow night [tonight], the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on Friday and Kenny Wheeler on Saturday), and even if it's not in the most picturesque part of Colorado (it also smells like cows there; I'll talk about that when I'm back), we'll still get to see a bit of that while we're there. The forecast calls for some snow and never getting out of the 50's for the duration of our visit, but I'll deal with it.

I'm back way late on Sunday night, so my next entry will have a Monday dateline...unless I actually get hold of a computer up there, in which case I'll be "Kev, Live from Greeley." Hope everyone has a great weekend.

He'll never work in this town again...we hope: The most unprofessional musician of the year thus far would have to be the poor excuse for a piano accompanist who managed to oversleep J-Guar's recital performance...due to being stoned the day before in celebration of "4/20"; read about the situation here.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Another Weekend That Almost Wasn't

Whew...yesterday was one of the longest Sundays in recent memory. It totally laid waste to the concept of a "day of rest," that's for sure. It started out with my usual morning of playing two services at church, with a direct segue into the DFWAAA picnic at Sandy Lake (yes, the same one you went to in middle school if you grew up in this area). That was a good time; we had the biggest crowd ever (which made for a mad rush when the grill finally got there an hour late) and a lot of new alums or soon-to-be-grads were in attendance. I wasn't able to recapture the Ferrell Cup (the trophy given each year to the winner of the miniature golf tournament at the picnic), but I did do better overall than last year and had two holes-in-one.

After that, I went and had my official visit with the Sinfonia chapter at UNT. As Governor, I visit my chapters whenever I can, but once every three years I do it more formally (yes, I wore a tie) and document everything. It's pretty easy to do when it's my home chapter, so I had a good time hanging with the guys and checking out their progress this semester. It was the last meeting of the year, so they had lots of ceremonies and tributes to the upcoming graduates and all that; I finally left at 11:15 and they weren't quite done even then.

All in all, it made for a long weekend and a more-tired-than-usual Monday--granted, not as much as Halfling, Fizban and Dingus, whose bus trip ended at 2 a.m. last night/this morning--but still I was running on fumes most of the day.

And then, at the end of the day, I had an old friend/former student come by and play me some of the stuff he's been doing recently (if you had to put a genre on it, you could call it "acid jazz"). One of the tracks that he solos on is evidently tearing it up at this big international DJs' convention in Miami at the moment, so it may get released worldwide. He just stopped over to thank me for my guidance and influence and play me the track he said I had indirectly helped spawn. We had certainly have had our differences of opinion and difficult moments over the years, but it had all turned into something good...and when it gets right down to it, things like that are the reason that I put in such long days doing what I do.

And, seeing as how another one of those days awaits, I'm off for now.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Extinguishing Some Candles Again

Today is Mom's birthday, and for the first time in eons, I actually got to see her on "the day." It was a short teaching day to begin with, since all my Friday schools were either on band trip or at UIL, so I taught my remaining Wednesday schedule today and that was it. I also finally got an estimate on my car from my wreck last month, and now it's time to let the insurance people do their thing. It'll take about ten days to fix, so who knows what I'll be tooling around in later in the month (huh huh, he said "tool").

The visit with Mom and Dad was really nice once again. In the past, these get-togethers were often fraught with criticism aimed at me (and my resistance thereto), but this time, they were really complimentary of everything: how the house was looking, the small bit of cleanage I did in advance of their visit, and even of Fizban's work on the lawn. This is the second totally pleasant visit in a row, and I'm looking forward to many, many more.

During dinner at Outback, we got onto an interesting tangent about why people kept suing McDonald's for ridiculous reasons (spilled coffee, their own obesity) and how it was a wonder that my sister and I survived childhood without car safety seats, non-metal playground equipment, etc. We also got on a tangent on race relations and how people are labeled (my dad used the term "Oriental" several times instead of the more-PC "Asian," even though, admittedly, "Oriental" is way more descriptive). It reminded me of a conversation in grad school between two of my fraternity brothers, Brian (a white guy from Alaska) and Tony (a black guy from Chicago, by way of Carrollton):

BRIAN: So what do you prefer to be called, black or African-American?
TONY: Well, I really prefer to be called Tony.

That pretty much sums it up right there on the subject of labeling, as far as I'm concerned.

A boatload of burritos: I filled out the BurritoEZ form mentioned in yesterday's post, and I discovered that I went to Chipotle 108 times in 2003! This includes an amazing sixteen straight Tuesdays over the summer. I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Tax Relief, Wrapped in Tin Foil

Today wasn't really such a "taxing" day, save for that little trip to put my envelopes in the post office mail slot on time (for the reason why I have to send more than one envelope every April 15, read my tax rant from last year). Teaching went well, and both the combo rehearsals went well. Combo Too had a good week all around because we had a bass player both days. There was no beating around the bush in there when stuff went wrong; I'm getting better at being blunt with people when they deserve it. The idea is to strike a midpoint somewhere between my usual self (the often-too-nice-for-my-own-good way I've been in the past) and, say, a UNT attitude (which borders on meanness in some cases).

Tax day also meant the annual Chipotle promotion, which was a bit different this year: If you went in today and bought a burrito, you got the "BurritoEZ 2003" form, which can be filled out and returned with the receipt over the weekend for a free burrito. (Last year, you got the form before tax day and brought it in on the day of, which makes more sense to me--free food on the day you have to throw down to the government--but whatever, free food is free food no matter when you get it.) The form asks all kinds of whimsical questions like "How many different Chipotle locations did you visit in 2003?" and "How many times did you visit Chipotle altogether in 2003?" (I'll report the answer later). Though burrito night was down in numbers due to the various trips this week, a good time was still had by all.

As it approaches midnight, it amazes me to think that there will be people driving up to the all-night post office mere seconds before the tax filing deadline just to get today's postmark on their envelope. Geez, even I don't procrastinate that much...

TD/D and M&D, almost crossing paths? My parents are in town for a few days. I didn't get to catch up with them until after Combo PM, and I was quite surprised to see that they had visited Chipotle as well, for the first time. We missed each other by over an hour, but how weird would that have been if they'd walked in on burrito night?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

If a Tree Falls in the Forest...

For the first time in my professorial career, I had a class tonight where almost nobody showed up. I knew there were going to be three absences, as they had told me in advance; I knew Miles would be there because I was his ride to campus; I at least expected everyone else to show, but only one person did.

This begs the question: Can only two people constitute a class, or would that make it more of a tutorial? Certainly if it had just been me and Miles, that would've been considered a private lesson. We let out early, much to Miles's delight (since the Stars game was on), and it was weird to leave class before dark. All I can say is, I hope the others had good excuses...if not, it was their loss.

I'm home now. I'm bored. I'm going bowling (yes, on a weeknight) in a minute.

Groundhog day: Last night, on my way home from the college, the Rangers were down to the A's 6-0, but scored their first run of the game as I turned onto my street. Tonight, on my way home from the college, the Rangers were down to the A's 6-0, but scored their first run of the game as I turned onto my street. (Yes, you'd better believe I used the "copy and paste" function for that last sentence.) If it turns out to be 10-9, A's again tonight, that'll just be freaky...

Blow out the candles: Happy birthday to my Aunt Nora in Indiana, Mom's elder sis by a year and two days. It's been way too long since our last visit...

Monday, April 12, 2004

Happy Dyngus Day!

The first birthday of "The Musings" isn't the only special occasion going on; I found out from the comments on my earlier post that today (Easter Monday) is referred to as "Dyngus Day" in Poland. Read all about it here. I wonder if there's a way to merge this Easter tradition with the Dingus Egg from Magic the would be fun to watch the kids run around hunting Dingus Eggs for Easter (really big eggs, no doubt, with a splotch of red on top).

According to the Polish tradition, guys are supposed to try and drench girls with squirt guns, buckets of water, etc. The girls get to retaliate later. I can't imagine Dingus and Cassi doing this, but I would certainly pay for a videotape of said event should it ever happen. The holiday is also evidently celebrated with polka music over there, so there must be plenty of gigs for trombonists (heh heh).

(Thanks to Gary from the TI Jazz Band for the link.)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Legend has it that the world was hatched from a dingus egg."--from the front of the Magic card.

Everybody Sing: "Happy Birthday Dear 'Musings'..."

"The Musings of Kev" is one year old today. When I started it, I had wanted both an outlet for various rants and random thoughts and occasionally a pseudo-journal, but I had no idea how much I'd get into it...or that most of my friends would join in, with nearly everyone adopting some sort of online nickname along the way.

I used to dabble in journalism in college, so in a way this has become my "column" (which also explains why I go back and edit things so much), and I've really enjoyed using this forum to recount many of the different things going through my head during the day. It's also been quite an amazing year, so it's been cool to have everything chronicled in this manner.

Those of you on my sidebar, I salute you; you make up a majority of the (human) nucleus of my existence. Thanks for being along for this trip with me. Here's to Year #2...

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Easter Greetings

Just a quick note to say Happy Easter to all. I've had a quiet holiday, what with the rest of my family being in Sugar Land and most of my friends doing family stuff. I played the two contemporary services at church this morning, then was surprised to walk right into EZ's for lunch with no line...I guess everyone was doing "brunch." I knew already that Chipotle was closed today, and was surprised to see that Super Target was as well. It was nice for the employees, without a doubt.

I have one lesson to teach this afternoon, and then I'll just relax and maybe get some stuff done around the house...keeping the day "holy" as best I can.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: (an exchange over coffee between church services)
TECH SUPERVISOR: So are you still teaching all those lessons every week?
ME: Yeah, around 70 of 'em.
TECH SUPERVISOR: do you handle so many?
ME: One at a time, at a time.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

J-Guar meets Team Demon/Dingus

Last night, the real and online worlds collided in friendly fashion a bit more as J-Guar got to meet most of the rest of Team Demon/Dingus for a variety of activities. School was not in session out here, but it was definitely a B-day, as in burritos, bowling and bebop.

Denton is a rather boring place on holidays, so I was happy to make the trek up there to help the car-less J-Guar "escape" for a day. The traffic heading up to Little D wasn't too bad, but it looked awful heading back, so we took a detour out 380 and down the Tollway through Frisco. We weren't totally immune to stoppage there either, as the 380 construction is not quite done, but it was better than sitting on 35 in Lewisville.

After a quick Sonic stop for cherry limeade, we chilled at Casa de Kev until the guys started to arrive: Mark (a.k.a. Lord Crazy Dingus), Dingus, Coop and Halfling, in that order. Laughter ensued, much of it in the form of fat jokes at Mark's expense (some of them made by Mark his ownself). We headed down to the 15th Street Chipotle for our one-day-late burrito night; Miles was already there and had managed to snag us the secondary round table (the primary one having been secured by a Hindu family, one of whom Miles swears was eating beef, though it could have been "carnitas" [pork]). Miles held court for some time on all things political, and there was also a lot of general griping about how badly the Stars did the other night (though not a word from J-Guar about how Dallas "stole" them from Minnesota in the 90's).

From there it was on to Bowl-A-Rama. The focus was on Mark, who had just bowled a 300 game the night before and was thus expected to school us all. But first, there was a bit of air hockey: I beat Halfling two straight games, with the requisite flying-puck syndrome at full strength; Mark totally destroyed me in a game when my defense collapsed; and I rebounded to beat J-Guar (yeah, I know...not much of a host, am I?).

On to the bowling. Mark was a bit off (meaning not quite breaking 200), but he still cleaned the floor with all of us. Fizban had joined us by this point, so we actually had enough people for two lanes. Halfling had one of his best games ever by using a new, more aggressive approach; Dingus was the master of inconsistency this time, going strike-strike-gutterball on many occasions. J-Guar hadn't been bowling in some time, and he started out rough but got much better by the end. I was the Hard Luck Kid on this night, at one point having three splits in four frames--definitely not what I'm used to doing. Mark did say that he didn't see anything horrible that I was doing form-wise; it was all a matter of consistency (hmm, just like in music, racquetball, golf....and almost anything else).

When bowling was done, all of us except Coop (who didn't have his "portable" set of vibes handy) came back to Casa de Kev for a midnight jam session. We didn't always have a chart for every key, but we all made do for the most part. Sometimes the trombones would go into the music room and do their own thing, and sometimes we were all in one place--a six-horn juggernaut that rivaled even Combo PM in its Dingus-sized-ness. J-Guar and I jammed a bit more after everyone left and then called it a night around two in the morning.

I took him back to Denton shortly after noon today (not exactly thrilled with how cold it had gotten overnight, but...wuddevah) and have enjoyed a completely unscheduled day since then, which doesn't happen too often.

PARALLEL POST PATTERN: J-Guar posted about this same night as well...beat me to it, even, since I had such a lazy afternoon.

UPDATE: Mark has also posted on the night, so we have yet a third view of the same events. He says that I have "mad potential" in bowling, which is a huge honor coming from him. He also says I'm ready to learn the hook shot...I can just see myself becoming one with the gutter until I get that down.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Hey, it's nice to meet you. I'd get up, but I'm fat."--Mark, comfortably ensconced on the couch, upon meeting Coop.

Friday, April 09, 2004

A Much-Needed Holiday

It was sweet to wake up at 10:30 a.m. today. I could've slept even longer, but I really do need to get a few things done around here. Nonetheless, the three-day weekend came at exactly the right time.

Things had been pretty much off-kilter all week with the time change and all, and I'm ready for them to be on-kilter again, if I can remember exactly where I put my kilter. Even though I love Daylight Savings Time way more than Daylight Wasting Time, the lost hour of sleep kept jumping up and biting me in the nether regions this week. Staying out till after 1 a.m. on Lab Band Madness night didn't help things, but that's an annual punishment I willingly endure. (Besides--a Lab Band concert in Denton without a trip to the Tomato? No way!)

So after an actual eight-hour night of sleep, I feel like I've pretty much reset my internal clock, and I'm looking forward to a weekend that will be both relaxing and productive at the same time. Tonight is "J-Guar meets Team Demon/Dingus" for bowling, burrito night and a jam session; some of us warmed up last night with a few games and the usual Whataburger afterwards.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't pause for a moment and remember the Reason we have this day off to begin with. The schools can genericize it as a "Student/Staff Holiday" all they want to, but I for one will take time to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf on this day many years ago.

Sure, I'd play "The Chicken" every day of my life if it paid the bills, but would I wear the costume?
I need a gig! Trumpet-playing chicken wants work
I wonder if that tune is actually part of his repertoire...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A Night of Madness

As I always do on the Tuesday before Easter, I went to Lab Band Madness at UNT last night, accompanied by "now officially mean and green" Halfling and "eventual Eagle" Dingus. As has been the case for many of the past several years, we were only able to see the second half of the concert because of my college big band rehearsal, but we got a good "sampler" nonetheless.

The concert, which has happened for 57 years now, is a near-marathon that's run according to a time-tested formula: Instead of having the bands play in reverse order towards the top (Nine O'Clock, Eight O'Clock, etc.), it goes like this...

1) The Two O'Clock closes the first half, the Three O'Clock opens the second half, and the One O'Clock closes the entire thing.

2) Those three bands listed above (the only ones directed by full-time faculty) are the only ones identified by their "O'Clock" numbers.

3) The rest of the bands (directed by graduate teaching fellows) go in alphabetical order by last name of director. (I can't begin to tell you how cool this was when I had a band and it was in the program under "Kevin McNerney, Director.") This allows the "identity" of these bands to remain a mystery to those coming in from outside the program, so they won't have a preconceived notion of what, say, the Seven O'Clock is supposed to sound like. (This year, however, Neil Slater broke the "code" for a second when he acknowledged that the band preceding the One was in fact the Nine. He did so in the process of giving them a huge compliment, and as he said, it just points to great things in the future.)

This concert was also, for many years, a showcase for new student compositions/arrangements, though lately it's often departed from that ideal in favor of whatever makes the band sound best. I can't argue with that, because all of the bands did in fact sound good.

Arriving right at intermission, we got to hear four bands: the Three O'Clock; a band of unknown clockage directed by the One O'Clock's pianist; the Nine O'Clock (I knew the identity of this one because J-Guar plays in it); and of course the One O'Clock.

According to the program, J-Guar was supposed to have a flugel solo on Hank Levy's "Pegasus," but when solo time came, it appeared instead to be coming Asian guitarist? Now there's a cool trick. I congratulated him later on that particular rendering spell; not even the mighty Fizban has shown the wizard chops to transform both man and instrument in one fell swoop like that.

As I said, the bands all played well; I was especially happy that the Nine and the Three did a good job, since I used to direct the former and play in the latter when I was in school there. The One did a mixture of old and new (much like their personnel, two of whom I was in school with at one time). Sophomore tenor phenom Clay Pritchard dazzled as always on multiple tunes, and lead alto Jonathan Beckett (who has slid over one chair from second tenor last semester) raised the roof on "Cherokee." All this served to remind me that I really, really, really need to get some serious practice in this summer...

Oh, and the One did a composition by the obscure composer "H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej," who turned out to be the reigning King of Thailand (the H.M. thus standing for His Majesty). The band returned a few weeks ago from a spring-break trip over there at the king's request; they played a concert for him and then he jammed with them for hours on end. As might be expected from a Southeast Asian composer, and royalty at that, his tune sounded like...Dixieland? With a little 40's swing mixed in? Yup, that's exactly how it was. Who knew? But hey, it was great, and it proved the old adage that music is a universal language.

After the concert, we secured copies of a certain big-band chart and then Halfling, Dingus and I went to the Tomato (of course). J-Guar and some of his friends were there eventually to join us. As we left, an old friend of mine who's up there now met up with us to loan us a spare tenor. A new chart? A spare tenor? I'm not going to divulge any details now, but Halfling and I have something cool in the works for the final LMOJO concert. I'm sure we'll plug it shamelessly as it gets closer.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: (said over pizza at the Tomato)
HALFLING: I'm the first one in my family who actually learned to read music.
DINGUS: Nobody in my family is musically talented...including me.
ME: Well then, I guess it's a good thing you play trombone.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Another Sonic Update

Avid readers of this blog (and I appreciate both of you, I really do) will notice that there hasn't been the usual monthly update on the famous Sonic sign yet (if you're unfamiliar with this saga, a recent installment with links to the previous ones can be found here). They have been getting better recently, so there may come the time when I have nothing else to write about on the subject. But I'll still keep checking every month, just in case...

Anyway, I went by there this morning, and the verdict is still the same: better spelling/questionable grammar. The far side of the sign still proclaims that TUESDAY NIGHT HALF-PRICE BURGERS IS BACK; on the near side, it reads:


OK, the spelling passes muster. I do wonder, though, how something could be "carb-friendly." Low-carb? Sure. Atkins-friendly? Maybe. I don't know how you could be "carb-friendly" unless you said "Yo, carb, what up!" to the first carb you ran into that day. But I guess at the place where coneys can be hungry, it's also possible to treat a carb with kindness.

MOB SCENE: The debut CD from Spymob, Sitting Around Keeping Score, hits the stores tomorrow. I found out about this band last semester on J-Guar's old site and got the CD months ago from the band's online store...and now it's available everywhere. If you haven't checked this band out yet, go to their site and listen to the full-song samples.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Notes from the Road

I went to Waco last night and today to run the Sinfonia Province Workshop. The Workshop itself went fine, and these are just some random things that I noticed today, on the drive back and beforehand...

--There's a lot of new stuff at Baylor and even more under construction. The new seminary building is awe-inspiring. Oh, and as I've mentioned before, they also have a Chili's Too and a Starbucks in one of their parking garages there, and we experienced both at lunchtime. It was weird to stand in line and order food at a Chili's, but the food came out really, really fast and you didn't have to tip anyone (a plus for students at an expensive school, no doubt).

--My favorite off-menu item at Chili's, the "Chili's Trip" (a cheeseburger with chili and onions) is on the menu down there; they call it a "Baylor Bear Burger."

--In Waxahachie, there's a lot for sale by the "Joe Rust Company" right next to the "Danny Nail Construction Co."

--In Balch Springs, there's a billboard for a dentist that's totally in Spanish...except for the part at the top that reads "All-American Smile." Hmm...

--If you ever stay at a Motel 6, get the wake-up call. They use Tom Bodett (of radio commercial fame) on it, and it's really funny--a great way to start the day.

(Yes, this is total fluff compared to what my friends have going on their sites at the moment. That's sort of the the Arby's commercial says, "different is good." It's not that I'm not involved in helping to smooth things out--it's just that I'm not sharing my thoughts in this forum at this time.)

Thursday, April 01, 2004

No Foolin'

I actually made it through this April Fool's Day without being either the recipient or the instigator of some sort of gag...amazing. The closest I came was when a student was going to tell me he forgot the check today and then "April fool" me....except he actually did forget the check (d'oh).

Almost the weekend...woo hoo! I have plenty of stuff to do then, but at least it's different stuff.

1.5 seconds of my 15 minutes of fame: The Mike Vax concert I played in last week has been reviewed on the site North Texas E-News. The story was written by Don Mooney, who doubles as the drummer for Combo PM; there also are some pictures from the gig.