Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Lot to Be Thankful For This Year

SUGAR LAND--Happy Thanksgiving to all! I hope you're getting to spend today with friends and/or family, and that you've reached any travel destination you might have had in a quick and safe fashion.

I realized this morning that, in a way unlike any previous year, I have a lot to be thankful for. Not only did I get through my own challenging situation without too many complications (getting through the aftermath of my accident without a budget-busting ambulance ride or trip to the emergency room, among other things, and my recovery from surgery going on a smooth, positive arc so far), but three of my friends faced situations even more challenging than mine--ones that other people in similar straits did not even survive. But we're all still here and well along the road to recovery, if not completely recovered by now.

So, in addition to the usual things--family and friends, the chance to live in the greatest nation in the world, a bountiful table this afternoon--I'm sure that the four of us are especially thankful this year. May you and yours find joy in the big things and the small things as well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Travel Advisory

I'm headed to Sugar Land for a few days; it'll be the longest drive I've taken since the accident and my only true solo roadtrip since spring break. While I've gotten a little stiff after my longest recent drives (which I think have topped out at an hour and a half), I'm reasonably optimistic that I'll make it through this trip with only a few extra stops to stretch and walk around.

If you're headed out as well, have a safe and pleasant journey.

UPDATE: No problems on the trip at all (save for a bit of traffic between Huntsville and Conroe), and I made it with only two stops, just like before. My legs may have felt like I just got off a boat at first, but I was able to walk it off within mere minutes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

I hit another milestone on my recovery today: Unless the doctor orders more treatment when I see him at the end of next week, I've been discharged from physical therapy. While I still have several months' worth of work on my own to return my "bad" leg to full strength, I've completed everything that the therapist was asked to help me do.

This doesn't mean that I'm going to go running anytime soon (but again, nobody has chased me since the accident), nor will I return to the racquetball court right away, but as far as regular daily life goes, things are getting back to normal. (It should go without saying that stairs are a challenge, but that's so be expected.) Sure, my leg will get stiff if I'm standing or sitting in the same position for a long time, but the stiffness subsides once I change positions. (I guess that's the real-world manifestation of the old joke: PATIENT: "Doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I do this." DOCTOR: "Well, stop doing that.") And as long as I do even some of my exercises in the morning, I tend to be fine for the rest of the day.

As I've said before, everything that's happened during my recovery has been overwhelmingly positive, and I'm happy to have attained one more goal. And if you're in my area of Dallas and need a good therapist, email me and I'll be happy to make a recommendation.

(And yes, I really did get the T-shirt; the therapy place gives one to each new "graduate.")

Sunday, November 22, 2009

All Caught Up

As promised, I've managed to complete the bulk of the unfinished posts from the past few weeks. So that my work doesn't go for naught, here's a list of everything that's new on the blog:WIth the holiday coming up, I'll try to do better with this; most of the posts didn't take that long, so I have to just get in the proper frame of mind to blog before I get too tired at the end of the day. Just as the hardest part of practicing an instrument is opening the case, sometimes the hardest part of blogging is going to Blogger and hitting the New Post button.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

OK, I'm Taking On a Project

As I acknowledged the other day, I'm woefully behind on posting; as I look at my list at this moment, there are at least twelve unfinished posts spanning the past three weeks. So with a fairly unscheduled weekend, I'm going to try and finally get caught up. Posts will appear in the November portion of the Blog Archive over on the sidebar, and once I'm done with everything (tomorrow?), I'll link to everything new in one of those "All Caught Up" posts.

Thanks as always for your patience; it's been a challenging semester.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thinking About This Dress Code Makes Me "Emo"

Let me say this from the outset: I think that "emo pants" are ridiculous. (You know what emo pants are, right? Those skinny pants that look OK on girls, but have started to be worn by some teenage boys, especially those who are fans of the punk-based musical style known as emo. If this still isn't ringing a bell, you can see plenty of examples here.)

I can't imagine for the life of me why someone of the male gender would want to squeeze his, umm, manhood in something so restrictive, and the look itself is rather gender-neutral; I've seen guys who dress in this style that I thought were girls (and girls who I thought were guys dressing like girls). I've never had a student dress like that, but if one did, and we had a good enough relationship, I might be hard-pressed not to look him in the eye and say, "Dude--when you get home tonight, please give your sister her pants back!" (I should also mention that, despite all this, "Emo Pants" would be a great tune name, so don't be surprised if I write that tune somewhere down the road.)

But even though I don't agree with this particular fashion choice, I will--to paraphrase Voltaire (or possibly his biographer)--defend people's rights to exercise it. That's especially true when stories like this appear in the news:
Seth Chamlee, a student at Kimbrough Middle School in Mesquite, found that out the hard way on Tuesday. School administrators gave him a choice: Go home, or trade his skin-tight skinny pants for slacks provided by the school.

He went home. And he’s going to stay there.

“We’re going to home schooling,” the boy’s mother, Cindy Pope, said Wednesday. “He can learn more without the distraction of what to wear."
Good for you, Mom. It's too bad that more people don't have the resources to do what you just did, because that would appear to be the only way that school administrators might see the error of their ways: Hit them in the pocketbook, by virtue of the state money lost when students like Seth are no longer enrolled in the district.

I've railed against over-restrictive school dress codes in the past (just click the "Dress Codes" label at the bottom of this post for more posts on the subject), but Mesquite is about as extreme as it gets. Check this out:
[I]n the Mesquite school district, the [skinny] pants are banned outright. The district, which boasts one of North Texas’ most conservative dress codes, only this year granted female teachers permission to wear open-toed shoes and male teachers the right to sport facial hair.

“We don’t allow striped shirts or check shirts,” said Laura Jobe, a district spokeswoman. “There are certain types of clothes that are not acceptable dress style.”
I'll have to save the inquiry as to what's so evil about striped or checked shirts (they make some kids look fat and lower their self-esteem?) for another time, but let's back up a paragraph for a second. They just recently allowed teachers to wear facial hair. And sandals! (But only on the women for the latter; I guess these are the same people who ran my school district when I was a kid; down there, they outlawed sandals on male students, because they were afraid that--I swear I am not making this up--hairy toes on guys might sexually excite the girls in the classroom.) If they've only recently seen the light on treating adults like responsible human beings, I guess it's easier to see why they still treat the kids so badly.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I was once contacted about a private teaching job in Mesquite, which I turned down outright because the district's ban on facial hair for teachers was still in effect. Although the band director assured me that the policy didn't actually apply to private teachers, I considered that even worse--I would be some sort of Other walking around there, possibly incurring the wrath of male teachers who were subject to the code. But by and large, I didn't want to have anything to do with a district that treated teachers in that manner.)

Look--I understand the arguments from the other side: Kids need to learn how to obey rules; they're in school to get an education, not show off their fashion sense, blah blah blah. (And the worst one of all: They're never going to get a job in the business world if they don't dress more nicely. Never mind that many kids will never set foot in the business world, and, as I've said before, with some of the things that have happened on Wall Street in recent years, I'm not so sure that we should be holding up the business world as a role model in the first place.)

But it seems like those in charge should pick their battles a little more wisely. I still believe that there are a lot of kids out there--not the extremely smart kids, not the thugs-in-traning, but the big, big middle--who wouldn't mind school so much if it didn't seem as if the administration weren't throwing roadblocks at them every step of the way. And I defy the Mesquite administration to tell me exactly how these pants detract from someone's education. (Evidently, they said that "his appearance was disruptive when he sat down." But what were the administrators doing looking down there in the first place?) As Seth's mom said in the linked story, "To not be getting your education because of pants...I don't want him to learn that."

I just have trouble believing that this anything more than the administrators' desire for power and control, even at the expense of actual education. And it's why I'll continue to shout this from the rooftops: Education won't be truly improved until we require all of them to remain teachers in addition to performing their administrative duties. It's obvious that their time in the proverbial ivory tower is often spent thinking up new ways to control people's lives--time that would be better spent on actual teaching.

Oh, and I can't let this story go without one more quote from MISD spokeswoman Jobe:
In Mesquite, Jobe said that although district officials don’t necessarily have a problem with skinny pants outside of class, they’re not appropriate for school.
They don't necessarily have a problem with the pants outside of school? That makes it sound like they would control students' lives there as well, if they thought they could. Be afraid, Mesquite parents. Be very afraid.

And if anyone can tell me exactly what causes Mesquite to frown upon striped or checked shirts, please hit the comment button. (Want to see what the fuss is all about? Seth appears in a FOX 4 video here.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Aggies Remember Their Fallen

Even though I never attended a day of class there, I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Texas A&M. It's my sister's alma mater, for one thing, and it became my "school away from school" while she was there; I got to attend more than a few football games (including a couple of Cotton Bowls), and I was always sort of a secret honorary member of whichever class she was in (at a school where being a freshman, sophomore, etc. actually means something).

A&M is a special place with a lot of traditions, many of which stem from the university's military origins. And for nine decades, one of the most revered of those traditions was the event simply known as Bonfire. Symbolizing the Aggies' burning desire to beat the University of Texas (known as Texas University or "t.u." in College Station) every Thanksgiving, the tower of logs took months to collect, around a week to build, and stood nearly 60 feet tall.

But ten years ago today, the unthinkable happened: In the early hours of the morning, the stack collapsed well before it was meant to be lit, with students atop the structure; twelve Aggies lost their lives that morning. Inadequate supervision and student's cutting corners were said to be the cause, according to a commission that investigated the disaster; no blame was assigned to any specific group or individual.

In the years since then, a memorial was constructed at the site, and the bonfire hasn't been held on campus since, though one has existed as a tradition in exile since 2002. And this morning, Aggies gathered to remember the fallen:
More than 3,000 people cupping candles that flickered in the cold morning air gathered at the collapse site on campus at 2:42 a.m. – the exact time of the Nov. 18, 1999 accident that also injured 27 people.

Current and former students, victims' families and others filled the grassy hills where a concrete and metal circular memorial now stands. The 30-minute event was somber but also musical as long stretches of silence were mixed with the crowd singing "Amazing Grace" and school songs such as "The Spirit of Aggieland.
I'll leave the debate as to whether the bonfire should ever return to campus--in a much more supervised state, of course--to Aggies themselves (including Gov. Rick Perry, who's gone on record as supporting such a thing). But today, I join them in pausing to remember the students who gave their lives in support of school spirit; may you never be forgotten.

(A moving video tribute to the fallen, along with other Bonfire memories, may be found here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm Getting Rather Blogged Down Here

As I sat down tonight to possibly catch up on one of the many unfinished blog posts from the past few weeks, I managed to look at the main list of posts, where I discovered a troubling thing: Over half of the posts from that time period are unfinished! And I'm afraid that it's not going to get any better tonight either, as other things got in the way, and it's time for bed now.

I'll get caught up eventually, of course, but I thank you for your patience, and I wanted to at least put up something new today, so that regular visitors aren't continually greeted by last Thursday's post (which was, ironically, about how my workload just got lighter; I guess that hasn't translated to blogging yet).

Here's hoping for more stuff in the next few days, and, as always, I'll link to the old posts once they're done.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Black Cats Crossed My Path Today...

...nor did I teach anyone named Jason. I guess I made it through Friday the Thirteenth unscathed. (And there have been years where I've taught Jasons on that day, which was always good for a laugh. The best one may have been on one of the days when I was subbing for an out-of-town band director, and I queried the class as to how many Jasons were in it; about eight kids, including two girls, raised their hands.)

If anything, I may have had my personal Friday the 13th last Thursday, which was the day when nothing seemed to go right for me. And while I didn't have to deal with black cats, broken mirrors or ladders today, I wonder if I would have been defiant in that situation, just because.

Since my Friday the 13th was so normal, I might as well share a great tune by Thelonious Monk by that name (unfortunately, no videos by the man himself). Hope you like it...

How did your Friday the 13th go? Feel free to comment if you had something unusual happen.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Shoulders Feel Lighter Today

I experienced a strange element this afternoon--one that I hadn't encountered in a while. It's called "free time"--perhaps you've heard of it? I've had traces of it on weekends every now and then, but rarely on a school day recently.

But with my colleague's return from sick leave yesterday, I'm back to normal duties at school for the first time in a few months. And it's the first time in nearly seven months that I'm neither nursing an injury or doing extra work. (Sure, I'm not quite 100% with the knee, but it's rarely a factor nowadays; update on that soon.) And while I enjoyed the extra work I was doing, the real challenge was, as I told said colleague a few weeks ago over lunch, trying to be him and trying to be me. There almost needs to be a few more hours in the day to pull that off, although everything turned out fine.

The free time thing won't last, of course; nature abhors a vacuum, and there's always something else for a musician to do: Practice more, write more (although, taking a walk through Watters Creek this afternoon, I was reminded how disappointed I am that they closed the Starbucks there; it had become my favorite place for writing last year). And I've already taken on an adjudication job for Saturday morning, because extra income is always good this time of year.

Now that I've experienced "free time," I'm hoping to get reacquainted with its cousin, "sleep." I've missed you lately, buddy. So I'll save the slew of unfinished blog posts for another time and call it a night.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Once Again, I'll Ask:

Did you thank a veteran today?

I guess I'll have to let this post suffice, as i didn't (to my knowledge) run into one yet. And I can't think of anything more appropriate than what I posted last year at this time, so I'll excerpt that one here:
Veterans Day is one of those holidays that can be easily overlooked if you're not careful; nobody gets the day off unless they work for a government office or a bank, Macy's doesn't have a "white sale" for it, and it doesn't even get moved to a Monday to give the celebrants a long weekend. But it's obviously very important to this nation, because it honors the sacrifices made by those who have worked to keep this country free.

Here's a great quote that came across my fraternity's listserv today:
What is a veteran?

A ‘Veteran‘ — whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve — is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to, and including his life.”
The author is unknown, but thanks to Matthew Fuger of Mackenbach, Germany, for submitting it.
Last year, I had two veterans in my music ensembles at school; today was not an ensemble day, but I'm thinking of their service as I'm writing this. Thanks, guys...

Have you ever thanked a veteran for his or her service? There's still time...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Return of The Walk™

For the first time since before the accident, I got to take The Walk™ all the way through Firewheel tonight. While I'd made it through parts of the place in the past few months, this was the first time I'd managed to traverse the entire streetscape, and it felt great.

As my recovery nears its completion, it's a good feeling to be able to return to some of the physical activity that I used to do all the time. While I'm not quite up to running yet (though I may be cleared for same at my next visit to physical therapy in a few weeks), and racquetball may be a while off, there's always been something about a good walk at the end of a long day (or even in the middle, on those rare days when I get an extended lunch break). It's invigorating, it's good for me, and it allows not just the recovering leg, but both of them, to "wind out" a bit after a day of sitting in small practice rooms.

After nearly a month without the cane, I'm enjoying the fact that, for much of the day, I don't even think about my knee anymore. And after nearly seven months of this saga, I'm sure you're enjoying the fact that I'm not blogging much about it anymore, either. But so far, everything about this recovery could be graphed on a steady upward arc, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the process.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Zuzu's Peddles Great Mexican Food, and It Was Here All Along

I'm in the midst of my two-gig day, but I had to pop on during my break and rave about a restaurant that was a common haunt of mine during the '90s, until I thought it went away. Little did I know...

I should digress for a moment and point out that the northern leg of Interstate 635, known as the LBJ Freeway, seems to be a fairly solid dividing line for people who consider themselves either hardcore "urbanists" or "suburbanists." I know people in Dallas who rarely venture north of LBJ ("Why would I want to visit those cookie-cutter suburbs?"), and people in Plano or Frisco that never venture south of it ("Too much traffic! Too much crime!"). I go south of LBJ for church and gigs, but I do tend to be a "norther" most of the time, especially with all the cool New Urbanist developments popping up around here. And while some will even say that the suburbs have all the cool stuff these days, Old Urbanism scored some points with me this afternoon.

Back in the '90s, an up-and-coming chain started emerging in the DFW area. Its name is Zuzu Handmade Mexican Food, and it was like nothing I'd ever had before--a great middle ground between mass-produced Taco Bell/Bueno fare and pricier sit-down restaurants, and it predated the rise of "Fresh-Mex" places like Chipotle in the area by a number of years. I was particularly enamored with the chicken quesadillas, and the peach mango iced tea was to die for.

Zuzu exploded all over my neck of the woods in the next several years (well, OK, not exactly in Garland itself; we didn't get much actual retail here until Firewheel opened in '05). A west Richardson location served me on shopping errand days, while one in Plano was a favorite haunt on lunch breaks from my then-job on Saturdays (and they eventually opened a location within walking distance of said job; I was in quesadillla heaven!). I would sometimes eat at one in Carrollton on my way back from Denton. I was certainly a "regular" for a while.

But as often happens to restaurants that expand too quickly, contraction was to follow. The one by my job didn't last long at all, and was replaced by the still-going-strong Big Easy restaurant, forcing me back to west Plano for my Zuzu fix until that one also closed and became a Rockfish. The Carrollton location closed not too long before the opening of the Bush Turnpike rerouted me away from Trinity Mills Road. And the Richardson location, site of my first visit, also succumbed and was replaced with a Chinese place. As far as I knew, Zuzu was no more, and I could have sworn I'd read rumors of such in the restaurant columns of the Observer or the DMN Guide.

I was very happy to discover a location on MOPAC in Austin on my way to my sister's house, and I always made a mental note to stop there at some point, though it has yet to happen; on the way down there, I'm usually eating once I arrive at her house, and on my way back, I've usually just eaten. Still, I made a promise to myself to visit there eventually.

Fast forward to just a few hours ago. I was coming back from a gig in the Lakewood area of Dallas. Having driven to the gig down Garland Road (which, save for Casa Linda Plaza, is butt-ugly until you get to the Arboretum area), I decided to take a different route home and go straight up Abrams. The scenery was much better, and when I got to Mockingbird, I couldn't believe it--there, on the southeast corner, was a Zuzu! They hadn't left after all!

Needless to say, I stopped; I was looking for a place to eat anyway, and that certainly filled the bill. And after all those years, they didn't disappoint. Everything was just as I'd remembered it: The crispy chips with the delicious green salsa (they also have red), the rice with just a little bit of corn in it; the generous portion of chicken and cheese in the quesadillas. And I gulped down the peach-mango iced tea like there was no tomorrow; I'm surprised that I didn't have to stop at every gas station between there and home.

I told the guy behind the counter that it was my first visit since the suburban locations closed, and that everything was as good as it had been before. It's kind of funny that I never bothered Googling the chain to see that there were in fact a few locations left in the area (there's one in Addison as well), but I'm sure I'll make up for lost time in the weeks ahead.

It appears that the Zuzu "empire" has fractured into various franchises, so there's no common owner anymore, but the concept appears to be the same no matter where the restaurants are located. There's no website for the local edition, but the Austin stores have one, and the St. Louis ones have a good site as well.

So yes, this "norther" has a new reason to venture south of LBJ on occasion, or maybe even a new lunch spot after church.

(Bonus points if you can name the cultural reference in the title of this post; you may hear it a lot around a month from now.)

UPDATE: A week later, I was in the area of the Addison (Belt Line and Landmark) location and decided to give it a try as well. While it misses some of the funkiness of the Abrams location (the brick floor in the drink area with various people's names on the bricks, etc.), the food is just as good. It's owned by a different person than the Abrams one, and the setup is a bit different; chips aren't free, but the total bill is cheaper by about...the cost of an order of chips, so it all works out. While neither of these locations are exactly in my backyard, it's great to have them around.

Friday, November 06, 2009

What's Better Than Having a Jazz Gig on a Saturday?

Having two jazz gigs on a Saturday, of course.

That's my day tomorrow, so I'll be back with more later. Come check out one (or both!) of the gigs if you're in the area.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

One oF Those Days

You know it's one of "those" days when...
  • Mere minutes before you're supposed to leave the house in the morning, the zipper on your pants breaks. IAnd it was one of your favorite pair of work pants to boot.)

  • You get to your first school, and the class has already started; they're on a different schedule today, and nobody bothered to tell you.

  • You make an ATM deposit, and the machine doesn't like one of your checks (evidently made on someone's computer at home). It attempts to spit the check back out to you, but that action fails, and eventually, the machine gives you your card back without a receipt, much less a clear acknowledgment of the rest of your deposit.

  • At the beginning of class at the college, you can't play them a particular song because your iPod has run out of juice.

  • At various other times during the day, you're just a bit loopy--forgetting to call out a particular scale or having trouble expressing yourself.
That was my day in a nutshell. Ever have a day like that?

UPDATE: And now, after this trite post, I read the news about Ft. Hood and realize just how meaningless the entire post above really is. (That's par for the course on this day too, I guess.) Thoughts and prayers out to the survivors and the victims' families.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Talk Up the Bands

Even though Texas is known for its quality bands, it seems like they don't get nearly as much coverage as, say, football, at least in our local media. But there are certainly plenty of band supporters out there (and it's not just the parents, either), and I'm sure that we were all happy to see some increased coverage this week, and my hat is off to the Dallas Morning News for doing so.

It started on Friday with an extensive feature on the Allen High School band, they of the 638 members this season. Just how big are they? Well, they're this big:
Bigger marching bands have been assembled for special events. But folks at the University Interscholastic League, the Texas Music Educators Association, and Bands of America say they don't know of a regularly performing marching band anywhere that's the size of Allen's.

"It's the largest marching band program that I'm aware of," agreed Robert Carnochan, director of the University of Texas Longhorn Band, which has a trifling 390 members.

The Allen High marching band has about as many musicians as there are members of Congress. It has five musicians for every one in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The 85-member trumpet section is bigger than many high school marching bands.
The article goes on to say that the band requires 18 school buses and three trucks whenever they go on the road.

They're not just big, they're also successful, even if they may be noted more for creating a family atmosphere than bringing home top honors at competitions. But with the Allen football team bringing home the Class 5A state championship last year, the band got to perform on a pretty big stage. (And yes, it could be said that a band of that size needs a pretty big stage. Heh.)

But the DMN's band-love didn't stop there. Earlier this week, they also ran a feature on Mesquite Poteet, which was going for its third consecutive state championship in the 4A State Marching Contest on Monday (these championships are held every other year for each classification, with 1A, 2A and 4A in odd-numbered years and 3A and 5A in even-numbered years). And while a Mesquite Poteet three-peat (heh) was not to be (they came in third, and another local school, Frisco Wakeland, placed fourth), it was still a great article about a successful program that's been excelling for years now.

Thanks, DMN, for covering the bands. And be sure and drop back in on them during the rest of the year; there are lots of good things going on during concert season as well.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Help a Puppy (of the Snarky Variety) in Need

Are you a fan of Snarky Puppy? (And by all means, you should be.) I've extolled the virtues of this band many times in this blog, so I was really disappointed to read today's news. I'll let this MySpace bulletin tell the story:
Hello fellow Snarky friends,

My name is Jess Speer, and I am one of the biggest Super fans of Snarky Puppy in the world. They are my family and my brothers that I have never had. I have been working with the boys for over a year now, and I have to say that I have never worked with anyone as generous as these guys. I have watched them grow from the first time I saw them four years ago into the machine that they are today, and I would absolutely give anything to them to see them succeed.

Music is prophecy and not profit and these guys are out on the road almost nine months out of the year leaving their families and homes to spread their talent and love for music. They are not out there for fame, they are not out there for money. They are out there to try and make a living off of playing in a group with the most religeous musical connection that I have ever heard.

A few nights ago, their bus was vandalized in Canada. Not only that, the guitar,​bass,​amp,​harddrives,​mics,​chords,​suitcases,​clothes,​money,​memorabilia,​ etc. was all taken. To follow this “amazing” act of humanity, the bus has broken down, and they are stranded in Toronto. It's bad enough that musicians barely make enough money to live off of, and let’s just not get started on health insurance.

The guys need you. You are what matters to them the most. They are out there for you, giving you the gift of their talent because they love you. Please keep them in your good thoughts, prayers, and meditations. In the meantime, I am teaming up with fellow Snarks to put on a couple of benefit shows, fundraisers, and have also set up a paypal account for any amount of donations. It's easy just go to and donate to snarkypuppy@​yahoo.​com.​ ANY amount helps. ANY instrumental donation helps. ANY love helps.

If you are personally interested in playing for the show or just helping out please feel free to contact me at:

Jessica L. Speer
Yikes. You always read these horror stories about things like this happening to bands on the road, and I really hate to hear about such a thing befalling a band that has brought me so much enjoyment over the past few years.

I'm not sure where Jess, the writer of the above, is located, so I don't know if any of the benefit shows she mentions will be local or not (but I'd sure think at least one of them would be), but I'll pass along any more information as I receive it.

UPDATE: Pegasus News music editor Sarah Crisman makes an appearance in the comments with a bit more info; also, her Twitter feed has even more regarding the benefit shows and status updates on Snarky.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Maybe It's Not His Lucky Day

I don't know how far this story has traveled past the borders of Texas, but it certainly merits discussion: A guy in Grand Prairie with the unusual name of Willis Willis bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket back in May. After the drawing was held, he went back to the convenience store where he bought the ticket (the unfortunately-named Lucky Foods, also in Grand Prairie) and gave it to the clerk to have him check to see if it was a winner. The clerk, Pankaj Joshi, told him it was not a winner.

But Joshi was lying; the ticket was actually a $1 million dollar winner, which Joshi cashed in himself and subsequently fled the country.

When Willis found this out, he went to the Texas Lottery Commission to claim his rightful prize. But the commission had already paid out that prize, to Joshi; what were they to do? Well, even though their own investigators consider Willis to be the rightful winner, the commission decided yesterday that the real winner was Joshi, because he cashed in the ticket--even though he's since been indicted on theft charges, never mind that whole skipped-the-country thing.

But it's likely that Willis will not go home empty-handed:
The Travis County district attorney's office jumped into the fray Monday evening, saying in no uncertain terms that Willis won the lottery.

"That's Mr. Willis' money. He was the true winner," said Assistant District Attorney Patty Robertson.

And the office promises to put its money where its mouth is – Robertson said $365,000 that has been seized from the store clerk's bank accounts will be turned over to Willis as soon as the paperwork goes through.
Good for them. And I'm afraid that might be the only doable solution to this messy problem. As some commenters to the linked story point out, the lottery probably doesn't have much choice here; if they give in on this one, people will come out of the woodwork every time there's a big winner, claiming someone stole the winning ticket from them. It could get really messy, really quickly. They probably have to take the small PR hit in this case to avoid such things down the road.

Maybe--and this is unfortunate, if true--the moral of the story is, don't trust the clerk. After all, there are plenty of other ways that Willis could have checked his results:
  • He could have bought a newspaper and checked the results there.

  • He could have gone to a local library, gotten on the Internet, and checked the results at the Lottery's website.

  • He could have used one of the "Check Your Ticket" machines that are frequently found in many lottery retailers.
Granted, it could be argued that the store was acting on behalf of the state, and the state should regulate its agents more carefully (was there any way that the commission could have known that it was awarding a ticket to one of its own agents?), but again, it's not like Willis was forced to hand his ticket to the clerk.

I'm sitting on the fence as far as this story goes. What do you think? Hit the comment button and chime in.