This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Monday, December 23, 2013


My hearing has been on a downhill slide for quite some time. The first hearing test I remember having shouldn’t really count.  It was in January 1969 after being drafted into the Army.  During the induction physical a sergeant put me in a booth and told me to press the button every couple of seconds.  I must have passed.

I was given another hearing test about fifteen years later when I began working for Abbott Laboratories.  A technician put me in a booth with instructions to press the button when I heard a tone through the headphones.  I was listening hard, waiting for the test to begin, when the door to the booth opened and the technician asked, “Is something wrong?”

“No,” I said.  “I’m waiting for the test to begin.”

“It’s over,” she answered.

“Let’s try it again,” I said.  Then, remembering what the sergeant told me years before, I started pressing the button every couple of seconds.  I passed.

The third test was five or six years later.  My wife had been complaining that I didn’t listen to her.  This time I knew the drill when I went in the booth.  I thought I had passed, but the audiologist informed me that I did, indeed, have a hearing deficit.  The loss was in the higher frequencies, which included the frequency of the female voice.  No wonder my wife thought I wasn't listening to her!

I had a fourth hearing test about ten years ago just to make sure I still had a hearing deficit.  Unsurprisingly, I did.

There have been many times over the years when, listening to a conversation, I would nod in agreement and grunt, “uh huh,” without having a clue what was said.  There were also plenty of occasions where I was laughed at because what I thought I had heard wasn’t even close.

When my wife spoke, it sounded like she was mumbling.  I made a visit to the audiologist last week for yet another hearing test after years of enduring much grief from her.  This time the audiologist ganged up with my wife and convinced me that I did need hearing aids.  I picked them up today but am now a little upset.  My wife waited until after I spent $6,400 on hearing aids and then she stopped mumbling!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Visit Your Local Cable Company Office!

Just a quick note of advice tonight. Go down to your local cable company office, do not call them or go to their website. Take yourself down there. Then you tell them you are considering upgrading your account. You may be in for a pleasant surprise unless your account is new or you have recently upgraded.

We have had cable service since moving to Nacogdoches 14 years ago. We subscribe to the “extended basic tier” and do not subscribe to any of the premium channels, such as HBO or ShowTime. When  the Internet was added to their cable services I was one of the first customers to sign up, choosing the highest of the three speeds then offered. I was happy until a couple of years ago. That was when I discovered that my “high-speed” Internet was no longer the highest speed offered by the cable company.  My 5 mbps speed had become their slowest speed over the years. I called them and asked to be upgraded from my 5 mbps speed to the 15 mbps speed then being offered. They did so but bumped up my fee.

We have also been TiVo owners for many years.  Our first TiVo was a first generation machine.  It was 1998 or 1999. We purchased it with the lifetime subscription and have not paid another penny in fees since then. Oh, we have upgraded TiVo machines several times but each time we were able to transfer our lifetime subscription to the new machine. But we screwed up two TiVo generations ago and did not upgrade. When the generation after that came out we were ready to upgrade. Unfortunately, we could not transfer our lifetime subscription to a new machine because we had “skipped a generation.” We didn’t relish the idea of paying more fees so decided to keep what we had.

Anyway, our TiVo is now dying. It has literally been losing its memory (it randomly deletes recorded programs before we have the opportunity to watch them) and it decides which shows it will record instead of the ones we have programmed it to record. It looked like we would be forced to purchase a new TiVo and lose our lifetime subscription anyway. I had seen cable company ads for TiVo and thought I should check that out before purchasing a new TiVo machine and had to pay for another subscription.

So, getting back to the cable company, yesterday I went down there and spoke with a nice young lady face to face. She was behind a desk, not a counter. These people are on commission and eager to help, especially if you mention the “upgrade” word. That is why you must go down there in person. You won’t learn diddlysquat from the website and the people at the call center don’t work on commission and could care less about what you want and certainly don’t want to listen to you whining about the service. Anyway, I told the nice young lady behind the desk that I was interested in upgrading (the Magic word) my service to include a TiVo machine. She pecked at her keyboard, pulled up my account (I could only see the back of her monitor so must assume she was looking at my account details) and she spent a few minutes studying the screen.

To cut to the chase, the nice young lady told me that I could have a four-tuner TiVo (I believe they also had six-tuner machines but for a little more money), AND two TiVo-Minis (allows me to use one TiVo machine with three televisions sets), AND I could increase my internet speed from my current 15 mbps to 30 mbps, AND the monthly fee would be LESS THAN I AM CURRENTLY PAYING!

But that isn’t all. She told me if I could wait and come back tomorrow (which was actually today) that I would save $55 because today was “Free Installation Day.” So, once again, I strongly advise you to carry your butt down to the cable company office and talk to someone sitting behind a desk (not at the counter). The cable company is not going to call and ask if you would mind if they increased your service and decreased your monthly fees. You have to go down there and ask for it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Just Finished (well, almost) a Twenty-Five Year Project!

I haven't written anything in my blog for some time because I have been spending much of my free time in an all out effort to complete a memoir of my experiences in the US Army.  Most of that time was spent in Vietnam where I served with the 101st Airborne Division.  I wanted to write about my experiences primarily for my son and daughter.  I thought that it may give them a little more insight into why I am who I am.

Beginning this project almost 25 years ago, I would write a bit but tire of it quickly and put it aside.  I would get it out every couple of  years or so, write furiously for a short while, loose interest, and set it aside until I pulled it out again after another couple of years.  This cycle repeated itself many times until about a year ago when I realized I wasn't getting any younger and really needed to get it completed.

Fortunately, I had made a lot of notes at the start of the project or I wouldn't have been able to write very much at all.  How the memory fades over the years.  However, as I reviewed my notes, letters, news reports, unclassified Army documents, and photos with descriptions written on the back I began to remember more and more.

It was an excellent mind exercise, especially for someone of my age.  Everyone should try it.  Pick an important part of your life, a couple of years or so, and write everything that you can remember about it.  The secret to successfully completing such a project is not to rush it.  It can't be forced and you can't sit down and write everything you remember about a transitional part of your life over a weekend.  I don't know how many total hours I have spent over the past 25 years writing my memoir.  Hundreds for certain.

Other than the fading memory, what has made this project so difficult is my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  ADD makes it very difficult to stick with a long project (or even a not so long one sometimes) and is probably why it took me 25 years.  ADD makes you want to finish what you are doing RIGHT NOW and move on to something else.  You tend to jump from project to project instead of finishing one prior to moving on to the next.  Because of that, I found studying very difficult when I was a student.  I would spend ten or fifteen minutes on one subject and then move on to another for ten or fifteen minutes and so on, and on.  This was reflected in my average (and some below average) grades when at the university.

I didn't discover this inability to study while in high school because our school was small school and each class tended to move at the speed of the slowest learner.  I never HAD to study in high school. I could be an A student with only ten or fifteen minute reviews.  What a shock it was when I went off to the university!  I did manage to graduate with a five year pharmacy degree in five years, but I had to attend summer school each year to keep up.  After my stint in the Army I went back to school on two separate occasions, maintained excellent grade point averages, and earned my MBA and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees.  I just had to work extra hard, plus - even though I hate to admit it - I believe the Army may have taught me some good work habits.

Although ADD is a disorder that I have had since birth, I was only diagnosed with it and prescribed medication for it a few years ago. The medication has been a tremendous help.  I can get interested in something and not want to stop working on it.  This is not necessarily a good thing because it tends to alienate your spouse.  Now, instead of trying very hard to concentrate on one topic I have to try very hard not to get fixated on one topic.  But it's better than not being able to finish anything because of a short attention span. I only wish medical and pharmaceutical science had known about ADD and its treatment when I was a student.

It was a long and fairly difficult road but my memoir is all but finished now.  The story is written and I am rather satisfied with it.  It's not a great piece of literature and certainly won't win any awards (especially if it isn't published) but it says what I wanted to say.  It needs proofing and editing and rereading a dozen times or so to make sure it flows properly. It's a lot longer than I would have ever thought it would be.  It adds up to a little over 78,800 words, which is 230 letter sized pages of 12 point font, one inch margins, and spacing at one and a half lines. If I had formatted it the size of a paperback book it would have run 350 to 400 pages. I broke it up into chapters, one for each event, topic, or remembrance.  Most of the chapters are very short.  Many are only one page.  The longest is six pages or so. It came out to ninety-nine (99) chapters.  Now I have to decide what to do with it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How (Not) to Set an Atomic Clock

I have a SkyScan Atomic Clock with Outdoor Wireless Temperature and Moon Phase, Model 87800-87801.  Yes, in addition to time and temperature (indoors and outdoors) it shows the phase of the moon in an LCD display.  I have never had much interest in moon phases and I was surprised to learn that there are eight (or maybe it was twelve) moon phases.  I know about the full, crescent, and quarter moons, but waxing, waning, and gibbous have been tossed into the mix to make it more confusing.  I have no idea what gibbous means.

This morning the LCD displays on the clock looked like hieroglyphics.  Nothing was readable.  The batteries in the clock had finally given up the ghost and needed replacement.  I did so with two brand new AA batteries and the diplays changed from hieroglyphics to blinking dashes and colons (my colon seems to blinks at times).   Now I would have to I reset the clock, which is something I only do once every couple of years or so and I can never remember the correct procedure.  I went to the manufacturer’s website and downloaded the thirteen-page manual, the four-page Quick Reference, and the two-page Quick Guide. The four-page Quick Reference just scrunches up the instructions in the manual real close together in a smaller font while the two-page Quick Guide just scrunches up the Quick Reference. The word “Quick” in both instances was a misnomer.  There was nothing “Quick” about anything.

I will not bore you by covering all thirteen pages of instructions.  However, there are a few interesting things about setting this clock that I would like to tell you about.

There are four display options for my atomic clock.  I can select either
month & date/weekday/seconds/outdoor temperature, month & date/weekday/indoor temperature/seconds, month & date/seconds/indoor temperature/outdoor temperature, or month & date/weekday/indoor temperature/outdoor temperature.  I think I will just stay with whatever the default display is.

The clock is not an analog clock (it has no hands).  It is a digital clock (a clock with blinking lights).  It looks relatively simple, as there are only four buttons (SET, +, ALM, and SNZ) on the clock.  It may only have four buttons, but the number of combinations possible with those four must be a few thousand, which are all included in setting the clock.
Using only those four buttons it is possible to adjust the time zone (8 possible),   Daylight Savings Time (ON or OFF),  Language (English, French, Spanish, or German), Hour, Minute, Year (from 2000 to 2049), Month, Date, Day of Week, Military or Civilian Time, and Temperature (C° or F°).

After changing the batteries I was ready to begin resetting the clock.  NO, wait.  The instructions said “DO NOT PRESS ANY BUTTONS FOR 10 MINUTES” after changing the batteries.  I guess they are serious because it was in bold print.  I wondered why a ten-minute wait was required so I kept reading the instructions and NOT pressing any buttons for ten minutes.  I learned that the ten-minute wait is required to give the atomic clock time to establish contact with the mother ship.

The mother ship is actually an NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) radio station with the call letters WWVB and is located in Ft. Collins, CO.  The WWVB radio station receives its data from the NIST atomic clock located in Boulder, CO, which it then transmits to my atomic clock on a continuous radio signal at a frequency of 60 KHz throughout the US.  By the way, I had a HAM radio receiver when I was a kid and anytime I needed the correct time I just tuned it to WWV, which at that time was operated by the National Bureau (not Institute) of Standards. I would hear a click once per second and each minute a voice would announce, “National Bureau of Standards, WWV; when the tone returns [time] Eastern Standard Time.”

It’s so much more complex these days.  A team of atomic physicists continually measures every second of every day to an accuracy of ten billionths of a second a day.  These physicists use an international standard, measuring a second as 9,192,631,770 vibrations of a Cesium 133 atom in a vacuum.  All of this just to make sure I’m not late for my dental appointment.

The WWVB signal can be received by any atomic clock up to 2,000 miles away from the mother ship on 60 KHz and a signal from the outside temperature sensor on 433 MHz.  I considered checking with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to ask if I needed any special kind of license for my clock, but then I remembered that I already have a radio operator’s license and it is still valid from my flying days, so I should be OK.

The instructions went on to say that the clock will automatically set itself to the correct time, day, and date after it makes successful contact with the mother ship.  Then I read further.  The “automatic” part happens only IF YOU LIVE IN THE EASTERN TIME ZONE.  If you live in another time zone there is very little that is automatic about setting the clock.  By the way, the clock company is located in Virginia, which is in the Eastern Time Zone.  They made it easy on themselves.  I do not live in the Eastern Time Zone and must resort to the thirteen-page manual to reset my clock.

The clock not only favors those living in the Eastern Time Zone, but will also set itself to DST (Daylight Savings Time) “ON” upon its initial contact with the mother ship.  Unless, that is, I live in Arizona or parts of Indiana, which I don’t.  I will have to set the time zone to the number of hours that my time zone (Central) is from GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).  No sweat.  What time is it in Greenwich?

According to the manual, the initial contact between the clock and mother ship may take overnight (so I needn’t be in a big hurry to check the time or temperature).  The manual recommended that while waiting on the clock and the mother ship to make contact that I should place the clock in a window facing Colorado as opposed to a state such as Florida or New Jersey.

The reason it may take overnight for my clock to talk to the mother ship is because reception is generally not possible during daylight hours due to the interference of the sun and the nature of the Earth’s ionosphere.  Reception may also be poor if the clock is located within a ferro-concrete room (such as a bomb shelter) or within the proximity of metal window frames.  This concerns me because my window frames are metal.

I also found that if I use other electrical products such as headphones or speakers operating on the 433 MHz frequency they could prevent correct signal transmission and reception.  Even my neighbors can mess up my clock if they are using electrical devices operating on 433 MHz.  I need to remember to ask them not to use any electrical devices operating on this frequency.  Do you know what frequency your headphones or speakers operate on?  

After my clock makes successful contact with the mother ship I should see the ‘Radio Reception’ icon appear above the blinking colons (it may need a colonoscopy if it doesn’t).  Once I see the icon over the blinking colons I may then relocate the clock to my desired location facing any state of my choosing.  I have not yet chosen a state.

I will need to mount my atomic clock on a wall to prevent it from moving up and down, as the manual warns that a change in elevation can result in inaccurate temperature readings for 12 to 24 hours after the change.  The instructions suggest that the clock be hung on a wall (perhaps facing Rhode Island?) to prevent the clock from moving up and down.  The instructions also suggest using a “straightedge” and “horizontally space three screw positions 2.36 inches apart” on the wall.  I don’t have a straightedge that can measure 2.36 inches.  What would that be in quarters, eighths, sixteenths, or thirty-seconds of an inch?

If I am successful, my atomic clock will attempt to communicate with the mother ship every hour on the hour from 12:00 am through 6:00 am each day (even on weekends and holidays). 

The manual also warns that once the 433 MHz signal (between the clock and the outside transmitter) is received correctly, not to re-open the battery cover of either the outdoor transmitter or atomic clock, as the batteries may spring free from the contacts and force a false reset.  It would then be necessary for me to start the process all over.

NOTE:  I have not yet been able to reset the clock.  I think I will buy another HAM radio receiver.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gruene Hall, Texas' Oldest Dance Hall

After dinner at the unique Gristmill Restaurant we walked next door to Gruene (pronounced "Green") Hall.  The Hall is a 6,000 square foot, wooden, tin-roofed, barn-like structure that was built in 1878 by Henry (Heinrich) D. Gruene and, except for installing electricity, doesn’t appear to have changed very much in the past 135 years.  The Hall is located in the historic town of Gruene, which is now part of New Braunfels, TX.  The hardwood flooring and the wooden benches and tables have been worn smooth over the years.   Neon beer signs provide most of the light. 

Gruene Hall is about as "Texas" as you can get.  Willie Nelson & Family, The Mavericks, Radney Foster, the Joe Ely Band, Gary P. Nunn, the Texas Tornados, Jerry Jeff Walker, Asleep at the Wheel, Delbert McClinton, Ray Price, Charlie Robison, Shooter Jennings, The Marshall Tucker Band, Dwight Yokum, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary P. Nunn, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Merle Haggard, and Todd Rundgren all have gigs scheduled at Gruene Hall in just the first six months of 2014.  Although there were no big names last night, “The Georges” were a very good Rock-a-Billy band and put on a good show.  They played from 6 to 10 PM for free so they sold T-Shirts and CD’s and passed the tip bucket around.  Just honest people trying to make a living doing what they love to do.  Make music.

The walls in the bar are covered with framed photographs of artists who have performed in the Hall.  Although Gruene Hall hosts mostly Texas artists, there are still many other artists.  The “rogues gallery” of photos includes Bruce Robison, John Hiatt, Nanci Griffith, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Earl Keene, Lucinda Williams, Pat Greene, Ernest Tubb, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Garth Brooks, Gregg Allman, the Dixie Chicks, Aaron Neville and even Little Richard, Arlo Guthrie, Taj Mahal, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddly, Leon Russell, Miranda Lambert, Buddy Guy, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Dr. John, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Hootie & The Blowfish, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Susan Tedeschi, Levon Helm, and John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers.  Gruene Hall was also used as a set for the movie, Michael, which starred John Travolta.

Even the beer said Texas.  Ice-cold Lone Star and Sheiner Bock in longneck bottles are big sellers at Gruene Hall.   Beer at $3.75 a bottle along with no admission or cover charge (not last night at least) is hard to beat. 

Boots, cowboy hats, and jeans are commonplace, but you may see anything from short shorts to suits and ties.  Pretenders, posers, and real cowboys/cowgirls were scattered throughout the crowd.

Gruene Hall patrons are music lovers of all ages, from babies in strollers to nonagenarians (that’s 90 to 98 year olds by the way) with walkers.  No joke, last night’s crowd included a group of twenty or thirty senior citizens, with at least five of them using walkers to get around, and none of whom looked to be younger than eighty years old.  They were escorted by several young women who were either tour guides or caretakers.  It was hard to tell the difference. They made me feel (almost) young.  No way was I going to leave before they did!

Gruene Hall is simply an ageless honky-tonk.  If you ever make it to New Braunfels, TX be sure to check it out.

Here are a few photos of the Gristmill and Gruene Hall I took with my iphone (no flash, so a little grainy).

The Gristmill
(we ate INSIDE1)

Gruene Hall

Like I Said, Ageless!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ein Prosit!

Ein Prosit!  A toast!  Beer, bratwurst, lederhosen, and oompah music under a big tent.  It’s not in Germany, it’s Germans in Texas.  That is, descendants of the German immigrants who settled this part of Texas in 1845.  This part of the Texas Hill Country still has a sizeable German/Texan community.  Wurstfest is a ten-day long annual celebration of German heritage and is reminiscent of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Although proud of their German heritage (many still speak the German language), they are first and foremost Americans.

Carol Ann and I, along with Scot and Melissa and Ralph and Cheryl spent a little time in the huge German-style beer hall tonight drinking beer, eating soft pretzels, listening to the oompah band, and watching the locals, dressed in their traditional German apparel, dance and have fun.

Many of the celebrants were wearing Viking hats (with big horns).  I wasn’t sure what the Vikings had to do with the Germans, other than the blond hair.  But then a lot of them were also wearing chicken hats and doing the “Chicken Dance.”  It was crazy but fun.

Outside of the beer tent was a carnival midway with rides.  I found the colored lights on the various rides to be a great photo opportunity.  I played around a little with my camera and came up with a few nice long-exposure shots.  If they are a bit out of focus it is because I was without my tripod and the camera had to be hand-held.  It has nothing to do with the beer I consumed prior to taking the photos!

Here are a few of them.

Friday, November 1, 2013

World Leader, iGoogle, Dies at Age of 8

Last night a trusted friend of millions “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” and “touched the face of God” when the execution of the world-renowned iGoogle was carried out at 12:01AM this morning, November 1, 2013.  The executions was carried out behind the walls of its one time home, Googleplex.   
iGoogle was born in Palo Alto, CA in May of 2005 to Google, Inc.  At the young age of 1 iGoogle moved with its parents to their new home, called Googleplex, in Mountain View, CA.  It should also be noted that it would be at Googleplex where iGoogle would be executed.
iGoogle was unmatched in its field and will be sorely missed.  iGoogle was an industry leader, serving as a customizable start page or personal web portal.  During its lifetime, iGoogle was extremely active around the globe, working day and night to play an important role in the organization of millions of Home Pages around the world.
Last year, on July 3, 2012, iGoogle was found guilty of “its need eroding over time” and was sentenced to die by its removal from the Google servers at 12:01AM, November 1, 2013. 
The sixteen months between the verdict’s announcement and the sentence being carried out should have given iGoogle’s friends and loved ones ample time to say their goodbyes and to search for a replacement.  However, this has proven to be very difficult, if not impossible, for many devotees of iGoogle.  Many of them simply refused to believe that the death sentence would be carried out, expecting a last minute reprieve to save iGoogle.
Wakes, vigils, and memorial services are being held around the world out of respect for iGoogle and the way it served so many so well. 
iGoogle is survived by its parent, Google Inc. and its grandparents, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.  Cards and flowers may be sent to Google, Inc. at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043.  You may also voice your condolences by phoning 650-253-0000.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Three Favorite Bands of All Time

I love music.  All kinds of music (with a few exceptions).  I appreciate the “Oldies” from the 50’s and early 60’s (my “formative” school years), the “Motown Sound” from the early to late 60’s (my university years), and “Classic Rock” from the late 60’s and 70’s (Army through post-Vietnam era).  I am also partial to Blues from the 50’s to the present (gotta' love the BB King Bluesville on XM channel 70), and a lot of Country music, especially the kind with a Texas (primarily Austin) flavor.  A little bit of classical music is also okay.  I just don’t know anything about it.  I do like “Ride of the Valkyries” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  Those are about the only two pieces of classical music that I can identify when I hear it.

Because of my love for music I tend to collect it.  I still have a lot of vinyl LP’s boxed up plus a few hundred CD’s but have purchased very few in the last ten years when I began obtaining most of my music via the Internet.  Currently, I have around 12,000 tunes on my computer. 

I even have my own radio station!  It’s located somewhere in my brain and plays music for me when I’m not listening to iTunes, XM radio, or a CD.  It plays whether I want it to or not.  It also has a bad habit of playing over and over songs I don’t really like.  It’s a curse.  By the way, iTunes and XM radio are two of the best things to come about since sliced bread as far as I am concerned.

I would have a really tough time making a decision if someone asked me what my favorite songs were.  That’s kind of a fluid thing, depending upon my mood at the time.  However, if someone were to ask me to name my three favorite bands I would immediately comeback with, The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and The Allman Brothers Band in no particular order.

Although the “Stones” have been around since 1962 when I was a freshman at the University of Georgia, they are not “ageless”.   They are well into their seventh decade but still going strong.  However, they have aged terribly and look like death warmed over (do you suppose it has anything to do with their lifestyle?).  No matter how they look, I still like their bluesy-boogie-rock style and their “don’t give a shit” attitude.  The members of the band (currently Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ron Wood) have changed very little since 1962.

Over the years they have released 77 albums (29 studio albums, 18 live albums, and 30 compilations) worldwide, selling over a total 250 million copies.  Their #1 selling US album (#75 highest of all album sales worldwide), “Hot Rocks 1964 - 1971”, sold 12 million copies while their #2 selling US album, “Some Girls”, sold 6 million copies.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.  They have toured the world for years and are even planning a tour for 2014!

The Eagles are much different from the Stones.  They first got together in 1971 when they backed up Linda Ronstadt on stage.  The group then included Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon.  Frey said they came up with the name Eagles (without a “The”) while the group was on a peyote and tequila outing in the Mojave Desert.

What I like best about the band would be their really great harmonies.  Their song lyrics, similar to country music, tell interesting stories, unlike those that simply attempt to make nonsensical words rhyme.  This is very different from the “Stones”, whose lyrics, when (or IF) understood, often don’t make a whole lot of sense.  Nor would I accuse the “Stones” of having great harmony!

The Eagles broke up in 1980 due to a spat between Frey and Don Felder who had joined the band early on.  Felder was fired by the band, sued, but eventually settled for a lot of money.  The Eagles managed to get back together in 1994 with Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmit (no Felder). 

Since 1972 the Eagles have released 18 albums (7 studio albums, 2 live albums, and 9 compilations).  Three of the Eagles albums together sold a total of 85 million copies worldwide (one-third of what the “Stones” 77 albums sold). 

Their #1 selling album, “Their Greatest Hits”, sold 42 million copies.  It is still the third highest of all album sales worldwide with only Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin being slightly ahead in first and second places.  Their #2 selling “Hotel California” sold 32 million copies and their #3 selling “Eagle’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2” sold 11 million copies.  The band was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Allman Brothers Band was formed in Jacksonville, FL in 1968 but moved to Macon, GA prior to releasing their first album.  The band was composed of Duane Allman (slide guitar), Gregg Allman (organ), Dickey Betts (lead guitar), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and “Jaimoe” Johanson (drums).  Butch Trucks is Derek Trucks (Derek Trucks Band) uncle.  Two drummers added to their signature-style.

Before forming the band, Duane Allman, recorded several songs with the likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, and Clarence Carter.

Their first album, “The Allman Brothers Band”, was released in 1969 while I was serving in Vietnam.  They didn’t get much radio play outside of the South until their second album, “Live at The Fillmore East”, was released.  One of the tracks from the Fillmore album was “Whippin’ Post”, which lasted for 22 minutes and included a 10 minute Dickey Betts guitar solo. 

After the Fillmore album release they were one of the biggest names in music.  Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed The Allman Brothers Band the best Rock and Roll band to come along in five years.

What I like about the “Allmans” is their southern-bluesy-rock.  The guitar solos were some of the best ever heard.  Even Eric Clapton thought so.  He offered Duane a spot in his Derek and The Dominoes band but Duane wanted to stay with his new band in Macon.  However, little known to almost everybody, is that Duane did join Clapton in recording the “Layla” album and it is Duane, not Clapton, playing the slide guitar solo in the song “Layla”.  It was also Duane with the guitar solo at the end of “Key to the Highway”. 

Sadly, Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971 in Macon, GA.  Then, in a tragic coincidence, Dickey Betts was killed a year later in a motorcycle accident, which happened only 3 blocks from the site of Duane’s death.  Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were probably 2 of the best solo guitarist in the history of Rock and Roll.

The band was never the same after the deaths of Duane and Dickey.  The band peaked in 1973 and broke up in 1976.  Since then it has been on-again, off-again with a lot of changes in the band’s members over the years.  Still, in their relatively short life span, The Allman Brothers Band released 18 albums, including five Platinum and eleven Gold Albums.

The band was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and presented a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

And there you have my three favorite bands.  This is the kind of music that I prefer to walk around with in my head.  Unfortunately, it is often the likes of Dionne Warwick or Pat Boone playing in my head.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I just made my very first 911 call and I feel like I have crossed some kind of invisible threshold.  It feels kind of weird.  Why did I call 911?  Call me paranoid, but as my wife and I were sitting in our family room (me on the computer and she working on a crossword puzzle) we heard a very loud and very definite gunshot.  It sounded like a handgun.  It was not a rifle or shotgun.  I know what they sound like.

We live in a very quiet and peaceful neighborhood where hearing a gunshot is probably a once in a lifetime experience.  This is not a neighborhood accustomed to drive-by shootings and gang warfare.  Because it was so unusual I thought to myself, “Should I call the police?”  I decided not to do so because, afterall, it was none of my business if someone was tired of his wife or a wife had caught her husband cheating on her.  I would rather not get involved. 

A minute later, perhaps two minutes at the most, we heard a second gunshot and my wife said, “Should we call the police?”  One gunshot I can ignore, but two gunshots can really get your attention, especially with all of the crazies running around shooting people these days.

I made my decision, picked up the phone, and dialed 911.  It rang three or four times before the operator answered.  I was expecting her to answer the same way that all of the 911 operators on TV answer.  That is, “911.  What is your emergency?”  Instead she said something like, “Hello, how can I help you?” I was a little disappointed that I did not hear the expected TV version, but I gave her my name and address anyway and reported that two shots had just been fired in my neighborhood.  She asked me to repeat my address and then asked for my phone number and my birthday (maybe the police are going to send me a card).

I could hear her police radio (it was quite loud) in the background and was hoping she would pick up her "mic" and say “Shots fired in the Briargrove neighborhood!”  Once again I was disappointed because she still was not following the TV script.  Instead of talking in police 10-codes, putting out APBs, or calling the SWAT team she said nothing and just listened to the incoming radio call.  Part of what l I heard on the radio was someone saying, “The shots were accidental.” 

I just couldn’t help myself.  I blurted out, “TWO accidental shots?  A couple of minutes apart?  I don’t THINK so.”  Her reply was, “We’ll send a car.  Thank you.”

Now I’ll have to read the police reports in Friday morning's paper (it’s too late to make tomorrow’s edition).