C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday Drive: Handel, Eternal Source of Light Divine

An exquisite piece requested by a friend who has received good news:  renowned English trumpeter Alison Balsom plays Handel's birthday ode to Queen Anne, 1712.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Today's Forecast

 I'm loving it.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sunday Drive: We're Having a Heat Wave

Marilyn's great and all, but I wish she would stop cluttering up my view of the chorus line:



Friday, February 19, 2021

Report from Texas


Just a few lines to let my truckbuddies know that the Pork Boys are surviving here in the Deep Freeze - and thankfully, in better shape than many of our fellow Texans - the disaster struck us only a glancing blow.  The temperature where we live got down to zero Monday night, with a wind chill of minus 12.  Now that's goddamn cold, I tell you what, boys.  Not something M.P. or I have ever seen in our lifetime.  

Rolling blackouts started without warning about midnight on Sunday - but unlike in other places, here they were mostly only an hour or so long - on again, off again.  We never knew, though, if the blackout would last an hour or all night or what.  Thankfully again, I can report that the power - including the Internet - has stayed on continuously since Thursday morning.  

However, yesterday we were informed that our town is under a boil-water order; either the reservoir is very low, or the water pumps are not working, or both.  At least we do have water, unlike some places, and the boiling is a minor inconvenience.  Some towns and neighborhoods have not had ANY water or power since Monday night - horrible.  

But though it's been sometimes very unpleasant, we are getting through this disaster with less discomfort than many people, including some of M.P.'s family; the worst has been sitting here in a drafty old house with a drafty old heating system, where the indoor temperature has been at 50 degrees or less most of the time - painful, but not unbearable.  And now we are looking forward to the return of more normal temperatures, as the latest forecast shows:

We also have plenty of good things to eat and drink, having stocked the larder before the snows fell, so no need to worry about us.  There are many others, though, who are having a really rough time of it, as you all have no doubt seen on TV news.  But here where we live, the snows are melting, the stores are open, and the streets were full of traffic today, so life is quickly getting back to normal.

However, I do want to say a couple of things to enlighten all you furriners out there who may be tempted to believe some far-fetched things said by the drama queens who call themselves journalists in this day and time.

First of all, please remember that Texas is a great big state:  about 800 miles across in both directions, north to south, and east to west.  Bigger by far than California in square miles.  We have a population of 30 million in a state about 20 percent larger than France.  So of course, when you hear somebody say, "Texas is . . ." or "Texans are . . ." you must understand that a hasty generalization is sure to follow.  The truth is, we have everything here in a place so big and so populous - but not everyone is just the same.  Country people tend to be pretty hardy folks; city dwellers, like city dwellers all over the world, not so much.

Also, a lot of ignorant little boys and girls who just love to be on television are spouting nonsense about "how such a HOT state" could get so "COLD."  Well of course it does.  There's a wide range of temperatures across this state in every month of the year.  And every year here in north Texas, the temps often get down into the teens or 20's at night during the winter, and some years we have snow.  Some years we don't.  What's different this year is going all the way down to zero, which as I said is nearly unheard-of for most of the state.  Our homes are not built for Canadian temperatures.  And what makes it really bad is losing power AND water, not to mention the intertubes.  You can get along without Netflix for a few days - but not without a toilet.  When it gets to that point, you're fucked.

M.P. and I are philosophical about it - we understand that Nature is not subject to human control, and never will be.  We've lived through winter storms before, not to mention hurricanes and tornados, which are all just part of life on Planet Earth - you pays your money and you takes your chances.  Some people now in distress did not prepare for this crisis, which was heavily advertised for nearly a week before it arrived.  Some made poor decisions in reacting to the cold.  Some were simply unlucky, or in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My heart goes out to all of them - they're only human, and we all fuck up sometimes, don't we, guys?  Compassion, not judgment, is needed here now.

What pisses me off is how an act of God has become another political football so quickly.  I am here to say it has nothing to do with anyone's favorite flavor of politics, and just shut up about it already.  Lots of talking heads on the picture tube are yammering on about who is to blame - most of whom have never set a foot in Texas, or know shit about the Texas energy grid, or can even tell a transistor from a capacitator.  But suddenly they are mouthing off like they know fuck-all about it.

It may well be that some actors or agencies failed to prepare for this crisis as well as they might have - Texas has plenty of everything, including assholes - but I am willing to say that I don't know enough yet to fix any blame, and will reserve judgment until I do.  If anyone really, really needs an answer right now this minute, here is a report from NPR that seems to explain what happened in a calm, reasonable way.  And if that isn't enough for you, just go away.

I will say one more thing before I close:  I will never vote to do away with natural gas.  It has kept us alive through a week of bitterly cold nights inside this house.  Every time the electricity was cut off, so was our gas furnace, which is connected to an electric thermostat.  The only thing to do was light candles and go sit in the kitchen by the gas stove, which we turned on and opened the oven door.  Just as our mamas and grandmas always did when occasion demanded.

That not only saved us from going into shock, it also kept the pipes from freezing and bursting, which would have flooded the house.  And then what would have happened to us?  There was nowhere to go over icy roads in the dark - all the motels are full up, and Mick's family are miles away - three of their homes have been dark since Monday, anyway.  We could easily have become a pair of statistics such as you've already heard about.

Nope, nope, nope - spare me your environmental whine.  When you have sat up shivering all night for a week in the dark, not knowing when or IF the electricity would come back on, then we can continue the conversation but not before.  No matter how the electricity is generated, there has to be a backup when the electric grid fails.  This is just as true in the summer as in the winter.  I'm talking simple survival, not politics.  

That's all I have to say.  We're okay for now, and I hope all of you are too.  It's 15 degrees outside at this moment, and pretty damn nippy inside, too.  I'll write more when I've thawed out more.  

Update, 4 p.m.:  Unexpectedly, it's up to forty degrees outside, hooray!  And about 65 inside, thanks be to God.

Click to enlarge.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sunday Drive: I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Mornin', guys.  It's cold as fuck here in Texas: 17 degrees, and the wind chill is just above zero.  We got a couple inches of snow on the ground and more falling.  The governor declared the whole state a disaster area yesterday; temps are going down to the single digits in most places tonight.  I see by the weather map that we're not the only ones hurting, either.  This just might be the most frigid Valentine's Day in the nation's history, ya think?  

The temperature inside this drafty old house is not exactly warm, either; despite the central heat running day and night, it's a little below 60 degrees, so we are both swaddled in flannels and woolens.  But last night M.P. did a lot to warm us up when he cooked a steaming big pot of beans and hamhock, with jalapeno cornbread on the side.   Mmmm-mmm, that was some mighty fine eatin'.  I tell you what.

Hope all my truckbuddies are staying warm.  Here's a hot little song to help y'all out.



Thursday, February 11, 2021

What I'm Watching: A Trip down Market Street, 1906


Only in San Francisco: a world without rules!  The libertarian's dream.  What would that look like?  This film shows you clearly, with a camera mounted on a streetcar proceeding leisurely through the heart of the great city in a very casual mix of streetcars, horses, buggies, automobiles, bicycles, and fleet-footed pedestrians - a jaw-dropping sight sure to raise the hair on your head.

Just four days later, it all came crashing down.  Alas, Babylon!

The film speed has been corrected, and a bit of sound and color added.  The video description on the YouTube page explains how the film was made and much later found and restored.  A priceless piece of American history you won't forget.


Friday, February 5, 2021

What I'm Watching: Trains That Passed in the Night

Hotshot Eastbound, by O. Winston Link, 1956; fair-use image from Wikipedia

I don't have much to say these days.  I did my part to restore our democracy and decency by casting my ballot for Joe Biden; and thank God he was duly elected and is now our President.  It's a big, big job to lead and heal this nation - especially in this new era of confusion and chaos, folly and fraudulence.  May God bless and sustain him, and all who are working for justice, unity, and peace.

M.P. and I, though, have declared a moratorium on news-watching and discussion thereof.  Even though good people are in power once again, the rising tide of arrogance, ignorance, and downright evil spreads so far and wide, like a second plague, that it just upsets us both out of all patience.  But there is no point ranting and raving about it, disrupting the tranquility of our little home and our peace of mind.  So although there are many things I could say about the insanity of the modern world, I prefer not to.

It was remarkable, a year ago, how palpably one felt a new era rumble into being:  plague, poverty, riots, politics, all the hammer blows that changed the world happening at once.  And all of it ghastly.  I very much feel that I do not belong here:  not a century I like or want to live in.  The twentieth century was certainly not perfect; but in suburban America, at least, up until sometime in the 1960s, the world seemed to be operating on fairly stable, rational lines, faith in progress was still possible, and beauty was not yet an unspeakable word.  And then somehow, though material things abounded, something of the spirit seemed to be withering away, and the center lost its hold.  Let the reader understand.

Now the whole world seems a darkling plain, swept with confused alarms; when shall we wake from this nightmare?  The future seems dim and doubtful to me; but in the midst of uncertainty we must hope for the best and do what we can.

Like many another old-timer, no doubt, I spend much of my time reading and thinking about the world that was, before everything got so very, very ugly:  old trains, old cars, old houses, old movies, and so forth.  I don't want to turn this blog into a "vintage" site - there are too many of those already - but in the absence of political talk, I may from time to time post some vintage things just to have something nice to show and tell, pleasantries which have nothing to do with present unpleasantness.  

Here is a fascinating video about the photographer O. Winston Link, whom all railfans revere as the patron saint of the steam locomotive.  In the latter half of the 1950's, he documented the last days of steam on the last major railroad to abandon coal-burners, and created a marvelous, magical record of a way of life now changed utterly, a time lost forever.  

I was born just a few years too late to see steam locomotives at work, but Link's photography takes me back there - and away from this fierce, frightful modern world for a little while.  I've known about Link's work for many years, but this is the first time I've heard him speak - a treat for me.


The video is blurry, unfortunately, but all of Link's original photos were quite sharp and clear as crystal.  If anyone wants to see more of Link's superb photography, I can recommend his book, Steam, Steel, and Stars, very highly. 

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