Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir

For those who don't know, the Armadillo World Headquarters was a fairly famous music venue in South Austin that existed through the 1970's.  It's credited with bringing cowboys and hippies together, helping to give birth to a new form of "redneck rock".   Also, along with other famous venues like Threadgill's, Antone's, and Liberty Lunch, it's said to have to have helped to establish Austin as a legitimate music scene.

This particular book about AWHQ was written by Eddie Wilson, an investor, concert promoter, and sort of locally famous personality.  Wilson was also one of the early key players and founders of AWHQ.

A quick glance at the few reviews of the book on Amazon left me with the impression that many of them had been written by friends of the author or by people who didn't actually read the book.

So, even though I checked the book out of the library instead of buying it through Amazon, I left a review of my own:

"Austin needed a book about the Armadillo World Headquarters and the music scene
in which it existed- it's just that Eddie Wilson probably wasn't the best guy to write it. Wilson, by his own admission, spent most of his time steering clear of the musicians and artists who actually brought fame to the Armadillo. When he actually did interact with artists, it feels like many of them may not have trusted him. It was hard for me to come away from this book feeling like I was even getting a true story from Wilson much of the time (he constantly speaks of AWHQ money problems and tries to assert his own hippie cred, taking advantage of hippie culture to garner employees who work for free or next to nothing to help establish the Armadillo, while Wilson, himself, doesn't seem to noticeably have much trouble paying his own bills while living in a house in the posh neighborhood of Tarrytown).
Wilson's focus on business means that the book spends more time discussing marketing campaigns, minutiae regarding building renovations, and lease agreements than it spends on getting to know any of the actual musicians who brought fame to the Armadillo or their concerts.
Wilson has a perspective, to be sure, and he manages to conjure up a few interesting tales to tell from his own point of view, but I felt like, this really wasn't the book about the Armadillo World Headquarters that I was looking for."

 Anyway, the book wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great.  There were times when it painted a pretty good picture of what it was like to own and operate a large, famous business filled with hippies and odd characters in Austin during the 1970s.  There are various stories of drug use, hedonism, and arguments between various stakeholders in the busniness.  Respect is paid to some of the artists who helped keep the business on its feet (Wilson seems to really love the artists who made the promo posters for the Armadillo and the cooks who ran the kitchen), but I never really got an in-depth feel for the music side of things, and that's what made me want to read a book about the AWHQ in the first place.  Most of the stories about musicians are pretty short, and the descriptions of actual shows at the Armadillo are generally limited and sort of perfunctory.

Oh well.  It was a decent description of the Austin scene at the time, I guess.
I was just hoping for more in terms of the views, attitudes, inspiration, and mindset of musicians who lived in and passed through the Armadillo World Headquarters over the years.
Maybe a book by the sound engineers or other people who actually worked more with the bands is what I was looking for... 

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Hola!  Hope everyone had a good weekend.
It was Veterans Day on Saturday, so I special shout out to our veterans.  Thank you for your service!
My office is traditionally closed for a holiday on Veterans Day.  Because it fell on a weekend this year, they gave us the day off on Friday.  It was sort of weird to have the day off, given that I'm not a veteran, but I'll take those free holidays where I can get them.  Amy had work on Friday, and Raylan went to school.
In the morning I ran errands and got the grocery shopping done.
In the afternoon I went out for pizza and beer with my friend, Robert, from work.

Having an IPA in honor of our nation's veterans
Raylan is captivated by the hypnotic glow of the the
Mickey Mouse bubble wand.
Raylan was scheduled to have a party for his class, The Monkeys, from school.  It was supposed to be at the home of his classmate, Alex, but Alex came down with the flu the day before the party.  Amy volunteered to swing by and pick up the party supplies from Alex's parents so we could move the party to Ramsey Park.
Saturday morning was slightly chaotic as we dashed around town to pick the stuff up and get to the park on time, but, in the end, it all came together really well.  The weather was nice, the kids seemed to have fun, and the parents were relaxed and talkative.
As usual at such events, Raylan was super excited and played to the point of exhaustion.  In the pictures below you can sort of see him losing steam over a couple of hours.

From left to right, Sam, Ian, Lowry, Genevieve, and Raylan.
They're waiting for their turns to spin and Monkeyin' around!

Here Raylan is a little annoyed that the kids aren't spinning this
thing correctly.

After more than an hour of playing, social niceties go out the window and we 
just sort of melt down instead of patiently waiting for our turn on playground
I've been there, buddy.

Back up on Dad's shoulders, and in a better mood.
Saturday afternoon we took care of a few chores.

One of the chores involved getting rid of our old elliptical machine.  We tried to give it to the Salvation Army, but they didn't pick it up, so I put it on Craigslist and our neighborhood listserv as a free item, and someone picked it up on Saturday.
We're getting rid of it to try to make room to convert our third bedroom into a kids' room for a foster child, which is a great reason to get rid of it.  It was surprisingly hard to let it go, though.
When I bought that machine (around 2003) I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am right now, and getting into the habit of exercising on the elliptical really helped start me on a path toward exercising on a regular basis.  It was a genuine lifestyle change, and it all started because I had easy, ready access to a convenient form of cardio exercise in my house.  I started out just marking off days on a calendar and doing a minimum of 3 days a week for 17 minutes at a time (I figured low expectations and just trying to get some consistent exercise was a way to keep myself from burning out and turning the thing into a coat rack).  I watched TV while exercising, and worked my way up to 4 days a week, watching half a program at a time (about 20-22 minutes) until I finally worked my way up to about 5 days a week, and whole episodes.  I also gradually increased the resistance.
Nowadays I go to the gym, instead, and I try to work out 6 days a week (succeeding about 90% of the time).  As Amy correctly pointed out to me once, I sort of now look at exercise as a form of medication to help control blood pressure.
Anyway, losing the elliptical was a little bit like losing a fitness security blanket, but with three Gold's Gyms locations near our house, I think it'll all be okay.

Via con dios, buddy!  You served us very well!

Saturday evening my parents came by for a visit, pizza, and a little bit of the UT game (we beat up on Kansas, but Kansas isn't very good).  We had a really nice time.  It was good to hang out, and Raylan was very excited to see them.

Still supporting those Horns!

Raylan seems to like football.  And grandparent snuggles.
And football grandparent snuggles.
Unfortunately this week our friend, Shelly, had her mother pass away.  It was extremely sad.  Shelly and Kit just had a baby boy, Spencer, born a couple of weeks ago.  I had just met Shelly's mom very recently when we had swung by their house to meet Spencer for the first time.
At any rate, I bring this up because Amy went over to Shelly and Kit's house to try to do some house chores for them on Sunday while Shelly, Kit, and Spencer are with Shelly's father and family.
So the three of us went out for breakfast Sunday morning at La Posada, and after that Raylan and I were a dynamic duo for the rest of the morning.
Among other activities, we converted Raylan's crib into a toddler bed.  We had debated going straight to a twin bed, but Raylan really loves his crib (he asks to sleep in it, likes to sit in it when he's tired, and still kicks his feet up on the railings at times).  Anyway, he's really comfortable in his bed, so we decided to give him this intermediate step.  He helped me unscrew some screws and put the new pieces on, which made him very excited about the whole thing.

The "Big Boy Bed"!
We also got Raylan a haircut.  It was a bumpy process.  The woman who was cutting Raylan's hair was young, and she seemed really nervous about doing a toddler haircut.  At first she said she wasn't going to cut the sides or the back at all (she was just doing some weird "styling").  I basically had to argue with her to get her to actually shorten his hair, and even then she didn't do a heck of a lot.
Raylan's current hairstyle is called the "We Tried" hairdo.

We had lunch and Raylan went down for his Sunday afternoon nap.  After reading a story and getting him into his toddler bed, I could hear Raylan singing when I tried to head back to the other room.
"You gotta go to sleep, buddy."
"I am asleep."
"No you're not.  You're looking right at me.  And you're singing."
"I am asleep."
"I don't think you are."
"I want my mom."

I told him that his mom was gonna be really bent out of joint if she came home and Raylan wasn't sleeping.  I'm not sure if that argument worked, or if he just lost the will to fight by that point, but he went to sleep.

Sunday night we had salmon dinner, and that was pretty much it.

I'm still watching and enjoying Star Trek: Discovery.  I'm also reading Armadillo World Headquarters:  A Memoir.  It must be having a bigger impact on me than I realized because last night I had a dream of being in 1970's Austin and listening to hippie bluesrock bands.
Far out, man.

Well, that's it.  I hope everyone has a good week.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Hope all is well.  We just wrapped up a pretty warm November weekend.
On Friday night we had a family dinner at La Posada.  It was fun.  Nice to see everyone, eat some tasty Mexican food, and hang out. Ryan has started a new job working for Northwestern University.  He works from home, but he's based out of Chicago.  He flew up there last week, and he's up there again this week.
It was good to catch up with him a bit before he left town again.

We also finished Stranger Things, Season 2 on Friday night.  I enjoyed it.  Amy seemed to enjoy it, too, although she said it wasn't as good as last season.
Which might be true.
But it was still fun.

Saturday we ran errands and went to a birthday party for Raylan's classmate, Lowry.  Lowry is a fun kid.  He almost always seems to be in a good mood when I see him at Raylan's school.
The party was at a park in Mueller.  There were a handful of the kids from Raylan's class there, and they ran around on the playground like little crazy people, ate cake, and drank juice.  Raylan played so hard that he got really sweaty.  After we got home and got him cleaned up, he took about a three and a half hour nap.

Spider boy!
Raylan points out Lowry's cake to him.  So Lowry won't miss it.
On Saturday night I watched a bit of the UT-TCU game.  It was boring and we lost.  I don't think I'm a Shane Buechele fan any more at this point.
On Sunday we went to Kerbey in the morning for breakfast.  Raylan ate a lot.  Very slowly.

When you're eating, it's important to spend the first 30 minutes or so
just getting to know your food without really tasting or swallowing it.
We took care of more chores.  We played with Raylan.
I got a TB test.  I'm not really sure what we did, but it seemed like we stayed pretty busy.

In case you were wondering, Transformers masks are primarily meant to
be worn while dancing.

That was about it.  Sunday night I watched an episode of Star Trek: Discovery while Amy did some reading.
That was it.

I hope that all is well with everyone.  Have a nice week!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


A rare, midweek post, but...
Yesterday was Halloween!

I went to work during the day.  No, I didn't wear a mask in court all morning, but once the defendants had been cleared out of Court 8 after dockets were done, I posed with the Court 8 ladies and the judge for a picture.

From left to right, that's me, Carla, Libby, Veronica, Krishna, and Rebecca.
 Judge Barrera is the Iron Man in the back.
On the drive home from the office it was cold outside and raining.  The rain sort of alternated between a mist and genuine showers.  I wasn't sure there was going to be any trick or treating at all.
I stopped and picked up some pizza for the fam on my way home.
By the time we got done eating, the rain had stopped, at least momentarily.  Ryan and Jamie's neighborhood traditionally has more decorations and more trick or treaters than our 'hood, so we decided to put on our costumes and make a quick dash over there so Raylan could hit a few houses. We really weren't sure how much Raylan would like trick or treating or whether he would wear his costume, and we weren't sure whether the weather would hold up, but we wanted to give it a try.

Jean, Amy, and Greg suit up for the big event 

Well, helloooooooo, pumpkin!
Ryan was out of town on a work trip for his new job, but Jamie was at their house handing out treats.
We stopped by to say hi, and then worked our way up and down their street.
Raylan loved it!  We had to sort of wrangle him to make sure he ran to the right houses, but he eagerly ran up to the doors, knocked on them, and even said "trick or treat!" and "happy Halloween!".
He got so excited that it was actually sort of hard to keep up with him at times.  He commented on the decorations at people's houses and on the costumes that the kids were wearing.

A happy ghost, a happy pumpkin, and a jellyfish who happens
to really dig Pink Floyd

Raylan, paralyzed with indecision about the candy options.

A ghost, possessed by the spirit of Halloween

Anyway, it did rain a little bit, but it didn't seriously start coming down until after we had finished the block.  Raylan was both worked up with excitement as well as getting tired after covering the block (these might sound mutually exclusive, but any toddler parent will assure you that they are not), so we quit while we were ahead.  We went back to Aunt Jamie's house, and Raylan got to play with the dogs a bit.  Greg and Jean got a quick tour of Ryan's comic and figure collection (which they were appropriately amazed by).
Anyway, it was a very successful Halloween.  As I was tucking Raylan in to go to sleep that night, he asked me if I remembered trick or treating (which had happened an hour prior) and told me that he liked seeing all of the people and that he had fun.
Sounds like a positive review to me.

Monday, October 30, 2017


Hey!  It's been a busy, but fun week over at our house.
With Halloween right around the corner, I carved a jack-o'-lantern with Raylan on Wednesday night.
I asked him what sort of face the jack-o'-lantern should have, and he seemed to put some serious thought into it before responding that it should be a sad pumpkin with a square nose.  I tried to throw out some other, more traditional jack-o'-lantern face choices (happy, scary, etc.), but he was set on sad with a square nose.  Soooo....

I'm not sure why I'm sad, doc.  It's just sort of a general malaise...
On Friday Amy and I celebrated our anniversary!  Four years of marriage!
I love you, Amy!  We had a busy day planned, but we got a chance to go out to lunch together at Zocalo Cafe, and that was nice.
Friday afternoon my office held it's annual trick or treating event for the children of our employees.
It's a really fun deal.  People decorate pretty much the whole floor for our trial division with spooky decorations.  Some people dress up, and lots of people hand  out candy.

The Super Paralegals!  David is Captain America, JJ is Storm, and
Jamie is some sort of weird Batgirl (I told her that Batgirl doesn't
wear a tutu, but she seemed unfazed)
I thought that Raylan would be sort of scared of all of the decorations and people in costume, but he was pretty happy to take part in the whole thing.  He's been reading some books about trick or treating, and he's seen a few cartoons about it, and he jumped right in.

Raylan scores some loot from Ashley, one of our most fun and
festive interns.
Raylan also ran into one of his former schoolmates, Will, whose
mother I work with.  It was sort of funny.  They've both grown so much since
seeing each other, but I got the feeling that they sort of recognized each other in a
vague way.  But couldn't quite place it...
Anyway, Raylan enjoyed the trick or treating much more than I expected.  He grabbed candy, and said, "Trick or treat!" and, "Happy Halloween!"
He also wore his ghost costume the whole time.  Amy made it, and it's really cute.
Raylan wanted to be a happy ghost, and Amy really pulled it off.

Later on Friday night Amy's parents arrived in town for a visit.
They didn't get to our house until about 8:30 (Raylan was asleep), but we had dinner and a drink with them and got to catch up.  It was really nice.

On Saturday Amy and Jean went to the gym, and we ran a few errands (one with her parents).  In the afternoon, Greg and I went over to the Austin Beer Garden Brewery for their October Fermentation Fest.  We had some beers, sat outside to enjoy the beautiful weather, and just got a chance to chat and relax a bit.  It was really fun!  We also got some cool boot-shaped beer glasses that they were using for the festival.

Greg suits up for Fermentation Fest
On Saturday the four adults plus Raylan went to La Posada for dinner.  The food was good, the conversation was good, and we had a nice time.

On Sunday Greg and I went to see Bladerunner 2049 at the Alamo.  I had seen the movie once before, but I had felt, even seeing it the first time, that it was a film that was definitely deserving of a number of repeat viewings.
We had a really good time.  Greg actually caught a clue early in the movie that I wasn't able to catch. [spoiler] There is a name written upon a wall at the beginning of the film at Sapper Morton's farm which is apparently a woman's name, written in Russian.  Greg actually reads some Russian, and he said he figured that the name would have some importance later in the film.  Well, as they eventually end up going on the hunt for the replicant child...
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie again.

On Sunday evening we met up with my parents at the Salt Lick out in Driftwood.  On the day that we had been married back in 2013, we had a family dinner out at the Salt Lick, so it seemed appropriate to go out there again.  As luck would have it, the hostess sat us at the same table where we had sat 4 years ago.  It's a big place, so that was sort of weird!

The more things change...

Mother-daughter barbecue time!

Yes, there's a Tardis in the parking lot at the Salt Lick.
Of course.
Time Lords love BBQ.

Raylan's grandmas!

We had a great time having everyone join us for dinner!  It's kind of a haul to get to the Salt Lick, so thanks to the parents/grandparents for coming out!

Raylan has a bit of a cold or something which has been slowly developing over the weekend, so we ended up cutting dinner a little bit shorter than we otherwise might have, but we still had a nice time.
(By last night he even had a little bit of a fever, although he slept in this morning and seems to be doing better).

Anyway, that was the weekend!  It was fun!

I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: The Last Stand

So I just finished The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick.
It's a good book.  It paints a vivid, thoroughly researched portrait of George Armstrong Custer, the 7th Cavalry, and  the events which occurred during the hunt for Sitting Bull and the Lakota, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne tribes in the Montana Territory in 1876.  I recently read Philbrick's Bunker Hill, and I'm not sure that this book flowed quite as well, but then again, Bunker Hill covers a longer period of time with many more events, so maybe the chronological chain of occurrences in that book contributed to the difference in styles.
Philbrick does a good job of exploring Custer as an actual human being rather than as the mythological figure that he's come to represent over time.  He portrays the good (civil war hero, decorated for bravery), the bad (Custer's impulsive nature, which had led him to the brink of disaster in prior battles against the Indians), and the ugly (Custer's penchant for keeping captured Indian women in his camp for use as, essentially, sex slaves).  One things that this book really drove home was the general awfulness of the American treatment of Native Americans during the push to move them onto reservations in an attempt to "pacify" those populations as well as the savage resistance mounted against that effort by certain tribes and tribal leaders.  The book is replete with violent images of Sitting Bull's warriors as they lay waste to Custer's forces, including the torture of soldiers and the mutilation of bodies following the battle.  Philbrick is quick to recount reasons for the rage that drove the Indians, though, alluding to various "battles" which the cavalry had previously engaged in which had actually amounted to massacres of women, children, and elderly members of the tribes which Custer faced (including at least one really disturbing event where the army had paraded the corpses of dead Indians through city streets in celebration after one such event).  Even before this battle, Custer's own scouts killed a number of Indian children who were found in the area just prior to the commencement of the fighting.  In fact, the mutilation of dead American soldiers following Little Bighorn was apparently carried out in many cases by women from the tribes, who visited pent up rage upon their dead enemies.  The carnage had become pretty awful on both sides by the time the Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred, although the U.S. military was undoubtedly the aggressor in the conflict.  It's obviously impossible to seize lands from indigenous peoples while refusing to tolerate dissent without being the aggressor, and, in addition, American forces, often seeing the Indians as almost less than human, carried out atrocities with alarming frequency.  Violent backlash was to be expected.

Anyway, the expansion of the American West was. for a great many of the participants, a horror show.
That's not the sort of thing I was really made to understand during my history classes in high school, but it's a truth that, as an adult, I've come to more fully recognize.

[I'd previously read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and I had been sort of turned off by what I considered to be the over-the-top violence depicted in the book.  Reading a more historical account of events in the American West, I'm struck by the fact that the real world violence is only barely less horrific than the fictional version that I had previously considered unrealistic.]

When you consider the violence, intolerance, and oppression that was utterly enmeshed into the fabric of our culture as a developing nation, it really lends a different perspective to modern debates on topics ranging from civil rights to racism to the actual nature of the "American Dream".
We still have a long way to go, but, man, we've had a lot to overcome.

As with Bunker Hill, Philbrick does a good job of exploring and depicting the leaders involved in the run up to the battle.  His portrayal of not only Custer, but the officers within the 7th Cavalry, includes explorations of their motivations, their personalities, and the interpersonal relationships, friendships, and rivalries which ultimately played out as the battle itself unfolded.

It's a good book.  Admittedly, I didn't know much about the events surrounding the Battle of the Little Bighorn before reading the book other than believing that, "Custer was supposedly overconfident and got a bunch of soldiers killed."
As usual when reading history, there's a lot more to the story (although I'm not sure that my limited initial assumptions, although vague, were incorrect ).
There are some serious history buffs out there who might have a different take on the book, but I found it an interesting, compelling, and hopefully fairly accurate read.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Our week was good, but went by really fast.

The work week seemed particularly busy.
After a day involving a hearing in district court on Thursday, Amy came home and made pasta with sausage and spinach.  I came home from working late(ish) at vet court to a very nice meal.  I love my wife!
On Saturday we had a foster care training all day.  The material was pretty good, but the pace of presentation was a little slow.  That night Amy and I had a nice dinner at Cypress Grill.
Mom and Dad took Raylan on Saturday.  He went to a pumpkin patch and the park and got to see some horses.  Seems like he had a blast.

Sunday was mostly occupied by running errands and taking care of chores.  We did grocery shopping, installed a carbon monoxide detector and a new light fixture, and took care of a few other errands.
That was about it.  We also watched Kingdergarten Cop and Gremlins.

So that was the weekend.  This is a short post, but it was a quick weekend.

Have a good week!!