Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Went To See The Circus In Tulsa and Covered All My Basses

Last Friday a buddy and I (the same guy who talked me into seeing Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction) road-tripped to Tulsa to see Les Claypool, bassist extroidanaire and frontman of Primus.  For many (most?) of you out there, those names might not mean much -- I only had a skin-deep knowledge of his music -- but boy, was I in for an experience.

The night began enjoyably enough.  After beers and burgers at James E. McNellie's Public House (a cool joint, if you're ever in the area), we walked over to Cain's Ballroom, a 1920s-era dance hall that's historically known as the home of Bob Wills, but today attracts some of the top musical talent anywhere.  As an aside, I've gotta say that my buddy and I were really impressed with Tulsa's downtown -- there were a ton of cool and busy neighborhoods with sidewalk cafes, bars, and a pretty respectable live music scene.  We'll definitely be back.

When we arrived at Cain's, Split Lip Rayfield, the speed-grass trio from Wichita/Kansas City/Lawrence, were in full swing.  For those not hip to the Lip, SLR's trademark is the bass player's single-string upright bass made out of a gas tank, allegedly from an old 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis.  They were a ton of fun, and a great warmup for the main event.

Claypool's band entered the stage first... three dudes, dressed up in tuxedos, all looking very, very similar (I learned later that this was because they were wearing creepy, Phantom of the Opera-style masks).  One dude sat down behind a gargantuan drum kit, another positioned himself around more percussion and an array of xylophones, and the final band member sat on a chair and began playing the cello.  Nary a guitar to be seen all night.  It was the weirdest, most head-scratchingly odd night of music I've witnessed.  Don't believe me?  Check out the video below, where Our Man Les comes out dressed in a Planet of the Apes mask wailing on some freaky-ass stick bass.

The next day, back at Casa Scampwalker, I downloaded some Les.  To put it mildly, it's a bit lost in translation when it's not live.  Is it the kind of music I'd listen to on a daily basis?  Hell no.  But it was still a great show, and one I'm glad I saw.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Road Photo Friday: "¿Camarones, Señores?"

I just returned to rainy Kansas from a nice day or two off the coast of Galveston, Texas fishing for red snapper.  We caught a ton of them -- they weren't in season, but the 20 pound brutes were still a ton of fun to haul in.

The trip reminded me of the photo above, which I took a couple of summers ago while fishing about 20 miles off the coast of Port Mansfield.  We were on our way back into port after a successful outing when our captain abruptly changed course towards an anchored shrimp boat.

We idled up to the Michael S. and our guide shouted, "Camarones, senores?"  The Mexican shrimping crew threw us a rope, we tied off, and the exchange began.  Our captain pulled a case of Bud Light out of the cooler, and handed it to the Mexican mate.  In return, we received a garbage bag full of freshly caught shrimp -- probably 15 pounds worth.  Not a bad trade at all.

That night we feasted on a lowcountry boil and washed it down with Shiner Bock (we saved the good stuff for us) while we watched the sun set on the Laguna Madre.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Bought A Black Gun.

I've always considered myself more of a walnut and case-colored shotgunner, but over the weekend, I found myself in possession of a DPMS Panther Arms 5.56mm Oracle. The deal was hard to pass up -- $699 at Cabela's, and I had about $400 in Cabela's gift cards that made the effective price ridiculously cheap.

So now I own what's essentially the same gun as the standard-issue field weapon of the U.S. military. Most everyone that I've told thus far (mosty non-hunters or non-shooters) ask me what I'll do with it. A fair question, and one I expect I'll get from some hunting purists who disdain this sort of firearm for one reason or another. All I know is that my son and I are getting pretty excited to take it out and punch a few holes in some paper. Sure, a .22 is cheaper, but not nearly as effective against zombie attacks.

I've only dipped my big toe into the subculture of the AR-15, and while some seems a bit over the top, the boy and I are excited about doing a few mods and making the gun our own. Sort of a father-son soapbox racer project for the 2nd Amendment crowd. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Road Photo Friday: Pool Rules

Mrs. Scampwalker actually pointed out this sign to me, which was taken at our hotel in Abilene, Texas about a month ago on our trip to pick up LuLu.  An unapologetic West Texas native, she made the following observation:  "You know you're in West Texas when the signs have to spell out that chewing tobacco and spit cups in a pool are forbidden."

Truer words are seldom spoken!  Have a great weekend, everone.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Doggie Style at the Dog Park: A One-Act Play

SCENE: A warm spring Sunday evening at Shawnee Mission Park, a favorite haunt of Scampwalker and his three dogs.  As he pulls into the crowded parking lot, he realizes that this isn't the same off-leash park he's used to visiting at sunrise.  At that hour, it's a 53-acre paradise that he shares only with Dottie, Vegas, LuLu, and the occasional Canada goose and whitetail deer. 

This evening however, the park resembles Max Yasgur's Farm on August 18th, 1969.  Shaggy dogs and their equally shaggy human counterparts are there in droves, and a general sense of lawlessness reigns.  Scampwalker and his nine-year-old son Jack exit their truck and drop the tailgate to uncrate the dogs.

JACK: (looking around nervously) Wow, it's really busy here today.

SCAMPWALKER: Yeah, it is.  (Also scanning the scene, trying not to look nervous)  But we're here, so we might as well let them stretch their legs.  Besides, it's a nice evening.

JACK: Ok, Dad. (while politely pushing an enthusiastic jumping dalmatian/corgi mix off of his pantleg)

The father-son duo walk to the water's edge -- an enjoyable 15 minute hike.  Dottie and Vegas range off-lead, as usual, and are polite to other dogs and owners, but also more interested in searching the landscape for the myriad smells, canine and otherwise.

LuLu, at 12 weeks, has learned that she's the cutest thing on four legs -- and milks it for all it's worth.  SCAMPWALKER doesn't mind -- particularly when the pretty girls, dressed for spring in shorts and tank tops, come pet her and snuggle her.  She runs free, but on a 20-foot lead so she's never far from safety.

The merry band of SCAMPWALKER, JACK, and the dogs arrive at the beach -- a hundred-yard stretch of gravel and rock.  Normally, they'd practice water retrieves with Vegas and her beloved Dokken Deadfowl.  This evening, however, it's pandemonium -- much too busy for retrieves.

JACK: Wow, look at all these dogs, dad.

SCAMPWALKER: Yeah, this is crazy.  We'll just spend a couple minutes down here and then head back up.

It's at this point when SCAMPWALKER realizes that keeping an eye on three dogs in a crowd is much more difficult than watching two.

JACK: Dad, that dog is chasing Dottie.

SCAMPWALKER: (scanning beach for Dottie) Where?  I don't see-- aw, shit!

Twenty yards away, a jet-black shepherd mix is preparing to mount Dottie, his prized 10-year-old pointer.  Dottie's look is a mixture of befuddlement, sheepishness, and teenaged breathlessness.

SCAMPWALKER: (running towards the amorous couple) Dottie, no!  Dottie! (thinking: who the hell owns this cretin dog?)  Git!  Go on!  (SCAMPWALKER shoos away the black marauder just before he's able to wrap his front legs around Dottie's flanks.  Crisis averted, but he still has no idea who owns this damned wild dog.  Dottie has already forgotten the entire episode, and trots off to other things.

JACK:  That was pretty close, Dad.  Who owns that black dog?  Can't they keep control of him?

SCAMPWALKER: One would think so, Jack.  But dogs are a lot like people -- some are better behaved than others.  But if they can't behave, they shouldn't be running free at the dog park. (becomes momentarily distracted by 20-something blonde scratching LuLu behind ears).

JACK: Dad, it's that dog again.

SCAMPWALKER: (startled back to reality) What?

At that moment, off his left shoulder, SCAMPWALKER sees the amorous Perro Negro and Dottie shoulder deep in water.  He's up on his back legs, and quickly clamps his front paws around Dot. 

SCAMPWALKER: Dammit!!  Dottie, no!  (Surveying the situation, he sees the jet-black dog's angry red hard-on positioning itself.  He jumps into the water, and grab's Dottie's collar.  Wet from the lake, it slips off -- he's only slowed down the Black Bastard for a few moments.

Finally, SCAMPWALKER notices the "owner" of the beast, at water's edge, donning cutoff jean shorts, a muscle shirt, and a Marlboro Light.  He motions in SCAMPWALKER'S general direction.

REDNECK: Cut it out, Sport. (something less than authoritatively)

SCAMPWALKER: Get your dog off my dog, man! (authoritatively) Dottie, no!

REDNECK: Sorry, dude.  He doesn't do this very often.

SCAMPWALKER:  Very of--- Dammit, if you don't move your dog, I will!

REDNECK: C'mere, Sport. (lackadaisically)

Blood boiling, SCAMPWALKER takes matters into his own hands.  With the dog's sex-fueled hips beginning to pump, there's no time to be diplomatic.  SCAMPWALKER plants the sole of his now-soaking-wet Brooks running shoe into the gaping, grinning maw of Perro Negro.  With a brief yelp, the dog lets go, and Dottie once again trots off as if nothing has happened.

REDNECK: What was that for? (finally, with some emotion)

SCAMPWALKER:  That was for my dog, you idiot!  Keep your dog under control or don't bring him to an off-leash dog park, pal.  Come on, Jack, this is ridiculous.

SCAMPWALKER collects three dogs and son and all go marching back up the hill towards the truck.  About two thirds of the way back, the silence between SCAMPWALKER and JACK becomes awkward.

JACK: You sure can learn a lot at the dog park, can't you dad?

((Fade into sunset))

Friday, April 9, 2010

Road Photo Friday: Milkweed Bugs

This somewhat bizzare photo was taken after one of my kids pointed it out to me during a dove hunt last fall.  Since spring is finally springing around here, it seemed appropriate to include it this week.

The plant is known as milkweed, a fairly common species throughout the United States.  What I'd never seen before however were the colony of bugs glomming onto this particular milkweed pod.  Thinking it'd make for a nice image, I snapped a photo, and promptly forgot about it until recently.

Turns out, after a bit of armchair research, those bugs are milkweed bugs.  They're one of the few critters that enjoy the taste of sticky, sappy, milkweed goo.  And, as the old adage goes, you are what you eat -- the bugs reflect the taste of milkweed (ever wonder who tests these things?).  Anyhow, their bright orange and black coloring warns potential predators that they're not fit for a meal.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Social Media" My Ass

Southwest Flight 17 from Kansas City to Dallas touches down on runway 13R, and it immediately begins. Twenty-some-odd rows of six people reach for their iPhones, Blackberries, and Droids as soon as rubber meets runway. We make phone calls, check emails from the office, text loved ones (legitimate and otherwise), update Facebook walls, tweet our most mundane thoughts, and let the world know our location on apps like Foursqure. This, in the 21st Century, suffices for social interaction.

At a bar the other night with a few buddies, the conversation lulled, and we all impulsively reached for our phones -- seeing if there's anything important we might have missed in the last fifteen minutes. I take my laptop into a work meeting so I can keep up with emails while I half-assed pay attention to the meeting going on around me. Riding shotgun with my wife last Sunday, I find myself checking my work email -- on Christianity's highest of high holy days -- instead of enjoying the beautiful spring day.

Please stop this bus, I want to get off.

The World Wide Web -- the great liberator and disseminator of information and communication -- seems to be limiting our ability (or at least willingness) to have good, old-fashioned, face-to-face analog communication. This is becoming more and more acute as the internet moves from our homes and offices into the palm of our hands. The world is literally at our fingertips -- and yet we're all becoming more insulated and antisocial.

I'm no luddite. I like technology, gadgetry, and anything else that makes my life easier. And I, for one, don't want to go back to the days of IBM Selectric typewriters, rotary phones, paper maps, and VHS tapes.

But back in the day (and by this I mean 2003, for chrissakes), I used to spend my down time at the airport walking around, checking out the pretty girls, or maybe even starting up a conversation with the random guy sitting next to me at the bar. Now it's spent staring at a tiny display, hoping to keep up with everyone else who is trying to keep up with me.

It's not going to change, of course. And it'll more than likely get much, much more pervasive. But we're forgetting that you can't spell "technology" without "no."

And the latter is a word I need to keep in mind the next time I think about reaching for my smartphone.

Sunday, April 4, 2010