Posts Tagged ‘fort worth’

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It wasn’t far from our house, just a few miles away and ran east and west adjacent to I30 in between Fort Worth and Weatherford, “The Old Weatherford Road” according to the road signs.

On its east end which started in far west Fort Worth just a short distance north of the highway were the subdivisions of cookie-cutter look-alike houses but once you got past those it was a nondescript two-lane road that stretched as far as the eye could see. On each side of it were generic barb-wire fences on the other side of which were fields of Johnson grass, weeds and mesquite trees.

The fields would break occasionally to give way to a majestic ranch-house type of home, probably no doubt belonging to someone who could afford to build their little “JR Ewing” type home away from the city, a doctor, lawyer or judge perhaps, but these were few and far apart unlike the previously-mentioned “cookie-cutter” houses in the subdivisions on the roads east end which were built close together. The road would twist and turn once in a while but for the most part was in a straight line. The local teenagers must have been fond of this road too for the ditches on both sides of the road were always full of aluminum beer cans I would occasionally pick up and when I did I always brought a lot of them home to go sell at the scrap yard.

We loved to drive out there from time to time. It was just outside the city, but not real far away. I would ease off the gas pedal and we would drive slowly down the road, just cruising and taking it easy. We called it “our old country road” and just generally found it very relaxing to take this little drive. We brought our nine-year old grandson from Canada out here and he would sit on the sill of the car window and stick his tongue out as the wind blew in his hair: “Look at me: I’m a dog!” he would say as we all laughed. But like all good things it would come to an end when we saw the gate that led to a large ranch on the road’s west end and we hit a dead end on Aledo Road near Weatherford. I would turn left and get back on I30 heading east and back to Fort Worth.

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We always took our cameras because we never knew what we would see. There was usually all sorts of wildlife to be seen: deer would leap over the fences in front of our car and bolt across the road as coyotes called out in the distance. Cottontail rabbits would run alongside of the road with us. We would see hawks flying overhead or ugly buzzards perched on fences or tree limbs just off the roads. Once we found a huge tortoise crossing the road far from the nearest creek. Another time we pulled up to a bird on a fence singing his heart out to us.

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There were a couple of creeks running adjacent to the road and once just on instinct I stopped the car, got out and peered over a fence just in time to see a heron the size of a large dog spread its wing and take flight. Other times there would be large black-tailed deer sipping water there.

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It was on this same road I snapped the photo of a large owl perched in a tree right off the side of the road. I lived on a 55-acre farm in nearby Parker county for three years in the 1980s and never ever got this close to an owl.

About mid-point down the road there was a very old tree my wife would always make me stop so she could take a photo of it. I never really understood her fascination for this one particular tree, but I always hit the brakes so she could take this photo and now I am so thankful I did. Over the last couple of years I began to get an ominous feeling when we drove down this road and when we drove down it yesterday we saw something that confirmed my gut feelings. Change was coming and it wasn’t pretty.

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As we drove past some of the larger homes on the road I noticed a new sign on the side of the road: LARGE TRUCKS CAUSING ROAD DAMAGE- USE CAUTION. “This can’t be good”, I thought to myself. And sure enough as we drove along I noticed the fence lines alongside of the road now had freshly-cut tree stumps on both sides of them. Where there used to be thick forests areas were now cleared out by bulldozers. Ugly gas wells were on both sides of the road. And adding insult to injury we didn’t see one single living animal along the whole way.

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Where there used to be pastures where horses and cattle grazed looked like the aftermath of a war zone; entire fields had been bulldozed and leveled, the horses and cattle nowhere to be seen. Bundled stacks of green plastic pipe for what I suppose were for future gas and sewer lines were piled up everywhere and when we came around the curve to where the tree my wife always like to photograph was, the tree was still there but everything around it had been leveled and bulldozed flat; the tree looked like a lost child, out of place amidst the destruction. The tree where I took the photograph of the owl was gone as were all the trees that were formerly around it.

When we got to the end of the road there was a huge sign from some realty company: “ COMING SOON: New homes in the $250s!” I steered the car left towards I30 as both our hearts and stomachs collectively sank. “Progress” was now taking our little getaway road away from us and there was nothing we could do about it. We drove towards I30 in near silence.

Realistically I suppose it’s inevitable; damn near everything from Fort Worth to Granbury is paved over as is almost everything else in north Texas is these days. Five years from now there will probably be a WalMart, a Love’s truck stop and a Buccees on that road along with the McDonalds, Raising Canes fried chicken, Wendy’s, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Dollar Tree and the CVS and Walgreens across the roads from each other etc etc etc and I would be foolish to think there’s anything I could do about it but it doesn’t make it any less of a shame. After all one person can’t stop “Progress”

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I’ve written before on this site about the new drive-in theater that has opened near where I live; the Coyote just north of downtown Fort Worth. They opened in 2013 with three screens and business has been so successful for them they have erected a fourth screen in the last year. Since they cater to families anxious to share the nostalgia with their kids, the Coyote pretty much only shows “family films”.

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They are the one, the only, the sole drive-in theater within an hour’s drive of my home. There are three more in North Texas that I am aware of but they are all a considerable driving distance from my house. The Coyote caters hard to families, running mostly PG family movies. Off-duty police officers provide security and they reserve the right to search your vehicle. They have the only drive-in game in town and market themselves as a novelty form of family entertainment.

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We had our nine-year-old grandson staying with us again this summer and two of my wife’s older children spent a couple of weeks with us during the latter half of August. Of course we dragged them to the drive-in theater a couple of times while they were here since drive-ins are even scarcer in Canada than they are here. And boy have I been getting caught up on my “family films”: this summer alone I have sat through MINIONS, INSIDE OUT and most recently we took the kids to see SHAUN THE SHEEP.

Now mind you I actually LIKED Shaun the Sheep in spite of it being a “family film” but as we sat in our lawn chairs broiling in the Texas summer heat (it’s still hot here even after the sun goes down) my mind couldn’t help but drift back to the early 80s when Joe Bob Briggs still had his column in the Dallas Times Herald and the few remaining drive-ins left in the Dallas/Fort Worth area DIDN’T cater to families.

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In the early 80s I had a friend named Tom who purchased a used1976 VW camper van from an attorney. It had a fridge, a 4-burner stove and the top popped open so that six people could watch a movie at the drive in in perfect comfort. We began to scout out the remaining drive-ins in the DFW area.

The drive-ins by this point had endured the advent of cable TV and the mass realization of millions of former film goers that they could run the “audio out” cables on their VCRs into their stereo receivers and turn their living rooms into state-of-the-art theaters. And then there was the video stores which in the early 80s began popping up everywhere; people could rent movies for as little as a dollar. Why drag the whole family to the drive in and pay $4 a head to see THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or MAD MAX when they could rent the movie for the whole family for a dollar? The drive-ins by the mid 80s were all pretty much in their death throes and they knew it. Eventually they just quit trying; sometimes they would get a pair of movies that became stock features, change the B-features they were paired with from week to week and switch screens every week as if the regulars like us wouldn’t notice. (“Rambo AGAIN?”)

It was about this time we noticed there was a sub-genre of films that would occasionally pop up on the drive-in screen; movies with an extra dose of sex and violence. Some would call them exploitation films; we called them “drive-in movies” though because they were meant to be shown in drive-ins or other such theaters that were desperate to sell admission tickets.

Unless they were showing something everyone wanted to see (a first run of a FRIDAY THE 13th sequel or cult favorites like THE ROAD WARRIOR) it wasn’t unusual for Tom and I to pull into the drive in theater and see the place nearly empty. It was shocking to pull in and see the theater packed in fact on the rare nights that happened.

And security was lax to put it lightly. The only time I ever saw police officers at the drive-in was at the entrance to the four-screen Century in Grand Prairie where officers stationed at the box office made everyone open their trunks and ice chests; weapons and drinks in glass containers were forbidden. A case of beer in aluminum cans? Enjoy the show, boys.

Unlike the Coyote who have a strict policy on outside food and drinks we would load up on our own liquid refreshments before entering and we also would take frozen dinners in those boiling bags and heat them up in a pot of boiling water on Toms stove. Sometimes we fixed our own hot dogs as well but we always made our way to the snack bar for a large tub of popcorn at some point of the evening. No one ever searched our vehicles; they didn’t want to scare off the ever-shrinking number of paying customers with such Gestapo tactics.

One night we pulled into the drive-in and were flabbergasted to see the place packed to capacity for THE RIGHT STUFF. Another night we pulled into a double feature of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD billed with the infamous BLOODSUCKING FREAKS  only to find it hard to get a parking spot; the place was packed.  As Night ended and Bloodsucking Freaks  began ( BF is basically 90 minutes of nude women being systematically tortured; the management obviously had NO idea just how offensive it really was when they booked it) ; five minutes into the film and the car engines started and the brake lights came on in near-unison as carloads of horrified families sped for the exit. (“ I think the kids done seen enough of THIS one!”) Within mere minutes the drive-in was almost empty we were the sole members of the audience.

However the drive-ins couldn’t afford to exist forever just for the sole pleasure of Tom and I; by the mid 80s the handwriting was on the wall. One drive-in after another closed. First our beloved Cherry Lane, then the Southside Twin. The lone hold-out was the Mansfield which struggled against diminishing crowds until 1992, then they too called it quits. The screens were torn down, the snack bars and ticket booths bulldozed and the properties either became flea markets, WalMarts or were leased to gas drilling companies. It saddened me to see them go, but there was nothing I could do about it.

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For years after that if I wanted to see movies it was either rent them from the video store, wait until they played on cable or just flat out buy them. I got my first DVD player in 2000 and my gigantic VHS collection began to be replaced by a growing number of DVDs, which began to seem like a bad crack habit after a while.

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In 2013 the Coyote was erected with three screens and a fourth added in 2015. Most of what they run are family films with a big emphasis on Pixar and Marvel films. All four lots are usually packed to capacity seven nights a week. It’s a joy and a privilege taking the grandson and my stepchildren to experience the thrill of watching movies under the starry Texas sky.

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But once in a while I still imagine I can see the opening scenes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre flickering in all of their 35mm glory on the screen back-lit by the red glowing Texas sunset on the brand-new screen of the Coyote. Or I can close my eyes and imagine hearing the Ennio Morricone soundtrack of The Good The Bad and the Ugly playing on tinny aluminum speakers as a faint whiff of popcorn drifts through the air. I could try to explain these things to the kiddos but it’s probably best not to even try…

Image The letters announcing meetings concerning roadwork in my neighborhood began arriving about a year ago; water and sewer lines were being upgraded. With much dread I attended each one at my local neighborhood community center. They were usually conducted by some dark-skinned man with a thick but indeterminate Middle Eastern accent and he spoke softly enough to the point I had to strain to hear him at all.

He warned us that besides the sewer, gas and water line improvements they were going to re-surface the streets; some of us were going to get sidewalks as well. And he said also; “This will not be without some pain” Some of us could expect to be inconvenienced for as long as six weeks. He had a map of our neighborhood showing which streets were going to be worked on first. So for a year I’ve been bracing for this. Last spring they called another meeting saying “work would begin soon”. I attended this one and they guy conducting it promised work would begin “soon” , last through September and be completed in November.

In July I got a letter announcing the road work was going to begin “within three days” The next day an earth-moving Cat machine was out in the street in front of my house digging a ditch in the middle of the street, kicking up huge plumes of dirt in the process. A guy with a clipboard looked in the ditch and then they filled the ditch back in with rocks and dirt, leaving a long lumpy bulge in the middle of the street. August and September rolled by; no workers. October through January saw no further work until mid January, when the city workers finally showed up and began digging up the concrete on my street and tearing down the curbs. They also dug up about half my driveway and when they finished they left about a three-foot drop from my yard to what was left of the street below.

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Now I found myself unable to park under the safety of my covered carport because I was afraid of (A) damaging either the oil pan or my transmission underneath my car and (B) getting stuck in the mud . Also there was the matter of having to park somewhere around the corner at night where keeping an eye on it was difficult at best. This wasn’t just my dilemma; everyone on my street was in the same boat. Fortunately I had a neighbor next door who was never home; most of the time she was at her boyfriend’s house elsewhere and only showed up from time to time to check her mailbox for bills. She told me it was okay to park in her driveway; the majority of my neighbors weren’t so lucky however and were now forced to park elsewhere, more often than not around a corner on the next block.    A notice was taped to my front door saying the work would be completed by February 15th.

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I began to buy everything in bulk: cases of soft drinks , larger than usual quantities of laundry soap etc. Anything to minimize the number of trips to the store. This didn’t make having to lug it a little further from around the corner any less convenient however as opposed to my usual routine of pulling into my covered carport and carrying everything just a few feet from the car to my kitchen. So I braced myself for the worst and hoped the city would proceed with the necessary construction and just get it over with. A week of unseasonably 80-degree weather went by and for the entire length of it the workers were completely AWOL. Two more weeks went by , then three. We had a couple of days of rain here and there but otherwise the weather certainly wasn’t any obstacle to completing the construction, yet the workers were still absent for almost a month.

One Saturday night the weatherman was predicting storms with possible hail so I put the car in low gear and climbed the rock and dirt incline that was left of my driveway. We had only a gentle rain but I had to wait a half a day the next day for the driveway to dry out before I felt halfway safe trying to back out of the carport and down the driveway. I backed out slowly and could feel the car sinking in the mud and heard something underneath the car scraping as I backed out into the street. (“Goddammit!”)

We had a second night of rain that turned the street into a soupy pigsty; I didn’t even attempt to drive my car into the driveway after that but even though it was nice of my neighbor to let me park in her driveway, she had a large over-grown and half-dead-looking tree with large limbs hanging precariously over my car that I prayed wouldn’t fall while I was parked underneath. After a month of this I began to wonder where the hell the work crews were; I had seen construction workers erect new banks and multi-story condominiums in less time than the city was taking with this street.

On Tuesday February 12th I had just come home from work and was unlocking my front door when I saw a large SUV coming down the street, its tires caked with wet mud and then slowly edging over the steep drop-off from the paved part from across the street down into the unpaved part of the street in front of my house. “Good luck” I thought to myself as I heard their front end scraping in the street. They stopped in front of what was left of my driveway and the passenger window rolled down. A pretty young Hispanic woman leaned out : “Excuse me do you live here?” “Yes I do”

We’re with channel 11 news; could we have a word with you?” She explained to me that someone had called in and complained about the yet-to-be-completed roadwork and asked if I would speak to them on-camera. You need an Irate Citizen? Look no further; I’m your man!

I told them Sure I’d Do It and within seconds I found a microphone and wireless transmitter being fastened to my work clothes and hidden underneath the gray “hoodie” I was wearing. Her cameraman set up a tripod and she asked me how I felt about living on a dirt road, how long it had been this way etc. I tried not to go Lewis Black on them; I smiled and joked about how “It was like living on an ole country road” and kept my language G-rated so they wouldn’t have to “bleep” me. The cameraman took shots of me looking at the street, walking across what was left of my yard and standing in the Muddy Pit of Horror that was left of my driveway.

That evening President Obama gave his State of the Union address while out on the West Coast Christopher Dorner was being roasted alive in a burning cabin while engaged in a deadly shootout with sheriffs deputies. I just knew my interview about my muddy street would wind up on the cutting room floor, buried under the weight of far more important stories. About nine-thirty or so I set the TIVO to record the news Just In Case they should get desperate enough to fill the thirty minutes of news with my trivial story and crawled into bed. The freshly washed sheets felt good to my skin as I slid into them; sleep wasn’t going to happen fast enough.

I was just on the verge of falling asleep when I heard the motor outside. Something with a large engine idling was parked outside my bedroom and I kept waiting for it to shut off, thinking it was a neighbor’s 4X4 but the engine kept running. Curiosity got the best of me and I peeked through the venetian blinds. It was a KTVT news van with a satellite antenna extended high towards the heavens and I could see a guy in a padded jacket setting up lights in the street. What the hell?

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I quickly got dressed and went outside to check it out. Just as I walked out a second vehicle pulled up in front of the van; it was the reporter I had spoken to earlier in the afternoon. “You’re big appearance is going to be on TV in just a few minutes” she told me. Joking, I asked her if they knew that Christopher Dorner had been cornered in that cabin on the West Coast (she did) then she grabbed a microphone from out of the van and went and stood out in the street in front of the lights. Apparently they were going to shoot a live remote broadcast right out in front of my house. I watched her shoot a couple of takes: “Just look at this street! It’s a muddy mess and it’s just one of several streets in this neighborhood that look like this! The homeowners here are fed up!” then I went inside to watch.

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I’ve never liked the sound of my recorded voice (“That’s me?”) and it was a little uncomfortable seeing myself on TV but sure enough the story began with a shot of their SUV tires slogging through the chocolate colored mud of my street and mud droplets splattering against the camera lens accompanied by my droll voice: “It’s like living on an ole country road…..”

But it’s NOT a country road; this is just one of several streets in this neighborhood that look like this!” the reporters voice added on to my blurb. And then I appeared shaking my shoulders like George Bush as I laughed and joked with the reporter and looking like a total dork in my blue Dickies work shirt and wearing a cap with a bright red maple leaf with the word CANADA underneath. It was about 45 or 50 degrees that day and I was shivering in the cold but I looked like I was having spasms instead. Also my age is starting to show; I turned 54 last August and as I watched myself on TV it occurred to me that I was starting to look like a cranky old geezer.

Ever have somebody insult you and later, much later you thought of the PERFECT “comeback”? I’m feeling that same sense of frustration each and every time I watch myself on this video clip; I should have told them “Pardon me”, run in the house and slipped into my Dennis Worden “I Hate You” t-shirt.

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I should have spoken on-camera with a Yakov Smirnov voice and told them: “Eet ees like living on road in Old Country” But I didn’t think of these things; this news crew caught me totally off-guard, it happened so fast and so suddenly. If nothing else I did get to vent a little bit and hopefully express the frustration the rest of the neighborhood was feeling. But the reporter said at the end of the story that she had contacted the city and the city said that the work was taking longer than usual and wouldn’t be finished until April.

Longer than usual? AprilNOW I’m going “Lewis Black” … Son of a bitch! Damn straight it’s taking longer than usual; they haven’t been doing jack-shit! No one has been doing anything. Excuse me but I thought work was defined by …oh I don’t know … actually doing something. If I performed my job like that, I’d be unemployed so fast….

The next day the work crews were (surprise!) AWOL; another 70-degree day with no work being done. Same thing the next day: nice weather…no work crews in sight. So much for the mighty power of the local news media. I Googled the local city council and found a “Contact” link and typed up a nice polite e-mail complete with a link to the video on the TV stations website and few photos of my street attached. The city did not reply to my email but two days later right before sundown late in the afternoon some construction equipment rolled up in front of my house. For a whopping 15 minutes they scrapped some rocks around with a bulldozer, drove back and forth in front of my house kicking up dirt and then once again rumbled off into the distance after making no visible change in the unpaved road. The city council must have told them to do this in front of my house just to make it look like they were actually doing something.

Ah …. progress! Just shows what you can get done when you rattle the right cages….

see the video here: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/02/12/roads-ripped-out-of-historic-fort-worth-neighborhood/#respond

I’m not above “borrowing” images for file23 from Google Images but I’ve always tried to insert as many photos as I could onto this site that I took myself. Makes the site more personal; more like MY site if I am using my own photos. Photography has always been an interest of mine; ever since I was a child I’ve enjoyed looking at photos I took myself. Frankly I wouldn’t know an F-stop if you hit me over the head with it so I’ve usually just delegated myself to “point-and-shoot” type cameras.

Since I started this site ten years ago I’ve been through two Canon SLRs neither of which held up to my rough handling. Whether it was bolting through an airport late for a flight or running away from security guards at an old abandoned drive in, I found out the hard way you never shake an SLR, so for years most of the photos you saw on file23 were shot on my trusty ( and still operating) Konica Z-up 150 VP 35mm which besides being easy to operate also features a bitching 38-150 zoom lens. But times change and I got tired of trying to post on file23 using out-dated technology.

A couple of years ago while struggling with a cranky, moody scanner it was suggested to me that I get a digital camera. The irritable “middle-man” of the scanner was put on the curb soon after I purchased my first digital camera, a palm-sized Vivitar I got for $10 at a nearby drugstore.

The novelty of the palm sized camera wore thin soon enough; it ate AAA batteries as fast as I could change them. Soon after that I upgraded to a Kodak C813 which takes beautiful 8.2 megapixel photos but is limited to a 3X zoom lens. It has not only survived my handling but two trips to Canada and is still fully functional and operating. But yesterday I upgraded to a Canon SX130 which is 12.1 (oooh!) megapixels and a 12X zoom lens. Already wore down the two AA batteries that came with it trying to figure out how it works (whoops) but I am slowly figuring it out.

Took it out yesterday afternoon for a walk. Part of the problem with living in Fort Worth Texas for a photographer is just finding something, anything interesting to shoot. Took this photo of the downtown Fort Worth skyline from the steps of the Trinity Lutheran Church:

And then took this one just before sundown last night from my front porch:

And then took it out last night to try out the zoom lens on the “super-moon” that was supposed to be the closest ever to the earth. Parked somewhere and set up a tripod and shot the moon using several settings. Think this one turned out the best:

So two hundred dollars lighter File23 has now entered a new era; the era of the Canon SX130 that is. Would like to promise a whole new look to the site but I think that’s laying it on a little thick, but I am using a little bit closer to professional camera finally. Now if I can just find something interesting to shoot around here….

Sports to me is as much of an opiate for the people as religion; I pay very little if any attention to sports, nothing bores me more. The sports section gets ripped out of my paper and used to wipe my feet on rainy days. But unless you’ve had your head jammed really far up your ass for the last five years or so you are probably aware of the Super Bowl being played this Sunday in nearby Arlington. For the record I couldn’t possibly care less who wins or loses but I will be so glad when it’s over.

The local news has been near un-watchable lately; you would think NOTHING ELSE in the entire world was going on. Oh that family that was gunned down in a home invasion last week in north Dallas gets a two minute mention. Those twenty families who lost their homes and possessions in that apartment fire last week? They get a quick mention and a sympathetic shake of the news-anchors heads.

Flocks of birds dropping from the skies for no apparent reason worldwide or massive fish-kills get an additional minute or two. The rest of the news however seems to come from some parallel plane of existence; a steroid-fueled Twilight Zone where everything is somehow tied in with the Super Bowl….imagine if you will…there’s the sign-post up ahead; it’s the Stupor Bowl!

And if the traffic jams won’t be bad enough on top of this media blitzkrieg of Stupor Bowl Fever-related HYPE, there’s the legions of pimps, hookers, con artists, hustlers, pick-pockets and Gawd only knows what other types of sleaze moving into the area to cash in on the Big Game. The Shitty of Arlington has red-light cameras at damn near every intersection, so they will be cashing in on this in a big way just on that alone. Needless to say not only am I not attending The Big Game, but will be avoiding the area at all possible costs this weekend.

What’s really irking me this year though is the Black Eyed Peas as the half-time act. I don’t know WTF picks the half-time acts for Super Bowl but aside from the Who they have been showing the musical taste of a smelly old wart-hog in recent years. Michael and Janet Jackson were bad enough but WHY the Black Eyed Peas?

Way back in the 80s there was an LP released anonymously by someone from Houston under the name Culturecide who basically were what sounded like a pair of Beavis and Butthead-sounding guys playing at-the-time popular Top40 records and yelling their own lyrics over them. One of them was We Are the World which resulted in a lawsuit and being banned from airplay by the FCC:

The Black Eyed Peas do basically the same thing; they “sample” other peoples music and yell over it and then release it under the premise of being “new music” Case in point: here is Dick Dale performing his hit “Miserlou”

NOW since I really didn’t want to decorate my site with the Black Eyed Peas is THIS instead just to prove my point:

I mean I don’t know; I’m just some working-class moron but why not just ONCE let KISS do the half-time show? They’ve been on the road for forty years or so; I think they’ve passed the test of time if nothing else. They’re big and loud and have the pyrotechnics that made the Who’s halftime show work as well as it did. And if you want to use the Who’s Hot argument, KISS has probably sold more records and CDs than those no-talent Peas. Oh well maybe next year. Sunday in the meantime I’ll be doing ANYTHING besides watching TV…. in the meantime here’s the Who:

When most touring bands are on the road Fort Worth usually gets passed over for nearby Dallas, but every once in a while someone famous does appear here. It would help if the city of FW was interested in promoting a music scene but since they prefer to promote FW as “where the West begins” I’m not exactly holding my breath on that one. But little more than a fifteen minute walk from where I am sitting is Will Rogers Coliseum. A modest 1500-seat auditorium that dates back to the 30s that sits largely unused and gathering dust, and that is nothing less than a shame. Some of the greatest names in the business have played there; during the late 60s/early 70s it was Fort Worth’s corn-pone version of the Fillmore. Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Jefferson Airplane…the list of major names who played there is nothing short of impressive. In the early 1970s the 14,000-seat Tarrant County Convention Center was opened and took most of the major-name touring acts after that.

The auditorium fell into major disrepair during the 80’s; at one point they actually had fishnets strung about to catch falling pieces of the crumbling ceiling. Finally about 1990 or so the city had the auditorium refurbished and during the course of the  90s I saw King Crimson, Phish and Bryan Ferry perform there. And then…nothing….the city for whatever reason doesn’t use the facility, which is sad.

Our last free-standing movie theater (the last movies I can recall seeing there were NAKED LUNCH and HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER) the Ridglea has been converted into a concert venue and while some great shows got performed there for a while ( Henry Rollins, Fugazi, the Butthole Surfers) the  owners  let it degenerate into a venue for who-gives-a-shit heavy metal acts and even live wrestling.

Last week the phone rang and it was none other than my friend and former File23 co-conspirator Brandon wanting a ride out to Competition Music (3136 East Lancaster) on Fort Worth’s east side. Once there I was surprised to find it located in a three-business mini-strip center where years ago Ape Music once supplied music gear to Fort Worth musicians. The strip as I remembered it had a motorcycle dealership ( Chandlers), a restaurant and Ape Music. As we pulled up I noticed a large gap in the middle of the two businesses where the restaurant used to be. Turns out the East-side crime-rate got really bad in the early 90s and everyone who went to the restaurant was getting their cars stolen. The restaurant burned down in what I can’t help but wonder to myself wasn’t a convenient “insurance fire”. Competition Music is now in the former Chandlers location. The business that contained Ape Music was full of junk and looked abandoned.

Inside Competition we spent the morning looking over the large selection of amps and guitars.

While walking around I happened to look out a window that faced south and got a reminder of something I had completely forgotten about.

A large paved area that appeared to be the future home to a natural gas well marked the spot where Fort Worth’s Panther Hall once stood.

A former bowling alley, it was converted to a live concert venue in 1963 and operated until 1978. The roster of country music acts who played there reads like the role call for the Country Music Hall of Fame: Bob Wills, Lefty Frizell, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ernest Tubb, George Jones, Roy Orbison… the list just goes on and on.

And the rock acts who played there is impressive as well: Roy Buchanan, the Byrds, Electric Light Orchestra, the Crickets, the Grateful Dead, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike and Tina Turner, MC5, the Nazz, the Ramones, ZZ Top and many many more.

This place should be a rock and roll tourist Mecca; instead it’s an un-marked vacant lot . It closed in 1978 and sat boarded up for years until it was finally bulldozed sometime in the 90s.  Just like at Will Rogers Auditorium there are no plaques, statues or markers paying tribute to a single one of the great performers who once played there, just a side-street off of Fort Worth’s Skid Row paved with trash and broken glass.

Competition Music is a two-story structure built into the side of a hill that over-looks where Panther Hall once stood. Upstairs is where you enter from the street but downstairs they have a rehearsal space available for bands to rent complete with a stage, a pool table and a nice “speak-easy” atmosphere in general. We went downstairs and took a look around. I got lost in thought about this was a perfect location in more ways than one. Not only was there no one nearby to disturb, but you would be playing literally within rock-throwing distance away from where some of the greatest musicians in the business have performed at Panther Hall’s former location.

There is hope for Fort Worth’s music scene on the horizon however; the Ridglea Theater has a new owner and is promising to restore it to it former glory (including its gorgeous neon marquee) and turn it into a premier concert venue. I hope this is more than a boast and actually happens; I’m sick of having to drive to Dallas to see a show.

 

First noticed this years ago while watching the local news but shrugged it off as some kind of weird Freudian brain-fart; a side-effect from looking at too much pornography perhaps.

The local newscasters refer to the part of North Texas I live in as “the Metroplex” which is their sneaky way of trying to cover two market areas (Dallas and Fort Worth) at the same time. According to Wikipedia Dallas is the third largest city in Texas and the ninth largest in the United States. Fort Worth which lies about 30 miles to the west is the fifth largest city in Texas and is the seventeenth largest city in the United States. Like all large urban areas they also are surrounded by a cluster of smaller satellite cities.

 

But if you look at any map and take a good look at it, there it is. (click photos to uh…enlarge)

The “Metroplex” looks like a big giant penis. Fort Worth is the head, the mid-cities comprise the shaft and Dallas on the right resembles a scrotum.

Kept this little joke to myself for years because homophobia hangs over Texas like a sword of Damocles until I heard a friend of mine say something about the PenisPlex during a conversation. “Excuse me what did you say?”

“Aw come on don’t tell me you’ve never noticed that wang on the news before…”

Insert sigh of relief here; so it’s NOT Just Me….

 

Was watching the local news a while back with another friend and there it was again.

A  meteorologist standing against a blue-screen weather map with a big outlined-in-white penis next to him; asked my guest “Is It Just Me or does that look like a schlong onscreen there?” Didn’t get much reaction from him until the next time he came over. “Thanks Brian for ruining watching the news with my family! Every time I see that big dong next to  the newscasters now I start laughing to myself like Beavis & Butthead and I can’t tell my wife and kids What’s So Funny.”

 

The PenisPlex. The DicktoPlex. Whatever you want to call it there’s no denying it’s there. If the State of Texas ever realizes this I can see a giant roadwork project being announced with the end result altering the Dallas/Fort Worth areas physical appearance to make it look more like a giant pair of boobs (“There we go; that’s better!”)