Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My one and only Katrina post.

A snippet from a report in yesterday's (UK) Guardian perfectly encapsulated what I love about New Orleans:

After the storm passed, police circled the quarter with bullhorns shouting: "The French Quarter is closed. This is state of emergency. Please, please get off the streets or you will be detained."

But that couldn't dampen the indomitable spirit of one of the nation's most famous - and infamous - neighborhoods.

Tamara Stevens, 45, and her boyfriend Rick Leiby, 65, found their way to Johnny White's Sports Bar before the winds even stopped blowing. After spending a harrowing night in their swaying apartment, they needed to be out among people.

"This place will still be here," Leiby, a tour guide, said as he sipped a screwdriver from a plastic cup. "And it ain't gonna quit."

Today the Times Picayune confirms that, despite evacuation orders, curfews, power outages, rising water, and rampaging looters, Johnny White's is keeping the faith:

Johnny White’s Sport Bar on Bourbon Street at Orleans Avenue didn’t close Tuesday night, and had six patrons at 8 a.m. drinking at the bar.

"Monday night, they came by after curfew and wanted us to close," bartender Perry Bailey, 60, said of officers then patrolling the French Quarter. But all we did was shut the doors and stayed open.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Tonight at Antone's

It's the Cam Pyle Band. And I like 'em.

They were introduced as coming from Thibodeaux, Louisiana. They denied it, but if they are, they're the best thing to come out of Thibodeaux since Boudreaux. Which happens to be the drummer's last name.

They played mostly classic rock (to the extent 80s music can qualify) with hints of funk and blues. Much more of a rockin' band that Jive Train, but you can't expect to be he funkiest thing since sliced bread and the rockin'est thing at the same time.

Anyway, their rendition of Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" was really first rate, made even better by the incorporation of a beer bottle into the guitar part. It was very early in the show--during the old folks' set--but it made such an impression that I felt I had to mention it.

Maybe you had to be there.

And "Stairway to Freebird" sure put those songs in their place. That was the words to Freebird to the tune of Stairway to heaven half way through the song, and then vise versa. I liked it a lot.

All in all, a very good show. Next time I might not sit through all three sets (this was a more than your money's worth show), but I'll certainly go. And they've earned themselves a spot on the sidebar. They seem to play more or less constantly at Utopia on Bourbon Street (Mmmm.... Bourbon) and they'll be back at Antone's on September 10. As will I. Unless I'm at the Cactus Cafe in Austin. Either way, it'll be a good show.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Eric Johnson at Antone's

Last night it was Texas Guitar Legend Eric Johnson played at Antone's. I've never seen so many people in Antone's so early. By the time it was time for Johnson to play, it was packed. The call-the-fire-marshal-and-he'll-shut-the-place-down kind of packed.

But first it was Ward, Bowen and Steinman, a trio (as the name implies) that plays "an eclectic mix of folk, country rock, bluegrass, rock and roll, and jazz." And they do it very well. You can see them the first Friday of each month at the Logon Cafe. They're definitely worth a look.

As I said before, Antone's was more crowded than I've ever seen it. By the time I got there (around 8:30), the tables were all long gone, and the only place I could find to stand was right next to the stage. He's a phenomenal guitar player, but the vocals were weak. And for me, it's the vocals that make the music interesting. And once the opening act was done, this show just didn't hold my interest for long.

I can't sit through the symphony either. I'm such a philistine.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

"Screw You, We're From Texas"

Thirty dollars a pop for dinner and a show at Courville's. The dinner, such as it was, was all the gumbo and potato salad you care to eat, until it ran out. But the food wasn't what I was there for. It was the show: Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard. And it was just him and his guitar (and occasionally his harmonica). He said he has a band he usually works with, but it's a work release program, and they aren't allowed to leave Travis County. It didn't matter. He did just fine without them.

Ray Wylie Hubbard is cursed with being the author of "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," a song made into an outlaw country anthem by Jerry Jeff Walker. Cautionary words from the man himself: Before you put the words down on paper, think long and hard about whether you want to be singing it for the next 32 years.

This was not my first experience with Courville's. That was last November when I saw future Texas music legend Hayes Carll. Mr. Carll put on a great show, but far too few people saw it. Mr. Hubbard had better luck. Despite an apparent total lack of promotion, the place was packed. There was an opening act who was pretty good, but I can't remember his name. Next time I'll have to take notes.

Anyway, towards the beginning of the show, he said: "I pretty much just write these songs and talk about them a lot." And that's pretty much what he did. Not the writing part, but he did perform them and talk about them a lot. And he talks about them a lot better than just about anyone else I've seen. He's a great story teller. A good time was had by all.

He had thirty-something years of his own material to draw on, but that didn't stop him from doing one of Eliza Gilkyson's songs and another from Cross Canadian Ragweed. There was, of course, the obligatory "Up Against the Wall," sing-along which is a lot more fun live than it is recorded. Another one that's a lot more fun live is the title track of this post-- "Screw You, We're From Texas" (from the album Growl). But I think the highlight of the show was the second song, "Without love (We're Just Wastin' Time)" from the "Dangerous Spirits" CD (a five star album according to Wang's Record Reviews). Purdiest thing I've heard in a long time.

(Note: The links to the album titles are to Ray Wylie Hubbard's website rather than because he sells them $3 cheaper.)

I hope to see him back in Beaumont soon, but I expect I'll have a much better chance of catching him at The Mucky Duck in Houston. In the meantime, the Courville's concert schedule includes a performance by Hayes Carll on October 15 (I think), but the Mucky Duck seems to think Carll's playing there on that date. Carll's site doesn't mention either. Stay tuned for further developments. (Edited to add: Further investigation has revealed that it's Courvilles on the 13th and the Mucky Duck on the 15th.) But in the meanmeantime, Hayes Carll's scheduled to play at The Old Quarter in Galveston on September 16. And for tonight, there's Texas guitar legend Eric Johnson at Antone's. More on that later.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What I like best about being off work:

It's about 3:30 in the afternoon and I'm having a glass of 2002 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett Wehlener Sonnenuhr.

For breakfast.

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"I've never seen that happen before."

"I've never seen that happen before." Are there any more comforting words you can hear from your doctor in the middle of eye surgery?

When the IV didn't go the first time, I should have known that the stars just weren't right. But I'm not superstitious, so I didn't think anything of it. But I should have.

I was scheduled for a Lamellar keratoplasty. That's a type of eye surgery. A type of cornea transplant, to be precise.

In a Lamellar keratoplasty, they only remove a portion of the cornea,leaving the endothelium intact. In a penetrating keratoplasty, on the other hand, they cut the whole thing out and replace it with a new one. But perhaps I should elaborate.

The last time I had one of my corneas swapped out, it was a penetrating keratoplasty. And it was a penetrating keratoplasty because I'd had a penetrating keratoplasty on that eye before, and once the endothelium's gone, it's gone. And once it's gone, the tissue they graft on loses about 4.5 % of the cells each year. The cornea gets thinner and thinner until it cannot hold its shape or it becomes cloudy or both. Any way you slice it, vision suffers.

When I first had a cornea transplant 15 years ago, this fact was not appreciated. Or at least it was not communicated to me. I was under the impression that once they replaced the diseased cornea, the operation was good for life. I was under that impression because that's what the doctor told me. Unfortunately, such was not the case, an the operation had to be repeated. And repeated it was with more than satisfactory results. I now see better out of my left eye than I have in decades.

Unfortunately, I did not have such happy results with my right eye.

I had done the calculus of pain, balancing the cost and discomfort of surgery and the prospect of having to have it redone every 15 years or so with the gain in vision, and decided that I didn't want to have my right eye done. I could see well enough out of my left eye, and my right eye wasn't all that bad (correctable to about 20/100).

But then there was the Lamellar option. By peeling off and replacing only the outer layer of the cornea and leaving the endothelium intact, the cell loss should be avoided. So I arranged for some time off work, ponied up the not insubstantial cash payment of the deductible and the co-pay, and had the surgery.

But it didn't work. My endothelium was too thin or the cut was too deep or something, and there wasn't enough of an intact layer to peel off the old cornea but still leave the necessary tissue intact. So the surgery had to be aborted and the old cornea stitched back in place.


Really. It's quite discomforting.

My initial impulse was to go ahead and get the penetrating keratoplasty done ASAP. I'd already paid the deductible, took time off work, and suffered the initial pain of recuperation, so what's another couple days? So I scheduled another cornea transplant for the following Monday (it would have been Friday, but they didn't have a suitable cornea available). But then I though about having to have it redone every 15 years or so and changed my mind. I still have until December to change it back and still get the second operation done under the same deductible.

I don't know whether the problem that my endothelium was too thin or that the instrument just cut a bit too deeply, or some combination of the two, and I really don't care. Shit happens, as they say. Given the delicacy of the work and the extraordinary precision required, I'm amazed that this sort of surgery ever works at all. I hope my day job isn't causing the doctor to lose too much sleep over it.

By the way-- The surgery was last Wednesday. It's now early Wednesday morning, a week later, and this is the first time I've been able to keep my eyes open long enough to write this.

And by the by the way, although my eye's been rather inflamed and inoperative the last few days, the day after the surgery I was seeing much better than before, even though it was just my old cornea stitched back into place. It could have been better or worse or the same, but so far, it seems that I've gotten an inadvertent improvement. So I guess it's not a total loss.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A very late post

It was Jive Train again at Antone's. And they were as good as ever, which is to say better than pretty much anyone else. Maybe George Clinton and a few others could do it better, but it would be a pretty short list.

But before Jive Train, while hardly anyone was paying too much attention, Joe Lee McCoy and his guitar had the stage for an hour or so. And he used his time well.

While his was playing, I was thinking of Creedence Clearwater Revival doing Lodi. Not that his music was like theirs; just the image of a guy who was doing much better music than the crowd deserved. If he only had a dollar... and all that. I hope he finds his way back soon.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Coming Attractions

Ray Wylie Hubbard. Courville's. August 18, 2005. Be there. Just don't try to follow the map on the link.

For more on Courville's check out my Hayes Carll review from last year.

Thanks to Miss New Orleans for the heads up.

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