Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Gregory is a fantastic piano player, but, he usually starts off slow and quiet, just dropping well placed notes in among the guitar chords. He plays by ear, and can usually accompany just about anyone.
After the turn goes around the circle once, someone will call out for Greg to play one. He's happy to oblige. He can seemingly play just about any style from classical to blues, stride, boogie woogie, and jazz.
Gregory is homeless, and we can only try to imagine what his life must be like. It's no wonder that he only shows up occasionally. It's always a treat when he does, though, even though he usually puts "the touch'' on anyone he gets to talking to. We'll buy him a few drinks, and some people will give him some money sometimes.
After the crowd had thinned out, I was watching him play just for himself, and shot this video. He was playing the old Gershwin tune "Summertime". I gave him five dollars for letting me do the video, and that put a smile on his face.
I was telling my friend Don O about the encounter the next day. Don hosts one of the blues shows on KNON radio (links: http://knon.org/index.php?id=261, http://bluesdfw.com/, and http://donobbq.blogspot.com/). He is very knowledgeable about blues in general, and the local blues scene in particular. He tells me he's seen many stories similar to Greg's, and, it's a pity, but, what can you do? You can't save people from themselves. He said to send him the link to the video, and I did. He replied with a link to a story in the Dallas Observer from 1997 about Gregory. Here's the link to the story. It's a long one, but, well written, and very interesting.
Here's another video of Gregory, this one shot a week later, doing "Unforgettable"
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Sons Of Hermann Hall is a historic structure, built in 1911, at the corner of Elm St. and Exposition St. in the Deep Ellum section of Old East Dallas. It is one of many Hermann Halls located in towns and cities across Texas. The Sons Of Hermann is an old, mostly German fraternal organization.
Ok Hwa and I have been going to The Sons Of Hermann Hall for many years, to see and hear great music, and to dance. The upstairs ballroom is one of the best dance halls in Dallas, and has hosted a "Who's Who" of fine Texas musicians for decades. Many prominent Texas musicians got their start playing the ballroom at The Sons Of Hermann.
We are members of the Sons Of Hermann, Lodge 66, and as such, enjoy certain benefits, including life insurance, reduced drink prices, special member parties throughout the year, etc.
We can usually be found at the Hall on Thursday evenings for the "Electric Campfire, Acoustic Jam", which is also hosted by Ranger Randell. It's always a fun evening, with many good musicians and singers trading off songs around the electric campfires. The attendees spread out all over the lodge, from the downstairs bar, to the bowling alley out back, the meeting room up front, to the upstairs ballroom, and even in the stairwells and landings.
Other regular events at the Hall include swing dance lessons and party on Wednesday evenings, and concerts in the upstairs ballroom on Fridays and Saturdays. Special events are sometimes held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Today's "SonsStock" was one such special event.
Artists and craftsmen set up booths to sell their wares all over the hall, and there was almost continuous music on the stage in the ballroom from noon to midnight. They were selling burgers and hot dogs from the kitchen by the bar, and the bar was doing a lively business all day long. Almost all of our friends from the Thursday night acoustic jam were there, as well as many lodge members, old hippies, cosmic cowboys, curiosity seekers, patrons of the arts, and members of the general public. It was a very fun day for us.
To learn more about the Sons Of Hermann, follow this link:
Here are the other two videos I made there today:
Friday, August 14, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Before, I had seen a Westin Hotel attached to the complex of buildings that made up the City Center Metro Station, and the bus terminal. It would be perfect to overnight it here, so we could catch an early bus to the airport. We made our way up the series of escalators the the hotel lobby. I've been in a lot of hotels before, and one look told us that this was a "very nice place", translation: very expensive. We had some money left, so I figured we'd cough it up for the one night, just for the convenience of being next to the bus station. When we got to the desk, the hotel clerk told us that they had no rooms available for that night, but that she could put us up in a similar establishment nearby for about two hundred and fifty dollars American for the night. That was pretty far out of our price range, so we told her "no, thank you". We were going to try to find another hotel nearby when one of the concierges pulled me aside to confer. He said he could arrange a taxi for us to a nearby district known as "Hotel City", where there were many good hotels in the forty to fifty dollar range. A nice turn of events that we took advantage of. This nice young man ushered us out the front door, and into a waiting taxi. I tipped him twenty Korean wan, he refused, I insisted, and he took it, clearly embarrassed. I guess tipping is not really part of the culture in Korea. Oh, well, it made me feel better.
The ten minute ride over to the hotel district was a slow, rainy affair. We chose one of the many hotels based solely on the name, as they all looked about the same. The Hotel New York was a good, clean place, with a very nice room. It had a great queen sized bed, big screen TV, computer with internet connection, an excellent bathroom, and room for all our bags.
After settling in we went out for dinner. The rain had tapered off by this time to an intermittent drizzle. We walked down a couple blocks, and over a couple blocks, and found a "Hoff and Chicken" restaurant. I had seen a few of these in Gangneung and Incheon earlier. They are not so much a chain of restaurants, as a type of restaurant. They served many different types of fried chicken, and beer, just as the name implied. Ok Hwa had never seen a restaurant like this before, so she wasn't sure of what to order. We just picked something off the menu at random. When the food came, it was just a large platter of fried chicken, nothing else. This was the best fried chicken I had ever tasted! It seemed to be infused with honey and some other subtle spices. We felt like we could hold another helping, so we ordered a different selection at random. When this one came, like before, it was simply a platter of fried chicken, nothing else. We could smell the difference immediately, though. This one had a strong garlic flavor to it. We did not care for it nearly as much as the one before. Although we both like garlic in moderation, this was almost overpowering. We ate it though, because we were hungry, and didn't want to waste it, and washed it down with lots of water and beer.
We made our way back to the hotel through the damp streets, stopping at a little convenience store for more beer and snacks. Back in the room, we cleaned up, and relaxed in front of the big TV. She watched some Korean shows, while I hooked up my computer, and searched for a wireless internet connection. I was able to find an unsecured connection, and jumped on it. It was the first time I'd been on line for the whole trip. I spent the rest of the evening catching up on my e-mail.
Next morning we were up at 06:00, and started packing. We were cleaned up, packed up, dressed up, and out the door by 07:00. Outside we quickly flagged a taxi for the short ride back to the bus terminal. The terminal was crowded, but we were able to get our tickets, and get on the bus without too much trouble. The ride out to Incheon International took about forty-five minutes. This bus, like all the other ones we'd been on, had big, wide, comfortable reclining seats, so it was easy for me to catch a good nap on the way.
At the airport, as usual, it was a waiting game. They want you there two hours early to check in, and we were probably four hours early. We had time for breakfast, coffee, and lots of browsing through the duty-free shops on the secure side. We came away from the duty-free shops with several bags full of great, small gifts for everyone back home. What a deal!
The JAL flight over to Tokyo was an uneventful two hour hop. This time on our Tokyo stop we had a two and a half hour layover. We spent it eating lunch, and more great shopping in the excellent duty-free shops in Narita Airport. The last half hour before our flight we visited with a couple of middle aged American women on their way home from a month in back country China. They'd been doing volunteer work in some impoverished village way off the beaten path. Their story made ours seem like a trip over to Fort Worth for the weekend.
Finally it was time to board that American Airlines 777 for the long trip back across the Pacific. These are just mind and body numbing flights. Thirteen hours in a cramped seat gets old in a hurry. I think next time I'll just take a couple sleeping tablets and snooze the flight away.
Back on the ground in DFW was back to reality. The lines to get through customs were extremely long. It seemed like all the international flights for the day had arrived at the same time. Once through that, we still had to catch a taxi over to where my car was parked at work. I work at the airport, and my boss let me park my car in the employee parking there. These rip-off taxi drivers at DFW wanted to charge me thirty dollars to go the two and a half miles over to my car. I was able to talk one down to twenty, but he was not happy about it. We got in the car just in time for the afternoon rush hour traffic in Dallas. It was the final hurdle. By the time we got home we were just drained, physically, and emotionally. But, man, was it great to be home!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Our plane was leaving Incheon International Airport on Thursday, April 16. We needed to wake up in either Seoul, or Incheon that morning in order to make our flight at noon. That meant leaving Mrs. Kim and her husband in Sacheon Valley the day before, and traveling back across the country to spend the night. We both really wished we could have stayed another night with Mrs. Kim, but we'd never have made our flight.
We got up early there in Mrs. Kim's house, and packed our bags while she made us breakfast. There was no real hurry to leave at any particular time, but we figured we'd catch the bus when he came by at noon. That would give us time to get a bus from Gangneung to Seoul, and get checked into a hotel over there before dark.
We were done packing and eating by 9:30, so I figured I had a chance for a last walk around the neighborhood before we left. I'm glad I did, because I got some last, good pictures of the valley, and the neighborhood. Since our last trip in 2001, they have cut a new road across Sacheon Valley, in a north/south direction, which is perpendicular to the road which runs up the valley from the coast in an east/west direction. I took a walk up that road, and climbed a hill for the the shot above, looking south, towards Gangneung City. It's a pretty good view of the valley from up there. After strolling around for about an hour taking pictures, I made my way back to the house.
Mrs. Kim made us some coffee, and we had a chance to visit for just a little while longer, say our good-byes, and then we were gone. The bus came, we climbed aboard with our bags, and headed down the valley towards the highway into Gangneung City. As the bus passed in front of their house, Mrs. Kim and her husband came out onto their little front porch to wave us good-bye. It really broke my heart to be leaving them, and I know Ok Hwa was pretty broken up too. She had been crying off and on all morning, and as we drove away, the tears flowed freely.
We were a couple of very sad travelers as we arrived at the bus terminal in Gangneung, to board the bus to Seoul. We resolved then to make the trip back to Korea an annual affair. We just can not allow so much time to pass before our next visit. Eight years has passed since our last visit, and that's just too long. It's sad to think of the two of them up there in their rural home, growing older, and wondering if those boys have come to see them. Oh, well, we'll do our part, and come back every year, and wish it could be sooner.
For a slide show of Sacheon Valley pictures, including the last heartbreaking picture I took of Mrs. Kim and her husband from the bus, click here:
For a video walk up Mrs. Kim's road in Sacheon Valley, click here:
The official website of the Republic of Korea: http://www.korea.net/.