Java, Cup of Joe

I can distinctly remember my first cup of coffee.
I was 12 or 13 years old so that puts it around 1973.

Yup, it was the “olden days.”

My mother used to go down the street to Mrs. Gladden’s house for coffee and gossip.
It was summertime and I was bored one day so I went with her to hang out. Mrs. Gladden’s son wasn’t around so I sat in the living room with my mother and Mrs. Gladden and Mrs. Gladden asked if I would like a cup of coffee.

I looked at my mother and she nodded her approval and I said “yes!” It seemed to me to be so very adult to get to hang out and drink coffee. There was the first sip of black coffee which was not too pleasant and then my mother and Mrs. Gladden coached me through the process of adding non-dairy creamer and some sugar which made it much more palatable.

I was hooked from the get-go.

Keep in mind that during my adolescence and early adult years I did not drink or experiment with drugs. That’s right, while the other kids rocking round the clock, I was hoppin’ and boppin’ to a thing called the Crocodile Rock Java Jive. While many of the kids my age were extolling the glories of casual drug use by doodling marijuana leaves and pills on their notebooks I was revelling in the iconic simplicity of a steaming cup of coffee.

There were plenty of head shops during the 70’s but not so many dedicated coffee shops. Places like Jo-Jo’s, Denny’s and Kip’s Big Boy served bottomless cups of coffee, but they were restaurants first and foremost. The wait-staff frowned on teenagers coming and ordering cup after cup of coffee without purchasing a meal. I can recall Rich Davis and me wearing out out welcome at the Kettle on S. Shaver (or was it Spencer Hwy?) in Pasadena, TX any number of times.

After I got out of the Navy and returned to Pasadena my coffee addiction was in full swing and now it was 1981. Coffee shops were still a rare commodity and I was pretty much hooked on coffee. I had a percolator my parents had given me and I kept that thing going pretty steady.

In late 1983 Hurricane Alicia came along and ripped the roof off of my small apartment and this was the catalyst for moving into the city. I landed in the Montrose and before long I was working at the Half Price Books on Waugh Drive. In the process of exploring my new neighborhood I discovered Tim’s Coffee Shop. It’s now Bambolino’s Italian Kitchen but back in the day it was a cozy little coffee shop/restaurant and I was there almost every day before heading in to work, reading the paper and drinking coffee and making friends.

Tim’s Coffee Shop became the formal gathering place of the Philosopher’s Guild, a small band of friends who would meet and stay up to all hours of the night discussing anything and everything while consuming mass quantities of coffee.

Tim’s eventually closed down and Charlie’s Coffee Shop opened just down the road in what was once a topless bar called The Boobie Rock and is now the lesbian bar Chances. I sometimes wonder if the patrons know the sordid history of that little piece of real estate…

Charlie’s, for all intents and purposes, was a gay Denny’s. While it was primarily a restaurant, you could still just grab a booth and sit and drink cup after cup of coffee. I spent a lot of time in Charlie’s and was very sad when it closed.

During this time frame two things happened that were directly influenced by my love/addiction to coffee.

My first radio show of any significance was on Friday mornings from 5-8 and when I was trying to come up with a name I thought of that glorious line from the 1984 movie Suburbia, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” (which was also later used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986).

The third album/CD my band recorded adopted the title “Give Me Coffee” from the first song I ever wrote of the same name.

Fast forward some years and I’m in The Heights after Cynthia and I first got together. Coffee shops are starting to pop-up like crazy. Starbucks has begun to explode and coffee drinking is becoming quite the fad. I found a place called Java Java on Heights Blvd and that became my new coffee haunt.

After I finally managed to get out of working retail and on to a more steady Monday through Friday schedule working in the corporate worlds my trips to the coffee shop began to dwindle as I opted for the grab and go convenience of Stop and Go coffee.

In all the years I have been consuming coffee I rather prided myself in being quite basic about it. No lattes, no cappuccinos, no espressos or mochas or anything fancy. Just a cup of coffee with cream and sugar or black in a pinch. As Starbucks rose to power, other specialty coffee shops sprung up but I kept true to my coffee roots.

I practically swore to myself I would never patronize a Starbucks. That was until our trip to the UK. While we were in Edinburgh, Scotland we toured The Edinburgh Castle. It was cold, wet and windy. When we got to the top there was a gift shop and in that shop there was a Starbucks…

I didn’t change my coffee stripes then and there. I was a coffee addict and this had the appeal and benefit of actually being available. Still, the chip in my coffee armor was there now.

Over the years my resolve to stay away from designer coffee shops has wained.

Cynthia enjoys a “good” cup of coffee on Sundays. She’s not interested in Stop and Go coffee and suggested a few years back that we stop at Starbucks on the way to the grocery store. Her offer was to buy the coffee if I would agree to stop there. I capitulated and now it’s our Sunday tradition.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked. I can no longer drink the coffee offered at the local convenience store. Now I get a Starbucks pretty much every day on the way to work and often one in the evening.

But it’s still a matter of pride that I don’t order those designer froo froo coffee drinks.

No frappacinos, no half caff no fat grand mochachinos for me, no sir. Just a LARGE house coffee to go, thank you very much!

Frank was just asking ‘what’s new?’

Back in 1995 or so we decided we wanted to have a fish tank.
We did a little research and settled on a 50 gallon freshwater system and got started.
It was cool stocking it with fish and setting up the plants and rock and stuff.
We had plecostomuses (plecostomusi? plecostomooses?) and other catfish, hatchet fish, neon tetras, you name it. We even had some African Dwarf Frogs in there.

We maintained it, cleaned it, added fish when some would pass away. We even nursed some fish back to health after the developed some kind of scale eating fish rot.

During that time we moved twice, the second time being when we bought our house in 1998. The aquarium moved with us and that my friend is no easy task.

After several years our interest and dedication to the tank waned. Fish that passed on to the great beyond were briefly mourned as they were flushed into the hereafter, but were not replaced.

Eventually all that remained were 5 bottom dwellers. Some catfish and a loach.

We were ready to give up being fish tank owners. The problem was that I simply didn’t have the heart to take 5 perfectly healthy fish and just flush them away, but having a 50 gallon tank seemed like overkill for that small number of fish.

I decided to buy a cheap 10 gallon aquarium and transplant the survivors so that they could live out their lives with minimal upkeep in an out of the way corner of the house.

Before long old age took it’s toll and 3 of the five remaining bottom dwellers passed away, leaving us with the loach and a catfish which both survived up until about a year ago.

Now there is just the loach. We call him “Loachy” and on one of his active days he looks like this:

For the most part, though, he tends to literally lay around the bottom of the aquarium on his side looking very dead:

Sometimes, like in the picture above, he is in among his rocks. Other times he’s just laying around out in the open on the white gravel.

Let me be clear, he’s not sick. He’s lazy. This fish has been sleeping or resting on his side since the day we got him oh so many years ago.

He’s the last fish, and when he’s gone we’re done.

I don’t know how long he’s going to live.
I will tell you he was in the original group of fish we bought when we started.

That means he is 11+ years old if you just count the years we’ve owned him.

For all I know he’ll go another 11 years.

Goodbye Texas Renaissance Festival, we hardly knew ye

As we are in the heart of the Texas Renaissance Festival season I must confess I am of two minds about not being hired this year.

One the one hand I have the entire series of fall weekends to myself. That means we get to play the Austin Celtic Festival and I can go to the Airshow and the Quilt Festival and do all those things I have been deprived of in the fall as a result of 15+ years of dedication and sacrifice to the festival.

But there are things I miss. There are some very good memories tied up in that experience.

I was poking round the Internets and I found some pictures someone took that time Istanpitta pranked us by dressing as us and parodying the Flu Pandemic a few years ago.

Istanpitta
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Istanpitta
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The Sailors are amused
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Seeing Sahira dressed as Joe was about the most ridiculously funny thing I have ever had the opportunity to behold.

Comedy Workshop Reunion – 2006 – The evidence

Last night was day one of the three day extravabonanza that is the 2006 Comedy Workshop Reunion at the Laff Spot in Houston, TX.

As I mentioned previously, this event held special meaning for me so I was very enthusiastic about attending last night. The kick off show featured 14 comedians including:

1. Jim Holder
2. John Farneti
3. Steve Epstein
4. Ron Crick
5. Steve Moore
6. Bill Silva
7. Andy Huggins
8. Riley Barber
9. Jimmy Pineapple
10. Mike Vance
11. Ron Robertson
12. Carl Faulenberry
13. T-Sean Shannon
14. Ron Shock

Most of these guys I remember from my days at the Comedy Workshop in the early 80’s and it was a real hoot to see them again. There were moments when I was transported back in time and it actually felt like I was back in the old Workshop. Many of the routines were the same, but there was some new material. Some of the guys really don’t look all that different.

Last night was the powerhouse show. Tonight and tomorrow there will only be 3 or 5 comedian per evening with longer sets. Last night was the show to see, I’ll likely skip tonight and tomorrow.

It was particularly good to see my old friend and schoolmate T-Sean Shannon. He’s just resigned from the writing staff of Saturday Night Live to pursue his own show on Comedy Central which will be based on his books of short stories.

It’s good to see him being so successful. He’s still one of the funniest stand-ups around, IMHO.

Let me say that comics are not great material for a photo shoot. I mean, I know they were funny and when I look at the pictures I remember the funny but, more often than not, the funny does not show up in the pictures.

There’s plenty in the gallery if your interested.

Don’t forget the one’s from 20 years ago for comparison….

Comedy Workshop Reunion

I was very excited to learn that there will be a Comedy Workshop Reunion on September 14th through the 16th at the Laff Spot Comedy Cafe.

Some of my fondest memories of living in Houston, Texas surround the time in the 80’s when my best friend, Rich Davis, and I would hang out at the old Comedy Workshop. It’s gone now but it used to be where that dry cleaner is at San Felipe and Shepherd.

We would would constantly get free tickets to go see the shows there and even more free tickets to get in to the Comix Annex next door where the comedians would spend Thursday nights trying out new material.

This is the club that produced such notable names as Jeanne Garafalo, Brett Butler and Sam Kinison.

I don’t recall seeing any of them but I do recall seeing T-Sean Shannon and his brother Charlie. Both of whom I attended high school with.

Most notably, I recall watching an up and coming comedian named Bill Hicks. He was unbelievably funny. I remember going back time and time again hoping he would be there on a Thursday night trying out new material.

I was really lucky. I got to see him go from being a relatively new comedian to a superstar in a few short years.

My friend Rich recently reminded me of the time we were at a show and he was following this comedian who was a one-liner wonder. Very lame but the audience was eating it up. When Bill took the stage the crowd was not very receptive and Bill turned dark and, at one point, smashed the wall at the back of the stage with his fist so hard it drew blood.

I remember him saying “I’m bleeding for you and it’s still not enough” and he stormed off.

It was PURE Bill but disappointing because we didn’t get our fix that night.

While it’s a given that Bill won’t be at this show, I am certain the spirit of Bill will be. I expect to see Ron Shock, John Farneti, Jimmy Pineapple along with many others. I am pretty jazzed about this.

I have some pics in the gallery I took with my old film camera of a VERY young Bill Hicks at the Comix Annex as well as from the time he invited me to shoot his performance at Rockefellers when he opened for Warren Zevon.

There’s also these awesome pics of various comedians I shot at the old Comix Annex during the same time period.

La la la la la la, live for today

Alejandro Escavedo

Last night at the Continental Club was one of those nights where the past does not so much collide with the present, rather it pulls up along side and waves kindly and you smile and wave back with a stupid grin as recognition slowly creeps in and pries open the recesses of memory.

On the bill for the evening was Alejandro Escavedo. For all that Alejandro has accomplished I still remember him for his efforts in a band called the True Believers back in the 80’s.

Most of the fans seemed to be more recent converts but there were some from “back in the day” as the kids like to say.

Most notable were long time friends JR Delgado and Toby Blunt.

JR and Toby

JR owned and ran one of the most well known punk clubs in Houston, The Axiom. During the 80’s and early 90’s I attended many shows at this particular club. Often referred to as the “Mecca to the Houston Underground” it now enjoys a lesser notoriety as the home of Infernal Bridegroom Productions. My band, The Flying Fish Sailors, had the opportunity to play there on a few occasions. The best show was the one where we opened for The Dead Milkmen.

Toby Blunt is most well known from Mary Jane’s Fat Cat over on Washington but I met him back in the days when he played for Fab Motion. This was a band that had a lot of potential and was even the Houston Press 1989 Band of the Year. I even located this old flyer from the mid 80’s when Fab Motion and The True Believers were on the same bill at Cafe Mode.

I halfway expected to see Chuck Roast and Austin Caustic from the old Funhouse Show on KPFT show up at any given point.

It was a good evening and a great show. It’s good to see Alejandro doing so well. I got some nice pics from last night. Click here to see them.

Nostalgia

This upcoming Devo concert has me waxing nostalgic in a big way. I am really looking forward to it. I was going through some of my memories that I have digitized and thought I would share two of my more favorite photographic memories.

Myself (looking a little out of it), Danny Elfman and Billy Gilbert who used to host Musical Chairs Wednesday mornings on KPFT. This was taken back stage at an Oingo Boingo concert around 1988.

A rather telling photo featuring my brother John in the center, me to the right and none other than Mr. “Turn on, tune in, drop out” himself, Dr. Timothy Leary on the left. This was very late 80’s or very early 90’s when he was doing a spoken word tour.