Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tru Fax and the Insaniacs – "Perfect Day" (2015)

It was a perfect day
You were alive and so was I

Michael Mariotte, who's been the drummer for Tru Fax and the Insaniacs since the band formed in 1978, wrote "Perfect Day" just last year.  It’s one of the four songs on TFI's brand-new EP, 4Shadows.  

Michael wrote both the music and lyrics for “Perfect Day,” and he plays guitar on the recording of the song – the first time he’s done that as a member of TFI.

Michael, who is battling cancer, wrote “Perfect Day” for his kids – especially his four-year-old and five-year-old daughters, who are both named in the song.  “My cancer may leave them without a father at a too-young age,” Michael told me, “and I wanted them to know, when they are old enough to understand it, that these days we have together – even the crappy ones – are precious for me, and I hope for them.”

Here's part two of my interview with Michael about the history of Tru Fax and the Insaniacs.  Click here if you missed part one of that interview and would like to read it now. 

2 or 3 lines:  I understand that Washingtonian magazine named you the worst band in Washington without ever hearing you perform.  How good was Tru Fax when you first started playing in public?

Michael: We weren't great at the beginning, but we weren't bad either.  Alex Eldridge didn't last long as our first bass player – he was a student and he went back to Harvard after our first few gigs.  Libby Hatch replaced him, and while she wasn't technically that good, she had a presence and a style that people liked.  

TFI, circa 1982: Diana Quinn, Michael
Mariotte, Tim Carter, and David Wells
As a band, we started getting very good when Tim Carter replaced Libby as bass player in 1981, and reached our peak when Bob Young replaced Tim in late 1982 – Bob was quite good.  Here's a little-known fact: David Arnson of Insect Surfers filled in on bass for TFI for a couple months after Tim left and before we brought Bob on.

2 or 3 lines:  Did Tru Fax play mostly original songs?

Michael:  We've always done a mix of originals and covers, but always more originals than covers. A typical 15-song set might contain three or four covers.  The mix hasn't changed much over the years, though the songs themselves have.

2 or 3 lines: How did TFI create original songs?  Who contributed what?  Was there a lot of collaboration, or was each song essentially written by one person?

Michael:  David Wells was the main songwriter.  In the early days we'd sit in the living room and write some lyrics and he would put them to music.  Sometimes David would bring in a whole song, or most of one.  Most often, the song would get rearranged some and messed with during practices, and eventually would show up in live shows.

2 or 3 lines: Who were the best bands you played with? Who were the bands from that era you admired the most? 

Michael:  We played with a bunch of good bands.  My favorites were The Fleshtones – we always had a good time with them wherever we were.  Also the Slickee Boys, since they were all good friends of mine.

The Fleshtones' 1981 album, "Roman Gods"
The Insect Surfers were good friends as well.  We were on same label (WASP Records) and played together pretty often.  Beex were very fun – they were a punk band from Richmond.  The Embarrassment, from Kansas or Nebraska or something, were a band I had never heard of but still remember; they were really good.  [Note: The Embarrassment was from Wichita.  Famed music critic Robert Christgau called them a "great lost American band."] 

The bands from that period that I liked best – Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, Translator – we never actually played with.  But at least I did get to hang out with all of them when they'd come through town.  Back then the 9:30 Club gave me full house privileges.  I could get in free whenever I wanted and could go down to almost anyone's dressing room anytime . . . so I'd just go and introduce myself to bands I liked and hang out.

2 or 3 lines:  Did you ever have to perform with other bands whose music you didn't really like?  

Michael:  I really liked The Bongos on record, but they weren't that good live and they were pretty annoying people – especially when they learned they were opening for us instead of the other way around.  The Revillos were also quite annoying and I didn't really like them as a band.  Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, Magazine, and Bauhaus were three bands we opened up for in bigger venues whose music just didn't work well with our music.

2 or 3 lines:  What was the highlight of your years with TFI?  Was there a particular live appearance where you felt the band reached its peak?

Michael:  My favorite show ever was at the Wax Museum with the Slickees.  That was in January 1983.  They had predicted an actual blizzard that night, but it didn't snow at all.  The place was packed – 1500 people, which I was told was the largest crowd Wax Museum ever had.  We were amazingly good and the crowd was really with us.  That was probably the only time I can say we blew the Slickees off the stage.  That was when I decided we had become a really good band and could play with anyone.

Our show with Stiff Little Fingers at the Bayou was another particularly good one, as was a July 4 show at the Bayou with the Slickees.  Almost any show with Fleshtones was great – there were a bunch of them.  

Another very memorable show was the one for the last week of the old 9:30 Club in December 1995, part of which was released as a live CD.  We sounded good, and there were lots of old friends there.
2 or 3 lines: What do you think TFI's best song was?

Michael:  I should probably say "Washingtron," since it's the only one I have co-writing credits on. But my real favorite is "King of Machines," which David actually wrote with a poet friend named Harrison Fisher before I ever came on the scene.  "Mars Needs Women" is another one that has held up well – it was also co-written by David and Harrison before I met them.

The "Washingtron" 45
2 or 3 lines: What did you want TFI to be?  Were you happy with what the group accomplished, or did you think you should have been bigger stars?

Michael:  David and Diana both had good jobs and never planned to leave them – so the idea of becoming a big touring band on a big label was never in the picture for TFI.  I had a good job as manager of the Washington City Paper, but it didn't pay that well, so I would have gone for more, as would have Bob Young.  But we knew that would never happen so it didn't especially bother us.  And we did get to do some touring: New York City, Philadelphia, Richmond, Charlottesville, Ohio, North Carolina, etc., etc.

Still, it's hard to know what would have happened had David not moved to California for 1984, when we were absolutely at our peak both musically and in popularity.  Record labels had already showed some interest.  There was a Bayou show in early 1983 where an agent for Chrysalis Records shoved their business card under the door – Diana who shoved it back.
[Note: Chrysalis Records was a major British record label whose acts included Blondie, Billy Idol, Jethro Tull, Joan Jett, Huey Lewis and the News, and Procol Harum.]  

TFI's 1982 album, "Mental Decay"
From my work at City Paper, I had good contacts with the then very new MTV, where Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones hosted a show called "120 Minutes" dedicated to promoting bands like us, and with IRS Records, which was a major new wave/punk label.  [Note: IRS Records was an independent label with acts like R.E.M., the Buzzcocks, the Go-Go's, Squeeze, the English Beat, and Fine Young Cannibals.]  So we might have had opportunities to do more – make videos maybe, tour more . . . I don't know.  Certainly our first album, which was released in late 1982, did well in some markets and was played on some college radio stations.  An album with better distribution and promotion, maybe backed up by a video, conceivably could have done very well. 

But we never resumed the same kind of concert schedule when David returned from California, and while we had a few good shows in 1985 and 1986, we sort of faded away for a while there.

2 or 3 lines:  Looking back, what was the best thing about being in TFI?    

Michael:  Best thing was it was always a blast.  It enabled me to misspend my youth for an entire extra decade! It was nearly always fun – now and then not so much, but most of the time.  I got to meet a lot of great people from all over the place, hang out with great musicians.  What more can you ask for? And while the extras aren't there anymore – meeting new bands, having privileges at the 9:30 Club, and girls – although I'm married now, so that's not needed anymore – there is still nothing more fun than getting on stage and playing as loud and hard as I can.

David Wells, Diana Quinn, and
Michael Mariotte in 2013
Here’s some big news for fans of Tru Fax and the Insaniacs: the band is planning to release a double album that includes old and new songs before the end of the year.  

2 or 3 lines will mark that occasion by featuring several songs from the forthcoming album as soon as it’s released, as well as interviews with TFI’s two other original members, David Wells and Diana Quinn. 

Click below to listen to “Perfect Day”:

Click below to buy "Perfect Day" or the entire 4Shadows EP.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tru Fax and the Insaniacs – "Nuclear Waste" (2015)

They thought it was safe
But now something's gone wrong

"Nuclear Waste" – which is one of the four songs on the 4Shadows EP that was released last month by Tru Fax and Insaniacs – was inspired by the partial nuclear meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979.

Anti-nuke protestors at Three Mile Island
"Nuclear Waste" and "Melt Down," another anti-nuke song that's on 4Shadows, are among the first songs that TFI wrote and performed, but the band had never recorded those songs until now.

It's no surprise that "Nuclear Waste" and "Melt Down" are particular favorites of Michael Mariotte, the only drummer that TFI has ever had.

Michael speaking out against nuclear power
That's because Michael is the President and former Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service ("NIRS"), an organization that was founded in 1978 to be a national information and networking center for those concerned about the safety of nuclear power.  Click here to learn more about NIRS. 

Last year, Michael was honored by more than a dozen environmental organizations with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in recognition of his three decades of leadership at NIRS.  That award was presented to Michael by none other than Ralph Nader.

Michael with his daughter
Zoryana and Ralph Nader
But when 2 or 3 lines recently interviewed Michael, the focus was the long and illustrious history of Tru Fax and Insaniacs ("TFI").  Here's part one of that interview.

2 or 3 lines: Michael, where did you grow up?

Michael Mariotte:  I'm an army brat.  I was born near Chicago, then lived in Paris for four years until the French kicked the U.S. military out, then moved to to northern Virginia – I lived in "Arlingtron," then Reston.

2 or 3 lines:  I understand you were the only member of Tru Fax and the Insaniacs who had been in a performing band prior to the formation of Tru Fax.

Michael:  That's right.  I started playing guitar in high school in Reston.  My first band was The Underground Cable – I was the rhythm guitarist.  Our claim to fame was beating our rock-band competition at a Reston talent show.  That was mostly because I had learned how to do a liquid light show and taught our lead guitarist's little sister how to do it while we played.  That was the first time anyone in Reston had seen such a light show.

Then I switched to organ and played in a band called the Prickly Heat, which had a few live shows.  The nucleus of that band eventually became a real band: Artful Dodger.  Ask anyone my age who grew up in Cleveland: they were huge there. 
[Note: Artful Dodger was a very good power pop band that released several albums in the late seventies.  Click here to read what 2 or 3 lines had to say about them in 2011.]

The first Artful Dodger album
I left that band to start a new band called The Street – which later became The New Street when we learned there was already a band called Street.  We played around the Reston/Herndon/Vienna area for a couple years.

I switched back from keyboards to guitar during college – I went to Antioch College in Ohio – but I wasn't in an actual band . . . just did occasional jamming.

2 or 3 lines: What kind of music did you like as a teenager? Who were your favorite groups, and which groups did you think were awful?

Michael: I liked psychedelic music then and still do.  One of my favorites was Jefferson Airplane.  I got to meet them and hang out with them backstage in San Antonio in 1971.  I also liked the Doors, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, etc. 

Country Joe McDonald
I got to meet Country Joe in 1972, during an FTA tour – we hung out together for several hours. [Note: FTA – which stood for "Free the Army" – was a group of performers organized by Jane Fonda that presented anti-war programs at Army bases.  Country Joe eventually pulled out of FTA because he thought Fonda patronized soldiers.]  I ran into Country Joe again 25 years later and he remembered our conversation.  In a very odd coincidence, he had become very good friends with former Tru Fax bass player Libby Hatch, who had been killed in a motorcycle accident by that time. 

I also liked early garage and punk rock, like the music on Lenny Kaye's first "Nuggets" compilation: the 13th Floor Elevators, Count Five, etc.  It was like the "Nuggets" album had been made for me.  

Locally, I loved Fallen Angels (still do), Sageworth & Drums, Grin, and The Hangmen, which was the first live band I ever saw.  It was a great pleasure to become acquainted with Bob Berberich many, many years later.  [Note: Berberich, who was the Hangmen's drummer, joined with Nils Lofgren and others to form Grin.]

I hated top 40. Still do.

Michael Mariotte back in the day
2 or 3 lines: How did Tru Fax and the Insaniacs – which I'm going to abbreviate as "TFI" – get started?  How did you come to be a member of TFI?

Michael:  I returned to DC area a few months after graduating from Antioch College and was looking for a place to live.  I saw a classified ad seeking a roommate who was "Devo, not disco," so I had to check it out.  It turned out that Diana Quinn, one of the people who lived in the house, also had also gone to Antioch.  We didn't know each other there, but knew a couple of people in common.  When I saw all these musical instruments in the house – which was on Jenifer Street in northwest DC – I said OK, I'm ready to move in.  So I did.

A day or two after I moved in, the other three who lived in the house – Diane, David Wells, and Alex Eldridge – said they were going downstairs to play music and asked if I wanted to join them.  I said yep, what should I play?  I had had to sell my guitar a couple months earlier, so I didn't have an instrument.  They said they needed someone to play drums, so I became the drummer. 

Michael Mariotte, Diana Quinn, and David Wells
We practiced nearly every night for six months – lots of Ramones and Devo covers.  David had already written "King of Machines" and a few others, and we wrote a bunch more that became part of our early repertoire – "Ambassador X," "Heat Inversion," "Melt Down," "Nuclear Waste," "Mystery Date," and, of course, "Washingtron."  I wrote the verses to "Washingtron" while sitting at the nearby Booeymonger's restaurant drinking a beer one afternoon.

After six months, we invited a bunch of people over for a party and played for them.  They seemed to like it, so we were ready to go public.

2 or 3 lines:  Tell me about TFI's first year.  Where did you play?

Michael:  Our first gig was at Hard Art Gallery on 15th Street, with Rhoda and the Bad Seeds in the summer of 1979.  We then played every weekend for months (and at least once a week for about three or four years).  We sometimes produced early shows ourselves at downtown galleries – we'd buy a bunch of beer and sell it for a dollar a bottle.  We played for a lot of people at Fort Reno Park, then we got into D.C. Space.    

By that fall, we were playing at clubs like Childe Harold and Columbia Station.  We also played at the University of Maryland – I remember a big, early, beer-drenched show at the student union ballroom there.  We even played at CBGB's in New York. 

2 or 3 lines:  You eventually became regulars at the original 9:30 Club on F Street.

Michael:  We headlined their first sold-out show – the first time where they kicked out everyone after the first set because there was a long line waiting to get into the second set.  We hid a lot of people in our dressing room and got in a little trouble with the club's manager, Dody Bowers, over that.  After that, the 9:30 Club did a better job warning people in advance that when a band was booked for two shows that you might have to leave after the first one.

Dody had her idiosyncrasies, but she really cared about her audience and really cared about DC bands.  For example, we were opening for the Revillos one night.  They had a huge drum set that took up about half of the stage.  They did their sound check and when we went up for ours, they refused to move their drums.  They said I should put my drum set in front of theirs and the rest of Tru Fax should stand on milk crates in front of the stage to do our set.  Dody came up and told them to get the drums off the stage immediately, or Tru Fax would be the only band playing that night.  Needless to say, the Revillos’ drums got moved.  I can't think of many club owners who would have put a local band ahead of a big-time touring bands the way Dody did.

Desperado's was another club where we played regularly.  Since we lived close by in Arlington by 1981, they would call on us whenever someone cancelled.  I remember filling in for Koko Taylor one night, and we didn't leave the crowd disappointed.  We also played regularly in Baltimore – at the Marble Bar, and Oddfellows Hall in Towson.

Part two of Michael's interview – which will feature a song that he wrote for 4Shadows – will appear in the next 2 or 3 lines

Click below to listen to "Nuclear Waste":

Click below to buy "Nuclear Waste" or the entire 4Shadows EP.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Donovan – "There Is a Mountain" (1967)

First, there is a mountain
Then there is no mountain
Then there is

Do you think Donovan was confused when he wrote those lines?  Or maybe high?

Actually, he was neither.  He was simply paraphrasing something that the Buddhist scholar Qingyuan Weixin wrote in the 9th century:

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers.  When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers.  But now that I have got [Zen's] very substance . . . I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.

So ask not whether Donovan was confused or high when he wrote "There Is a Mountain."  Ask instead whether Qingyuan Weixin was confused or high.

*     *     *     *     *

Speaking of getting high, Sugarloaf Mountain (which is a located in Frederick County, Maryland) has an elevation of 1282 feet.  It's a monadnock – an isolated hill or mountain that rises abruptly from the relatively flat land that surrounds it.

Sugarloaf Mountain
Chicago businessman Gordon Strong bought Sugarloaf Mountain and the surrounding land about a hundred years ago. 

In 1925, Strong commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design something called the "Gordon Strong Automobile Objective," a large circular structure built on the pinnacle of Sugarloaf that would have served as a sightseeing and entertainment destination for day-trippers from Washington and Baltimore.

The Gordon Strong Automobile Objective
The structure's most notable feature was a wrap-around exterior ramp that cars could use to ascend and descend the mountain.  (Wright later used a similar design for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.)  

At one point, Wright's plans for the building also included a tall spire that was apparently intended to serve as a mooring post for dirigibles.  (Hmmm . . . maybe it was Frank Lloyd Wright that was confused or high.)

The dirigible mooring spire
Strong came to his senses when he saw Wright's plans, and cancelled the project because it would have violated the integrity of the mountaintop.  (You can say that again.)

This infuriated Wright, who promptly sent a nastygram to Strong:

I have given you a noble "archaic" sculptured summit for your mountain.  I should have diddled it away with platforms and seats and spittoons for expectorating businessmen and the flappers that beset them.

Click here to read more about the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective.

*     *     *     *     *

After Gordon Strong retired, he set up a nonprofit corporation (Stronghold, Inc.) to own Sugarloaf Mountain and maintain it in its natural state.

A Sugarloaf Mountain trail
Roughly a quarter of a million people come to Sugarloaf each year to hike or ride horses or mountain bikes on its miles of trails – absolutely free of charge.

I've probably visited Sugarloaf a dozen times since moving to the Washington area.  The trail to the summit of the mountain is fairly steep, but anybody in reasonably good physical condition can get to the top and enjoy the spectacular views of the Potomac River and the Blue Ridge.

On my last visit to Sugarloaf, I didn't take the trail to the summit.  Instead, I hiked on the Yellow Trail, which circles the base of the mountain.

A Yellow Trail marker
Eventually the Yellow Trail intersects with the Blue Trail, which climbs about halfway up the side of the mountain before descending and intersecting with the White Trail.

A Blue Trail/White Trail blaze
Here's the sign that's posted at the entrance to Sugarloaf Mountain:

In case the small size of that photo makes it hard for you to read the sign, here's what it says:

Sugarloaf Mountain is open to the public.  The mountain is privately owned and maintained by Stronghold Incorporated for the public enjoyment of nature.  Stronghold receives no local, state, or federal funding . . .

*     *     *     *     *

A few years ago, the Sugarloaf Mountain Winery opened a short distance away.  It's just what you need after a strenuous day of hiking on the mountain.

Sugarloaf Mountain Winery
If you're looking for a white wine, I recommend the viognier.  If you want a red, go with the cabernet franc.

Click here to listen to "There Is a Mountain," which Donovan released as a single in 1967.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Smoke – "October Country" (1968)

You look so good to me
You look so far away

We at 2 or 3 lines just love getting e-mails from our loyal readers!  We read each and every one of them!  (By "we," 2 or 3 lines means "our unpaid intern.")

Here's an e-mail we received earlier this week:

Dear 2 or 3 lines:

Do you ever feel like you are somehow missing out on your own life?  October is my very favorite month of the year.  I wait for it all year.  And now it is almost over and I have barely seen it.

A loyal reader

October leaves
2 or 3 lines knows exactly how you feel, loyal reader.  But here's the difference between you and 2 or 3 lines.  

When you feel that way, you just go to your deadend job and feel sorry for yourself all day.

October woods
But when 2 or 3 lines feels that way, 2 or 3 lines takes a mental health day, goes for a long walk in the woods, and then heads to a nearby winery, where he spends the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun while noshing on cheese, bread, salami, and olives.

And drinking wine, of course – I almost forgot to mention the wine.  Not just one glass of wine . . . and not just two glasses.  I'm talking the whole damn bottle.  

That's the problem with going to a winery all by yourself – you end up drinking the whole damn bottle.  After that, you stagger back to your car, start the engine, and promptly "fall asleep."  If you're lucky, someone will rap smartly on your window before the winery closes.  If you're not lucky, you'll wake up in the wee hours of the morning, wondering how you ended up in an empty parking lot in the middle of nowhere with an empty gas tank.

October sky
October can be a lovely month.  But I have a problem with October that keeps it from being my favorite month: it's followed by November and December, which is followed by January and February, which really suck – unless you live in Australia.

I have the same problem with Sunday, which is a wonderful day but which is followed by Monday.  That fact begins to weigh on my mind about noon on Sunday and pretty much spoils the whole rest of the day.

In the next 2 or 3 lines, you'll read about my long walk in the woods before the visit to the winery.  (I don't remember much about that walk, but I took a lot of pictures, so I was able to reconstruct it ex post facto.)

Michael Lloyd
Before Michael Lloyd was the highly successful producer of pop stars like the Osmonds, Shaun Cassidy, and Leif Garrett in the 1970s, he was a teenage psychedelic-music wunderkind who was one of the original members of the legendary West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.  (2 or 3 lines will have more to say about Lloyd and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in the very near future.)  

Lloyd was 18 when he produced October Country's eponymous album, which included the song "October Country."  Over the next few months, he produced a one-off album for a studio group called The Smoke, which consisted mostly of himself.  The Smoke's equally eponymous album also included the "October Country" song.

I like The Smoke's version of "October Country" much better than October Country's version, so that's why 2 or 3 lines is featuring it today:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Aaron Watson – "Deer Blind" (2012)

Well, that old game warden
He better steer clear
There ain't no poachin' goin' on up here

While visiting my parents in recently, I had occasion to visit the local Walmart store.

The typical Walmart is truly a garden of earthly delights, and the one in Joplin, Missouri, is no exception.  Given the season, it wasn't surprising that the store was well-stocked with pumpkins.  But I didn't expect to be given a choice between pumpkins from Texas and pumpkins from Oklahoma:

Texas pumpkins

Oklahoma pumpkins
I went to Walmart to buy groceries and a couple of potted mums for my mother.  But I love a bargain as much as the next guy, so I was sorely tempted when I saw a high-quality deer-hunting blind for sale for only $999:

To tell the truth, I had no intention of buying a deer blind at any price.  I've never gone hunting in my life, and wouldn't know the first thing about utilizing a deer blind.  (Even if I managed to kill a deer from my blind, I wouldn't have a clue what to do with the carcass.)

A couple of days later, I said good-bye to my parents and headed north on Interstate 49  My destination was the Kansas City airport.

Less than an hour north of Joplin is the town of Lamar, Missouri, which just happens to be the home of a major deer blind manufacturer.  (You can click here to read more about Lamar.)  

Lamar has a population of some 4500 souls.  So it was quite a blow to the town when O'Sullivan Industries, a large manufacturer of ready-to-assemble desks and bookcases, went bankrupt and laid off its 700 Lamar employees in 2007.

Three former O'Sullivan employees and a retired bank president joined forces the next year and formed Redneck Blinds, which manufactures several thousand deer blinds a year.  

If you plan to spend much time in a deer blind, you're going to need some beer, of course.  Busch hopes that its deer-themed 24-packs of beer will appeal to thirsty hunters:

You're also going to need something to eat.  Redneck's top-of-the-line deer blind doesn't come equipped with a stove or even a microwave, so I recommend that you visit another Lamar business, the Beef Jerky Outlet, and stock up before your next hunting trip.

If your tastebuds crave a change of pace from beef jerky, the Beef Jerky Outlet also offers turkey jerky (your choice of cherry-maple, honey-barbecue, and peppercorn smoked flavors), ham jerky, bacon jerky, buffalo jerky, venison jerky, and elk jerky.

Looking for a jerky with lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids?  Try the salmon jerky (in your choice of pepper-garlic or teriyaki flavor).

The Beef Jerky Outlet is a family business that first opened its doors in 1961.  Believe it or not, some people thought that opening a beef jerky store was a crazy idea:

[Y]ou should have seen the looks on some of our relatives' faces when they heard what we were up to.  You should have seen the look on our BANKERS' faces when we pitched the idea to them.  Horror films have less tormented-looking faces in them than what we were looking at across the desk.

Oh ye relatives and bankers of little faith!  History has proved all of you doubting Thomases wrong!  

A happy jerky lover
The Beef Jerky Outlet's website sums it all up as follows:

[T]he long and the short of it is, we took a simple idea and added some fun.  We opened the doors and hoped you would come in.  And boy have you come.  Every day we are motivated to keep it going and keep making it better.  It’s all for you, the jerky lover who for too long was neglected and force fed inferior mass-market jerky.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy doing it for you.

Today's featured song (which is from Aaron Watson's 2012 album, Real Good Time)tells the tale of a gentleman who doesn't hunt deer from his deer blind.  Instead, he puts it to an entirely different use:

I got a different kind of hunting on my mind
Thank God I got my baby up in my deer blind

The deer blind I saw at Walmart didn't look like it was well-suited for a romantic rendezvous.  But if you can't afford a no-tell motel, a deer blind might be a better alternative than the back seat of a crew-cab pickup truck.

Here's "Deer Blind":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

3 Penny Acre – "Highway 71" (2010)

In 'twenty-six
They laid that asphalt down

I've spent a fair amount of a my life on U.S. Route 71, a 1532-mile-long north-south highway that was opened in 1926. 

Highway 71's northern terminus is the Fort Frances-International Falls International Bridge, which connects International Falls, Minnesota, and Fort Frances, Ontario.  

Its southern terminus is where it  intersects with U.S. Route 190, northwest of New Orleans. 

You can think of Highway 71 as sort of a north-south version of Route 66 – which intersected with it in Joplin, Missouri, where I spent the first 18 years of my life (and where my parents still live).

(I'm not sure why it was "Highway 71" and "Route 66," but it was.)

When I was a child, my acquaintance with Highway 71 was limited to the 100 miles or so between Joplin and Fayetteville, Arkansas.  That's because my mother's very large family lived in and around Fayetteville. and we drove down Highway 71 to visit them.

Back in those days, much of that stretch of highway was just two lanes wide.  It was four lanes wide in parts of northwestern Arkansas, but it wasn't a limited-access highway – there were plenty of stoplights along the way.  

We would often end up behind a chicken-coop-toting flatbed truck belonging to Tyson Foods, which left a trail of chicken feathers and a truly appalling smell in its wake.  (Tyson, which didn't become a publicly-held company until 1963, is now the world's second-largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, with annual sales of about $35 billion.)

Highway 71 went right past the original Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas.  Walmart had a few stores back then, and those stores were nothing special.  I looked down my nose at the people who patronized the Joplin Walmart store – I thought I was too good to shop there.

I grew up in very humble circumstances, so it was a bit ridiculous for me to think I could look down on anything.  But at least both my parents were employed, so I felt quite superior to Walmart shoppers – I thought most of them were at best trailer trash, at worst welfare mothers.

The most exciting thing about driving down Highway 71 was seeing the large Daisy air rifle factory in Rogers.  I lusted after a lever-action Daisy, but there was no chance my parents were going to let me get within a hundred yards of a BB gun.

These days, the stretch of Highway 71 I'm most familiar with is the 150 or so miles between Kansas City and Joplin.  (I usually fly to Kansas City and rent a car when I go to visit my parents, so I make that drive several times a year.) 

That part of Highway 71 was redesigned as Interstate 49 in December 2012, but I still think of it as Highway 71.

There aren't a lot of people between Kansas City and Joplin.  Half an hour or so south of downtown Kansas City, you pass through Harrisonville (population 10,019).  Butler (population 4219) comes next as you continue driving south, followed by Rich Hill (population 1396), and Nevada (population 8386).  

About half an hour before you get to Joplin, you pass through Lamar (population 4532), which was named after Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, a hero of the Texas Revolution.

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar
The day before the Battle of San Jacinto – the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution, which took place on April 21, 1836 – Lamar bravely rescued two Texans who were surrounded by Mexican forces.  Lamar's gallantry drew a salute from the Mexican lines.  That night he was promoted from private to colonel by General Sam Houston, and put in command of the Texas army's 61-man cavalry.

The San Jacinto Monument is even
taller than the Washington Monument
Later that year, Texans elected Houston as their first President and Lamar as their first Vice-President.  Lamar then succeeded Houston as the President of Texas in 1838, and was in turn succeeded by Houston in 1841.  (The Constitution of the Republic of Texas did not permit a President to serve consecutive terms.)

Texas has a county, a university, a number of schools, and a number of streets named after Lamar, but it appears that the only thing outside of the Lone Star State named after him is Lamar, Missouri.

The Harry Truman birthplace (Lamar, MO)
Lamar's main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Harry S. Truman.  

We'll learn about Lamar's two most interesting businesses in the next 2 or 3 lines.

"Highway 71" is the title track of a 2010 album by a folk trio from Fayetteville, Arkansas, who call themselves 3 Penny Acre:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: