Who are we? We are our stories.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Esteban Jordan Again, Again

Somewhere in a dusty box in the storeroom I have a couple of old cassette tapes of Esteban Jordan. A couple of days ago I posted a YouTube video of him, which I suspect nobody listened to. You really ought to. I first tried to introduce him to you musical heathens back in 2009, with ... ah ... limited sucess. 

Esteban Jordan
Jordan was born in Elsa, Texas, about 15 miles from our Alamo winter residence, and was buried there in 2010. In the three years we have wintered in the Lower Rio Grande Valley we have slowly ferreted out the good Mexican bakeries, the best taquerías, the places that still make traditional tamales wrapped in corn husks, but we have not found any music approaching this. If there is some kid out there working on it, we'll find him eventually.

This is edited down from an obit in The Guardian. There is a great one in My San Antonio, but it's rather long. Have a look if your appetite is whetted.
'You probably have never heard of accordionist Esteban 'Steve' Jordan," the Texas journalist David Bennett wrote in his introduction to a 1988 album of the musician's work. For the Anglo audience he was addressing, it was a fair comment, but to anyone in Hispanic south Texas it would have been a joke. Jordan, who has died aged 71, was a leading figure in Tex-Mex conjunto music, his records on jukeboxes from Florida to California, a Chicano superstar.  
He began playing guitar at seven and accordion at 10, and by the age of 20 claimed to know his way around at least 20 instruments. During the 1960s, in a band with some of his brothers, he played in Hispanic clubs throughout the western United States. In 1969-70, playing guitar with the Latin-jazz percussionist Willie Bobo, he became known to audiences in the eastern US and had a chance to sit in with José Feliciano. 
Jordan was famously mercurial, sometimes taking a month out of his schedule to go fishing. One club owner wishing to hire him had to turn detective to find out where he was. Trying to book him for the Channel 4 series, I was warned that Jordan was not only elusive but suspicious of Anglos, tricky about contracts and altogether rather scary. He proved to be none of those things, and his show at Club Islas in Austin – an amicable "battle of the bands" with the north Texas polka group Brave Combo – was one of the high points of the series. 
"Incurably eclectic", as the New York Times once described him, Jordan could play in any idiom, from rock and pop to country music and Louisiana zydeco. Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records remembers: "One night he appeared on the same programme as Clifton Chenier, and apparently felt challenged to come up to the Zydeco King's standards. It was incredible … I saw him for the last time a few years ago when he played regularly at his girlfriend's tiny bar in San Antonio and poured out his heart for a tiny audience."

May music bring joy to your soul,
 Gunnar B.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Clockwise - Esteban Jordan -

Maria Elena

Reverend Dick posted this on his blog, might as well suffer. Just when I think the Rev really sucks eggs, he drops one like this on me. Gawd this is sweet. I take back all the ugly things I have ever said about him and his forever suffering church.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding Lady Bird

For you folks who are too young to remember, Lady Bird Johnson was First Lady of the United States in the mid-sixties. Most wives of presidents have occupied their time with trying to cure world hunger or raising education awareness. Lady Bird's cause was planting wildflowers along our Interstate Highways. ??? I always just wrote that off to her being a slightly flaky southern belle.

We took a long cut today, skirting around the traffic of San Antonio by taking the cutoff at Pleasanton on a rural highway which runs to Floresville and eventually on to San Marcos. I am in Texas in a wet Spring after years of drought. In places the fields and ditches are exploding with color. Some fields are yellow, some pink, a lot blue. Most of them are a mixture of colors. Guy in the gas station, "We call 'em all 'Bluebonnets' ". 

It was a misty drizzle, dim light, but great for picking up the color in photographs. Johann Rissik, who lives in South Africa, asked for pictures of the countryside of our return trip. Here's the first edition.

An "Oh, my God!" moment.

Now I understand what drove Lady Bird.

My regular camera was packed away, so I just had my shirt pocket camera (Lumix DMC-ZS25). Lorna had her "real camera" at hand. If you want more and better, here's a link to her pictures.

Live well,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Winding Down

Our friends have all left for the four corners, the birds are migrating north. We've pretty much seen all the birds to be seen. Last evening we went out for a pleasant dinner as guests of our innkeeper and his family. Today we took our recycling to Edinburg and checked out the butterflies at the Edinburg Wetlands. Few birds, some butterflies, met a couple of friends in the gardens for a last time. On the way home we picked up some fruit at a farmer's market, some wine at the grocery store. Tonight, a low key meal with one of our Alamo neighbors. Tomorrow morning we will have one last walkabout at Estero Llano, maybe a quick stop at Santa Ana, then packing for an early departure Monday morning. We plan on a couple of days in the Aransas area, then two or three days to get back to Minnesota. I'm ready. 


National Butterfly Center

Black Swallowtail
I am NOT an expert on butterflies. Lorna occasionally drags me along. For me its more of a photography challenge.  The big ones may be spectacular, but honestly I'm more intrigued by the Skippers, which tend to be small and very fast. A bitch to get good pictures of them.

Lorna regularly goes on group butterfly walks, even packs a second pair of "butterfly binoculars" which can focus closer. She also seems to be on a first name basis with all of those people who contribute to butterfly books or find new species.  The other day at NABA we were butterflying with three of those people. It is impossible to ignore the butterflies and not get caught up in the excitement when some rare little flutter bug goes battering by. 

Gunnar and Chris

Martin. A Brit ex-pat from San Antonio. Just incredible eyesight.

Mike Rickert. This is what an expert looks like. Given time I think I could pull off that look, if not the passion and knowledge.

Crimson Patch

Phaon Crescent

This is a male Florida White, apparently rare in Texas. Fairly large and very striking.  It is hard to photograph because it rarely seems to sit and feed. The shot above is airborne.

Following are some Skippers __________________________

Funereal Duskywing
Tropical Checkered-Skipper

This a Mellana, about 3/4" long. I like this shot because of the tiny wasp in front of it.


Clouded Skipper

I'm tired of I.D.ing Skippers. You don't care and neither do I.
Be well,

Black Phoebe

Here's a set I took at Benstsen State Park, south of Mission, Texas. The Black Phoebe is a bird of Mexico and up the California coast. Down here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley it's pretty rare, maybe just a few scattered pairs. As far as I know this may be the only pair this year. Whatever, in the words of the great Paul Prappas, this is a great bird.

I rather like the blurred wingbeats. It's more the way we actually perceive them with our eyes. I am rationalizing -  it was low light and if  I opened up the aperture enough to freeze the action the pictures would been even grainier than they are now. We have to play the cards we are dealt.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Benton Basham Sighting

Lorna, Ben and Gunnar. We traded photographs with Ben.

Some of you may have read the book or seen the movie, The Big Year, where Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson are involved in a contest to see who can see the most North American birds in one year. This is based on a true story that happened in 1998 between Al Levantin, Greg Miller, and Sandy Komito - Komito eventually ending with 748 species. Over the years there have been a number of runs at the year record; Basham was the first one over 700, with 710 in 1998. This is a remarkable record number considering that it was done before there was the internet with hourly rare bird sightings posted that later chasers had the advantage of.

Life lists? People with over 800 species north of Mexico are very rare. Ben has 881 birds sighted in North America, north of the Mexican border. The number itself becomes vague. The year bird species are more definite. Life lists, at that level, are more fluid, because now DNA intervenes; every year similar bird species are being lumped together, or species split into two or more. What is a "good bird" one year can become a sub-species the next. Whatever that number is, Ben's mark will stand high. The bird numbers are falling; the island of Attu, which he has visited 11 times, is now off limits. And it costs money and time - a lot of time and money.

After Benton could no longer get around well enough to do serious birding, he became an expert on butterflies. Now that even that is no longer possible, he collects photos of the people he meets and automobile licence plates. He does not use a computer. As he puts it, he is interested in accumulating knowledge, he just has chosen to do it in another way. Eccentric? Compulsive? Driven? He confesses to them all, but the whole package does make him a very fascinating person.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Another Day Shot

Blue skies, 72 degrees, a light breeze. Pictures from a midday stroll around the Santa Ana Refuge. There have been rains this year. It's by far the greenest we have seen it down here. The locals say that they haven't seen the trees and shrubs bloom this heavily in years.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in a Huisache Tree. 

White-faced Ibis at Willow Lake (white faced, as shortly they will have a narrow line of  fine white feathers around their face, which the similar, more coastal Glossy Ibis is lacking.) 

Mixed bag of ducks and shorebirds at Pintail Lake

Longbilled Dowitchers. There were half a dozen different shorebirds at Pintail. These happen to be what came closest.

I understand the weather is warming up fast back in Minnesota, which is wonderful after this seemingly endless winter. Enjoy the warmer weather. See you in about two or three weeks.

Be well,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

1948? Galmozzi

This is the iconic picture of Gino Bartali shifting the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa shifter, possibly astride a Galmozzi, often his bicycle of choice. Bartali was a pretty decent rider. He won the Giro d'Italia three times and the Tour de France twice. He probably would have won more, but that inconvenient World War II intervened, then near the end of his career that pesky Fausto Coppi arrived on the scene. 

Below is a watercolor based on the photo. I would like to credit the artist, but such is the way of the internet, I don't know who painted it. I'll just have to give him a two thumbs up.

To the left is a copy of Tullio Campagnolo's drawings of the Cambio Corsa. Bear with me campers (or is it, "Bare with me"?) this will all come together eventually.

So much for the hors d'oeuvres, the appetizers. Now the main course, a late 1940's Galmozzi. We'll call it a 1948, as in 1949 the Cambio Corsa was superseded, or rather "joined",  by the single lever Paris-Roubaix. Whatever the age, it was old ... and rough.

Per Aldo Ross:
Gunnar, the two-lever Cambio Corsa continued in production after the introduction of the single-lever unit (not called Paris-Roubaix until after Coppi's win in 1950). The P-R shifter cost something like three times as much as the Cambio Corsa, thus could be sold as an economical alternative. The Cambio Corsa and P-R were both still being marketed even as Campagnolo introduced the Gran Sport derailleur, and were still being used on new bikes into the mid-1950s.

One can never have too many visual aids or pie charts (actually had a management consultant tell me that one time). Here's a video of a restoration of the above Galmozzi frame. You are permitted to skip ahead and come back to this, but be warned, it's worth a minute, 43 of your life, if only for the musical background.

Here's the results of the above work.

Rory Mason found this when he was working for Cannondale in Europe and he is responsible for the beautiful restoration. Rory and I trace our relationship back to Dan Ulwelling who died in January of 2006. He was one of the finest men I have ever known.

The dessert? Today I bought this bicycle.