April 13, 2014

Live Music

I can say with some emphasis that I really like live music. Or rather, in the past I have enjoyed many live music shows. In my youth.

But I can also say that as I age, the appeal of a stand-up show that starts (!) after 10:00 PM loses some of its appeal.

So, while I know why my sweet ever lovin' wanted to get out of the house this weekend, I was not completely thrilled when she said that she bought tickets to a show at Warehouse Live, an interesting Houston music venue. (the act isn't as important as the action)

The tickets said "Doors Open at 8:00" so we naively thought that the show would start some time like 8:30.

So we had dinner across the street from the venue at a great little Vietnamese place called Huynh. We had Bo Luc Lok and Baby Kai Lan in Garlic. For appetizers we had pork spring rolls.

We were surprised at how empty the restaurant was, and how easy it was to find parking. At 8:00.

We got into the venue, and it was mostly empty, though I did have to stand in line for a beer. (Isn't that odd? Why wouldn't they increase the beer staff to make more money?). We wandered into the performance hall about 8:30 and stood about 3' from the stage (not my preferred location, by the way. I like sitting back farther than that, but Doreen likes to watch them sweat.)

We stood and waited, and talked to the others around us. We were surprised at how small the crowd was.

Finally, about 9:15 the warm-up band started. I could not understand a word they said, so I never got their name. They played a lot of Southern Rock, and a lot of songs written by the band. Now, Southern Rock has never been my favorite style of music, but I have to say that these kids are living their dream. I don't know if they all had day jobs (IT specialists?) but they really loved playing their music. Some of the folks I went to high school with are doing this same type of gig, so I know how hard it is to make a living at this. I admired them.

They quit about 9:45 (short set) and then the Headliner's roadies started swarming the stage. That was sort of an act to see, but they didn't start playing until about 10:30.

Not having been to a show in a long time, I was shocked at how many people were taking photos with their phones. Non-stop! And as I was in the front of the crowd, I could see many of the images. They mostly looked like this:

Crazy. But I suppose they take it to heart.

Again, the sound system meant that you couldn't understand a word of the songs, which is tough when they sing a lot of ballads. I finally moved to the back of the room, which gave me a better view and allowed for a better sound. I think that I have seen more live popular music shows than Doreen has, I believe that being far away is usually a better location. I think she was making an analogy to musical theater, ballet, or the opera, in which case closer is much better.

We left before the show was over, but the tickets were only $38, so you cant complain too much.

April 8, 2014


It is hard to get back into the swing of things, but we must carry on.

And part of carrying on is talking about the wonderful circus we saw while in Lille.

This all happened rather by accident. We got to Lille about mid-day, and our room wasn't ready. We had anticipated this, and knew we were going to wander about town just exploring a little. I have some other posts describing some of the things we did.

There is a famous citadel in Lille designed by Vauban that Doreen had wanted to see. It is still being used by the French military (after 350 years!) so we knew that there may be a problem trying to get in. (Long story there. You need to apply to enter, have a copy of your passport, etc, etc.) So we wandered over to see what it looked like from the outside. 

But when we got there, we saw a bunch of tents, semi-trailers, and cars parked in the Champ des Mars. We got closer and saw that it was a circus! A little local circus called the Cirque Arlette Gruss. The theme of this show was "The Revolution in Red and White"

This was about 1:30, and the show started at 2:00. We hemmed and hawed a little bit, but then decided to go. We asked for the "best seats in the house" and were certainly rewarded with them! We had front row seats exactly opposite where the performers came out onto the ring.

When we were in New York last year, we saw the lasted revival of Pippin! It is set in a medieval circus. Well, this was that! They had a good looking Ringmaster (above) who tried to trick us all into believing that the clown didn't show up. So they grabbed a person out of the crowd and made him put on make-up:
 and he was the clown. He looked disconcertingly like my friend John Wilson.

After this introduction, with some loud Euro-Pop music provided by a live band (excellent!) the acts started.

The first was a bunch of Asian men doing rope tricks. They dropped the ropes a couple of times, but overall it was a great show.
After the rope tricks, we had juggler come on. He dropped a couple of balls, but he was a lot of fun to watch. I really like jugglers, and wish I could juggle more than three balls for more than thirty seconds.

The next act was by far our favorite. Well, my favorite, at least.

We were wondering what sort of animal acts they would have in a small circus like this. So when the three round platforms came into the ring, we were frantic with anticipation.

And on walked three cows! Beautiful cows, but cows none the less. There was a bridge built above the platforms, and while the cows were on the platform, three goats walked over the bridge!

You couldn't ask for anything more than that.
 You couldn't ask for anything more than that!

But of course there was more:
The cows and goats walked off, and then three big (huge!) woolly pigs came on stage! They ate some treats, did a little dance, and then were joined by a flock of geese.

Those acts alone were worth the price of admission.

I didn't mention that in addition to the ring master and the clown, there was also a manager type guy. I guess I would call him a clown, too. He did magic tricks and and had a rubber chicken. Everything is better with a rubber chicken.
Whenever there was a change on the ring (this was a one-ring circus) these guys would come out and entertain.

They had a number of strength and agility acts - one couple that had some the amazing ability to grab a pole with both hands, and then rotate their bodies so they were parallel to the floor. 

The next animal act was a woman with horses
 Very nice. She ended up with a little pony that could walk on its hind legs as long as she asked it to do so.
More strength and agility acts followed.

and it couldn't be a circus without elephants. But I have to say  that because we were so close the elephants looked at us, right in the eye. They did not look happy. As a matter of fact, they looked quite sad. Projection, personification, and anthropomorphism, I know. But it was still sad.

The Trapeze artists worked with a net. Because of our spot on the floor, it was sort of hard to see, and at least a couple of times I got chalk in my eyes by looking up. But they looped and swung, jumped and passed each other. It was fun to watch.

All the tigers were quite chunky. But I suppose that if I was working with tigers, I would want them to be well fed, too.

Below is the clown who looks like John Wilson.

One of the creepiest acts was a contortionist. You can have that stuff.

The crowd had plenty of young kids (the one next to us fell asleep, despite the noise)

This was two and a half hours that went by too fast.

Catch them if you can.

April 3, 2014


We had to put our sweet dog, Blaze, to sleep this morning.

While it was the right thing to do, it does not make it any easier, or less sad.

She was almost 14 years old (we said she shared a birthday with Doreen, making her 13 years and three months old) and was having trouble getting around.

We picked her and her sister Daisy up one day in 2001 when we stopped by Wabash Feed Store to get some bird food. They were both so darned cute we had to take them home.

Blaze and Daisy didn't get along, and Daisy went to live with our great friend Gaye, who kept her happy until a year or so ago.

Both Blaze and Daisy had bad hips, though that didn't seem to stop either of them from making sure the house was safe from stray cats, raccoons, possums, squirrels, and the occasional mocking bird.

She had a great big bark, but would not hurt a fly, as was evidenced by the time we were broken into. All I can imagine is that she wagged her tail at the burglars and was hoping for treats.

One of her favorite places to hide was in the oleander bushes on the east side of our yard. She loved jumping up and barking at unsuspecting passers-by to see if they would be "jumpers" or "screamers" as our across the street neighbors would call them.

We had some very set routines that we followed every single day. We woke at 5:30 and walked (every day except when I was out of town) for almost 14 years. We would "police the yard" before I went to work to make sure it was clean, and then do "last rounds" before we went to bed - to make sure all the doors and gates were locked. She licked the cat bowls after they had their fill and ate most of our leftover protein so our garbage was always pretty clean.

If you look at some of the later photos in
Blaze 2000.12.25 - 2014.04.03

that album you will see a pot roast that we spent all day cooking, and then Blaze helped herself to off the counter. Which was funny, since we thought she had bad hips and we didn't think she could get up that high. Oh well. We couldn't punish her as we put the temptation right there for her to enjoy.

The house will be a quieter, and sadder place without her. Thanks to everyone who has written and sent condolences. I am sure we will soon be remembering only the good stories.

April 2, 2014


We took a local train from Paris to Lille, leaving from the Gare du Nord. You may be more familiar with the much more spectacular Gare de l'est. The Taxi driver made a mistake and accidentally tried to drop us off at that train station. I had to say "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la gareand then direct him to the nearby North station. 

It was a short ride to Lille, and when we arrived, we were greeted with a very pleasant town that felt more Belgian than French. Indeed, Lille is in the historic boundries of Flanders, and was made part of France in 1668.

You can see the Flemish influence in the buildings surrounding the main square.

The Bourse was open to a used book fair this Sunday, which gave us a chance to wander about inside.

This odd photo is a panoramic view from INSIDE the Bourse, looking around the courtyard.

And this is a more conventional view of what the courtyard looked like.

There was a book for sale that was about Belgians in the Congo, dated 1856. If it wasn't so big, I would have purchased it. It was pretty much as horrible as you imagine it would be.

The food in Lille was also more Belgian than it was French. It was more common  to see beer than wine in the restaurants, and you saw many places selling waffles, such as the place Meert, above. It has been there for many, many years.

They are very famous for their stuffed waffles, and they looked like this:

They were about as delicious as they were attractive.

We also got Hot Chocolate:

Viennese Hot Chocolate

French Hot Chocolate.

These were much better.

Here is a cookbook for sale (mostly for Matt) that calls out Waterzooie on the cover.

We didn't stop in this bar, but I am sorry that we didn't:

It is a nice place to spend a couple of days.

I promise to write about the Circus we saw there. It was Spectacular!

April 1, 2014

A Picnique

You may have noticed that we seem to eat a lot while on vacation. This is true, but sometimes we opt for a more simple meal. In this case, a small picnic that we got from a local food store.

There is always a lot of negotiation on what we will get. I will usually opt for a sausage or cheese entree, Doreen will often go for a more vegetable heavy dish.

In this case, we split. I really wanted to get the Sausage Lyonnaise, or sausage ball, and Doreen did not feel that was a good choice. So I agreed to eat the sausage ball on my own (we usually share) and she would have the vegetable quiche.

You can see we also got two desserts, which we did agree to split - an almond croissant, and a tiny little Tarte Tatin, which is sort of like an apple pie.

Well, I have to say that the sausage roll was very delicious, and I did share it with Doreen. Her quiche was not so delicious. So I opted out.

There is a little back story with this meal. We had been lollygagging over at the Marche aux Puce (which see) and came back to town late. Doreen had been craving some onion soup, and wanted to go to a little cafe that where we had lunch several years ago.

I agreed (though I was craving a sausage ball after seeing it the day before) and we walked over to the cafe.

Though it was only 2:20, they had closed! They stopped serving at 2:00. So I got two bonuses that day - letting Doreen have the lunch she wanted (even though it didn't pan out) AND a sausage ball! 

It was a good lunch