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Saturday Nights With The Usual Suspects . . .

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Music is a big part of my life. My aunt bought me a little kid’s record player before I went into the first grade, and she provided three 45 records with it: One was Elvis, one was Patty Page, and one was country singer Claude King. Stunned me; I had listened to radio, but being able to pick what I wanted to hear played opened up a new world.

Later, as a third grader, I was walking in the French Quarter of New Orleans one afternoon and saw a group of older men sitting in chairs on the sidewalk, jamming on some blues tune. I was gobsmacked; you mean regular folks can make their own music? Astonishing! Soon I had my aunt’s alto sax and was trying to play what I heard from those guys at Preservation Hall. It was so difficult to learn to play but that was part of the fun.

Seeing The Beatles on TV one Sunday night in early 1964 was another seminal event; I knew I’d switch from sax to guitar and bass.

Here are some of my musical buddies last night, playing in John Sapper’s backyard gazebo in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have a group of perhaps a dozen friends who get together most weekends to jam and sing. We call this assemblage The Usual Suspects, and we never know who will show up.

Last night, at John’s, it was John, Dan Collier, David Martin and me. I had already packed up my Telecaster when this song began, so I filmed it with my iPhone:

I belong to a more conventional band called The Gizmos, which plays blues, Bakersfield country, rockabilly and classic rock. I’ll try to get some video of that group soon!

Ocean City Storm

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My wife, Patty, is a talented photographer. She took this photo from the balcony of the condo where she, my daughter and granddaughters were staying in Ocean City, Maryland, the last week of August.

Patty just corrected me; I thought that she took this photo with her Nikon DSLR, but she took it with her iPhone. Even more impressive.

The photo shows a storm coming from the south; the colors just knock me out. Double click to view the image full-size and see if you don’t agree!

The Parker 75 Pen

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In 1964, to celebrate their 75th anniversary, the Parker Pen Company introduced the Parker 75. Mine belonged to my dad and is, I believe, from 1967. At the time, they sold for $25 which in today’s money would be about $200, I guess. On eBay, the sterling-silver ones, like mine, go for anywhere from $100 to $250, depending on what it’s made of, nib size and collectable status.

Mine is the sterling-silver model with the grid pattern, which looks very elegant and slim compared to many of today’s black and bulky fountain pens. I had my dad’s fine nib replaced with a Parker France broad nib, which is more like what we’d call a medium-thickness nib today.

Some of these pens were made in gold and other finishes, and some were made from 1715-era silver coins from a sunken Spanish ship found off the Florida Keys in the late 1960s.

When my brother (thanks, Jeffrey!) gave me this pen a couple of years ago, I had it checked out and the interior-grip cap mechanism replaced by our friends at Fahrney’s, which is a wonderful Washington, DC pen store. Their store is across from the National Press building on F Street, NW, and their repair facility is in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Good folks. Send for their catalog!

These 75s take both the old-fashioned fill-from-a-bottle ink holders and modern-day ink cartridge refills. Tomorrow, I start a new print production assignment at one of my favorite places, so I’ll celebrate by using this pen, filled with the Parker emerald-green ink, which they call Quink for some reason.

Grand Day!

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Here are some wonderful photos Patty took today at the Columbia Mall when she met Neenie and the girls for lunch.

Maddie (with Neenie) on the carousel:

Neenie and Maddie on the carousel:

Sophie:

Sophie makes a funny face:

And, for our last picture, Sophie smiles:

Thanks for the photos, Patty!

Auto Repair Excitement: The Final Chapter?

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Patty’s Bug is back in her hands and she’s bravely driving up to Westminster to meet Neenie and the girls for lunch. The car seems, to Patty, to be back to normal.

Next on the agenda for the Bug will be new tires. The old tires have plenty of tread left, but there are cracks in the sidewalls that look suspicious to me. I know that modern tires can’t have “dry rot” like tires in the old days, but it looks rather like that and I don’t want to take any chances.

Hi! We’re Taking A Pole . . .

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No; not that kind of poll!

In our neighborhood in Hyattsville, they’re replacing all the wooden telephone or power poles. I say, “they,” because since contractors are doing the work, I can’t tell who “they” are! But they’re doing a fine job. There are hundreds of these poles going up right next to the old ones. The new poles are a tad bigger in diameter than the old ones. Once the new ones are in place, they transfer the wiring structure to the new poles and chop down the old ones. After they’re done, you can hardly tell there was an old pole there at all. Whoever “they” are, they’re certainly efficient.

I can’t imagine what this must cost. Crews with big trucks are all over the place doing this work.

What I’d like to know, and I’m hoping one of my readers can answer this, is: What the heck kind of tree are these poles made from? The poles are uniformly straight and, I guess, about 25-30 feet high Probably five or six feet more are stuck in the ground. So we’re talking a fairly substantial tree to begin with. I don’t know of any tree that grows that straight except maybe a pine tree.

Anyone know the answer?

Feeling Lucky, Steampunk?

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About a mile or so north of us, on Nicholson Street, lives an artist, Clarke Bedford. During the day, he’s the Conservator of Paintings and Mixed-Media Objects at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

But he’s really a steampunk genius.

I happen to love steampunk, and I like what this fellow has done to his cars. Patty, on the other hand, finds it so disturbing that she won’t even drive down that street if she can avoid it.

So here we go. Here’s car number one (my favorite):

Here’s the front of car number two, which is a van:

And here’s car number three, which began life as a Volvo:

I’ve never seen these cars moving down the road, but I’d love to!

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