Sunday, April 24, 2011

Season Views II Part Two

We are really late with the second installment of our new Seasons Views. Travel, storms and just all around busy-ness have kept us from an enjoyable trip through the back roads of the Nebraska Outback.

The first series is from the Sarben bridge over the North Platte River. The picture below was taken at about 6:00pm on April 21. You can see that the river has dropped every so slightly. Word is that the federal government has authorized Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District to hold a little more water in Lake McConaughy, so hopefully it will help alleviate the high water flows in the Platte River.
The same location on March 12, 2011 at about 2:30 in the afternoon.
Below is the beautiful Sutherland Reservoir on April 21. While the tree still has a long way to go to sports its summer greenery, you can see the grass greening up.
The first picture in the series from March 12.
Haugland Hill on April 21. Just beautiful - finally turning green.
Same view from back on March 12.

Here is a bonus view from the Haugland Hill photo shoot. Our presence scared up a flock of turkeys who weren't worried enough to scurry away too quickly.
I have spring fever in a bad way. Just when it starts to warm up, another cold front moves through and dumps snow, rain, wind and just general nastiness on us. Ah well... eventually we will have summer!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fight the Good Fight

That may be kind of a strange title for a blog post focusing on the local music scene and the wonderful singer/songwriters who grace our local stages. Let me explain: It is a fight, skirmish, battle, WAR to get people to turn off their television sets and drag themselves out of their houses to go enjoy great live music. And it's understandable. As one House Concert performer opens his show: "Thanks for coming out... Millions were spent to keep you away."
This weekend was a perfect example. OK, so the blizzard on Friday and the highways and Interstate being closed until about three in the afternoon MAY have had something to do with it, but we hosted two amazing artists, Megan Burtt and Jesse Terry at our Nebraska Outback House Concert series on Friday. The show was incredible... enjoyed by about fifteen guests.

Meanwhile, another great duo, Neely, was performing in Paxton at the 5 Trails Winery music series, to a small but very enthusiastic audience. We had the good fortune to host all four artists here during their shows in the area, and wouldn't have had it any other way.
This weekend was definitely one of firsts, including having a male rocker apply make-up in the bathroom mirror, and the artists hosting an aerobics class in the living room. I'll never know just how they had the energy to go on with the show in the evening.
After a day of fun at home (which went on about a half an hour too long as we were late arriving in North Platte), we all packed up and headed to the Espresso Shoppe for a "songwriters in the round" show.

Granted this is only our third show of this series and we have a lot to learn about pricing, scheduling and promotion, but these four amazing artists performed to only about thirty people! We're still shaking our heads trying to figure out the problem. We're going to tweak things for the next show (Mason Douglas following his appearance at our House Concert), and hopefully figure out the formula to pack the house.
Bre Steinmeyer knocked it out of the ballpark with her opening performance. While the touring artists didn't get much of a chance to say so, their comments echoed what Jeremy Neely had to say "Bre is a gem. North Platte needs to nurture that. This is a hard business to make it in, but it's easier with support." I absolutely agree. We do host these concerts to have a venue for national touring acts to perform, but one of our goals has to be providing a showcase for local talent. These young people are incredible, and really have a future bringing quality entertainment to audiences, but they need our support and the opportunities to hone their talent in front of appreciative crowds.

After Bre's stunning performance it was time for our four singer-songwriters to perform. The music was wonderful. Everyone there thought so... all thirty of us.

I'm not going to sit around and complain (much) about the lack of attendance. The team I work with in putting together these concerts are going to go to work and make it better. Here's what I think our game plan is going to be:

  1. Create an accurate database of all the local music venues and the artists they are hosting.

  2. Promote all local music like crazy!

  3. Eliminate the cover charge and just ask for free-will donations. Unfortunately, the $12 cover charge probably kept lots of people away, while those same folks might have been even more generous after they experienced the great entertainment. We'll get more formal from the emcee with instructions for the donations.

  4. Start a new series centered around the I-80 corridor. Hopefully it will be sustained by visitors while steadily growing local support.

  5. Find local sponsors willing to contribute the equivalent of $10 per person attending the show. Distribute tickets to them with the admonishment that they be given to people who actually plan to attend. This kills two birds with one stone - butts in the seats and dollars in the jar. These guests will drop their tickets into the tip jars and be replaced with the corresponding amount of money,

North Platte is located halfway between Denver and Omaha right on Interstate 80. The number of big-name artists tour buses who pass by regularly on I80 must simply be astounding. If North Platte can generate the reputation as a valuable stop-over, the shows we could have here would be incredible. Folks will start to come from hundreds of miles away to attend the shows they can see in North Platte. These folks will stay overnight in our hotels, have dinner in our restaurants and fuel up in our service stations. We all need to get behind the movement of bringing quality music to the people - and work to find a successful way of doing it.

So, if you live anywhere in the vicinity of North Platte, resign yourself to being hounded until you regularly attend local music shows. And if you own a company, plan on being hit up to sponsor some of your friends, families and employees to attend a show.

Thanks for stopping by. Think I'll get off my soap box and have another cup of coffee.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Unseasonable Weather

While the system that moved through Nebraska on Friday was uncomfortable and unexpected, I'm not going to complain about it too much. For one reason, as it moved farther east it caused more and more destruction, and my heart goes out to those families and businesses who are cleaning up the destruction and mourning the loss of friends and loved ones. For another reason, today is supposed to be nearly 70 degrees with bright sunshine and low wind. All of the snow will soon be gone and leave in its wake green grass, flowers and trees budding out. The 50 mph winds that accompanied the eight or so inches of snow created beautiful sculptures as it blew through. The fish pond even sported a new look. While the snow makes a beautiful blanket of white covering the patio, this is not exactly the scene I had in mind for it this time of year. The tractor which is behind these snowed-in shed doors will soon be pressed into duty to clear the snow from the drive way in anticipation of our House Concert tonight.

It's easy to see that not everyone is cussing the heavy wet snow that fell overnight. Murphy is firmly convinced that scooping snow is done solely for his pleasure. Waiting... waiting... waiting... The anticipation is killing him.

Now! More! More! More! More snow to chase! Mark ran out of steam long before Murphy did, but he did get all of the doors open, and later on got the tractor out, cleared our driveway and all of the neighbors' driveways and pushed/pulled a few people out of the heavy wet snow. As I'm writing this on Sunday, a few very busy days after the great April blizzard of 2011, the birds are singing, most of the snow, except in the deepest drifts or where the plows and shovels piled it high, is gone, we are anticipating a beautiful day. It truly is springtime.

You can watch a video of my weather report in the YouTube video below.

Thanks for stopping by. We're alternating between coffee and hot choclate and iced tea and lemonade! Gotta love Nebraska.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Regular Joes

No matter how "Hollywood" the fans, the promotion of Deadliest Catch or the Discovery Channel try to make the captains and crews, the fact of the matter is these are hard-working guys facing incredible conditions trying to make a living for their families. Don't get me wrong - we had lots of fun at CatchCon, enjoying the very "Hollywood" production, but in the end, it was listening to the guys share their stories that was the highlight. Much like sharing a beer at the end of a hard days' work with everyone trying to top the other about what a bad day they had, telling funny stories about the pranks they played on co-workers, complaining about their bosses... we've all done it, and there's something comforting about the process.

The hints they dropped foreshadow a season that is filled with rough weather, injury, conflict, bad fishing and equipment breakdowns. Just the kind of thing Discovery Channel loves to make compelling television, but not so popular with the fishermen. Deadliest Catch follows only six boats, the Northwestern, Time Bandit, Cornelia Marie, Wizard, Kodiak, Ramblin' Rose and Seabrooke. However, it's important to remember that there are about 60 0ther boats in the crab fisheries, all of which face the same conditions and obstacles as do the guys we know and love from the show. When they go home at the end of the season, they share the same camaraderie with their friends and families rather than millions of fans.

One fairly intelligent question that was asked was what the captains like the most and hate the most about their fans. While they were reluctant to answer, Keith finally manned up and admitted that it was our passion - they both love and hate it. When it's positive it's a good thing, but when it's negative - such as death threats against John Hillstrand - it probably makes them regret ever signing on for the show. The crew got to tell their side of the story. There were some major changes over the course of the King and Opelia crab seasons this year. Travis Lofland left the Wizard to join the Time Bandit and Freddy Maugatai left the Cornelia Marie to join the Wizard. I'm sure this is nothing new. Most of the fishermen have multiple boats and captains in their past, but after seeing the bond that develops among the crew on a well-captained fishing vessel, it must be very difficult to "jump ship." Remember all of the conflict last year between Captain John Hillstrand and Captain Keith Colburn over the incident with Scottie and Eddie? And how about how hard it has been for Lenny to retire - notice that he still isn't retired! The kind of character it takes to thrive in such harsh conditions doing such brutal work leads to big egos and territorialism, and understandably so. Maybe it's the other way around... you have to have a certain amount of ego and macho attitude to be a fisherman. The biggest disappointment of all was the questions from the fans. Come on... "boxers or briefs"? Give me a break. These guys have just finished one of the most difficult seasons any of them can remember, and the fans want to know boxers or briefs? It was much better last year when Discovery did most of the moderation of the forum... Then there were the questions to Josh and Jake Harris and Jake Anderson that were in extremely poor taste. There's enough information available on the Internet and from fellow fans that these guys don't have to be slapped in the face with personal questions. Just sayin'. We didn't make the mistake of NOT walking the decks of the boats this year! In fact, we made a beeline there just as soon as we got in the door. It really paid off, because it was wonderful getting to experience in person the place where the magic happens. Notice our banner on the window of our room at the Edgewater. Nebraska was well represented at CatchCon. I have seen the banner in several national blogs and news articles about the event. And, while I won't go into details about how it happened, Sam also made it onto the deck of the Wizard and Northwestern. Lucky boy! Well connected friends resulted in a "behind the scenes" tour of some of the places on the boat off-limits to the general public. It couldn't have gotten any better. Cozy is a word that best describes the galley. It is amazing how tiny the space is, and it's all watched over by a print of the famous photograph "Grace" by Eric Enstrom. If you are a Deadliest Catch fan, and if they hold a CatchCon next year, you should really make plans to attend. The conversations with the guys, the chance to get on the boats, the opportunities available in Seattle to get a closer look at the fishing industry, and most of all, the chance to meet fellow fans and make new life-long friends is well worth it. In fact, start saving NOW! I may never wash my hands again... I got to touch the hydro controls. Actually, I used hand-sanitizer right away! Beautiful Elliot Bay in the background off the stern of the Northwestern. Yes, I do now know the difference between stern and bow, port and starboard. I think the show has a new fan now. All of the fan events were wonderful, but best of all was getting re-connected with all of the wonderful friends we made last year. Our biggest regret is that our quick trip didn't allow for enough time to spend with them. Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Grand Junction, Houston, Seattle, Washington DC... we have friends across the nation now.

Don't forget. Deadliest Catch is on Tuesday nights at 8pm CT, 9pm Eastern and Pacific. You'll love getting to know this great bunch of guys. They might not always be likeable, but they're always real... even if the story line emphasized by Discovery isn't.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Through the Seasons Part 12

April 6 was gray and overcast in Nebraska. Our weather has been see-sawing between near record highs and record lows, with a few average seasonal days in between. This picture was taken at about 6pm. To me, it just doesn't look like spring at all, but I know it's just around the corner.The picture below was taken on March 3, at about 8:45 in the morning as we headed out to the Colorado RV show to represent the local community. February 13, 10:30a.m. Thank goodness most of the snow is gone from this photo at about 1pm on January 3.
December 4, 9:00am.
November 2, 8:30am.
October 3, 9:00am.
September 6, 7:00pm.
August 7, 8:30am.
July 5, 8:30am.
June 5, 8:30am.
May 5, 6:10pm.
Hoping for a return of the beautiful summer scenery soon!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Friday, April 8, 2011

CatchCon Seattle 2011 - Before the Catch (con)

Back to Seattle again for CatchCon! The Deadliest Catch fan convention is like no other in the world. Fans look forward ALMOST as much to meeting the friends they have made over the years as they do meeting the captains and crews. After arriving in Seattle late Thursday afternoon and riding the Light Rail from SeaTac airport to downtown and a short shuttle ride to the Edgewater hotel, we were up at 6:00 on Friday to watch the Wizard and the Northwestern make their way through the Ballard locks. While it must be pretty exacting work for the captains and crews as well as the lock personnel, they were so gracious to spend the nearly half hour it takes to traverse the locks chatting with us.
Even Captain Sig Hansen showed up, a move which isn't atypical for him, to oversee Edgar manage the transport through the Locks. Everything went well though. Captain Monte Colburn of the Wizard and Edgar on the Northwestern did a professional job.
As you can see, the vantage point at the Ballard Locks is pretty impressive. If you're a Deadliest Catch fan, it's great to see your favorite fishing vessel go through the locks, but if you're simply a fan of all things industrial and how they work, it is still a great trip to make.
And when everything down below gets just a little too hectic, Matt Bradley made his way up into the rigging to get away from it all.
After all, for us, it is a fan event to make the trip to the Locks to see our favorite boat, so a picture is a requirement.
After the water has been removed and she is at the level of the sound, the Northwestern steams ahead. Just FYI, the crane has been removed for repairs, which makes her a little lopsided. These huge cement blocks are here to counterbalance the boat, making up for the missing weight of the crane.
As the Northwestern and the Wizard left the locks, the draw bridge over the ship canal had to be raised to accommodate their tall masts. If I have my bridges right, this is the Fremont bridge, and because of its height, is raised an average of 35 times each day, making it the most-often raised bridge in the U.S. (If I have my bridges wrong, no worries, because someone will correct me).
Next came a quick spin through Fishermen's Terminal, which is a busy working marina for commercial fishing vessels of all types and sizes. Time was of the essence for us, so we couldn't spend much time there, but made a quick pass of the Fishermen's Memorial.
It is important to remember that the Memorial isn't a tourist attraction, it is a place of rememberance for families who have lost loved ones to the sea. These sorrows are still very much in the hearts and minds of friends and families, as you can see here by this fresh bouquet commemorating the sinking of the Artic Rose, which took the lives of fifteen fishermen.
After a somber moment of remembrance, it was on to get some coffee, but first a stop at the famous (infamous?) Lockspot Cafe.
We made a great choice in stopping at Java Bean coffee in Ballard. This wonderful little shop makes delicious coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and the amazing staff is so friendly and helpful.
Then it was a race back to the Edgewater in time to see the Wizard and the Northwestern tie up and begin their preparations for the invasion of Deadliest Catch Fans at CatchCon. This has got to be one of the most unique situations in the whole of the entertainment industry. The "stars" have to work long and hard hours to get ready to host their fans. In some ways the Catchcon prep was not unlike the television show - all of the fans getting to watch the captains and crews work.
After it looked like the crews could carry on without our supervision, it was time for a little more touristy activities. First off was lunch at Kells in the Post Alley of Pike Place Market. If you love good, genuine Irish food, you can't go wrong with Kells - if you can't make it to Ireland, make it to Kells.
We were also fortunate enough to make a stop by the first-ever Starbucks Coffeeshop, first opened in Pike Place Market in 1971. They've come a long way since then.
We learned from one of our friends that no visit to Pike Place Market could possibly be complete without a visit to the Wall of Gum, so we dutifully trekked through the market in search of this wonder of the world. Our diligence paid off, and we had a chance to behold this artistic masterpiece. They even have a Facebook fan page with more than 2,500 fans. While it's not for the weak of stomach, it is a pretty incredible sight, and an inspiration for anyone wondering just how to go about creating a tourist attraction. Hmmmm....
Our evening topped off with a visit to Anthony's seafood for some great fish and chips for dinner, then back to the Edgewater for a meet and greet with most of the crew of the Northwestern.

What a day! Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on - this is Seattle after all!

And don't forget, Deadliest Catch premieres on Tuesday April 12 at 9pm Eastern time (that's 8pm Central!)