Category Archives: History

Music on Mondays—He accepted my offer and conditions

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Over on Facebook, people are doing all sorts of things to stay connected but without all the political negativity and dystopian COVID-19 news.

Some of them are posting games requiring someone to tag you so that you can play. Then you have to tag someone else.

I have participated in some of them, but no one has tagged me for the one I really want to participate in: Post ten albums that influenced your life and your music interests, one per day. Just the album covers. Nothing else.

Well screw that.

I want to know what about the album influenced them!

Since I want more than just album covers, and I haven’t been invited to play with them in spite of all my friends knowing how much I am involved in music, well, I’ll play with myself.

Wait.

No.

I’ll play by myself.

Better.

So here they are, with explanatory material.

My wise old grandmother gave me a small, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder for Christmas 1968. That complemented the transister bedside AM/FM radio she had given me for my birthday in March 1968. It was hard for anything to drag me away from my radio and tape recorder, especially after I discovered KLOL FM in Houston. Lots of music, very little talk.

When friends would come over, we’d listen to my recordings. When I turned 18 in March 1973, all of those friends threw me a surprise birthday party. Since my wise old grandmother could not afford to buy me a senior ring, my friends presented me with one at my birthday party. Still have it. Although I wore it until I received my Texas A&M University ring in Fall 1976, it was not my favorite birthday present. Along with everyone contributing to the cost of my senior ring, each friend had bought me an album, so all ten of the albums listed here were given to me at my 18th birthday party, and they really have influenced my listening because some of these—Black Sabbath & Led Zeppelin—I never would have bought on my own.

It’s difficult for me to list albums according to which is my favorite, and after spending thirty minutes trying to do that with these ten, I gave up. Here they are in alphabetical order by title of album.

  1. Abbey Road by The BeatlesAbbey Road by The Beatles—Everyone knew that I was a huge Beatles fan. I knew the words to all their music and you could often find me singing Beatles songs on my walks between classes. “Come Together,” “Something,” “Here Comes The Sun”…. I was in heaven.
  2. All Things Must Pass by George Harrison—This was an expensive triple album given to me by Larry All Things Must Pass by George Harrisonand Sharon. Larry probably was my best friend then and is the one who got me interested in motorcycles. He had a paper route in the rural areas between Corpus Christi and Kingsville. One night I sneaked out my bedroom window and went with Larry on his motorcycle to Corpus Christi to get the papers. I threw papers left and right on the 45 miles home. Since we finished early, we went out to the caliche pits to do donuts on his bike. Caliche is gravel; we hit a soft spot and laid that bike down. My whole right side was bloody and full of gravel. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Until I got home. I was grounded until high school graduation a few weeks later.
  3. Best of the Beach Boys Vol. III by The Beach BoysBest of the Beach Boys Vol. III by The Beach Boys—The Beach Boys were right up there with The Beatles and The Who as my favorite singers. Every song was singable, and the harmonies were just gorgeous.
  4. Black Sabbath Vol. 4 by Black Sabbath—When I put Black Sabbath Vol. 4 by Black Sabbaththis on my little Sears stereo turntable, I was stunned. My wise old grandmother, on the other hand….. Well, she wasn’t thrilled with The Beatles, so you can imagine what she thought about black satanic death metal music. Steve gave me this album. Steve and I played violin in orchestra. I never would have thought he was into this kind of music, and I never would have thought that he would think that I was into this kind of music. Well, he was, and I was.
  5. Made In Japan by Deep PurpleMade In Japan by Deep Purple—Jaime’s family owned the local lumber store. They lived in a beautiful brick house (brick!), had awesome cars (Jaime had a Pontiac Trans Am) and awesome stereo systems (Jaime loved bass; he probably had the nation’s first boom boom boom bass stereo system in his car). In other words, his family was one of the richest in town, so he could afford to give me this double album all by himself.
  6. Led Zeppelin IV by Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin—This album made me a Zep fan for the ages. Physical Graffiti, however, is my favorite Zep album. This is #2.
  7. Paranoid by Black Sabbath—Ooopsy. Two black satanic death metal music albums. When “Iron Man,” came on, well, my wise old grandmother Paranoid by Black Sabbathcame storming into my room wanting to know what the hell I was listening to. At the time I did not know what black satanic death metal music was, but now I find it funny that she asked what the hell I was listening to. I told her, “I am Iron Man.” She did not think that was funny.
  8. Ram by Paul & Linda McCartneyRam by Paul & Linda McCartney—Paul McCartney was, and still is, my favorite Beatle. This album was released in May 1971 and had “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” on it. This was my favorite solo album by any of The Beatles until Wings released Band on the Run in December 1973.
  9. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles—What I thought then was The Beatles’ greatest album. Every. single. song. was immediately singable since the words were printed on the album cover, the first album in history to print the lyrics to all the songs.
  10. Who's Next? by The WhoWho’s Next? by The Who—I had been a fan of The Who since 1966 when they released “I’m A Boy.” When my birth mom enrolled me in first grade in Utah, in the gender section she checked the female box. I never forgot that, so when “I’m A Boy” was released, I picked right up on those lyrics—I’m a boy, I’m a boy, but my mom won’t admit it. By that time, though, I was living with my wise old grandmother in Kingsville, Texas, the city of my birth. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is on this album and is my favorite song by The Who, although just barely beating out “Love, Reign O’er Me” from Quadrophenia.

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink FloydIn the ensuing three months between my birthday and high school graduation, Jaime, Larry, Richard, and Steve introduced me to more Black Sabbath, more Led Zeppelin, more Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd.

After high school graduation, Jaime, Larry, and I went on a driving tour of every Lower 48 state west of the Mississippi River. Larry had bought himself a 1973 Buick Apollo with savings from his paper route, so we decided to put some miles on it…. as soon as he installed an 8-track tape player in it so we could have some listening music. We took off on June 1 and got back on August 15 after having visited every state, ever national park, every national monument, every national forest, and every city of more than 100,000 population.

And the music! THE MUSIC!

After 10 weeks on the road with no wise old grandmother to supervise my listening interests, I was into all sorts of deviant music.

We were in Yellowstone Park on the Fourth of July when it snowed on us. Throughout our journey, we were just stopping anywhere and setting up camp. We had a tent, but we rarely used it. We went to bed with starry skies and woke up covered in snow. After that, we decided to always set up the tent.

Who Do We Think We Are by Deep PurpleAs we were leaving Yellowstone through Gardiner, Montana, we stopped for gas. The gas station convenience store had a huge selection of 8-track tapes for sale. I bought “Who Do We Think We Are” by Deep Purple. When we got back to Texas, I gave the 8-track to Larry for his collection, providing that he took me to the record store so I could buy the vinyl. He accepted my offer and conditions.

I have a vast music collection of both classical and non-classical music, over 3,132 hours. All of the groups noted above are represented in my collection with their complete discographies.

Created by a 14-year-old boy trapped in a 64-year-old man’s body

Railroads & Trains logo

On this day last year, I was in Promontory, Utah, for the 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

In May 1969, I was a lad of 14 living in Kingsville TX with my paternal grandparents. My dad (then deceased), granddad, and three uncles all were working for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Kingsville, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Taylor, and Palestine.

Sadly, no one was willing to take me to Promontory for the 100th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

I was a sad and depressed boy of 14.

I put the 150th anniversary celebration on my calendar, swearing that I would make it if I were alive in 2019.

I made it, spending May 9-12 all over northern Utah and western Wyoming, getting hundreds of pictures and dozens of videos.

My favorite video from that week in Utah shows the two largest operating steam locomotives and their passenger cars leaving the historic 25th Street Station in Ogden on May 12 heading back home to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

I followed them to Evanston, Wyoming, and then headed home to San Diego myself.

Here is my video, created by a 14-year-old boy trapped in a 64-year-old man’s body.

Are you at risk?

Did you know?

I started self-isolation on March 14, before about 45 states thought it might be a good thing to do.

I did it because I love research and history, so I have been following COVID-19 since the early days in China last year.

I knew that with my underlying health issues (age, high blood pressure, etc.), I was in several high-risk categories.

Avi Schiff, the 17-year-old guy in Seattle who has created the Coronavirus Dashboard, has added a SURVIVAL RATE CALCULATOR to the Dashboard.

Using Microsoft Excel and statistics from Johns Hopkins, the Dashboard, and Worldometers, I had calculated my risk of dying from
COVID-19 if I contracted it to be about 75%.

The SURVIVAL RATE CALCULATOR puts me at 81.88%.

COVID-19 Survival Rate

SURVIVAL RATE CALCULATOR is at https://ncov2019.live/calculator

Coronavirus Dashboard: Coronavirus Dashboard

Worldometer: Worldometer

Johns Hopkins: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

Where do I cancel?

Out & About

On Saturday, March 14, I drove to Visalia, California, a distance of 327 miles. It was a 10-hour round-trip. My purpose was to speak to the Visalia Succulent Club on Nature’s Geometry in Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I got to go over The Grapevine, a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 over the Tehachapi Mountains from California’s San Joaquin Valley to Grapevine.

The Grapevine

It’s a monster of a road because there’s a lot of semi traffic doing 5-10 mph in the slow lane, and semi traffic doing 10-30 mph in the second lane. Traffic in the other lanes is cruising by at 55-65 mph, with some doing up to 90 mph in the fast lane. The weather can be atrocious because of the height of the mountains, raining at the top (4,000 feet) but clear on both sides, and even snow at some times of the year. Couple the weather with the wide range of speeds, and there always are various accidents.

The meeting was at 6:00 p.m., and since I got there at 10:15 a.m., I had a lot of time to explore. Visalia and its sister city of Exeter were quite beautiful with all the trees that were blooming.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus sp.)

Flowering Maple (Albutilon sp.)

Redbud trees

Flowering trees

Exeter, with a population of 10,000, had a very cool little downtown area. There were murals on the exterior of 32 buildings. I didn’t find them all, but the following one, #15 and titled “Tracks of Time,” was my favorite.

Tracks of Time

In Exeter, I found a bookstore with lots of local history books, so I bought one, a hard-cover edition of a book that itself is difficult to find.

Visalia Electric Railroad

The bookstore also had a cat. I’m one of those who have to take time out of my busy schedule to pet a cat, so this little one got 15 minutes of love and attention from me. Look at the expression on his face as I told him that I had to go but would make him a Facebook star.

Exeter bookstore kitty

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, when I got home at 4:00 Sunday morning, I decided to self-isolate, not because I think I might have caught something in the Central California Valley but rather because at my age (65 years and 8 days) and with my high blood pressure; skin cancer and seborrheic keratoses; BPH; and constant coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing due to a deviated septum from a broken nose sometime in my early childhood (according to the otolaryngologist), I’m in the high-risk category. My constant coughing and sneezing also might cause concern to anyone within hearing distance. I have pills to help control the coughing and sneezing, but I never know how long before they take effect and when they might expire.

I’m keeping a journal of my days at home in self-isolation., trying to keep things in perspective.

Day 1—I have decided to self-isolate. Since I am retired, between watching television (although no sports), gardening (lots of weeds to pull and flora to plant), and taking care of Little Queen Olivia (who doesn’t seem to be real excited about me being home all day), self-isolation shouldn’t be too hard.

Day 2—After a day of drinking margaritas and watching the Hannibal series on Prime TV, I can definitely state that drinking margaritas all day does not make you poop. Thusly, I am out of margaritas, but I have 1,618 rolls of toilet paper.

Day 3—Little Queen Olivia is completely oblivious to the fact that I am home and willing to give belly rubs.
Little Queen Olivia

Day 4—Self-isolation isn’t so bad, but I do find it interesting that there are 8,471 grains of rice in one box and 8,552 grains in the other box.

Day 5—It’s been raining all this week, with 3½ inches these past two days, and it’s raining hard right now. Pulling weeds and planting flora is going very slowly. Ah well, that means I definitely still have things to do during the next nine days of my self isolation.

My self-isolation will end on March 28, and three days later my 90-day free trial of the year 2020 ends. Where do I cancel?

Hope everyone is doing well in these weird times we’re living in.

The historic Southern Pacific Railroad depot in Bakersfield

Halls of History

Never fails! When I’m out and about doing one thing, trains seem to crop up here and there.

When I was in Bakersfield on February 11 speaking to the Bakersfield Cactus & Succulent Society, I had to go downtown and check out the historic Southern Pacific depot.

Looks like this:

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

When construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad line had reached the southern San Joaquin Valley in 1874, Bakersfield was the preferred stop. However, a land dispute between Bakersfield and Southern Pacific resulted in Southern Pacific building its tracks two miles east of the Bakersfield, in Sumner, a town laid out by the railroad, as many towns were back in those days. A small depot also was built.

When the Bakersfield depot opened on June 27, 1889, it was located in Sumner, California. Sometime between 1888 and 1892, Sumner incorporated under the name Kern City. In 1910, Kern City voted to become part of Bakersfield.

The depot originally was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, comprising both a train station and a hotel. One of the station’s most defining features was the long arcade stretching along the north side and connecting the station and the hotel.

In the late 1930s, Southern Pacific wanted to demolish the depot and build a completely new one. Instead, the depot was remodeled, providing a more streamlined appearance by removing many of the ornamental Romanesque features and transforming the depot into a Spanish Colonial Revival style. The steep roofs, part of the original style, were kept. Additional expansions included a section in the Moderne style.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

The depot served Southern Pacific passenger trains that ran on the San Joaquin Valley Route: San Joaquin Daylight, Sacramento Daylight, Owl, and West Coast.

Eventually the hotel closed and was converted to office space; I could not find the date of its closing. Closing the hotel also resulted in half of the portico (on the hotel side) being enclosed.

It currently is used as an office building and crew change center by Union Pacific, and on very rare occasions (about once every ten years), it serves as a stop for Amtrak’s Coast Starlight when Union Pacific’s Coast Line is closed. When that happens, the Coast Starlight goes through the Tehachapi Loop. Getting a video of Amtrak on the Tehachapi Loop is #1 on my Bucket List. Here’s a video of a long BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop in February 2017 showing the front of the train passing under the rear of the train:

BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop

The depot itself closed in 1971 with the founding of Amtrak and the termination of individual railroad passenger trains, thus ending Southern Pacific passenger trains through the station. The office portion would continue to be used by Southern Pacific, and later by Union Pacific.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

There is a nice Amtrak station not too far away, and there are plans for two new rail systems, both having a stop in East Bakersfield near the historic Southern Pacific depot. Kern County also has been toying with the idea of a regional commuter rail system which would use existing Union Pacific tracks. Not to be left out, Bakersfield also has been mulling a future light rail system. Both systems are not on the drawing board before 2025.

Halls of History — The Cardiff Mystery House

Halls of History

When I was in Wrightwood Village a week ago, I immediately noticed that there was not a single brick or stucco home. All were wood. That’s because Wrightwood is built directly on top of the San Andreas Fault. As has been regularly seen in earthquakes throughout the world, brick and stucco homes don’t do so well in earthquakes.

Consequently, building codes in California have changed significantly since the Loma Prieta (World Series) earthquake of 1989 and the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Thus, whenever I see a brick building in my part of the world, I’m pretty sure it was built before 1989.

Recently I found a two-story brick building in Cardiff near the Cardiff Elementary School.

Cardiff Mystery House

There was only one window in the place, although it looks like there were many more that were “boarded up” with brick.

Google Maps shows it as a gray rectangle in a public park.

Location of Cardiff Mystery House

It took a lot of research to find out about this house, known locally as the Cardiff Mystery House.

I did find lots of interesting guesses:

  1. A haunted house to keep the kids close to the school during recess.
  2. The original Cardiff schoolhouse.
  3. The old Cardiff jailhouse.
  4. The Cardiff power station from the 1970s.
  5. A secret lookout or radar facility to guard against a West Coast attack by the Japanese in World War II. Note that many spotter bunkers were established along the California coast after Pearl Harbor but they all are camouflaged bunkers rather than being 2-story structures.

None of those appear to be correct, but #1 and #5 are fun to imagine.

Apparently the “house” was built in the 1940s by Bell Telephone as a telephone relay station to connect services throughout Southern California. It held large, low-voltage batteries that amplified every phone’s handset and powered the phone’s ring.

Bell designed it as house structure to avoid a possible air attack by the Japanese, which would have knocked out communications.

In the 1990s, Bob Sinclair, the founder and owner of Pannikin Coffee and Tea, bought the Cardiff Bell Telephone house, intending to repurpose it for his growing coffee shop chain, something he was good at doing. In fact, he bought the old Encinitas railroad depot, moved it to Leucadia, renovated it, and turned it into a coffee house, shown below.

Former ATSF railroad depot in Encinitas, California

I found the Encinitas railroad depot a couple of years ago and did a blog post about it, which you can find here.

The Cardiff Mystery House was deemed non-earthquake proof, thus requiring massive retrofits to make it suitable for a a coffee house, not to mention that it probably would not have the requisite number of parking spaces.

The school district bought the property from Sinclair in 2001 and now uses it to store the school’s equipment and carnival supplies. Surrounding the building is a student garden.

There are at least two more surviving Bell Telephone houses, identical to the Cardiff house both in size and architecture. I actually have seen both of them but didn’t have time to stop and explore them. One is in the San Onofre State Beach campground, visible when driving southbound I-5, just west of the California Highway Patrol weigh station. The other is at the west end of Ortega Highway 74, in San Juan Capistrano.

I guess you know that I’m going to have to go by those two and take pictures, yes?

Cardiff Mystery House

Cardiff Mystery House

Cardiff Mystery House

I’m worried about his followers

Out & About

Yesterday I went to Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain location

This was my sixth or seventh trip to Salvation Mountain since 1993, but I was always alone, so I never exited the car and walked around.

I did not feel safe.

Yesterday I was with a group of seventeen photographers…. There’s power in numbers.

I felt safe.

Not completely safe.

But safe enough to get out of my car and take pictures.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Is it odd that I don’t feel safe in the midst of Bible Thumpers, especially those spouting “God Is Love?” On the surface, yes, I think it is odd. The underlying reality, I believe—

—and as my wise old grandmother told me,
“You can’t argue with someone’s beliefs
because their beliefs are not always based in reality.”—

—is that these people will do just about anything to protect their beliefs, and they often are not sane, sober, or interested in other beliefs, not to mention opinions, facts, science, truth….

Armed & bitter libertarian drunkards live here

Salvation Mountain is a “hillside visionary environment” created by Leonard Knight (1931–2014) in the California Desert area of Imperial County. Knight started it in 1984 when he was 53. Although there are many Bible verses painted on Salvation Mountain, its main philosophy is the Sinner’s Prayer. Knight’s version of the Sinner’s Prayer seemed to be the following because it was everywhere!

Jesus, I’m a sinner.
Please come upon my body
and into my heart.

Sinner's Prayer

What little research I could tolerate doing this morning on the Sinner’s Prayer indicates that it’s just another of those beliefs. In this case, even the Bible does not contain any reference to the Sinner’s Prayer. It’s all made up gobbledygook even beyond the fairy tales in the Bible.

Salvation Mountain is the “showpiece” of Slab City. Other parts of Slab City include the “neighborhoods” of East Jesus and West Satan. I’m pretty sure I would  be living in West Satan.

We didn’t make it to West Satan yesterday. Seems the West Satan folks and the East Jesus folks weren’t getting along…. Where’s God’s love?

All residents of Slab City are “squatters” and seem to be paranoid about government, technology, and science. However, if you want to donate to their paranoia, they have an email address and they do take PayPal. They also have a Facebook page. Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

East Jesus PayPal

I do find it interesting that for a “city” propounding God’s love, there was a lot of non-love exhibited throughout Salvation Mountain, Slab City, and East Jesus.

Slow the fuck down

I'll have them all shot

More irony (my belief)
No stupid people

No fucking parking

In 2000, The Folk Art Society of America declared Salvation Mountain

a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection.

In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described Salvation Mountain

as a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives.

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight, suffering from dementia,
was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon, California (where I live!).
He died there February 10, 2014.

In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support and maintain Salvation Mountain.

I found the question mark in this little section of Salvation Mountain to be quite interesting:

Bible Jesus Loves ? You

I’m not worried about whether or not Bible Jesus loves me. I’m worried about the followers of Bible Jesus….