Monday, August 18, 2008

So long, farewell.

This applies not only to Austin, but to this blog as well. In the interest of a true "starting over," this blog is now dead. But that sounds so harsh. Defunct is a better word.

But never fear, as I have started a new blog to take up to the PDX with me: Songs About Rainbows. I know, it's kinda silly, but there you have it.

I hope you've enjoyed reading and that you will follow me to my new home, and if applicable, update your links page accordingly.

Goodbye.

Love,
ryan

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Very spacious with lots of room for guests

I have a home in Portland! The rub, unfortunately, is that it's not available for living until September 6th, which leaves me homeless for slightly over 2 weeks after I'm there, but that's okay. Jody has lots of room for me.

Anyway, Collier says it's worth it. It's in the Hawthorne neighborhood, just across the river from downtown. It's a 4-plex, built in 1929, all hardwoods, big windows (which have all just been replaced with double-pane energy efficient ones), a working fireplace, arched doorways, built-in bookshelves, a small green space outside, and a shared basement with washer and dryer. It's one block from the major buslines, and the whole neighborhood is apparently very compact and dense with lots of awesome stuff to walk to, including several food co-ops. And it's pretty inexpensive, especially for the neighborhood.

So yay! I feel better now, a huge burden lifted from my shoulders, knowing I now at least have a place to live. The fact that I'm leaving has really sunk in this week, especially since today was my last day of work. I was ecstatic to be leaving, but I'll really miss some of the people there, and that was sad. My manager gave me a really sweet card with his contact information in it, and my friend Jake, who's a major cyclist, is giving me a $75 helmet, and $40 u-lock for my new bike I'm going to buy when I get up there. Which I was very touched by. He said he just had them lying around and he would love to let me have them. And lots of people, as they were getting off their shifts, came and said bye to me and gave me big hugs. I felt very loved.

So here are the photos from the Craigslist ad of my new house. Come visit me!!







Monday, August 04, 2008

What goes on

It's weird what can go on under your own nose in your own neighborhood, and one had no idea it's happening. I've always taken the safety of my neighborhood for granted, since it's pretty quiet, I've never had any trouble, and it's pretty hoity-toity. Recently, however, I've joined the Rosedale Yahoo group in an attempt to sell some furniture and discovered that people have been having rocks thrown through their house windows, animals mutilated and left menacingly in their yards (clearly the work of humans and not other animals), attempted break-ins, even while people are home. And Tom swears up and down that he saw someone walking around in my backyard the other night while I was asleep, at like, 3 in the morning. It's all enough to make me reconsider some of my decisions, like occasionally leaving my doors unlocked, or leaving the front window totally exposed, even at night.

I'm sure, comparatively, it's a very safe neighborhood, and maybe some of the above things are related, but mutilated animals, especially, give me the creeps. I guess that statement's a no-brainer.

On the other side of this coin, I only have two weeks left in A-Town. Two weeks from tomorrow. I officially depart the 19th. Jesus, what happened to the summer??!? It's close enough that the anxiety of moving, alone, is keeping me up at night, not to mention my anxiety about all I have left to do that I haven't. Instead I'm going to Barton Springs this afternoon. I haven't been in over a month! That's just sad.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I'm a Fool (to do your dirty work)

This essay is one I wrote for submission to a literary magazine in New York that wanted break-up stories from the perspectives of the people doing the breaking up, since historically, break-ups are always examined from the POV of the person that got dumped. And the Dumper is pretty much always totally demonized, regardless of the circumstances. Luckily the person curating the magazine loved my essay. So we'll see if it actually sees the light of day beyond this blog. (And yes, I'm sure my ex would probably tell this story very differently as well. But that's why he can go write his own stupid essay if he wants to.)

For years now (3 years, one month and 7 days, actually…) I’ve resented that my last boyfriend forced me to break up with him. I take no small consolation, however, from the fact that I was his longest relationship to date (by 9 months) and that I was the first person that had ever broken up with him; he’d always previously been the Dumper. Never mind that it was a decision I made grudgingly and only because I knew he wouldn’t do it. I never expected, I guess, that he would be so relieved by it. I had let him off the hook. I had done the bastard’s dirty work for him.

The Dumper should never underestimate the power that he or she holds by doing the dumping. I might also add that they should perhaps never overestimate that power either. Aside from threatening to toss yourself off a cliff, breaking up with someone can be the most supremely manipulative action to take in a relationship. I was hoping that by breaking up with him, he’d know I meant business and it would frighten him out of his complacency and he’d realize what he was losing and beg me to stay. Only it didn’t happen that way.

Our relationship was dead. I think we were both aware of that, but neither of us was quite ready to admit it, at least not out loud. We had never gotten totally comfortable with each other, and we were both exhausted. It was no one’s fault, we were just mismatched. Timing, many people say, is the real key to relationship survival, and for both of us, it was the worst timing possible. I, however, was prepared to start over, begin from scratch with our new knowledge of this, but J. wasn’t. This was a fact later confirmed to me when a short time after our break up he told me how “relieved” he was that it was over. What was left of my heart, at that moment, crumbled to nothing. I think what’s most infuriating about that is that I knew he wanted out long before I did the breaking up. Except that J. lacked the fortitude and courage to break up with me. Partly, I think, out of a genuine love for me, and not wanting to let the dream go, but also, I am firmly convinced, because he didn’t want to be the bad guy.

My friends were all pretty sick and tired of hearing me whine about how miserable our relationship had become; how much he’d pulled away; how afraid I had become to be myself around him and the tension that created; how much I hated that he didn’t trust me enough to be truly open and giving of himself. Finally, after J. had been out of town for a week and made no attempt to see me for days upon his return, I decided I was finished. He had out-of-town guests coming in the next day for a full weekend of Central Texas barbeque-hopping that he was very excited for me to meet, so I had to wait until the weekend was over.

One might think having this kind of knowledge, and hoarding it from your completely unsuspecting lover of a year while you had to entertain his friends would make for pure misery, but you might be wrong. It’s sort of like how when someone commits suicide, and all of their friends are so shocked because they seemed so much happier than normal right before it happened, and they thought for sure the suicide committer was feeling much better. Well, that’s because the person committing the suicide had already made the decision to do so, thus freeing up that previously occupied part of their mind, or emotions. They vow to simply enjoy their last few days, or weeks, or whatever. Well, that’s sort of how I felt about this relationship. I was ninety-nine percent certain it was over, and that I was pulling the trigger, I just wasn’t positive about when.

So we had a lovely weekend taking his Northeastern friends to five different BBQ joints in one day, gorging ourselves stupid, hitting up flea markets, and having a great time. That evening back at his house he and I made fresh gazpacho from tomatoes and ingredients we bought at a farmer’s market in Luling, Texas. We had incredible sex that night and slept like babies. The next morning, however, he irritated me, we got in a fight, and I stormed out of his house and skipped out on breakfast with the guests. The next night, Monday, I showed up at his place and broke up with him on his front porch.

I told him I thought it was something we should do, but not something I wanted to do, and left the decision up to him. I suppose that was a bit cowardly of me, but what else was I supposed to do? I was in love; so in love. And he wasn’t. And we both knew it. He said he’d have to “think about” my proposal, which basically amounted to, “This seriously needs to change, or it needs to end,” but as we talked it became quite clear that we just didn’t see things the same way anymore. We’d had a good run, but it was done.

As I gave him a goodbye hug, his lip trembled and he choked up, and it was the only time I’d seen him show any real vulnerability in the year that we were together. I walked off his porch and went home. It was 2 days before I cried about it, but once I started, I didn’t stop for a year.

Being the one that instigated the breaking up, in essence being the Dumper, gave me a false sense that it wasn’t really over. If he’s always dumped everyone else, I reasoned, but I dumped him, and he sends me emails telling me how sad he is and how much he misses me, then surely I’ve made a mistake, I thought to myself. I kept the hope alive that all we needed was some time apart and a chance to miss each other before we got back together. It took me two years to let go of that. We talked occasionally during that time, but it became increasingly clear that we had nothing left to talk about, and even less still in common. And that he had zero interest in getting back together. Did he love me? Yes. Did he want to get back together and be in a romantic relationship with me? Uh…no.

Emotionally, it still feels like I was the one that was broken up with, even though intellectually I know it isn’t true. If I hadn’t brought it up that day, who knows how things might have turned out? I suspect he wouldn’t have let it go on much longer, but I can’t say for certain. It was a milestone in my emotional development, to be able to recognize that it wasn’t working, that maybe, despite all I wanted to believe, he wasn’t the One for me. For the first time, I had to make a decision to let go of something I wanted more than anything.

We’ve both moved on, and I think probably much happier with other people now, but I can always look back and say, “I let him go, and we both survived, and we’re both probably the better for it.” I still think of him often and hope he’s doing well. I suspect we’ll never speak again, and I don’t particularly want to. If I were to ever see him again, that little spark, that little “What if?” might still be there, and that’s nothing I’m interested in ever opening back up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Honeymoon in Venice *UPDATED*

Jody's entry now appears beneath mine in this post. Enjoy!

The group-blog writing project is underway. The assignment was to write a short essay about something that happened to you in a very specific place. The goal was to make the essay more about the intrinsic connection to the physical place than about what actually occurred there. Here are the participants:

Beth
Bryan
Emily
Mandy
Meredith
Stacy
Tom

And mine:


Being in Europe always makes me think of horror films. Trains zipping through the countryside and hundreds-year-old villages brings to mind old superstitions and ancient legends. I always feel like I’ve literally been transported back in time where people don’t go out after dark, and werewolves and vampires are the biggest threats to humanity, not oil or nuclear war. Everything in Europe has a slightly sinister feel to me. The way people are still largely clustered in urban areas with so much space in between them of rolling hills and forests, perfectly fit for all manner of beasts, fairies or goblins. The sheer age of so many buildings still in use (or at least still standing), with so much history etched into their psychic and physical structures, so much of that history so traumatic, bloody and violent.

There is no official origin of Venice, on Italy’s eastern coast. The most commonly accepted theory is that it was created by Eastern Romans escaping further encroachment by various invaders, most notably the Huns in the late 8th-century. The 118 islands making up Venice were the last physical resort, and they thought for sure, on those muddy, disjointed, sinking islands, they would be left alone. For the most part, it seems, they were right.

Crossing the brief stretch of ocean from the mainland of Italy to the heart of the city of Venice, I snapped a picture of my traveling companion staring out the window at the horizon of Venice approaching like the Emerald City. She’s chewing anxiously (or nervously) on a toothpick, the orange glow of early dusk spilling across the table of the booth we got on the train. Our backpacks and guidebooks are splayed across the table; anything to keep our restless hands and minds busy during what seemed like an interminable train ride from Milan to Venice. Venice was the crown jewel of our vacation, the one place we both insisted we see, even if we went nowhere else, and the place where we spent the longest.

Our guidebook informed us that very few people actually still reside on the islands of Venice (the majority of current inhabitants live in Terraferma, the mainland area of Venice), and of those, only the ones in the tourism trade are still there.

As we exited the train and stopped at a small café to grab a quick sandwich, the only thing going through my mind was my most recent cinematic exposure to Venice in the 70’s thriller Don’t Look Back, about a small elfin woman stalking the dark alleyways and dead ends of a city built on war and desperation, slaughtering small children with a tiny knife. Venice is the perfect setting for a thriller or a horror film; I can’t believe more filmmakers haven’t made use of it, unless the cost is just too prohibitive.

As Collier (my friend) and I explored the sidewalks and alleys of Venice after dark, searching for a restaurant to get a proper meal, I was overwhelmed with the sheer darkness of it. Some alleys (“streets”) were no more than 6 or 7 feet wide, with buildings rising up 5 or 6 stories on either side. Most of those buildings were deserted, abandoned by people no longer able or willing to make a living in a city that no longer had any sort of practical function, except to be a tourist resort. It could be Detroit as easily as it could be Disney World.

What charmed me the most about the state of Venice was the complete lack of “dressiness.” The majority of the buildings remained completely dark, with only small lamps every ten feet or so to illuminate the alleyways. Restaurants and cafes weren’t the easiest things to come by, frankly, and the nightlife seemed to consist of two or three bars with drunken tourists crowding them to capacity and overflowing out onto the sidewalks and small plazas.

The name of the hostel where Collier and I stayed escapes me, but it was an old converted palace in what might have been the darkest and most hard to find corner of Venice. Directly on the canal with about a 3-foot sidewalk, we finally found it only by the “street” number. The name was posted nowhere. The hostel was run by three middle-aged ladies who didn’t speak a word to us (probably because I’m pretty sure they didn’t speak English), and sat in a hot, tiny office together watching television. Collier and I were the only people in the hostel, which was at least 4 or 5 floors. We had a room with 3 beds, and it was at the very end of a long, creepy hallway. And of course, the bathrooms were at the opposite end of said hallway, around 2 corners. The sheer immensity of the building was humbling, along with the fact that we were 2 of only 5 people in it.

Our second night in Venice, we returned from a late dinner, near 10 ‘o clock, and as we approached our hostel, warm, beckoning light poured out from the open second floor windows, which happened to be a small ballroom. We heard a soprano singing, some Italian aria that floated out like a vapor and ricocheted and echoed off the nearby buildings. The effect was ethereal. Unreal. Wordless, Collier and I sat down on some steps leading to the black, still waters of the canal in front of our hostel and just listened. A couple of small little crabs climbed from underneath the water, slipping and clawing at the moss on the partially covered steps. I commented on them, and we sat and stared at them, watching them do their thing, while the young soprano upstairs did her thing.

When she was finished singing, she was met with thunderous applause from her small audience. As we continued to sit there, soaking in this surreal moment, this exemplar of what, to me, Italy was all about, Collier said that she thought this is why people went on honeymoons. To experience something together that neither of them may ever get to witness again, or to make that first discovery of a place or thing you love, together. I think I tend to agree, though someday, I will go back to Venice. I probably won’t stay in that same place, and I may or may not go with a lover, or husband, or whatever, but I will go back, even if it’s by myself.

It was at that moment, that night, that Venice ceased to be creepy to me, and became completely magical and otherworldly. Despite having spent barely over two days there, it is my favorite city in the world, etched in my emotional memory like a first meeting with someone you fall madly in love with. I may spend the rest of my life getting back there, but I will get back.


And Jody's Story:

"Maude"

I walk by it almost everyday - the house in the middle of the block. It is painted white, but the paint is old and is flaking at the corners. The lawn is carefully manicured with planted flowers and tall ornamental leaved plants. In the driveway there sits a Ford Taurus as carefully kept as the yard. The house itself has two floors and large, wood- framed windows. The house is grand in an old-fashioned way. I imagine hardwood floors, high ceilings and light streaming in creating fancy shadows.

But in the midst of all of this careful and sophisticated grooming, there are inconsistencies. The largest window on the first floor facing the street is covered from the outside with a large, brown sheet. And sitting behind the shining car is an old, light blue and white Chevy truck placed on top of cement blocks. The house stirs my imagination.
Often, there is an old man trimming, cutting, and cleaning. He always smiles and says “hullo” as I pass by.

I imagine there is an old woman inside.

Her name is Maude and her hair is gray and trimmed into an above-the-shoulders bob. Curls line her face, coming in close at the cheeks. Today she is wearing white tapered slacks and a brown, tan and green flowered blouse. She’s standing in the kitchen; bright, midday light shining in through the two windows. She’s making sandwiches on paper towels. He’s in the living room rustling through something. She can hear him, but she only half wonders what he’s doing.

Maude tears some lettuce leaves from the iceberg head and pulls a plate from the cupboard.
“Maude, come here and look at this,” he calls from the living room.
“Just a minute,” Maude replies with a quick and unconcerned voice. But the plate she’s holding is set down too abruptly and it clangs loudly onto the blue and white tiles of the counter. Maude walks quickly to join her husband. She worries about her sandwiches. She walks heavily across the floor, her pants making brushing noises as her thighs pass back and forth against each other. She sees her husband in the corner of the room, kneeling on the dusty, hardwood floor.
“Look at this Maude.” He sounds happy.
In his hands is a picture of the two of them in a group with 4 other people sitting around a table. He turns to his wife and holds it up for her to see. Maude is in the center of the photograph holding her arms high into the air with her hands in fists as though she just accomplished something challenging. Her husband isn’t sitting next to her. Instead he is sitting between two women. Maude sees that they are her two sisters. On his right is Beth whose face is turned to the right looking at Maude. Her face is beaming. On his left is Anne. Anne is looking straight ahead with a perfectly posed smile, hands disappearing below the table, probably crossed nicely in her lap. In between the two sisters sits her husband. He is staring straight ahead with a sincere looking smile on his face. His brown hair is messy and one of his brown eyes is reflecting light in such a way that it makes him appear as though he is squinting. Both of his hands are placed firmly on the top of the table with his fingers curled as though he is trying to dig holes into the white, lace tablecloth.

He hands the photo to her so that she can take a closer look. “Do you remember this photo, Maude?”

Maude puts her hand onto her husband’s shoulder. She forces a smile and quietly replies, “I remember, Sam.” She turns and walks slowly back into the kitchen, her thighs swish, swish, swishing.

As Sam carefully places the photo back into the envelope where he found it, he hears the rustling of his wife in the kitchen.

“Did you want chips with your sandwich?” she calls.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rock Band is fun, but it's more fun if you have any clue what you're doing.

I started out on drums, playing "Orange Crush" by REM while my brother sang and my nephew played guitar, but I did very poorly. I fared slightly better on "Creep" by Radiohead, rocked the house singing "Don't Look Back in Anger" by Oasis (99%!), and got kicked off the stage playing guitar on "Don't Fear the Reaper." Too bad.

Things that were awesome:
My nephew knows all the words to "In Bloom" by Nirvana.
For some reason I did really well drumming "In Bloom."
Listening to my brother sing "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is pretty funny.

Mandy & Victor: I'm sorry Ellen and I poo-pooed playing Rock Band this weekend. It would have been really fun. And you guys would have let me play "Celebrity Skin," unlike my mean brother.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Strategery

Playing Risk with my 2 brothers whenever I go home to visit my family is a tradition that goes back to 2001. That Christmas, I was living in Austin and my oldest brother still lived in Little Rock (about 3 hours from my parents), and we both got snowed in at my parent's for an extra 3 days because of a giant, unexpected blizzard. So to pass the time, my brothers and I started playing Risk. We must have played 6 games in those 2 or 3 days, and somehow it stuck. Now my oldest brother lives about a half mile from parents, so whenever I go visit, the three of us, at some point, bust out the board.

I actually despise playing Risk. I think it's boring and stupid, and even worse, it makes me feel stupid. My oldest brother, on the other hand, loves it. He's the total left-brain, total logic, math and science, computer guy. I guess he just has fun playing with my other brother and myself, because it never fails, every game, he just wipes the floor with both of us. This past Christmas, somehow, someway, I actually managed to win. It was a total accident, and if you'd asked me how I did it, I wouldn't be able to explain it. I just did. It was a fluke.

Nevertheless, I think it gave me an artificial confidence. Because tonight, we played again, and I do believe it might hold a record for the shortest game ever. In just over an hour, my oldest brother managed not only to win, but to win so swiftly and quickly that even I didn't have a chance to get bored before it was over.

So I play Risk. It's a fun thing to do with my brothers, and mostly we just sit around and laugh a lot and drink a whole lot. Not that I'm drinking, really, while I'm at home this trip, because my Sunday night binge in Dallas ended up all over the bathroom of the airplane the next morning on my flight to Arkansas. I knew I shouldn't have had those last two champagne/vodka drinks. Oy.

Today, however, I had a lovely afternoon picking wild blackberries in my parent's fields with my 6-year-old nephew, then baking a cobbler with them from scratch with my mom, then playing in the pool with my nephew for about 2 hours after that. (I was alternately the sea monster and the "rescuer.")

Tomorrow I'm going out on a long bike trail with my dad, then taking my nephew to see wall-e. I'm very excited.

Then possibly another Risk game. Which I might actually at least attempt to win, after tonight's humiliating crush.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dallas

This morning at the Farmer's Market we bought eggs, meat, tomatoes, peaches, potatoes, onions, corn, cucumbers, a mint plant, spinach ($2 for a giant bag!!!), and about 20 pounds of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. But maybe the best part of the trip was the guy selling "'ponic maters!" (Hydroponic tomatoes.) He was pretty awesome.

Then we bought a lot of alcohol.

Today:

3 gin and tonics with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries floating in them;
1 mojito;
3 honey-flavored vodka drinks (this crazy vodka from New Zealand that Ellen bought;
and one bowl of vanilla ice cream with grilled peaches and more honey-vodka on top!

Tomorrow we're making vodka-infused chocolate milkshakes. I can't wait.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go! Time

I'm leaving town tomorrow for a much needed reunion with 2 friends, then heading up to Arkansas for a few days to see the family before I head out west. Someone brought up recently that this will be the first time I haven't lived within driving distance to my family. As far away as I am now, I've always known that I could hop in a car and be home within a work-day.

Not anymore.

That's a very strange feeling, and one that I hadn't really contemplated before. That doesn't really change the tenor of the move for me. Yet. It may once I'm there, though being surrounded with 2 of my greatest friends from Austin and reuniting with a high school friend (from Arkansas) will probably lessen that "distance" feeling quite a bit for me.

So, yeah, life is interesting these days. I officially became "over work" today, towards the end of my shift when some douchebag customer (is that redundant?) was giving me all kinds of grief about the pettiest stupid shit in the world, and I realized that I truly didn't care. I just stared at him and let him rant then called a manager then went back to reading my copy of the New Yorker like I was doing when he walked up. I am disconnected, in the best possible way. I won't miss work. I will miss a lot of my co-workers (okay, a few of my co-workers), but the job? Not so much. My friend Jake and I, at work, have been trying to find a time to go to Barton Springs together for the past 2 weeks, and tonight I was all, "I've known you for a year, both at school and at work, and now that I have 3 weeks left, I'm trying desperately to cram in some hanging-out time." It's strange. The things you realize you've taken for granted. Ah well.

I'm feeling lots of pressure right now to cram in as much time as possible with people before I go, which is also ironically having the opposite effect that it's supposed to (or maybe this is the right effect?). I'm starting to get irritated with my lack of "alone time," which is very valuable to me, and need lots of (several hours each week, and at least an hour or so each day). But it's my own fault. Maybe if I'm sick of everybody before I go I won't be so sad to go.

Just kidding.

I could never get sick of my friends. I just might need to slow down a bit. Savor the time instead of cramming it. I had a lovely leisurely breakfast with Meredith and Noah this morning, which Noah, the little angel, slept all the way through. I need more of that stuff. Slow meals, unhurried hours.

My anxiety over how many loans I'm taking out is allayed slightly by a new budget I've drawn up, which, if I stick to, will allow me to save $12,000 over the 2 years that I'm in grad school. Barely a dent in what I will finally owe, but enough for a pretty sweet first payment. Ironically, while in grad school, I will have more money than I've ever had.

Well, that's not true (I made more at Esoterix), but considering I won't have a job, it'll be a fuckload.

I'm ready. Well, not quite, but if I had to leave tomorrow for good, I'd be at peace with it.

The next 3 and a half weeks are going to fly. Shit. I can't believe that's all I've got left.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Those damn dogs Part III

I don't think I've received more of a personal response to anything I've yet written on this here blog to anything than I have to this post, showing the email that was written to me by one Greg Heilers re: my own letter to the Statesman about the dogs locked in the car.

After I fired off my vicious rant, he did actually reply back again, after which I let it die. I didn't bother responding for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I lost interest and found nothing in his reply worthy of arguing about. However, almost everyone that's emailed me about that post has also asked if he responded back.

I sort of felt bad for the guy, so I never posted his reply, but when some motherfucker who doesn't even know me calls me lazy and irresponsible, they can go fuck themselves. (Now, if it's someone who actually knows me, on the other hand, I'll be happy to hear them out.)

So, on that note, since everyone's asked me about it, I'l go ahead and post his reply. I'll save any editorializing, except to say that his bit about the public schools is my favorite, I think. Especially when he blames "psychologists" for essentially making them into KKK training camps and brothels. Okay, that's all. (If it's confusing at all, he takes each of my paragraphs and responds to them.)

So without further ado:



I am aware that the Statesman places limits on the amount of wordage
one may submit in a letter. Perhaps, if you had spent less wordage
excessively complaining about what 311 *didn't* do, you could have
revealed more about what you *did* do.

>
> And yes, in response to your question, I do expect the government to supply
> health care, educate me (um, ever heard of public education, or are you one
> of those "libertarian" idiots who doesn't believe in public education, and
> that poor people don't deserve it?),

I believe that having public education so controlled on a federal level, and
with such a heavy influence from the teachers' unions, has ruined what was
traditionally and historically a quality system

> and to provide unemployment benefits.
> I also fully support social security and medicare/medicaid. I suppose
> you're one of those "politically incorrect" idiots who believes in anarchy
> and self-reliance while with the same hand, greedily reaching out to the
> government's hand at every turn.

I strongly believe in "self-reliance" - and in my entire life, I do not know of a
single instance where I, nor any member of my family, has resorted to the
taxpayers in time of need. And we are not "wealthy." My parents did not
even attend college. They grew up during the Depression and WWII -
when people learned to rely on themselves. My dad repaired everything
around the house himself, from hairdryers, to TVs, to cars. And my mom
would even frequently make and sew our clothes.

> Do you enjoy the roads you drive on? And
> for that matter, do you appreciate paying *only* $4 for gasoline, because if
> the government didn't interfere, you'd be paying at least 4x that?

I would rather the government, both state and local, would work to eliminate
the excessive taxes placed upon gasoline. And I would like our nation to
begin increasing production, by increasing drilling, and expanding our
refining capacity.

> Do you
> enjoy having clean water in your tap? Do you enjoy the fact that employers
> can't use your health records as a determining factor in whether or not
> you're hired somewhere?

It is this same "government" which has given us such a system of excessive
"records." The cleanest tap water I have ever enjoyed, was in rural areas,
with little to no government "intervention" in the water The water from my
grandparent's well, even though it contained visible dirt and other "nasties" -
was like nectar from the gods.

> Do you utilize public parks?

Believe it or not, I have not visited in *public* park in decades. Plenty of
private parks have entertained me, though. Cantigny Park outside
of Chicago is a "must-visit" - far cleaner, more beautiful, and more visitor-
friendly than any public park.

> Do you have a social
> security number, or a bank account? Do you benefit from quality standards
> in the food you eat at restaurants or buy in your local grocer? Are you
> married? Did you spend your stimulus check (or did you donate it all to Ron
> Paul)?

My bank accounts are matters between myself and my financial institution.
The government has no business even knowing about them, let alone the details.
We rarely eat out, as we feel restaurants charge way too much for what one receives.
I care little about "quality standards" in what I buy...as I am able enough to
determine this on my own. My stimulus check? I invested it wisely. And I never
supported Mr. Paul. My support went to Mr. Huckabee, because of his support for
the FairTax.

> As I mentioned before, did you go to a pubic school?

Yes...back when the "three r's" were "reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic" -
as opposed to today's "racism and reproduction and recycling."
It was in the days when discipline was still instilled and expected,
and there were no drugs, crime, guns, teen pregnancies, etc., in school.
(Ironically, there were also *not* "counselors" nor "psychologists" in
schools, nor the multi-tiered layers of "management" - there must be
a correlation...)



> Do you
> appreciate environmental standards, so that corporations can't (at least in
> theory) wantonly destroy every inch of this planet with pollution? Have you
> never called, or needed, the police for anything ever in your life?
>

Honestly, I have never had to call the police for anything. As far as the cliched
remarks about corporarations destroying the environment...*yawn*.
Have you seen the Dell Diamond after the State UIL Championships are
held there, and attended by high-schoolers from all over Texas? The most
primitive Eastern-European coal-fired plant couldn't produce as much filth.
And when it is over...the fine staff at The Dell has the place spotless and
pristine in no time at all. Let's see "the city" do that.


> What about my responsibility to behave in a civil manner, and trust that the
> laws that have been set up to not only protect me, but to protect animals,
> will be enforced? Do you really want to live in a society where no one is
> obligated to follow any rules, and everyone can just go about smashing up
> other people's cars because they want to?

Did I suggest you "smash up" the car in question? No. Were any of my
suggestions "un-civil?" No. And there are laws in place that enable common
citizens to legally handle such matters, so that one does not have to rely
on the police or other agencies.

> If someone rear-ended you in a
> vehicle, would you get out and immediately start beating them to a pulp, or
> would you call the cops?

I would exchange insurance information. I would photograph the scene's
details with the camera I always keep handy. Immediately calling the police is
not a requirement, as situations vary depending on where an accident occurs.


> Well, it sounds to me like you might do the
> former, but I don't want to pass judgment. I'm sorry if I believe that laws
> and civil behavior standards are in place for a reason. I know there are
> instances where they can, and should, be violated, but I wasn't there yet in
> this particular situation.
>

And nothing I suggested was "against the law."

> So take your self-righteous, blow-hard bullshit, and fuck off. Better yet,
> go back to keeping your head buried in the sand and ignoring reality, and
> stop sending out such stupid emails. What are you, some undergrad college
> radical at Berkeley, living off your trust fund while at the same time
> chanting "down with the government" or something?
>

No. I have never even visited Berkeley. I am a conservative-libertarian
Southerner, born in Alabama, and have resided in Texas since 1973.
I have never had a "run in" with the law, never have been drunk, and have
never even *seen* any type of "illegal drug" let alone imbibe in such.
I was a Cub Scout, Webelo, and Boy Scout. My hobbies include such
things as sculpting and painting historical miniatures and scale models
(specializing in military history), playing Bridge, fishing, and baseball.
I have voted Republican or Libertarian in every election since 1981,
from local to national. So I am the furthest thing from a "Berkeley radical."
I would *never* chant "down with government" - as I support all of
our national endeavors, even when others turn against things such as our
foreign policy. But I *do* look down on people who are so willing
to relinquish their own personal duties and initiative, simply because
there is some government entity that can do, what they can do themselves.

And your own use of the profanity reveals you to be of the all-too-typical
mindset: "I respect all views and opinion except those I don't agree with."
And you also seem to believe that the "private sector" should be
subservient to the "public sector."







--

Greg Heilers
Registered Linux user #328317 - SlackWare 10.2 (2.6.13)
AUS

For a revolutionary email program:
http://sylpheed.sraoss.jp/en/
.....

Gus McCrae: [Coming upon the sodbusters killed by Dan Suggs] I'god, a man could get rich
in the grave digging business around here. Pea, you ought to get a long shovel.

Pea Eye Parker: I don't think I'd want to do that.

Woodrow Call: This is a bad bunch we're after.

Newt: Gus, Jake wouldn't have nothin' to do with something like this!

Gus McCrae: Jake's always been easily led.

-- Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove"

You want a job....?

People have told me for years (teachers, employers, my parents) that I have an outstanding work ethic. This has always somewhat perplexed me, given that I view myself as lazy, unmotivated and as someone who hates working more than pretty much anything in the world. My ideal job would be to get paid $18 an hour to read the internet and drink coffee and not have to speak to anyone. Whenever I have a job all I do is complain, and I often have a very bad attitude at work, even towards my bosses.

But in the last couple of jobs I've had, some of that praise has started to make sense viewed in the context of comparing me to most other people, who are not only completely incompetent most of the time, but also lack basic personality skills (managing to speak beyond mono-syllables) and often just don't show up for work.

Even in these dire economic times, I've lately been witness to some shocking displays of well, not necessarily incomptence, maybe, but some kind of thoughtlessness. At my place of employment, despite being retail, it's not incredibly easy to get hired. I work primarily at the customer service desk, so I see everyone that comes in the store, and in the last couple of weeks I've had various people come in for interviews, but not know who called them, who they're supposed to interview with, or what time, exactly, they're supposed to be there. Or they show up in flip-flops.

It's kind of extraordinary.

Yesterday this guy came in about 1, and said he had an interview, but he didn't know if it was at 2 or 2:30. Was it a group interview or a one-on-one interview? He wasn't sure, but thought it was the group interview.

So I call the woman who's in charge of those, and she says, "No, there are no group interviews today. Besides, ours are always at 2:30, never at 2."

So I ask the guy who called him about the interview. Naturally, he doesn't remember. I throw out some names. One of them kind of rings a bell, but he's not sure.

So I call upstairs to the operator who's supposed to have a fairly good grasp of what's going on. The guy up there transfers the interviewee to R____, the woman who probably called him, but her voice-mail picks up and the guy leaves a message. I ask who he was transferred to, I say, "Was it R_____?" His reply? "I don't remember."

You don't remember? You just left her a voice-message 20 seconds ago and you already don't remember who it was??

After a few more rounds of calls, and even a call to the south store, which is, in fact, having a group interview that day at 2, but the guy still thinks he's supposed to be at the north store, he finally leaves and says, "Oh well, I guess we'll figure it out later."

Someone else came in the other day (in flip-flops and torn jeans) for an interview that was supposed to be at the south store, and with whom she also couldn't remember. Don't these people write anything down or pay attention to what people who are potentiallly interested in giving them jobs are saying to them?

So yes, I guess compared to people like this (and the examples go far beyond just these two, trust me), I have a pretty good work ethic.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

wistful optimism

I'm feeling a bit out of sorts today. A little depressed, a little regretful, a little hopeful. Sometimes it seems difficult to even sort it all out into anything meaningful, or helpful. But then I have to remember that making it meaningful isn't even what's important. Just feeling it and honoring it is what's important. It doesn't matter what any of it means.

Last night while visiting with Kurt, Meredith and little Noah, we had a brief conversation about what we used to think our lives would be like and how they've actually ended up, at least thus far. naturally it's never what one expects; sometimes it's better, sometimes it's much worse, sometimes it's neither, it's just different. We talked about inner conflict. The way you feel about yourself versus what your life is actually like. I still feel like such a child, so immature, yet I desperately just want to feel like a man, like an adult, like someone that's in control of their life. I want to be a professional, and have a professional life, and feel respectable, and take pride in what I do. And feel secure: physically, financially, emotionally.

My life, I have to say is quite different from what I ever expected. I suppose making a complete 360-degree change when you're 27 from what you'd spent the last 10 years working towards has a tendency to throw one for a loop. And while I'm extremely happy to have landed upon my current path, it's still frustrating sometimes to be around so many people who have so much more of their shit together than I feel like I ever will.

I'm not complaining. I have gobs to be so thankful for in my life right now, and I am, but...I guess I'm just having one of those days.

Today at the library I checked out a book by MFK Fisher, and the very first thing in it is a poem that captures exactly how I feel today.

Why Again

At first, in the immediate impact of grief,
The body lay criss-cross.
The arms were spread out, and the legs stretched.
Gradually the immediate impact of grief grew less.
The legs came up, and crossed at the ankles.
Arms folded softly across the wracked rib cage,
And the abandoned heart softened and came alive again.
The body grew quiescent, receptive,
A chrysalis, not dead
But reviving, curling into a further acceptance of the same
process, the same physical position.

Within, there was still protest.
Why again, asked the vigorous spirit.
This time is surely enough, to be stretched out and pinned,
Pickled in the brine of the spirit.
No, said the spirit.
But the legs straightened and then pulled up,
The wracked arms crossed with gentle resignation over the
breasts,
And the life began to slow to the waiting throb in the ever-
hollowed still soft bosom.

Everything was ready for more.

- St. Helena, California, 1965

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gay Portland

According to some real estate number crunchers, Portland, Oregon tops the Gay Ghetto list for 2008.

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but the article describes it thusly:

Each year we choose our Gay Ghetto Top 10 by cross-analyzing demographics against real estate sales data to discover those especially prized metropolitan areas throughout the USA that are most in vogue with the diverse GLBT community. When the number crunching is over, we usually have 10 distinct winners, individually ranked by virtue of their popularity.


In case anyone is wondering, Austin came in at #8, which ain't too shabby either. Although I find that prize a litte weird, as Austin has always been known as a really gay city with no real "gay ghetto," meaning no real distinct "gay" neighborhood, you know, with the shops and restaurants and what-not, like Chelsea or Boy's Town. Which I've always sort of liked and disliked about Austin. I like it because I think it speaks to an overall acceptance of and friendliness toward gays all over the city without having to compartmentalize so much. But sometimes you just wanna go where everybody's gay and you can sort of take that for granted. I'm sure that sounds stupid, but that's one thing I sort of miss about living in Dallas. (And that's about the only thing.) Sometimes I think a lack of a distinctive area just leads to a real incoherence of any kind of gay scene, and I do think that's reflected a little bit in Austin.

Anyway, here's what the article says about Portland and Austin, respectively:

Portland Oregon
The “Rose City” boasts a thriving arts scene that ranks among America’s best; and its Hawthorne District is home to one of the most concentrated lesbian communities on the continent. Portland’s Burnside Triangle is a triangular district that underwent a complete renaissance and is now thoroughly established as a GLBT enclave stretching over several energetic city blocks. The influence of Burnside spreads into nearby neighborhoods including the Pearl District (a former industrial section of old Portland that now booms with art and commerce) and the rather upscale and upbeat Northwest neighborhood. Earlier this year, Portland became the largest US City to elect an openly gay mayor, Sam Adams.


Austin
Austin has a long reputation for gay-friendliness, and what was long ago a large gay underground is now a tremendously creative GLBT synergy that permeates the whole city in full view of everyone. Austin is the state capital, an important academic center, and the music industry’s newest crown jewel. Plus the city has a high-tech industry presence only rivaled by Silicon Valley. Austin offers a wide range of GLBT enclaves that are literally all over the map, and Texas is famous for low taxes and high growth.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why I hate the Statesman

So, they published my letter last week, and despite my emphatic NO when asked if I wanted my email published with it, they published my email address with it. I've received mostly very kind letters in support of my actions, but today I received an email that was so ridiculously stupid that I have to share it with you. Against my better judgment, I also responded, though I probably shouldn't have. Enjoy!

The first email:

Mr. Cox:

I thought it necessary to reply to your editorial letter submission
in the 06/21/2008 Austin-American Statesman.

You seem to be expressing quite a bit of disgust and disappointment
because the government "animal control" people did not reply quick
enough to satisfy you. You then have the audacity to suggest that
the dogs would have perished, if their owner had not shown up
in time.

My question to you: Why did *you* not do anything about the
situation? Why did you sit idly by, and leave it up to "the government?"
If it had been an infant baby instead of dogs...would you have done
*nothing*?

Off the top of my head, I know of four things you could have done, if
you had bothered to take on adult citizen responsibility:

1) You say the incident happened at a local (assumed retail)
establishment. Did you not think to *page* the owner of the vehicle?

2) Did you not think to tap firmly on the car, or step on the bumper
and rock the car, in hopes that a potential armed car alarm might
be activated, and thus alert the owner?

3) You say the windows were cracked, if only a little. Is that not
enough to insert a coat hanger, and unlock the vehicle? (And perhaps
also activating the aforementioned hypothetical alarm.)

4) Could you have inserted something like the spout of a floral
watering cam, and given the thirsty dogs some relief?

It seems that you did absolutely *nothing* to help the dogs, except
for wringing your hands, waiting for someone *else* to do something.
Do you also expect "the government" to provide you with health care,
an education for you or your children, unemployment benefits, etc.
If some "unsavory characters" are creating a terror or nuisance in
your neighborhood, or place of employment, do you just allow it
to continue, until "the government" arrives to do what *you* should
have done - taken an active role in handling the situation?

It is this lazy attitude, and lack of responsibility, that is leading to the
downfall of society...*not* the less-than-punctual response of the
government entities.

Take note of the quote that is appended to my signature.


--

Greg Heilers
Registered Linux user #328317 - SlackWare 10.2 (2.6.13)
AUS

For a revolutionary email program:
http://sylpheed.sraoss.jp/en/
.....

"The most terrifying words in the English language are:
I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

-- Ronald Reagan


And my response:

Even though the clearly snide, condescending and hateful tone of your letter makes me feel like I should do otherwise, I will reply to your accusations. Owing to the fact that the Statesman only allows 150 words to make your point, I couldn't write an essay about it. I only made the comment about the animals dying to drive home a point in my letter.

1. The first thing I did was talk to the GM of my establishment and urge him to page the owner, but he refused. I even argued that a different manager had done it in the past, and the owner had come right out (another car that I reported on a different day). Still, he wouldn't budge.

2. No, I did not think to try to set off an alarm. The establishment is a very large grocery store, so they wouldn't have heard it anyway, and it probably just would have freaked the dogs out, so even if I had thought of that, I probably wouldn't have done it.

3. No, at that point, I was not yet ready to get arrested, fired, and get my organization possibly sued for breaking into someone's car while I was on the clock. If I felt, at that point, that it had been a life or death situation, then yeah, I probably would have, or had the security guard do it, or made a more urgent call to the police. Obviously, you idiot, if it had been a human infant in there, the situation would have been more urgent. (And I don't care what anyone says, a dog is not a child.)

4. When I met with the other 2 women in the lobby of the establishment, we discussed, at length, various ways we could get water into the car, including in the lid of a coffee cup, but due to the fact that the windows were so narrowly cracked, short of sticking a whole hose in the car, nothing would really fit (see #3 above). One of the women threatened to break the window, and I said, "Have at it, I won't stop you."

And yes, in response to your question, I do expect the government to supply health care, educate me (um, ever heard of public education, or are you one of those "libertarian" idiots who doesn't believe in public education, and that poor people don't deserve it?), and to provide unemployment benefits. I also fully support social security and medicare/medicaid. I suppose you're one of those "politically incorrect" idiots who believes in anarchy and self-reliance while with the same hand, greedily reaching out to the government's hand at every turn. Do you enjoy the roads you drive on? And for that matter, do you appreciate paying only $4 for gasoline, because if the government didn't interfere, you'd be paying at least 4x that? Do you enjoy having clean water in your tap? Do you enjoy the fact that employers can't use your health records as a determining factor in whether or not you're hired somewhere? Do you utilize public parks? Do you have a social security number, or a bank account? Do you benefit from quality standards in the food you eat at restaurants or buy in your local grocer? Are you married? Did you spend your stimulus check (or did you donate it all to Ron Paul)? As I mentioned before, did you go to a pubic school? Do you appreciate environmental standards, so that corporations can't (at least in theory) wantonly destroy every inch of this planet with pollution? Have you never called, or needed, the police for anything ever in your life?

What about my responsibility to behave in a civil manner, and trust that the laws that have been set up to not only protect me, but to protect animals, will be enforced? Do you really want to live in a society where no one is obligated to follow any rules, and everyone can just go about smashing up other people's cars because they want to? If someone rear-ended you in a vehicle, would you get out and immediately start beating them to a pulp, or would you call the cops? Well, it sounds to me like you might do the former, but I don't want to pass judgment. I'm sorry if I believe that laws and civil behavior standards are in place for a reason. I know there are instances where they can, and should, be violated, but I wasn't there yet in this particular situation.

So take your self-righteous, blow-hard bullshit, and fuck off. Better yet, go back to keeping your head buried in the sand and ignoring reality, and stop sending out such stupid emails. What are you, some undergrad college radical at Berkeley, living off your trust fund while at the same time chanting "down with the government" or something?

Sincerely,
Mr. Cox

Calling Dr. Freud, calling Dr. Freud!

I've been having a rash of weird dreams this week, some of them outright nightmares about bearded men in my bedroom lingering in dark corners.

But last night I had a dream that I was hanging out with my friend Bryan, and we were at some suburban Target in the middle of nowhere with....Hillary Clinton! Just the three of us, chilling out, shopping for Hanes and a new blender. Except I was bombarding her with questions about Obama, and what she really thought of him, and the conservative press, and why she said and did some of the things she did. And the really funny part was that it was just like we were great friends: she was answering my questions, and making jokes and I totally loved her! In the dream I was saddened that her political persona was so diametrically opposed to her real person.

Then, inexplicably, we went to one of my ex-boyfriend's houses to watch Dirty Dancing in his bedroom, which was pretty awkward, and I totally didn't want to be there, but we'd gone in Hillary's bus, and I didn't know how to drive it.

Um...anyone...?

Rethinking the Suburbs (again! or, still....)


The Atlantic article that I posted about back in February is quoted in a NYT article from today, entitled Rethinking the Country Life as Energy Costs Rise. The specific quote is, “Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s — slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay,” declared Christopher B. Leinberger, an urban land use expert, in a recent essay in The Atlantic Monthly.

The NYT article is one more in a long line of articles recently extrapolating the rising costs of living in suburbia, or exurbia, and how home prices are plummeting. People are realizing that this whole $4 a gallon thing is probably gonna stick around, and only get worse.

Basic household arithmetic appears to be furthering the trend: In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 a year on gasoline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By April of this year — when gas prices were about $3.60 a gallon— the same household was spending $3,196 a year, more than doubling consumption in dollar terms in less than five years.

...

But life on the edges of suburbia is beginning to feel untenable. Mr. Boyle and his wife must drive nearly an hour to their jobs in the high-tech corridor of southern Denver. With gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, Mr. Boyle recently paid $121 to fill his pickup truck with diesel fuel. In March, the last time he filled his propane tank to heat his spacious house, he paid $566, more than twice the price of 5 years ago.

Though Mr. Boyle finds city life unappealing, it is now up for reconsideration.

...

Juanita Johnson and her husband, both retired Denver schoolteachers, moved here last August, after three decades in the city and a few years in the mountains. They bought a four-bedroom house for $415,000.

Last winter, they spent $3,000 on propane for heat, she said. Suddenly, this seemed like a place to flee. “We’d sell if we could, but we’d lose our shirt,” Ms. Johnson said. Recently she counted 15 sale signs. One home nearby is listed below $400,000.

“I was so glad to get out of the city, the pollution the traffic, the crime,” she said. Now, the suburbs seem mean. “I wouldn’t do this again.”


I guess if you have enough money to buy a $415,000 home and commute, you don't think too much about fuel costs until they're an issue. But I find that so strange. How could you not? It's like when I was watching The Unforeseen, the documentary about growth in Austin, when they talking to the couple who bought the home in a tract subdivision out in the middle of desert nowhere, with fake grass and trees planted everywhere. The couple was shocked when suddenly they were being forced to ration water, not being allowed to water their lawns, and their home values were plummeting.

Oh, really??? What did you expect? I'm not righteously blaming these people necessarily; I understand the desire to own your own home, and it's just not doable in the city for most people. It's sad, though, the position these people have put themselves into.

And speaking of that, one more reason why I'm changing my stance on welfare medicine: the CDC reported today that 8% of Americans now have diabetes. And another roughly 16% have pre-diabetes risk conditions.

I asked a good friend this morning who originally pointed this out to me if my new stance against socialized medicine* made me a Republican, and he said no, it just made me someone who didn't want to have to pay for other people's bad choices.

*I'm not really against socialized medicine per se, just against a welfare system. I think people who take care of themselves and take preventative measures should be rewarded, while those who don't should have to pay for the extra care. As my friend said, he thinks this country knows the difference between someone who gets fat and lazy and eats badly and someone who needs help because they were in a car wreck. Touche.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AvP



Looking for housing in Portland has been an eye-opening experience, but not in the ways you might expect. I understand that Austin is a desirable city with lots to offer: steps away from nature; a local, unique vibe in the culture; lots of art; low crime; a friendly population; overall good weather; beautiful scenery. But let's face it: it's also incredibly overpriced for what you get. Especially considering that as big of a city as it is, there are very limited job opportunities. And now that everyone is converting shitty apartments all over town into overpriced condos, there is swiftly becoming a very shrunken rental market. Gone are the days when you can survive in this town on minimum wage, or even really twice minimum wage.



So I expected Portland to be very expensive and for house-hunting there to be a formidable and frustrating process. It's a coastal city, everybody loves it, they have severe anti-sprawl laws to prevent suburbs and create density. But it seems like a renter's market. I have no idea what it's like to actually try to buy a home there, but renting? It's cheaper than Austin.

In Portland (at least what I've found so far) you can get a 1,000 square foot, 2-bedroom home, with wood floors, huge windows, a yard, right on the bus line, 2 blocks from the MAX (light-rail) line, a block or three from restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and cafes, for about $1,200. And about 2 miles from downtown. (Incidentally, within the downtown area, which encompasses several square miles, all the public transportation is free! Buses and trains.) And that's not rare. Hell, I've found 2-bedroom, corner-unit condos in brand new high-rise buildings downtown for $1,050!

That tells me either that the economy there totally sucks (which may or may not be valid), or these ads are all fakes, like the ones in the back of the Chronicle, where when you call about them the realtor says, "Oh, I just leased that unit literally an hour ago! But I have this other great unit, just a little more expensive....", or it's just a lot cheaper to live there. For whatever reason.

So why is Austin so expensive? There aren't a lot of great jobs. The traffic is wretched. There is no public transportation to speak of. All of about two neighborhoods are walkable, at least as far as anything useful is concerned. And the voters of Travis County just elected Laura Morrison to city council, which means, apparently, that they share her vision of being anti-density, anti-light rail, anti- toll roads, pro-parking lots, pro-sprawl, pro-McMansion Ordinance.

I just don't get it. I was talking to a friend of mine at work who's my age, and grew up in Austin (5th-generation), and he blames a lot of it on out-of-state real estate investors coming in and jacking up the market to be more along California's real estate level. Even though it's totally unwarranted.

I don't really know enough about real estate to agree or disagree, but it makes sense. The market has to be determined by something, and despite what it claims, Austin is very sprawly and big, so it shouldn't cost so fucking much to live here. When I moved here from Dallas, I was in shock when I learned how much apartments rented for here. And that was almost 10 years ago.

I do think Austin is a wonderful city and has a lot to offer (I'd still rather live here than almost anywhere else), but when it comes to its "progressive" reputation, it really has a lot to live up to. And I get more and more scared everyday that it never will. Being progressive is more than shopping at Whole Foods and supporting gay marriage. It's a lifestyle, and a way of thinking about things that looks to the future and tries to create a better world for everybody, not constantly yearning for a past that's gone and sucking as much money as possible out of people just trying to live in a nice place without offering anything in return. I'm pretty sure light rail is officially dead in this town forever. That's really a shame, and really depressing, because the time to build it was about a decade ago.

My friend at work is funny. He's actually moving to London next year because his wife is an art historian or something over there and makes a decent living. So he told me that he's trying to convince himself that Austin totally sucks now and make himself hate it so that it won't be so hard to leave. Maybe in a way that's what I'm doing too. I just don't seem to have any patience left for anything here. But I know the root is just an impatience and excitement to begin my new life. I'm looking forward to it. I am enjoying what time I have left here, though. In the past week, I've been to Barton Springs once and Deep Eddy twice (it would have been Barton all three times, except it's closed on Thursdays. Grrr!!). Just to lay in the sun and soak it all in. I got very sad at Barton Springs on Monday. That place is so incredible, and the people-watching is a riot. I hope someone, somewhere, figures out a way to save this place from itself. I might just want to come back someday.

"Bring it on."



When gas prices started climbing so swiftly several months ago, I somewhat self-righteously proclaimed, "Bring it on!" to high gas prices. It's going to hurt for awhile, but I think in the long run, high gas prices cn only really bring out positive changes. As it turns out, some website called "Foreign Policy" (linked by Andrew Sullivan) has compiled a list of 5 reasons to love $4 gas. Some of which seem a little dubious, but others (like the mass transit boom) are pretty certifiable.

Along those lines, the Economist this month has an interesting little article about the Brookings Institution declaring Los Angeles the greenest city in the country! Come again?

Los Angeles is, after all, a symbol of environmental degradation. It became car-oriented well before most other cities. “If I lose my car it's like having my legs cut off,” explains the doomed hero of the 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard”. These days the metropolis is renowned for jammed freeways. Talk to the mayor of almost any Western city and they will outline their plans for avoiding Los Angeles' fate.

Brookings's number-crunchers calculated carbon footprints mostly by studying highway traffic and household energy use. They excluded local traffic and industry because the statistics are bad. Top of their green list is Honolulu, in Hawaii, whose residents accounted for 1.36 tons of carbon each in 2005. Los Angeles, at 1.41 tons per person, narrowly beats Portland, Oregon, which is widely proclaimed as an über-green city. New York comes fourth. At the bottom of the table, spewing out more than twice as much carbon per person as Los Angeles, is Lexington, Kentucky.


It's a short article, and interesting, if you're as obssessed with this kind of shit as I am.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

10 Years


Karen's latest blog post made me sad today. Well, sad and happy. It basically says that when she thinks of Austin, she thinks of the home that she, Victor and I shared on 37th street in Hyde Park.

I know what she means. It sounds corny to say, I guess, but that house is deeply symbolic to me. It was the last time everyone was in Austin together. It was the last time we were all single (as in, unmarried). It was the last time we'll have multiple parties in one year, and have everyone we know show up for all of them. It was the home of the last real dance party we had (Halloween, 2003). Which also happened to be the last year there was a Halloween party for which everyone was excited and actually dressed up. Two serious romances were begun in that house. One of which is still thriving, and one of which is...not.

It was just the last time everyone in my circle of friends was all together. As I've said before, probably the biggest regret of my life is never having had that tight, crazy, undergrad college experience. Well, in a way, my early years in Austin I think have stepped up and taken the place of that. Hell, I moved here when I was 21: all of my growing up has been here. All of my biggest mistakes, most painful experiences, and biggest joys have happened here. I would say the years 2001 through 2004 or so were some of the greatest years of my life. I made the friends that I know I will have forever (some before that, and some after, but the bulk was during that time), and I had probably the most fun I've ever had in my life during those years.

Making films, traveling, endless parties, shows of friends' bands, art openings, film screenings, late-night, drunken four-square games, looooong nights at La-La's and the parking lot of the Draughthouse, summer bicycle riding through the city at sunset, a million packs of cigarettes and bottles of Knob Creek. Those years will always be so special and meaningful to me. I've never been more open to things and people and experiences in my entire life, and maybe never will be again.

Life here has been good to me. It's bitch-slapped me into next week a few times as well, but overall, I think Austin will always be my Home.

I can't wait to see Karen next month and stay up all night talking and drinking whiskey and cracking each other up. I love that girl so much it breaks my heart.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You and your letters

I was the official Cart-Pushing Bitch in the gargantuan parking lot at work yesterday, and around 11:30, I noticed a silver Volkswagen, license plate X62 VZW, with two little dogs locked inside, and the windows only cracked about a half inch. In triple-digit heat!! Naturally I was furious and called the manager, who naturally wouldn't make an announcement, because god forbid we might ruffle the feathers of a single customer, even though it means animals are being tortured.

So I took it upon myself to call 311 and report the car to animal control. Right when I was finished, two more customers walked in the lobby and wanted to also report the car. So one of those ladies called 911.

I wrote up a quick note to stick on the windshield of the car just to, you know, let the owner know they'd been reported to both 911 and animal control, license number and all. I wanted to make the note really nasty, but I kept it to the facts.

About 45(!) minutes later I noticed a lady walk up to the car, read the note, then stand outside the car for another 10 minutes talking on her cell phone. I assumed it was another customer reporting the car a 3rd time, but nope, after leaving the dogs in the car another 10 minutes to talk on the phone, she finally got into the car and drove away.

The real point of this story, though, is that it took animal control over 3 hours to show up. It was almost 3:00 before I saw their little paddy wagon circling the parking lot looking for the car. I didn't say anything to them, but I wanted to go ask them why they even bothered showing up. After 3 hours, if those dogs had still been there, they probably would have been dead already. The women I ran into in the lobby were seriously contemplating busting one of the car's windows to pull the dogs out.

Naturally, being at work, there's no way I could have participated in that business, but I wouldn't have stopped them.

So this morning first thing I got up and fired off two letters, to the Chronicle and the Statesman, complaining about the abysmal animal emergency response. I sure hope the human emergency response if better than that.

Oh, and fucking bitch that left your two cute little dogs in the car, I hope someone locks you in a steam room for 2 hours at the gym tomorrow. I just don't get it. Why would she even bring them with her? Why can't people just leave their dogs at home when it's this hot? Anyone who would do that is mentally ill.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Old habits die hard



Some people say that in relationships, timing is everything, above all else. I don't completely believe this, but I don't disbelieve it, either. We bring to every relationship we form the sum of all of our experience, along with our current situations. And if we can't imagine our lives having turned out any differently than they are now, most likely it all has to do with one or two decisions we made, perhaps haphazardly or impuslvely, a long time ago.

Which is why "fate" is bullshit. Any of our lives could just as easily have gone a totally different direction if we hadn't ask that person for their phone number, or moved to a different city, or not gone out for drinks one night. It's sort of too overwhelming to think about, but it's something I tend to obssess about. Rather needlessly, of course.

Some very close friends of mine that I respect 100% recently undertook the viewing of Six Feet Under.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that SFU is kind of like my religion. It is what allowed me to be born again. I'll spare you the details (of course, if you've been reading this blog for the past 3 years, you already know the details....), but suffice to say, SFU pretty much ranks right up there with being born as one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. It literally changed my life: it opened up a whole new world to me, and totally altered my philosophy.

But I was also in the deepest, darkest trenches of emotional warfare at the time, fighting a losing battle against enemy insurgents in my brain that wanted to kill me. And SFU was a revelation. Why it was a revelation is too much to get into at the moment, but it was.

And the thing about my friends watching the show is this: they don't really care for it. I haven't discussed it in detail with them because I'm a coward and don't have the stamina for it (and I wouldn't want to put words in their mouths anyway), but I think they find it silly, pretentious and maybe slightly laughable.

Hmmm.

I know I'm overanalyzing here (surprise!), but if they see so very little of what I see when I watch that show, then what can that possibly mean?

Probably very little, actually. It's a fucking TV show.

But it's my TV show!!! It's what inspired me to change my life and become a therapist and go back to school. Hell, it even inspired me to practice a particular kind of therapy.

But maybe....just maybe....

If I saw the show now for the first time, assuming that my life were still in the same place it is now, would it still mean as much to me?

Hard to say, but probably not. I bet I would still like it a whole lot, though. When you find something (or someone) that speaks to you so profoundly, it's impossible to separate that from the circumstances or history.

It just is, it just does. So I can't hardly blame my friends for not seeing in Six Feet Under the same magic that I did: our lives and situations while watching it couldn't be more different. There's nothing more to be read into it than that.

Of course, I still think they're wrong and I still find it disappointing, but there is no deeper meaning than that.

A relationship with a TV show, or any piece of art, can be as complicated (or as simple) as any relationship with a person. It all depends on where you are, where you've been, and where you're going.

Plain as that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bored and the City



I almost started to panic when the opening credits began and Sarah Jessica Parker's nasally little voice started "catching up" the audience on where the characters left off 4 years ago when the show ended. The film whirled through TV clips on the band of a bright pink rollercoaster, while the audience cheered each one, and I knew I was done for. There were two-and-a-half hours left of this? And I just spent $9 on a tiny little martini called "The Miranda?"

Shit. I took another bite of my pizza and settled down into my seat for the long haul.

It's not really that the film was so bad, as just, so....well, unnecessary. 40 minutes in, when the completely contrived climax occurred (which also happened to be the only good part of the movie: where Big stands Carrie up at the altar, which, if you didn't see coming 5 years ago, you were a fool), I was ready to call it a night. Oh, but wait: There are still almost 2 hours left. It was also a little disenheartening, and also somewhat of a relief, to realize, about 2 minutes in, that I just don't care anymore. I have zero emotional investment left in any of those storylines, and that's okay. I especially have little patience left for fashion and shoes, which I never cared about to begin with. The movie, however, is basically just a big, giant commercial. Shameless and dull. I always defended the show when people criticized it for those reasons, and especially for criticizing the implausibility of these women having this much money and spare time. Who cares? That's like saying Superman is unrealistic because he can fly. It completely misses the point. But as I watched the movie, or rather put toothpicks between my eyelids to keep them open, I think I started to see people's points about the sheer shallowness of it all.



About midway through the film I leaned over to Tom and asked how many days we'd been trapped inside the theater.

It's especially sad, I think, to see the things you love destroyed from the inside. I still love the show (I own every season on DVD and still frequently watch the heavily edited re-runs on TV late at night), but it's all a little bit tainted for me now. There is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist except to make money. It adds nothing new to the story, and even worse, the whole damn thing ends exactly where it began! Nothing happened in the entire film! In two-and-a-half hours. We got one good joke made by Samantha that was pretty hilarious, but that's it, really.

Apparently a sequel is already in the works, but I can't for the life of me imagine what on God's earth it could be about. Maybe the homos, which were always treated dismally on the show (and was one reason I actually hated the show for awhile at the beginning), will get to be real people instead of one-note caricatures (and pathetic ones at that) and the movie can be about them.

The best part of the movie though, and worth the price of admission alone, were the legions of young girls (and some old enough to know better) in their mile-high heels and evening gowns, strutting around with their cocktails...at the Alamo Drafthouse on Sunday night..... Afterwards throngs of them posed in group photos in the lobby in front of the film poster, while they had the poor Alamo employees take their photo. One girl, in line for the bathroom afterwards, screeched, "I can't believe Carrie Bradshaw is married!"

Oh dear.

The next night, I was having a little insomnia and decided to flip on the TV for a bit. I happened to catch Inside the Actor's Studio just beginning, and the guest that night was Sarah Jessica Parker.

Man, in combination with that, and hearing her on Fresh Air a couple of years ago, it made me sad that she is the embodiment of Carrie Bradshaw. Despite being the star and philosophical center of the show, she was always my least favorite character, and the one I found least interesting. SJP, as a real person, though, is so unlike Carrie. She's modest, a bit conservative, and smart as a whip.

I wonder what could have been if SJP had injected a little more of herself into the show, and not been such a "character?" But I guess that's not the point. I'll always have my memories, and probably won't be going to see the sequel.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tagged for Songs

I was tagged by Bryan. The rules:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.


(In the interest of full disclosure, I pretty much only listen to singles and certain songs off records now. I couldn't even tell you the last time I bought a CD, and my musical taste has become very pedestrian.)

"Paper Planes" by M.I.A.
I don't know anything about this song; someone put it on a mix for me recently, and I can't get enough of it. Bryan has some interesting background on it on his list.

"4 Minutes" by Madonna
Whatever. This song is fucking awesome. I love the little horns sample.

"The Greatest" by Cat Power
Used to excellent effect in My blueberry Nights recently, and everytime I listen to it, I get that bittersweet feeling in my gut.

"SOS" by Rihanna
Any song that can get me to actually listen to "Tainted Love" without wanting to shoot myself in the head and jump out a stained-glass window is all right by me.

"The Way I Are" by Timbaland
Rules. End of story.

"Here Comes the Sun Again" by M. Ward
This song just makes me feel good. I love listening to it while I drive with the windows down.

"Breakin' Up" by Rilo Kiley
I've never listened to Rilo Kiley before, but I know I'd like them. Again, this song was on a mix. But it's so damn catchy. I need the record.

I can't tag 7 people without including people Bryan has already tagged, so I'll just do a few: Tom; Ruth; Meredith.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

One thing we have George W. Bush to thank for...

While watching a matinee performance of The Strangers today, one thing that kept going through my mind was how art might change when Obama becomes President. I mean, who knows, the world might still end in 2 years, at the rate it's going now, but I suspect that with such a drastic change in leadership and ideology, the whole culture will shift in one day.



It's pretty common knowledge that pervasive fear, uncertainty, unrest, and anxiety in society make for the best art, generally, and that in times like these, the darkness of people's souls is reflected on screen. Even if the films being created have no bearing, overtly, on reality or politics, they're still reflective of people's anxieties and moods. Remember the Clinton years? How fucking happy and prosperous and hopeful everyone was?

And remember how fucking boring all the movies were? Especially the horror genre. It became self-reflexive, jokey, funny, meaningless. And most decidedly not scary. Who knew that when Scream debuted in 1996, that it would effectively kill an entire genre of film for almost a decade? It's not Scream's fault. The original is actually a pretty great film; I've seen it numerous times. And you can't tell me that the first 10 minutes didn't totally scare the shit out of you. Drew Barrymore, alone in a house at night, being tormented by a psycho in a silly mask: dude, that shit was fucking scary. And then she ate it. The biggest star in the film got eviscerated and (literally) hung out to dry in the first 10 minutes. You knew Craven wasn't pulling any punches with this one.



But while watching The Strangers today, I thought less of Them, which everyone claims it to be a total rip-off of, and a lot more of that first scene in Scream. Which, it seems to me, it shares a lot more in common with.

I enjoyed the hell out of The Strangers, but it's by no means a perfect film. It's predictable, it lost me in a couple of places, due to its slightly meandering nature and the complete implausibility of the protagonists' behavior (I mean, seriously, why didn't they get in the car and leave immediately when it was clear someone was in the house....?), and the abruptness of its ending. It felt less like the killers got bored than the director got bored. The whole "inspired by true events" coupled with FBI statistics at the beginning is just fucking stupid, and the director, in the couple of interviews I've read, seems like kind of a douche. It's bleak. Even too bleak for me, possibly. The best horror films, in my opinion, at least offer a sliver of catharsis, in one way or another. But nope, not The Strangers.

All of which isn't to say that it's not a fucking terrifying film, because it is. Director Bertino has a gift for sound and timing, and hopefully he's not a one-trick pony. But contrary to what some people believe, I think this is a golden age of horror and thrillers. Just in the last couple of years alone, I think some of the best horror films in decades have come out: Hostel (both 1 and 2), The Descent, Cloverfield, 28 Weeks Later. And I'm sure I probably forgot one or two.

War, terrorism, a completely bloodthirsty, bat-shit crazy president, religious fundamentalism trying to run our lives, economic depression, environmental catastrophe. As much as I hate to say it, these are the makings of great horror. I don't know why I love horror films so much. Perhaps The Strangers is brilliant. Perhaps, like Funny Games, except without the sneering condescension, it's telling us that we can't have it both ways: we can't delight in the suffering and terror of our protagonists and get to have some catharsis at the end, too. That's just not fair, and in some ways, it's not moral. We made our decision to pay 8 bucks to watch these poor bastards die, and die is what they will do. It was our choice. We made it happen, now we must live with the weight of our decisions.

But why do we enjoy the process so much, then get so bummed when it ends the only way it could, and how we knew all along it would? And then leave the theater depressed? But...sort of...invigorated....

Maybe it makes us feel alive. Maybe it makes us appreciate that our mountain of school loan debt that keeps us awake at night is nothing compared to having our house invaded by masked psychos that make us watch while our lovers are slowly killed.

Who knows? But if Obama actually manages to make good on any of his promises, I'm going to miss these heady days of horror.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Singing Hallelujah With the Fear in Your Heart

After a couple of weeks of indecision (and me waiting with baited breath), it's official: another one of my Top 5 Favorite People in the World, Collier, is also moving to Portland in August.

She's going up there in 2 weeks to find us a house to live in. We developed a list of ideal criteria on the phone today.

And also on the Collier news front: She's getting a book published! She sealed the deal with a publisher in New York last week. It's not coming out until 2011, but it's coming out.

So she's going to spend the next year writing said book, in our house, in Portland. While also tending to our garden.

Congratulations Collier!!