Thursday, May 29, 2008

Austin: The Morning After

This is my artistic abstract photograph of Dale Watson playing at The Continental Club. It was mounds of fun.

The outdoor seating of Jo's Coffee on South Congress. I love the metal! This is where I had my celebrity sighting.

Suzi took me to Smitty's Market in Lockhart, Texas. You buy the meat right from the cooks in a very hot! outer room where, regardless of outdoor temperature, there is an extremely hot fire burning for them to cook the meat. You can get an avocado and they give you white bread. No forks, people, you eat with your hands. I think it was the greasiest sausage I've ever had. I also had an Arnold Palmer.

This is the interior of Smitty's Market, where you get your sides (potato salad, beans, avocado) and drinks. It's cash only. I love the signs. Also, you can get beer if you want and ice cream for dessert.

An interesting building in Lockhart, Texas

The replica of the Oval Office, cerca LBJ. I didn't get a picture of it, but there was a cool phone in a drawer. And a wooden console that housed three small TVs. Maybe so he could watch all three major networks at once?

All in all, the trip was a smashing success. I am glad to be home, where the temp is 73 instead of 93, with no humidity. I also slept like a baby. I was glad to see MB and Son also, though Son wasted no time getting up to his old tricks of not falling asleep until after 10 and not wanting to wear appropriate clothing for school. But he also couldn't do anything because he was so distracted by the books he's reading, about which I cannot complain.
I will now begin my post-vacation regimen of rice, vegetables and water. A vacation filled with barbecue, beer and wine means cleansing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Austin Update: Celebrity Sighting

This morning, at 6:45 a.m., Suzi picked me up to go kayaking. We had a lovely paddle in Town Lake (saw some turtles, blue fish, and aggressive swans). Then, of course, we went to Jo's for some protein and caffeine. I am quickly becoming addicted to the Austin tradition of the breakfast taco. Yum!
While we were sitting there, next to the Hotel San Jose, who should come out of said hip, cool hotel but Luke Wilson. I kid you not. He's cute. He was wearing sun glasses and I tried not to stare.
I should also add that I went to bed last night at around 12:30. I went with Don and Martin to The Continental Club to see (or hear) Dale Watson. It was only $5 and it was so much fun! They played lots of oldies, like Merle Haggard and Charlie Rich. It was great! I had three beers (A Stella, Negro Modelo & a Lone Star) and, aside from being tired this morning, no ill effects. I had lots of fun watching all the folks swing dance and country two-step. I was quite impressed with the young, hip looking men who could partner dance. Apparently it's a thing in Texas, and I have to say I think it's a positive trend. I like men who can dance while still looking cool with their messy hair, skinny jeans and Chuck Taylor's.
All in all, Austin is a smashing success. Thanks to Suzi, who has taken me to all the cool local restaurants and the distant barbecue place and the hip coffee shop and the cool bar. And Don who took me to see live music. Tonight we are going to a Tapas place and a place called the Broken Spoke, where apparently there will be an accordion band. Yee haw!
Also, after my presentation (what presentation?), I am going with my colleague David to the LBJ library. I have never been to a Presidential Library before, so I'm looking forward to it. Apparently there is a scathing letter from Goldwater that I'm to keep an eye out for. If it doesn't thunder and rain tomorrow, I may get to go to Barton Springs again. If not, I will probably just go shopping, which is its own consolation.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Keep Austin Sweaty

Here's a pic of my friend Suzi and colleague David at a bar in Austin called Mean Eyed Cat. It has a Johnny Cash theme. It also, like many Austin bars, has cool outdoor seating. And imported beer for like, not that much.

Here are Suzi & I in front of the sign. You can't see it, but it's still kind of hot.

Here's Middlebrow and I at The Salt Lick. It was amazing. What else can I say.

Our food with the beer we brought from home. The Salt Lick is in a dry part of the county. It's BYOB.

Blooming cacti in front of Suzi's house

I'm having a good time in Austin, although it's hot. And humid. We saw the bats. We swam at Barton Springs (best time ever!) and we've had nothing but great food since we got here. I love the cheap taco stands. Yeah cheap tacos!! And frozen sangria. Like a wine slurpee. At a taco stand! And cheap beer. Etc!!
But also I miss home. And Son. He's little. He needs me! (Or I need him. Same thing!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What I've Been Doing (Not that You Wanted to Know...)

  • Reading about Writing (This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley)
  • Reading Other Things (textbooks, Pale Fire, blogs)
  • Writing (or trying to write or at least sitting downstairs at my desk)
  • Riding the Train (and reading on the train)
  • Seeing Movie ("Made of Honor" yes, I actually saw it & I liked it!)
  • Eating (fish tacos that I made, salad, banana muffins)
  • Sneezing (while running, sleeping, and so on)
  • Not sleeping (is it the allergy medicine?)
  • Reading to Son (still on Harry Potter 5, which, magically, seems to be endless)
  • Cleaning (who really wants to mop the kitchen floor? But it needs to be done!)
  • Doing Laundry (this really is endless!!)
  • Exercising (well, I didn't do this Sunday or Monday. But today. Today!)
  • Downloading & Listening to Madonna's new album "Hard Candy" (some ridiculousness, such as "my sugar is raw" !? but I laugh every time I hear JT say "Ma-Donna")
  • Going to the Pool (I took Son to the pool yesterday. The indoor pool. But still.)
  • Thinking about packing for Austin
  • Signing up for things on-line
  • Wondering when my new swimsuit will arrive by mail
  • Fretting
  • Oh yeah! Being happy about not winning a book contest, but being one of 5 finalists (that's a first for me, being a finalist. The not winning part I've been doing for awhile)
  • Dining with friends (that's tonight)
  • Going to Austin (on Thursday, so I'm out for at least a week, but if I have wireless at my hotel, I'll blog!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Updates from Week 2

  • Episodes of TV shows watched: 4 (2 Samantha Who?, and one Gray's Anatomy, even though I gave it up...oh! And Idol)
  • Long Meetings Attended: 1 (and it was three hours! And it was still going when I left!) I hereby give up meetings for the rest of the summer!
  • Appointments with students: 3 (two with the same student, one was my mistake the second she didn't show up to, plus an email from another student who wants to meet but I don't want to....)
  • Movies watched: 1 (Leatherheads at Brewvies with HighTouch)
  • Exercise done: 1 run, 2 swims (all done grudgingly. I'm burnt out. Burnt out!)
  • Writing = Despair: I've done nothing. Noooothing. I read some of the novel I started five years ago. That's right. Five years!! Lame-O, with a capital Lame.
  • Poems written: One. And here it is. Wala!
Poem in Which I Defend my Dislike of Vampire Novels

Maybe I don’t like vampire novels because I’m afraid of needles

or maybe it’s because I don’t like blood or the idea of holes

in my neck, or anyone else’s for that matter, and maybe I don’t like

vampire novels because, generally, they read as if they were written

by vampires, in the dark, in rooms cramped as coffins, with little or no

sunlight, no happiness, no hope for a life free from black clothing

and steak tartar, and I don’t have anything against the goth look, in fact

I like black, but the prose! Those novels are written as if

it’s enough just to have the vampire: he’s a vampire! or she’s a vampire!

but in any case there’s a vampire! and that’s it, no further need to explain.

A friend wrote a vampire novel, but it wasn’t scary, in fact, I think it was comedy,

and all I remember was that the vampire worked in catering or played tape ball

and that seems like the only valid use of a vampire in fiction, if he’s not, primarily,

doing vampire stuff, like stalking girls who are pale to begin with, or biting

women’s necks and draining them of blood, which seems unrealistic, frankly, given the sheer

volume of blood in even one single person, and I don’t like that vampires

are so much like mosquitoes, which, to my knowledge, no one has ever written a novel

about, why can’t mosquitoes be main characters? They like to suck blood

and they hang around at night, in the dark, being annoying in much the fashion of vampires,

where’s the novel about a mosquito who falls in love or the mosquito who can’t

die but instead breeds in the dank water of Okefenokee and falls in love only to kill

the one he loves (perhaps with malaria)? It’s a story we’ve heard before,

the vampire plot. John Gardner said there are only two stories: someone goes on a journey or a

stranger comes to town. Most vampire novels are both, as in a vampire

(the ur-stranger) comes to town and then everyone goes on a journey. But aren’t vampire

novels about our fear of the body? Aren’t vampires just another metaphor

for death and sex and the unknown? I’ve seen the vampires, and I tell you,

I’ll take my chances with sex and the unknown.

My famous step-father

My mom and her husband taught in Myanmar for several years. Last year, he taught in China, near where the recent earthquake occurred. Apparently, with the recent natural disasters in both places, a TV station in his area found out and he was featured on the news. Watch the clip here.
And if you have any extra money, make a donation to an international relief agency. Thanks.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothers' Day Movie Marathon

My friend and I planned a Dance Movie Marathon and accidentally had it on Mothers' Day. I didn't know it was Mothers' Day when I picked that day, but we ended up having it yesterday anyway. It was perfect, actually, because I believe that on Mothers' Day one should be entirely free of any maternal duties. Son and MB gave me the "Juno" soundtrack, which I love.
My friend made delicious chocolate chip cookies, and I made enchiladas (the sauce was amazing!!). We walked to the store for ice between movies 1 & 2, and we made some margaritas for movie 3.
The movies were supposed to start at 1, but we had some technical difficulties, and I was a bit late. By the end of the night, we were one whole movie behind. We started around 1:30 and ended after 10. It was so worth it.
The line up:
Footloose. I hadn't seen this in so long, that I'd forgotten Sarah Jessica Parker was in it. Also, it's weird to watch it so close to where it was filmed. All the girls had Idaho hair as far as I could tell (but I guess it's also Utah hair). Also, a colleague was in it, though we didn't see him. But he was there, somewhere.
Breakin'. I'd never seen this, and it was very dated, just as Footloose was. But the dancing was good. I think the white girl wasn't a very good dancer, but what do I know. Loved the 80s outfits, such as the leotards with belts and ripped shirts. It kind of made me want to watch Flashdance. I think my favorite part was the young Ice T.
Strictly Ballroom. Again, it had been ages since I'd seen this. I think this might have been the only truly good movie in the line up. The father is hilarious in his solo dance scenes. And the hair!! This made me want to learn to dance so I could do the Flamenco, which is what I think they did. Shows how much I know about dancing.
Save the Last Dance. I had never seen this one, and I liked it. I liked the inter-racial romance thing it had going on. Also the dancing (in the bar at least) was good.

Some weird convergences: "True Colors" was featured in both Strictly Ballroom and Save the Last Dance (I think... it was in two different movies anyway). Also Save the Last Dance featured a shout out to Turbo and Ozone, the dance stars of Breakin'. All the movies featured the "outsider" or "loner" against the mainstream. Most of the movies used either class or race issues to explore this mainstream/other plot line. And as Lis pointed out, the makers of Step Up 2: The Streets had obviously studied Breakin'.
Also, having watched these four movies I now understand that most of our problems can be solved through dancing. (And by "our" I mean whatever group you belong to: young people in rural Americans, white people, ballroom dancers, racially divided groups of people in Chicago, etc.)
I now think that I should have a movie marathon every Mothers' Day. Maybe next year it will be movies featuring teachers and/or English teachers. Maybe Dead Poets' Society, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, Mr. Holland's Opus. Any other suggestions for themes and/or movies?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What I've Been Doing: Week 1

Though this week doesn't really count as Week 1 of vacation (I didn't turn in my grades until Monday), it is the beginning of vacation. So what have I been doing?
  1. Cleaning the bedroom (mopping floor, dusting, cleaning the door, more dusting)
  2. Purging (old running shoes, clothes not worn in decades, Son's too small clothes)
  3. Cleaning downstairs (so far I've only recycled a lot of paper and shredded some stuff, but the desk is visible, if not quite usable)
  4. Watching stuff ("Shut Up & Sing," "Monk" on Hulu, "I'm Your Man" while I cleaned downstairs)
  5. Eating French Fries (made in the oven, with yummy aioli, so good)
  6. Going out to lunch (I've only done this once, but I think I'll do it again!)
  7. Thinking about writing (I like to have a fresh start and a clean desk)
  8. Making lists in my head (called "things to do" & "things not to forget")
  9. Worrying (self-explanatory?)
  10. Drinking (wine, beer, Izze sodas, iced tea, lemonade)
  11. Laundry
  12. Reading (two books finished today! Onward & upward!)
  13. Getting organized (at least in my mind)
  14. Having my blood drawn (this is in my top two things I hate the most & I can't remember the other one. Plus I have a big bruise now)
  15. Oh, I have been running. And I swam once. And my knee hurts. So there's that)
I hope y'all have been as wildly unproductive in the first days of summer vacation as I have. I'm looking forward to it being hot enough that the pool opens.

Monday, May 05, 2008

On the Death of a Neighbor

I think this one is self-explanatory. I didn't know what to do, so I made muffins and wrote this poem.

When I came out of my house, he would be there
I had to stop myself from saying always
in the mornings, after snow or rain, there

Then suddenly he’s disappeared, he’s nowhere
and I will have to find another way
to come out of my house and find him there

More than fences & sidewalks that we shared
the simple waves or funny things he’d say
in the mornings, after snow or rain, there

And how to tell my son he won’t be there?
Hola Fernando! my son would wave
When he came out of the house, his friend was always there

My son pretends not to, or doesn’t know how to, care
but soon enough he will find his way
in the mornings, after snow or rain, there

His being gone surrounds us everywhere
No other day will be just like today
When I come out of my house, his absence will be there
in the mornings, after snow or rain,

...and Done!

I submitted my grades this morning. Let the flurry of student emails reading "D??" begin. Sigh.
And so begin my ambitious summer plans. So far I've dusted under the bed and the dressers and mopped one-fourth of the bedroom. I wiped down the door and door frame. I subtracted all the transactions from our checking account. I'm listening to the new KRCL. I'm trying to get rid of T-shirts I haven't worn in the last year. Why does that seem so hard? I'm also looking for new storage options for my shoes. It's probably time to mop another part of the bedroom (trying to clean the floor without moving the bed into the hallway, which would involve taking it apart. Just not worth it). I may dust the dresser, but then I have to go swim in order to recover from my weekend which involved standing in one place for 5-ish hours and running 10 miles (half up hill!). And my arm hurts.
Watched "Juno" finally. Loved it!

Thursday, May 01, 2008