Showing posts with label austin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label austin. Show all posts

Saturday, April 7, 2012

This Wouldn't Have Happened if I had Google Glasses

Think of one of your all-time favorite bands, the kind of band that helped shape your musical tastes ... the kind of band that helped define a generation within it's genre. Now let's say that this is a band that has been broken up for years and let's say you never got a chance to see them live, because you didn't really start listening to them until right when they were calling it quits. Now imagine that this band recently decided to tour again and you just happen to live in their home state. Imagine that since this announcement they haven't published any home state show dates. Imagine that when they finally do post home state show dates, it's in a city 6 hours away and you missed the window to buy anyway. Imagine that several days later they announce a last minute show in your city at a small venue ... the kind of place they are NOT likely to play ever again. Imagine that had you been monitoring your email or twitter, you would have known about and had a chance to see this show. Imagine that you were doing other things instead.

This is what just happened to me with At The Drive-In. I've spent the last several months complaining that since announcing their reunion tour they haven't planned any TX shows ... their home state. Then earlier this week they announced a show in Marfa, much too far away for me to go see them and I missed the small window of opportunity to get tickets anyway. Now this afternoon at 1:05pm they announce a show for this Monday at Red 7, a small punk venue in Austin and I missed it because I was playing video games.

Now to be fair, chances are that I would have missed it regardless of what I was doing. Unless I'm at work, I'm rarely sitting in front of my computer and constantly hooked into email or Twitter updates. There was still a chance though, that had I not been otherwise occupied, I would have caught this announcement and I would have gotten a ticket to what is likely to be the most intimate show ATDI will do on this tour and that I have access to.

I know I'll get to see them at some point during this tour - if they don't do ACL or FunFunFun Fest then I'd be incredibly surprised - but it would have been amazing to see them at a small show with a bunch of die hard fans like myself. The funny thing about this is that earlier this week there was a lot of sarcasm directed toward the "Google Glasses" video, but honestly ... if I had me some Google Glasses, this would have never happened.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SXSW 2012 - Day Five

All things must end. This is as true for SXSW as it is for everything else, but this year my SXSW experience ended in epic fashion. We started the night by heading over to Swan Dive on Red River to catch DC-area band Deleted Scenes:

I had heard about these guys from Office of Future Plans' Twitter feed and listened to them on Spotify a few times. They combine DC punk/rock with a playfulness and experimentation that ends up producing a unique, but listenable sound not quite like anything else out there right now. I found the live show to be very good and a great start to the night. The next stop was Spill bar to check out a band called Elephant Stone:

This was one of my picks based solely on a single sample track and in the end I wasn't disappointed. They put on an interesting show and it's not often at all that you see a sitar used in indie rock in such a fashion. Leaving Spill around 8:30, we heading south to Lustre Pearl to meet up with some friends and catch the always amazing Tim Fite:

This is the third time I've seen Tim Fite live and it's always a fun and unique experience. I highly recommend checking him out live if you ever get the chance and head over to his web site for plenty of free downloads as well. Quiet Company was our 11pm stop, so we headed over to the Chevrolet Sound Garage on 6th to set ourselves up early for the show:

As always, these guys rocked the fucking house. If I had to pick an Austin band most on the verge of blowing up nationally it would be this one. These guys have serious chops and a style with broad appeal while still managing to be 100% sincere about their music. Do yourself a favor and pick up their latest album "We Are All Where We Belong" before the hipsters catch on and try to make it seem like they were there first.

With nothing lined up for 12pm, we headed over to Friends bar on 6th to catch And So I Watch You From Afar a second time. My main goal was to get up front for this set and after the previous band finished and the front of the stage cleared out a bit, I was able to stake my claim:

The band put on a phenomenal set despite a few technical difficulties and instrument malfunctions. One of the highlights for me was in finally seeing them play "Don't Waste Time Doing Things You Hate", one of my favorite tracks from their first album. They closed the evening with a powerful performance of "The Voiceless" that saw guitarists Rory Friers and Niall Kennedy jump into the crowd and continue playing whilst crouched on the floor and surrounded by fans:

If that wasn't enough, as the song ended in a crescendo of feedback and noise, Niall handed me his guitar. For a moment I was dumbfounded and then (understanding his gesture) began strumming the hell out of the instrument, contributing to the cacophonous climax of the evening. After 30 seconds or so of being the 5th member of And So I Watch You From Afar, Niall took back the guitar, gave me a hug from on stage and said "thanks" ... I have to assume not just for the strumming, but for my obvious admiration of the band as evidenced by my hardcore rocking out over the previous 50 minutes:

So, drenched in sweat and with a giant grin across my face I reunited with my friends and bid farewell to SXSW for 2012. It was a perfect end to an excellent week of music in one of favorite cities in the world and a place I'm so glad to call home.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

SXSW 2012 - Day Four

Day four of SXSW this year was the best so far. It started off with one of my favorite local acts - The Sour Notes - at B.D. Riley's:

They played an amazing set as always and handed out a bunch of free CD's and 7" splits to the crowd before the show, which is probably a really smart move for any small act playing SXSW. From there it was over to The Whiskey Room at 9pm for Bright Moments:

They took a little longer than average setting up due to what appeared to be an uncooperative sound system on stage, but when they finally did play it was worth the wait and I'll be checking out more of their stuff in the future. At 10pm came a moment I had been waiting for all week, And So I Watch You From Afar at Bat Bar:

The last time I really listened to some good, heavy music at a show was during Fun Fun Fun Fest back in November and last night's performance by ASIWYFA was a reminder of just how much I enjoy that kind of stuff. The band played perfectly and seriously rocked the shit out of the place. It's not often these guys come over here from Ireland so I'm going to see them again tonight at Friends bar and planning to get as close to the stage as I can.

I didn't have anything lined up for 11pm last night, but we wanted to get in to see Temper Trap at the Parish at midnight, so we headed over early to check out Crystal Fighters who put on a really excellent show, featuring the kind of pop meets (insert genre here) style that British bands seem to grasp without difficulty. A little after 12 Temper Trap went on with a set composed mostly of new material from their upcoming second album:

We ended up leaving early however as they were running late and we wanted to get over to St. David's Bethel Hall to check out Mother Falcon. After ending up in the Sanctuary instead of Bethel Hall and catching the end of another act, we were lucky enough to run into someone who figured out that all of us were in the wrong place and headed around the corner to Bethel Hall to catch the beginning of Mother Falcon's set:

This year's winner of the Austin Music Award for Best Avant-Garde/Experimental Band did not disappoint in person. The group of 15+ musicians played a beautiful set that acted as the perfect close to a great night at SXSW.

Tonight my SXSW 2012 experience comes to a close with Day Five. In addition to the aforementioned second installment of And So I Watch You From Afar, I'm also hoping to check out Tim Fite's unique live performance, as well as a more traditional SXSW set from Quiet Company.

Friday, March 16, 2012

SXSW 2012 - Day Three

My third day of SXSW 2012 was more along the lines of what passes for "normal" for this event. There wasn't anything in particular that I had labelled as "must see" last night, but there were a few acts that I was interested in catching. First up was Sarah Jaffe at Club De Ville:

The laid back singer-songwriter (how this gets to be a genre description when it can describe ANY person who writes and sings their own songs, I don't know) was a nice, mellow start to the evening. We stayed for almost her entire set, but ducked out early to make sure we could get over to Esther's Follies on 6th in time to get seats for Mike Birbiglia's comedy act:

We were lucky in that the three comics on before Birbigs showed up were actually pretty decent and of course the man himself was as entertaining in person as he is in print or CD. My original plans had involved checking out one of two acts that I wasn't really that familiar with for the 10pm block, but Andrew was excited to check out Grimes (a more or less solo electronic act) that was slated to start around 10:45. Since I didn't have any plans for 11pm I decided to chuck the 10pm plans and stick with the rest of the group, waiting in line at the Central Presbyterian Church for about 50 minutes till we could get in for Grimes' set:

When all is said and done, it really wasn't my thing. Electronic music is something I'm a little more picky about than other genres, but I was impressed by the ability on display at least. Seeing someone orchestrate layered music live is always interesting. As 12pm approached we had the choice to head way over to Antone's for Honeyhoney or to the nearby Red Eyed Fly for Cymbals Eat Guitars. As much as I would have liked to see Honeyhoney (especially after missing them the day before) I was hankering for the brilliant noise of Cymbals Eat Guitars:

The band put on a great set, including the 8 minute "Rifle Eyesight (proper name)" and even played one unreleased song. Like the last time I saw them though, the set was light on stuff from the first album, which I find a little disappointing as a big fan of that record. As 1am rolled around, I was thoroughly satisfied after Cymbals Eat Guitars' performance and I really didn't care who we went to see next. Andrew wanted to check out Say Anything (a band I later described to him - since he had never heard of them before - as "3rd wave emo") over at Buffalo Billiards:

We got ourselves a table towards the back and some beers and it was late, so I didn't pay much attention to the show except to say that I sounded fine and had I ever been a Say Anything fan I'm sure I would have been delighted.

Tonight will mark Day Four of my SXSW experience and will include a chance to see The Sour Notes again, as well as the first of two And So I Watch You From Afar performances and hopefully Mother Falcon as well. Still one more night to go after this!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SXSW 2012 - Day Two

This is going to be another short post because I've got one foot out the door for SXSW - Day Three and last night (while I saw a bunch of acts) I mainly stayed in one place. After failing to get in to see Honeyhoney at the Austin Convention Center (apparently that stage was badge only) we headed over to Frank for some food and then the Austin Music Hall to check out Quiet Company. All I knew going in was that Quiet Company was playing, but it turned out that they were playing as part of the Austin Music Awards. Admittedly we felt a bit as if we had just crashed the ceremony, but we were well within out wristband wearing rights to be there so we settled in and enjoyed a great set:

We had originally planned to head out after this, when rumors started flying on the internet that Bruce Springsteen was going to show up at some point during the night. Seeing the boss in a venue like this would have just been too big a chance to pass up so we stuck around for the rest of the proceedings which included several decent performances:
Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns

Sixteen Deluxe

Ruthie Foster

Carolyn Wonderland

Ruthie Foster and Carolyn Wonderland

Christopher Cross

Patty Griffin
Eventually Alejandro Escovedo came up on stage to close out the night along with a bunch of friends:
Including The Boss himself ... Bruce Springsteen:

After all was said and done, we were glad we stuck around. Afterwards we had just enough time to get over to Stubb's and catch Andrew Bird:
All told, it was a pretty kick ass night. Now for round three!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SXSW 2012 - Day One

I meant this to be a longer post, but I'm dead tired and I'm still dead tired from last night and I've only got an hour till I head back out for Day Two. Here's the round up from yesterday:

First stop around 3:30pm was the "A Music OVRLD" party at Guero's on S. Congress thrown by The Boxing Lesson and my pal Carter at OVRLD, where we caught several acts:

The Couch
Frank Smith
Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor
After a quick bite to eat at Home Slice, it was time to head downtown where (after nearly getting killed by several bad drivers) we headed to Bat Bar for The Apache Relay:

My friends wanted to check out Santigold, which led us on a walk to La Zona Rosa, only to relearn that valuable SXSW lesson: If you want to see a nationally recognized act at SXSW (even a nationally recognized indie act) plan on arriving well before their set time. Needless to say, the line was around the corner, so we headed back to 6th to catch the last half of the Marmalakes set at The Parish:

The next stop was Latitude 30 to check out British punk rockers Future of the Left. To my surprise and utter joy, they played a couple McKlusky tunes, including To Hell With Good Intentions. They ended the show with an overextended version of Lapsed Catholics that I have to believe was stretched out to mess with the Fire Marshall who wanted to clear the place out and refill it, claiming it was well over capacity:

We attempted to check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at the Hype Hotel, but indie famous is as indie famous does and after viewing the large twin lines, we rerouted to Buffalo Billiards in preparation for The Soldier Thread later on. That's where we caught a decent, but mostly forgettable show by Electric Touch:

After which The Soldier Thread closed out our night with some impressive vocals by Miss Patricia Lynn:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weather or Not

Weather forecasting everywhere has always been suspect, but I feel like when it comes to rain in Austin forecasting is 10 times more inaccurate. This week alone I've seen one cookout canceled for what now seems like is going to be a dry, pleasant Sunday and everyone going to SXSW next week glued to forecasts that have been ping-ponging between stormy and clear. It makes me miss New England where no one believes the forecasts and you just prepare for anything because that's what usually happens.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Notes From The Underground

Karaoke Underground is the kind of event that almost perfectly defines the Austin experience. With an ever-growing list currently at over 500 songs, Karaoke Underground does for punk and indie music what normal bar karaoke has been doing for pop-rock standards for decades. Feel like singing Iggy Pop? They’ve got it. Got a hankerin’ to belt out a little Fugazi? They’ve got it. The Descendants, Bad Religion, They Might Be Giants, Modest Mouse, The Mountain Goats, they’ve got it and you can sing it.

Last night  ended up at Nomad bar for Karaoke Underground with my girlfriend Libby and my buddy George, but it wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been to KU a couple times before, once at Nomad and another time at Dive on Guadalupe. For a karaoke junky like me, who also loves punk and indie music, it’s always a great experience. It’s one thing for me to belt out Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” at the Canary Roost on any given Saturday night, but being able to give At The Drive-In’s “Transatlantic Foe” the same treatment is another thing altogether. I always feel like something of a minor indie celebrity when I come off stage KU, where songs that would garner quizzical glares at any other karaoke venue (were they even on offer) are crowd pleasers. Making the whole experience feel that much more inviting is KU’s host (and co-founder) Kaleb. I’ve never signed up for a song that he didn’t sound extraordinarily excited about hearing me sing and I’ve never come off stage without hearing his enthusiastic cheers behind me. I’d like to think that I’m just that good, but I think it may be more accurate to say that Kaleb just loves KU and the music he’s configured for use during the performances just that much.

My set last night was composed of a fairly conservative collection of songs for me. For instance, I didn’t try to sing The Dismemberment Plan’s “Back and Forth” this time, although the last time I did, I didn’t quite fall on my face. I started the night off with the aforementioned “Transatlantic Foe”, the closer to At The Drive-In’s In/Casino/Out Album. My next time up I did Jawbreaker’s “Do You Still Hate Me” and I closed out my night with none other than Hot Snake’s “Plenty For All”. I haven’t been to KU as much as I’ve wanted to since discovering it last summer, but every time I go I enjoy myself. It’s a nice break from the usual karaoke scene for those of us who lean more toward the punk and indie spectrum of music and like so much else in Austin, the people running it as well as the people who turn out are great company. Whether you live in Austin or are just passing through, I highly recommend checking Karaoke Underground out. I guarantee a good time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

ACL 2011 - Worst Year Ever?

I bought my tickets for ACL 2011 hoping that the schedule would fill out a bit and that we'd get some bigger or at least more recognizable indie and or rock acts to fill out the middle hours of each day. This did not happen and for the most part I find myself staring at a roster of acts that I don't recognize and (after some cursory investigation) generally seem to play the kind of music I stopped listening to the radio over a decade ago in order to avoid. I may be wrong however and there may be some gems in there that I'm not aware of. Since I have the tickets for Friday and Sunday and since I'm still going to show up to see the few anchor acts I was initially interested in to begin with, I've decided to see if I can find anything else in this mix to get excited about. To this end I've created a few Spotify play lists, one for each day (even Saturday, because while I'm not going ... I'm a nice guy like that) and with any luck I'll hear something interesting that doesn't conflict with my existing (albeit thin) schedule.

ACL 2011 Friday
ACL 2011 Saturday
ACL 2011 Sunday

Honestly, there's no way to look at this and not realize that this is the worst ACL line up at least since I've been in Austin. I have to wonder if this has anything to do with the expansion of FunFunFunFest this year, because their lineup is spectacular. We'll see if my playlists don't change my mind, but as it stands right now (if it wasn't for the few acts I know I want to see), I'd be unloading my two ACL tickets to recoup the cost of my already purchased FunFunFunFest 3-Day Pass.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fuck This Weather!

Fuck this weather! Fuck it sideways with a rusty hook. There's nothing I hate more than humidity and living here in Austin I've mostly been able to avoid it, at least coupled with high temperatures anyway. Today is one of those lovely anomalies however where we started out with a large amount of cloud cover (the kind where you're like "just fucking rain already!") and progressed to a sort of 50/50 cover of giant fluffy clouds wafting by. It's nice to look at, but given that the starting point for this was +80% humidity this morning, it's made for a sticky unpleasant day.

You see usually what happens is that there's next to no clouds in the sky and whatever humidity has crept in overnight burns off by late morning, giving us 90+ temps with 40- humidity. When you get a situation like today, the humidity hardly burns off at all and you're left with 90+ temps and 60+ humidity.

Right now we're actually looking at 94 degrees and 49% humidity ... reaching the comfortable range, for me anyway. But at this point I'm already resigned to stay inside. I attempted to go out, find a cafe, grab an iced coffee, and do some writing, but fuck if it wasn't unbearable outside. So I did the next best thing. I grabbed a cookie over at Upper Crust (where I would have stayed, but it's really more of a bakery and not great for coffee ... also no wifi) and headed back home where I'm currently making my own iced coffee. Ideal? No, because I very much like not to be in my apartment for as much of the weekend as possible, but given that I'm going out later and the weather hates me, I think I can justify it. With any luck tomorrow will be better and I can get that cafe time I've been looking for and begin my summer blogging project.

PS. That last sentence there is sort of a hook ... a "to be continued" if you will.

PPS. That "to be continued" is (as always) using the Back to the Future font.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

As Good As It Gets

I am not actively looking to date, but I peruse the dating sites from time to time to see what I may or may not be missing out on. Having done this in 3 different regions of the United States it's interesting the trends you find among people. New England for instance certainly lives up to it's reputation as a haven for liberals and beyond that it tends to simply be a melting pot. There's virtually no indigenous population in NE, there are so many people from somewhere else or just passing through. The DC area was full of women with jobs that had no possible description. Seriously, almost everyone I dated was a "consultant", a role that varied wildly depending on which political group or non-profit they were part of. Beyond that I found that everyone was just too damn motivated or self righteous. Still, there were a lot of transplants from other locales. Here in Austin I run across what I deem to be an inordinately large amount of women who are either from Austin or from Texas. I suppose when you take into account the fact that this state is so big and the places where I've lived before are very small, it kind of makes sense.

The thing I find concerning are the number of people who blatantly put in their profiles that they'd like to live somewhere else sometime soon. Number 1, I've always felt like shit dating people when I know I'm planning on moving sometime soon and I don't understand why anyone would advertise this. I'm a weird sort though. I like the illusion or promise of permanence even if you know it won't pan out. Number 2, why would you want to leave here? I really feel sorry for people who grow up with Austin as their baseline experience of the country. This really is as good as it gets. Ok, maybe it's as good as it gets "for me", but really there are very few places this cool in the country and most of those other places are much more expensive. I guess these people will have to learn on their own though. Maybe when you grow up with this as your baseline you can appreciate someplace like Fairfax Virginia. I certainly couldn't.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


There are currently 4 directions the "Comprehensive Plan" for Austin's future development could go in and the city is asking for public feedback. I tweeted this morning that Plan C might as well be called the "Burbclave" plan, referring to my distaste for prefab neighborhoods vs. a more organic approach as detailed here. To be clear, the intention of Plan C is organic, to direct development toward multiple centers and coax multi-use neighborhoods. My fear is that in this century there is virtually no chance that these "centers" as their being referred to, won't be anchored by Domain-style burbclaves run by corporate interests. If not, then this is probably the ideal plan, retaining the existing urban center, but ensuring that it's possible to live and play in the outlying areas as well. The key is in letting these areas develop naturally and in regulating the involvement of large corporate entities. The outlying areas are already inundated with national chains compared to those neighborhoods closer to the city that take local business and keeping Austin "Weird" to heart. If Plan C can be used to spur local growth further out and create organic, sincere, neighborhoods that aren't just cookie cutter corporate conclaves of some bland "real American" ideal, then it will be a good way to go. If not then just image the Domain expanded and copy-pasted throughout the cap metro area. Burbclaves of conformity, run by corporate interests, stifling locality and originality with money and power.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Rhetoric - Burbclaves

Urban developments these days always seem to be of this "contemporary" community ideal. Developers buy tracts of land and don't just put up retail space or housing, they create the conglomerated nightmare hybrids that ape the true feel of well worn neighborhoods. These burbclaves are popping up everywhere, especially in the underdeveloped outskirts of urban centers. I live near one in Austin called the Triangle that isn't so bad, but I also work in one further north called the Domain that's simply soul-sucking. These developments are nothing but outdoor malls with housing, complete with directories, security, and sometimes even it's own internal transportation.

It's not the development itself that bothers me though, it's the nature of what's being developed. Normal urban development happens over time where residential and commercial zones crop up and feed off of and into each other. The resulting interconnectivity becomes a neighborhood, the key being that the development is completely organic and evolves naturally. These burbclaves don't develop organically at all, they're cut from whole cloth and plopped down as a fully realized prefab neighborhood and despite the convenience, there is zero sincerity in this type of space.

I don't like being corralled or over sold, I like to choose my life experience organically. I don't want the packaged goods, I want the freedom to pick and choose. I may still end up with 99% of the same experience as someone else, but that remaining 1% is unique and of my choosing.

Austin is a developing area and I fear the future is locked within these burbclaves. My fear is that, as independent as this city is, that people won't associate the concept of "keep Austin weird" and supporting local business with the construction and use of these burbclaves. Even if the businesses within are all local, these are still packaged experiences meant to provide and inadvertently breed uniformity of thought and action. I want the world I choose, not the world that's given to me and I fear that the future may abscond with this freedom of choice before anyone even notices.

Sent from my iPhone @ Epoch Coffee

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anything Different Is Good

I had a much more interesting day than I thought I was going to today. Interesting not because of anything specific, but more due to being different than I expected it to be. I suppose I expected this Sunday to be more or less like any other Sunday recently. It's either been too cold or wet to really go outside and enjoy anything more often than not lately or I haven't been able to muster the enthusiasm to get out and do anything. I often find myself in this position around January and February. I suppose I might just chalk it up to "seasonal affective disorder", but I think that's just a clinical way of saying "the weather sucks this time of year and the sun's gone down by the time you get out of work and man ain't that a bummer." The fact that this year's post-holiday movies have been entirely unworthy of getting me out to the theater hasn't helped much either.

No one usually thinks of January - March as a time for decent films, but it tends to be the time of the year that studios put out the movies they have little to no faith in and in general, these tend to be the kinds of movies I like. A quick run down of post-holiday movies in recent memory that were particularly good reads as follows: Cloverfield, Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With last year having been the most atrocious year for film in recent memory however, it would seem that even the films the studios had no faith in weren't any good.

I've been in a rut lately, most likely brought on by the fact that winter sucks no matter where you go ... ok, maybe not so much in southern California. But even here where it's 100 degrees for 4 months straight in the summer, winter sucks and it affects my mood every year. I hate the cold, heat may be oppressing, but the cold is just plain depressing. Going to the coffee shop in 30 and 40 degree weather every Sunday morning has brought me little joy lately where before it often made my weekend and bundling up for a bike ride does nothing but remind me that everything is dead and the air hurts. Oh I know it could be worse, I lived most of my life in New England, I'm no stranger to real winters. And yes, I know it's going to be really hot and humid here soon, but I don't care. I'm done with winter, I've had my fill.

Today was different though. I woke up around 9:30 as is my custom on Sunday mornings and the temperature outside was a rather agreeable 51 degrees. Often the temperature has been the deciding factor as to whether or not I bike to Epoch Coffee down the street or take some other mode of transport. If it's too cold I walk, which while it exposes me to the cold for longer periods of time, does not chill me like a bike ride with the air rushing at me does. A couple weeks ago it was cold enough that I decided to drive to Epoch, which to me almost defeats the purpose of going to a coffee shop so close to my apartment. Today was a perfect biking morning however and although the Austin marathon forced me to seek an alternate route, I made it to the coffee shop around the usual time, ordered my double mocha (Mexican, not Dutch chocolate), and sat down to read the Austin Chronicle. Usually I'm at Epoch for about an hour, depending on how interesting the articles in that week's Chronicle are. This week I was there for an hour and a half. Louis Black's (no, not that Louis Black) "Page Two" editorial this week was more interesting than he has been in recent weeks, having shunned the almost impressionistic ramblings he's has been prone to of late for a satirical commentary on extreme right wing activists. There were several other interesting write ups about local news as well and the winning story from the Chronicle's short story contest that I read. The music and film sections held little for me this week.

I rode home from the coffee shop around 11am, the air having warmed a bit, and put Faraquet's "The View From This Tower" album on the iTunes while I pondered the rest of the day. I checked the weather report and for reasons that would become clear later on, it seemed that the balmy weather we were currently experiencing would quickly be receding towards the middle of the afternoon. I watched as the temperature climbed into the mid 60's and decided that if I was going to go out, now was the time. I hadn't ridden my bike except to Epoch in a few weeks and I wasn't about to miss a window of weather this nice.

It must have been around 12:30 when I left the apartment on my bike, heading south on Lamar and then taking quick right to get onto Sunshine Drive, 49th street, and eventually Shoal Creek Blvd. going south and leading me the Shoal Creek trail, a bike and hiking path that would take me all the way to town lake were I to stay on it. I rode the trail to 6th street, locked up my bike and decided to walk around. Maybe I could find someplace to eat. I'll be honest, there were plenty of places to eat, but all the local eateries downtown in the middle of the day are crowded beyond belief and in addition to feeling somewhat odd doing so, I have little patience waiting for food in such situations when I'm alone. It's nice sometimes just to walk around though and having lived in Boston I'm quite acclimated to it so that's what I did. 6th street was as usual bustling with activity and of the people I passed by there was at least one woman who turned my head. She was about 5'5", alabaster skin, short/med length black hair, wearing sunglasses, a red and white patterned sundress, and walking a small dog. She was right in my wheel house, but as I've never spent points on the "Casual Conversations With Random Women in Public" skill I just walked on by. Anyway, after walking around downtown for a while and witnessing the hubbub surrounding the marathon on Congress ave, I got back on my bike and came back to the apartment.

I was hungry by the time I returned around 2:40 and my usual Sunday pilgrimage to the Chipotle down the street seemed both unoriginal and indulgent seeing as how I had just been there Friday night after discovering I had no food in the house for dinner. I needed something new and I felt like a hot dog. Now there's something you need to know about my hometown when it comes to hot dogs. West Haven Connecticut has two great hot dog eateries and I grew up on these things. The first is Chicks, THE place to be by the water in the summer in West Haven. Chick's makes foot long split hot dogs using Hummel Bros. wieners. Unfortunately Chicks ain't what it used to be and the last time I was there they were doing the hot dogs all different so I haven't been back since. The other place is Frankies on Route 1, The Boston Post Road. Frankies deep fries their hot dogs, foot longs like Chicks. I still go to Frankies every time I'm in the area.

Outside of the Coney Island dogs you can get in southern Massachusetts, I never found a good place for a hot dog outside of Connecticut except maybe Five Guys and the occasional Nathan's. Today I didn't want to go to Five Guys though because a) while the hot dogs are good, Five Guys is for burgers and b) I wanted to be able to justify eating dinner later and the mountain of friesI would receive even with a hot dog was more fried carbs than I could reasonably justify. Still, I felt like a hot dog and I remembered hearing about a place called Dog Almighty that had a location on South Lamar. I looked up the address online and headed out via car, my new "karaoke" playlist of songs I own, can sing, and are available to be played by Diamond Karaoke here in Austin, playing along the way.

All told, Dog Almighty was not an unpleasant experience. I had a "Classic" (hot dog w/chili, onions, mustard, and cheese), fries, and a blueberry soda. The staff were nice, the food was good, and my Shazam app couldn't identify the music they had playing and for me anyway, that's a plus. Dog Almighty had the charm, individuality, and quality of an independent business, with the familiarity of a chain. Not a bad combination and I can see myself returning there someday. By the time I got out of Dog Almighty the northwesterly wind that had been prophesied by the AWS had arrived and the temperature was dropping quickly. I got in the car and drove back home via South Congress, Red River, and 51st street, inching the windows upwards the whole way.

There was still some light and the apartment was warm enough that having the windows cracked a bit was amicable. Fresh air always makes me want for music so I decided to play some more Faraquet. I selected their "Anthology" on vinyl and spun it on the record player while transcribing the songs on my karaoke playlist to a note on my iPhone for easy reference at the Canary Roost later. After the album was over, I checked in with my folks in Connecticut as I usually do on Sundays, and then started making dinner while watching a couple episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation I had DVR'd. Dinner was "American Chop Suey": onions, peppers, ground beef, stewed tomatoes (mashed), tomato paste, and elbow macaroni. It came out better than it ever has for me. The Star Trek Episodes were the one with Data's "daughter" and the one where Picard is imprisoned with 3 other aliens while a copy of him remains aboard the Enterprise. By this point I was more or less back to my Sunday routine, but the unexpectedness of the rest of the day made it more palatable and so I watched an episode of The West Wing (I'm almost done with season 7 for the 5th time) while I ate and then hopped on the computer to write about it all.

All told it wasn't anything exciting, but I had more or less expected that finding a reason to leave the apartment today would have been like pulling teeth due to seasonal weather and melancholy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong. It's days like today that make me glad to live in a real city again and not some suburb or one of those prefab residential/commercial enclaves that keep springing up and have all the charm of one of a new t-shirts made to look like a vintage band T from 20 years ago. In a world of increasing manufactured charm, it's nice to be reminded that the real deal still exists from time to time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You Can Ride It if You Like

I thought about buying a bike again today. This has been a slight obsession of mine since moving to Austin at the end of August and I don't really know why. I have never in my adult life owned a bike and in fact, the few times I have been on a bike as an adult, I've managed to crash into things with it. And yet, I find myself wanting a bike.

When I lived in Boston I used to lovingly refer to the cities cyclists as "stealth pedestrians." The moniker arose due to the number of times I would find myself nearly run down by someone on a bike whilst shifting from one side of the sidewalk to the other. Unlike a runner, whose footfalls are likely to be audible several seconds before passing beside you, people on bikes tend to make very little noise and are moving fast enough that your reaction time is diminished in attempting to avoid them. Add to that the fact that Boston is hardly designed to be used by cars let alone bikes and you've got a lot of cyclists forced to use the sidewalk along with the rest of us, stealthily weaving their way down Comm ave or Newbury street. I never had any desire to own a bike in Boston, why then do I suddenly find myself interested in one now?

It's not that I've all of a sudden started living some "green" lifestyle into which a bike would perfectly fit, neither do I believe that I would be using said bike as a primary mode of transportation, and yet this cycling seed continues to grow in the back of my mind. To be honest I think it may be a combination of a couple different things, but more than anything I think it's the result of my subconscious need to (as my Dad would say) "enjoy every sandwich." This is a saying apparently attributed to the late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. Zevon might best be known as the artist responsible for the song "Werewolves of London" and several years back found out that he was dying of cancer and had not much longer to live. He put out a very well received final album and appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman (where he often subbed for Paul Shaffer) and it was during this interview that he said something about enjoying every sandwich, another way of saying "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die" only not having been sullied by the Dave Matthews Band. But to get back on the subject at hand, the most recent time I lived in Boston I felt I never got the chance to take advantage of the city in the way I would have liked, the way I had in college. When I left Boston it was for a job in Fairfax, Virginia. The job was great, as were the people I met there, but a more boring location I would be hard pressed to find. Sure, Washington DC wasn't far away, but it was a trek to get there and even once there, the ease of access was nothing like that of Boston. When I got my current job in Austin I made some sort of vow with myself that if the city did indeed turn out to be everything I was always told it was (ie. the Boston of the south) then I would take full advantage of it; I would "enjoy every sandwich."

For me this tends to be a fairly simple thing to do. I don't require much, at least I don't think of it as much. I need several things really: an independent coffee shop, record store(s) with a large enough selection to satisfy my eclectic tastes, a well stocked comic book store, movie theatres that show a wide variety of films from mainstream to foreign, and ideally as much of this as possible within walking distance of my apartment. So far Austin has matched this criteria perfectly, although walking around isn't as easy as it is in Boston due to somewhat greater distances and maybe that's what brings the idea of getting a bike to mind.

Whatever the case, I've been having a hard time convincing myself to get a bike. This is partly because I don't want to have to buy a bike, which in itself is partly because a bike is a specialty item I know nothing about. I think of it like a computer. I have no problem buying stuff for my computer or advising people to buy stuff for their computers, but this is because I know a lot about computers and I've built my last 3 machines from scratch. Other people are a little nervous about computers. It's like bringing your car in for service. On the one hand you don't want to end up paying for service you don't need and on the other you don't want to look like you don't know a damn thing about cars to begin with. Or maybe that's just me. But anyway, that's part of the bike thing with me. I guess the rest is just convincing myself I'll be able to use it without getting myself killed. I've never really driven on the street before and in some areas here it would be required. And yet there's something that's pushing me towards getting a bike. Is it simply that my subconscious thinks this will be the way to "enjoy every sandwich?" Do I just enjoy the novelty (to me anyway) of being a person who rides a bike? I don't know, but today I thought about buying a bike again and someday soon I might actually do it.