Monday, October 31, 2005

A Halloween Fotonovel

Once upon a time when I was a wee Methodist preschooler in Dallas, some kid showed up on the playground with plastic fangs in his mouth. I think it was right around Halloween, but I can't be sure.

I'd never seen plastic fangs before. When this kid beared his fangs and growled, it scared the holy hell out of me. I thought he was some sort of monster.

So I punched him right in the mouth as hard as I could.

The fangs trailed long strands of spittle as they tumbled out of the boy's mouth and landed in the dirt.

Then he began wailing like...well, like a little boy who'd been punched in the mouth.

I just stood there looking completely stunned. My young mind couldn't process the scene quickly enough. The teacher came over and scolded me because I was unable to articulate that I honestly thought those fangs were real.

Happy Halloween. Don't scare me.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

We've Got Jumpers

I don't know what I did to deserve it, but the car fairy was smiling on me yesterday. Instead of needing a new alternator or starter, I just needed a new battery and (here's the critical part) a new set of battery cables. Mine were apparently too rusty to move juice anymore, but the tow truck driver's worked like a charm.

I left my car at Pep Boys and took a stroll up the 183 service road to Sunflower, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town. Their $6.50 five spice chicken lunch special was exquisite. The special included a pineapple, tomato and green onion soup that made perfect sense once you tasted it.

It was a great day for walking around in general, so I didn't mind being on foot in the least. Between walking, the IGA market up the street and Capital Metro's No. 5 route, I could do most everything I need to do from here without a car if I needed to.

Once night fell, my duplex neighbors had a costume keg party. I came as a vampire prom king, but the plastic fangs impeded my drinking, so I spit 'em out early on. All of the college-aged girls wore sexy costumes, which got me to thinking about how girls' costumes are almost always sexy while guys' costumes are almost always hideous.

To wit, one guy "came" as a giant penis, complete with a portable fan mechanism to create tumescence. Another was a turd with a little yellow dot of fabric to signify corn. Meanwhile, the vastly outnumbered girls were low-cut, short-skirted and full of Jell-O shots. I just smiled and tried not to look like too dirty of an old man.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Breakdown Dead Ahead

Last night started out as a most pleasant evening. I went directly from work to the Chron fall party at the Elks' Lodge where I loaded up on BBQ and Indian food. Then I got caught up in a beer drinking game called Flip Cup for a few rounds, but I bowed out very early in the name of public safety.

From there, it was off to the Dog & Duck Pub for a pint with my drumming buddy Lance, who was making a special north-of-the-river appearance. As the night wore down, I climbed in my car only to discover it was dead. Jumping the battery didn't help, either, so I'm thinking it's probably the starter or alternator, but who knows? That kinda sucked. If I'd known I wouldn't have a car at night's end, I would've had a couple more pints.

Fortunately, Julie L. of the Diamond Smugglers was still there and graciously gave me a ride home. I was also glad I hadn't taken my car to East Texas last week. Getting stuck at the Duck wasn't half as bad as being stranded somewhere in the Davy Crockett National Forest.

This afternoon will be dedicated to getting my car towed to the mechanic. I'll probably be hoofing it until at least Monday afternoon.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Out of the KKKloset for Traditional Marriage

Wake up wahte people! If you support the gay marriage ban, I'm afraid you're now in bed with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klannies will be in Austin on November 5th to rally in support of "traditional" marriage. November 5th is also my birthday, so they'd better be bringing presents. If not, I'll gladly accept their white sheets if they've got a decent thread count.

On a related note, early voting started this week on the amendment that would enshrine discrimination in the Texas constitution by defining marriage exclusively as a one man/one woman contract and prohibiting the recognition of any legal status conferring marriage-like rights on anyone else. That latter part could potentially be used to screw all unmarried couples - gay and straight - out of health insurance, hospital visitation, family sick leave and much more.

While the Klanvangelical alliance is a formidable foe, there's a slight chance this amendment can be defeated. It's all a matter of which side gets out the vote.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, this hateful little turd is not something any sane person wants clogging up their constitution. Gay marriage is illegal enough as it is. However, in several decades when gay marriage bans are as anathema to decent society as colored water fountains, Texas is going to lose Super Bowls, conventions and businesses because of it. Smart people will refuse to relocate here and conscientious tourists will steer around Texas on principle.

When the pendulum finally forces Texas to change, it'll be a lot easier to do so if it's not part of our silly-ass constitution, which is a horrible enough document as it is.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bush Drops Gulf Coast Wage Cut

Finally, the Dems in Congress put up a united spine for working people and
forced the Bush corporate cabal to stand down.

Last month, Bush cynically used Hurricane Katrina as pretense to suspend the
Davis-Bacon Act in areas damaged by the hurricane. This would've allowed
bloated crony contractors like KBR/Halliburton and Bechtel to pay workers less than the already-low prevailing local wage to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Last week, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced a joint resolution that would've forced a Congressional vote to overturn Bush's suspension of what Miller called the Gulf Coast Wage Cut. With all House Democrats and 37 Republicans opposing the Davis-Bacon suspension (and the Smilin' Hammer under indictment), the White House had no choice but to back down. Bush quietly announced yesterday than he would overturn the Davis-Bacon suspension on his own, effective November 8.

It's about time progressives accomplished something concrete besides letting Terri Schiavo die, which wasn't exactly one of those champagne-popping victories.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

White Sox Win World Series

Wow, four games to none. The Astros kept all four games close, but their anemic offense and inability to put the White Sox away when they had the chance did them in every time. I actually turned last night's marathon off and went to bed in the 12th inning, secure in the knowledge that Houston would fail to come through.

Clearly the better team won. Congrats to the southside of Chicago.

As for the Astros, it was a fun ride no one was expecting. I just hope we don't have to wait another 44 years for a World Series win because there's a real chance I'll be screaming gibberish at private duty nurses by then if I'm still alive.

ACL 2006 Set for September

The fourth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival will take place September 15-17, 2006 in Zilker Park.

So why didn't organizers move it to October? Let's go to the website:

"We have to pick a weekend that doesn't have other competing major events, such as a University of Texas home football game. Logistically, the city is incapable of handling both ACL Festival and other activities that draw a large number of tourists on the same weekend because of limitations on hotel capacity and downtown parking facilities. That leaves a narrow window of availability in late September through early October.

The traditional touring season for bands is May through September. By holding the event in September, we can route bands through Austin as part of their tours and get the bands we want that make our lineups the most exciting and diverse in the industry.

Also, historical temperatures in October don't differ that much from September, but the chance of rain dramatically increases. The 30-year average high for the last two weeks of September is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (vs. 84 degrees Fahrenheit for first two weeks of October).

But, the 10-year average rainfall for the first two weeks of October is almost 3 times as high as for the last two weeks of September."

Those are all good reasons, but they all fall flat when it's 108 degrees and you're standing in line for one of only two free water fountains.

Can't Get There From Here

Has anyone else noticed the highway signs directing motorists onto U.S. 290 and Highway 71 West at the new Ben White/IH-35 interchange have been altered? These signs initially listed El Paso and San Angelo as destinations, but now those two cities have been deleted in favor of Johnson City.

Prior to the interchange being built, the old signs said Johnson City, so maybe TxDOT determined the new destination cities confused people. The routes to both San Angelo and El Paso aren't straight shots; 290 takes you to IH-10 west of Fredricksburg and 71 hooks you up with U.S. 87 at Brady.

Nevertheless, I liked the idea of a sign in Austin beckoning drivers to El Paso. In contemplating that torturous 11-hour trek, you can't help but think about how big Texas is, and isn't that what we want visitors to think?

I'm going to contact the TxDOT public affairs folks about this and let you know what they say.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thank You, Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks died last night at age 92. It was almost 50 years ago when Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. In doing so, she provided a dignified but determined face to the civil rights movement. The resulting 381-day bus boycott by Montgomery's black community helped thrust Martin Luther King, Jr. into the national spotlight.

There are those who will venerate Parks in a manner suggesting her struggle is a part of history. Part of celebrating her life will be dismissing flaccid assertions that racism is merely a "legacy" issue, as Bush II stated during his post-Katrina photo-op in New Orleans' Jackson Square.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Portland Pumpkin Pickin' and TSA Toenail Tumult

The World Series is on travel status today, so let's go back to Portland for a spell.

After my Friday afternoon stroll down NE Alberta, I took the bus downtown and walked over to Powell’s City of Books. I bought Alan Hess’ Googie Redux, the definitive exploration of Southern California coffee shop architecture and stared at bookish women for an hour or so.

I caught up with Noah and Trish for dinner. We went to a place downtown called Higgins that prides itself on innovative uses of fresh, regionally-grown ingredients. I made Noah and Trish pose next to this pumpkin in the bar. I ordered rigatoni with fennel sausage and a garlic cream sauce, which our waiter described as “fucking excellent.”

Austin is a progressive place, but you're highly unlikely to hear your waitperson use that kind of language unless s/he knows you. Nevertheless, the pasta dish was pretty fucking excellent.

The Indian summer weather continued on through Saturday, so we decided to go to Portland’s farmers market. Located along one of the famed “city park blocks” on the Portland State University campus, the market brimmed with vendors hawking fresh fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, breads, cheeses, meats and various pickled items. Trish bought some lavender peach preserves that were awesome.

Then we drove 10 miles west of town to Sauvie Island, where several pumpkin patches attracted throngs to pick the perfect pumpkin in anticipation of Halloween. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such an intense autumnal vibe in my life as a Texan. We tromped around the muddy patch, fetched two impressive, green-hued pumpkins and hopped aboard a hay ride that took us back to the parking area.

The only catch was getting off the island. Since there’s only one two-lane bridge, traffic backed up for almost two hours. Nevertheless, you could do a lot worse than sitting in traffic on a picturesque island in mild weather while the sun goes down.

We went to McMenamin’s Kennedy School for dinner. It’s an old elementary school the McMenamin’s people turned into a restaurant/bar/club/movie theater/hotel. Their red snapper sandwich hit the spot after a day of pumpkin picking.

We’d planned on hitting a club or something, but we were all too beat to do so, so we came back to the house, had a few beers and passed out.

My flight on Sunday didn’t leave until 11:35, so I didn’t have to wake up too early. The airport wasn’t too crowded, either, but the TSA confiscated my damn toenail clippers.

I've carried these clippers on airplanes many times since 9/11, but the Portland agents claimed I could use them to cut wires and compromise the plane’s airworthiness. The latex-gloved woman behind the counter looked at me like I'd tried to bring boxcutters on board.

They gave me the option of mailing my toenail clippers to myself, but I decided to surrender them to the War on Some Terror since they were kind of old and grody anyway.

Apparently, they don’t realize my unclipped toenails could do a lot more damage than those clippers.

Other than that, it was a smooth, uneventful journey home. The planes were full, but I landed in Austin with plenty of time to watch the Astros lose.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Konerko'ed in the Lidge

Oh, sucksville! Paul Konerko gets a grand slam in the 7th inning and then Brad Lidge gives up another game-winning home run, returning the World Series to Houston with the Astros down 0-2.

The almanac geeks at Fox Sports say 11 of the last 12 World Series teams up 2-0 went on to win it all. If the White Sox win even one game in Houston, I think they're going to take it. If not, it's still anybody's Series.

I'm Greggie the Dutch, and that's my score.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Short Walk Down NE Alberta

Portland has ranked at or near the top of "livable city" surveys for years. Abundant recreation, healthful climate and vibrant culture nonwithstanding, a more subtle part of livability can be found in this sidewalk ramp.

As long as you're going to put in a new sidewalk ramp, why not make it interesting with odd angles and lines? It doesn't cost a whole lot more and it invites a greater degree of respect for the public infrastructure.

From what I can gather, NE Alberta was a rough area a decade ago, much like Austin's E. 11th St. or S. Congress.

Today, it's heavily gentrified with small indie businesses catering to the upwardly funky. Nevertheless, vestiges of Alberta's role as "Main Street" of Portland's African American community remain.

The street's renaissance also mirrors similar redevelopments in Austin with its overuse of corrugated metal.

NE Alberta is lined with all sorts of colorful public art installations.

This community tile project on the side of a commercial building is similar to the one planned for the wall of my neighborhood IGA supermarket. People from all over the neighborhood pay a small fee to paint a tile and then they're all grouted together to create a homespun mosaic.

The cynical side of me wants to say the increasing ubiquity of such projects undermines their usefulness. But that sort of thinking makes me feel like a dick.

And I sure do like all them purty colors.

This is the pizza place I was talking about in the last entry. Pizza certainly isn't the first foodstuff that comes to mind when you think of Portland, but Bella Faccia knows what they're doing. The only thing that would've made it better is a side order of the ample old country cleavage so prominently displayed on their sign.

Today I ate halibut fish & chips at the appropriately-named Halibut's on NE Alberta. It didn't come cheap ($11), but the Alaskan halibut filets were perfectly fried without a hint of grease. They also had some sinus-clearing cocktail sauce to go with it.

Interestingly enough, this week's Willamette Week restaurant guide put NE Alberta on the cover as Portland's premier dining district. As someone who knows nothing about this city other than the joy of my last two meals, I second that emotion.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Flying to Portland

You know what's good about having a drink at 40,000 feet? It's economical, that's what. Every drink in the air is worth at least two on the ground. If I'd only remembered to donate blood before leaving in Austin, I could've gotten rip-roaring, cockpit-storming drunk before being stomped to death in mid-air by a Krav Maga devotee.

As it was, I limited myself to just one beer and landed safely in Portland just after sundown. Noah picked me up and ferried me back to his house. Trish went and got some stubbie bottles of Session Lager and Margherita pizza pie from Bella Faccia on NE Alberta. With the time change and my lack of sleep the night before, I started nodding off around 11pm.

Today is a foggy morning in Portland, but it's not too cold or rainy. In fact, the fog is supposed to clear out and it's supposed to hit 70 degrees later this afternoon. Noah and Trish are at work, so after checking my e-mail and showering, I'll probably take a contemplative stroll about the neighborhood. Maybe I'll go scratch my chin for a few hours at a coffee shop as though I'm some sort of lost European literary figure.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Astros Advance to World Series

Like the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, the Houston Astros never do anything easy.

After suffering through the nauseating Pujols three-run homer with only one strike to win on Monday, the Astros came back to clinch the NLCS in six games last night. TXCN was showing KHOU's footage of the well-lubricated celebration on Main Street. Neither of Texas' MLB teams have ever made it to the World Series before. I'm glad the Astros beat the Rangers to it.

It'll be rough going against the well-rested Chicago White Sox, but the 'Stros definitely have a chance if their ace pitchers come through.

Sadly, I missed the entire game because I was at band practice. Now that I think about it, I was also at practice when the Rockets' won their first NBA title in 1994. Damn, I miss all the good stuff.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Live from La Quinta Longview

I had a bit of down time in Nacogdoches yesterday morning, so I took a stroll around the historic downtown area.

The city was the site of several battles leading to the Texas Revolution and even served as the seat of government for a failed Anglo-Indian nation called Fredonia. It only lasted a couple of weeks, but the name "Fredonia" lives on as a city street and a city-owned hotel and convention center.

Today, about 30,000 people call Nacogdoches home. The city also has a sizable student population at Stephen F. Austin State University. I think one of them was my waitress at breakfast. Man, she was cute. I always get a soft spot for waitresses when I'm traveling alone in strange towns. Once I'm deprived of hometown social interaction, having a woman ask me how I'd like my eggs becomes remarkable. Is that weird or what?

After concluding my meetings around 4:30, I drove north to Longview. I ate at a Cajun place on the old U.S. Highway 80 called Dudley's. It wasn't bad at all, but I wish I'd stuck with the gumbo and not eaten so much fried fish. Right now I feel kind of sluggish and greasy.

My work here should be done sometime this afternoon. Then I'm heading back to Austin for one night before heading out to Portland on Thursday for a long weekend with my old high school buddy Noah and his lovely wife, Trish.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ouch, Right in the Pujols!

The City of Houston had the collective piss taken out of it last night.

The champagne was on ice and the Astros were one strike away from the World Series. Then Albert Pujols sent the NLCS back to St. Louis with a heart-stopping three-run homer. The Astros can still pull it out, but it's going to be a whole lot harder now.

If I were the Astros, I'd head over to Lakewood Church (a.k.a., the former Summit/Compaq Center) and try to soak up whatever "Clutch City" spirit Hakeem and the 1994 Rockets might've left behind. Then I'd ask Joel Osteen for an exorcism.

Waning Wireless and Sandpaper Chicken

There's no easy way to drive from Austin to Nacogdoches. I took I-35 to Round Rock, U.S. 79 to Hearne, Farm Road 318 to Wheelock, Old San Antonio Road to Normangee (I think), State Highway 21 to Crockett and State Highway 7 to Nacogdoches. The whole thing took about four and a half hours.

The Astros game is in the 5th inning as I write and they're losing 2-1. Hopefully they'll pull it out. Best to avoid a return trip to St. Louis.

I'm staying at a La Quinta with free wi-fi, but my room is at the very end of the property, so I'm out of range. I brought my laptop over to the lobby to write this. Aside from the night clerk, I'm the only one here.

Otherwise, my room is decent enough. It smells a little funny, but the TV works fine and there are no dark stains on the bedspread. I give it two and a half stars.

I relived my buffet hot-dogging days for dinner at a place called Barnhill's Buffet. It looked like an old Western Sizzlin' and tasted about the same. The catfish wasn't bad, but the fried chicken was drier than sandpaper.

There's not much to see in Nacogdoches on a Monday night, at least not if you don't know where to look. The towering pine trees seem to make everything even darker than normal. The nearly full moon looked pretty cool, though.

I actually have to work tomorrow, so I best be getting some rest now.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Into the Pines

I'm running horribly late getting out of town on a work-related trip to the Piney Woods of East Texas. I'll be in Nacogdoches tonight and Longview tomorrow.

This trip should help me scratch a few more counties off the list in my ongoing quest to set foot in all 254 Texas counties before I die. It's the large cluster of Panhandle counties north of Amarillo that'll probably kill me.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

One Game Away

Growing up in Houston, I remember going to the Astrodome and peeing in the lowered "junior" urinal trough with a sign above it that read, "For our future Astros."

I remember the first time the Astros made it to the National League Championship Series against the Phillies back in 1980. It was a huge deal. They let us out of school early and the radio stations all played this song that went, "Here come the Astros, burnin' with desire/Here come the Astros, breathin' orange fire!" You know, as opposed to green fire.

I also remember the '86 Mets. And the '04 Cardinals.

We've been burned by the Astros before, but I think they're going to the World Series this time. Really, I do.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Hickoid Heaven

"Got a brand new way of livin'
Down here in Austin, Texas
Drink Budwiser every day
Show the girls our peckers
Don't need clocks for tellin' time
'Hillbillies' on at half past nine
Got a brand new way of livin'!"

The reunited Hickoids are playing at the Back Room tonight with Stevie Tombstone and Honky. Click here for a brief blurb I wrote about the show in this week's Chron.

The lyric above is from the Hickoids' 1989 song, "Brand New Way," which I truly believe should be enshrined by officialdom as the municipal anthem of our fair city. They should make schoolkids sing it right after pledging fealty to Texas and America.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Grow Yourself Up

This week's Dallas Observer features an anonymously-written account of the "budding" cottage industry of gourmet marijuana cultivation.

One of the main interviewees is a musician-turned-grower named "Ace" (the author adorns each of the grower/dealers with KISS-bassd pseudonyms). Not surprisingly, you can make a lot more money growing pot in a closet than playing music. "Ace" estimates he makes more than $10,000 for each of the four or five crops he grows each year. The article doesn't say whether that's before or after expenses, but he doesn't pay income tax and has more than enough pot left over for his personal stash (a not-inconsiderable expense for wake-and-bake types).

Some of the growers don't even support legalization because prohibition is what makes their lifestyle possible. Beat cops don't have much to gain by going after some small-time pot dealer. Selling expensive designer dope also means you're probably moving less than an ounce at a time, which lowers your exposure to being charged with a felony. One of the grower/dealers interviewed here says the biggest risk of getting caught comes from being narc'ed on by spurned ex-girlfriends.

Some folks suggest hydroponics will ultimately drive the traditional crop cultivation of marijuana under, but there's no way you're going to meet consumer demand with just a bunch of grow-lit closets. The rich can buy their designer cross-pollinated strains, but there will always be a downmarket demand for schwag.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Gang of Four

If you had a vendetta against Austin rock critics, you could've killed most all of 'em with one well-placed incindiary device at the Gang of Four show at Emo's last night.

The showroom was as packed up tight like a big SXSW bill. Gang of Four sounded good, playing all the influential early material like "To Hell With Poverty," "Natural's Not In It" and "Anthrax." For a $20 show, though, they didn't play long enough. Just a one-song encore and that was that. Dead Motley Sex Maidens drummer Adam Tyner also noted the band was playing at a much slower tempo than in year's past. Nevertheless, it was Gang of Four and it was worth staying out too late on a Wednesday night.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

American Love Dolls

Interesting piece by Meghan Leslocky in yesterday's Salon about the fascinating sexual subculture of men and their love dolls.

Love dolls have come a long way since the days of Dennis Hopper's "Feck" character in The River's Edge. For just $6,500, you can buy a made-to-order Real Doll (NSFW) that'll satisfy your basest carnal whims without forcing you to engage in the emotional rollycoaster of a genuine genital warts-n-all relationship with another human being.

There have always been fetish-based subcultures, but the advent of the Internet has transformed them into genuine constituencies. Love dolls and the men who love them are no different. There's a lot to learn for the uninitiated. For example, did you know you can rig an aquarium heater and a dimmer switch to heat your doll's entryways if you don't have time to warm her up with an electric blanket? I'm sorry, but now you do!

I think the vast majority of us ultimately want to find someone else to build a life with. I can be pretty curmudgeonly and walled off at times, but even I prefer trying and failing to walking out on love altogether.

That said, is it really all that perverted for someone to choose to stay home with a love doll if he's (it's almost always men) truly unwilling or unable to go there? Perhaps it signifies emotional under-development, but I don't see it as unequivocally "perverted" in the dangerous sense of the word.

And no, I don't own a love doll. I lease mine!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

JetBlue Coming to Austin!

When Delta announced they were starting nonstop service from Austin to New York's JFK Airport last month, I figured they were doing it to pre-empt JetBlue Airways from coming to Austin once their new 100-seat Embraer E-190 jets were delivered.

As it turns out, JetBlue Airways is coming to Austin - Delta or not - with daily nonstop flights to JFK and Boston's Logan International Airport starting January 19. JetBlue bypassed Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio to make Austin its first Texas destination.

This is great news for Austin air travelers, who will now be able to choose from three airlines (Continental flies into Newark) with nonstop service to the NY/NJ megalopolis. There's probably not enough traffic to support this much service (my money's on now-bankrupt Delta to pull out first), but the competition should yield some good fares in the short term. JetBlue's introductory AUS-JFK fare will be $79 each way for tickets purchased by October 31 for travel between January 19 and February 14.

In just five years, JetBlue has established itself as the favorite airline of coast-dwelling hipsters with blue snack chips and free onboard TV and satellite radio. Passengers aboard a Burbank-JFK flight last month got to watch live MSNBC coverage of their plane's emergency landing at LAX due to a nosegear malfunction. How cool is that?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Barbecue and Biscuit

Sunday's first Texas Barbecue Festival turned out to be a victim of its own success. Owing to good promotion and beautiful weather, the normally-docile Farmer's Market was jam-packed. Meanwhile, the surrounding streets were crawling with gas-sucking land yachts clumsiliy trying to navigate their way around pedestrians.

As much as I liked seeing the market brimming with activity, it seemed like the festival had already outgrown the location. I didn't even bother eating barbecue because the lines were too insane. I walked across Burnet to Taqueria Arandas #3 and had some tacos al pastor instead.

The Randy "Biscuit" Turner Benefit at Emo's was right on. Lotsa friends and good music. I finally got to see the reunited Dicks play and they sounded like a giant fascist-killing machine. From "Dead in a Motel Room" to "Rich Daddy" to "Dicks Hate Police," it was pure visceral growl. A few more beers and I would've been in the pit (and probably writing this from a prone position in a Vicodin haze).

As it was, I had to maintain near-complete sobriety so I could make it into work this morning. I compensated by drinking approximately 12 cups of water, which has its own set of rewards (no hangover) and risks (multiple trips to the nationally-renowned Emo's bathroom).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Weekend at the College

I planned on taking it easy last night, but it didn't quite work out that way. It's a good thing the Chinese don't own sleep 'cause I'd be as in debt to them right now as Our Great Nation is.

The Cactus Cafe had Kathy McCarty and Gretchen Phillips on tap, so I parked in West Campus and made my way toward UT. With a lot of the student body doing the Texas/OU thing, it was a good weekend to be over there.

Nothing in West Campus looks the same anymore. Les Amis is a Starbucks and the Slacker house is a Quizno's. Hell, even the Double Dave's Pizza on West 24th has changed. It's now called Mustache Pete's. Nothing makes me hungrier for pizza than thinking about some guy's crusty 'stache.

Kathy McCarty and Gretchen Phillips were both excellent. Their respective bands, Glass Eye and Two Nice Girls, were two of the first Austin groups I really got into when I moved here. Glass Eye bassist Brian Beattie is in Kathy's backing band, and they played a handful of old Glass Eye tunes, some Daniel Johnston numbers from Dead Dog's Eyeball, and songs from her solo album, Another Day in the Sun. I hadn't seen a full set from Kathy since Glass Eye broke up, so the whole thing had me beaming.

The thing I like most about seeing Gretchen Phillips play is the spectrum of emotions she conveys. She has an amazing voice and she takes you from nearly-unbearable sadness to doubled-over laughter in just minutes. Gretchen's working on a disco record right now, of all things. I cannot wait.

At night's end, Kathy transformed into her "David Monikker" persona (Glass Eye occasionally played out as a metal band called Monikker) and Gretchen donned a Nashvillian wig for some duets. They did Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" and Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." It was hilarious.

On the way to the Cactus, I had glanced at the Hole in the Wall marquee and noticed the Dead Motley Sex Maidens were doing Karaoke Apocalypse. I served as their "guinea pig vocalist" at their first few rehearsals, so I had to duck in for that.

The Maidens sounded great as they plowed through Stooges, Misfits and Quiet Riot hits. The audience was well-boozed and gave spirited performances. In particular, one guy sang Dio's "The Last in Line" with the feral intensity of a street preacher people jaywalk to avoid. Great stuff.

I wound up singing KISS' "Calling Dr. Love." I kinda messed up by doing the single version while the band was doing the album version, but the DMSMs have spent a year time backing the hopelessly inebriated, so they didn't miss a beat on me.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Not-So-Lazy Sunday

Now that I'm sufficiently recovered from letting happy hour at the Dog & Duck Pub become one-third of my waking hours, it's time to start gearing up for tomorrow.

First off, the under-utilized Farmer's Market on Burnet Road is hosting the first Texas Barbecue Festival tomorrow from noon to 6pm. Vendors include Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que from Llano, Meyer's and Southside Market from Elgin, and our own Ruby's BBQ and Artz Rib House. They'll also have panel discussions, music on the Brentwood Tavern Stage and plenty of beer. Best of all, the whole she-bang is within stumbling distance of my swinging duplex.

Later on, Emo's will host a memorial show for Randy "Biscuit" Turner from 3pm to ??? with Pong, the (reunited) Dicks, Punkaroos, Pocket FishRmen, Exene Cervenka from X, the Sexy Finger Champs (my ex-wife's band), the Yuppie Pricks, Areola 51, Insect Sex Act, Naughahyde Dream Sequence, the Delinquents and the Slurpees. Proceeds will go to Biscuit's mom, Nellie Mae.

That's a pretty tremendous line-up and it says a lot about what a galvanizing and influential force Biscuit was.

Friday, October 07, 2005

God Told Me to Skin You Alive

I don't know how much water the word of Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath carries, but he's providing the BBC with some very twisted tales about our mush-mouthed president's hotline to the almighty.

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God,'" Shaath related. "'God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq…' And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

If George Bush really hears God exhorting him to violence, he is seriously ill and needs help. I just asked God about this myself and He categorically denies the entire conversation.

"I don't need to tell people to kill other people," He said. "You guys are big enough assholes on your own. I'd laugh about it if I could just stop weeping."

God went on to suggest a heroic dose of lithium that makes the president glass over like that "big Indian fella" in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

"Now there's a movie!" He added.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Rap Murder" Killer Set to Die

Ronald Ray Howard will be executed tonight in Huntsville for the murder of Texas state trooper Bill Davidson.

On April 11, 1992, 18-year-old Howard shot and killed Davidson after being pulled over in a stolen vehicle for a broken headlight on U.S. Highway 59 outside Edna. The trial took place Austin, where a Travis County jury found Howard guilty of capital murder. I covered the punishment phase of this trial for Billboard during the summer of 1993.

Just before the shooting, Howard told a grand jury he was listening to "Soulja's Story" from Tupac Shakur's 1991 debut, 2Pacalypse Now. Defense attorney Allen Tanner seized on gangsta rap as a mitigating factor in hopes of saving Howard from death row.

Meanwhile, Davidson’s widow filed a product liability suit against Tupac Shakur, Interscope and Time Warner claiming the anti-police sentiments on 2Pacalypse Now contributed to her husband’s death. During the punishment phase of the trial in July 1993, Tanner introduced several rap songs as evidence, and the Travis County Courthouse halls echoed with N.W.A.’s "Fuck tha Police" and the Geto Boys’ "City Under Siege."

It was surreal to hear those songs in that context, but it didn't help Howard's case in the least. After six days of deliberation, the jury sentenced Howard to death by lethal injection. The fact that a jury deemed rap’s role inconsequential helped undermine the basis for the civil suit, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

While the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Howard's death sentence in 1996 because a potential juror was improperly eliminated from the jury pool, he was again sentenced to die at a second trial in Corpus Christi in 1999.

Howard, now 32, has a website maintained by friends with his writings. I find it hard to muster any sympathy for a cop killer, but I don't see how having the Great State of Texas strap Howard to a gurney and shoot poison in his veins is going to do a goddamn bit of good.

It creeps me out that Howard's executioner gets a paycheck signed by the same Tough Grandma that signs mine.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Papanicholas Coffee Company

I don't have the money for a $3 cup of coffee everyday, nor do I have the inclination to spend my first waking moments sitting in a drive-thru waiting for that cup. I'm a brew-it-yourself kind of guy.

Although I've cycled my way through several brands, I always come back to Papanicholas Hawaiian Islands Blend. It's a mild-roast mix of Kona and Columbian Supremo reasonably priced at $6.39 for a 12-ounce bag.

Papanicholas started in 1982 in the Wheaton, Illinois garage of the late Nicholas A. Papanicholas. They're now the leading whole bean brand in the Chicagoland market. Texas is their first state south of the Mason-Dixon line.

For years, I've noticed the "Papa Points" proofs of purchase on the sides of of their bags. It wasn't until today that I went to their website and found out what I could now own had I been smart enough to start collecting those Papa Points.

At five Papa Points per bag, it would take five bags for a Papanicholas mug, eight bags for a stainless steel travel tankard and only 850 bags for a Bodum expresso machine (plus shipping and handling, of course). What the hell was I thinking when I threw all those bags away?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Pirates of Carnival Cruise Lines

Here in Texas, it's not uncommon to hear even the progressive elements of society discuss shooting looters on sight in the wake of a disaster.

But if we're this quick to embrace knee-jerk frontier justice as the antidote when someone helps themselves to a laptop computer, how come we're not equally filled with gut-bomb rage when Carnival Cruise Lines inks a federal contract charging us double the going rate to house hurricane evacuees on its ships?

I'm not suggesting we force Carnival executives to walk the proverbial plank (though that would make a great pay-per view event), but shouldn't these teat-hogging corporate concerns be held accountable on some level for taking advantage of tragedy with the same cold-hearted calculation a looter uses in the absence of order?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tulsa's Casa Bonita Closes

I've got some bad news for Oklahomans, and I'm not just talking about what's going to happen to OU in Dallas this weekend.

After more than 30 years of operation, the Tulsa location of Casa Bonita - a fun family restaurant serving all-you-can-eat Mexican food that made Pancho's Mexican Buffet look positively haute by comparison - closed its doors this past Friday. Like the rest of us, Tulsans will now have to drive to the Denver location to get their Casa Bonita fix.

Back in the spring of 1997, I decided to make a pilgrimage to Tulsa to eat at Casa Bonita for the special Hey! Hey! Buffet! vacation issue. None of my friends would go with me, so I wound up driving all the way to Tulsa and back by myself just to say I ate at this restaurant.

When I got to Casa Bonita after driving for nine hours (following a brief stopover to admire the Jetsons-style architecture at Oral Roberts University), the serving line stretched almost to the door. Because I was there by myself, all of the families looked at me like I was a child groper.

Though a friend familiar with the more-elaborate Denver location of Casa Bonita warned me against taking this trip, I was amazed just how horrible the food really was. The cheese enchiladas literally set off my gag reflex.

Casa Bonita's faux Mexican village atmosphere, strolling mariachis, merry-go-round and videogames were clearly the primary draw. I hear the Denver Casa Bonita (seen below in its South Park rendition) even has cliff divers who perform stunt dives off the waterfalls.

My waiter was either gay or felt really sorry for me (or both) because he paid extra special attention to my dining needs, making sure my drink glass stayed full and asking several times if I wanted more food. Alas, there was nothing I wanted seconds of.

Pegging me for a non-resident, the kindly young waiter asked where I was from. I told him I was from Austin and he asked what I was doing in Tulsa.

I simply did not have the balls to tell him I'd driven all the way there to eat at Casa Bonita, so I said, "I'm just passin' through."

The waiter was clearly and rightfully taken aback, figuring I was a serial killer or worse. It was time to throw down a tip and scram.

After calling my Buffet! co-conspirator Buzz Moran from a nearby pay phone to brag about doing what I set out to do, I went back to a cheap motel room on the outskirts of town and had a Trainspotting-style gastrointestinal collapse that was much less romantic in reality than it sounds here.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Souper Deal at H-E-B

Okay, that's a lame thing to say, but it's Sunday night and I'm all tapped out.

Getting right to the point, your friendly neighborhood H-E-B is selling 19-ounce cans of Progresso Soup for just a buck each. Meanwhile, the good folks at Progresso (a division of General Foods, Inc.) have a coupon in your Sunday paper good for 50 cents off when you buy two cans.

See what I'm getting at here?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Catching Up

I reviewed several ACL Festival sets in this week's Chron, including dios (malos), Sound Team, Roky Erickson & the Explosives and Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers.

Aside from dios (malos), who suffered primarily from setting as opposed to actual performance, it was all pretty solid stuff.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go get outside in this mild (for Texas) 90-degree weather.