Saturday, August 30, 2008

Last single man post from Texas

One week from today, Kate and I will be getting married. Accordingly, this here blog will be taking a back seat for awhile. I may try to post in the days leading up to the wedding, but we've decided to maintain radio silence during the honeymoon.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm a lucky man. But I'm also running late, so I best close now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hats off to Joel's hot muffler

Congratulations are in order for Ron Titter Band drummer/chef Joel Fried. His "Joel's Hot Muffler" sauce won first place in the commercially-bottled pepper sauce category on behalf of Tacodeli at last weekend's Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival.

Not too shabby for a guy who had gut surgery earlier this summer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fire and cyclones

If only AstroWorld wasn't gone forever, here's how Kate and I would be getting married in a little over a week.

This de facto music video for Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" was shot at AstroWorld for a 1982 TV special about rollercoasters called Wild Rides. They used to air it on Nickolodeon all the time.

Host Matt Dillon introduces the clip in the pitch-perfect suburban stoner brogue he perfected in Over the Edge. While comparing a ride on the Texas Cyclone to being in three car accidents at once is a bit much (hey, that's what "this one kid" said!), it was widely recognized as the world's best coaster at the time of filming. Even if the rest of AstroWorld had to be shuttered in 2005 because the land beneath it was better suited for yet another boring "mixed-use development," they were fools to tear down the Texas Cyclone.

After all, if you're going to be stuck working, living and/or playing in a mixed-use development, wouldn't you rather have it be one with its own bad-ass rollercoaster?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crime watch

Kate and I were walking around the neighborhood around 9pm last night when we heard a bunch of sirens screaming by. It turns out there had been a fatal shooting on the other side of the railroad tracks.

This is the second murder we've had in our area this summer. Both have occurred near slummy, run-down apartment complexes that dot the neighborhood. It's a bad situation that seems to be worsening along with the economy.

Hopefully APD can step up their presence and weed out the criminal element so the people who live even closer to it than we do can rest easy at night.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Smiling over spilled ice cream

Kate and I are in Dallas right now for her final bridal gown fitting at Priscilla of Boston. I walked in there when I dropped her off and immediately turned tail because all the brides and bridesmaids gathered at the front of the store had me feeling overwhelmed by estrogen.

The Priscilla location here is in Preston Center, a venerable shopping center at the corner of Preston Rd. and Northwest Hwy. Back in the day, my family used to go there to shop at long-departed stores like Sanger-Harris and World Toy and Gift. One of the places we used to frequent that is still located in Preston Center is Baskin-Robbins. It's right around the corner from Priscilla.

About 33 years ago on a warm summer night, I happily skipped out of that Baskin-Robbins with a scoop of something precariously perched on a cone. As my family and I walked across the parking lot to our 1966 Mustang, my scoop of ice cream toppled off the cone onto the hot concrete. I didn't see it happen and didn't even notice anything was wrong until I climbed in the back seat and realized I no longer had any ice cream to lick.

I asked my parents what had happened and they gently but firmly told me I'd dropped my ice cream. I flat out refused to believe this and asked them to show me where my ice cream had fallen. I'll never forget looking out the car window and seeing my fallen ice cream rapidly melting on the pavement. It was only then that I started weeping profusely.

As I walked by that Baskin-Robbins earlier this afternoon while my wonderful bride-to-be was getting fitted, I couldn't help but think that clumsy kid who'd dropped his ice cream had finally found redemption.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kiehl's lands at Blue Elephant

As a big fan of Kiehl's Ultimate Brushless "White Eagle" Shaving Cream, I was happy to discover that Blue Elephant is now stocking Kiehl's products. Blue Elephant is located at 4001 N. Lamar, in the same shopping center as Central Market.

I feel a little ridiculous spending $15 on a tube of shaving cream when I used to be perfectly content with 99-cent cans of Barbasol, but I hardly ever nick up my face with Kiehl's. I'm also pretty stingy when it comes to portion control. A Kiehl's tube can last for several months because a little dab really will do you.

Coupled with a strategic grocery run, getting your Kiehl's stuff at Blue Elephant could save Central Austin shaving snobs a trip to Nordstrom at Barton Creek Square, Neiman-Marcus at the Domain or our silly little Saks Fifth Avenue out by the Arboretum.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Peanuts, pancakes, titties and guns

The Statesman reports that Kerbey Lane Cafe will be moving its Northwest Austin location soon.

I was interested to learn that Kerbey Lane's current Northwest Austin location is owned by the estate of Charles Schulz. The Schultz estate also owns the Hooters site at the corner of Riverside and Barton Springs, which makes for a pretty decent local commercial real estate portfolio.

The estate's local attorney? None other than Harry Whittington, the guy Dick Cheney shot in the face. Small world, indeed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flatbush by way of Woodstock

One more Kaptain Kool and the Kongs/Krofft Supershow/World of Sid & Marty Krofft/CNN Center/Atlanta-related post and then I'll shut up.

A relatively unknown New York-based singer/songwriter named Bert Sommer played "Flatbush" in Kaptain Kool and the Kongs. Earlier in his career, Sommer replaced "Walk Away Renee" singer Michael Brown in the Left Banke and played with Leslie West in a band called the Vagrants before West left to form Mountain.

After starring in the West Coast and Broadway productions of Hair, Sommer released an album on Capitol Records in 1968. The label didn't keep him, but his career was promising enough to net a spot on the bill at Woodstock. However, his performance didn't make the movie and he doesn't even have his name engraved on the monument at the Woodstock site. Sommer died in 1990 at age 41 of respiratory problems.

Here's some footage shot by D.A. Pennebaker of Sommer performing a haunting love song called "Jennifer" at Woodstock 39 years ago today. I think it's quite good. Sommer's voice is distinctively emotive and guitarist Ira Stone's flowing solos remind me of Jorma Kaukonen from Jefferson Airplane.

According to the official Bert Sommer website, "Jennifer" was written about Jennifer Warnes, a fellow performer in the West Coast production of Hair. At the same time Sommer was playing Flatbush on Saturday morning TV, Warnes had a major pop hit with "Right Time of the Night." She later had the distinction of singing on two number one soundtrack duets - 1982's "Up Where We Belong" with Joe Cocker and 1987's "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" with Bill Medley. Warnes also lived in Austin for a time in the Seventies and the Nineties.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cox pulling out of Austin

Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises announced today that it is putting the Austin American-Statesman up for sale. You can read all about the announcement in the Statesman, of course, but I'm posting it here so I can use the above headline.

Kaptain Kool and the Kongs, kontinued

Here's some grainy old video from 1976 of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs performing their theme song in what is now the atrium of CNN Center.

"Kaptain Kool" was played by Michael Lembeck, who went on to star as Mackenzie Phillips' husband on One Day at a Time. I had a schoolboy crush on "Superchick," the lovely brown-haired rocker played by Debra Clinger. I think the music was written by one or more of the Osmond brothers.

Someone remind me, how did I function before YouTube?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not so hot Lanta

Greetings from Atlanta. I'm here for the 2nd Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media. It's been a pretty good conference so far. The sessions are engaging and I've actually managed to do some worthwhile networking without feeling phony about it.

The conference is taking place at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in downtown Atlanta. It's a big improvement over last year's conference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's global communications center named for Sen. Tom Harkin, who I assume brought home quite a bit of pork if they named it for him while he's still alive and eating solid food. The Harkin facility itself was one of the nicest, most well-appointed government buildings I've ever set foot in, but they housed us at a Marriott next to IH-85 in the middle of suburban nowheresville. There were no sidewalks to walk on and no place to walk to.

By contrast, CNN Center is right next to the world's largest aquarium and a museum dedicated to Coca-Cola. CNN Center is a tourist attraction in and of itself, but I wish I'd been around back in 1976 when it housed the short-lived World of Sid & Marty Krofft indoor amusement park. I was always fascinated with the building when they showed Kaptain Kool and the Kongs perform in the atrium on The Krofft Supershow, which aired Saturday mornings on ABC. Now the whole thing is a mall food court where Nancy Grace's voice and likeness nauseates from multiple giant screen TVs.

This area of town was hammered by a tornado in March and a lot of damage is still visible. There's duct tape on my hotel room window and many windows at the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center remain boarded up. I think this is the first time I've ever slept in a building with semi-fresh twister damage, which is very exciting.

Perhaps the nicest thing about being in Atlanta is the fact that it only got up to 82 degrees here today. Even with a steady rain falling, I happily strolled about the surprisingly depopulated city earlier this evening without even breaking a sweat.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Black Moses R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear of Isaac Hayes' death today at the age of 65. The man gave us a lot of great music, both as a songwriter and a performer.

You cannot dissect cool without watching footage of Hayes' arrival onstage at Wattstax to the tune of "Theme from Shaft" while emcee Jesse Jackson just completely loses his shit, screaming "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" over and over again. Anyone who can stretch "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" past 18 minutes deserves to be in the dictionary next to cool.

In 2007, I stood about five feet away from Hayes at Antone's during sound check for the Stax 50th Anniversary Revue show with Eddie Floyd, William Bell and Booker T. & the MG's during SXSW. Hayes was there to introduce the show and he looked absolutely regal in a red caftan. At least one person asked for an autograph, but I didn't have the nerve.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A month and counting

One month from right this minute, I will be married to Kate Harrington. Our good friend David Wyatt will be officiating the ceremony in front of family and friends from all over the place.

All the cynical, curmudgeonly or irreverent things I may spew here should always be tempered by the fact that I could not be any happier about getting to spend my life with Kate.

I am a lucky man, folks.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Yo Eddie, bring us some rain already!

I had to pass along this cool photo taken by PogoPossum and posted to the Houston Chronicle's Chron.Commons site. This is a building in Uptown Park near the Galleria reflecting the western sky as Tropical Storm Edouard approached Houston from the east this morning. The effect reminds me of a bad Eighties music video.

We're supposed to get some decent rain out of Edouard here in Austin tonight, but I've only counted about four drops on my windshield so far. I'm going to be mighty preturbed if I mowed the lawn in triple-digit heat yesterday for nothing.

A hero among the Savages

Aside from the triple digits, you know it’s August in Austin when stories about the 1966 UT Tower shootings make their annual anniversary rounds. Most of this coverage is rote to anyone who has lived in Austin for awhile, but today’s John Kelso column is a real eye-opener.

Kelso reveals that Artly Snuff from longtime local comedic rock troupe the Uranium Savages was one of the brave souls who went into Charles Whitman’s line of fire to rescue pregnant shooting victim Claire Wilson James from the scorching South Mall pavement. James was profiled by Denise Gamino in Sunday’s Statesman.

Tom Eckman, James’ boyfriend, had been shot and killed right next to her. Those familiar with the shootings will recall news footage of a bloodied Vietnam veteran who carried Eckman’s body away from the scene. 17-year-old Snuff (real name: John Fox) and his friend James Love carried James to safety. Sadly, she later lost her baby at Brackenridge Hospital.

Snuff, who is also a curator for the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, has known Kelso for years, but he never said anything about his involvement in the Tower shootings until this weekend. Although Snuff has no way of proving that he was one of the men in a still video frame of James’ rescue that ran on the front page Sunday, you’d have a hard time not believing it after reading Kelso’s column.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Fire at A+ Buffet

Looks like North Austinites will have to look elsewhere for at least the time being to satisfy gonzo buffet urges that necessitate the commingling of pizza with saag paneer and egg rolls. A+ Buffet, famed for serving “more than one hundred items you can eat,” caught fire early this morning.

The restaurant and several other tenants of the Austin China Center sustained extensive smoke damage. No word yet on when A+ Buffet might reopen.