Austin in review

Finally an hour or so to recount the weekend happenings.

3am Friday morning
I wake up before my alarm, a normal pattern for me on “big” days. I never get good sleep when something exciting is on the horizon. Hop out of bed energized despite the short (3-4 hours) sleep. I’m out the door to the airport by 4:30am.

5:00-9:30am
After slogging through the ice and snow to the airport, I’m pleased to find my flight still on schedule. Despite the general unease that comes when a plane needs to be deiced before takeoff, the flight is uneventful. Having a whole row to myself, I was able to write a few stanzas of a new song tentatively titled “Controls”….

I thought I knew the perfect plan
A life satisfied and true
A simple path to happiness
Full spectrum minus blue
Plug and play each small part
My storyline on cue

For all those years
Captain Me was in command
Steering life, turn by turn
Wheel firmly in my hands
Watching life unfold for me
Like slowly falling sand

Then you drew away the curtain
Unannounced, to my surprise
With a subtle slight of heart
Broke down that childish guise
Stripped me of the masquerade
Found the hiding man inside

9:30-10:45am

Layover in DFW. After standing in an inordinately long line at the Starbucks kiosk (skim mocha no whip, of course), I decided I could use a little more time on my feet. Standing near the gate, I replaced the humdrum of my surroundings with the sounds of my most recent acquisitions. Backed by lyrical and musical stylings of Ryan Adams, Spoon, Josh Ritter, Avenged Sevenfold, the Eagles, and Ozzy Osbourne, the buzzing mass of travelers acted for me in a series of passing short (and often intriguing) stories.

Jump to 1:00pm (after an uneventful hop from DFW to Austin)

Went for a sample of TexMex at Chuy’s, an establishment best described as eccentricity bordering on insanity. The decor revolved around fish, intertwined with Marvel comics superheroes and holiday decorations. Sensory overload, to say the least. My friend and I both had the chicken enchilada, good but didn’t live up to the “best TexMex in Austin” recommendation.

4:45pm – 6:00pm (after a futile attempt at an afternoon nap)

Went for a hike around Town Lake. Too bad it wasn’t a few weeks earlier, with leaves on the trees, but still picturesque, especially after sunset when the Austin skyline reflects in the water.

6:30-8:30pm

Caught most of the set of The Regulars at the Saxon Pub. Billed as “country rockers to soulful ballads,” I wasn’t sure what to expect as we sat down at a table about 15 feet back from the stage. The band mixed originals and covers with ease, with “You Turn My Light On” the best original and “Chain of Fools” a rousing cover. The musicianship was solid throughout, with the exception of Ron Rameli, who constantly switched instruments (and played most –especially the harmonica — non-descriptly) and appeared aloof in contrast to the down-home folkiness of the rest of the Regulars. Two “irregulars” sat in with the band this night….a female vocalist/bass player with wonderful command of her voice and a sax player that we later learned was one of the best in Texas.

The Regulars play Saxon Pub every Friday night, and the crowd was obviously full of family and friends of the band. An intriguing subplot was the table to our left — populated by three attractive women, one of whom wore fishnet stockings and tumbling heart cowboy boots that screamed “look at me.” They obviously knew the band, but didn’t seem to be “attached” in any formal way. At the end of the set, several band members stopped over to say hello to “boots” and her compatriots. We interjected our accolades for a great performance, and to our surprise, got an invite to go to Matt’s El Rancho for dinner along with George Macias — acoustic guitar, vocalist and songwriter for the Regulars. This was shaping up to be a beautiful night!

9:00-11:00pm

Conversation at Matt’s El Rancho couldn’t have been better. Stories of the band (including a lot of infighting), the Austin music scene, past arrests, religion, and politics were liberally interspersed with a great deal of humor. George was obviously revered in this group, and he held court like a pro. Wasn’t sure how much of his yarn was dyed, but like most songwriters, he could tell a story. Perhaps this was just simple Texas hospitality, but George and his groupies made us feel like old friends — giving us a glimpse into the innner circle of their somewhat turbulent lives.

11:00 pm Friday – 3:00am Saturday

The final four hours of my Austin marathon were spent on and along Sixth Street — the heart of the UT campus nightlife. Several blocks of this main thoroughfare are closed off on weekend nights — transforming into a undulating pit of hedonism. Alcohol and skin flowed liberally among the Gen Z’ers on the last weekend before finals. The scene was one part energizing, one part frightening. One got a sense that the party was one fine line away from transforming into a riot.

We ducked out of the pandemonium for a midnight showing of Master Pancake Theater featuring Home Alone. Think Mystery Science Theater 3000 performed in front of 300 drunk college students. Entertaining, but by the end, all this old man wanted was an appointment with a pillow.

And so concludes my 23 hour Austin immersion. I was ready to go, but will definitely be back.

The quest for friends

Why do I spend so much time trolling through Facebook search results, looking for a familiar face or name? It’s like I’m trying to create a patchwork canvas of a past that has slowly slipped into the jumbled fog of my mind. Has a social network truly become my link outside “the box” I call life? At times I feel like a crazy person walking up and down the virtual street crying “Do I know you?” or “Please talk to me, I just want to talk to somebody.”

I think I’m wired for virtual relationships….it’s the actual ones I’m struggling with.

Memories

Tonight was one of those moments that stick with you. After taking a short walk around the neighborhood after dark, the kid and I stretched out in the back of our pickup, gazing up at a surprisingly full starry sky. Which one of those stars was the sun to a race of beings we may never know? What do they look like? How do they communicate? You could just see the wheels turning and the excitement in his eyes.

I think the memories are there to be made, we just have to grab them and not let go.

Music!

Just started reading This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel Levitin. Although it’s hard to give a thumbs up or down after just a handful of pages, it’s certainly interesting so far. For what promises to be a “scientific” book, Levitin has an accessible writing style. I’m particularly interested in any insight into why my brain seems to be so wired to music. Ever since the advent of the iPod — which gave me pinpoint control over my musical environment — music in some form illustrates and enlivens my waking hours. It’s become hard to work in silence; although on the flip side, I now find it hard to fall asleep listening to music.

Pulse

The calm night begins to stir
Black sky fills with violent charge
Lightning rolls in blinding succession
I move to cover
But it is too late
The electricity scampers around my feet
Lifting me, throwing me
A plaintive groan
Blackness

(This was based on a dream that woke me up at 3am this morning)

On the eve of middle age

Middle aged? A strange concept for me. Perhaps working in a college town helps retain a younger, college mentality, but I’ll freely admit the difficulty in grasping my entry into “late-30-somethingness.” I’m not worried about growing older. I’m confounded that I don’t feel older. Forty is right around the corner, and I’m yet to feel like the “grown-up” my parents and their cohorts appeared to be at my age.

Maybe “growing up” is a myth.