Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
Preface: The battle between Steve Jobs and me continues. I made fun of him last fall. Then he died. Then I read the book about him and told everyone what an asshole he was. So what does he do? From beyond the grave-- er "the cloud"-- he reaches into my iPhone and eradicates nearly every picture I took of my niece's trip to Austin last week. That bastard! Seriously-- the pictures are completely gone. I do have a few I managed to salvage since I had texted them or used them on FB. But Steve Jobs? I will win the next round, pal. Meanwhile, for those of you who already saw most of the pics below, sorry I can't show you the rest of the collection. Don't blame me, blame Steve.
In early January 1983, my father drove me to Philadelphia International Airport. I had never been on a plane before. And now, at 18, I wasn't just going for my first plane ride. I was leaving home, heading to college in Florida. My father squeezed my elbow, mumbled, "Don't get into trouble," and left me at my gate. I was clutching a ratty old pillow-- with no air travel experience I didn't know if I was allowed to bring a pillow, so I brought this crappy one in case I had to throw it away.
When we touched down in Tampa, I stepped into a whole new world. I still can remember the shuttle van that took me to my dorm, how I looked out the window and saw so many palm trees and could not believe my eyes. Though that January would get very cold-- Tampa actually froze that year-- I was so eager for my surfy college life to begin that I insisted on wearing my OP shorts and surf shirts everywhere.
I knew so little about life back then. I'd chosen the college simply because a couple of my friends went there, and their brother had gone there in the past, and I'd had a crush on him. Great reason to choose a school, right? In fact, I'd been accepted at a few other schools, one of them very prestigious, but my high school counselor told me that my parents couldn't afford it, to just forget about it. He didn't suggest that, since I ranked fifth in the class, I might qualify for scholarships. Not coming from an academic family, I didn't have access to this information on my own. So I figured he was right and went to the little state school down the road for a month before transferring to Florida, aka NJ of the South.
Winding up at a mediocre state college was not the worst fate. There were built-in pools behind every dorm where I honed my tanning skills and I made some of my best, lifelong friends there. My four years at the school proved that experiences can be what we make of them, and my time on the school newspaper shaped a very interesting career. (I still laugh my evil laugh when I think back at a couple of asshole teachers I had-- I'm talking to you Leo Stalnaker-- who predicted my writing wouldn't get me anywhere.)
So even though I know that wherever my niece goes to college, she'll do just fine, when she told me she was going to come down and check out UT, I got really excited. I wanted to do my part to make sure she had an exceptionally good time here and, without putting too much pressure on her, I wanted to make a good case for Austin as her first choice. Geena is valedictorian of her class and she is looking at a lot of different schools, including Princeton, which is a lot closer to her NJ home and, perhaps, ranks a little higher than UT in the big picture.
But UT has one of the top-five engineering schools in the country-- Geena wants to be an engineer-- PLUS (and this is a big plus) AUNT SPIKE LIVES HERE!!! Yay!! I would love to be Geena's go to local adult to show her around town on a regular basis, take her to Hill Country Weavers for knitting supplies (I taught G to knit and she is an amazing knitter), and continue her Taco Education.
It was fun taking a tour of UT with G. I'd read about these tours they give to entice prospective students and their parents, but this was my first time to go on one since Henry has chosen to attend the University of Life. I found it pretty interesting that they barely mentioned academics but, as we walked along the campus and through buildings, other amenities were pointed out to us: UT has the biggest HD TV on a college campus! (It's called Godzilla-tron); UT has a rock climbing wall!; UT has social swimming pools!; UT has a BUNCH of fast food restaurants including the world's busiest Wendy's!
I also liked the spin they put on stuff. For example, our tour guide-- who was really good-- had a script that included facts like this: "The average temperature in Austin is 70 degrees." He didn't mention this average comes from adding up all those 120 degree days with the 20 degree days and dividing by 2. Also, he explained that the yellow safety poles throughout campus had a special button feature. So if you are being chased by a mugger, you can hit the button then run to the next yellow pole and hit that button, and so on, so the campus cops can track you. This had me imagining someone turning to an assailant and saying, "Pardon me, could you wait just a moment whilst I hit the next alarm button? Thanks very much!"
Because I'm lucky enough to know everyone in Austin, I contacted my friend Howard, an engineering professor at UT. He invited us up to his office, where he happened to be doing a little experiment. He took time to talk to Geena about the academic side of UT and I'd love to show you a picture of the two of them together, but, as noted earlier, Steve Jobs does not want you to see that picture.
When we weren't on campus, I had fun running G all over the place. Breakfast Tacos at El Chilito's, a pretend tattoo at Southside Tattoos, Queso at Magnolia Cafe, Butterscotch Budino at Texas French Bread, a tour of the studio where Henry is mixing his debut record, Farm to Market Grocery where Henry works, Cherrywood Cafe (sadly John Aeilli was nowhere to be seen), Hill Country Weavers, BookPeople, Wheatsville, and a long walk around Mueller.
I can't wait to hear what Geena's decision will be. I'm crossing my fingers she'll come to Austin.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 4:02 PM
Monday, January 23, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
There is no joy greater than sharing your life with a dog (my apologies to Warren and Henry-- don't worry, guys, you run a close second). I am trying to help home a few dogs that are in sudden need. Before y'all email me with suggestions about Austin Pets Alive, etc, please know we already know all about APA, our bases there are covered. I am running this post in addition to other avenues being pursued.
If you are up for bringing the tremendous joy of a dog(s) into your world, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in touch with the right humans. Below is a note from my friend who is helping her friend to home these dogs. Also, adorable pictures.
Hurry people, let's get these pups a place to stay!
My friend writes:
A good friend of mine has run into some very, very hard times and was forced to move quickly to a new apartment that does not allow animals. Her three sweet and affectionate dogs need immediate and/or long term foster homes, permanent adoption negotiable. They can be adopted individually. Rock Hudson is a medium sized (approx 20 pounds) short-haired black+white mix, husky and low to the ground with enormous ears, a noble demeanor and a sweet, loyal disposition. He is shy with new people but warms up quickly. Stevie Nicks is a small (approx 8-10 pounds) wire haired terried/chihuahua mix, calm and full of kisses with an adorable white streak on her head. Chavela Vargas is a small (approx 8-10 pounds) dachshund/chihuahua mix with big worried brown eyes and is calm and cuddly. All three are healthy, house and leash trained, up to date on shots, including kennel cough, and are fine with cats and young children (my friend has a toddler).
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 9:25 AM
Monday, January 16, 2012
So, what did I wind up doing for my birthday last week? Thanks for asking. I dedicated myself to yet another one of those Wow I Sure Do Love Austin adventures. To wit:
|Then we had to go walk that shit off. So Warren and I headed over to Town Lake (I'm calling it Town Lake, and shut up if you were getting ready to correct me). Here we saw many things, like a train carrying a bunch of who the hell knows what.|
|We ran into Lionel Richie on our stroll.|
|Given his lifestyle choices, I have always been especially delighted to find SRV waiting for me at a place where folks go to work out and get healthy.|
|This is my cake-- I actually had it a few days before my bday but want you to see it anyway. Henry's ladyfriend, K, made it for me. IT WAS DELICIOUS!|
|After Town Lake we went to the Blanton where Warren fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a professional columnist.|
|This is me in the ladies' room of the Blanton, looking in the magical mirror that shows you what you look like naked and makes you realize we're all art!|
|In the Blanton gift shop, Warren bought me this tiny chicken purse to match the chicken handbag I bought awhile ago. I am super classy with my matching accessories!|
|Outside the Blanton, Warren gave me my other birthday gift-- because a girl needs a way to transport her chicken purses, you know?|
|After the Blanton we went over to the Oakwood Cemetery, off of MLK on the East Side. If you look closely at this headstone, you will find the true definition of Grave Error.|
|I love cemeteries any time of the year, but I especially liked taking a visit on my birthday. |
Quod tu es, ego fui. Quod nunc sum, tu eris.
Truly words to live by.
|Then it was time for dinner at Texas French Bread-- HOORAY!|
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 12:11 PM
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Happy Birthday to Me. Today I am 48. As I mentioned already, if my grandmother's lifespan (94) is any indication of what I have to look forward to, then turing 48 means that today really is the first day of the rest of my life. I couldn't be more pleased.
For the past several days I have been writing in my heart a long, heartfelt, eloquent post about this occasion. The in-my-head version of how I feel though, is probably not going to see the backlight of a computer screen because instead I am going to hastily dash off a few thoughts, then I am going to hastily dash off and play.
It's barely 8 am and I am so excited I want to pee my pants. I am totally a little kid about my birthday. The universe, anticipating that mine would be a life full of Christmas trauma, attempted to make up for this in advance by handing me an immediately post-holiday celebration I could call my own. Sure, having a birthday right after Christmas means whatever gifts you get come from folks' pile of shit they forgot to return to the store for exchange-- like when I turned 16 and all my friends got birthstone rings except for me, I got a Stretch Monster. But I don't care. I don't even want gifts.
|My Birthday Card|
I've used this day in the past for all sorts of things-- to drink until vomiting, to honor others with Kick Ass Awards, to order four desserts at Chez Nous. A couple of hours ago, at around 6 am I think, Warren wandered into the bedroom after one of his late night awake spells. "Happy Birthday," he said to groggy me. "What are you going to do?"
I was so out of it I can't be sure what I said, but I think what I said is, "I don't have to do anything, it's like your field of dreams, I can just hang out and pretend."
Let me explain. Warren lives on a couple of acres that I am always proposing we use for one excellent purpose or another-- Let's build me a little house back there! Let's start a goat farm! Let's get a million chickens! Warren often responds enthusiastically to these ideas but after awhile I realize he had no real plans to act on any of them. He said that as long as he keeps those acres blank, he will always have the luxury of looking out on them and they can be something different every time.
Along those lines, I think I could sit in bed all day today and just imagine all sorts of celebration possibilities without actually executing any of them. Besides, I spent the past several days gearing up for today, pre-celebrating. As I've gotten older, and immersed myself more in Buddhist teachings, and deepened my meditation practice, I have tried hard to pay more and more attention to the wonders of my life. I cranked up that attention paying over the weekend festivities, noticing as much as I could every good part of every moment, which has left me plenty to savor today as I just sit here, under the quilts, feeling very, very happy.
On Friday I had dinner with friends who gave me an early birthday card fashioned out of a piece of cardboard so large that, I think, came wrapped around a billboard. Then I went to hear my friend Jim play at Jovita's, prompting a cascade of memories of other times I've heard Jim rock it, and another cascade of memories of all those nights I took Henry to hear Don Walser yodel back when he (Hen, not Don) was three. Henry, in his little vest and red Ropers, used to wander up to the stage with his stringless mini-guitar, stand next to Don, and play along-- easily one of my fondest memories of the first 48.
|Paw rocks out on the keytar.|
Sunday I went to the funeral of my friend's mom. And even though funerals are, by their nature, tinged with sadness and full of mourners, this service was so beautiful. Incredible. Leona had been a Rockette, among other things. The tributes paid to her were many and gorgeous, in particular words spoken by her granddaughter who opened with a Rilke quote and eloquently went on to capture her grandmother's memory. May I recommend, as an annual exercise, that all of you attend a funeral right around your birthday, a good reminder that this is not a dress rehearsal. Post funeral I did East Side Yoga with some friends and then, as a counterpose to that, we ate East Side Pies-- if you haven't tried their curry pizza, you should get one of those right after you eat a garlic shrimp sandwich from Tam Deli.
|Henry and his lady friend joined me for rainy day yoga-- K made me an amazing lemon bday cake.|
Toward that end, I had a lovely meeting with my friend Owen, who is crazy talented and hilarious and thoughtful. Owen volunteered with Hospice for years, and I was getting ready to turn in my application to work for Hospice, so I wanted to quiz him. He cheerfully offered up some tales about how, no matter how mightily you fly into a death-related situation with your superhero cape on, as in other stages of life you'll encounter plenty of the mundane in dying. Which doesn't mean there aren't profound moments-- and, if you think about the way we Westerners are fed the notion of death (resist, resist, resist!), having an opportunity to discover the mundane and see that it's part of the process just like the rest of living, well you know, that sounds pretty profound to me.
And speaking of mundane, after Owen and I parted ways, I headed to the laundromat. For the past couple of years I have lived dryer free, this despite jokes and bets by Warren and Henry that suggest I am going to break down and buy a new dryer one day. I am not. I love my clothesline. I love hanging up clothes. I love watching clothes dry while I wash the dishes (by hand, no dishwasher). I love smelling line-dried clothes. And given the drought, I hardly ever run into problems using the sun as my dryer. Yesterday was an exception and, eager to start my new year with all clean clothes and sheets, I decided I would go ahead and go to the mat to get that done.
I went to the laundromat over there at 43rd and Duval in Hyde Park. For years I used to live right across the street on Park Boulevard. That old rental house, now literally falling down, is where Henry spent his most formative years. And though we lived in several different places, I think, looking back over his life, that will be the place he most identifies as his childhood home. We used this laundromat countless times. And I remember when he was first old enough to cross the street and go check on drying clothes himself. That laundromat, like the Hancock HEB, is packed with old ghost memories for me, the spirit of little Henry everywhere. Far more than my own aging process, thinking about my son growing up-- from the little sack of potatoes I used to lug around and silence with a tit to the 6'2" young man who has to bend down to let me kiss him-- this is so much more a palpable measure of the passing of time for me than my own life, a wicked vivid signal of how very fast time truly passes.
Being in that laundromat moves me so much. Really, it was the perfect place to spend the last day of 47, the washer with its cycles and the dryers with all that tumbling lending cheesy but nonetheless apt metaphors for where I've been and where I'm going.
Happy My Birthday to You. It is so good to be alive.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 9:10 AM
Thursday, January 5, 2012
|FUCK YOU TIME WARNER!|
Dear Time Warner,
I am writing this note to kill some time while I am on hold with your annoying automated system. I realize now, entirely too late, that when I was asked why I was calling by the Robobitch that picked up, I made a grave mistake in revealing the truth to her robo ears. “CANCEL SERVICE!” I shouted, and I admit there was a gleeful tone to my proclamation.
Robobitch, immediately getting even, dumped me into the queue where I was informed that call volume was very high and probably I should call back later. But you know what? I’m not calling back later. I don’t care if you put me on hold for forty-seven fucking hours. I will wait. I can’t wait to tell somebody that I will no longer be using your services.
In fact, as I type this, the extremely nice Grande guys are busily installing that service. Now, mind you, I know Grande is also a big company. And I also know if I have any hope of even finding a road sign indicating that enlightenment is just fifty million light years up that path, this will involve letting go of the Internet altogether. Admittedly, I’m not there yet. And so, lesser of evils, I have selected Grande.
Truth is, I actually called AT&T first, before I called Grande. Let me tell you about that. The other week, when you sent some dude out to turn the cable off at the house because I overlooked a $57 bill? And the dude turned the cable off even though I’ve been paying y’all out the ass for sixteen years? Well I don’t know if AT&T was listening in on my phone calls or what, but within a day or two of that exchange, they had a nice special offer in my mailbox—Internet for just $14.95 per month!
Even though I actually sometimes engage in marketing work to pay my bills and so should know better, I confess I fell for this bait-and-switch offer. I called up and proceeded to get wrapped up in a labyrinth of a discussion with the rep who said well actually… and before you know it, I had agreed to sign up for Uverse at around $80 a month for the first six months and then, I think, $8000 a month after that.
I guess if I were to be totally honest, I was kind of a prime candidate for this bait-and-switch. I made that phone call on one of the last days of 2011, and knowing that 2012 is an election year I admit I have been slobbering for access to the Daily Show. I don’t want to watch it on Hulu either. If I’m going to suddenly become all Stereotypical American and start watching TV, I want to do it right. I want what I want when I want it. And I WANT IT NOW!
Actually, it’s possible that the whole TV thing won’t last more than a month. I have tried so hard over the years to become a dedicated TV watcher but without the aid of a six-pack to keep my ass in the chair, I’m must more of a pacer. I like to wander the house. Being in one place for 28 minute stretches seems like too much (unless we’re talking about real stretches, as in yoga, in which case I can do 28 minute stretches). Still, I want to try this TV thing again. I have fond if slurry memories of my last foray into TV watching, as I was recovering from my hysterectomy, stuck in bed for weeks. It did dawn on me, around week six of recovery, that I only “needed” a Vicodin at around 4, the same time that LIFETIME played one of those movies with a plot involving a recently divorced or widowed middle-aged woman and the stranger she rents a spare room out to, a guy who invariably turns out to be a killer that she ultimately must dispatch swiftly with a rusty old handgun left behind by her husband, thus sparing other unsuspecting widows and divorcees. Oh I loved getting so high, eating a pint of ice cream, and clinging to the predictable but thrilling plotline.
But there was a problem. You see, my partner Warren is a TV addict. When that thing was on, he’d watch it constantly. Until one morning, when I walked into the bedroom to find him clutching it to his groin. When he saw me, he quickly muttered, “Uh, I was just going to move this to another room.” But a friend pointed out to me a more probably truth—Warren was trying to make love to our little television set. Understandably shaken to learn this, that’s when I killed cable TV last time.
Now, though, now here I go again. I can’t help it. The thought of hearing what Jon Stewart has to say about the Republican presidential candidates is too tempting. So yeah, I agreed to get Uverse. They said they’d send a dude right out, the very next day, between 1 and 3.
At a little before noon, dude calls to say he has arrived. I know it is totally a First World Problem to have a utility worker arrive EARLY, more so considering that usually they don’t show up at all, this after you cancel every single other appointment you have just to be there waiting, like the ugly girl on prom night who didn’t realize the guy who invited her was JUST KIDDING so she sits by the window til dawn, weeping into her frothy polyester dress. Any joy I had that he managed to show up at all was tempered by his early arrival and, more so, his attitude. (Aside: Hey, I wonder if ATT ever noticed those are the same first three letters in ATT-itude? Maybe that’s why their employees are so condescending?) Anyway, there I was, more annoyed than relieved that the AT&T guy wanted me to let him start work early. I had arranged my day to be there for the 1-3 slot, knowing I would have to stick around for at least 4 hours. Thus he was interrupting my schedule. When I suggested he go get some lunch and come back at the proper time, he informed me that he had lunch in a very, Look bitch, it’s now or never, kind of way.
|FUCK YOU AT&T!!|
Well, well, well can you say Mister Unpleasant? Mind you, he wasn’t a flat out raging asshole or clear-cut lunatic—this upsetting in its own right since I so enjoy pigeonholing people. But there was something annoyed and self-righteous about him, a vibe he gave off like I was so LUCKY that he deigned come by my house to do HIS JOB. Then he said I had to trim the bushes, something the woman on the phone never mentioned. I pointed out that, it being New Year’s Eve, the odds of getting a landscaper out to trim these bushes (that were so overgrown they were more like Redwood trees) were probably slim. He just stared at me like I was an idiot.
Fortunately, Warren and his troubleshooting friend came to the rescue, and offered to use a pair of nail clippers and some kindergarten safety scissors to trim the bushes. I set off on a walk with the dogs to calm my nerves. Then Warren called and said that the dude was now saying he needed access to a neighbor’s yard, and the neighbor wasn’t answering, but there was a dog in the yard, so all bets were off, he was leaving. And he left.
At that point, I was thinking two things:
Thing One: That neighbor is SUCH A BITCH. The day I came home from my hysterectomy, and Rebound busted through the back fence into her yard, I hobbled outside, literally doubled over in pain, to tell the neighbor I just had an organ removed and was sorry about the dog and would fix things as soon as I could stand up straight again. She just glared and said, “YOU NEED A NEW FENCE!” And then she watched while I attempted to nail the hole over with a board, never offering to help. And then, later when I got one, even though it divides both our properties, of course she didn’t chip in. So I knew there was no way she’ ever let the guy in, even if she was home.
Thing Two: Fuck that AT&T guy. I don’t need to put up with his shit. If he so clearly doesn’t want to do his job, then I don’t want him here giving me his shitty attitude.
Which is when I noticed that Grande—also apparently tapping my wires and listening in— had sent a special offer in the mail. Wow! How do these folks do it? So I called Grande and a human answered right away and when I told her what I wanted, she connected me to another human who also answered right away. And when I asked questions, that human knew all the answers. And then they said they’d send somebody out. And the window was from 9 til 1. And the guy got here at 9:15. And then the other guy got here. And they are here right now and they are rocking it. So there, Time Warner idiots! So there AT&T idiots!
|DEAR GRANDE, WILL YOU MARRY ME?|
Meanwhile, I did call AT&T to cancel the order and, again, I made the error of telling a roboemployee that I wanted to cancel, which got me dumped into the go-to-hell queue, where I spent about forty minutes of my life I will never get back until I was finally connected to a human. At least when I did connect with her, she acted sympathetic. She even said she would make a note about the shitty attitude of the guy who came out to the house. I told her please do NOT do that because, really, would you want a stranger who knows where you live to know that you got him at trouble at work? Oh no, no thank you. I insisted that she just put down a generic reason for the cancel.
Anyway, Time Warner, since I started writing this, it “only” took y’all 18 minutes to get me through to a service person to cancel my service. And the Grande guys—who were nice and smart and helpful—have already finished up! Now the only thing upsetting me is that I didn’t call them sooner. I am trying to make up for this foolishness by encouraging all of my friends to set aside the necessary time to go ahead and switch internet services, switch banks, switch away from all the businesses that do not give a shit about their customers.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 11:15 AM
Monday, January 2, 2012
So did you make a resolution to make more time to do what you really want to do in 2012? And does that include FINALLY sitting down and doing some writing like you've been meaning to do FOREVER? If so, I have excellent news for you-- there are a few slots left in my next workshop. Here's some info:
Winter Six-Week Writing Workshop
Dates: 1/5, 1/12, 1/19, 1/26, 2/2, 2/9
Time: 7 - 9 pm
Cost: $300 (ask me about a discount for returning students)
Description: We'll spend six weeks talking about all aspects of memoir/creative non-fiction from process to publication. There are weekly homework assignments, in-class writing as time allows, group feedback and one-on-one coaching via email during the course of the six weeks. Also, I recently added another component-- those interested can participate in a public reading of their work at Hyde Park Theater. See the testimonials page over at Write With Spike to find out what past attendees have to say about their experience. There are only a few spaces left in this workshop. Email me to sign up.