Monday, April 30, 2012

Star Whores... Nothing But Star Whores...

So, save for the Dick Monologues, which isn't even monthly anymore, I don't give readings like I did in the old days, back when I was young and super hyper and, well, okay, drunk much of the time. But this week I have three, count 'em THREE happenings that are happening. Perhaps you'd like to join me?

The first is PechaKucha #14. If you don't know what PechaKucha is, let me tell you -- it is a total hoot. Ten people from different walks get up and each shows ten slides for twenty seconds apiece while describing their work. So, yes, you basically get 6 minutes and 40 seconds to sum up what you do. I was so tickled to get an invite from Lana McGilvray and DJ Stout who host the event-- THANKS Y'ALL! And after much (not really) deliberation about what to cover (my writing? my summer camps? my life as a controversy artist? my hilarious adventures with PTSD and anxiety?) I decided I'm going to focus on My Life as a Wedding Officiant. 

These shows fill up really fast so you are advised to arrive early. Best as I can tell, this particular PechaKucha is running in cahoots with Fusebox Festival since PK is being held in the old TOPS warehouse, which is also serving as the FB Hub. Details for PK are right here. 

Then, on Saturday and Sunday, as part of Fusebox Festival proper, my house will be a stop along the way for The Writer's Room: A Home Studio Tour. This is a totally FREE event and you can visit the homes of these working writers between 11 am and 3 pm: 

Spike Gillespie  
Rebecca Beegle  
Amparo Garcia
Bill Cotter and Annie La Ganga 
Wayne Allen Brenner
Robert Faires
Kathy Catmull

We're scheduled to give readings every hour, but I think I might turn the tables on my guests. We'll see. Oh, and if you pop by, you can have your picture taken with Rebound!

Hope to see you at some or all of these events. 

(And how do I say this politely? Hmm... well let's just say that if I have a restraining order against you and/or we slept together sometime in the past and it ended on a bad note and/or you are that asshole DJ I had a run in with last year at a wedding and/or you want to challenge me to a duel (verbal or otherwise) and or you want to Save Me in the Name of Your Lord Jesus Christ, probably this is NOT the event for you.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Super quick post to let you know-- in case you haven't heard-- that Fusebox Festival kicks off TONIGHT, Wednesday, April 25th, with Invasion of the New Grrl Order!

You can get the FULL SKINNY ON FUSEBOX right here! I'm going to be taking part as I open up my home on May 5th and 6th as part of the Fusebox Writers' Room Home Studio Tour. More details on that real soon. 

Meanwhile, there artists descending on our fine city from around the world to offer up their best non-traditional theatre offerings. No shortage of events for you to catch. Here is a short list of super recommended shows-- these will sell out so you need to reserve seats and get your tickets NOW.

Phil Soltanoff: An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk (FUSEBOX WORLD PREMIER) William Shatner’s image from the original Star Trek series speaks on the subject of art in the 21st Century and then proceeds to take questions from a live audience. Phil Soltanoff (director), Rob Ramirez (systems designer), and Joe Diebes (writer) have created a dynamic, video Shatner puppet by meticulously cataloguing everything William Shatner ever said on Star Trek.  Together, the artists attempt to bravely make Captain James T. Kirk expand our universe.
Gob Squad: Super Night Shot (U.K. & Germany)
Precisely one hour before you arrive, Super Night Shot begins. In a military-style brief, Gob Squad declares a “War on Anonymity” and takes to Austin streets armed with video cameras– embarking on a set of comic and surreal adventures that celebrate unexpected encounters with strangers. You give them a rousing hero’s welcome as they return to the theatre and the footage of the fantastical mission is mixed live into a four-channel, wide screen film. 

Wunderbaum: Songs at the End of the World (The Netherlands) Explosively inventive Dutch theater ensemble Wunderbaum merges with rock trio Touki Delphine to create a theatrical superband in this fantastical concert event inspired in part by Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World. Six performers present a song-cycle based on their childhood dreams and hopes with humorous and touching lyrics, performed in English.

Joan Jonas: The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things (New York) Seminal video and performance artist – Jonas presents her cutting edge multi-media performance. Featuring music by the acclaimed Jason Moran, this collaborative work evokes the American Southwest through an artistic consideration of the Hopi snake dance, a ritual that affected Jonas during visits to Arizona in the 1960s. Presented in partnership with Texas Performing Arts and the University of Texas Art History Department.

Fusebox Festival HubThe Hub is the central gathering place for the festival, hosting free programming during the day and ticketed events at night. The space, to be at 1100 E. 5th (the old TOPS warehouse), will be active 7 days a week for as many as 20 hours a day. The Hub will house an installation curated by Sterling Allen and Katie Geha (in partnership with Art Alliance Austin), artist chats, panel discussions, an information desk, beer garden and café/bar. The Hub will be the official Late Night Venue for the festival, presenting live music from all over the country.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Warren's Egg-Cellent Adventure

Yesterday I did a wedding out in Drippin' and in addition to being paid in good old-fashioned cash, I was tipped in... wait for it... goose eggs. Really. Do you have any idea how effing HUGE goose eggs are? They're like mini ostrich eggs.

I was in awe and also immediately inspired as an excellent prank idea occurred to me. I went home and sneaked the ginormous eggs into the laying boxes of my rocking Mobile Chicken Coop henhouse. Then, when Warren arrived, I did my best I-am-so-exhausted face, explained that while I'd remembered to lock the coop for the night, I'd totally forgotten to gather the eggs and oh, pretty please, would he?

Well, I'm crap at keeping a straight face so when he came in, weighed down with huevos mambos and asked what the hell was up, I confess I lost it and laughed my batonkis off. Which is really too bad since another friend had promised me, if I could pull the prank off, he would show up today with some tiny little quail eggs for me to plant, and further confuse Warren.

I shall work on my poker face for future prank purposes. Meanwhile, some pics of the goose eggs.

actually this is a chicken egg, for scale.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mediocre My Ass-- Here's How You Can Be Part of the ATX Greatness AND Tell Corky to Shut His Piehole

Boo! Hiss!

Last week, I took the bait and read a blog post by Michael Corcoran, former Statesman writer, bemoaning how Austin is, at best, mediocre. Joe Nick Patoski, also a writer (and not at all mediocre) had perhaps the best response, and a zinger at that. He said, "Mr. Corky's on a tear. Look out, Smithville - you're next."

I have been debating (if you can call an occasional thought in the direction of Corky's post "debating") whether or not to dignify MC's stupid post with a response. And if so, should I go all heartfelt with another love letter to Austin? Or should I get all New Jersey on his ass and rip him a new one?

I think I will, at the risk of coming across as mediocre, shoot for the middle path here, and offer a couple of thoughts before I get to the bigger point of this post, which is my invitation to you to be part of the greatness that is Austin, TX.

Regarding Corky’s shitty attitude about Austin, and his claim that New York and LA are the only cities that really count, I guess I want to know why the Corkster thinks that, to transcend mediocrity, we must produce award winning musicians and films here or else, you know, we just don’t count.

Really, Michael? REALLY? Are you not old enough, and have you not lived enough by now to understand that external validation does not greatness define? Do you not recall that John Kennedy Toole, damned as unpublishable, offed himself eleven years before A Confederacy of Dunces found its place in literary history (and yeah, okay, Toole did win a Pulitzer, but only after he was dead)? And meanwhile Suzanne Somers has been on top of the NY Times bestseller list? And knowing this, you still think the definition of not mediocre necessarily means mass public acclaim?

Henry, the early days.
I think maybe the problem here is multifold. Maybe Corky woke up one day, and realized he’s not going to get national fame, and so he decided to bitterly start swinging at the youth who populate this city, and do all sorts of creative things that, gasp, do not emulate SRV. So what? SO WHAT, CORKY? The point is, that here in Austin, there is something going on that, yes, is totally different than New York and LA. Something that doesn’t involve cutthroat competition and backstabbing and plastic surgery and constant namedropping. Something that is, to use a word that is overused and annoying, but in this case truly accurate-- authentic.

It’s true— I say this from experience— that making a fulltime living as a writer (which Corky was spoiled enough to have done back when he worked for the Statesman—uh, the Statesman? Can you say truly mediocre?) or a musician is damn near impossible here. But then, thanks to all the free content and pirating the Internet has fostered, it’s pretty impossible to do that anywhere anymore. So why take it out on Austin?

Now consider the other hand. Austin is a city where artists truly take care of each other. Did I once dream of a national audience? Of course I did. Am I losing my shit that I never found one and that I perform weddings to support my writing? Hell no. Because I've never stopped writing and here in Austin I have found a stunningly supportive audience for my work. This is what I love about this place—you can create a niche for yourself, you can work your art, you can explore and be creative and don’t have to paint yourself into some pre-conceived box of what “success” and “non-mediocrity” looks like as defined by New York and LA.

Now let's talk about mentoring. In twenty-one years here, I have had the opportunity to work with countless young writers, many of them exceptional. It is always a thrill to watch young talent find footing, to first stick toes in the water, and then to leap in and swim unaided. Do I give a shit if any of them go on to win awards and international fame? I do not. I'm just happy to have been part of their process of passion. Regarding music, which is Corky’s terrain, and which is a big focus of his Bitch About Austin for Attention piece he wrote, I have a personal story to share, one that nicely illustrates how awesome this city is.

Henry, waiting for his record release, tears his hair out trying to understand what Corky's problem is.
I didn’t raise my son to be a musician, didn’t insist this be his destiny. I did move him here when he was ten months old. And I started taking him to shows pretty much immediately—at the Cactus Café, Liberty Lunch, Chances, Jovita’s, the list goes on. I have pictures of him onstage, age three, with Don Walser, Henry stroking his stringless toy guitar. He took to the music and the music was so plentiful, and certainly not the crap that Corky claims it to be.

At twelve, Henry got his first real guitars—I got him an acoustic and his dad got him an electric. A friend got him lessons. None of us pushed him, but all of us were delighted to see the passion he found in playing. How many times did I have to listen to him play Hendrix licks over and over? Don’t ask. But at a certain point, a couple of years into it, he started experimenting more and developed his own style. He also took on drums, keyboards, and even the theremin. We kept going to shows. SXSW. ACL fest. Sparsely attended shows at tiny venues and massively crowded shows at bigger places. From these he built an internal library of sounds and experiences, and he experimented more.

He was hardly alone. Even before all the schools for kid rockers started popping up, there was a growing contingent of young kids playing amazing stuff. I started a series of Teen Rock Concerts, held at places like Stubbs and Emo’s. My goal was not to falsely encourage my son, to instill in him a sense that he was a rock god in the making. In part, I wanted him and his peers to understand the performing side of musical passion. They had a very hands on approach—they had to do the marketing, and see how the money was divided up at the end (doorman, sound guy, venue rental), and how little was leftover for them. They didn’t care about that much—the point was, they were playing, and they were passionate, and they were learning at a very young age something it seems like Corky still hasn’t learned: an opportunity to do what you love is a priceless thing. (Reminds me of that Billy Bragg lyric about how sometimes it takes a grown man a long time to learn just what it would take a child a night to learn.)

There is such greatness in pursuing passion. Wait, do I sound too corny and too sappily heartfelt when I say that? Well sue me, but I speak the truth. I’ve barely eked by, financially speaking, as a writer/performer here, but the support I’ve gotten for my work—for the PRIVILEGE of being a writer—is far beyond the pale.

Back to Henry. Over the years, he found informal mentors in James McMurtry (Hen grew up with James’s son Curtis, another amazing musician) and Jon Dee Graham. And then one night at a party, he met Kyle Ellison, brother of Sims and former member of the Butthole Surfers and the Meat Puppets. Kyle and Henry got to talking, and Kyle took Hen under his wing, and worked with him for years to produce a record that soon will drop and which recently debuted on The Thing in San Antonio.

I’ve watched my son, and have been amazed and proud of his progress. But neither of us has ever wasted any energy thinking about “the day he’s famous” or “the day he gets nominated for the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame” (one of Corky’s criteria for non-mediocrity). The point is, he found what he loves, and he found it here, in Austin, Texas, and he was able to grow it and is able to live it thanks to all the members of the old guard who took the time, simply because they could, to foster his passion.

I ask you—is that fucking mediocrity?

One more thing about Corky, before we move on to the bigger point here. You know, if I were a better person, I’d invite Corky out to spend a weekend with me exploring this town. I’d show him My Austin, and introduce him to my friends, and take him to my favorite little haunts and then, at the end of it, I’d dare him to continue calling our town mediocre. But really, I don’t have that kind of patience and I’d sooner buy him a bus ticket to LA or NY and let him see for himself how much he misses this place.

McCallum's Chamber Guitar Ensemble
That said, I now want to tell you how you can help continue to foster the greatness of Austin, and to help some great kids do even greater things. Over at McCallum High, there is a Chamber Guitar Ensemble, made up of students passionate about what they do—and who, okay, okay, happened to be five-time winners of the UT Brownsville National Guitar Ensemble Competition. This year, they’re hoping to attend the annual Guitar Foundation of America International Convention and Competition in Charleston, South Carolina. And yes, it takes money to do this.

As part of their fundraising efforts, they are holding a benefit concert on Friday, May 18th, at the McCallum Arts Center. The show will feature the ensemble, as well as Mother Falcon. If you’ve not had the pleasure of seeing Mother Falcon, let me tell you you are missing out. I know several of the members of the band, and have known them since they were little. I’ve seen them play a massive show at the Power Plant. And last December, I was strolling down Congress the night of one of our countless non-mediocre free music events, when I came upon MF playing in front of the Frost Building. Then up marched the Minor Mishap band and the two groups joined forces to do a rollicking, tuba and strings enhanced version of Burning Ring of Fire. Mediocre? Hardly.

Mother Falcom at Seaholm Power Plant with McCallum Strings
I feel really sad for Corky, that he seems to not understand the magic and the gift of living in Austin. Maybe he just needs a nap or something. Meanwhile, for the rest of you who do get it, please attend the concert. And if you can’t attend the concert, you can still make a donation—every single dollar helps so even if you only have a buck or two or five or ten, I’m asking you to kick in to make this happen. Besides sending the kids to SC for the conference, you’ll be doing something much bigger—demonstrating, once again, that Austin, TX totally rocks it when it comes to supporting and fostering the arts.

Corky—I’ll see YOU after school on the playground.

Tickets for the benefit concert will be $20 at and at the door. If you can’t go but want to donate, please contact Andrew Clark

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Today's Sermon: Zen and the Art of Funny Blessings

Today, some of you are celebrating Easter. Happy Easter. And to those of you celebrating Passover, Happy Passover. And to the rest of you, Happy Sunday. I was raised Catholic, have aspired to (cultural) Jewishness for as long as I can remember, try to meditate every day while contemplating Buddhism. But mostly, like a lot of us, I don’t lay a hard and fast claim to any particular anything. Like Iris Dement sings, I prefer to let the mystery be. Still, I was thrilled to receive an invitation from Shannon Sedwick, co-founder of Esther’s Follies, inviting me to give a sermon today. I used to work for Esther’s, waaaay back in the early ‘90s, and later I managed the Velveeta Room, Esther’s comedy club. Every Easter the Esther’s folks get together for a non-traditional celebration. What an honor to be asked to stand up before my old friends and share some thoughts. Thanks, Shannon. Herewith, Spike’s Sunday Sermon: Zen and the Art of Funny Blessings.

On the flight home from a Tel Aviv vacation a couple of years ago, I found myself sitting beside a rabbi. On international flights I try to save any real conversation for the last hour to avoid triggering some gusher from telling me his life story for thirteen hours.

“Shalom,” I said tentatively.

“Shalom aleichem” he answerd, equally tentatively.

Good start. We exchanged a few words here and there— his curiosity piqued by my special order vegetarian meal, mine by his Kosher selection. Mostly we slept, me contorting my torso into the empty seat between us, waking at one point with a start, worried my head had touched his leg, fearing this might be a sin in his world. About an hour before we reached Atlanta, he woke up, extracted a mini-shofar from his carry-on bag, and without warning, stood in the aisle and blew it loudly and continuously. No one made a move to tackle and arrest him or even to quiet him. In fact his honking was met with a smattering of applause.

A few minutes before landing, I had a faint memory of a Hebrew expression I’d once heard. As we were in the conversation safety zone, I decided to engage him, eager to demonstrate I, clearly a shiksa, knew a thing or two about The Tribe.

“There’s a saying about everything being a blessing, isn’t there?” I asked.

Gam zu lebracha,” he replied in a thick accent. “It means, This too is for a blessing.”

Shortly after, we parted ways but the phrase stayed with me, a fork in philosophy’s road. I wanted both to argue with the sentiment and work it like a Rubik’s Cube, to turn it around and see if I could really apply the notion to some trickier challenges I’ve faced in my life. To my surprise, the older I get, the easier, and more enjoyable this task becomes. Which is not to say it’s always easy, but I give it my best shot.

For example, I grew up poor. This was no fun at the time and filled me, often, with want and envy when I considered what other kids had, and what I did not. But growing up poor laid a groundwork for me, forced me to learn about resourcefulness and making do, so that decades later, out on my own, trying to make it as an artist, living on the edge wasn’t suddenly new and scary territory. It was familiar and manageable. Knowing how to live on the edge afforded me a certain freedom. And it came with a side benefit, too—a deep, deep appreciation for Ramen noodles that I might not have otherwise acquired.

I could give a long list of unexpected blessings in my life, blessings-in-hindsight is more accurate, since most didn’t seem so swell at the time they occurred. I could keep you here all day and then some with this list. But then you’d become bored, and irritated, and maybe have a hard time figuring out the blessing of listening to someone spend 85 hours listing blessings.

So I’m just going to name a few, most of which happened only very recently. That’s no coincidence, it’s not like these blessings just popped up to help me come up with something to say here today. It’s that there really are blessings every day, everywhere.

A week ago Friday, for example, I was driving back from a wedding rehearsal in the Hill Country. I had four weddings scheduled for the next day, all back-to-back, with no wiggle room for delays. Friday, just as I got into town, I heard a thud-thud-thud-thud coming from my car. That seemed odd. I have a brand new car, what could be wrong?

I pulled over, got out and had a look. A flat tire. My first instinct was to give in to dismay or at least to feel annoyed. But then I thought to myself, “Let’s just knock this out.” In other words, I fast moved from thinking of Despair to thinking of The Spare—tire that is.

Funnily enough, just prior to discovering the flat, I’d spoken by phone to my partner, who asked me to meet him at a carnival on Highway 71 on the way home. I called to tell him I would be late. He said he’d come help, and asked where I was. I looked up to find a landmark and, what do you know, I was RIGHT NEXT TO THE CARNIVAL. Okay, so it wasn’t the same carnival we’d planned on, but still.

While I waited for Warren, I decided to do some prep work. I located the 365- page owner’s manual on my phone’s tiny web browser, noting that the manual did not have hyperlinks to take me to the Flat Tire chapter. So I thumbed down 187 pages to the part that told me where to find the well-hidden jack, which of course was beneath about fifteen tons of crap piled on the backseat floor. I failed to scroll down another hundred pages to learn that the spare tire was hidden in a different secret location, and so of course I transferred the fifteen tons of clothes, books, papers, swimsuits and flippers, towels, blankets, dog kibble, ketchup packets, costumes, bills, shoes and sundry other flotsam and jetsam directly on top of that as-yet-undiscovered compartment.

As I toiled, I got to thinking about my first car, a 1964 Plymouth Valiant, which, as I recall, had a flat tire just about every day. At the time— back in 1982—daily flat tires did not amuse me. But now, I realized, the experience was paying off. I felt no panic at breaking down, just inconvenience. A flat tire, I thought? I can fix that. Well, once I find the damn spare tire I can fix that. And then this good thought gave way to another—I was actually lucky, LUCKY, that I got this flat tire on Friday night, instead of Saturday, because that would’ve meant I’d be late for weddings. So this flat tire, it turns out, was a blessing.

Warren arrived and even though my inner feminist was itching to push him aside and show off my skills, I “let” him take over to change the tire. Here we encountered a problem—one of the lug nuts was all smooth, not removable with the little jack that came with the car. “Anti-theft device,” Warren explained. Because, yes, you know there’s a big demand on the black market for tires stolen from Nissan Cubes.

I searched the car high and low for a special tool to help us, moving Fifteen Ton Crap Mountain back and forth, pulling and pushing and tapping and tugging on various spots in the floor, as if searching for the secret staircase in a creepy mansion, hidden behind a dusty bookshelf. No luck. So I whipped out my smart phone again, posted a note on Facebook asking for ideas, and then tried to reach the dealer. Miraculously, there was still someone answering phones at the dealership. Between the call and the post, I learned where that stupid little tool was hidden—in the glovebox. So there, more blessings: Facebook, which at times can be wildly annoying, was now incredibly helpful. And, too, I was reminded how much I love old terminology, like glovebox.

Tire changed, we went off to the carnival, where I reminisced about the summers of my youth, spent in Wildwood, NJ, Land of the Carnie. I felt some non-ironic affection watching the rickety rides spin around, remembering days down the shore, making out with carnies. This too, was a blessing then: Look, Ma, I didn’t marry a carnie!

Then on Sunday, as I was heading into my fifth wedding of the weekend, I felt a bad tickle in my throat. By Monday, I was in pretty serious pain. Coincidentally, on Tuesday I had my annual checkup scheduled. And while my ob/gyn is better versed at the opposite end of me, he agreed to take a look at my throat. “Tonsillitis,” he said, and sent me to my GP.

By this point, my head was on fire, the world smeared with Vaseline. I was feeling furious that I’m one of the Americans who doesn’t qualify for insurance. I was enraged that the little bit of money I’d saved up recently would now have to be poured into medical expenses. Mostly though, I see now, I was scared and I was hurting.

In between doc appointments, I went to have blood drawn for some tests. Sitting in the chair, I flashed back to 1997, when it was discovered that I had a massive tumor inside of me, a tumor that was, it turned out, malignant. Back then, I had to have blood drawn constantly, and the phlebotomist seemed to miss often enough, and my arms looked like a junky’s, and I was scared all the time. But I still remember my doctor meeting with my son, who was six at the time, and looking at him and saying, “Your mom is going to be okay.”

That was one of the greatest kindnesses anyone ever did for me. To this day, sitting in a chair to have my blood drawn makes me very weepy at the thought of it. To my surprise and relief, the phlebotomist this time, a student from ACC, hit the vein on the first try. I thanked her a thousand times and I went back in time, in my mind, and thanked that other doctor, too, for being so gentle with my son.

At my next appointment, the nurse practitioner looked at my throat and recoiled. “Wow,” she said. “Wow.” You know it’s not good when they say Wow, and it’s worse when you get a double wow. Then, proof I didn’t need that what I had was really bad, she said, “Mind if I bring in one of our med students? She could really learn from this!”

I acquiesced, offering up my wildly swollen neck to be felt by yet another person. Then the NP said, “These antibiotics will probably help. If not, we’ll send you to an ENT and he can use a big needle to drain you. It’s so green and full of pus!” Then, after she got that cartoon image stuck in my mind of an Eiffel Tower sized needle, she said, “But don’t think about that.”

Don’t think about it. That’s like the dentist telling you not to run your tongue over the hole of recently extracted tooth.

I spent the next several days flat on my back, in a haze of fever and agony, waiting for the meds to kick in. You might think that a week of eating only Vicodin and ice cream sounds decadent. I assure you, that’s not always the case.

And yet this, too, a blessing. Because the longer I lay in bed, fading in and out of sleep, the longer life went on without me. Unanswered emails did not result in the collapse of the universe. Cancelled meetings did not serve as catalyst for world devastation. Pretty much everything hummed on without me, like I didn’t matter.

Rather than letting my feelings be hurt that the world demonstrated an ability to carry on without my assistance, I found a freedom sort of like the freedom growing up poor had given me. It was good to know that I could disappear. There was value in being reminded that downtime can be arranged, and that next time, maybe instead of waiting for a raging case of tonsillitis, I can just arrange a couple of weeks of doing nothing just for the hell of it.

By Thursday afternoon, I started to feel slightly less worse. I stopped being angry about no insurance, and started feeling grateful that I was able to get medical attention so quickly. I went out into my garden to spread a little mulch, dig my hands into the rich moistness of the stuff, and to inhale the deep, dirty scent of it. Easter time always makes me think of the garden, of new Spring life, and especially of my mother’s love of this time of the year, and how she says, “To new beginnings.”

Sometimes I think that sounds like it’s from the department of redundancy department—aren’t ALL beginnings new? And for some reason, this leads my mind to think of that famous definition of insanity—how when we do the same thing over and over again expecting different results, this is proof that we are crazy. If we try, try again, are we just demonstrating that we’re nuts?

Maybe not. I want to counter that definition of insanity here today, and leave you with a closing thought. For nearly twenty years now, I have walked miles just about every day with rare exception. For a dozen or so years, I took the same walk around Town Lake. Now, I walk around my neighborhood further north. Some people think this must be boring, to go the exact same route over and over again, a circle seemingly to nowhere. I couldn’t disagree more.

Because each day, though technically it is the same walk, everything changes. I see new details from day to day. I see new people. One day I observe a bunch of construction workers having lunch. The next I see two little brothers, one crying, the other kneeling down to console him. Once I saw a woman in a Mercedes pull over and get out of her car so she could gingerly lift the freshly dead corpse of a squirrel over to the side of the road so it would not be further violated.

And, of course, I see the weather and I see the seasons. Yes, of course there is repetition in this—the bare branches in winter, the predictable burst of green each spring. But predictable does not mean boring just as surely as repetition does not guarantee insanity. And with every start of the cycle, with every bud that bursts forth, and every rhythm that repeats, my heart swells. Because all of it—every bit of green, every drop of rain, every flat tire, every sore throat that reminds us of how good it feels not to have a sore throat—well these, too, are blessings. Gam zu lebracha,

Monday, April 2, 2012

Move Over Snooki and Make Room for Spike

Warren got it in his head last week that we should go to the carnival out on HWY 71. I agreed, even though nearly everything about carnivals -- the food, the rides, the fashion crimes-- makes me want to hurl just thinking about it. But there is one thing I love about carnivals-- CARNIES!

It's true. I say it without irony. My formative summers were spent at the Jersey Shore, years before Snooki was even a cruel glimmer in anyone's eyes. Long after escaping that place, I went on to write a piece, Drunken Teenage Carnie Lust, which ran in the Chronicle about 700 years ago, and which I sometimes trot out for the Dick Monologues.

Now, as I attempt to create of myself a YouTube Monster, I took the piece and put it together with images and video I shot while out with Warren last week. And did you know there are TWO carnivals in town? We did the smaller one on Friday night and the bigger one on Saturday night. And it turns out I was even able to hold down a funnel cake and sort of appreciated some of the clothing choices I spotted. I highly recommend you give the carnival a (Tilt-a-) Whirl yourself (unless they've packed up and headed on out... quite possible. You know how carnies can be. Love 'em and leave 'em.)

Herewith, my latest vid project: