Thursday, May 24, 2012

Loving the Schmaltz!

Great day yesterday-- a couple in Bastrop wanted to do a quick, private wedding, so Warren and I used it as an excuse for one of our beloved day trips. I suggested we swing by DOMY Books on the way out of town, because I knew they just (FINALLY) got in copies of Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, a book I've been trying to get my hands on since last December. I know they've been trying to get it, too-- but damn, the book has sold out like crazy every time they print a new edition.

Russell had a stack of the books on the counter and we got to chatting as we always do-- Russell is a book genius and man-in-the-know regarding photos and art. This time, though, the topic turned to food. Russell called our attention to, SCHMALTZ, the new trailer deli out behind the store. Russell's friend Julia runs it. Even though Warren and I had just had lunch, Russell's description proved irresistible, so we agreed to split a sandwich.

We introduced ourselves to Julia, perused the chalkboard menu and ordered a veggie reuben. Then I noted, with great happiness, that she was playing Big Star on her boombox. When Thirteen came on, I said, "Oh this is such a great song... now watch me ruin it by talking over it." At that point, I really meant to be quiet and listen because honestly, you can't listen to it often enough. But Julia got all excited and said that, being a Tennessee girl born and raised, she had a super special place in her heart for the band. And then I said, "Tennessee? Where in Tennessee?" because I love Tennessee. And Julia said, "Knoxville," and so we did, in fact, wind up talking over Thirteen and all the rest of the songs because I HEART KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE!!

I quizzed Julia about who and what remained alive and standing in that town where I spent my early twenties, having my own sort of Just Kids experience. She told me Harold had died (I knew he must've, else he'd be around 200 years old), but that Harold's Deli had been taken over, re-named Harry's, and now features Jewish and Italian food. (Oh god, I loved Harold's egg sandwiches on bagels, especially when very hungover.) Pete's was still there (I ate an egg sandwich at Pete's every day for the first few months of my pregnancy). Despite our vast age difference, Julia and I discovered a fairly large overlap in our Venn Diagram.

When she said her parents used to take her to Ella Guru's, I about spit out my teeth and nearly broke my hands clapping with excitement. Ella Guru's! This legendary basement music club, named after a Captain Beefheart song, was open for about five seconds in the late eighties in Knoxville. I was a waitress there, and it is most certainly-- in a lifetime packed with music experiences-- the place where I learned the most about music, met and waited on some true legends like Sun Ra and Richard Thompson and Lyle Lovett and Livingston Taylor and John Hartman and had the stunningly great luck to have the director of this education be Ashley Capps, who managed the club and went on to create Bonnaroo.

I'll never forget Ashley taking me in his office-- this was probably '88 or '89-- and saying, "Listen to this," and playing Tower of Song for me, my very first time to hear Leonard Cohen.

Okay okay, hold on, let's get back to SCHMALTZ here. So despite the fact I talked her head off, Julia managed to get the sandwich made and OMG!! The veggie pastrami! The marbled rye! And oh, the chipotle kraut-- what a nice bite that added. Plus, bonus points for naming a veggie joint SCHMALTZ. Hilarious.

Congratulations on your new deli, Julia! We loved, loved, loved our sandwich and we will be back. I promise I'll try my best not to start singing Rocky Top every time we meet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Another Wild Weekend/ Not Begging

I got hennaed at an India wedding.
It was another wild weekend of vow exchanges, beginning with a rehearsal Thursday evening and stretching through four weddings, a commitment ceremony plus a couple of more rehearsals tossed in. I stayed busy til Sunday night, put about 400 miles on the car, met people from around the world, and got more than a couple of reminders of just how beautiful the Texas countryside is.

In the midst of all that, I squeezed in time to attend the Forklift Danceworks disco fundraiser, where I got a big snuggy wuggy huggy from my heroine, Miss Rebecca Havemeyer. I also got to witness my new all time favorite pickup line-- a woman with a camera approached Warren on the dance floor and, noting his tiny shorts, said, "Can I get a detail shot of your zipper?" He agreed and she instantly dropped to the floor to shoot, all of this to a pulsating disco beat. The only thing missing was poppers.

At some point, I got an email from an old friend that took me off-guard. I'm not going to go into the details of the exchange (at her request) but the gist of it goes like this: I'd posted a picture of my just-pedicured toes. The question my friend put to me regarded how I present myself to the public. I'd just posted a note asking for contributions to support this blog. So, she wondered, was it a good idea for me to post images of (what I think she perceived of as) frivolous expenses?

This brought up a lot of things for me and, yes, it pushed some buttons. They don't call me Spike "Take the Bait" Gillespie for nothing. I'll just touch briefly on two of the many points I made in my reply. First-- yes, I get pedicures and yes I could live without them. But it's also true that my work as an officiant often finds me out under some tree in the triple digit heat, and wearing tights in the very long Austin summer just doesn't cut it. So I invest in nice foot grooming as part of my uniform.

Much more importantly though-- it seemed to me that maybe she thought I'd get grief for asking for money and then "blowing it" on trivial things and then flaunting this on my Facebook page.

Let me try to clear this up one more time. When I put up my tip jar, I do not put it up because I am in imminent danger of my electricity being cut off. Yes, there were times like that in the old days, when I was first struggling to find my way as a professional writer. But hard work, good fortune, and some nice timing did help me to reach a nice place, where I was able to find my place in that world. Then the Internet came along, and paid writing gigs fell out of fashion as more and more people who fancied themselves writers began offering to write for free in exchange for exposure.

So I found another line of work-- wedding officiating-- which I love very much. But I do continue to write, and most of that writing appears here. And I strive for a balance that includes a good mix of pictures of Rebound, theatre reviews, restaurant reviews, and-- as I deem necessary-- Irish Buddhism in the form of enlightening assholes by (metaphorically) punching them in the face.

As I've said before and am saying again, I do not put out my tip jar with any expectations. I do not lay upon you a guilt trip. I just say, Hey-- tip jar is here, and if you want to kick in to help defray expenses and support my writing, that would be lovely. The suggested donation of $12 per year breaks down to about 25c per week. In exchange, you get my insights (oh boy!), you get a chance to make fun of me when I lose my shit and start ranting about mommy bloggers, you get a chance to find out what's going on, and, of course, you get pictures of Rebound.

There. I hope that's all cleared up now. If you want to kick in, you can click here to access my evil PayPal account. If you don't want to kick in, a pox on your house. JUST KIDDING.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vote for Your Favorite Disco Haiku!

Yesterday on Facebook I held a contest. Whoever submits the best Disco Haiku wins a pair of tix to the Forklift Danceworks Studio54klift Disco Fundraiser on Saturday, May 19th. The tix are valued at $75 a pop, not too shoddy a prize, eh? Plus you get to spend the evening with Miss Rebecca Havemeyer!

Now I need help picking the winner. Below are the entries. They're numbered. Please leave a comment here or over on my Facebook Page. Whoever gets the most votes by noon today is our big winner.

Fog machine at rest 
Goldfish dead inside platforms
Time for some punk rock


Sequined bodies move
rollerskating satin on
lighted dancefloor tiles


I'm your boogie man
Caposhi polyester 
Be prepared to sweat


Don't leave me this way
I love to love you baby
We are family


mirror glitter ball
studio 54 spin
last dance disco queen


In the '70s
She was constantly playing
On the radio


Grew up on disco
Solid Gold was my guidepost
Toot toot, yeah, beep beep


What is a haiku
bleeps n beats n disco balls
love to love you ba


the glamour transcends
Factory to Fifty-Four
Andy smiles: dance, fools!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interview with Super Awesome Author Pam Houston

Spike Note: Usually I run author interviews over at my Write With Spike blog, but since this blog gets more traffic, I'm running this piece here. Please be sure to check out Pam Houston's reading with Stacy Bierlein at BookPeople on May 26th at 7 pm.

Today I am pant-peeingly excited to present an interview with the Super Awesome Pam Houston. I've been reading Pam's books since 1996, and if she put out a book a week, I'd find time to read them all. She is so real and so funny and so arrive-at-wisdom sideways, and all of these things she presents in an inimitable way that makes you want to be her BFF.

Somewhere, I want to throw in here, that so compelling is her work, that I was able to totally circumvent the old baby-with-the-bathwater behavior in which I frequently engage. You know how, when you date an asshole, and when you finally get out of it, sometimes there are just places you can no longer go or songs you can no longer listen to? Okay, good. So Pam was first brought to my attention by someone who, let's just say, prompted me to toss a lot of babies out with every last drop of bathwater when I escaped. And yet, despite an association that lingers between that other and Pam's work, there was no way I was going to relegate her to the let's-put-all-that-behind-us-now pile. Oh no.

I wolfed down Pam's new book, Contents May Have Shifted, just as I wolfed down her collection Cowboys Are My Weakness and her novel Sight Hound. Everything else got set aside. This time around, I sent her a note of thanks, about sixteen years later than I meant to. I was delighted to hear back, and more delighted that Pam was up for a little Q&A. I really hope y'all will go to her reading at BookPeople on May 26th at 7 pm. And I really hope you'll help me spread the word. This reading is a major score for Austin. See you there.

SG:  I just whipped through yet another one of your books—the new one, Contents May Have Shifted-- because I couldn't make myself slow down. Midway, I knew I needed to buy a copy for a friend. I called BookPeople to have them put a copy on hold, and they informed me it was in the fiction section and I turned into one of those annoying, know-it-all middle aged ladies and "corrected" the young clerk, telling her they had misfiled the book, that it was non-fiction. Then when I got it, I saw FICTION on the back (something I hadn't noticed when I downloaded the audio copy, which is how I "read" it). I was confused, then thought of Exley's A Fan's Notes, and then saw in an interview with you a reference to O'Brien's The Things They Carried. So with that idiot James Frey's "non-fiction" book that turned out to be fiction, and with Mike Daisey's bullshit with Ira Glass, and the whole Three Cups of Tea crap...well those are instances where fiction is portrayed as truth and that is frowned upon. But you (and O'Brien and Exley) seem like you are presenting that which seems an awful lot like non-fiction as fiction. Is this mostly to cover your ass legally? Why not just call it creative non-fiction? 

PH: Well, there are so many reasons not to call it creative non fiction, the first being that I make it a policy not to believe in anything that is defined by its negative and also because I go to an accountant called “Creative Accounting” and everybody on earth knows what that means. Also, when you add up the failure of memory, the failure of language to really mean, our individual failures to speak the truth even when we are really trying, I just can’t see holding a gun to people like Jim Frey’s head and saying “you lied to the American people,” when so many other people lie a lot more and with far more devastating results. Presidents, for instance.

Jim Frey is not an idiot. He was a guy with a novel to sell, and he tried really hard to sell it as a novel and then an editor came along and said, no wait, that is creative non fiction (whatever that is) and he, like most of us would, said, okay, whatever you say if is going to get me published. I was Jim Frey’s first writing teacher in college, and I read that book years after that when it was a novel and all I said about it is what I say to every other person who hands me a manuscript which is, “it will be better if you cut 20,000 words out of it.” 

Anyhow, I want no such gun to my head. If you will pardon the high falutin-ness of it, I am about taking things that I have witnessed in my life and turning it into art. I don’t mean Great Art. I just mean art. I want each piece of work to have a shape, and a kind of structural integrity that an art object has. It is far far less important to me whether or not anyone thinks it is me, or 82 percent me, or the me I wish I were if I were braver. The writer is dead, they said to us, when we were in grad school, and I believed them.

Having said that, I called myself Pam in this book, really because it felt almost equally false to call myself Melinda, or some such name like that. This is what I do. I take my loose autobiography and shape it into story, which sometimes involves changing the facts. That has been true about every book I have written no matter where in the bookstore it is shelved. What is strange to me is that that is not okay with people. The poets do it all the time.
If you want to hear more thoughts on this you can check out my essay Corn Maze, which is included in Jill Talbot’s recent book called Metawritings, as well as pretty easily found on line at various locales.

Photo Credit: Adam Karsten
SG: Back in the olden days when I would occasionally teach, I didn't feel entirely enthusiastic about it, probably had some of that "those who can't, teach..." voice in my subconscious. But in the past couple of years, I've been leading writing workshops that not only have been really fun and productive, but that have inspired me to approach my own writing in a different way (for the better). How does teaching help/hinder your own process from inspiration to discipline to time management? 

PH: Well, I love to teach, and one reason I love to teach is that it makes me feel good about myself as a contributer to society in a way that writing never will. I understand of course, when I think about, say, Toni Morrison’s books, that she is contributing massively to society. But it is probably just as well that I don’t feel that way about my own books. Writing them still seems like a strange obsessive way to spend a life.

Teaching, on the other hand, making a space for someone else’s creativity, feels like I am contributing in a real way. Doing a good thing. If I taught less I would write more, there is no question, but I don’t know how much more because I have never really been an every day kind of a writer. Something about squeezing the writing in in the spaces between the teaching might be good for the writing, for all I know.

SG: This one has nothing to do with writing. When I read your books, I have a lot of moments of, "OMG! We are SO MUCH ALIKE!" But then I get to the parts where you spend a lot of time in sub-freezing conditions and, oddly (to me) seem to enjoy that. I die whenever the temperature drops below 75. What's up with this seeming addiction to the cold? 

PH: I like big weather of all kinds. I am a giant fan of extremes. Cold, heat, tornados, blizzards, hurricanes…you name it, big weather gets me fired up. In general, I like when the degree of difficulty goes up a notch. Those are happy times for me.

 SG: I have to always ask in these interviews about how the Internet has affected your writing-- and I'm interested in any angle you care to take-- e-publishing, marketing, the "need" for social media, the distraction of email, possibly decreased income? 

PH: I have so little to say on this subject I ought to skip it. I learned how to do facebook and twitter for the sake of this book and has not been as painful as I expected it to be and 2. I do think it has encouraged attendance at the readings.

I like Twitter better than Facebook, 1. Because it is a form and I love forms, and 2. Because it is all about compression

SG: Getting back to my workshops. I tell students I can't "teach them to write," I can just try to impart some of what I know, and hopefully inspire them to get their asses in the chair. Do you feel like you teach your students how to write? 

PH: I feel like I hold a safe space for students to take emotional, psychological, structural and artistic risks. I also feel like I can usually identify what is working and what is not in their stories. I also feel like I can provide writing exercises and put books in front of them that might make a spark. Everything else, they do themselves.

SG: Steve Almond had an excellent article recently in NYT about how, increasingly, people are turning to MFA programs and writing workshops in lieu of therapy. He teaches workshops and seems down with the idea. In my workshops we often joke about how it's more like Group than Workshop. Your thoughts? 

PH: I mean to read that article, but I have not gotten to it yet. Most of the time, I agree with everything Steve Almond says 99 1/2 percent and that is hardly true of any other writer (except maybe Ron Carlson). There is no question that writing allows for the expression of those ulcer and cancer causing feelings that have sometimes gone unexpressed for decades and that as a result those things get talked about in workshop. To pretend otherwise is simply not to tell the truth about what happens in those rooms. But looking back on my own experience, I might be in serious trouble if I had only had workshop and hadn’t had real therapy. I am not quite ready to throw my wonderful therapist under the bus just yet.

SG: What's next? I think I read in an interview that you take chunks of time off from writing and also that you like to do a big blurt during a plane's descent (which, given how much you fly, seems like it would be a lot of writing). Are you resting between projects now or can we (oh please say yes) look forward to another book soon?

PH: I have not started anything big yet, unless you count a long short story as big, and that is something I am working on. It is set in Mongolia, where I spent September last year. I don’t even have a rough idea what the next book will be, but now that the tour is nearly over, I will have some time to start thinking about it. I also intend to rearrange my life somewhat so that I will be teaching a little less once I get rolling. I would like the next one not to take six years too.

SG: Take a guess-- on average, how many miles a year do you fly? 

PH: I don’t have to guess. On United, just over 100,000 miles. Yes, I am the person who jets off to Sydney (or wherever is far and cheap) in December to knock myself over the top. On all other airlines combined, probably another 25, 000 all tolled.

SG: In Contents May Have Shifted, I loved the way it jumped around and circled back and touched on so many characters and locations and quotes. Does it just pour out of you like that or do you spend a massive amount of time with all this interweaving? 

PH: Contents is very carefully arranged to seem like it was not very carefully arranged. There is obviously a loose and imperfect chronology, as you can see, but beyond that it is meant to seem “random.”  I had about a million rules about the placement of the pieces as I went along, rules that I made, and broke and replaced with other rules. Probably every single piece was in 30 different positions at one time or another. Another thing I learned in grad school, (other than that the author is dead) was that meaning gets made two ways, metaphorically (by substitution) and metonymically (by proximity). This book is my adventure in metonym.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Woo-Hoo! It's Spike's Second Annual Fund Drive!

Hello Y'all,
Well last week, KUT raised a million bucks so they could ditch that nasty Studio 1A and move to their new digs. Unbelievably, they failed to consult me about the timing of this fund drive (their second in less than three months!) and so I had to reschedule my own previously planned fund drive. It's okay, KUT, I forgive you.

So while I know most of you are probably tapped out from giving them your last red cent, what the hell, I'm going to go ahead and hit you up now for some dough. Some of the six of you might recall that last year when I put out the virtual tip jar, and asked very nicely for you to kick in $12 as a sort of annual subscription, some woman claiming to be an artist (apparently she had once published a six-page pamphlet) told me I was, in my request, debasing her and all other artists.

I remain grateful to this day for that note. Here's why: before I received her note, I had pledges that totaled a modest (but very much appreciated) sum. When her note came in, and when I published it, ripping her a new asshole, the response was overwhelming, and the donations came pouring in. This taught me a few things, but above all that you guys really, really like me when I am at my snarly best! Way to reinforce my Jersey style folks. I really fucking appreciate it.

This year, following the KUT model, I think I will post daily for the whole week, or maybe hourly or every five minutes, telling you all about how your contributions are going to make my life that much better, and how if you don't contribute, well... don't make me go there. Hopefully over the course of this fund drive, someone will tell me what a piece of shit I am, at which point I will again demonstrate my prowess with ripostes, and thus we will repeat the cycle started last year.

So you know-- I am asking for your donations simply to support my blogging whimsy. Here you will find food reviews, theatre reviews, countless pictures of Rebound, garden updates, love letters to Austin, super bitchy epistles to jerk-offs that get on my nerves.  and the occasional moment of Zen. Of course you can also be my friend on FaceBook for even more updates and photo silliness.

As with last year I will publicly thank you for your donations. If you would like to use the evil, evil PayPal to kick in, here's a link to my PayPal account.  If you would prefer to stuff cash into an envelope and mail it, you can send that to: PO Box 4843, Austin, TX 78765.

I'm still thinking up premiums but here are some ideas I have:

Bearing in mind that I am asking no more than $12 from you (a mere $1 per month!) for those of you with overzealous wallets, I am offering these amazing gifts:

$75 Level: An autographed photo of Rebound!
$150 Level: I will knit you a hat!
$200 Level: I will knit you a scarf!
$10,000 Level: I will knit you whatever the fuck you want!

Oh, and I think I have some slightly used copies of Pissed Off sitting around here somewhere, so if you want a lightly stained copy of my book about rage, let's say we'll toss those out to the first three or four $50 donors.

I am also open to suggestions for other prizes you might like to earn.

Last year, your donations went directly toward helping me build up my wedding business, which is doing great. Thank you so much! This year, I will use the proceeds to help cover my ass while I take a little time off to go revise my book at a lovely ranch a few hours from here.

Stay tuned for more beggy updates, soon.

Thank you, people. I love you. Well, except that bitch who wrote last year but I guess I sort of love her a little bit, too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hello from Grumpyland

I'm Buddha, and I do not approve of this post.
No wonder so many people in Portland are so humorless. Look, I know this rain is good for us, and much needed, and with it the garden grows and blah blah blah fucking blah. But being extremely light sensitive, I confess I am ready for a break from the pissing sky.

Rain reminds me, unfortunately, of a day in -- was it 1998? -- when I sat watching it pour outside the window as I swapped melodramatic emails (replete with-- how ridiculous is this?-- Edna St. Vincent Millay poems) with the two-timing mofo I was allowing to torture me at the time. (On a brighter note, I was in the attic the other day, and came across a delightfully Oedipal photo my son had snapped of me and this same asshole, and the asshole's head was completely cut off in the shot, which is the reason I was able to keep that snap around. Oh my son-- he could always spot the problem long before me.)

Rain also seems to provide me with the extra time I am otherwise hard pressed to locate. This is because it robs me of my long walks and brings me so low that I am unable to lift ass from chair. Thus planted, what the hell, I go ahead and get the inboxes down damn near close to zero. The momentary elation gives way to more gloom, knowing that a) soon the boxes will refill and b) I still have time to kill.

This in turn feeds a guilty pleasure/pain in which I confess I sometimes indulge-- surfing around to sundry mommy blogs to remind myself that of all the genres and mediums out there in the world (Thomas Kinkade paintings, Rush Limbaugh rants, Faces of Death movies, Christian propaganda) there is not one other thing that so consistently chaps my ass as the "mommy bloggers." The title alone is so creepy that I often have to squeeze Rebound's belly immediately after viewing a mommy blog in order to elicit a forced stink bomb of a fart to cleanse my mental palate of whatever account I've just read about... well about the crap that mommy bloggers spew.

I have a theory. No, make it a prediction. I hold that perhaps beginning in the next decade, there will be a loosely formed band of young adults who dwell in basements and spend their entire lives describing their severe cases of PTMBSS (yes, you got it: Post Traumatic Mommy Blog Stress Syndrome). Just as their "mommies" have spent every minute of every day writing about all the time they are allegedly spending mothering, these no-longer-children will go back through the archives and refute, post-for-post, every claim their mommies ever made. I want to say this should make for good reading, but what I really think is that once the trend gains purchase, I damn well better be living somewhere it never rains, because I really don't want to get sucked into that shit.

Anyway, I know, I know, I'm sounding like one of those bitches who has an abortion then turns coat and says no one should have abortions. It is absolutely true I have written plenty about my son. But thankfully this whole put-up-a-post-every-fifteen-minutes shit wasn't de rigueur back then, and my Dallas Morning News column about being a mom only ran once a month. Who are these women recording every nanosecond of their families' lives and, more importantly, how can we stop them?

I told you the rain got me down, didn't I? I warned you. Seriously, this post was supposed to be a garden update. Well, actually, it was supposed to be the start of my Second Annual Send Me Some Money Tip Jar Drive, but damn you, KUT, for holding a SECOND fund drive in two months. My plan was to wait for their spring drive to wrap in March, give y'all a break in April (because I know the only two places worth donating to are me and KUT and downtime is a good idea), then hit you up for some change in May. But noooooo. KUT needs to move into a new $9 million dollar building and until you people pony up the dough, they are going to unleash John Aielli's tales of... well everything on you.

In conclusion, here are some pictures of my garden, which unlike me is really happy about this rain crap. Oh, and talk about a day late and dollar short-- or more accurately a year late-- also a plug for my friend Stephen Orr's wonderful gardening book which you should buy right after you put some cash in my tip jar (which I shall officially put up next week).

This is my friend Stephen's awesome book. You can buy it at BookPeople and you can read Stephen's blog here.
Major score-- I bartered with a wedding couple recently and yesterday the groom. Willy, came over and totally got the two beds I'd left in winter-garden mode into summer-garden shape. 
Willy turned me on to Malabar Spinach, which means I can still have green smoothies in summer and the chickens, which are actually little pigs in chicken costumes, will still have some leafy greens for the summer, too, now that they have eaten all the kale and chard. Pigs.
Willy taught me that if you put flowers in your veggie beds it can help with pollination. Thank you, Willy.
Won't be long now before the cocksucker squirrels decimate the tomatoes like they did last year.
Speaking of which, those little assholes, when they aren't busy destroying the bird feeder out front, have taken to eating all the peaches off my little peach tree. Shit heads.
When I "bought the house" (READ: got the world's shittiest mortgage that I will not be able to pay off in my lifetime) it came with a fig tree that died. Demonstrating that yes, I do know the definition of insanity, I planted a new fig tree. Stay tuned for Another Dead Fig Tree soon.
My basil starters. They say basil has anti-depressant qualities. As soon as I publish this post I am going to go bury my face in this planter.
English lavender, so I can pretend my house is Downton Abbey.
Meyers lemon, excellent bee attractant. Maybe I'll get to use my Epi-pen this year!
Jade plant. I got this at Phoenicia in Houston. That's not a very funny caption, is it?
View out my window from my desk/table. Beyond the bird bath is a red Japanese maple like I had growing up. Hanging in the tree is the $2.99 made-in-China bird feeder I got at Walgreens that the Elvis squirrels hang off of and chew to bits. Jerk offs. I like the gnome/Eiffel Tower juxtaposition because it makes me think of how my French friends make fun of the English and vice versa. Human beings! Tres droll!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Shooting the Moon

If you don't count the fact that I arrived home last night at midnight to discover the dogs had captured and killed (and this time chewed up) another baby possum, and left it out for me... well if you don't count that, last night was a perfect Austin evening. I had about an hour in between performing a downtown rooftop wedding and catching a Fusebox performance at the Long Center, and it was a lovely night, so I wandered up to the Long Center Lawn. A lot of people were inside, listening to the symphony, which I heard bits of myself as I sat gleefully alone beneath those soaring pillars, atop that concrete circle with the changing colored light panels. I was reading an advance copy of my friend Alyssa's spectacular book, there was a lovely breeze blowing, and up, up, up came the moon-- hooray!!

Warren met me right before show time, and I was a little sad he hadn't gotten there sooner to share a few moments watching the sky. By then, though, the symphony goers were outside for intermission, and we had to hurry to get downstairs to our show, and the magic had drifted away. 

Ah, but silver linings! After the show, when everyone had gone from the Long Center, once again my earlier perch was abandoned. We re-staked the spot and music from a Beatles' cover band drifted over from Threadgill's and we alternated between shooting the moon and each other and just sitting and then dancing. Much as I hate to so blatantly point out this out-in-the-open hidden gem of a spot, I'd be a jerk not to share it. Another amazing free spot in Austin, a place to just hang out for the whole night, or after free Night Swim at Barton Springs or on your way to/fro Sandy's

They say tonight the moon is going to appear bigger than it has in the past 18 years. I'll be out at the lake doing a wedding and hope to catch it there. I expect no fewer than 2,000 of you to crowd on the magic spot in front of the Long Center and enjoy the view. Please hum Dear Prudence while you're there, take plenty of pictures, and think of me. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kome = Yummy

I have tried, with limited success, to eliminate seafood from my diet, which already does not include meat or poultry. I'm pretty much done with fish, well except for that albacore salad Warren's mom served up a couple months ago. And last autumn's food poisoning put me off mussels for quite awhile.

But I confess, when it comes to faceless sea critters, and thanks largely due to the Tam Deli garlic shrimp sandwich, well I'm not sure I will ever achieve genuine vegetarianism. Certainly not this week. Because the other night when Warren suggested we visit the newish sushi joint in my hood, I eagerly jumped at the chance. I'd been craving crab rolls for days.

Before I tell you specifically about my (excellent) experience at Kome, a little background on me and sushi. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I confess I experience a certain amount of glee telling folks (truthfully) that the first time I ever had sushi was in Tokyo. Not as in a restaurant called Tokyo, as in a restaurant in Tokyo. There were even a couple of burgeoning sumo wresters there trying to bulk up. Getting to eat sushi for the first time ever in Japan is sort of like being told to fuck off the first time ever in New Jersey-- it's a very, very authentic experience.

Edamame Dearest.
Still, I did not then, nor have I since, been able to get into the raw stuff. Nor have I educated myself on what the different terms mean. And on occasions I do go out, I'm inclined to act like some trophy wife from the fifties, and allow my dining partner to order for me. (I should say that, while Warren is good at this, my favorite sushi orderer has got to be Southpaw Jones, a man who knows his way around an eel roll to be certain.)

My Austin sushi experiences have included the crap you can get at grocery stores (which I like just fine), a number of wildly expensive but totally worth it trips to Musashino, and once, dinner at Uchi. That night was unforgettable, but maybe not for the reasons you'd expect. Besides the fact that my much younger (platonic) date showed up in a powder blue polyester suit with white buckskin shoes-- quite memorable in itself-- there was the dining "experience." Our waiter, a buff, mocha-tone octo-racial twentysomething who appeared to be a cross between a Benetton Ad model and a replicant, must've been in the other room trying on scowls and smirks when god was handing out senses of humor. Had he managed to condescend to us anymore, he would've gotten vertigo from looking so far down his nose at us. Call me an ungrateful fuss-budget if you must, but I don't give a rat's ass if my entree has been hand plucked from the ass of a rare albino elephant by Tyson Cole himself and then hand-carved and served up in a reduction of the urine of Jesus Christ Superstar. If a server acts like his shit don't stink and mine does, I'd much rather take it over to P. Terry's where they are always very nice.

I want to panko you for giving me the most wonderful potato pancake... of my life....
As I was saying-- the Kome decor is pretty casual.
That night at Uchi was many, many years ago, and I never bothered to go back again. Because if I am going to drop $200 on small portions of rolled up rice and little bits of fishy stuff, then I am going to stick with Musahino where the waitstaff might not qualify for friendly as a cuddly kitten, but their efficiency, in my experience, is... well, very efficient and certainly has never approached the reproachful manner of Uchi's Garcon Benetton K. Dick. (Aside: All that said, I still hear good things about Uchi and Uchiko, which I usually dismiss as hype, but occasionally I do get a little curious. So if any of you fine folk want to take me there and foot the bill to prove to me I'm wrong, I am open to the possibility-- message me privately.)

So anyway, Kome. I live in the hood, which in the seven years I've been here has become a bustling hub-- some might say gentrified hipster hellhole-- of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. I was glad to see Kome open, but hadn't managed to get over there until the other night. Boy oh boy was it good.

Where Musashino has a feel like you're actually in Japan, Kome for some reason struck me as feeling like a beach shack. It's super chill, with laid back, t-shirt clad staff, a bright interior, and a bustle that makes it feel a bit like the Magnolia Cafe of sushi joints. I ordered with abandon since I convinced Warren, in advance, to pay for the whole meal. I wish I could remember the names of the rolls I got, but I can't, except that the crab rolls weren't listed but our very helpful waiter told us she could definitely hook us up. I also got a tempura shrimp roll. Warren went for the raw stuff, which he pronounced (and continues to pronounce) to be excellent.

Backing up a bit-- we started out with miso soup, edamame, and a panko crusted mashed potato fritter thingy. All of that was quite nice, too. Miso and edamame are pretty simple dishes and pretty hard to screw up, true. But done just right they can be sublime. The scent of miso is definitely one of my big madeline experiences, and slurping away at Kome's miso, instantly transported me back to my visits to Kamakura, Japan, one of my favorite places in the world, a place I feel so oddly at home it makes me wonder about this whole past life thing and if, in fact, I was Japanese at some point (as, some say, my very first baby picture seems to suggest).


Go to Kome. It's really good. We seriously ordered enough for four people, including dessert (though no booze) and got out of there for under $70. You could, if you wanted to just groove on some miso and edamame, keep it under $15 and still have a really delicious time.

Yes, as Warren pointed out, dessert does sort of look like poop on a stick BUT it tastes great! I especially loved the rice balls with red bean paste.

Do not let his face fool you. Warren was learning about "acquired taste." At first, the rice ball dessert with black sesame paste threw him. But then, after a minute, he decided that, oh wait, it was pretty good after all.