Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Little More London Love-- with Thanks to Jon Nuelle

Me and some of my beloved Englishmen at Night of the English 2011
I think at least a couple of the six of you know that:

a) I haven't blogged over here in months because
b) I am now blogging at MEDITATION KICKS ASS however
c) I have something I wish to share with y'all that
d) Doesn't fit over at the new blog

Something else at least a couple of you know is that I went to London recently. I am still reeling, in a good way, from that experience. I dedicated several posts at the new blog to trying to capture some of the ways my heart and mind have been changed forever and for the better by that journey to England. I seem unable to stop fantasizing about moving to the UK even though I've been back two weeks now.

Jon Nuelle, noting my homesickness for London, kindly wrote a song for me, ATX Sunsick Blues, which he based on Gary P. Nunn's London Homesick Blues. You can read the original lyrics here. And you can see a YouTube Vid of GPN singing it with Jerry Jeff Walker here. Below are the for Jon's version. What a stunning, stunning gift-- Jon thank you so much. You may come have tea with the Queen and me once I make it across the pond full time. I'll keep you posted.

ATX Sunsick Blues
(Jon Nuelle for Spike Gillespie, who was stupid enough to return from London back to Austin during August, instead of heading straight to Oregon. This is dumber, as they say down here, than a box of hammers. Forgive me my mess, Gary P. & Jerry Jeff)
Well when you're down on your luck
and you ain't got a buck
in August you're a goner.
All the Westlake kids
have packed it up
and flown to Barcelona.
I sure know why.
And I'll substantiate the rumor
that the Austin sense of humor
Ain't no match for the Texas sun.
You can bet I'll be back
but you know it’s a fact
that Portland's lookin' like some awfully cool fun.
So now I'm home with the Armadillo
It's still forever 'til ACL and Halloween
You know I'll listen ol' Joe Strummer when your London's calling me.
Well it's a hundred and five
Man alive
I wish they'd turn the heat off.
And where in the world
is that English girl
who crowned her princely feat
in such a whirl?              [GOD SAVE HER!]
And it's been so damn long
Two decades screwed so wrong
by grifters like Oops and Shrub
My mind keeps rollin'
and my heart keeps longin'
for a pint in an East End pub…

But now I'm home with the Armadillo
It's still forever 'til ACL and Halloween
You know I'd say Sir Paul McCartney that your London's calling me.
Well I decided that
I'd knit myself a hat
and take a soak in Barton Springs Pool.
Cause when a gal's had enough
She's gonna call your bluff
No prisoners will be taken
that's for sure.
And these Austin eyes
will eye a better prize
all the damn livelong day!
And so in high Oxford style
I'm gonna steep for awhile
'Til my foggy mem'ries take me away…

So now I'm home with the Armadillo
It's still forever 'til ACL or one fresh breeze
My Aim Is True Elvis Costello when your London's calling me.
So now I'm home with the Armadillo
It's still forever 'til ACL and Halloween
Why don't you call me, Billy Bragg when your London's calling me?
So now I'm home with the Armadillo
It's still forever 'til ACL or one fresh breeze
You don't know cruel, Nick Lowe, so kindly London's calling me.
For now, I'm home with the Armadillo
It's still forever 'til ACL and Halloween
When St. John Lennon's King of England,
Then you know I'll be the Queen!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Please Check out My NEW Blog.... Meditation Kicks Ass!

Hey Y'all,
So I will totally be back here from time to time to do theater reviews and the occasional irresistible letters-to-idiots of which I am so fond of writing. But I stumbled into an experiment a couple of weeks ago and I'm enjoying the heck out of it so that's where I'll be focusing most of my energy. It's called Meditation Kicks Ass. I hope you'll check it out.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Time for Our Annual Check-In With the Fucking Squirrels

The Enemy after a little snack at the cat food bowl.
Yes, that's right. It's that time once again for the fucking squirrels to ruin my garden. As ever, demonstrating the triumph of hope over experience, I put in a summer garden. I did this with the wonderful help of the amazing Robin Chotzinoff and her team at Dirty Hands Garden Design. Robin is an old friend, a Dick Monologues alum, and a genius gardener. Things were looking good.

I knew it wouldn't be long before the fluffy-tailed rats moved in, but I chose to live in a state of denial. The unusually cool spring seemed to keep them at bay, and there was enough rainwater to convince them to not chew through my drip irrigation hoses as they are wont to do. Yes, I saw them digging up pecans they'd buried in the raised beds-- so much for the useless fucking "realistic" plastic bobble-head owl "deterrents." But the tomatoes and peppers and squash went mostly untouched. And then...

And then they discovered that they didn't have to settle for the ridiculously expensive organic cat food in the front of the house or the equally ridiculously expensive organic chicken feed in the backyard. Oh no, they could help themselves to the sweet potatoes I sprout in jars to be like Martha Stewart on a budget and keep on the patio. Well, okay, actually the truth is I don't set out to create these arrangements, I just sometimes forget to eat my sweet potatoes in a timely fashion, at which point I stuff them in jars, as my mother did to have green around our house and stay within her minuscule budget. In my case, the vines had taken over the house, wrapped into the spokes of my ne'er used bicycle, and attracted a rather stunning army of ants. And so I moved the potatoes outside only to discover this:  

Fucking squirrels.
Once upon a time Rebound would take out the squirrels. Once she even left half a squirrel carcass on the rug for me. Sweet Rebound. If I am to be honest though, I confess that while I am no fan of destroyed gardens, nor can I advocate death for the squirrels who are just trying, like us and the Bee Gees, to remain stayin' alive (moment of silence for all the dead Brothers Gibb). Anyway, that was back when Rebound was at fighting weight. Here is the current scenario. "HEY REBOUND!! There are squirrels in the yard!!!" 

Yeah? Who gives a shit?

And so it came to pass that I had to take matters into my own Breaking Bad hands. On the advice of a nice woman at Natural Gardeners, I acquired the following: spray bottle, mask, latex gloves, dish soap, and a shit ton of habañero peppers. As I contemplated the great potential for burnt lungs, I let the bag of peppers sit and fester and mold for awhile before I actually did anything with them.

Look at these. They look innocent, right? WRONG! 
Finally, I took action. I donned the mask, hoped the boiling peppers wouldn't choke out me and the dogs, turned on the swamp cooler fan, opened the doors, applied my swim goggles, and set to work.

And as I worked, I had just two thoughts. The first thought: Let me live through this. The second thought: FUCK YOU SQUIRRELS!

Boil, boil, toil and trouble. And bubbles. Soap bubbles, I mean, not Bubbles' cremains. That would be gross.  
Disgusting and deadly.
And then I took the concentrate, stuck it in the fridge for about a month until I finally got together the energy and daring to go out and spray the garden with the mixture. The nice lady at Natural Gardeners tells me that squirrels hate the spicy heat of peppers.

 That's all well and good, and I am hopeful this year the latest plan will work. Of course now every single thing I harvest is going to taste like habañero, totally suck, and be entirely too spicy to eat. But that's beside the point. I don't care if I don't get to enjoy the yield. Just as long as those fucking squirrels don't either. Ah, the sweet taste of victory!

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's That Time of the Year-- Disco Haiku Contest! Great Prize!

Last year I held a Disco Haiku Contest and the winner-- Chris Nudd-- got a pair of tickets to Studio 54klift the annual Disco Dance Extravaganza Fundraiser for Allison Orr's amazing Forklift Danceworks. Allison is the one who brought us Trash Dance, one of the most moving performances I have seen in my life. Now she's working on PowerUP, a performance piece featuring Austin's power workers that will be literally uplifting and electrifying.

To celebrate the genius that is Allison Orr, the wonder that is Graham Reynolds (who scores her pieces), and all the amazing folks who work with her, I am once again having a Disco Haiku Contest. Winner will receive a pair of tickets to the event which is this Saturday, May 18, 2013, at Zach. It is going to be so wildly fabulous I am going to faint with joy and excitement. My favorite human on the planet (sorry Warren) is hosting. Yes, that's right, put your hands together for

Miss Rebecca Havemeyer


I've got a note in to the Divine Miss H to see if she can judge the contest. I'll keep you posted. Contest closes at 5 pm on Thursday, May 16, 2013. Email your submission to and I'll compile them all here on Thursday. Anyone can enter but you must be able to attend the party to win. Ladies and gentlemen, start your pencils...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Office of Good Deeds Asks You to Lighten Your Wallet and Fatten Your Ass to Help West Comma Texas!

My favorite traditions are the accidental kind. I really can’t stand all the stuff heaped on us by the media and big boxes trying to get us to buy into, say, Christmas hype starting in September. But I have stumbled into moments in my life that continue to bear repeating. Of all of these, I think Stopping for Kolaches in West Comma Texas just must be my favorite.

I can no longer remember the first time I went to the Czech Stop off of exit 353 for those little sweet and savory pastries. But it has to be going on fifteen years or more now that I pull over, whether I need gas or not, and fill up my personal tank with cherry cream cheese and apricot cream cheese kolaches.

So many summers I tossed little Henry in the back of one crappy old beater or another—no air conditioning, windows down, whipping up the highway Jersey bound or back down again homeward bound—and always came The Stop. I was (still am) so enamored of West that when I was a lifestyle reporter for the Dallas Morning News I convinced my editor to let me do a piece that involved spending an entire day in the Czech Stop, watching the comings and goings of so many just-passing-through truckers and tourists as well as all the locals.

I’ve had so many opportunities and honors in my life as a writer—bylines in lots of big places. But I have to say of all the accolades and kudos I’ve received, nothing thrilled me more than all those years after I wrote that article when I stopped in West and there it was, my article, framed and hanging above the register.

On a quick trip up to Fort Worth this week, I felt an odd combination of dread and eagerness in the pit of my stomach as the mile markers worked there way up to 300 and then beyond, knowing that West was just up the holler. And then there she was.

I’m not sure what I expected to see in the aftermath of the explosion. And I didn’t see much to let on that so much loss had occurred. But I could feel it in the air. And, too, I could also feel the buzz of Let’s Carry On. The Czech Stop was packed with a line snaking through the store. I loaded up on kolaches—more than usual just to be helpful, you know? And I dropped a check in the disaster relief bucket. And I thought about the loss of so many lives.

These are now a permanent part of my ass.
Here’s what really got me though. Taped to the front of the store were the missing dog fliers—pets that were lost in the explosion, maybe dead, maybe on the run, who knows. With all due respect to the human loss and pain, those dog fliers were a punch to the gut for me as I still wake up sometimes and do a dog count over here and realize we are two down from where we were just three weeks ago.

In these crazy times of media frenzies fed by internet races to see who can outpace whom in reporting on Big News and Great Tragedy, what happened in West, Texas was overshadowed by what happened at the Boston Marathon. Not that tragedy is or should be a competition, but that’s how these things shake down.

And so, word on the street is that in a rush to be helpful, many people contributed to funds to help the Boston victims while the folks in West are still in tremendous need.

I know I am forever haranguing y’all to give to this cause or that. And recently I was thinking maybe I should just start the $5 Per Week Club, where 2,000 of us kick in $5 every Monday to go to some good cause. Ah, but that would require more organization than I can muster. And so I will just keep asking you to help on a case-by-case basis.

Please y’all—West, Texas needs us. Lend a hand. $5-- that's all I'm asking. More is great, but every little bit really does help. Here's how you can kick in:

And here’s a link for the Austin Bakes for Westbenefit this weekend—a great excuse to fatten your ass in the name of helping.

President of the Office of Good Deeds

Friday, April 26, 2013

I Will Beat Your Ass (True Confessions of a Competition Freak)

PREFACE: What follows is a rather long ramble that I will boil down for you in this preface. I am trying to win a contest. In order for this to happen, I need to get about 190 more unique views to THIS VIDEO by Sunday afternoon. (The link doesn’t work on mobile devices.) If I win, I go to London. For those of you with time to kill—the long version is below. It involves cocaine, Jello, Seasonal Affective Disorder, dysfunctional sex, and an inability to throw a game of Scrabble.

From time to time I stop to consider that I never did cocaine in my life, and I am filled with wonder, surprise, and more than a little relief. Consider that the 80s were my heyday and that I began my twenty-year stint as a drunk at age fourteen and that—though rather a late bloomer in the nicotine department—I was a chain smoker for a good period of time, and it really is amazing that I never hopped on the Blow Wagon (unless you count that time in the car with a band, whose name I now forget, the members of which were snorting some cheap shit and I ran my finger across the residue on the mirror and then across my front teeth in an experiment to see if I might numb them. Didn’t work.)

I actually have a theory about why I, an addict if ever there was one, skipped out on being a Snow Bunny. I think, buried deep in the recesses of my alcohol-saturated brain, but in bold enough type that even all the booze couldn’t totally obscure it, was a large sign that said in all caps: 


I really do still believe that if I’d done the stuff it would’ve been the end of me. I saw two distinct ways this might happen. The first: one line of coke would so hyper-exaggerate my pre-existing compulsion to talk rapidly and non-stop in the company of others due to extreme social anxiety that someone would’ve taken me out back and shot me just to get me to shut the fuck up. The second: I would’ve had a contest with myself and/or others to see just how much I could cram up my nose, a competition I would’ve won even if it meant I wouldn’t live to defend my title.

See, I am at heart one of the most competitive people I know. The way I best manage this streak is the same way I manage my unhealthy enthrallment with drinking and smoking— abstinence. However, whilst I have mastered the art (I say this in all humility and with mountains of gratitude) of no longer drinking and smoking, I do still occasionally take the competition bait.

Recent example— last week, Garreth texted me that he had a great idea for me. Garreth’s ideas are actually great much of the time, so I agreed to hear his scheme. He told me that at the sparsely populated Austin Auto Show there was a little contest going on. All I had to do to win a pair of tickets to London plus hotel was go down there, pay seven bucks to get in, sit in a MINI Cooper in front of a green screen and be silly for 30 seconds, and then get all my friends to watch the video.

Initially, I was skeptical. Was this a trick? A national competition beyond any hope of winning? An attempt to garner piles of personal information from my friends?

Garreth, who’d made a video himself and scrutinized the rules, assuaged my anxiety and shot down my conspiracy theories one by one. He showed me the website where some videos had already posted. The frontrunner had fewer than a hundred views, easy enough to beat. His argument was sound. I decided to enter.

Here's the link, bitches.
Hop into the Time Travel Machine now. It’s 1975 in Westville, NJ. School lunches are a brand new concept at Parkview Elementary School. These include little dessert cups of Jello cubes (sadly sans vodka). I’m about seven years away from becoming a vegetarian at this point, so the Jello ingredients do not bother me. In fact, I’m all about the Jello and the open-faced boiled ham and swiss cheese melts. John Logan and I decide to have a Jello competition. I weigh about 63 pounds soaking wet at this point, and John is, relatively, a good bit bigger. Still, I win. I eat Jello and more Jello and more Jello. John doubles over in pain. I do jumping jacks to rub my victory in his green face.

I believe it is also John against whom I run for student council president that same year. He wins and I am handed the consolation prize—Safety Patrol Captain (ironically, I jaywalk and am hit by a car, though at least I am off-duty at the time). I don’t love not winning. I hate it. I become more competitive. I take home a pile of essay contest awards. I am valedictorian of my sixth-grade class (actually, my mom fails to tell me this until I’m about forty, but still…).

And so the competitive streak goes for me. In high school I get all A’s and am student council president. At home I can eat faster than any of my eight siblings, guaranteeing that I will get seconds when it comes to the limited meatball supply. Looking back, I’m certain this is where my drive originates. When you are one of nine you must compete for time, attention, food, clothes, all of it. Step aside or I will EAT YOU UP.

Step back into the Time Travel Machine. Let’s skip ahead now twenty-two years. It is 1998. I am dating a total fucking loser. He, too, is competitive and insecure. Here is how it manifests: We play chess. We play Scrabble. He hates to lose. I also hate to lose, but I have finally met someone who hates to lose more than I do. I learn, early on, that if I beat him (rare, but it happens) he will withhold sex unless I agree to stay up for a post-coital rematch, because he is sure that he can beat me then and he cannot rest until he wins. For my part, I am far too competitive to throw the game.

I don’t enter contests very often anymore. Once in awhile, I get sucked in. Every time a DJ says, “I have a free pair of tickets to give away,” I have to remind myself I get free tickets all the time. I don’t need to call in. But there’s that split second when I think… Must Win.

Last December, when I was in the throes of a major depression and suffering from some PTSD issues, I got nominated to play the role of Mother Ginger in Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker. I hate Christmas. I hate The Nutcracker. I hate leaving the house when I am depressed. And yet… I loved being nominated. And so I was instantly In It to Win It. I bugged the shit out of everyone I know for weeks on end to pick me to play a part I had no true interest in, one that might find me onstage bawling my eyes out. (I did not win, which in itself was a sort of winning.) Because somewhere inside of – though she is fading more and more—remains the girl who wants the prize.

So now here I am. Competition girl has roared awake. Forty hours from now either I win the tickets to London or those harlots in gold lamé do. Can’t let that happen, ladies. Oh no. I WILL EAT YOU UP. I simply must.

Once again folks— Here’s The Link to the Video. Please watch it and pass it on and HELP ME WIN. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Save HausBar Farm & Save All Austin Urban Farms!

My backyard garden and flock, hugely inspired by HausBar Farm

An Open Letter to Austin's City Council,

I read an article in the Austin Chronicle recently about the surprise shutdown of HausBar Farms in East Austin. I've wanted to write to y'all about this since I heard the news, but have been debating the best approach. Pardon my self-indulgent tangent here, but let's stop for a moment and consider different possible tacks I might take. I could be all sweet-- more flies with honey and all that plus I think there's some nonsense about decorum when addressing politicians. Or I could go the opposite direction-- as is my wont-- and get all New Jersey on y'all and say WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE? 

Striking a balance is not my strong suit. So pardon me if my chapped ass flavors tone here.

I will allow that I have not been to HausBar since the shutdown, nor have I spoken to Dorsey (I left her a phone message to try to set up an interview but I can only guess she is hard at work on the farm and unable to answer every call that comes in immediately). I have not spoken to the folks at PODER either. So yes, I am going by what was written in the article.

It turns my stomach that there is even a hint of race-card-playing here. By this, I am referring to the section of the Chron article that reads as follows:

PODER accused HausBar Farms of operating commercially in a residential zone and gentrifying the area surrounding the farm. According to PODER's Daniel Llanes, the activist group had to tackle the issue because other environmental groups wouldn't touch it: "HausBar Farms and the whole urban farm movement is generally a white movement, and so here's where it clashes. You don't see SOS [Save Our Springs] over here, or Sierra Club."

I think what Llanes might be saying is that HausBar is somehow "bad" because the owners are white and, by virtue of their whiteness, it can only mean they are trying to take over the land of East Austin and drive out folks of color. Is that right? How fucking preposterous. Dorsey has been a part of East Austin since the '80s when she opened Eastside Cafe. She is an active member of the community, she loves her neighbors and she is a real GIVER in Austin. 

It's one thing to say there are code violations or odors that need to be dealt with (and if you read the article it addresses how some so-called violations are due to confusion with city ordinances, not some blatant violations). But the race card must not be played-- that is playing dirty and opens up cans of worms that are not good for composting but only good for fostering bitterness and division that will last for a long time and be difficult or impossible to mitigate. If we want to trot out some accusation of land theft, let's go whole hog (pardon the pun) and see if we can have some Tribal Nation organizations shove PODER aside. I mean, whose land is it really? 

Here's a video report I did about HausBar Farms for my KUT series Whim City. And there is a related article here.

I've been to HausBar many times. I first met Dorsey when I wrote about the farm for Edible Austin magazine. I was so blown away by the project to bring farming into the city that I decided to follow HausBar's lead. I now have three raised beds in my backyard where I grow a lot of my own food, I've got a backyard flock of chickens (which, yes, I got from Dorsey) and a badass coop. 

Besides having my own food, here's what else I have: a beautiful yard I love to show off, so I use it for concerts and, soon, fundraisers. Folks come over, see my gardens, and ask for advice on how to start their own. Community is forged, we log off the fucking internet, we are a neighborhood. I also share the food I grow with others. I also take tremendous pleasure in looking at my garden and meditating on it and appreciating where food comes from. Oh, and I also hire LOCAL companies/individuals to help me with my garden, my coop, etc. So I'm putting money directly into the hands of locals as opposed to, say, buying eggs laid by stressed out chickens locked in tiny boxes in chicken death camps somewhere far away.

HausBar is being accused of running an operation which, as described by PODER, sounds like something out of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. That is pure bullshit. The place is sustainable, innovative, and a perfect combination of tried and true techniques and cutting edge techniques. HausBar is also being accused of gentrification, as if they're using the land to become wildly wealthy. 

Hello? Have any of you been to the farm? Have you seen Dorsey out there busting ass from dawn til dusk? Do you have any idea how not profitable an urban farm is?

I'm so disgusted that PODER is trying to permanently shut down HausBar. Do they not realize that prior to Dorsey taking over the site it was a bunch of illegally built crack houses, an eyesore and a crime magnet? Now it is a majestic, out-in-the-open model for ways we can live that don't involve constantly driving our SUVs to HEfuckingB to buy a bunch of GMO processed "food" that has been shipped in from filthy factories run by enormous profit-driven corporations.

I wrote another article for Edible Austin about a Smithville Judge Ronald Jones (who happens to be African-American, which seems to fly in the face of PODER's accusation that only white folk engage in urban farming) who has started a series of big in-town gardens in his small town. He actually sentences youth offenders to time working in the gardens to show them the value of gardening. He also works side-by-side with them. He also started a garden near the elementary school to show the kids that food does not originate on a grocery store shelf-- sadly there are countless Americans who seem to think this. 

By having the gardens in town, where folks can see them (and come by and help themselves to food) Jones is doing countless great services for his community. So is HausBar farms and all of our urban farms in Austin. 

According to the Chronicle article, there have been some zoning/permit questions, and these are due in part to confusion coming from the City of Austin. It is time for y'all to get your fucking ducks in a damn line, people, and get this straightened out. Our city is viewed with awe by so many people around the country and around the world. We have a reputation for being friendly, green, and smart. Let's keep it that way. 

Please, please, please, please do not delay on rewriting and clarifying the urban farm ordinance. And please, please, please do the right thing and encourage MORE urban farms. This is not about gentrification or racism. This is about learning-- and teaching others-- sustainable ways to live.