Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bawling My Eyes Out

So I just finished reading Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life and last night I saw the play about Molly at Zach starring Barbara Chisholm and on top of all that it's the eve of the four-year anniversary of Molly's death and probably I should wait to offer commentary. But I won't.

While I will recuse myself from an official review of the play, I do want to say that Barbara does such a stunning job of capturing She Who is Most Uncapturable. I'm too overwhelmed with emotion to say more. Before the show, Dave Steakley, who heads up ZACH and who is one of my favorite Austinites,  handed me a gift, a keychain that flashes the name MOLLY on one side, and features a picture of the Texas State Capitol on the other. This, Dave noted, was to give me something upon which to carry the keys to Molly's house, a reference to a dream I had. It is one of the most touching gifts I have ever received and instantly moved me to tears.

Reading the book-- finishing the book- and seeing the play was, as I anticipated, very rough. I love Molly so much. I understood that she was not interested in sharing her emotions. I get the fact that for as much as I knew her, I didn't really know her at all. I had so many lunches with her, attended so many Final Friday parties at her house, even sat with her through chemo and still, Molly was, in the end, incredibly private.

And yet, I have memories. I remember first encountering her, when I was a waitress at Magnolia back in '92 and she a regular patron. One time, she spilled her iced tea and the waitstaff joked among ourselves, "Molly Ivins can't spill that, can she?" But whenever she came in, we always left her alone-- an unspoken policy we had, one extended to all celebs. Another night, she was in supping with her aging mom. I pointed them out to a host, Lindsey, who was from Australia.. He was a journalism student and beside himself at the news. Later, I went by to check on Moll and her mother and-- noting that their plates had been cleared, which was unheard of at the Mag but which Lindsey had done in an effort to approach them-- I got into a conversation with them. Molly said she had just been talking to her mom about how apparently no one recognized her (this was at the height of her fame). I assured her we most certainly did, but that it was our policy to leave the famous in peace.

Years later, at the invitation of my then-roomate Genevieve, who'd known Molly since she (Gen) was a child, I began attending Moll's Final Friday Parties. I must've gone to 80 of these gatherings over the years, parties that always included a session dedicated to reading poetry and offering commentary. How well I remember one night, when the crowd demanded I read, and I demurred, claiming I'd brought nothing with me to share. Molly excused herself momentarily, and returned with a copy of the unbound manuscript for my first book, which my publisher had submitted seeking a blurb from her. She insisted I read from it. I was floored.

So many other memories rush in, prompted by the endless tales of generosity detailed in her bio. Literally, as she was dying, Molly had her assistant Betsy call me to send to her the requisite materials to secure a nomination by Molly for me to be accepted as a member of the Texas Institute of Letters. As if Molly had all the time in the world to endeavor to such trite tasks.

I remember her inviting my son over to help decorate her Christmas tree. So fond was she of children, and os fond were they of her, that long after my son grew weary of attending other events with me, he and his friends always so eagerly looked forward to Final Friday. and piled in the car to join me. When Molly was in the hospital for the final time, just days from dying, Henry and his friend Marcio, who'd been to so many of those parties, were adamant about going to tell her goodbye. I hesitated-- it is such torture to see someone on the final throes of cancer-- but eventually brought them along. They brought Molly a blueberry milkshake. I watched two boys that day, then 16, transformed by the sight of this once vibrant woman ruined by her disease. On the elevator down they were different people, forever changed by the farewell.

I have so many other memories of Molly. and reading the bio just reinforces for me how too busy she was and how, nevertheless, she always made time for lunch with me, to tell me her stories. Oh, her stories. I remember so many of them at Final Fridays. I remember having lunch with her, not long after surgery-- Molly always picked up the check which wasn't just nice but necessary, considering how broke I was. One time at a very chi-chi Ladies Who Lunch place, it dawned on her that her wallet was mostly empty. At the hospital they'd insisted she empty it of all but a twenty dollar bill. We scraped together what we had to cover lunch, including a very large pile of nickels and dimes from the bottom of my purse. The young and humorless waitress, upon retrieving that little leatherette thingy they use to present the bill and collect payment, said-- noting the nickels spilling out-- "Do you need change?"

Moll and I giggled, one of us announcing. "Oh no, KEEP the change!"

So many more stories rush in, but I will end with just one more. After Molly's memorial, we all gathered at Scholz's Beer Garden, one of her favorite places in the world. I was so wracked with grief, so doubled over in the pain of it, that a TV news reporter approached me-- you know how they're always looking for the most dramatic angle, the most distraught quote? Noting my distress, they figured I'd be good for a quote. For the first time in my life, I eschewed a microphone, and felt gratitude that my "date"-- Sarah, who'd been to so many Moll lunches with me-- chased them away. But I did get up at the open mike and I think this is the story I told:

One of the times I took Molly for chemo, I was sitting in the back, beside her, as chemicals were shot through her shunt. Most folks had visitors who had to wait in the waiting room but Molly was different, a celeb, who was allowed to bring someone with her. I figured my job was to just hang out quietly, to feed her maybe, to mostly just BE there for her. At some point, a medical personnel came by-- a nurse? a doctor? I wasn't sure. Before I could get my bearings and realize what was going on, this woman said, "Molly, I was at your signing the other night. I love your work! Could I get you to sign a few books?

Molly nodded and I was mortified. Wasn't it my job, as chemo sitter, to shelter her from this very thing? As the nurse/doctor  scurried off to get her books for signing, I-- feeling like a failure and also appalled at the request-- turned to Molly and said, "You are so much more gracious than I would be. I can't believe you agreed!"

She then flashed me her enormous smile, and in her exaggerated Texas accent assured me, "I ALWAYS have time to sign!"

I so miss Miss Molly. I miss her enthusiasm. I miss her dedication to friends. She was a mentor to me in more ways than I can possibly list. I am humbled by her life and by her death. I am humbled that she took the time to care for me-- at all, but most especially in the light of her pressing illness and her fame.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rebound Expresses Herself and Gets Laid!

I guess I should say that if talking about canine anal glands is not your cup of tea, you have two choices : a) you can exit now or b) you can grow a pair and read on. Maybe you'll learn something. I certainly did.

So our beloved Rebound, who more than makes up with cuteness what she lacks in intellect, has a way of falling prey to more physical challenges than the other dogs. So yeah, she's mentally and physically challenged. And it's even possible that sometimes one thing leads to another, though it can be chicken-and-egg to try to figure it out. Example-- she might decide she wants to hop up on the futon. (I mean, as much as she is able to "decide" anything.) Being a Boston, she can do a vertical leap of maybe 3 feet, straight up, except she never remembers this. One option for futon conquering is the very simple Plan A-- stand in front of the futon couch and hop up. Super easy. Plan B, her preferred choice 99% of the time, is to go around to the arm of the couch-frame and attempt to clear it. At which point she smashes her head, falls back, and then repeats this, usually getting it right on the second or third try.

Well, okay then-- is the head banging further depleting her "intelligence"? Or is her "intelligence" the reason she keeps banging her head? I have no idea.

Other health matters have nothing to do with the ways she chooses to conduct herself. For example, I must take the blame for the heart worm she suffered this summer. She wasn't on preventative. She tested positive. This necessitated $1000 of painful shots and also the need to keep her almost perfectly still for two months. I bought her the best crate money could buy, and boarded her at a great facility when I went to Israel. And her Uncle Big Red visited her there everyday. Still, I felt like shit. And she ballooned up, doubling her weight due to the steroids. Then, when she was allowed to walk again, I took her out and her little pads had gotten so soft that they blistered. Poor Rebound!

All that was behind us for many months, and things were exotically calm over here. Then, the other night, I noticed a very bad ass smell coming from Rebound. Not as in she's a Bad Ass. As in, her butt really stank. I tried to ignore it. But it was bad. I mentioned this to a friend who had brought her adopted dog back from the edge of death. "Anal glands," she said. "You need to express her anal glands."

I'd heard of this before and instantly blocked the idea, the way I've tried to block certain traumatic childhood events. But oh, the stink. So I used my medical assistant, Google, sucked in my breath, and started surfing for YouTube help on how to attempt this intervention at home. (Since my office job ended, we're back to cutting corners over here as much as possible.) I found a perfectly nice video, watched closely, wondered if the dog in the video was actually taxidermied (he stood so still-- I would never stand like that if someone grabbed the 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock periphery of my sphincter and pushed in and up and squeezed).

Then I loaded little Rebound into the bathtub, a place for which she holds much suspicion. I positioned my paper towel, did a quick "time check" around her asshole, got my fingers in there at precisely 25 til 5 (or was it 25 past 7?)---and puuuuush and squeeeze-- and fully expected a major Hershey squirt to sail past the paper towel and right into my new bionic eye. But when I looked at the paper towel, it was clean. (Okay not "clean" as in you could eat off of it, and it did smell a little, but it was absent of butt juice.)

I figured I was doing it wrong. For her part, Rebound just seemed a little confused and a little excited, like she wasn't sure what this new game was but maybe it wasn't a bad thing. I released her from her bathtub prison and sent her on her way.

Later, in the bedroom, as I decided some sheet changing was in order to clear out the residual smells from the night before, I spotted them. Two perfect little brown parentheses on my formerly pristine white pillow case. Had I not watched the anal gland expression video, I might never have suspected it, but with my knew knowledge I quickly understood-- before I'd even gotten to the task REBOUND HAD EXPRESSED HERSELF! Forget about that dog that knows 1200 words. My dog knows how to express her own anal glands.


Now, about getting laid. The day after this miraculous feat, Uncle Ross showed up, still jet lagged from his trip to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. He came bearing a fresh lei from Hawaii, and if you've never whiffed one of those floral garlands up close, let me tell you they are PUNGENT. I quickly bedecked Rebound in this glorious gift leaving at least one end of her smelling much, much better.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Boy On Tour!

A couple of weeks ago Henry called with the awesome news that he'd been hired as a drummer in the band Air Waves, which is fronted by the amazing Nicole Schneit. Nicole is a kick ass songwriter and she has a gorgeous groovy voice. Her previous drummer was working for a number of other bands and so when there came an opening, Hen auditioned and got the gig to tour with the band to support their new CD Dungeon Dots which is getting great reviews in Indie Rock Land.

Their tour-- West Coast, East Coast and Canada-- started last week in Austin, at Emo's. Good lord I hadn't been in Emo's in a very long time. I actually remember when it opened-- hell I remember before it opened, when I waited on Dave the manager about a week before SXSW 1992, and he told me he was "opening a club in time for SXSW" and I thought, "Yeah, and the monkeys are gonna fly out of my ass and bring your pancakes to you." But Dave wasn't shitting and he did it, and the rest as we know, is history. Holy crap have I been drunk in that bar. No more, of course. So it was interesting to be the sober old lady at the show last week, hoping Air Waves would wrap their set by midnight because, you know, I need my beauty sleep.

We had such a good time. Hen's first instrument is guitar, but he's a great drummer, too. I worked hard not to be a stage mom, I did not throw any article of clothing on the stage, nor did I press up against the stage. I did help lug equipment inside, which maybe was a little dorky but wow oh wow-- live music has been such a part of my life for so long. And I've been taking Henry to shows since he was in utero-- I remember being 8.5 months pregnant at a Poi Dog Pondering show in St. Louis and dancing my ass off. I thought the bouncers were going to have a collective heart attack. We've gone together to see Jonathan Richman at Liberty Lunch (and lots of other places), Steve Forbert at the Cactus, Modest Mouse at ACL Studios, Don Walser (many many times) at Jovita's, The Polyphonic Spree at ACL Fest and Stubb's (where he once sang onstage with them), and the list goes on and on and on.

I have so loved watching Henry grow into himself as a musician. Back in the day I used to organize Teen Rock events at Stubb's, Emo's, and any other venue that would have us. He was in the band Max & Henry for ages and they even released a CD. He sometimes plays in Horses with Horns and Best Fwends. But right now, the focus is 100% Air Waves. I'm posting the tour schedule below. If you have friends in any of these places, please do tell them to get their asses out and check out the band. And if you can't see them live, please buy a CD or Vinyl LP. Thanks.


January 26
Hi Dive
Denver, Colorado
January 27
Urban Lounge w/ Tennis
Salt Lake City, Utah
January 28
Neurolux Lounge w/ Tennis
Boise, ID
January 29
Mississippi Studios w/ Tennis
Portland, Oregon
January 31
Media Club w/Tennis
Vancouver, BC, CAN
February 1
The Crocodile w/ Lord Huron & Tennis
Seattle, WA
February 3
Bottom of the Hill w/ Lord Huron & Tennis
San Francisco, California
February 4
The Echo w/ Lord Huron & Tennis
Los Angeles, CA
February 7
Club Congress w/ Tennis
Tucson, AZ
February 8
Rhythm Room w/ Tennis
Phoenix, AZ
February 10
University of New Mexico
February 13
Houston, Texas
February 16
Farm 255
Athens, GA
February 18
House Show  @ 2702 Lawndale Ave.
Durham, NC
February 20
Bruar Falls
Brooklyn, NY
February 22
Glasslands w/ Amy Klein (Titus Andronicus)
Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rebound Turns Her Back on Breakfast

and pretends she is a hippie bus...
and helps me type...


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Not Exactly a Vacation But Awesome Nonetheless

I ran away for a few days to Lake Austin Spa. If you have never been here, let me tell you-- it is SO worth the trip. Even if you don't stay overnight, you can spend a long day unwinding.

This was my birthday treat to me-- to run away to a beautiful place where every single detail is tended to, the meals are incredible, and if you want to just wear a bathrobe the entire time, that is more than okay.

I'm fortunate enough to teach out here sometimes, so I actually get to visit the property a few times each year. It is gorgeous regardless of season. Right now the lake is way down (due to purposeful human action-- Dam Humans!) which has brought in all sorts of birds, including seagulls that prefer fresh water to salty. I LOVE SEAGULLS. There is this tree with red berries that is so eye-poppingly brilliant I stood staring at it for a long time. Yesterday I took a class in breathing which sounds silly but then...
well let's just say it wasn't.
I do hope you get to visit here sometime. I have been so happy, holed up in a warm room, away from the chill, toiling away at writing I really wanted to work on after several weeks of hustling to knock out some work stuff that kept me from what I most hoped to focus on.

So thank you, Lake Austin Spa, for existing, and for existing so very close to home. People, remember: it really is not a dress rehearsal. If you have to take a class in breathing to remember this, by all means go for it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ooolala! La Patisserie is O-P-E-N. Fasten zee seatbelt!

I met Soraiya Nagree a few years back, when I interviewed her about The Kitchen Space, a commercial kitchen on the East side that she and her husband Azim own and rent out to local chefs. Soraiya also operates her own business, Luxe Sweets, out of the location, selling her amazing baked goods to coffee houses all over town. But as legend has it, her true dream, since she was a little girl on a big trip to Paris, had always been to open a French bakery.

On November 30, 2010, just as I was preparing to hide under the covers for a month, Soraiya realized her dream, opening La P√Ętisserie by Luxe Sweets in South Austin, at 602 West Annie Street. She had no idea at the time that she was also making my dream come true by saving me airfare to France which, much as I'd love to go there every other weekend, in this economy?!! Sheesh-- it's more like every THIRD week, you know? Fortunately, now when I am jonesing for a chouquette or a brioche, or when I wish to fill my claw foot bathtub with macarons or pile delicate chocolat petit fours upon my throne, or simply feel an urge to inhale an eclair and chase it down with chocolat chaud or espresso so thick and strong that it will put (or remove-- depending on your current follicle situation) hair on various body parts-- well Soraiya's got me covered. She also provides croissants, almond croissants, pain au chocolat AND-- Get thee behind my ever-expanding derriere, Satan!!-- chocolat pistachio raspberry cake.

Even though I missed the November opening, the good news is that Soraiya held off on the media party until after the holidays. So last week, a few days after my birthday, as if IN HONOR of my birthday (please say it's so, Soraiya), Warren and Em and Bug and me headed on down to taste pretty much everything. Plus we brought some home. The shop is SO CUTE!! Mon Petit Cherie! Soraiya and Azim's son is SO CUTE!! My sugar buzz NOT SO CUTE!! But it did seem to amuse Warren to watch me attempt to speak the language, by which I do not mean French but my own native (allegedly) English. I mean buzzity-buzz-buzz-buzz....

I am not kidding when I say that I wake up now, every day, and imagine that I'll just run down and get "a few things" from La P√Ętisserie. Seriously, thoughts of its beauty-- the place itself, and all those confection jewels in the shiny case, the lovely barristas in their lovely aprons-- cause me to drool anew. Deux pouce up! Waaaaay Up!

Okay, more pics, including a shot of their KIDS' area! Seeing a little place designated for the children, WELCOMING them even-- how this made my heart soar. Anybody remember the old Martin Brothers and that little play area they had for kids? I took Henry there all the time when he was tiny. So, yeah, LP has a nice little area for smaller pastry connoisseurs, replete with kids' books en Francais. Yay ouiiiiiiiiii!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Lieu of Several Thousand Words...

A few pics from my ongoing celebration. You'll see I acquired a throne (it's about time). And after a very anxiety-inducing Kick Ass Awards ceremony (yes, I still get nervous in front of a microphone) I had an extremely quiet day at home. Just me and the dogs all day. Then Warren showed up with shrimp and garlic sandwiches from Tam Deli (food so good you can hear a porn movie bass guitar playing in your head when you bite into it) and my darling Henry arrived with a gorgeous cake that one of his friends made for me. Splendid day!

And the Winners Are...

I've had a request to post the Kick Ass Award winners, and so I shall. The catch is, I don't have links to all these folks, or even descriptions. So winners (and/or presenters) perhaps you can post info in the comments about the programs you do so folks can find you.

I can tell you that Casey Smith, who won for coming up with the Cooking Up English project-- teaching ESL folks English through cooking classes-- has a new series starting February 10th. You can find out more at the Cooking Up English website. Awesome program!

Thanks to all of our sponsors and to Southpaw Jones and Robin Chotzinoff for singing.


Simon Studd

Casey Smith

Priscilla Boston

Jane Walton

Dan Crow

Debbie Russell

Rene Brit

David Schulman

Celia Hughes

Lindsay Franklin

Aralyn Hughes

Elizabeth Bellanti-Walker

Palmer Neuhaus


Jody Denberg

Dave Steakley

Martin Burke

Meredith McCall

Alamo Drafthouse

Cindy Widner

Kate Messer

Sandy Silver

Courtney Moore

Monday, January 10, 2011

Buy a Pillow-- Help Legalize Gay Marriage: It's That Simple!

pillow by Gus Dexheimer

Hey Y'all,
Those of you who attended the Kick Ass Awards last night (thank you) already know about my friend Gus's push to legalize gay marriage through her upcoming Pillow Project Auction. For those of you who missed the awards (forgiven!) and for anyone wanting more info, well that's what I'm here to tell you today.

Gus is preparing for her bat mitzvah and as her act of service she decided to enlist her crafty friends in Austin and Denver to make pillows which she will auction off to raise money to fight to legalize gay marriage. All money raised will go to the American Foundation for Equal rights which is working to overturn Prop 8. At the end of this post, I'll include a note from Gus. But first, here are some details about the event. Even if you can't attend in person, there is already a silent auction happening online, so the bidding has begun. To be part of the online auction, click here.

The live auction takes place on Sunday, January 16, 2011 from 3 - 5 p.m. It will be held at an art studio located at 1211 Ravine Drive. For more details about the auction, you can check out the Facebook Page here.

pillow by Ramona Sever

And now, a word from our wonderful Mistress of Ceremonies, Gus, who offers the following statement:

Hello all! Gus Dexheimer here. Would you like to help me overturn Proposition 8, which is the law that keeps gay marriage illegal in California? If you or any of your friends can’t get married—which is unconstitutional—you might be interested in raising some money for the

American Foundation for Equal Rights, by making a wedding pillow. I will now explain. In February, I will have my Bat Mitzvah for which I am required to do a service project. When I first heard that gay marriage was illegal, I was nine. I was simply appalled. I don’t know how old I was when I learned about gay and lesbian relationships but it was never something to hide in my family. My sister is straight, I am straight, my parents are straight, but that never has and never will matter. So when my Bat Mitzvah rolled around and I had met still more gay and lesbian people, I began to think about what I could do for them.

And so, y'all, I ask you to please step up, help Gus fight the good fight, and bid on a pillow today, or meet me at the auction on Sunday.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

What I'm Doing Saturday-- And YOU SHOULD TOO!

This week for my Austinist column I was talking about how bowled over I am on a regular basis by the endless amazing art offerings in our fine town. One of the best jobs I ever had, before it went away (boo) was the gig I had for JetBlue writing about all the great things there are to do here. Well, just because the job went away doesn't mean the cool stuff has stopped happening. Nor has my enthusiasm for recommending this cool stuff waned.

I was driving the other day listening to KUT when Michael Lee (yay Michael) came on with one of his Arts Eclectic segments. He was interviewing director Jason Neulander, the founder of Salvage Vanguard Theater, about The Intergalactic Nemesis, which is playing for ONE NIGHT ONLY this Saturday at the Long Center.

The show, billed as a Live Action Graphic Novel
played to sold out audiences last year and is being brought back due to popular demand.

I AM SO GOING, PEOPLE! And you should, too!

Instead of trying to explain it to you, check out this trailer you can watch to get an inkling of how amazing this show is going to be. Graham Reynolds on keyboards, Buzz Moran as Foley Artist (FOLEY ARTIST!!) and three actors (playing a whole bunch of characters) are coming together to present a mash up between a comic book and an old time radio show. Plus there are 1250 hand drawn comics that will be projected on a wall. Oh wait, I'm trying to explain it, aren't I?

I cannot believe I get to live in this town where you can't swing a thespian cat without hitting some stage with a spectacular performance occurring upon it. Don't even think about missing this one-- like I said: one night only. Here's where you can get tickets.

See ya there.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Kick Ass Awards-- January 9, 2011! Pass it On!

Hey Everyone,
Hooray! The 2011 Kick Ass Awards are coming right up. We have some fabulous winners selected this year and the event is always so much fun. I hope you can make it. Please help me spread the word. Here are the details:

Recognizing stellar Austinites for their outstanding contributions to life!
Sunday, January 9th
7 pm - 9 pm
BookPeople @ 6th and Lamar

With refreshments. Tell all your friends.

Thanks to our sponsors: Anonymous, The Austinist, BookPeople, and Dolores Phelps.