Thursday, September 29, 2011

You're What's Wrong With America Part II: Steve Jobs

Dear Steve Jobs,

I am really sorry about your liver. That said, fuck you. Because the other day, thanks in no small part to you and your I’m–so-clever-and-such-a-fucking-master-of-sleek-fucking-design, I damn near lost half of my right foot.

See, I was walking across the parking lot of Central Market with the goal of entering the store and purchasing a roasted chicken that had been pasture raised, hand-fed, killed-with-kindness, and then rubbed with herbs and spices delicately extracted—nay whisperingly coaxed—from the colon of a rare white Buffalo that lives in a Nepalese cave. While I myself do not eat poultry, I decided to make this purchase for my eldest dog, who recently had a stroke or else faked having a stroke so that I would buy her a roasted chicken.

As you may or may not know Mr. Jobs, it takes a good forty-five seconds to cross the Central Market parking lot. And as you surely do know, time is money! Not wanting to waste a second or a penny, I whipped out my iPhone so I could multi-task in style as I checked my gMail, which I hadn’t checked since at least two minutes before while I was driving. As I suspected, I had a new message, one that just couldn’t wait. It was a picture a client sent me. And yes, bonus points, it was a picture of ME! I was so excited looking at this picture of ME on the three-inch screen that you brought to the world that I failed to pay attention when it came time to open the door leading me into Central Market.

I continued admiring my picture of me on my iPhone as I yanked on the door, which turned out to be not nearly as heavy as my distracted brain calculated it to be. Have you ever been at a pub and they hand you a frosted beer mug and you grab it and, not realizing it’s plastic because it looks JUST LIKE A MUCH HEAVIER FROSTED GLASS MUG, you heave it too hard and too fast and the whole fucking beer goes flying over your shoulder? Okay, Steve? So the door situation was like that.

Also, the door was decidedly un-well hung, ending a good inch or so above the ground, the perfect catch space for my foot, since I was wearing my trendy Vibram five-finger monkey shoes, you know the shoes that just scream that I am the sort of person who enjoys dropping eighty-dollars on pretend shoes so that I can wear them to impress my fellow shoppers while I am procuring overpriced dietary staples featuring chefs’ autographs on the label as well as hand-plucked, 24-karat gold-plated chickens for my elderly, stroke victim dog. So I guess what I’m saying is that, if it makes you feel any better, I also blame, in part, the shoe makers, the grocery store owners, and whoever convinced us that we must coax our canines into breaking Guinness Book of World Records records with their life spans.

Me? I wasn’t feeling better at all, not as I yanked that door and pulled it with all my might across the top of my foot. The pain was instant, exquisite, eye-opening, breathtaking, and made childbirth seem like child’s play by comparison. The rainbow of blues, blacks and purples that have replaced my once nicely John-Boehner-tinged orange-tanned foot features hues never before seen by the human eye. In fact, hey, here’s an idea, Steve—maybe you’d like to incorporate this palette into your next groovy shade-changing iPhone screensaver!

So thanks a lot Steve. Thanks for being born and for inventing Macs and for luring me in. Thanks to you I married a lunatic I met online using my first Apple computer in 1995. I’ve taken endless internet writing gigs that have left me a bitter, disillusioned crankster—more on that in the second half— and, also thanks to your contributions to technology, I have completely lost the ability to read books, have face-to-face conversations with other people, or—as noted—cross a parking lot without trying to improve my Angry Birds score, text motherly advice to my adult son, or see what the temperature outside is rather than just, you know, figure out which way the wind blows on my own.

I’m not even going to start in on how also, thanks to you, I have committed myself to a Faustian, life-time-and-beyond contract with the evil fucks that run AT&T and how recently, once again, they turned upgrading a telephone into a fou- week, twenty customer service phone call, delivered-to-wrong-address, bullshit ring of hell that Dante himself could never have fathomed, not even with a state-of-the-art Inferno App.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Cubist Period

So yesterday, I got a new ride. I did this because there was no room left on my old ride for bumper stickers. That's right. Just like when I gave away the old oven because it was dirty, I gave away the old car when the back space was full up.

Okay, that bit about the bumper stickers was a lame attempt at humor. But the part about the new car and giving the old one away is true. I handed off my 2005 Scion xB to Henry. I'm sure if he read my blog (hahaha!) he would want to correct me and say that he bought the Scion from me for $1000-- that's how much we got when we traded in his '98 Ford Explorer. But we'll get to that story in a minute.

First, about the Cube. I kind of want to write Toyota a letter that says something like this:

Dear Toyota,
I want you to know that I did not switch to Nissan because of the way you accidentally-on-purpose forgot to put working brakes in a lot of your cars not so long ago. I want you to know that, while I have considered myself a dedicated Toyota lover for many years, Nissan just happened to beat you in the ugly-transcends-and-becomes-beautiful department. See, the Scion xB 2005 was SO ugly that it just sang out to me. At first I swore I would NEVER get one, but then a friend who had one said I HAD to get one and he never steers me wrong (pardon the pun) so I listened. And how I loved that big ugly box. My god, the amount of shit I could cram in it was stunning. And the bumper sticker space was unparalleled. Thank you so much for that. But then you had to go and wreck a good thing and make the newer Scions all squatty and faux-pimp and you know, that was just STUPID. Then I started seeing the Cubes out there and OMG they are SO CUTE!! So asymmetrical! And the back window reminds me of the dresses Wilma and Betty wore on the Flintstones-- you know, the one-sleeved numbers? So I just had to get one. Even though the Scion still ranks much higher in reviews. I don't care how it runs. I just want Cute Cute Cute. Cute/Cube. Even the words are almost the same. So, sorry, Toyota, but unless and until you come out with something boxier and cuter, I think I might've just made a permanent switch.


It's true-- from the moment I first saw the Cube, I was pulled toward it. And after thinking about buying one for the past year or so, I finally took the plunge and called a dealership to get some info. The sales dude asked, "Which kind of Cube do you want?" and I said, "The one you can put a lot of crap in," and he said, "I got that one." So then I took the next step, which was to actually drive to the dealership. For some people-- perhaps most people-- that sort of trip would be considered an exploratory mission. Not me. If I'm going to spend the time and energy to deal with car salesmen (and I choose the gender specific term on purpose) that means I'm ready to buy-- to get in and out as quick as possible.

Figuring I was most likely in for an experience with not-so-subtle sexist overtones, I realize in hindsight I made a subconscious decision to keep the buying experience not unpleasant. Rather than turn up my Feminist Self (the Self I lead with 99% of the time), I slipped on my Mask of Faux I-Can-Roll-With-You-Being-Sexist. This, in fact, served me well. Within the first five minutes, Sales Dude asks, "You married?" And instead of saying, "None of your business!" or "Do you ask male customers that?" I simply lied and said, "Yes I am!" (If I'd wanted to really toy with him, I could've explained that Warren and I have a domestic partnership and that we consider ourselves "gay married.")

"Why don't you have a ring?" he asked.

"Because I was at the spa and I don't wear my ring at the spa."

"Well I coulda got in trouble if I flirted with you," he said.

And here I cranked it up, fully inhabited a character I am not. "Oh, I don't think so!" I laughed. "I think my husband would've said, 'How much?' and he would've meant, 'How much can I pay you to take her off my hands?! Har har har!!"

Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever catch yourself becoming the Airplane Version of yourself-- you know, how you can just make up pure bullshit on an airplane because, unless you're flying with someone you know, they'll never see you again. I don't mind that I acted like this-- I amused myself. And I realized that all the sexism I grew up with finally paid off as I played the game, putting Sales Dude at ease.

We took the Cube out for a ten-minute test-drive, about 9.5 minutes longer than I needed to decide I'd be buying it. I was surprised that I encountered fewer protests than I sort of expected from my friends and family when I announced the big purchase. Henry-- who stood to benefit the most-- was perhaps the most cautious, wondering about monthly payments and expressing a desire for me not to go in the hole in the process of outfitting him with the Scion.

I tried to explain to him something I still don't think I can accurately capture. I grew up driving truly shitty cars until I was 40 years old. I don't mean cars that were just sort-of ugly, or Not Brand New. I mean cars with rags where the gas cap should be. Cars that required me to get up early every morning to pump up or change a tire. Cars held together with chicken wire. Cars that broke down as a matter of course every third time you tried to start them. Even the last car I had before I got the Scion-- which was my first ever new car-- looked pretty nice but had 126,000 miles on it when I bought it.

I didn't buy my first new car or my second one to excite my ego, keep up with the Joneses, or any other silly reason like that. I bought my first new car because I wanted to see what it would feel like to know a car would start EVERY time, would not break down every other month, would run smoothly. I bought my second new car in part because I knew that the Scion still has enough go in it that it would provide my son with that priceless I-have-a-super-reliable-car feeling. He hadn't had it in awhile since his Explorer had reached that point-- air conditioner dead, repairs running into the hundreds every other week-- that keeping it on the road would cost nearly as much annually as just handing off the Scion and taking on Cube payments.

And I'm here to tell you that after having put a whopping 60 miles on my Cube since I got it, I am just as excited this time as I was when I bought the Scion. I drive a lot-- a LOT-- for my job. Nearly 20,000 miles per year all over the Hill Country. (Yes, I feel horrific guilt about the environment but let's save that conversation for another day.) Let's just say that now I know that for all those hours I'm in my new car, the ride will be uber smooth. And-- check it out-- I have BlueTooth. The whole freakin' CAR is a telephone. Whoa Nellie! I remember back when we had to have squirrels run on wheels to power our Walkmen! When the hell did a car radio turn into a mobile communication device? Technology you slay me!

There were some unexpected bonuses to buying a new car. For one, Hen came with me. Sitting in the little room where they try to bully you into an extended warranty-- and I told them twelve times I didn't want one BEFORE we got to the room but they kept saying, "We still have to ask you..."-- I pointed out to my son that just 50 years ago A WOMAN COULDN'T GET FINANCING ON HER OWN. And when the dude circled back around and tried a second time to sell me "ding" insurance, and when I nearly caved, Henry said, "Uh, Mom? You're not getting that." I'm sure the warranty dude thought an inappropriate mean thought about my son then, but I was so proud of him. It was also just fun to have a witness to the bizarre world of car sales.

It was also delightful to get a little after-the-fact info from Henry. When I told him last Friday that I'd ordered a Cube to be picked up on Monday, I also told him they'd give us $1000 for the Explorer. He's more patient with the sorts of freaks drawn to Craigslist ads for old cars, so he said he's try to sell it for more than that over the weekend. He listed it at $2K and, as I predicted (not meanly, just resignedly) he did have to deal with a few nut cases and he didn't get a good offer. He also talked to a mechanic that offered him $500. When my son explained there was a dealer willing to give him $1000, the mechanic said, well alright then, he'd offer $1000, too.

In the end, we decided to take the Explorer to the dealer just in case we could squeeze a little more than $1000 out of them. When Sales Dude saw it, he said, "It runs rough." And I was like, "REALLY? Our '98 Explorer RUNS ROUGH?! SHOCKING!!" But when he said, "I can only give you $500 for it," I said, "Oh no you don't. You give me $1000 or I'm leaving now. There's a mechanic in South Austin who will give me that much and I'll just come back another day to buy the Cube."

Of course that's all it took to get my $1000 trade-in-- they wanted to make the sale right away. Only on the drive home did Henry explain how he had, in essence, played the mechanic off the dealer and the dealer off the mechanic. What a genius I've raised!

So I handed off the Scion last night and, as he promised, Henry got right down to the task of stripping it of all its bumper stickers. Maybe we can put a rebellion spin on this-- for all the tattoos I have, he's refused to get a drop of ink. For all the stickers I have, he prefers an anonymous car. I went by his place today to watch him peel off six years worth of memories-- Marfa, Hilo, Paris, Big Bend, Galveston-- plus all those lovely slogans about dogs and uppity women and it damn near broke my heart. Except for the fact that I knew he was just as excited with his "new" car as I am with mine.

Now the question is-- to bumper sticker or not to bumper sticker? For now, I am vowing that this will be the first car in my life I keep perfectly clean and bumper sticker free. Can I do it? I'm guessing it won't be easy, but I want to try. And in truth, I'm not going to keep it totally naked. I think this car needs to earn its keep and so I'm looking into having a partial wrap done-- some advertising for my wedding business. Because isn't that where everyone goes to seek out a wedding minister-- the side panels of a Cube? Oh I hope so.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: Marion Bridge at Hyde Park Theatre

Contemplating Marion Bridge, Hyde Park Theatre’s latest stage offering, my mind lands upon an old Mary Karr quote: “[the] working definition for a dysfunctional family: any family with more than one person in it.”
The play, written by Daniel MacIvor and directed by Ken Webster, features three adult sisters—Agnes (Rebecca Robinson), Theresa (Emily Erington) and Louise (Kelsey Kling)— reunited by the rapidly declining health of their mother. Mum’s impending death might be the end for her, but for her daughters it looses a live wire that reanimates a forever-entrenched family dynamic courtesy of a most undesired family reunion.
This is not the first time Marion Bridge has played HPT. It debuted there in 2002, garnering great critical kudos. This time around, the same cast has returned. I didn’t catch the first presentation so I can’t make a comparison here, though I do wish I could travel back in time to see how the actresses have grown and changed over the years. As for the present moment, I can say that all three actresses fully and believably inhabit their characters. Agnes is the boozy, angry eldest, wrapped up in a long ago rage she cannot seem to shake. Theresa is a nun facing a crisis of faith, not to mention a crisis of dealing with Agnes. And Louise, the youngest, is what we might call a bit daft, a simple gal most concerned with her TV shows.
You get the sense that left to their own vices and devices—booze, god, tube—each of the sisters does okay, holds steady. But put them together where they can bear witness to one another’s traits, and these traits quickly get called out as shortcomings and addictions. Everybody is jumping everybody’ else’s shit.
Marion Bridge is billed as a bittersweet comedy. For me it’s a fantastic example of how very involved the audience can become with the action on stage. I could easily spot the bittersweet, to be sure. Spotting the comedy part was harder for me, which very much ties into my personal life. Granted there are many moments of levity. But as it happens, I have seven sisters, and know all too well what can occur where two or more of us are gathered in the name of telling each other the "right" way to live. I couldn’t escape thinking of a trip I took back to my hometown for my father’s funeral, and the utter absurdity that ensued, the words and emotions hurled around the room, the rippling fallout.
With that memory as my litmus test, I promise you Robinson, Erington and Kling strike a perfect sibling tone. In fact it made more than a little sense to reunite them on the stage—not just because of their familiarity with the roles, but because they clearly share what feels like a very real sisterly connection, a bond that has grown over the years.
And I can never deliver a HPT review without a major shout out to set designer Paul Davis. His attention to details borders on the (delightfully) obsessive and the minute I walked in I was, as I always am, swept away by his work. From our seats we could see a piece of the stage not everyone else could – a quasi-backstage area. I noted that despite knowing that only a handful of us would be able to see and appreciate it, Davis had included a fake electrical outlet which just tickled me. If I ever overhaul my house I hope he’ll come and be in charge of the project.
Hyde Park Theatre is located at 511 W. 43rd Street. Marion Bridge runs at 8:00 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, September 8 - October 8, 2011. Every Thursday is Pay What You Can Night; Friday, and Saturday tickets are $19 ($17 for students, seniors, and ACOT members), except for the final weekend (August 4-6), when ticket are $21 ($19 for students, seniors, and ACOT members). For reservations, call 479-PLAY or purchase tickets online.

Dick Monologues Presents: You're What's Wrong with America Part II

Hey Y'all,
We had so much fun presenting Dick Monologues: You're What's Wrong With America that we're going to do a second installment. This time around 100% of the ticket and bar sales will go to Hyde Park Theatre. WE LOVE HYDE PARK THEATRE and in this crazy wrong world their rent has gone up and their funding as gone down so we want to help out.

WHAT: Dick Monologues Presents: You're What's Wrong with America Part 2
DATE: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
TIME: 7 p.m.
PLACE: Hyde Park Theatre (duh)
COST: $10 but you're welcome to kick in more

We will sell out so don't wait to reserve your seats. Email and let me know how many tickets to hold for you.

Can't wait to see you.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Whim City-- Episode Two: The Moustache Ride!

My second episode of Whim City -- a little video project I'm doing with KUT-- just posted.

You can read the words part here.

Here is the video:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: Twelve Breaths a Minute-- End of Life Essays

My review of the really amazing book, Twelve Breaths a Minute -- End of Life Essays, posted today at the Texas Observer online. This anthology is packed with stunning essays about how we do and don't deal with death in our society. There is no one on the planet who should skip reading this. And I want to give a special shout out to Dr. Catherine Musemeche, my wonderful friend, who has a piece in the book. Not only that, but Dr. Kate's essay, Wake-Up Call, was excerpted at the NPR website-- the one chosen to best capture the spirit of this book.  I strongly encourage you all to run down to BookPeople and get yourself a copy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I May Never Blog Again!

I keep meaning to tell y'all why I'm not posting much anymore, but then the things that are keeping me from posting keep keeping me from posting. So maybe I'll never get around to telling the six of you, though I did reveal the reasons to my writing workshop folks. (And I am still putting up the occasional post for them over at Write With Spike.) Meanwhile, though I've slowed the writing down to a near halt, I still can't resist over-photgraphing the world. So here, have some pictures, people. I hope you enjoy them. Mwa!

Warren and I just celebrated our 4 YEAR anniversary, breaking all previous records for both of us put together. Times about 10. What a long strange trip and all that. Happy Anniv, Mono!

Henry (R) and I (not pictured) are about to celebrate our 20th (!!!) anniversary of moving to ATX. TWENTY!! He was about the size of Rebound (L) when we moved here.

The "Pick Your Dinner" Tank at Madam Mam's.

Do we need still more proof that I am a fat and sassy happy middle ager? Okay, how about this: regular pedicures and bling flip-flops. LOVE.

Warren and I found my new favorite appliance at Phoenicia in Houston. And it doesn't even require batteries! For a written description, see below.

Written description of my new favorite appliance.

I could walk around Phoenicia for hours. In fact I do.

My new pet nickname for Warren.

What actually aligned nuts look like. With honey.

A) no, you don't have to tell me that those clown pants are a fashion crime. I know. I KNOW.
B) I gave this old stove to Zach the Gardener because it got so dirty that even I couldn't handle it. Then, when I helped Zach move into his new house and asked, "How can I help?" he and his wife pointed out that the stove really needed to be cleaned. So, yeah, I wound up cleaning that fucking stove anyway. What a pain in my ass.

From the Constipation Police. Portland, OR

Fountain in Portland nicknamed by the locals: Three Groins in the Fountain. Ha!

They don't have many problems in Portland, so God only needs a very small mailbox.

Nepalese meditation trees. I sat under these every day to meditate.

Because even though I tell Warren to STOP MAKING JOKES ABOUT PENISES, I just can't resist photos like this one.

The engagement ring I picked out for Warren to buy me to symbolize how well-balanced we are.