Monday, December 29, 2014

What do I smell like?

“George told me once that I smelt like home. I got all paranoid, you know, thinking I smelt of fish and chip shops or dirty bars or something. But he said no, I just always smelt of home.” — Paul McCartney

My own problem is, I don't smell like anything. Although I was born in Texas, and have lived the vast majority of my life in Texas, down-home people seem to mistrust me. I remember one time, I had to ask to borrow my duplex-neighbor's phone to call our mutual landlord to get me checked out of my place. (The landlord's representative had missed the appointment; I was calling to see where they were. I was angry and short on the phone, which my neighbor overheard, since I was in his home --- he then asked me, "Where are you FROM?" I replied, "AZLE, TEXAS," and he shut up.)

When I chose to go to grad school in San Francisco in '94, I learned that San Franciscans were provincial on a level I hadn't even imagined. Worse than the smallest town in Texas. In small-town Texas, people have their opinions... yet they will listen to yours. In San Francisco, I was labeled as a "Nazi" because I told my thesis advisor that my mother was German (in my advisor's mind, all Germans must be Nazis); my poetry was initially dismissed because I'd said I'd spent the past summer reading Norman Mailer (that professor later warmed up to me when I presented gay-oriented poems). When I visited record stores, I saw a cut-out of George Strait with "CRACKER" written in black marker across his forehead. When I worked at a movie theater selling popcorn, a woman at the counter asked me about my "accent" -- when I told her I was from Texas, she said, as if she were sharing a secret with me, "Texas has too many Mexicans!"

Oh, speaking of "smells": When I was working as an office assistant while in grad school in San Francisco and delivering mail across campus, I couldn't enter one particular office because I wore deodorant. One office lady there had complained to the government that she was sensitive to any perfume, shampoo, deodorant, etc. And so was granted special dispensation to have all odorous individuals banned from her presence. I left the mail on the outer doorstep.

I can't STAND San Franciscans to this day.

I envy Paul McCartney. I kind of wish I "smelt like home." In a good way.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

You Can't Get the Hell Out of Texas

"It's the hell-raisin' center of the earth..."

Hell Stays Open All Night Long

"It's open from dawn 'til dawn..."

"Yabba Dabba Doo..."

If Drinking Don't Kill Me

George Jones: I'm Not Ready Yet

Me and My Dad, 1965

Over Christmas, my mom pointed out to me that my dad was about to turn 75 in January. Yes, I know exactly the day of the month of January that he was born (as a woman, I know every family member's birthdates), but I had not stopped to think... 75. 75 is old. 75 is pretty much past the threshold of "oh, you were mean to me when I was young, you weren't a nice father." At 75, you're not even a father any more, you're a survivor of the world, of which your kids, if you had them, were only a very, very small window.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

First time I've danced to anything in at least 4 fucking years!!!!

The person who wrote/sings this is 15 years old

Tra-la-la, 16 days off! (Dec. 20 thru Jan. 4)

I'd kinda, sorta "vowed" to make the days useful, and am mainly successful so far.

Day 1, Saturday the 20th:  Finished off my Christmas shopping. USEFUL.
Day 2, Sunday the 21st: Lay in bed all day with a hangover, watching football. (Yay, Cowboys!) NOT USEFUL (well, except for the genuine joy and feeling that all was right with the world at the Cowboys' victory over the always nasty Philadelphia Eagles).
Day 3, Monday the 22nd: Walked around downtown Austin for the first time in years, renewed my expired library membership, and saw a movie at a theater for the first time in years. USEFUL. (Last movie I saw, also at the Violet Crown, was "The Artist," in 2011. The one I saw today was "Whiplash.")
Day 4, Tuesday the 23rd: Walked a few blocks hoping to deliver my "Secret Santa" gift of Christmas chocolates to "Mr. G," whose corner barbershop is where I wait for my bus and who chats with me and who gave me a Christmas apple last week. It was about 9:30 in the morning, so I thought I could just sneak the gift onto his front doorstep, but... there he was, just getting out of his car! I had to confess what I was doing there! He gave me a big hug and we wished "Merry Christmas." Mildly awkward but good vibes. Also did laundry. Also made 2 trips to the corner grocery, where I stocked up on sale-priced Cokes and (regular-priced) beer to last me for the next few days while I negotiate in and out of family Christmas gatherings. USEFUL.
Day 5, Wednesday the 24th: Wrapped presents, attended a pleasant Christmas Eve at my mother's, along with brother and his wife's family. Everyone on best behavior. USEFUL.
Day 6, Thursday the 25th: Washed all dishes. Christmas dinner at brother's house. USEFUL.
Day 7, Friday the 26th: Grocery shopping. SEMI-USEFUL.
Day 8, Saturday the 27th: Hangover in bed all day. NOT AT ALL USEFUL. :(
Day 9, Sunday the 28th: Yay, Cowboys! And Yay for me for getting off my ass and, in anticipation of my move a month from now, cleaning out my closet, getting rid of detritus like my old computer tower, my old collection of Joan Crawford VHS tapes. Also cleaned part of my kitchen, so I don't have to do all of the cleaning at once upon my moveout. VERY USEFUL.
Day 10, Monday the 29th: Hangover in bed all day. NOT USEFUL. :(
Day 11, Tuesday the 30th: Another stroll around downtown after mailing off a package I needed to get out. Wanted to get a slice/salad/drink at a pizza place I used to go to downtown when I worked there, but passed after hearing it was $8.50! (After hearing that price, I remembered: I used to always bring a canned soda from home for lunches, so in the past just paid for the slice/salad.) Took a bus back to campus to my favorite CHEAP pizza place ($6.00 for slice/salad/drink), but it was closed for the school holidays. Waited a half hour for a bus, ended up going to a Whataburger near my apartment then walking a mile home. Blah. After 10 days of not taking buses, remembered how much I despised them. USEFUL for getting out of the house and going to the P.O., but hugely NOT USEFUL for the waste of time trying to find a place to eat!
Day 12, Wednesday the 31st: In bed with a hangover most of the day, but before dark got off my ass, showered, dressed, and went to pick up a good New Year's Eve meal from Hoover's down the street: chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes, "cowboy" beans, salad, cornbread. Invigorating walk (over a mile) in brisk 35-degree temperature, with a hearty meal hitting the spot as a reward at the end. Rest of evening, worked on Joan website while listening to New Year's Eve shows in the background. (Always get goosebumps when they pipe in "New York, New York" at Times Square.) Toasted myself at midnight with cheap champagne. SEMI-USEFUL for getting out of the house, and for being fresh for the New Year!
Day 13, Thursday the 1st:  After being up all night drinking, around 3pm, told my mother (after she called to say "Happy New Year" and then hung up on my because she said I was drunk) and the woman I loved (who was not responding to me) to fuck off. NOT USEFUL.
Day 14, Friday the 2nd: In bed with a hangover all day. NOT USEFUL.
Day 15, Saturday the 3rd: In bed 'til the evening, then up and showered and working on Joan site later. SEMI-USEFUL.

Friday, December 19, 2014


I think this morning proved I probably am one, except in theory.

I was already late for work when I got on my morning East-side bus, the first of two on my 15-mile, hour-long trip to work every morning. The driver, one I recognized, is known to me as being extremely slow and pokey. "Slow and pokey" means to me stuff like: When the green light or left-turn arrow is turning orange, you screech to a stop instead of going ahead. The good, efficient, on-time drivers go ahead.

(Austin's still small-time as far as buses and public transportation go. The buses run sufficiently infrequently that you get to know the characteristics of the various drivers and at what time those particular drivers are on the route. Unfortunately, while you may recognize the crappy characteristics, you can't avoid them since you have to be somewhere -- like WORK -- at the precise time these folks are always driving.)

So anyway, I get on the known-slow-guy's bus, already late to work. We turn on a road heading east through the university campus. At the stop coming up, there's a man, obviously a street person, lying half on the sidewalk and half on the road. It was an alarming sight.

The driver pulls up to the stop and opens the bus doors. The man lying there attempts to sit up, then falls back. The driver then lowers the bus gears, as he would do for someone in a wheelchair or with a cane who needs help getting on the bus. The driver then calls out to the man, "Where are you going, Sir? Do you need help getting on the bus?"

The man couldn't answer, just continued to lie there. He was obviously not trying to get on the bus or go anywhere. He obviously needed a 911 call for an ambulance. The bus driver continued trying to talk to him, trying to ascertain his travel plans. After 5 minutes of this idiotic conversation, the driver finally figured out that he should get on the phone to his dispatcher. Great, I thought. Except his conversation with dispatch lasted another 5 minutes. While the guy was lying there. At one point, the driver asked the man lying there, "How old are you, Sir?"

After 10 minutes of the bus just sitting there, after watching/listening to the driver on the phone either being on hold with the dispatcher or asking inane questions of the victim on the ground, I couldn't take any more and went up to the front of the bus: "Do you want me to call 911? Why are we sitting here? This man needs an ambulance."

The driver, still holding his phone to his ear, just looked at me and didn't say anything. I stomped back to my seat. Sat there for another 5 minutes. (Man still on the ground, driver still with phone to ear, no EMTs or police showing up.)

The bus sat there for at least 10 minutes before the ambulance/police finally showed up. When they got there, they asked the driver, "Was he on the bus?" I felt like yelling out, "No, he wasn't on the bus! He was lying in the street, and we just saw him lying there." Simple answer. But no, the driver mumbled and whatever'd and spent another 5 minutes chatting.

During my 4 years of taking Austin buses, I've several times seen alcoholic homeless guys fall face-first either onto or off of buses, or fall flat out on the sidewalk. This guy was obviously one of those cases. In my mind, the correct response should have been to immediately call for EMS help, then wait for them to arrive, then go on about driving the bus once they arrived. Why all of the lowering of the bus ramp, the asking where the obviously-passed-out guy was going and how old he was, the chit-chatting with police?

What should have been a humanitarian 15 minutes turned into a half hour of me feeling nothing but late for work, and like the biggest misanthrope in the world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Foul and Fair

Boy, I was in a foul mood last night, and for much of today (though today was more of a hangover from the mood -- mean reds seguing into the blues).

Moving out of my one-room apt. after over 4 years is supposed to be a GOOD thing, not a terrible one. But, boy, the rental market in Austin is terrible for renters right now. It really is disappointing not to be able to afford my humble dream of a place: a garage apartment or a duplex of at least 600 sq ft within a half-hour of travel to/from work. Those seem to be going for $1200-1500, and I had to face last night that even the low end of that is out of range. $1100, I actually can afford, but all I can get for that is a really nice one-bedroom (and, as I've said here before, I really don't want or need "really nice"---I prefer formica countertops to granite; I don't need a gym in the building or a dishwasher, etc.).

This morning I vowed that I was simply going to stop looking for a place this last week of work before a 2-week vacation---it was making me upset and unfocused at work, since I kept checking Craigslist every hour! But I do have one appointment tomorrow during my lunch hour: An older, funky complex---Old Austin. 2 small bedrooms. 720 sq ft. Top floor. No shared walls, just a neighbor downstairs. Best of all, it's a sublet, so no move-in fee OR deposit. And no dogs allowed---also Old Austin. (I like dogs just fine, but not since they've become an Austin fetish, with every bearded slacker in a plaid shirt walking his "rescue pit." Also not when they're barking or howling constantly next door.) I've seen pictures of the place via Google Maps---one half of the small complex faces its parking lot and the street, while the other half faces a bunch of trees in the neighbor's back yard... I'm praying that the apartment that I'm seeing will face the trees! PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE! One of the things that made my current apt. quite palatable was its huge window with beautiful trees outside---"Tree Friends Through Screen." A beautiful view every day. This place is also in a cool neighborhood: a cafĂ© 2 blocks away, a pizza place a block away, a drug-store on the corner, the supermarket a 5-minute walk away...

Oh yeah, the PRICE... $875!!! With that, I can get nice furniture, a big-screen TV, and... A CAR!

We'll see. I can't get too excited, because the let-down really has been big over the past several weeks, every time I got pumped up about a place then dismayed after seeing it in person.

Apartment woes aside, two nice things did happen to me today in the midst of my malaise: One, the man whose barbershop is at the bus-stop that I wait at in the morning came out and offered me a grapefruit! When I had to be honest and say I didn't really like grapefruits, but thanks anyway, he disappeared back into his shop and returned apple and a "Merry Christmas"! :)  He and I have chatted several times over the years. He's actually the "stylist" for former football star Earl Campbell! I need to think of something cute that I can secretly leave on his porch...

The second thing: At my beer store this evening, the Pakistani owner asked me if I was coming from or going to a party! :)  (I was just in my work clothes, a sweater and cords.) When I thanked him profusely, he added that I looked very nice AND that he liked the way I walked! When I kind of laughed embarrassedly, he added, "No, really, I sometimes see you walk by the store...." He mimicked a stride, and said, "You don't walk anything like most of the people I see around here." !!! THANK YOU! :)

I hate being here.

Jesus Christ, I hate it.

I like my job. I'm grateful for it, for the financial stability after 4 years of temping after my 2010 return from NYC.

But I left Austin for a reason to begin with.

I hate the "slacker" attitude; I've always hated the slacker attitude. I now hate the new influx of even more idiotic, PC slackers from the West Coast.

I hate that I'm about to pay $1200 for a place that I don't particularly like, in a part of town that I don't particularly want to be in. And I hate the fact that paying this will break my bank. I'll have maybe $200 extra left over at the end of every month. At age 49. With a Master's degree. As an Editor.

There's no point to it.

At least when I was in Weehawken and paying $1550 for rent, I LOVED where I was. Weehawken and New York City were beautiful. I was both scared and mildly outraged by the price I was paying, but I nonetheless thought where I lived was beautiful, and I liked the people I was around.

I don't like the people I'm around now. Give you an example: In NYC, if there's an asshole on a bus or subway car, you can be sure that you probably won't see him again. In Austin, though, the public transportation choices are much fewer. For instance, my bus to work in the morning comes every half-hour. I can catch it at 7:43, or, if I get up way too early, I can catch it at 7:11. The 7:11 is much better people-wise, but to catch that one, I have to get up at 6am. That's hard. So I usually catch the 7:43. And 75% of the time on the 7:43, there are two assholes on it:

Asshole #1 is a young black gang-banger who always gets on at the supermarket and who is ALWAYS on his phone, even at that early hour, cursing at the top of his lungs about THIS SHIT and THAT SHIT, and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. My morning begins with his dumb-ass bullshit.

Asshole #2 is a 30-something flabby white academic who will strike up a conversation with ANYONE about both his academic goals and his medical problems. And if a person he recognizes is at the other end of the bus, then he will get up and move in order to have SOME type of idiotic conversation with that person, in his big booming voice. (He's got a hole in his diaphragm; he's applying to Michigan; his parents didn't usually decorate their tree; he's from Tulsa, yet he judges Austin's downtown architecture, et-fucking-cetera.)

I have to listen to both of these fucking idiots nearly every day.

Get a car and avoid them, why don't I? Because I can't afford to both get a car AND a decent place to live in Austin. At a $46K salary. I'm fucking trapped.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I've just figured out...

... I was a lot brighter than Ginny, Sandra, Mollie, despite their charms.

The one man I've slept with, the head of a state entity, was smarter than me. (And just as creative, albeit in a different way. You don't get to the top of anything without being smart and creative.)

I wanted Ginny to be new in Austin with me.
I wanted Sandra to talk poetry with me and then seduce me.
I wanted Mollie to fuck my brains out and talk art afterwards.

Most of all of this was from '83 to '89.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Going through my head all day today

This song still gives me goosebumps, as does their performance here (Washington, D.C., 1964) and the reactions from the audience.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I'm longing to linger 'til dawn, dear

"Dream a Little Dream of Me," 1957, from "Day by Night" (my favorite Doris Day album).

Sunday, December 07, 2014

1984: When All Was Still Possible (and Bono, Sting, George Michael, and Boy George were still beautiful)

The first and last gasp of my generation; I still get goosebumps listening to/watching this (esp. during Bono's and Boy George's bits)--while still wondering, "Who the hell is Paul Young?"

"Tonight thank god it's them instead of you..."

An Austin Place to Live w' a $1200 Rent Budget

After leaving NYC with my tail between my legs in 2010, unable to find work that paid my $1550-per-month rent and unable to find a cheaper place that wasn't in Queens, I came back to Austin to regroup. After staying with my mother for 3 months (3 months that she made as unpleasant as possible), I was finally, thanks to freelance checks from a publishing company, able to get my own place, back in the 'hood that I lived in before moving to NYC. Only this time in a 400-sq-ft apartment rather than the 800-sq-ft house I lived in from 2000 to 2007 (that I paid $825 monthly for the whole time).

The $545 per month that I paid in 2010 for the Austin apartment has, by 2014, increased to $750. Ads on Craigslist today show it offered at $815.

I now have a perfectly respectable middle-class job as an Editor, making in the 40Ks per year. Monthly gross salary, around $3700. After taxes, retirement system, and the near-$500 taken out of my paycheck to repay student loans (thanks, Dad, for not providing for your child's college despite your constant claims to "superiority"), I have $2400 per month net for everything: rent + all bills.

While living in this now-$750-per-month apartment for 4 years, my overall expenses have been about $1500 per month. Beyond the rent, the expenses have been electric/gas/phone/Internet, groceries, work lunches, beer, cigs, haircuts, etc.

If my ongoing take-home salary is currently $2400 per month, and my expenses (sans rent) are @ $750, then that leaves about $1650 for rent +  emergencies/savings/possible car.

I gave my move-out notice at my apartment a week ago. I have to move out by Feb. 2. In the past week, I've done some rudimentary apartment-searching: One-bedroom apartments up north near my work, for @ $850 per month, were small (600-sq-ft or less), grim, and depressing. A garage apartment near campus, in better shape but only 500-sq-ft, was $1200 --- and with a neighbor living below.

I'd thought that once I got a "real" job, that I would then be able to afford a decent place... "Decent" to me meaning mainly that I wouldn't have to share walls, that I'd have more than one room with more than 400-sq feet, that I might have a little outdoor space--say, a balcony or a small yard.

I still have the rest of December, plus all of January, to find a new place. But I'd hoped for something significantly better than what I'd been living in for the past 4 years while I was relying on temp and freelance work. Once I had a real job, I'd hoped for a real place... The market seems to be keeping me in the "student apartment" range. At age 49!


After re-reading the above, the one question in my mind is: How in the world could someone making over $40K a year have to resort to living in shit-hole student apartments? Where am I supposed to go live--San Angelo, Beaumont? But my editing job's not IN San Angelo or Beaumont...