stories >> 1997 - 09 - 28
You've seen it all before...
Coloring this weekend was Thursday afternoon,
when I had a spectacularly stupid bike wreck and managed to striate the left
side of my body with the fine gravel of the town lake trail. Thursday night
I spent swollen and feeling pathetic, as I always do after the more nasty wrecks,
where I keep thinking "Good Lord, but that was freaking stupid" and wondering
if these new scars are going to permamently disfigure me. The good news: the
Hoo Koo E Koo escaped unscathed.
So Friday comes in, and the cold front has broken. Austin's trying to struggle back up to its usual 1,000 degrees, but there's enough cold air left where we'll only get somewhere in the 80's. Gorgeous day. I'm caught up on the official schedule at work. I keep looking outside. I itching in my seat like a six year old kid a week before summer vacation. At around 4:00 I get an internet page from my man Yows, who's just looking to pass some time. After a few rounds of paging back and forth, he writes "I don't feel like doing a damn thing right now." I smile, and instantly reply, "Ah, Cedar Door... 5:00". I can just see Gregg smiling on his end of the connection, and the next thing I see is a "I'll call you when I'm leaving."
The next thirty minutes zoom by. Sweet, sweet, Cedar Door! So on the way out the GE Door, I stop by AJ's and tell her about the Cedar Door. AJ's been insisting all day that the Burning Spear is playing at Stubb's tonight, but I keep telling her it's a band called "Spear Head" from San Francisco. We argue about it a little more, and I can see that AJ has that same sort of Ferris Bueller's Day Off look to her as I do. So I tell her, "Cedar Door?" AJ takes about a minute and a half to decide that, well, she has to pick up her cat from the vet anyway, and by that time it'll be too late to come back to work, and... we're walking out the door. AJ hops into her Pathfinder, and I strike out across the train tracks to the Cedar Door (AJ will later tell me that when we part ways, I'm walking so fast off to the 'Door that I look like that goofy scene in "When Harry Met Sally").
Cedar Door, Cedar Door. Mr. Yows has beat me there. We find a table, in the shade, and I start working on the gin and tonics. Gregg will eventually consume a Bud Light (shudder) and a Mexican martini before he'll see the beginnings of wisdom and also switch to the gin and tonic. We watch the sky, check out the birds sitting on the high tension wires, watch the bar fill up. There's a man sitting on the other side of the deck who looks like he's some sort of Hollywood Mafia John Woo drug lord. I keep telling Gregg "That's how I want to look when I'm fifty: gunmetal gray hair, a Brazilian tan, a wiry nervous 140 pounds, chain smoking, sunglasses wearing, three piece suit sporting Mafiaoso." The waitress refuses to tell us her name, ostensibly because it's Friday afternoon. Gregg and I keep talking, about local music, about working out, about all the random noise that makes up a thoroughly pleasant and rewarding afternoon of just shooting the breeze. Eventually, just as I had given up on AJ, she appears up on the deck. The Waitress With No Name wants to ID AJ, who ends up getting her passport from her car. AJ gets her signature drink (Marg, rocks, no salt, Herradura Silver), and we keep babbling away as the sun sets. I'm forced to take off my sun glasses and I start ranting about the only piece of Fitzgerald I ever remember, "Maxfield Parrish Blue." The sweet sunset, bright orange-pink cirrus clouds and that beautiful Maxfield Parrish blue...
Yows goes home, AJ still wants to go see "Burning Spear". The show's supposed to start at 8:00, but what show really starts at eight? So back to work to regroup. I convince AJ that it'd be a good idea to walk to Stubbs (this is when she gives me the "Harry Met Sally" story). Colin's hanging out at GE, and the first words out of his mouth are, "Alan, I'm so glad you're here. This is hosed up. Can you fix it? Can I leave now?" I grit my teeth while AJ cooks up a tofu dog, I think I fix the problem, at least Colin's out the god damned door. So off AJ and I go.
I notice that AJ walks pretty slowly. I'm starting to think maybe it wasn't such a great idea to walk. We go pulse out cash, and for some reason we decide that we want to go see this fountain down by first street and Congress. What a great fountain: it's maybe 40 yards long, one big wall, with steps of brick built into the base. The white noise alone is nearly deafening. And if you look at it cross eyed, it looks like the water is staying still and the bricks are moving. So we stare at it until we're dizzy, then we walk on towards to Stubb's. I start randomly naming stars in the sky, point out Jupiter, which AJ thinks is Polaris because it's the brightest star (I find out later that this is a pretty common belief), and when I try to really point out Polaris, which isn't easy to see, AJ starts looking at me like I'm making all of his stuff up. Ah well. We head up Sixth Street and get a slice of pizza. AJ keeps telling me how she hopes that it's an outdoor show at the good old Stubb's, because the indoor shows really blow. It turns out that she's been to *one* indoor show, and it sucked because these two guys kept insisting that she was Kelly Willis. I know I hate being confused with a country music star. Particularly Kelly Willis. But AJ's pretty sure that it's an outdoor thing, so we're probably cool.
Finally, after days and days, we're at Stubbs. They're charging the outrageous price of $15.00 to get in. We've got $37 or so between us, so we get in and head for the bar. It's been a long dry walk. The two people ahead of us in line are taking an interminably long time to get a drink. They are apparently from England or somewhere and want to try every possible tequila or some such thing. The woman behind me starts talking smack to the bartender. Whatever she said was funny enough to laugh at, so she and I start joking around about slow bartenders and American currency. When our turn comes up, AJ gets the signature again, and I go straight for the Lone Star and a tequila shot. Since AJ's ordered a good tequila, good old Rebecca the bartender gets me confused with someone who might have a little class and so asks me, "What kind of tequila do you want?" "Whatever comes out of the squirter!" I holler, by which I meant "well tequila," but actually I don't think it means much of anything. I've never savored a tequila shot in my life; it's just an effecient method of putting more alcohol in my body that happens to be more socially accepted than intravenous injection :) We head back outside and the guy hassels me about bringing a glass bottle outside... not only that, but then he makes me throw it away. Blah blah blah.
Outside, AJ meets some of her buddies. They're standing entirely too far away from the stage for my taste... I like to be in the thick of things, otherwise I get distracted and get bored and all I end up doing is drinking myself blind. On the other hand, a good buzz makes every show better. So I go back inside to get another drink, and this time there's some straight edge guys who keep cutting to the front of the line and ordering Haacke Becks or Clausthaulers or something. I chat up the gay guy next to me to pass the time. I get another round from Rebecca, who forgets the salt. I ask her for some, and she says "Where do you want it?" I tell her I just want it on my hand. So she pulls out a huge box of rock salt and pours about a cup of salt over my outstretched fist. Uh, thanks. Now the tequila's down, and I need to drink a quart of water to counteract all of the salt. On the way out, I hide behind the gay guy and yell in his ear "Move quick! I'm trying to sneak this bottle outside!" The bottle brigand guy jumps up, then sees I'm full of it, laughs and waves me through.
Back outside, I try to cajole AJ into getting close to the band, but she has some claustrophobia issues so I plow my own way forward. I start paying attention to the band. Spear Head is a reggae type band from San Francisco, and they are really really good. When I first start listening, they are playing that "Yo Diggity" song. Kind of weird, until after the first verse the front man says "Yo, this song sucks. We won't play it anymore" to general laughter. Then one of the other guys starts saying, "We have here tonight one of the most famous singers in the country. she has the current number one album, it's, look, it's Mariah Carey!" They keep going on and off the stage, but apparently "Mariah" won't come out, so the front men comes back and tells everyone "That's okay. I can sing better than Mariah Carey." So he starts trying to hit these hilarious falsettos from some Mariah Carey song. You can barely hear him because everyone is laughing so hard. Then he holds his hands up for silence, and says "This last one here is for Mariah" and slides from the ridiculous falsetto into this bone shaking 20 hertz bass boom! It was fantastic!
They come back for their encore, and every song is about ganja. They cover that old Hank Williams song but change the words to "There's a hole in the bong, dear Liza." They do Sexual Healing, and somehow it's about ganja. They don't play "Legalize It", but every freaking song is still about ganja. I see that the "Spear Head" shirt is the red, white, and blue running man of the NBA, basketball and all, except that he has dread locks. If you ever get the chance, sell the house and kids and go see these sons. So down in front, and I'm good and loaded, I'm jumping up and down and smack the guy in front me in the head with my chin, but it's all cool, he's probably stoned, we give each the high five. I start ripping out the gritos, and I feel oh-so-multicultural. Here we are, a bunch of kwai lo gringos, watching an all black reggae band, and I'm yipping out like I was back in Laredo. I felt multicultural, but I imagine everyone else was just annoyed.
When Spear Head gets done, I go back and find AJ. AJ starts telling her buddy about the star gazing, and the guy points to Jupiter and says "What's that?" I tell him Jupiter, brightest thing and the sky, and he gives me the "Oh, so that's the north star?" Hmmm. He askes me to point out a few more things, and as I look up, I see a perfect V of geese flying overhead, so I tell him, "There's a flock of geese." We all look up, very cool. Ian Moore's the next guy. Nothing but a two bit Stevie Ray Vaughn guy, in my opinion. AJ wants to stay, her buddy says that he'll give her a ride home, I say "Cool" and start walking back.
And I get really depressed on the way home. I get accosted by a prostitute oustide of Stubb's, which is always depressing. I wander back to 6th street and stop to get another slice of pizza, and watch the folks wander by, and I'm just consumed with misantrhopy. Admittedly, 6th street is not the cream of the societal crop. But watching these folks: tough guys, cops, women in vinyl skirts, everyone drunk, nobody making eye contact, everyone ostensibly having fun. I get dumped into a deep blue funk. Then I get the hiccups because I put too many hot peppers on my pizza. I start winding back to GE, hiccuping, feeling terrible. I walk by a truck, and the alarm gives the "BLOOP BLOOP" of someone turning their alarm off, which startles me. I turn around and there's two guys laughing half heartedly about it. I just give them the thumbs up and "Good one, fellas." and keep walking. About two blocks away, I holler out loud because these guys have really bothered me, and I start thinking I should of have done something more to these guys. This depresses me even more, and by the time I get to GE, I just want to get home. I ride my bike home, and I start thinking about this old Cream song "Tales of Brave Ulysses" for some reason. I pull out the tape and listen to the song. I look in the tape case, and I get even more depressed. I look at all these tapes that I used to listen to when I was an hijo. Here's a tape from college. Here's one from ten years ago. Here's one I listened to so many times that the writing's worn off. There's something so sad about an unlistened-to record to me. It's just like used book stores to me: I feel like I'm at an orphanage. I have a tape that my best friend from fifth freaking grade gave to me when were fourteen and I've never listened to it. I put it in the tape player, it's "Blues for Allah" or "Aoxomoxoa" or something. I hate it. I throw the tape away. Then I start making three stacks: tapes to throw, tapes to sell, tapes to keep. The sell and throw stacks get larger and larger as I think about how little I listen to these things. Wow, I'm bummed out.
So I go for a bike ride to try to shake it off, that doesn't work, so I just go to sleep. Whew.
Thankfully Saturday dawns a new day. I wake up and feel pretty good. I start to do some laundry and do the dishes. There's nothing like a few meaningful chores to snap you out of your funk. By 2 o'clock, I'm back to my old self. Last night's all forgotten, and I'm ready to get into some trouble. I call up Cantone. We go to the Tavern for lunch and endure a rude waitress and a crowd of people who are excited that UT is beating RICE, the football powerhouse. We go over to Whole Earth and look at their outrageously expensive tents and clothes. Carl's bumming because he had to go up a size in pants (of course, this new size looks like it's falling down to his knees when he put them on), and he's moving, which is always a bummer. We cruise by work so that I can pick up my sun glasses, I say hi to AJ who's whipped herself into work on a Saturday. Off with Cantone, who wants to go drink Dixie beers at a barbecue joint. What the heck. The barbecue place is too crowded though, so we go good old Trudy's. Another gorgeous afternoon. Gin and tonics for me, and Cantone wants a marg. I try to get him to order the AJ signature, but he stubbornly insists on Herradura Aņejo. Mitsy is taking good care of us, though, so Cantone and I sit there and swap road rash stories. The guys next to us keep talking about dynamite... as in "two sticks of dynamite." We never find out what they're talking about. The gins are piling up, and Cantone keeps vascillating between tequila and Dos Equis. About this time, Carl confides in me that he found his mortarboard while moving, and his one big goal of the day is watch it "burn, baby, burn." Official count is at 6 drinks, I start drumming on the table and grinning at Carl. "I'm feeling the Rage, my man!" I tell him, so we quickly pay our tab.
After stopping for gas and quarts of Magnum, "a fine Malt Liqour," we're back at my place. Oh shoot -- the McDonald's are expecting a call. I've been trying to convert Jamie from the heresy of Velveeta queso, and she's finally ready to convert to the one true religion and make some queso that's from an indentifiably cheese-y source (the secret is 1/2 cream cheese and 1/2 something else, in this case asadero, maybe some cheddar for color, and plenty of salsa). While I'm telling her, Carl keeps picking up the emergency gasoline can and shaking it, then muttering, "Nope, nope, unsuitable." We're on the blacony singing now, swinging our quarts around our head. Some women in a Jeep are understandably staring at us. We wave, they turn on their emergency lights, and they wander off. They come back, and apparently can't figure out how to turn off the emergency lights. They wander off again. We go back inside, get the mortarboard and this ungodly huge lighter that I bought at some time in my life. We go outside to the barbecue, stopping to turn off the Jeep's lights, and starting torching the mortarboard. The mortarboard burns surprisingly well, so we watch it while pensively sucking our beers. About this time, some woman with a three year old baby and her mom walk up... they stop and want to talk to us, for some unfathomable reason. We chat amiably while the mortarboard burns, and they walk off after awhile. The mortarboard is history. We shut the grill, and head back in.
Great good Luck, Rolf has called and wants to drive. Hehehe. Mr. Yows, the day before, had invited us out to "The Slave Ranch," some ten acre field off in BFE Austin. His band is playing there at 8 o'clock that night. Rolf says, sure I'll drive, and we expect him in another 1/2 hour. So Carl and I mutter our way back to the Diamond Shamrock where we had bought the quarts and buy more beers. It's only been 45 minutes since we were last here, but the surly little guy behind the counter ID's me again, and this time insists on ID'ing Carl also. We harass him a little, take the beers, and head back to the apartment. They're watering the lawn, so I nonchalantly walk next to Carl up to one of the sprinklers and then push him into it. Carl starts laughing and gives me the beer, saying "Here, hold this." I avoid one or two of his reprisals, so he just tackles me into the grass. We're both laughing so hard we can't get up. Back inside, drink a few Lites, waiting for Rolf. Rolf shows up, we hop in Carl's truck, and head north. I want to stop by the McDonald's first, so we head there.
Once we get near their house in Pflugerville, Carl starts shouting about how he grew up with the great grand son of Mr. Pfluger himself, and that Jim's house is fifty yards away from where he used to make hay bale forts when he was an hijo. Whatever. We get inside Jim's, and Carl starts telling him the Mr. Pfluger story, and Jim looks at me and asks, "How much you fellas had to drink?" We hang out for a few minutes. I want to see how the queso's going to turn out, but Jamie's off buying the goods as we're sitting there. It's already 8:15, so we decide we can't wait any longer and head off to the Slave Ranch. Rolf's lost the damn directions. By some quirk of fate, I had actually memorized the directions, and we only end up being lost for about ten minutes.
Turns out the Ranch is not only a ten acre field, it's a ten acre field that you get to by going down a tiny dirt road behind a storage building. Slave Ranch. Place should be called Spawn Ranch. Anyway, we get there, and they have a keg, and there's a few Trilogy miscreants hanging out. I'm wearing my "Drunk and Missing for Days" shirt, which wins instant approbation. Mr. Yows materializes with his lovely wife Eden, and we start waiting. Turns out the Yowsters aren't playing until fourth on the bill, and the first band hasn't even set up yet. I drink a few more beers, catch up on Trilogy gossip, and watch the stars come out. The first band is terrible and plays for 70 minutes or so. Kind of a Husker Du knock off sound, to me. I could never be drunk enough to enjoy these guys. So on the same theory of "if you get tired running, run faster" I rip out a few gritos to try to stir up my blood and give the old boys a thrill. They're appreciative, but I'm afraid I might have encouraged them to play another fifteen minutes.
Carl's met some girl and disappeared.
The second band sets up quickly, and they have a violinist. I think, what the heck, this is cool I guess. Except the violin part is terrible. It's just a little repetive scraping sound. I can only tolerate about 1 1/2 songs. I turn around from the stage and I don't see anybody I know. I think this was a pretty stupid idea to come out here. I'm pretty sure I can find the vehicle though. Luckily I'd forgotten where we'd stashed the keys so I couldn't actually leave. After stumbling my way across the field (apparently, the Slave Ranch used to be the locus of some sort of bizzare rut-inducing experiment... the only level stretch of land was the stage), I climb on top of Carl's Bravada and fall asleep. Eventually, Rolf comes out and finds me. He's as disappointed as I am. We lay across the hood, which turns out be much warmer than the roof. I start giving him the astronomy lesson. Rolf knows that Jupiter isn't the north star, but he to also seems to think that the brightest star is the north star. Strange. Rolf's obviuosly drunk and making up constellations that I've never seen... I tell him about the quick and dirty degree measurements: if you hold out a finger at arm's length, it covers about one degree in the sky. Your fist covers five degrees. Flash a hang-loose Shaka and you've got ten degrees from pinky to to thumb tip. We're still not seeing the same things, but I do get him to see the real Polaris. At least we had that.
The third band starts and Rolf starts telling me about the cool Indian food he's been cooking lately. We talk about Indian food, and then we start wondering if maybe someone's killed Carl in some bizzare way and buried his body out in the woods. The only thing we can see from the direction of the band is the steady flash of the disco light show they've set up: the green light stabs accurately right into our faces, even from 1/4 mile away. The third band ends, and we thread our way through the ruts back to the stage.
I find Eden, who's dug up Cantone somewhere. I meet Eden's friend Elizabeth, who would give AJ a run for her money in the Kelly Willis look-a-like department. We shoot the breeze, and Gregg's band finally gets up on stage. I help Elizabeth up, find that my man Space has made it out to the ranch, and we mill up to the stage. Gregg's band is "The Claymores." About their 6th song, they play a Gourds cover ("Clear Night" for the interested and initiated), so I dance, badly, with Eden. I try to convince her that I've developed a new style of dance, which I don't really remember now, but only that it involved standing next to each other and trying to move your hips in synch while getting your rear close to the ground. Carl keeps threatening to do some one handed cart wheels. The only other song I recognize from Gregg's band is "Under the Milky Way," which is one of my favorite feel-bad songs. He sings some other song about "my girlfriend Shell," so I tease Eden about it. And then they're done.
I'm immediately circling the wagons. I want out. We're starving. So we decide on Stars (a truly scary place for regular readers). We give directions to one of the Trilogy guys and haul off. When we get there, there's about 18 people waiting to get a seat, so we say "Not for us. Off to the 24 hour HEB." As we pull out we see the guy we gave directions to is driving around looking lost. We decide to give him the slip, so we all duck down in the truck and slowly pull out. Hah, mission accomplished. Back on the road, and I'm giving Rolf directions. I tell him the grocery store is just up on the right. He starts saying, "where is it? where is it?" I don't say anything, and he looks over and sees the forty foot high "HEB" sign. Carl starts singing some song that goes "I saw you. You saw me. We saw each other at the HEB."
Migas are the order of the night. We scrape up eggs, OJ, some biscuits in a a can, jalpaenos, onions, tomatoes, tortillas, and some sweet Rio Diablo salsa. Carl disappears again, so I show Rolf the killer HEB Halloween aisle. It was a little disappointing. Halloween was so much better when I was a kid. We check out, and I start talking to our cashier, Terronica. I start singing that Adam Sandler song... "Even the owner of the Seattle Super Sonicas celebrates Terronica" After about three verses, she's laughing along with us, and I tell Carl, "Pay Terronica, my man" and we are out of there. Back at the pad and I whip out a batch of migas that couldn't be beat. Tortillas are heated up, biscuits are cooked, jalapenous are perfect. We chow down, congratulating ourselves on what a good idea this was. We fall into a post meal stupor and all lay on the floor for 30 or forty minutes. I eventually wake up and tell Rolf and Carl that they're welcome to spend the night. Rolf's sober and drives home, Carl takes up the offers and crashes out on my surprisingly-comfortable-Thermarest. We rehash the night a little, and then we both crash out and are gone.