stories >> 1997 - 12 - 14
just work out.
On Friday morning, I got one of those strange longings to come into work early. Things have been rolling along well lately, what with all the Christmas decorating and just getting things done. I sneak into work sometime before 8:00, and there's Jim Bob already typing away at something. I take a look at my desk, which hasn't been thoroughly cleaned since we moved into the space, and I decide that a good way to spend my first half hour is making it shine. I clean it all off, scrounge up a vacuum cleaner, and get lots of dirty looks from Jim since I'm making a lot of noise by standing on my chair trying to vacuum the top of my desk. But it works like charm, and I start bragging to Jim how I've got the cleanest desk in all of development.
I take the vacuum back and ask Marc if he's seen how clean my desk is. Then I go find Marie and ask her is she's seen how clean my desk is. Jim is definitely getting annoyed by now.
I come back (to my clean desk ;), and for some reason I instantly drop into the Zone. Jim and I are working on a project together, and everything is just clicking along. We're both buried underneath the code cloud until seven hours later, when we come up for air at 3:30. Jamie's come wandering back and wants to go grab something for lunch. Sounds good to me, so off we pop to Waterloo Brew Pub to drink some gross beers and gripe about our various bosses. Jamie wants to go do something fun, but I can't convince her that going to play Tekken would be "fun." So we wander back to work to try to crank out some more code, but the Zone is just gone. It's 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and my mind's drifting off. I have to pick Traci up from the airport at 8:00, so I'm starting to just bide my time. Luckily, we've got Christmas lights to hang. After an hour and a half of swinging from the awning like the bunch of monkeys that we are, Jim, Jamie (the other one), Eric, and I manage to get something that actually looks pretty good. I take a look, breathe a sigh of relief, and check the time. 7:30, time to boogey woogey.
Off to the fantastic Austin airport. I zip into the Southwest terminal right at 7:50 and there's a plane from Dallas landing. I think, "How now, aren't I right on time?" But of course it's Friday afternoon, and the plane landing at 7:50 is the one scheduled for 7:20. The plane that's supposed to land at 7:50 is *really* landing at 8:30 now, so I've got some time on my hands. Something about the airport gives me the same buzz as the road. Just standing there looking at all these people I don't know who are all going somewhere, I feel like I'm staring down into some deep well that leads to somewhere new. Airplanes have always looked giant lumbering animals to me, and airports in look like giant lumbering corrals for the critters. The planes nose around and sniff at each other, jostle for position on the runway, and then when they get down to it they just go go go. Kind of like some crazy flying rhinoceros... awkward on the ground, but when they rocket down the runway you realize that they're not supposed to be on the ground... they're supposed to be in the air, streaking away to somewhere new.
So I'm in the airport, thinking these weird rhino thoughts, watching the people get on the airplane, and I start feeling the Rage. It might be hard to sit still for the next thirty minutes. Already I'm humming Blur under my breath.
But I give it a shot. I don't have anything to read, don't have anything to do, so I just sit down, close my eyes, and try to chase the Rage around inside of me. It's kind of like chasing a soap bubble in the tub and it keeps squirting from one side of my chest, down through my legs, up into my face, and back into my chest. I'm grinning like an idiot from just feeling my own pulse pound. Everybody's kind of looking at me askance, trying to figure out what's wrong with me that I would be sitting in this airport terminal staring blankly and smiling like my face is going to bust apart. The minutes fly by, and the next thing I know Traci is getting off the plane. It's not so often that I see her in her full regal legal regalia, and she looks great. It works out that way sometimes.
Boom, we're off like a shot from the airport and I'm babbling about this rhino thing that's been preoccupying me for the past forty minutes. We're going to a party tonight. Her friends have moved it from Friday to Saturday night just so that she could come down, and she's here just for the night. It's supposed to be a potluck, and to Traci that means "bring the wine." We get over to Central Market, buy a few bottles, I buy some Thai noodle thing so that I won't be too ravenous (that Waterloo veggie burger seems like a long time ago by now), and we're off to the party.
It's only nine o'clock, but we're not quite the first people ther. We are, however, the third or fourth people there, so I sit down to smack down my noodles real fast before anyone else shows up and tries to mooch any. David, the guy who's throwing the party, is in the kitchen cutting off tiny square slices of this fantastic cheese cake. I'll end up eating 20 of these squares as the night wears on. I pour a glass of red Zinfandel, which actually goes terribly with the cheesecake, and start munching my way through the potluck spread. Some home made salsa, a random crudite tray, more cheesecake, and ugh -- avoid the Brie. I'm still smarting from French memories about that stuff.
As I'm trying to forget about the Brie sitting there on the table, I see one of my friends coming through the door with one of those metal containers that usually holds the Coke syrup for a soda fountain. Turns out, though, that he's just gotten into homebrewing, and as he put it "screw using bottles" and figured that this was the best way to go. After the first sip of his fine wares, I have to agree with him, and I forget all about the red Zinfandel.
Back to the party, and I see one of those guys that you're always seeing but never talking to. I've more or less known him for six years, but when I say hi to Bishmar (his name) he tells me, "You know, I can never remember your name." Yeesh. So I tell him my name, and then I tell him, "Yeah, I always think your name is something like Bishmar but then I think, NAH, nobody's named Bishmar." Ha ha, very funny, let me out of here.
Back up front, enjoying my fine home brew, and Traci's telling me funny stories about the INS, of which there are surprisingly many. We're on the couch and who should show up but good old Bishmar and his wife who want to snuggle down next to us on the couch. Uh, sure. So I tell them about sitting at the airport waiting for Traci, and how I wondered if I would be able to do it. Bishmar tells me, "Yeah, a lot of people call that meditating." Double yeesh. So I look at him for a second and decided to go into full on bullshit mode, and I tell him, "Yeah, but I couldn't handle it. So I just started getting into fights. They kept throwing me out of the terminal, but I would just sneak back in and start another fight. After the third or fourth time, though, they started to recognize me, so I had to meet Traci outside on the curb." This guy's looking at me trying to decided whether I'm funny or not.
Luckily, Mr. Henderson and his girl Gina show up with a bottle of rye whiskey and I'm saved from further conversation.
Off to the kitchen, mix up a glass of Rye, and talk to some random folks. A woman who says she's named Minnow is standing next to the whiskey, so I start teasing her about drinking all of it. She takes it gamely, and I figure I'll be back to talk to her later.
I step outside, since the two cats in the house are starting to make me sniffle, and it's a brisk brisk night. Gina happens to be out there, so we hang out while she smokes and I breathe the cold air. After awhile, someone comes up and Gina tells them that her name is Loretta, mine is Lyle, and that we're brother and sister, soon to be married. I figure sounds good to me, so I crank up the old bullshit machine and Gina and I blow smoke at this person until they get too freaked out and decide it's time to go back inside. Gina gives me the high five and tells me that we make an incredible team and I'm back inside humming Blur again.
Waiting in line for the bathroom, I'm standing next to a guy and girl. Since they're ignoring me, I think the guy's trying to put the make on the woman, so I figure that it's time to give him a few obstacles to overcome. I give them my favorite pick up line, "HI! My name's Alan. What's yours?" and I've met Dale and Mindy. Dale doesn't get it when I ask him, "What's Dale short for?" Turns out that Dale is from Sunnyvale and writes windows drivers. Hot doggy. Mindy "teaches software." I ask her if she taught Dale how to write windows drivers. Mindy does get it and laughs. We randomly talk for a few more minutes, Dale realizes that I'm not trying to muscle in, and he relaxes and starts jabbering away and turns out to be good fella. I feel pretty good to have met two more folks, so I say goodbye while secretly wishing Dale good luck, take care of business, and go looking for some more homebrew.
Traci's met one David's coworkers, Jeff I think, who is also a lawyer and from New Mexico. I cajole her into telling him some of the funny INS stories, and then I tell them a brand spanking new lawyer that neither of them had heard before. Traci takes a real cotton to Jeff once he tells her that he loves Korean food, and she's promising him that they'll go out for Korean food next time he's up in Dallas. Jeff wears a lot of turquoise. I'm not so sure I like Jeff.
Ah well, back off through the party, talk to Minnow some more, comparing car stories and what our dead beat relatives are up to. Back outside, and it's really cold now. The smokers are staying outside just long enough to smog down their cigarettes and then they blink back inside. I'm still feeling good, but the Rage is mellowing down after so many hours and I'm starting to get tired. Of course I look up to see Orion, blow some frosty breath, and then decide it's time to go home. I go back inside, get Traci, we say goodbye to everybody three different times, and we're on the way home.
The next day
starts out great. We get up early and have the best plate of migas in Austin
at this little joint called Mi Madre's. It's a block away from my old apartment
in the hood, and it's the biggest proof of "multi culturalism through great
food" that I've ever seen. The place has two and two half booths (each of the
half booths face the wall, so you sit with you back to the rest of everyone
else and next to whomever you're with) and holds maybe fourteen people. They
open at 7:00 and close at 2 in the afternoon, and they don't open at all on
Sundays. While you eat, you see cops, white red necks, grubby college kids,
old black matrons, crazy rugged hispanics, and everyone else in between rolling
in to get a breakfast taco and a cup of coffee to go. I always get the migas
plate, best god damned migas anywhere on God's green earth and I'll knock you
down if you say different, which probably has 90 grams of fat and I like mine
with salt. And the salsa has chipotles, and the tortillas burn your fingers,
and the coffee washes way all of that good food and some of those bad memories
from the night before. The foods too good to worry about hating someone else
because of racism, and inside of Mi Madre's tiny little dining room you get
a feeling that maybe everything's going to be all right after all. Somebody
told me that "Mi Madre's" means something like "My Mother's", but I think it
really means "heaven" (sorry Cantone, just had to steal it).
After breakfast, Traci and I go down town and get our pictures from Paris developed. Takes an hour, so we sit at Little City and talk about how we're going to live the rest of our lives. Nothing decided, we walk back up to the capitol so that I can get enraged about the civil war memorial (don't get me started... Austin was never burned to the ground....), pick up the pictures which turned out surprisingly good, and then I'm dropping Traci off at the airport.
Ah, the rest of the afternoon stretching before me. I stop by the apartment complex to find out why my keyless entry gate opening paranoiac device isn't working, and they tell me I've got to get some batteries. No problem, it's a great day for a walk, so I stop by the apartment to get some cash. I turn on the radio just as the DJ is announcing a song called "Dammit." He starts to play it, and I think, "Hmmm, punk rock has finally made it to alternative music." I've always had a place in my heart for punk, so I start listening to the song. I'm completely floored by how good I think it is. The song is about exactly the sorts of things that I've been obsessing about lately.... how did that clever Dj know to play that song right when I turned on the radio? The punky hook is instantly addictive, and the lyrics are so adolescently poignant that I'm humming, whistling, and singing the song for the rest of the day. Sometimes things just work out like that.
The trip to the battery store is a wash out, but I keep humming "Dammit" and just feeling the cool December air and the warm winter sun. I could walk forever on a day like this with a song like that driving in my head.
Back home, and I'm getting ready for Bill's dinner soiree tonight. My buddy Jason calls, desperate to get out of the house since his wife is in the midst of finals and "needs some space." I tell him, hey bubba, come on out with me and he instantly agrees. Ten minutes later, I've shaved and I'm picking Jason up in the all mighty Leper. Jason's enjoying a fine selection of winter brews, but for some reason I don't feel like drinking one. We pile into the Leper and drive up to Pflugerville to meet Jim. Jason is trying to tell me something but I'm completely ignoring him, just whistling "Dammit" under my breath.
Up in Pflugerville, we hook up with Jim and Jamie and I find out I've been duped. Bill's not having this thing at his house, which is also in Pflugerville, but back down in Austin, at a place much closer to my own apartment. Jim makes up for it, though, with a glass of Sapphire and it's all good and we're going back to Austin.
At the dinner, which turns out to be real sit down fajita buffet instead of just a bunch of people milling around, I stuff myself so full of beans and rice that Tammy's little brother literally gasps in amazement. "Wow, he ate all of that" he confides to his older brother. Good Lord. I try to hide the fact that I've just eaten two and half pounds of beans and rice by telling everyone that Jason, for the first time in the 8 years I've known him, now officially weights more than I do: his 225 versus my 218. Of course, Jason's a pump monkey monster who benches something like 340, but this has absolutely nothing to do with it.
They bring out some margaritas that are so frozen that you can turn the pitchers upside down with nothing falling out. Someone orders some tequila shots, which I manage to decline, and then we're outside smoking cigars and killing not only brains cells but also alveoli. Tammy's younger brothers come out and we talk a bunch of guy crap: cars, fights, hair loss, booze. Sometimes it's okay being man.
When we go back inside, Jamie's rocking back and forth and telling me how she's addicted to a Sublime Song that we were listening to the other night. She wants to go somewhere with music, but somewhere that's not too smoky, and she wants in particular to hear that song. We talk over a few places, and we finally decide on a stop at work to listen to the song and then on to the Cedar Door. We say our good byes and then jump on down MoPac to stop by Garden Escape.
Once there, we turn on the song, turn out the lights, light all of the weird prayer candles we have laying around, and chill out listening to the dance hall rhythm and watching the Christmas lights. Jamie calls her mom, and Jim, Jeff, Jason and I sit back and talk about raising kids. We're getting super mellow just listening to Sublime, we've drank all the whiskey, and everything's good. I don't say too much, since I'm the only one of these four who's not married and kids are a long way off from my mind, but I do still keep softly humming "Dammit" to myself and just thinking about things.
Turns out Jamie and Jim have to go home, so just Jeff and Jason and I go to the Cedar Door. Once there, we sit outside in the freezing cold next to those sweet giant propane heaters. We have a hard time getting them to light up one more of the heaters, but they finally do, and we sit down snuggled up to the heat, feeling the freezing air, drinking some beers, watching shooting stars and talking about nothing in particular. We mull over football, trips to New York, more about raising kids, and the night's winding down.
I drop Jeff off back at work so he can get home. Jason and I stop off at Hyde Park Bar and Grill for one last drink and something to eat. I'm so tired and mellow and a little sad from singing that "Dammit" song all day that I'm useless for paying attention to anything. Jason keeps up a constant banter but I'm just wanting to go to sleep. We finish our late night snack, I drive Jason by the Christmas light show on 37th street, and then I'm back at home. I'm too tired to even read before I go to bed, so I just clean up and crash out.