28.3.05

Try not to. Go on.

I'm sitting in a meeting today in which the company chief executive and other higher ups are discussing and advising us on some information concerning our compensation. It wasn't bad, no one got laid off, we weren't bankrupt, but I don't want to get into too many specifics for obvious reasons; not least of which is that it's not terribly exciting to hear.

Which brings me to my conundrum du jour.

Why is it that teachers and supervisors and Type A people always give you a hard time about yawning? It's a semi-reflexive action, which means you only have some control over it. You can make yourself yawn to pop your ears, and you can stifle a yawn, but what's the point? Scientists don't even know for sure why we yawn, so that's the last thing I'm gonna do is stop it. If we don't know what causes it, I'm sure as hell not going to arrest it mid stride. I figure a polite hand to mouth is all that's needed. Surely, in this modern, enlightened society, we can appreciate that a yawn is a biological function and, while not appreciative if done blatantly, shouldn't be frowned upon if the person does it discretely. It’s in no way done purposefully to offend.

But no, even with my head down in my chest and the back of my fist to my mouth, I still get the inevitable, "We keeping you up?"

You know what? Yes, you are. Had I not had to stop my work flow and come sit with 20 other people in this crowded, warm office in these cushy leather chairs that lean all the way back and had to listen to people talk about numbers with the aplomb of The Turtleman from Night Court, then maybe I wouldn't have had to let my instincts take over and do...whatever my body does when it yawns.

Yes, you are boring me to tears. Yes you are filling the room with too much CO2. Yes you are giving me an ancestral signal that forces my jaw to want to stretch itself, either to show my teeth or signal a change of action is needed. Take your pick. Whichever you choose, notice it's not, "Keeping my attention rapt and undevided."

In middle school I had a French teacher who hated yawning. She was a little Mexican lady who was otherwise a hoot. She would stick her arms out like a cross and look up at the ceiling and say, "Nope! Jou give me stress!" One time, an ├ętudiant de camarade (eh? French?) was trying to get her attention by saying, "Yo." After two of these consecutively, she snapped. "You called me a yo-yo?!"

Well shoot, went off on a tangent there.

Ah, yes. She would keep kids after school for yawning in her class. Her rationale was that when you yawn your ears plug up and you can't hear what she's saying and she would not repeat things. I mean do people know that yawning is a partial reflex? It's like getting the chills; you can't stop that. What's this social stigma we have with people thinking that when you yawn it is a personal affront? You want to know what the affront is? You being so damn boring, that's what's offensive. My yawning should indicate that you need to pick up the pace, Chappy. Use some sparklers or strippers. Forget the sparklers.

I mean really. It's these same idgets that say quirky little annoying things when you ask what the time or date is.

"Can you tell me what time it is?"

"Time to buy a watch."

“...”

"Sir, I don't have time to load a shotgun with rock salt and tear a painful hole in the front part of your chest, would you just tell me what fucking time it is please?"

I just don't get it. Especially if you yawn and cover your mouth, then say, "Excuse me." I mean, that covers all the Emily Post angels, doesn't it? If, after that, you still catch flak, can you cudgel the commenting individual with his or her own shoe? How about a quick punch to the throat?

How many times did you yawn reading this?

21.3.05

My baby watches CMT.

It was revealed to me that technically a Yankee is someone from one of the original Union states on the East Coast. I'd been desperately clinging to the fact that I was a Yankee simply because I wasn't from the South.

Being from the West makes me a Cowboy.

It does, really. Colorado is a western state, like it or not. It's not a Midwestern plains state, but it's not a West Coast state, it's cowboy country. The problem with that is I think of Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming as Cowboy states. So why not Colorado? Well growing up a 'burb outside of Denver, you don't really notice that you're in a Western state. Sure there's the occasional turquoise necklace or boot cut jeans or ten gallon hat, but it was an oddity to see them. I lived in one of the larger metropolitan areas in the country, surely cowboys lived on ranches or under the stars. Don't they?

Anyway, it's hard to embrace something you didn't know you were. Not being a native Texan I can either say I'm Not-A-Native-Texan which gets the same reaction as telling people you're a nudist (not terribly offensive, but just not right either) or I can tell them I'm from up north. I don't like saying I'm from Colorado because frankly, Coloradoans hate Texans. They just do. Don't ask, it has something to do with them buying up all our land or being assholes on the slopes. I haven't the slightest idea, but it was sort of ingrained into our heads as children as jokes and anecdotes and some horror stories. I even remember a trip up the side of Pikes Peak on the Cog Railroad and the tour guide said, as we passed a field of boulders, "And for you folks from Texas, this is what we call 'gravel.'" The rabble was roused after that and I remember thinking, "Yeah, stupid Texans."

But now I have to pause and consider that 3/4 of the people in my house are Texans by birth. My children are Natives. They are Texans. For the rest of their life they will be able to impress people worldwide with their place of birth. Meanwhile I'll be sitting in a small eatery in Greece trying to chat up the waitress with stories from Colorado and she'll be looking at me like I'm a nudist.

It's either that or come to terms with your surroundings. I like Austin. It's not so much Texas as other places like Dallas or El Paso or Luckenback, but it's a very cool place and has the bizarre distinction of being very un-Texas-like AND the state's capitol. I also like my family, those damn Texans that they are. And I like going to see concerts, even if it's Willie Nelson.

Mrs. Austin was doing a favor for a friend by buying tickets for them for a Willie Nelson concert. I don't know why this person couldn't buy their own damn tickets, but c'est la guere. Mrs. A did a solid for them, but for whatever reason the ticket place couldn't mail them in time and wasn't open in time for her to get them and then deliver them. (Seriously, make friends with my wife. You get concert tickets, mix CDs, drinks, furniture, babysitting and quite possibly some salsa.) Plans fell through and she decided to go instead, and then invited me. If you remember, this isn't the first Willie Nelson concert I'd been to, and I'm sure it won't be the last. The guy is 137 years old and plays guitar like a fiend.

But I'm jumping the gun.

First off, we leave under a giant and complete rainbow. Very Kermit. Next we are able to park right up front thanks to the handicap tag Mrs. A has for her leg. (And before you start in, she can't walk very far, so it's not like we're abusing it. You fascists.) We grab some drinks and food and then proceed to mill around during the first few opening acts. We take our seats, it sprinkles a bit, I'm wearing shorts and a tee-shirt and it's about 50 degrees (cuz I'm not a Yankee, remember? Guh! Read above) so I have to buy a couple long sleeve shirts. So now I'm a transplant with a cowboy hat and a Willie shirt and two Native children and I own a home. I'm like 98% Texan. The other two percent hates the Dallas Stars.

So the concert is a blast. Mrs. A got a little drunk and I tried to. The 2nd opening act was a guy named Shooter Jennings. My dad might get the reference. I won't push it now and if you like surprises, don't hit that link just yet. They were good, not really folksy, not really bluegrass, not really honky-tonk (like I'd friggin know, please) but they were really sort of aggressive, scratchy, dirty country music. Good beat, I could dance to it.

Didn't think twice about it. Then some other depressing-ass lady came on singing about mines and sugarcanes and some spinning wheel. She was the Zoloft love child of Jonny Cash and Melissa Ethridge. First song was awesome. "Fish swim, bird fly. Something something, by and by. Old men, sit and think. I drink." Really kinda silvery, tinny, edgy Patsy Kline song, but it went downhill from there. One song about people deserving mercy now, Mrs. A says, "Man, this song deserves some mercy now. My EARS deserve some mercy now." She’d had a few Tiki Passion Papayas.

Well, then the roadies start getting the stage ready for Willie and before you know it, he's on stage...before they were done. He just grabs a guitar (pronounced GEE-tar or GIH-tar) and starts playin'. The roadies scramble and the rest of the band, or maybe some of the roadies start playing the closest instrument available. It was almost as if Willie was back stage going "Want to see these guys freak out?" So Willie plays a concert like I've not heard before, he just goes from one song to another. There's no pauses in between to talk about rain forests or tsunamis or how the President did something stupid (that'd be a long interlude) or mentioning about what the next song was or why he wrote it or what pen he used to write it, just played all the songs.

Then, while playing By and By or The Wheel or whatever that spiritual song is, a few people join him on stage. First being John Popper of Blues Traveler fame. Next is Jessica Simpson. Then some other chick I recognized but don't know. Then Shooter Jennings. Nelson and Jennings. Get it now? He's the dead guy's son! Singing with Willie Nelson. We didn't get it until we got home. We were so focused on the fact that the guy's name was Shooter that the last name didn't really sink it. I was more impressed with John Popper, I think Mrs. A was impressed with Jessica Simpson's voice (which was pretty good.) I think they were all on stage because they were filming Dukes of Hazard and SXSW is in town.

Bang up evening. Really. Whiskey River indeed.

I forgot to mention that the title comes from a line Mrs. A thought she heard. When shooter was onstage he said something like, "This next song is called (something) and you can see the video on CMT." Cheryl thought he said the song title was "My Baby Watches CMT." Holy smokes, you need booze!

19.3.05

Oh Sue's Cannon.

The original purpose of this blog was to keep track of all the milestones of raising kids. Since there's no way in hell I'd actually keep track of a decent baby book, I decided to do this instead. I still have some of the old pages from the Geocities days, I may add them here one day, who knows.

But that brings me to today. Mrs. Austin said we need to remember Bonk. I think at one point when Lil Miss Austin was about nine months old, we had Bonk then too. Bonk is leaning your head foreward and letting the small child smack their forehead on yours. You say, "Bonk" and they bonk you. I think everyone has a version of this activity.

I was also instructed to talk about LMA's morning aria this morning of "Oh Sue's Cannon." Apparently it was funny, I wasn't there. I was there for her repetition of the Moldy Peaches song, "Who's got the crack."

LMA just repeats at will now, and not parroting like when she was young, she's actually memorizing things and recalling them later. The Burger King commercial with Darius Rucker (Hootie) singing the remade Rock Candy Mountain song "I like the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch, the breasts they grow on trees." Seriously, he says "the breasts they grow on trees." Well, that's really the only line I know and I sing it all the time cuz the CP&B marketing firm really knows how to worm their way into my brain. I'll never buy the damn sandwich, but I'll sing that song until Mrs. A leaves me.

Anyway, I was singing the first line when a little voice behind me finished it saying, "The best things grow on trees." Well that's shades better than what she could have said.

That is, of course, until she shouts "Who's got the crack?" at the Farmers Market.

7.3.05

...two American kids growin' up, in the heartland.

***The names have been changed to protect the awesome people.***

Every drive to see Mrs. A's family in Conroe takes us through a handful of small Texas towns; Brenham, Giddings, Elgin, Montgomery, Navasota. Every time we go through, especially if the town has a Town Square with a gazebo, I expect small town festivities. Oompa bands would play, balloons would drift lazily around, small children would play tag, old people would sit quietly with an iced-tea and reminisce about the war or some store that's been closed down, there would be bar-b-que and beer and funnel cake.

Well, dammit, it never happens. Driving through these small Texas towns -shoot, probably every state's small towns- is an exercise in grave disappointment. If you're lucky you don't take the highway that goes past the housing projects, or the abandoned mill, or the Walmart. However, most of the time, they are but a small pause on the highway, never anything to consider, never anything to stop and peruse, never any reason to stay.

That is, until Stonevale.

Now, I'm changing the names of people because when Mrs. A volunteered me to help her, she didn't make them sign a waiver saying, "My assistant here is a blogger and your names are going online." So to be nice and fair and polite and litigious, it's Stonevale.

And since it felt like being caught in a John Cougar Mellencamp song, the bride and groom will be Jack and Diane (though I could have used Bubba and Susan and got a better effect.)

Anyway, off to Stonevale we go. Stonevale is about an hour away from Austin and is literally a blink on the highway. In 2002 its est. population was an Elk's Lodge member roster over 5,000. Stonevale has a certain mill/plant that keeps the town running. I wish I could say what it was because it is just an awesome tidbit. Stonevale takes about 2 minutes to drive past on the highway, about 10 minutes if you take all the side roads.

So, it's fuckin' small, ok? But before I get my hopes up about small towns and such, like always, I remind myself of Brenham and Giddings and Navasota. Towns that appear charming but always end up being depressingly unhappy almost dead places. I keep my anticipation in check. That is, until we meet the groom's sister in law. We'll call her Marcie.

Marcie was a deep voiced, thin, blond with the thickest Texas accent I'd heard in a long time. If this town had a socialite, I would have expected Marcie to be it. Her husband, we'll call him Jim because I honestly don't remember his name, is also a photographer was was instructed by Marcie -and a few other people- to stay out of Mrs. A way. Poor guy, he was so cool too. Marcie met us at the wedding hall, which was part of a fair ground that consisted of a few big buildings and what appeared to be stables for livestock when the fair was in town. It was finally nice to see the inside of one of these buildings. I always see them from highway, you know the ones; heavy industrial strength siding, long flat and wide with a few regular doors and one big almost garage door that's white. Well, inside, it was a concrete floor with a few restrooms and corkboard walls. There was a kitchen as well. They had gussied the joint up with a trellis, few hundred chairs and a few dozen long and round tables.

But we weren't staying; Marcie whisked us to the Knights of Columbus hall. They called it the K of C and for the first few times I thought they were saying KFC. Honestly, in my head, I knew that they were making the food there so hearing KFC made just as much, if not more sense, than K OF C.

The K of C is a lodge, but off to one side, outside, a few of the groom's buddies were settin' up a fire pit to make some bar-b-que chicken. An old Texas gentleman tipped his baseball cap to us as we took some pictures, then off to the next location we went.

Jack the Groom is part of the Stonevale Volunteer Fire Department. There's no ladder designation I believe because it's the only Fire Dept. in the town. So Jack is a volunteer fire fighter and all his buddies are volunteer firefighters. Half the wedding party were firemen. If there was a fire during the wedding, it would have either burned down or you'd have had the best dressed firemen this side of Waco, and slightly inebriated.

So we got some shots of the groomsmen getting all dallied up and Marcie whisks us back to the Hall where the bride and her maids have arrived and are using the kitchen to get ready. Mrs A. and I set up shop with the laptop and begin taking some pictures. The groom and his men arrive just before the allotted time on a fire truck, lights on, sirens blaring. There's some milling around, the music plays, the bride comes out, the groom looks happy, the parents cry and it's suddenly over. The ceremony was a pleasant 15 minutes. Short and very sweet.

Because dammit, we got 6 kegs of beer to start drinkin'.

Boy howdy, can these folks pack away some beer. With a faint smell of bug bomb lingering through the hall, the party started to kick into its first phase with the tapping of the kegs and the arrival of the food. The bar-b-que chicken and the mustard potato salad (which didn't have the overpowering mustard taste I was expecting, you crazy people in Mrs. A's family should take note) and the bread and the green beans and the peaches and ice-tea all arrived in serving dishes I would have thrown away years ago, but in this time and space seemed timeless and reliable. Even with the K of C markings on the side. And the ice-tea came in a huge white bucket. Awesome.

Before I go any further, I want to insert a bit about the people. I hope you don't mistake my intentions here. I'm not poking fun at anyone or giving the fine folks of Stonevale anything but the highest respect. Being raised in a suburb and spending much time in a metropolis and now living in a sizeable city, I've never been a part of this small town life. It was amazingly friendly and happy and open and honest. They knew they were rednecks. They knew they were small town. And they loved it! The word "shy" was only used to describe babies and "deceptive" when talking about politicians. This was Bible Belt, slap ya on the back, drink another beer, good times. Even though I felt like an outsider with my black clothes and long hair, they didn't make me feel like it. In fact, we had a great time meeting all the people. We walked a fine line between having a job to do and wanting to party with them.

Good folk.

So there's the dinner, then the toast, then the cake. Then suddenly, the entire wedding party starts moving tables and chairs out of the way. Was it over? we asked Marcie's husband Jim. "Oh no," said Jim, a little loose and wobbly. "That was just the first part. This is where the real party starts."

And man was he right. The crowd at the actual wedding would have impressed most people. I would say a good 100 or so people showed up, all nicely dressed. But they left to go change and returned with, what I can only describe as, the rest of the town.

At 7pm the real party started and we saw probably 400 people at its height. The DJs -whom we met and liked and will probably talk to again at other weddings- played a good mix of country and hip hop with just a smattering of polka.

That's right, I said polka. Refer back to the bit where I was talking about oompa music. It took everything I had to sit in my chair and be still when they played the Chicken Dance (dada dada dada dum, dada dada dada dum, dada dada dada dum, clap clap clap clap.) But before the lights went out and the music and beer flowed like Dionysus had hit an above ground pool, there was the Grand March.

The Grand March was one of the most interesting things I've seen in a long time. It was a mix between a Conga-line and Square Dancing. To explain it would be a waste of time, so I'll just let you figure it out. One thing to add early on to that link is that at one point couples make a tunnel or bridge that the couples behind walk through. That was the funny part, and I suspect quite a few goosings and spankings were doled out.

After that our job really wound down. It was all about the drinking and smoking and dancing from that point on, and really, how many pictures do you need of that.

Mrs. A graciously made our exit after it was determined that no car was going to be jacked with shaving cream or condoms and headed home. I was abuzz with admiration and appreciation for my best small Texas town experience. I know nothing with live up to what I have in my head, but this was as close as it could possibly get. The only thing they didn't have was funnel cake.

4.3.05

Update

Mrs. A's first wedding is this weekend. I know she's excited and apparently ready to go. Her leg is doing better and her physical therapy seems to be helping getting stability and mobility back, but it still hurts a great deal.

I'm...still in some discomfort, I'll leave it at that.




I was thinking on my way to work today that the oil change service industry must be really hurting. Maybe it's just Texas. I've noticed in the past year especially that there are guys out front of their establishments just oozing exuberance, doing their best to get you in for their $18 oil change. There are signs and balloons and sometimes up to three guys in jumpers just hoppin' up and down, waving at people, giving the thumbs up. It's almost sad. I mean, I don't see them on weekends doing that, you know, when people actually have time to get their oil changed, and when it suddenly costs $24.99 instead of $18.

So I thought about it. Do I have time in the morning to get my oil changed? Of course I don't. I suppose if I did, these guys wouldn't be so brain-dead happy to get my car into their garage. My morning is orchestrated so tightly that there just isn't room for this kind of luxury. Now, if they had a van service to take my kid to school, stop by to get a coffee then hit the bank on the way back while my car juice was being depulped, then maybe, but just sitting there for 30 minutes isn't going to fly at 7:15 in the A of M.

So I'm left to scoot past these Glengarries with the same reaction I do the cardboard signs and church buckets I see on the corners. Acknowledge, but don't look directly at them, fuck with the radio, try to keep moving.




There's some more stuff going on too, nothing to take lightly of course. Mrs. A's going back to her sales job at Swell Computers. The message board I go to is starting to brand itself and is in the early stages of becoming a publisher and I'm on the ground level as an editor (good news really only for me I suppose.) The 2005 Priuses (Priusi? Priusis?) are in and I should have one soon, provide I figure out where I left my spine. Pilgrim is really showing some walking/talking chops lately. He cruises with the best of them and has taken a few steps on his own before plummeting unceremoniously onto his rear end.

Oh, and Lil Miss Austin really got me yesterday. As you guys know, I had a procedure done on Monday. I'm still a bit sore, so I walk a little funny. I'm dropping LMA off at school, limping a little but doing my best to hide it. Her teacher asks if I'm feeling ok, there's been a lot of sick kids and parents so it was an honest question. LMA response with, "Daddy had an operation on his hinny so he doesn't have any more babies."

Well, shoot. Cat's out of the bag.

In talking with Mrs. A last night, I mentioned that I was a bit depressed that no one really asked me how I was or how the procedure went (sans the brother in law, who was a bit too curious for my taste, freakshow). She said that it's not really an operation you can bring up socially. ACL? Fine and dandy. Cancer? Sure thing. Pregnancy? Bring in pictures. Vasectomy? When's lunch? If you bring it up at work, it's almost considered harassment in the most technical terms. If my coworker said, "Hey, how's your nuts?" I could file a complaint. By the same token, if I said, "Man, my boys are hurtin' today. Must be the stitches in my scrotum," I could be sitting in court right now.

So it's a stoic discomfort I sit through.

Luckily we have Mrs. A's knee to talk about, which, from my calculations, should be painful for the next few years. Plus, it's easier to talk about. No one ever got fired for talking about knees. Right?




Hey, if someone is good at buying NEW cars, drop me a line. I want to do this myself and not have Mrs. A be my negotiator, but she's so much better at it than I am. I just don't want to walk in with my pants down and my wallet open shouting, "Just don't hurt me!"