Did you miss me? Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all. After writing over 660 blog posts in six years, it was time for a break, so I took it. I’m not sorry I did. Some might say that makes me a slacker, defined in the pejorative sense: “A person regarded as one of a large group or generation of young people (especially in the early to mid 1990s) characterized by apathy, aimlessness, and lack of ambition” (Wikipedia). I may be guilty as charged, or at least I resemble that remark. But director Richard Linklater had a more positive meaning in mind when he made his influential, independent, experimental yet really interesting and fun film, Slacker:
“Slackers might look like the left-behinds of society, but they are actually one step ahead, rejecting most of society and the social hierarchy before it rejects them. The dictionary defines slackers as people who evade duties and responsibilities. A more modern notion would be people who are ultimately being responsible to themselves and not wasting their time in a realm of activity that has nothing to do with who they are or what they might be ultimately striving for.”
A year and two weeks ago, I wrote Snow in Austin, Winter in America, based on a powerful song by Gil Scott-Heron. I think that post is some of my best work, not necessarily prize-winning, but in trying to capture a mood. (You should go read it now. I’ll wait.) The street poet, progenitor of rap, musician, and author was a voice of conscience regarding the state of Black people in America, among other things. He could also lay down some serious grooves to go with his strong words; Winter in America is in a minor key and has a great blues flute solo. I wrote that post right before coronavirus began its whirlwind tour of the US — just before it went viral. (Ha!) It was a few months before the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Not ha.) Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, a decade ago later this year. What would he have to say about Floyd’s killer, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin still being out on bail awaiting trial and maybe even getting some justice for George (yeah, we’ll see about that)? Time marches on. But as Sting once sang,“History will teach us nothing.” The prophetic music and lyrics of Scott-Heron and others like him (Marvin Gaye comes to mind) are relevant — still. Maybe in GSH’s poetry we can find a little solace in these cold and dark days. Or maybe we’ll get pissed and take action somehow. It is Black History Month, but is there more to it than history?
Sometimes no clear theme comes to mind, so I cobble together some random thoughts and hope they’re interesting. This is one of those times. Here are the previous similar entries to get you good and warmed up. Or to come back to after reading this one:
Scenes from a day in the life of A Dude. Although it was not today, last night was not that long ago, so I’m including it. I went to One Page Salon and got to chat again with the affable host Owen Egerton and other phenomenal writers like Felix Morgan. She happens to be friends with a cyclist I once photographed for taking her bike in to the HEB grocery store. Jess recognized me and gave me two big hugs for some reason. Maybe I’ll hear from her, though I’m not holding my breath.
Recidivist visitors (recidivisitors?) to this web blog know that I aspire to be a Writer with a capital Dubya. As I sit here in a branch of the Austin Public Library, for a group writing gathering of the Writers League of Texas, I am reminded that I already am at least a writer. I keep a journal that sometimes sits for weeks without an entry. I compose emails and texts. This blog, entries into websites like the one that got me a very lightly used bicycle helmet quite cheap. There’s the occasional greeting card, to do lists, and today I reworked my resume. At times there’s even a missive, epistle, screed or rant. I think about making the shift from a hobbyist, diarist, listmaker, blogger, etc. to become a paid author. However, it is a large step from writer to Writer.
Arriving home, I caught a new article on Wired, “Jack Conte, Patreon, and the Plight of the Creative Class.” Earlier this year, I heard Jack’s talk at South by Southwest, a sort of origin story cum sales pitch. Many of us would love to get paid for blogging, and I’d love to get paid for editing and publishing my book in progress. Yet the struggle between having to work a job and pay the bills is one that’s been going on for a long time. Ever since the first caveperson started drawing on the walls instead of hunting, I would imagine. How to be creative in whatever your endeavor(s) may be keep a roof over your head and food on the table is an ongoing issue. Spoiler alert: I won’t solve it here today. But maybe you’ll relate to some of my thoughts and have some comments.
Years ago, I was pedaling past the World War II era airplane hanger at Austin’s former Robert Mueller airport, which I recall flying into right over where I lived. (Not the recent special investigator.) Now, Mueller is the one-word name (like Bono, Prince, or Sting) for the new urban, high-density (and high-cost) neighborhood that now sits on the former airport. Back then, somehow I’d been able to rent a room in pretty new row house owned by a nice gentleman from Ethiopia. That’s another story.
I biked but not much. On that night, I found the ride quite by accident and joined in. It was fun and easy, but soon I went on my way and didn’t go back. Skip ahead many years in time to a couple of weeks ago, and I ran into a fellow rider at the grocery store, Jason. He reminded me about the ride, and since I was on a bike and curious about Bike Curious, I showed up. Needing a recovery ride from Saturday’s hot and tiring 45-mileMamma Jamma training ride, I went again a second time. Lemme tell ya’ all about it.
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist of the Excessivist movement who is a very, very big deal in the art world. Huge, you might even say. For the last five years, Austin, Texas has been proud home of his incredible piece of 1,254 gleaming steel bicycles called “Forever Bicycles.” I went down to bid it farewell before it was dissassembled. Where it goes, only he knows. Here are some of my photos and information about this amazeballs installation.
May is Bike Month around the US and world, and theoretically there are more things happening than usual. Yet, every month is bicycle-centric for me and thousands of bike riders in Austin, so it’s not that noticeable. But here are a few of the great events going on in case you’re in town and want to get involved. If not in Austin, check out your local bike group, shop or government transportation office to see if they have anything going. Or, start your own event!
The festival ended Saturday, and I made the most of it, even though I had to work my second volunteer shift. The house manager, Katy, texted in advance to remind me to show up. The venue was the familiar North Door, which hosts the One Page Salon I attend most months. After biking downtown. I met up with Katy and the other volunteers, and we went over who was going to do what to get the guests inside and how to help do crowd control. My job was to roam around to keep folks get to their seats, point out if anyone heckled or took video, point to the bathrooms, and just help as needed. Katy and stage manager Cara were both super nice and fun to work with. But that’s all secondary to the main point: I saw some great comedy and had a fun time, and had a few brushes with celebrity, too. Did you hear the one about a dude who went to a comedy festival?