Before you read this, if you can, put on your favorite streaming service, CD or album (or imagine) something by Frédéric Chopin. Something like Nocturne No.2 In E Flat, Op. 9 No. 2 performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy from Chopin: Favourite Piano Works. Because that’s what I’m listening to as I write this, and the music seems perfectly suited to my ride and state of mind. Given that it was a grey Friday evening in Austin, Texas after some light rain had fallen, and the pandemic stay at home order, traffic was extremely light.
The surreal experience of biking down Austin’s main street, Congress Avenue, with hardly any traffic put me in a reflective mood. Cue Chopin, that master of the melancholy from France by way of Poland. His quieter works may not get your RPM up very high, but they put your mind in a calm and meditative place. And that’s not a bad head space to be in these days, biking or otherwise.
Snow fell from the cold, dark skies on my bike ride home from the gym. The frozen precipitation is rare in Central Texas, especially in relatively mild winters like we’ve been having. So it’s a wondrous sight when it does snow. I felt lucky to have been outside riding when it came down. Light, white, wet kisses on my face melted quickly. Some accumulated on car hoods and lawn chairs, and the roommates and dogs were happy to see and feel it, too.
Of course in other places, there are no romantic notions about snow, because they’re drowning in it and shoveling it by metric ton. Another substance is also being shoveled in similar quantities, but it’s brown, smelly, and comes out of the back end of a cow. And by that of course, I can only be referring to the State of the Union, which was by some accounts a total snow job. Winter isn’t coming, Jon Snow, it’s already here. The revolution will not be televised. It’s winter in America.
As I drove around a borrowed car doing my job today, numerous songs by the band The Cars played. The reason was that lead singer Ric Ocasek had died of heart disease at age 75. For many Americans, The Cars are a band whose music instantly transports your mind back in time. It brought back some memories of driving my first car as a youth (a VW bug).
Their songs were a big part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. When their first album was released, I was just a couple of years shy of the perfect age of hearing their music and seeing their videos on MTV. But I soon caught on and caught up and became a fan. I even was in a garage band that played their song “My Best Friend’s Girl.” As I drove on my job, the band played on.
The smorgasbord of music, movies, workshops and more is finally over. I’m relieved and still recovering, but I’ll also miss the creative energy. I won’t miss the lines, craziness on 6th street, scooters everywhere and long days trying to see as much as I could. There was a Day 10 but it was mostly for gaming (though I did attend the softball game and barbecue). In this post I’ll do mini-reviews of the remaining three films I caught and share my thoughts about what it all means.
I’m sitting in the Elephant Room in downtown Austin, Texas at 10:45 on a Friday night, the second Friday of the huge conference and festivals, SXSW. It’s an underground jazz club — literally — it’s in the basement and named for the prehistoric mastodon fosssil in the stone wall. It’s in between the 40′ acts. Graham Reynolds and Golden Hornet just played his own compositions, a rock / jazz / classical hybrid with trombone, violin, standup bass, drums and him on keys. The cat can play. While people talk and drink, come and go, I decided to post this blog, or at least the beginnings of one.
I’ve written about One Page Salon before, where local authors read from a work in progress. But after missing one or two in recent months, I biked downtown to be sure I attended tonight. Once again rewarded by being inspired by fellow writers, having interesting conversations with musicians and other creative people, and in general enjoyed being part of a community of like-minded folks. Sure, I could write about the election again, but you can read about that elsewhere. So I’m going to write about writing, and since I rode my bike there, it’s relevant. Protocol be damned!
Paul Simon and his band played the large concert Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center in Austin, Texas tonight. I hesitate to even attempt to review the show, but I can certainly try to put in words the emotions his music evoked and other thoughts that come to mind. Even that is hard, because he is such an important part of American music for over 60 years. He’s a winner of countless awards, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, 13-time Grammy winner, actor, had music featured in movies (notably The Graduate) and much more. There are popular musicians who become famous, but some are at the next level, and he’s one of the greats for sure. Continue reading
Today the Austin American-Statesman ran a story asking the question It talks about the recurrent theme I’ve been covering, bicycle safety. Hint: the road is Guadalupe, and I can assure you it’s scary. Even the parts with a protected bike lane have University of Texas students standing in it idly, without a clue, listening to their headphones. Other parts have no bike lane, or lots of bumps in the road, and in general it’s narrow with buses and cars passing within inches.
- Source: Stephen Spillman for the Austin American-Statesman
While it seems like it’s horrible carnage out there, the fact is, it’s safer to bike and walk than drive a car. However, it is very dangerous. Anyway, the article is by Pam LeBlanc, whose blog Fit City also appears on WordPress. It has a photograph of yours truly. It was one of several that ran in a profile the paper did on A Dude back on January 15 called “Can a regular guy pedal 10,000 miles in two Years? This dude did.” You can go read that after you finish this. Or finish this first. Whatevs, thanks for reading!
I’ve seen other bloggers do this and am intrigued. Here are the guidelines as I see them; if you have better ideas let me know.
1. It has to be about a bicycle. Can be fiction, but better would be if you went on a bike ride and took a few pictures. Continue reading
Research bands, sessions, films, etc. in advance. If you’re a middle-aged person like me, reading lists of younger music acts is like reading another language: you don’t understand a word. But unless you use the Filter by genre or Listen features on the SXSW app and also Spotify or other music streaming service, you are doomed to wander into random bars and are likely to get stuck listening to something you hate. There are also plenty of Twitter pages and websites that help you with making choices.