Happy First Day of International Women’s Month. (Is it bad that I can’t get Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It”) out of my head?) Here in the States we were hoping 2021 would suck a lot less than the dumpster fire fluster cuck that was 2020. But it’s been a year already: insurrection at the US Capitol; inauguration of the lawfully elected 46th President (who quickly began steering the ship of state away from the rocky shores with some pretty righteous executive actions); impeachment without conviction of the ousted one for inciting said riot; the vaccine rollout happening but mostly botched (largely due to the last guy); and the new guy before bombing some places in Iraq. (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, at least when it comes to war and the military.) Then there was epic Winter Storm Uri (a Russkie?) which led to ultra cold temperatures, blackouts (the weather kind and I’m sure booze-related ones, too), near record snow, ice, and in Texas especially, the loss of electricity, heat, and then water for millions. Yeah, pretty sucky, 2021.
But hey, there ain’t much a dude can do about all that but to survive and Just Keep Livin’. And that means doin’ some stuff, makin’ moves, and what not. Thanks to the boss man over at Sorryless saying I inspired him to take 10,000 steps every day but starting Februrary 1st, now that March has arrived, I figure it’s time to review my vows to suck a little less. It’s a lot to hope for, but maybe some of my very modest but important marginal gains will rub off on y’all, and on the year at large. OK, suck it up, we got some stats to update. I’ll try to keep it short.
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?
Living in Austin, the Capital of Texas as A Dude does, I regularly pass through this leading educational institution on my bicycle. I also tend to take it for granted. Now that I’ll be living closer to it, I expect to be seeing more of the sprawling place, especially on my daily walks. But my ties to UT (you tee) go back many years, before I was even born. I’ve been musing about this and if you don’t mind, I’ll share some thoughts with you here. Or even if you do mind. Go Longhorns!
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 →