Archive for August, 2006

Not a power lunch

In fact, it was a powerless one. The radio was on and then it wasn’t. It was time to crank up the Y2K radio, but there was no relevant news to be found. Luckily, there’s a gas stove and only one item to be reset in the event that the power should ever return. The first thoughts were that an excavator had cut through something or that a house-mover hadn’t had enough clearance or that a demolition had gone wrong or that one of the fly-by-night electricians working on non-permitted “improvements” had made a mistake; all these are possibilities around here these days. The great cause for concern was the fridge, only just restocked. A call to the outage number on the utility bill resulted in a transfer to, as always, a mystery number, a good thing in this instance since the automated outage-reporting system seems to offer no live-person option and is therefore of no use to households, like ours, with a rotary telephone. The answerer could or would say nothing about how many others had reported outages, over what area, and for how long it was estimated that it would be until restoration of electricity.There’s evidently no provision for assigning and giving to the caller a transaction number or work-order or report number. Later, someone with a more modern telephone used the automated system and found that the problem was recorded therein. Luckily for the state of my disposition I wasn’t asked this time whether the problem could be a fuse or a circuit-breaker. Even though we enjoy the original pre-WWII wiring here, the circuits are never over-loaded because we don’t have any air-conditioning and we seldom use over 400 kwh in any month, even the hottest ones. The outage lasted for just about an hour, according to those working at home and those who stuck around for lunch a bit longer. Without electric clocks, we wouldn’t know the duration without checking elsewhere. No utility trucks were ever spotted, so the problem could not have been confined to a few households. Before the lunch-hour was over here, the letter-carrier and a meter-reader came along, both besieged all along the street. The letter-carrier could give some notion of what streets were affected and the meter-reader said that this was his first time on this route but was able to name several streets on which people had buttonholed him to ask how soon electricity would return. He had heard that it was affecting a somewhat extensive area south of the river but wasn’t sure whether that was true. We really don’t dare invest in much food at a time these days, fearing that the so-called “brief rolling blackouts” of April will recur and amount to enough hours to spoil food as they did last time for us. If people are told anything on these occasions it’s that the cause was a squirrel, even if it’s the middle of the night, or that it must have been a tree limb. By all means, let’s take care of Samsung and Freescale. Why cry over spoiled milk?

Single-Wider in Westlake

I think its time to start cataloguing my adventures in Westlake. As a girl who grew up in a single-wide amongst the ferns of western Washington, the fact that I live in Westlake is, at best, laughable. In my neighborhood, the street names are of the likes of “Governors Hill Drive” (which I cant help but pronouncing as ‘Guv-nah’), “Righteous Leader Circle” and “I have more Money than you Boulevard”. The closest bar is an elitist golfer hangout named “The Owners Club”, the gas stations close at 5pm and there are jewelry stores and custom boutiques on every corner.

I suppose I should preface this rant by saying I do not judge any of you who reside in the sparkly water-consuming hills of Westlake…unless, of course, you wear too much pink terrycloth or walk around with a slue of Bluetooth-enabled devices wired to various body parts.

Perhaps it was the wife-beater tank top or the worn-out jeans….or maybe it’s the lack of a Mercedes emblem on the front of my car, but I actually had a Westlake Starbucks employee belittle my entire existence this morning. While I tend to shy away from entering any major corporate-run establishment, my neck of the woods is all about being hand-fed by the Man, so I’m stuck with Starbucks. After squeezing my pickup truck in between a Porsche 911 and some type of Audi SUV, I snagged my place in the mile-long line–right behind 7 women in matching rhinestoned Lycra (obviously some sort of morning soccer-mom jogging club), next to a bunch of business casual clad men with fluffy hair, and just in front of a couple discussing which vacation home they should use for Labor Day weekend.

Fifteen minutes of listening to inane coffee orders such as “Triple non-fat extra-foam one-splenda half-pump caramel latte steamed to 190 degrees please”, and it looked like I was finally next in line. Just when I opened my mouth to say my favorite two words (“Double Americano”), the Suave-thick-glasses-wearing Indie kid behind the counter blatantly looks OVER my head (he actually had to stand up onto his tip toes and tilt his head to the left to see around me) and asks the couple behind me, “What can I get for you two?”

The diamond-sheathed woman hussies up to the counter and starts listing out all the specifics of her drink (something about soy, cocoa, and an empty, unfulfilled life). I’m no push over, so I tactfully interrupt her and politely say, “I’ve been waiting for 20 minutes.”

By the look on her face, you would have thought I just threw up on her.

It was like a scene from Tombstone for a minute- the Indie kid, the woman, and myself. Nervous looks and frightened glares bouncing between the three of us, trying to guess who would snap first. Finally the Indie kid steps up the plate and says to me, “I’m sorry. I saw you, but I just didn’t think you were anybody.”

“What? You didn’t think I was anybody?”

“Yeah,” he said, as if I just asked the most ridiculous question on earth. “You didn’t look like anybody special.”

I mulled it over for a millisecond, and decided the kid had a point. I was a simple girl with a simple drink- and they simply didn’t cater to that demographic. So I laughed at him (and pointed, because pointing and laughing is my favorite pastime) and walked out, confident and proud that I had self-alienated myself from the larger crowd of people in Westlake. And, even though I thought about ramming the front of my truck into someone’s BMW, I honestly wasn’t too upset.

I believe I will just start telling people I live in Oak Hill. Close enough, right?

What’s In Store?

Don Caballero is doing an in-store at Waterloo Records tomorrow at 5pm and then playing Emo’s later that night. Their drummer is amazing. All you prog rock geeks should check it out. I’m not sure if I’ll make it.

I’ll take the opportunity to plug my own band’s in-store at Cheapo Discs (914 N. Lamar, I’d link their site, but the appear to have forgotten to pay their domain name registration bill) this Friday at 5pm. I’m told there’s usually free beer and it’s almost always a good time. I’m lame enough not to have ever done an in-store at Cheapo Discs, but it’s the original Whole Foods location, so the karma has to be good. I loved doing in-stores at Blondie’s when it was between 5th and 6th. If you find me (the drummer) and tell me you came because of the Metblog post, I’ll give you a free CD.

Speaking of old-time Austin things like the original Whole Foods, I just got back from the X / Rollins Band gig at Stubb’s. Good Stuff. Rollins mentioned Roky Erickson, The Dicks, Butthole Surfers, Big Boys, among others. Everyone was showing their age, but it still rocked.

What kind of week are we having when we get Rollins, X and a Scratch Acid reunion at Emo’s this coming Saturday? I recall my days as a wee impressionable lad at Bill’s Records and Tapes in early 80’s Richardson, forever remembering the Biafran bellies on the first Butthole Surfers record, the rainbow colored cover of Scratch Acid’s Just Keep Eating and the cover of most of Black Flag’s albums. Meeeemries.

Update (08.31.06 10:36 PM CDT): I just noticed that there’s an XLEnt article on Scratch Acid in today’s Statesman. The web version has links to Windows Media and Real Audio versions samples of “Cannibal”, “She Said” and “This is Bliss”.

Reprieved by the rain

handmowr.jpgThe skies opened at 6:55 am yesterday morning. Within seconds, the gutters were filled with rushing water. Lawn-watering day here according to the City’s suggested five-day schedule was set for today, beginning at midnight. There was so much rain yesterday morning, though, that the grass and everything else visibly perked up and actually grew quite a bit by suppertime yesterday. Bingo! That meant two hours of extra sleep this morning, no wrangling of two hoses and two sprinklers, and the chance to devote a half hour’s time before breakfast to skimming around with the me-powered reel push mower. Adhering to the watering schedule does work and things here look no worse than they do at those establishments with sprinkler systems running every night all night long. Items in pots get some help from the hose at least once a day, but that’s what keeps those geraniums, flowering garlic blossoms, milkweed, chiles, and cucumbers handsome and thriving. The City hasn’t been campaigning much this year about water use generally, perhaps because it has itself been profligate. In the letters column of today’s local daily, without mentioning anything about the Austin City Limits festival, Austinite Virginia Webber notes that Austin doesn’t practice what it preaches and that there’s a lot being wasted at Zilker and Auditorium Shores by the City itself. Here at our adobe hacienda, the grass and shrubs will wait six days between waterings, thanks to the generous gift from the skies yesterday morning.

Planning a Wedding in Austin

A week and a half ago, my boyfriend became my fiance in the lovely city of San Francisco. So now we’re planning a wedding. I was bound and determined to enjoy our engagement for at least a week before starting in on the business of planning. We enjoyed excellent happy hour prices on refreshing drinks and tasty appetizers at 219 West (I recommend the Apple Mojito and the chipotle macaroni and cheese) and an open house at our place complete with sparkling wine and good friends. But now, we move onto the business, and weddings are big business. Rumor has it that the typical (or average, I can’t remember) Austin wedding costs $30,000. Ahem. Excuse me, what? More than our house down payment? A LOT more than our down payment? Part of me is practical and wants to save the money and elope. A bigger part of me wants to revel in the girlie-girl-ness of a traditional evening wedding. So that’s the part that wins out. Lucky for us, Austin is awash in beautiful locations for weddings and receptions, some out in the surrounding Hill Country, some downtown, and some somewhere in between. Surely we can find one we like for the date we want and still stay within our budget (considerably less than $30,000). And just in case we need help shopping around, the Austin Bridal Extravaganza is a mere three and a half weeks away.

Priced Out of Beer

Any of you alive during the 1970s know that increases in fuel prices drive increases in food prices. Then, and (sadly for the most part) now our agribusiness-produced food heavily relies on fossil fuels for fertilization, planting, spraying, harvesting, shipping, processing, and more shipping. Despite the growth of the organic food industry and a greater interest in eating locally-grown foods, far more of the food available at Central Market and Whole Food Markets travels greater distances than the offerings at our neighborhood Rylanders did in the 1970s.

So I’ve been alert to food prices nickel and diming their way up all summer. When I wandered into Central Market last week during inventory, I accepted the fact that more price increases were on the way. I was unprepared for the smarmy way in which they did it.

Case in point: Wednesday, I purchased a 4-pack of Maredsous 10, a lovely and pricey Belgian beer, for $7.99. It was so yummy that on Saturday I went back for another 4-pack. In front of the Maredsous display was a card announcing “$8.99; save 50 cents!” Behind the card the price from Wednesday, $7.99, was still visible. Now I understand that Central Market has to raise its prices to cover increased costs. But being told that the $1.00 price increase was a 50 cent savings just irked me. Talk about adding insult to injury. I stared at the two prices for a long time and walked off without buying the beer.

In all fairness, Central Market still has the better price. The same beer is $9.99 at Whole Foods Market. However, I’m so miffed at the false advertising that I won’t be buying fancy-shmancy beer from either of them for awhile. Back to Lone Star.

Pot-luck of leftovers: 8/21-8/27

grocer.jpg ***Austin Grocer delivery service must really exist: here’s the evidence, seen at the Congress and Oltorf H-E-B. The design on the van is by “creativity in action,” but I’ve learned no more about the artwork. Neighbors used to subscribe to the Peapod service when it existed, but I haven’t yet found anyone who’s tried Austin Grocer. The website makes it look well organized, with shopping lists that include a wide range of the indispensable Night Hawk products, for example. ***P & K Grocery intends to keep Saratoga spring water stocked (the version in the bottle of blue glass), but I took home the last of it this time around. ***Civic questions of the week: Why are perfectly serviceable poles supporting street-name signs being replaced with taller poles in residential neighborhoods all over town while swimming pools and particularly wading pools are closed during weeks when the temperatures are frequently over 100 degrees? What are the priorities here? Has nobody ever heard of revising a budget? ***I heard a rumor from a guy who says he heard it as a fact from a meat-fish-poultry employee that H-E-B has bought all of or a substantial interest in Buddy’s Natural Chicken. True or false? ***In Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair with ’50s Pop Music, Karen Schoemer confesses to having fallen in love in Texas, with Austin’s own Jo Carol Pierce. This isn’t in the index, but on page 153, in the midst of the chapter on Tommy Sands. ***The early bird gets the cantaloupes. We saw them at the South Austin organic farmers’ market at El Gallo on South Congress, but the fastest sprinter got to them first.

Death Proof at Texas Chili Parlor

DeathProof.jpgKVUE reports that the Texas Chili Parlor will be closed all this week for filming of Quentin Tarantino’s half of Grind House, Death Proof. Kurt Russell tending bar at the Chili Parlor? Sweet.

More Austin Metblog posts on QT and the Grind House films here and here.

Word-of-mouth approval results in box-office lines

Maybe people were just afraid that Quinceanera may not enjoy an extended engagement. As screening time approached, the lines at the ticket window were still long this afternoon, and an Arbor factotum was encouraging those with credit cards to step over to the kiosk to help speed things up for everybody. The audience was of all ages and not the usual homogenous art-house crowd. The Chron review did award this four stars but most in line said that they were there because of a friend’s recommendation. The dialogue is partly in English and partly in Spanish with excellent subtitles and partly in the in-between, also with good subtitles where they’re helpful. One of the many plot threads involves rising property values and gentrification of an older city neighborhood. All of us laughed and plenty of us wept in places. This is a very entertaining movie and definitely one of this summer’s treats. Among the previews of coming attractions is one for the most recent Almodovar movie, Volver, with Penelope Cruz and others of his repertory company.

The Word

greasemovie.jpgIf you’re looking for something to do tonight and don’t want to spend much cash, Alamo Drafthouse and AT&T are sponsoring a free screening of Grease tonight in Republic Square Park (between 4th & 5th and Guadalupe & San Antonio) at 7:30. The movie begins at dusk. The audio and video were remastered a few years ago for its 20th anniversary. I remember seeing it in the summer of 1978 while visiting friends in Iowa. We saw Caddyshack a few summers later. Guess which one warped me more.

Dogs, picnics, and lawn chairs are welcome. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the park. Concessions will be available.

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