Head Exploding

explosion.jpgWell not yet but it seems as if it may happen any moment. Three times this week I have been so angry that a nuclear explosion became the very next step. CSI would have had to scrape grey matter off surfaces for miles in all directions.

I seem to have no safety valve or relaxation technique that works for me. I surmise that this is because for much of my life I had a calm soul.  My body and mind  never built the coping mechanisms others have.  If I am in a position to leave the source of the irritation, I will go walk it off. However, this requires walking for several miles until exhaustion sets in. Not always an alternative.

I am open to suggestions though drugs, legal or not, will not be considered. Alcohol maybe, but up to now I have not been much of a drinker. I have tried deep breaths and yoga to no avail. Surely someone has a solution.

TIME OFF ROCKS

Ok, maybe the all caps is overkill. But with the exception of the last week of 2006 when I was sick as a dog I have not taken time since last June. Way too long ago.

Ya know how when you hurt your back and at first it is killer but you accomodate the pain so you can get through the day and it goes on for a long time but at some time it goes heals and the pain is gone. Ya know that feeling when you remember what it was like to be pain free and how much more you can do and what a joy it is that it doesn’t hurt any more. Ya know that feeling. That was how I felt for 4 1/2 days.

Away from work–mostly– and away from the stresses of everyday living.  Being able to stay out late because you can sleep late the next morning. Rushing only when you want to and savoring slow, quiet moments when you choose. Hanging out with your wife when the hard choices are what fun thing do next or do we just lay around for awhile. Amazing barely captures the sentiment.

Note to self. More time off. More often. Go more places. Should I forget, someone out there please remind me.

The Austin Music Scene

I estimate that there are more musicians per capita in Austin than any other major city. Sure there are a large number of clubs to go to with music of all genres on a particular night. Beyond that though the place is like being in a musical; you’re never sure where or when  a song will break  out.

For example, we went to a place for bar-b-que that was recommended by several people. The food ended up being awful. Everything from the meats to the side dishes were a disaster. The evening was saved by singer/songwriter Abi  Tapia and her band. Abi has a strong voice and some great tunes. She played for an hour, for tips.

Sunday around noon we went to our new favorite coffee place, Austin Java.  They have a small outdoor patio where we read the Sunday paper and listened to a very good jazz trio consisting of a metallophone (a xylophone with metal bars), drum and electric bass.

The clubs were filled with great music.  Friday night we spent at the Broken Spoke which has a forty plus year tradition of hosting country music. We know that because the original owner came to the stage, gave us the story and then sang for the crowd. The performer for the night was Dale Watson, a successful second tier country singer with a strong, smooth baritone voice. His five piece band played traditional country for at least the three hours we stayed (one 15 minute break).  He was great but people watching was even better.

The Broken Spoke has a large dance floor in the middle of the building leading right up to the stage. Tables for eating and drinking were on either side of the dance floor. There were some fine 3 steppers on the floor. My favorites included the older (60 +) gent who asked every single young woman to dance. They all seemed happy to be dancing with a talented dancer. There was the young Asian woman who was asked to dance by several guys until the one who seemed to be her boyfriend stepped up and kept her busy the rest of the night. There was a 50ish couple that elegantly glided across the floor and the early thirties couple that needed to do major twirls every other step. I think the kids thought they were cool but the Elegants out-classed them by far. My absolute favorite was the guy, several inches over 6 foot, with the top knot (think John Belushi doing his samurai character) and blue jeans covered by black leather chaps. It was quite the crowd!

Our last night of music consisted of a double header.  Elana James and the Continental Two followed by the Mother Truckers.  Western swing is probably the best categorization of Elana James’ music. The trio consisted of Elana on lead vocals and fiddle, a phenomenal guitar player in the Django Reinhardt mode and a stand up bass player that could not have been older than 21. (In fact I am sure I saw his mom come to take him home).  All three of them had some of the fastest hands ever gifted to mortals. The music was fast and fun.

Two hours later we were treated to the country rock of the Mother Truckers. They rocked the house but we were tired and only stayed for a few songs.  I think my spouse got her fill of country music.  (I have to admit my embarrassment of not getting the joke in the band’s title for the first 30 minutes or so. The double entendre part of my brain is on the fritz.)

Our last night in Austin we were considering taking in the well known venue of Antones. However, none of the Fly Wheel, Kill Hannah or Sick Puppies seemed a draw for us. Good thing about Austin though is that all types of music are there for the finding.

Austin: First Impressions

Austin is My Kind of Town (imagine Sinatra singing this song in the background but with a modest country twang). It has music,  natural beauty–on the edge of Texas hill country–good city structure, museums, great parks, a major university–go Longhorns– and the state capital.

The rhythm of Austin is that of a good country ballad. People are casual, friendly and low key. The locals talk about this in part being due to the continuing hippie influence. Sure enough there were ponytails on men from young to old. People were patient. No honking at cars or people, pedestrians and cyclists given the right of way. Every one we asked was happy to help with suggestions on restaurants, places to see and music venues. After an intense week within a  fairly intense existence, this easy going nature of the place was reinvigorating.

I could hang out here a lot. Several place we went had bands playing including the outdoor section of a restaurant at dinner time and the coffee place on Sunday at noon. (BTW, Austin Java’s latte’s were vastly superior to Starbuck’s and they seve real food and the occasional live music.)  Having a slow, casual breakfast with live music and then finding good hiking 15 minutes away is a somewhat unique combination.

If for no other reason I need to go back to test my biking legs on those rolling hills. So much to do…so little time.

Awesome Austin

Four and one half days in the best city in Texas. My new “I want to live here” place. Music, hills, laid back people and a great all around city.

Did I mention that I had 4 1/2 days alone with my wife away from the stresses of everyday life? Oh, and bats. 

I will have a lot to say later but am boarding a plane for home.

Digital Picture Taking Starts Tomorrow

olympus.gifFor me, at least.  I will get an SLR at some point but to get the hang of this I bought a small Olympus. I have been enjoying pictures of Philly, Asheville and people on others sites. Am in Austin for a few days. If I can figure out how a few pictures of Texas may show up here in the not too distant future.

He’s Not My Spouse!

Just to be clear, this story is not about my spouse.

I’ve noticed that people view, evaluate and react to their spouses and children differently than we do others. The emotional ties are the strongest and the expectations the highest for our own.  A story of one small life moment really brought this home for me recently. Mostly because it was someone else’s family.

We had a Bar-B-Que between games of a 10th grade double header last weekend. At the end of the second game, parents told the players to leave any left over food and drink for the frosh game coming up next. I was chatting up one of the moms waiting for the boys to finish getting their gear together when her husband walked over to the food area and took two bottles of water.

She got an iritated look and began complaining to me that her husband was being irresponsible especially since they had just told the boys not to take anything from the food table. What a poor example he was setting, etc., etc. (A bit of background. This guy is one of the nicest guys and he and his wife seem to get along very well).

I turned to her and said, “Barb, I think he just needs the water to cool off the coals in the grill so it can be put away.” Sure enough, Bob walked over and poured the water on the grill.  She looked a little sheepish. I simply said, “He’s not my spouse”.

ps. All names but mine were changed to protect the innocent.

Passport Thoughts: I and II

 Part I: The Quest

passport.jpgMy passport expired and I needed to go to Canada. I knew about the trip 4 weeks in advance but in case you are unaware, the passport office is backed up. You used to be able to expedite the process through the mail in a week but now even expedited service is taking 4-6 weeks. Mail was no longer an option.

Fortunately, I live in one of the cities with a regional office.  Once I was within 2 weeks of my international departure I could schedule a date to go to the office and, I thought, get a passport in one day. The appointment is for a specific date and time. For some reason, I went temporarily insane and I forgot that I was dealing with a government agency. I had this idea that I would show up, be taken to a private office, give them my forms and money and soon be on my way. Instead I show up to a large room with about 60 people and am given a number. Most of the people ahead of me come in various stages of unpreparedness. The time drags on. 90 minutes later I get my turn in line and, since I am prepared,  the process then takes less than five minutes. One problem, I do not get my passport until the next day. Minor inconvenience since I no longer work downtown but not a bad process overall.

Part II : The Revelation

The passport leads to a revelation. In the 10 years I had this passport, I did not use it up. I left blank space where the stamps of the countries I should have visited should have been. A work associate mentioned that he has twice needed to get extra pages.

I resolve to travel outside the U.S. frequently enough to need extra pages before my next ten years are up. There are a lot of places I still have yet to see and a few I would like to see again. Rest of the world, here I come.

Taxi Driver: Where is Bobby D When You Need Him

Instead I had the taxi driver who rang the door bell at 5:30.01 for a 5:30 pickup. Did I mention that this was AM.  My wife and son were none too happy. I do not mind that taxi drivers speak little English. In Chicago I have come to expect that.  I am however  less than thrilled when they run red lights with me in the taxi.

I also expect them to know how to get to the airport without directions and to be able to provide 10 dollars change on a $30 fare.

 This morning my modest expectations were clearly not met.  

Any bad taxi driver stories to share?