If you’re unable to spend Christmas in Vegas, try not to be pissy about it. Neither did Jesus, and he had crazy connections. Besides, plenty of people manage to make do with Austin’s relatively amateurish attempts at garishness and schmaltz. We have 37th Street, a dazzling ode to excess that’s just a few bong hits shy of becoming a Binion’s or a Bally’s. It’s singularly impressive, but for some reason the residents are either too chintzy or too stoned to comp drinks. You would think that might affect their draw, but every year 37th Street is overrun by lumbering herds of slack-jawed touristas just like the Vegas Strip. Amazing. Ditto for the Zilker Trail of Lights. Even though the ZTOL is strung up by underpaid city workers (probably with a jaded enthusiasm not unlike the dollar blackjack table cocktail waitresses at the Horseshoe), it nonetheless sparkles with the same sweaty palmed, attention whoring desperation of a Circus Circus or Flamingo, and most amazingly, does so without a profit motive. Say what you will about the Vegas casinos’ unconscionable waste of water and electricity, at least they’re contributing to the local economy by bringing in busloads of cash. ZTOL on the other hand, brings in busloads of stoned high school kids, homeless winos, traffic jam masochists, and those scary people who finish their holiday shopping by mid July. Jackpot. Your tax dollars at work. With just a little more investment the city could surely erect a nice Greyhound track on the soccer fields at Zilker and recoup some of the cost. Talk about a win-win: In one fell swoop the city could suppress the insidious influence of un-American sports and encourage the unbridled lust for materialism that made this nation great. When it comes right down to it, all that Christmas spirit isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit if it doesn’t fuel holiday spending. A couple hundred thousand people milling around Zilker marveling at the pretty lights are a few hundred thousand people not out Christmas spending their hard-earned cash. Is that really the Christmas spirit? Shouldn’t all those gaudy holiday decorations stand for something more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling? If you really want to get in the Christmas spirit and you haven’t already booked a flight to Vegas, you can still salvage the season by heading down to the 32nd Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at the Austin Convention Center. This weekend and up until 11pm Christmas Eve, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar will offer all manner of artsy knick-knacks, whatsits, and whys to turn your Christmas list from to-dos to tadas! And, like any local event worth its salt, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar has live music by the van-load. For a paltry $3 ($6 after 7pm) you can see acts like Sara Hickman, Ruthie Foster, the Eggmen, the Derailers, Van Wilks, Heybale, Shelley King, and Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones – a veritable who’s who of Austin music. Now that’s the spirit of Christmas giving. If only they would just comp some drinks.
If you were planning on wearing a lampshade as your drunken coup de grace for the annual office holiday party, you might want to put together a backup plan. Lampshades are getting harder and harder to come by – not just because environmentalist killjoys like Al Gore have made the incandescent bulb passé, but because lamps themselves have become victims of modernist feng shui. Pity, most office workers could benefit greatly from muted lighting, and the lampshade would be hilarious camp, but there are plenty of other ways to pad your reputation as the office party animal. Most of them unfortunately involve getting wasted. Think of it this way: Of the many challenges you encounter in the workplace, sobriety is a relatively easy one. Sure, you could probably come up with some crazy shenanigans while stone-cold sober, but they will only look forced and insincere. When you’re trashed, your botched attempt at yanking the tablecloth out from beneath a table full of wineglasses will be forgiven as the antic of a fun-loving lush, but try the same thing sober and you’ll only be known as a (pick an expletive) idiot. The difference is subtle but important. No one will fault you for knocking back a few too many in order to have a good time, and rather ironically, that same insobriety can be used as a “blank check” excuse to operate completely outside the conventions of normal behavior. How about a little broom-closet tonsil hockey with your hot boss? Has everyone seen your awesome tramp stamp? In context? Maybe you’ve been itching to take a poke at that asshole in accounting or give the kid from the mail room a swirly. Isn’t it about time everyone heard your a capella version of “My Sharona”? And shouldn’t you once and for all put an end to the rampant speculation about whether or not those huge knockers are really real? Wanna feel? Haven’t you always wanted to make a color copy of your privates? Or leave a ruby-red lipstick print on the company president’s collar? And at the very least, you should share with your co-workers the magic of dance – ideally the ever-popular broken-armed robot or maybe a spectacularly inept attempt at the “Soulja Boy.” Oh, and feel free to unburden yourself of that shockingly racist/sexist/fundamentalist/paranoid conspiracy theorist rant that you’ve been successfully keeping pent up for years. Rest assured the preceding has only scratched the surface of what you can imagineer with the proper blood alcohol content. Two warnings, however (one is printed right on the bottle): stay away from automobiles and all other heavy machinery and don’t talk shop. The only thing more boorish than a drunk co-worker is a drunk co-worker who wants to talk about work. If shop talk is really your bag, at least do yourself the favor of attending the holiday party of a place that does interesting work. This Friday Misprint magazine is having their company Christmas party at Scoot Inn, and it’s open to the public. That’s not a huge risk for Misprint, considering the magazine only appears when they can commandeer an after-hours office copier. But regardless of the psychotic art direction and ADD-inspired editorial focus, Misprint (in)consistently comes out with wicked funny shit, which is more than can be said of certain other out-of-town publications, who swing a big bat but rarely hit it out of the park. Will they be funny in person? Depends on your bar tab, but if they turn out to be room clearing bores in the flesh, you can still enjoy live music from local bands Red Leaves, Hot Pentecostals, and Stay Gold. Should be fun, but you may have to BYOLS.
Fasten that sprig of Mistletoe to your belt buckle, the season is upon us. For the next few weeks your schmaltz meter will be pegged hard into the red. Just give in. You’re totally outnumbered. Even that weird-assed pagan/druid/wiccan/communist/anarchist co-worker who won’t spell “women” without replacing the “e” with a “y” is wearing a Bobbie Brooks Christmas sweater with a flashing Rudolph nose. Yes, she’s wearing it with a withering look of sarcasm, but after a few hours of walking around in that fluffy ode to Christmas magic her smirk will melt away and she’ll bear an amazing resemblance to your third-grade teacher. You can’t buy regression therapy like that. Well, actually you can, but it’s going to cost you about $7.99 off the rack at Goodwill. If you’re a more progressive type you’ll probably want to start drinking heavily about now. A healthy buzz can really take the edge off all the bright lights, clangy carols, and greed-crazed, obnoxious children – especially if they’re your own. If you’re smart, you’ll replace phrases like “for the next two weeks I’ll be ramping up my alcohol dependency” with “during the holiday season I try to maintain a healthy amount of good cheer.” It won’t do you much good as a preamble to your breathalyzer test but it will help you explain how you passed out in your boss’ bathtub. Extra points if you happen to have a pair of furry antlers strapped to your head. In fact, ridiculous holiday attire/accessories can provide crucial cover for whatever depraved activities you might normally enjoy under the cloak of privacy. Dying of auto-erotic asphyxiation in a pair of skinny jeans and a black Anthrax tee shirt is just … really sad, but if you punch out the same way wearing a big, red Santa suit, people will assume you got overly adventurous from one too many toddies – either that or the elves ditched you when things got too freaky. The point is that you can’t go wrong with holiday excess because it’s all so insanely wrong to begin with. If the tiny little 8 pound, 6 ounce baby Jesus could have known that someday his birth would be used as an excuse to pimp Guitar Hero III, he would have strangled himself with his umbilical cord – maybe even while masturbating in a red Santa suit. After all, he’s God, and God can make bizarre shit like that happen. If you’re into bizarre shit, you will probably want to check out Checking It Twice a compendium of Christmassy comedic sketches from the talented yet tainted minds of the St. Idiot Collective. The show runs this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Hideout and all proceeds benefit Lifeworks, a shelter for homeless children. Admission is $6, which isn’t a lot to pay for some real holiday cheer.
What does it take to be a man? Scrotum? Check. Nads? Yuppers. Johnson? Well, it is sort of iconic. Facial hair? Yeah, a scruffy stubble will man you up a bit, but facial hair on some dudes just makes them look like Frida Kahlo … or worse yet, John Waters. Take away the basic sports package, however, and manliness gets a little harder to pin down. For instance, pretty much everyone has nipples, even if you can’t milk them. A lot of dude nipples look like big, hairy, asymmetrical, precancerous moles – the type of areolic abominations that not even a rabid wolverine would latch onto, but they’re nipples nonetheless – certainly enough to suffice for a prison bitch or a four martini metrosexual. Boobs aren’t limited to just one gender either, nor are full, pouty lips, luscious lashes, or shapely legs – two out of three of which can be scored over the counter at Walgreens. Clearly manliness isn’t defined solely by physiological characteristics. Richard Simmons may have the chest hair of a lumberjack, but Rosie O’Donnell es mucho mas macho, and her chest is smooth as a baby’s butt. Don’t believe it? Check out Garry Marshall’s 1994 classic, Exit to Eden where she and Dan Ackroyd play cops sent to a Caribbean sex resort to track down plum … uh … diamond smugglers. Fast-forward to the scene where Rosie sports fishnets, a garter, and what can only be described as a high-test brassiere version of assless chaps. Game on, bitch. As Ro so brilliantly illustrates, a huge pair of knockers doesn’t necessarily preclude entry into the man club. Remember Meatloaf in Fight Club? Bad fucking ass. He was rocking EEs and an empty nutsack and he was still able to channel his inner warrior. OK, he cried a lot and got his ass kicked by Ed Norton (who is hairless and slightly more fem than Andy Dick on the masculinity scale) but give him props for manufacturing testosterone out of thin air. Ask yourself: If you met Meatloaf in a dark alley, would you have the huevos to man up and throw down? And if you pinned him on his back would you rip off his shirt and motorboat those huge fun bags? Of course you would. And would that make you less of a man? Questions like these have been plaguing manly philosophers since the ancient Greeks, who occasionally dabbled in heterosexuality when they weren’t carving penis sculptures and nude oil wrestling. In recent years, civilization has fallen off the wagon when it comes to celebrating manliness and men. In fact, some ball-draggers would even claim that being “festive” is essentially unmanly. Well, balderdash. What could be manlier than celebrating men? Not sure? Well, you can see for yourself this weekend when Birds Barbershop and plucky online zine PartyEnds.com host Man Fest, a butchy event featuring arm-wrestling competitions, a lumberjack photo booth, shoe shines, confidence rock (google it) DJ sets, and live music by the über-manly Golden Bear, whose lead singer Chris “Grizzle” Gregory is a cross between Bright Eyes and Hank Williams Jr. Man enough for you? If not, there will also be free scotch from Dewar’s, free beer from Steamworks Brewing Company, and wieners – lots and lots of wieners.
The Thanksgiving turkey is a perfect metaphor for the way you inevitably feel after indulging in America’s No. 1 feast: like someone covered you with butter and rammed some starch up your ass. Too bad the Pilgrims couldn’t order Chinese takeout. Of course, the turkey the Pilgrims brought to the table was a far cry from the force-fed, ’roid raging superbirds of today. Old timey turkeys were leaner, ropier, and maybe even slightly smarter than their contemporary counterparts who, rumor has it, don’t need much more than a brain stem and an open feed hole to subsist. Pilgrim birds were hardly veal grade. You can imagine that after spending a few hours picking blunderbuss birdshot out of a stringy turkey carcass, Squanto probably just threw up his hands and said, “Who wants popcorn?” After all, if you’re going to crack your teeth on something, it might as well be organic, right? Turkeys are good for headdresses and feather dusters and making silly noises for hillbillies to imitate, but as far as flavor goes, you won’t see turkey bumping filet mignon off menus anytime soon. Admit it. The very best turkey – even when it is most succulent, be it deep-fried Cajun style, hickory smoked or honey glazed – is never much better than an average cheeseburger. That is why you never see fast-food restaurants with names like Butterball Tom’s Turkey and Stuffing House or Triptophantastic Turkeys To Go. Yawn. Yo quiero Taco Bell! And yet, even though turkey is remarkably bland, it does have a certain gustatory je ne sais quoi that precludes its inclusion in other dishes. Sure, there’s turkey tetrazzini and turkey chili and turkey burgers, but the word “turkey” appended to the front of those dishes serves as a functional disclaimer that says, “this won’t taste like it normally does.” Even though it has feathers, a beak, a wattle, and claws like a chicken, turkey never tastes like a chicken, which is amazing considering that damn near everything tastes like chicken if you cook it right. This doesn’t make turkey bad, it just makes it both unique and unremarkable at the same time. That kind of zen essence is not an easy thing to pull off, which is just another reason the turkey is the perfect centerpiece for America’s yearly homage to gluttony. So go ahead, shovel it down and stretch your gut, you have the other 364 days of the year to titillate your tastebuds. When you’re done, loosen up that belt another notch or two and waddle on down to the Continental Club where Wayne “the Train” Hancock is hosting his annual “Dance Yer Stuffing Off” Turkey Trot. Starting at 9, Wayne will be belting out his original blend of “Honky Tonk, Western Swing, Blues and Big Band” that should work you into a big, steaming butterball. Hawt!
Sometimes it’s so hard not to sweat the little stuff. No matter how many times your grizzled old geezer relatives try to tell you the only important things in life are your friends, your family, and a rigorous regime of dental hygiene, you never seem to get the message. What do they know anyway? They’re already ravaged by senility, hair loss, osteoporosis, cataracts, tooth decay, and wicked halitosis, which makes it all the more uncomfortable when they ask you to lean in closer so you can hear what they have to say. Besides, it’s difficult to take advice from someone who shares more in common with the Crypt Keeper than say, George Clooney or Julia Roberts, especially when you’re transfixed by a huge, hairy mole, turkey jowls, or a spectacular dowager’s hump. Focus, damn it. They’re trying to tell you something, even if it’s a seemingly trite cliché like “don’t sweat the details.” People standing on death’s doormat don’t have a lot of time to fumble around for clever turns of phrase. They do however, have a certain amount of wisdom and a sincere wish to share it before it’s snuffed out entirely. They know that bad haircut will grow back, that asshole will quit tailgating you, your evil boss will retire, and that soft-porn amateur video you made with your last boyfriend probably won’t be getting as many hits on YouTube as you think it will – and even if it does, the important thing is that you had fun. So just chillax, yo. Pull back the handle on your zen recliner and look at the big picture. Maybe that fresh cat turd on your lawn isn’t really a cat turd at all but rather a pungent reminder to appreciate the fact that, for the most part, your life doesn’t stink. What a relief that your lawn isn’t entirely filled with cat turds. Of course, if it is, maybe that turd is a reminder that your cat has nearly used up its nine lives. Unlike cats, humans only get one life, and any old toothless coot will tell you to enjoy it while you can, though probably through some hackneyed phrase like “gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” This Sunday you can do just that at the Wash Hamilton Tribute and Benefit Concert, an eight hour extravaganza of music, memories, and merriment honoring one of Austin’s favorite bass players, who is currently dealing with end stage prostate cancer. Acts scheduled to perform include Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones, Shelley King, Zeke Jarmon & Friends, Jane Bond, Mandy Mercier, Boomer Norman, Los Jazz Vatos & the Sunset Valley Boys, plus surprise guests. There will also be a silent auction featuring donations from Wash’s friends. A $10 donation gets you in the door and scores you a mess of good karma.
A Bob Dylan hoot night is a genius idea. Damn near anyone can do Dylan better than Dylan: Bobcat Goldthwait … Fran Drescher … Jaleel White … Stephen Hawking – pretty much any voice that’s remotely intelligible and doesn’t sound like chicken fat being fed into a garbage disposal will do the trick. This is not to say that Dylan doesn’t have talent. He’s monstrously talented. Freakishly talented. Dylan’s oeuvre looms so large it overshadows the instruments of its delivery (including Bob himself). Dylan could squat and shit on the stage and the mojo from his previous work would likely score him a standing O. It probably takes a monumental amount of effort for Bob not to phone it in. It is either his blessing or curse to be in an eternal self-esteem building workshop. Imagine going through a day where everyone from aging hippies to college coeds to flying nuns slaps you on the back and insists that you’re something just short of the Second Coming of Jesus. Just because Bob often sounds like he’s speaking in tongues doesn’t make it true. Imagine the pressure he must feel and the restraint he must exercise to not just scribble out some trite little ditty like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” claim it’s a metaphorical epilogue to “All Along the Watchtower” and then go skiing in Aspen on the royalties. Dylan’s songs have been covered by everyone from Accidental Porn to Zombie Girlfriend and all acts in between – many of which you’ve actually heard of. That’s currently 20,000 covers and counting. Most of it is exceptionally beautiful songwriting, but by that standard Leonard Cohen would also be stacking mad mounds of mailbox money. No, there is something else at work here. There are clearly a staggering number of people who hear Dylan sing and think, “I couldn’t murder that song any worse than he already has,” and it’s exactly that kind of pathos that butters his songwriting bread – or at least keeps him swimming in it. Think about it. No one covers Rush, Journey, or Queen songs for the same reason unless they’re in a wedding band, a piano bar, or on a drunken karaoke binge. However, if you can string together three simple chords with any semblance of rhythm you’re probably going to be knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door. Does it mean you’re going to do it well? Not at all, it just means you’re probably going to sing it better than Dylan. The challenge is to give the song the treatment it deserves, not the treatment it has already gotten. Tonight local musicians from revered bands like Zookeeper, Zykos, the Stillwater Pioneers, the Idiot Winds, Mustangled Up in Blue, and the Tunnels will be attempting just that at Emo’s Lounge. In between bands DJ Jester the Filipino Fist will be filling the voids. Really, the question is: Who isn’t afraid to cover a Dylan song? Well, maybe Tom Waits, but his hoot is Friday night.
Admit it. Sixth Street is one of the reasons you came to Austin. Sure, you can blow a bunch of smoke about getting a degree or taking advantage of that exciting high tech job opportunity, but in your heart of hearts you know you fantasized about spending your nights on Sixth Street sucking down Jell-O shots and hitting on college hotties. Of course, once reality set in and you discovered that the college hotties were actually high school hotties with fake IDs and the Jell-O shots had a tendency to stain your carpet when they came up the next morning, you started talking about the Greenbelt, the hike and bike trail, and Austin’s eclectic culture. In other words, you got all stuck up. Maybe it’s time you loosened up and celebrated the fact that Austin has one of the finest alcoholic theme parks in middle America. That big-ass convention center isn’t there because of art galleries and shopping. Those fat conventioneers didn’t fly in to ride the choo-choo at Zilker. Those high-rise condos aren’t being overbuilt to house pasty-faced state workers. No, this city was built on booze – sort of like Vegas, only without all the classy neon. You may not find it on a bumper sticker anytime soon, but Austin is the Sodom of the Southwest. We are currently overstocked with hedonists, weirdos, and freaks and more keep moving here every day. Why? You can chicken-or-egg it all you want, but Sixth Street is a central component – as are the Warehouse District, Red River, and South Congress. Austin’s geography and climate aren’t all that spectacular, our traffic sucks, and we dress like we just rolled out of bed, but we have a really super personality … or maybe just a superslutty one. Nowhere else in Texas can you find such a concentration of unbridled hedonism (Spring Break at South Padre excluded), and people literally come from miles around to revel in it. Love it or hate it, Sixth Street is as precious a resource to Austin as Barton Springs, the Hill Country, the Capitol, or the university. Don’t deny it, hate on it, or try to pretend it doesn’t exist like your meth dealing uncle who’s in prison in Arkansas. Celebrate it, and yes, occasionally (without bitching about the parking, the smell of dried urine and vomit, or the Dawn of the Dead panhandlers) revel in it. If you have always wanted to support Sixth Street but don’t want to risk getting roofied by one too many sexes on the beach and making an inadvertent amateur porn in a hotel stairwell, now is your chance. Alamo Drafthouse has finally opened their Ritz location. Now you can finally drink beer on Sixth Street without wondering whether someone is going try to snap a cell phone picture of your cooter or pick a fight with you because they don’t like the look on your face. Ironically enough, this Friday at the Alamo at the Ritz, Master Pancake Theater is spoofing Roadhouse, the classic Eighties bouncer movie starring Patrick Swayze. A screening of a movie about bouncers … on Sixth Street? That may just be a little too cerebral. Don’t worry. Alamo will find its groove.