Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

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July 22, 2008

Say what you will about our shoeless neighbors to the north, you have to give them one thing: Their state song kicks our state song’s ass. Go ahead and piss and moan and beat your chest all you want, but deep, deep in your heart of Texas, you know it’s true. By comparison, Texas’ state song is a plodding funeral march. Plus, if you want to get down to the ugly truth of the matter, it’s a little braggy: Texas, our Texas, all hail the mighty state!/Texas, our Texas, so wonderful, so great! Sounds like a state with a chip on its shoulder. Sounds like a state trying to hide its inadequacies. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is a study in stately humility: You’re doing fine, Oklahoma. Oklahoma, OK! Notice the omission of superlatives like “boldest” and “grandest.” Really, there’s no need to make Kansas and Rhode Island feel shitty. You’re doing best, Oklahoma? Not even Okies are that gullible. They will, however, concede that the “wind comes sweepin’ down the plain” (that ain’t bragging; it’s the brutal truth) or that “the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet.” Can sure smell sweet – meaning, it’s conditional. There are plenty of situations where it doesn’t smell sweet – like when your wheat field is downwind from a seaboard hog processing plant. If you live next to one of those babies, the wind coming right behind the rain is about the worst possible thing that can happen to you – well, short of actually working in the bastard. But still, it’s not really fair to compare Texas, our Texas, with Oklahoma! The former was an amateur work composed by British-born TCU choir director William J. Marsh, with lyrics by Gladys Yoakum Wright, described by various publications as a “resident of Fort Worth.” Curious, considering she was employed in the office of the auditor of revenues for the Frisco Railway in St. Louis, Mo., when she accepted her half of the $1,000 prize for writing Texas’ state song. Who knows how that collaboration went down, especially since it ended with Gladys taking the train to St. Louis, but most disturbing is the fact that she apparently didn’t have access to a rhyming dictionary – seriously: state with great? Are you fucking kidding? Sounds like something an auditor would come up with. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is a skillfully crafted American masterwork penned by a talented team of Broadway composers who probably never set foot in Oklahoma. All you can say is, point Oklahoma for fielding a pro team. Similar things have been said about Oklahoma’s football program, but either way they’re winning. And lest you think that Oklahoma wasn’t saddled with dog of a state song, keep in mind that until 1953, their state song was Oklahoma, a Toast, which included lyrics like “fairest daughter of the West” and “fruit trees greet with a burden sweet” and ended with the word “quaff.” Theirs was written by Harriet Parker Camden (what’s with the lyricist serial-murderer names?) originally of Kingfisher, Okla., who relocated to Fair Oaks, Calif. Hmm … Clearly Oklahoma was in a similar pickle, but they stepped up and did what needed to be done. Will we be able to say the same of Texas? Maybe Willie will whip one up then move to Hawaii. Regardless, we need to bump this one up to the top of our “to-do” list. If you need a reminder of how the pros work, you can check out Summer Stock Austin’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! this weekend at St. Edward’s University. Ballsy move to do Oklahoma! in the heart of Texas, but that’s what Texas is all about, isn’t it? Says it right there in our state song: “boldest and grandest.” Surely we can put on the boldest and grandest production of Oklahoma! too. It might even inspire us to be bold enough to change our state song. Wouldn’t that be grand?

First Ever Film Fight Party

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July 15, 2008

When historians finally hammer out a coherent synopsis of post-Eighties America, it will surely be a fascinating paragraph: A couple of Gulf Wars, Branch Davidians, the internet, the dot-com boom and bust, presidential fellatio, electoral thievery, the Twin Towers, the War on Terror, the moron terror (aka George Jr.), global warming, Iraq, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears. Exciting times. All in all however, other than that Internet thingy, post-Eighties America really left some skid marks on the foundation garments of Western Civilization. It’s like the Greatest Generation handed off the ball for a fullback dive up the middle and instead got a swinging gate Fleaflicker that degenerated into a Vaseline-greased naked dog pile with the marching band on the 50-yard line. How did it happen? On our watch? There are only two plausible explanations. Either we were stupid or stoned. Stupidity isn’t a stretch. Given the number of people who claim to have been duped by a low C average ex-Yale cheerleader and his evil oompah loompas, it’s safe to say we’re a nation full of knuckle draggers. Certainly no other civilized country at this point would deny it. When traditional global slack-jaws like Scotland and South Africa start slapping “kick me” signs on our ass, it’s time for a little collective introspection. Unfortunately, Americans don’t have time for introspection because we’re too busy getting stoned and playing video games. Now, some people would claim that getting stoned is pretty much the same thing as being stupid. Not so. Claiming that you’re stoned implies that in your normal, unbaked state you’re not a developmentally arrested fuck-up who collects action figures, comic books, and Escher prints; that were it not for all the THC coursing through your system, your carpet wouldn’t be littered with empty Funyun bags, popsicle sticks, and weedseed; you wouldn’t let your cat shit in your stolen Sonic dope tray; and you would roll out of bed sometime before noon wearing something other than fart-holed boxers and a stained Spongebob T-shirt. Claiming that you’re stoned implies that you might actually amount to something if you weren’t such a hardcore, badass party animal. Otherwise, how could you possibly score 170,000 on Guitar Hero? OK, so maybe we didn’t put our boot up Hitler’s ass (well, outside of Call of Duty), and we didn’t tear down that wall or make the world even remotely safe for democracy, but this generation did bring pop-cultural onanism to breathtaking heights. We may not be able to point out Darfur on a map or give a detailed treatise on why ethanol is fool fuel, but if you want a painstaking analysis of the evolution of Batman from Keaton to Clooney to Kilmer to Bale, torch one up, sit back, and prepare to have your mind blown. We’ll get back to this environmental/geopolitical/economic clusterfuck soon enough. Right now we have work to do. This Thursday night at 7pm, the Chronicle is hosting its first Film Fight party at the United States Art Authority. Film Fight is a monthly online debate featuring Chronicle Film critics Kimberly Jones and Josh Rosenblatt going at it on a variety of film-related topics. Check it out for yourself. This month’s topic: comic-book movies. When you’re done, come down to the Art Authority and find out who won this month’s debate. You can also meet Kim and Josh, enjoy happy hour drink specials, and see a special genre-related film screening. If you’re lucky, you could also win movie passes, I Love Video gift cards, and other assorted swag including superhero action figures. If somebody asks where you got them, you can just say you were stoned.

50th Annual Zilker Summer Musical – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

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July 7, 2008

OK, it’s highly unlikely you are going to get laid by attending the Zilker Hillside Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast. In fact, it’s probably not a good policy to go trolling for strange at a venue where nearly half the people are under legal age – even by Arkansas standards. However, if you’re the discriminating type – someone who can tell the difference between a South Austin cougar divorcée and a dreadlocked high school hippie chick (hint: check for gray underarm stubble) – you can probably do a little browsing without subjecting yourself to criminal prosecution. Life is full of risks, isn’t it? You could make the argument that going solo to a G-rated play in the park is like cruising past an elementary school in a panel van wearing a clown suit and waving candy, but it isn’t exactly the same. There is legitimate business you can claim to be up to over at Zilker – and not just the choo-choo ride. First and foremost is Barton Springs. Yes, that Barton Springs, the most revered piece of Austin real estate that hasn’t been converted into condos or a shitty theme bar. The thing you need to know about Barton Springs – Austin’s dirty little secret – is that people like the concept of Barton Springs much more than they like the execution. Yes, it’s an idyllic setting with shade trees and grassy hills and the shrieks of little children, but the centerpiece of the whole scene is one motherfucking freezing pool of water. Pay a little closer attention, and you’ll realize that those aren’t just the shrieks of children. Yes, they’re in the same tonal register, but a good many of those shrieks are coming from full-grown adults. It doesn’t matter whether you’re packing fully formed ovaries or big, swinging brass balls, the natural reaction of any normal adult when coming in contact with Barton Springs water is to scream like a little school girl. A token few may be able to stifle the sound or at least throttle it down to an inaudible dog whistle, but regardless of what’s coming out of their mouths, their minds are twisted into an agonizing Edvard Munch painting. If you tiptoe into Barton Springs, your mind will tell you to tiptoe right the fuck back out. You can’t acclimate. The only way to go into Barton Springs is to dive headfirst … ideally not into the shallow end. The benefit of diving headfirst is that your scream will be muffled by the ice water. Jump in feet first, and there’s still a few milliseconds for air to escape past your larynx, which has already contracted to the size of a pinhole. Think about it this way: The lifeguard will be less likely to notice you’ve had a cardiac arrest in the deep end if she is mopping up the blood trickling out of her ears. Do it right. Put your towel down on the grass, walk all the way around the pool to the diving board, dive in, and swim as fast as you can to the other side. Then you can pick up your towel and make your way to the solar-heated, open-air showers, where after a few minutes your balls will descend from the far reaches of your abdominal cavity. Wasn’t that awesome? Barton Springs is such a great natural resource. Now, if your complaint was that going to see a play in Zilker Park in the middle of July would be too hot, rest assured that a quick dip in the Springs will keep you shivering for the rest of the night. It will also serve as a perfectly acceptable excuse for a grown person to stumble into a Disney musical. You can say you always carry a folding chair and an ice chest full of Shiner longnecks in your trunk. Austinites are used to inexplicable eccentricities. The payoff? Well, there’s the strange you aren’t going to get, plus the consolation prize of a damn fine Disney musical, played exuberantly by a talented cast of locals who could hold their own on any stage in America. You don’t have to be a child to enjoy the energy and unrepentant camp brought to this production, but you might have to get over your coolness – if only to keep your teeth from chattering.

Fourth of July Concert and Fireworks

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July 1, 2008

Friday is the Fourth of July, when Americans celebrate the glorious day their forefathers shot the bird at ol’ King George – presumably the American solo bird and not that confusing, two-fingered UK flip-off that’s sometimes tragically mistaken as a peace sign by American tourists who encounter rioting soccer hooligans. The average Yank doesn’t give a flip about Hank 5’s (that’s Henry of Monmouth and not Hank Williams’ unborn progeny, aka “Quincephus”) stirring speech at the battle of Agincourt about the French lopping off the bow fingers of captured English archers. Here in God’s country our bird doesn’t operate on the buddy system. Our bird flies solo. Our bird is an army of one – especially if that army is clutching the joystick of an F-15 Eagle with 23,000 pounds of high tech, laser guided ordnance – think of it as bird-on-bird violence. After all, when you’re pushing buttons, one finger is usually enough to do the trick. Think of how irritating it is when you see foreigners holding up one finger and chanting: “We’re number one! We’re number one!” Everyone knows that’s America’s chant, even though we’re not even in the Top 10 when it comes to health care, education, or human rights. Doesn’t matter. We’re No. 1 in the most important thing: Ass-kicking. Since the revolution, America is something like 11-1-1 … and that’s not even counting Grenada. As long as we don’t piss off China, we pretty much own the planet. We’re No. 1! It even says so right on our coins: “Out of many, one.” Sounds cocky, but cockiness is what independence is all about. It’s why America didn’t sign the Kyoto Accord. America doesn’t need to work with other countries to stop global warming. We can do it ourselves. We’re No. 1. One nation, under one God, with one finger for the rest of the world. Why? Because two fingers don’t represent independence. Two fingers represent interdependence. Two fingers represent reliance and cooperation. That’s not what the eagle is all about. An eagle is a high-flying opportunist, gliding along, waiting for some varmint to make a mad, suicidal scramble for safety – a ritual known to eagles as “supper time.” That’s right, America’s bird is a bird of prey – not some shit-dropping pigeon or screeching goth grackle but a majestic, sharp-clawed killing machine with keen vision and a wingspan like Manute Bol. America’s bird is an absolute fucking terror – which more than just about anything else keeps it independent. Independence is something to celebrate, isn’t it? This Friday you can celebrate America’s independence for free with the Park and Rec’s Annual Fourth of July Concert and Fireworks. Join 100,000 independence-loving Austinites at Auditorium Shores for a rousing rendition of the 1812 Overture (yeah, we won that one, too) and a spectacular fireworks display. Unfortunately, this is one thing you can’t do alone.

Keep Austin Weird 5K and Festival


June 24, 2008

Keeping Austin weird is full-time work. The weirdness is not like it used to be. It’s on a much broader and more magnificent scale. You can’t just skate along baking pot brownies every morning or wearing glitter mascara and fairy wings when you go to the convenience store. Yawn. Seen it. Weird isn’t just about feathers and body paint and colored hair and dirty-faced children in soiled diapers with balloon animal hats. That kind of sophomoric shit might play in Omaha, but here in New Condonia, you need a couple of million dollars worth of Downtown dirt and a daring dream of building unaffordable housing for people who don’t exist. Now there’s an idea that just might be weird enough to actually work. If you were a loan officer, you would sign off on that, wouldn’t you? Big, crazy ideas aren’t exactly without precedent. A couple of thousand years before Christ, the ancient Egyptians put a lot of money and resources into high dollar housing for dead people. Keep in mind this was before resurrection was all the rage. Surely the pyramids were an insane idea 2500 years ago … they still are now, but you have to give props to Cheops; they are one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Awesome. Why are the pyramids a wonder? Because for the last 4500 years no sane person could look at them without wondering, “What the fuck?” Normal, reasoning people have a similar reaction when they see all the condos being built in Downtown Austin. Those huge monoliths to speculative zeal inspire the same incredulity as seeing Leslie Cochran on a street corner in a dirty thong and torn fishnets. The really weird thing is that Leslie is easier to explain to the tourists. Without a doubt, Austin’s entertainment district has a certain allure – especially for street-walking attention-whores like Leslie, but is it enough to lure some rich, fun-loving rube into dropping 500 large on a glass box with yearly maintenance fees? Maybe. After all, we’re one cute little city and more importantly … we put out. Austin doesn’t have any dry counties or bible belts or entrenched social stratification. This is the city where the mayor dated a local rock singer, where a local rock singer dated a movie star, and where a movie star got busted for getting stoned and playing bongos in the buff. And guess what? He wasn’t even trying to keep it weird. He didn’t try to run that idea past a group of investors and loan officers and city officials and political activists and have them all sign off on the deal. Even though he got a lot of ink, McConaughey was in the bush leagues of weird, which is probably the safest place for weirdness to be. When the weirdos start marching in lock step – that’s when the shit is about to hit the fan. If you’re looking to get your weird on in a mostly harmless way, put on your feathers and body paint (or slingshot and dog collar), and head down to Auditorium Shores this Saturday for the Keep Austin Weird 5K (yes, running is pretty freakin’ weird when you do it and don’t have to) and Festival. Not only can you sweat with your fellow weirdos – before, during, and after the 5K, you can see some pretty weird Austin acts as well: Alejandro Escovedo, What Made Milwaukee Famous, and Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears, among others. There’s also a costume contest, but if you’re really keeping it weird, you can’t call that thing a costume, now can you?

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

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June 17, 2008

Wallflowers get all the wool. There’s a T-shirt you’re never going to see. Sure, there may be a few bashful types who manage to reel in some fish, but you can bet they’re so good looking they can only be viewed directly through welding goggles. If your looks are anywhere short of magnificent, you’re going to have to develop some game. Pretty is good, but pretty will only get you so far. At some point you’re going to have to read a book or run a marathon or do a YouTube remake of First Blood with you playing Rambo. Actually, scratch that. Make it the Tom Hanks role in Sleepless in Seattle. Really, any Tom Hanks role will do, but just remember that if you do Big or Splash or Cast Away, you’re probably overplaying your hand. The point is that if you can’t look like Brad Pitt or George Clooney, you at least want to be interesting like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. When you’re a horse whisperer or an astronaut or a teenage mutant ninja turtle, deal killers like back hair, third nipples, and unibrows aren’t nearly as deadly. Before you drop a lot of money on electrolysis, corrective surgery, or an Abercrombie & Fizzitch shopping spree, you may want to hike the Himalayas or motorcycle through South America. Worked for Che Guevara. Che’s childhood nickname was “El Chancho” (the pig) because he hated fashionable clothing and eschewed personal hygiene – traits he carried proudly into adulthood. Even still, Che was a notorious womanizer, and you can be sure he wasn’t scoring all that strange because of his scruffy beard, rumpled clothes, and cheap cigar breath. Keep in mind, however, that interesting can be a bad thing, too. It is a point of interest that Che was responsible for the execution of hundreds of infidels – some personally – without giving them the benefit of due process. Fascinating yes, but that kind of mojo is usually a negative when you’re trolling for chicas. Sure, there are some women who are turned on by ruthless power, but they’re also the ones you should submit to a bag search and frisking on the first date. Besides, there are plenty of interesting things you can do without capriciously whacking your subordinates, and even if your area of interest is completely uninteresting, you still have one last resort: Enthusiasm. Really, if you can’t get fired up about chess or bass fishing or your remote-controlled airplane, why should anyone else? Enthusiasm is infectious – so is apathy and pessimism. Ever wonder why Charlie Brown never gets laid? OK, besides the fact that he hasn’t reached puberty? (Cue the Debby Downer horn riff.) Other than occasional berating from Lucy, Charlie doesn’t get much love. You can easily imagine Charlie as a jaded, middle-aged bachelor cruising for prostitutes in a weathered PT Cruiser. Of course, you don’t want to cheat yourself by missing Chuck’s adolescence – and you don’t have to. A playwright named Bert V. Royal has already imagined it in an off-Broadway production called Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, the local production of which has been so successful that the Hyde Park Theatre is holding it over for one more weekend. This may be your last chance to see it before it hits the big screen – probably starring Tom Hanks. If you miss it, you’ll just be that much less interesting, won’t you?

Pride Texas Festival

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June 10, 2008

This weekend both the ROT Biker Rally and Pride Texas are knocking knees Downtown. Talk about a summer blockbuster. It’s like Jerry Bruckheimer, Judd Apatow, and the Cohen Brothers had a business lunch at Hooters, smoked a fatty, and dreamed up this weekend. Bikers … gays … lesbians … if the Convention and Visitors Bureau was really on the ball they would have booked a mime festival this weekend too … or better yet, the Southern Baptist Convention (same amount of make-up really, just different technique). Regardless, you can expect about 40,000 bikers, 15,000 gays, 100,000 or so wide-eyed onlookers, and roughly 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats buzzing around Downtown this weekend. That’s a goldmine in guano alone, but the ROT claims to rev up the local economy by nearly $40 million – the bulk of which surely ends up folded into the g-strings of local tittie dancers. Basic trickle-down theory states that the surplus tittie-dancer cash will make its way into the pockets of meth dealers and all-night day-care centers, which will in turn blow its respective wads on Sudafed and disposable diapers, thereby feeding the vicious cycle of corporate consumerism through which the bikers define their freedom and individuality. Ronald Reagan couldn’t have sketched it up any better … right down to the self-fulfilling prophecy of overinflated economic impact. Bitch about their flatulent, lumbering, gas-sucking anachronisms of modern engineering all you want, Harley riders are superior in at least one way: Brand loyalty. That’s a state of economic Zen that’s hard to achieve in modern society. You really have to ignore a lot of facts and statistics and just go with your gut, which, if Harley riders are any indication, is one of the most lovingly developed parts of the human anatomy. You should be seeing plenty of spectacular ones this weekend – usually stretching out a T-shirt that says, “If you can read this, the bitch fell off” on the back. Of course, fetish leather, chaps, and biker outfits aren’t the sole domain of motorcyclists. Remember that on Saturday Auditorium Shores will be teeming with Pride, Austin’s annual celebration of lesbianity/gayness/bisexuality/transgenderdom that loosely coincides with NYC’s Stonewall Uprising (Google it) of June 1969, aka the summer of reciprocal oral gratification. Pride may not have the shock and awe of ROT (maybe because the parade’s participant waiver form expressly forbids anything racy, or for that matter, gay), but at least you know that the participants are parading ostensibly for LGBT rights and not because they want a venue for their AARP qualifying bitches to show off their boob jobs. Subtle difference but worth noting. In other cities you can see plenty of tit in the Pride Parade (even if you didn’t necessarily want to), but the smart gays here in Austin decided that assless chaps, banana hammocks, and cosmetically unenhanced boobage are not the best way to sell gay rights to the breeders. Thus, the kibosh was put on the exhibitionists, and Pride took on a fam friendlier tone. This is not to say there aren’t still some occasional flashes of freakiness, but don’t expect the parade route be littered with empty amyl nitrate vials, spit-soaked dental dams, and spent condoms. Selling the idea that gays should have the same rights and freedoms as the model citizens out at the Expo Center takes a certain amount of decorum and restraint. If they can just keep it buttoned down long enough to get some gay rights to the hets – maybe someday the LGBT crowd can be as obnoxious as their ROT Rally rivals. Imagine 50,000 gay exhibitionists on Congress Avenue gunning their pastel Vespas and showing off their hairy-legged, braless bitches. That’s worth popping for the $15 entrance fee for Pride, isn’t it? You bet it is. Plus, you get Meshell Ndegeocello and Pansy Division as a reach-around. Could this weekend get any better or what?

Great Guitars Rock for Van Wilks and Prostate Cancer Awareness

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June 3, 2008

Austin is a guitar town. You can’t throw a pick into an audience without hitting a guitar player – and he’ll probably just toss it back because it’s not his brand or thickness. Anyway, nice throw because he was standing in the back of the room with his arms folded thinking, “This guy isn’t such hot shit.” After the show he’ll come up to the stage and shove a napkin into the tip jar on which he’s scrawled his MySpace page with his girlfriend’s eyeliner pencil. You can pretty much bet that if you go, there the first thing you’re going to hear is diddly diddly diddly wah diddly diddly diddly. Fuck. He is better than you. What were you thinking? You just got suckered into the musical equivalent of looking at other guys’ dicks in the shower. Turns out your show isn’t nearly as impressive as you thought it was. Lesson learned: Keep your head up. Hendrix kept his eyes turned toward the heavens. Why? Not because he was checking out the competition, but because the only person he had left to impress was God. Besides, as every true guitarist knows, if you have to look down at your fretboard, you’re a hack. SRV kept his eyes closed for entire songs, and on the rare occasions when he did open them, he was playing guitar behind his head – not just cheesy hammer-ons but complicated, jaw-dropping improvisational runs that barely drowned out the collective whoosh of thousands of panties hitting the floor. Why were Stevie Ray’s eyes closed? Because there was this other kid, a hometown hero named Eric Johnson, who was playing a bizarre clusterfuck of jazz, fusion, and rock with New Agey elements tossed in – intricate, technically dazzling, and mathematically precise fretwork that earned hushed respect from metalheads to chicken pickers and everyone in between. E.J.’s lead runs sound like something Steven Hawking would dream up in a sensory deprivation tank. Perhaps even more intimidating is that he looks like he got his clothes and hairstyle at the mall. Seriously, if you’re going to blister like that, you at least need to pop a few buttons on your shirt and throw some scarves around your neck. Being a guitar god in a guitar town ain’t easy. You can’t walk around Mount Olympus in a plain, white tunic and expect that everyone will recognize you as Zeus. Even Redd Volkaert rocks that Notre Dame mascot beard and a leather hobo hat. Truth is, there are just too many awesome guitarists in Austin. Our D-list is an average city’s A-list. If you really want to test your chops as a guitar god, there’s no better place to do it than right here in River City. On any given night, you can see at least five or six guitar slingers who will blow your socks off. For instance, this Sunday Antone’s is hosting Guitars Rock for Van Wilks and Prostate Cancer, a benefit to both raise awareness about prostate cancer and to help with medical expenses incurred by veteran Austin guitarist Van Wilks, who was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer last Christmas. The heavyweight lineup includes Eric Johnson, David Grissom, Carolyn Wonderland, Derek O’Brien, Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, the Dave Sebree Band, Joker Fireants, and, of course, Van Wilks. If all that musical talent depresses you just remember: Keep your head up.

Austin Poetry Slam Benefit

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May 28, 2008

If you haven’t bought a cheap piece of East Austin, you’d better get on it. Recession or not, there’s a whole shitstorm of hipsters looking to put a down payment on authentic Austin. Sure, you could blow three-hundred large on a spacious ranch house out in disturbia, but all that gets you is a neighborhood full of truly authentic people who don’t appreciate authenticity. You don’t want to end up sandwiched between a car salesman and a UPS driver. You don’t want their real kids punting soccer balls into your organic vegetable garden or rolling up in front of your house in a Kia with spinny rims blasting Chamillionaire. Worse yet, you don’t want their parents to invite you over for surf and turf only to dry gulch you with an Amway presentation or maybe a meet-n-greet with the cool new pastor of their church. Everybody knows the best neighbors are aging blue-collar types on fixed pensions who can’t afford to upgrade their hearing aids. They might pop out into the daylight every once in a while at six in the morning to pick up the paper or pull aimlessly at random weeds in their lawn, but mostly they stay inside watching soap operas, cooking things in their Crock-Pots, and doing books of crossword puzzles. It doesn’t take much ontological acumen to realize it doesn’t get any realer than that. People who are simultaneously on death’s doorstep and a fixed income tend not to live large – certainly not large enough to get all up in your business. Sure, there may be occasional extravagances like an oil derrick mailbox or windows covered in tinfoil, but nothing as dangerous or frightening as a sullen suburban goth kid whose MySpace page is a homage to Columbine. You may also experience a few awkward, fence-side conversations while enduring the farty stench of an unchanged colostomy bag or maybe Cains coffee breath, circa 1973, but all things considered, your old buddy Carl from next door is not a bad guy, even if he never zips his fly and wears sneakers with no laces. Plus, you can invite Carl to all your parties in full confidence that he won’t show up because he’ll either forget or won’t care enough to put his pants on. If he actually shows up without pants, your party guests will certainly have something to blog about, won’t they? All in all, gentrification is a win-win situation, especially if you’re the gentry. If you’re not, you always have the option of selling that rattrap of a house you’ve been letting deteriorate for the last 40 years and moving into an assisted-living facility. With all the hot meals and Dixie cups full of meds, you’ll think you’re in heaven already. And if some hipster blows a couple hundred thou to remodel your 2-1 post-war tract home into a 3-2 green-friendly urban space, you’ll sleep peacefully knowing that in 50 years or so he’ll be just as cool as you are – maybe even cooler if his nurse parks his wheelchair over the floor vent in the sun room. Point is, if you want to get a piece of authentic Austin, you better get one now while you’re still young enough to bust your ass trying to make it livable. Once the tide of trendiness completely floods East Austin, you’ll have to head out to Pflugerville to look for something real. If you want to dip your toe into East Austin – both what it was and is – make some time to visit the Scoot Inn, a cool little bar at East Fourth and Navasota. Like it’s companion Longbranch Inn on East 11th, the Scoot Inn is an old dive bar dressed up just enough to draw the cool kids but still homey enough for the locals. If gentrification has a best-case scenario, this is probably it. On Saturday they’re hosting a benefit for the Austin Poetry Slam, which takes place Wednesdays at the Scoot. Poets are trendy people for sure, but fortunately they’re generally too broke to outbid you on your East Austin dream shack. Maybe the tide is already turning.

Austin Wine Festival

Luv Doc Writings, The Luv Doc Recommends

May 20, 2008

If you know a lot about wine, good for you. Everybody should have some sort of skill. While other people were busy learning how to knit, play guitar, build model airplanes, and swing golf clubs, you were lolling about drinking bottles of fermented grape juice. Well done. Now your palate is so refined that you can taste the booger on the fingernail of the cooper who built the cask for your bottle of 1995 Château Margaux. Lest you think you’ve wasted too much time and money on your obsession, consider that when it comes to sensory sophistication, you’re right up there with Annie Sprinkle and drug-sniffing border patrol dogs. Congratulations! You are now a resource for the rest of the world who, by and large, can’t tell the difference between a bottle of Champagne Aubry Brut Jouy-les-Reims Premier Cru and a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. They’re not losing much sleep over it either. The hard truth of the matter is that the Strawberry Hill will get you every bit as fucked up as the Premier Cru and with nearly half the syllables. It will also give you the same wicked hangover. This is the wine drinker’s paradox. As an epicurean endeavor, wine is a fascinating, varied, and rewarding sensory experience. As a drug, however, it ranks somewhere between huffing glue and shitty trashcan meth. Say what you will about the hygienic practices of the toothless hillbillies who cook up meth, you never see them stepping on it – at least not literally – in bare feet. Wine on the other hand rarely smells like cat pee and has the additional benefit of being mostly legal. It also has enough congeners, sulfites, and tannins to adequately punish overindulgers. Is it any wonder Jesus chose to turn the water into wine instead of crack cocaine? Heaven isn’t a very enticing carrot to dangle when you have buckets full of cocaine. With wine however, Jesus could be relatively sure that everyone would wake up the next morning saying, “Jesus, what was I thinking?” Lord knows if you’re going to be drinking wine, it’s best to pound a glass of water every now and then. If you can afford it, you might want to nosh a little too. Don’t worry, there are always plenty of wine-geeks who will advise you on what wine to pair with what animal/mineral/vegetable. How about a glass of Pinot Noir and a dip of Copenhagen? Maybe a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and an altar boy? Truly, the possibilities are endless, which is one of the things that makes wine such a fascinating bev. If you’ve never tasted wine, there’s really no excuse. Whether you’re a polygamist, a Baylor alumnus, or just a hardcore Muslim, there’s probably a wine that’s right for you. This weekend, you can see for yourself at the Austin Wine Festival, a three-day celebration of Texas wines taking place at the Domain this Memorial Day weekend. Not only can you taste some of the Texas Hill Country’s most popular and award-winning wines, you can nosh at the Whole Foods Market Bistro and listen to music by acts like Walt Wilkins & the Mysterquiros, Autumn Boukadakis, Patrice Pike, the Bellville Outfit, Band of Heathens, Brandon Rhyder, and more. What a great chance to learn a lot about wine, and if you already know a lot about wine, good for you!