Thursday, December 30, 2004

Meme Me

Thanks to Michael Toland for scooting this my way...


1. Who did you last get angry with? ***I’ve been angry for about a week now. Mostly about work. Will spare you the rest.

2. What is your weapon of choice? ***Funny, I begin judo next week. I’ll finally have some training to back up this attitude.

3. Would you hit a member of the opposite sex? ***If attacked, sure. I’ll hold the door open for a lady, but if she assaults me she’s no lady, and chivalry has no place.

4. How about of the same sex? ***Yes indeed. I park in a fairly rough area, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some near-scrape at some point gets physical.

5. Who was the last person who got really angry at you? ***A sales manager in Tucson, heh heh.

6. What is your pet peeve? ***Bad drivers, mostly.

7. Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily?***I need to work on this. Once someone’s hacked me off I’m bad about just sort of crossing them off some imaginary list. If they can be a jerk to me once, I can make them persona non grata for a long time. Forever sometimes.


1. What is one thing you're supposed to do daily that you haven't done in a while? ***Floss

2. What is the latest you've ever woken up? ***I’ve probably cleared noon a time or two, long ago, pre-children.

3. Name a person you've been meaning to contact, but haven't: ***Phil Nedbalek, though I have text-messaged him recently.

4. What is the last lame excuse you made? ***”I really don’t feel like standing around in a roomful of people holding cocktails.” Wasn’t really lame, actually.

5. Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through? ***Highly doubtful.

6. When was the last time you got a good workout?***This is where I avoid the temptation to make sex jokes, right? Okay, trying… Um, 10-odd days ago at Jade Mountain.

7. How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock today? ***I believe this morning may have been the first time in my life I did it. My son was up puking at 2:30am, and let’s just say that I was dragging a bit this morning.


1. What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice? ***Iced coffee at Starbucks.

2. Meat eaters: white meat or dark meat? ***Both.

3. What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting/outing/event? ***I have no idea how to answer this. If you’ve ever been drunk to the point of blacking out, well, suffice to say you’ve had a lot.

4. Have you ever used a professional diet company? ***No.

5. Do you have an issue with your weight? ***Not really.

6. Do you prefer sweets, salty foods, or spicy foods?***Spiiiiicy. Do not underwhelm me with subtlety.

7. Have you ever looked at a small house pet or child and thought, "LUNCH"? ***Who wrote this messed up question?


1. How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies/family)? No idea. I’m a guy, and I’d hope this is excluding the thousands of times I’ve been in locker rooms. As far as lovers go, which seems to be what this is implying, I will take a strangely prudish bent and not go there. I know, surprising…

2. How many people have seen YOU naked (not counting physicians/family)? ***See #1.

3. Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a member of your gender of choice during a normal conversation? ***Um… no, I don’t think I have.

4. Have you "done it"? ***Ah, so a 12-year-old wrote this. I have two children, folks.

5. What is your favorite body part on a person of your gender of choice? ***Butt, although they have to take care of their feet. I will notice if they’re gross, and I will be turned off. Not sure if that makes me a foot fetishist. Aren’t they into toe sucking or something?

6. Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute? ***No. Flipped off, yes.

7. Have you ever had to get tested for an STD or pregnancy? ***I give blood regularly, and that includes an AIDs test. And I was tested for STDs as part of a physical once.


1. How many credit cards do you own? ***One.

2. What's your guilty pleasure store? ***Starbucks.

3. If you had $1 million, what would you do with it? ***Build a house.

4. Would you rather be rich, or famous? ***Rich, baby.

5. Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make megabucks? ***Hell, I’m already doing boring… why not get rich at it?

6. Have you ever stolen anything? ***Yes.

7. How many MP3s are on your hard drive? ***Several dozen.


1. What one thing have you done that you're most proud of? ***Become part of a loving, normal family with a good wife and kids.

2. What one thing have you done that your parents are most proud of? ***Not sure. Not too many of us go to college. Um… or raising my kids. Or… Dad’s awfully proud of my unpublished book.

3. What's something you would like to accomplish in your life? ***Getting my bloody book published.

4. Do you get annoyed by coming in second place? ***No. And this makes me a bad guy to invite to poker night. I don’t care about losing; I’m a social player.

5. Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors? ***I get the big head about my writing, so yes.

6. Have you ever cheated on something to get a higher score? ***Once in high school. Got caught too.

7. What did you do today that you're proud of? ***I comforted my sick child.


1. What item (or person) of your friends would you most want to have for your own? ***Bruiser’s Ramones shirt.

2. Who would you want to go on "Trading Spaces" with?***GENEVIEVE GORDER GENEVIEVE GORDER GENEVIEVE GORDER. Or Paige Davis in a pinch… is that the kind of answer you’re looking for? If this about remodeling, PLEASE…

3. If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be? ***Nah, I don’t want to do that.

4. Have you ever been cheated on? ***Yes (“just visiting” MY BUTT)

5. Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own? ***Yes, unless this is really a question about genitals. Interpret that however you want.

6. What in-born trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself? ***A straight spine, like Toland said.

7. Do you wish you'd come up with this survey? ***Wow… someone’s proud of THIS one…

8. Finally, what is your favorite deadly sin? ***Lust. I’m a guy. It’s how we’re wired.



I'd like to purge this job of mine from my system. It's been a really frustrating, really angry week. Never take a job where you deal with sales people. I've had about the best relationship possible with this bunch (or so I thought). And still they put in bonehead orders, gripe about meaningless maneuvers, don't communicate well, have to be led by the hand too much... not to mention sending me not so much as an email or e-card for the holidays. I'm their traffic manager; in days of yore, sales would take care of their TMs at Christmas. I'm not 11; I'm not hankerin' for a GIFT. It's just that I recognize their non-gesture as emblematic of what they think of me and our relationship.

I'm making a lateral move to another position in January, and it's not a moment too soon. In this lifetime I am DONE with sales.


This is the time of year with the least amount of baseball news, which is no fun. But Kelli got me the DVD Faith Rewarded, about the 2004 Red Sox. Watched it last night, and man, seeing the Yankees lose NEVER GETS OLD. And honestly, NESN did a fairly classy job with the production (overly dramatic voiceover aside). Remember that riot cops had to take the field during one of the Yankees/Red Sox ALCS games, and there's almost no mention of that. It was in Yankee Stadium, and the RCs were necessary because the fans were on the verge of rioting when a pair of calls went against their team (gasp!). Were I the producer I'd have been tempted to go into a lot of detail about it. I'd have also re-played the Yankees game 7 loss in slow motion... ("Watch Mariano Rivera curse in Spanish... see the tears in ARod's eyes??").


She also got me the hardback of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. Hot damn, another book to read before school starts.


Current music: "Bye Bye Bye" by Jellyfish. Nothing like a good singalong polka to steer one's day the right direction.

Stop by again. I'm bored, agitated, restless... maybe I'll update 20 times today. Ideas? Polls?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


I can't decide whether to try harder to fathom the tsunami disaster in Asia, or to try harder not to think about it.

I got caught in a storm surge once. It was '78 or '79. A hurricane was skirting the Gulf of Mexico.

It didn't hit near us, but it came close enough to cause the tide to come way in. We took the van to the beach, where the water was 100 yards or so farther in that it should have been.

Paul, a stepbrother I had at the time, waded into the water unnoticed, and I followed. I was about chest deep when this strong undertow swept my feet out from under me. I was by a utility pole, and managed to wrap both arms around it as the water pulled me. I was submerged horizontally for several long seconds before it stopped pulling. Neither adult noticed until we were coming in from the water.


My Law and Order namesake, Lenny Briscoe, has died. RIP Jerry Orbach.


Listened to Moving Pictures by Rush this morning for the first time in quite a while. I still think it's a landmark album. Neil Peart... I know more about drumming now than I ever have, and I'm more impressed than ever by his over-the-top technical prowess. Not trying to defend an approach that some might consider lacking in soul. I'm just saying that no one I've ever heard can dissect a backbeat like Peart.

Love these "Witch Hunt" lyrics: "Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand. Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand."


Jim Reeves's piece on Johnny Oates's funeral was excellent. I was crying at breakfast. Way too many tears this holiday season.


Having egg nog flavored coffee. I'm largely opposed to flavored coffee, but Erik brought it in, and it's not bad. At least it's not hazelnut.


I can still remember my grandfather asking his wife one holiday season to give him some more "nog," meaning whiskey or rum, minus the creamy stuff. This is about as close as I get these days.


Have a good week. Please.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


From a story about libraries closing in Salinas, hometown of John Steinbeck:

"It's embarrassing, not to mention inconvenient," said Ben Lopez, 69, a Salinas resident since 1945 who visits the Steinbeck branch at least twice a week. "Where else will I go to check out material -- Prunedale?" he said, referring to a relatively spartan branch of the Monterey County Free Libraries system.


Is there really a city named "Prunedale," or did we just slip into a Simpsons-oriented alternate reality?


Got my new speed bag mounted in the garage. It's SOLID too. Can't wait to get out there and do some work. Should be good for the part of my back that gives me the most trouble. And I'm sure I'll pummel it when angry sometimes. Hell, I should put one up at work.


Weirdest town names? I'd say Pleak, Texas is one that's always stuck with me. Midlothian too.

Happy Tuesday. And remember: Breathe.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Wesley Willis Wishes Us All a Merry Christmas


And so this was Christmas.

The thing that was the focus--overwhelming my son with toys--went off perfectly. Santa brought him a fishing pole (with a Shakespeare reel; not a bad little rig, actually) and a kite, though it was too cold to go outside and fly it. Too cold for me at least.

He got robots of a few varieties, superheroes, games, everything. Our living room was a glorious mess for two days, with his goodies scattered here and there. The baby can make a startlingly rapid approach to some forbidden toy when she wants to, and sometimes when THEBOY was tied up with a movie or another toy I'd go ahead and let her gum some toy of his she found.

Kelli got me one of the few things I really wanted: Faithful, by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King. It's a chronicle of the 2004 Boston Red Sox season. It's good for sure, written for guys like me. It's funny how you can tell when a book wasn't edited by a sports fan though. All the minutiae aren't just meaningless hoo ha to some of us, and when there's an inconsistency you can tell the editor just didn't have the snap to notice it. But a good book, and OH DEAR GOD does it make me antsy for the upcoming baseball season. I'd recommend it to my baseball buddies, but they ALL hate the Red Sox (thus making them Yankee lovers, aka devil worshipers).

I got Kelli the Live Aid DVDs, and some sort of Duran Duran thing. She's happy.

Michael got me the soundtrack to Big Bad Love, based on the Larry Brown book. It's full of songs from great artists like RL Burnside, Asie Payton and Junior Kimbrough. I went out and ordered the DVD on Christmas day.

The holiday was fine overall, but I was in the grips of this foul mood I just could not shake. I really tried to fake my way through it. Started Christmas Eve. Not sure what was behind it. Okay, so I'm estranged from my mother. That makes this the least-stressful Christmas I've experienced in a really long time. Amanda tells me Mom went incommunicado over the holiday, taking/returning no phone calls, giving no indication of... anything. Location, health, whatever. Not the first time.

Dad's friend Mike Broadway died on Christmas Eve. Dad called me and put on a brave face, but I know it's rough on him. Mike was a good guy. He grilled me up one side and down the other about Juke (as do most of Dad's friends; I hope he hasn't run them ragged bragging on my shelved manuscript).

"You really think you can come up with an idea for a book no one's ever come up with before?" Sorry to say you'll never find out, Mike, and that I may never either.

Johnny Oates, who led the Texas Rangers to their only division titles ('96, '98, and '99) also died Christmas Eve. Oates was a classy guy, a man of good moral fiber who made a lasting mark with the Texas franchise. He lasted three years with a type of brain cancer that usually kills in six months. I don't envy him that.

And there's Larry Brown, of course, which still hurts. Pop open the Big Bad Love CD, and the booklet has an intro from Brown. Made me smile.

The baby is sick. Coughing a lot, snotty. Not awful, but she doesn't sleep worth a shit sometimes, and last night was typical. Cried from 3am to 5am. Now I walk in to greetings of "you sure look tired." Yes, yes...

Antibiotics don't touch what she's got, and the doc really thinks it's allergies, maybe even related to her formula. We've been through about five. Oy.

Anyway... I'm not depressed per se. I've shaken the lingering anger that haunted me over the holidays. Now I just feel tired and dazed.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Overheard in the office today...

"People just aren't used to seeing monkeys on tights."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

My Real Parents, by Mike Nelson

Mike Nelson in '08.


Pondering our purpose...

Every part of every living thing has a purpose. Molecules, blood vessels, fluids, bones. From amoebas to humans, we are all made up of other parts. Evolution, adaptation, survival design, whatever--it's all fascinating stuff.

And at some point we humans became intelligent (I will refrain from further 2004 presidential election jokes). All that bit in the book of Genesis, though not particularly believable, is rather clever allegory; I hope most people would agree. Ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes, and when those two knuckleheads Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they became self-aware. Gaining knowledge got them kicked out of the Garden of Eden (which is certainly a metaphor for bliss).

Suddenly, unlike the beasts around them, they had shame and, presumably, knowledge. What sort of deity wishes to deny the creations most like Himself knowledge? One who wishes to protect them from themselves, one might argue.

So unlike the beasts, humans evolved to desire more than just individual survival, primarily, as well as survival by procreation. Intelligence, art, love, hate... we became motivated by something more than procreating and finding sufficient sustinence to get through the day, the season, the year.

Considering the broad range of functional possibilities within living things, life is amazing. And when some scientist somewhere discovers something new about DNA or neurotransmitters or something, what he sees as scientific progress I see as the thumbprint of God.

Every one of these little pieces of the living machine has its purpose, be it essential, cosmetic or other. And once they are all properly assembled into some example of life, the creature is not less than the sum of its parts. Purpose doesn't end with connectivity. I believe we are far more than the sum of our parts, and our life purpose is a snapshot of God's will.

I don't know about the specifics. I was taught to be Christian, and that's a tough thing to shrug off, even for a person who got as muddled a message as I. Embracing the idea of Christ is something I don't fully manage to wrap my mind around. I appreciate the teachings of Jesus, and will always consider myself, at least, to be a philosophical Christian. I do think that 2000-odd years ago someone was here who rattled the planet somehow.

And there was one about 500 years before that, Gautama Buddha. And others. If you want unbelievable, check out the Buddha's story in the Theravada or Mahayana. It's full of his interactions with minor gods, his magic, talking animals, and any number of things straight out of your average Dr. Seuss book. And heck, the first Buddhist writings didn't appear until Indian emperor Asoka began scribbling about the Buddha roughly 500 years later (a reaction to Christ?). Again, as unbelievable as it is, I still can't help but feel like something happened that shook our predecessors to the core. And there were others. Krishna, Mohammad. Hendrix.

(Okay, just seeing if you're paying attention)

That's faith, which comes way too easily to the ignorant masses. Maybe I qualify, but I refuse to be counted among the lemmings all around me. Everything deserves questioning. It is our duty, as intelligent beings, to ask any question. And heck, who is the better seminary student, the one with the questions, or the one who swallows it all with no skepticism?

But I take comfort in the fact that, if I were minus the benefit of faith, I would still see God (the creator, the #1 Martian, John Lennon or whatever he/she really is) too much around me to doubt.

I don't know why good people die young.

I don't know why some people do bad things.

I don't think the greater power cares about touchdowns.

I think whoever it is has a sense of humor though, and I'm glad.

I don't know if there's a Heaven that resembles our notions in the least, but I do think there's more that we will experience after we shuffle off this mortal coil.

Remember that quote from Miles Davis, the one where he said something about how he would never be finished learning his instrument? Wish I had those words handy. Well, we never finish learning, hopefully. Perhaps God feared that knowledge would take us to the point where we considered ourselves too smart to believe, hence the protective measures. Maybe he didn't have the faith in us that we have in him. Hard to blame him.


I don't have the answers, and this is not the sole basis for my belief system. It's just one angle, something I've been ruminating on. I'll spend my whole life looking for answers, and I may change my mind here and there. I guess that makes me pretty average.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Merry Christmas, Baby

The Astros are letting Wade Miller walk. He had a frayed rotator cuff last June, and instead of going under the knife he opted to rehab it. Now, unsure how healthy he is, they'll let him go instead of ponying up a few mil.

I say he's worth a look. He's got a record, if I recall, of 31-12 with a good ERA. Young, talented, and likely to be cheap given the unknown health factor... He's low-risk, high upside at this point. Could be a nice Christmas gift for the Rangers.


Christmas of '86 had just passed when my old party buddy Tully Farley and I went to Houston to see a great blues show. We were in it for BB King and Bobby Bland, who didn't disappoint. The date was December 26, and the Arena Theater held about 5000.

But opening the bill was this trio, fronted by pianist/vocalist Charles Brown. I'd never heard of him, though I knew of two songs he'd had big hits with way back, "Merry Christmas Baby" and "Please Come Home for Christmas." It was a cold night, and we were two mildly bewildered young white guys in an otherwise black audience, settling in, ready to see a good show. I was out of school, directionless, split from my high school sweetheart... about the only thing I really knew at that point was that I loved the blues.

This guy Charles Brown was so smooth, knocking out his Christmas hits as well as an excellent, joyful set of cocktail blues, replete with his nimble piano and loping vocals. We were completely floored.

He'd just come back to the music biz after decades away. This was a man who influenced Nat King Cole and Ray Charles. I mail-ordered his One More for the Road cassette from some tiny label, and it was really good.


Tully and I lost touch. Sadly, he was one of a few guys in my life I chose to separate myself from. He wasn't a bad guy. He was no worse than I was. But together we were trouble. We partied too much, way too much. Shortly after we went our separate ways he had a party at his house, and a drunken stranger with a gin bottle smashed it across his face for no reason. Lots and lots of stitches. Tully looked a mess, and when he said his face was "ruined" I couldn't disagree. Last I heard he was working on a barge on the Mississippi River. No kidding.


December 31 of 1986 was the last time I ever smoked grass.


I'm due a paycheck any day now from some audio work I did this fall. I have to resist the urge to go out and really load up on toys for my son. He's already got quite a few gifts under the tree, but heck, I remember those Christmas mornings with so many toys very fondly.


Christmas of 2001 Kelli and I both got a bad stomach bug. THEBOY was a year old, crawling around the house as she and I lay on the floor, taking turns stumbling to the back bathroom to be violently ill. Our worst spells were spaced just far enough apart that when one of us was being sick the other could summon the strength to get up and feed the boy or change a diaper. That was a rough one.


More Charles Brown. We were in Seattle in '98 or so, having a nice little vacation. Great town for sure. Good scenery, great smells, interesting things to do. And the papers said Charles Brown was playing locally. We looked up the venue address and it appeared to be close. I called the club, and the machine said there would be an early show and a late show. We opted for the early one and started walking.

The club wasn't close at all. I'd injured my knee jogging recently, and it hurt as we walked way too far to get there. We were grouchy when we arrived at the front door, and that's when we learned that there was no early show at all. So there we were with two hours to kill in the cold, with very little in the way of local options. Mostly there were warehouses and such around there, and we weren't up to walking off to find entertainment. A hotel around the corner had a coffee shop that was closing, but they took mercy on us and let us sit there for most of the two hours.

At show time we returned and got our tickets. The usher seated us at a table, placing Kelli with her back to the stage. That elicited some harsh words, and he quickly saw the error of his ways. We both faced the stage, tired, stewing.

The lights went down, and what we saw wasn't encouraging. Brown was feeble, being led by the hand to the stage. He'd aged a lot since I'd first seen him, and it didn't give me great confidence in the kind of performance he could deliver.

He sat gingerly at the keyboard, all smiles, and began to play. And in moments the magic began to work. His hands had lost nothing, and he and the band played a soothing, smiling set of songs I loved. Bandleader/guitarist Danny Caron was brilliant, and he beamed like he had the greatest gig in the world. Every moment of anger, frustration and disappointment quickly evaporated as the band cast their spell.

Brown died January of '99.


Still sore from Sunday at Jade Mountain. Feels good though. I think I'm finally going to get my butt into some judo classes.


THEGIRL is not feeling well, just congested as heck. She wakes up crying, and I imagine she may have some pain too. She's seeing the doctor right now. Winter... who likes this stuff?

Have a good week, ya'll.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Home Again Home Again Jiggedy Jig

Had a good weekend, a really good one. I went to Angleton Friday to see some family. Had a fine time catching up with Dad, Charlene and Amanda. Her kids are too cute for words, and her daughter Maddie looks like her at that age. Best night's sleep I've had in a long time.

Saturday evening I had a tremendous meal and a fine evening with my buddy Whit McClendon and his wife Christina. Their son Connor is too cute for words, and seems to be made of lead... heaviest three-year-old I've ever encountered, and this is from the father of a fairly big four-year-old.We watched videos of many types, caught up, and spent the evening being boys.

Sunday Whit and I headed to his school for a day of Busting Brian's Butt. I had a good workout and a great introduction to practical martial arts. We worked on punches, kicks, elbows, slaps, etc. Had some fun with the speed bag and heavy bag, and Whit gave me some great gloves.

Then I attended a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu course taught by Sensei Paul Thomas . Great teaching, good group of guys. I thought I was lost in about 30 seconds, but I actually got to practice on some holds. I love how practical and straightforward BJJ is, with nothing wasted or just for show.

The drive home last night was probably my best-ever commute back from that area, and I was very happy to see Kelli and the kids. THEBOY is very proud of his "kung fu shirt," and wore it to school today.

And now... everything hurts. I held up okay yesterday, but it was a workout nevertheless. Opening doors hurts enough to make me laugh out loud. Feels good though.


Having lunch with Whit yesterday, I mentioned one of my favorite bands, Jellyfish. He said they sounded familiar. He thought a moment, and said, "Baby's Coming Back."

Guess who's about to get himself a Jellyfish comp CD from me...?


Currently popular word I'd be happy to never hear again: Canoodling


Have a good week, everyone.

Friday, December 17, 2004

On the Road

Hitting the road today. This morning was a mess, trying to load luggage and gifts and kids and still swing by the chiropractor's office.

And I hurriedly grabbed a bunch of CDs for the trip. The tunes:

BB King -- Live at the Regal
Helmet -- Size Matters
Dr. John -- Going Back to New Orleans
Joe Ely -- Live at Liberty Lunch
King's X -- Ear Candy
Motorhead -- No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith
Stevie Wonder -- Original Musiquarium I
Styx -- Greatest Hits (really unsure whether I'm going to listen to this... hey, I was in a hurry)
RL Burnside -- Burnside on Burnside
Cyril Neville -- New Orleans Cookin'
Soundgarden -- Badmotorfinger

Cyril Neville kinda scares me. I like his music, but he's got a shaved head with this dreadlocked THING growing from the base of his skull, and ... it freaks me out. He strikes me as being a New Orleans version of Flava Flav.

Didn't bring Varnaline's Sweet Life this time, for some reason. It's usually my "I'm in the home stretch" CD, the one I'll play when I'm almost home (in Hurst, that is). We all have our rituals.

Ya'll have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Here, There, and Everywhere

Gathering some thoughts and story snippets of the pertinent and impertinent variety...



Kelli noted recently that right now she misses John Lennon.


Accidentally put hazelnut cream in my coffee this morning. Who likes this junk? Coffee tastes good the way it is. I don't want flavors in it. Heck, I like corn too, but that doesn't mean I want my coffee to taste like it.


Going to Angleton this weekend to see some family. I'll also spend some time in the company of sifu Whit McClendon, getting a crash course in the finer points of choking someone.


The lousy week continues: I took THEBOY out to see Christmas lights last night. We were driving around this one nice neighborhood we always check out. In the middle of it all is a gazebo, and we got out of the van so he could explore it. I set him down and resisted my typically overprotective urge to warn him of all the steps around, all the things he shouldn't touch... but I didn't.

He took one step, tripped, and landed on his face, busting open his lip and bruising his forehead.

He had blood in his teeth, was wailing... I felt awful about it the whole night. Still do.

He was a trooper, though, and calmed down after a few minutes. This morning he said it didn't hurt, but it looked pretty bad.


I've known a lot of people who broke up. Hell, seems like more break up than stay together. And these particular two may have taught me a valuable lesson.

I won't go on and on about their dissolution. I will say, though, that I certainly found myself angry at his wife regarding some of the things he confided to me. Hurt my friend and you piss me off, right?

I didn't think she was a bad person. I still don't. Hell, he and I are alike in a lot of ways, and I imagine he can be as hard to live with as I can. I can be one moody bastard.

So I'm guilty of giving a cold shoulder, being distant. They broke up, so I remain exclusively on his team, right?

Not necessarily.

Now that they're apart, they seem to have pretty much put their marriage-related problems aside and managed to blaze a post-breakup trail I'm unfamiliar with: friendship.

So they split, do the mature thing by remaining friendly, and I'M the dope who probably held onto bitterness longer than either of them.

But not anymore. (Cue the Southpark music). I've learned something here...

Eh, I won't go on. But you understand. And I hope they do too.


Five great Christmas gifts from the past... as inspired by Mike Llorca (and semi-stolen from Georgina)

In no order...

A huge stereo Mom gave me when I was junior high.

An electric guitar and amp from my father. He either paid out the nose for that rig or swung a hell of a deal.

A leather jacket and matching driver's cap my stepmother got me for Christmas. Very nice stuff that I wear frequently.

Get in the Van by Henry Rollins, a gift from my sister, Amanda. And you know, not that the book is so great (it's solid), but this is typical of her to be the one bold enough to get me the freaky thing no one else has ever heard of but she knows I want. Thank the gods for the Amazon wish list, right?

Time/Life blues CDs from my mother. Kinda like Amanda, she always had that knack for getting me something off the beaten path. And these CDs are better than you'd think.


In Heaven I'll be able to sing, right? It'll be the first thing I'll ask when I get there. Well... second.

The first will be, "Say... is Salma Hayek here?"

(Just joking Kelli).


Ya'll be good.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Lost in the Shuffle

...over the weekend was the fact that THEGIRL began crawling! It's really cute. She's all herky-jerky, sticks her tongue out with determination, but by golly, she gets where she wants to go. She seemed to enjoy her new mobility last night while playing with THEBOY.

And then she got sick. Phooey. Runny nose, congestion... oy. Four days back in daycare and she's already got a bug that's sending her to the doctor.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


So I accidentally created a stir around here Friday, apparently. Well, semi-accidentally.

At 6:18pm I stood up and made an announcement to everyone within earshot. Paraphrasing myself, to the best of my memory here:

"I have a date with my wife tonight. We have the kids with a sitter until 10pm. My logs are done, my future inventory is in great shape, I'm 36 years old, and I'm leaving 12 minutes early. If anyone wants to rat me out for it, you can kiss my butt."

A coworker asked something like, "What, back up... rat you out?"

And I said, "Yes, it's happened before." I was glaring at the back of the head of the person who did it in August (for my birthday date no less; that little departure got me written up).

So I was out yesterday to care for Kevin, and I arrived this morning to hear three people tell me they'd heard (or heard about) my "outburst" Friday. They said that when I was out yesterday they had to wonder what the status of my employment was.

They also said they admired me for doing it.

I appreciate that, but what I take from this is an even heartier disdain for corporate bullshit, like being a slave to a time clock, regardless of what the realities of one's work output are. You should see the look of fear in their eyes as they whisper to me about it. I guess it's not unique to my office, but God, isn't this a pathetic work environment?

True story, which the David Allan Coe business reminded me of:

I snagged backstage passes to meet Robert Cray in late '90 in Austin. I forget the venue. I was waiting in line, and directly ahead of me was Johnny Paycheck, going relatively unnoticed. He'd just gotten out of prison, and I have to say, he seemed to be... under the influence of something I'm fairly certain wasn't Jesus.

When the line moved and he was next to get in, security asked him to show a pass, which he didn't have. And he said, "Hey man, I WORK FOR Johnny Paycheck."

And the security guy looked at him like he'd never heard the name before. So I guess he hadn't.

Paycheck then burst into the chorus from "Take This Job and Shove It."

And you know, they let him in.


Agreed with you, Bruiser, on the Coe stuff. Having a daughter will make you re-examine a few notions about the female gender, eh?

Happy Tuesday, ya'll.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Am I Easily Offended?

Posted at Toland's suggestion:

A guy here at work lent me a David Allan Coe compilation. The guy asked, "You're not easily offended, are you?"


Or so I thought.

My gosh... it's... it's racist country. I mean, it's just full of songs with the word "nigger" in them, bashing them, bemoaning the fact that some woman in a song cheated with one, or comparing some bad person to one...

Wow. I couldn't finish it. I put it back on the guy's desk, and the less I have to talk about David Allan Coe the better.


(Admittedly, that's cleaned up from the email exchange Toland and I had. The Coe stuff is dyed-in-the-wool-Klan-robe hateful, and it's pornographic too. I expected the latter, but not the former.)

The Tell-Tale Lysol

True story:

Hood clogged the toilet here a couple weeks ago. Clogs happen to everyone at some point I guess. Wrapped up his business in stall #2, flushed, and then came the dreaded rising of the water. You know that feeling... you're watching it, praying it doesn't overflow.

It didn't. But he still felt he had to do something to try and clear the clog. On the counter by the sink was a can of Lysol. It was worth a shot since he didn't exactly have a plunger around.

In it went, and it did no good, for whatever reason. He chucked the gross can in the trash and found some other way to unclog the toilet.

The next day he frantically summoned me into the bathroom. That's usually a bad way to start the day, I'd guess.

And sitting there on the counter was a can of Lysol. In fact, it was THAT can of Lysol, as evidenced by the remnants from the clogging incident* along the bottom rim.

We were stunned. Some hapless cleaning person had apparently seen it in the trash can and fetched it back out. Reasonable, since it was still nearly full.

Hood wrapped his hand in paper towels and put it back in the trash, pushing it way down and covering it with the other trash.


So we're leaving last night, departing through the back door of the TXCN studio, and there on the floor by the door was a can of Lysol. THAT can of Lysol, as the remnants were still visible.

And frankly, we're out of ideas for discarding this can, which is clearly cursed and will haunt us for the rest of our days. It's like some unpublished (and with good reason) Edgar Allan Poe story. "The Tell-Tale Lysol" or something.

*For Brazoria County residents, "clogging incident" might actually refer to something involving Riverdance-type redneck dancers.


This is all I've ever really read on Meher Baba

He's the Baba in Pete Townshend's classic Who song "Baba O'Riley."

I know that reading one random article about the guy isn't exactly positioning myself among the well-informed, but you know, I can't help but wonder what the heck Townshend sees in this. Baba clearly had a funny side... is Townshend actually some sort of darkly comic humanist? Is he playing a big joke on us? Or is he overwhelming moved by the fact that no one seems to think God has a sense of humor?

Or is he exactly the sort of Baba-babbling devotee portrayed here? Okay okay... guess I'll have to read more about the guy at some point. Meher Baba, that is.


It's only teenage wasteland.


I walked to the parking lot last night to discover that the car had been broken into. Crap. My fault... had CDs in a case in there. I've been driving Kelli's car. The van has everything hidden as far as CDs and stereo gear and stuff, but I hadn't used my head and straightened up the car yet.

So the window was smashed and the CDs gone. Mostly Kelli's stuff. He actually left a fistful of CDs in there, the stuff that would have been hardest to replace. A bootleg, some obscure stuff. Odd. Guess he didn't think a pawn shop would want Anders Parker, Helmet, or Jason Falkner. He did get my new King's X, Brendan Benson's first, and a Black Sabbath CD, not to mention the entire Led Zep box set. Damn.

Nothing else was gone. They didn't even send cops; you do a report over the phone.

Crappy evening after that for sure. Cleaning out all the glass was a BITCH. Thank God for my shop vac.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


I've been pondering this phenomenon lately, the one where two or three friends get into the same music at the same time. I mean, we music nuts love to make mix CDs for our buds, hoping we can turn them onto the brilliance of some old Aztec Camera song or a Jellyfish outtake. But getting someone to fall in love with something that also moves you is really gratifying. And rare.

Earliest time I can think of this happening, save for bands like Foreigner spreading like wildfire among kids in general way back when, is when Bruiser and Michael and I all fell in love with King's X at about the same time. Cannot remember who heard them first. I'm almost certain it wasn't me. There was Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, this pseudo-concept album by a Houston pop metal trio. Great harmonies, terrific guitar tones, clever songs, and some sort of loosely-defined concept. I've stuck with the band pretty consistently since then, and though they've put out some great stuff, nothing touches Gretchen. I honestly think they're better when they have something to say. They should do a Gretchen 2 or something.

Jellyfish... that's a big one. I think Michael pulled up at my house in Angleton with them playing on a boombox in his VW Beetle (hey, a man's gotta have his road tunes). I wasn't impressed at first. Not great, not bad; I still expected every pop album to be another Abbey Road. But I worked in this record store where Bellybutton was played a lot, and I really fell in love with it, not long after Toland had.

The Replacements. I have Bruiser to thank for them. I think I loved them from the first moment Bruiser played them for me in his folks' living room. "Can't Hardly Wait" still gives me chillbumps.

And oddly enough, Bruiser and Michael and I all seemed to re-discover Motorhead a few years ago. Maybe Bruiser was on board with them all along. But Toland and I seemed to just spontaneously crave that particular sound of theirs. He's seen 'em a couple of times. I've seen them once, and I know Bruiser's seen them at least once.

Sometimes it doesn't take. I thought I'd really fall for Spock's Beard. Gorgeous voices, pristine sound, clever arrangements... but I couldn't hang with all the prog excursions.

And I love Merle Haggard, but I don't think Michael feels the same way. Probably respects him as a songwriter and all, but man, I get genuinely excited when one of his songs comes on.

Other artists... Femi Kuti, who's been a really cool discovery for me. And the Bevis Frond. I'm not head over heels for it like he is, but I do get the urge to hear it. Was blasting it the other night while striking gear after an audio gig, and Erik, the on-site tech, commented on how good it sounded. Compared them to Space Hog, whom I don't believe I've heard.

We're doing it again with Jason Falkner. Launch kept playing songs from Can You Still Feel? (Mostly "Goodnight Sweet Night"). It was gorgeous stuff, and his Jellyfish connection didn't hurt. This was a year ago. Kelli was very pregnant with THEGIRL, and one night we hired a sitter for THEBOY so we could have what'd likely be a last date for a while.

We hit the CD store, and I picked up a copy of the Falkner CD, skipping right to "Goodnight..." Suddenly the impending arrival of my daughter had a soundtrack.

I was in one of my periodic extreme night owl phases, staying up until 3 or 4 am on Friday and Saturday. Kelli was uncomfortable, tossing and turning in bed a lot, so I slept in the nursery-to-be. And many of those nights I'd lie there in the darkness with Falkner on the headphones, and it was the best mood enhancer in the world. No sights, hardly any sensations except this lush pop masterpiece in my ears over and over.

Clever-ass record, and let me tell you, the lyrics have some emotional resonance too. Long about February, when THEGIRL was almost here and I was making up my mind to get more education and go into the substance abuse recovery field, the song "Author Unknown" was in the background: "If the path of least resistance is all you ever take, well at least you've been consistent in your defying Fate." The CD is just full of stuff like that, smart statements on art and inspiration. Not to mention sing-along choruses.

So I gave Michael the "you really, REALLY ought to check this out" push... and he did. Boom... something clicked with him too. Now he's doing like I did, getting the guy's other stuff (like the overlooked CD titled Presents Author Unknown, which is not a masterpiece but is pretty flippin' good in its own right).

It's really rewarding when this happens. I need to try and foist this on Bruiser.

I wonder what's next?

RIP Dimebag Darrell, but keep in mind that the "P" for him would probably stand for "party."

Suck City

Greatest book title I've seen in a long time: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn.

And the Boldtype e-newsletter review caught my attention in one passage:

"What renders this devastating memoir so unique is that Flynn's story amplifies a rather risky concept: love is not unconditional; there are limits to love for a parent who consistently fails in his/her role as parent, whose actions come at the expense of their child's emotional stability."

Wow. I hope Santa Claus reads my blog.

Again, wow.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

From the G-Woman

Stolen from Georgina ( who has no idea how much time I've spent thinking about her lately, especially in the last 24 hours.


How many books do you own?
Plenty. Couple of big bookcases full.

Of which author do you have the most works?
Charles Bukowski, probably. Easily about a dozen books or more. Lots of John Steinbeck and Larry Brown too.

Are any of your books autographed? Which ones?
An excerpt from Billy Ray's Farm by Larry Brown
Ghosts Along the Brazos by Catherine Munson Foster (it's a Brazoria County thing...)
Austin City Limits: 25 Years of American Music (by John T. Davis) which my buddy Michael got autographed by ACL producer Terry Lickona
I am Jackie Chan by Jackie Chan
Some Stephen Pyles cookbook

That's all I can remember without being home with my books...

What is your favorite book? What book have you reread the most?
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I grab it every few years for a bit of an attitude adjustment.

What is the oldest book in your collection?
You know... we've got several copies of books like The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask (Dumas) that are probably pretty old. Or a Grimm's Fairy Tales collection.

Name a book in your collection that you have never read, but intend to someday.
I devour any book of interest to me. I'm guilty of reading several at once, but if it remains in my collection for any length of time it's because I've read it and intend to keep it (or it's a reference or one of Kelli's books, like the Dumas stuff)

What book do you own that you have never read (and probably never will)?

Name a book (or books) in your collection that you're embarrassed to own.
Hmm... I don't feel great about Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw or Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion by Carol Tavris. They just reveal a bit too much to my guests, and though I respect the shrinks who've suggested I read them, well, I don't fully buy into the contents.

Name a book (or books) that others might be surprised to discover in your collection.
Uh... er... a Russian language dictionary? Eh... I have no shame about the things that I find interesting. For example, in our conference room is a print of a poster from a Texas State Fair (1939, I think) which pictures a Mexican man with an accordion. And every time I see it, I want to ask around to see if anyone can refresh my limited knowledge regarding the history of conjunto, as I think 1939 is just a bit early for the form to have gained a popular foothold in Texas. And then I realize that I work with normal people and keep my mouth closed.

So any topic in any medium is fair game. The world is our classroom, folks. We never finish learning, even if from bad books.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Dare Ya...


Got an A+ on my case study in counseling class. Good way to start the day.


Been on a big NPR kick lately, digging through mostly Fresh Air archives to listen to some interviews . Got Hank Azaria going now. Interesting guy, and talented. Alan Alda had some good anecdotes. And the Dan Aykroyd interview was more interesting than you'd think, since he's a big blues nut and all. Always nice to listen to someone speak my language.


Learning more about Hawaiian culture. Menahune are the Hawaiian "little people," compared sometimes to leprechauns:


God, it's only Tuesday.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Nariz Navidad

The new High Bias is out ( It's a really good ish, even though it's got some stuff from me innit... (nyuk nyuk).


A highlight from the weekend: THEBOY spontaneously bursting into his re-interpretation of the Jose Feliciano Christmas song. Instead of "Feliz Navidad," ("Happy Christmas") Kevin was singing "Nariz Navidad," which translates into "Nose Christmas." Excellent pronunciation of "nariz," but not quite the holiday sentiment Feliciano had in mind, I'd guess...


Still bothered by Larry Brown's passing. What little I've read about it online paints a grimmer picture of his drinking, smoking, and overall health than I was aware of.

I always had it in my head that someday I'd meet him, or at least write to him. The guy had an impact on me. He was an Alejandro Escovedo fan, and I'd hoped that one day Toland and I might actually undertake a Mississippi trip and seek him out, coercing an interview with the aid of a fine Escovedo bootleg I've got. Damn damn damn.


Had a speaker in class today. She was covering HIV/AIDS/STDs. And a woman in the back answered the speaker's first few questions the same way each time. "Anal?"

I'm not sure there's a classroom scenario in which I'd say that aloud.


Some interesting quotes from a interview with novelist Jerry Stahl. I'd post a link, but you've gotta sit through several pages of ads to even get there. Blech.

"I don't subscribe to the notion that Bush Jr. is necessarily the worst president -- but I do believe he'll be the last one."

"Self-destruction, at this point, is a wing of show business."

"What's left after they cremate you isn't powder, like in the movies. It's more like kitty litter or gravel. In fact, when I go, I'd like to have myself scattered on somebody's driveway."


Have a good week.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Larry Brown, RIP

Larry Brown died on November 24, and I only found out today. Heart attack. Age: 53

For those of you who don't know him (or only know the basketball coach of the same name), he was a writer from the Oxford, Mississippi area.

He wrote several good books and short story/essay collections: Joe, Fay, On Fire, Billy Ray's Farm, Rabbit Factory and more. He was the writer I want to be. Southern voice, good characters, not afraid to be different. He seemed to absorb the best from a lot of writers like Charles Bukowski, Cormac McCarthy, and of course, William Faulkner, and come up with a narrative style that was distinctly his own.

He wrote the way I think. I cannot say that about any other author.

I have most of what he wrote, but it's not enough now that he's gone. I don't have enough Larry Brown books. I have no idea what he may have been working on when he passed, or whether we'll see posthumous releases. I hope we will. But I'm sad to know that from here on out any releases will be... finite.

That's the selfish consumer in me. Hey, he wasn't my uncle; he was one of my favorite writers.

Go to your library and look him up. Fay is probably the least of his books (and it's not bad). On Fire is riveting. Billy Ray's Farm is engrossing. Rabbit Factory slick and smart. Big Bad Love is all smoke and oil and dirt roads. It goes on and on.

There will never be another Larry Brown.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Presenting Marijuana

A student did a presentation on marijuana in pharmacology class today, and it was embarrassingly bad. The crux of her report involved reading from a couple of issues of High Times she picked up last week, as well as extensive passages from a pro-marijuana book she got from the school library. A lot of this stuff directly contradicted what we've been taught. This isn't to say that opposing viewpoints don't make for a more-thorough and balanced education. It just made me wonder if she was ready for what the reaction would be.

She claimed that marijuana isn't a gateway drug since it's semi-legal in Amsterdam, and they don't have problems with other drugs.

The prof blurted out in the middle of the report, "Where are you GETTING this stuff?"

The prof was more sedate than I expected, even when prompted by students to respond, though she did say that she'd prefer we use empirically-based sources instead of "research done by Cheech and Chong or Joe Blow or Jane Schmuck."

Grades are given immediately following the presentations. Given the fact that I heard the presenter desperately asking other students if they had a copy of the syllabus (which outlines the requirements of the presentation), I gather she didn't receive a good grade.


Still awaiting "the wrath from Angleton," as my brother-in-law put it. We had several phone hangups at home yesterday. Suspicious, but I can't assume anything.


Anyone else use Launch? What gives--did they just ink a new agreement with someone or something? Suddenly stuff I ranked but could NEVER get it to play before is playing. Really, really cool. Soundgarden (which is playing now), Commodores, Marvin Gaye, Helmet, old Rush, great BB King albums (like Live at the Regal--yahoo!), and lots more. This is great.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

It's Done

This is much harder on the nerves than I need right now. I could blow off some steam by spilling my guts, like I usually do, but somewhere in the middle of all this is a line I shouldn't cross.

Thank you all, including those of you who know exactly what's going on, as well as those of you who don't but still have had to put up with me while I live out this scenario's effects.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Damaged Piece

Things are about to get a bit dramatic around here. Won't go into specifics, and I'm kinda sorry to bring it up at all, but hell, it's on my mind. I'll have more lowbrow humor posted soon enough, I'd imagine, so stop back by in a couple days if you'd rather not get a taste of the Life of Brian.


It's not the wife/kids... all that is fine and dandy.

I'm just about to do something really difficult. It's on my mind all the time, either at the forefront of my thoughts or bothering me in my dreams.

If someone has no interest in helping themselves, is a person bad for not sticking around to help them? I've tried to be the good guy for a long, long time in this scenario. Most of my life, and it wasn't my choice to start with.

As I've learned in counseling class, someone who has not yet considered changing their problematic ways is in "precontemplation." That's clear enough: They have not yet even contemplated getting help, changing things for the better. And no amount of motivation will budge someone in this position.

It drags the helper(s) down. It drags me down. Those words don't nearly convey what I'm trying to say.

It does more than drag me down. It's made me doubt everything at some point. The sanctitity of marriage. The possibility of happiness. Trust. Love. Honesty. Safety. Sanity. Sobriety. And I guess the straw that broke the camel's back was when it made me worry for the safety of my children. No, that's a worry I won't tolerate. I will remove myself, remove us, and guarantee that in absolutely no way will my children, or anyone else in my immediate family, be in any sort of physical or emotional peril. I tried to turn a blind eye before. No more.

This won't be the first such occurrence with this person. I worry about the aftermath, worry how dramatic it will be. I wonder how deep this person's narcissism runs. I have a good idea, and it's frightening. I hope that protecting my loved ones and me (me! Finally imposing the distance my heart craves... this is way overdue) doesn't jeopardize anyone else. Sometimes a dramatic display can get out of hand.

A piece of my heart will also break, but you know, I think it's a damaged piece anyway.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Random Thoughts

We're at war with the wrong country. Forget Iraq--Did Canada ever apologize for giving us Bryan Adams?


Why is it that whenever someone on the freeway pulls a bonehead move like cutting you off, the part of their car that nearly hits you ALREADY HAS A DENT IN IT?

Okay, don't answer that.


Classes are going well. Pharmacology grades are in, and I've got an A, so I can skip the final. Counseling is likely to be the same scenario, though I won't know until next week.


If you believe in a Maker, in someone who created you beyond your parents, and you try to live a good, mindful life as you think the Maker would desire, give thanks for health, ya'll. It's huge. It really is. I've got a nephew in the hospital with dehydration from a bad stomach bug. In the process his blood sugar dropped to just about coma-inducing levels.

My sister-in-law had acute kidney failure a month ago. Very little warning. Not sure what caused it, and actually, kidney failure isn't acute; it's chronic; this one just appeared otherwise since no one saw it coming. Still don't know what caused it, and now she's on dialysis. This is a fairly young woman, took care of herself, not abusing chemicals, not smoking...

Okay, enough of the drama. Just be thankful for the healthy days.


For pure soul singing I'll still pit Otis Redding against anyone. Al Green you say? Okay... all bets are off between those two. But really... no one else is close to them.


Had a sales guy yesterday get mad at me because his $0 spots (aka "bonus" spots) were placed too close together. Thought something about the placement of his freebies would make the client... what, refuse to pay? This industry is so bananas.


Starbucks Gold Coast is the bomb. Wow.


Been working some audio gigs for the first time in a decade. Easy stuff, just running a parabolic mic for high school football radio broadcasts. It's fun, it really is. And it's good to get my hands on cable, scratch my gadget itch a bit. But I'm still looking forward to getting a master's psych degree, looking forward to the day when my primary work tool is between my ears, and not on a desktop.


What'd Henny Youngman's dog say? "Take my wife's... fleas..."

If you got that joke you're a sad old person. If you laughed you're sadder still.

Guilty on both charges, your honor.


Geoff is in love. I'm always thrilled to see good things happen to good people.


Still buzzing on the Helmet show. Wow. Size Matters is now firmly ensconced in my brain. The verdict? A solid B. Not the masterpiece I'd hoped for, but you know, they had the nuts to try and progress, and it's a brainier record than the first few listens will reveal.


I have to get the second Robert Belfour record. Simply have to. And some Bukka White. What a cool voice he had. And some Ronald Shannon Jackson. The guy lives 10 minutes from my house; least I could do is help him pay his rent.


Things to do over the holidays, while school is out: Catch up on some movie watching. Write some short stories and polish up "Praying for Robinzon." Make a couple of my edited "Kevin-safe" versions of the newest Spiderman and X-Men movies for Kevin. Maybe go see my Pops and Whit in/around Houston. Sleep. Fix the sink. Yes, fix the sink. I hate plumbing. I can get by on electrical, fake it on a little carpentry... but with plumbing I'm a disaster.


I need more coffee. Caffeinated love to you.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Fresh! Joy!

I have zero trust for this. I personally think it's a variation of the same hysteria and fanaticism that got people burned as witches.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Texan am I

Written on a Saturday night/early Sunday morning when I really should be sleeping... too often I find myself compulsively writing when I should be in bed. Not sure what that's all about...

Really, you should see the Iron Giant.

I'm not kidding.


Culture. Watched some home movies sent to my buddy Erik Hood from his brother Carlos, a lieutenant with the national guard. Carlos and the others in his Hawaiian outfit are training in El Paso to go to Fallujah. Carlos, surrounded by his homeboys, speaks in a thicker variation of the accent Erik has. And there they were, having target practice, going through drills and whatnot, and at one point they burst into this song. Something about being back home on the islands, about the girls and all that. Pretty cool, spontaneous stuff.

And what would have a bunch of Texas boys done? Think we'd have done a little musical number? I don't think I even know all the words to "Yellow Rose of Texas." I doubt a bunch of us would feel compelled to sing it. Or anything else. I might vote for "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother" or something.

So Carlos and his boys struck me as being perfectly comfortable exhibiting their Hawaiian culture. And there just doesn't seem to be an equivalent in my experience.

Oh, I guess that's not totally true. I wore my boots, those beat-up Nocona's one day last week. And I got the jokes: "Gonna rustle some cattle, Briscoe? Mend some fences on the back 40?" Only a couple of us ever wear boots: Jennifer from (close to) Texarkana and me. She never catches grief for it, but then again, she proudly speaks in a very thick Texas accent. I lost a lot of my accent in radio classes, and my penchant for "50 cent words" makes me the target of a few jokes. Fine. There's nothing wrong with being semi-well spoken.

But shit, I'm a Texan. I grew up in boots. I don't ride a horse, don't wear a cowboy hat (just personal preference; I do wear a baseball hat a lot). I speak some Spanish, love my barbecue, eat jalepenos, love my state and feel most comfortable around Texans/Southerners (as I've discovered in my travels; I'd rather visit a place where people don't look at me funny when I say "ma'am").

And you know, I'm sure this struggle for cultural identity and validity gets played out more strikingly in some arenas. I know that when I was a kid, the kids who could drive a tractor, ride a horse or bring back a trophy buck were considered more redneck than most of us. To this day I'm sure there are Texas kids who long for acceptance as genuinely country while their parents' culture fades fast around them. I know the same thing happens to Mexicans living here whose parents opted not to teach them Spanish. They gain no cultural advantage or foothold here, and their own people may look down on them for it.

Maybe I'm part of a transitional generation. God knows Dad was more country than I'll ever be, growing up in the woods of Brazoria, Texas, dogs by his side as he fished in Freeport and hunted on the acreage around his home. He went into the navy and worked hard, did his job. Got a good blue-collar job that he somehow stuck with for 30 years, even after they made it a policy to treat him like crap. Raised Amanda and me the best he could in Angleton, which is not exactly rural. It's fairly suburban I'd say, even though our home was walking distance from the county livestock show each October.

And now I live near Ft. Worth, work in downtown Dallas. I ride the train sometimes. We had a possum problem a few years ago, and I was frustrated that I couldn't just shoot the little bastards. Wouldn't go over well in Hurst city limits.

I dream of leaving this area for someplace more secluded, someplace more like the spread in Brazoria where Dad grew up. But am I kidding myself? I sure love my Thai food, love being close to the ballpark.

If I had a double-wide on a few acres in Buda, do you think I could get the Dish network and DSL?

Hitting the dusty trail...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Helmet Me

(Taken from an email I sent to Michael Toland)

After much difficulty, I made it to the Helmet show last tonight. My buddy Mike Llorca had to cancel at the last minute. I'd have done the same thing in his shoes ('nuff said).

So I beat the bushes yesterday, asking my friends. One's into hip hop. Another said he's "too old" to go to concerts (and he's eight years younger than I). I kinda felt like I'm the sole member of this oddball headbanging cult. I couldn't even find anyone who'd heard of them when I emailed our whole staff in search of a partner. Eventually I decided to go alone, which didn't thrill me since the Gypsy Tea Room is in Deep Ellum, a decidedly rough area. Managed to park close and dart inside through a steady rain. The Tea Room reminded me of the late Liberty Lunch in Austin, though not quite as much of a wreck. Crowd started filling in early, and they were fairly receptive to a bludgeoning set by openers Totimoshi (think Kyuss circa Sky Valley). Pretty cool little trio there.

Techs started doing their thing between bands, and after one strum of the guitar I was thinking HOLY CRAP IZZIT REALLY GONNA BE THAT LOUD?? Had two sets of good earplugs with me, though, and they served me well enough.

Helmet hit the stage with "Pure," which I gather has been opening most or all of their shows. Big, big sound. Other folks were singing, a rough little pit started, and suddenly I'd found the other members of my cult (the place was full). It felt good. The band clearly had a ball. Hamilton was chatty with the crowd, having some belly laughs, clowning around much more than I would have expected. Traynor and Frank Bellow seemed almost ecstatic to be doing what they
do. Bellow especially seemed to just give off HOLY-SHIT-I'M-IN-HELMET vibes. Yelling, jumping...

Lotta fun.

They did a good cross-section of stuff, though by my count they did eight songs from the new CD, which is about three too many. It went from "hey these are the three songs I know I like" to "wow--THIS is a bold choice" to "okay this is too much." Five songs would have served well the purpose of illustrating the meat of the songs minus the studio sheen. The attitude very much seemed to be "we like this CD, and damn it, we think you should too." The new songs really didn't slow the momentum like you'll see sometimes when an artist plays the new stuff (aka the time to make a bee line for the pee line). Just too much muscle for a complete flop.

They certainly hit the appropriate high points in their 75-minute set. The band is tighter than hell, and they enjoy playing together. Frank Tempesta is better than I gave him credit for, but I'd still prefer Stanier for his more distinctive drum tones.

Will review for High Bias (

Oh, I made it to/from the club without incident--sort of. Folks clearing out of the club and getting in their cars were being approached by these trashy looking guys (homeless? dealers? both?). Even as I was IN MOTION backing out, one was banging on my glass, and I was yelling at him, "Don't F*CK WITH ME MAN! JUST DON'T F*CK WITH ME!" He eventually got the

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Then go to the comments. I swear NO ONE loves to create drama and pity like Christians. They can't see the trees for the forest... (and yes, I meant to say it that way).


Supposed to go see Helmet ( tonight, but my buddy Mike had to bail because his pregnant wife is on bed rest now. Can't blame him, of course, but it sure is tough to find someone else to go with me. Most haven't heard of them (it's been a seven year hiatus for the band, and I guess they weren't exactly huge to begin with; it's tough to be unique sometimes).

Others are scared of the neighborhood (Deep Ellum) or going to the show itself for some reason (I guess it could be a little rough, but where's your sense of adventure, people?).

Warming to Size Matters slowly but surely. What bothers me is that, scanning their old catalog I can think of three, maybe four guitar solos total, and the new record has that many on its own. And I think I understand what they were trying to do. Some of the whipcrack musical maneuvers have been polished a bit. The funny time signatures are there, but every time a chorus comes along it sounds so... normal. It's kind of a predictable pattern after a while.
But I didn't like Aftertaste at first either, and now it's my favorite Helmet record. I do expect Hamilton and the boys to grow and expand. I also expect them to challenge me, and let me tell you, sounding more straightforward is certainly a challenge to these ears.

Anyway, I've been dying to see these guys forever. I don't relish being alone in Deep Ellum at night, but with any luck I won't be utterly alone on some dimly-lit stretch of road. Once I'm inside I'm cool.

If you want to go, email me. Fast.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Christmas Darkness

The greatest spam I've received in a long time:

Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 03:18:22 -0000 From: "maturewoman2300"

Subject: Goodbye to lonely Christmas!

Find a gothic lover to share the gothic christmas darkness with! Action now and good luck :)


Admittedly, I haven't clicked the link (hey, I'm at work). I'm imagining lots of photos of guys/gals who look like Robert Smith/Edward Scissorhands. "Turn ons: Long walks through the dump, genital leeches and waterproof mascara. Turn offs: Sunshine, antidotes and puppies. I'm looking for a partner who's not afraid to bare their soul, with a straight razor if necessary."


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

That'd be me on Halloween.  Posted by Hello

Mr. Danny Barker

Back in '92 or '93, when I was a lowly second audio engineer on Austin City Limits, the one and only Dr. John came to do a show. He brought with him an old New Orleans musican by the name of Danny Barker ( I didn't really know who he was, but he was to guest with Dr. John, and during setup and soundcheck Mr. Barker proved to be a genuinely likable old cat, sharply dressed in a suit and brown derby. Crew members gravitated to him as he made small talk and gamely took in the goings-on.

I did know that Barker was primarily a banjo player, so I found it odd that some higher-up at ACL (presumably) decided that he should play electric guitar during his appearance. I watched closely as they strapped a blue Peavey electric on the poor man, and I have to say that, given his expression, they might as well have handed him an octopus. I can also say that I watched him in soundcheck and during the taping, and he didn't turn the instrument up. He may not have known how to. So his strumming was basically for show.

But he was a lot of fun, smiling and joking as he ran through one of his big hits from the 40s, "Save the Bones for Henry Jones." He thanked the crowd with a tip of his hat.

He passed away a couple years later.


In the late 90s I headed out to grab some supper for Kelli and me one evening. Popeye's was having one of their periodic crawfish specials, and I took the opportunity to satisfy my craving for some back-home sorta food.

I stood in line there and noticed a print of a watercolor on the wall. It was a band, portrayed just tearing it up in the middle of a lively crowd in some juke joint.

And pictured there on the banjo was a young Danny Barker.


Another anecdote from the Dr. John show:

The man himself was in foul spirits that day during soundcheck. His CD Going Back to New Orleans, a terrific old-school rave-up, had just come out, and he was touring in support of it. He'd assembled a crack band of funky N.O. guys, but clearly there was a black cloud over his head. I later learned that long about then he was kicking a decades-old heroine habit, which could certainly explain a lot.

But soundcheck was going well, and what few words he said were in that brassy N.O. accent.

They were running through one number when a trumpet player had the audacity to stop the band in mid-song. You could sense the tension as this guy dared to bring it all to a grinding halt.

He started to make his case about how this one particular part they'd played TWICE in a row on the record, but they kept playing only once live. Everyone went quiet as all eyes in the room turned to Dr. John to make the call.

"We played it twice on the record?" he asked.

Nods all around.

"FUG da record," he said.

And that was that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I promise I won't just keep ripping off Geoff ( Well, maybe.

What’s the farthest distance you’ve ever traveled to attend a wedding? Whose wedding was it, and where? Did you have a good time? What was the wedding like? Went from DFW to Austin for Roel and Marie's wedding. It was a tremendously great Catholic ceremony with a fun reception. On the drive down, in the drizzling rain, the overwhelming scent of roses suddenly filled the truck as I drove through an old Austin neighborhood. Really no idea how that could have happened, but it was just a nice moment at the start of a beautiful evening. One of the bridesmaids invited me to "sleep" at her place that night. Flattering and all, but not my style, what with being married myself and all...

Have you ever been a wedding attendant [bridesmaid, groomsman, usher, etc.]? For whom? When and where? Groomsman a couple of times, usher, speaker, DJ. I'd say my favorite was speaking at the wedding mentioned above. There's something about reading aloud from the Good Book in front of a crowd that I dig.

What characteristics do you feel are essential for a strong, long-lasting marriage? [If you’re already married, did someone give you some good advice before you tied the knot? What was it?] Married 11 years. I had to learn this stuff for myself. Things I've found handy: Learn to listen, and learn to be quiet when appropriate (which is more often than you might think). Ask how their day went, and care to pay attention when they answer. Understand the importance of touch. Be spontaneous once in a while. Flattery never gets old to someone who can take a compliment; if you can't take a compliment (I'm guilty of this), learn to just smile when they tell you something nice. Accept change as you both grow. Don't be afraid to chuck aside sarcasm and humor, even with your friends, and take a moment to admit aloud that you cherish your partner. Value what they bring to your life in terms of growth and stability. Understand what they tolerate from you, and be prepared to tolerate in return. And remember that love grows; though it's not always like those early dating jitters, what it becomes is comforting, and one of life's greatest rewards.

What makes for a really awesome wedding reception? What are some of your favorite wedding reception activities, traditions, etc.? Honestly? You just cannot knock a good mariachi band, followed by a confident DJ who can feed off of the crowd. And a killer chicken salad never hurts.

Many celebrity marriages have failed after just a short time. Why do you think that happens? Who do you think is the most famous, interesting, or notable celebrity couple now or in the past? [Jennifer and Brad? Ben and J.Lo? Bruce and Demi?] I find celebrity marriages less interesting than navel lint.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Hour of Need

(Culled from an email I sent to a couple of friends)

Last night, Kelli emerges from the bedroom, saying "Help me please." She's got a terrible pain in her head, and she's scared to death. I give her ibuprofen, but she's in bad shape. Sees light flashes with her eyes shut, her extremities are tingling, she's getting hot and cold flashes, and she's insatiably thirsty. Worried that she's having some sort of central nervous system catastrophe like a stroke, I scramble an ambulance to the house around midnight.

They take her, and I begin trying to figure out how to get myself to the ER. I can't quite make myself take the kids there. Handling two kids who should be asleep, by myself, in the ER waiting room is just not practical. And they'd likely not let them go back and see Kelli anyway.

I call Erik Hood, who lives 45 minutes away in Frisco. He's a night owl like me, up, and arrives in about 46 minutes. I give him quick directions on what to do should either child awaken before sunrise, and take off for the ER. Cat scan and tox screens are clear. The diagnosis is a migraine, which she has not had since I've known her. She says she's had a few, but never like that, and many years ago anyway. They say the tingling is from hyperventilating, and everything else is attributable to the migraine. Scary.

We return around 3am, and stunningly, Erik goes BACK to Frisco (instead of remaining on our air mattress). He hit the sheets at 4am and is here at work today. I worked an audio gig for him Saturday, and will do another this Saturday. Needless to say, I won't charge him a penny foreither.

SO... Gotta say it was my hour of need, and the guy came through.

Anyway... tired, but I'm glad I've still got my spouse.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Meaningless hoo-ha

Stole this from Geoff. It's THAT boring at work right now.

1. Starting with your head down to your toes, what health/beauty products have you used/applied to your body so far today? It's casual Friday. I put on deodorant, brushed my teeth, and put on a New Orleans Zephyrs baseball cap. Does the cap count as a beauty product?

But really... my coworkers are lucky I'm even wearing pants.

2. Do you have a ritual when you take a shower, such as washing your hair first or maybe even brushing your teeth in the shower? I kneel on the ground and knock three times, paying tribute to all those dead umpires who didn't quite make it into Heaven. Thus far that'd be all of them except Durwood Merrill.

Otherwise, hey, shampoo, a good shave and... nothing else.

I like the umpire bit better.

3. How do you get yourself up and going in the mornings? Coffee? A hot shower? Breakfast? Would you consider yourself a morning person at all? When do you usually get up? I'm a freak. I get up at 6:25 on the weekdays, and as late as I can on the weekends (with kids, I'm lucky if it's 8am).

I'm not a morning person, yet I do not use the snooze alarm. Alarm goes off, I jump immediately out of bed. I don't like it at all, but really, the snooze is a means of torture I just do not wish to inflict upon myself. Never used it. Cannot imagine lying there, thinking, Maybe today some miracle will happen and I can keep sleeping.

When unemployed I cycle forward and tend to go to bed at 3 or 4am. If I won the lottery I'd never see another sunrise. Unless I just stayed up that late.

4. Do you normally eat breakfast? What do you usually have? Do you usually make it at home or go out for breakfast, or do you prefer not to eat breakfast? I usually have biscuits with sugar-free jelly. I drink water, though once or twice a week I'll splurge on OJ. Then I'll have two cups of coffee at work before lunch and drink water the rest of the day. I carry so many water bottles around that Kelli says I'm like that freaky little girl in the movie Signs. Hey, I don't wanna get another kidney stone. EVER.

Well.. that was... 15 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Have a good weekend, ya'll.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Two Words

An exchange from the office this afternoon, as I listened to "Know Your Rights" by the Clash:

Normally Friendly African American Woman (via IM): "what is that?.....i'd rather hear the typing"

[We have an annoyingly loud typist in the office]

Me (speaking): "That's the Clash. From 1978 I believe."

NFAAW (speaking from here on out): "Oh. That's the year I was born. But it's all (imitates grating drum/guitar sound)"

Me: "Do you REALLY want to talk about music that's set largely to percussion and nothing else and is lacking in melody?"

NFAAW: "Oh you DIDN'T go there."

Me: "Two words: hip and hop."

Scarily Conservative White Guy Who Never Talks to Anyone (standing up in his cube): "Yeah!"

NFAAW: "There you went and lumped us all into one basket. Two words you won't have to listen to again: hip and hop."

(She lends me CDs sometimes. I'm guessing she was trying to tell me that the loans would stop.)

Funny how you say one thing and someone can perceive something else out of it. Didn't mean to cheese her off, but...

So was I a jerk? She hadn't complained about the Al Green, Earth Wind & Fire or Bukka White at that volume...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Two Gypsy Stories

We were in Spain in the late 90s. We'd been warned about this and that, typical stuff. And of course, we were warned about the gypsies.

It's an interesting parallel there, by the way. Dark-skinned people, reputed to be trashy, criminals... If someone came to Texas, would you warn them, "Watch out for the Mexicans"?

Anyway, we were aware that tourists are common targets for petty crime. At the Alhambra, an old Moorish compound in Granada, I experienced that firsthand.

I spotted a pair of boys who looked to be no older than 11 or 12. In a place crawling with tourists, they stuck out simply by looking local. I could hear them feigning excitement as they chattered loudly about being at the Alhambra. This was the only flaw in their approach.

I was walking up a steep sidewalk, and they were perhaps 15 feet ahead of me. The day was warming up, and I had my jacket tucked under my arm. I knew they were up to something, but didn't know exactly what.

Then came the move.

They stopped and did an about-face suddenly to descend the sidewalk. I had to step off the sidewalk and into the street to make room for them, and in a brief moment we were within touching distance. One slipped a hand deep into my jacket, making a precise movement for the pocket within. He got nothing, as my money was tucked into a money belt under my shirt.

Still, I was furious at their nerve, and at my complete inability to stop them from trying, even though I knew it was coming. I called them "motherf*ckers" quite loudly, and they went on their merry way. I can only imagine what accomplished pickpockets they might be at 16 or 25. Stunning.

My pharmacology professor, Connie, travels to Italy sometimes. Besides teaching, she works at Samaritan House in Fort Worth ( is all I can find on them offhand). Her clients/patients come to her with HIV/AIDS, addictions, mental illness and more. She's quite clear about the fact that dealing with someone who isn't "normal" does not bother her, and that it's her gift from God.

She told us the story of the "bag lady" she and her family encountered in Italy somewhere, a gypsy woman who was shuffling along the sidewalk, muttering to herself. Locals and tourists alike crossed the street or gave the gypsy a wide berth, though Connie did not.

As they encountered each other, they stopped. The gypsy woman reached out, caressed Connie's cheek, and said, "Bella madonna." I'm told that's Italian for "beautiful mother." Connie said the same thing to her, and they each moved on.

Connie says that at that moment she knew she was looking into the face of God.


I would have crossed the street with the others. I think most of us would have.


Unrelated... sort of.

It's hard to do the right thing sometimes, isn't it? I'm not talking about those clear-cut choices about right/wrong, good/evil. But it's hard to bump oneself out of complacency and inaction to step forward and raise a voice in the interest of what is best for you and those close to you, isn't it?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Blues, man

Blind Willie Johnson wasn't born blind. He stumbled upon his stepmother cheating on his father. In order to keep Willie from ever seeing such a thing again, she threw lye in his eyes, robbing him of his sight.

He went on to record 30 stunning gospel songs. His hellfire and brimstone voice lent incomparable passion to songs like "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine" (which Led Zeppelin covered) and "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed." His instrumental "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" is one of the most haunting songs ever recorded. This was in 1930, a singles-driven era in "race" music, and the fact that this song was even put to wax amazes me.

What do you think Johnson would have thought about Eric Clapton calling himself a blues man?

I'm not saying white guys can't play the blues. They can--sometimes. BB King said it best: "No race has a monopoly on the blues."

But what would the old-timers, the originators like Blind Willie or Robert Johnson think of the guitar and Lite beer-soaked blues of today?

Just some food for thought.


New High Bias is out:

Friday, November 05, 2004

Happy Friday

Happy Friday, and caffeinated love to you all. We've just about cheated Death for another workin' week.

"Funny thing about weekends when you're unemployed--they don't mean quite so much. 'Cept you get to hang out with your workin' friends." -- Primus

KERA had another round of layoffs. My buddy Danny kept his job. My buddy Chris did not. This is the status quo in 2004. Looks like this'll be the status quo through at least 2008.

But have a good weekend. Cherish the ones you love. Be good to yourself. Make that phone call that's long overdue. They'll be happy to hear from you.

And be sure to visit High Bias ( Send the editor wads of cash. And nekkid photos. Well, I'm not talking to you, Geoff...

Thursday, November 04, 2004


If you spend years dealing with every single problem, crisis, challenge of whatever degree of difficulty with alcohol and other illicit substances, let me tell you, dealing with them sober is tough.

Being sober is hard, period. Triggers are everywhere. It's powerful stuff really. Know that song that takes you right back to your prom? I have a song that takes me right back to that weekend I spent loaded on vodka and beer, huffing amyl nitrate. Long long ago, but vivid nevertheless. That's one song, one incident. There are other songs, other triggers. Plenty.

If the sunlight catches me right I can see the six-inch scar and the surprisingly tidy "B" I carved into my arm one drunken night.

The waiter at Texas Land and Cattle last Tuesday was oozing alcohol through his pores. I don't think my lunch partner smelled it. I sure as shit did.

Had a kidney stone a month ago, and I made it clear to the doc that I did not want any narcotics. She said, "Sure. We can go either way. You can have anything you want, narcotic or not." It's my responsibility, but man, it's hard to police oneself sometimes.

Nobody knows the whole story. Not sure if they ever will.

I'm not normally so down. Really.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

War Pigs by Black Sabbath

Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction, sorcerers of death's construction.
In the fields the bodies burning, as the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind, poisoning their brainwashed minds.Oh lord, yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away.
They only started the war.
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor, yeah.

Time will tell on their power minds, making war just for fun.
Treating people just like pawns in chess, wait till their judgment day comes, yeah.
Now in darkness world stops turning, ashes where the bodies burning.
No more War Pigs have the power, Hand of God has struck the hour.
Day of judgment, God is calling, on their knees the war pigs crawling.
Begging mercies for their sins, Satan, laughing, spreads his wings.
Oh lord, yeah!

Just seemed like an appropriate theme song for the day. Sue me if it seems juvenile.


I dreamed that Jon Bongiovi had a child with Rita Marley, and they named him Homey.

This election gives me comfort in a way: At least it's not JUST the South that's dumb. Anyone know the words to "O Canada"? What are interest rates like up there?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What Blood?

The following is what happens sometimes when I'm writing something yet falling asleep at the keyboard at the same time.


"What blood are you?" asked the mariachi, touching my forearm and eyeing me

Ah, the question.

Funny how patterns emerge from the din, from the chaos that makes up one's life. Questions about who by way of WHAT I am emerge sometimes. Not by my choice, but it happens often enough that I can't ignore it:

In the chiropractor's office, where I've struck up a conversation with the doctor's ladyfriend: "Can I ask you a personal question? What ethnicity are you?"

At work, after I've spent an hour listening to the transcendent voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani Qaawali singer, I learn about the conversation that occurs in my absence: "What IS Brian, listening to that music an all? Is he... Indian?"

Similar question, implied, from a pair of smiling neighborhood girls who stop by on their bikes and catch me pulling into the driveway with banda (Northern Mexican) music blaring. "Why are you listening to that?"

Some don't even question it, making an assumption that puzzles yet amuses me. In Chipotle last week, while having my burrito prepared in a chain restaurant in the West End, the servers solicited my ingredients, and where I wanted to dine, in Spanish only. Didn't happen to my lunch partner (who is, coincidentally, half Mexican). Luckily, I could answer.

The answer to the broader question: I'm a cracker.

How's that?

Okay. I'm a slightly dark-skinned Caucasian with French Canadian (or Cajun, depending on who you ask), Cherokee, Choctaw, "black Dutch" and various other mutts thrown in. Makes me a lot like you (and you and you and you).

This isn't intended to be a "we are the world" anti-racist diatribe. No, the lines I think we should be ignoring are much less challenging than a racial divide.

I think about Doug Sahm, who played whatever the hell kind of music he wanted. Farfisa-based rock with the Sir Douglas Quintet, border music with the Texas Tornadoes, rollicking blues and R&B as a solo artist. And more, much more. It was a very natural approach for him, and by gum, if it's good enough for Sahm, it's good enough for me.

Not that I've intentionally modeled myself on the man. No, I can remember hitting the Pearland flea market as a child, listening to white people grumble about the Tejano music blaring from boomboxes in the booths. And I remember thinking, I'll bet somebody likes this as much as I like Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Beatles.

The Texas Gulf Coast, while not offering much in the way of, uh, appealing stuff, is not far from proper Cajun country. When I was growing up there were always little bands with accordions and stuff around, and we ate dirty rice and boiled shrimp and gumbo. I didn't know it was a rich culture with a tragic history; I just thought it was "coonass." Grandmother "Babbi" Pourcein
was from the New Orleans area, and she threw a few French words our way, and speaks to this day in that great N.O. accent.

The Texas Gulf Coast is also home to a large Czech community. Kolaches and polkas certainly weren't uncommon. Ever had klobase on your nachos? English was the third language at the wildest party I ever attended, distantly trailing Czech and Polish.

There are lots of little bridges across those imaginary borders. Led Zeppelin certainly helped turn me on to blues, but Robert Plant also talked about his love for Moroccan music, and about singing in quartertones, an entirely different musical approach than we're taught in the West. Though I'm not certain Plant's quartertones are always intentional, my interest did broaden just a bit. A local indie station features Indian (as in from India) music on Saturday mornings, and sometimes it's wonderful (and sometimes it sucks; just because it's exotic and different doesn't mean it's always great).

The station also has Indian (Native American) music on Sunday nights.

So I don't have a good answer as to why, sometimes, a complete stranger makes an assumption or asks a question about who/what I am based on nothing I can discern. It's certainly interesting, and it's flattering when someone assumes I'm part of an interesting culture (because really, I'm not; white culture is based on super-sizing our meals and oppressing brown people as
far as I can tell). I don't know if the blurred borders within me are somehow apparent to others outside of any recognizable context. I do know that I really wish I had more company in this attitude. Why am I the only white guy at a Mexican wedding reception who can make a request when the mariachi band comes to the table?

We're in Texas, and I think any self-respecting Texan should make some effort to speak Spanish. Look at all the interwoven countries in the U.K. and Europe. They don't tend to adhere to the "speak my language or get the hell out" credo. Lots of Englishmen speak passable French, you know?

This all probably sounds really egotistical, but that's not my intention. I just wish people would put down their copies of Slippery When Wet and open their ears, hearts and minds.