I can hear the angels
Sing songs only the angels
Sing songs of being
Neither here nor there
Angels and those
Close to death
Sing songs often sweetly
Sing songs below hearing
For all those
Neither here nor there
Hearing the songs of
Angels and those
Near to being angels
Sing songs I hear
Tag Archives: music
I can Hear the Angles
I can hear the angels
How Much More Sad the Music is Today
This may be the most inelegant writing I have accomplished. Usually, I will write over a period of days, put it away for a week, revise, put it away again, write something else, come back to it when It is no longer is my head, revise and edit as though it wee someone else’s work. I want the writing to sing, sway, build images, make motion. I want to write music. It looks like words.
But not tonight. I will finish this tonight. I may revise, I may not. It will be rough, incomplete, dissonant, shaky. It will mirror how I feel and I will leae it at that.
I attended a concert a month ago. Coyote Run. It was at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale. Coyote Run is a high energy band with some high energy fans and the outpouring of emotive support was evident and loud.
I had not counted on that.
When I was in high school, I used to hide in the library during pep rallies. Once I was found and made to attend. I was not allowed to read quietly but was told I must cheer for the team, whatever team or sport it was. I was escorted to the auditorium and the bleachers, given a seat. The roar started, the whistling, the clapping, the pounding and the yelling and I fell over, onto the bench, unconscious and silent. Woke up, did it again and again.
As a teacher I would trade out of auditorium duty even of it meant watching the indoor suspension. Once or twice, I was ordered to a post in the auditorium. I would hold on to a railing, cover my ears. With warning I would bring ear plugs. Without warning I would hold tight.
At Coyote Run, I remember when I started to feel exhausted. Then started to rock slightly, then became withdrawn, quiet, dull. Shaking. That night I was famished. That night I barely slept. The next day I hated myself. I was depressed. Slow, shaking, twisting, seizing, wanting out of amy skin and able to see, only with effort, the wonder my life is, those things others see in me that makes me the adored friend of people I hold dear, the beloved of those with whom I am lucky to share my life. The husband of the most wondrous woman in the world and the father of the Earth’s best children. I could see that wonder that is my life intellectually, but felt none of the joy in it, only weight and hate, my own and my own.
It passed in a few days.
I heard John McCutcheon was coming to town. A rare event. Six-time Grammy nominees do not have to play small churches. It was a benefit concert and I was going to go.
It was at a Unity Church I have attended from time to time for events and talks. Half the size of the UU at which I saw Coyote Run. I knew many of the people there. I sat next to Craig. He asked what to do if I start to seize. Nothing, I said. He asked if he could point and laugh. Absolutely.
I waited a long time to hear John McCutcheon play and I paid as close attention as I could, even as the rocking started directly with the first too-loud applause, the sharp whistling and the lingering camera flashes. I quelled it and my right foot started to sway back and forth instead. The my head, twisting sharply at the neck. Afraid I’d give myself a concussion, I tried to slow that and hold tight, letting the shoulder and neck muscles pull suddenly but giving them no space to move, ending with a head and neck ache. The diaphragm started to spasm as well.
People often ask me if I have the hiccups. I just answer no.
It started at eight. By eleven I was withdrawing, quiet, in pain, exhausted, famished and inwardly hateful. I still took my CDs up to John to have them sighed, to talk a bit, hoping to hide my discomfort. I always hope to. I always fail.
I fell asleep at two from exhaustion despite the blinding lightning, the constant flashing behind my eyelids. I was woken at four by spasms in my trachea and bronchi. Flutterings and beetlewings in my throat and chest. I stayed awake breathing, trying not to shake so I would not wake my dear one.
This morning, I feel fat, heavy, ungainly, slow. I feel tired, taught, tense and tortured. I am depressed and despondent. I am wasted and washed-out. I have been famished all day no matter how much I eat and then no matter how much I stay away from food. Good choices seem the furthest thing from good.
Meditation does not come. My perception is off. I try not to drive.
And I can feel nothing that is positive though I can point out every blessing that fills my life, every talent I am told I possess. I can point the myriad directions whence love comes but feeling none. It all goes out but none makes it in. Least of all for myself. I think not feeling this anymore would be good. I think never eating again would be fine and think thoughts envious toward those who have the will to eschew food for days and days, those who find the ways to stop. Stop eating, moving, breathing, being.
In a few days this will leave. Maybe by tomorrow even. I’ll return to rhythmic work and the seizures will leave for a while. I’ll stay away from loud sudden noises, watch nothing violent and, as long as I am careful, controlled, cautious, the lightning will be sparse, the thoughts will return to joy, the hunger will subside, the pain will be kept away.
Until a door slams or the TV is too loud or I forget and buy a ticket for another concert.
The music was wonderful last night. How much more sad it is today.
Austin CIty’s Limits Day Five: The Final Day
I have mixed feelings about today. I have enjoyed myself here, walked myself silly, had wonderful food, seen things I’ve not seen before and could not see anywhere else. Yet, I miss home. I am a homebody. I think of this as I rise. It is 5:15.
I spend a half hour exercising, as I have each morning, and then get ready for my day. I have some time left. I’m packed. I travel lightly. So I go out for a walk.
At seven I meet the gang at the lobby. Judy has asked we go back to the Driskill for breakfast. It’s a great place, I’m sure. But it is more expensive than Las Manitas Cafe. I’m not sure about finding food there either. But she was a trooper about the bats, went where I wanted for bar-b-que, walked and walked and walked and… so off to the Driskill we went.
It shined in the new morning. It glowed bronze through the expansive windows, showing it to be mostly empty and we entered and found seats to the left of the extensive dessert display; the centerpiece of the café. It is 7:15.
I found nothing healthy that appealed to me and nothing inexpensive I liked. In the end, I simply decided it was my last day and I would get what I wanted. Ten dollars for eggs and cheese, jalapeño biscuit with chorizo gravy and grits. It’s my last day, this place makes Judy happy, it’s only four more dollars and I’ll fore-go the coffee.
The food came late and we ate faster than I’d have liked. Still, we didn’t rush too much. We thought, and correctly so, most people would be late for conference this morning, checking out, settling bills, getting to breakfast late at the last chance to go to the Driskill.
The grits were ok. Nothing special. Instant, perhaps. Loose, the consistency of quicksand, mucilage. I find food is rarely worth what I pay for it or the cost later. This bodes no different.
The eggs were ok as well. Just ok.
The biscuit was, however, stupendous in taste, tremendous in texture though not size and, at this point, I was thankful for the diminutive quality. The gravy was heavy, dark, flavorful, savory, smokey, incredible.
We ate to the scent of coffee and croissants, chocolate and baking cakes. We settled our bills and we were out the door to the softly voiced, and it is a rarity Judy speaks softly, “Thank you.”
We walked fast, not quickly. Nearly skipping. We arrived fifteen minutes late. We arrived to only half-full classes and people trickling in.
It was expected we would leave early and little was happening. It was 8:15. We were to meet at 10:00 in the convention center lobby.
I decided to leave at 9:30 and go back to Sixth Street for a belt I saw two days prior. A two inch belt instead of a one and a quarter. A stretch for me. I’d need a buckle. They were large and I think of myself, especially now, as small. It was a chance I felt I was taking with my self-image. It felt dangerous. Like it would bring attention to me and such is always unwelcomed but, why not? Maybe I deserve some attention now?
We are filling out observations, reflections, evaluations. Around the room we discuss strategies, methods and, at 9:15, we are set for a Socratic seminar. I tell the leader I must leave. She knows this. I tell her I want to leave before the seminar as, once a part of it, I could not extricate without causing difficulty to the group. She agrees and I leave at 9:17 heading, with backpack, for Sixth Street.
Before leaving, several teachers want to talk with me. Move, stay, we need teachers. In Florida we are told there is a shortage of teachers as well. Yet, pay is low enough teachers leave for other jobs, schools actually ‘record’ the shortage and then combine classes to save money. The schools in Florida churn out the teachers but I know many who are not finding work yet Tallahassee has stated they may have to import teachers from Puerto Rico. I thought the teachers I spoke to from Austin, Dallas, Colleen, El Paso and San Antonio were splendid. They spoke of the state test the way we do of it here and of the shortage the same way. Burnout was rampant. Many told me they no longer had curriculum but all taught the same thing, the same day, (within subject area, of course) and it was directly related to the end test. Their plans were handed to them. Many are looking to leave. This has happened to me in some Florida schools as well. I’ve heard enough. Off I go.
In the shop I ask for a black belt in size 32. I ask if I can take mine off and try theirs on with some buckles. Sure, why not?
It is the smallest belt they have and I put it on. I look at the only buckles there I like, not bothering to pay more than a cursory glance, as the night before at the array of biker, suggestive, rockband, etc…
Two dragons in a circle, each feeding into the other. It is the design on my next book, except it is two dragons instead of one being a phoenix. Still, close, very close.
I try it on. It fits. Even with the size 32, I have only one hole left on the belt. The buckle fits; it touches no overflowing stomach, no paunch. How things have changed. Perhaps neither I nor the buckle are as large as I think?
I try to look at it with a hand mirror, aware of how self-conscious I feel holding a hand mirror toward my belt-line, staring. But, it is 9:30 and the shop is empty save the Asian shopkeep: a young lady of mid twenties of thirties. She is use to this.
I decide to take a chance and keep it on. It is inexpensive at $14 for the belt and $11 for a pewter buckle. I put the belt I came in with in my pack and, as I pay, the shopkeep asks, “Are you Buddhist?”
She asks me questions and I try to answer them, she’s telling me her professor at U of T told her explaining Buddhism is too difficult. She wants to know of her heritage and she is asking me, my white, nearly transparent, European self.
We talk for fifteen minutes, discussing Buddhism’s forth wave, engaged Buddhism, the development of the differing types, the core common to it all and the central experience which needs no explanation. I tell her where the temples are in town.
I am aware I have an appointment to keep and stay later than I should. I apologize and leave, nearly running back to the center, through the doors, up the two sets of escalators (the stairs are for emergencies only, silly as that is) to find two ladies approaching the designates spot. I am arriving just in time.
Back to the hotel. Up to the room, toss the few extra things in I need to, and grabbing bags, head back downstairs. Everyone meets and the van soon arrives.
The ride back is a different route it seems and I see things I’d have visited had I a vehicle. It is a faster route and I mention this. I am met with disagreement. The difference, I’m told, is, on the way in, I was quiet, I knew no-one, was watching each second pass. Now, I’m chattering, listening. I was with a crowd then and now I’m with friends and time moves differently in that more fluid medium.
At the airport, in the terminal, tickets verified and, with everyone else in Austin being as friendly as they were, I am not surprised by the jovial manner, the jocularity of the security, x-rayers, friskers and checkers. Thanks for playing, I’m told.
Lunch. I still am regretting breakfast. It is a small airport and there is nothing but meat I can find. A hamburger joint has been suggested and I rationalize this as it is the last day, I can undo anything done, I can start anew, I can eat better, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
I reiterate – food is rarely worth it. Can you make the french fries extra well done? They usually are. Usually? Yes. Well, can we make sure they are THIS time as well? Yes sir.
The hamburger is ok, not great. I go back for the missing vegetation I was sure to ask was included when I ordered. The fries are barely cooked. At this point, I don’t care. I should have eaten a food bar, a box of raisins, some of the seaweed packets, my own nails.
To the gate and they are boarding. One of us asks if she has a window seat. Yes. But it is a C. Yes. But C is an isle seat. Yes, it’s both. Both!?
Boarding, we walk out the door to a short ramp to a set of stairs. Where is the plane? OH! Down the stairs, to the tarmac, over to the plane, up the stairs. Everyone ducks to get in but me. I love being short.
EMB-145 is the plane type. Two seats on one side and one on the other.
As we taxi, Shammeeza is asking me questions about hypnotherapy. I think she is keeping me busy and I appreciate the kindness. It helps. I talk until the wheels leave the Earth and I can no longer speak. We lift off and the plane lurches up and up and up steeply.
It is a two hour flight. We talk the entire time about the trip, our disappointment in our country, where we might go, how teaching is not valued and then we are told we are about to run into turbulence. The plane bumps and I can see what is coming as I look out the window and all there is to the sky is an undifferentiated whiteness.
I am now regretting lunch as well.
I apologize in advance. I am nervous. If the plane drops or lurches, I say, I’ll probably grab you. I’ll find your hand, your leg. I tell her it is nothing personal and, out of reflex, I’d probably grab whoever was next to me regardless of gender, size or species.
The plane spends a half hour bumping up and down. I was on a rollercoaster once – just once – and this was very much like that ride. It jutted up, dropped how far down I can’t know, shoved abruptly from side to side and all the while, we’re fighting feeling ill. The plane suddenly shifts and I can’t tell if it is up or down but it is a shock and I grab her leg, or her hand or… how many times I don’t remember.
Later on I’m told she had done the same. We were both nervous enough, who can tell.
Another of our group says, smiling, she’s telling my wife. “Not before I do,” is my response. “This is all part of the story.”
We land still in turbulence. I’d kiss the ground but, who knows what has been on it. Just as long as I’m on it too.
Driving back home, we listen to Busman’s Holiday from Orlando to Melbourne, singing, feeling a bit as we did the night prior on the busy street, feeling alive with music. In Melbourne, we exit the car, grab our bags, no one leaves.
Everyone goes inside to use the bathroom, wait for a ride, keep the connection. Nearly everyone. I stay without. It is raining, unusually cool for the last day of June, the grass has just been cut, shoes would have to come off, I’m tired, reason, reason, reason. In fact I am keeping distance. In fact, I wish to go home.
Shammeeza exits and we leave. We listen to The Indigo Girls and discuss where we might find dinner. Lee is working and so there is no one home to feed. Rocky’s? Closed early. No matter. I thank her, as I drop her off at home, for making this trip the opposite of everything I had feared it would be. As I lift her luggage out, I know I have an ally this year at school.
I think of Austin as I drive toward the ocean. Had I visited before, I’d have thought about it as a place to live. How comfortable it was.
When one belongs no-place, visiting is hard. When one feels comfortable, one feels doubts. I make my home by where my family is. We have settled where it was best. We have work, friends, family. But my internal landscape is bare. I smell lilacs in the summer where there are none growing, feel hills where none are seen. My feet always feel a stranger. My landscape consists of time but not space, is temporal, temporary.
I am now to get re-acquainted with Palm Bay. I will compare. Ultimately, who can tell?
And so I do what is comfortable. My sweetie will soon be home. What would she like for dinner? I remove a knife from the block, the cutting board from the wall. An onion from the refrigerator. I begin to cook.
Austin City’s Limits Day Four
I made a discovery today. South Congress and 4th Street. In a small Mexican café, Las Manitas, at seven am, I discovered tacos actually are eaten for breakfast and are not a creation of the frozen/fast food industry. Go figure! It was great, filling, healthy and inexpensive. Egg, cheese, lettuce, and a patio.
It looks to be a small place and I stepped in on my way to the convention center the day before. I had consumed nothing more than a can of V8. Others say they could have had a V8 but there are times I fairly live on them. I walked by at 7:15 and it was half full. I stepped in to find quick, small, dark-haired waitresses, a scent that told me I could have done better than V8 and, upon picking up a menu from a yet-to-be-bussed table, prices that told me my vegetable juice was not the bargain I had thought. One does not buy from a hotel gift-shop expecting a bargain. I told the ladies about this during lunch. They had breakfasted on overpriced Starbucks coffee and muffins and we decided Las Manitas would be tomorrow’s first stop.
There is a before-bed discussion about the time to meet. Bus-ladies say it is a five minute walk. Someone other than me responds that it would not take that long even on hands and knees and when the ladies trade barbs I back up. Bus-ladies win because it is easier and we agree to meet at five minutes to seven to be there as they open.
The day started at six as I went out to stand over the Congress Ave Bridge crossing the Colorado to watch the bats and the sun return.
Every day the sun rises and part of me thinks it’s a new sun each day. Each day a new day, a new sun and a new chance to start over. It also seems, despite the sun’s slow arc across the sky, the sun in Florida may not be the sun here and, so, I rose to watch a new sun start a new day.
And the bats slowly flitted home to sleep, nestle and hang under the bridge and await a new dusk.
It is five to seven the next morning when I arrive in the lobby to see Shammeeza and Judy waiting for me. No bus-ladies. They called and said they’d be late. They’d meet us. We walk to Las Manitas and arrive just as the doors have been opened. Entering, we are ushered though the room to the kitchen. We stop and the waitress motions for us to keep walking. Perhaps this is a do-it-yourself café?
We walk through the narrow kitchen into a lush courtyard with leaf and flower everywhere, benches, tables and laughter.
Coffee is brought, tacos chosen food comes and the bu-ladies follow. Their food arrives as we are ready to leave and I walk out full, happy, with coffee renewed in a to-go cup and I have spent five dollars including a healthy tip.
My cup of coffee in hand, a bottle of sugarfree mountain dew in my backpack (from the hotel store) and I was ready for the second half of my walk to the conference.
For lunch we headed North to the Red River District. We want pizza. No such luck and find pizza places closed that open only at night. But, we found a coffeehouse and sandwiches where I could have espresso and a vegetable sub. No complaints. Time spent in the Red River District is worth the walk. A new sugarfree mountain dew in my backpack and I headed off again to the conference, me and my buddies but, wait… what is that?
I see stairs heading down and hear the quiet murmur of water. I run down the stairs, backpack on and to the sound of Shammeeza exclaiming “That’s why I love him. He’s ten again.”
Down the steps, there are, in the river, platforms to skip across and I do, of course, and, in the river, a bed.
A creek, really; Waller Creek. It is a creek winding its way under arches, between steps, though alleys – all the way looking at first glance to be filled with brilliant billowing foam.
On a second look, it is white stone, seemingly bubbled and convoluted. I imagine, in times of rain, this is underwater but Austin has over 300 sunny days a year and today is no exception. Today, it seems solid stone foam is suddenly formed; petrified suds. In it, set central, a bed.
Seems like a place for a walk and how far can I walk, in the creek, strolling upon the foam? The answer is quite a ways. But first, a lie down in bed, in the creek, in Austin in the early afternoon.
Then to head back to the conference, stopping at stores along the way – music stores, hat shops, Mexican art galleries – and purchasing what I have been all week; not a blessed thing.
The afternoon comes and we explore. The sour member of our troop is left at the hotel and we are off. Art Galleries, shops, over the First Ave. Bridge to enjoy the creative stenciled graffiti. Dinner of Moroccan food and mint tea, vegetables and couscous.
Our waiter is tall, thin, slow and altogether reminding me far too much of a Looney Toons character. He is nice enough but seems to be lacking an essential ingredient and I suggest he must be a son of the owner. He brings the ladies their appetizers. Mine he forgets. We renew our singing of “Mr. Cellophane.”
He forgets one thing after another. He faces away watching TV. It isn’t been the World Cup, which I could understand. It is prime time TV and he cannot see us.
Couscous, lamb, pita, vegetables. Do I want desert? He asks me specifically. Is the Halva fresh? No, it comes from a small plastic-wrapped package like from he grocery store. I answer no and he walks away to bring us the bill ten minutes later.
I follow, explaining a lady did desire desert and I did not suggest I spoke for her. Is the baklava made here? No. Is it store-bought? No, it comes from a bakery a block away. One baklava please. Four cups of mint tea.
We pay our bill. My tip is a note stating “Slow and steady wins the race.”
And, now, back to our walk.
The Driskill Hotel is a glorious edifice of an era which is fast going away to be replaced with the expedient. But then money can buy patience if it pays well enough. People staying at The Driskill can afford it.
Elegant, appointed, dense with art, alight with the recollection of how things once were, one can go from Edwardian comfort on a setee on the veranda to cowskin, soft and furred, in the Piano bar.
We found some unlocked doors, as I am want to do, and discovered some private club rooms, banquet rooms filled with lemon towers awaiting tomorrow’s well-heeled guests, libraries and ornate landings.
I played, by request, Rhett Butler at the bottom of a carpeted, wide staircase to the wafting decent of Scarlet O’Hara, played by Judy, now transformed into a Nubian Queen. An audience gathered and suddenly, every lady was Scarlet.
We wandered the guest floors singing “Money” by Pink Floyd, “Money” by The Beatles and “Money” from Cabaret in four-part harmony. From the Piano bar we heard “Hey Big Spender” as the patrons played stump the pianist.
We wandered up the road further after exiting The Driskill and relieving their cafe of a bit of chocolate cake; small triangular pieces arranged on a plate by the café door. Up the road, we found The Iron Cactus and a band in front playing an array of strange instruments and a few not so strange. Busman’s Holiday was the name the four lads went by, ages sixteen through twenty-one, from Bloomington, on tour and a night off, and we stayed and sang with them for nearly an hour.
I purchased a CD for three dollars, turned around a few minutes later and tossed in another seven, exchanging the five song CD with the full collection. Pass it on, they tell us. Copy it, put it on the Internet. Anything so people hear us. I agree.
Music was everywhere, the streets were crowded with people, musicians, peddlers. It was 10:30.
I purchased another CD from them, the one I had just given back and, as the second set ended, we moved on full of song again.
Up the stairs to Maggy Mae’s for a rooftop view of Sixth Street. Down again, hearing all the bands from on high blend into one sound of the late night street with the cars, bikes, radios, laughter.
We were told to go the Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar and we did, as it was next door. “Bring your out-of-town guests to Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar to embarrass them” the ads said. Inside was a crowd which made movement, once we settled near the stage, impossible.
“Joy to the World” was being sung, pianos high on the stage beside us, and the crowd was being taught rather off-coulor hand gestures for the words. This is new territory for me.
It was a bridal shower crowding the bar and, as the bride was brought on stage to sing and be gestured over, the massed ladies became restless for the few males in the crowd. My male butt was save by the presence of The Nubian Queen and the Indian Princess, Judith and Shemeeza. One cannot say I don’t travel in style and good company.
Once out, I told them I had not intended on letting my co-workers get to know me quite this well.
On to the hotel. It is late and there is packing to do. We sang “On the Street where you live.” “I have often walked/on this street before.” Several times a day this week, as a matter of fact.
“When I fall in Love,” “Mona Lisa” and the Nubian Queen and I in “Unforgettable” which we sang in harmony as we entered the hotel grounds in a way, I imagined, that paid tribute to Cole. The doorman held his ears, then the door, closed, laughing. We pointed out the sign that said, “Radisson: Express Yourself” and he opened the door. We were just following the directions, after all.
He asked where we’d been drinking and I told him about the mint tea and he looked unbelieving.
“Were you singing earlier with the cashier in the giftshop?”
“Yes, I was.”
And I’m still singing now, even as I type these last lines.
Tomorrow, breakfast, out by seven, conference and out by ten (leaving early) and heading back to the airport.
Austin City’s Limits Day Two
22,206 steps today. Not bad considering eight hours of that was spent in a conference room, under florescent lights, in the cold, stagnant air. I could not wait to get outside!Tomorrow they have a luncheon set for us. That worries me as I’ll be inside with no place to get food and rather captive so I do fervently hope there is food I feel I can eat. I haven’t the will power to go hungry. I might have the ability to eat only small amounts if I have enough breakfast. I so dislike orchestrated mass meals.I could find no place for breakfast other than Fridays Buffet (nope, especially at THAT price) and Starbucks. I opted for one of the Uncle Sam’s bars I brought with me and a box of raisins. The morning session ended and I received an instant phone call from Judy, the Gifted Social Studies Teacher, wanting to make sure I did not get lost and would be able to meet them in an obvious place. Actually, I received several calls from her. We met, though I was planning on finding my own way. I suggested a Mongolian Grill I found during my walk there from the hotel this morning. It is a four block walk I made sure I mapped out for myself the day before so I could find my way without taking the bus provided. A bus? For an able person to walk four blocks? A crowded bus one must wait for and wait in? Yesterday I beat the bus’s time, at a leisurely walk, by five minutes.
The Mongolian Grill, and that was its name, was one block away. It was better than finding a place far a field. It was six dollars and easy to get to. We had an hour and a half to eat. A good lunch time except if you are one of five thousand people in a small area all looking for food.
Everyone thought it was great once I and Shemmeeza explained it was mostly vegetables and one could make it as bland as one liked as two of our party will not eat anything ‘ethnic.’ We hurried over.
It was next door to a place called “The Cock Pit” – the logo, a three-blade propeller with each word printed on a blade. Is it a bar for pilots? A fellow exits as we approach the grill and I gather it is not a place for pilots, specifically, unless one was a member of The Village People, and I won’t be going there for any reason I can see.
We entered quickly to stand in line and it was quite a wait but, finally, we snaked our way to the food bar. Taking here and there, piling food on my plate and, somehow, feeling the eyes of the African Amazon behind me, looking down over my head. I wondered how tall she was. Nearly seen feet?
We needed a table. Is it too late as the place fills up with more patrons? Next thing I know my backpack is taken from me and placed at a long table, well within sight, along with another backpack, a large purse and a tote-bag given to one of the participants in our group. It says, AVID, Two Decades of Collage Dreams. I wonder if AVID includes spelling lessons. Or perhaps the person who made it really does dream of collages. I like collages, myself. But what it has to do with our conference…?
Judy is responsible for wresting of may backpack. It is a green Jansport I rolled up and placed in my satchel. I arrived with my laptop backpack with my poetry and some other electronics hanging from my shoulders and my satchel, nearly fifty years old, thick brown smooth leather and a strap none the worse for having gotten caught in the conveyor at the Austin Airport baggage carousel. It is sturdy and easy to recognize. Both important when one are clumsy and nearsighted.
The Jansport is used now, filled with the booklets, papers and materials given to use as I know my laptop will be of no use in the conference. I have left that in the hotel room where I get a wireless Internet signal, regardless of the supposed inability to receive such on the eleventh floor and the Radisson’s desire to have me hook in via phone line for ten dollars a day. I decided to leave it the day before when I discovered how heavy it was. Actually, I walked all through Milwaukee with the laptop in my pack. I did not want to do that again without reason.
Sunday, when we arrived, as check-in was not for two hours, we needed to carry them around with us as the concierge told us he could hold our luggage, give us tickets for them, but was not allowed to hold laptops.
Judy looked tired and I saw no need in us both dragging heavy packs. So I offered to put hers in my pack as well. Thus was the first time of many Judy professed “I love this man.” Just for a laptop? Has no-one been nice to her before? Today, we traveled much more lightly.
We had our massive piles of vegetables and small frozen thin coins of meat. We stood in front of the massive battery of sauces and looked at the recipe board telling us how to make different curies, marsalas, sauces of many types, by taking one ladle of this, two of that, a half of that from the various recessed stainless steel containers making up the four long rows of pungent liquids. Pour it all on.
It all gets cooked on a flat griddle, round, four feet across, with six meals being stir-fried at a time by two people using long, flat blades to move and separate the hills of food. It was masterful. Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables with any sauce I wanted. Excellent, especially for six bucks!
We eat together and talk pleasantly. I am getting along with these people despite myself.
Later, I felt ill.
Back to conference. Lunch is still weighing heavily both up and down. I wonder what could have been in it to do this. It must have been something in the sauce. No matter and too late. The conference ends a bit after four pm. We all go to the bus and I decide it’s too long, too crowded and too silly. I walk and arrive well before the gang. I went for a walk and a lie-down on the forty-five degree angled grass behind the hotel looking up at the sky and Congress Ave Bridge. Then dinner. I receive another call.
These gals I’m here with are trying to take care of me. I don’t want to upset them by ditching them and grabbing a bit of fruit somewhere so I went with them. A Columbian place with nothing I wanted. I settled for chicken potato soup and an arepa. I figure I’m under-fed today having had an oatmeal bar, a small box of raisins and vegetables I had given much of back prematurely. But I’m saving some caloric intake.
I am planning on going to Stubbs tomorrow for Bar-B-Que, then a walk to the Capitol (Largest Capitol building outside of Washington DC) and then on to the University of Texas campus and a singer/songwriter club up there called The Hole in the Wall.
None of us drink and I’m delighted with that.
Tonight we were back to see the bats but earlier this time. It seems one pastime is to watch the bats (Largest Urban Bat Colony in existence) and the other is to walk/drive/bike by and make derisive comments about the people watching the bats. Rather amusing.
Undeniably incredible to see them flood out from under the bridge making flowing black streaks in the dusking sky. Then we walked he short trail to he observatory space under the bridge to see them from a new angle. It is hard to get close for all the people. Bataphernalia is being sold: glowing necklaces, bat pendants, people wearing batty clothing. Amazing.
Then on to Sixth Street by a circuitous rout stopping by The Elephant room to listen to some Jazz. Under the stairs is The Elephant Room, dark and narrow and full of sound. It makes two of our party nervous and we leave after barely a few minutes. Back from the subterranean to the urban.
So many places with live music, right next to each other, each louding out the one a door up ’till it’s hard to make one out from the other. But some we got into and the variety of music is staggering. And so crowded. So very busy. So impossibly full, and not one corporate entity around, not one mega-meal chain fast-food monstrosity.
Like Philly and NY, Austin has its areas, districts and each is cool in its own way, has its own things, style, flavour. The amount of culture and art here is incredible.
I could hope, with enough density, Melbourne could do this. The raw art and talent, the culture is there but just not the density needed so that it feeds itself and grows. It does not yet have the critical mass. I want a culture monster!
I am hungry. I was tempted by the dueling pizza parlors we pass on our return, but I was good. I’m rather hungry but being unconscious should take care of that. Soon. We head back into the hotel. It has been a long day. I have writing to do. Then sleep. I say goodnight. I have enjoyed my day. I have enjoyed my company.
Austin City’s Limits, Day One
I got into Austin today after getting up at 2:30 in the morning to make my flight. I have barely been to sleep. I have lost the information of where to go, the address and phone number. I do, however, remember the one other person I know is going. I think there are only three of us, though I find out there are five.
I look her name up on the Internet. I find a address and phone number and call. She lives less than a mile from me. One mile. I call and she is elated I live so close. She is elated and I am surprised, not at the distance but at her elation. She knows where to go and we decide I’ll pick her up and we’ll go on our way, to meet in North Melbourne and carpool to Orlando Airport.
I am on this trip with trepidation. How well do I allow my coworkers to get to know me? What can I say and what can I not. Schools are, an ex-stockbroker, now teacher, told me, far worse than any business for backstabbing and politics. Some with me on this trip, I am told, as strident evangelists and I need be aware. I have no problem there as long as I get to be me along the way and don’t have a difficult time at work when we return. I need be careful what I say, it would seem. Rumors, rumors.
After arriving, going to the hotel and finding lunch, there is a meeting this afternoon. They wanted us to have a meeting? HA! Well, they did. Anyway, it sure wasn’t productive.
Lunch we had together. I can see how this will be now, tied, together, a group defined by where we come from, where we teach. I will be sounding the next five days with these gals.
I had two incredible meals of food I’d never had before. Marisco’s for lunch. So I probably went a bit over what I’d normally do. Fish Tacos for lunch and I tell the Spanish speaking waitress, in English, I speak no English and need a German menu. She wonders what to do and tell me, in Spanish, she will see what she can do. She brings me water, lemon and salsa with chips.
For dinner we walk over the Congress Avenue Bridge to Riverside Drive and Threadgills’s in/or is it next to, a concert venue called The Armadillo. Inside there are pictures of Janis Joplin performing there, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, and, everywhere, Zappa. Threadgills has been here in Austin, says the sign, for 78 years. There are pictures of singers, recognized and not, covering most of the establishment. There is a stage inside and one out. A sign says not to forget to make reservations for the Sunday Gospel Sing and breakfast and to make them far in advance.
I ask what and sorts of food I can get there I can’t get anywhere else. The waiter has an accent that is light, fresh and delightful of the sort I have only heard in movies. He tells me the food, most of it, is excellent but nothing is of the sort one can’t get anywhere else. Music and atmosphere is the draw. But, he tells us, remember where we are, geographically and, therefore, keep in mind fish is not a specialty in Austin. I ask about catfish. He tells me it is gulf catfish and it is a long way from the gulf. I take the hint.
I see deep fried pickles on the appetizer menu. No, I will not be ordering these but I am curious. I’ve never seen such a thing. Why? How? Who comes up with these, I ask aloud. One of our group is from Texas and knows these well, though as slices, not spears.
I ask our waiter if we can have one, not an order but one. I say, even if it came off another plate, if it fell to the ground, just figure the five second rule or however long it laid there. I just want to try one. He laughs and says he’ll see what he can do. I believe him.
He comes back with a small plate, not more than a few minutes later, with one breaded, fried, pickle spear on it. I look at it, thank him, and slice it into five small pieces, handing them out by passing the plate. I take my own, apologizing that the only way to slice it was by actually holding it with my fingers, it being too small and delicate for the large forks.
I eat my bit, tasting of two things which seem not to go together. It is hot and delicate and tastes luxurious. A small bit is all I need and I do not dip it in the ranch dressing.
I have a plate of different vegetables for dinner, letting the waiter pick his favorites and he steers me right for all five. Texas yellow squash with habanero peppers and jack cheese, turnip greens, fried okra, green beans and cabbage. But, there was cheese and such so who knows what was hidden deep in the recesses of the small bowls. Honestly, sometime I do not trust what I don’t prepare. Yet, it was different and worth the experience.
So this evening I got some walking in. Seven miles. I spent time in the Colorado River and an hour with the worlds largest concentration of bats living in any man-made structure; the Congress Avenue Bridge Downtown Austin. So many people turn out to see them it was like a festival! Then an hour lost on the greenway system along the river through downtown at eleven at night. Getting lost in a strange city at night is FUN! Perhaps I should be wary, but all I can do is enjoy the air and novelty.
I walk toward Town Lake, a bulge in the Colorado, in the Auditorium Shores Park area. I see a way to walk up to the river and, step down. It is not a step to the river but, instead, a step in the river. It is slightly silty, not too cool. Comfortable. My shoes will dry.
All this was after the ladies I’m traveling with have gone to their rooms. Four ladies, two rooms. I lucked into my own room. If there was another guy going I’d have to share a room. I’d prefer not to. I’d not sleep well, worry, be up, be self-conscious. I mind less the prospect of sharing a room with a girl then a guy. I just don’t trust them.
Our Chorus teacher, Social Studies/Geography teacher, Seventh-Grade Gifted Social Studies teacher and the math teacher from the same team. I’m in the same team with them, but Eighth-Grade, though I have taught their kids as well in seminar and workshop classes of my own design. Next year, those will be my kids and I will include their kiddies again. I work with the last two ladies closely, one from former from Haiti and the later Guyana. That’s as much as I know. The first two ladies are religious. The second two? What can I say, how shall I act other than the norm for me? In most company, the norm for me is all that is required and more so. I tend toward the polite, the proprietous and, so I am told by my wife and others, charming. I disbelieve the last thinking myself a soicial klutz. At what distance do I keep them? How thick and high do I keep the wall?
They get hungry often. Amazing. Four young ladies always hungry. I know how to keep myself safe and I carry some boxes of raisins, some granola bars and, when they say it’s time to eat, I don’t stand in the way. BUT, they insist, anywhere we go, I like and be comfortable with. They told me it’s in thanks for putting up with them, carrying their stuff, and, as one of them put it, being the only straight ‘gentleman’ they know. A high compliment, that!
Wednesday night there is open poetry at one of the clubs/coffeehouses in the Red River district. I brought mine along. I always do. Apparently so did one of them, the Gifted Social Studies teacher. A point in common and I am surprised. How many people travel across the US and carry their poetry just in case? We’re going for sure!
It is one-fifteen in the morning Florida time and twelve-fifteen Austin time and right now I’m going for sleep. Twenty-two hours awake is enough. Twenty-two hours awake on two hours sleep is more than enough. After seven and a half miles, it’s WAY more than more than enough.