Hungry Like the “e” in Time

In the last two hours of my day, I finally come home and sit down in my apartment, looking at all the trap around me: the projects unfinished; the media unconsumed; the radios unpowered; the music gear untouched. And I wonder what to do tonight to make it alright.

But there’s only these two hours left until I have to retire.

Where did the rest of my evening go? Why home so late? Worked late. Then Epoch. Then Workhorse. Then a walk. Then an errand on the way home. Same program nightly. And now here I am, doing less and less with my time, doing fewer things that have durability, impact, and worth. My works are crowded out.

By what? By being Out There in the World, trying to find my people, trying to figure out what works, trying to fill my life with meaning. That comes from connecting with people. All my hobbies and passions spring from one unquenchable thirst — to reach out, to belong, to be full. And yet there are fewer fulfilling connections in my life, fewer people overall in my own little world.

At the end of the night, I travel home, spent, to stare at my stuff and wonder where it all went awry. Now there’s no time left to put myself into my pursuits and speak through them to amplify my reach. Nothing left but these two hours. Nights are now empty Calories, sweet but inducing hunger.

Olfactory Refractory

photo of Texas Ash, Fraxinus Albicans

Texas Ash. Fraxinus albicans. There’s something about this time of year in Austin where night walks are amazing. It’s the smells, the scents, the warm, muggy breezes that carry the quixotic chemistry of life to light up my olfactory bulb, to excite my hippocampus, to carry me calmly into my strolling heaven.

It’s more than the smell of newly cut grass in this central-Austin neighborhood. It’s more than the rosebuds and tiny little chirps of night birds, the exhaust of clothes dryer vents, or fragrant honeysuckle and the weeds in the creek. It’s the Texas Ash. To be walking downwind, where it’s there and then it’s gone. It’s the hunt to get back into the thick of it, to find it again. The sudden awareness of now. Texas ash. There’s something in that flowering scent, a note of latex, a long yawn of the soul, a pungent aphrodisiac. Texas ash.

I swear, if I had land, I would plant a grove of these. When I think of moving away, I only need to smell Texas ash, and I know I’m home. This is as close as you’ll hear me rhapsodize this state, but the region gives some convincing apologies.

Transit

Ultimately, all technological systems are mediums for human systems. As much as I love computers, networking, radio, etc., I still have to wrestle with the human factor. People are why those things exist. I can study and focus and fixate on the tech, but the tech is completely, irrevocably, in service of human communications. I have to answer to other people.

At the lowest level, closest to the silicon, we all need to be a little bit of Bryce, but even Bryce knows that he has to make deals with the people who ask a lot of him. My job, my hobbies, my relationships ask lots of things of me, and I have to arbitrate expectations and deliverables. I have to be a human.

Please excuse me if I don’t look you in the eye; I’m working through some things and hope to return to humanity soon. Hope you understand.

Fourty-Six and Two

Started my birthday on a conference call, waiting to unplug a rack of servers and move them to another corner of town. Four hours later, the project was a success. Wrapped up the event by driving a pair of customers to their hotel, dropping off a coworker at the office, and heading home to consume the last inch of my bottle of vodka.

Four hours later, I woke up again. Circadian rhythm can’t be beat. Made breakfast, cleared the cobwebs, put on some Tool, Sepultura, King’s X, whatever. Far cry from the electronica of late. Shaved, showered, found clean clothes. Went out.

10-meter Net went up at 3; band was noisy due to contesting. Station in central America was sitting on the net’s usual frequency, so there was a lot of interference. Still managed to log 10 stations in the Austin area, which is usual. Not bad.

Spent some time up on the parking garage to try out the 2-meter flexible J-Pole antenna I built Friday night. The damn thing works well. With my handie-talkie I was able to reach a repeater in Georgetown (30 miles north) on 7 Watts. Scratchy, but readable. That’s a massive success. Punched in my new amplifier and was Full Quieting. This makes me happy.

Reached a repeater in Marble Falls / Dripping Springs to the southwest with the amp and J-pole. Either nobody was on frequency or I was too noisy to read, so no signal report. Anyway, the repeater itself responded with its station ID and squelch tail, so I know I got in.

Bummed around, took myself out to Ramen Tatsu-Ya for a solo meal. Terrible line and noisy joint with zero personal space. Food was good, but everything around it was not what I needed that day. My birthdays are usually spent alone; space and solitude are the best gift. I blame the over-the-top birthday parties of my childhood. Now I’d rather just be left alone. For once, Austin denies solitude when I actually want it.

However, my buddy Doug did take me up the street to Workhorse for a beer, gratis. We had a decent time hanging with other Epochians on the back patio. I spied a lady sitting along the wall alone with a book, something from Vonnegut. I thought I was the only one who read in bars; glad to know there’s still others.

Got home tired and bleary-eyed. Lack of sleep keeps me mute sometimes (today especially so). Otherwise, it was an OK day. 46 is going to be more fresh Hell. Here’s hoping it’s not that terrible.

The Spaces Between

I have so many mixed feelings about SXSW this year. I had a good time; went out every night of the music festival portion, actually saw stuff. Didn’t take a usual night or two off because of “con crud” or fatigue — I just needed to get the fuck out and do things, see things. Find novelty. Seek out serendipity. Played each night by ear and generally landed on solidly entertaining path.

It was ultimately very satisfying to get out of my usual rut. Went a whole week without stepping foot inside Epoch Coffee, which is a stretch for me. Just no time, and it’s the last place I’d want to go to spend my post-show afterglow. Trying to explain what I’d seen and experienced to random acquaintances who had no common ground would just kill it. And I think my life was made better for that decision. Fresh air. Different views. A kick in the pants. I can go places that aren’t The Default. Y’know? I needed that.

There’s more to life than work, cafe, and home. So much more. JFC why have I wasted so much of my life in that triangle of locations? It’s a vortex of suck. This year’s south-by just reminded me that The Bigger World can be had right here. Austin’s a big town if you’re on foot and walk slowly enough to pay attention to the spaces in between the traffic lights.

I saw some of the most random, serendipitous stuff all the way through to the most insane. Saw Todd Lewis of The Toadies do a solo acoustic set across the street from my office. Saw Marie Davidson and her husband Pierre Guerineau perform as Essaie Pas. Discovered new bands like Boy Harsher, Automelodi, I Am Snow Angel, Emme, Museless, Sloppy Jane, Champagne Superchillin’, and so on. I have more than enough to try out and explore for months.

I spent most of the evenings on my own. Saturday night, I hung out with my buddy Doug and we had a blast. But most other nights, it was lonesome to experience these shows and have nobody to compare notes with. But whatever. My life is usually solo anyway. Turns out my calls out for companions on social media and chat were just wasted energy, wasted time. Pissing in the ocean hoping to raise the tide. Most of my friends either didn’t respond, or responded to the negative that they’d have nothing to do with the festival. Instead, I should’ve just spent that energy asking specific people directly. That’s what real adults do, y’know? Half drunk, fully lonesome, I wrote a thing between shows Friday night:

Instead of calling out into the void
I should have been calling out to you
The emptiness is echoed
The other is true

I’ve wasted so much time and effort. So much. I needed this week. With all the other shit going wrong or failing stupidly in my life and job and my social circles, I needed this. Maybe next year I’ll go back to hating on SXSW like all my fellow townies, but for now, I’m fatigued yet rested.