Off Day, On Day

I took today off. For working that late schedule last week, we were offered 8 hours comp time, and I took mine today. Mid-week was fine. I was actually busy today; a positive side benefit of having a day off during the week is that every place is open for business, busses run on a more frequent schedule, and lines are shorter since everybody else is at work. Win!

Got up this morning at 7:30, spontaneously (been doing that lately…I blame my back). Took a shower, got dressed, checked the web, and took my car to the dealership for a 9:00 appointment to get my timing belt, water pump, serpentine belts, and dry seals replaced. Handed over the keys, walked next door to Thunderbird Coffee. Had a bagel and a cup. Caught the glare of a mildly nutty woman who muttered constantly to herself; first thing I heard her say was “I’m not crazy” as I walked past. Good times.

There’s this one annoying band that apparently every barrista in this damn town loves to play during their shift. Peter Bjorn and John. Fuck those guys. Every god-damned time I hear the barristas play those earworms, I want to smash the tip jar. If I never hear another god-damned tune of theirs again, I’ll be happy. It’s like “PBJ” is this year’s Moldy Peaches. Stabby. So yeah, the barristas at Thunderbird played them, and after suffering that nonsense at my other usual joints, I finally researched and discovered who it was, and now I know the true name of the devil. Dammit.

I drown out the nonsense with an album by the Greek-born DJ Dousk. A few weeks back, I heard a chillout DJ mix on the Digitally Imported Chillout stream which included a few songs he wrote; I learned who he was and picked up his album “D.I.Y.” In my opinion, this guy is one of the best understated trance-ambient musicians and DJs this year. If this stuff came from Greece, I have to wonder what else is growing wild around Europe. With it queued up on my music player, this album eventually became the soundtrack to my day.

So, with a bagel and a cup in me, I put on my headphones and ambled up the road four blocks back to my apartment for some sittin’ down, chillout lunch time. My friend Josh posted a link to a 25-part series called Rail Away, highlighting tourism and travel by rail in several countries and what kind of sites and attractions you can see during your journey. I got a few of the episodes in over the course of the day, and now I have the wanderlust to travel Europe again. I cursed Josh for giving me that itch.

I answered that itch, somewhat, by leaving the house after lunch. Since I had no car and had the day off, I decided to hop the bus downtown. Discovered that the #5 Woodrow route goes from my front door to the downtown core; all this time, I assumed it bypassed downtown and went to Riverside. Who knew? Not I. Also discovered how handy the Capital Metro trip planner is; you give it endpoints, and it tells you the routes, transfers, and times to the next connection. Sooo much easier than looking at PDFs and timetables (wooble).

Took the bus downtown and hung out at the Hideout. It’d been a few weeks since I last went. Was nice to sit there in the window during daylight hours; you see all the suits, normals, junkies, and hotties strolling past. Daytime barrista was friendly, too. Got some pictures of one of the cow sculptures that have appeared around town; apparently it’s a citywide art installation called Cow Parade, and each cow is decorated by a different person and will be auctioned off for charity. Kinda like those 8-foot tall guitar sculptures, I guess.

While at the Hideout, I got a call from the service manager telling me my car was repaired and ready. Hopped the next bus back up. Stood in the 104°F heat for 20 minutes waiting on the return bus with the belly full of black coffee; ugh. But got back to the dealership, wrote the check ($$$), picked up my car, and headed back home. Watched more train videos.

After cooling my heals, I got hungry. Had dinner at Pho Thaison. Egg roll and #1 Pho. It was the best Pho I’ve had in weeks. So damn good, I actually had a mouth-gasm. Woah mama. If you haven’t been there, I suggest you go to the location on Anderson Lane. The best in town, in my opinion.

Had my after-dinner coffee at Epoch. Chatted with my cafe buddies Willie and Doug (decent folk, all). Sweat my ass off on the porch; since I don’t smoke anymore, I don’t much get any benefit from sitting out in the heat if nobody I know is there. So after they went off, I headed home, too.

But instead of home, I went driving, following the drifting winds like a rudderless boat. Ended up at Waterloo Records. Picked up “4×4=12” by Deadmau5, and then, related to some of our discussion at Epoch, got a pair of Neil Young albums: “Harvest Moon” (1992) and “Dead Man [soundtrack]” (1996). Also got a copy of “The Big Lebowski” and “Kingpin“, which I’ve been seeking for a while now. I have the “Dead Man” soundtrack playing now, and it has put a nice polish on this decent mood I’m in. Do yourself a favor and watch the movie, and you will appreciate the power of the soundtrack; some of Young’s finest work.

So here I am, busy yet rested. Got a glass of vodka on the rocks, “Dead Man” on the playlist, a fresh blog entry, a full belly, tired feet, maintained car, new experiences, a wanderlust, and a decent mood. All told, it’s been a good day.

Eeyore and I Have Something In Common

Today is being spent in recovery mode. I’m tired, sore, sunburned, blitzed. Yesterday was a big expense on me. It was…busy. Nothing of any lasting importance, mostly. Just a large expenditure of energy, and I’m not accustomed to that. Aside from a few bright spots, it feels more like a waste of energy.

I went to Eeyore’s Birthday.

I wanted to do it all up right, so I played the part of Joe Pedestrian. I opted to leave the car at home and catch the number 5 southbound from my apartment down to where it transfers to 338 southbound. Got to the park at 1pm. The busride home was an abject failure; sat in the sun for 40 minutes waiting on the 338 northbound, then when I got to the transfer point, I saw on the schedule that I’d have to wait another 25 minutes for the 5 northbound. Fuck that. Thirty minutes later, the number 5 whizzed past me as I was walking back home. Capmet inefficiency in action.

I only stayed at the festival for an hour and half. It’s not my scene anymore. I’m not sure it ever was. I saw three people I recognized, and not one of them was a friend of mine. There was the World’s Tallest Hippy, the dude who rides his bicycle wearing a thong on his ass and a fluffy cat on his shoulders (he was wearing shorts), and The Silver Man. I saw no one else that I knew, not even the people I expected to show up.

There was only one drum circle this year, and it was rather pale. Maybe I was there too early for it to really cook, but there it was: lame. No viceral throngs jumping and grinding. Just an open space where the few who felt like dancing threw themselves around among the four disorganized clumps of drummers getting drunk on their own rhythms and five-hundred onlookers standing there with their cameras held high.

Beating a drum does not make you a drummer.

It’s not quite the free-thinking and self-expression rite of spring that it used to be. It’s family-friendly now. Not so many people dressed up in costumes or flopping around toplessly or passing the douchie on the left-hand side. The festival seems to attract people (like me) who are there because it’s “uniquely Austin”, and that by going we can make a tenuous grasp at some slim claim on being “open minded” and so very bohemian.

It’s not my scene anymore. My season for free expression is over. I’m no longer a 20-something. I can’t look into a crowd like that and say, “ooh, fresh opportunity!” I don’t see the throngs as people I could potentially interact with; I see them as that which gets in my way. I’m thirty-something; I need some people I know there with me, not strangers. My opportunity comes from traversing the bonds I have with others, and since I went alone (my fault), and since I left alone (my fault), I can’t totally fault the festival for my poor experience. It’s just not my scene. So I vent here.

Perhaps Eeyore and I do have something in common: we hate being happy.

Bottom Out, Climb Up

I don’t like the direction I’m heading. At the present course, I’m due for a heart attack by 35. If even that late.

This month, I turn 33, and I am already feeling the touches of the “iron hand,” common among cardiovascular sufferers, on my heart. That’s the feeling of sections of my heart not getting enough oxygen due to constricted or clogged blood vessels. Sounds crazy, but it’s what I’m feeling. I remember when I had my radiological heart scan in October of 2003 that the cardiologists found absolutely nothing wrong and found only the normal flow in my heart’s blood supply. I got a clean bill of health. But things can change in a year and a half. Things can accumulate. Things can go south in a short amount of time.

I think it’s time I took care of what needs to be done: I need to have a complete physical. I’m at that age where it’s important to have one every year. There are way too many unknowns. What is my cholesterol level? What about my triglycerides? How can I lose this excess weight hanging on my abdomen, and how much should I lose? And what is with this heart murmur I have and the occasional arrhythmia? Maybe I’m being a tad bit too dramatic, but I live in fear of my heart. Every day. A physical can give me proper guidance.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel well at all. Woke up with my left arm tingling, and my right one was wanting to follow suit. It all started subsiding later in the day, but it was made apparent to me that I was treating my heart bad with all the caffeine I was drinking almost every night in the form of coffee. Recently, I have renewed an interest in, and a craving for, coffee and coffee drinks; love the stuff. But I have noticed the overstressed sensations, the iron hand, the aquatic breathing, the tingling — too much caffeine, too late in the day. Nighttime is the only time I drink coffee, and that’s not good for sleep; I don’t rest, my dreams are screwy, and I wake up with a hangover. That’s just not right.

Yesterday, I did something different. Instead of sitting around the house or driving to a coffeeshop, I decided to walk. Walked to Flightpath, which is in my neighborhood. Walking there isn’t foreign to me, have done it several times and found it enjoyable. But I got there and found there was almost no place to sit; it was way too crowded. So I concocted a plan: dig up the bus schedules, hop on the #7 and head down to near the college, get off, and walk up the hill to Spiderhouse, one of my other hangouts. I would then take the #1 home after spending time there with friends or laptop. And that’s what I did, and somewhat regretted.

Most of the walk from the bus to Spiderhouse was uphill, and I had my full backpack on. I’m not accustomed to that kind of exercise; my life is too sedentary to just “get up and walk” like that. It was a rough walk, but I handled it ok. My heart was beating hard, but I think it was thankful for the exercise. This morning I felt like hell, though. Shoulders were tense – not just shoulders, but shoulder sockets, from carrying the backpack across both shoulders. The hangover was pretty intense – I deprived myself of caffeine last night, and drank stuff with lots of water and sugar, but I was still depleted and spent. And then today I did a lot of work that involved picking up wide handfuls of paper to cut them down into smaller sizes. Shoulders still feel rough. And soon my legs, feet, and arms will, too.

In just the same way that I started realizing that smoking was slowly killing me and I made the commitment to quit smoking, I think it’s slowly dawning on me how badly I’m living with my bad diet, little exercise, and poor maintenance. There is a lot of stuff I need to relearn about feeding myself right, about paying attention to what I’m shoveling into my mouth. There’s a lot I need to make myself do to keep active. I grew up hating sports; I disdained all manner of competitive athletics, so for most of my life I’ve been relatively inert and sedentary (walking and bicycling were my only enjoyable activities). That sedentary bit won’t work anymore. I need to do something. It’s been said that doing only 30 minutes of an activity like walking daily can reduce serious health risks. Doesn’t take much. A friend of mine told me today that, according to his doctor, the baseline limit for what qualifies as an “active, non-sedentary lifestyle” requires no less than 10,000 footsteps a day. That’s a high number, if you ask me, but if it takes 100 steps to get from my car to my apartment door, I think it can be easily achieved by just DOING STUFF.

I think on the days where I don’t go to get my allergy shot before work or need to cash my paycheck during lunch I should walk to work. Hell, I live only 4 blocks from my job, and I’ve walked or ridden my bike there only 3 times. It needs to be a regular habit; I’d get my 30 minutes of walking taken care of at least 3 times a week, guaranteed. That requires discipline and drive, which I apparently lack. But it can be done. Please, wish me luck.