Current mood: sullen

Not ready to return to work after a week off. Spent the time with family, so it resembled a vacation but also didn’t.

Oh well. I’m back in Austin, returned to all the aggravations I left last Tuesday. Took only a handful of hours to remember how it feels to have an army of anonymous drones getting in my way at every turn.

Oh well. Fuck Austin.

Vowel Movements and Consonation

Went to Texarkana last weekend to visit the family. Had 4 days off and needed to get out of Austin for a few. Started bellyaching on the way up, and eventually went to the ER – docs don’t know what it is, just gave me some pills and a bill. Spent the rest of the time hanging out with the mom, watching TV, refreshing Facebook. Spent some time upgrading her computer to the latest version of Ubuntu so she would still get security updates. Met with the sister, the nephew, and one of the nieces. Overall, it was a vanilla time, the kind of vanilla I needed, health notwithstanding. Now spending my work week convalescing back in Austin.

I’ve been invited to submit an original story for a friend’s Halloween story anthology. It’s a first for him, and he’s opened the invite to a select group of staff, former staff, and regulars of Epoch Coffee. When I was driving home from Texarkana, I was considering some stories, plots, and ideas. Things are flowing, at least on the back-end mythos behind the actual story. The problem now is follow-through and execution of the writing. I have a basic skeleton mapped out — it’s a space horror ghost story — and I have a handful of characters, ships, planets, legends, etc., but the mood, the tone, the writing…I think I need to work on that. More to come as it develops.

Simple Kind of Man

Back home from my holiday retreat to Texarkana. Got to see the family. We had a rather non-traditional holiday feast. I grilled fajitas, and it was awesome. Steak and chicken fajitas with the onions and bell peppers, skewered some veggie kabobs with zucchini, tomatoes, and pineapple (yes, I know tomatoes and pineapple are fruits). We also had Spanish rice, refried beans, all the toppings, chips & salsa, and fudge pie for dessert. The house smelled like a Mexican restaurant. So good.

If you’re interested, I can give you the recipe for the marinade I used; you could still taste its citrusy spicy goodness on the meat even after grilling.

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to unwind from the unwinding and spend the last two days of “freedom” before I have to return to work on Monday. Sucks that I have a family holiday in the middle of a week of paid vacation; it’s like three three-day weekends in a row, and each weekend has its own flavor. The first weekend is frustration, the second is exhaustion, and the third hasn’t happened yet.

I took the opportunity Wednesday night to go driving around Texarkana. Instead of driving around to ogle the construction and the new churches that are sprouting up all over the place like pimples, I decided to take my wheels to the far north end of the county to an old haunt of mine.

Oak Ridge Road is a lonely stretch of back road north of Wamba, just off of FM559, where my friends and I in ’96 would hang out with smokes and beers and nothing around us but fields, empty roads, and the stars above. So damned peaceful out there that it’s my place to go for contemplation. It’s a sacred place. And so on occasion I have to go back, to pull the car to the side of the road, get out, gaze at the stars, the moon, the constellations; to feel the cold breeze; to breathe the crystallized air; to be alone with nothing around me but the rolled hay bales standing out in the fields like grazing cattle keeping silent vigil.

Try as I might, I can’t think of a single place here in Austin that I consider sacred. I’m sure there’s somewhere, but nothing comes to mind. I could easily say Epoch, but this place isn’t sacred. It’s just a hangout where, sometimes, someone will hang out with me. Not very sacred. I could say Pease Park since I like walking there, but it’s not really a nightime hangout (well, not for me, anyway). There’s the overlook on Castle Hill, but it’s off limits. The boat ramp on west Lake Austin Blvd is OK, but it’s not quiet, private, or cop-free.

I guess most of my “sacred places” are not really destinations, but journeys, neighborhoods to drive through. All the rich neighborhoods to the west of MoPac, along Exposition. The hills south of the river, along Westlake Drive. West 6th and West Lynn. Those are fun because of the hills and curves, and they afford me the opportunity to turn off and be contemplative, but there’s just nowhere I can sit, watch, observe, turn off and feel. I just don’t feel too welcome anywhere; it’s the problem of urban density, where every property has trespassing rules, where sitting too long is considered loitering. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder for the security guard on his golf cart coming to chase me off. That’s what I hate about this town.

In 2000, just days before I moved away from Texarkana for good, I made it a point to visit my field on Oak Ridge Rd. for one last bit of closure. It was just after sunset, the stars were coming out, and I sat on my trunk while the radio played. As I reflected on my impending life change, the radio belted out the opening strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”, and after all the times I’ve sat through that song waiting on it to be over, it struck a chord with me that night. No matter how my life was about to change, all I had to remember was to stay simple, and I can keep myself sane.

Nine years later, I’m still trying.

Going Home to Labor

For what it’s worth, I’m heading to Texarkana for the Labor Day weekend. 3-ish days of living la vida familia. I plan to do a lot of distracted hanging out while a TV is on, do a bunch of drowsy driving around town feeling bummed because everything has changed so much and nothing has changed and I’ve changed and my friends haven’t changed and so on. Also on the agenda is sitting at IHOP for burnt coffee and journal time. Hard couch.

Actually, I’d like to spend actual time with the family, like at my sister’s house with her kids, and my mother, and some pick-a-nick happenings. Maybe I’ll cook something. Dunno.

What I do know is that I have a few days to get ready for the trip. Car’s up and running, got new tires, alignment, got the SRS light issue figured out. Picked up some new music for the road. Got the laptop jukebox problem hammered out. Looks like I’m all set. Hopefully the drive will be smooth and problem-free. That’s the worst part about visiting because I spend 12 hours round-trip behind the wheel. Driving used to be fun, now it’s just a transport that can’t legally go fast enough.

Leave to Hello

So I’m getting ready to begin the start of my prepping for my departure to Texarkana tomorrow. I would already be all packed and loaded, but this coffee won’t drink itself. Besides, it’s my life, it’s my time.

Not really. It’s work, coffee, Ruby on Rails. Sleep. Rinse and repeat.

I really should’ve had this Ruby on Rails project finished long before now. It’s supposed to be simple with RoR. Shit simple. But I keep making it difficult. Keep adding stuff like “secure database queries” and “input validation”…and I’m not even started on the Posts models yet! One of these days, I’ll do a proper writeup of my RoR experiences, but there’s no time for that, what with my staring dumbfaced at code and drifting off to play minesweeper for 3 hours before bed.

I need a break. Really, I need a break. I guess part of my fascination with the latest U2 album is that the band sequestered themselves to a villa in Fez, Morocco while they wrote the album. It’s the idea of being someplace else for a while and finding my voice again that appeals to me. I don’t travel, and I typically don’t make plans to leave town for the weekend. So I end up being here, doing the same ol’, for months on end, with little variations in the pattern. It’s no wonder I’ve grown old and inflexible.

I feel like leaving for a while, but going to Texarkana this weekend for 48 hours will have to do, I guess. I won’t have the time, energy, or space to throw myself to the muses; trips home aren’t for that. Travel isn’t for me; that’s my feeling. Travel is for people who have accrued vacation time and have managerial approval to spend it. Travel is for the unemployed who have friends in distant cities. Travel is for people who don’t have to worry about supporting themselves or paying rent on a place to store their stuff. Working stiff contractors like me can’t travel. Time worked is time paid, and I am running broke.

Maybe I should just sell all my stuff and roam. Eh, I’m too old for that. At my age, that kind of behavior is just two steps away from being a homeless bum. I dunno, maybe it’ll be therapeutic, or maybe if I throw myself at the bottom hard enough I’ll bounce up higher than I am now. Maybe I actually flourish in the face of change. Who’s to know?