Foot Path

My longtime friend Pat is moving back home to Wisconsin this week. 16 years is a long time to know a guy and to live in one town. I was one of the reasons he moved here in 2002. But, citing the growing cost of living here, the lack of potential in this town, and his desire to move back to live near his family, he and his boyfriend Will are packing up and kicking up gravel in their wake.

I know my future isn’t in Austin, either. I just don’t know when or why I’d move, or where I’d move to. But occasionally I wonder about it, ponder on my wanderlust. If not here, then where?

Mostly, I think about what I’d miss. The food, mostly. Thundercloud, Ruby’s BBQ (now closed), East Side Pies. Among many others. But yeah. What else? My radio club? Sure. The cafes? Maybe (regardless of how much time I’ve spent inside them). The few personal friends I still see occasionally? Certainly.

Really, I’d miss the squandered potential of my 18 years here. I could have had and done and been so, so much here. All I’d have to do is fluff up my feathers and peacock along with every other dime-store DJ dotcom startup burner techie elite. Instead, I stuck to my muted integrity (somewhat) and got nowhere. It’s not necessarily that people are excluding me, they’re just not including me. I drive around and see places and things, and don’t see the people inside. I don’t call, don’t write, don’t visit. Finding my society means I have to actually look for them, because when I’m out of sight, I’m completely out of their mind.

One day I’ll have it figured out. Until then, my love for this town remains unrequited.

It’ll suck to know Pat’s not around when I need to say Hi, but it’s good knowing he’ll be in a less tenuous locale. Godspeed, Pat and Will.

Stumptown Thoughts

I’ve been asked to cobble together my thoughts on my trip to Portland, to give my impression on the city, the state, and its people. It’s taken me a while to digest and put it into words, because the city doesn’t exactly have a strong flavor. In my five days of taste-testing, there’s just no singular flavor note on the palate that I can mark down in my notebook.

If pressed to find something, it’s this: Portland is a city of abrasive contrasts. That’s the biggest takeaway I have.

From the lips, it’s warm and inviting; from the eyes, it’s paranoid of everyone it doesn’t recognize. The people there will smile and are friendly to the end of the transaction, but behind it is a distrust. You have to be there long enough, as a neighborhood resident, as a frequent customer, to be welcomed and embraced, to be pulled into a long conversation about nothing. Otherwise, you’re just some guy from the street. The homeless problem there is so bad, the housing situation is so exclusionary, that as a tourist, walking around with my black hoodie and black backpack, I felt the side glances, the silent judgments, from those wondering if I was a danger or if I was going to ask someone for weed or bus fare.

The city is caught up in the act of change, like a film scene of a man painfully turning into a werewolf. Once upon a time, it was a manufacturing and shipping town, but with the decline of those industries, Portland’s manual labor workforce is hungry and bored, and all the warehouses, grain silos, docks, railyards, are slowly being emptied out and taken over by land developers. That’s a universal story at this point, but it’s strongly marked there in Portland.

So you have all these areas that are decaying, oily, dirty, fenced off, disused, or otherwise vacated. Contrast that with the verdant beauty of the place; the constant humidity and frequent rainfall means the botanical landscape is always exploding with everything green and orange. It’s a fantastic place if you like forests, hills, mountains, streams, rivers. I wish I could’ve taken more pictures that captured just how beautiful the place is. But in the big middle of it all is this gentrifying grease pit of iron and brick.

I guess with all the paranoia, hope, helplessness, overcast skies, furious growth, middle-class delusions, and distrust in everyone and everything despite all evidence, the city of Portland is me. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I do know that I have no desire to move there. It would consume me before I could ever take it all in. My life here in Austin is just as cold and distant as anywhere else I’ve ever lived, but at least Austin has warm days to help me ignore all that.

I could move there, I guess, but why? I dunno. That’s why my vacation there was more an expedition. I needed to know what it was about, and my five days there showed me, at least on the surface, what was there and gave me a peek at what was underneath. I could be completely wrong; I could find the greatest friends and the most wonderful loves of my life in that weird bond of shared meteorological and financial hardships, but I won’t know without enduring at least a year and a day in its city limits.

And that opens up an existential question that I should ask myself daily.


sept-oct 1996

fear inside
no time
not friend
can’t send
rough closure
see you, see me
shake, hand, wave
for all of life
as far as I see
what’s new
what’s called
lied tonight and bawled
final page
final book
no redo
no back look
no time
sigh non
do run run
rising sun
number one
no see fun
but fear
unknown things
unknown homes
unknown means
nothing seems
vapor dreams
precious things
human beings
broken beams
hidden seams
he who deems
sigh I
cry I
dry eye
speed fast me
drive far I
work hard myself
sigh, broke, back
twig, snap, heal
to now
no more
far away
fear in
fear here
so close
so near
who me
I send
cold fallow heart
non end
e. passing day
new time away
sleep eat and pray
for tomorrow
for today
new firmament
now I relent
new passing things
getting settled dreams
so I believe
I was, so far behind
not me who’s now
but me ’til now
non currently
that is me
I move I say
from these today
but follow me
to atlantic sea
where I be
non fixed here now
on home ground
affixed to me
follow I no free
so move
move I there
shallow stare
demons non joy give me now
so fear I tread
’til I’m dead
that closure seems
just in my dreams

Movement and Noise

If you’ve not been following along in other forums, I have moved to a new apartment. Moved the furniture on Wednesday, and cleared the last things out the next day. My friends Jerry and Tam helped me with the bulk of all that, and I’m grateful for their help. Now I’m finally free of the tyranny of heavy footsteps above me and namecalling in the halls.

Because I didn’t give the required 30-day notice (since I seriously wanted to get the hell out as fast as possible), the landlady informed me that she would be keeping my entire deposit. If I would’ve known that, I would not have even bothered cleaning the damned place. I gave as much notice as I could, but since everything was moving so fast, I wanted to wait until I actually signed the new lease before I made my announcement. Can’t fault me for that, but otherwise everything happened fast and smooth. My deposit was $300, about half a month’s rent. I’m writing it off, but don’t consider it a total loss. It’s the price I’m paying for peace of mind. My stomach no longer churns and pings when I think about going to my apartment.

The new place is bigger than the old, plus I have a balcony and an outside storage closet. There’s a dining room attached to the living room that’s almost too small for my table, but perfectly sized for my music gear, so I’ll be setting up my studio there. Finally, my gear will be within sight and within mind, instead of being in my bedroom and an afterthought on my way to bed. It’s my hope that I’ll eventually be more productive in my music. I’ll also assume that the floors are a little thicker here, so I can relax and be comfortable with using my audio monitors instead of trying to mix through headphones to keep from angering the neighbors.

I managed to exchange a few greetings with the neighbors next door; nice couple, I assume. Seldom hear them. Haven’t met the neighbor downstairs, but I’ve heard she’s a professional or graduate student. She dresses well, so that’s something. I do hear her on occasion, mainly during the day. I assume she uses the weekends to clean and play some music while she does so. I could hear her stereo, but at least it was during the day. Heard her knocking around this morning, which kinda woke me up a little.

Honestly, I’ll just have to expect that when I live in apartments. There’s absolutely no way to get around hearing your neighbors knocking or slamming. Landlord says this is a quiet complex; that just means there’s little crime and everybody goes to sleep. Otherwise, it’s the internal noises of apartment living that are unavoidable.

Some noises, however, were unexpected, like the loud humming in my bedroom. The hum is from the A/C compressor which is mounted on the roof directly above my bedroom. At least I can control that noise…just don’t run the A/C when I go to bed. Thankfully, winter is coming up, so that’ll be easy enough to do. The neighbor’s A/C compressor, though, I can still hear it, but her compressor’s over my bathroom, so it’s not as loud.

In the evening, around sunset, some of the trees near the complex get crowded by screaming birds as they do their daily quorum. There’s also a family of parrots that live in the cellphone tower just outside my apartment, so I hear them cawwing at times.

My balcony also overlooks the back parking lot of a busy restaurant. Car alarms and door slams.

One of my neighbors is, apparently, a professional bongo player. Haven’t heard him practice yet.

About once a night a trash truck will come around and bang around one of the many, many dumpsters that are in front of the many, many businesses along my street.

It sounds like I’m in for a bad time, but I guess as long as I expect it and learn how to take it like a man, I’ll be fine. At least I don’t have the shitheads in #214 stomping, slamming, and being otherwise intentionally abusive with their noise.

Offline and Out

So the apartment saga grows more absurd. I’ve been without an Internet connection since Thursday because of the actions of idiots. There is a small construction crew doing work on the apartment complex; they’re rebuilding the supports for all the upper-floor walkways, replacing the rotting wooden vertical beams with steel. Fine, I say.

But Thursday, I noticed that my ssh connection to my house had gone dead. Nothing I could do from work would bring it back. OK, I thought. So after I finally get home, I take a look. The power to the apartment is on; it didn’t burn in a fire; the server was running and was responsive; but the cable modem was offline. So I log into the cable modem, the signal level was low enough that it basically said “Hey, I’m physically disconnected.” So I grab my flashlight and look outside, tracing the cable line as far as I can. Didn’t take long before I found the problem: the construction crew intentionally cut my cable line. They cut a lot of people’s lines. Intentionally.

So I called Time Warner and let them know what was going on; they’ll send me a tech to service the line, but the soonest he can come out is — get this — Sunday. Three days without Internet at my apartment. I had a nice little chat with the landlady about it the next morning. She basically covered for their stupid asses and made excuses. Blowing smoke, basically. “Oh, they had to do that, it was in the way…they’ll fix it today.” Like I trust welders to repair my telecommunications lines. By end of Friday, you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. They didn’t fix it. Why did she feel like it was necessary to lie like that?

At least I know I’m not the only one inconvenienced by the debacle. There were at least ten other lines cut. My only hope is that Time Warner will take notice and see fit to fine the apartment management for letting this happen, and that the management will pass the buck on to the contractors. It’s a damn good thing I’m moving out; this whole things just feels like a final “Fuck you, get out” sort of thing.

On a positive note, my lease application was accepted at the new place, and all I gotta do is sign the lease agreement, decide on a move-in date, and write a check. Can’t wait. Been slowly moving stuff out of my apartment and into the storage. Now that I’ve gotten a lot of stuff trashed, given away, or stashed in the storage unit, the amount of stuff I have doesn’t seem so unbearable.