Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why I Love Austin - #1

The weather!

Today, the temperature once again surged beyond that impressive one hundred degree mark.

Today, there was a summer musical perfomed in the park as schedule.

Today there was an outdoor wedding at 7:00 p.m.

I love the weather in Austin. Even when the temperatures soar, we have outdoor events. The same holds true when the temperatures plunge into the frigid forties at the height of winter. We like to be outside and are willing to bear what many consider uncomfortable conditions.

"It's a dry heat."
Despite the complaints of some Austinites, the humidity is not bad in Austin. We sometimes reach 50% humidity. After growing up near the coast where we lived with 70+% humidity, I still have to use skin moisturizer at 50% humidity. The low relative humidity, coupled with a fairly steady breeze, makes for a comfortable evening when the sun is no longer beating down directly on you.

AC is optional much of the year.
It all depends on how much sweat you can stand or how many layers you are comfortable wearing, but one can get by with minimal air conditioning for probably six months out of the typical year. I enjoy having my home open with air flowing through. Because the temperature is so moderate and there is so often a nice breeze, one can really function without the AC cranked to any high or low. My goal annually is to make it from March to at least mid-May without turning the air conditioning on. It does not always happen, but for the majority of the time, the air conditioning can be turned on just long enough to cool down the house in the late afternoon.

Ice Stops the World.
On the rare occasion that winter actually comes to central Texas, we don't get snow or anything fun, we get ice. Fortunately, the city essentially stops when the lightest coating of ice falls. Certainly, it does not stop the adventurous (read foolish) people from getting out and attempting to navigate the hills. Ice comes about every three years, so we don't have it too often. It makes for a nice, unexpected day off.

The nice weather, makes possible several of my other favorite things to do in Austin.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And the Beat Goes On...Much Faster

After the Element, can you blame me?

For two days, I questioned my decision about buying a new car - even though the deal was absolutely unbeatable.

I don't question it anymore.

I'm hooked.

I like driving fast.

It's not quite done yet -- I still have to get the pin-stripes and window tinting done. I'm also having my satellite radio installed.

Life is pretty good right now.

The Phone Rings in the Middle of the Night...

A few weeks ago, my boss's boss insisted I give her boss - yes, that's my boss's boss's boss (don't you love bureaucracy)- my phone number because she (by boss's boss) was getting tired of getting calls at 5:00 a.m. from him (her boss) to ask me (her employee's employee) questions (of course in a bureaucracy it is the person at the lowest level who actually has an answer). She gave him permission to contact me directly (thus thwarting the inefficiency of bureaucracy and allowing herself an extra hour and one half of sleep). Since then, I have become accustomed to getting calls at strange hours - like the middle of dinner and during my morning workout because he (my boss's boss's boss) works late and gets up early.

So hearing the phone ring while I'm sound asleep, is really nothing shocking for me anymore, though it used to be (another story about my boss's boss calling).

Last night the phone range at about 12:30 (I didn't check the time until the caller asked what time it was).

I answered the phone with a sleepy, "Hello." and heard, "Answer the f***** phone." (keeping this family friendly and seeing just how many times I can insert a parenthetical comment in a single blog) in response, so I did the obvious and said, "Hello." again. To which I received the same, "Answer the f***** phone!" In my stupor, I again said, "Hello."

The scene was repeated a few more times (I think a single sentence paragraph is a parenthethical comment too...).

Finally, the party on the other end, began to speak. After a bit, he asked, "Do you know who this is?" I could only reply that I had no clue. He then told me his name, and in my sleepiness, it did not ring the tiniest bell...

...for a little while...

...until he identified that we had chatted online for years. He had told me earlier in the day that he was going to a party and would likely get rather intoxicated. So now I have an internet friend calling to chat while he is drunk and I'm sound asleep. Neither state promises much good communication(though my accelerated heart rate when my boss's boss's boss calls gets my mind to working rather quickly).

All in all the conversation was rather short. He was too worried about the girl coming in to drink his peachy drink and I was just thinking I wanted to get back in bed.

But I woke up with an idea. I was going to call him back at a time when I felt he would likely be sleeping and starting to feel the effects of a hangover. The phone ringing would be good to give his head a throb or two (I also wanted to check to make sure he had not died of alchohol poisoning). Fortunately all was well when I did call.

There is much more I could tell about the conversation, but I think I will hold that in reserve. M. is a person I consider a dear friend and someone who has the talent to become a superstar if he wishes. I'll save the rest of the phone call until his superstar status has him wealthy enough to pay me to keep from telling it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

All good things...

For the last three and a half years, I've had the most wonderful vehicle I could imagine. Sure, it's kind of funny looking and resembles a baby hummer; however, unlike the recent commercial for the H3, I picture my Element's parents being two full grown military type hummers, not some fusion of robot and monster.
It may look funny, but there are few things it could't do!
I never had the intention of buying an Element when I first drove one on a whim at the Honda dealership, but after running through the list of cars I was "really" interested in, I could only come back to the Element. I never could decide what to call it - a car, truck, suv. It could be any and all of them depending on whether I had the seats in or a trailer hitched on. If versatility is a virtue, then the car was a saint.
Unless some other truly spectacular vehicle comes along in a few years, I am certain I will have an Element again.

...I turn forty in a few months.

And the sports car bug bit me.

Yesterday the Element went to find a new home and I came home with my mid-life crisis car. I have not totally lost my mind. I probably have the most practical sports car out there - never mind that it's a 6-speed standard with a V-Tech engine....

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ronald and Me

There are places where fitness really have no place. Supersize Me clearly demonstrated that McDonalds food IS NOT good for you. Nevertheless, McDonalds is attempting to give itself a new image by changing the ever jovial baggy-suited clown, Ronald, into a buff example of clownishness by dressing him in a fitted jumpsuit and showing him being active. Surely a fit, well-dressed (relatively speaking) jester violates some clown code.

Despite all the cultural violations Ronald-the-stud creates, I personally am happy to see it. I’ve had a crush on Ronald as long as I can remember and now I can imagine just what it is I’m lusting. As a gay child in a small town in the 70’s there were no gay role models for me to emulate, but I remember hearing a news story about the actor who played Ronald McDonald being gay. Suddenly, I had someone to whom I could tie my emerging desires. It was tied by the narrowest thread, but since then, every time I’ve seen Ronald in a commercial or at a child’s birthday party, a thought has flashed across my mind: “You’re gay just like me.”

In the 70’s in south Texas that was a milestone. I was so insulated that I didn’t even know what begin gay meant, but I knew when I heard it, that somehow it applied to me. As I struggled with that identity it became so hard to be comfortable with myself in any form. I had some of the usually crushes on characters of the time – Luke Skywalker, Richie Cunningham, not Ponch, but Jon on C.H.iP.s, and Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, but with Ronald there was something special. Asking to go to McDonalds was expected, but being concerned about Jon’s well being after an episode when he wrecks the motorcycle was not quite the same. Holding onto any connection kept me living from day to day. Maybe Ronald was not much of a connection to the fantasy land of homosexuality, but it was enough.

It took me 33 years, but I finally was able to make the leap from small town to the fantasy land. And now a few years later, I find out I finally get to see Ronald’s form and maybe even check out his butt. Certainly it is not the same actor, but I can still look and have that thought, “You’re gay just like me.”

Now we just need to do something about that hair….


For a year, I have been happy with my lovely Emma. However, a couple months ago I dog-sat for a friend and Emma was so much happier to have a companion with whom she could play all day while I was at work. When Milo had to go away, Emma clearly was not has happy, so I decided to get her a playmate to keep her company. I searched for several weeks to find the perfect playmate to keep her happy but with no luck. Finally I saw a post on Craigslist (check it out) for two Chihuahuas needing a new home. I wanted one dog, but they seemed nice enough and having been raised together, it was not right to separate them.

So, Rocco and Bruno joined our home six weeks ago and there have been a few changes. I soon discovered that they were not well housebroken, so we have been going through a crash course in housebreaking. They also have the mistaken assumption that the cypress mulch in my back flower bed should be transformed into slivers in my living room carpet. Thank goodness, next to my cooking appliances, my favorite housecleaning tool is a steam vacuum.

Emma, though, rules the roost. She has become the boss of all that the dogs do and does not hesitate a second in making both of them behave. She is a little bigger than the others - well, I guess a pound of weight is significant when you consider that the maximum weight of the three is nine pounds. Emma has a pound or more on each of the other two. I think it is because she has been raised on "good" food and the others were raised on discount department store brand. They are within two months of each other in age with Bruno being the oldest by a couple weeks.

All three of the dogs insist on sleeping in the bed with me and it takes about ten minutes for everyone to get groomed and settled. Emma has made two changes to her sleeping routine since the boys joined us. I sleep on my side cuddling a body pillow - since I don't have a person there to enjoy, I have adopted two body pillows. Emma has always slept against the back of my legs in the curve of my knees. She now sleeps on top of the body pillow against my stomach as the boys both sleep against me - Rocco in the bend of my legs and Bruno against my back. The biggest change though is that she won't get under the sheets. She burrows around until she is on top of the sheet and under the comforter. I guess she has decided it is a matter of character: there is no way she is getting all the way under the covers with three men.

The dogs are all as different as children. Emma is the obedient oldest child since she has lived with me for a year. Every time the boys get in trouble, she reacts as though it is her fault. Bruno, the long haired one knows he is beautiful. Whenever I pull out the camera, he is the first to find a position where he can pose and when something happens, he reacts as if there is no way he is responsible. Rocco, the black one, is the baby of the bunch. Most of the time he is responsible for the messes, but he reacts with a, "What? Who? Me? Is that wrong?" look everytime I catch him in something. Meanwhile, the other two dogs have already run out the doggy door in the back.

One thing most certain that I've learned: Chihuahuas are little dogs, but when you have three of them running around, you've got a whole lotta Chihuahua!

Singing in the...garage!

I sing along with the radio as I'm sure you do too, whether you admit it or not.

Since getting on the satellite radio bandwagon a year ago, I have been able to fulfill my love of Broadway music every time I'm driving in my car, sitting in my office (via internet), or relaxing at home, thanks to the home unit. Living in central Texas, we only get the occassional touring show for Broadway shows of some seasons ago or college productions of the tried and true musicals. Satellite radio gives me the new Broadway music just as soon as the cast recording comes out - or sometimes before thanks to Seth Rudetski's bootlegging (or connections).

I sing alot. I sing loudly. I don't sing well. Thankfully I am aware of all those factors - especially the latter which helps me avoid embarrassing my self at karaoke bars and parties.

Because music means so much to me, I do make efforts to see live music as well as listen to it on the radio. Friday night I went out to hear my friend, Kevin Ahart, sing at one of his regular gigs. Kevin performs American Standards (the Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, etc. songs) with his own flair. In the last few years he has developed his own interpretation of them so each time I hear him, it is fresh and new, not a live-juke-box version of songs I've known most of my life. On the way downtown, of course, I was listening to music on the radio and singing along. As I pulled into the parking garage, a song from one of my favorite musicals came on and I knew all the words without really even thinking.

It did not take long to find a parking spot and I pulled in and got out of the car with the tune still going. I had only taken a few steps from my vechicle when the echo hit me. The tune I was certain was in my head, wasn't: I had stepped out of the vehicle belting just as loudly as I had been in the car and parking garages, being essentially concrete caves, have amazing resonance.

I'm no Bernadette Peters, but I know that everyone for three levels of the garage heard me declare, "I'm just a girl who can't say no!"

Emma Arrives

Almost a year ago, I decided that since I was not going to have a relationship, I should have a dog. All the research I have found shows that single people with pets live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Living in an apartment, I started looking for small dogs and finally found an incredibly beautiful young chihuahua.

Well, she's beautiful now.

I went to the home of the person who had posted an ad on Craigslist ( - check it out). I walked into a house with little doggie presents all over the floor and was handed a tiny puppy missing hair in a couple spots and with fleas all over her. She seemed quite ordinary and I didn't have an instant connection with her, but I could not bear to leave her in that situation, so paid my money and fled.

It took only a few days until I discovered that my reasons for the decision were not the best to make, but my decision had been the best one. Emma - she chose that name herself - was a sweetheart who wanted nothing more than to be with me and I could see how people with pets are happier and healthier.

Now I just need to teach her that all pieces of wood do not need to be chewed to splinters in my living room. Then again, maybe what makes me a healthier person is the daily vacuuming!