Tuesday, August 5, 2008

LOBSTER NIGHT.

Steve called about twenty, no thirty, drinks in on Friday and declared Sunday night to be Lobster Night. I was not about to argue. The pictures tell the story.





























Our host and his roomates.


















The aftermath.

TEXAS WINE COUNTRY!

So, our dear friend, Melissa Gale Reynolds, M.D. had a couple of weeks off from her residency and decided to spend one of them with us in Austin. We showed her a charming time, of course. Kicked things off at Guero’s, like you do. Mango margaritas to die for. Actually, now that I think about it, I embarked on this epic lap of drinking. After that margarita, their custom Bloody Mary caught my eye, so I had that and then we went to see my buddy Dr. Skoob play on a patio overlooking a Fry’s Electronics (picturesque!) and I had a Guinness, then a Bloody Mary, then one of THEIR mango margaritas, then maybe back to the Guinness. Which all seemed perfectly logical to me, but it blows the Wife’s mind, she calls me Cast-Iron Stomach.

That was Saturday. On Wednesday, we went to Stubb’s to see Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. (encoring with some James Brown music, here). Serious stuff. I bought a 45, an experience that I thought would never happen again. Thursday, the lovely Emily Lea drove down to join us, as did Mother, who was in town for the Democratic State Convention. Took all those women to Mandola’s, which is just about as good as you can do in Austin for dinner, certainly for Italian. Incredible.

The next day, Ma went to stump for Barack and the three women and I saddled up to tour the Texas Wine Country. Now, as it was sold to me, we were catching one winery on Friday on the way to Fredericksburg, crashing there for the night, then hitting another one on the way back. Do you believe, Faithful Reader, that I was thrilled to learn that we were in fact visiting one TOUR per day, meaning that we actually hit FOUR wineries per day? Of course I was.

We started out with Texas Hills, which kind of slanted the entire experience, because the guy was so friendly and the wine was so good (and cheap!).
We each got four tastes for free and then could pony up an additional $3 for an additional four tastes in a Riedel glass challenge. A mandatory expense.

So, eight tastes to the good, we continued down the road to a couple of more forgettable wineries. They were all right, and they gave us wine in exchange for $5, but they were no Texas Hills. Our last winery of the day, though, was Becker.


And that was happening. You got eight tastes there, and the lady pouring was just hilarious. I really can’t replicate her banter, but suffice to say she was a bit salty, and we dug her. But then Henri came over. He was this manic Frenchman rocking about every cliché that he could with the exception of being snooty or a dick. He was just like throwing his arms up and so happy that we were all there and that he could pour us wine and that all of our paths had led to each other. Kind of like that chef from THE LITTLE MERMAID, guy who sings the Le Poisson song, except instead of cooking, he just poured wine.

And he was taken with the ladies. Hoh, hoh! Lots of hugging and kissing of the cheeks. Kept saying how Miss and Em could have been French, his cousins, maybe. Then he’d hug Catherine and look into her eyes and say, “You are not my cousin.” And he kept going on about why I was keeping my Pringles can under wraps, which we thought was just gibberish madness until we realized that it was in reference to my being the only male in the party. On our way, he told me to give him a call when I got tired. Henri was a lovely way to shut the day down.

Except, then we got on the two-lane highway leading into Fredricksburg and not ten minutes later everything stopped. No motion. In either direction. Then a paramedic helicopter landed a half-mile in front of us. Bad scene. Did we let that sober us up? Hell no! Just as we were about to open one of the bottles that Emily bought at Texas Hills, Catherine noticed a Wildlife Reserve to our right, just sitting there on the side of the highway all by its lonesome. So, we went to look at flowers. But they were having a wine tasting! This pleased me. This time it wasn’t any of that “pay x bucks for x tastes”, there was just this nice old lady at a stand with about two dozen open bottles of wine pouring as fast as you could tell her, and I have to say, we ran her for about ten minutes there. And I would have kept going, but when Miss and Em backed off, it seemed in poor taste. Closed it out by buying something called a winearita, which was pretty incredible, frozen wine margarita.

I think that came to 35 tastes of wine, not counting the winearita. Wonderful, considering the sun had yet to set.


Then we went to The Hilltop Café, this gas station turned restaurant, owned by an old guitarist from Asleep at the Wheel. About 12 miles northwest of Fredericksburg. In the middle of nowhere, and you needed a reservation to get a table. He’s Greek, his wife’s from New Orleans, split the difference. Incredible food. I had the Chicken Fried Steak; we crushed each other. Then we went back to our lovely motel room, the girls passed out, and I read the first half of THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES by Alan Moore, great old English serial from the 80s, which I recommend if you’re a fan of his (or, hey, comic books).

Woke up, killer breakfast in a beautiful courtyard, and three more wineries.














The second one was Driftwood, real beautiful place where it would be nice to go and just kill an afternoon.

Our last one was the Mandola’s winery, which was by far the most gorgeous.

And how do we follow all that up? Fajita night. We whipped up Paul’s Famous Margaritas (1 can of Limeade, 12 oz. of quality tequila, 3 Mexican beers) and for some reason started playing a drinking game, which resulted in two more batches being made and everyone getting sauced enough that Paul and I had a go at the piñata that Emily’s sister-in-law Kristen brought to the fiesta.

Catherine eventually destroyed it.

And you’d think that would do the trick for the weekend. I mean, my God.

But Sunday night was Lobster night.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

GENTLEMAN OF THE ROAD


I was very pleased to find out on less than 24 hours notice that one of my favorite authors, living or putrifying, was coming to BookPeople (the greatest bookstore in Austin and, I think, largest independent dealer in the country, which is wonderful though it means few if any 20% OFF-type situations, ouch!). I had an interview on UT campus for a class that I'm going to be teaching in the fall and then at lunchtime I saw that Matthew Sturges was going to be signing #1 of his excellent new comic series HOUSE OF MYSTERY that afternoon, so I steamrolled it all together, knocked out the interview, ran up to Austin Books and got Sturges to sign the copy of his book that I'd already bought that morning (having been sold on it at the Vertigo presentation last July in San Diego, and it's killer), then for good measure bought another copy for him to sign to Chabon, which amused and delighted him, everybody's a fan. Went ahead and purchased ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #10 (greatest single issue I can recall reading in the recent past, and beyond!) for Chabon while I was at it and made my way to BookPeople after catching up with a burger and shake from Dirty Martin's, one of the greatest places on The Drag.

Got there an hour early. Bought the new collection of essays MAPS & LEGENDS, the first essay of which I'd read years ago in the McSweeney's #10 that Chabon edited, but was surprised now to find that it's almost a call to arms to bust down the walls between genres in short stories, which I've been hard at work at since last July with the blackholemonster of Idea that took for its name OMNINOMICON. I got the last chair on the front row and after rereading that first essay managed to knock out three pages of my latest Faulkner riff before it was showtime. Sat by some lesbians that were not taking shit from anybody, I just slammed away at my PowerBook, hoping they wouldn't tumble to the fact that I was writing some deeply misogynistic business.

Chabon came out and got right to it, read the chapter from YIDDISH POLICEMAN'S UNION of Landsman eating with Bina, and it was probably the best performance by an author that I've seen, not that I've sat through that many. But he really conveyed the characters' emotion well without overdoing it or hamming it up. Such a great novel, an insane accomplishment.

Afterwards, he took questions. Guy asked if he'd ever write a sequel following Landsman, Chabon said he couldn't see that, but maybe a prequel. The book he's working on now is adult (he hates saying that, conjures up the 70s wah-pedal) and then the next one will be for young readers. The status of the Kavalier & Clay movie is flatline for now. The comics he's been loving lately are all catchups, PLANETARY (#4 of all time, on my list), and Morrison's ANIMAL MAN and INVISIBLES, both of which I just managed to catch up on in '07 and '06 respectively (and, frankly, need to reread INVISIBLES again, talk about yer mindfucks). And he said determing point-of-view is easily the most important decision in writing a story. True words.

I was second in line, got to BS with him a minute, gave him the comics (along with a rough cut of THE IDEA #1) and thanked him for charging my imagination and he couldn't have been nicer, even got out from behind the desk for a quick picture.



Pretty great day, even without 15 new comics at home, waiting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

KETCHUP!

It’s been quite a while. My semester of grad school overran me, along with other madnesses including my monster novel (which is more me than grad school, it must be said), creating two more comic-book series, publishing the one we created last year, and the return of the ultimate example of serial entertainment. Been quiet round these here parts, but I promise to try to drop in a bit more now. Here’s a quick blast of photos on how I spent the first third of 2008.
For February, just picture me at this desk writing a thesis on INFINITE JEST dictated by the synthetic overlord from the future installed directly over my head (who says, Hello, by the way.)





Saw a rainbow.



Saw the sun set over the UT campus, the cranes stilled for the coming night . . .

video. . . on the way to the Rollergirl Derby. Which, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a pillow fight at one of these things with a beer in your hand and a flask of Jack in your friend’s pocket. There’s misogyny and then there’s just good, clean fun. Seriously, though, I'm just sick about not taping that pillow fight.

Paul knows what I’m talking about. Hell of a driver, too.









Catherine threw her lavish Oscar dinner, as usual. Glad Marion Cotillard won. Wish There Will Be Blood wouldn’t have gotten trounced by the Coens, it was a far superior film. Never thought I’d be rooting against those guys for an Oscar, though, tell you what.



Got drunk with Mikey.
In a house in Burnet, TX. There were trucks. We let him drive us in his, so that we wouldn't be discriminated against.


Went and saw the Kids in the Hall perform live at the Paramount. They were hilarious. Buddy Cole made an appearance to teach us how the Messiah was a gay man, there was Chicken-Lady phone-sex.

McKinney's Headcrusher closed the show, lining the other guys up one by one and insulting the current state of their careers before crushing their heads live for all to see. There goes Bruce now.

The next night, the Mars Volta rolled through town and crushed hell out of everyone, played 2 hours and 45 minutes straight. Stayed up at the front the entire time. They were shamans.

Oh and wait, my birthday was in there somewhere. A couple of weeks before those shows. Huh, don't seem to have any pictures from that. We just went out to dinner and came home and got drunk, nothing too crazy. Take a Wednesday night New Comic Book Day and multiply that by a Thursday night new LOST, that's about what it looked like. Which was hell, because my birthday fell on a Tuesday this year.

On Free Comic Book Day, we released a Rough Cut of THE IDEA #1 at the First Annual Lubbock Comic Expo, which was a rousing success all around. Here I am with Luis Estrada and Trinadad Calderon, the artists.

Also sat around and played some blues that night while we were in town, with Pop on banjo, even.

And just found out that one of my favorite living authors is in town tomorrow. So, that's probably worth a post. But that's most of what's been going on down in Austin, TX this last little bit, here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Am the Intersection of Future Jack & Past Dale (but not Future Dale) [how IS Annie?]

Tuesday was a dense return to reality after a long weekend spent reading and writing heavily and watching CLOVERFIELD, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, and THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, solid to crushing outings, all. Monsters. In cgi. And Daniel Day-Lewis. Jonny Greenwood's score was a rare treasure.

Worked at Catherine's office for a training, managed to sneak in 100 pgs of John Fowles's THE MAGUS (which should be called THE MINDFUCK-if Marvin Candle jumps out from behind Jacob's curtain at the end and yells, "Gotcha!" and all of LOST turns out to be one collosal Dharma Initiative psychological experiment, that about describes this novel) but then the funny thing was we had this party at the office at 4, so went from getting up at 7 and being on the clock all day to cleaning up at 4 and going over right into the middle of Catherine's office building and slamming Shiner and Heineken and cranking Radiohead's new one and good ol Shostakovich op. 40 and having a generally merry time until my bud and co-slammer got a text message consisting of the already-classic four-word phrase Heath Ledger Is Dead, which is of course ghoulish, and they were the first drinks I'd had in a wk due to the mad month already detailed below, so feeling good, and then we had to go cause Paul was coming over to watch episode 8 of TWIN PEAKS and we still needed to augment their Christmas present and Catherine had no idea what so of course I defaulted to WATCHMEN, right? if you don't have it, you need it, so stopped by Border's on the way and were checking out when a little bulb blew up over my head screaming January 22! and of course the new King was out, and what a great feeling to be standing there for a different reason entirely, having forgotten, and then seconds later to have hundreds of new pages from sai King in my hands, and the fella even said I had $5 in Border'sBucks, everything coming up Rob, stopped off to pick up some fresh Strawberry Rhubarb pie, made it home, brewed coffee, Catherine asked if I was going to take off my suit, get comfortable for PEAKS and I wish I would have said, "If I could chase a woodtick down my right pants leg pull up my bulletproof vest and then get shot in the gut by Josie, I would, so No." which is to say I empathize with that Special Agent and opted to remain dressed like him, but I didn't think to say that, just shook my head and said "Take a picture to prove all this was true." so here you go.

Then of course 8 turned out to be the double-length Lynch-directed Giant nonsense, just perfection, ending with Bob and Dark Laura in the boxcar. Then I read another 100 pgs to finish THE MAGUS because I was tired of getting jerked around and then started DUMA KEY right at 1:08. Of course. I don't even try anymore, it just keeps happening.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

GOTHAM BLITZKREIG

So everything started to flow together pretty well after that, too well you know, delirium, took the A train then the L to Brooklyn, met Laura for sushi and Thai then caught a cab into the City where Brett was playing this sweet little trio gig yeah man all the hits three Band songs in the first half hour, Charlie Hale ("When I get to heaven, I want God's voice to sound like Levon Helms."), and it was our friend Douggins's new bar The National Underground and we had come such a long way, he just kept giving us drinks, I was on Jameson neat and Catherine abandoned the pretense of martinis and just started in on Stoli straight and then Douggins said Do you want to sit in with the band? and for just a second I thought he was talking about Levon, that name is the source of some confusion for me, but then he got out his Gibson SG that was missing a string and we played Cissy Strut, only it was so mellow Brett said it was more like Cissy Step, and then All Blues and it felt so incredible to be playing those notes, that head, in the city where it was actually recorded, D B, everyone let loose and poured themselves into the room out their fingers through their notes and it was holy holy and I met our middle brother, John the piano player is the lost Bass brother, and then Douggins gave us a six-pack at four'o'clock and told us we didn't want to go to no deli and he sent us home and I told Brett how insane Omninomicon is and he said why do you want to put all that into ONE book? and I told him it was to clear everything out to see what went in the NEXT book and then we had to watch The Band, have to, always and forever, and then the sun was coming up and we had waltzed our last and it was time to wake up and eat and go home, finally, home, and I wish we had taken pictures but we were too tired to remember the camera but it happened just this way, I promise.

WINOOSKI!

My cousin Ryon drove up with Catherine to collect me on Friday the 11th. I was a bit ragged from the week, but delighted to see them and show them around campus. Then we drove off to Ryon's place, stopping off for Ben'n'Jerry's and at the Von Trapp Family Lodge, a truly callous display of commercialism. Went out for oven-baked pizza that night at American Flatbread, something I recommend everyone hit if you're passing through Burlington.

Ryon and his wife Irie and their 9-month old Gabriella.


Ryon and I were planning on going skiing Saturday, but it had rained so hard, the snow was useless, so we just drove around the state with the womenfolk, had killer lunch at this place called Bee's Knee's in, I think, Morrisville. Went out for Italian that night, everyone turned in early. Ryon had to work on his sermon for the morning, but then we had a double-nightcap before midnight. Then, I stayed up a few more hours outlining in depth my idea for Young People Behaving Badly in a World Without Boundaries, which will be a bestseller for sure, whenever I can find time to write it.

Saw Ryon preach Sunday morning, and he was excellent. A great, commanding presence. The kid behind us muttered to his brother, "Guess we gotta behave if JEsus is here!" a reference to my beard, I think. I got to take a ride on the organ afterwards, threw down some Mingus and Santa Claus is Coming to Town and What a Wonderful World. First time on an organ, too much fun. We went over and had dinner that night at the house of a couple who he had married and had a fine time.

Then it was time to get up Monday and go. Except Delta cancelled all our flights again! Rat bastards! We were trapped. But, we rallied. Ryon was nice enough to drive us an hour north to catch a ferry to Plattsburg, NY, where we caught the 12:35 Amtrak to Penn Station. The 8-hr ride wound up taking 9 1/2, but we both got some rest and I even managed to crank out an entire 18-pg PKD story that I'm delighted with. I knew my deranged mindset at the time would be perfect to capture this guy's voice. Wrote the last line as we rolled in under Penn Station.

But New York always deserves its own entry.

GODDARD COLLEGE - G2

Went up to Vermont for the first few days of '08 for my second residency at Goddard College, where I'm working on my MFA in Creative Writing. It was a pretty mind-blowing experience, read three novels and a couple dozen short stories, gave three readings of my own work, got lots of ideas for stories and insight into the craft and quality time with very good friends. Had a bit of wine. Meant to keep this up to date from there, but there was far too much going on to do so. Failing that, here is a short pictorial romp.

This is the view of NY from the plane. Very cold there in January. I wound up having to fly into Syracuse due to the soulless machinations of Delta Airlines, but my good friends Charles and Cara picked me up. We see them here:


Getting down at the dance. Many drinks were had and fireworks were shot afterwards. At Goddard, they teach you that the passive voice is not to be employed, under any circumstances.


Myself, Joe Ricker (my roommate), and Charles Hale. Cara Hoffman was not present for this picture because she was off dancing with her advisor. Such things always end well.


Charles Hale cannot be contained. On the dance floor. In life.


The glowglobes of Goddard, always lit at night to illumine shenanigans.


The other vertices of the Hypercube, on a pilgrimage to clear out all our bad ideas.

MAGIC HOUR

On film shoots, they call those few minutes when the sun's setting Magic Hour. I managed to get a few shots Tuesday after my Pynchon workshop and the one on Graphic novels (for which the eminent faculty chose bits from WATCHMEN, PLANETARY, & PROMETHEA, amongst others!)

The Clocktower. I think about Marty McFly's 1.21 jigawatts every single time I walk by.

The Haybarn Theatre, where people give readings and dance and graduate and hurl the occasional chair.


The first thing you see when you drive into campus. If you time it right.

Magic Hour took place on 1/08. Of course.