Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Requiem at the Intel Building

I park in the freebie zones around the Intel building downtown. Parking is expensive at my office building and the opportunity to parallel park gratis sounds great to me, even though every so often I see evidence of car break ins. Normally the area stays empty except for a few pigeons and the occasional homeless man who jimmies the gate open to sleep in the cool shadowy interior of the unfinished structure.

For those of you new to Austin, and who aren't as familiar with downtown, the Intel building is the multi-storied shell at 5th & San Antonio. The Intel building has been a scar on the face of downtown since 2001 when production halted, leaving three of the four sides of street parking have no meters. Quite a few of us have found this last bastion of meter free parking and use them whenever possible. In the last few months, there's been a flurry of activity at the Intel building that's piqued my curiosity. Okay, so I was getting peeved at the sudden lack of parking spaces and abundance of cars I'd never seen before.

A flurry of activity had started at Intel. I was very interested in exactly what was being done behind the fencing and in the abandoned courtyard of the unfinished office space. I'd watched over the weeks as the gate locks changed to new rust free ones. I'd seen people come and go but always pull the gates shut behind them. One time, I sneaked a peek and saw an eclectic group of people in the weed infested yard. And then one day at lunchtime I stepped out of my car and heard music. But not just any music. Opera. Coming from above me.

Looking up to the building, I saw the dancers hanging from ropes. Yes, dancers. Yes, ropes. And they were swaying in time to the music before tumbling delicately down and across the open floors and out and above the courtyard.

It seems that Sally Jacques has revived her Scaffolding Trilogy and created "Requiem", an operatic dance production using dancers, ropes, cloth and bungee cords.

The dancers are graceful and fascinating to watch, as they are upside down often. It's surreal, with peaceful, almost hypnotic music streaming from the sound system. The performances start on June 7th and will go on for three weeks. I've enjoyed the rehearsals and am certain the show will be serene and beautiful, with delicate dance moves performed against the harsh unfinished concrete and rebar background.

A lovely piece of art for the ugly Intel building.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Livin' La Vida Rainbow in El Paso

One of the nights I was in EP, we did a quickie visit of a few gay bars. As it was unplanned and I was still in grungy shorts and a tee, I worried a bit about my appearance. I hadn't even checked my makeup before leaving the house. But, riding high on the Tampico and rum I'd had at Grandma's house, I suddenly decided it was quite all right if I was looking rumpled. After all, the People Who Matter in El Paso already like me just fine.

Our first stop was at the Mining Company, who's formal name is something like The San Antonio Mining Company. It was fairly well packed, with a crowd that encompassed all genres. I saw pretty people and not so, well dressed and not so, happy and well, not so. There was at least one bored looking go go boy. My thought was that the bar had potential. We weren't there long enough for me to do much but talk to one cute gay man about Austin. He was amazed that I'd actually left our fair city to visit El Paso. The best thing I can say about the Mining Company is that parking is easy to come by.

Next stop, The Whatever Lounge. Ever wonder what it would be like if 'Bout Time turned Tejano? It would be TWL. We did meet a cute but desperately sober dyke who was the designated driver for her group of friends. She let me try on her nifty silver ring that looked like armor, hinged in three places to bend with your knuckles. It made me think of brass knuckles, only white shiny and single instead of plural. Her very intoxicated flaming friend was celebrating a birthday in high style. We bought him a shot. Overall TWL was friendly even though I wasn't at my most comfortable there. Just wasn't my scene.

Last bar of the night was the Briar Patch, one of the few establishments with a website. EP just isn't very wired yet. The website boasts "El Paso's Only Garden Patio. Refrigerated Air, plenty of well lit parking, makes our bar truly UNIQUE." Ummm...the a/c worked fine but with construction going on nearby the parking was not very convenient. The website goes on to boast "The Briar Patch Fifth Straight Award Winner of the Southwest Pride Parade". I looked at the picture of people carrying individual banners of ROYGBIV colors and wondered which ones were straight and which were gay. Just kiddin'. I did find the wording amusing. Unfortunately my eyes dropped to the next line of type and shuddered. People! If you are going to have a public website please use spell check. "Experaince the big city atmosphere in a small town. Beautiful Appointments." Yes, I am a spelling queen. It's not the size of the word, it's if you did it right.

My bar hopping companions were deep, deep, deep in conversation, so I left them alone a bit and wandered over to talk to some beautiful people I'd eyed from through the BP's nifty peep window that is conveniently situated in the wall between rooms. It allows the bartender to access both rooms without needing a cocktail waiter or waitress. I guess it is the ultimate pick up window, since I had no trouble making conversation with the Very Pretty Perla and her lucious friend Chris. Readers, the next time you're at the Patch, look around for the most attractive pair in the room and go say hi to Perla & Chris.

Out of money and almost out of time, we said goodnight to the gaylife a little before 2am and headed home. Because of that one final draft beer (thanks, Chris) I was asleep minutes after my head hit the pillow. Good times, good times.

I think that if I tasted the rainbow in each city I visit I'll probably find more clubs that remind me of one in Austin. I have to admit that our offerings are on the average much nicer than El Paso. This trip I didn't go to the O.P. (or rather, the New Old Plantation) but I think it's a good club. Kind of glad it isn't here...I'm sure I'd have a tragic drunken fall down a set of stairs if it were. We all know what happens when I get kacheery!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

El Paso Weekend

I visited El Paso over the weekend, for a huge surprise party. The event was a combined birthday party to mark Frank's father and uncle's 60th birthdays. We managed to keep it a surprise after all the months of planning although Frank's dad remarked that he thought something was up since relatives were pouring into El Paso with no reason to be home. In other words, it wasn't a holiday and there were no weddings, quinceaƱeras or baptisms scheduled.

The party was a smashing success complete with 2 hours of mariachi music, delicious food and dancing. I can't help talking about the food when I've been back to El Paso. Some of the best enchiladas, chili colorado, brisket, rice and beans are found there. Of course any weight I gained was offset by the food poisoning I came down with after eating at the McDonald's at Love Field in Dallas while laying over enroute to home. It was the only downside to the trip. Let's just say it'll be many, many years before I eat at Mickey D's again. :::::shudder:::::

The weekend was a celebration of life. Not only were we recognizing the birthdays but also showing off 11 day old Izacz, the newest boy in la familia Saavedra. It was also a time to remember with love and respect the very recent passing of the patriarch of the family. There was a definite bittersweetness flavor in the air. At one point in the evening a few family members gave a short address to the crowd. All of them mentioned how this night was to show their father/uncle how much they are loved and appreciated. They also mentioned how painful it is to celebrate as a family with one so very valued member missing. And Frank, in only a few short words, paid tribute to his mother and all she has done for the entire family. There were a few tears but soon the lights were dimmed and the music turned up and hearts felt lighter than they had in weeks. It was a much needed reminder that life goes on, despite everything.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mariachis. They were spectacular and Frank did me a favor and requested my favorite song "Volver, Volver". The song is about the ending of a romantic relationship and how the singer regrets the loss and wishes to return. It's passionate and beautiful and I've loved it all my life. I had the special attention of one mariachi who kept singing to me and winking and nodding. Ahhh, there's nothing like winning the eye of a man who wears marching band clothing embellished with metallic pasties down the arms and legs! The afterparty--cause you know there had to be one--featured the leftover brisket, chips, cheese, salsa and of course the one keg that we hadn't floated. I'm not sure how late everyone stayed, but their idea was to drink the sun up. I was in bed sometime around 2am and that was late enough for me.

It was hectic but such a nice time. How was your weekend?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Downright Dirty Blues

Do you ever get the blues? Do you ever get so disenchanted, so downhearted that all you wanna do is crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head? I do. And it's odd, because I am usually an upbeat, cheerful, let's-look-on-the-sunny-side-of-life kinda girl.

Lately, however, Vitamin X (that's Xanax, not Ecstasy) has been a good friend. So has my therapist. I lucked into her in March. In recent days I have been so far down in the dumps that all I want to do after work is go straight home, eat 5 pieces of fried chicken and cry. Probably the crying is more because my tummy is upset from the grease, but hey, it could also be that I'm pure and simple, plain ole sad.

So far 2006 hasn't been so delightful. It's been more like 4 months and 11 days of physical illness, emotional upheaval and walking a fine line on the precipice of mental illness with a few good days thrown in solely to ensure I don't actually present myself at Shoal Creek Hospital. Okay, so I exaggerate, but seriously folks, my internist did write me a scrip for a 30 day supply of Xanax before warning me that he won't refill it. And at least 2 of the people closest to me can vouch for the fact that on several occasions I have exhibited temporary insanity. That they're still around after behavior that will clear you from a murder charge shows me that they mean it when they say they love me. Now this month has started off like a runaway rollercoaster to hell. I can't even bring myself to ask "what next?" for fear of what may really be next.

All I know to do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that there is a reason and a purpose for everything. There is some lesson that I am supposed to be learning, there is some job I am supposed to complete, there is some person that will benefit from all of the shit I've been swimming through. And maybe so will I.

I don't write this posting to elicit supportive emails and comments from those of you whom I count on as my extended family. To paraphrase a line from a 4 Non Blondes song, I just needed to get it all out, what's in my head.

Headlines Around The World Today

It's a stellar day in the newsgathering bizness. Yeah, yeah, there's the buzz about Bush and the Big Brother tactic of pulling our phone records. But enough about Bush and how The Establishment will one day soon implant tracking devices in our young shortly after birth. On to the real news!

A London mom has removed her 5 year old daughter from a British school where massage therapy is being introduced as a means to improve concentration. "It's all very concerning, particularly as the sessions are cross-sex involving girls and boys. What will be the long-term effect?" the mother queried. Hmm...I wonder what the long-term effect on sexual orientation would be, if a 5 year old girl has to rub down a "boys are icky" classmate?

To show how different Americans are from our across-the-pond neighbors, a mother in Maine is charged with helping her daughter and two other teens bake Ex-Lax cookies. Wow. We always made brownies with them.

And in Shanghai, four Australian men are set to live for a month in a 650 square foot glass cubicle complete with a shower. The bathroom comes with frosted glass so as not to offend public decency. Too bad.

What is raising eyebrows in your part of the world?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Civic Duty

Wondering why I've been so quiet? I've been out all week on jury duty. Want to hear all the dirty details that are now a matter of public record? Offer to meet me for happy hour and buy the first round. Here's why I need adult bevies: it was a murder trial and we had a brutal time coming to a unanimous verdict.

Wink Wink Nudge Nudge

Having grown up in the Deep South, I have tasted so many desserts that my desire for cake, pie, cookies and other assorted sweet pastry creations is virtually nonexistent. I'd rather have a piece of good dark chocolate and a flute of champagne instead of a slab of cake. My real love is for unusual entrees, not dessert. In my gustatory adventures throughout life I've tasted many things that don't qualify as dessert but do qualify as bold choices.

I ate my first oyster off the shell, standing in shallow water outside a fishing boat that was pulled up on the beach in Rockport. My father and uncles had gathered a great bucket full of oysters and were shucking them while my sister and I played in the waves nearby. We were too young to be anything but curious, and so it was as a fearless 3 year old that I began my love affair with mollusks.

Since that first briny bite, I've gone on to other courageous choices that include many types of wild game, ethnic dishes with unusual main ingredients and various organ meats. Yes, organ meats. I am a girl who doesn't shy away from liver, has tried calf fries (anything is good fried and dipped in ranch dressing) and now can add sweetbreads to my list.

On a recent visit to Wink for a post MS150 celebration dinner, Frank and I shared a delightful dining experience. Wink is an upscale restaurant cleverly hidden in a shopping strip. I say cleverly hidden because I'm certain that's the only reason my late request for a reservation was honored. Someone couldn't figure out that Wink is located behind Whole Earth Provision, next to the dry cleaners and had given up their spot. Wink's decor is trendy fabulous and their food is nothing but sensational.

We started off with a green onion tartlet amuse bouche--always a nice touch to get a free little bite of something while waiting for your cocktails. Frank enjoyed a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with his meal while I tantalized my tastebuds with a sparkling pinot noir cuvee that was TDF. To.Die.For. I have the full name written down at home and will be attempting to find it at Central Market, Grapevine Market or somewhere else in town. It was the perfect blend of sweet and dry without being over the top on either and it was bubbly. Loved it. And I loved our tuna tartare appetizer. Served with a few homemade potato chips, the tuna was so tasty I wished for two servings. I almost resorted to growling over the plate but luckily Frank gave me the last few bites.

Our entrees were impeccable. Frank had a phenomenal duck breast, so tender and flavorful that if you closed your eyes you'd swear you were eating a fine cut of steak. It was served with fingerling potatoes and amaranth, a green similar to spinach but with a milder flavor, and a red wine sauce. My sweetbreads were seared to a nice crunchy finish on top, creamy tender underneath and were mouthwateringly delicious. The taste was delicate but with a richness that lingered and mixed perfectly with the nutty quinoa and slices of elf mushroom served alongside it. Perfection on a fork. We both swapped bites and admired the other's choice while leisurely devouring our meals.

I did eat dessert, despite my opening paragraph stating that it normally doesn't thrill me. We chose a selection of mini offerings that included a berry topped creme brulee, lemon meringue pot and a flourless chocolate torte. The creme brulee was good. The flourless chocolate torte was sublime. The lemon meringue pot was outstanding. The meringue itself was in the shape of an Easter egg, with the lemon filling in between the top and bottom half. Garnished with thin strips of candied lemon peel, the dessert was pleasantly tangy with a punch of refreshing lemon flavor.

Over all, our dining experience was wonderful. Wink is a great restaurant for any special occasion, although I did not see much on the menu for my vegetarian friends. And please, try the sweetbreads. As our waitress said, "they're the best dish on the menu."