Sunday, August 28, 2005

New York Times: Sunday Edition

Things I learned in today's paper:
  • In April, MySpace passed Google in pageviews.
  • The self-help video for The Sun's "Romantic Sun" was inspired by The footage for the video was taken straight from the site.
  • Bruce Springsteen's song, "Racing the Street," includes the following lyrics: "I got a '69 Chevy with a 396/Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor." Apparently, that lyric is factually inaccurate. A big block, which is what a 396 is, cannot have fuelie heads.
  • Google will not speak to any reporter from CNET for one year. This is because of an article published by CNET which included all the information that could be found in 30 minutes on Google about Google's CEO.
  • The Book Review contained exactly one ad for a service. It was this: Sensitive Editor ... 20 years experience ... Fiction, non-fiction ... Reasonable rates ... MELODY LAWRENCE LITERARY SVCS ... 212-673-3936.
  • The largest cross-country running event in the world takes place this year on Sept. 23-25 in Lidingo, Sweden. Thirty-thousand people will participate.
  • Alex Cox, director of the brilliant Sid and Nancy movie, was fired from directorial duties for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter S. Thompson said it was because Cox wanted to turn one of his finest works into a cinematic joke. Terry Gilliam was later brought in to direct.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tales From a Great Indoorsman

I've edited, for length only, J.S. Bankston in the past.

This one, can't be edited.

One note: Fred is Bankston's beloved dog.


Amazingly for someone who is not a native of New York City, I’ve never owned a car, and I am a lousy driver. I am frankly afraid of driving and am a danger to myself and others when on the road, and I don’t think I’ve even been behind the wheel since 1999, and even then only went a few hundred yards before the fellow riding shotgun got so scared he insisted I pull over and let him drive.

Because of this I have to rely either on taxis or busses. But busses are problematic too, since I’m a germophobe and busses are filthy. Riding the bus is to me like taking a tour of a sewer pipe while sitting astride a huge turd.

Months ago I bought my first digital camera and inaugurated it by going down to San Antonio with my friend James and his mother-in-law and just snapping away. Unfortunately, the idiots at the camera store erased that whole first picture card, and in the ensuing months I’ve been obsessed with taking all those pictures again. Some were one-time-only photos of events, but there were many shots I knew I could still reproduce.

A couple weeks ago, I decided I would take a solo day trip to San Antonio. Despite the fact I had told James that the best travel advice I ever received was to not over-schedule but to just let things happen and then savor the consequences, this trip was planned like a military operation. I learned there was a Mass in English at 6:15am on weekdays at the San Fernando Cathedral in downtown SA, and that it is supposedly the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the US. I wanted to see that Mass, but to do so would involve my taking a 2am bus from Austin and arriving in SA at 3:30am.

I amused myself by keeping this planned trip a secret from anyone until a day or so before my departure. I worried that I’d get mugged or killed down there and no one would know what the hell had happened to me. I even mused about leaving a print-out of my itinerary on top of my keyboard to help searchers pin-point my last-known whereabouts .

I also worried about being away from Fred that amount of time. Fred and I have been roomies for ten years as of this September, and there have been less than seven nights, I think, that we’ve spent apart. I simply cannot sleep without him around. I know Fred gets upset when I’m gone for six hours or more, and he often pisses on the carpet if I’m gone longer than that. If a dog and a man can be co-dependent upon each other, Fred and I definitely fit that bill.

I agree with Robert Evans, who said, “Instant gratification takes way too long.” I am always rewarding myself for the most trivial of reasons, and I decided to treat myself to this trip after finishing my column on the Texas State Hospital. I wrote the piece earlier in the week than I normally would have, finishing it after about three days of research and two days of writing.

The P.R. lady at the TSH, who’d taken me on a fascinating tour of the spooky old place, had asked if she could see my article before I turned it in, just to make sure I had my facts and figures right. Now that’s something journalists almost never do, but I decided to give her a break. I’m not the most sensitive guy in the world, and I didn’t want to say anything that would demean the patients unintentionally.

So I e-mailed her the piece, and after I heard nothing back, I called her office number and her cell, and explained I needed to submit the piece by late night Tuesday at the very latest. After that I had to re-adjust my sleep schedule, so I could take the trip on Wednesday. My plan was to sleep Tuesday night from 6pm to midnight.

Unfortunately, I only got three hours of sleep, and when I woke up there was a message on my machine from the P.R. lady. She was in Atlanta and wanted to know if I could send the article to her home e-mail account. Not long after she got it she began freaking out, first about minor, truly unimportant facts (I said that many staffers furnished their offices with antiques from home, when in fact they were antiques from the ASH), then later about the fact I quoted her directly about the dire state of the hospital, and still later that I went into a rant on my own in the piece about what fucktards the members of the Legislature are.

She said she hadn’t realized I was taping her and that she thought I was just writing a history piece, and that she didn’t know I was a reporter who would actually quote her. I explained I was carrying my camera in one hand and the recorder in the other–it wasn’t like I was wearing a hidden wire. Surely she saw me clicking the recorder on and off and flipping the tape over. She later admitted she noticed it at the end of the tour, but that it didn’t register.

I said I was more of a columnist than an actual reporter, that the piece was indeed historical, and that in my column I often insert humor, snarky asides, and rants about current affairs to make the material relevant and interesting to modern readers.

I never really saw myself as someone who would ever write local or regional history, as that is often the province of middle-aged men who try too hard to sound cute and folksy, or old women who rely too much on that romantic “crinoline-and-the-scent-of-magnolia-blossoms” bullshit.

Anyway, this lady wanted her boss, the Superintendent of the ASH, to look over the column. I revised it three times, taking out most of her quotations, and many of my direct attacks on the State government, before they calmed down. E-mailing a friend about the incident later, I said that an untold amount of harm has been done in this world by people who are scared of their bosses and of losing their jobs.

I had not been to the Austin bus station in years. I had forgotten what a repulsive experience city-to-city bus travel is. All buses and bus stations everywhere stink of stale beer, stale cigarettes, urine, feces, and despair.

Years ago, when most of my family was still alive and I still went through the motions of celebrating Christmas with them, I’d take a city bus to the station (I couldn’t afford cabs most of the time then), then a Kerrville or Greyhound bus to a small town near my parents’s place in the country. The trip seemed to take forever, and the bus stopped at every little piss-ant town on the way.

I’d arrive on the evening of December 24th, and leave first thing in the morning on the 26th– staying maybe 35 hours tops, but even that was an unbearable marathon of raw nerves, itchy trigger fingers, and recriminations. I couldn’t wait to get back to Austin.

For me, the highlight of the Christmas holiday was getting back to Austin, and before returning to my apartment, stowing my suitcase into a locker, then heading over to a nearby theatre to catch the big Christmas release of the year. It somehow felt like I was playing hooky.

So I got on the San Antonio/Laredo/New Mexico/Arizona/California bus Wednesday morning, assuming I’d have lots of room to myself. Surely no one would be riding at 2am. But how wrong I was. The bus was jam-packed with a grotesque freak show worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. I had brought along, appropriately enough, a biography of travel writer Bruce Chatwin, but the guy I was sharing a seat with was sleeping, so I left the light off.

In the seat ahead of me was some tough guy covered in grime and jailhouse tattoos, who wore sunglasses, even though it was the wee hours of the morning. (I’m sorry, asshole, only Nicholson can do that and not look like a total putz.) He spent the trip silently passing wind and loudly jabbering on his cell phone to a girlfriend he called “Skank.” I, meanwhile, tried to find a decent station on my pocket radio, and not think about how many germs I was being exposed to.

When we reached SA I left the station quickly, afraid of being followed. Every so often I’d look over my shoulder and clutch my camera tripod like a club.

Downtown SA is filled with lots of cool pre-war buildings, but many of them are empty. As a result, there’s a cool film noir vibe everywhere. (I filled up one photo card with 136 pictures before 8am, and took 373 over the course of the day.)

I collect antique post-cards and have several of SA’s Houston Street, taken in its boom days in the ‘20's and ‘30's. While walking along I realized I was standing close to the spot where those old photos were made, so I turned around and got a shot of my own.

There were no 24-hour restaurants handy to the bus station, but I knew there was a Denny’s over by the Alamodome, a short walk away. I was headed there, and had just rounded the corner into Alamo Plaza, when a tall black man approached me, asking if I could help him out with bus fare. I gave him $2, but then he tried to start a conversation with me. I am a huge pussy, and I was scared he was trying to set me up for a mugging.

He asked what I was taking pictures of and I said I was mostly doing architectural photography, and when that didn’t seem to register I explained that I was just down for the day, practicing my picture-taking skills. He asked what I was getting out of that. I realized he was thinking like my mother, in terms only of dollars and cents, so I said that maybe one day if I got good enough I could possibly sell some of my photos. He then headed west, towards the main part of downtown, and I headed south-east, in the direction of Denny’s.

I passed the Alamo, the Menger Hotel, and as I was turned the corner of Dillard’s, got hit up for bus fare from another panhandler. (Did no one in that town have the money for a bus? Were the busses that expensive?) I continued, going east down Commerce, passed the Rivercenter Mall and the Marriott, when I was hailed again by Panhandler #1, who had somehow changed course and was heading south along the east side of the hotel. He said he still needed twenty cents and that he was homeless, etc., etc. I quickly gave him a dollar more and went on my way. (I was feeling generous. I usually ignore panhandlers, but I guess I was grateful no one had mugged me yet, since a short white guy traveling alone with an expensive camera would seem to me an easy target.)

Mine was only the third occupied table at the Denny’s, but one of the two waitresses couldn’t be bothered to bring me a menu, because she was too busy talking to a table full of cartoonish white hip-hopsters. I eventually ordered a heart attack on a plate, and stayed an hour. I headed back out a little after 5am, sweating like a dog in the humidity, taking photos–the neon-lit interior of a chic café, the amateurish signs painted on the windows of a loan office, the lamp in a crummy old apartment over a Chinese restaurant.

To my surprise, the Cathedral was already open, filling up with old people, nurses, day laborers, and nuns. I’ve been inside a church at night a few times, but never in the wee hours of the morning, well before sunrise. There were various people praying. One old man walked all around the Cathedral, stopping at each statue or Station of the Cross, touching it, and uttering a short prayer. The feeling inside the Cathedral was strange, reverent, redolent of the past, but also timeless.

It somewhat reminded me of a story Elvis Costello told in an interview. It seems he once spent Easter vigil and Easter morning in an old Coptic monastery in Ethiopia. The church was carved out of the living rock in the side of a mountain. Whenever a monk at this monastery dies his body is placed into a crypt. After his body decays, his bones are dumped into an ossuary, and the crypt is freed up for the next tenant.

Anyway, these monks spend the night before Easter sleeping in these crypts, so when the sun comes up, they rise from their graves, and sing and chant about the resurrection of Christ. Costello said it was a powerful experience. And I got a bit of that vibe at this Cathedral. The darkness and dim lighting certainly helped set a mood.

After the service I began taking pictures in earnest. I wondered if any of the people were offended, seeing me bend my fat ass into unflattering positions while trying to get certain shots, but no one said anything. I heard an odd rhythmic sound, and it turned out to be a homeless man dozing in a pew, leaning forward onto the pew ahead of him as if in prayer.

The priest emerged from the Sacristy, where he’d changed from his vestments into street clothes, and began practicing on a piano near the choir’s seats. As I tried to get clear shots of the stained glass windows and chiaroscuro views of the statues and Stations, he went into the “Moonlight Sonata,” which my mother used to play for me when I was a child, and which made me fall in love at an early age with the moodiness of night-time.

I was in a back chapel, trying to get a shot of a statue of St. Juan Diego, the man to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared, when I noticed a pair of heavy wooden doors open slowly and deliberately, seemingly of their own volition. Before I even had the chance to ponder whether this was a miracle or not I realized my backpack had bumped into a button that would automatically open the doors for people in wheelchairs.

By now it was dawn, and I took a circuitous route back towards the Alamo, stopping to take more pictures in a German Catholic church called St. Joseph’s. For years the biggest department store in SA was Joske’s, and it was located in a monumental four-story Art Deco structure. It was so cool–it had everything–even a rare stamp and coin department.

In the 1940's, Joske’s wanted to take over the rest of the block and offered to buy St. Joseph’s. But the parishoners wouldn’t sell, so Joske’s built its expansion around three sides of the church, and St. Joseph’s acquired the nickname of “St. Joske’s.” Sadly, Dillard’s bought out Joske’s in the ‘80's, and occupies only two of the building’s four floors.

I then went over to the Menger Hotel, next door to the Alamo. The Menger is the oldest continuously running hotel in the US. It’s where Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders, and its guest list has included Sam Houston, Generals Grant and Lee, many Presidents, Oscar Wilde, Babe Ruth, Lily Langtry, Tennessee Williams, and several generations of Bankstons over the decades. It’s by no means the most luxurious hotel in Texas, but it is the most historic and the most haunted, and is probably my favorite place to be in the state.

I last stayed there overnight 25 years ago, in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Suite (which was decorated in a kitschy ‘50's cowboy style). In those days I’d see these rich old people walking their dogs through the main lobby. They had apartments in the oldest part of the hotel, and I always hoped I could spend my declining years there.

One night in the ‘70's, I was in my room in a newer wing of the hotel, watching a private party in the back patio from my window. A mariachi band had only been performing for about a half-hour when a huge rainstorm erupted, sending everybody scattering. I ran down to the main lobby, so I could see how things looked from the street level. Rain was coming down in sheets now and the streets looked flooded. I worried that this would queer my sight-seeing plans for the next day.

I went over to the 19th century part of the hotel, into the old three-story lobby, with its Turkish rugs, two levels of balconies, and a stained glass skylight. (Remember the huge painting of a cattle round-up in Rock Hudson’s den in “Giant”? It’s in the old lobby too, and was loaned to the movie's production company for the duration of the shoot.) I sat down in a huge, red, throne-like Victorian chair and just spaced out for awhile. Then I went exploring down the endless corridors of the original part of the hotel, where the old people lived.

For some reason those hallways always spooked me. There was always the strange sound of air moaning and rushing, coming from somewhere.

I walked faster and faster through these hallways and eventually got myself very scared. I tried to find my way back, but got lost. I thought the next corridor ahead of me led to the middle section of the hotel, built in the 1930s, but I instead wound up at a dead end--a fire exit and a window that faced a light-well that I didn’t even know existed.

So Wednesday morning I went to the Menger, had a few croissants, despite the fact I’d eaten breakfast a few hours before, and then went on a photo safari through the hotel. I also baffled the maids by trying to find that dead end hallway I’d wound up in. I found a few possible locations, but none of them looked the way I’d remembered. I did notice that many of the old suites now bore the names of famous guests, whereas only a few had names back in my day.

After prowling the Menger, I went by Rivercenter Mall, stopped in a video/music store and a bookstore, and bought a pair of Doc Marten’s I’d been unable to find in Austin. By 10am my eyes were starting to cross from lack of sleep.

I got a cab at the Marriott, and discussed the local weather and the cuisine of Oaxaca, Mexico with the driver, while he took me deep into West SA, to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. This is a colossal church, dedicated to the memory of St. Therese of Lisieux, and even has a replica of her tomb in a gated side-chapel.

There was massive construction and tremendous noise going on in the basement, but the workers broke for lunch in time for the noon Mass, which I also attended. There was paint and plaster chipping off the walls and ceiling, and with all the noise it was easy to imagine I was in an European church during World War II.

After visiting the Basilica bookstore, I cabbed it to another bookstore in the northwest part of town, where I bought so much stuff it shocked even me. By now, I had more things than I could carry easily. I was also sweaty, stinky, chafed, sore, very tired, and the humidity had given me the hair of Marlo Thomas, circa the “That Girl” era.

I still hadn’t gotten to half of my itinerary, but scrapped that for another trip. I called another cab, wound up with the same driver I’d had for the trip to the Basilica, and had him drop me off downtown.

My first step was the parking garage from which I’d taken so many pictures on my last trip. It’s funny–I couldn’t remember the names of more than two or three of the people I worked with at the Austin Public Library last winter and spring, but I could still remember what level we parked on in this garage in April.

I enjoyed taking an elevator up to a lonely part of the garage, pulling out a collapsable tripod, setting up, and quietly squeezing off a few shots. It fed into my professional assassin fantasies.

I then took a late lunch at Schillo’s, a very Bankstonesque turn-of-the-century German deli with dark panelling, uneven floors covered with old hexagonal tiles, and old panoramic photos of the city. I had a pitcher of their homemade root beer (the best I’ve had anywhere), some bratwurst, knockwurst, hot German potato salad, sauerkraut, and pumpernickel bread.

I decided to leave on the 4:30pm bus, instead of the 10:05 one I’d originally planned on. I stumbled along, heavy-laden with purchases and photography equipment, and passed an antique mall. I had wanted to look for religious antiques and old post-cards, but figured that if I went in I’d either be sucked in for hours, or I’d stay just long enough to realize they had nothing I wanted and would get stuck having to take a much later bus, so I skipped it. I did, however, take more pictures of decrepit old shops, and several of an old flea-bag hotel that reminded me of the cover of “Physical Graffiti.”

The bus station was only the third-nastiest I’d ever been to, after those in Dallas and Houston. There was a huge crowd at the boarding area. Off to one side I saw a demented-looking young black woman, sitting on the floor in a corner, her legs splayed out before her, the ample contents of her purse dumped all over the floor and her skirt. I stepped past her and found the line for the Austin/Dallas bus.

Naturally, I was next in line to a talky asshole, from Algiers, Louisiana (across the river from New Orleans) who wanted to know my name (I didn’t ask his), where I was going, why I’d been in San Antonio, and everything else about me. He seemed less friendly and more like someone who’d try to weasel his way into your confidences so he could steal from or con you.

I then noticed that no one was going out to board any of the busses. One cop in latex gloves was searching the luggage of everyone in one of the lines, then passing a metal-detection wand over them. I said aloud to myself, “Are they gonna search everybody?,” and the Cajun asshole said, “Yeah, they’re gonna strip-search everybody. I hope they start with her!,” indicating the young Hispanic girl four feet ahead of us. Unfortunately, she was standing alongside her gang-banger boyfriend, who turned around and narrowed his eyes at the Cajun, trying to decide if his ass was worth kicking or not. I was just sure the young man would assume I was a friend of that asshole’s and he’d go after me too.

Somebody got on the loudspeaker and announced a delay, and the asshole said, “Sounds like we’ve got time for a smoke. Wanna come outside with me and smoke and talk?” I didn't bother to say that I no longer smoke, but did explain that I really didn’t want to go outside anymore. I gathered from his manner that he took that as a rebuff and an insult.

It turns out the cop was only searching people on the Houston bus, and I was allowed to board fairly quickly. I got stuck sharing a seat with a fat chick who looked scared of me and whose sole piece of carry-on luggage was a large pillow. The asshole eventually boarded, and took a seat across the aisle from me, but one seat ahead. I kept my earplugs in long after the radio reception had faded out and I’d turned my radio off, just to make sure the guy wouldn’t be tempted to talk to me again.

I was too tired to read. My tripod was up in the overhead and I was just sure at the first sudden stop or sharp curve it was gonna come down and bash me in the skull.

Ignoring the “NO Cell Phones” warning scrawled in Magic Marker on the wall over the windshield, a nasty young chick across from me was yapping loudly into her cell, while sprawling across two seats and sticking her dirty feet into the aisle. It seems she and her boyfriend had run afoul of the law somehow. The cops had seized most of their household belongings, and she was moving to Austin, intent on getting an apartment. And though she admittedly had no money, she still, she told her friends, wanted to spend what little she did have on a “special tattoo.”

Unlike the trip down to SA, on this trip back we had to stop in New Braunfels and San Marcos, so that added 30 minutes onto our time.

We arrived a little before 6:30. It took me awhile to gather my things. I then worked my way awkwardly down the 14-inch- wide aisle with its tall seats. I had just made it to the top of the steps leading out the door when the Cajun asshole appeared at the bottom. He didn’t seem to recognize me. I said, “Excuse me–I’m trying to get off.” I excused myself a few more times, but he seemed hell-bent on not waiting the five seconds I needed to get down the steps, and so he somehow managed to squeeze and push his way past me and all my stuff and get back on board. Why the prick couldn’t wait I have no idea.

I caught the final cab of the day, got home a little before 7pm, was greeted by an overjoyed Fred, walked and fed him, then took a much-needed shower and retired, sore and swollen.

I may never go outside again.

Who hasn't found themselves in this predicament?

Click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore

I didn't say this, Kinky did. Kinky fronted The Texas Jewboys and when he did, this was their song.

He's written a series of mystery novels starring a detective named Kinky Friedman. They're good. I've read some.

He's gained the friendship and admiration of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. I haven't. Willie's a friend, so is Dylan.

I've met Kinky, twice. I like him.

In 2006, Kinky Friedman will run for governor of Texas. He says he's for real. I hope he is. He thinks he can put up a good fight. I would agree.

His quotes are good. Here are some:**
  • I grieve that NASCAR people never go to the lesbians' teahouses, and the lesbians never go to NASCAR.
  • You have your life and your work, and you should get the two confused and as mixed up as possible. Make it all one fabric. Vincent van Gogh did that. Hank Williams did it, Allen Ginsberg, Bukowski, those kinds of people did it ... Anne Frank, of necessity, did it.
  • Said to be a common happening--Friedman spots a child in the audience at one of his appearances and he says this: The Kinkster never likes to say 'fuck' in front of a c-h-i-l-d.

**These quotes appear in the current issue of The New Yorker

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

No. 12: Name that celebrity

Submitted by tj1972

Monday, August 22, 2005

They've got balls

Red-and-white beach balls to be exact.

The New Yorker's single-sponsor issue hit newsstands today. If you recall, this go-around includes a sole ad buy from Target.

In a New York Times article I cited in a recent post, David Carey, vice president and publisher of The New Yorker, made a point to say that the magazine's editorial integrity was of the utmost importance and so, "Target was not told in advance what the editorial contents or the cover of the issue would be."

Sure, maybe I buy that. But it's hard to believe The New Yorker didn't give the cover's creators the ball and tell them to run with it - so to speak.

And for some reason, I've got an urge to go to shopping for Target-colored, red-and-white beach balls.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

They bop

Ohio's The Sun makes a video fitting for Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself, Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop" and The Divinyls' "I Touch Myself."

First lines, best lines

Best sentences--like best songs and best liquors--should go first. Those that do, tell so much and are begged to tell more.

Here are two of my favorites:

"My mother died at the moment I was born, and so for my whole life there was nothing standing between myself and eternity; at my back was always a bleak, black wind." Autobiography of My Mother, Jamaica Kincaid

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue, taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov


That said, these are my current reads and their first foot(s):

"Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block? Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block. I'm not a bloody idoit. I can explain it because it wasn't inexplicable: It was a logical decision, the product of proper thought." A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby

New York City, March 17, 1930
"This one, they say, will stand forever." Empire Rising, Thomas Kelly

"I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front teeth are gone. I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut. I open them and I look around and I'm in the back of a plane and there's no one near me. I look at my clothes and my clothes are covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood. I reach for the call button and I find it and I push it and I wait and thirty seconds later an Attendant arrives.
How can I help you?" A Million Little Pieces, James Frey

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Tales From a Great Indoorsman

This week, J.S. Bankston draws inspiration from Marty McFriend.


Every two weeks I churn out a local history column for a small freebie paper here. I am not paid for this–I just do it to keep my clips current in hopes that one day I’ll find someone willing again to pay me for my work. (Lately my columns have become such behemoths that they’ve had to be published in two successive issues.)

I’m always fishing around for new ideas of things to write about, and actually
NotJackKerouac helped me come up with my next column idea, in a round-about way. I was checking out some of the site’s links, and was reading Le Monde De Martin, when I learned about Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, and how it’s been threatened by the wrecking ball, though the main building may be converted into condominiums. This got me thinking about the creepy old main building at our own Austin State Hospital, formerly known as the "State Lunatic Asylum."

I have a few connections to the place. A great-uncle worked there in the 1920s and the patients, like so many monkeys at the zoo, threw their feces at him. (Of course, had he been any true uncle of mine he would’ve thrown his own feces back at them.)

One of my college roomies, a rich neo-Nazi, said his mother used to work there, and she claimed there were wards full of people with horrific deformities–cyclopes and such-like.

And my last ever room-mate was this freak from New Jersey. I’d roll in from work around 5:30 or 6am to find him passed out on top of his bedspread, lamp on, glasses on, boxers bunched around his ankles, with a tube sock on his semi-tumescent penis. A few months after we went our separate ways, he wound up in the State Hospital, though sadly I cannot take credit for driving him there. I will say when I ran into him again in public a few years later I made a distinct point of not shaking his hand.

So anyway I talked to several women from the Hospital on the phone about coming down for a tour some time in the next few weeks, and they sounded thrilled at the idea of free, positive publicity. But Wendy, the lady in charge of community relations, was about to go on vacation, and so my tour got pushed up.

A friend drove me to the hospital. As we went through the gate and up the drive I assured him, "One day, not too long from now, you’ll be taking me on this drive for good!"

My appointment was at 9:30am, which is normally about three hours into my sleep cycle. I arrived at 9am, and took my time walking around the main building, taking pictures of the exterior.

The structure was built of stone, in a sort of frontier Italianate style, with three stories and a full above-ground basement, and two cupolas. The main block was constructed between 1857 and 1860, and other wings were added later in the 19th century. (If you ever diagrammed sentences in school, you’ll have a general idea of what the floor plan was like.) It is the third-oldest public building in Texas, and it’s falling to pieces.

Some of the windows were broken, with rotting frames, and were patched with weathered pieces of plywood. There were a couple rusty fire escapes hanging off the walls that led to locked cages on the ground level. The walls and windows are grey and seem to have embedded in them the black sludge of decades of very bad juju.

Wendy was a little late, so I waited up on the front portico, which was a fairly new addition, having been built only in 1903. Parts of it were rotting and parts that had clearly become hazardous had been recently repaired, but only in the most bare-bones manner. I was soon to see that the people who worked in the building had effected such improvements as they could, but they had little money for such things, and it was not uncommon to see a gleaming, freshly painted section, and then turn a corner and see lead-based paint chipping off the ceiling or part of a plaster wall crumbling down into a pile on the floor.

The first and second floors have offices, but the hallways are lined with memorabilia: photos of staff, patients, and buildings now burned down or demolished, old lab equipment, three cases of autopsy instruments, including old bone saws and a razor strop. I saw an old straight jacket in just my size! It’s a damn shame I can’t wear white after Labor Day, though.

I was shown a musty basement (also filled with offices), but the old lab in the back wing had been condemned due to all the formaldehyde in the air. The old morgue was also inaccessible, but I saw a tantalizing glimpse through a little window.

There was a detour to a nearby hospital building that was a jewel of 1950s modernism. Here was the only place I saw patients. I wasn’t allowed to photograph them, as it was a violation of their rights.

I was taken to the third floor of the main building. If you saw the film "Secondhand Lions," this was where they filmed the hospital scenes with Robert Duvall. (Other films, including "Courage Under Fire," have had scenes filmed in the building.)

The third floor is closed to the public and is considered a safety hazard. Some of the ceilings have collapsed and others are barely being held into place with make-shift lumber supports. The third floor is supposedly haunted, but Wendy didn’t specify other than to say that staffers have seen things there that they had no rational explanations for.

It was also on the third floor that I took my "money shot": a photo of a long, abandoned corridor, lit only by a large window at the far end–the very picture we all imagine of the desolate, forbidding, spooky pathways of the disturbed human mind.

Then I was taken to the attic. In the concrete stairwell was graffiti dating back a century: "M.H. 1907," "Henry Krause state carpenter May 14–1917 quit 1918 I came to work here July 1–190_," and "James L. Newton Nov. 15. 1916. Steaple (sic) Jack Painter Amear (sic) Thousand Mile Jack. Lost In Texas Some Where."

There was no way in hell I was going to set foot out in that attic proper. That place scared the piss out of me. At best, the floor would’ve given way underneath me. At worst, a miscellany of creatures from Lovecraft’s bestiary would've leaped on me from the shadows.

Wendy pointed out that the TSH’s Administrator is named, appropriately enough, Dr. Carl Schock. I told her about the urban legend that’s been knocking around in Texas news circles for years: that JFK wasn’t killed in Dallas, but was only seriously injured. After major plastic surgery, he was put in a private wing of the State Hospital, and staffers are told only that he is a member of a wealthy and prominent family. And of course, no one listens to him when he claims he’s President of the United States, because many people in mental hospitals suffer from delusions of grandeur.

Wendy howled at that and said she’d never heard that one before. Of course, if I should suddenly stop blogging and disappear without a trace, you’ll know the Feds didn’t think my story so funny.

One of the last things I looked at were panoramic photos of the staff, taken in the 1930s and 1940s in front of the m
ain building. The men all wear white jackets and bow ties, the nurses have crisp uniforms.

Everything is clean, proper, and orderly. (Although in one photo you can see off in the distance patients standing outside on the sleeping porches—Wendy told me that despite the soundproofing used in the walls–layers of dirt—just like at the Dakota apartments in New York–residents of the nearby chi-chi neighborhood of Hyde Park often heard patients howling and screaming throughout the night.)

But one photo keeps drawing me back. The glare from the picture frame prevented my photo from being as sharp as I would’ve liked it to have been.

The staff is arrayed there in front of the building, some even on the front steps and portico. But there under the porch, in the shadows by the basement windows, is an older man wearing a fedora and dark work clothes. A patient? A groundskeeper? A prototype to Freddy Krueger, the "son of a hundred maniacs"? And what’s that he has in his hand?

My friend James saw my photograph of the photograph and got spooked too. He said he’s always looked at old pictures very closely, ever since he saw the end of "The Shining," where Jack Nicholson appears in a group photo taken at a New Year’s party at the Overlook Hotel back in the 1920s.

Monday, August 15, 2005

No. 11: Name that celebrity

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My only competition is myself

Jack Kerouac. Frida Kahlo. Bob Dylan. Pamela Anderson.

These are names without competition. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for mine.

For years, I've tracked my place in the hierarchy of Jeremy Reeds. Type my name into Google (and yes, you know you do it too) and information relevant to me doesn't come up until page six, and I am not talking about this Page Six.

In order, here are the ones I'm tracking:

1. Jeremy Reed (pro baseball player)
I've kept an eye on this guy since he first made Google's page one as a top high school prospect. At 24, he is currently playing for the Seattle Mariners and batting .253. In his second year, his salary (without endorsements) is $316,000. This is the Jeremy Reed to watch.

2. Jeremy Reed (poet, author)
It was in the mid-90s with this discovery that I realized life would hold some obstacles. I came upon this writer on a trip to THE Beats bookstore, City Lights. Not only did I find his titles there, but damn if some of them weren't also published by City Lights Books.

I've since come to not only like Reed's writings (especially the Rimbaud bio, Delirium), but I've found a sense of 'shared fame' by placing his titles on my bookcases. Now if only Bjork, who called Reed's poetry, "the most beautiful gorgeous outrageously brilliant poetry in the universe," would mistake me for him.

3. Jeremy Reed (movie character)
This is the name of the pale character in the 1995 movie, Powder. The film starred Sean Patrick Flanery as Jeremy "Powder" Reed. I will not see this movie. And, I encourage others to do the same. This is the Jeremy Reed that I believe can be unseeded.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The New Yorker gets Targeted

On Monday, The New Yorker will publish its first issue with a sole advertiser: Target.

How many perfume-tainted pages do you think you have to go through in the current Vanity Fair with Jennifer Aniston on the cover - before you get to the first piece of editorial content? Stop guessing ... 188.

Here are the important facts regarding the Target print campaign:

  • Target will run these ads in 17 or 18 pages of August 22 issue.

  • The ads will be illustrations by more than two dozen artists like Milton Glaser, Robert Risko and Ruben Toledo.

  • The artists were given these instructions: ".... the ads had to use the Target bull's-eye and had to have New York themes" and use only the colors "red and white, for the Target logo, and black."

  • Based on the current New Yorker rate card, The New York Times estimates the ad buy to be around 1.1 million.

  • The New York Times asked New Yorker editor, David Remnick for his thoughts. He said this: "Ads are ads, and I have no problem at all with Target's advertising a lot, all at once, or a page at a time."

    Go here for the full story.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    No. 10: Name that celebrity

    5 things I learned about Ryan Adams

    1. At 14, Ryan Adams joined his first band, the Black Flag-inspired Blank Label. He played drums. The band recorded an EP, pressed 200 copies and sold them all to record shops in Raleigh, Greenville, Wilmington and Rocky Mount.

    2. On that famous night at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium where a fan continued to heckle Ryan by requesting Bryan's "Summer of '69" -- Ryan performed a cover of Bob Dylan's "Joey" (off Dylan's best album, Desire).

    3. Ryan Adams has performed "Summer of '69" on at least three occasions: 11/13/01; 11/28/01; 07/26/05.

    4. Ryan Adams is a friend/fan of Alanis Morissette. They wrote a song together called "1974" (not to be confused with the same-titled song on Rock N' Roll). The title comes from the year both of them were born. They performed the song once live at the Troubadour in L.A. on 2/20/01. The chorus goes, "So leave me alone/So leave me alone/So leave me alone/I'm busy breaking bones."

    5. Ryan Adams originally wrote "In My Time Of Need" for Johnny Cash to record. Cash didn't get around to recording it before he died and the song ended up on Adams' Heartbreaker.

    Thanks to Answering Bell for the lessons. Check out this comprehensive site - due in great part to the user contributions.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Tales From a Great Indoorsman

    How did you spend July? Here's a look at how J.S. Bankston got through the hot month in Texas.

    Tuesday, July 5
    I had the piss scared out of me the other night at Borders-a little Indian boy (Nehru Indian, not Sitting Bull Indian) was running through the store screaming, "KALI! KALI!," the name of the Hindu goddess of destruction, murder, death, and motherhood (no comment there). It was the name the Thugee cultists screamed in the 1850s when they went out to kill all the white folks in India. Now maybe the little bugger was looking for someone named "Kelly" or maybe he was enthused about what breed of domestic dog was on the menu at home that night, but it sure sounded like "Kali" to me.

    Thursday, July 7
    I'm awake for the evening, catching up on the news from London. I took Fred out for a walk just before a rainstorm blew in. During that I noticed my jerk upstairs neighbor walking back and forth from his apartment to his car, loading the latter up with clothes on hangers. Could he be moving out? Lawdy, Lawdy, I hope so! I'm not sure how long this punk has lived in the apartment above me, but I do know that any time he's home he blasts his stereo. I'll either hear it over my TV when I'm in the living room, or it'll shake my walls and ceiling when I'm in my bedroom. Either way, that's too damn loud. Then the last few weeks he's started making another noise. I have to assume it's on a synthesizer or something. It sounds like a rumbling, approaching thunderstorm, to the extent that whenever I hear it I go look out the window to check for rain. And so, whenever he makes this noise I call the apartment answering service (because the office is always closed when this stuff happens), and they call the cops. But often he finishes up doing whatever he's doing and goes out for the night before the cops arrive. Last week, though, he was cranking his stereo every day of the week, and I called and reported him every day. Finally, I was in the office one day getting some packages from Ebay, and I asked one of the office girls what I could do about this asshole. She suggested I just go upstairs and ask the guy if he would please turn the music down, that if I called the answering service too many times they'd start recognizing my name and number and would begin ignoring me. That is not the answer I wanted.

    Sunday, July 10th
    I got bored and took a long nap, waking at 12:38am. I dreamt I went into that 1950s-style Christian Science Church downtown and wandered around. I found stairs to a basement level. About a half-dozen people were seated in folding metal chairs in one area beside some windows, watching a ten-minute introductory film about Christian Science. I was busy hoarding free booklets and brochures.

    Thursday, July 14
    In April I'd gotten a letter from my doctor, requesting I get a blood test so they could check the progress of my regular medications (now down only to sinus, thyroid, and cholesterol meds). I was supposed to get the test by May, but I never got around to it. I ran out of my prescriptions over a month-and-a-half ago. I decided to wait on the refills just in case the doc decided to change the prescriptions. But then, I didn't get off my ass to get the blood test. You see, they want you to fast from midnight on, the night before the test. The problem with that formula is that it presupposes you sleep at night and get up in the morning, which I don't. Rearranging my schedule just for a blood test wasn't gonna work. This naturally threw my mom into a frenzy of nagging, which of course made me put the test off even more just to spite her. So Wednesday I was awake early and hadn't eaten since about 10pm Tuesday night, so it seemed like the right time to go get the test. The blood clinic is too close to take a cab to, but far enough of a walk to be inconvenient. I got waited on quickly, but the nurse had a hell of a time finding a vein, as nurses always do with me. One of the things I inherited from my mother and grandmother, in addition to a boxcar load of neuroses, was a case of "rolling veins." This means when a nurse or somebody tries to find a vein to stick a needle into, it retreats or "rolls" away from the needle. As a result, the nurse Wednesday had to squeeze and pinch around for several minutes before she could find a vein. The actual extraction of blood went pretty quickly, though I did wind up with a nasty bruise on the inside of my arm, though I'm not sure if it was caused by the needle, the tightness of the bandage tape she put on, or all the pinching and squeezing she did.

    Saturday, July 16
    Yesterday I decided to go to the Half-Price Books on 183. I was gonna take the bus down and a cab back. That was a mistake--I had another hour-long wait. I had planned to eat at a Chinese restaurant by the bookstore. I'd never been to this restaurant before, and at any rate when I got there I found it had gone out of business. I went instead to a large Vietnamese restaurant nearby I'd not seen before. This place had a pull-down screen for a projection TV and a little stage. I learned they often have wedding receptions there. I wanted spring rolls and "Com Bi," rice with shredded pork. My waitress had a very thick accent and said,"No, you no want dat. Dat lice shred foreskin. You get lice glill forechop. You like better." Well, since "lice shred foreskin" sounded appalling I took her suggestion, but I was expecting shredded pork chop, and what I got was two actual pork chops over white rice, which seems more Southern American "soul food" than Vietnamese cuisine. And anyway, I've never liked pork chops. The mother of one of my friends is the only person I've known who could ever make pork chops worth a damn, and I've not seen her in about 15 years. Plus, I've tried to avoid eating pork since I saw "Babe," though I do have my lapses and succumb to bacon lust. So now I'm wondering just how bad the lice shred foreskin could've been.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    Jane (and NotJack) says

    For the past 40 years or so, if you wanted to be a rock star, L.A. was the place. As long as INXS- Rockstarfucker doesn't screw it up, that will remain. Here's a list of the top 10 L.A. front men.

    10. Eazy-E
    Compton's N.W.A. deserves a spot. So who do you give it to? You really only have three choices: Dre, Cube or Eazy-E. In the early days, they pushed Eazy to the front. I'd say their instincts were right.

    9. Bob Forrest
    Circa 1992, Thelonious Monster played to sold-out shows all over Southern California. And it wouldn't be out of place to have Rage Against The Machine opening up and awe-struck fans Perry Farrell and Flea looking on from the front row. Thelonious' frontman Bob Forrest was that good. Forrest is now sober and living on the Eastside.

    8. Angelo Moore
    On Gwen Stefani's 'give credit' list for her current pop success, Fishbone's Angelo Moore would place right above Stefani's midriff. Moore can still be heard around town ska'ing and playing his sax. (Moore is from the Valley ... close enough for this list, not close enough to drive for dinner.)

    7. Zack de la Rocha
    By the time Rage Against The Machine released their first self-titled album, they were already selling out large venues in L.A. Guitarist Tom Morello gets credit as the mind. Without Zack's words and delivery, you'd be left with Audioslave. Think about it.

    6. Beck
    Personally, my favorite Beck album is the melancholy Sea Change. That said, if I've got tickets I want to see him perform Midnight Vultures from the top.

    5. Anthony Kiedis
    The guy rocked the stage in a single sock. Enough said.

    4. David Lee Roth
    Diamond David Lee Roth. Mr. Ease-the-seat-back. The one-time Renaissance man of rock-and-roll. Sammy might be nicer - but who the fuck cares.

    3. Axl Rose
    If Axl performed in any city tonight, the place would sell out.

    2. Jim Morrison
    Ever seen footage of Morrison performing "The End?" If 'yes,' you have no questions about this ranking. If 'no', go watch it and then refer to "If 'yes' ... "

    1. Perry Farrell
    "If I had my way, I would have sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll at least 4-6 hours a day. So long as there are going to be things in the way of that, we're going to have a revolution."


    (Nearby) Honorable Mentions

    Mike Ness (Fullerton)
    Sleeves of tattoos. Low-slung guitar. Singing Social D songs. Easily, he makes this list.

    Snoop Dogg (Long Beach)
    The D-O-Double-G from the L-B-C. Snoop Dogggggggggg.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles

    This is Sons and Daughters. Think John Doe and Exene Cervenka, growing up in Glasgow, Scotland.

    A sample: "Johnny Cash"

    Dylan gets statisfaction as the godfather of a generation on the road

    Thanks to an anonymous tip, I was pointed to U.K. magazine Uncut's list of 100 music, movie and TV moments that have changed the world.

    To celebrate the magazine's 100th issue and develop this list, they got together a panel that included the following people: Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Lou Reed, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Chris Martin, Robert Downey Jr., Alice Cooper, Moby, Ozzy Osbourne and others. How can you argue with a list that has Bob Dylan at the top of all and Jack Kerouac headlining the writers?

    Here's the top 20:
    1. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone”
    2. Elvis “Heartbreak Hotel”
    3. The Beatles “She Loves You”
    4. The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
    5. A Clockwork Orange
    6. The Godfather and The Godfather II
    7. David Bowie “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust”
    8. Taxi Driver
    9. Sex Pistols “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols”
    10. The Prisoner
    11. The Wild Bunch
    12. The Velvet Underground “The Velvet Underground And Nico”
    13. Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze”
    14. The Simpsons
    15. Neil Young “After the Gold Rush”
    16. Ramones “Ramones”
    17. The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”
    18. The Who “My Generation”
    19. Jack Kerouac “On The Road”
    20. Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures”

    I recall hearing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the radio for the first time. I had already been a big fan of early AC/DC, Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop, but never thought I would get to hear anything raw and loud like that on popular radio. I don't turn on Nirvana as much as I should, but I still give them credit for popularizing 'alternative' music. No matter how bad it gets, it will still be better than the one-time radio dial of Casey Kasem's American Top 40.

    One other thing that I learned today, Britain still makes the best music magazines.

    All things being even

    I am getting bored of the reality shows where you take rich, entitled individuals and put them in regular America for a couple of weeks. If our country took everyone's salary and distributed it evenly, each person would make $37,784 yearly. Here's the show I want to see:

    • Take 20 people of the same age, who have no kids and no partner
    • Track them for five years
    • Require them to turn in a current resume at the start. None of the information on those documents is allowed to be used for the next five years.
    • Randomly place them in similar communities
    • Guarantee that they will make at least $37,784 each year, no matter what jobs they do
    • Not allow them to work/generate money in an area where they have previously made any money (i.e. working the counter at 7-Eleven; trading stocks on Wall Street)
    • Not allow them to accept/generate money through any previous personal or historical connections (i.e. Joe went to boarding school with Sam, Sam's friend offers Joe a job; Jessie receives an inheritance)
    • Not allow them to reveal what they are doing to anyone
    • Those who break any of these rules, do anything illegal to earn a salary or accept unearned money to maintain, are eliminated

    The winner is the person whose average salary over those five years is the greatest. (Not the person with the most assets at the end of five years.) The winner receives 10 million plus they get to keep their wages.

    I am now accepting meetings for Trading Places: Not Starring Eddie Murphy.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Hike up your little skirt and show the lyrics to me

    A sister from Texas suggested a 'great lyrics' post. Since my favorite lyric to sing at this moment is this one from Martha Wainwright said to be about her not-so-dear ole dad, Loudon ...

    Oh you bloody mother fucking asshole (hear the full song here)

    ... I turned it back over to her for suggestions. She pulled some good AND popular ones.

    It's like meeting the man of your dreams/And then meeting his beautiful wife - Alanis Morissette

    Does she inject you, seduce you and affect you like the way I do? - Melissa Etheridge

    Hike up your skirt a little more and show the world to me - Dave Matthews


    For me, you could quote Bob Dylan all day and by default create a best of lyric list.

    Steal a little and they throw you in jail/Steal a lot and they make you king - "Sweetheart Like You"

    I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind/You could have done better but I don't mind/You just kinda wasted my precious time/But don't think twice, it's all right - "Don't Think Twice It's All Right"

    And she aches just like a woman/But she breaks just like a little girl - "Just Like a Girl"

    I must admit I felt a little uneasy/When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe - "Tangled Up in Blue"

    You always hear about Dylan changing up the musical arrangements in concert, but rarely, if ever, the words. When Dylan first recorded "Tangled Up in Blue," key elements (point of view, setting, character occupations) were different. He then re-wrote and re-recorded the song. That new version became the lead track of Dylan's second best album, Blood on the Tracks.

    Here's that original version from the NY Sessions: "Tangled Up in Blue"

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    No. 9: Name that celebrity

    My block: 3am

    "Backstage" This band just gone done playing on my block.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    My block: 11pm

    "Money Shot III"

    This is another house on block that is not seen from the road. Tonight, it is.


    My block: 10pm

    "Red Door"

    Three months ago, this door was not red. Two months ago, a film crew shot here. Tonight, the door is red.

    My block: 9pm

    For some reason, I've never been tempted to see what is behind this wall on my block.

    My block: 8pm

    "Money Shot"
    There are a few houses on my block that are hidden from the street. One, in particular, protects itself with a tall, rustic sliding door. I always wondered what was beyond. Tonight, we get to see.

    Side note: This house is three doors down from Rosa's.


    My block: 7pm

    "Rush Hour"

    Neighborhoods have a pace, defined by sounds. Some noises, like ocean waves, are constant. Others, like whizzing cars and passing shopping carts (like the one in this photo), have peak hours.

    "There Blues the Neighborhood"

    One year ago, this building was white and housed many families. It is now blue and houses several singles.

    My block: 6pm

    "Money Shot II"

    There's a great deal of money of my block. Sometimes, it creates nice things.


    My block: 5pm

    "Permission to Take Lincoln?"
    There's a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode where Larry asks if he can take this street on my block. It is the definition of traffic.

    My block: 4pm

    "Block Party"
    There's a group of people on my block who've created a block within a block. This is it.

    My block: 3pm

    "Bark at the Moon ... The Mailman ... My Dog ... Hookers ... His Tail ... "
    This dog on my block is the last thing I hear when I go to bed and the first thing I hear when I wake up.

    My block: 2pm

    "A Tale of Two Signs"

    This is a replica of an early 1900s' sign that homeowners would post. It roughly translates, "Attention: Bizarre Dog."

    This one reads, "BEWARE OF DOGS." I know both dogs. I'm glad this guy's sign is the clear one.

    My block: 1pm

    "Charles in Charge"

    This is Charles' house. His family moved to this house in 1946. You can barely see him. He's next to man with the cane, under the van. In addition to these vehicles, he owns an old model Ford, an 80s-era Camaro and a new model 18-wheeler that he drives for work. He spends his weekends working on his cars because as he once told me, he's got to get them running so he can move them to the other side of the street on Monday and Tuesday for street cleaning.


    This house was purchased in late June for 1.1 million dollars. This is what the house looks like today.

    "Out of Business"

    Fifteen years ago, this was the site of the neighborhood grocery store. Charles told me that.

    "It Pays to Recycle"

    This is Rosa's house. She lives here with eight other people. On Tuesday mornings, she collects my bottles and cans. Sometimes, she remembers my dog's name.

    My block: 12pm

    "Not the Sound of Silence"
    These trucks are common on my block. They sell fruits, toilet paper and things in between. And to let people know they are here and open, their horn-to-a-melody sounds.

    My block: 11am

    "Ah, Ain't That Pretty"
    There's a group of folks - say 6 or 8 houses worth - who live on my block. They are neither really poor nor really rich. One thing they share, the love of landscaping.

    My block: 10am

    "Two Roads Diverged ... "

    To get from one end of my block to the other, you have three choices. This is one and ...
    ... this is another.

    My block: 9am

    "Carted Off"
    Mr. White Truck goes to work on my block.

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