Friday, December 30, 2005

Tales From a Great Indoorsman

Sorry for the delay in posting ... J.S. Bankston brings us up-to-date on his November.


Saturday 11/12
I had a gristly steak at the IHOP. To kill time I'd brought a stack of papers to prowl through, containing notes, sketches, etc., from the past few years. There were a lot of references to all the hundreds of frui
tless job leads I've pursued since 2001, one of the most amusing being for a dance instructor. The ad claimed, "No dance experience necessary." I e-mailed them that I couldn't dance, but that I did know the difference between Rudolf Nureyev, Bob Fosse, and Denny Terrio. They did not grant me an interview. I later learned the place was probably a front for a male escort service.

Several people, including, amazingly enough, my mom, have suggested I write a book about my troubles and travails in looking for work in the post-dot-com economy, but I've assured them it would be unpleasant to write, unpleasant to read, and would impart no Great Lessons or Morals.

Sunday 11/13 – Monday 11/14
Sleep. Restaurants. TV.

Tuesday 11/15
I lunched with James and his buddy, Vern. The entire time they talked computer geek stuff, and afterwards I confessed to James that I felt I knew what an expatriated American must feel like in a foreign country: I didn't understand a goddamn word they said.

We stopped by a news stand for papers and magazines (skipping the store's naughty adult section), and the clerk recognized me from my last visit, when I'd come in to get a refund. (The guy'd charged me $35.00 for a $3.50 magazine.) On the way out I sarcastically said to James, "At last, I've achieved my lifelong dream of being recognized at my neighborhood wank mag shop."

When I got home I went over the newspapers in my customer manner—on the toilet prior to my shower, and got a
gut shot from the San Antonio Express-News--Earl Abel's, a restaurant/diner that has been a San Antonio staple since 1933, is going to close. The owner sold the property to a fucking developer and it may be torn down as soon as January and replaced by a high-rise condominium.

Earl Abel's stays open late, mostly caters to the elderly crowd, has huge portions, keeps the same employees for decades, and probably had its last major renovation in 1969—some of the dining rooms are decorated in faux Mediterranean bachelor pad swank, and would not look out of place in an episode of "Mannix." Other parts of it still look very 1950s, and the neon outside is just great.

When I was but a lad my folks would take me to the zoo or the Witte Museum or the funky Playland amusement park and then afterwards we'd go to Earl Abel's. And now that I have grown to a man's estate, as the saying goes, I usually try to stop in whenever I come through SA. It looks like a requiem pilgrimage, if you could call it that, is in order.

God, why do people keep fucking up all the cool, worthwhile stuff in this world?

Wednesday 11/16
At lunch at the China Cafe, James was telling me about a recent call with his cousin, Tree. Tree's teenaged daughter, Chloe, is spending this year living with her dad in Utah. Many of James's friends regard Chloe as a surrogate niece and are very protective of her. We would need very little provocation to beat any mouth-breathing teenaged boy that hurt her into an irreversible coma.

--We don't hear from Chloe much anymore. Tree says she has a boyfriend now—a senior. She's a freshman and her boyfriend's a senior.
--Well, that can't be good.
--Well, you know, a four year difference is nothing among adults, but in high school it's a very big difference. But Tree said this guy's already gotten suspended for a week from school ... for fluffing.
--[Looking up from my beef, chicken, and shrimp in garlic sauce]--Um, does that mean something different in Utah than it does here? Because if not Chloe's got a bigger problem than the fact her boyfriend's much older than she is.
--Yeah, I asked Tree that, and she wasn't sure. I asked if he was specifically busted for fluffing, and then she thought about it and decided that no, maybe the word was "schluffing," as in "schluffing off school or something. But I don’t think she knew what the word "fluffing" means anyway.

We got a good deal accomplished today. We hit a Wal-Mart, where I got some hoodies and warm-ups and other wintery stuff (a front blew in last night), some extra bedding and pillows (I like to sleep like a Pasha with at least eight pillows on my bed, so that anywhere I roll I wind up on something padded), and at long last, my collapsible stool. And after years of notorious service I bought a replacement for what is probably my most important regular article of clothing—my bathrobe.

In the parking lot James made me howl by quoting a Dead Milkmen line:
"I know it's the queers. They're in it with the aliens. /They're building landing strips for gay Martians, I swear to God."

I also freaked out James several times during the course of the afternoon by reading his mind and finishing his sentences for him. At home, I brought in all my plants in anticipation of a freeze, and counted all my CDs.

Thursday 11/17
My mom now thinks I may be suffering from an enlarged heart, Myasthenia Gravis, emphysema, and I don't know what all else. I seem to get a new major disease or ailment with each call she makes or e-mail she sends. At this rate I should be dead by the end of next week.
Oh yes—she also thinks I weigh 300 pounds, which isn't even remotely close to the truth.

As for the Myasthenia Gravis, well, I had e-mailed her some recent digital photos I'd taken of myself with a really bad case of bed-head, and she decided that my eyes looked abnormally bugged out, and according to her, bugged out eyes are a warning sign of Myasthenia Gravis.

Nothing much happened today. I went to three stores in the neighborhood in an unsuccessful attempt to find a Thursday New York Times, and retired early.

Friday 11/18
I'd like to see the new Harry Potter film, but I want to finish the 730+ page book upon which it is based first. I've not read many books that long before.

Fred and I have both been restive today. He kept waking up all night and morning, wanting either water or walks, and has been panting heavily. I've been torn between tidying up, reading, napping, and getting out somewhere, but I just seem to be going to the bathroom a lot.

Saturday 11/19
Slept. Walked Fred. Read. Tried and failed to sleep more. Tidied house, bought groceries, and ate Chinese.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No. 16: Name that celebrity

submitted by tj1972

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tales From a Great Indoorsman

J.S. Bankston looks at the week and life including marriage: "Compromise is a dirty word to me—it means neither person gets his way."

Saturday – 11/5
Today was the day for the Austin Collector's Show. I'd been looking forward to this for awhile, and was intent on buying lots of old postcards.

You may remember how several months ago I went to our local National Guard base to research an article, and was driven by a cabbie who looked quite a bit like Saddam Hussein, which made for a lot of fun at the base gate. Well, this man lives a few buildings down from me in my complex and has often driven me all over town. He even saw me walking to the grocery store one day and offered me a lift for free.

Well, I'd not seen him for awhile. I didn't call specifically for him, but he was the one who s
howed up. I barely recognized him. He looked ashen and tired and barely spoke above a whisper. It turns out he's been getting treatment for colon cancer. He explained more about his condition during the trip, but unfortunately I couldn't hear anything else that he said, because he had the windows down and the wind drowned his voice out. I've felt really bad about this news and hope everything turns out all right. He's been a real gentleman with me.

I reached the exhibition hall early, and wound up standing in line with a bunch of paunchy guys aged between 20 and 60. Many had mullets. One wore a T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, greasy hair--and an ankle-length hooded black cloak.

I had planned to spend the whole day at the show, but it turns out there was only one postcard dealer there. The rest of the vendors sold sports memorabilia, over-priced old toys in dodgy condition, comic books (I guess that's where Gandalf was headed), Beanie Babies, and a bunch of other stuff I didn't want.

One guy had a small collection of old architectural magazines from the 20s and 30s. Normally I'd have been on something like that like stink on shit, but he wanted $20 or so for each, and they weren't in that great a shape.

There was also an autograph dealer that had some stuff that interested me, including some autographed photos of Bill Shatner and a canceled check signed by Jack Lord, but I was there for postcards and postcards only.

The postcard dealer was an older man from San Antonio with whom I'd had profitable dealings in the past. Since the crowd did not consist by and large of postcard collectors, I pretty much had the table to myself, and I stayed there for two or three hours and amassed quite a few cards. It took the guy 15 or 20 minutes just to figure out the price of it all. I spent way more money than I sh
ould have, and was in sticker shock for quite awhile after I left, and that's even after he knocked off $100 from my total (his idea, not mine) because I'm such a good and regular customer of his.

I like talking with this man, because he's lived in SA for decades, and likes to reminisce about the way SA was when I was a kid, vacationing there in the 60s and 70s, when it was a hopping town. We discussed the O'Neil Ford estate sale. He said he had thought about going to it, but he'd been elbowed and trampled at so many sales in the past he decided to skip it. He said the biggest estate sale he ever attended was that for Atlee B. Ayres, my favorite SA architect, who dominated the San Antonio of the first half of the 20th century the same way Ford dominated the second half. The old dealer said, "Those people had everything. They'd been everywhere. I'd never seen so many belongings and artifacts in one place. They must've gone all over the world."

(I once worked in a children's bookstore and took a check from a woman named Mrs. Robert Ayres and I asked if she was any kin to Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, and she got very excited and was amazed anyone still knew the names. The men were, in fact, the great-grandfather and grandfather of her husband, and she encouraged me to go to the UT Architectural Archive and look at the firm's drawings. I never got around to doing that, but about two years later a definitive book on Atlee Ayres's work was released.)

The Collector's show was in James and Nyssa's neighborhood, where I lived a couple months last year after the fire, and which is mostly populated with working-class Hispanics, blacks, Orientals, and Middle Easterners, which means lots of Mom and Pop groceries, every kind of automotive-related business under the sun, and lots of really cool ethnic restaurants that Whitey don't know about.

(During my time there I really dug patronizing tacquerias where you actually had to order in Spanish because no one on the premises knew English. There was also a halal market I prowled once. The owner kept giving me the fish-eye, as if he thought I was a shop-lifter, until I spotted a stack of brochures on various aspects of Islam, and asked, with genuine interest, if they were free. He said they were, I grabbed one of each, and he lightened up considerably.)

Anyway, I made a beeline for a Vietnamese/Chinese place I'd wanted to try out. Although it was 12:30, there was only one other party in the restaurant: a man and a woman, both in their 30s, both fat. He wore shorts and a t-shirt, while she had on a wife-beater, ugly turquoise-colored tattoos all the way down her bare arms, and a droopy black Goth-style dress that ran down from the middle of her ponderous belly to her ankles. She was, in fact, shaped like a giant bell.

The owner/hostess/waitress seated me by the window. The fat couple was seated in the center of the room. Maybe they wanted me and the owner to hear them talk, maybe the fact they were almost alone made them think they were at home, but for some reason, these two carried on their entire dinner conversation, when not stuffing their faces and gnawing, speaking at full volume, as if they were seated at opposite sides of the street and not three feet apart.

He was a displaced New Orleanean. She was his know-it-all friend. She lectured how his benefits would soon be ending and that he needed to go find a job. She held forth on all the things she likes about Austin—all the same banal shit everybody else always mentions when they extol the "quality of life" here—things which I either never cared about in the first, or eventually grew indifferent of.

She bitched about what a loser her ex-boyfriend and all his friends were, but said she might take him back if he ever grows up. She boasted about what a mature, take-charge person she was. And then she went into an embarrassing level of detail about her sex life, bellowing, "As far as looks go, I'm mostly still attracted to women—the way they're shaped, their skin, their overall looks, but the thing is, I really like to be penetrated. I like having that cock in me, and that's not something a woman can give. I'm basically just an old dyke who likes cock."

I don't like loud people to begin with, but this was really too much. I put down my fork and gave them a "Do you fucking mind?" look, but they didn't even see me—they were too engrossed in their spare ribs.

One of my problems with that is I suffer from a sort of reverse racism, I guess you'd call it, in that I get really offended when Americans are rude in front of foreigners, be they visitors, temporary residents, or naturalized citizens. Most of the foreigners I've dealt with in this country have been so polite that it just pisses me the fuck off when my fellow Americans break out their rudeness and crudeness for all to see. It reflects badly on us. And yes, I realize that people from other countries are rude too, but you know what I mean.

Sunday – 11/6
The Austin area Friends of Russian and Ukrainian Adoption had its Adoption Fair today. I've wanted to go to that event for three years running, but keep missing it for one reason or the other. A few years ago I was reading about adoption pretty much non-stop, but I think maybe my interest is waning.

Dorothy Parker said something to the effect that she didn't like writing, but she did like having written. I like the idea of having children, but I don't know how much I'd enjoy the reality of having them around all the time. Pets are really all the company I want or need most of the time, and I fear that kids would get on my nerves.

It also seems that when a person has kids it becomes the central fact of his life. When, for example, someone brings his kids to an adult party, then suddenly it becomes a kid's party that just happens to have some adults in attendance.

I like kids in small doses—as long as they are quiet, clean, attractive, and intelligent. Noisy, dirty, ugly, stupid kids need not apply. If I had kids I have no idea what I would do with them. I am not the kind of person who'd go outside and play catch with a kid—I'm just not that active. Museums, bookstores, libraries, zoos, movies, shopping—that's about the best I can do.

I also fear I might be too selfish to have kids. I know if a kid of mine got involved in something that didn't interest me, like soccer, for instance, I'd either make lots of excuses in order to skip the games, or bitch and moan about how much it all bores and annoys me. I'm childish that way.

I've always wanted to carry on the family bloodline, to be able to tell my kids about their famous ancestors and the roles they played in history. If I adopted I wouldn't be able to do that—the line would end with me and I would definitely feel a sense of failure.

The only reason I've thought about adoption is I have never come remotely close to marrying. The examples of marriage I've seen in my generation and in the generation after mine really don't make me very envious. In most of the situations the wives always wear the pants and have the final say, and I'd be goddamned if I'd sit still for that. I'm not cut out to be hen-pecked. Compromise is a dirty word to me—it means neither person gets his way.

Frankly, most couples, married or otherwise, don't seem very happy. Even if they don't say so, they seem to give off a vibe that says, "I made a huge mistake getting married." And thanks to my mom, I am hyper-sensitive to any behavior that seems to me like nagging.

As for Russian adoption, well, apparently single men are at the bottom of the parent desirability totem pole, right under gay and lesbian couples. People just assume if you're a single man you want the kid for sexual purposes, and you're pretty much guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Also, when you are at the bottom of the list agencies and officials assume you're so desperate you'll take any kid they throw at you—a two-headed crack baby, whatever--which is definitely not the case with me.

Russian adoption is the most expensive way to go—I think it now runs around $30,000 to $35,000 per kid, though you can sometimes get a deal if you adopt siblings—but it is also a single man's best option for adopting Causcasian children. But you don't run much of a chance of the kid's family showing up in America and wanting him back. (There is a growing trend toward something called "open adoption" in the US, where adopted kids grow up having contact with their birth families. Sex columnist Dan Savage went that route when he and his boyfriend adopted a child. His book about the experience, "The Kid," while entertaining, champions open adoption, yet it convinced me that I would absolutely under no circumstances ever want to do it that way. I would be too threatened.)

Of course I would want to write a book about the whole Russian adoption experience. (Janis Cooke Newman's "The Russian Word for Snow" is an excellent and beautifully-written example of that sort of thing.)

So, hell, I don't know. I think I sound like I'm trying to talk myself out of this. I have difficulty imagining any major changes in my lifestyle, but at the same time, who the hell have I been buying all these kid's books for over the years? Who's going to inherit all the millions I've made blogging?

Some say the way a person treats his pets is a good indication as to what kind of parent he'd make. Well, if Fred is the standard, then that means I would spoil my kids rotten, allow them to do pretty much anything, worry about them constantly, and regard them as an extension of myself. It would also mean, disturbingly enough, that my kids would wake me at 4am to go crap in the yard.

The thing is, I've rarely been able to support myself, and I would not want to have kids unless I could raise them very, very comfortably, and yes, spoil them. (I would probably also need to be able to afford a house and a housekeeper as well, since I neither drive nor cook, and anyway, Bankstons traditionally do not do day-care.)

More on this much later...I have a feeling.

Monday – 11/7
Started my local history column, but got bored with it 1/3 of the way through and went back to bed.

Tuesday – 11/8
Finished my column, but not before running out for chew strips for Fred and dinner at a Carrabba's Italian restaurant. The meal was so-so. The waitress was obnoxious in her zeal to try to sell me pricier dishes after I'd already placed my order. She also made like she was gonna sit down to take my order, but I gave her a look that conveyed I'd snatch her bald-headed if she tried.

But the most significant thing about the meal was the almost complete absence of light anywhere in the dining room. There weren't even little candles on the table. It was all I could do to read the menu. I felt like I was dining in a fucking aquarium.

Wednesday – 11/9
Sleep. IHOP. TV.

Thursday – 11/10
A guy killed his girlfriend in the Austin area today, bussed it to San Antonio, and killed the security guard at the bus station there--the same one I patronized in August—before finally being caught by the cops.

Friday – 11/11
My mother finally has said something that makes sense to me: she thinks the reason I've been so sleepy and sluggish lately is that I'm not getting enough oxygen, due to my fluid-filled lungs. It seems plausible. God knows breathing has gotten more problematic of late, and I seem to have less and less staying power. I have a great deal of trouble staying awake much of the time now.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I don't like reggae, I'm strictly roots

That's Sinead O'Connor talking about her latest album, Throw Down Your Arms.

The record includes covers of Peter Tosh, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Burning Spear, Bob Marley and others. It was produced by legends Lowell 'Sly' Dunbar & Robert 'Robbie' Shakespeare and recorded in Kingston, Jamaica.

There's a Jack London quote that I was reminded of on The Last Hideout that captures the essence of Sinead O'Connor. It ends: "... The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

She does that, and so I'll always listen.


Sinead O'Connor on the title track, "Throw Down Your Arms":
"It's the only anti-war song that I think that I ever heard, that is not entirely, completely fucking corny for start. But most anti-war songs are actually quite aggressive when you listen to them. The essence of them can be quite aggressive. Whereas Burning Spear will be like, 'why don't you come in here and I'll show something that will make you feel differently about it.'"


The album includes a three-part video of the recording sessions with O'Connor giving the whys of each song she chose.

Here's part 1.

Recommended downloads from the album:


"Roots reggae is an inherently spiritual type of reggae music, the lyrics of which are predominantly in praise of Jah Ras Tafari Makonnen ... lyrical themes include poverty and resistance to the oppression of government. The creative pinnacle of roots reggae is arguably in the late 1970s ... "

Read more on Wikipedia.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mail's here

MAY: Eliza Gilkyson, Shawn Colvin

SEPTEMBER: Michael Fracasso, Matt the Electrician, Nathan Hamilton


APRIL: Glover Gill

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rare, Rare Find: Kacy Crowley

"Bob Dylan with tits ... " - record industry executive


These are the words Kacy Crowley chooses to quote on the homepage of her site. My guess, it's half tongue-in-cheek.

Crowley came to Austin in the '90s. Landed a deal with Atlantic and put out the better-than-Liz Phair release, Anchorless. She got a lot of hype and sold few records outside of Texas. Crowley recorded a second album for Atlantic under the helm of underrated producer Fred Mahr (Luna, Lou Reed). It never got released. Today, she puts out albums on indie labels and does the I-35 tour circuit between Austin and Dallas.

Me, well I've always thought of Crowley as Paul Westerberg with a prettier voice ... and tits.

Here's the evidence:

"Rebellious" Anchorless (Austin, 1997)
This song charts Crowley's life and damn if you don't believe her when she sings, "We do life until we are sore."

"Kind of Perfect" Moodswings (Austin, 2004)
I heard when Austin's most popular songwriter Bob Schneider got married (post-Sandra Bullock), he asked Crowley to sing this song at his wedding. I can see why.

Limited Pressing: Available 2006

If only the sun shined more in the U.K.

Here's a excerpt from a recent issue of Q music magazine:

Sinead O'Connor says, "I'm surprised Bono can still talk, his mouth is so full with American politician cock."
Bono: Hmmmm... I can take the custard pies. Believe me, it's hard to do this job if you don't like the taste of custard. Yes, I know that some people get angry with who I'm dealing with. But, I'm determined that poverty in Africa can't be a left-wing issue. Some of the American politicians have very different points of views than mine. But that's the whole point: to convince people like that that saving the next generations of Africans is a worthwhile cause. Not a charitable cause, a just cause. A mouth full of cock is a tough charge, but I can't say I've never felt that myself.


Here's a excerpt from a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times :

"The opportunity is there," Kobe Bryant said. "Guys just have to attack and do it within the confines of the offense."


Add up all the quotes in the Times in 2005, and I'd bet Kobe tops the list of Most Quoted Local Personalities.

I'll leave you to form an opinion. I have mine.

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