Hello, Readers. Welcome back to yet another day-late posting on my wonderful blog. You’ll be happy to know that I used the extra time to contemplate life’s most pressing issues in order to wow you with my rhetoric and thrill you with my seemingly endless knowledge this week. Actually, I was swamped (yet again) at my “real” job as an Austin litigation lawyer. Sigh. The good news is that I get paid for that gig. The bad news is that my boss knows how much I get paid for that gig. Ergo, the extra work. Please direct every bit of your dissatisfaction at him.
It goes without saying that I never want to disappoint those of you who take the time to shirk your responsibilities by shutting your office doors, crouching unassumingly in your cubicles, or handing your children some candy and instructing them to explore the closest drainage pipe behind the house for a bit while you read. In light of that, I’ve got some random thoughts piled up that I’d like to share this week.
Before I begin I’d like to give this week’s shout out to a person who has read and commented on this blog almost as long as I’ve written it. Her name is Mary Pruitt and she writes a blog entitled www.putaruffleonit.blogspot.com. It has tons of chick stuff on it. Mary is actually the person who sent me both the idea and the “recipe” for the now infamous Diaper Cake.
After a few years of intermittent yet oddly consistent correspondence, Mary and I finally got to meet face-to-face after she was summoned to Austin by the previously aforementioned and much maligned “real” job. She was nice enough to trade in her Christian Louboutin Miss Chacha Sandal Pumps for a pair of boots and accompany me to one of my favorite local honky tonks for a few drinks and some live music. She opted for a fancy drink rather than a Lone Star, but hey, she’s from Dallas. I won’t hold that against her.
It was a pleasure finally meeting you, Mary. Perhaps I’ll go to Barney’s or Nordstrom and get a pair of whatever the male version of Christian Louboutin is the next time I make it up to the Big D. After all, I’d hate to stick out. Does that guy make boots?
Incidentally, if you haven’t read my Stuff Chicks Like series of posts, feel free to waste some more of your boss’s time today. I had fun doing those and the diaper cake is still to this day one of my favorite posts. Throw this into your browser-- http://guyinaustin.blogspot.com/2010/05/stuff-chicks-like-diaper-cake.html. I’m strongly considering a new run at the Stuff Chicks Like. I’ll get back to you on that.
Diaper cake in place, let’s get to it.
As was the case last week, I struggled for subject matter this week. In light of my recent athletic underwear purchase (I went with Champion if you’re interested), I had little to go on after bearing it all. Incidentally, I smiled to myself repeatedly this week at the thought of some pre-pubescent, fire weary boy taking comfort in his new set of tiny underwear. Charity warms the heart, doesn’t it? Annnnyyyhoooo . . .
As was also the case last week, I decided to climb on my mountain bike in order to clear my cluttered cranium and search amidst the serenity of the cedar tree silhouettes for inspiration. Because my schedule was tight, I threw the bike onto the rack and headed to work with the intent of riding around Town Lake (or Lady Bird Lake as it’s now known) after I put in my daily time for The Man.
After a day of some fancy lawyerin’ I donned my bike shorts (lesson learned) and headed to my parking garage to symbolically unlock my bike from captivity so that it could feel the warm Austin evening air coursing around its frame. It occurred to me that, like my bike, I would soon be thankful to be unlocked from my sedentary post in order to feel that air on my face. Symbolism kicks ass, doesn’t it?
As I began my ride many thoughts filled my head. Work, life, obligations, Oprah Winfrey…you know, the standard stuff. However, as the steady crunch of the pink granite gravel beneath my tires began to lull me into serenity, my mind cleared and I resolved to keep track of my surroundings and the thoughts that they provoked. I decided to forego my ever-present iPod in favor of the sounds and sights of Austin, Texas at five thirty on a Monday afternoon. Below are some of the things I noticed and what I thought about them when I did.
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER ONE
Because I chose to head East away from town and toward Longhorn Dam riding on the south side of the lake, I ended up biking for a short distance on Riverside Drive. To answer the question undoubtedly posed by the perceptive ones in the bunch; yes, I was riding around Town LAKE. However, the three “lakes” within the Austin city limits are actually dammed portions of the Colorado River. Thus, “Riverside” Drive.
As I pedaled quickly up the gradual hill in search of re-entry on to the trail I noticed many of the businesses along the street. There were restaurants, a dry cleaner, various jewelry stores, a pawn shop, and some other dilapidated buildings that once housed businesses in search of the hustle and bustle of anxious customers in need of whatever the sign on the door said was for sale.
As I rode further I noticed a newer set of buildings. It was the 21st Century version of the strip mall, which is to say that it was an upscale apartment complex (now referred to as an “urban living center”) complete with first floor retail shops and restaurants accented by heat-loving succulents and other perennial plants and xeroscapes.
Frankly, I don’t know why places like these garner higher rents. The day someone convinces me that I should pay more to live above a sports bar is the day stop participating in my own life. The last thing I need is a bunch of fat guys in NFL jersey’s swilling pitchers of flat beer and screaming at Tony Romo mere feet below my bedroom. Props to whoever invented the marketing plan for those places. They appear to be catching on.
“Progress,” I thought to myself sarcastically as I pictured that entire complex one day retreating into dilapidation like so many of the formerly shiny buildings around it. It occurred to me that behind every one of the doors in those strip malls lived the dream of a human being. Granted, it’s not MY dream to open a pawn shop in a sketchy neighborhood and fence (allegedly) stolen property prior to reselling it, but it was someone’s dream and that person made it happen.
To be fair, I doubt the guy who had that dream wants a house in a suburb on a cul-de-sac where he can mow the lawn and pour Dixie cups of random chemicals into his pool every weekend before picking up the Honey Do List from the kitchen counter and heading to Home Depot to get that ceiling fan his wife has been nagging him about installing in the sun room where she watches the kids swim in the pool because its simply too hot to sit on the patio furniture she made him buy via the Honey Do List a few weeks ago so she could watch the kids swim in the pool so she didn’t have to sit in the uncomfortable lawn chair that she made him buy via the Honey Do List a couple months ago so she could watch the kids swim in the backyard so she didn’t have to stand out by the pool and watch the kids swim in the backyard.
You get the picture.
Regardless of our use for them, each place, each business holds within in it the fruition of an idea that began inside a person’s head with the desire to make his life a little better. Each business is the manifestation of someone’s desire to control his own destiny in this world and evidence that the person who opened the doors there had the courage to strike out and challenge the odds of failure. I admire and respect that and it makes me a bit sad to see that a small business has failed. Hell, I even wondered what the former owners of Mr. Dong’s Vietnamese Palace were doing these days. With a name like Mr. Dong, I’m certain that he has options. I don’t even want to know what Mrs. Dong is doing. I wonder if they have a daughter?
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER TWO
As I made my way back onto the trail and settled into a comfortable cadence I noticed a man a few hundred yards in front of me bent over on the side of the trail with a trash bag in his hand. As I got closer, it became clear that he was an older man—probably in his 60’s—walking his informally adopted section of the trail in search of the Styrofoam cups and aluminum beer cans that inevitably snuck their way onto this section of the trail in spite of his diligence.
I smiled as I watched him untangle a plastic bag from the thorny branch of one of the indigenous plants that I see almost on a daily basis yet have no idea what it is called. I smiled for several reasons. First of all, the white senior citizen demographic is literally non-existent on the East side of Austin. That means that this man made a conscious choice to venture out of whatever retirement community he now calls home in order to drive over to the East side and do his share by cleaning up a small portion of the hike and bike trail.
Second, Austin is filled with people of all ages who feel like he does about his city—me included. It’s a wonderful—albeit often subconscious—thing to live in a place where the residents feel a tangible, almost paternal attachment to the land upon which their homes stand and the trees that offer the shade they desperately seek in the summertime.
People here actually care about their city and they pay more than lip service to their desire to keep it clean. Not everyone falls into that category, but in Austin the ones that do outnumber the ones that don’t. As I rode past, I nodded my head, smiled, and offered a modest and inadequate “thank you” and I meant it. It’s nice to be in a place where the land isn’t treated like dirt.
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER THREE
I made my way to Lakeshore (I suppose that’s appropriate but the irony is that it intersects Riverside) Drive and headed North across Longhorn Dam in anticipation of the turn back West toward Downtown. As I crossed the dam I noticed a bus stop on the opposite side of the road. Next to the stop was an incredibly haggard looking homeless man who stood there having a heated debate with several people. The problem with that was that he was standing there alone. “It’s unfortunate that he’s crazy,” I thought, “but at least he’s not lonely.” Life has a way of balancing itself out sometimes, doesn’t it?
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER FOUR
As I headed back toward town I began to see the familiar sight of office buildings and I counted the buildings poking upward as if seeking attention among their peers in the Austin skyline. More than half of the buildings I counted had literally not existed a mere five years ago. “Progress,” I said again, but this time with more melancholy than sarcasm. From a distance, the city looked serene—asleep almost—but as I approached its boundary the unmistakable movement of its inhabitants became evident.
I approached a water station—another Austin luxury provided by the business owners close to the trail—and I stopped momentarily to fill my water bottle and splash the salty sweat from my eyes and face in preparation for the remainder of the ride. I filled my water bottle and placed it back in the cage on the cross bar of my bike where it lived the majority of its existence.
I pulled one of those triangular paper cups from the sleeve by the water cooler and marveled at its efficiency and the creativeness of its design as I sipped the cool water from its insides. The cone is the perfect shape in order to maximize the strength of the thin paper used to make it, the volume of liquid it can hold, and the number of cups that will fit into the box. It’s brilliant really, and I was glad I was given the opportunity to marvel at the simplicity of the design while enjoying the benefits of the complexities it addressed. Nice job, Triangle Cup Designer Guy. Nice job, indeed.
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER FIVE
Refreshed, I again headed west and as I passed the Four Seasons Hotel on the north shore of the lake I noticed the Texas flag prominently displayed out front. As you know, the Texas flag signals home for me and wherever I happen to be it reminds me of Austin.
Upon seeing the flag wave lazily in the dull evening air (calling it a breeze would be too extreme an exaggeration, even for me), I remembered a time when I was in the fifth grade. I was a member of the Safety Patrol and was given the duty of heading to the front office ten minutes prior to the morning bell so I could retrieve both the Texas and American flags, hang them with the assistance of a classmate on the flagpole in front of the school, and then return to the office where I recited the Pledge of Allegiance over the loud speaker prior to the principal (Ms. Lazarine) making her morning announcements.
That doesn’t sound like much today, but trust me, I took those responsibilities seriously back then and I often lost sleep in the wee hours of the morning just prior to sunrise questioning my ability to perform them satisfactorily.
I remember the first time I was tasked with doing that. Ms. Jackson (Tracy’s mom) was the front office secretary and the holder of the key to the flag cabinet. She handed me the flags and my co-flag hanger and I hung them and said the pledge without incident. With the first time jitters out of the way, I confidently returned to my classroom only to hear my name over the loud speaker minutes later requesting that I immediately return to the office. What had I done?
Nervously, I walked from my classroom---which might as well have been three miles away—to the office where I saw Ms. Lazarine and my homeroom teacher, Mrs. Cummings, waiting for me—thankfully—with smiles on their faces. As she was inclined to do, Mrs. Cummings put her arm around me and walked me outside to the front of the school beneath the flagpole.
“Now DP, I know this was your first time, but do you notice anything wrong with the flags up there,” she asked.
Dumbfounded, I looked up to see the American flag in all its glory waiving serenely above the Texas flag in all of its glory. Aware there was a problem, but unable to quantify what it was, I simply responded, “I don’t know. The Texas flag is on the bottom?”
Aside from the obvious pride at my intent to put the Texas flag above our nation’s symbol of freedom, Mrs. Cummings smiled, knelt down to my level and said the following words, which I have not forgotten.
“The Texas flag is upside down and a parent called Ms. Lazarine to tell her. This is how you remember which way it goes. The blue stands for loyalty, the white for purity, and red for bravery. A lot of men died for that flag and their blood was red. We hang the flag with the red on the bottom so the blood of the men that died for Texas doesn’t drip on to the white, which is the pure part of Texas. Got it?”
I got it. To this day, I still got it.
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER SIX
At this point, I was beginning to feel the sting of the lactic acid building in my legs. My thought process became less contemplative and served more to distract me from the pain of the remaining miles of my ride.
The Four Seasons is a fancy hotel. Still, you can put a silk at on a pig and it’s still a pig. I don’t know why people get so uptight about the bedspreads in hotel rooms. Of course they’re disgusting. Anything that doesn’t get washed for five years is probably disgusting. However, what people should really be worried about are the pillows—not the pillow cases, but the pillows. Pillow cases are made of thin, breathable cotton. They can’t protect a person from the stuff that must be in and on those pillows. I should write about that.
And, I just did write about it.
RANDOM THOUGHT NUMBER SEVEN
Fighting to catch my breath after grinding the largest gear I could grind for the last couple of miles, I limped into my parking garage ready to dismount after what had been a cathartic and satisfying after work stress reliever. I put my bike back onto the rack, locked it, and headed up the elevator to retrieve my laptop and the clothes I’d worn that day before changing in my office.
As I sat there in my office chair drinking a bottle of ice water I looked out the window at the lake and the trail I’d just ridden. I thought about the fact that I spend literally 800% more time sitting in my office chair each day pecking away at the keyboard in an effort to be a lawyer than I do on my bike riding around the trail.
I spend 800% more time with my nose buried in a statute or an appellate opinion searching for snippets of language supporting whatever argument I’m paid to make for my client than I do enjoying the city I live in.
I spend 800% more time each day not doing what I truly love to do in the name of escaping early so that I can do what I truly love to do. That makes no sense, does it? Surely, that 800% must mean something. Then again, I can think of no good reason it must.
Well, there it is. Congratulations on being privy to the seven random thoughts on my mind this week. I’ll post as early as I can next week and, as always, I appreciate you taking the time to read. Skip something you don’t like this week in favor of something you love to do. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be talking to myself at the bus stop. DP