Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Off Season Post 20: A Ride on Lady Bird

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 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-- 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.


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?


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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


  1. Nice reflection. I love my silent time, which I don't give myself enough of. Random thoughts are the best. Even the painful ones. Being grateful is where it's at. Your RT#1 reminded me of a small town business that I ran for a few years. I tip my hat to small business owners. It is not an easy job. We ended up closing the store a few years ago, right before the economy tanked, because of poor choices by one of the owners. It was like a death for me and my employees and for the town women who had frequented that store. But I now have a great respect for the "little guys" and support local like I don't think I would have. Thanks again for reminding me to take time to appreciate what surrounds me and to learn from my mistakes.

  2. The flag story was simply darling, DP, but Random Thought 7 resonated the most for me, and I don't think it's solely because we share the same profession.

    I would love to know who decided that we must spend such a tremendous number of waking hours working, rather than playing. Those who support themselves (and others) by "following their bliss" must feel much differently, but how many people fall into that

    I think a future post about careers, jobs, or money-making ventures you've dreamed about pursuing would be quite entertaining. My personal list would include: first base coach for my favorite pro team; Broadway musical star; spa owner; and the ever-favorite, lottery winner. Wonder how much overlap exists between my list and Derek's?!

    Sorry for the mini-rant. Chalk it up to working too hard of late. Thanks for baring some of your soul and sharing random thoughts this week and happy biking.

  3. Always nice to get intelligent and thoughtful feedback. Looks like you two are my only readers this week. Oh well. DP

  4. Wonderful post this week, DP! I am always so impressed with how you articulate your thoughts and express yourself through your writing. I bet that after five minutes of conversation on a secluded dinner date that you have to beat the women off with a stick with that kind of charm.....or these days your SLF anyway.

    DP2 - are so right. As I was reading your comment, I thought, "what kindred souls we must be?" I don't know much about baseball, but if I can see the Tampa Bay Ray's shortstop from my view at first base then I'm all about that new job. Just put a fork in me cause I'm done. Their shortstop, Sean Rodriguez, has to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Me and the boys go to some of the home games just to sit there and stare at him in those tight pants. But up close and person view of Sean Rodriguez, performing on stage and instant wealth....not to mention Aromatherapy, scrubs, steams, massages and even my favorite...Hydrating Body Cocoons all at no cost. OMG!!! Calgon take me away!

    Again, Some and the boys think you're the best!

    Love and laughs,
    Derek and the boys

  5. DP, I'm sure you have more than two or three readers, but you may have thrown people off by posting on Wednesday. Plus, it's Rosh Hashanah (happy new year to those who are celebrating). To quote you to yourself: Chin up, Buttercup. Just blog about your undies again and watch 'em come out of the woodwork :)

    Derek, we must have been soulmates in a prior life! The beauty of coaching first is that you get to pat the butt of each player that reaches base - and be paid for it. What more could you ask for? I'm a longtime Phillies fan and don't know many American League players, but I found a photo of Sean Rodriguez online, and he looks a lot like Roberto from Ali's season. You sure have good taste!

  6. We're reading. We <3 you & your random thoughts! I personally will read no matter which day you post.

  7. Thanks for the shout out! :)
    I've been to that Four Seasons...classy place! But now I'm going to start obsessing about pillows-- yikes!!!

    You need to post your typical ride playlist...if you have one -- or just some recommendations!

  8. Love the idea for another music post. DP you did a rant on pop music a couple of years back that was great. For new readers, troll around the archives. Great stuff. Thanks for the post this week!

  9. Hi There dp2....Thanks for the kind words soulsister! A job that actually pays someone to pat professional athletes on the butt??? Sign me up...I'm in the wrong line of work.


  10. Loved the part about Ms. Lazarine and the Texas Flag. I'll remember that one to tell my kids when they get older :)

    I'm really envy you!!! I just adore Austin (minus all the crazy liberals). Had I changed one teensy weensy decision I made after college, I would be living there and enjoying it too...sigh...

    Anyway, thanks for the random thoughts!!


  11. "Crazy liberals" make life more interesting here in Austin. I've been here for some time now and I've never been bitten by one. Perhaps you've been sheltered in the Woodlands for too long. It's been my experience that "crazy conservatives" can be just as insufferable as anyone else. What's special about Austin is the level of acceptance afforded by everyone. Without tipping my hand, I can tell you that I have very close friends on both sides of the aisle from all walks of life. That wasn't true when I lived in Houston. Always good to see your face in the comment section, hartamber. Thanks. DP

  12. Hartamber – I tend to agree with you. Austin could probably use a few less crazy liberals. However, that’s all I’m say on that for fear that our beloved “Some Guy” will reprimand me for expressing my political views. With that said, I was born and raised in Texas and made the move to Austin over 10 years ago. I love the city, all of its beautiful surroundings and for the most part, the people that live here. DP is right. It’s a great place to live.

    DP – Great post this week. My favorites were RT #2, 4 and 5.

    #2 – This was my favorite. Thanks for sharing this story. You said it best – “It’s nice to be in a place where the land isn’t treated like dirt.

    #4 – Mr. triangle cup guy. You should send that in to Budweiser for a radio commercial. Wait a minute…nevermind. You would never betray Lone Star like that.

    #5 – I loved this one for a few reasons. I’ve lived in Texas all of my life and never heard why the Texas flag hangs the way it does – “We hang the Texas flag with the red on the bottom so the blood of the men that died for Texas doesn’t drip on the white, which is the pure part of Texas. Also, I don’t know how you can remember our elementary school principal’s name (Ms. Lazarine). I remember it now that you mentioned it, but would have never been able to recall it on my own. To this day, you still amaze me with your ability to recall past names, places and events and retell the stories without missing a detail while at the same time keeping it interesting and funny. I think that’s one of the things that I enjoy most about reading your blog.

    One more thing…..classic post this week, Derek! I don’t know what a hydrating body cacoon is (and I’m not sure that I want to know), but is still made me laugh nonetheless!


  13. Derek, I usually agree wholeheartedly with your comments, but I think we're about to have our first fight. The Rays??? As a diehard Sox fan with an inappropriate emotional attachment to my team, I just cannot get on board with this, no matter how attractive their players might be! I know loving the Sox is like being a battered wife who refuses to leave, but it's a part of me!

    DP, #7 really resonated with me. I had a discussion with my brother about this very topic not long ago. We get only one life to live, yet I'd venture to guess that 90% of the workforce is spending an inordinate amount of time working at a job that appeals in no way to their passions. I've been feeling particularly restless lately, tired of the banality of my daily job. Outside of work, I feel a richness and completeness to my life, but unfortunately I spend over 50% of my waking hours sitting here at my desk, finding ways to avoid work that no longer means anything to me, if it ever did. Yet I'm not quite sure how to escape it. Until I figure that out, I think I'll be taking your advice and ducking out at 5 today so I can spend a little time doing something I love with the people I love.

  14. Hi Jessica - LOL!! I'm too much of a diva to fight anyone. Besides you look too cute to fight with anyway ;) I guess you could say that I feel almost the same way that you do. I'm very emotionally attached to Sean Rodriguez and its definitely inappropriate!!! Thanks for the shout out girlfriend!


  15. I read your blog every week and I love it. You are so intelligent and well spoken. I'm glad to see that you are biking for exercise. I'm a personal trainer and believe that cycling outdoors is so good for you. I've read some of your older off season posts when you mentioned going to spin classes. Spin classes always sounded a little effeminate to me, but to each his own. I'm glad that you made "the switch". Also, make sure to do some type of exercise for upper body development as well. I've always felt sorry for men that engage in a sport or perform an exercise that builds legs and butt at the expense of upper-body development. A strong chest and shoulders draped by a pair of muscular arms is attractive to any woman. When I see groups of men riding on their 10-speeds with nice legs but the arms and upper body of an 11 year old I always ask myself the question...WHY? Anyway, sorry for the rant. I can't wait until next week's blog

    Traci in NC

  16. Traci, Im a thin piece of leather but I'm well put together. Thanks for caring and thanks for reading. When I was growing up and we'd see guys at the gym with big upper bodies and no legs we'd affectionately refer to that as a "stupid build.". Funny. DP

  17. I live in Austin too and I feel the same way you do about this city. I think that's one of the best things here is the people. And of course there's no place better than Texas!

    I haven't commented before but I really love your blog. And it makes me wonder if we've been at the same bar and I haven't known...