On Bravery, or I Auditioned for The Voice

13321907_10153683368897496_6061350582253211207_nAmy Schumer poses in a bikini. People call her BRAVE.

Alicia Keys wears no make-up, is photographed. People call her BRAVE.

Chrissy Teigen talks about getting pregnant. People call her BRAVE.

A few weeks ago I hopped a plane to Los Angeles and I auditioned for The Voice. People called me BRAVE.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t think that any of the aforementioned acts can be considered brave. Even mine. To be brave means to face pain or danger. PAIN or DANGER! Being seen in public doesn’t qualify. Make-up or not. Posting a picture of your already beautiful self, #nofilter #filterfree, definitely is not #braveDoing something that may be outside of your comfort zone is not brave. Doing something you are good at shouldn’t be thought of as brave either. It should be an obligation.

I had been putting off this audition for a few years now. I won’t list all of the excuses I had, but I promise there were plenty. I was just scared I guess. But not this time. I had nothing but time, and thanks to my friends I had enough money to make it to the audition. People actually wanted me to succeed! The rest would be easy: Just sing! Singing comes as easy to me as breathing. I love singing! And I’m good at it. Putting yourself out there and doing something you love shouldn’t take courage. It should be the easiest thing in the world.

But it isn’t. Why? Because being judged sucks. And so does rejection. But only if you let it. I should know. I’ve had a life full of rejection. A world of no. I’ve been told I’m too short. Too fat. Too old. Too opinionated. Too loud. Too MUCH. Not enough. Not willing. Not able to fit in. Unwilling to fit in. Unyielding. 

But I stopped giving a shit about what other people think a long time ago. All of those things I’ve been told by BOSSES, teachers, FRIENDS, loved ones and strangers DON’T MATTER. Not even a little. When you let go of worrying about what others think of you, life opens up. There is absolutely no danger. No harm will come to you unless you count a bruised ego. And you shouldn’t. Your ego wants you to fail so you have a story to tell. Win or lose. Those are the two choices the ego wants. It will have a good story to latch onto either way. Hero or Victim. It doesn’t matter to the ego. But just doing your best and moving on? The ego hates that. It doesn’t allow for you to tell your tale. You just are

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7:30 am, outside the Convention Center. I wouldn’t sing until 11:00

My experience at The Voice was a lot of fun. A lot of standing around and waiting, very little singing, but a lot of fun. While waiting in line I made friends with a few women, and each at different points in our endless wait asked me how I could remain so “calm”. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I was calm. I wasn’t nervous. At all. I didn’t feel like I needed courage to be there. I had enthusiasm. No matter what the outcome, I would be fine. All I needed to do was be successful in each moment. Do my best.

Well, here’s where best laid plans and intentions and all of that shit come in to play. I didn’t do my best. I kept calm, cool and collected all day only to have it unravel in a matter of minutes. Here’s the long and the short of it. The nutshell version.

After four hours of being wrangled, it was finally my turn to go up the escalators. The final step. Next up: Actually audition!

Well, of course I had to pee. I always have to pee.

Once I got upstairs I asked the guy, and he said to go for it. I got out of the bathroom and my group was gone. Disappeared. I looked at the guy, who was now a different guy. He put me in a new group and walked me down a long corridor. I could see small groups quietly sitting and waiting outside different conference rooms. “This is it,” I thought. 

We were seated and told to be quiet. No singing. I went to turn off my ipod (what I use as a phone)and realized it was sitting atop the TP dispenser in that last bathroom. FUCK. I already knew there was literally no going back since they cleverly don’t take people who have already auditioned past people waiting. I sprang up and told the guy my situation. He said I had time. So I took my little legs, and ran in my high heeled booties down the hall, looking in each bathroom. Not there. But the toilet I used was back down that FIRST hallway….

I didn’t have time to keep looking or I’d lose my spot. I ran back to my group and found the guy clipping off our wrist-things. SHIT. I was literally sweating. My heart racing when I sat down. “No luck?” asks the dude next to me. “Nope.” I tell him.  And in we go.

Of course I went first. Literally seconds after we are ushered in, my heart still racing, me thinking I’ve lost the only expensive thing I own, I hear my name called. I stumble…mumble, and sing the song I didn’t want to sing. I did a fucking GREAT job though. I killed it. My high notes soared. I belted where I wanted I felt alright. People clapped enthusiastically, not just politely. I sat back down knowing that I could have done better. Much better. But I didn’t beat myself up over it.

So that’s it. It didn’t take bravery for me to audition. I was never threatened or in danger. All it took was a few friends, and an inner determination to not mind whatever happens. And it worked. For the most part.

Oh, and I found my ipod.

Those of you wanting to know what “The Voice” audition experience is like, I’ll break it down for you real quick.

  1. It takes about four hours, start to finish. Mostly waiting in line. Bring snacks and water.
  2. You will be in small groups of about ten. You will sing ONE acapella song. Yes, you will sing in front of your group… Duh. I had one producer in the room. Nobody from my group was asked to advance.
  3. After that, you are finished. Bye!

 

Essay: Becoming Seattle

SN859177I awoke today with a mission: Retrieve a package from the Fed Ex office up on Broadway, and go to a drug store for assorted stuff and things. Before walking out the door I looked in the mirror and was shocked. I looked like a Seattle native. There she was, staring at me in her worn out black pea coat, dirty old sneakers and skinny jeans. Her knit yellow hat that didn’t match her green scarf, the size of which could have fit her and ten of her closest friends. But this was not native looking back at me. It was me! The California girl! (The girl who didn’t walk anywhere because that song is right, nobody walks in L.A.) Seeing that dingy yellow hat reminded me. I’m not a native. Not really. That hat saw Texas, The Grand Canyon, and The California Redwoods long before it saw Seattle. And now it gave me the look of any local who comes in the store looking for Infinite Jest. When did this happen?

I set out on my mission walking fast. I developed my City Walk in the winding streets of San Francisco and I’m as good as any native New Yorker at dodging, avoiding, ignoring and moving in general. I’m like Jason Bourne meets James Bond. But my City Walk is a liability here in Seattle. A city who collectively meanders. A city who will wait their turn when no one else is around. A city who is so polite it causes traffic and incurs rage in an L.A. native like myself. (L.A.: A city where wait your turn means go)

I adjusted my speed, but kept my pace fast enough not to be bothered by, or knocked over by anyone. I passed slow-moving people heavily engaged with the palms of their hands, not watching where they are going. A young woman was so engaged in her own hand that she tripped over a dog. That made me smile. I quite enjoy running errands. I felt the same way in Prague and San Francisco. Places where just stepping out your front door could result in a hilarious story for later.

For me a twenty-minute walk to the post is a journey across the world and a tango down memory lane. I walk by Annapurna (here in Seattle) and the rich, vibrant smells of chicken tiki masala and warm naan remind me of the delicious meals I’ve shared with friends in Berkeley and London. I’m suddenly transported to Brick Lane, eating warm spicy curry in a crowded restaurant then getting fresh-baked doughnuts from the bakery next door. I’m sitting in a restaurant in Berkeley with my friends and their one year old happily eating spicy food, proving once and for all that babies can handle their spice. Each step I take is a new memory. A new place to revisit.

I keep moving. I pass a bar with a familiar neon sign. “The Alley”, it says. I smile and think about Oakland and how much I loved living there. How much I love singing at The Alley. Rod Dibble on piano. Song books available, just ask. Blue Moon you saw me standing alone. Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man. Cigarette stained business cards tacked to the walls. Stapled. Pined. Taped. Decades worth of ghosts listening to the drunk and out of tune sing the songs of yesteryear. Over and over. Night after night. The Alley. Oakland. The first city to steal my heart. But not the last.

I passed a tiny dog barking at a pigeon the size of a small house cat. I passed small groups of students in front of the City College. One group in a heated debate about how many selfies constitute “too many” on FB. Another group laughing about a girl named Jenny and whether she should be pursuing a career as a metal drummer if she’s never even heard of Metalica. I thought of my years at PCC and the similar debates I had with friends. Who’s better Barbara or Liza? Fosse or Sondheim? I know I don’t need anymore literature classes, but do you think I should just take one for fun? Discovering poetry and learning to write it. Learning to write. Buster’s Coffee shop and Vroman’s Bookstore. PCC Flea Market and MTW. The good old days in Pasadena, not my home town but damn well close. Literally.

I know some folks look at the way I’ve lived my life and say I’ve wasted it. I know this because folks tell me. The internet is great for that. Strangers actually write to me just to tell me that I have wasted my life. I have nothing to show for my forty-one years on the planet. And maybe they are right. I don’t have any THING to show for it. I’ve had cars but I sold them. I don’t own property and I don’t have kids. I don’t have a fancy job or fancy clothes. If the accumulation of things is the sign of a life well lived, then you’d be correct in saying I’ve totally wasted my life.

But I don’t feel that way. I feel lucky. I’m lucky because for me, a trip to the post office is trip around the world. It’s fun, not a chore. I pass a Phò place and think about the little place near JZP in Prague, and the twenty amazing places in London. I smile. If I had never left southern California I wouldn’t have a cache of memories that are with me wherever I go. Even if it’s just to the post office.  

And now every day is an adventure. I looked out over the water today and thought about The Charles Bridge in Prague, but also how much I love the scenery here in Seattle just as much now. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Hell, I wouldn’t even trade Austin. I met some fine people there and now have a deeper understanding as to why the rest of the world thinks Texas is full of crazy people. (Hint: Because Texas is full of crazy people)

By the time I returned home to my little studio here in Capitol Hill I had been through London, Oakland, Prague, Mexico, L.A. and Texas. I was exhausted but oddly happy. And isn’t that the greatest measure of a life well lived? Happiness? If I can return home from the Fed Ex office, three drug stores and the QFC, all while carrying a package and bundled up like a tick about to pop, I’d say I’m doing something right. My travels have made me adaptable to my surroundings.

As long as my surroundings are not in Texas.

Ratna Ling Update: Acceptance!

ratna_ling_retreat_center_californiaIt’s on. My sweetie and I have (finally!) been accepted as volunteers at Ratna Ling center. I am so excited! I can’t wait get out of Texas, and back to the Bay Area. It’s been about eight or nine years since I’ve seen my friends there, so I am pretty eager. Leaving Austin will be the easiest move (emotionally) I have ever done. I’m more than ready for a change of scenery, weather, food, people… all of it. I’m just ready. I’ve met some nice people here and I had a great job, but that isn’t enough for me to want to stay. I need a little more in my life than a job. I need adventure.

Here is the plan. We leave Austin on the 30th and head back towards Houston. We’ll crash there through the holidays and then drive out to California in early January. I hope to celebrate my birthday with some of my favorite people, eat some good mexican food, and do a little karaoke before I become a vegetarian for six months. Once we get there we will have one month “probation period” where we see if we like it, and they see if we are a good fit. I foresee zero issues. I am a hard worker, I like a good challenge, and I am excited for an experience that will force me to learn something new.

The center is about three hours north of San Francisco, nestled in the Sonoma mountains. We’ve been told to be on the look out for deer, cows, rabbits and other various animals. There are trails to hike, and a beach within a four mile walk. The last time I had a four mile walk was when I unknowingly hopped on the wrong bus (Austin Texas, in its infinite wisdom, put two busses with the same number on the same route… and it picks up on the same side of the street at the same stop.) and had to walk 3.5 miles home. I saw condos, cars, people waiting for the next bus, and lots of fast food. Not a beach in sight.

bedroom_cabin2As beautiful as our new surroundings will be, this isn’t going to be a six month holiday. We will have work assignments – six days a week. “We have 3 projects on site at Ratna Ling. The book bindery, the retreat center and the publishing company. We encourage all participants to be open and willing to volunteer wherever the need is greatest.” Last I heard I was going to be put to work at the publishing company. Seems fitting. Here is what a daily schedule looks like:

6:00 – 7:00 am Kum Nye Tibetan yoga (optional) in the conference center

6:10 – 6:55 sitting meditation (optional) in the Meditation Hall

8:00 am Start of the work day – morning circle, announcements and chanting

8:15 – 10:00 am work practice holsteemanifesto

10:00– 10:30am break

10:30am – 12:30pm work practice

12:30- 1:30pm lunch

1:30 -3:30pm work practice

3:30 -4:00pm Break

4:00 – 5:45pm work practice

6:00 -7:00 pm Class 

So as you can see, this won’t be a spa holiday where I am doing yoga and taking pictures of deer in my spare time. This will be work and study. Two things I excel at. And I am ready to excel. This last year in Austin was a reminder of why I left America in the first place. It didn’t take long for me to get in a work routine and realize that I was in the same position I was when I left for Prague. I was doing ordinary work in an ordinary city. Again. The only way out of a cycle is to break out. And that’s what I’m doing. Because, I’m not an ordinary person. I am an extraordinary person who is on this planet to do extraordinary things. You get one chance at living and I for one don’t want to waste that chance on something as ordinary as a job. I want to live, travel, taste, adventure, learn, color, paint, write and enjoy my life – and make it as extraordinary as possible.

 

Sticks and Stones

Image“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We all learned that rhyme as kids and even back then, we knew it was crap. Sticks and stones hurt, but so can words.

A few months ago I wrote a post about living in Austin, Texas. When I initially posted it, it didn’t make much of a splash. Some people loved it. Some people hated it. Some people didn’t care either way. Jump ahead to yesterday and… BOOM!

Over the last two days that post has had over 18,000 views and over 300 comments.

To say that I am overwhelmed by the attention is an understatement. I thought I had hit my biggest number of views when I was featured as “Freshly Pressed” last month. Wow, was I wrong. Almost overnight my blog views exploded. And so did the comments. While I’m happy and grateful to have so much attention, I am also a little freaked out by all the hate.

I knew my piece on Austin wasn’t going to be popular with… some people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Texans, it is this: Texans LOVE Texas. Texans do not want to hear about/from/of people who do not love Texas. Oh, and this: Texans hate Californians. Not one to back down from opposition, I wrote about my personal experiences here in Austin.

Knowing what I know, I expected some criticism. And I welcome criticism. I welcome dissent and discussion. What I don’t welcome is hateful or hurtful speech. I don’t welcome rude comments. I do not welcome personal attacks. I don’t know what it is about the internet that lets people think they can be assholes, but people be assholes! Here is a short list of things people wrote to me, or about me because I don’t like living in Austin.

Bitch, loser, pretentious snob, whore, asshole, cunt, twat,”Get the fuck out”, privileged rich bitch, co-ed, idiot, stupid, ugly, lame, retarded and finally, evil. Yes, evil

After a day and a half of trying to wade through these comments and find the ones worth reading, I gave up. I closed the comments and gave myself some peace.

Now, I am left with a weird feeling. The comments don’t really bother me. I’m used to it. I think it is the sheer volume of them – both good and bad. But who does that? Who logs on the internet, reads an opinion they don’t like and then calls that person a cunt? Who does that? And the fact that someone would say such ugly things and then think I am stupid enough to actually post them just astounds me. Honestly. My blog is not a democracy. (Nobody can publish a comment without it getting through me first. If I don’t like it, it goes in the trash. So be nice.)

The internet should be a place for opinions and discussion. It shouldn’t be a place for bad behavior. Don’t assume you know someone from reading one thing they have written. Or twenty. Unless you actually call that person a “friend”, you don’t know them. Don’t go assuming that all people different from you are crazy, and don’t yell at people who have a different opinion. Just because you scream doesn’t mean you’ll be heard.

All I can do is keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years. Write. I’m going to keep on writing about where I am and what I see. Hopefully some of you get something from it. People asked me what I thought of Austin, so I told them. It’s my opinion. You might have a different one and that’s rad. If that different opinion is something you are passionate about, you can tell me about it. If you tell me about it using respect I’ll even post it. If you do not use respect your opinion will not be heard. It will go in the trash. Telling someone to move out of “your” city is juvenile. Screaming about how amazing Austin was in the 90’s doesn’t do anyone any good in 2013. Name calling, and ignorant statements will be ignored.

I did have some kind folks who wrote and apologized on behalf of their city and the lovely language used by some of Austin’s finest citizens. They said thank you for sharing and best of luck for the future. It made me smile. A little politeness goes a long way. So just be nice. Even if you don’t agree with someone. You can disagree without calling someone a rude name, or sounding ignorant.

Or at least most of us can.

Minimalist Living: Walking the Walk, Not Just Talking the Talk

ratnalingEarlier this week my honey and I emailed our applications to Ratna Ling, “a non-profit retreat and conference center in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It is a community dedicated to serving the welfare of others and cultivating work as a means to self-knowledge through a wide variety of projects both local and global.” We will live and work onsite for a minimum of six months. We will practice yoga and meditation morning & evening, work 9-5 jobs, (kitchen staff, book bindery, publishing, or even grounds keeping) and live with a community of like minded people.

The center is located in Northern California near Sonoma, about 4 miles form the ocean. We will live in cabins and walk to “work” every day. We will get a small monthly stipend (about $100 each) to buy shampoo, get haircuts, or spend on hamburgers in town. To say that I am excited is an understatement. I can’t wait! The application is just the first step. If they like our applications we will have a phone interview. If that goes well we will be packing up and heading to California in September, leaving Austin in our dust.

The program combines work/study with meditation/yoga classes. The schedule is from 8-7, Monday – Thursday. (With optional yoga/meditation at 6 a.m.) It’s just like a regular work day except the work is done where you live. And you live with the people at work. It’s a real community and it seems pretty badass to me. Waking up at 6am for yoga, working hard all day, meditation, dinner, and then a peaceful evening sounds like bliss. So does walking to work past bunnies, deer and nature.

prayers1For some of you, the thought of working “for free” everyday sounds crazy. But I bet most of you are doing that right now without even realizing it. I have co-workers who work on the weekends without pay, “just to get extra stuff done”. Some people get home from work, sit down at their computers and start working – even though they are off the clock or “salaried”. (Salary is for suckers. What an easy way for employers to take advantage of you and your time. If I am going to work for free, I would rather it be for a greater good than company pockets.)

I am most excited for the yoga, meditation, vegetarian cooking, and Buddhism classes. My sweetie and I have been working our way towards a healthier lifestyle since we got back to the states. And that ain’t easy to do in Texas! It started with cutting the booze. I had more than my fair share of beers, hangovers, and nights that end at 7am when I lived in Prague. That’s part of the reason I left. I know what some of you are thinking – Is this the same girl who eats gummy bears instead of fruit? Is this the same girl who can drink 5 shots of whiskey without puking? Is this the same girl who hates veggies? Is this the same girl who smokes cigarretts and hates exercise?

ratna-ling-meditation-hallThe short answer is: No. I’m not that girl anymore. If that’s how you remember me then you haven’t been keeping in touch. People change. And awesome people change a lot and often. I practice yoga in my living room. I eat peaches and apples for snacks. I don’t smoke. I hardly drink anymore. I’m at a healthy weight. I look good and I feel good due to hard work and sacrifice. My motto has always been – If you don’t like your life, then change it. I don’t accept excuses and I don’t use them. I don’t blame other people or outside forces for things that happen. It’s easy – We are not happy in Austin, so we are leaving. We are in search of simplicity, happiness, and community. I don’t need money or new things to be happy. I don’t define who I am by my job, and I don’t stay put where I am not happy.

So… onwards and upwards! Bay Area friends, get ready ’cause I’ll be calling.
Wish us luck! I’ll post updates about our journey here on this blog (tag: Ratna Ling)

Austin, Texas: Not Weird, Just Mediocre

SN856703I have been in Austin for 10 months and I am unimpressed. Maybe my expectations were off, but I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. There is nothing weird about Austin, Texas. It looks and feels just like any other US city I have been to – save the BIG ones like New York or LA or SF. There isn’t anything you find in Austin that you can’t find anywhere else in the US. People here are the same. Food here is the same. Bars here are the same . It’s all pretty much the same.

There are however a few differences. Take public transportation, for instance. It sucks here. In order to get the times, or routes, or stops, or schedule you need to have a phone or computer. There are no signs at the actual bus stop that tells you what the next stop will be, and what time the next bus will come. There is only a phone number and website. I called the phone number when my bus was over 20 minutes late. I was on hold for fifteen minutes before someone got on the line to tell me they didn’t know where the bus was, but it was “out there”.  Gee thanks. Also, there are no transfers. That’s right – no transfers. If you ride occasionally and don’t need a pass you can pay $1 to ride the bus. And another when you have to transfer. Or you can pay $2 for a “day pass” – even if you only need to ride for 20 minutes. It is stupid. Adding to the confusion, they also have two busses with the same number that go opposite directions. Awesome. (The number 30 bus picks up outside my work. It picks up on the same side of the street for either direction. There is no sign telling you this.)

Another difference I have noticed is the fashion. I was told that the folks in Austin are fashion forward have great style. I was lied to. And from what I gather, pointing out fashion faux pas here makes you pretentious. That’s right, if you don’t embrace shorts and those hideous UT shirts, you are an asshole. Then I guess I’m an asshole because Austin is a city that has truly embraced the “casual” style. Or lack there of. Austin clothing culture can best be described as jeans & boots meets T-shirts & sweats. It’s a city that embraces its own mediocrity and celebrates it. Austin doesn’t try. If you walk around Austin (even downtown) you will see a majority of folks wearing a rust orange top with the long horns silhouette and a pair of jeans. (The school colors of UT. You cannot miss it here.) You might also see that same t-shirt with matching sweat pants. Or not matching. You might see a flock of college girls out for a night on the town in that same t-shirt, boots and jeans. Are you starting to see a theme here? In Austin Texas nobody cares about fashion. I seem “dressed up” if I put on make-up and a necklace. It’s sad, and even a little bit depressing. Caring about what you look like doesn’t make you pretentious. It is pretty normal. Or so I thought.

The cost of living here is also a lie. Sure, it’s cheaper than Portland, LA, SF, or NY. But those places have natural beauty and a barrage of cultural things to do. Austin has neither. Austin is not a beautiful city. It’s flat and brown. A river runs through it but so do a bunch of highways and freeways. Don’t ask me which is which because both highways and freeways here have stop lights. The drivers here are discourteous and stupid. And the traffic is as bad, if not worse than LA. Anyway, the scenery in Austin consists mostly of condo property and businesses. Some businesses are in office buildings, some are in remodeled houses. There are a couple of nice parks in Austin, (Zilker, Greenbelt, Barton Springs) but the rest are sad and barren. Austin is not a walkable city like SF, but as I already noted it isn’t a great city for driving or using public transit either. But I digress. The cost of living here isn’t worth what you get. Plain and simple. You’ll get more bang for your buck some place else. And don’t forget – they don’t want “YOU” here anyway.

The other thing you hear about Austin is of course, “the music scene here is amazing!” I beg to differ. Just because there are a shit ton of bands and musicians here doesn’t mean that it has a good music scene. In my opinion there are a handful of really good bands/musicians here in Austin. The rest are taking advantage of the fact that a lot of bars feature live music. If you are into that, then hey – maybe you’ll like it here. But I for one don’t like to pay a cover just to see a crappy band. People in Austin talk about the music here like it is special. It isn’t. It’s meh. Let me put it this way – Austin has a huge case of “Big Fish, Tiny Pond” syndrome. Just because you are “famous” in Austin doesn’t mean the rest of the world knows about you. You can dress the part, act the part, and even try to play the part but it won’t make up for a lack of talent. And SXSW? $300 bucks for a wristband? No thanks. (And no, I didn’t buy a wristband. I battled the 700 other people trying to see free shows in the park or bars.) SXSW really wasn’t that much different that any other music fest.

SN856685I think the thing I was most disappointed about was the food. People rave about the breakfast tacos here like they had invented them. Nope. Nothing special. I had cheaper (and tastier!) breakfast tacos in the East Bay. I had also been looking forward to  trying Tex-Mex – in Texas. I grew up in California so I know Mexican food. I lived in Mexico for a short time as well. I am a mexican food fanatic. Prague has a lot of great things, but mexican food isn’t one of them. The food here is no good. It’s blah. I found out that Tex-Mex means covered in cheese. If you order “Queso” at a restaurant in Texas you will get a bowl of hot Velveeta, sometimes mixed with chili. It is truly disgusting. There are a great deal of food trucks here but only a handful of them serve up worth while food. The trucks all have clever names and serve everything from tacos to Thai to donuts, but the food just doesn’t cut it. The prices are high but the food is mediocre at best. The food culture in Houston is one hundred times better than the one in Austin. Austin is full of fast food – be it truck or Whataburger. The mid level restaurants are plentiful but not worth the price, and the up scale dining (where I think Austin is actually alright) are so expensive that a girl like me can’t really afford to go there. The best parts of this city are reserved for the people with the most money.

Lastly, I was lied to about the weather. It might sound silly, but people told me the weather here was great. Really? Great? I was told “…the winter here is really nice…” The weather here is hot, hotter and OHMYGODITSSOHOTIMIGHTBURSTINTOFLAME. I knew it would be hot here, but 89 in winter is lame. It is pretty much summer year round with a side of intense (year round!) allergies. We didn’t really get a winter this year. I mean, we had two cold days where I had to put on a coat, but other than that, nada. And now it’s spring. But if I didn’t have a calendar telling me what month it was I wouldn’t know. What’s so great about this weather? At least in California you can get a nice range of climates. Here in Texas its just hot. Hot. Hot. Hot.

Austin is a city that is full of itself. It pats itself on the back for such things as SXSW and Willie Nelson (who was born in Abbot, Texas not Austin), and gives itself a high-five for The Alamo Drafthouse while driving a huge SVU to the river to “party”. It ignores problems like traffic and housing and blames anyone who had the nerve to be born someplace else. If you aren’t from here – get out. That’s Austin’s REAL motto. For a city that wants to be “weird” it really doesn’t embrace differences. It revels in its “glory days” without doing much to make the “now” better. Maybe Austin used to be super cool. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m here now, and it so isn’t.

Austin is pretty smug and self-righteous. It reminds me of the mom who thinks her child can do no wrong. This city has a lack of class, culture, respect, and style. It is long overdue a makeover. It’s a city that can’t decide what it is. Are you a Yuppie city or a bohemian city? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t drive that huge SUV and be “green” at the same time. Shopping at Whole Foods and riding your bike downtown on the weekends doesn’t make you “green”. The Austin vibe WANTS to be “Slacker Chic” but is actually “Lazy”. Most of the people I have talked to here have never lived outside of Texas. That could be part of the problem. There is a weird combination of lack of self-pride mixed with batshit crazy “Texas Pride”. Austin is under its own spell. It is a mass delusion. Let me put it this way: It’s a city that claims to be liberal and forward thinking yet won’t let you purchase alcohol on Sunday before noon. You know, because of god and stuff.

I won’t stay in Austin. It’s not for me. The bad far outweighs the good. For me, a good city is welcoming, walkable, full of free parks, culture, museums and good, easy to use public transit. Austin Texas just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Put On Your Hoodie – Autumn Playlist

I love Fall. Or if you’re bein’ fancy, I just adore Autumn. Fall in Prague was my favorite time of year there. The leaves all changed colors, the air became all crisp and cool, and ladies everywhere start showing off their favorite boots and scarves. Maybe growing up in Southern California left me feeling like I missed out on something essential to any good childhood – jumping into a big pile of bright colored leaves for instance? Fall doesn’t feel the same without a change in climate and clothing. I never got to do any of the cool stuff I saw on TV or in movies, that is until I moved to Prague. In Prague I had a snowball fight, I jumped in a pile of leaves, I saw a real Spring and experienced a REAL winter.

Austin? You got your work cut out for you. Here is my Autumn inspired playlist. Play it in order as you bake some cookies.

  1. Peanut’s Theme song – Nothing says Fall like Halloween, and nothing says Haloween like “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” This piece of music always makes me think of fall… 
  2. Neil Young, Harvest Moon – I’m taking the theme a little literal here, but I still like the song and it feels like fall, don’t it? 
  3. Small Faces, Autumn Stone 
  4. Chet Baker, Autumn Leaves – There were a lot of choices for this song. I liked this one best. Today. 
  5. The Manas and the Papas, California Dreaming – OK. It’s techincally a winter song, but it feels like a fall song. 
  6. French Kicks, So Far We Are – 
  7. American Football, Never Meant – 
  8. MGMT, Time to Pretend – If you can get past the pretension and hipsters, this song is pretty rad. And feels like fall. And the video has cats. 
  9. Mumford & Sons, To Darkness – 
  10. Shakespeare’s Sister, Stay – 
  11. Nancy Sinatra, As Tears Go By – 
  12. Ella & Louis, Autumn in New York – 
  13. Squeeze, Coffee in Bed – 
  14. ABBA, When All is Said and Done – Yeah, not the best ABBA song, but it is still ABBA so it is still awesome. 
  15. Tom Waits, Last Leaf – Duh. Of COURSE I put Tom Waits on the list. He should be included on lists of awesome stuff as much as possible. 

5 Things Tommy Lee Jones Should Find

I’ve got this theory. It goes like this: Tommy Lee Jones is always, ALWAYS chasing someone (or something) in the movies. Think about it for just a minute and you’ll see I’m right. In “The Fugitive” he is obviously chasing Han Solo Harrison Ford. In “No Country For Old Men” he is chasing everybody else in the movie. In the MIB franchise he is chasing aliens. He chased Ashley Judd in “Double Jeopardy” and he tracked Benico Del Torro in “The Hunted”. Way back in 1980 he chased fame on Sissy Spacek’s coat tails in “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. The list goes on and on. He is really good at finding people. If I ever lose anyone he is going to be the first person I call.

I figure that since TLJ is so awesome at chasing down aliens, bad guys, escaped criminals, mysteries and lost hopes and dreams that he might be able to aid the world in finding some other stuff. And he should totally do it on film with snarky TLJ comments because that makes it better.

  1. The Black Dahlia Murderer This is one of the most gruesome and infamous murders in the history of L.A. Don’t believe me? Then just look at the crime scene photos. (shiver) I think given the right partner, the right hat and the right badge TLJ could have totally solved this case. He would have tracked the killer (who was probably a surgeon, let’s get real here) to some creepy L.A. basement where he had glass jars of human hearts and stuff all stacked up all over the place. TLJ would pull a gun on him and say, “You can’t slice your way out of this one, Slick” and then, you guessed it chase the killer through the house and streets of L.A. before nabbing him in an alley. What? I have a vivid imagination.
  2. Who Killed JFK – Yes, I am aware that Tommy Lee Jones was in the movie JFK. Do you think that was an accident? Not to sound all conspiracy crazy here, but the dude totally knows who done it. He was actually in Dallas the day JFK got shot. And later when he did the movie he did extensive interviews with Garrison. Yeah, he solved this one already. He just can’t let the cat out of the bag. I bet he even knows the truth about the babushka lady. Maybe he is the babushka lady…
  3. Bigfoot, El Chupacabra, and Nessie – This would make an awesome movie. I would totally buy a ticket to see TLJ hunt down the greatest questionable creatures ever known. He would be this badass grissled old cop, the kind who still reads the paper and has a rotary phone. He’d have a Jackalope head mounted on his wall and his partner would have to be played by David Duchovny who would roll his eyes a lot and call him “Pops”. They would prove the existence of all the weird creatures from all over the world… or disprove them. Everyone knows there is no Bigfoot. Duh.
  4. Amelia Earhart I see this as more of a reality show. Cameras follow TLJ as he tracks Amelia’s final flight. He finds clue after clue that seem to have evaded everyone else all these years resulting in him actually finding Amelia’s plane and then her secret island hut. A news report came out last month saying that they may have found the remains of her plane. If they just let TLJ on the scene I bet they would find her plane, the diaries she kept and all of the island crafts she made.
  5. Your KeysWouldn’t this be awesome? You lose your keys…again. But have no fear, Tommy Lee Jones is on the case. He comes over and sits you down for a little talking to. He makes you feel like a dick for losing your keys… again… and for wasting his time, but reassures you that he WILL find them. He always does. He is Tommy Lee Jones: Tracker and finder of missing things. He finds your keys in the freezer an hour later and asks you to be more careful next time. You try to explain to him how busy you are but he just says “I don’t care”. Classic. His phone rings. Someone in Ohio has lost a kitten. He bids you good day and walks out your front door. You cry a single tear as you call after him, but you never see him again.

Thank you Tommy Lee Jones, where ever you are.

In An Alternative Universe…

  • People who wanted to have kids would have to pass a psych evaluation before they actually had kids.
  • Ryan Gosling is on every stamp because he is just so damn good looking.
  • People carry around small, hand held buzzers that make the sound of a “strike” on Family Feud. This device is used to stop pretentious people from talking about their organic gardens, children, college glory days, and new restaurants that you just have to try.
  • Someone actually makes a time machine out of a DeLorean and travels back in time in order to stop “Back to the Future 3” from being made. A statue is made in their honor.
  • Men are forced to play football in speedos, tank tops and knee socks. With no pads. So it is “sexy” to watch. Men need to be sexy at all times no matter what they are doing.
  • George W. Bush never became President, instead he dedicated his life to consuming fried chicken, and collected Simpson’s memorabilia to the point that he needed to get a second home just to accommodate it all. He appeared on an episode of Hoarders.
  • There is no “gay” or “straight” just people.
  • Women make decisions for themselves and are not undermined. 
  • Texas is an island unto itself … kind of like New York in “Escape From New York”.
  • Episodes of “Jersey Shore” are shown in classrooms as part of a “Scared Straight” program.
  • People in Austin realize that they can lead the same “hippy” lifestyle without the heat, mosquitoes, and rednecks and thusly migrate en mass to San Francisco. This forces San Franciscans to be open to new people in their beloved city.
  • Oakland is overtaken by Hipsters.
  • Teachers make more money than Pro athletes. And actors. Combined.
  • In an attempt to help Americans have a broader world view, it is a requirement for all Americans to spend at least one year in a non english speaking country.
  • It is also required for all Americans to work in the service industry for at least 6 months.
  • There is no death penalty. People face life in prison without parole, and eight hours of every day is spent watching reruns of “Small Wonder”. This deterrent is so effective that it becomes a law in every country. Ever. Murder ceases to be a problem.
  • All school text books are written by a team of thirteen people. They are of mixed race, creed, religious affiliations and whatnot. They are sworn to truth and diversity.
  • All people with full time jobs are given a paid summer vacation of up to two months.
  • All national anthems are replaced by a “Universal Anthem”. This is it: 

5 Truths about “King of the Hill”

I have always liked the show “King of the Hill”. It is witty and clever, and if I am going to be perfectly honest here, it is really all about Bobby Hill. Right? I love Bobby Hill and I wish he was a real kid I could hang out with. Sure Hank is alright, and Peggy is this weird combination of feminist and conservative homemaker, but the love lies with Bobby. What I didn’t know was that most of what you see on this little cartoon is based in fact. Something this California girl who spent most of the last ten years in the Czech Republic couldn’t have possibly known.

  1. “Whataburger” is REAL! – Who knew? Apparently people in Texas, that’s who. I had always thought that the goofy named burger joint was made up specifically for the show. Kind of how “Red Apple” cigarettes were made up by Quentin Tarantino so he didn’t have to pay money to the real cigarette people. But I was wrong! This is a real fast food place that is found mostly in Texas and a few other southern states. In an episode where Bobby signs up for a 5k (and of course doesn’t run it) he receives an official Whataburger sweat band. Irony is cool. In real life these burgers are pretty awful, so I’ll stick to watching cartoon characters eat them.
  2. Those rednecks hanging out by the fence drinking beer? Yeah, people really talk like that – I figured that most of it was exaggeration for TV, like the way TV always makes people from L.A. skinny and have big boobs when in reality they are just as fat and regular boobed as the rest of the country. I have come to find that people from Texas (okay, SOME people from Texas) really talk like Hank, Boomhauer, Dale Gribble and the gang – and sometimes various combinations thereof. People actually say “I tell you what” without a sense of irony at all, and they hardly open their mouths at all when talking. It’s weird.
  3. Arlen, Texas is fictional – I guess this one is my fault, but Americans are notoriously bad when it comes to geography. Espically geography of America. But I checked and there is no Arlen, Texas.
  4. There is Texas paraphernalia all over the place – I addressed this discovery in an earlier blog entitled “The Odd Phenomenon in Texas“. Who else but Peggy Hill would have a Texas shaped clock in their kitchen? Answer: Just about everyone in Texas.
  5. Luanne’s hair is pretty darn accurate, I’ll tell you what After only a few weeks in Texas I have come to the conclusion that Texas is solely responsible for keeping the hairspray industry afloat all these years. I have never seen such wind resistant, and decade resistant hairstyles in all my life. See that sectioned off portion of Luanne’s hair? That happens! People tease this shit out of the bangs and form some sort of weird canyon in the middle with the use of a gallon of hairspray. The result is both fascinating and unsettling at the same time. They have a saying in Texas, “The higher the hair, the closer to god.” Lucky for me neither me nor my hair care to reach that high.