Tuesday, November 18, 2008

sole freak

Looks like the financial system is still falling apart, and so is Sarah Palin. We've got a new President. But the big news around here is that Papa's got a brand new pair of shoes!

I told an Afghan colleague, and she smiled warmly. "I noticed--congratulations!" she said.

As a rule, I wear a pair of shoes until they fall off my feet. My Tommy Hilfigers are cleaved in the middle and look like coconuts about to crack. My other pair of sneakers have a cheese-shaped wedge worn out of the heels--they make me stand like a penguin.

Maybe I wear my shoes to death because my mom once told me my shoes were supposed to last me a full year? I dunno....

Anyway, as is always the case when I go shopping with Anette, I entered the premises wanting one new thing, and left with three. I even bought some shoe creme, and from now on, I'm going to take better care of all my shoes and boots. I will occasionally give that thirsty leather a nice cool drink.

Why do I avoid shopping for clothes? Is that a male thing? (Umm, yes.) I always feel very fancy indeed after I've made my multiple purchases. Once, when my wife was 'assisting' me in finding a winter coat, she pulled something off the rack and handed it to me. A long, gray polar bear pimp of a coat. I wrinkled up my nose and said, "Naaah, that'll make me look like a rock star." Twenty minutes later, after buying it, I was watching my new coat flap around my legs as I walked down the street, and I thought, 'Cool. This makes me look like a rock star!'

My new shoes just make me look gainfully employed. That's pretty exciting too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back in the Day, Part Two: an Open Question for you, Dear Reader

Five years later, the Austin punk and hardcore scene had burned up and blown away. Raul's got shut down and became the fratboy-friendly Texas Showdown; Voltaire's Basement reverted to being just a basement. Like some of the other best and brightest, Terry Marks left town: I did finally get to have an actual conversation with her, but I had to move to New York City to do it. Curiously enough though, the Hickoids--as a concept and an influence, if not as an actual band--did survive: in 1995, for example, my younger brother was playing drums in a country-punk band who revered the Hickoids, though they may have never seen them play.

But I believe the Austin punk, new wave and hardcore scene of 1979-1985 left permanent stains on the city, its music and its culture. In fact, as non-snoozing readers may have guessed, I'm working on an essay about this era for an upcoming museum show in Austin. Because of this, and because I know a lot of my Austin friends will have their own ideas about it, I'm gonna do something I've never done before (tee hee): I'm asking an open question or two of Euro Like Me readers, especially any of you Austin folk who are still tuning in. (Ed, are you there? B, are you still checking me?) Here's the question(s): What is the legacy of bands like the Big Boys, the Dicks, the Butthole Surfers and Scratch Acid in the Austin of today? Who are the extreme or amazing and freaky bands of 2008, and do they owe any debt of influence to some of the aforementioned superfreaks? And do any clubs in the city bear the traces of great old venues like Club Foot or Dukes Royal Coach or the Beach?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Back in the Day, part 1

I don't live in Austin, Texas, anymore, but I was at the Fluc, my favorite cool-kids bar the other night, and it made me think of the golden era of punk rock in my hometown: of Raul's club, and the Hickoids, and Terry Marks. It may be standard for bohemians the world over to believe that their local bands, and their club, and their scene is utterly unique and awesome. But it isn't always so.

So as I leaned against the DJ booth at the Fluc, too tired to blink, I watched a dumb-ass student film, shot in black and white and projected on the wall. It seemed intended as a film-noir remix of Mother Goose. Five feet away from me, a lithe, foxy lesbian was canoodling with her girlfriend. Then she crossed the room, started flirting with a man, and left with him! Finally, a conceptual artist, wearing one of those clean suits the Centers for Disease Control folks use when there is an outbreak of bat pox, swept through the club telling everyone that the next act of her S & M puppet show was about to begin on the sidewalk outside the place.

Actually, now that I think about it, the Austin punk and hardcore scene, ca. 1984, was usually not quite this silly.

But there are parallels. Back in the day, on any given night in the clubs--Raul's, the Ritz, Club Foot, Uncle SuSu's, Studio 29, Voltaire's Basement--you might have seen a singer with a toy airplane glued to her head, fronting an unlistenable new wave band. Or you might have gawped helplessly as David Yow, the singer for Scratch Acid, attacked Gibby Haynes, the singer for the Butthole Surfers, smashing him over the head with a beer bottle, and then grabbing the microphone to take over the song the Buttholes had been playing!

For every renegade who didn't get the attention from the scene that he deserved, like the filmmaker and experimental musician Bryan Hansen, who died very young, there was a band who probably got more juice than they deserved, like the Hickoids, who turned corn-pone and country punk into low art. Sort of.

And even though Austin bands like Scratch Acid, the Big Boys and the Dicks later became legends, especially for people who never saw them play, we tend to forget that this was a bar scene, and all this amazing music was spilling off the stage even as everyone else in the place was trying to get laid, look cool and/or drink themselves blind. Even as I craned my neck to get a better view of bands like Poison 13 or Sharon Tate's Baby, I was really hoping for a brief glimpse of Terry Marks, the foxiest motorcycle-riding, moshpit-conquering, asymmetrical haircut-having chick on the scene.

(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Free @ Last

This is the picture that got to me. To see the Reverend Jesse Jackson crying as Barack Obama became our President was to know--instantly, wordlessly--how much this election means to people, and how different it is from the selections which preceded it.

People often use giant metaphors when they talk about the US, but usually language like this reminds me of a terrible old fifties sci-fi movie. I see the US as a lumbering, 80-foot cyclops in a diaper.

But not today. I am proud of us today. And I feel like something almost forgotten, some fine ideal, has come striding forward through the murk and disillusion of my brain, just like Obama striding across that stage in Chicago last night.

To see Jesse Jackson (and Oprah) crying in that crowd, and to hear Barack Obama speak so powerfully of the giant ideals that people should think of when they think of America, and to just sit back and think of what we did yesterday and how far we've come lately, is to be reminded that there is something fine in us. And there's something truly grand about that place, over there, that I still call 'home.'

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Do the Right Thing

Four years ago, American voters broke my goddamn heart by re-electing one of the most dangerous presidents in the history of the country. Today, I’m hoping for the make-up sex.

I try to be a political guy. I rant. I read about the campaign in the NY Times online. I protest in the streets when that's necessary. I boycott Starbucks (and shouldn’t we all?) But mostly I just do the minimum expected of me as a citizen—I express my opinion and I vote.

Two weeks ago, I voted from abroad for Barack Obama. Here is why I did that:

--Obama wants to get us out of Iraq. We shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

--Obama does not want to ‘’Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.’’ And the NY Times is right: John McCain’s willingness to joke about it was scary.

--Obama wants to spread the wealth. This is a sound, democratic idea. To pretend that it amounts to socialism (with or without the help of Joe the Fucking Plumber) is a funhouse mirror distortion.

--Obama has campaigned with dignity, and asked for my vote. He’s run smart, and listened to people. He’s also been cool as a cucumber. His opponent has called him names, threatened me and other voters with all that September 12 politics-of-fear horseshit, and otherwise told us what we need. No.

I could go on, but election day is ticking away. Please vote, people. Peace.

Sunday, November 2, 2008