Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lesson learned.

Intentional or not, if you wear a red striped shirt with a fedora, people will think you're Freddy Krueger.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Several nights ago Sherry and I lay in bed reading. We were all Mike and Carol Brady like: slippers on our respective sides of the bed, bathrobes hanging from the wall, baseball bat within reach should we hear a noise downstairs, I be sent to investigate only to find that the children have booby trapped the downstairs to thwart would-be robbers and instead have entangled an unsuspecting Alice in a web of tin cans. Deep breath. I looked over at Sherry and the book she was reading - slyly, almost imperceptibly I looked, because she gets nervous when I watch her read. She was reading Norwegian Wood, one of my favorite Haruki Murakami novels, and I just happened to be reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a collection of Murakami's short stories. There we were lying next to one another, engrossed in our own imaginary worlds penned by the same man's hand, and I was so excited that I wanted to clutch her by the cheeks, kiss her on her pensive pouty lips and exclaim soul mates, you and me, soul mates! So I did, and she grimaced and told me to leave her alone, she was reading. So then I wanted to tell all my friends on the facebooks and the twitters and the linked-ins how in sync my wife and I are, and what a miracle it was that we would both be reading the same Japanese author. But I didn't. Because I'm afraid I'm becoming that guy: An otaku.

At the risk of being labeled an otaku, though, I've decided to write this blog. It's simply too important not to.

SXSW just wrapped up in our city. It's pretty much my favorite week of the whole entire year. For a brief window before our unbearable Austin summers bake us to a golden brown, the weather is absolutely perfect. And SXSW transforms our already bad ass city into a living, breathing, pulsating, gyrating party animal. It's strange. It's overcrowded. It's noisy. It's bloody wonderful.

My favorite night of my favorite week of the whole entire year is Japan Nite. A collection of Japanese bands from all genres and walks of life are pooled onto a single bill, and for $15 at the door my socks are rocked right off my goddamn feet. I love it. It's bizarre, sparkly, sweaty, incomprehensible; Everything I want from my music. Creepy gaijin like myself can practice their garbled Japanese and become buddies with the bands (like here and there) and my bro-in-law can have his belly signed by an all girl Japanese punk band. All us creepy gaijin look at all the other creepy gaijin doing the exact same creepy gaijin things as ourselves, only to judge them and somehow believe we're the only non-creepy gaijin in the entire crowd. We make faces and apologize for the behavior of our countrymen, just like this creepy mofo in the background of this picture. But not all bands want to make friends. Hence the inspiration for this sad blog from 2009.

Aww, but anyway.

Sherry and I have been going to Japan Nite for several years now, and this year was no exception to total badassery. Although, not all bands were absolutely radical. One band was just two shy dudes on their computers, flooding the venue with laser beams and whatnot. It might've been cool - or frightening - if we were totally stoned. But we weren't, so it was neither cool nor frightening. Just meh. Another band was fronted by an American (creepy gaijin), and was underwhelming. It seemed to me that she wanted to be a rock star more than she actually was a rock star. Scratching her head like she had lice, clutching her tummy like she had indigestion. That sort of on-stage foolishness. And I missed the final two bands because the people I was with were hungry and wanted to eat Thai.


An all-caps and resounding BUT! Two bands of the night blew the hair straight off my head. Straight. Off. My. God-fearing head, I say. Zukunasisters is a soulful group of four ladies with boundless energy. They make you happy you woke up this morning. Happy to be a part of the human race. Happy to have ears on both sides of your head. I was all grins and butterflies in the stomach at the end of their set.

Then on the other end of the spectrum was Hystoic Vein. Terrifying. Mesmerizing. Adorable in a sweetheart, don't-touch-that-baby-rattlesnake kinda way.

Lots of bands can sit on stage and perform good sets. But these two looked you in the eyes and said "For the next 45 minutes, you. Belong. To me. So, otaku or not, these two bands were extraordinary. They will make you dance and sing, and then they will melt your face off. 


Thursday, March 3, 2011

yes! yes! yes!

I’m a bookish boy. A voracious collector of lit, I purchase every book I read. And only after I finish the book, with its dog-eared pages and highlighted passages, do I set it gently upon my bookshelf. I dream starry-eyed of the day when my home will be wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling books, all books I’ve read and manhandled. Every pulpy page smudged with my oily fingerprints. And when the curtain falls on my time on earth, and my ashes are scattered at various points across the globe, I will burden my children and grandchildren with my collection, and they’ll wander from room to room wondering what to do with all these goddamn books.

There are a handful of writers who seem to speak directly to me. Whose books I clutch to my chest and cry yes! yes! yes! kicking my legs in the air and squealing like a teenage girl reading Tiger Beat. There’s Ray Bradbury and Joseph Heller. Jack Kerouac and Haruki Murakami. Steinbeck, Eggers and Vonnegut.

There’s Spalding Gray.

I had tickets to see Spalding Gray deliver one of his monologues. I had tickets twice, actually. The first time he was stuck in the Denver airport, grounded in a blizzard, and the show was postponed. Sherry and I went to dinner instead and drowned our sorrows in liquor, and Sherry got sick off margaritas and appletinis. The second time I had tickets, the show was canceled due to complications from injuries Spalding sustained in an earlier car accident. Then he killed himself. And since then there’s been a hole in my heart that will never be patched.

But last night, I took one step toward closure when I saw Garrison Keillor perform his one-man show. I’m probably too young to be such an avid fan of Garrison Keillor. The average age of attendees last night was 65, but Brandon has many personalities, and the shriveled old man inside of him – the same one who likes his coffee black and his bourbon straight – loves Garrison Keillor. I was introduced to Keillor many years ago through a quote in our local paper: “God never intended for me to work hard,” he mused. “I see that now. My true calling is to live unencumbered and follow the fleeting impulses of my heart and take a nap around 2 p.m.” And I’ve been hooked ever since.

In the book section of my myspace page several years ago, I described Garrison Keillor as the Mel Torme of literature. His prose are so fluid and velvety. His ramblings akin to the strangely melodic skeep-beep-de-bop of an unruly scatman. He shuffled onstage last night in a black suit and a pair of red Sauconys, and for an hour and a half he flopped his maniacal hair around, habitually brushing his frayed mane from his forehead. Eyeglasses perched atop his head, he revealed deep secrets of his youth. He told us of the first time he clumsily made love. He thought it went in straight forward, at a 90 degree angle, like a key into a lock. His words poured forth from his aged jowls like melted butter. It was funny and sad and glorious.

At one point I ran to the lobby to borrow a pen. He had inspired me to write, right then and there, and I scribbled in the dark on the back of a flier for David Sedaris, applauding and yelling yes! yes! yes! as I scribbled. I scribbled the words to my next blog. The blog you just read.