(I would have written about this experience sooner, but I came home from Boston to a sick dog, Dali, who is hopefully on the mend now.)
It’s hard to describe the emotions you feel when you see a production of your work, especially if you’ve never seen it staged before. It’s an ass-puckering combination of fear, excitement, fuck yeah!, potential humiliation, existential angst and gurgling intestines. Or maybe that’s just me.
Other than the Science Fiction Theatre Company people, no one knew I was in the audience until after the show. So I was able to eavesdrop. It was no surprise to learn that some folks found the abundance of semen in the play (yeah, that’s right) to be a bit disgusting. Good. My favorite thing other than the laughter was seeing people bend over and clutch their heads in embarrassment/horror about what was happening on stage. If they didn’t care about the story, they wouldn’t have been reacting. At least, that’s what I’m going with.
The first night I was there a physicist came up to talk to me, and the night before that an astrophysicist who discovered something related to Uranus (no joke) saw the show. In addition to a couple of theatre blogs, a local science fiction writer reviewed the production too. So there was interest from those communities, and they must have gotten headaches from my shitty science. I did do some research when writing about dark matter for the first part of the play but took huge liberties with it later on. Which I can do because this isn’t my thesis.
Actually, maybe it kind of is.
Let’s talk about the cast. Holy shit, they threw themselves into this ridiculous play. I can’t imagine a more game group of people. There are lots of awkward/inappropriate/gross lines, and each was delivered with no shame. Right on.
I can tell that Cait Robinson, the director, ran a tight ship because the show was pitch perfect all the way through. Set changes were flawless, tech was right on time and not a line was dropped or altered. Though I was tense when the lights went down, just a few minutes into the show I relaxed. They had this bitch on cruise control. After a while, I quit thinking the lines along with them and just watched the story unfold. There was a lot to see. I wish I lived closer to this theatre company so I could see all their work.
Hoping to get a few more pictures so you can see a little bit of the show and the rest of the cast. I took a picture of curtain call with my cellphone (bad theatre behavior), but good (theatre) manners keep me from posting it.
I barely made my flight. The drive from our house to the San Francisco airport with no traffic should take about an hour and 45 minutes. It took three hours with traffic. Then I had to dick around on the bus from long-term parking for a good 20 minutes before arriving at the terminal. Fast walked just one click under jogging to reach my gate (which was not only the last one in the terminal, I actually had to go down a floor to reach it) (that was weird).
Once seated and seat-belted in, I offered my neighbor a piece of gum. She couldn’t have been more rude as she said no. Then the b proceeded to cough the whole way here, and I’m worried she might have the ebola. Almost asked her if she’d recently come from Liberia but thought it a smarter tactic to dramatically turn my head every time she started coughing. I’m sure she appreciated that. Maybe next time she’ll take the fucking piece of gum.
This is my first trip to Boston, and the city is just as lovely as I expected it to be. Beautiful old buildings, lots of trees just beginning to change colors and plenty of stuff to check out. Way more than I could get to in a weeklong trip, much less one that’s only two full days.
In a weird case of immediately adapting to the time zone, I got up at 7 this morning (4AM California time) and headed out shortly after. Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel on foot, a lady in an SUV pulled up and asked for directions. Guess I blend in with the neighborhood. Not wanting to break the illusion, I gave her directions. She’s halfway to Canada by now. (Okay, okay, I didn’t really give her directions.)
There were a few places I wanted to hit today, and I managed to do them all, walking a total of 9.5 miles (yes, I used an app to measure my distance–figured if the gubment is keeping track, I might as well too). Love checking out a city on foot. For instance, I saw a well-dressed man who did NOT look like he was talking on a phone of any sort. Just as we passed each other, he said, “Let’s get the drugs ready.” I overheard a number of conversations (some between two people who were physically there, but many more were people on phones), and only every once in a while did I hear that stereotypical Boston accent. Guess it’s like how people expect all Texans to talk with a twang, when in reality most people sound like they’re from TV.
LET’S GET TO THE PICTURES
First up, Granary Burying Ground. I might have been inclined to try to eavesdrop on one of the people leading the tour groups through the cemetery, but they were all dressed like pilgrims or some shit. No thanks.
A number of notable people are buried here. I wanted to check it out for that reason, sure, but mostly I wanted to see what a cemetery that dates back to the mid-1600s looks like. You know, because I’ve spent most of my life in Houston where everything is new all the time.
James found info on this epitaph, if you want to read what it says.
Saw a lot of other cool stuff. Here are a couple more pics.
Okay, so I need to dry my hair, grab a cab and go see The Singularity. Will report more later.
Or, the time I went on a four-hour whale watching trip and puked into the Pacific.
The signs were there that things might not go well.
A final note: I’m absolutely going to go whale watching again–properly medicated. But if you come with me, just don’t stand too close.
And it’s a beautiful day on Amity Island. Here are some quick snaps I took on my walk today.
Rehearsals for my play The Singularity are in full swing in Boston. I sat in on a rehearsal via Skype, and I’m very excited about the talented artists who’ve come together to bring this story to life. Check ‘em out.
Science Fiction Theatre Company launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production. If you have a few bucks to throw their way, that would be super helpful and very appreciated. So far, the $6,000 campaign goal is 30% funded, and there are 12 days left to give.
One of the perks that comes with supporting the show (as long as you give at least $8) is you get your very own, one-paragraph science fiction adventure–starring you! I’m writing the stories for the donors I know, and the folks at SFTC are handling the rest.
Here are a few of the stories I’ve written so far. I never said sic-fi was my strong suit.
You’re hiking through dense woods. You can hear a stream somewhere close by, can even smell the water, but you can’t seem to locate it. Which is a drag because you have all your fishing gear with you. (You always have all your fishing gear with you.) You arrive at a clearing to find it’s not a stream you hear—it’s a lime green 1957 Citroën H Van. It’s just sitting there—shiny and comfortably idling like it rolled right off the factory floor—in a small clearing in the middle of a big woods. When you peer through the driver’s side window, you see a dashboard with no steering wheel, no place to insert a key, no gas gauge or speedometer or turn signal. Just a dial with a bunch of years on it. All the years, in fact, including a bunch that are ahead of you. The door is unlocked. You slide into the seat. The dial lights up, encouraging you to pick a year. You do. And you’re off. (for Tohner)
You’re driving back from the beach when it happens. In fact, your hair is still damp from your nighttime swim. You don’t bother to towel off the nuclear waste because it brings out your pink highlights. (Plus, those environmental sissies are always complaining about things being “bad” for the earth when most of the time they’re “not that bad.”) The juice cleanse convention in town is causing everyone to cram into the parking lot of the only place with a bathroom open this late (it’s a Dairy Queen), and there’s traffic ahead. You try to downshift to second, but your legs aren’t doing what your brain is telling them to. They feel like they’re stuck in a vat of cement. Your car is momentarily illuminated by a passing street light, and you see the blue-green scales where your legs used to be. You steer your quickly slowing car to the side of the road, tear off your shirt and bra and flop onto the hard ground. With a few strong flips and twists, you gracefully arc into the ocean to join the other mermaids. (for Julai)
This blog has frequently hosted my ramblings about Houston, both positive and negative. The negative usually focused on the things I felt Houston was losing to the ever-present push of “progress.” Tear down the Astrodome and install a monument that “celebrates the Astrodome.” Tear down a burger joint that’s been hopping for 50 years, pave the whole thing and make it a parking lot. Tear down my grandparents’ 3/2 and replace it with a 4,800 square foot faux Tuscan with a fucking elevator (true story). Tear it down, tear it all down, and let’s get us some luxury-living condos on this b.
History–and Houston–marches on. So do we all.
In a way, it’s been an emotional relief to live in a place where I have no history. I can’t be sad about what Pacific Grove’s lost because I don’t realize it’s gone. And physical change, if it comes, comes slowly here.
That constancy isn’t an accident.
I recently joined a Facebook group for Pagrovians (you know, like Houston = Houstonians). Where I’ve found the locals to be nice, almost to a fault, in person, the people in this group are a little more razor sharp. And often angry. About things that seem to my outsider’s eyes to be insignificant. A recently controversy was about a restaurant taking up two parking spaces to install a parklet. That battle raged for weeks, and I had to bite my virtual tongue to keep from making a snarky comment.
Here’s a picture of the parklet.
I recognize I’m new here and don’t have a sense of place yet. And I also recognize the unwavering efforts of people like this are why PG has very few buildings less than 50 (or even 100) years old. They’re why stately old homes on the main drag have been turned into restaurants or B-and-Bs instead of torn down and replaced with something shiny. They’re why there aren’t tacky souvenir shops littering the coastline. In fact, you can walk along the coast from one end of town to the other without having your way hindered by a building, parking lot or fence. And not because people haven’t wanted to build all kinds of shit here. Because they haven’t been allowed to. That’s the thing about a small town. The vocal minority can wield power. Unlike in a city. When Walmart’s coming, best get out of the way.
Except San Francisco. You can’t do shit in San Francisco.
Maybe I’ll join their efforts some day. For now, I’m happy to leave those battles to them while I enjoy the view and luxuriate in the kind of stuff that makes it into the local crime log (as reported in the Carmel Pine Cone).
Man reported opening his wife’s Forest Avenue business and finding a handwritten note tucked in the doorway. He stated that a subject known as “Joe” has repeatedly left handwritten notes at the place of business. He said “Joe” stopped writing notes for approximately eight months but recently started again. The handwritten note is not addressed to anyone in particular and does not threaten or harass. The letter was addressed from “Joe” stating he was going to make dinner, spaghetti and meatballs. Officer advised the man to let “Joe” know his letters are not welcome and to to stop writing notes.
A quick post to let you know about a cool play festival happening at my favorite theater in Dallas, Kitchen Dog Theater, tonight through Monday. It’s the 1st Dallas One-Minute Play Festival, presented by Kitchen Dog and the national One-Minute Play Festival.
Almost 30 playwrights (including me) were commissioned to write two 1-minute plays. That was both easier and harder than it sounds. Our instruction was to write about what’s happening right now–in Texas, the US or the world. The idea is to capture the zeitgeist, one minute at a time.
I’m excited to watch the live-stream of the festival tonight on HowlRound to see how the show comes together. If you think you might like to check it out, here’s more information about the festival, and here’s the link to watch the show
tonight (Saturday, August 16) Sunday (August 17) at 8PM Central.
This is Monterey Car Week, something I hadn’t heard of until a few days ago. There are car auctions, rallies, races, film and arts festivals, fancy dinners and events all over Monterey, PG and Carmel. Most have d’ in the name, as in Concours d’LeMons Monterey, Crash d’Concours, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, etc. (the d’ = $$$). A free event, the Little Car Show, was held in downtown PG. We strolled over to check it out. It gave me the chance to test out my new camera and also visit my dream car for the past 30 years (Karmann Ghia).
If I ever had doubts this was the right place for us to move (haven’t so far), they would have been squashed today under hundreds of furry little doggie paws. Yes, the annual Feast of Lanterns celebration features a DOG PARADE (has to be written in all caps because DOG PARADE) through the middle of downtown Pacific Grove. Tomorrow night they shoot off fireworks, another of my favorite things. Cannot wait. But you came for the pictures. Apologies for the quality—camera phone + over excitement + laughing.
In my ongoing search to find some people for us to drink wine with ’round these parts, I was thinking that maybe I would go to the weekly poetry slam in Monterey (they encourage all sorts of performance, not just poetry). You know, meet some other writers. Maybe we’d have something in common.
I disliked them all immediately, sitting around acting clever and superior. They nullified each other. The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of other writers. Like flies on the same turd. – Charles Bukowski
To be fair, I’m friends with a number of other writers, but we generally met in non-writer circumstances. And, regardless, friends happen organically after repeat, positive interactions. It’s not something you do. “I’m going to sell this house today!” It’s something you experience. (And I’d guess the people at the slam are too young anyway. If your liver is still pink and springy, we probably don’t have enough in common. Plus, slams aren’t really my thing.)
James and I are a self-sufficient couple. Even after 11 years of listening to each other’s bullshit, we’re still interested and still laughing. But we’re not quite ready for the unabomber cabin in the woods where it’s just us chickens and we never hang out with other people. It’s nice to hear someone else’s bullshit occasionally, especially if their bullshit can lead us to great places to eat, cool trails we’ve never heard of and things we don’t even know we’re interested in.
I had this conversation–in person–with my friend Nelson (a writer) a few days ago. He and his wife Phoebe split their time between Houston and the Bay Area, where they are currently. They drove down to PG to take me to lunch on Friday. It was great to see familiar, friendly faces, and find out that maybe James and I aren’t the only ones on this odd errand of finding new friends in middle age.
When you’re in your thirties it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever the group is that you’ve got now that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any new people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications. They don’t know the places. They don’t know the food. They don’t know the activities, If I meet a guy in a club on the gym or someplace, I’m sure you’re a very nice person, you seem to have a lot of potential, but we’re just not hiring right now. – Jerry Seinfeld
I didn’t think I be interviewing at age 44 because I didn’t know I’d be moving. So I’m either going to have to start getting out of the house more often to meet people, or some of you fuckers are going to have to move here.
If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. – Kurt Vonnegut
Shared experiences are important. Even if you’re on a turd–at least you have good company.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. – Oscar Wilde (and also The Pretenders)
James and I had a fun conversation about where we’d eat in Houston if we could magically be transported there. You’ll see the abbreviated list below, and it includes places that are no longer in business. Because why not. Yes, this is a bit of homesickness creeping in (hence the focus on comfort food). We don’t miss Texas yet, but we do miss a bunch of Texans. I hope you know who you are.
- Pig Stand (RIP) home of the cowboy omelet, which cured every hangover it went up against – I wrote about my conflicted feelings when Pig Stand closed in this post
- Shipley Donuts – we’ve had donuts only once since moving, at the most highly reviewed donut place in the area – didn’t even come close (in fact, we ended up throwing them away) – you can’t beat Shipley’s, except when they’re getting raided
- Chilosos Taco House – the egg + Chappell Hill sausage breakfast taco is magic in a homestyle tortilla – they always screwed up at least part of our order, but all was forgiven after the first bite
- Aunt Bea’s – I’ve never eaten at a restaurant that serves so much butter or hosts so many morbidly obese guests – read this about my first experience there (and the butter)
- One’s a Meal (RIP) – anyone who ate at this restaurant likely remembers the very tall Greek waiter named John who worked there forever – you can find him at Avenue Grill, and he’ll probably remember you – he remembered James after not seeing him for years – randomly, here’s a Reddit conversation from a week ago about this very man
- Tel-Wink Grill – the line gets so long for breakfast, it snakes its way through the restaurant (nothing like eating with a stranger’s ass mere inches from the edge of your plate) – the Houston Press weighs in
- Stanton’s – though this place has been around for a while, I didn’t make it there until a few years ago – it would have been a contender for best burger in Houston during the burger journey – it reminds me of grocery/burger joints in the country
- New Orleans Poboy (RIP) – here’s what I had to say about its closure in that fake advice column I used to write – still one of my favorite burgers of all time
- Antone’s (before the family sold out) – if you had the privilege of eating an Antone’s back in the day, you would want to slap the fools who make the mushy bread, no chowchow version for sale today – Houstonia talks about the decline of the Houston poboy
- James Coney Island (RIP the two-story location downtown on Main St) – I used to go to this location with my grandfather – always loved sitting at the old school desks amidst the white-, blue- and no-collar patrons – after lunch, we’d hit the tunnels and wander around, eventually capping off our experience at the 60th floor observation deck of Chase Tower, the tallest building in Houston
- Liberty Kitchen – I used to go to the one in the Heights (in what was once a quickie mart) (Pepperidge Farm remembers), but I heard a rumor there’s a framed FIGHT STUPIDIZATION sticker on the wall at the fancier Liberty Kitchen on San Felipe
- Barbecue Inn – this place will always have my respect for telling Guy Fieri they weren’t interested in his greasy ass filming his TV show there – plus, the food’s delicious and there’s always a line, so they aren’t hurting for business – I had an awkward encounter in the bathroom there on my birthday eight years ago
- Tia Maria – we moved through a number of TexMex haunts over years, and this was the most recent favorite for our regular Friday night nosh – that first sip of frozen margarita marked the end of the work week
- Beaver’s – there’s something very “Houston” about Beaver’s – their delicious drinks inspired me to purchase a muddler
- Spanish Village – we ate there when I was a kid, and I still remember the multi-colored chairs with straw seats and the Christmas lights that lined the dining room – luckily, not much has changed (except I became old enough to understand why the adults liked eating there–the margaritas will knock your ass out)
- Dolce Vita – the only forced-valet restaurant on the list (you can still find parking in the surrounding neighborhood, so that’s okay) – I had some great meals there with some great people, and I credit Dolce Vita for introducing me to the concept that brussels sprouts can be delicious
- Hickory Hollow – two words: hot tots
I think I gained 10 pounds writing this post. I hope at least one of you is inspired to check out some of the places that are still around or maybe revisit one of your old favorites.
And don’t worry about us. We might be a little homesick for our peeps, but we still have all of this to keep us company.
I’m free! Free to soak up someone else’s wifi! Free to eavesdrop! Free to be a jackass writing on a computer in a coffee shop!
When I made the move to start working from home, I was really excited about being able to write on location. Inside, outside, any place I could get wifi. I was going to rid myself of the drudgery of sitting in the same chair at the same desk for 8 hours or more a day and instead plop my ass in a lot of different chairs.
What I didn’t count on was killing my six-year-old laptop right after we got here.
We were stuck in a hotel for 10 days while we searched for a place to live. Ten days of desperately driving past house listings (please be the one, please be the one, shit) and working full-time while stuck in a 150 square foot hotel room with two irritated dogs and an irritated James. On the next-to-last night in the hotel, I was working late. Stressed out. Going a little cray-cray. Maybe my motor skills were also depressed because I spilled an entire glass of water on the keyboard of my laptop. And I was tired and over it enough that I just said fuck it and went to bed. Didn’t take out the battery or attempt any sort of life saving measures. My lack of effort was rewarded the next morning when the computer wouldn’t stay on for more than 60 seconds. It never did recover.
In the ensuing three+ months, I’ve been stuck working on my desktop in my tiny home office. The cray-cray was creeping back in, so I bought a new laptop. It’s currently on its first trip to a coffee shop/restaurant a short walk from my house.
When you start working from home after years of being in an active, open office, at first you appreciate the silence and increase in productivity. Eventually, the quiet begins to press upon you. And you realize you miss the sound of humanity. Other people’s phone conversations, recitations of what they did over the weekend, where they bought those crazy shoes. It’s not the content you miss as much as the noise of it. The aliveness of it. The other-people-ness of it.
Now that I’m untethered from my desk, I can sit in a public place, hear the sounds without really listening to them, and feel like I’m still part of the world. It’s nice. And since I’m a bit of a hermit at heart, it’s enough.