30 December 2004

It's amazing how much the Houston skyline reminds me of the Crimson Permanent Insurance.

Yes, I'm in Houston again, gradually heading back towards Tallahassee. Adam and I are off to New Orleans tomorrow for the New Years celebration. I don't know if this trip will be as legendary as past trips, but we'll try.

27 December 2004

Saw Aunt Anne today and I'm happy to report that she is feeling much better. The medication has finally worn off, and we were able to fill her in on everything she missed this week. After visiting Anne, we went out to Archer City. I wanted to copy some vital records from the courthouse and visit Larry McMurtry's bookstore. I have not been to the courthouse in some time, but the clerk there recognized me. McMurtry's bookstore, Booked Up, takes up four buildings in downtown Archer City, so it can be hard to find anything, but I managed to locate a good history of Quebec by one of my favourite writers. Larry himself was not there, he has moved to Arizona. Mom explained that he hates Archer City, and does not really care all that much for Texas. There are two schools of thought on McMurtry's writing. Some fans praise him for the work he has done portraying the West, but others have pointed out that his novels are subtle mockeries of the West. I tend to believe the latter, as he named his Texas ranch "Idiot Ridge."

Afterwards we did some post-Christmas shopping, always a chore as it quite hard finding pants in my size. Everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas, but only if big coincides with short. Mom keeps encouraging me to gain weight so I will be easier to buy for, but I feel quite flabby as it is. I also obtained a new pair of boots, though I had planned to squeeze a few more months out of the old ones, hoping I could hit the two and half year mark. I told Mom a story I heard about Ralph Nader buying lot of combat boots in '50's and wearing those for almost 30 years. She said "You are not going to be like your grandfather," and the boot matter was settled. She seems to think it odd that I only keep one pair of footwear at a time. I think it simplifies things a great deal. She is also appalled at my ignorance of reality TV.

26 December 2004

Had our official Christmas dinner today with the whole extended family, German-Texan style. Vegetarians beware, even the vegetables had meat in them. My heart hurts. Unfortunately, Aunt Anne, who turned 90 a couple of weeks ago, could not make it, as she has recently had a bout with skin cancer. She is just coming out of a morphine haze and is only now becoming lucid again. Hopefully, I'll get to talk to her later this week.

I've been passing the time here in Jolly, Texas by scanning in more family photographs, and am now in a depressing state of nostalgia. Tomorrow we are going to Archer City to visit Larry McMurtry's bookstore. I have not been there for a couple of years, and I'm mainly hoping he might happen to have a series on Canadian history I have been looking for. I'll call Adam in a couple of days and see what the possibilities are concerning New Orleans.

I arrived in Texas just in time for a north wind, which comes down the Great Plains straight from the Arctic. It has warmed up since then, but we still have some snow on the ground here. Not enough to scoop into a snowball and wallop that girl you really like up the back of the head, but snow nonetheless.

24 December 2004

I have arrived in Texas despite a series of inconveniences. The eastbound train never arrived in Tallahassee, but they sent some buses out to pick us up so we could catch it in New Orleans. I started taking Amtrak three years ago just so I could avoid being crammed onto one of those sardine cans. We arrived at New Orleans at four in the morning, and fortunately we were able to board the train, even though it did not leave until 11 AM, and I was able to get some decent rest. Once we started moving, however, our schedule kept conflicting with the freight lines. Since freight takes precedence over people, we had to concede the tracks at least three times, and I arrived in Houston three hours late. I can't really blame Amtrak for these problems. If they were subsidized at the rate the airlines were, a lot of these irritations could be eliminated.

Had a good visit with Adam and caught him up on all the Tallahassee news. He works for the VA at Baylor Medical, and finally finagled his dream job; working for the VA and Tulane at New Orleans. He expects to move sometime next spring. It looks like we are going ahead with our plans to spend New Years in New Orleans, so I'll see more of him and our friend John Burris. More about Burris later, he deserves a seperate posting.

Adam and I had lunch this morning at his favourite restaurant, La Madeline, then he dropped me off at the Greyhound station. The rest of the trip went pretty smoothly. As much as I hate "Ridin' the Dog," I at least know what to expect. It was pretty crowded, but did not turn out to be the painful, leg-cramping agony I thought it would be. Those seats are just not designed for anyone over five foot tall. The relatives are gathering over the next couple of days, and we'll have our Christmas dinner on Sunday.

20 December 2004

A lot happened this weekend, but I've been too lazy post. The Center has received a $10,000 donation of office furniture from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, oddly enough. They seem to be aware who we are, as Allen tried to send a public thank-you letter, but was told they would only accept a private letter. So, Allen held one of his patented Furniture Assembly parties on Saturday, and we were able to put together enough desks and cubicles to fill one of the second floor suites. I showed up late, not knowing how much of a help I would be (though I can certainly hinder). I'm not handy with tools, and I'm not artistic enough to paint a wall, so I did the fetch-and-carry and heavy lifting. Allen also received his last shipment of goods from Vietnam, so I stuck around to help him move some boxes. Finished up my shopping as well, so I am set for Christmas.

Met some friends at the Warehouse for drinks that night. There is a girl I have seen in our neighbourhood who always looked vaguely familiar to me. She resembled one of the Warehouse bartenders, but I could never be sure. I see more detail at night then in the hazy, glaring fog of daylight. I finally discovered that she is the same girl, because she was trying to convince me the duplex I split with Rob, my old roommate from KAOS, is haunted. I thought, 'Great, just once I'd like to live in a house that isn't haunted.' I told her I had not noticed anything, and she explained it was supposed to be a suicide in the 1950's by some sort of autoerotic asphyxiation, so I told her that was probably Rob's side.

Tonight is dinner with the Jackson's, then I meet with Rich later. Work one more day, and tomorrow night I am on the train to Houston. I'll stay the night Houston with "Mad" Adam Kelly, and the next day I take a bus up to Wichita Falls. My brother has a computer, so maybe I will update more out of sheer boredom.

11 December 2004

Yesterday was the last day of finals, and there was a definite sense of relief and freedom in the air. Its kind of sad seeing all the kids leave campus, almost as sad as when they all come back. For a few weeks, we locals have the town to ourselves, but just as we're getting used to it, the new semester starts.

I'll be leaving for Texas in a week and half, and this year I have managed to get all my shopping done ahead of time, except for a few things from Al-Mart. My mother's gift arrived this week, and I'm somewhat disappointed with Boutwell as an artist. He seems to lack detail when people are part of his subject, and there is something very awkward about his sense of perspective and motion. Overall, though, he succeeds in capturing the spirit of the "The Last Picture Show." My grandfather would take his family there every week, and probably would have gone nightly if he had time.

06 December 2004

Last week the Daily Show did a segment on conservative Canadians who want to come to the US. Today I got this e-mail from our man in Houston, "Mad" Adam Kelly. Don't know the source (probably the Onion), I just know it isn't Adam.

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has
intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop
the illegal immigration. The re-election of President Bush is prompting the
exodus among left leaning citizens who fear they will soon be required to
hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology
professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood
producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose
acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.

"He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I
said I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my
screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences,
but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare
Rush Limbaugh across the fields.

"Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush
annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near
the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across
the border and leave them to fend for themselves.

"A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions," an Ontario
border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of drinking
water. They did have a nice supple little Russian River Pinot Noir, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often
wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have
been circulating about the Bush administration establishing re-education
camps in which liberals will be forced to drink keg beer and watch NASCAR.

In the days since the election, liberals have turned to sometimes ingenious
ways of crossing the border.

Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap
Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans
disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping
buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers.

"If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we
get suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating
an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies.

"I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't
support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors that
went to Columbia does one country need?"

In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada, Vice
President Dick Cheney met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the
administration would take steps to reassure liberals, a source close to
Cheney said.

"We're going to have some Peter, Paul & Mary concerts. And we might put
some endangered species on postage stamps. The president is determined to
reach out."

05 December 2004

More thoughts on last nights party as memory slowly reasserts itself. We're slowly but surely convincing Allen of the need for an online catologue for his store. This reminded him that he needed to call our old friend Dave Blumberg in Seattle, as Allen had forgotten that Dave had pictures ready, but was waiting for Allen to send him descriptions. Dave volunteered me to write the descriptions, but I don't have Excel on my home computer. Maybe I can just borrow Allen's next time I'm at his store. I've been on the sidelines through this whole process and need to contribute somehow. Anyway, we were interrupting Dave's plans to meet with his girlfriend later, so we couldn't talk very long. It was about 6:30 his time, 9:30 our time and we already pretty drunk. I did get to ask about his friend, Sean, a former (but very briefly), KAOS roomate. He was Dave's friend at FSU, supposedly a very bright guy at one time, but now a pot burnout. He followed Dave up to Seattle and joined the Army last year. I was concerned about whether he could hack it, but remembered he had already been in the Navy. He has not been in touch with Dave, however, and all that we know now is that he has not been reported as a casualty.

Two of the Blue Moon members, Danny and Kelly, were married a couple years ago and are now expecting their first baby. They were discussing baby names, and Danny had us cracking up with the suggestion that the name should just be 5 v's, theory being that you could not yell at a kid with 5 v's in its name. "Vvvvv . . .! Vvvvv . . .!"

I took some time to explain to Kelly my mother's plan to get their band some Texas exposure. I'm taking two more copies of their CD home with me for Christmas. Mom wants to give one to the guy who organizes talent for the Late Week Lazy Boy Supper Club, which used to feature only Texas songwriters but is now expanding its invites out of state. The other is supposed to go to Lloyd Maines, who is the father of one of the Dixie Chicks and produced their last album. I tried to explain I don't know how much influence my mother has with the Texas music industry, or thinks she has, but we all agree its worth a shot. For more information about Blue Moon, check out http://www.barelybluegrass.com

Rich had finally arrived around 11, and I knew he was there because I could hear him raving about some shenanigans in the county commission from across the yard. I walked up and said "My god, are you always on?" to which he replied with the obligatory "Fuck you!" Rich has good reason to celebrate, as he has finally begun the process of wrapping up his doctoral thesis, which he left sitting for four years. More good news on the Progressive Center, I think two of the owners are willing to take it off the market if we can get $25,000 before June. The building has been empty for some years, and it seems that if anyone really wanted it, they would have made an offer by now. We are taking nothing for granted, though, and are looking into grant writing possibilities. As soon as Rob puts it together, we will have a Pay-Pal system on the web site to take advantage of drunken web-surfers. Susan suggested this, but Rob claims he had already thought about it. At any rate, at least Susan has prompted Rob to post an acknowledment that Pay-Pal is coming on the site. I think he still needs to make clear who can accept funds in the meantime. Rob keeps saying the contact information is all in there, but I think people need more precise information if they are going to send a check. Information on the Center is at


A horrible site name which will soon be changing. Make no mistake, this is a shameless plea for donations, so send them money. Stacks and stacks of money!
Had not planned to do much this morning, maybe go to the State Library and see what they had on Canada. Could not get motivated though, and just after noon John dropped by and suggested a walk around campus. John went to Law school at FSU in 1993, but has not had a chance to see the campus since before Connor was born two years ago. For those who have been away for some years, quite a bit has changed. The football stadium has completely been redone, making it clear where FSU's priorities lie. I have unsuccessfully tried to spread the rumour that if FSU won a second national championship, they would build a second stadium on top of the first one, with the reasoning that if one football team brought in so much money, two teams could bring in twice as much. FSU's current circumstances lead to a Catch-22, where a winning football team needs all the booster money it can get to keep up the tradition, whereas a losing football team needs even more money to regain its former status. Bobby Bowden now has a stained glass window, as well as a bronze statute, further translating FSU's football dependence from monetary to semi-religious. The statue even includes product placements from Sprint and Nike. What kind of acid works on bronze? The Pensacola St. bridge has been torn down, and there is now one single athletic complex between the football stadium and the baseball stadium.

Woodward Avenue has finally been closed off; an idea I was all in favour of before they built two parking garages there. Quite a bit of traffic has still been deflected, though, and now there is a plaza in the center of Woodward with three bronze statues commemorating the minorities that have come to FSU. As a professional cynic, I introduce these statues as monuments to all the minorities FSU was forced to accept in the 60's.

Life is good though, as tonight was Geoff Callaghan's party. I met Geoff when I first moved into KAOS in 1994, and now cannot ever remember not knowing him. I consider him one of my closer friends, even though I rarely see him. He has recently started a bluegrass band called Blue Moon, and they have a very faithful following amongst Tallahassee's serious musicians. Geoff recently bought a house east of the city limits, the first single friend I have who actually bought a house. Tonight was classic Tallahassee, with Rich Templin ranting against the status quo and Allen Joseph pontificating, all to the background soundtrack of Tallahassee's finest bluegrass musicians.