October 27, 2005

What’s that on your bumper?

What’s that on your bumper?

I was in traffic this morning and I happened to look down at the bumper of the truck in front of me and saw the bumper sticker that read “Horn Broken, Watch For Finger.” That made me laugh. Not because it was funny, but how sad it was that someone saw that in the store, paid money for it, got home, probably showed it to a couple of friends, and then decided he thought it was funny enough to display on a $20,000 vehicle.

That’s almost as funny as a “Keep Austin Weird” bumper sticker on a Lexus.

I have to go on record in saying that I think most bumper stickers are really, really dumb anyways. They don’t really serve any purpose other than devaluing your vehicle. I even request that dealers take their “logo” off the car when I purchase one. I’m paying a lot of money for this car, and I’m not going to pay you to advertise your business.

I admit, when I was a teenager I had a few stickers on the back window of my truck. I thought I was an activist with my “Not Black, Not White – Human” sticker and I had my personal “symbol” the Ankh..the Egyptian symbol for everlasting life. Plus I had my attitude sticker with the “Freedom of Expression, If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Look.”

An argument can be made that I should take my own sticker advice and shut up about it, as it’s the person’s property and all that jazz… but c’mon people, some of these are just plain dumb. Plus, I was a TEENAGER. The folks I speak of here are adults.

This article won’t mention promotions stickers for bands, stores, magazines, or Web sites..because if you want to turn your car into an advertisement… it’s all good. I guess sticking a Cradle of Filth sticker on your car is better than getting that “Gene Simmons” tattoo your mom has. At least you can get rid of the sticker when the band goes away or becomes an embarrassment… besides most folks who do this are TEENAGERS so they have an excuse.

Back on topic…You have your political candidate stickers… which I guess have their place…but you either have to peel off the day after the election or end up with a “Mondale/Ferraro” stain for life.

Of course there are some old vehicles that have been turned into political machines or “hippie vans”… and that’s actually kind of cool. These are usually older cars or trucks or VW buses and something just looks right about doing that to a car like that. Peace, brother.

Then there’s the newer model that has “Abortion is Murder” stickers on it… and to those I have to say two things. One, it’s sad that you feel the need to broadcast such a message without knowing circumstances and trying to understand the reasons people have before casting that stone. Secondly, I think I’ll paraphrase George Carlin who once said something like… have you noticed that the bulk of the women who are against abortion are ones you wouldn’t want to sleep with in the first place?

Jumping off MY political high horse…I’ve seen one that says “Don’t Blame Me, I didn’t Vote For Him.” What an egotistical maniac that guy is. It’s as if I thought that the balance of the presidency was in the dude in the black Volvo’s hands until I read that sticker.

Anyone with a Coors Light/Budweiser/Shiner or a pot leaf sticker on your car… you realize that you’ve just advertised that you may have some kind of illegal substance on your person and that gives a cop just cause to search for it? Think of that before you stick your “Bad Cop No Donut” sticker next to your “Farfromsober” one.

This next sentence is dedicated to all of those people who put their kids name on the back of the car. Idiot. Now strangers know what your little ones name is… and once your kid exits your car strangers know what they look like. Why don’t you put your address and the fact that you leave the key under the rock next to the step?

I admit when I was a teenager I thought stickers like “My kid beat up your honors student” were funny… but now that I have a child, I can’t imagine instilling that in a child’s brain…jokingly or not.

Now, if used correctly, some bumper stickers are funny as hell. One time I was driving down IH-35 and an old truck passed me up with a big rusty gaping hole in the side panel. Next to it was a sticker that said “Shit Happens.” Brilliant. Now it that sticker was on the bumper next to nothing else.. it’d be a really stupid sticker.

I do happen to have a sticker taped to the back window of my truck right now that says “The Left Lane Is For Passing.” I put it up there for the times that I move from the fast lane to the center lane to give the fast lane up…only to realize the idiot that was going 90mph behind me has changed lanes too… and is now tailgating me and yelling at me because I blocked them from passing illegally on the right. It’s my way of directing traffic, because I am always right.

Of course, after writing this column, I think I’m going to take it down, because I think I just annoyed myself.
Until next time.

October 20, 2005

World Series.. Astros and White Sox = ...


I was watching the painful game a few nights ago when the Astros blew the lead and I thought to myself, "They've got to win.. it'll be just too perfect.. an ASSOX World Series."

Just on humor alone this will be a great series...

The ASSOX World Series!

Coin the phrase! Someone make the t-shirts!

ASSOX 2005

Stories about the series could be called the ASSOX Fables!

(This funny word is brought to you by Sean Claes.)

October 10, 2005

Austin Welcomes The Sound of the Big Easy

NOTE: This article is currently in the October issue of INsite Magazine - http://www.insiteaustin.com

Singers from New Orleans play at Nubian Queen Lo-La's.

Austin Welcomes The Sound of the Big Easy

By Sean Claes
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Central Gulf Coast in Louisiana on August 29, 2005, nobody could have been prepared for the destruction it would leave in its wake. The storm surge compromised the levee system that protected New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain, flooding most of the city. The physical destruction of homes and other property (estimated at over $200 billion) is a horrible thing, but things are replaceable, cities will rebuild. The destruction of lives is what lingers today. Over 1,000 people were killed. People of areas ravaged by the Hurricane who escaped death were dubbed "refugees" and there were moments of "mob rule" and then the finger pointing started... and continues today. Then, on September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita came through and flooding occurred again this time in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas.

In the midst of all of this, people had to uproot their lives, many without more than the clothes on their back, and search for somewhere to live, something to nourish themselves and their family, a place for their kids to go to school and somewhere to earn money to help sustain themselves. Many people saw Austin, Texas as the place to go to start over. The outpouring of support the Austin community has shown in the last month has been amazing.

Of course, since Austin is the "Live Music Capital of the World" a good amount of displaced musicians have come to town and are infusing the local music scene with a good dose of New Orleans. A few of the musicians and groups from the New Orleans area who now call Austin home include: Cyril Neville, Ivan and Ian Neville, The Iguanas, Dumpstaphunk, Dominick Grillo, half of the Hot 8 Brass Band, Willie Green, The Young Originals, The Flaming Arrows lead by Big Chief Kevin Goodman, Tim Green, Norman and Richard Caesar, Teresa Anderson, and Big Sam from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Many members of our music scene are welcoming the musicians with open arms. One Austin musician who has deep roots in New Orleans music is Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne. "I've spent about half of my professional life playing in New Orleans. All of my family is from New Orleans. Almost all of my collaborators are New Orleans musicians," Welbourne said. Since Katrina, he has been spending time playing in town with a multitude of New Orleans musicians, introducing them to local musicians, club owners, and recording studio folks.

A number of musicians have found a place to live, a friendly face, and the chance to start over again in the Austin Music Co-Op (5413 Guadalupe Street). The original idea of the Co-Op was to serve as a communal-type living environment for Austin's musicians, but when manager Matt Meshbane heard about the great number of New Orleans musicians who were homeless and at temporary shelters, he decided to open the Co-Op to those people and worry about how to pay for their rooms later. As of September 21, more than 10 residents of the Austin Music Co-Op were from New Orleans. "These musicians are coming to stay with us," Meshbane said. "We're trying to raise money and awareness to pay these people's rent... just one room at a time. To sponsor a room is $500." A few local people and businesses have been able to sponsor a room and donate useful items such as clothes, toiletries, and musical instruments (broken, new, or used).

One of the residents of the Austin Music Co-Op is saxapohone player Dominick Grillo. When I spoke with him, he'd just arrived in Austin after bouncing around for about three weeks. He's ready to get out and find some people to play with in town. "I've played with West Bank Mike and the Fisher Project, Big Chief Alfred Doucette a couple of times, pretty much anyone who would let me play," Grillo said. "I'd play every single night. Now that I'm here in Austin, I'm not playing with anyone yet. It looks hopeful, though. Between here and Houston, I should be able to work."

Another resident of the Co-Op, Hilton Joseph, wasn't a citizen of New Orleans - he's actually from Houston - but was working in town when Katrina hit and he lost most of his belongings, including his instruments. He found the Austin Music Co-Op due to some nice strangers who were determined to help him find a home when he was holding a sign that read "Sax Player Needs A Home."

Joseph's musical resume includes playing with B.B. King for ten years, Bobby Blue Bland, Z.Z. Hill, and some solo work. The band he was playing with moved to Mississippi, but he decided to make the trek to Austin. He's been playing on the streets outside of the Driskill Hotel (604 Brezos Street) and on the sidewalk by Antone's (213 W. 5th Street where New Orleans musicians have been playing many a night including Blue Monday's). "It's the live music capital of the world. It seemed like a nice little spot to land," he said. "I didn't want to go home. There's nothing there, no wife, no kids, all my family is gone. So, I'm kind of like a wandering minstrel."

There are a number of local restaurants who have stepped-up to help. One that has been instrumental in helping many New Orleans musicians is Nubian Queen Lo-La's Cajun, Soul Food, and BBQ Kitchen (1815 Rosewood). Lola Stephens is from Louisiana, and has opened her restaurant, and the lot behind it, to host benefit concerts by New Orleans musicians. In fact, Hilton Joseph was one of the sax players at the September 18, 2005 music and food benefit. "We are all cut from the same cloth and we need to stick together," Stephens said when she spoke to the crowd at the concert. She plans to have gatherings of New Orleans musicians every few weeks.

Also, local restaurant, Threadgills (301 W Riverside Dr) is hosting Cookin' and Jookin' every Tuesday night, featuring the cooking of Gaynielle Neville and the music of Cyril Neville and Tribe 13 featuring an assortment of New Orleans and Austin musicians.

Another new resident comes in the form of a prominent New Orleans record label, Basin Street Records (http://www.basinstreetrecords.com/). Mark Samuels, president of the label, moved to town and set up shop after his home was completely flooded and his studio had a foot of water inside. I had a chance to talk with Samuels and one of the label's artists, clarinetist and trombonist Dr. Michael White (who's home was also destroyed), who was in town to play a benefit, but is living in Houston at this time.

They both are very optimistic about the rebuilding of New Orleans but are concerned with trying to preserve the same feel as it had before Katrina and Rita. "I definitely plan on moving back and I'm hoping it comes back. A lot of it is uncertain at this point of how it will come back. You had such a rich unique culture and way of life there," White said.

Samuels agreed. "We don't want it to come back as every other city, and look like every other city. The beginning of that needs to be the music and food and culture, and those of us who lead that culture.. it's that group of people, and the musicians who need to be the leaders to formulate how New Orleans can keep all of that and still become a better city in the end," he said. "I'm planning on going back as well, but at this point I need to have access to schools to send my kids to and banks and grocery stores open. My children have to have a reasonable ability to enjoy life. If I was a single person, I'd go back today and start helping rebuild."

The above is only a few of the hundreds of stories about displaced musicians in Austin. Life resumes and working musicians will be out there in force in town, creating a dash of Cajun and funk seasoning to our already eclectic musical menu. So, if you would like to support these new Austinites, do so by attending the shows. Support them by supporting their craft. It's only a matter of time before New Orleans is going to be open for business again and Austin will lose this rich infusion of music. It's my hope that the flavor seeps into the sound of this city, and we will always have our own Crescent City Connection.

A Sample of New Orleans Musicians Playing in October
October 7 - Big Blue Marble @ Beerland
October 9 - Katrina Benefit show at Redrum
October 10 - The Iguanas @ Continental Club
October 10 - Cyril Neville's Birthday @ Threadgills
October 13 - New Orleans Musicians on Fox 7 News morning show
October 13, 14, 27 - The New Orleans Jazz Vipers @ The Elephant Room
October 15 - Benefit Featuring New Orleans Musicians @ Trophy's Bar and Grill
October 15 - The Big Wu w/ Papa Mali, James Speer Band
October 16 - Katrina Relief Fundraiser @ Ruta Maya
October 22 - Cowboy Mouth @ La Zona Rosa
October 22 - The Austin Live Show Hurricane Benefit Show @ The Ritz Lounge
October 23 - Boogie Benefit for New Orleans (Marcia Ball, Tribe 13, the Iguanas, the Warrior Gospel Band, more) @ La Zona Rosa
October 29 - Papa Mali & Friends @ Threadgill's
October 31 - Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk @ The Parish Room
Tuesdays @ Threadgills - Tribe 13
Wednesday's @ Austin Music Co-op - Open Mic
Thursday's @ The Velvet Spade - Topaz

October 6, 2005

Reverse WHAT Curse?

Here's a question... maybe someone who reads this can answer.

Why are they promoting the UT/OU game as "REVERSE THE CURSE?"

Did some event cause it to be a curse?
Just because UT hasn't won it in years doesn't mean it's a curse.. it just means they haven't won.

UT is ahead in the 99 previous meetings if looked at all together...even if they haven't won since 1999.

Now Boston.. that was a good curse... UT? I don't know. What am I missing?

(From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_River_Shootout)

The Red River Shootout is a common name for the annual college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the University of Texas Longhorns. The series is considered one of the greatest rivalries in NCAA football. The name is derived from the Red River that forms part of the boundary between the U.S. states of Oklahoma and Texas. Beginning on October 8, 2005, which marks the 100th meeting between the two teams, the game is being sponsored by SBC, and the game has been officially renamed the SBC Red River Rivalry. The term Red River Shootout or Red River Rivalry is also sometimes applied to meetings between the two schools in sports other than football.

The game typically has conference or even national significance. Since 1945, one or both of the two teams has been ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation coming into 60 out of 65 games. Texas leads the all-time series 55-39-5 (with a 43-35-4 edge in Dallas), but Oklahoma has won the last five straight games.

The winner of the game receives the Golden Hat, which is, appropriately, a gold ten-gallon hat, formerly of bronze. The governors of Texas and Oklahoma often place a bet on the game such as the losing governor having to present a side of beef to the winning state governor, who then donates the beef to charity.


That said.. kick some ASS UT...

October 5, 2005

Food Association

There are certain foods I just tend to associate with different tasks. It’s an odd thing, but people I’ve talked to about it tend to agree with me. I’m not talking about the pumpkin seeds for Halloween or Peeps for Easter… I’m talking about… well. Let me just go into it and you will get a better idea.

Road Trip Food
There is some food that I associate with a road trip. I can’t bring myself to buy this stuff when I’m not gassing up at a Conoco or Diamond Shamrock.
The first one is sold at an extremely high price and after eating it; you may have to make a dentist appointment. I’m talking, of course, about the beef jerky. This rip-apart-and-take-a-tooth-with-it treat is something that I only get a hankering for when I’m driving down I-10 or IH-35 on my way to Houston or Laredo.
The next item is a name brand…. anything by “Tom’s.” This is the generic version of Fritos, Cheetos and/or Peanuts that you’ll only find in a gas station...it tastes old, but you’ll never know if it is or not, because that’s the way it always tastes... a combination of salt, cheese powder and Styrofoam. Why do I buy it? It’s like 99¢ to the Frito’s $1.29. I may be killing myself, but by God I’m saving 30 cents.

Airplane Food
I know I’m not the first one to say it... but I hate getting pretzels with my flight. I want peanuts! What the heck… there’s like one airline that gives out peanuts now. What, did they corner the airline peanut market? I don’t want pretzels, or trail mix, or bread sticks. I want peanuts. That’s the way it was in the beginning, and how it still should be.
This is more airplane drink than food...but let’s not argue the details. Every time I fly, I have to order ginger ale. I don’t know why, but that is the only time I order it. Ever. I guess it tastes better at 30,000 feet.

Swimming Food
When I was a kid, I used to go swimming in the local pool in Laredo. You could pick me out fairly easily… I was the blond kid who tanned red in 20 minutes… in Laredo. You could also pick me out because I was the one eating Funions and drinking a Mountain Dew. The weird thing is… I don’t really like Funions but every time I went swimming at the pool, I’d have to have them. Something about burnt Anglo and Funions that went together.

Drinking Food
There are few things that go with beer like an open flame and dead meat. Grilling the cheapest meat allowable for human consumption was usually the order when drinking in someone’s backyard. This is usually Chicken Leg Quarters. The important thing was to make sure they were cooked all the way through… so we’d usually be half-way lit by the time the chicken was ready and forget to take it off the grill and end up eating chicken as thick as toothpicks. I don’t think I’ve ever had chicken leg quarter sober (except when I buy it in a benefit BBQ plate served by someone who has a beer in his hand).

Football Game Food
There is only one real football game food. It’s a cuisine, really. Not the hot dog, not the Cracker Jack’s (I’ve never actually seen anyone eat Cracker Jack’s at a football game...or a baseball one as the song implies)… it’s the Nacho.
No, not those individually cooked with melted jack and cheddar cheese topped with Sour Cream and garnish nachos you get at Applebee’s. I’m talking the round tortilla chips with yellow watery cheese sauce and canned jalapeƱos thrown on top. Hell yes. Not even real cheese… cheese sauce. I don’t know if they’ve been able to come up with an ingredient list...but give me that yellow # 12 Rico’s Nacho Cheese concauction any day. Garnish with 10-15 of those little napkins that are useless to anything but sticking to your cheese-drenched hand. Yum.
Here’s a side note. Real Mexican food (and I’m not suggesting that the above nachos is counted in the arena of “Mexican food”) doesn’t have sour cream. Any Mexican restaurant that serves sour cream is an expensive version of Taco Bell.
Back on task. Football game food. Sunflower seeds, or anything you have to suck on, crack open and spit out, are a biggie for football games. They really don’t taste too good...but I guess someone once had it in for the dude that has to clean the stadium and thought… “Hey... this is the messiest snack in the world... let’s make this what you should have during a sporting event where over 10,000 people will have access to them.”

Free Food
OK... this is just a list of food that should NEVER cost anything. This should always be gratis when you go to a restaurant that serves it… ready? Chips and salsa, bread sticks, crackers, tortillas, water, extra cheese, olives, jalapenos, pickles, muffins, rolls, substitutions, and refills on soda.

I know there are many other items of food that I associate with something… like corn and Ohio… casseroles and my mother… and pasta and Boston… but I’m tired and…lets face it… a little hungry.

Until next time.

October 3, 2005

FOOD: Do You Know the Bakerman?

Do You Know the Bakerman?

Downtown Austin has a new alternative to chain-restaurant bagels and hotel coffee. In January 2005, Bakerman’s Bakery (120 E. 7th Street) made a quiet but tasty entrance into downtown Austin. Custom-made cakes (from birthday to weddings), cookies (need a “Vote For Pedro” sugar cookie?), and handmade doughnuts are just the beginning of what you will find when you ring the cowbell to enter the domain of the Bakerman.

Breakfast is king at Bakerman’s Bakery. The selection of doughnuts is amazing too many to mention. My personal favorite is the blueberry. If you just think That’s all right, I just like glazed…” well do you mean regular, maple, orange, or strawberry?

According to owner and chief baker man Chris McGuill, the most popular and their “signature” offering is the “Yellow Rose of Texas” doughnut. This Texas-shaped glazed monster is lemon-filled. Since Bakerman’s fills all of their doughnuts from the top-middle, the lemon filling makes a “yellow rose” deep in the heart of Texas. In my opinion, filling a doughnut in the middle is an awesome thing, this way the stuff that goes into the treat is evenly dispersed and you don’t get a quarter-filled disappointment.

If you want to stray from the sugar a bit in the morning, maybe you should try one of their breakfast sandwiches. I have one of their “Pigs in a Blankets” at least once a week… They use Elgin sausage (big…none of this “link sausage” business). Their breakfast croissants are great (and great big) as well. Take the bacon, egg, and cheese one for instance. The croissant is flakey and fresh, the eggs (that’s right, two of them) are cooked with solid yolks, and the bacon and cheese is yummy. That’s right – yummy.

A couple of their newer treats include the moist pumpkin muffin (with cream cheese frosting), and a HUGE cranberry-nut muffin with cream cheese baked into the top. I thought I didn’t like cranberries, until I tried it.

Of course, for those who aren’t early risers, Bakerman’s Bakery also offers some delictible deli-quality croissant sandwiches for lunch. I recently had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into the ham and swiss croissant (topped with crisp lettuce and tomato slices). The flakey-buttery croissant was the perfect compliment to the none-too-salty ham and thick slice of swiss.

For those who get a hankering for a hunk of sweet in the afternoon, stop by Bakerman’s Bakery for their “doughnut happy-hour” which is where you can get half-off any yeast doughnut product after noon until closing most days.

For people looking for a baker for a birthday or a wedding cake, I can tell you from experience, they make a wonderful and unique cake. In April I ordered one of their cakes for my daughter’s first birthday. I was thrilled with the time and effort put into my cake…and the taste was amazing. On occasion when I wander in to get my morning pig-in-a-blanket I get to see some of the cool custom cakes they make…I’ve seen a royal crown, a spilled coffee-cup, and the state of Texas to name a few.
A local bakery through and through, they buy much of their ingredients in Austin. They buy their coffee from Texas Coffee Traders, and (season permitting) buy their fruits and veggies from local farmers.

So, next time you’re downtown and decide to get something to eat, why don’t you wander down to the corner of Brazos and Seventh and get yourself a Bakerman’s Bakery treat. The prices are more than reasonable, and the staff is friendly as well. They also have a Web site - http://www.bakermansbakery.com.

(This review will be in the October issue of Austin's INsite Magazine.)