Thursday, August 28, 2008

Black Men On My Mind

I've been driving through the South and listening to the audiobook I picked up at the library, Black Boy by Richard Wright. It's really good so far, emotional, vivid, making me cringe and cry and scream in frustration as I'm driving. The section I'm listening to is in the 1910's and Richard is growing up and learning about race relations, the KKK, the dangers of standing up for himself to whites. There is a pervasive attitude of "keep your head down" that frustrates, and scares, and confuses him as a boy. And it seems hopeless that anything will ever change.

Then, I missed my exit in Atlanta and to get back to I-85, I had to drive right through Sweet Auburn and the Martin Luther King, Jr, Center and National Monument. No time to stop today, but I thought back to last summer when I spent a day looking at the exhibits and wandering the street King grew up on. It was so moving to be there and learn more about this life and the struggle for Civil Rights. Even more emotional for me, was how many people were there. People of all colors, all ages, single people wandering slowly, families explaining things to the kids, and family reunions with matching t-shirts. I was glad to end up there by chance today, on the 45th Anniversary of his "I Have a Dream Speech." Go back and watch it, it's so amazing. To have so much hope and determination in the face of such adversity.

And tonight Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination for President. I have to admit, was getting a little cynical about his campaign. All the happy music and pageantry at the convention is so predictable. I was scoffing at the melodramatic headlines on CNN, "Obama Makes History!" The softball questions they were throwing at conventioneers about what today means to them. But damn, this is huge. This IS historic. And the best part is that Obama is totally worth all the praise and attention and celebration. I can't wait for him to be president and make good things happen, inspire us to serve, and help the rest of the world see how good our country can be.

Sure, the campaign still has to wage on, there will be compromises and disappointments. Yes, there is still a LOT of work to do to improve racial and ethnic relations all over the world, but I don't want to think about that today. I just want to let Richard and Martin and Barak spin around in my brain and feel hopeful for a little while. I want to recognize that this country has taken a huge step toward realizing the ideals our democracy is based on. And now we have even more reason to believe that we can make it all the way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Austin's pleasures

I've been enjoying my home time. Really trying to write songs and be productive all day long. But there is laundry and Olympics and toenails to be painted... The artist's brain really does need some rest. And external inspiration. Here are some of my recent activities and fascinations.

Morning laps at Barton Springs. OK, so I'm caught up in the Michael Phelps riptide, but really swimming is awesome. I've been inconsistently free-stying it at the 68 degree pool in the mornings since I moved to town, but I had an extra kick in my stroke this week after watching the Olympics. Plus, I got new goggles, so I don't have red rings around my eyes for hours after my workout. I always felt that the coffee shop people were worried that I had been punched in the face.

Bruce Robison at Sholtz's Beer Garden just feels so Texas. A hot night under Oak trees and bare light bulbs strung up. We all sing along to Wrapped and people dance to EVERY song, and kids are running around or falling asleep on laps. I'm really looking forward to the new CD from Bruce coming next month!

I'm indulging a mild French fetish this month. I started taking an awesome beginning "Gay Ballet" class. It's for queer people, or just those who will admit that ballet is really gay. :) It's super fun and we wear crazy socks and laugh a lot actually really work on our technique, which is a very good butt workout. Also, I read French Women Don't Get Fat, which is full of generalizations and offensive stereotypes, but does paint a picture of a lovely way to eat, whether it's true or not. After a summer full of road food, I think I needed a little reminder about the importance of cooking and enjoying the flavors of fresh food. And wine. And chocolate. Mmmm. I've even been inspired to try to make my own yogurt. We'll see...

I love my little balcony. It's actually been cool enough to eat an early breakfast or late dinner outside, but I have to look at all my poor parched plants. I need a trip to Happiness, an awesome, arty, junky plant store, to get some succulents for my empty pots. And Whole Foods has locally grown herbs in pots 2/$5. A little gardening this week, I think!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Just Your Average Road Trip

It's just been a good few days driving around and seeing great people all over the place. I have so much that I want to do and accomplish, and some days I just can't wait for someday to come. But more and more, I'm learning how to enjoy my days on the way to success. I love audiobooks, CD, and podcasts in the car, not to mention the solo highway time for letting my imagination run wild. I love that I get to visit my friends in their new houses and snuggle their babies. I get to swim in mountain streams and splash in the ocean and ride the subway.  I get to play for cheerleaders one night, and then pick old fiddle tunes in the mountains the next. 

The past couple of days, I've been in Nashville, which is always inspiring. Last night I went to the Station Inn and watched the Time Jumpers, a western swing band who are so smooth and sweet. But I really wanted to dance and there was no open floor space. Pout. So I settled for watching the pedal steel player like a hawk. How do they do that??!! 

Today I had a great time chatting and drinking wine with Liz Hengber. She is such a generous and smart woman. I'm so inspired to listen, listen hard, and write, write, write a hit song for Reba. Yes! To work. 

There's always a little part of me that misses home, but  the past few days have been full of the magical coincidences that can only happen when you are away from home, so I'm happy. And that's what my song "Nothing to Hold Me Down" is all about. And guess what? A video of me playing it on The Songwriters Series Internet TV show just surfaced on the web. You watch this while I go write a new one.