Heavy Metal & Awkward Prose

My good pal, Julie Gomoll, recently introduced me to a cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, The Sound of Silence (video below). This unexpectedly beautiful interpretation by heavy metal band, Disturbed, took my breath away. I’m not a huge fan of metal, but this haunting version was worthy of multiple listens, which triggered a memory I’ve kept stored in a cardboard box since 1983.

My 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Khouri, was a cool cat whose unique superpower was his ability to make poetry interesting to a room full of angsty teenagers—no small feat. He treated us like adults and earned our respect by speaking to us in language we could understand; sometimes that language was music.

Hubba-hubba!Since a thoughtful investigation into the deeper meanings behind Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher seemed inappropriate, we went back in time to find a song resembling poetry. To a bunch of 15-year-olds, anything further back than 1980 was as distant as William Blake, so Mr. K had plenty of options. He decided The Sound of Silence was a worthy challenge and asked us to interpret it. (If you’re into trite student essays, scroll down for a real treat.) Thanks to my mom’s excellent record collection,* I was already familiar with the song but hadn’t really considered its meaning.

This morning I dug up that assignment and was surprised to find a prophetic, if overly dramatic and awkwardly written, paper. Embarrassing melodrama and repetitive content aside, the thing that sticks out most is how weirdly current it seems. It could have been written by a technology-savvy kid today (hopefully one with a more extensive vocabulary and fewer clichés).

Grody to the max
This, but with more chewed gum and body odor

Keep in mind, I wrote this before cell phones and Facebook. Tweeting was bird-speak, and the library card catalog was years away from being replaced by Google.** When we weren’t in school, our parents had no idea where we were or what we were doing, unless we checked in by payphone—a hazardous act akin to French kissing the outbreak monkey.

My question is this: What technology was I referring to in my paper? Touchtone phones? VHS recorders? The Space Shuttle…? And if Teen Weenie’s interpretation of The Sound of Silence is accurate, what technology were Paul and Art referring to in 1964? Color TV? Cassette players? Valium…? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe I’ll ask my mom.

Next time on Weenie Writes: Ilene reflects on her essay about George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. (No, I’m not kidding. I still have that one too, and it’s just as bad… maybe worse.)


*For any youngsters who may be reading this, a record is like a very large, round iPod that spins on a DJ’s turntable—only without the DJ or ecstasy-laced lollipops.

**Again, for the Millennials: A library card catalog is basically the Internet in drawers.

The Sound of Silence, by Disturbed:

 

Embarrassing 9th grade essay (two pages, click for larger versions):

Angst-O-Rama

More angst

 

I Am a Stupid A**hole

You know those life moments when you have the sudden realization that you are a stupid asshole? I recently had one of those moments, and it was a doozie.

A little backstory…

After college, I spent a couple of hazy years living in Vail, Colorado. Like a lot of young locals, I held multiple jobs in order to make ends meet and afford a ski pass for the season. In addition to several positions in the service industry, I was a graphic designer for The Vail Daily. This was back when graphic designers did pasteups the old fashioned way—with actual paste. I did everything from producing ads for local ski shops to laying out the Sunday comics with a ruler and hot wax (a project worthy of its own blog post).

One of my assignments was to design a feature graphic for a story about a cartoonist who was visiting the area at the time. I assembled a montage using various characters from the artist’s comic strip but was too busy monitoring the snow report to bother reading the column.

FullSizeRender-1 Continue reading I Am a Stupid A**hole

What Nightmares Are Made Of

A while back, Tolly Moseley sent out a tweet that really hit home: Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 3.58.07 PM

18062014-01Few things are more horrifying than the thought of someone going through my search history. Nobody needs to know of my morbid fascination with people who hide bodies in their homes.

Like many humans in the digital age, I spend a lot of time online—usually looking for answers to questions I wouldn’t have bothered asking before the internet was invented. It’s not that I didn’t have questions in the past; I just wouldn’t have cared enough to go searching for answers.

How to Squander Your Life Away in One Easy Step:

Here are a few examples from my search history to illustrate just how thoroughly I’ve wasted my time on this planet so far. In order to keep my blog PG-13, these examples are more uninspired than horrifying, but they serve to reflect the sad state of affairs inside my mind.

card-catalog-03Finding answers used to be hard. Really hard. You had to know somebody, maybe make a few phone calls or (god forbid) go to the library. What would happen if rather than reaching for my phone or iPad to look something up, I paused to ask myself if I would bother researching this topic if I had to do so the old fashioned way. If I were to stop using my laptop as a Magic 8 Ball, I’d estimate a productivity increase of approximately 40,000 percent.

So what does this mean for the big picture? It means that over the past 12 months alone, I could have written a couple of books, produced daily content for all of my blogs, read several dozen novels, learned Japanese, exercised, cleaned my house and earned a degree in astrophysics.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for less technology—that would be crazy. Technology is today’s key to discovery, and I like to consider myself the Nikola Tesla of useless knowledge. That being the case, if the technology for instant gratification didn’t exist, would I really take the time to research urban sinkholes and narwhal mating habits?

You bet your ass I would.

 

Can’t You Hear the Whistle Blowing

bill-old-houseIn 1998 I moved into a questionable neighborhood to shack up with an equally questionable guy, in a house almost as shady as the street it sat on. Yet despite its beach towel curtains and unidentifiable odor, Squalor Manor had potential (and as it turned out, so did the guy).

One thing I forgot to consider before moving in with my future husband was the level of noise inherent to city living. Rush hour traffic, sirens and a neighborhood rooster, along with the creaks and groans of a 75-year-old house, created the urban equivalent of a Philip Glass marathon—and much like Philip Glass, it was unbearable. I was relieved when the racket finally began fading into the background, and the only sound left to break up the static was a train’s whistle.

Fast forward a few years, and our neighborhood has grown so hip, even the property taxes are ironic. Our streets are virtually hooker-free, and the coffeehouse to porn-shop ratio has begun to even out. These days, people pay alarming sums of money to live down by the tracks.

train_trackThere’s a railroad crossing less than a quarter mile from our house. It can be a minor inconvenience during day, but at night the distant sound of approaching trains is comforting. Each time a whistle blows, my husband or I will ask, “Where should we go tonight?” Sometimes it’s New Mexico or Colorado; other nights we take the long haul up through western Canada to Alaska. It’s a silly little tradition, but it is precisely this type of thing that makes a relationship special. Because let’s face it—lying next to a middle aged man with a Breathe Right Strip across his nose isn’t what they promised in the bridal magazines.

train1I recently learned of Austin’s Railroad Quiet Zones project. Train engineers are no longer required to sound their whistles in a new zone which includes three nearby railroad crossings. At the risk of sounding like a fist-shaking grandma, I have to question a person who moves into a house by the railroad tracks and then calls the city to complain that trains are noisy. I feel Darwin owes me an explanation.

Gene pools aside, this isn’t about gentrification or city policy—nor is it about an old house in an old neighborhood with new neighbors. It’s about imaginary adventures on imaginary trains and building new traditions while learning to live on the quiet side of the tracks.

Something to Sneeze At

It is a cruel irony that the most beautiful days in Austin are some of its most unforgiving. Pollen, mold, ragweed—pretty much all of nature—says “Hi there—I am here in all my glory to give you this beautiful day…” and then, BAM! It knocks you on your ass, and you’re done.

Austinites discuss the allergy forecast like sports scores, and arguably the most despised team in the league is cedar pollen. Nicknamed “Cedar Fever,” the only difference between it and the flu is that Cedar Fever lasts much, much longer.

If you are new to the area, I’ve put together a handy little graphic to assist with diagnosis. Hope it helps!

Print

The Not-So-Glamorous Life

PrintToday I spent 16 hours designing two pages of a 32-page brochure. I wouldn’t say this is normal, but it’s not a first. If I had the energy, I’d be embarrassed or depressed, but who’s got the time? The life of a small business owner isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t always fun. So what drives me to keep doing this day after day, year after year? My good pal, Emily Leach​, founder of the Texas Freelance Association​, would say it’s because I’m “genetically unemployable.” I say it’s because I’m unable to wear a bra for more than five hours in a row. Either way, I’m going to get up in four hours to start this shit all over again. Because that’s what we do.

Independent Study

IMG_1248_2
R.I.P.

As much as I joke about my lack of kitchen skills, I rarely make a truly inedible meal. There was the time I forgot to put noodles in a lasagna, and my recipe for “barf tuna” is legendary, but most of the time my cooking doesn’t repulse. That said, a giant pot of putrefaction has recently taken up residence in the garbage can under my kitchen sink.

Every meal is an opportunity for learning (and, as it turns out, grease fires). Here’s what I learned today:

  1. If a recipe doesn’t specifically call for soy sauce, there’s probably no reason to include it.
  2. Silken tofu and firm tofu are not interchangeable.
  3. Corn starch isn’t as harmless as it looks. (On the plus side, I now know how to make glue.)
  4. Domesticated animals exiting the kitchen while you’re cooking is the international sign for “Please find a takeout menu.”
  5. Rice noodles ≠ spaghetti
  6. If you think it might be a mistake, it is probably a mistake.

And my final lesson of the evening: A cast iron pan is no match for a bad cook with unshakeable optimism.

Ladies Love Cool James

**** UPDATE: 10/15/14 ****

So this morning before I had my coffee I checked Twitter to make sure LL Cool J was still following me. Not only is he still following me; he also followed three new people, including Snoop Dogg. Using transitive property (and other words I don’t understand), one can conclude that LL COOL J LIKES ME MORE THAN SNOOP DOGG.

LL > Weenie > Snoop

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 10.32.57 AM

**** ORIGINAL STORY: 10/14/14 ****

For those who haven’t heard, I had a big day on Twitter. The one and only LL Cool J followed me. No, I am not kidding, and yes, I am going to be obnoxious about it. So here’s how it all went down. Continue reading Ladies Love Cool James

10 Ways to Tell “Weather” or Not You’re in Texas

Yippee-ki-yay Here in Central Texas, we’re in the middle of what some would call a mild summer. Today we’re only expected to hit 95°, and while not what I’d call “invigorating,” it’s a relief just to be able to walk from the car to the house without stopping at the halfway point to hydrate.

One thing that distinguishes a Texas summer is its endlessness. That being said, Texans are a tough breed, so until the number of days with triple digit temperatures exceeds a person’s age, you probably won’t hear many complaints. Should you have the great misfortune of finding yourself within our borders between the months of March and November, refer to the list below for help understanding our ways. Best of luck, brave traveler.

Them vs Us:

  1. In some places, houseplants are moved outside on a sunny afternoon to help them grow. In Texas, houseplants are moved outside on a sunny afternoon to put them out of their misery faster.
  2. weather-reportIn some places, a 30% chance of rain means there’s a 30% chance it will rain and a 70% chance it won’t rain. In Texas, a 30% chance of rain means local meteorologists are bored with their graphics.
  3. In some places, a cold front means the temperature is expected to drop more than 15°. In Texas, a cold front means you can safely walk outdoors.
  4. In some places, people wear hats and scarves because they’re going outside. In Texas, people wear hats and scarves because they’re going on vacation.
  5. In some places, people who park outside have to dig their cars out of the snow. In Texas, people who park outside are totally screwed.
  6. In some places, dog owners put booties on their pooches to protect their paws from ice and snow. In Texas, dog owners put booties on their pooches to protect their paws from third degree burns.
  7. In some places, a summertime hike is followed by swimming and a picnic. In Texas, a summertime hike is followed by severe sun poisoning and a trip to the ER.
  8. In some places, people live without air conditioning in their homes. In Texas, people die without air conditioning in their homes.
  9. In some places, a pile of coats and hats signals the beginning of winter. In Texas, a pile of coats and hats signals a garage sale.
  10. In some places, the appearance of ice indicates it’s dangerous to drive. In Texas, the appearance of ice indicates it’s time for margaritas.

Cheers, y’all!