Thursday, December 25, 2008

Obligatory Christmas Posting

Let's face it, if you are not that X marks the mas centered, today is just a little odd. I feel a bit confined. I don't really know what's open or closed, and I just assume almost everything is closed. Except the dreaded Walmart perhaps, though maybe even they close for Jesus' birthday, at least for a while. So I feel like a prisoner of the holiday, as I don't really care that much for it this year, and elected to stay in Austin for the day rather than fly or drive home, which wouldn't have worked out so well anyhow, as my sister and the kiddos went to Tennessee to visit Jr's grandmother for good reason, but that's too complicated to explain here.

Here I am, then, having a lazy day. I opened a few presents my family had sent, but otherwise there's not a lot of Christmasness going on. I have fired up the music, my rather large collection of iTunes and other Christmas/Winter gems. That started a couple of years ago when I forced through an unhappy October/November combo with my Hard Candy Christmas self, and it worked. Seems like it was another lifetime, and since it also seems like I've had about five or so different lifetimes so far, I guess I can reflect.

Last year...yikes. Last that link and have a look see! I had just gotten over strep throat, which had been inflicted on me in Los Angeles, where I knew of not a single doctor and very few people, so I had to face that one mostly alone, isolated in the damn garage where the cold wind would blow and the heater worked only if I faced the interior wall. Sometimes I feel like such an idiot for trying to stay there in that room, afraid of offending someone by leaving (like it didn't happen anyhow) and afraid of leaving for a different room because that would have forced me to commit to a longer time frame. Things worked out for the best, though. I was alone last year as this year, but, then, I felt alone.

This year I don't feel alone, and overall there's a base of happiness I'm using as a foundation, as opposed to a sense of desolation. I'll admit the past week hasn't had me doing cartwheels, with the cold and worse cloudy weather, without much rain, and no sun. At least here it's more expected, though apparently it's not that usual in Austin for the bitter cold to hang about so much. But I'm working on thawing my inner bitter cold, and it's a lot easier to do here. So that makes me happy.

Even if I do feel like a prisoner of the holiday today, well, it's just one day, and a better excuse to be lazy than I've had lately. I'm just going to go with it, watch a few movies, unwrap myself from the last strains of Christmas music, and look forward to the New Year. After all, unlike last year, when the one I wanted to spend New Year's with was not available and indeed that lack of availability was a small but not insignificant part of the reason I left LA, well, this year I've already made plans.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Living the Gabriel Style

That title sounds a little bolder, or perhaps more pretentious, than it really is. (So, why don't I go back and change it? I don't know. I'm an enigma unto myself even.)

I thought since things on the apartment front are progressing well, I'd post some pictures, at least of my bedroom and my living room. Both are incomplete, but past the halfway point, lacking mostly new paintings for wall space (which I am to provide, and need to get cracking) and a few details here or there. My office is probably past the halfway point as well, but lacks curtains, an essential element, and I'm close to solving the curtain question (posed to me by myself) so then I'll post some pics.

Until that time, and until I've finished it all, here's a glimpse of my living spaces for now:

The living room, fairly self explanatory.

My bedroom is inspired by the films of Wong Kar Wai, specifically but not limited to In the Mood for Love. The color scheme, use of patterns and textures, and the whimsy, were all the original ideal for my loft room (that is, garage) in Venice, Los Angeles.

Originally I had also planned to throw in a number of industrial elements, taking a cue from the Mood for Love/2046 combo, as that meshed with the whole notion of a garage door being part of a room. For my current apartment's style, and also since the original IKEA bed I planned wasn't available, I left out the industrial elements, so here there is a softer Wong Kar Wai feel, especially in person.

What's interesting is that, taking these pictures without the flash, the room looks very much like a set for one of his films. My good friend Deborah, who knows the films I'm talking about, immediately picked up the vibe, so I was very happy. She's been the best test of what I was hoping to portray. The wall color is less green, more of a blue/green, dusty, but more in the blue than green realm. The way it photographs here, playing against the oranges and pinks, is fun though.

That's all for now, as I've said, as soon as I get the curtain puzzle for my office solved, I'll post pictures of it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pa and the Coffee Cup

I bought this coffee cup yesterday at World Market. It's like one my grandfather on my Mom's side, Pa, always drank from, and so it's a great memory, particularly since he died when I was about 5 and I have only a few recollections of him.

I do have a pink knit cover of his, though. It's in fine shape, though the color has faded a bit, and the satin-like edge on top is gone, and on bottom is headed there. But it's a perfect cover, good in the summer to let air in and out but be enough weight to feel comfy (I need some feeling of cover even in the hot summer). And in winter, as an under layer, it's perfect for keeping me toasty warm (as in last night, when it snowed a bit here in Austin). That cover went with me to LA and back, and there's a wonderful feeling that I'm protected with the warm energy of someone I barely knew, but someone who meant a lot to me.

Some of my recollections are wrong, though. For example, I love snap front western shirts with all kinds of tiny floral patterns on them, largely because I always think "that's a shirt Pa would wear." But one day, while in the store and looking at just such a shirt with my Mom, and making just such a comment, she told me he never would have worn a shirt like that. So I wonder what type of inversion my mind did. But it doesn't matter, because those shirts will always make me think of him.

So, whether or not he actually drank from a coffee cup like this, matters not. The warm thought is what matters.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Photo Challenge

I was looking at Becky's flickr postings and came across a challenge, so here's my pic:

The rules: Take a picture of yourself right now. Don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair...just take a picture. Post that picture with NO editing. Post these instructions with your picture.

Anyone who sees this pic has to do the same thing! Remember Santa's watching! :D

Toys R Oz

Continuing the Black Friday saga, finally, with the note that I'm not referring to the Dorothy type Oz, but the Showtime type Oz.

After the Denny's Breakfast Fiasco we drove back to Mom and Dad's house, because Dad hadn't eaten lunch, though apparently was able to make his own lunch, though it was a SPAM sandwich, so I don't know if it really counts as nutrition. Everyone in my family except, you guessed it, me, loves SPAM and fried bologna. Yeah, fried bologna, which, after I read Fall On Your Knees I learned is actually Cape Breton Steak. Not sure I needed that knowledge, as it's not one of my faves, but it's fun to refer to it as that.

We got to Mom and Dad's after collecting one of Armanae's friends, and, after a brief respite (bathroom, etc.) we set back out on the journey. Eventually the journey would involve the dreaded Walmart (note that they are taking the hyphen away, I guess because it looks classier?). I also hate Walmart, and I think everyone in my family does as well, but it seems to be easy for them to go to. Or else it's just routine. I don't know. Maybe if I had five kids it would make a difference, and my attitude would do a 180 degree happy face turnaround. Maybe not.

BUT the real treasure of the trip was Toys R Us. It really wasn't that busy, though there were enough people with carts full of stuff that it did look Black Friday-ish. As we wandered around looking I noticed blue arrows taped on the floor, but there were no signs indicating what they meant. In fact, there were lots of reasonably clueless employees who didn't bother to make much effort regarding their personal appearance. Basically it looked like they just rolled out of bed.

Now before you think I'm being horribly elitist again, or that I'm a spoiled brat (only my Mom can call me that) let me remind you that I worked at BEALL'S, America's Small Town Specialty Retailer, for five years. And in those five years, I had a few early Black Fridays. How did I look? Spiffy. Polished. Sometimes I'd have raging sinus infections (Midland does that to me) or flat out colds, and I might be cranky to everyone right before the doors opened. But when the doors opened and those glorious customers came looking for the cheap ass jr girls watches prominently featured in the ad, of which we maybe had 10, I was a pretty boy for them and loving, caring and considerate of their needs. It may have been 5 years of acting (not always, I do like some people!) but it was a damn good acting job!

Ok, so, back to Toys R Us. I found some Cars cars for Mom, who is still collecting the new ones, and then she found a black baby doll and fell in love with it, because it reminded her of a baby doll from her childhood. (Another sister has always been multicultural in her approach to baby dolls, both girls and also the boys have had dolls of various ethnicities, which of course still turns heads in Midland, Texas.)

Anyhow...we rolled up to the front to get in what didn't look to be horrible lines. Well, while there, another just rolled out of bed employee, a woman with a walkie talkie, pretty much accosted us "what are you doing?" and we're like "going to buy these" and she's like "well you have to get in line" we were like "we're going to the registers, the line" and she's like "no you have to get in the line" and my Mom's like "where is the line?" and the just out of bed walkie talkie empowered employee says "you have to get in the line back in the children's department" at which point we sort of all look at each other incredulously, because there were not enough people shopping to justify this lock down, and I tossed the merchandise on the nearest table.

This too is against all my training, I typically make anyone I'm with go and put something back where it belongs, because I also know how it is to find a woman's bra hanging with track pants for young men. But in this case, because of the lock down, and the rudeness, and the sheer Alice in Wonderland Queen of Hearts stupidity, I didn't mind.

Then we were just going to leave, and we all seriously thought she was going to frisk us or something. I've been through LAX a few times, and didn't feel that intimidated!

I don't know what it was all about, but, seriously gang, it's a TOY STORE. You can't make it hell for people. You can't put them in solitary. And, again, a good attitude will go a looooong way, no matter what the situation. Also it helps if employees look professional. But, above all, don't act like you're security for the president-elect.

It's just a toy store, dammit!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Catch Up

I got back from my Thanksgiving trip to Midland yesterday at about 2:40 pm or so. The return drive was mostly, well actually wholly, uneventful, which is always a good thing. I made a straight shot, other than stopping in Llano to pee at the Dairy Queen, and while I intended to buy some fries or an ice cream to tide me over for the next hour drive back home, let's just say Llano was a happening little town on Sunday and the DQ order counter was backed up. They are not super fast there, either, so I just mentally noted that next time I stopped I'd buy a little more than usual. So maybe I'll get a Dilly Bar to make up for my peeing and running.

Beyond that, Llano's a little scary on Sunday, with hunters galore. Which reminds me, I can't remember which town it is, maybe Eden?, that has a large banner over the street as you pass which says "Camouflage Cotillion." It makes me imagine large flowing dresses with camo tulle and tree bark tiaras.

Anyhow, I left Llano and whilst driving through Burnet called David to let him know I was less than an hour away. Keith had driven up on Saturday and, surprise for me, they were looking at apartments and indeed filling out an application for rental! Best of all, they stuck to the plan I had made for them, and if all goes well will be very close to South Congress and just a short taxi ride to downtown. Later I'll fill in the reason for this plan, but I want to get to my Thanksgiving Holiday and the following days first.

I'd have to say it's hard to detail Thanksgiving itself, because it's warmth and family, and all the tastes we've known through the years, headlined with Nene's stuffing, Dad's Mom's fruit salad (which is almost an excuse just to eat cream) and the other delights. Suffice to say that, barring any family drama (has happened a few times, but not too many) and my absence (has only happened once so far, not a good thing for all) Thanksgiving at the Lewis Home is uniformly excellent.

The following Friday, that Blackest of Fridays, I cannot say the same about, and that's the real adventure of my trip. I decided, this time, to get up early (6:00 am) and go with Mom, Chan, Simon and Armanae on the trek to Retail Hell. Why? Well, more time to spend with them really, and, while my sister is the shopaholic (OCD is dealt with in many different ways, shopping part of her way) in the family, and though I will admit I do enjoy shopping though I'm good at looking and not buying, I wanted to go just to see all the crazy people.

We went to KOHL'S first, as did, apparently, the other half of Midland that wasn't camped out at Best Buy. The line at KOHL'S stretched, lines I should say, all the way to the back of the store, each line almost meeting the other at the end. I thought, well, we will look, but no, my sister decided to buy stuff. Had I known that going in, I would have parked in line and waited for her to bring me things,. Instead after her shopping she and I got in line with her selections, then I told her to go look more and just bring things to me. That worked well enough, though we were probably in line for 45 minutes, maybe more. The nice thing was that everyone in the store seemed friendly and not cut throat. All in all KOHL'S was mildly amusing, a long wait, but a fuss free start to the day (a day that started way too early, anyhow).

Next we went to Target, where there was only a crowd in the electronic and toy sections, but no overwhelming lines at the registers. We looked a bit, bought a few things, left uneventfully, but of course that was three hours into the day, and we had planned on meeting the rest of the kids, my Dad and Jr for breakfast at IHOP.

Well, everyone who stayed at home basically decided to stay at home, so we went to IHOP as assembled, and there was a wait, of course, 45 minutes or more, so we thought why not make the drive over to Denny's, where surely no one else would have such big ideas?

Yeah, well, they didn't, but, Denny's had about 3 people working the restaurant. After I walked past a purple clad bitch troll from hell woman, trying to see if there was a list and not appear to be cutting in front of her, I asked her "I'm seeing if there's a list" to which she replied with a scowl and no Christmas glee "we're waiting in line" to which I replied "well, yes, obviously, but is there a list?" and she scowl growled "no" again and at that point my faith in humanity began to wane.

My faith didn't increase as we waited with only a few people in front of us, but hey, this is Midland, right? Not enough employees, this is how it's done. We finally got seated, after a scowl from the waitress and some unintelligible "uhhhhh" from her, and ordered coffee, which eventually came. At this point I realized, well we realized, being a big sugar and cream in coffee family, that there were no sugar packets on the table. Rather than ask for them, I decided to go on a hunt myself, knowing it would be faster. And yet across all the empty tables, of which there were many, and still a line backed out the door to get a table, no sugar packets were to be found.

I came back from this hunt unsuccessful, having spied the condiment station and having seen no sugar packets there. I had to announce that I believed they were out of sugar. This made our coffee selections moot. Hey, if I'm tasting coffee at one of Becky's tastings, I will drink it sans sugar and cream. But if it's me, for joy and not snobbishness ;) drinking it, it will have sugar, cream and only a little coffee. :)

(Oh, wait, I'm still a coffee snob, David sneaked Folger's into the house and when I realized it, there was the solution to the mystery of the icky smelling morning coffee. I had to call him out on it.)

However, I saw our waitress bring a small bowl of sugar to another table, so thought, perhaps, not all is lost. We asked for sugar after we finally got to order our Grand Slam Variations, and eventually she brought us some (not enough for a heavily sugar/cream/coffee oriented family of five) and as that resource was depleted I noticed what looked like hardened chocolate pudding near the bottom of the bowl. Fun.

Simon's food came first, and ours followed 5 or 10 minutes later. My hash browns were cold, but otherwise, it was a tasty for what you expect from Denny's breakfast. (I must interject that for Midland's fine restaurant choices, there are not a whole lot of good breakfast places.) But still, having asked for more sugar in a not tainted bowl, none arrived. I drank a little coffee creamed with no sugar, but I didn't like it. Or didn't love it, like I love sweet, creamy coffee (you've probably gotten that point by now).

It's clear to me, by this point, no sugar for us. It was also looking like the check wasn't going to arrive either, so I went up to the serving station again and waited for the check there, and when she gave it to me, I politely said that, since we had little then no sugar, the bowl was dirty, my hash browns were cold and the food arrived at different times, she should do something about making the coffee charge disappear. She didn't argue, though she turned to a guy just emerging from the back with four sacks of purchased sugar and told him never mind "they're already pissed." Well, probably mind, because other people throughout the day might accidentally want sugar, so the purchase was well made.

Still, I wasn't caustic or anything, and she noted that they were short handed and I noted that I was aware of it, and my sister intoned that it wasn't our fault, and of course that's true, no matter the situation we don't go to restaurants expecting to be wholly inconvenienced by the experience. But I told the woman that even without a full staff, a positive attitude goes a long way in helping the situation. Which is to say, had she just been friendly at the start, and told us there was a sugar shortage which was close to becoming and became a sugar outage, we could have amended our plans (Mom had also ordered grits, and won't eat them without sugar) and went without the coffee that we barely drank and so forth.

All in all, though, she wasn't rude about taking off the coffee, and it was an equitable solution, as the breakfast wasn't horrid, or even bad, as far as the food went. Of course, we were quite hungry by then, so cardboard with ketchup might have been tasty.

You'd think that would qualify as the worst Black Friday experience, but there's more, and worse, but I'll add it later. The breakfast fiasco is enough to digest, for now.