Saturday, May 30, 2009

You Think You've Got Problems?!?

Katie and I are watching, I don't know what. "I Love the 80's" or something on VH1. Or the 90's. Or the Aughties. Whatever.

A commercial comes on which at first I think is a mascara commercial, except you know it's not, because mascara commercials always show women with what are clearly fake eyelashes; nobody on Earth has eyelashes that thick and long - the girl's packing nylon, hello! This commercial has a woman with what looks like fairly normal eyelashes with a lot of mascara on. Clearly NOT a mascara commercial, then.

"Are you suffering from inadequate eyelashes?" asks the voiceover. It then goes on to tell you that there's a new prescription medicine available that will actually lengthen, thicken and darken your natural lashes! Results in just a few weeks! Clinically proven! By prescription only!

Okay. By prescription only means you're going to your doctor; you're looking him or her right in the face; you're telling this person, in a world with starvation, polio, cancer, swine flu, fungus-infested toenails, and liver damage, that you want medical attention lavished on your eyelids so you won't suffer from inadequate eyelashes.

"My God, Katie!" I said to my daughter, said I, although she was looking at me a bit oddly by this time. "What the hell is the world coming to?!"

"I don't know," said Katie nervously.

"That reminds me," I went on more calmly. "I want to run by Walgreen's this weekend and get some tooth-whitening stuff."

Katie hesitated. "I really don't know what to say to that," she told me.

"Good," I said. Because the last thing I need is a mouthy teenager. God knows I've got enough problems as it is.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Today I got home from work to find all the doors locked and nobody home. Don't you hate that?

I have a key, but there's something wrong with the front door lock. So my key has been stuck there since Monday. It doesn't turn the lock, and you can't get it out of the broken lock to use it on any of the others, so it's not like this is a security issue. Still, at some point, I suppose changing the locks might be in order. Someday.

I can fit through the cat flap, but I hate that. It's right next to the cat food dish and the litter box in the laundry room. And you know that thing is all covered with raccoon germs. Plus it's a fairly tight squirm, and I'm all sunburned. So I figured, what the hell. I'll just sit out here, on the porch, in the heat, and wait till everybody else gets home. That way they'll feel guilty!

Mr. Bingo Kitten, however, had seen me arrive on my bike. So he trotted towards me across the front yard, meowing urgently. He's hungry! He came up next to me on the porch, up to the front door. He pawed at the door. He gazed unhappily at me. He meowed some more. Why are you just sitting there, he was clearly wondering. Can't you see I want in? Haven't you got any heart at all?!

So I went around back, crawled through the cat flap, opened the front door and let him in.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Magda and Dumas are safely home in Barrow now. They traveled back with heavy hearts: the urn in which their father’s ancient ashes reposed overturned in the back of Dumas’ car when they hit a pothole in Gonzales, an ignominious scattering for the dignified and stern old Russian. Shaken, his children swept what they could out onto the beach without further ceremony. Their trip back to Alaska was spent mostly in silence, pondering the foolishness of their efforts, and wondering why they had once more made this epic journey, for so little reward to anyone?

But their depression was not destined to last, for on their return, they were overjoyed to find their brother Edwin safe at home; he had survived his sojourn in the belly of the whale, and in due course he emerged from it in the natural way, completely unscathed – only wanting a long shower, and expressing a marked disinclination for sushi.

Dumas is now a changed man: abandoning his dream of bringing a Super Wal-Mart to his hometown, he is now cultivating grapes in a fledgling vineyard where the retail giant was once to set its mighty foot, and looks forward to sampling the as-yet-unnamed fruit of his Bacchanalian efforts.

Magda, meanwhile, is meditating on the myriad blessings of her own personal advantages; loving and supportive family members; kind, loyal friends; a fun, steady job where her useful work is appreciated and rewarded; and the excellent health to continue enjoying all this wonderful bounty for a long time to come. What a lucky creature, what a child of good fortune she is. What could she possibly have to complain about?

Okay, so the sunburn hurts really really bad. But hurts will get better.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Journey Continues

There are certain advantages to having a literary alter ego, but occasionally there are drawbacks as well. For example, Magda Silhavy went to the beach today and burnt her pallid Alaskan hide to a crisp, which means that this evening, I find it particularly uncomfortable to wear things that chafe against my skin, such as, oh I don't know, clothes.

The sacrifices we make for our art.

Magda - I - and my brother Dumas are once more in Corpus to scatter our late father's ashes in the balmy waters of the bay; leaving them on the baggage carousel in Seattle, we found, was not adequately respectful to the old patriarch's memory. This is a more sobering trip than the last, as we are mourning the loss of our brother Edwin to one of the very whales he loved and worked for all his life. We are once more struck by the differences between Corpus Christi and our own hometown of Barrow, Alaska.

We don't really get wine festivals back home, but attended one in Rockport yesterday. Dumas suggests that perhaps we could start a winery back in Barrow. What could we call it? We're a little stumped, but frankly, in the wake (so to speak) of the current tragedy, we've gone right off whale marketing. Never mind that we have a three-day growing season. I've seen those tiny wine bottles they sell on airplanes; if that doesn't represent a niche we were destined to fill, I'd like to know what does?

During the course of the evening, the emcee began walking around among the tents and tables, greeting guests and asking what their favorite wine of the day was, and where are they from? Naturally, Dumas and I felt that this situation was custom-tailored for us, and began casually placing ourselves in the emcee's path. We're from Barrow, Alaska! Nobody else here is from that far away!

But he evaded us, so many times in fact that we began to suspect he was doing so on purpose, especially when he singled out a guest drinking Coors Light. We left in disgust.

Another thing we don't have in Barrow is cockroaches. But back at the hotel, dozing off the wine, I saw something moving underneath the notepad on the nightstand. I lifted the notepad to see two German cockroaches, engrossed in one another, tail-to-tail. I slammed the notepad back down onto them hard.

If I'm not having a good time, I don't see why anybody else should.

Also on the nightstand is an evaluation card. Outraged, I scrawled "FUCKING COCKROACHES!" in the comments section.

It occurred to me that clarification was needed. "(Seriously, they were having sex)," I wrote underneath, and added after further thought, "(I squooshed them)."

Also unheard of in Barrow are nightclubs such as the one where friendly locals Omar and Garrick took us dancing last night; nor, as I discovered to my dismay today, is the sun nearly as strong back home.

So it's rather ironic that they don't have whale blubber sunburn balm here, where the need for it is so much greater. That will just have to wait until the next chapter, the scattering of our father's ashes, and our eventual return home.

If only Edwin were here to experience it all with us.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Holy Fucking Shit! I'm 40!!!

Holy fucking shit! I'm the mother of a 19-year-old!!!!

Here's that model of maturity with his 16-year-old sister, taken last night:

On today's agenda:
1. Pick up new contacts
2. Shop - need some new earrings, an ankle bracelet or two and some toe rings
3. Spa! Full-body massage, manicure and pedicure. Thank you Jim and Katie!!
4. Happy hour with Robbie, Kevin, Thomas, Diane, and a bunch of my other most favoritest people in the whole entire world!
5. Party like a rockstar!
6. Corpus!! Party like a particularly immature rockstar!!!
7. Come home, go back to work and grow old.

Haha! Just kidding. I did want to mention that, seeing as how my twenties were way better than my teens, and my thirties were way better than my twenties, I'm feeling very optimistic about this new milestone.

Of course I couldn't resist taking a 40th birthday vanity shot in the bathroom. I got a few miles left in me yet!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Let's Get this Party Started

What better way could there possibly be to kick off the 40th birthday festivities, than with a 2:45 afternoon break of epic proportions?

I remember Billy perched on the picnic table in our pavilion, talking dreamily to Robbie and me about a forensics class he'd once taken. None of us were in any hurry to leave: no one watching us and nothing to do. I don't know how long we'd been out before Billy remarked languidly, "You know, we've been out here a really long time."

And yet, you know, I don't think it was much over an hour, hour and a half, tops.

Do you remember the walks to Stevie? Sometimes we'd take them after we'd already been sitting outside a good half hour.

Or some days we'd merely stay in the break spot, relaxing in the shade, talking about everything and nothing, laughing, happy, relaxed; as a group, not particularly conscious of the time, although one or two people might get a little anxious and start talking about going in. The rest of us would mock them. Do you remember? Sometimes we'd mock them so harshly that they'd just go inside, and probably feel fairly silly when the rest of us eventually showed back up 45 minutes later.

Conversation could go anywhere, nowhere, everywhere, and everything was funny. Eventually the "second shift" would show up, a group from Traffic Analysis who generally came out around 3:45 or so. We always knew it was time to go in, though they were friendly, and generally invited us to stay. No: this was the changing of the guard; and we acknowledged the second shift break group as the only other rightful inhabitant of that spot. We were on good terms with them, of course! But it was not our fate to sit and break with them. Their arrival meant it was our time to go back to our desks and work the sudoku puzzle or look at the weather forecast until it was time to go home. Such is the natural order of things.

So, as an early birthday present to me today, Ernest rounded up the people who'd be 3MBG members if the 3MBG had not finally and tragically disbanded: himself, of course; and Jennifer B.; and Jason - poor dear Jason, the only one of our old set who hasn't escaped! - and Butch, who is kind of like the 3MBG's kindly, indulgent uncle; and sweet thoughtful Esther; and Carlos, a new guy. And we went on break. And we took that break. We took a good break. I stayed, and laughed, and talked, and listened, and had a wonderful time, and whenever that little nagging voice inside whispered that perhaps I should think about going back in now, I told it to shut the F up, beeyotch!

The second shift never arrived. I'm pretty sure they still break there; perhaps they sensed something rare and magical taking place, and didn't want to ruin it for us. When at last Jennifer and Esther yielded to the urgings of their ticking consciences, leading the rest of the group reluctantly away in their wake, I was satisfied that it was time: the first real break I've taken since starting my "new" job a year ago February. I got back to my desk today to find no notes on my chair, no papers waiting for me, no emails, no phone messages; and I'd been gone for a full, lovely, wonderful hour.

Tomorrow, we do more or less the same thing, only with more people, alcohol, and no time limit. Then this weekend, Robbie and I are off to Corpus - Dumas and Magda, on our own, since unfortunately our older brother Edwin was swallowed by a whale earlier this week. I'll be curious to see how he gets out of that one.

This is going to be the best birthday ever.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh My God Look Out It's Right Behind You

Today was day 2 (and the final day - thank God - thank God!!!!) of my emergency management operations class. Aren't you happy I took it? Next time a pandemic sweeps the globe, or terrorists murder thousands of civilians in the process of destroying a major cultural and historic landmark, or a tropical cyclone causes widespread flooding in Helena, Montana, you can rest secure in the knowledge that I am immediately able to tell you which unit belonging to the Planning Section of the Incident Command General Staff is responsible for tracking inventory on the mental health professionals deployed to help you cope with the resultant stress.

Was that flippant? I don't mean to be flippant. Actually, I have a high level of respect - reverence really - for the organizational systems created to deal with and efficiently handle large-scale emergency operations. Business-as-usual could benefit a heck of a lot from adopting some of the models derived from these systems. Open, non-territorial communication among government agencies? (Or even - I tremble to think it - different divisions within the same agency?) Readily-comprehensible means of ordering and tracking resources?? Large-scale cooperation towards common objectives???? I can has every day - plees?!?!

No. You can not has. Still, it's rather inspiring to see what public entities actually are capable of, because who'd'a thunk? Never mind that our class was taught by APD cops, who made many jokes at the expense of Austin's good-natured, environmentally-conscious, liberal, happy-go-lucky character. Describing the process for obtaining resources from higher level resources in the event of a disaster (oh by the way, the large-scale devastation in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina was 100% the fault of local and state officials because they were not Bush supporters - just thought you might be interested to know that), one of our instructors mentioned that "Rick" must request a declaration of disaster from - here he hesitated - "Barack, now" - in order to receive Federal assistance.

"I'm impressed you remembered not to say 'George!'" remarked our second instructor.

"I'm impressed I was able to say 'Barack' without throwing up!" retorted the first.

Let's not make any pretense here - I sucked in this class. None of it made much sense to me. I tried to participate, but my brain kept finding other things to be interested in - including, at one point as I recall, the chemical makeup of the construction materials used in the drywall - and I had a lot of trouble finding anything worthwhile to contribute during my class table's hands-on exercises.

This is perfectly normal, and nothing to be alarmed about: I will not ever, nor would I wish to, function in a leadership capacity in an actual major emergency. Thus far, my job has been merely to disseminate information to the folks who are answering phones from the public; and this I can do. Maybe I have to make the occasional call about whether we'll order more port-a-potties. I'll leave the actual life-or-death decisions to the kind of people teaching my class, who have an unquestionably valuable contribution to make to society, without whom I wouldn't feel safe walking down dark alleys (inasmuch as I do anyway), and with whom, were I to be asked to go out for a few drinks and maybe dinner afterwards, I would, let's face it, not. ("Sorry! Have to give my cat a bath that night! So sweet of you to ask! Byeeeee!")

(Not that I would be asked. I strongly suspect that, no matter how much cleavage I don't show and how much my shoes refrain from slapping against my feet when I walk, I have the words "PINKO LIBERAL COMMIE SCUM" tattooed across me in six-inch-high letters that everyone who needs to can pretty clearly see; hence, I never get out of speeding tickets, never.)

I love what I do for a living; they clearly enjoy and prosper in their work: well enough. May our lives cross but once or twice a year. But, just for Karma's sake, I probably won't be drinking a lot of Hurricanes this weekend.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Wonder I Have Swine Flu!

Cops, no offense to any who might be eyeing my car's expired registration sticker or noticing that I'm riding my bike on the sidewalk downtown, are pricks.

Complete, utter, lost-to-all-hope, straight-up, down-low, doughnut-scarfing, power-hungry, small-minded, pig-brained, sexists, the lot of them (with the sole exception of those who aren't). Um, not that there's anything wrong with that.

I spent the day today in emergency management systems training, and another full day of the same awaits me tomorrow. Various different state agencies are in my class. Most of them are members (probably not very large ones) of law enforcement groups.

These people are good at their jobs, and their jobs are needed; I don't mean to imply otherwise. It's just that the kind of person to whom this sort of job appeals just so happens to be a complete asshole.

My work, during emergency management operations, has nothing to do with saving lives or making the world a materially better place. All I do is disseminate information about what those big boys are actually accomplishing: I reassure the public that emergency operations are safely in hand, tell them the number to call to find their elderly relatives, or where they might find a hotel that won't turn them away with their dog, or a good resource for getting emergency prescriptions filled if they've left home without paperwork. Really, when you get down to it, it's "fluff" work - though I tend to think of it as fairly noble, when you consider I used to be in marketing.

I don't like being looked down upon, though, it pisses me off. Today in class, we had to brainstorm several different "real-life" emergency scenarios. The others at my table, cops and professional emergency management officials, actually have dealt with this sort of situation before, whereas it's all fairly hypothetical to me. We're all supposed to participate in class, but my silly, hesitant, ignorant suggestions were summarily shot down with a great deal of condescension by the heavy-necked thug next to me - who obviously considered me little more than a fluffy little travel industry bunny.

He was armed, but I bet a stiletto heel would have put him out of commission fairly quickly, if I'd been so inclined. The element of surprise, you know. No one expects to get stabbed by the fluffy bunny!

Especially if I lure them into a false sense of security first by offering doughnuts.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

All the World's A Stage

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

So send in the clowns:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mal du Monde

Margie called me this afternoon about plans for my birthday. I croaked weakly at her. "You sound sick. Are you sick?" she asked me, rather huffily I thought. "You're never sick."

"Well, I'm sick now," I said.

"That's no excuse," Margie remarked unsympathetically. "What do you have, swine flu? You swine."

Could I get some chicken soup with that?

Here are the top ten things you should not do whilst recuperating from swine flu:

10. Pick at the scabs on your slowly-healing heart - this is always highly contraindicated, but especially when you're suffering your own personal pandemic. (Doesn't that sound like a menu offering at Pizza Hut? Granted, a fairly gross one - but we are talking Pizza Hut here.)

9. Go to work. You have to anyway, because if you're out more than three days in a row you have to bring a doctor's note, and I'm not paying $20 to sit around in a waiting room full of people with much worse infections than mine, only to be told to stay home and drink plenty of fluids (NOT vodka) and get some sleep, which I already knew. So if you come to my office, be sure and wear a gas mask. Otherwise, you're going DOWN, pal.

8. Take your kids to visit your ex-mother-in-law in the hospital. She's fine, except she has a cracked vertebra from being hit by a VW bus while trying to retrieve a cardboard garage sale sign from the median near a major intersection. However, 30 minutes into our visit, she got a phone call from her daughter-in-law, who brusquely informed her that she has a staph infection and visitors aren't allowed into her room without gowning up. Now, the nurses hadn't mentioned this, and she does have a (gownless) roommate, who also had a (gownless) visitor while we were there.

Frankly, it was too much for my feeble brain and I just decided our visit had been about long enough anyway; but I'm still scratching my head over that one, or would be, except I'm frightened of getting my hands that close to my face.

7. Be the parent of an equally sick child. I'm sorry, but frankly this is just irresponsible. When you're sick, you really can't afford to be up all night bringing water and comfort to a coughing, feverish infant. So cut it out.

6. Read the weekly wildflower report for the state's recorded information line. Your voice sounds all husky from the sore throat, and you'll only give the traveling public the wrong idea.

5. Permit a cool front to bring a line of thunderstorms across the region where you live, dropping temperatures by 15 degrees and reawakening all the mold, cedar and pollen which thought spring was over and were all ready for a long summer's nap, therefore bringing about the worst allergy attack you've suffered in years. That was a dumb-ass thing to do.

4. Entertain Bill Gates with your karaoke stylings.

3. Go to the roller rink with your best friend. This isn't so bad in and of itself, but you need to go when the place isn't full of preteens, because preteens do not fear death, and therefore aren't nearly as frightened of 75-mph collisions as you are. Feel that funny thing your heart is doing? That's probably not good.

2. Plan the mother of all happy hours for your 40th birthday this coming Friday, itself merely a precursor to a full night of debauchery in Austin and a Memorial Day weekend of alcohol-fueled madness in Corpus. I have friends coming in from at least four different cities for the event. I don't think it'll be a proper party unless at least someone gets arrested, as long as that someone is not me, because the number one thing you should never, ever, ever do whilst H1N1ing your sick little ass into next week?

1. Go to jail!

On the other hand, I have been pretty badly in need of blog fodder lately.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trekkin'

Robbie, Thomas and I went to see the new Star Trek movie last night at the Alamo Downtown.

On a side note, I still don't see how (1) nobody else had ever thought of having a movie theater where you could enjoy real - and not overpriced - food and adult beverages during the show, and (2) while the Alamo was going about delivering this heretofore unrealized necessity of existence to the masses, regular movie theaters decided that they didn't suck quite enough, and therefore that you should have to sit through so many loud, big-screen commercials before your movie starts that by the time the opening credits roll, you just want to go home and have a Tylenol, or perhaps some heroin.

In my college days, I remember, the Dobie used to play artsy slideshows before the movie started. These consisted of photographs with meaningful words or phrases scratched onto them with a pin. OMG. SO 80's.

The Alamo plays features for you before the film starts, but the features are AWESOME. Like, last night, they played a montage of (probably not quite) every instance and configuration in which DeForrest Kelley delivered the "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a _______!" line, all back-to-back. And they played the "Star Trekkin'" video, which I highly recommend if you haven't seen it. They also ran the popularly acclaimed "worst fight scene ever made," from the Star Trek episode "Arena," where Kirk engages in hand-to-hand combat with a large rubber lizard creature wearing a leopardskin sheath in which Thomas suggested I'd look quite fetching (unless he actually meant the rubber lizard suit, I'm not sure). The fight scene leaves you wondering if perhaps the actors thought the studio would play the clip at double-speed when the episode was actually produced. And they played an Onion spot about how echt Trekkies were all bent out of shape because the new movie has good acting, special effects, and action sequences, and therefore has diluted the brand by appealing to the kind of people who don't even speak Klingon.

(Actually I can relate to that - it's why I don't like the new "Doctor Who." If you can't see the stagehands' feet scampering along beneath the advancing Daleks, what's the point? What's the point???)

And they played this.

Live long and prosper, dude!

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Still Putting the "Pro" in "Inappropriate"

Management has scolded my cleavage into submission, but now it's personal. Now they're after my shoes.

My favorite black sandals are considered flip-flops and are therefore verboten, and I am now officially peeved. I feel like going out and buying a nun's habit in protest, except I don't want to get mistaken for a chorus girl from the ALO production of "Dialogues of the Carmelites." We all know what chorus girls are like!

So first I have to wear boring tops, and now I can't have cute shoes. If they tell me to start wearing cotton underwear, I quit.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Center of the Universe

"Look, look!" enthused an adorable little boy in swim trunks - I'd guess he was about two and a half - to Robbie and me, sitting on top of the hill overlooking the Long Center, Auditorium Shores, and the hike-and-bike trail. The man-made hill is crowned by a ring of stone benches surrounding a handsome limestone-and-granite map of Texas. Austin is picked out with a star on the map; several other, less relevant Texas cities are indicated by a dot, and under each dot the distance in miles from this, the sunniest, happiest, most beautiful city on Earth, is given. "Look!" said the little boy, zigzagging excitedly back and forth across the map. "It's the whole world!"

Who could disagree?

The little cutie was drawn to us by Bella, Robbie's miniature dachshund, who responded to his attentions by curling her tail tightly underneath her body and trying to hide under the bench. Robbie coaxed her out and held her in his arms so the little boy could pet her. The child caught sight of Robbie's watch. "Hey, what time is it?" he demanded urgently.

"It's almost four," Robbie told him.

"What's that mean??"

We weren't able to give a satisfactory answer, though, so the little fellow orbited the world a few more times before dashing down the hill to join his mother, grandfather, and brother, who were ambling along the spiral path that climbs the hill. The mother approached us after a few minutes and asked us, smiling, "How old is your son?"

"Wait - he isn't yours?!"

So I stood up and gazed down the hill towards the splashing water fountains until I spied a woman looking around, cupping her hands to her mouth and shouting. I waved to her. "Is that your mom in the red shirt?" I asked my little companion, "I think she's trying to find you." He dashed down the hill to a happy reunion. Awwwww... I guess it's just as well. Robbie's got Bella, and I already have a kitten.

I sat atop that same hill yesterday evening, too, with a new friend, who took me to see a new symphony by Dan Welcher, the Bruch Violin Concerto #1 with the amazing, energetic, and very snappily dressed Sarah Chang, and the Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italien.

The natives were restless - children waiting to splash in the water fountain plaza, which runs through cycles and pauses every several minutes to allow parents to drag away their exhausted offspring; but there were none of those last night. The tense, rhythmic chant of "Wa-ter! Wa-ter! Wa-ter!" was clearly audible from the top of the hill.

My friend has season tickets to the Austin Symphony Orchestra. In most cities, this would entail a good mix of classics and new pieces - and there's really no getting away from the pops concerts (nor from people who whisper to one another loudly during the performance, kick the back of your seat, and shout "Bravo!" at female soloists), but the one thing that kind of annoyed my friend was that a Charlie Daniels Band concert was included in his season subscription. "When I buy season tickets to the symphony," he remarked, quite reasonably I thought, "I am specifically paying NOT to see the Charlie Daniels Band."

I guess that's Austin for ya.

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