Sunday, April 1, 2018

VIP, a San Marcos Tale

News of the impending visit by government dignitaries spread quickly through San Marcos. And while, in the new new parlance of the day, there was no shortage of questions about the congruity of using the words 'government' and 'dignitary' so closely together - even referring to the same personages; yes, even amid that debate, there was something in the air that swiftly grew from mere curiosity to exhilaration. We were all, even the most cynical among us, swept up in the news of the day. Things must be put in order. Plans must be made.

I knew that I would not be called upon to take any significant role in the inevitable parade, but I wanted the best vantage point possible. So, I searched through my contacts for the number of my oldest, most faithful friend, the Romanian taxi driver who had saved my life on so many occasions. Even though he was clearly the best person for the job, I had two nagging reservations about calling him. The first issue was that I had never actually been to Romania, never walked 1.6 kilometers in his shoes. The thought and culture police would hear his stilted accent in my mind and accuse me of culturally appropriating him. I met him years before this was considered a problem and I am reluctant to allow it to color my relationship with the best damn taxi driver and most reliable friend a man could have. His sense of direction can be frightening, but his loyalty is unquestionable. When he is by my side I am always reminded that it is more important who you are with than where you are going.

The second problem that I have been wrestling with since our last adventure is that my Romanian taxi driver is quite possibly totally imaginary. Fortunately I live in a town where mermaids populate the peripheral vision of all the residents, trickily morphing into humans when observed directly. We forgive ourselves quickly for lapses in reality in San Marcos.

You can imagine my relief when, despite my concerns, he showed up at the house only slightly late in a newish Mazda with a handful of candies for the girls. I felt a pang of sadness that he had traded in his Peugot 504, an old school Cairene black and white taxi, for a modern sedan. But who am I to hold my friend in place? His smile and enduring confidence were the same. We embraced and set off into town.

The town was aflutter with activity. On the square, under the shadow of a large bronze statue of Jack Hays, our mayor stood on a hastily constructed stage and excitedly shouted orders to what appeared to be members of the high school football team. They had been volunteered by their coach to help with the lifting and moving of things. The mayor was a kind soul, whom everybody in town seemed to like, though nobody could actually remember voting for him. He was elected on a two plank platform. The first was renaming an alley that jutted off the square, 'The Kissing Alley'. His second promise was to bring mermaids out of the periphery and grant them full, perhaps even enhanced, citizenship. I personally could care less what you call an alley, though I am suspicious that the mayor's activities in that alley had been different than mine, or most of my fellow graduates of SWT. If we had called it anything, it would probably have been the 'peeing alley' or maybe even the 'puking alley'.

The recognition of the ever present mermaids struck a deeper cord, curiously uniting in descent three seemingly disparate groups - devotees of a nearly forgotten swimming pig named Ralph, those who are uncomfortable with the cultural implications of characters that seem to fetishize feminine beauty and vulnerability, and sailors who both desire and fear the formerly mythical creatures. As a sailor, a father of daughters, and a fan of Ralph, I find the mermaid movement unsettling at best.

Perhaps in some token nod to the cult of Ralph, hog hunters were brought in from Luling for the parade. They would be running wild hogs through the streets, behind the middle school marching band in the parade line up. There were obvious concerns about safety and sanitation, but the hog hunters confidently reported there would be no unseemly incidents. They assured the city counsel that their heavy chested, square headed dogs could keep the hogs under control, while delighting local children with abundant tail wagging and face licking sweetness. As the parade was to end at the Rio Vista waterfall, there was even a chance that fans of Ralph would have the increasingly rare opportunity to see pigs swimming, as they had done regularly during simpler days of yore.

At the airport, a group of mariachis were gathered and practicing to welcome the guests. Clearly somebody had to be on the ground, ready to perform the moment the plane landed and the door opened, our honored visitors experiencing San Marcos for the first time. A city counsel member had suggested that a line of hula dancers present the guests with leis, but that seemed more confusing than ironic. Another idea, which unwittingly revealed deeper fissures in our seemingly harmonious town's culture, was that Little Miss Cinco de Mayo could perform a Selena song, wearing a sequined push up bra and a ridiculous floppy hat. The town's anglos reportedly felt beleaguered in their attempts to rectify a clear desire to bridge the gap with their hispanic neighbors with their unwavering insistence that most Selena songs were jarringly annoying to actually listen to, regardless of their cultural significance. Fortunately San Marcos is blessed with an abundance of talented mariachis who graciously took their places on the tarmac, at least delaying the debate for another day and cementing the illusion of unity. Everybody loves mariachis.

Perhaps it was our collective desire to impress the outsiders that prevented us from questioning who exactly our guests were. Nobody seemed to wonder why we should care what these very important people thought of us and our town or even what was so important about them. Yet there was little debate about how the visitors should be treated, regardless of which side they were on. One of the appeals to life and culture in this particular part of Texas is how tricky it can be to discern the roundheads from the cavaliers. So many of us hide our rabid partisanship under camouflaged baseball caps and an adherence to old fashioned manners. And so we pandered on and on.

Schools and schoolchildren were called into action. Their normal math and reading lessons were suspended in order that the kids could make preemptive thank you cards from brightly colored construction paper, glue sticks, and mountains of glitter. Music teachers practiced vaguely patriotic songs on the bleachers, pig tailed kids mouthing the words along with the canned music. A dunk tank was set up and the most charismatic teachers took their places on the damp bench, preparing to entertain the crowd while they waited for the arrival of the dignitaries.

After considerable debate, the university was temporarily shut and the college students were encouraged to retreat to their parents' homes in Plano, Pflugerville, Pasadena, and other suburbs where their terrible driving and relentless parking could be reabsorbed into the local fabric of their youth. A cheer rose up from the center of the collective throats of townies as the last of their cars was seen merging onto the highway. Of course there would be stragglers who stayed behind, estranged from their parents and already on the schedule to work at various restaurants and coffee shops around town. Life must go on.

My driver and I set off early to pick up a torta and get a good spot at the airport. The fellows at Taqueria Patroncito, caught up in the momentum of the day, stuffed our sandwiches with extra meat, spicy green salsa running down the sides. We drove too fast and listened to an ironic version of the Australian pop song 'Live is Life', covered by the former Yugoslavian band Laibach ( at least nine times over and over on a pair of busted Kenwood eight inchers. It was equal parts grueling and exhilarating.

When we arrived, the crowd was already swollen at the the tiny municipal airport. Surrounding pastures became makeshift parking lots. Snacks were sold, mostly breakfast tacos, which speak for themselves and are beloved by every citizen down to the last child. While there was considerable jostling for a good view, particularly as the small jet landed and taxied toward the waiting crowd, people remained in high spirits and reasonably polite. Nobody wanted to screw up this historic moment, to blow our best chance to really shine.

Silence as the plane's slow roll become a full stop. Breath was collectively held, thousands of pairs of eyes watching the door, waiting for it to open....

For an audio recording, read by the author.....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Chasing the Shadows

Well, the clouds didn't look like cotton.
They didn't even look like clouds.
I was underneath the weather.
My friends looked like a crowd.
-Townes Van Zandt

It makes me crazy when I am trying to understand something and somebody tells me that there is no way that I can possibly understand it, that I have to experience it to know it - whatever
it is. I try not to do this, to tell people what they can feel. It is so much kinder and easier to do my best to explain, or show and see what happens.

Who am I to tell you what you can know?

Often it starts like this - in the car, so often when I am driving. One of those Story Corp. pieces or something similar comes on the radio, distracting me from myself and drawing me into somebody else's life, somebody else's special pain. On clear days, melancholy, sweet and satisfying melancholy drapes her arms around my shoulders, dries her tears on my hair and holds me in bliss. And I love these moments, savor them. I drink in the soft sadness thirstily, greedily. This is the good half of being half crazy. Still, I greet her cautiously, knowing all too well that melancholy is often a harbinger of darkness.

There are other warnings that darkness is coming, most unpleasantly notable is anxiety. Sometimes anxiety, depression's manic conjoined twin, grips my brain in its teeth, gnawing holes in sensible thoughts. Anxiety is every bit as irrational as depression and even more dangerous with its urgent calls for imprudent action and the totality of it's declarations and resolutions. Relationships can be inflated and destroyed in these tricky, twisted moments. Fortunately this also passes.

Then there are shadow days and I never really know when they will occur or how long they will last; in the car again, but this time chocking, weeping like a broken person, not even knowing who I am crying for. This is when the darkness creeps into every part of life. It is exhausting, paralyzing. The simplest of tasks last week seem nearly unthinkable today. My life is not set up for depression. I simply do not have the time. There are lists to be made, children to be raised, and dishes to be washed. There are people who rely on me not only to be present, but to be happy and alert, sometimes even inspirational.

If it were just a day, it would not be so difficult. And sometimes it is. But when the darkness really comes, I can be chasing shadows for months, or even years. Recently I was feeling particularly self-indulgent. Flirting with my not so secret mistress, melancholia, I read through my old essays, particularly those from the first months after I returned to live in Cairo with Jenn and the kids. It was a very difficult time. I made a hundred contacts and very few connections. The world was turned upside down and I felt everything, amplified and distorted. The writing was pretty damn good though.

And for so many artists of one sort or another, that is just another part of the rub. It is impossible to deny the powerful influence that depression sometimes has on creation. I am not saying that depression makes you more creative. In fact the debilitation overshadows nearly everything. But, when the shadows recede and calm returns, it is clear that some of my best work has been done in darkness. And so it goes.

It is probably for the best that most of this is entirely invisible to all but the most naked eyes. Laughter conceals almost everything from friends and bystanders. I recently read some comments about how happy and adjusted people appeared in a photograph, which struck me as ludicrous. There is no way you can see what is going on in someone's mind from a photograph. Even up close and personal, emotions can be hidden. This is not so terrible. Nobody has time in their lives for depression.

I only understand a little slice of all this, and even this is just a piece of that. I know that moods can be tangible, and hard to know, and that things will always pass and change. I know that breathing helps and so do dogs and that while nobody can effectively tell me to get over it, I'll be happier when I do. And so it goes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Under Water

I never really believed that the stories I read in your magazine were true, until yesterday when a very strange thing happened…

I love to snorkel, on reefs near beaches, in lakes and seas. But my very favorite place is the top of the San Marcos River. It is a convenient ten minute walk from my house to the headwaters of this beautifully clear and refreshingly cool spring fed river. And on warm days, of which we are rich beyond imagining, I will often take a short break from whatever I am pretending to be working on for a mind clearing, energy restoring dip in the sacred waters. I only swim the first half mile of the river, getting out before the riverbed becomes a tangled mess of algae and beer cans.

Of course I bring my snorkel. On the walk to the river, I typically pass people. It is curious that almost every day somebody asks me, "What are you looking for?" And, when I am getting out of the water, dripping wet and headed home,  somebody else usually asks, "What'd you find?"

I shrug uncertainly when asked what I'm looking for. I'm not really looking for anything more than a few minutes, swimming amongst the fish and plants. There are other snorkelers out there some days. Some of them are hunting for treasure, either artifacts from any of the many peoples who have populated this section of river for thousands of years, or more modern treasures. I've certainly found both. I have friends who are really into finding indigenous artifacts and will spend hours scouring a section of river for that little gleam of flint that is sometimes an arrow head. I don't really care much about arrow heads. They all look pretty much the same to me, and I couldn't be bothered to search so diligently.

Modern treasure is slightly more appealing. I've found money, keys, plenty of sunglasses, and a pretty large cache of jewelry. I'm not really looking for that stuff either. But it is always cool to find something valuable. I have found one class ring and several wedding bands. The class ring was fairly easy to track to an ungrateful sorority girl from San Antonio. The wedding bands, when they fit, I use to replace the more than twelve rings that I have personally lost in that same river. Sometimes I wonder if the marriages that these rings represented were good ones. Were they accidentally dropped by someone madly in love or thrown from the bank to carry away the despair of a bad marriage? I doesn't really matter. I always lose them before they bring me either good luck or ill. Things come. Things go.

My older daughter is a huge enthusiast of treasure hunting. This summer, she found five dollars and decided that she would search for money on the river bottom until she found enough to buy a GoPro camera. The very next weekend we were snorkeling at Sewel Park. She got out at the ladder. "Dad, I think I see something at the bottom. It's a little too deep for me. Can you get it?" And so I swam down about ten feet to the spot where a GoPro camera was resting on the river bed, its head band swaying pleasantly in the current with the long, slender leaves of wild rice.

We tried to find the owner, to return it. There was one clue, a video on the camera. The video reveals a pair of scuba divers performing routine safety checks on one another. All is well, camera adjusted on head mount. They swim down the river about 100 yards. There is a moment of awkward equipment adjustment caught on the video, and then you see the divers swim away as the camera slips off and floats silently to the river bed. Then there are ten minutes of nothing but rice moving serenely in the soft current until the battery goes dead. We called the local dive shops to see if anyone had come in to return an air tank, griping about losing a camera. We even scoured the internet for stories of woe and loss in the San Marcos River. After a couple of weeks, I let Mina buy some GoPro accessories and really call the camera hers.

I mostly just pick up pieces of broken glass, which are sadly plentiful, even near the headwaters. They fill my pockets, providing ballast to offset my preternatural buoyancy. For some reason, I avoid beer can pull tabs. It would be easy enough to collect them also. Maybe it is a touch of OCD that compels me to stick to my plan - just pick up glass. Perhaps it is that the aluminum tabs are too light and would do little for my above mentioned buoyancy issues. The glass in my pockets does give me something to say, when I am invariably asked, "What'd you find?"

Yesterday I was avoiding looking for a job. I was avoiding looking at all. So I headed down to the river to look for nothing. It is still hot here, and the water felt divine. My anxieties were rinsing away and I was going into the snorkel zone, calmly collecting broken bottles and gazing into the thick beds of wild rice and red hygrophila when I swam around a bend in Sewel Park, finding myself suddenly snorkel to fin with a group of nearly naked mermaids.

This section of the river is popular with students, so it's not strange to swim up on coeds, but these weren't regular students in regular bathing suits. There were three of them. One had the long flipper tail that you immediately thought of when you read the word mermaids. The others appeared to have legs and were wearing uncomfortable looking thong bathing suits. They were topless, save a smattering of what looked like pearlescent barnacles scattered across their breasts. I think they were those large aquarium stones, maybe affixed with glue. I don' know. I have heard enough stories about sailors and sirens to be cautious.

It was awkward because this is a spot where the water deepens and I usually like to swim around a bit before heading downstream to the the place where I get out. I also wanted to know what they were doing and how they got the stones to stay glued to their breasts in the water. But I didn't want to disturb them, to be that creepy guy with a snorkel. Neither did I want to be dragged to the bottom, drowned by them as their faces changed into those of hideous monsters. And so I swam on.

Oddly, it seemed at first that they were following me, past the bridge and out of the section of park with walls and ladders. I turned once and saw one of the mermaids a short way behind me, slipping effortlessly through the water and the thick river foliage. I kept on my course until I was alone again, just turtles and fish in sight. Rounding another bend, I came to the place where I like to get out. Climbing from the water, pockets full of glass, I saw an old guy with a skinny dog and a large can of beer. "What'd you find?" he asked.

"I'm not really sure."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Night Sky by Mina

I don't typically invite guest writers to this site, not being in a hurry to share the attention. But Mina wrote this one last night and asked me if I would post it…..

One evening I was enjoying the dark sky.
I saw a small light flickering across the yard.
It was a firefly!
I thought my sister would love to see the sight.
I ran inside and told my dad what I saw.
My dad said it would lift my sister’s spirt, because she already felt bad. She had a
stomach ache. So I brought her to see the starry sky filled with fireflies.
She is one of those people who gets interested in lots of things.
We came out to see the sky filled with stars, fireflies, and the almost full moon.
My dad was right; it sure did lift her spirit.
I watched as my sister gazed at the sight. Her eyes were filled with excitement.
When I went into the backyard, my dog jumped on me.
I heard my dad in my house calling my name

and went to bed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

And a Slightly Late Eid Said to Y'all

I was wandering through the produce section of my local HEB, marveling over the amazingly cheap price of bananas, when I looked up and saw a young veiled woman, also shopping. I paused a moment. Having lived in Egypt twice in my life, I am very accustomed to living with Muslims. But you don't see too many veiled women at the little HEB in San Marcos, Texas.

I felt an awkward desire to say something pleasant and welcoming, the way so many people in Egypt did to me and my family. But I don't know her. Maybe she has always lived in San Marcos. Maybe she says "Y'all" and "fixin' to" like the rest of us rednecks. This was a couple of months ago, during the weekend of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. I'll say, "Eid Said!" (Happy Eid), I thought. It always made me smile when people wished me a "Happy Christmas" in Egypt. And then I thought that maybe it was not appropriate for me to approach a Muslim woman alone, to say anything to her at all. My goal was to be kind, not pushy. But then again, this is America. Hell this is Texas, where we pride ourselves on being friendly and where there is no taboo against saying something nice to a stranger in grocery store, man or woman.

But why did I want to say anything? Was it really to make her feel better, or was it selfish? Was I just trying to counter my own strange and irrational discomfort with diversity in my little corner of the world? I think that the truth is that I just like making connections with people. Still, I didn't want to feel like a tool, like the annoying white folks who went around trying to high five black people right after Obama was elected.

We have such a peculiar relationship with Islam, here in the United States. While there is a large population of Muslims living in America, public discourse around Islam rarely rises above a discussion on middle east politics, and always seems to end up with some sort of talk about terrorism. This is beyond unfortunate. I spent nearly three years in a city teaming with Muslims who were, by and large…. wait for it… wait for it…. Yes, totally peace loving, decent folks who abhor violence and prejudice as much as any hippy in Austin. It is really true. For years I wandered through busy streets without being really scared. Well, maybe I was scared a little, but that was because Egyptians are such terrifyingly awful drivers - even the Christian ones. The fact is that I was overwhelmingly and vigorously welcomed by people when we mingled freely together in the largest predominantly Muslim city in the world.

I still really don't understand much about Islam. I know some of the basics, but have never delved too deeply into learning about the religion. It may actually not really be so different from my own tradition. I am a secular Catholic with a deep fondness and admiration for the story book Jesus of my youth - the one who preached only peace and forgiveness. That Jesus didn't talk about revenge or crusades. He included everybody. His whole bit, as I learned it, was about loving sinners. That's you and me, guys.

I guess I don't really understand much about Christianity either. Fortunately I am rarely asked to defend it or to explain the actions of crazier, less secular Christians. I have no desire to team up with the fundamentalists either, though it wouldn't hurt for me to behave a little more Christ-like.

I am generally skeptical and more than a little bit suspicious of all religions, and particularly of religious people. Perhaps that is why I find the veil threatening. It seems like a big commitment, certainly more than one that I would be willing to make. But the veil isn't Islam either, just one aspect of a complicated and broad tradition. It is certainly not for me to tell anyone how to dress, or what to believe.

That's a job I don't want. What I want, I suppose, really is to be more Christ-like; to be the guy who says "welcome" or "Merry Christmas" or "Eid Said" to a stranger in the store, and to really mean it. But I guess that's not me, not yet or at least not all the time. I didn't take a chance to make even that small, momentary connection when I had it, by the bananas in HEB. Instead, I just smiled mutely and moved on, hoping she had not noticed all of
the attention that I had given her.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Snake by Any Other Name

This is an essay I wrote in September 2001 while living in Guanajuato, Mexico. I thought about it again yesterday and decided to share it here. I don't think anything has changed, not for the better anyway.

Letters to Gringolandia - Part 14.5
A Snake by Any Other Name
September 2001
There is a legend of a snake in northern Mexico that my friends and I learned about last summer while on vacation. This snake slithers into the cradles of nursing babies. Whereupon it enters the child's body through the rectum and slowly, in its snaky way, works its way through its victim's digestive system until its head is poised just inside the child's mouth. As the child nurses, the snake steals the nourishment, growing larger and stronger while its victim withers.

Like all of you, I have been badly shaken by the events of the last few days. I am at once confused, saddened, and angry beyond words. My feelings of helplessness and inability to help heightened by my remoteness from my country and people. The people of Mexico are similarly shaken. They are worried about the 200,000 Mexican Americans living in New York City, and the millions spread throughout the United States. They are worried about the instability of the US and of the world. The value of the peso is dropping rapidly and hard times are coming. But that is secondary, I believe, to their concern about the dreaded humanity of it all. What has happened? What will happen? Our government is recoiling into defense and attack position. our president has vowed revenge. And it is certain that we will find some measure of revenge. Whether it is the leveling of Afghanistan, the destruction of Baghdad, or another public execution of one of our own fanatical citizen whose nourishment from mother's milk was stolen by the snake that lived within him. I am doubtful that we can or will rise to this occasion to right our wrongs and view the world as our joint responsibility and our home. My friend, Jonatan, reminded me that we can look into every event and see the positive ways in which we react as people. I am certain that he is right. But at this hour, I am only seeing red.

What will happen next? Who knows? And this is just one event in our story. Even as i write this, we are coaxing more serpents into the asses of hungry children, in the jungles of Colombia, the archipelago of Indonesia, the mountains of Eritrea, the deserts of Irag, the slums of Gaza, and in barracks on the Golan Heights. How does the song go… "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.." With snakes under our arms and in our bellies, we march to the corners of the earth. You know that we helped make Bin Laden? We fed his snake that was born of desperation, supped on American rations, and grew ever more dangerous in the throes of fundamentalism. We taught his snake to shoot guns and to fly aircraft. I am not trying to jump on the liberal bandwagon of blaming the US for that which has befallen it. It is not just us, but all of humanity. It is the story of creation. The snake that became us from the beginning of the world. The snake that learned to climb ladders by impaling itself in the rear end of humanity.

So where do we go from here? I do not know. How can we starve out the beasts within our own hungry bodies and find the good that we posses? I do not know. The positive is already coming to light. Citizens of the world are lining up at hospitals and clinics to help replace the blood that has been spilled. Yesterday Arafat sent a pint of his own. I do not know what his blood type is. But it will find a new home somewhere in New York or Washington, in the heart of one of our own. I only hope that we can overshadow our destruction with our healing, that we can rise above our own fundamentalism and our desire for blind and vicious revenge. It is possible, if unlikely, that we will have the power to end the perpetual violence and corruption to humanity. I am not speaking from atop the mountain. I, like you, wanted to throttle the Palestinian woman, whom the TV showed dancing and singing in the streets, joyfully celebrating the attack on New York. If the people who performed and planned these acts of terror were in front of me right now, I would probably try to kill them with my bare hands. The snake is within me. But where do I go from there? I do not know. I only know that we will never find healing in blame or revenge. "We shouted out, 'who killed the Kennedys' but after all it was you and me."
-by Paul Koonz in Mexico, September 2001

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Hunt

The hunt is becoming me. I am learning and growing through the hunt. There may be moments when I will feel hunger, frustration, possibly even desperation. But I will persevere. I will come out stronger, smarter, more employed. 

My brother in law may be the only person in the family who is experiencing some degree of financial success. He is an engineer. He designs things, builds things, has an extremely useful shiny metal object in his hands at the end of the day that proves that he has not wasted his time. Of course, I had to ask him for a job.

“Do you like drilling mud?” he responded to my inquiry.
“Uh...” I quickly did a search on drilling mud. It was a perfunctory search, just scanning the top few items to appear. I didn’t need to be an expert. I just wanted to know what the hell he was talking about. I quickly read and absorbed the high points in a feeble attempt to gain an instant, conversational knowledge of drilling mud.
“So, is the drilling mud that you are referring to intended for a high or low velocity bit?” I asked, starting to feel smart.
“I didn’t ask you what it was. I asked if you like it.”
“Um... yes, I like it alot. I didn’t get the job, did I?”
Afterwords, I read a little more about drilling mud. It turns out that I probably would really not like it at all. But I sure would have liked having a job.

All Summer I watched as Jenn filled out one online application after another. She wrote and rewrote her resume, concocted multiple cover letters. Every morning she checked the status of each application, hoping for some kind of response. After well over a month, the “Thanks for your interest” emails started to arrive. She wanted so badly to talk to someone, to explain the gaps in her resume, to show them that she was the best person for the job. And now she is back with the district, working hard and barely being paid.

I decided to work backwards, to talk to people first and then, if they seemed interested, I’d fill out the application. I wish that I could say it is working. Well, maybe it is working. Maybe it just takes time. I’ve met with some old friends, talked to former bosses and colleagues, not so much asking for specific jobs. Mostly I’m trying to pick their brains, to come up with an idea or direction to take. Invariably I keep going back and talking to my brother, John. He doesn't have a job for me, but he usually springs for beer when we get together. And that is something.

I am trying to break into the world of professional writing. This search is taking a two pronged approach. The most obvious route for me, a former teacher, is through educational writing. While not particularly sexy, it could be enjoyable and lucrative. This is where my brother has been more than simply a beer donor. He works for an academic publisher in Austin and has written a number of science text books. I have been writing to the contacts he provided, hoping to find free lance work. 

I've also been fortunate to reconnect with an old high school friend named Jay. Jay was a couple of years ahead of me in school. He was always a good guy, kind and interesting at a time in life when that wasn't the norm. Now he is employed by biggest of all educational companies (bigger than Jesus) and has kindly offered both advice and contacts. It looks like he may have some freelance work for me soon too.

The second prong is more creative, writing essays and feature articles. To this end I am reading the entire Writer's Market 2013 from cover to cover, learning the tricks of the trade and how to get started. It seems like a long road. It is possible but it is going to take time. I have a couple articles written and submitted to an Austin based online newspaper and I am hoping to write more for them. Writing articles about Austin is fun and ironic. I probably should not have told the editor that I don't like Austin. It's neither true, nor a really good way to ingratiate myself to a guy who does Austin for a living. Since I left the public schools, my filters have been largely off. Good that the editor is also a friend and has a sense of humor, even if Austin often doesn't.

And so it goes. Things will work out. If they do not work out as planned, there are always tables to bus and dishes to wash. I've done both in leaner times. For now I will continue the hunt. I will search high and low. And when the thirst becomes too much to endure, I will venture back to Austin and ask John for another pint of contact.