Thursday, June 28, 2012

For the family:

Me with nephew Mac and niece Eleanor just yesterday. They are both so joyful and doing really well (and seem happy that "Aunt Sissy" is around these days).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Running my arse off

I tend to come around to things late and in strange ways. Mostly because I'm so stubborn. I've always been a "kind of" runner--in other words, a walker and jogger who occasionally went faster and farther. I remember reading a blog entry from a fellow native North Louisianian and acquaintance (go see for lots of pretty things) that claimed "real" running was a realistic option for anyone, absolutely anyone, willing to feel uncomfortable for awhile. She had gone from doing very little to competitively running races in a short amount of time. I shook this off. Somewhere in the back of my head I put runners in another category from myself. Roommates, friends would run marathons or half ones or whatever, but for some inexplicable reason I never imagined I could get there. They were just people, my kind of people in fact, but they seemed otherworldly because of this one thing.

So of course I wait until the hottest summer of my life (temps measured at 109 in central Austin just a mile from the house yesterday) to re-envision my running abilities. I spent all of May hurting, as trusty AB said I would. Getting to the one or two mile marker consistently proved difficult at the beginning; the heat combined with those months of stationary dissertation writing to press down on me. And an earlier version of myself probably would have given up and moved on to the elliptical or made do with integrating some good old fashioned power-walking. But somehow I said, screw it, this is happening, I am not stopping again. And now I shout from the rooftops that yes, oh yes, this running euphoria is possible for anyone. I wake up early every morning and zoom away now, putting miles under my feet not necessarily with ease but with drive, clarity, and a sense of worth of it all.

If any of you out there have been watching the HBO show Girls, then you know that there was a scene directly illustrating such a conundrum. Hannah, our complaining, out of shape, yet brilliant-writer narrator insists that she was not "made" for exercise. I laughed when I saw this, because I'm pretty sure I've said that before.


Monday, June 25, 2012


This is how I feel about 105 degree temps. Yikes, the Southwest, yikes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


No worries, I'm not about to break out some Abba analysis (although it's happened here before). Waterloo Records, nestled downtown on Lamar near the intersection of Sixth, is an Austin institution and I'd venture one of the top ten best remaining independent record stores left among us. They've catered to changing times with iPod shuffle sampling stations, but the rest of the massive but overcrowded two-room layout is the way it's been for a long while: shelves and rows and more shelves full of the newest stuff right next to dusty boxes of old LPs and bins of constantly-arriving used discs. This is the kind of place where record signings still seem magical. This is the kind of place you'll leave with a smile on your face after you found some Sonic Youth in the dollar bin (this happened to me today). I am by no means anti-iTunes; in fact, the opposite is true. Without that thin white cord that connects my iPhone to my laptop, I'd feel like the sun wasn't shining brightly enough anymore. But at the same time I can never give up the dream of popping in a new album and finding something that will change my life. And that's a tactile experience.

This weekend I picked up the two albums below, both new material by artists that have carved out a little piece of my musical heart-space already. New songs punctuated my summer afternoon, and I couldn't have been happier. Josh Ritter's 6-song EP is very quiet, his signature somber-ness but without the crescendos his longer efforts usually offer; that said, his voice is like whiskey on the rocks to me, so that doesn't matter. Brandi Carlile's self-titled album came out right when I started grad school six years ago, so her voice is this iconic thing to me--so relatable in its confusion and sweetness that often I feel like it is just my voice. This newest album is more country and slightly more upbeat than previous stuff. She's a guilty pleasure of mine--I mean, she's kind of like the third Indigo Girl--but one I will shout from the rooftops.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I forgot...

To post this:

On my flight back into Austin from Athens the other day, I got stuck in the back scrunched up next to the intercom. Our attendant Pedro crackled the loud speaker with this gem right in my ear:

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 8 ways off this airplane."

And if you get that song reference (as, to my chagrin, not many around me did), then let's share a cyber smile. Because that's one of the best things I've heard in awhile.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Comfort food, Tejas style

Back in a booth on South Congress for a solo lunch. Well, with some salsa and marinated onions to keep me company. Followed by a jaunt through my favorite bookstore, where I spotted this gem (which I needed yesterday morning), and I welcome what they say is the first official day of summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feeling Fried

So the most logical thing to do when one is withering in the Texas heat is...fry a huge batch of chicken in a small kitchen.

I suppose I was feeling misplaced and needed a greasy pan full of comfort food, stat. As much as I love Austin, I often find it difficult to feel connected to my roots here. And let's be honest, the two main ones are food and music. Sometimes I feel like my whole life is defined by the emotive memories of those two things. And I'm fine with that!

And so right now I spend my days here learning new Texas things, so to speak, and trying to look hip in big sunglasses, tight skirts, and a tan on my legs. Also I carry around notebooks and pens to look important. Yet my evenings are spent replicating my grandmother's recipes, listening to Hank Williams, and starting in small fits what I think may be not the next great American novel but perhaps the next great series of essays about what the Deep South means to us.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Men World

On the heels of a great article in Slate detailing the oft-nauseating prevalence of Mad Men references in current literature and politics, I found myself in a theater tonight at a special screening of the current season finale. And then I realized I'm part of the problem.

The real question is whether the obsession with a cultural moment is necessarily bad. The argument could be made that a unifying experience full of wit instead of anti-intellectualism is worthwhile. Because, let's be honest, most Americans are getting less smart and a lot fatter these days.

I think that's why we love Don and Peggy and Roger so much. They may be slimy, but they're smart and pretty and svelte and ambitious. All the things we all want to be, and all with ease. Hmm. Which, really, we know never actually happens with ease.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It was a warm day in May (Photography by Kelli Guinn Olsson)

My twenties are well-documented by creative and beautiful shots like these because I've had the good fortune of counting this photog as a friend.  Kelli (who co-owns Twin Hearts Photography in Athens) did a session on the eve of my graduation.  It's a gift that will always take me back to that sense of accomplishment, to the weekend I triumphed over those fatigued evenings of writing and worrying and self-doubt.  They also document my father's sojourn to Georgia for the occasion, and I'll be able to frame some of these just in time for father's day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beach bums without the beach

Every Austinite knows that the summer is truly in full swing when Barton Springs Pool looks like an MTV beach party. For those of you fine people not familiar, BS is a natural spring right in midtown; grassy knoll gives way to a glassy and very cold oasis. My friend Meredith and I beat the crowd there this morning for some reading and lazing. Highlight for Meredith was obviously the moment in which I declared I was scared to get in the water because of germs but voiced that I was also simultaneously aware of my own hypochondria. Anyway, we capped off an unashamedly lazy day with a trip to Jo's on South Congress (SoCo to the hip...sters) for overpriced iced coffee.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Photoessay: Summer arrives in Austin

Photography has become a new creative outlet for me; I am a writer, but as of late I've discovered that some simple pleasures are best left to the lens.

Things I've learned from the Texas summer heat thus far: Sandwich bags full of fresh fruit are not just for toddlers, water sports require both physique maintenance and consistent pedicures (because Austin has seemingly too many hot people, if you can believe it), French press coffee really does top drip every time, writing at bakeries is my new thang, I could drink fresh salsa, and super-hydration is a very real necessity.