If I Should Fall Behind

022815We’d first seen Albert and Gage firing up the dancers at the Central Market Cafe, then followed them to Donn’s Depot for a Wednesday evening show. When we booked them for our wedding, they said they’d learn one new song for us. I knew what it would be: Bruce Springsteen, If I Should Fall Behind. We danced to it in the kitchen, then on the temporary floor in our back yard hours after we were married under the oaks out front. And years later on a Saturday night at Donn’s Depot, we danced to it again. On the floor was the man with the glitter top, the woman in the burnt orange mini with little white boots. We slid right in. Albert and Gage have made the song their own in the six years since we married. But the lyrics are the same. “I’ll wait for you / Should I fall behind / Wait for me.”

February 28, 2015

Snow In Texas

0227151In the hotel breakfast room, girls competing in a national cheerleading competition scooted away from their moms. They congregated in ponytails, flannel pajama bottoms, sweatshirts decorated with glitter. Then someone said, “I had to come all the way to the South for snow,” and we all turned our heads toward the windows. The storm was here.022715We thought it was charming when we wiped off the windshield, caught a photo of a cactus dusted in white. But the ride home was long and slow. Semis insisted they merge as the lanes narrowed. The highway detoured onto the access road and then back onto the highway. Bridges slowed us while snow whirled above the road. It was nearly Waco before the highway was dry and back to its usual levels of danger. Snow in Texas — novel and tricky to navigate.

February 27, 2015

There’s a Free Minds in Dallas…

022615…and it’s rocking — vital, growing, run with compassion and conviction. I spent the day there touring the Frazier neighborhood, meeting with partners, discussing curriculum and attendance policies. So much of it is familiar — the setting up tables, laying out food and paper plates, the books and course packets and due dates. Yet this is its own thing, a classroom with a view of skyscrapers where Reg and Quincy and Jackie and Renee and V and Patrick and others gather around the table. I told them when you sit down to class, know our students are sitting down to class in Austin too. And they were, at that same time, in a classroom where the tables are gray, the view over a playground where it’s too cold for the kids to play. I listened all night, impressed and excited, while they pondered Margaret Sanger and agreed and disagreed about what’s come since. On the way out the door, they wished me a safe ride home, wishes, it turned out, I was going to need.

February 26, 2015

Tagged

022515While I walk by the lake, I listen to an interview with the New Yorker cartoon editor. He says he knows what will be in his obituary, the punchline from his most famous comic — “How about never? Is never good for you?” Yesterday my social media lit up with notes about the anniversary of John Keats’ death and the phrase of his gravestone — “Here is one who was writ on water.” A former student grieves the suicide of a friend and veteran and sends me a link to a video she’d made of him. She keeps watching it. We seek ways to memorialize, to mark the place we have held on this earth. On this tree on the trail I discover dog tags, names written in pen. They represent those who died in poverty, the homeless of our city who were lost last year. Someone wanted to mark their place. Someone wanted them remembered.

February 25, 2015

Poached Egg on Toast

022415Morning eating is a ritual in our kitchen, and it takes the shape of our latest obsessions. Steel cut oats, or grain free. Eggs we call marbled because we scramble them in the pan. Tiny baked sweet potatoes. And these days toast — spelt — and eggs poached in floating green silicone cups. The butter is Kerry. The jam apricot. On a good day, a sliced orange sits between us on a wooden cutting board.

February 24, 2015

If You Make a Space

022315This was going to be a paragraph about our college fair, about the university reps and financial aid experts and college advisors who came together to share their knowledge with our students. But that paragraph didn’t want to be written, because what I care about days later is the room. Make a community space — a classroom, a computer lab, a comfy place with couches and bookshelves, and something will fill it. In Liverpool they’ve bought a mansion for those who love books, knowing that reading together can create change. Here one computer lab can train people on software, connect them on Facebook, facilitate a homework assignment, let a kid hang out with Nickelodeon. For us, it allows ACC applications, surveys, and now FAFSA paperwork that will enable them to keep going to school. Create the space, see what grows.

February 23, 2015

Oscar Night

022215Two days later, what remains of the Oscars? The endlessness of the broadcast. The discovery of Lady Gaga’s pipes, Chris now Googling to find her college performances, back when she was still called Stefani. John Legend and Common. How cozy it was in the den, cats and slippers and cleared plates. Disappointment for Richard Linklater. Disappointment for Michael Keaton. Another eye roll. Another stunning dress. Another canned insistence on the importance of Hollywood. Chris watching it beside me, because he’s such a good sport.

February 22, 2015

Spoke

022115We know the numbers: 150 people arrive each day, 70,000 last year, Austin straining at the seams. We read rankings for traffic, for construction, for percentage rise in rental rates. But it’s on Saturday night that we can’t deny it. We walk to dinner and find a line spilling out the door and onto the sidewalk for the sausage and beer spot with picnic tables under the trees. We head over to the bistro and sit in view of the doorway where one well-heeled pair after another come through, surveying the scene. When we see the former guitar prodigy, his hair gone gray, we smile at something familiar. Then to the Broken Spoke, where the sign is the same, the ceiling a patchwork of stained tiles and plywood. The wagon wheel is still wheeled across the floor, this time by two unsuspecting tourists from Vermont. But when we try to dance, the floor is so crowded all of our moves are in avoidance, protection. We leave early, once again wondering where our city went. Outside, the five lanes of South Lamar open up for a moment. We race across and find our way home.

February 21, 2015

Fresh Coat

022015This much I know: I am doubtful of “Skinny Jeans” and wouldn’t dare paint the front door “Shipwreck” or “Tsunami.” Kellye tells me Einstein’s door was red to make sure he could find his way home. Yet we’ve been traveling out and back to this house for a decade now, slipping the same key in this same door, climbing the same half step to the porch. Two weeks ago the tiles started peeling off the stoop and we’ve stacked them, waiting for repair. We consider “Firecracker” for its burst of flame, but in midlife we’re less prone to explosions, to noises that rattle our bones. Why not “Allure,” for what brought us here? The long brick walk, the country kitchen? When we made the offer to the old owners, we told them we were engaged, though we weren’t yet. We were drawing ourselves into the future, the Saturday afternoon we married in the front yard and friends and family passed through this door toward the food laid out downstairs, the dancing beyond. “Allure” it is. I’ll brush on one coat, let it dry, brush on another.

February 20, 2015

Heads Tilted Upwards

021915.1What was my favorite part of our Thursday night tour of the Blanton, Ray guiding us through? Maybe the chat in the parking lot afterwards. Maybe Laura saying she’ll come back with her daughter, Nelly saying that art speaks to her soul. Maybe Ray’s voice soft and leading us to circle the sculpture of the giant man with the woman on his shoulders. Maybe the cluster of students on gallery stools pondering pink dogs. Maybe the moment Norman Rockwell became someone with something to say. Maybe finding the trapeze artist still swinging toward us, defiance still on her face. Maybe Crystal’s picture taking. Maybe Joanna’s wondering if the lobby was marble. Maybe Ben standing quietly to the side, but watching. Maybe the first stop, all of us a bit breathless from the climb up the stairs, when we craned our necks to consider glider, butterflies, the possibility of flight.

February 19, 2015