Category Archives: Life as a Texan

Hell-Raiser

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Thank you for raising me to be a hell-raiser. When I took Drivers Ed with my best friend, she slammed on the breaks and cried once. Every time I was behind the wheel, it was more like Yippee Ki-yay Mother Fuckers!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely pros to being the girl who cried in Drivers Ed. My best friend never has to apologize to people for her brazen words also known as “harsh honesty.” I do. I have to do that. A lot. Plus, I’m often told that it’s astounding that I’m still alive and well, driving the way I do.

BUT. I rarely take shit from anyone. I stand up for myself and my beliefs and my loved ones and women and people of color and my students and Humans Who Genuinely Enjoy Miracle Whip and my dog (he’s still learning, OK?!). I’m so full of self-righteous indignation sometimes that I have been known to—gasp!—tell a man why I don’t want to go on another date with him. I know, I know, the audacity! Let him think he’s amazing and superior, even when letting him down, right? NO. Not right.

I have stomped my foot, I have gotten on and off so many goddamn soapboxes, I have tutted and tsked my way through a room, and I have shaken my head and finger at plenty of deserving suspects. How dare they? Do they know who I am? Do they know who raised me?

Yes, yes, this means my options are narrowed. I’m too outspoken or too opinionated or too awesome for a lot of guys. I’d be married with a bunch of babies by now if I wasn’t such a hell-raiser. I just…can’t seem to stop.

I wanted to thank you for not being the kind of mother who says things like:

“You should really hurry up and meet a man so that I can have grandbabies.”

“Why are you still single? When are you gonna settle down?”

“You’re not getting any younger!”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be so picky; maybe this is the best thing that’s gonna come around…”

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am—I forget how common those questions are, how casually they’re constantly thrown at women like darts.

YOU say things like:

“You don’t HAVE to have kids. Don’t feel like you HAVE to have children. If you want them, well OK then.”

And then, when I say that yes, I do want kids one day, but I worry about the complications of having kids in your mid-late thirties:

“You know, you don’t have to get married to have a kid. You can always adopt. Never rush into something because you want to have kids.”

 “You should NEVER settle.”

 

It’s crazy how many parents pressure their children into getting married and having kids…I will always be grateful to have been raised by a woman like you, who never pressured me into doing anything besides focusing on my schoolwork. I may be biased as an educator, but I think that’s the only thing that parents should ever pressure their kids into doing, haha! You may not be perfect. I’m sure as hell not perfect. But I am a hell-raiser and you are perfect in my eyes. Thanks, Mama<3

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Savannah

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I’ve been best friends with Savannah since 7th grade, when we were forced into a partnership based solely on the fact that we were the only two middle schoolers who lived in Dixie Cove, the cul-de-sac where we lived, across the street from each other, for six years.

We sold lemonade together at yard sales, we tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk one particularly Texas-y summer, we carved our names into the fresh cement when new development began, and we somehow managed to survive our adolescence as two of the most awkward and weird kids to ever exist. I mean, we even had a “band” called Red Ink and we sold cassette tapes to our friends for five bucks, recording each cassette individually, with a song about the “client” added in. We saved up about $65 and decided to spend it going to a restaurant called The Magic Time Machine, where the staff dress up as various movie characters. We thought we were just about the coolest people on the planet.

Savannah had the crazy house—two yappy sisters, two yappy Pomeranians, an insanely bi-polar mother, and just…constant chaos. There was always a mess and there was always pizza. I absolutely loved it. I had the complete opposite—no siblings, strict rules, and endless quiet. Going to Savannah’s was like watching TV. I could sit on the couch and be entertained for hours, just observing.

Now we’re 30 and it’s kind of funny how some things haven’t changed much.

The other night, she came over with her Mary Poppins bag of who-knows-what, whipped out her eyelash curler, traded her Crocs for more acceptable shoes, and we went to a nearby bar. By the end of the night, she’d danced with a few guys (including an engaged fireman who was almost a decade younger than us) even though the bar wasn’t exactly a dancing type of bar… She made a group of men move over, away from the outdoor heater, so that we could sit by the heater. Then she made them buy us a pitcher of beer. She took the pitcher onstage and gave it to the drummer, proceeding to dance onstage with the singer. Back at my apartment, she raided my fridge while I was in the bathroom. She’d started to make us “tacos”. I let her finish, although I knew my fridge didn’t exactly have taco ingredients in it. She drove back to the bar to get her purse. She drove back over to my apartment. I sat back all night, just watching with wide eyes, like I’ve always done, sipping my drink, halfway wishing I could join her in her revelries and halfway wondering when I should pump the breaks on the whole spectacle. Then she drove to some guy’s place for “Fireball Friday,” which is really just them taking shots of Fireball until they have sex and pass out. Then she went home to her husband and son.

I think when you grow up in chaos, it becomes the only way you know how to live. And then there’s me—never quite getting the hang of drawing outside of the lines. Who’s to say which life is better or more lived than the other.

Savs is hands down the most fun human I’ve ever met. I NEVER have a better time with anyone else. We can go grocery shopping and have a blast. But she also has this pain and sadness and suffering that I can’t do anything about. No one can do anything about it—it’s just there, eating her away and maybe invisible to people who haven’t known her for two decades.

I’ve never known what to do or say—not when we were twelve and her mom would scream never-ending obscenities at her and not now when her husband does much worse and she leaves him for the fifth time.

It’s the perpetual paradox of Savannah, the happiest and simultaneously most depressed person to ever exist. A consistent mix of laughter, white tootsie rolls and mini bottles of vodka lining her purse, an amazing mother and a cheap drunk, never has more than 17 dollars or so but always shows up when you really need her to. I hope she knows that the same goes for me—I’ll show up for her whenever and wherever. My place is her place; my chaos-free life is hers to sprinkle some wild on whenever she needs to. She and her son can move in at any time of any day. I hope they do.

We can’t go back to when we’d lay on my trampoline and plot out our future adventures—we had so many ideas and dreams. When we were 30, we were going to be filthy rich, traveling the world together in our private jet. Our realities are so far from perfection, but one thing is for sure. A friendship that’s lasted this long isn’t really a friendship anymore—it doesn’t even feel right to call her family, because it’s almost more than that. It’s like Savs is a chunk of my soul. I’m always going to be hurting a little bit if she’s out there somewhere, hurting. I’m always going to try to mend and fix what only she can mend and fix. Until then, I’ll be here friend-sister-soul. If you need to take a few shots and belt the lyrics to “Goodbye Earl” at the top of our lungs, I’m here. If you need to cry and watch 15 hours of Christmas movies, I’m here. If you need to dance until the clubs close and then keep dancing through the whole Uber ride home, I’m here. If you just need to raid my fridge and make mystery tacos, I’m here.

An Open Letter to My Grandparents

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Dear abuelitos,
     I can’t believe you’re not speaking to me. I’ve called you multiple times and left voicemails, texted you, and I mailed you a letter. No response. The last time I called, you ended the call after it rang a couple times. I didn’t think you could “break up” with your granddaughter, but I guess that IS a thing. I thought “ghosting” was only something in the online dating world, but apparently, it’s not reserved to 20-somethings who don’t know how to be honest or have real conversations.
     I’ve been ghosted by my grandparents. It’s actually kind of funny. Or it would be, if the reason wasn’t so absurd, mind-blowing, and hurtful.
     I asked my dad to adopt me last month. He’s been my dad for 22 years–almost my entire life. It was such a happy moment and we all cried tears of joy, knowing that this was only making paper-official what has been heart-official for over two decades. We went to court, stood before a judge, and threw a small party to celebrate. Everyone was over the moon, sending us their well wishes and congratulations. Everyone except you, I guess. You decided to cut me out of your life instead.
     What confuses me the most is that we’ve talked about your son, my biological father, on many occasions. You’ve apologized to me for his actions and his absence. We’ve talked about his drug use, we’ve talked about his violence toward my mother, and we’ve talked about how he hasn’t made any attempt to reenter my life or get to know me in any way. If he was half a man, he’d thank my dad for doing his job for him.
     Despite my resentment toward him, I contacted him, to try to find out why you were ignoring me. He didn’t respond. I guess social media is the only way to reach you–that seems to be the way you found out about the adoption. You definitely didn’t talk to me about it. I can’t get ahold of you at all, so I’m hoping this letter makes its way to you.
     My dad has done so much for me in 22 years–do you even realize what he’s done? Your son never paid a cent of child support (which you said you’d do for him, but then never did). My dad is the reason I’m not in extreme debt–he helped me through college, he helped me buy a car, not to mention feeding me, clothing me, putting a roof over my head…you know, the usual Dad duties.
     More importantly, my dad has been my shoulder to cry on. He’s held my hand, hugged me tight, and bandaged my injuries more times than I could possibly count. He was there through both of my surgeries. He knows all my friends. He knew my boyfriends. He answers his phone every time I call.
      I am grateful for your son, for giving me life. I am grateful for his creativity, which I’m told he had much of–some people say that creativity is passed on, some say I’ve acquired it through my life experiences. I’m not sure, but if the former is true, then I am grateful. I am grateful to keep my last name, which connects me to my Mexican heritage. And I was grateful for my relationship with you–my grandparents–even though we didn’t have a relationship for years and I felt like you’d abandoned me just like your son did. But for the past few years especially, I’ve loved the relationship we’d formed. And now you’re gone again, like you never existed at all.
      How odd it is to only have half a family. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. Most of the time, I feel OK, I feel whole. Aunt Gigi helped with that–she, as you know, has always been an important person in my life. She stuck by our side after Mom decided to get a divorce. She’s never been absent from my life. And now you’ve taken her away from me too. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse–you blocked my number at her house. I used to talk to her on the phone almost every day.
     I didn’t know you could be so heartless. It astounds me that your blood is my blood; I came from you. We are the same yet so, so different.
     I will probably never hear from you again, and that’s fine. Well, it’s not fine, but if that’s your choice, then I will live with it. All I can do is hope that one day, you’ll realize the senseless pain you’ve caused. Or maybe, since you claim to be good Catholics, it will be God who helps you to realize this when you meet him at the gates one day. I have never wanted more for Him to be real.
     Sincerely,
your granddaughter

The Button

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If you had just taken that damn tag off of your button, maybe we wouldn’t be here, two years later, still splitting sour beers and smoking in your truck and kissing eagerly after a week of not talking. What a cycle we started, almost immediately. It’s almost laughable—what a witty piece I could write—almost. I could be sarcastic and flirty and go the whole Cosmo article route and shrug this all off as an unfortunate series of events—oh how I wish I could do that and end it all with something like, “At least I still have wine, am I right ladies?”

But I can’t do that. We’re so past the silly, ridiculous point of me being able to do that. Now we’re here and I’m split and splintered and shattered and suffering and every heart-wrenching s-word you can think of; I am that.

I think about that button a lot though, and how it was cold that night and I saw a tiny glint of white silk popping out of your collared shirt.

“Did you buy a new shirt for our first date?” I asked coyly.

“What? No…” you looked down and pulled your jacket to the side and noticed the white. “Oh. I thought you were supposed to leave these on.” You toyed with the small tag around the middle button.

“What?!” I was incredulous—half on purpose, half actually incredulous. “Of course you’re not supposed to leave it on!” I laughed and took another sip of the sour beer you’d bought us, pretending to like it.

“Well take it off then,” you said, leaning towards me. I knew I liked you then, after only 15 minutes, because if I didn’t, I would have scoffed and told you to do it yourself. But instead I leaned closer to you than necessary and took off the button tag more slowly than necessary, smiling up at you as if I was fixing your tie for the hundredth time.

If only every human came with a list of warnings, like medicine does.

Male, aged 30 years. Much like the bullshit biblical figure he is named for, Adam is amazing at reaping all of the benefits of the earth while his companion sins and is blamed and undergoes great hardship. He will be messier than any person you’ve ever met, yet he will not trust your dishwasher and will re-wash every dish and glass offered to him. He prefers dinner no earlier than 10PM and he will never try to not wake you up when he gets up earlier than you, flicking the bathroom light on before shutting the door like some sort of animal. He will introduce you as a friend and he will smell so good, but he will never, ever know how to communicate. He will be the first person you want to tell things to and you will always want to feel the tiny gray hairs hidden on his head but he will be absent when you most need his Tejano music and giant breakfasts and giggly existential conversations so you will be forced to tell someone else all the things.

Consult your therapist before accepting this human into your life, as this is not the suggested course of action for all willing participants. Side effects may include love, regret, heartbreak, death, or in some cases, all of the above.

Let’s be real though, I still would’ve taken that pill—I still would’ve leaned toward that stupid, fucking collared shirt. That’s what we all do, right? We’re warned and warned and warned—every day, about everything! And we still do almost everything that “could be” harmful or “could be” dangerous or “could be” the worst decision of our life. You could’ve been the best decision of my life. And now you’re just last night. Now you’re just text on a page. A button in a whole box of buttons.

Mama K & The Shades

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

Mama K & The Shades are definitely a local must-see with their jazz-soul-R&B-funk combo of high-energy sound of a 10-piece band you have to see to believe. If you’re a night owl, catch them on the SXSW schedule: Maggie Mae’s Rooftop Bar on March 15 and Half Step on March 18, both at 1 AM.

White Light Exposure - mama k and the shades-1Mama K & The Shades have been together for almost three years and range from ages 22 to 62. Lead singer Kelsey Garcia says that they are much more than “just bandmates.”

“It seems like we’ve known each other forever—we’re family,” she said. “We’ve been playing together for long enough now that we’ve really developed our own true sound. We’ll always be influenced by 70’s and 80’s funk, but we’re not a replica; we’re our own thing entirely.”

Who exactly is this dime? Well, the vocalists are the leading —and only— lady Kelsey Garcia and Willie Barnes. The instrumentalists consist of: Johnny Storbeck (guitar), David Thacker (keyboard), Lee Braverman (bass), Chris Barnes (drums), Wesley Gonzales (percussion), Joseph Morrow (trumpet and flugelhorn), Dustin Hunter (tenor and baritone sax), and Donald McDaniel (trombone). Whew. Yeah—it’s a lot. Which means—big sound! Big sound does not always mean great sound, but in this case, it truly does. Somehow, they make ten people on a stage look and sound like every band should follow suit.

mama k -4Their first album, “Honey Made,” is dedicated to David McKnight, their original sax player who passed away two years ago. Their second album is in the works and will be out next year.

“He was the creator of the band, my best friend, and roommate,” Garcia said. “Whenever something was going really well, he used to always say, ‘Ooooh that’s honey made!’ [hence the album title]. Those were big shoes to fill, and we went without a sax player for a long time, but Dustin is incredible.”

If you’ll be at home avoiding the SXSW craziness this year, they’re also really excited to open for Big Freedia and The Soul Rebels at Mohawk on April 1. Or hey, need a vacation? Mama K & The Shades will be heading to Denver for their first out-of-state gig and the start of their first tour April 20! You get it—you have a ton of opportunities to check out these awesome local artists on their race to the top of the charts.

“Everyone’s passion is the music,” said Garcia, “and we just love sharing that with whoever we can.”

Weekends Lately

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I was walking barefoot down the grungy sidewalk, carrying my t14752526wo black wedges and sipping from a giant can of Arizona Green Tea. Maybe it would’ve been better if it was a canna beer or a bottla wine, but nope. It was the same 99 cent turquoise garbage that I’ve been buying from convenient stores since high school.

The pop top gleamed under the street lamp and I spat loudly into the night, trying to swat a moth away with the only free “hand” I had. I wondered what anyone would think if they saw me walking toward my apartment building looking like this. Mascara and short, white hairs caked on my sticky cheeks from sobbing into a puppy’s neck, dress torn if you looked close enough, heels in hand, taking huge gulps of tea every few steps as if they were shots of tequila. I looked like a dime-store whore, and I laughed up at the branches at that thought.

There’s something about hurting that makes you not give a shit about what you look like–about anything really. I climbed the gritty steps, feeling bits of dirt (and who knows what else) fall off my feet and new bits of dirt (and who knows what else) collect on my feet.

I wished, in that moment, that I could’ve held my head high and sashayed out of that house, into my car, and out of my car like a movie star, like a rock star, like any star. I wished my whole look and demeanor and attitude and confidence and poise and ferocity had been untouched, an unwavering smile, unfaltering mirth-filled eyes, always.

But that’s just impossible, right? You’re the loser of the story in your own life…a lot. Often times, you’re the minor character–the one that looks like a hot mess, probably cracked-out, drunk, and pregnant with a one-way ticket to jail, a comedic relief. The ridiculous best friend, not the one who gets the whole plot line.

Other times, you’re the funny girl at the beginning of a rom-com who’s chugging Arizona Green Tea like it’s unicorn blood–and then something crazy happens and then something hilarious happens and then something cute happens and then something romantic happens and everything is rainbows and butterflies and all is well in the world for that silly little dime-store whore in the end. Right?

 

 

P.S. These are all real things…??? Need.

Galen James

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Remember when music was recorded on tape—a few takes, in the moment, no digital sound effects with a million computerized edits along the way?

Galen James, who recently moved to Austin to be a part of the Live Music Capital of the World, remembers, and wants to recapture that purity.

“That’s how The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix did it—they were great musicians and I don’t want people to lose sight of that,” he said. “It takes a lot of work, and you have to be really solid, but it sounds a lot warmer—a band, exactly as they truly are.”

Galen is the real deal—he even worked with Doug Messinger, the guitarist for Van Morrison, to create his Pop-Jazz fusion analog tape masterpiece.

“We actually used the same tape recorder used by Pink Floyd for ‘The Wall,’” he said. “It took an entire year—and I also recorded the whole thing and put it up on YouTube. It’s easier to use a computer and a mouse and move things around—you can do a thousand takes just singing one line. That sort of thing doesn’t happen on tape. You have to rewind, manually turn up the knobs, and restart the whole thing over again.”

When he’s not trying to bring back the transparency of music, the Jazz Studies major is teaching piano, jazz theory, and voice lessons at Eastside Music on 5th Street.

He’s played on Rainey Street, at Lucky’s Lounge, Speakeasy, and more eclectic spots all over Austin—and is lining up more shows currently.

If you haven’t looked this guy up yet—do it! His style is truly hard to place, which is awesome—you’re not sure what genre you’re listening to, but the jazzy undertones are amazing. The only close comparison that I can make is Jason Mraz.

“All my music is about my life, which is one of the difficult things about it—there are a lot of emotions artists can tap into, which makes playing very difficult sometimes,” he explained. “But I like challenging myself, that’s why I recorded on tape.”

Galen has two albums out right now and is releasing a new EP this summer. You can find all of his work on Amazon, BandCamp, or purchase them at his next live show. Visit his http://www.GalenJames.com for more info!