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Hipstercrite: August 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I've Been a Bad, Bad Girl

Last week I wrote a post about an ex, calling him both "the worst boyfriend and best ex-boyfriend I ever had" and listing examples on why. The post was written in jest and I firmly believed that he wouldn't read the post due to his acknowledgement while dating that he could give a shit about my blog.

I was wrong.

Someone brought the post "to his attention" (way to go, ass!) and I got a somewhat angry email from him the next day.

I apologized, explained that the post was meant to be light, and that I would remove it if he so desired.

I have not heard from him but I removed the entry anyways.

This is not the first time my blog has gotten me in trouble with someone close in my life. My parents and I now have an understanding that they are to never read my blog, unless I specify a particular post. If they do go to that post, their eyes are not to deviate elsewhere on the page. This isn't a rule that I mandated, but an observation they figured out themselves. Though my mother has not pointed out any specific blog posts that have upset her, my Dad very clearly got angry at me over a post about Prince's pubic hair. My father then told me that he was going to drop me as his Facebook friend and a child-like argument ensued that somehow got my mother involved as the mediator (my parents have been divorced for twenty years).

These situations have made me realize that there many areas of my life that I can not discuss on my blog. This is often makes writing difficult, for when those particular areas of my life are crowding my brain like a drunken and rowdy elephant in an elevator, I don't feel that I'm able to discuss them. Nor am I amble to discuss them months later without potentially pissing off the person that the story may involve.

Believe me, I'd love to discuss the man I looked up to when I was just a little young thing in LA and who categorically disassembled my trust. I'd love to write about the seventeen months I wasted at my last job and the ridiculous hours and tasks I endured for little pay. I'd love to discuss how the only dude I've ever really given a shit about almost comically reacts to me as though I'm a leper. I'd love to talk about the gentleman I went to the LCD Soundsystem show with and how he used my shoulders as a drum kit, clapped my hands for me, and (erroneously) introduced the name of each song as if I had no idea who I was currently watching. I'd love to discuss how one can be interested in someone but realize that absolutely nothing about you and he mesh. I'd love to discuss my fear and constant battle of becoming completely ambivalent and apathetic towards everything due to the undercurrent attitude that flows through Austin.

But I'm not and I won't.

Mostly because it makes me sound like a whiny turd, but I also don't want to piss anyone off.

"But you shouldn't care what people think!" a few friends have said to me.

But shouldn't I?

At least the people in my life whom I care about?

Maybe I'll just stick to the posts about old hot dudes, dead hot dudes with nice abs, and Jeff Goldblum.

The Blum wouldn't get mad at me. He'd take me in his big, Jewish arms and whisper jazz standards in my ear.

Have you ever gotten in trouble with someone in your life for discussing them on your blog? Have you lost a job over it? Offended family members? Do you find it difficult to know what personal items to discuss on your blog and what not to discuss?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Last night I attended the Austin chapter of Mortified.
If you haven't heard of Mortified or don't listen to NPR, what kind of fucking hipster are you?!

Oh wait, I keep hearing that that word is dead (and therefore my blog irrelevant?)

What kind of fucking young, creative urbanite are you!?

Mortified is when a bunch of adults go onstage and read awkward diary entries from when they were kids to an encouraging audience.

The set I saw last night was good. Intimidatingly good. These people were once bona fide dorks, nerds, geeks, freaks, and dweebs.

I on the other hand, sat there in shame realizing I could never own my adolescent awkwardness as well as they did.

I was a nerd alright, but a color-inside-the-lines nerd. I had a great childhood. Full of non-angst and zero boy drama. In fact, I wasn't even sure I liked boys. I knew I didn't like girls, but I just didn't like anyone other than myself. If I thought I could have married myself, I would have. Of course that led to my mother quite seriously asking me when I was 15 in a Subway restaurant parking lot if I was gay. I nervously scoffed it off, but wondered that if I was indeed in love with myself, did that make me gay? These were questions that trouble teens during their burgeoning sexuality, but I have to say that at 27, I think I may have had the right idea.

I mean, don't all kids masturbate to a shirtless photo of Elton John on their wall? Don't all kids force their friends to watch Last Tango in Paris in their dark basement? Burn a cork and draw giant Jewish eyebrows on their face and do impersonations of Rod Serling in front of the mirror? Have conversations with their dog? Walk around with a tampon jammed half-way up their cootch? Buy suits at 13 so they can look like Dana Scully? Play every day in a cemetery? Stick whoopee cushions in their underwear? Sleep next to a Jeff Goldblum action figure? Dress up as various characters on Kids in the Hall and tape hours and hours of skit reenactments? Write thinly disguised school plays about off-centered young women with extreme passion for pop culture referencing?

My father sent the above photo to me this week thinking that it would somehow bring a smile to my face? The body of the message? "What a good kid."

"What a fucking gawky-ass kid who dressed like Paula Poundstone" sounds more like it. Why is it that parents loved you most when you looked aesthetically least pleasing and most like a Muppet man-child? My Mom still won't take down my over-sized glamor shot from when I was 13. No matter how much I plead with her, the framed example of what furry caterpillars making a home above the eyes of Woody Allen if he were a pre-pubescent girl, will never be taken down from the entrance way to her house.

I'm thinking of auditioning for the next Mortified, but not sure if I have enough good stories or can act in front of anything other than a mirror.

I might have to do some reckoning with my adolescence first...

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Hollywood of Texas: Relocating from LA to Austin

"Hi, I'm an editor from LA and I'm moving to Austin. Is there work for me?"

"Hi, I'm a camera operator from LA and I'm thinking of moving to Austin. Is that a smart idea?"

"Hi, I'm a writer from LA and got totally burnt out. Do you think Austin will be a good place for me to write?"

Hi, my name is Lauren and I moved to Austin from Los Angeles.
Yes, it's true.
I'm one of them.
One of the people you make the above bumper sticker about and place them all over town.

Since moving to Austin, the aforementioned sentences are all questions I've heard repeatedly over the past two years. In fact, during the beginning of the 2010, I was fielding at least 2-3 phone calls a week at the production company I worked for, in addition to the frequent inquiries from friends and blogger buddies.

This year's South by Southwest Interactive even held a panel for creatives, titled, "Making the Move from California to Austin".

So why are Angelenos moving to Austin?

In generalizing fashion: The truth of the matter is, creative types move to LA to find work, only to realize there is nothing creative about it. Then they read about Austin in Forbes/Kiplingers/New York Times/US News/MSNBC/CNN about how Austin is the place to live for both higher quality of life and lower cost of living and, well, then you got yourself a whole bunch of weary Californians in Texas.

So, you really want to know if Austin is a good place to make your movie? Write your screenplay?

The answer is yes.

You want to know if Austin is a good place to work as a producer, an actress, a camera operator, an editor et al?

The answer is kind of maybe not?

Unless you want to work infrequently and for little dough for a long time.

If you're able to deal with that, then by all means, yes yes yes.

The problem is not so much that there is a lack of projects (though like any film city, Austin has its ups and downs) , it's trying to compete for a spot in the already very tight-knit film community.

Heavyweights like Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, and Mike Judge typically bring/keep their work in Austin, but they also have crews they've been working with for years...and just like Los Angeles, it's about who you know and how you maintain those connections.

Local producer, Will Semons, busted his butt for a year in and outside of Austin before he was able to find steady work."But once you're in", he adds, "You have to fit in as well. People get ousted or black-balled because there are enough people here who can do the job and it's a small town."

He also points out that many Austin crew members are relocating to Dallas (larger city, more commercial work) and Louisiana (excellent tax incentives) in order to find steady work.

Now, of course, not everyone shares the same sentiment as Will and I do. Another producer friend points out that budgets are shrinking everyone, so why not move to a town that's more affordable? Though I completely agree with my friend's statement, the truth is, there is a ceiling that exists in Austin, and one that is most often shattered by people setting out forth/returning to Los Angeles and New York City to "make it to the big-time".

To elaborate on the idea that Austin is a good place to make your movie/write your screenplay:
Austin is an extremely creative town with a plethora of very talented people. Every single freakin' person wants to help one another. If you have the time and the money to work on your film, there is no shortage of inexpensive equipment, locations, and hands in Austin to help you. As for writing your screenplay? Austin is a great place! As long as you don't fall into the "drinking-every-night-oops-I-just-woke-up-and-I'm-40-and-still-working-part-time-at-a-record-shop-and-have-never-completed-a-piece-of-writing-in-my-life-but-I'll-keep-calling-myself-a-writer" syndrome.

What is the moral to my story? The grass is always greener in Austin if you live in LA, but the poop colored grass in LA still holds its weight on the black market.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Differences Between You and I

It is while giving her boss a blow job that Lola Milstein realizes it's time to get out of LA.

At this exact second, somewhere in Austin, TX, Kevin Horowitz wakes from the best dream he's ever had.

These corresponding moments are not incidental, for Lola and Kevin share a connection deeper than the one they already know exists. An intricate web of a million moments striving for a great point.

Like a zombie smelling blood, Lola sits up, coldly pries her lips from her boss’ near ready to unload dick and starts walking towards her desk.

Three years of being this asshole's assistant. Three years of picking up his dry cleaning, his coffee, his girlfriend's birth control pills, his Viagra. Three years of having her job held over her head for an end all goal she could not see.

Three years of no longer knowing who she was.

The adrenaline running through her system completely overshadows the reality that only $300 exists in her bank account and that she, in fact, has no idea what she will do for a job.

“What the fuck, Lola!?” She hears in a sharp whimper as her boss tries salvaging what is left of his orgasm.

Without looking back, Lola grabs her purse and P-Touch label maker off her desk, labels her computer screen, “I quit”, and walks straight out the door.


For reasons unbeknown to him at the time, Kevin is not surprised to get that phone call from Lola at 2AM on March 20th.

“Did I wake you?”

“No, actually I just woke up right before you called. What’s up? Everything ok?”

A steady stream of giggling on the other line.

“Lola, are you drunk?”


“Oh God, you didn’t break into Bill Cosby’s house like you said you would, did you?”

“I quit my job!”

“You what?”

“I did it! I quit my job. I think I'm going to move to Austin!”

“Whoa, whoa. Slow down there, partner. You’ve said that about four times this year alone.”

“I’m not kidding. Jason’s girlfriend wants to move in. She can take over my rent. I’m coming to Austin. I’m done. I’m so done with this business, Kevin.... I don’t know who I am anymore.”

More laughing. Then crying. Then a bunch of puking.


Kevin is not unaccustomed to these sort of phone calls. They had been occurring with frequent acceleration and fervor as of late.


He typically waits as Lola gets the fit out of her system. However, this one is going a lot longer than anticipated.


"Everybody loves you, Lola. Hush now. "Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes..."

The crying stops.

"Are you singing Billy Joel to me?"

"Yes, I was trying to get you to shut up."

"Do you know what that song is about?! It's about how people die, but lullabies live forever. It's about a father who loves his daughter so much that he created this song for her to show that their love will never die."

Then the crying starts again. This times it's a guttural, heaving sort of moan and Kevin realizes it's going to be a long night.


It's 4AM before Lola falls asleep in mid-recitation of Norma Desmond's curtain call and Kevin can not go back to sleep.

Could she finally be moving to Austin? Could he, Kevin Horowitz; musician, video store clerk, 5'8" scrappy half-Jew from Cincinnati, finally tell her, Lola Milstein; writer, former personal assistant, 5'9" neurotic full-Jew from the San Fernando Valley, that it is she who prevents him from loving anyone else? That ever since that day in college he's been doomed to a lifetime of vapid relationships all unwittingly manipulated by the ventriloquist hands of Lola?

Nah. Maybe he'll just write another song about it.


Lola recorded fifteen mixed CDs for her drive across route 10 from California to Texas. Such an epic move deserves no less and she made sure to musically prepare for each mood, each state, and each flea bag motel she would be experiencing. As she watches the skyline of Los Angeles get smaller and smaller in her rear view mirror and the tears make it more difficult to see, she decides that the CD titled, “How to Disappear Completely”, is best suited for her exit.

She puts on her Wayfarers and mourns the Los Angeles she never experienced.


Birthdays are for Winners Like My Mother

It is my mother's birthday today.
It's a milestone one.
I'm sure she wouldn't like me telling you her age, but here is a hint- she was three years old when she had me.

I was not able to make it home for my mother's birthday. She lives in New York and I live in Texas.

This fact tore me up.

I took off the weekend just in case I was going to be able to magically fly home, but I didn't magically do anything this weekend. Instead I moped around the house and contemplated human existence, listened to Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" on loop, and shed a tiny tear every time the song "As" came on.

Considering I wasn't able to make it home, I'd like to take this time to wish my amazing mother a wonderful birthday.

Will you please help me in wishing my mom a Happy 30th?


You did everything right, but sometimes doing right just doesn't guarantee you anything.

Aren't you the one to always tells me that?

"You can't be afraid to live life out of fear of getting hurt."

And boy, did you get hurt.

But being the resilient woman you are, you took on the challenge of being a single mother like a pro and you gave me the best childhood anyone could ask for. So good in fact, that I don't think I've quite gotten over it.

We've had some great times, haven't we?

You and me against the world.

Thank you for being my number one fan, the first person I can call when the wonderful and the terrible happens. Thank you for always believing in me when I did not; when you'd create whole scraps books to remind me of how much I've accomplished. Thank you for telling me when I'm being a boob, even when I don't like hearing it.

I'm so thankful to be like you- Jewish guilt trippin' and all (I will say that I tried fighting that one tooth and nail).

My only fear Mom is that you haven't done everything that you've wanted to do.

Let's change that, huh?

No more playing safe.

It's time now.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding Inspiration to Write During Life's Diarrhea

How do you find inspiration when after eating a giant buffet of Indian food, life decides to take a run in 101 degree weather, then chug some milk before going 80's dancing during $2 margarita night and ultimately take a giant turd on you?

Ok, my life isn't that bad right now, but I've sadly begun to realize (well, actually I realized this long ago but have been in denial about it ever since) that my best writing does not come with the ebb and flow of life's little diarrhea.

I, unfortunately, also do not have the gift of creating while being completely crocked. My great dream as a child to grow into a mentally unstable artist with seven ex-husbands and eight chemical dependencies has been dashed!

For example, check out this classic piece of penmanship I wrote when I was 22 and had a habit of getting drunk, alone, at 9PM on Friday nights in order to deal with my new life as a Hollywood assistant:

"Dear Lord, I'm so drunk, I just hit my eye on the corner of the nightstand. I can't stop crying. I'm stumbling to the mirror like a baby. What's this purple stuff I just threw up? Boy! Look at that pretty cut. Hey pretty! God, I want someone to hold me."

So considering life ain't going to get any easier, how am I, a young person who fancies herself being a writer one day, going to prevail artistically through life's road blocks?

Let's review the recent events that have taken place in my life;

1.) Ended employment at an establishment whose motto is, "We'll eat your baby or puppy with a fork!"
2.) Found employment at a place that loves both babies and puppies (and the environment).
3.) Dear friend in serious accident.
4.) I changed my birth control pills which simultaneously made me want to hump and punch a tree.
5.) Another dear friend died; representation of my childhood that made me realize that was dead too.
6.) Not able to take a much needed vacation from this Twilight Zone episode "The Midnight Sun"-esque Texan heat after working nearly every day for the past 17 months, which includes not seeing my beloved family since last December.
7.) Went to the Scott Pilgrim premiere, caught up with an old industry friend from LA, remembered my former life, thought about how my life has now turned into a cheesy Generation Y coming-of-age movie that would feature some no-namers and probably go straight to DVD, debated whether or not I missed working in the film business.
8.) While listening to the song "Purple Rain" realized that Prince will never dance the way he did twenty years ago and that I'm going to die one day.

All these factors made me not only not want to write, but go take my blog out behind a shed, beat it, and bury it alongside all the dead baby and puppy carcasses that my old employment ate.

So what is one to do during these times?

I have a couple of suggestions, but mostly I want you to tell me.
You tell me what to do!


1.) Get the f out of town- It doesn't matter where- just go. It can be the kitchen of a Waffle House for crying out loud, just something that's going to put you in a different physical and mental place. I recommend upgrading to something a little nicer like the Golden Corral though. Hell, I sometimes drive to the neighboring city, find a bench somewhere and just sit. It's amazing the difference.

2.) Read a book that is your style- I'm surprised to discover that after I read a book, when writing, my sentences are more developed and new words plop down on the page. There is something about this thing called "reading" that I like. I hope it sticks around for awhile.

3.) Don't get on FB/Twitter- Er, actually, I've found both to be great tools in finding articles/writers that inspire me, however, that only makes up about 25% of my time on there. The other 75% is spent looking at photos of the popular people I went to high school with and quietly judging the beer bloat and hair loss they've acquired since graduation.

4.) Get a muse- Well you can't just "get" a muse. It's not something to be forced. You know when someone muses ya and when you do, don't be afraid to take full advantage of their inspiring abilities. Offer cookies, gold krugerrands, or sex in return if you have to.

5.) Become fearless- My biggest problem is that when I don't feel inspired, I feel like whatever I'd write would end up sounding like something my drunk 22 year-old self wouldn't even get. I guess I should get over that, huh?

....How do you champion through life's obstacles and keep on writing?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Photographing Austin

Another freelance article about the best photo ops in Austin...but this one got rejected.
So, f you. I'm putting it up on my blog.
(If you find this post boring, I don't blame you. I was bored writing it. Taking the pictures was fun though! I will have new material up this week, I think? I HOPE!)

Let the cheese begin...

Mount Bonnell
Location: 3800 Mount Bonnell Drive Austin, TX 78731

Why not say "I love you" with a breathtaking panoramic view of Austin? Mount Bonnell, located roughly fifteen minutes from downtown Austin, is the spot that lovebirds have been flocking to since the 1800's. It's secluded location and beautiful views of Lake Austin make it a great place to get a little ol' fashion necking in or take snapshots with your honey. Due to it's expansive and scenic backdrop, the park has also been a popular destination spot for photographing marriage proposals. If the sights don't win your girl over, just point to any of the multi-million dollar homes in the area and promise her one of those. Mount Bonnell is located in the upscale neighborhood of West Austin and the best way to get there is via car and GPS. Parking and entry is free and open year round. The best time and place to take photographs is at dusk looking north towards the 360 Bridge.

Daniel Johnston's "Hi, How Are You?" mural
Location: 21st and Guadalupe Austin, TX 78705

Eccentric singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston is popular for many reasons- his lo-fi folk/alt music, his bi-polar disorder, his mental breakdowns- but may be arguably most famous for his Jeremiah the Innocent drawing featured on his 1983 album, Hi, How Are You?". Johnston was a struggling musician in Austin, Texas for many years before garnering popularity when Kurt Cobain was spotted wearing a t-shirt with Johnston's Jeremiah sketch. In 1993, Johnston was commissioned by a local business owner in Austin, Texas to draw the iconic image on the side of his store located at 21st and Guadalupe near the University of Texas. When ownership changed over the years, the mural ran the risk of being demolished. However, with much protest and news coverage the mural was saved and fans can still get their photo taken in front their favorite mentally unstable musician's masterpiece. The mural is located on the side of Crave Thai and Sushi Bar and is accessible from the sidewalk. The best way to get there is to street park and then walk up and snap a photo in front of Mr. Jeremiah.

Barton Springs Pool
Location: 2201 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78746

Austin is full of exciting attractions for the family, but nothing compares to the accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and good ol' fashion fun of Barton Springs Pool. Located in beautiful Zilker Park, this man-made, spring-fed pool as been the go-to place for adventurous families since the 1940's! The pool acts as the perfect day-trip to beat the summer heat and offers a shallow end for the little ones as well as a deep end for adults to stretch their legs. Between the rustic-looking watering hole filled with plants and fish and the sprawling lawn adorned with sunbathing patrons, this location makes for the perfect photo op! The best spot to take photos is at either end of the pool or in front of daring swimmers jumping back flips off of the diving board. Entry to Barton Springs is $3 for adults, $2 for children between the ages of 12-17, and $1 for children under the age of 11 and parking is $3. The pool is open daily from 5AM-10PM. Check the website for more details

Skyline from Town Lake Park
Location: Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake, Austin, TX 78704

Though it's no Manhattan skyline, much is to be said for Austin's ever-changing urban landscape. Where only a few tall buildings stood a few decades ago, now stands numerous business towers, condos, and hotels. So where is the best place to get the perfect shot of Austin's new skyline? Auditorium Shores. Located on the south side of Lady Bird Lake, this scenic park boasts a dog park, hike & bike trail, and lush, green lawn perfect for any picnic. However, the best feature the park has to offer is the perfect photo op of downtown Austin. Climb the grassy knoll at Butler Park to get the best shot, and then look behind you to snap photos of the park's pond and jumping fountain. The best time to take photos is during the day when the hustle and bustle of the city is most prominent. Auditorium Shores and Butler Park are free and open to the public year round. There is plenty of free public parking and the best way to navigate the park is on bike and foot.

Texas Capitol Building
Location: 11th and Congress, Austin, TX 78701

In the midst of downtown Austin lies the heart of Texas politics- The Texas Capitol Building. Completed in 1888, the structure is the largest state capitol building in the country and keeps tourists coming back year after year. The ornate architecture and central location of the building makes for the perfect photo op and one will find visitors lining the well-manicured lawn taking photos in front of the attractive Italian Renaissance Revival structure. Entry to the building is free and during tours, visitors are welcome to snap photos in the chambers where Texas legislation goes down. However, one of the best photo ops is front of or underneath the impressive circular dome. The Texas Capitol is open to the public Mon-Fri from 7AM-10PM and Sat-Sun 9AM-8PM and the Visitors Center is open Mon-Sat 9AM-5PM and Sun 12PM-5PM. Visitor parking is located at 1201 San Jacinto Ave and is free for the first two hours.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Myths of Austin

Below is a freelance article I was working on that I missed the deadline for (I'm going to make a great freelance writer).
It is about the myths of Austin, Texas and whether they are true or not.
I spent a lot of time reading up on the history of Austin only to realize that it really doesn't have any.
Well it's no New York or Chicago, jeez!

Nonetheless, I was able to scrounge up some interesting (?) myths about this fair city.
(And if I'm wrong with any of these...please let me know so I don't make a huge ass of myself. PLEASE!?)


1.) Does Austin have a celebrity homeless person?


A true testament to the open-mindedness of Austin, Texas, not only does the city have a celebrity homeless person, that same person also ran for mayor! Due to his friendly attitude, activism for the homeless, and unique fashion ensembles consisting of leopard print thongs and high heel shoes, Leslie Cochran has been a colorful, yet notable fixture in the Austin community for years. It's near impossible for locals and tourists not to know who Leslie is. If you haven't seen the magnets bearing his likeness for sale at various stores around the city, then maybe you have the Leslie iPhone app? Or maybe you've heard about his numerous mayoral runs? Leslie has yet to win, but that doesn't stop him from still being the city's most lovable homeless cross-dresser.


2.) Did Austin erect giant light towers over the city in the 1800's due to a serial killer?


It's commonly claimed that thirty-one, 165 feet "moonlight towers" were erected over the city due to the brutal murders of several young women in the late 1800's. However, that doesn't appear to be the case. In 1884 and 1885 a serial killer known as "The Servant Girl Annihilator" ran amok in Austin, brutally raping and killing seven victims (the link above states that the towers were erected because of the killer but IT'S WRONG...I think?). The moonlight towers, which each illuminated a 1500 feet radius, were constructed in 1894, already ten years after the first murder. The moonlight towers were simply built to help light the city and there is no hard proof that they were built in response to the grizzly killer. 17 moonlight towers still remain.

3.) Did festival-goers stand in sewage during the 2009 Austin City Limits Festival?


On Friday of the 2009 Austin City Limits Festival, festival-goers could not ask for a more perfect day at beautiful Zilker Park in downtown Austin. Fast forward to Sunday after uncharacteristic rain poured over the normally sweltering city, and you got yourself one giant mud fest. However, this wasn't any old mud. Patrons started to notice the distinct smell of, for the lack of a better word, POOPIE!, emanating from the festival grounds. Though many didn't know exactly what it was at the time, it was later discovered that the grounds had been treated with a special compost called "Dillo Dirt" that comprised of yard clippings and treated sewage. Either way, that didn't stop festival-goers from rolling around in the "mud" and having a great time at the festival.


4.) Did a man poison the Treaty Oak because that is where he proposed to his girlfriend and she turned him down?


Many legends have circulated on why one man, Paul Cullen, decided to ritualistically poison a sacred and historical oak tree in the middle of Austin, Texas. Was it because he was in love with another man and was trying to fight his feelings? Was it because he was in love with his psychiatrist who didn't return the love? Was it because he proposed to his girlfriend at that location and she turned him down? Nobody knows what went through Cullen's head that day in 1989 when he poured heavy-duty plant killer on the last remaining Oak of the Council Oaks where in the 1800's, local Native American tribes would hold sacred meetings. According to Texas Monthly Magazine, the mentally-unstable Cullen poisoned the tree "to entrap it's spiritual energy to win the love of a woman or to ward off a rival." Cullen was sentenced to nine years in prison and locals and nature lovers banded together to try and help the sickly tree (which included leaving cans of soup). Ross Perot even wrote a blank check to help fund efforts in saving the tree. In the late 1990's, the tree began producing acorns again and though now somewhat crooked, she still stands strong to do this day.


5.) Are there hundreds of wild parakeets living in Austin?


It doesn't take long for a one to spot the brightly colored Monk Parakeets roaming freely amongst the streets of Austin. These pretty birds have set up nests all over the city and it looks they are not going anywhere. But how did they get here? There is no conclusive evidence on exactly how the parakeets landed in Austin, but there are plenty of fun rumors spreading around. One myth refers to an accident at JFK airport in 1967 that supposedly first introduced Monk Parakeets to the United States. Another story points to local Janet Gilles who released 19 Monk Parakeets into the wild after she got sick of keeping them in the house. Either way, they have become a great addition to the uniqueness of the city.


Sunday, August 08, 2010


Hey! Sorry for all the Debbie Downer stuff, but it's been one heck of a couple of weeks with all this job loss and death and sickness stuff. I promise the funny will come back. I PROMISE!



I linger on the silkiness of my Grandma's voice.

The faux aristocrat.

As though every time the phone rings, she's expecting it to be the President.

I wait a beat.

Trying to make sure that what I'm about to say doesn't explode out into a puddle of words and tears.

That ain't gonna happen.

"Mom told me about Gabrielle. I'm so sorry, Grandma." It all blurts out in one push of air.

"It's so-"

My Grandma begins to talk and her voice cracks on the next word and that word only.

That's all my Grandma will allow herself to cry.

Once. For a millisecond.

"-sad. It wasn't even the cancer that killed her. She had an infection, Lauren."

"I know, Mom told me."

We both are silent. A thousand little images of our past playing like a Lifetime movie montage through our heads.

"Her funeral is on Tuesday. Her daughter is having an open casket Gabrielle didn't want an open casket! I always remember her saying in the store, "Nan, when I die, I don't want an open casket. She cared about her appearance, you know?"

I try to picture Gabrielle lying there and I realize that my image of her was from twenty years ago. I had never seen the white-haired woman with the oxygen mask and placid skin. Gabrielle will always stay pristinely wrapped in my seven year-old heart.

I try hard, but honestly can't remember the last time I saw her.

It may have been the day we closed the store forever.

I get off the phone with my Grandma and can't move.

They're all gone, I think. Gabrielle, Monique, Isabel, Mamie. All these women who made up my childhood are dead. All these women who we saw every day and who worked for my Grandma for 30 years are just gone. Disappeared.

And the only people left of Leonard's is my Grandmother, my Mother, and I.


My Grandmother the Shopgirl

"I came back to Central New York and married your Grandfather," my Grandma told me once when I attempted to write a post like this months ago. "I was 20 and all my girlfriends were calling me an old maid."

My grandmother married a dashing WWII soldier/friend of the family's who was 13 years her senior. Love was never a word mentioned in their relationship, but looking at pictures of them early on painted a different picture.

"So after I married your Grandfather, we moved to Cortland, New York for his work. I hated it there! It was a bunch of country folk who acted like they were too good for everyone. But after I started working at Leonard's, I got to know people."

Leonard's was the only women's clothing store in Cortland. It was owned by a childless couple called The Leonard's. All I know about them is that Mr. Leonard was mean and he had one leg.

Leonard's existed during a time when clothing matter. When well-tailored outfits and accessories meant something. Grandma was their number one salesgirl for eighteen years, putting in all the time and energy that her generation was taught to do. When the Leonard's were getting ready to retire, my Grandmother marched down to the local bank, acquired a $20,000 loan, and offered it to the Leonard's.

In 1965, Leonard's became my Grandmother's.


The Melting Pot

My Grandmother had worldly tastes for being such a small town girl. She loved to dress elegantly. She loved to dance. She loved to meet interesting people. She fancied herself European and so she hired the only two French women in our 19,000 person town. Throw in a seamstress and bookkeeper older than dirt and a teenage daughter and you got yourself one heck of a business.

Here were the players:

Nan- Owner. Professional and classy. Ran her store with an iron fist, but was doting with her customers. She came from a time where you put everyone before you. The most beautiful woman I've ever seen.

Gabrielle- Sales Associate. Sassy, short-haired fire cracker from France. Had a very gravely, fast tempered French accent and chain-smoked like there was no tomorrow. Was told she had a husband once in France that was killed by the mob. She enabled all of my three year-old whims.

Monique- Sales Associate. Not sassy, but just as French. Also a chain smoker. She was married to Bob and lived on the other side of town. How do I know so little about a women I saw every day of my life?

Isabel- Bookeeper. Very mousy women who sat alone on the second level of Leonard's. She kept everything documented in hand-written ledgers. I would build cardboard box houses around her desk and we barely exchanged two words.

Mamie- Seamstress. Also sassy, but not at all French. She was old school. She kept red, square anise candies in her pocket book and I would always rummage for them. She would let me stick shoulder pads in my shirt and laugh as I paraded around pretending that I had boobies at five.

Brenda- Merchandiser/Daughter of Owner. Would spend hours decorating the front window and store. She worked hard and did everything for her mother. And me.

In the 60's and 70's, Leonard's was known all over New York State. My mother and grandmother would go on buying trips to the City. They loved their job and they were good at it. The sparkling mother-daughter duo with their back-up crew- The Golden Girls.

Then I came into the story. My Dad left and my Mom had no place to put me other than at Leonard's. I grew up there. Playing dress up, crawling through shipment boxes, talking with customers, reading, writing alone on the back stairs all day, every day. Leonard's was my safe haven and my sister. She was the place where my imagination could go wild and my Mom, Grandma, and I could be a family.


All Things Must Past

For years, my grandmother reserved every drop of blood and sweat for that store. So much so that she exhausted her life savings trying to keep her afloat. With the progression of Wal-Marts and malls and Old Navys, Leonard's no longer served a purpose. She was old Main Street. An idea that rarely exists anymore and the only people who could appreciate her were also dying off.

I videotaped the day we shut the doors on Leonard's in 1998. To this day we still have yet to watch it.

The tape has probably corroded away at this point and I'm not quite sure what has prevented my Mother or I from taking it to get converted to DVD. At this point, the pain of losing the business should have dissipated, but it hasn't. Not for my Grandmother who owned the store, not for my Mother who spent her entire adult life working in the store, or for me, whose childhood centered around it.

Losing Leonard's was the first great loss in my life. It had been a part of my life since I was born. Before I was born. It shaped three generations of my family.


And I'm realizing this is becoming extremely difficult to write.
I'm not writing about Gabrielle. The women who died and triggered me to reexamine this post.
I don't even know much about her.
I don't know anything about these women who made up such an important time in my life.
They became ghosts before they even died.

Gabrielle, I wish I was able to talk to you as an adult. I'm sure we'd have a lot of interesting stories to talk about.