Archive for June, 2010

I rode my bike home from work today in the pouring rain. It was awesome.

Eliza had offered to come pick me up, but the sight of stand-still traffic on Congress Avenue made me think twice. I decided I’d rather get a little wet than be stuck in the car staring at taillights. Above all else, I love the location of our house. I especially love the fact that I can bike to work, which I’ve been doing daily for over a month now. At first, I wasn’t confident that I’d make it through the Austin summer, but it turns out that biking in the heat isn’t so bad. (You make your own breeze.)

So now, my thoughts have turned to selling my car. I’ve already cancelled my monthly parking pass. The prospect of getting rid of my car payment has become tantalizing. But just as a backup, I may want to get something older and cheap. I’m thinking something like this:


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There’s nothing worse than audience Q&A at public events. The worst strain of Q&A, though, is Q&A with celebrities. I learned this tonight at the Paramount Theater, where the profane, skinny-legged, and utterly likable Anthony Bourdain appeared. I usually make a quick exit whenever an audience Q&A begins, but unfortunately this event was almost nothing but Q&A. After reading a choice anti-vegetarian screed from his new book, Bourdain opened up the floor to the sad and desperate.

As far as I can tell there are three questioner archetypes:

1) The “Please Love Me, I Love You” type: These people are looking for the celebrity to validate some aspect of their lives (e.g., “I’m from New Jersey. What’s your favorite restaurant there?”)

2) The “I Will Prove to You How Much I Love You” type: These people start their awful questions off by quoting to the celebrity something they once said (e.g., “The last time you were in Austin, you said this one thing that I just loved“).

3) The “I’m Not So Different Than You” type: These people make a pathetic attempt to show that they, like the celebrity, have a certain quality. In Bourdain’s case, this involves something outrageous. (e.g., “I know you really like to smoke pot, so I was wondering if you could comment on how awesome that makes a person.”)

It is a testament to Bourdain’s charisma that he was able to be quite entertaining despite the Q&A format. Here are a few of his choice quotes:

When asked about the best meal to cook to get someone into bed: “I say, stick with the classics… Alcohol.”

On people who describe chocolate as “orgasmic”: “I’d really question the quality of the sex you’re having.”

On Cincinnati: “God did not intend for chili to be eaten on top of spaghetti.”

On choosing to leave the Food Network rather than change his show: “One of the first things any television executive learns is that there is no limit to what people will do in order to stay on television. Just look at the Jersey Shore or The Real Housewives.”

On whether smoking affected his pallatte: “That’s why God created salt.”

On food today: “There’s never been a better time to cook in America. There’s never been a better time to eat in America.”

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I’m learning that when you buy a house, trips to Home Depot take up a good portion of every weekend. I don’t mind Home Depot, but I’m not a fan of spending the weekend in the car. I will say this, though: trips to Home Depot beat trips to the storage space. When we lived on campus, space was somewhat limited. So every other weekend or so involved a trip across town to our storage space. But when we moved into the house, we ditched the storage space right away. I don’t miss this place at all.

But with the house, the storage equation has inverted. Now we can buy the mass quantities of consumer goods that Americans are supposed to: 32-packs of toilet paper, case upon case of Diet Coke, and gallon containers of mayo. These things are our birthright, and I’m happy to stake my claim. And just in case there’s any doubt, let me be clear: I’m not being facetious. I love this stuff.

So now I have a weekend car trip I can actually look forward to: Costco. True, there are moments in the store when it feels like you’re in the middle of a war zone. Kids are screaming. Old ladies are cutting you off with their tank-like grocery carts. But I love a deal. So I love Costco, too.

Another perspective on weekend trips:

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On September 6th 1995, I began to realize that professional photography wasn’t my calling. That was the day that Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s “Iron Man” record, playing his 2,131st consecutive game.

I wasn’t exactly a big baseball fan, let alone an Orioles devotee. This was the pre-Nationals, post-Senators days, when the Orioles were the de facto home team of the DC area. So I possessed at least a vague allegiance. Add to that the fact that the Iron Man record was one of those big deal, unbreakable records, and you had a game worth watching. Unlike like DiMaggio’s 61 56-game hitting streak though, Gehrig’s record did break, taking my photojournalistic aspirations along with it.

A baseball game becomes official after the completion of the 5th inning. At that point in this game, the applause began. And it kept going. And going. After a solid ten minutes of applause and one curtain call, Ripken’s teammates shoved him out of the dugout, whereupon he took a victory lap around the field, waving to fans and giving high-fives. It was completely spontaneous, which made it seem all the more special.

But amid the celebration, there was one element that seemed out of place. As he finished his lap around the field, a gaggle of photographers crowded around him, shoving their lenses in his face. They seemed to be in the way. I looked at these grown men chasing another grown man around and began to wonder: do I want to chase people for a living? I loved the idea of photojournalism, but I had always been uncomfortable with the idea that most people didn’t actually want their picture taken by a stranger.

Writing this blog has given me a new lease on my photographic ambitions. After all, you never need to worry about getting food’s permission before shooting, right? Well, that’s what I thought until I went to Texas Rib Kings.

Texas Rib Kings is located in a run-of-the-mill strip mall in the shadow of the 183 decks, near Burnet Road. But once you walk inside, you definitely feel like you’re in BBQ country.

While I was in line, I started shooting, capturing a few shots of the cutting board. I usually feel pretty comfortable taking faceless shots like this with someone’s permission. It’s face shots that make people start to feel uneasy. The cutter didn’t seem to mind. The cashier, however, was a different story.

When I got to the checkout. He growled at me, ”ARE YOU TAKIN’ PICTURES OF MY MEAT?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Is that okay?”


“Well, can I post some on my blog?”

“Oh, a blog I can’t do anything about,” he said with a sigh. Smiling now, he added, “As long as you write good things.”

“I’m sure it’ll be good,” I assured him.

He then went on to explain that someone had previously used pictures of “his meat” and logo for some kind of for-profit use without permission. He hadn’t seen any money, a fact that he was not okay with. I wondered if maybe part of the reason he hadn’t worked out a deal was because Charm School here didn’t exactly know how to ingratiate himself.

So how was “his” meat? The beef ribs were a little dry. They had probably been out a little too long. But the brisket glistened with ample fat. It was excellent. I’d go back for the brisket. I may leave my camera at home next time, though.

NOTE: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak was 56 games, not 61, as my friend (and actual sports fan) Rob informed me.

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