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Rats Climbing the Walls

Posted on 2008.05.22 at 23:59

These blog postings are getting a bit infrequent of late. To those fearful that I'm passed out somewhere in a pool of my own sick, fret not. I've been busy, is all.


This afternoon I drove out to Edgewood Academy, the flagship high school for the Edgewood Independent School District (one of the 17 ISDs in the city). I was there to pitch the Josiah Media Festival. Kathy Braune introduced me to about 18 of her students who are working on animation projects. Two of the seniors had submitted a piece last year. They are both heading to the University of Dallas next year to continue their animation studies. One of the pieces the students screened for me was a fake trailer of a parody of the Saw horror movies which involved some equipment from the Edgewood robotics department to resemble some sort of anal probe. Ah, youth!


I've been hauling my ass out to the bike trail every day in attempts to get back into some semblance of shape. But, man, these last couple of weeks have been like a sauna. The heat I can handle, but it's just been too humid for me. Here, let me click over to my favorite weather site. It's ten o'clock tonight. Temperature 85 degrees. Humidity, 70%. Heat index, 90 degrees. I think I need to invest in a second fan. If this one punks out, I'm a goner.

I ride out to Mission Espada -- the last in the line of historic missions -- and head on back. Often I walk the mile or more from Mission Espada to Mission San Juan, because it's nice to slow down every so often, and take in what you might be missing. Sure, I have to wave off the Samaritan inclination of fellow cyclists who think I need help fixing a flat. I even had a train stop and the engineer stuck his head from the side window and shouted down if I wanted a bottle of water. I suspect he had a cooler up there with him and was prepared to toss an Aquafina my way. I waved him off with a smile and continued down the quiet tree shaded lane. Lord knows how long it took that train and all those cars to get back up to cruising speed.



And then there's all the critters roaming around.


Over the weekend I spent three days at the Creative Capital Professional Development Retreat. It was myself and 22 other local artists. David Alcantar, Estevan Arrendondo, Julia Barbosa Landois, Sabra Booth, Richard Diaz, Ilze Dilane, Donna Dobberfuhl, Rex Hausmann, James Hetherington, Stefani Job Spears, Deborah Keller-Rihn, Timothy Kramer, Rhonda Kuhlman, Marlyn Lanfear, Leigh Anne Lester, Jose Luis Lopez, Michele Monseau, Roberto Prestigiacomo, Doug Roper, Ansen Seale, Michael Twomey and Luis Valdaras.



It was an intense barrage of workshops, presentations, break-out sessions, and even the occasional role playing.

The best part were the artist presentations that each of us had to make. Just five minutes. I was blown away by the high caliber and diversity of the work. Perhaps they confused me with one of the other Erik or Eric Bosses.


Last week I was out scouting Nightmare on Grayson Street (the premier San Antonio haunted house). Sam Lerma's using it as a location for some more of his SAL Film Fest promo videos. Me, Sam, and Dar were ushered in by Gordon, the guy who runs the place, and we wandered the labyrinth of rooms and corridors and backstage work shops.


I inadvertently caused Dar to let loose a piercing scream when I drew her attention to a fat rat that was mounted on a wall in such a way that whenever you opened the adjacent door, it scurried up and down the wall. Dar rounded the corner to see what I was talking about just as I was slowly moving the door open and closed, activating the fishing line that passed over a little pulley.


But all she saw was a moth eaten rat gliding up the wall a couple feet from her. I think the echoes of her screams are still bouncing about the walls of the warehouse.


I've been checking out some gritty industrial settings for a shoot coming up in about three weeks. The decommissioned Hay Street bridge is very appealing.



As is this loading island on a dead Southern Pacific siding over in my neighborhood, between Say Si and La Tuna.


I need to get the rest of the folks involved in the project to take a look at these places.


The footage me and Russ are shooting for Jayne King out at Northwest Vista College just keeps plodding along. We're about a week and a half into a three week project. She's working with the Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble to reconstruct choreographer Anna Sokolow's last work, Frida.


Last week we said goodbye to Sokolow Ensemble members Lauren Naslund and Samantha Geracht who spent week one working with Jayne's students.


And then, this Monday, Jim May, the artistic director of the Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble arrived to give further shape to the dance piece.


He worked with the dancers in the morning. And then me, Russ, Jayne, Jim, and two of Jayne's dancers loaded into a Northwest Vista van and drove to the airport. The Mexican students had just arrived. This project has an international component. Five dancers (three women and two men) flew up from the Central National for the Arts (CNA) dance department in Mexico City.


We set up a little impromptu interview session in the airport. And it seemed we had plenty of time as the kids' luggage flew in on a later plane.

Coaxing Skeletons Out Into the Light

Posted on 2008.05.11 at 22:55

I had a very pleasant weekend. It is finally spring here in San Antonio. Well, for people throughout most of this country it would appear to be high summer. Saturday it got up to at least 100 degrees. I'm trying to get back into shape so I upgraded my basic bike ride from the ten mile jaunt to the more serious twenty mile excursion from my front door to Mission Espada and back. It kicked my ass.

Earlier in the day I met with Ashley Lindstrom of the Current. We had coffee at Ruta Maya ... where I was waited on by the very talented Rebecca Potts, one of the gifted filmmakers over at the North East School for the Arts. I believe she's just finishing off her senior year.

When Ashley arrived I had no trouble recognizing her from her photo on the Current website. Being a wise-ass blog writer sometimes pays off. She has a very easygoing natural charm about her and I could see how this would pay off for a journalist in an interview situation. She could coax the skeletons out of the most hardened sociopath's closet. Now that I think about it, just what might I have unknowingly blubbered out to that sweet, trusting face?


I enjoyed not only reading her piece on the Marfa film festival, but also talking to her about it.

Read the piece here:


On another Marfa film fest note, my friend Emily, a photographer from Dallas, posted a huge slide show of her trip to the festival, as well as an excursion down through Presidio, Redford, Terlingua, and back up to Marfa.


My favorite part of the world.


Today me and Russ met with Gordon Delgado. He's trying to get a feature film made this summer. I first became of aware of the project through Carlos, who's playing a small part in the film.

There are some notable actors attached to the piece. And what I've read of the script is quite appealing. But it just seems that he's a good three months away from shooting. Nope. He's slated to begin first week of June.

He's a likable guy. A middle aged artist with a clear vision of what he wants the piece to be. He did a solid job some years back on a short shot on super 16 called Jesus in a String Bikini. Maybe this will happen. And, who knows, maybe it will happen exactly as he envisions it. And maybe even me and Russ will be on board the project. However, at the moment, it's all up in the air. We mostly were meeting for lunch at Taco Haven to affably size one another up.

We'll see ... we'll see.


Tonight me and Russ rolled our first cassette of video on this Sokolow documentary we're doing with Jayne King out at Northwest Vista. Two members of the Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble arrived today from New York. They'll be working with Jayne's students on a dance piece created by choreographer Anna Sokolow titled Frida, based on Frida Kahlo, who Sokolow knew.

The women from New York are staying at a Bed and Breakfast in one of the little mansions three blocks from me, and conveniently just beyond the back fence from Jayne's house.

We got about thirty minutes of the three of them talking about their plan to teach the Northwest Vista kids the Frida piece.


Tomorrow morning we're off to campus for an early shoot with the students for their first day of this project.

And somehow I think there are a couple of important things I need to do tomorrow, but I just can't remember. Oh, well, it'll all come back to me. You know, the moment it blows up in my face.

Chihuahuas in the Igloo

Posted on 2008.05.08 at 09:09

(It's Thursday already, and I'm just now posting this blog from the weekend. I tell you, this job I have at the moment sure is sucking time away from my frivolous pursuits.)

I continue to find myself in that vague world of "the check it in the mail." The absurdity of it all is that this should be coming from some financially irresponsible deadbeat such as myself. Funny, but it's coming from other people. Checks promised to me.

Such as just last Saturday when I was hired to video the Family Day at the Blue Star Arts Complex. Well, I can't grouse too much. They quickly paid most of the artists and presenters on the spot. And I do believe I was a last minute after-thought. So, I guess I can wait a few days.

The best thing was the convenience of it all. I packed my equipment into my trusty thrift store laptop shoulder bag and walked two blocks to the San Antonio River, hopped across the cement blocks of the low water crossing, climbed up the levy of the right bank, and there I was. One o'clock until four. I got a bit of a sunburn. I don't know how many people they were expecting, but it seemed a great success. At the most crowded, I would guess there were about three hundred people.



There were booths scattered across the parking-lot with various activities. Silk-screening with the Stone Metal Press. There was a woman letting kids make "fossils" out of shells and starfish and et cetera pressed into sand and then covered in plaster. Beaded jewelry. Clay sculpture. Papel picado. An environmental booth where, among other diversions, you could put on a pair of rubber gloves and dig in a fish tank of mud for a worm and some other critter, and then place it under a microscope.

One of the guys at this booth was walking around with a mug of mate. I only knew what it was because of the iconic metal straw. I've been curious about this drink for awhile, but I have never gotten around to tracking it down. When I asked him about it, he explained that the dried mate could be found fairly easily in San Antonio. He said that his mother in Paraguay sent him the stainless steel straw (they have a bulbous sieve at the far end to filter the mate, which is coarsely cut like tea). He offered me a taste. Very refreshing in a minty and grassy sort of way.


Over by the river, Deborah was setting up chalk and colored sand for kids to make a mandala on a circular part of the bike trail that passes through Blue Star.




Saturday night I headed over to Russ' place. He was firing up the barbecue. Pete and Lisa were there. He'd tried unsuccessfully to track down Andy and Dar (but I'm thinking they might have made a get-away to the coast). It was the perfect night to sit in the backyard eating too much food. If only those hyperactive chihuahuas next door had been locked up in a soundproof box (now that I think about it, that Igloo cooler that Cooper was sitting on would have been just the right size).


Sunday I decided to put in an appearance at the Overtime Theater. SALSA (San Antonio Lonely Screenwriters' Association) were gathering for their monthly public reading. First Sunday. For some reason, they were also slated to screen Operation Hitman, the film I did for IFMASA. Mary Harder had been given the script for IFMASA to use, and she initially wanted to direct it herself, but for some reason she offered it to me. The writer is the talented Richard Dane Scott. Who, no surprise, is a SALSA member. So I had a chance to talk a bit with Richard. I hadn't seen him since the 2007 Austin Film Festival. Also, Gabi Walker and her mom Alicia were there. Gabi was the costar of Hitman. I told her I'm trying my best to write a script for her before she becomes too famous for me to afford. Here we have a photo op moment with Alicia and Gabi.


And here we have a poor photo of the reading. I believe that's the back of Nikki Young's head, producer of Operation Hitman.


Gabi had to leave before the film screened (it being a school night). It was for the best, actually, because technical problems popped up, and the DVD refused to play.

No great loss for me. I've already seen it. But because of the vagaries of this dreadful technological blunder called the DVD (especially the hardware and software used to create homemade DVDs), every venue which wants to offer these sorts of screenings need to work out all the tech bugs in their system and, please, do at least a preview dry run of all material to be screened (not all DVDs and DVD players are created the same).

I can't slight the Overtime. They are not a film venue. The reading went off very smoothly. It was a feature script titled The Devil's Right Hand, by Terri Spaugh. A western. The actors did a superb job. They'd familiarized themselves with the roles well enough, so it was more of a performance than a simple table read. There were about a dozen actors on stage, most who I'd never seen before. All very talented. John Poole, who runs the Overtime, acted as the narrator. This meant he read the action lines. And I have to say, the level of writing was very impressive. Damn good action lines (and I'm not being facetious -- this is really where you hold the reader's attention, and if you've written a spec script you had better hold the reader's attention). But the dialogue was another story. Many of us have this problem with dialogue in screenplays. Too damn chatty. Films work much better with information conveyed by actors expressions and various visual cues (unless you're Whit Stillman or Wes Anderson). This stuff isn't for the stage. Ultimately it's not a huge problem, really, as a canny director will strip out about 50 percent of the dialogue and make the piece stronger (unless this particular director wrote the script, and thus has no objectivity).

I hope these SALSA readings continue. It's a one-stop shopping opportunity to sample local playwright / screenwriters as well as actors.

I've not been keeping up with this blog very well. Here's something I wrote over a week ago, I just hadn't posted it.


Yesterday [Sunday, Apri 27th] was something of an ordeal.

After four hours of sleep, I got up and hauled my uncaffeinated carcass over to URBAN-15. It was for a film shoot ... that I wasn't working on. The fact is, I somehow found myself as the liaison between URBAN-15 and Film Classics (AKA Bryan Ortiz and Michael Druck). I have the key and the alarm code. And I was to be on site while Bryan re-shot some of his flashback scenes from his feature, Doctor S Battles the Sex-Crazed Reefer Zombies.

I arrived ten minutes early, and actors and crew were already milling about, waiting for me to let them in. I tried to help as much as possible, but once they began to set up equipment and dress the set, I decided to make myself scarce. They had 24 scenes to shoot -- all very short. But very ambitious seeing as both me and Bryan needed to be up on the far north side to shoot a wedding at 2 p.m.

They were shooting in the basement space and using the sanctuary space (above) for the green room. This is in the old church part of the complex. I had retreated to the dormitory building where the offices are. I switched on René's computer and answered a few emails. And then Druck called me on my cell from the other building about an electricity question. I headed over and helped them deal with that issue. And then, realizing I still hadn't had coffee, I headed upstairs to the craft services table and grabbed a coffee and a couple of breakfast tacos.

I managed a nap for about an hour and a half on a very uncomfortable floor. But, well for me at least, when it stops working, when a nap ends, there's no forcing it to continue. I stumbled over to the other building and tiptoed down the back stairs to peek in on the shoot. Bryan had done a great job dressing two regions of the basement to look like a generic laboratory from a '50s era monster movie. Producer Michael Druck was doubling as an extra -- he was laying on a table with a sheet covering him. Perhaps a failed experiment of some sort of reefer zombie serum. And over on the other side of the room, we had a trio of scientists conferring at a chalkboard. They were all in white oxford shirts, ties, lab coats, short slicked-back hair, and horn-rimmed glasses. (When these actors -- one being director Bryan -- were lugging equipment back to their cars after the shoot, they'd removed just their lab coats, and I was thinking that the neighbors must have thought some sort of Mormon rally was going on in the building.)


The day started out cool and overcast. Around noon it was clear and warm. But by the time me and Bryan headed off to the wedding, it was wildly windy and damn cold, maybe in the 50s.

We were a bit late breaking set, but the traffic was mild, and we weren't too far behind for our next gig. The call time for the wedding was an hour before the service began, so, at 2:20, we didn't disrupt much by being late, all we did was to shame ourselves.

The service was a lot of fun. It was a "Harley Wedding," and the couple road up on motorcycles. We were set up in a park pavilion (it was still cold and insanely windy). In leu of a preacher, the service was officiated by an Elvis impersonator.

I was using a borrowed camera. A Canon XL-1. This used to be the camera I lusted after (that, or the more lust-worthy XL-2). But after the wedding, I'm really not much of a fan. One problem is that the XL is an aggressively right-handed camcorder. Left-handers can better manage the more blocky prosumer camcorders with the eyepiece on the axis of the lens. Also, the lack of a fold-out monitor paddle makes it a bad choice for a camera where you're doing a lot of shooting on the fly (this camera sucks for weddings and documentaries -- fine for, say, well-planned narrative work). And, dammit, the focus kept drifting on me when it was on the auto-focus setting (a setting I only use when shooting weddings and documentary type work).

After the weeding, I found it charming that the bride and groom were helping to remove the decorations from the park pavilion.

Next we all traveled to the reception which was at a bar a couple blocks away. I believe the place was called the Hills and Dale Ice House (rustic enough, but hardly what I'd call an ice house -- the place had an impressive array of dozens of great beer on taps along the wall behind the bar). I was hoping we'd be inside. Because, you know, it was damn cold! But, nope, we were on the deck outside. And actually, it did warm up a bit.

I placed the XL-1 on a tripod aimed at the, um, Karaoke area. Yep. Karaoke. I've live to this ripe old age without ever being subject to this specific form of torture.

As we were waiting for the wedding guests to suck back enough beer to get them singing, I unpacked my little GL-2. Clamped to my monopod and with a little on-board lamp, it was a good camera to move around quickly during a wedding reception. And there are times when weddings can be fun. I'm too fat and clumsy to dance without looking like an astonishing fool, but I get a kick out of hitting a densely-packed wedding dance floor, video camera in hand, and dancing around with the crowd. But Sunday there was very little dancing. I got some. But mostly it was people at the Karaoke microphone. I got some of that. And it was okay ... well, I hope. Some gifted singers (well, one), some decent folks, and a couple of guys so wonderfully awful that we were all happy when they returned for a second and even a third performance.

I do understand the appeal of Karaoke, but the sad thing is that it is so alcohol dependent.

Apparently I'm getting paid one of these days for this wedding gig (thank you so much PDP!), but it was hardly work. Remove that pesky XL-1 from the equation, it was a damn cool party. I only hope Bryan got home in one piece -- he'd not slept the previous night because he was preparing for the Doctor Shoot.

I don't want to know who'd be writing the obit of San Antonio's most promising young filmmaker. Catch up on your sleep Bryan. And stop shooting weddings. And stop shooting damn zombie films. A kitschy and campy zombie film is still a fucking zombie film. Last I looked, this was the 21st century -- "the post zombie century" (if you can believe www.ihatezombiemovies.net ... and I tend to acknowledge their expertise on this matter). Zombies, ninjas, goddamned contract killers. These are the kinds of films we make here in San Antonio? What ever happened to "write what you know"?

Butter, Now With Sliced Bread!

Posted on 2008.04.26 at 23:20

It's 11:45 Saturday night, and I have a 7 a.m. call time. So I guess this will be a short King William Parade and Festival post.

The rain that blew in last night brought an ungodly amount of humidity. Other than that, it was a great day, with clear skies and coolish temperatures.

The crowds on my street were down considerably from last year -- back then there were probably three times more people. I don't know if they were chased away by last nights weather, or by last years densely packed crowds. The King William Fair was also much sparser than previous years. All this was fine by me, as I hate crowds.



Filmmakers Ralph Lopez and Brant Bumpers were carrying the banner for what Adam's calling the Golden Showers Film Festival this year.


Carol Sowa was back again marching as a stick of butter. But, wait! She has a companion dressed as a couple of slices of bread. Maybe I'll join them next year as a pot of jam.


I'm not sure who won the coveted Miss Southtown award this year -- and I might suggest a lip, cheek, and chin waxing -- but one thing is apparent, their float is pretty damn tacky.


I wish I had gotten a better photo of this charismatic fellow in the gold sequined dinner jacket.


My neighbors are part owners of La Tuna restaurant and ice house. This, and I hesitate to call it a "float," has all the hallmarks of having been thrown together at the eleventh hour. But I rather like it. Why a train? Well, La Tuna is on the train tracks, and the noise can get rather disrupting ... especially on the nights when they project movies on their outdoor screen.


My neighbors, the Tolands, were having their annual Fiesta party. There were loads of kids and this considerably cool tiger piñata. Shame to see it whacked into shards of papier-mâché and gumdrops. The cat has a marked expression of anxiety.


Can you blame him?



I walked down to the King William Fair. Nikki and Chadd suggested I make it over to the kids area to watch Joe Libby do his magic and ventriloquist act.

Annele Spector and Sam Bayless waved to me. I asked Sam how the edit was coming along for the SAL promo that he and the other Sam were working on. Sam said they had made it funnier. I believe him, and I'm looking forward to it.


I congratulated Annela on the photo shoot for the current issue of the Current -- their "best of San Antonio" edition. Annela and Monessa Esquivel, as the notorious Methane Sisters, are featured on the cover, as well as ten full page color photos scattered through the issue (don't miss the final page -- 150). She and Monessa created some very iconic-friendly characters in May Joon and Ann Jewlie.

Over by the river, I watched a bit of Joe's show, and then, feeling a sunburn coming on, I vanished into the crowd and headed home.




Let me just begin by saying that I'm not a fan of Fiesta (what Barbara Renaud wryly and derisively refers to as "the biggest ten-day pachangalooza you'll ever see"). For ten days people are roaming around in a disjointed daze, like runaway dogs lost in a neighborhood not their own. Traffic patterns are re-routed because of the dozens of parades, street fairs, carnivals, neighborhood-wide barbecues, and goddamn pet parades.

Today I had several things I planned to do before going into my evening job. For instance, I realized I have four over-due library books. No problem, I'll cruise by the main branch and drop them off. Little did I know that one of the major Fiesta parades (the Battle of the Flowers -- can that be right???) was not only gearing up (I kinda knew that), but it necessitated major street closures between me and the library. So, instead of fighting my way through a circuitous labyrinth of detour signs, I thought the price of an additional weekend's worth of late fees was a sensible price for my mental well-being. Next stop. I needed to get my inspection sticker for my truck. The first place I went to down on S. Presa was just down to one guy. His co-workers were probably all downtown watching the parade. He said it'd be thirty minutes before he could look at my truck. The next place I tried was pretty much the same. The guy who did the inspections was out. He'd be back later. After the parade ended, I assumed. And the third place -- the same. "Guy will be back in an hour or two."

At this point, I gave up on most of my other errands. No one was where they were supposed to be. And all citizens were all driving like maniacs. Even along the very laid-back southside streets. South Presa is a quiet artery where no one ever honks a horn (except in friendly greeting -- and then just a tap), and the traffic is mostly moving five miles under the speed limit. However, today I had scads of bumper hogs and a few near-misses.

So, I swung over to URBAN-15. Man, that was a fucking three-ring circus. Tomorrow is one of their biggest days of the year. They always march in the Flambeau Parade, the Fiesta evening parade. There were over a dozen of dancers and drummers putting the finishing touches on their costumes. Molly, the new building manager and general handy-woman, was charging around inviting everyone to head upstairs to the second floor of the dormitory to check out the cool air from the central A/C unit she's just fixed. George was getting some deposits ready to take to the bank. Catherine was talking to the guy from the panoramic photography company which will be taking photos tomorrow of the entire URBAN-15 drum and dance company -- the photo guy was setting up tier riser seating in the little parking-lot. And I found myself conscripted into preparing a part of the basement space for a film shoot that will be happening Sunday morning. And at some point during all this madness, Jim Mendiola and Faith Radle -- director and producer of the reality TV show "Las Chicas Project" -- dropped by. Their show has come to San Antonio this week. The Chicas, Yasmin and Crash (their names according to the press release) will be dancing in the Flambeau Parade with URBAN-15. Las Chicas had the day off, so I didn't get to meet them. From what I can gather having watched a bit of the TV show is that the Chicas are somewhat like that show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, but the Chicas are spunky and smart and do things like sky diving ... and, well, dancing in parades. Unlike Paris and Nicole, you're not supposed to laugh AT the Chicas.

I didn't really get any time to speak with Jim and Faith, but they seemed quite nice. They are completely on top of this production. Smiling and unfrazzled.

And then I had to get onto the highway and head up to work.


Tonight I made it back to my neighborhood by ten. All of the King WIlliam area is barricaded off. Well, closed to "thru traffic."

The King William Parade begins in the morning. I believe this year it's happening a bit later, at ten a.m.

I hate parades. And as I was shifting crap around in the basement of URBAN-15 this afternoon, George had the televised feed from the fucking Battle of the Flowers parade, rear-projected on a large screen. That I could have handled. Just lavish images. But the audio was thundering from a bank of muscular PA speakers. Oh, mercy. I do hope Hell exists, because if it does, these morons who chatter with the color commentary of parade activity will doubtlessly be roasting in the fires of Hades ... along with sports fans and military recruiters.

And even though I have my gripes with Fiesta in general, and parades in particular, I have a soft spot for the King William Parade. First off, there are no TV commentators (not that I know of). And then, there's the fact that the parade passes right by my front yard. And, best of all, this is, as I've said before, something of a people's parade. And though I'd hardly call it a gay pride event, it does have a higher queer quotient than probably any other event of this size in San Antonio.

Besides, it gives me an opportunity to blog snarky comments about the San Antonio chapter of the Sierra Club -- a bunch of self-righteous tossers and poseurs and, dammit, litterbugs (guys, I think I still have some of the shit you left in my front yard from last year). Pull your heads out of your asses and join up with Earth First, you pussies!

But I digress.

I'll be out there, in my front yard, sipping coffee, and cheering the neighborhood arts organizations and businesses like Jump Start, Gemini Ink, Miss South Town, La Tuna, as well as groups like the Underground FIlm Festival (which has changed it's name for the second time -- and really, Adam, what's up with that?), the Alamo City Roller Girls, and on and on. If I'm feeling frisky I might lob some over-ripe fruit at the two or three corporate assholes that weasel in (like Time-Warner Cable or Ronald Fucking McDonald) -- so, if you're local, and programed into my cell-phone, don't be surprised if you get a call requesting some fast cash motored over to the Bexar County courthouse.


Wednesday Pete called me up and said he and Lisa were heading out of town and could I look after their birds.

Well, sure. I don't want them starving or anything.

"Great," he said. "I'll head on over and drop them off."

"What? Today?"

"Sure. They're little birds. You won't even hear them."

Okay. Hummingbirds are quiet. These are parakeets. Or something like that. And they like to wake up early. But not me.


Oh well. It's my job to keep them alive until Pete and Lisa return.

Pete did have the presence of mind to tell me that one of the birds (for reasons he did not go into) was missing a foot. It still seems to flit around and perch and so on with no real problem. But I'm glad he told me. Because I could easily see some sort of I Love Lucy sit-com scenario where I suddenly notice the peg-legged bird and rush out to buy one that looks close enough to it and switch them. And then, what would I have done with the footless bird? Well, I guess I'll never know.


"Yeah. What's up, hon?"

"This bird's grown back it's foot."

"Naw. Erik probably just stuck some toothpicks on it. Look for the staple. I thought I told him all about it."


What I first mistook for some fireworks or miscellaneous Fiesta sounds tonight, I eventually came to realize was the sounds of a serious thunderstorm moving into town. And then it all just started coming down. First some eyeball-sized hail. And then sheets of rain. I stepped out on my porch and watched Hope and her kids across the street scurrying around to get the Fiesta decorations on their porch out of the rain.

After about an hour of rain, hail, thunder, and lightening (I shut down my computer and unplugged my modem), I'm now wondering just how sad and bedraggled the neighborhood's Fiesta decorations are going to be looking in the morning?

Oh, well. I'd better set my alarm (even though I have birds) and see what's what in the morning.

Prosodic Padding

Posted on 2008.04.22 at 23:19

I'm not feeling very chatty tonight. But for some reason I'm up late. So, I've decided to subject my blog readers to three failed short stories (hell, maybe they are stories in progress -- things I'll finish one day). Enjoy these raw first draft stalled abortions I've created within the last month.




I didn't recognize Douglas at first. I was standing in front of a series of charcoal studies for the mural "Gods of the Modern World" at the San Antonio Museum of Art's show, "Orozco Framed, the Smaller Works of José Clemente Orozco," when some asshole dug his elbow into my side.

"What the fuck!"

"Man, don't be like that," replied a smirking middle-aged man in sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt for what I presume was a pop band that I wasn't hip enough to have heard of.

"Douglas! The hell you doing here?"

He gave me an awkward hug.

"Like you. Digging the art."

"No. What are you doing in San Antonio?"

"I do some web consulting. I'm here for some telecom company."

"Shit, I haven't seen you since .... Christ, it must have been about twenty years ago. You guys were opening for Dirk Autoclave and His Butterscotch Morsels."

A matronly woman was standing perilously close to us. I knew she was not really looking at the art. She had stumbled on a couple of corn-fed "characters" and she was going to hang onto every word, hoping we'd, I dunno, say something horrible.

"Yeah. That was at Ralph's. I was too wasted to play."

"Naw, you did fine. You guys should get back together again," I said, none too seriously.

I could tell Douglas had noticed the matron.

"We could open for Dirk again," he said.

"He still have his band?"

"Naw. Actually now he's calling himself Melvin von Tibia. He's wrangled a shitload of funding from the NEA for his new off-Broadway show, Buttplug, the Musical"

"No fucking way!" I said.

"Well, he sure as hell didn't get the grant with the current title." Douglas looked up, as though searching his memory. "He was shopping the thing around with the working title of Mister Persephone's Miscarriage -- changed it the second the check cleared."

At the moment, we both noticed that the older woman was nowhere to be seen.

Douglas used to wear a punky spiked haircut, dyed black. Now his natural dirty blond hair, long and held back with a rubberband, showed streaks of grey. He still wore the black Buddy Holly glasses.

At the moment I suspected that we had exhausted our repertoire of commonality. The past can be a sparsely populated realm with very thin air. But Douglas invited me to lunch.

"Saw a Greek place on my way here. Any good?"

"Yes, it is. Let's go."




It was early in the afternoon, and I was tooling around downtown San Antonio on my bike taking surreptitious photos of people lugging about obvious tourists items. You know: sombreros, Frida Kahlo mesh bags, lacquered maracas painted green and red, that sort of crap. I felt the beginnings of a sunburn spreading across my forehead, so I entered into the cool darkness of the Aztec Coffee Shop. A friendly boho sort of place, where they'd never raise an eyebrow if someone walked to the counter rolling a bicycle. I ordered a double cappuccino, paid, and took a seat at a little table near the wall beside a grouping a sofas gathered into a cozy rectangle. I leaned my bike against the wall, pulled my little laptop from my backpack, and plugged it into the wall outlet.

John Lydon croaked a song over the speakers in the ceiling. The girl who took my order -- Kelly, according to her name tag -- bobbed her head in time to the music as she worked the huge espresso machine. She might be new to the Aztec, but she was no stranger to this sort of work. It was just the two of us in the place. And then, Foster and Felipe, the owners, came out from the back office. We were all on nodding terms, and they might even know my name. And, in fact, they both nodded and smiled at me as they marched to a large painting hung on the wall back beside the performance stage.

The painting possessed an off-kilter oddness -- something painfully naive -- but nonetheless it struck me as quite beautiful ... and certainly it was very colorful. Even as far away as it was, I could make out a good deal of detail. It was very big.

"This is it!" said Felipe excitedly to Foster. He held up his hand like a game show girl.

"Wow," Foster said. He moved about like a large cat in the zoo sizing up a baby in a stroller. "Wow. This is something. Powerful." He turned to Felipe with a grin -- he even grinned my way. "I mean, wow! This was done by kids?"

"I guess they really liked the tour," Felipe said. He turned to me and raised his voice over the music for me. "This was done by the fourth grade English class from over at Edgar Allen Poe Elementary."

"I particularly like the portrait in the lower left corner," Felipe said. " Annabel Lee, I have to surmise. Such dynamism."

I had to look up from my computer. The huge mural of a painting featured, in the center, the planet Earth, floating in space. The title, written large above, asked for "Peace on Earth." And in the four corners were portraits of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and César Chávez (who, I should admit, I only recognized because he was wrapped in the UFW flag).

"What's wrong with you?" Foster asked, with an edge to his voice. "Can't you fucking recognize Mother Teresa?"

"Oh, yeah. I see it now. Because she's wearing a, um, one of those--"

"Habits. A nun's habit." Foster shook his head. He shot me a nervous smile -- one of those what-are-you-gonna-do looks. "What were you thinking?"

"It was many and many a year ago / In a kingdom by the sea / That a maiden there lived whom you may know / By the name of Annabel Lee."

"What the fuck are you on about?" Foster demanded, crossing his arms.

"It's Edgar Allen," Felipe said, turning with a smile to Foster. He reached out and tousled his partner's hair. "As in Poe, the elementary school."

The girl placed my coffee down on my table just as a Gang of Four song started up.

She paused for the eye contact to see if I needed anything else.

"Thanks," I muttered. Then: "Hey, you study the poetry of Poe in school?"

Kelley lifted heavy lids and gave me a soft smile. She looked over her shoulder at Foster and Felipe who were quietly and smilingly communing with the fourth grade mural. She tugged for a moment at the ring through her pierced eyebrow as she stared at the floor. And then with a sweeping angelic smile she whispered to me in a voice straight from the clipped and nasal diction of north west Texas.

"Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December / And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor." She paused with a frown. "And something about Night's Plutonian shore."

"They teach you that in Midland?"

"Abilene," was all she said, with a faux flirty smile, and then she was gone, to go wait on three men who had just entered.




I was sitting at my computer the other night furiously instant-messaging with a young French exchange student studying international law at St. Mary's University over on the west-side. If her photos posted on her website were to be believed, she fancied leather bustiers, combat boots, and colorful tattoos of retro robots and William Morris-style floral wallpaper patterns -- and that was just on the flesh which was demurely exposed for the photographs. She was conveying to me her favorite Fluxus filmmakers, and in my gushing response, I was doing my best to pepper my witticisms with the odd Gallic twist of phrase. My office is in a little nook off my kitchen, and at a crucial point my attention was shattered by the clatter of one of the half dozen empty beer cans lining the counter by my sink as it tipped over. It was those goddamn roaches partying on the previous nights dregs of Lone Star beer. In their inebriated shambling, they were making a racket. I was thinking to pull away from the keyboard just long enough to knock a few of the rascals to the linoleum and stomping them flat, but all I did was to inadvertently hit "send," and too late to pull it back from the cyber ether. At the moment of its vanishing, I realized I'd poorly conjugated a bon mot lifted from Rabelais' grand opus. I wasn't sure -- my French is really quite sad, and my comprehension of idiom (be it of the 16th century, or today's) is practically nonexistent. I'm not sure, but I think I called her a "cunt" -- but, you know, in French. And is that really a bad thing?

"Oh, dear me," was her fast response. "Beast = you." And as I was frantically composing a cockroach-free excuse, she added: "OMG! Roommate needs computer. Later later gator!"

And she logged off. I shot to my feet and turned my rage on the roaches. But their blunder with the can had spooked them. Like seasoned soldiers at the Battle of the Somme, they were waiting me out in the narrow spaces behind the upper cabinets or under the sink lurking in the shadows of the cleaning supplies I never used and the plastic gallon of white vinegar I don't even know why I own. But then -- aha! -- I saw one still on the counter. He had been hunkered down under my little espresso machine, but I could see his little butt sticking out.

"You cocksucker!"

I lifted up the coffee maker and the critter would have yipped had he been so endowed. Instead, he bolted for a crevice where the ceramic tile of the counter meets the wall. I stymied him with my hand and he pivoted and scurried straight towards me and leaped to the floor. Ha! Just where I wanted him. I savagely stomped down with my Converse All-Stars three times, in quick succession. Dammit! The little feller had certainly gotten a snootful of cheap American beer, because he was weaving and skittering all over the place -- flushed with adrenaline and alcohol, he was a zippy and unpredictable target. He made it to the safe haven beneath the water heater.

Jesus! What am I doing with my life? It struck me that this living hand-to-mouth was wearing thin on me. Sure, I was expecting a small but useful check from my last gig in the mail in three or four days. But as things stood at the moment, I had two choices on how to spend the last five dollars in my pocket. A six pack of tallboys, or some roach poison. Of course, there was no doubt as to what my decision would be. And I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Suzette573 wasn't actually a playful kohl-eyed 24 year old grad student from Lyon who was living just a few zip codes away from me, but, instead, some fat forty-year-old pervert living in his mother's basement in Norman, Oklahoma.

So, the next morning when I was woken by my cell phone at eleven o'clock with the promise of a job, I heaved myself to my feet and grabbed a pen and some paper.

It was Sandy, a woman who worked the phones for Travis County Extra Casting. I'd signed up for them maybe two years ago when an actor friend of mine started getting loads of extra work up in Austin. What with the rising gas prices, the overhead travel expenses made their 50 to 100 dollars a day somewhat less inviting seeing I would have to drive over a hundred miles. So I placed a tick on the form that I was only interested in work in the San Antonio area. And I never heard back from them. Well, until now.

Sandy said she needed people, and she needed them fast. Three days, a hundred dollars a day. Starting this afternoon. San Antonio, she quickly clarified.

"Time and place," I said, doing my best to inject a smile into my voice. "And how shall I dress?"

Sandy gave me the particulars. She told me who the on-set contact was. Some guy named Davis. I was to be at the San Antonio Zoo by two in the afternoon. Casual dress, like what I would wear were I taking a child to the zoo.

"They'll write you a check for a hundred dollars at the end of each of the three days," she said. "Two p.m. until two a.m."

I thanked her and staggered into the bathroom for a shower.


For those very bored intrepid souls who've read this far down the page, I have only one thing to say:

Get off the fucking computer!

Later later ....

Stink Bug on Guano

Posted on 2008.04.20 at 01:34

My latest NetFlix arrived this afternoon. For some reason I had never gotten around to seeing Living in Oblivion. It's one of these movies about making movies that everyone who has seen has loved. Especially if they've ever worked in production.

I'd put it off because I'd assumed it was just goofy fluff. I think the problem is that I confused it with another movie about making movies, The Big Picture by Christopher Guest (which I have just placed in the NetFlix hopper, to arrive in good time to my front porch).

Tom DiCillo directed Oblivion, and if someone had explained that he was the DP for Stranger than Paradise, I might not have put off seeing this film for long. Also, I had not known that it starred Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, and Dermot Mulroney.

It's definitely worth watching, and I expect I'll see more of DiCillo's work. But if you just read the comments on IMDB it sounds like fucking Shakespeare. And I think the reason is that with the digital revolution and the explosion of film schools, a significant percentage of serious movie watchers have, at some time or another, worked on a film set. And Living in Oblivion does a solid job of delivering the verisimilitude of what it's like on a movie set. One of the highlights is Dermont Mulroney as the director of photography who wears a beret and a leather vest without a shirt. We've all worked with someone like that ... or someone who wants to be like that.

Apparently the piece began as a 30 minute short, but everyone enjoyed the experience so much, that they tracked down more funding and extended it into a feature.

There's a great establishing scene that opens the piece. It's 4:30 in the morning. Two production assistants are loading up the craft service table with stale cookies a handful of grapes, and a carafe of coffee. No one else has arrived yet. One of them opens a half gallon carton of milk and gives it a sniff.

"I think this milk's gone bad."

"When did you get it?"

"That can't be it. I just bought it Tuesday. Wait -- what's today?"




Someone finally snagged the recliner that had been dumped in front of my house. That took a good three or four days. And I can't imagine it was an easy task to haul it into the pickup truck. The deluge the other night must have soaked it with a good thirty pounds of water.

This week is bulky trash pick up. It comes to my neighborhood maybe twice a year. And always the week proceeding the King William Parade. The neighborhood commission doesn't want anyone to have some lame reason why their yard or curb is filled with unsightly crap as the parade with all the public officials and the media comes tromping down our streets.

This means that the enterprising trash pickers are cruising the neighborhood looking for the tasty morsels to snatch from the mounds of brush and household refuse. I don't mind this -- I'm a supporter of the time honored scavenging arts. But it does create a maddening bottleneck with all the trucks inching along the street -- the drivers hopeful, discerning.

But it's not just the residential neighborhoods. For some reason I have been seeing people's shit dumped out along the Mission Trail where I ride my bike. This was out on Villamain along the railroad tracks between Missions Espada and San Juan.


Next, I stopped to inspect the Bridge to Nothing. The location for a Carlos Pina short film of the same name. It's a decommissioned bridge that spans a little canal that shunts off the San Antonio River. It's a cool location, and I was thinking if it might lend itself to an upcoming dance video. It's filled with aesthetic potential, but I came to the conclusion that it won't do for the performance.


There's another place I want to scout as a location. It's a much larger decommissioned bridge. You can see it from up on I-37 as you head north from the Alamodome. It's on the eastside. If I wasn't still fighting this damn cold, I might have cycled over to the place. But, instead, after coming home from my more humble bike ride, I got on my computer and used Google Maps to get a satellite shot down on the bridge. And then I thought maybe I'd try the "street view" setting. I'd tried this before, but wasn't able to get it to do much.

Wow! It's working great now. After cruising around the closed off ramps to the eastside bridge (360 degree street-level photos), I headed over to check out my block.

The Google photo truck had obviously come down my street around Halloween. The Witte's house and the Cortes' house are both festooned with loads of fake spider webs. With no little trepidation I rotated around to look at my house, fearful that I'd be sitting on my porch and picking my nose. But I was nowhere to been seen. My truck wasn't even in the drive.

There's actually a way to cruise down the photographed streets. All I did was to use the arrows on my keyboard. It's not a fluid movement, but it's a rough approximation.


I found this on my windshield early this evening as I was heading out to the grocery store. Some fucking bird had perched in the pecan tree above my truck and took a dump on my windshield. And for some reason this stink bug couldn't keep away.


I call this piece Stink Bug on Guano.

Look for my entire guano series at the finer digital photo galleries this coming First Friday

Masked Girls Evaporating into the Crowds

Posted on 2008.04.19 at 23:17

Friday felt like a Saturday. Not because my lifestyle allows much for a differentiation of weekend and weekday. The disparity was in the people around me.

Thursday night, after closing up a project at the Company, I got on the highway to head home. Around 9:30, while on the road, I got a text message on my cell phone from Dar. She said that she would be meeting at 10:30 with Sam and Russ to talk about the upcoming shoot days for the remainder of the SAL Film Fest promo pieces. If I could make it, they'd be at Joey's on N. St. Mary's.

These are people who work real jobs. And here they were having a production meeting at 10:30. At a bar. On a Thursday night.

I showed up just as Russ was pulling into the parking-lot. Once we entered, I realized I'd been to Joey's before, with Kat, my dominatrix friend. Sam and Dar soon joined us. Sam popped for the "first pitcher of beer." And I then realized that the reason we were meeting at this time was because Sam had just gotten off work. He was still wearing a shirt that had the name of the news station he shoots for.

I think we made some headway. Sam seems convinced that the rest of the scenes can be hammered out during two long days of shooting. Sounds ambitious, but I'm game.


The following day, Friday, I attended a Texas Filmmakers Production Fund grant-writing seminar at San Antonio College. For some inexplicable reason, it was held at three o'clock on a Friday afternoon. This is rarely a problem for me -- I have a fairly open and drifty schedule. But some people actually have jobs. However, Dar and Andy made it. As well as Russ. Lee. And Pete (who was hiding the exposed scalp of a recent and extreme haircut) ... although Pete has a schedule almost as fluid as my own.

Looking at the greater picture, Friday might have been a weekday, but it marked the official beginning of Fiesta. And we here in San Antonio know that all rules of social order (like showing up for work) are out the window for the ten days of high octane partying.

In fact, earlier Friday afternoon, I was down at the performance hall in La Villita helping URBAN-15 decorate the place for their Incognito event -- an annual fundraiser held on the opening night of Fiesta. It's a masquerade party with music by URBAN-15 as well as Brave Combo.


So, after a couple hours decorating the 50 something tables, I left to the TFPF seminar at SAC. Afterwards, I headed to Tito's for a very late lunch. I'd cajoled Russ to meet me. And while I sipped their great coffee, I noticed a familiar young man paying at the register with a friend of his.

It was Sterling Abrigo, a young local filmmaker. I believe he's a student at Brackenridge High School, down at the end of my street. But he also attends the art programs over on the westside with San Anto Cultural Arts. There, with the guidance of Manny, Payan, and Pocha Pena, he's worked on some impressive and solid pieces of video work. San Anto's SAMMI (San Anto Multi Media Institute) has produced some slick documentary work concerning the San Antonio art scene, under the umbrella title of San Anto TV.

I asked what he's been up to recently. He's still collaborating with fellow San Anto filmmaker Julian Moreno-Peña. "And I'm working on a musical," he said, with a noncommittal polite smile. I might have said something along the lines of "is that wise?" And I got a sense that his friend standing there with him was as doubtful as me. Of course, I hate musical. Well, most musicals. "What's it about?" I asked. Sterling smiled and looked off into the distance. "Well, that's a secret," he said in his quiet manner. But he did pitch me the story-line of another project he's working on, a short narrative with a sci-fi element.

The truth is, all those San Anto kids are worth paying attention to. And I will gladly give any musical a chance that Sterling has worked on.

I made it back to La Villita to volunteer for Incognito by about 8:15. I took the trolly, because parking downtown would no doubt be a bitch, what with Fiesta gearing up.

The place was filling up fast. George Cisneros was leading the URBAN-15 drummers like some post-modern Desi Arnez. I've said it before and I'll be saying it again. The URBAN-15 drummers might have an average age of 60, but they have a primitive industrial sound that could easily compete with Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten, or the Swans. And they have no problem getting people of all ages and backgrounds out onto the dance floor.



My station for a couple of hours was in this tiny box office with one of the URBAN-15 dancers whose name now eludes me. We didn't have much time to chat. Our job was to sell tickets which the patrons would use to exchange for drinks and snacks. We were constantly taking money. And loads of it. I don't know how much URBAN-15 paid for a single-event liquor license, but I'd have to say it was money wisely spent.

I tried my best to enjoy the show from my little box.


After we were relieved by the next shift, I wandered around taking pictures and talking to the people I recognized. The problem in attending masked balls while not wearing a mask, is that people come up to you and greet you effusively and anonymously, and, as suddenly, they evaporate into the crowd. And then there's that: "Wait wait who was that girl?" And the moment is lost forever.

Rough stuff.

Gabriel Velasquez (architect, DJ, CALO founder, etc.) was there as the master of ceremonies. I also saw Ramon Juan Vasquez (poet and head of the AIT-SCM). I have no trouble identifying them because they weren't wearing masks.

Brave Combo launched into their own brand of cross-cultural party music. It has evolved quite a bit from their earlier designation of "nuclear polka" of their quasi-fame in the '80s. In fact, the last time I saw this band play live (and they always introduce themselves as a band from Denton, Texas) was for a birthday party for the artist Albert Scherbarth. I was living in a stark 6000 square foot loft in the Continental Gin Company building in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. And I was coaxed down to Albert's ground floor space from my third floor cavern by the raucous polka beat and the promise of free beer.

Sadly, Brave Combo aren't near as wonderfully sloppy and playful and captivating as they once were, but they still can control a crowded hall. Besides, they have recorded a slew of brilliant albums over the decades, freely embracing a multi-cultural experimental agenda.

Here we have Catherine Cisneros oblivious of the camera I'm sticking in her face. Maybe she's just ignoring me.


And here we have Michelle, still smiling after an hour or so of dancing with the rest of the URBAN-15 dance troupe.


I finally decided to walk back home around eleven or so. It was a nice night with a full moon. The bars down on S. Alamo were not as crowded as I would have expected on a Friday night, let alone the first day of Fiesta. Maybe the people of this city are pacing themselves -- though that seems unlikely.

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