Friday, January 13, 2006

Austin City Limits

The title of this post is the name of a TV series that carries live music from Austin, Texas. I have been watching the show for the last twenty years; they cover some terrific and eclectic performers. I have been introduced to some great music on “Austin City Limits”.

What follows are some random thoughts from Austin

…This is a great place to be if you’re hungry! The Beef BBQ and Tex/Mex that they have here is like nothing else I’ve ever had. If you get the chance, the Iron Works is the place for BBQ! They have the typical signatures from famous fans of their food. Among these is a signed testimonial from President Bush (apparently he ate here a lot when he was Governor of Texas – the Capitol is only a few blocks away). The place is very rustic, with a rough wood floor and a pot-belly stove in the middle of the dining area. I’m partial to pork barbeque, being form the Southeast, but I went with the beef since I was in Texas. The spare rib was as big as my forearm and it was incredible! They had a spicy sauce and I downed it all with Lone Star beer. Chuy’s is the spot for Tex/Mex…This is where the Bush daughters got busted for drinking. The place has a tacky “Elvis” theme and it was a lot of fun! They had hot chips and we got something called “Chuy Goouie” to go with them (it’s like Con Quesa, but with ground beef, Jalapeno, and other stuff thrown in). They had every kind of Enchilada known and we ate until we couldn’t move! Then we danced until we were ready to pass out.

…This is a college town. Everyone seems to be about twenty and is outside…kayaking on the river…jogging on the river-front trails…clubbing at the bars…catching the live music. The University of Texas “Longhorns” won the National College Football Championship the week before I got here and the place is still celebrating. Everyone is wearing burnt-orange and they all seem to be on a perpetual high.

…did I mention the live music??! WOW, we went out on our first night here and caught three of the best Blues bands I have ever heard at little 30 seat clubs. I listened to the band Nickel Creek doing songs from their new CD at another club. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city this small with such a great live music scene. You can see bands here that are as good as anything you’ll get in New York or LA.

…if there’s one drawback, it’s the lack of scenery. This part of Texas looks like some of the rural parts of Florida, where I grew up. I think they call it Chaparral out here, but the terrain is flat and the heat keeps the trees from being the deep green that I’m used to in Pennsylvania. I know people who love the beauty of the desert or the coast, but I don’t think I could ever live too far away from the forested mountains of New England.

I could never live in Austin, or any part of Texas, but I understand why they are so proud of their home and I am always happy to come back here to visit. Texas is FUN if nothing else. If you get a chance, do yourself a favor and come out here…bring your appetite.

Best! Norm.

The Waiting Game

I am in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport on a 2-hour layover on my way to Austin, Texas. It seems to me that an airport is a lot like the door to your home… it’s a place of transition. Granted, an airport is a BIG door, DFW is as large as a small city and you spend a lot of time waiting between here and there. Of course, there have been many times when my view of an airport is blurred as I rush to catch the next flight. More often, I find myself as I am today with time to reflect in this place of transition (while sitting on an incredibly uncomfortable chair). The airport reminds me that I spend a lot of my life waiting.

I am better at waiting than I used to be. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my getting older, but I also sense that there’s more to it. I am much less aggressive about my plans and desires than I once was. I think that I have gained some perspective on myself. What I want and what I do is very unimportant. The part of me that belongs to something bigger has nothing to do with my intellect or my accomplishments.

I have been a cold and egotistical man for most of my life. I am a good man and I’ve never done anything to cause pain or suffering to anyone, but I’ve also been a largely uncaring and judgmental man. I have left many to their own troubles and I have often judged people by the capability of their intellect. It doesn’t matter to me anymore how smart some one is…my criteria for judgment has changed to the content of someone’s heart and character. I have been too proud of my capabilities, which are a gift that I did nothing to earn, and not focused enough on my compassion for others, which is the only gift of lasting value that I have to offer. In the end, no one will care what I did or accomplished. I used to be in a hurry to establish my legacy…to leave something behind…to accomplish something important. The only legacy that I worry about anymore is the amount of love and compassion that I can share with others on this journey. There’s really no rush anymore. My work here is in the journey…not in the destination.

There was a small family of Mexicans on the flight in from Philadelphia. Among them was a mother with a daughter of about 4 years. The girl was restless on the long flight and began crying. I could tell that the mother was worried about her daughter disturbing me and the other passengers that were close to her. I turned and smiled at the girl and we spoke about her visit to Pennsylvania and her home in Mexico. Soon, she was smiling and we talked on and off for the rest of the long flight. At one point, the mother looked at me and I could see how grateful she was of my minor kindness to her daughter. What I need to do now is extend my kindness to patience with those who can be frustrating to deal with in my daily life…to give people a bit of a break. I haven’t always been very good about this, but I’m getting better and I realize now how important it is for me to be more tolerant. It’s not easy to change, but I think I’m making good progress and know that the way I think has changed…that I look at things and people differently than I once did.

So I wait…it occurs to me that waiting is a big part of my life. I think what matters is what I do while I wait.

Best! Norm.