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Backyard bliss ...


I'm in the backyard right now, on the porch. It's a little late, about 11 p.m. on a Monday night. All the neighbors are asleep, or doing things in the dark; My backyard borders seven properties; they've all got their outside lights on, but everything else is quiet and black.

I put on some torches and brought a beer with me. Winamp is on, so I'm hearing all the music I bothered to move onto the laptop. It's like Omar's Subconscious' Greatest Hits. Every song has an association; each selection was deliberate, and when they play like this, scattered and randomed up, it sends my brain ricocheting in interesting directions. It's good for writing, most of the time.

The view at dusk from the backyard.

I hear something rustling just out of my line of vision in the backyard. That's a little scary. I haven't put any good lights out here beyond the porch, so everything is a pitch-black area of darkness. I think it's a cat over there, scratching into the yard. We have a lot of strays around here. They make the cats inside my house nuts. Cosa and Oscar will get up against the windows and pull down the closed blinds, hissing at the wandering outlaws who have all the freedom they don't. Of course, three months ago, my cats were lucky to have air conditioning when all the other cats were hiding under sheds and in the storm drains trying not to have their fur catch fire.

Right now is good. There've been some dicey moments over the last few weeks. A few friends of mine lost family members. It's been tough. I never really know what to say; I've only had death come near my door once or twice; I try to imagine that maybe these friends of mine want a little normalcy. I try to say something funny or make conversation or just let them know that I'm here; that I'm a phone call or an e-mail away if they need me.

There was a sketch we were rehearsing for the Seattle Sketchfest that I was stressed about. I couldn't get my lines down. I couldn't find a character. We had one disastrous rehearsal where the sketch fell apart and it was all because I didn't have my stuff together. It was nauseating. I stressed myself out the next few days willing my brain to absorb the script. I sat in my car for an hour one night before rehearsal just saying the words over and over. We ran it a few times and it was a lot better. But for an entire week, I had that sketch on my shoulders, clasped on like a mean, tenacious parrot.

Tomorrow, Smallville starts up and I'll be doing recaps again for the second season. I missed it. I went back and looked over a few recaps and I guess I was so wrapped in my vacation that I forgot how much fun those can be to write; that huge feeling of accomplishment when you finish a recap and see it posted.

Lately I've felt really tired and run down. I got rest and some exercise this weekend, but like a lot of people in Austin, I felt like total crap today. Headache, fatigue, achy bones. It was awful. I wanted to go home all day from work, but I'd already left early a few times last week, so I didn't want to be Late Arrival, Early Departure Guy. So I stuck it out, but I just felt like boulders were coming out of the huge monitor at my desk and pounding me in the eyes.

Despite this, despite today, tonight is fine. Tonight is good. It's breezy and cool. October is almost here and it's my absolute favorite time to be in Austin. For just a few weeks, the heat goes away and you can sit on your back porch and just enjoy the air.

It got to us a little early this year; bonus nights and weekends on our Austin airflow plan.

Things will get really busy tomorrow with the recapping. And this last weekend was about catching up on old business, doing the lawn, running errands, paying bills.

Right now, on a Monday night on my back porch, sitting alone with a beer, hearing the symphony of crickets surrounding me, letting Norah Jones do her thing despite the tinny laptop speakers, things just feel fine and still. Nothing in my life ever feels still. It's always moving too fast, galloping along, heading for some finish line that always feels slightly further away than the last time I looked.

But right now, it doesn't feel like it's 2 a.m. and I'm scrambling to meet a deadline. It doesn't feel like I'm spinning my wheels or wasting time, or playing yet another game of Madden 2003 online. It feels like I'm purposefully enjoying a rare moment that is stretching, rather than compressing.

Oh, by the way, the citronella torches and OFF mosquito coils? They work great. For mosquitos. But the gnats? Fucking forget about it. They keep flying onto my laptop screen. I've killed about 40 of them since I started writing this entry. My laptop screen has become a smeared, flat version of The Killing Fields.

I really like moments like this, gnats be damned. The still moments are eyes in the hurricane of my life. I know they'll only last a little while; before long I'll be stressed and irritable again.

What's best is when you realize those moments are happening. You don't look back later and wonder how you pissed that time away.



Got a call from Jeremy on a night very similar to this one, sitting on the back porch. He had just gotten back from his honeymoon: a cruise to the Bahamas.

He was telling me about all the food they ate and the snorkeling they did and how great it was.

And of course, I had to ask about the sex. Right then while his new wife was sitting next to him.

"So the sex -- it was good?"

And Jeremy had to act as if he was still talking about the cruise food.

"Yeah... Um, I gained six pounds."

"Did you do it in every room on the ship?"

"Oh, yeah, we ate all over the place."

"Yeah? Or at least in every part of the room?"

"Yeah, we, um ate great, sweaty food in every part of the room. Sometimes twice in a row."

And that's when I hear Katie yell, "What are you guys talking about!?"



Wrote a review of Margaret Cho's new movie, "Notorious C.H.O." The morning it ran in the paper, I got an e-mail from her manager, quoting the part about Janeane Garofalo. She said, "Yeah, but Margaret walks the walk."

I politely responded, but secretly thought, "What walk? Because she has lots of sex and then talks about it on stage? That's some sort of walk? Is it like the backward crab-crawl or something?"

But I digress.

Oh, by the way, if you saw the Emmys, I hope you'll all now agree that Conan O' Brien is a damned genius. Somebody needs to give that boy his own show.


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