10 Things You Need to Know About Winter in Austin

 

Austin, weather, winterIf you are new to Austin, you might not be familiar with our winter ways. Never fear, because I am here to help. When the local forecast calls for snow, that means there’s a 97% chance it won’t snow. Regardless, I would encourage you to prepare for a natural disaster, because at a certain point, whether or not it snows becomes irrelevant. The National Weather Service has nudged the snow cornice, and it’s too late to stop the impending avalanche.

Here’s what you should expect in the coming days:

  1. Children will stay up all night looking out their windows for signs of snow.
  2. Adults will stay up all night looking at their weather apps for signs of snow.
  3. Parents and children alike will study the local news stations with fingers crossed, waiting to hear if school will be cancelled. It should be noted that parents’ fingers may be crossed for different reasons than those of their children.
  4. Local meteorologists across all networks will experience a phenomenon known as a “snowgasm.” If the weather makes national news, prepare for multiple snowgasms.
  5. All the grocery stores will run out of everything. If you choose to stock up on supplies for the 3% chance of waking up with a thin layer of frost on your windshield, I recommend wearing protective gear. It can get pretty ugly in the toilet paper aisle.
  6. If it rains but does not freeze, people will pretend the rain is sleet and drive accordingly.*
  7. Plan on recording all your favorite TV shows, as they will be preempted by local news stations showing off their latest ice graphics.
  8. In the unlikely chance it snows, you will want to dust off all your winter gear, including (but not limited to) coats, boots, moisture-wicking long underwear, neck gators, face masks, snowshoes, snow blowers, St. Bernards and plastic trays (for sliding down Murchison hill).
  9. If you hail from the south, be sure to investigate the brick-lined hole in the wall where you store your scented candles and National Geographic magazines. There’s a strong possibility this is a fireplace. I highly recommend searching online for instructions on how to use it, because anyone from Austin who claims to know how to work one of those things is a liar. (I’m pretty sure there’s something called a flue that you’re supposed to close up tight to keep all the warmth in, but you should probably call your cousins in New Jersey just to be safe.)
  10. Make a giant batch of chili (with beans).**
snow, Austin, weather, winter, swimming pool

Me with my sister and a snowman, circa 1977.

So if you find yourself confused about what to do to prepare for the upcoming disappointment we locals call a “snow day,” feel free to contact me at any hour. I’m sure to be awake, waiting for snow.


*Sometimes the only way to tell if the terrible drivers around you are responding to rain, snow, ice, pollen, pet dander or asphalt under their tires is to check out the facial expressions of the children in the back seat.

**It has been brought to my attention that Texans do not believe in putting beans in chili. Before things get ugly, let me clarify. I meant to suggest that beans would induce tooting, which would warm both you and your loved ones. In retrospect, it was offensive of me to suggest such a crude act. Mixing chili and beans is blasphemous in these parts. Separation of church and state might not be important to Texans, but goddamnit, don’t you go putting beans near my chili. Oh, and farting on your loved ones isn’t nice—it’s hilarious.

10 Things

  1. Rerun is the gold standard of dreams.Cooking spray is not an effective alternative to furniture polish.
  2. If you dream that Rerun from What’s Happening has a side business as a yacht captain/puppy salesman, you are probably lactose intolerant.
  3. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make lousy throw pillows.
  4. The gunk living up inside your electric toothbrush probably isn’t black mold, but it’s not supposed to be there.
  5. Using hair as a napkin is unproductive and attracts bees.
  6. Darting outside to get the mail in your PJs and zit cream is a gamble not worth taking.
  7. Chewing 17 pieces of gum in a row is surprisingly unsatisfying.
  8. Pets need to be fed every day even if you don’t feel like it.
  9. Moving your dead plants indoors during a freeze to alleviate your guilt won’t bring them back to life.
  10. If your spouse purchases the extended warranty for your new laptop, it doesn’t mean he can’t trust you around technology. It means he can’t trust you around gravity.

Heavy Metal & Awkward Prose

My good pal, Julie Gomoll, recently introduced me to a cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, The Sound of Silence (video below). This unexpectedly beautiful interpretation by heavy metal band, Disturbed, took my breath away. I’m not a huge fan of metal, but this haunting version was worthy of multiple listens, which triggered a memory I’ve kept stored in a cardboard box since 1983.

My 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Khouri, was a cool cat whose unique superpower was his ability to make poetry interesting to a room full of angsty teenagers—no small feat. He treated us like adults and earned our respect by speaking to us in language we could understand; sometimes that language was music.

Hubba-hubba!Since a thoughtful investigation into the deeper meanings behind Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher seemed inappropriate, we went back in time to find a song resembling poetry. To a bunch of 15-year-olds, anything further back than 1980 was as distant as William Blake, so Mr. K had plenty of options. He decided The Sound of Silence was a worthy challenge and asked us to interpret it. (If you’re into trite student essays, scroll down for a real treat.) Thanks to my mom’s excellent record collection,* I was already familiar with the song but hadn’t really considered its meaning.

This morning I dug up that assignment and was surprised to find a prophetic, if overly dramatic and awkwardly written, paper. Embarrassing melodrama and repetitive content aside, the thing that sticks out most is how weirdly current it seems. It could have been written by a technology-savvy kid today (hopefully one with a more extensive vocabulary and fewer clichés).

Grody to the max

This, but with more chewed gum and body odor

Keep in mind, I wrote this before cell phones and Facebook. Tweeting was bird-speak, and the library card catalog was years away from being replaced by Google.** When we weren’t in school, our parents had no idea where we were or what we were doing, unless we checked in by payphone—a hazardous act akin to French kissing the outbreak monkey.

My question is this: What technology was I referring to in my paper? Touchtone phones? VHS recorders? The Space Shuttle…? And if Teen Weenie’s interpretation of The Sound of Silence is accurate, what technology were Paul and Art referring to in 1964? Color TV? Cassette players? Valium…? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe I’ll ask my mom.

Next time on Weenie Writes: Ilene reflects on her essay about George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. (No, I’m not kidding. I still have that one too, and it’s just as bad… maybe worse.)


*For any youngsters who may be reading this, a record is like a very large, round iPod that spins on a DJ’s turntable—only without the DJ or ecstasy-laced lollipops.

**Again, for the Millennials: A library card catalog is basically the Internet in drawers.

The Sound of Silence, by Disturbed:

 

Embarrassing 9th grade essay (two pages, click for larger versions):

Angst-O-Rama

More angst

 

I Am a Stupid A**hole

You know those life moments when you have the sudden realization that you are a stupid asshole? I recently had one of those moments, and it was a doozie.

A little backstory…

After college, I spent a couple of hazy years living in Vail, Colorado. Like a lot of young locals, I held multiple jobs in order to make ends meet and afford a ski pass for the season. In addition to several positions in the service industry, I was a graphic designer for The Vail Daily. This was back when graphic designers did pasteups the old fashioned way—with actual paste. I did everything from producing ads for local ski shops to laying out the Sunday comics with a ruler and hot wax (a project worthy of its own blog post).

One of my assignments was to design a feature graphic for a story about a cartoonist who was visiting the area at the time. I assembled a montage using various characters from the artist’s comic strip but was too busy monitoring the snow report to bother reading the column.

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How the Sausage is Made

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I wasn’t trained as a illustrator and certainly had no intention of becoming a cartoonist, but  sometimes things happen and you find yourself alone in the dark trying to draw a poodle in a bee costume.

I’m often asked if my cartoons are hand drawn. Since my hand has evolved into a mutant gripper claw, capable only of wrapping itself around a computer mouse or coffee cup, I am forced to create my cartoons on the computer with drawing software. The beauty of the software is it allows me to recycle elements quickly and easily. Once I finalize a character/object/facial expression, I can cut and paste that sucker all over the place.

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This Ain’t No Laughing Matter

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Most folks forget there was a time when the state of Texas wasn’t such a punchline, but lately a cowgirl can’t cross the road without stepping in a political cow patty.

Lowlights of the past few years include the cop who violently broke up a suspicious swimming ring and that city manager in Austin who hired a trainer to school staff on how to deal with women and their crazy math issues. Speaking of crazy, let’s not forget everyone’s favorite defenders of women’s rights, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry.

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Grandma Shirley and Me

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In the wake of my grandmother’s death, many of the comments on my Facebook page offered this traditional Jewish condolence: “May her memory be a blessing to you.” Less than 24 hours after her passing, Grandma Shirley’s memory is already a blessing; a very well dressed, outspoken blessing. And it’s pushing a vacuum cleaner.

Bitch with a capital B.

Teen Weenie, circa 1984

As a kid, my relationship with Grandma Shirley wasn’t so much a loving bond as it was a battle of wills: She willed me to behave, and I responded with willful disobedience. If Shirley was the hammer, I was that annoying little nail, forever slipping out of grasp and bending sideways—impossible to control.

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I Was a Six Year Old Feminist

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When we were very young, my little sister and I would drop off our “babies” at “daycare” with my mom. Then we’d go to our women’s lib meetings, where we marched around the living room, raising fists and chanting, “Women’s… women’s… womennnnn’s… WOMEN’S LIB!” There we were—two little Jewish girls holding a fascist rally for feminism—while our mom sat in the other room with our dolls, laughing her ass off.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thanks for making me into the weirdo I am today.

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What Nightmares Are Made Of

A while back, Tolly Moseley sent out a tweet that really hit home: Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 3.58.07 PM

Few things are more horrifying than the thought of someone going through my search history. Nobody needs to know of my morbid fascination with people who hide bodies in their homes.

Like many humans in the digital age, I spend a lot of time online—usually looking for answers to questions I wouldn’t have bothered asking before the internet was invented. It’s not that I didn’t have questions in the past; I just wouldn’t have cared enough to go searching for answers.

How to Squander Your Life Away in One Easy Step:

Here are a few examples from my search history to illustrate just how thoroughly I’ve wasted my time on this planet so far. In order to keep my blog PG-13, these examples are more uninspired than horrifying, but they serve to reflect the sad state of affairs inside my mind.

Finding answers used to be hard. Really hard. You had to know somebody, maybe make a few phone calls or (god forbid) go to the library. What would happen if rather than reaching for my phone or iPad to look something up, I paused to ask myself if I would bother researching this topic if I had to do so the old fashioned way. If I were to stop using my laptop as a Magic 8 Ball, I’d estimate a productivity increase of approximately 40,000 percent.

So what does this mean for the big picture? It means that over the past 12 months alone, I could have written a couple of books, produced daily content for all of my blogs, read several dozen novels, learned Japanese, exercised, cleaned my house and earned a degree in astrophysics.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for less technology—that would be crazy. Technology is today’s key to discovery, and I like to consider myself the Nikola Tesla of useless knowledge. That being the case, if the technology for instant gratification didn’t exist, would I really take the time to research urban sinkholes and narwhal mating habits?

You bet your ass I would.