Books, Piss, and Kneecaps: My First Month in Austin

This month marks 30 years living in Austin. Like many before and since, I moved here because of a girl.

After passing only three classes in two semesters, not surprisingly with A’s in both of my English classes and a B in political science, I wasn’t welcome back to the University of Houston. Nineteen, still living at home, working as a bookseller and a pizza delivery driver, and feeling adrift in Houston, something needed to change. Many of my high school friends had gone off to college or moved on to the next period in their lives. Perhaps most importantly, my high school sweetheart Sandy had moved away a year earlier to attend the University of Texas in Austin.

We started dating our junior year in high school and were practically inseparable for those two years. During that year apart, there were many trips to Austin. She lived that first year in the Castillan dorm and although she wasn’t supposed to have overnight guests, I spent many a night there. During that time we got engaged.

In late August 1997, I loaded all my meager belongings into my Jeep Eagle Wagon and moved to Austin. I borrowed some money to get an apartment on east Riverside in the same complex where Sandy now lived. That first week, I sold my car for $1400, which enabled me to pay back the loan, covered my first two months rent, and allowed for some food money while I looked for a job and acclimated to the city.

That first month I laid around my apartment a lot and read. Across the street was a used paperback bookstore, all books ranged from a quarter to a buck, depending on condition and original cover price. Over the next month or so, I was a regular customer. I don’t recall everything I read. I know there was a lot of Phil Dick, Michael Moorcock (probably read my first Cornelius and Von Beck stories), LeGuin, Chandler, Hammett, Heinlein, and many others. It’s when I developed my distaste for Norton, Asimov, and Tolkien.

My most memorable read of that month was The Mote in God’s Eye and not just because the Niven/Pournelle novel is a compelling read. I was two-thirds of the way into the classic, when I had to pee. I took my worn copy into the bathroom, which was SOP. As young men are apt to do, I stood to pee. I kept reading when the last third of the book decided to rebel, separating from its compatriots, and fell to a watery death in the toilet below. Disgusted with myself, I fished out the pee stained, water logged pages, threw them in a plastic bag, and returned to the bookstore. Thankfully they had another copy and I was able to finish. You’d think I learned my lesson but a similar thing happened a few months later with H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

Before I found a job, I dislocated my kneecap for the second time in 3 years. The first happened on the last day of school before summer break. I was 16 and working as a sacker for Randall’s. Paper bags, in the days before the rise of plastic, were delivered to the stores in large, heavy bundles, 25 bundles per pallet. When the bags arrived, several of the younger men were rounded up to unload the bundles. While lifting a bundle from a higher stack, I slipped between the slats of the pallet, dislocating my right patella. Up to this point in my life, I had several concussions, a shattered knee cap (on that same knee), and many stitches, but the pain associated with this injury was the most excruciating. The ride in the ambulance to hospital was no picnic either. Every bump sent jolts of pain.

The procedure for fixing a dislocated joint is relatively simple. The joint is popped back into place. But with me being a minor, the doctors weren’t allowed to even do that without permission from my guardian, never mind administer pain killers. At the time, portable phones were reserved for the uber-rich or science fiction. My mother had taken time off work to run an errand with my sister and couldn’t be reached. My aunt, who held documents giving her explicit instructions to act in my mom’s behalf in such matters, was MIA as well. I languished in the hospital, with a large bag of ice on my knee, for over two hours before my grandparents could be located to give permission. I really messed things up. I tore the tendon behind my leg. The doctors placed me in ankle to hip cast that I wore for most of the summer.

The second dislocation happened before a midnight screening of Heavy Metal on the UT campus. As Sandy and I took our seats, I slipped and the same knee popped out. Again another ambulance ride. This time since I was 19, they fixed me up right away, took some X-rays, gave me some painkillers, and sent me home. A week later I saw a doctor who informed me that no permanent damage was done but that I should be careful in the future since this likely would be a chronic issue. Thankfully, it’s never happened again though it acts up when rain is coming. Unlike the previous, the swelling was gone within two weeks and everything was back to normal.

While in the months and years that followed I met many important and interesting people, it was the unexpected re-connection with Dan Harris that was my first significant Austin friendship. Dan and I were tangentially associated since junior high. We shared the same best friend, but rarely spent time together beyond the occasional Dungeons & Dragons games. We didn’t even like each other all that much. But to be honest, we barely knew each other. Although we went to the same junior high, we didn’t go to high school together. I didn’t even know he was in Austin.

Sandy learned of a role playing group that met on the UT Campus. I walked into the meeting not knowing what to expect. There were tables with sign up sheets and lots of geeks standing around talking including Dan.

Since he was the only person in the room I knew, I approached him.

“Hi, Dan”

“I don’t go by that name anymore. I’m Asshole.”

This response shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Dan. A) that’s how his sense of humor works and B) he is an asshole.

After that rocky start, Asshole.. er.. Dan and I decided to sign up to be part of a D&D campaign. We ended up playing monthly with that same group of guys for five years or so.

Turned out that Dan lived just around the corner from me. Thanks to our joint geek interests and proximity, we started hanging out. A year later we moved in together and have been friends ever since.

Dan introduced me to the cyberworld and the communities within. My comfort with social media and, though I was introduced to it years later, Linux are directly attributable to those early years.

Ironically, neither Dan or I are friends with that best friend anymore.

By the end of September with my financial resources dwindling, I finally got a job at Bookstop. Though I had sold books briefly while in Houston, this new experience lead to my lifelong vocation. But that’s a story for another time.

The Other Worlds Austin 2016 preview Day 4

Design by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

Design by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

After two successful years, the Other Worlds Austin scifi film festival returns this Thursday, December 1st, in new digs (Flix Brewhouse) and with an additional day. The now four day event has grown to include 18 full length films, a slew of of shorts, and an appearance by B-movie legend Sybil Danning, the late Dan O’Bannon’s wife Diane O’Bannon, and others. Not terribly surprising to anyone who regularly follows my writings, I’m covering the event.

Here’s what to expect at Other Worlds Austin 2016.

 

Sunday, December 4

 

12:20 PM SCIFI SHORTS 2 – TOMORROW’S HEARTS BROKEN TODAY

Stripes (Texas Premiere)
Tibo Pinsard | France | 4 min
Writer: Tibo Pinsard

Another first date gets hijacked by two people unable to get past their own masks.

Memoir (Texas Premiere)
Alexander Jeffery | USA | 17 min
Writer: Paul Petersen

Dr. Theodore Maine is on the cusp of losing his job at Janus Labs where he is developing research for Alzheimer’s treatment, until a mysterious child arrives to change his future forever.

RAE (Texas Premiere)
Aaron Rovner | USA | 13 min
Writer: Aaron Rovner

When an office robot gives a co-worker a friendly gift, the fragile balance between the employees in the office is pushed to a tipping point.

Una Mujer Sin Precio 1961 [A Priceless Woman]
(Texas Premiere)

Juan F. Moctezuma II | Mexico | 15 min
Writer:  Juan F. Moctezuma II

When a perfectionist scientist loses his wife to a car accident, he builds a robotic version to replace her, in this newly restored classic from the missing genre trailblazer, presented by documentarian Alaric Rocha.

 The Lost City Of Tomorrow  

Auden Bui | Canada | 16 min
Writer: Auden Bui

Sent to shut down a floating film archive orbiting high above Earth, a bureaucrat meets an android caretaker whose love of film makes him almost more human than his counterpart.

Beautiful Dreamer
David Gaddie | USA | 26 min
Writers: David Gaddie, Steven Kelleher, & Ken Liu

Facing a terminal disease, a mother uses space travel and relativity to stretch her last two years over the lifetime of her baby daughter, building a relationship despite the longing and estrangement that mark seeing each other only once every seven years.

 

12:45 PM STILLE RESERVEN [HIDDEN RESERVES]

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Valentin Hitz | Austria | 96 min

Writer: Valentin Hitz
Cast:  Clemens Schick, Lena Lauzemis, Daniel Olbrychski, & Marion Mitterhammer

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With powerful companies running the Vienna of the not too distant future, only the privileged elite can afford death insurance. The rest suffer their corpses to be used long after their passing in life-support farms, until their debts are paid. When Insurance agent Vincent Baumann goes undercover to ‘sell’ activist Lisa Sokulowa on his services, he discovers a brewing revolution that may be worth cashing in his own policy.

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The Other Worlds Austin 2016 preview Day 3

Design by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

Design by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

After two successful years, the Other Worlds Austin scifi film festival returns this Thursday, December 1st, in new digs (Flix Brewhouse) and with an additional day. The now four day event has grown to include 18 full length films, a slew of of shorts, and an appearance by B-movie legend Sybil Danning, the late Dan O’Bannon’s wife Diane O’Bannon, and others. Not terribly surprising to anyone who regularly follows my writings, I’m covering the event.

Here’s what to expect at Other Worlds Austin 2016.

Saturday, December 3

11:30 AM UNDER WORLDS SHORTS

Blight (US Premiere)
Briane Deane | Ireland | 15 min
Writer: Matthew Roche

A young priest travels to an isolated island community to face a dark supernatural force that has consumed a young woman.

Girl #2 (Texas Premiere)

David Jeffery | USA | 9 min
Writer: Kari Wahlgren

Even with a deranged killer running rampant inside the house, the girls still vie for leadership in the sorority.

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Quenottes [Pearlies] (Texas Premiere)
Pascal Thiebaux, Gil Pinheiro | France/Luxembourg | 13 min
Writer: Pascal Thiebaux

In many cultures, the tooth fairy that brings you a coin in exchange for the tooth under your pillow is a benevolent little mouse.  But what if the teeth he collects are dental trophies, to be guarded at all costs?

Whit Spurgeon | USA | 4 min
Writer: Stephen Newman

In the middle of the night, things should be quiet. Sometimes things go thump.

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Nasty
Prano Bailey-Bond | UK | 15 min
Writer: Anthony Fletcher

Exploring the mysterious disappearance of his father, twelve-year old Doug is drawn into the lurid world of VHS horror ‘nasties,’ in Margaret Thatcher era UK.

Ángel Ripalda | Spain | 12 min
Writer: Santiago Manuel Taboada

Troubled at school, ten-year-old David complains he is not the one to be blamed for his mischief.  His father hires a specialist to discover the truth.

John the Carpenter
Matt Braunsdorf  | USA | 19 min
Writer: Matt Braunsdorf

After a car accident throws his sister Anna into conflict with a terrifying monster, John constructs a trap to revenge his sister’s sacrifice.

Allhallowtide (Texas Premiere)
Tia Salisbury  | UK | 9 min
Writers: Tia Salisbury

Dan has no time for housemate Molly today, which is just one more annoyance added to her being mute and dead for 180 years.

 

11:45 AM BATTLEDREAM CHRONICLE

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Alain Bidard | Martinique | 108 min
Writer: Alain Bidard
Cast: Jacques Olivier Ensfelder, Yna Boulangé, & Steffy Glissant

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After the empire of Mortemonde reduces the populations of almost all the nations of the Earth to slavery, they force each slave to collect 1000XP every month in Battledream, a video game where they can die for real. Only the successful are granted the right to live until the next month. But Syanna, a young slave from Martinique, the last free nation on the planet, refuses to keep living under these condition.

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The Other Worlds Austin 2016 preview Days 1 and 2

Design by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

Design by tattoo and graphics artist David Poe

After two successful years, the Other Worlds Austin scifi film festival returns this Thursday, December 1st, in new digs (Flix Brewhouse) and with an additional day. The now four day event has grown to include 18 full length films, a slew of of shorts, and an appearance by B-movie legend Sybil Danning, the late Dan O’Bannon’s wife Diane O’Bannon, and others. Not terribly surprising to anyone who regularly follows my writings, I’m covering the event.

Here’s what to expect at Other Worlds Austin 2016.

 

Thursday, December 1

 

7:42 PM RETRO GALA: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS
DEFENDER OF THE UNIVERSE AWARDEE: SYBIL DANNING

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Jimmy T. Murakami | USA | 105 min

Writers: John Sayles
Cast: Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, George Peppard & Sybil Danning

Sybil Danning

Sybil Danning

A young farmer (Richard Thomas) sets out to recruit mercenaries to defend his peaceful planet, which is under threat of invasion by the evil tyrant Sador (John Saxon) and his armada of aggressors. Among the mercenaries are a Space Cowboy (George Peppard), a spacegoing truck driver from Earth (Morgan Woodward); Gelt, a wealthy but experienced assassin looking for a place to hide (Robert Vaughn); and Saint-Exmin, a Valkyrie warrior looking to prove herself in battle (Sybil Danning). The film was legendarily pitched as ‘Magnificent Seven in Space.’ Produced by Roger Corman in the wake of the Star Wars cash-grab phenomena, the film also features one of the first scores from James Horner, and the below the line talents of Gale Ann Hurd and James Cameron.

(Sybil Danning will be in attendance)

 

Friday, December 2

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