Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Trans-Texas Tour

Hands up, who thinks that it's way past time Jen blogged about the Trans-Texas Tour.  Yeah, that's what I thought.  I barely got back to Dallas before everything slipped into fast forward, so sorry about the delayitude there.  But hey, I'm here. You're here.  Joan's here (hi, Joan).  Let's do this thing. 
I love this light effect.  That's Mike Peters with the halo.
To begin with, I'd never been to Austin. Or Houston. Or anywhere south of Conroe, for that matter. And I  don't know why Conroe, in particular, it's just as far south as I remember going.  So driving down to Houston was the first and most significant part of the adventure.  Did y'all know there's this giant, ridiculous statue of Sam Houston on the side of the freeway near Huntsville?  For, like, no apparent reason.  I'm sure it's historical and a big tourist draw and all that but it reminds me of carving Mount Rushmore next to Interstate 101 and just like leaving it there, without bothering to tell anybody who the faces are (not everybody recognizes those guys, you know) or why you carved them there.  

Yeah, the blazing sun there kind of ruins this photo, but it pretty well
captures what the Austin show was like. 
Let me put this another, less polite sort of way.  I hated Houston.  Hated it.  It's a great big megalopolis that sprawls all over the place, with octopus arms reaching out to Galveston and Clear Lake and South Padre Island and a bunch of other places I don't know the names of.  It's about 99% humidity 99% of the time.  The people we encountered were shockingly rude, for Texans.  We got there just before rush hour, which was an obvious mistake, and our route took us right through downtown, which was another obvious mistake.  I never thought I'd say this, but the drivers in Houston are crazier than the drivers in Dallas, who in turn are crazier than the drivers in L.A.  Not kidding.  I may never look at the 75 North Central Expressway the same way again.  

Luckily, we weren't going to be there for very long.  I hooked up with Tammy and Tracy, and the three of us headed for the club while Joan went for a well deserved nap.  As venues go, I guess it could have been worse, but the very Houston-ness of Houston was seeping through the walls.  There were three opening bands, each one more irritating than the last, and by 11:15 I was getting heartily tired of everything.  The rumor was going around that Big Country wasn't even there; something had happened to their bus or their equipment van or both, and they were somewhere in Kansas, looking for Toto. Just before 11:30, somebody started playing Flower of Scotland on a Gibson Les Paul and suddenly there they were.  Two old guys, two new guys, and Mike Peters, who's been around forever, but since he's new to the band he doesn't really count as an old guy or a new guy. 

The story, as we found out later, was that the bus had survived the trip from Aurora, Colorado that day. (What idiot tour manager would think Aurora, Colorado to Houston, Texas in one day was even remotely reasonable?! Boys, fire your tour manager. I'm just sayin'.)  But the air conditioning on the bus had not.  Fourteen hours on a bus with no air conditioning.  I just can't even.  And the equipment van hadn't made it to Houston yet, so the band ended up borrowing equipment from the other bands.  (Prompting one hilarious moment when Mark Brzezicki, who's 6'7", sat down behind the drum set and his knees came up around his ears.  Oops.) 
Big Country avoiding the eau de Houston.
In spite of it all, they put on a fantastic show.  And I'm not just speakin' as a die-hard fan here; Tammy and Tracy both agreed that they were worth the wait and even, wonder of wonders, worth enduring the three bands that came before.  And yours truly ran into Bruce Watson (the lead guitarist) on her way back to the car.  (They'd parked the bus right next to us.) I ran over and tapped on his shoulder.  "May I kick the tires in your honor, sir?"  "You can blow it up for all of me," he replied.  Fangirl moment! And me without a grenade.  

The next morning we hauled off to Austin.  Night, meet day.  Day, meet night.  Austin--wow.  What can I say about Austin?  Well, Austin was everything as cool and funky as Houston was sprawly and el barfo.  For one thing, there was a huge demonstration going on at the Capitol. (See two blog posts ago.)  Joan suggested that we maybe skip the Capitol tour, seeing as if I was in jail I'd miss the concert. (She knows me too well.)  Fifth Street is a long series of increasingly weird businesses, from head shops to curanderas to garden shops to ordinary 7-11s.  In between, small apartments, funky condos, rundown crack houses and an occasional unprepossessing concrete block.  Oh, and a concert hall.  Well, lots of concert halls.  This one was a couple of streets down from the Capitol building, which loomed over the whole scene like a pro-lifer with a big canvas--okay, never mind.  

Let's move on.  There was only one opening band in Austin, and thank all the stars and little fishes, they were actually good.  It was 103 in the shade and the concert was outside. Yours truly managed to give herself heat exhaustion bouncing up and down on the patio.  I drank three bottles of water but plainly that wasn't anywhere near enough.  I almost fell asleep at the wheel on the way back to the hotel, and several times the following day on the drive back to Dallas.  Yep, ol' Jen isn't 20 anymore.  

Best part about the whole thing:  It's obvious that the band was having the time of their lives.  Which is a good thing, because I've been in a band and I can honestly tell you that if you don't love it, it will kill you.  Look, I was on the road for all of two days and I almost dropped dead; the band had been out there for five weeks.  Yes, they had guys to carry their stuff, but still.  Besides, I (along with lots of other people) thought that Big Country was dead and buried in 2001.  To see the band come back to life, with such an explosion of sound and energy, is just--just--I ain't got words.  I got pretty emotional. And Mike Peters might be just as good a singer as Stuart Adamson.  No disrespect intended to Stuart, of course.  

Midafternoon Sunday, we finally made it back to Dallas.  I staggered through the doorway and tried to decide if I should collapse on the couch or walk another ten feet to my bedroom.  I was that tired.  There was another show in Dallas that evening, but I didn't make it.  As I was saying, I'm not 20 anymore.  And Big Country has moved on--but they promised they'd be back.  I'm holding them to it.  Stuart would have expected nothing less.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mini-Post: The Way of the Long Distance Fishy

Those of you who glanced at your calendars and noticed that it's July, and remembered that July is Swim For Distance Month over at Dallas Aquatic Masters, and who further remembered that I, Jen, raise money for charity during Swim for Distance Month every year, thank you.  Both of you.  You rock.

Everybody else: July is Swim for Distance Month over at Dallas Aquatic Masters and I raise money for charity during Swim For Distance Month.  Okay, now that we're all caught up:  Regret to inform that I'm not going to do it this year.  Raise money for charity, that is.  I got a late start and it hasn't been going well, so I'm going to just concentrate on surviving the month.  I swam five days in a row last week and boy was I sore. I usually break up swim days with gym visits.  But between a case that's ramping up for trial at work, and the Trans-Texas Groupie Tour after the World's Greatest Rock Band, I've missed almost an entire week.  That's almost six miles I can't get back.  That, and the only charity I wanna raise money for right now is Pro Choice Texas and that's, well, a little polarizing.  (Evidence:  Not a single response to the last blog post.  Either I scared some people, or nobody wants to offend me by disagreeing with me.  Oh, wait, one response from my uncle Bob, who agreed with me.  Thanks, Uncle Bob.  Not for agreeing with me but for responding.)  

So here's what I suggest.  Decide on a favorite charity and send them ten bucks.  You can tell them it's in honor of Swim for Distance Month or you can leave that part out.  I'm sure they won't care.  If you're the gambling sort, bet the ten bucks on whether or not I make two thousand meters in the Big Swim, which I enter every year and I'm still gonna enter because I'm crazy like that.  If I do it, the charity gets the ten bucks.  If I don't do it, then you send the ten bucks to Tea Party America or the John Birch Society in my name and put me on their mailing list for life.  A guy I used to work with at the TJ Library threatened me with that once and it was quite effective at keeping me in line.  I never stuck a piece of book tape on his back again. (He set the alarm off thirty-seven times.  It was effing hilarious.)

And just cause I missed his cute li'l face, I'm bringing back the Long Distance Fishy.  There he is at 1200 meters.  I'll post a total count soon.  Probably after I get back from the Trans-Texas Groupie Tour after the--yeah.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yeah, It's About Abortion. Because I Live In Texas, Y'All.

Yeah, yeah, okay, I'm behind on the blog posts.  So sorry.  Between the Buddhist Bin Laden and the real estate agents I wasn't sure I could top myself.  Besides, there's only one topic allowed in Texas right now.  Ask anybody in journalism.  Sure, it's all about jobs and the economy and bringing manufacturing home to the States, but right now it's all about abortion.

My favorite subject.  Right up there with intestinal flu and things that come out of a litter box if you shake it too hard.

Okay, let's just do this thing.

If you've been hanging around here long enough, you probably know my position on the subject, which is complicated but I stand by it anyway.  If not, the Reader's Digest version goes as follows:  I hate it.  I wish no one would ever have one.  But it needs to be legal because women are going to have them regardless and sometimes it's the kindest choice. When? I don't know. That's not up to me. It's completely impossible to visualize every circumstance that would make someone want to have one and equally impossible to then say, "Well, that's a valid reason but this one isn't."  Again, not up to me. I trust women.  They'll make the hard choices without my help.  Or anyone else's.

So let's just skip all that and talk about what Senate Bill 1 would do, anyway.   Here's the text.  Do go read it, because it took me ages to find it.  Not that there's a conspiracy to hide the bill or anything.  I can't imagine that would ever happen.  But anyway.  The media is getting this bill all kinds of wrong.

What we keep hearing over and over again is that this bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  Which it would, right around the time that the most severe fetal deformities, like anencephaly (developing without a brain) can be seen on ultrasound for the first time.  What it doesn't say is that of all the abortions in the United States, exactly one and a half percent of them take place at this time.  One and a half percent still translates to about 18,000 in 2008, which is way too many, but that's one and a half percent of 1.2 million.  (In case you're wondering, 88%, or 1,064,000, take place in the first 12 weeks.  Odd how you never hear about those.)  Here are the stats.  Take a look.

What I'm saying is, an abortion after 20 weeks doesn't happen very often.  Most women know they're pregnant and have decided what to do by twelve weeks.  There aren't any statistics that tell us why abortions happen when they happen, but anecdotally, after 20 weeks severe fetal deformities or maternal complications are the main culprit.  An anencephalic fetus, for example, will not survive birth, no matter what your senator said to the subcommittee.  An anecephalic fetus is alive because it's attached to the mother and for no other reason.  Asking a woman to carry a doomed fetus to term isn't just ridiculous, it's cruel.  Some women develop severe diabetes, pre-eclampsia, hypertension, anemia or hyperemesis gravidarum to the point where continuing the pregnancy can literally kill them. Don't know what any of that means?  Maybe you should shut up and let the people who do, make the decisions, then.

So while the whole 20 weeks thing is getting all the press, we're missing all of this:

  • Raising abortion clinic building standards to "ambulatory surgical centers" will close all but five clinics in the state.  Note, birth centers - places where live babies are born every day - do not have to meet these standards.  If these clinics close, abortion will become impossible for most Texas women.  Can you drive 10 hours for a medical procedure?  Three times?  Get off work? Arrange for child care? Because that's what the law will require.
  • Require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  Most doctors who perform abortions are not "local"; they travel to the different clinics because living in the area is too dangerous (abortion doctors are often stalked, and sometimes shot and killed, by anti-abortion activists).  What's more, hospitals don't grant admission privileges to just anybody. They want doctors who are going to admit a minimum number of patients a year. Abortion doctors won't admit that many because, well, abortion's pretty darn safe. A lot safer than giving birth.  Yeah.  Sorry, it's true.
  • Require women who take the "abortion pill" to do it in front of a doctor, who must meet all of the standards I just listed.  (Hint: Order it off the Internet, ladies. And don't tell anybody.  A woman in Idaho was arrested, though charges were dropped, for doing this.) 
I could, and probably should, go on, but you get the idea.  This bill is not about 20 weeks.  This bill is about legislating abortion out of existence, at least in Texas.  And here's the thing: It won't work.  Other states have tried regulations like this, and the courts have blocked the laws, but Texas, which will not release funds to upgrade infrastructure, improve education or deal with the increasingly severe water problem (won't even restrict new housing permits, which would help A LOT) has set aside millions of dollars to defend this blatantly unconstitutional law in court. Sometimes I think I never left Utah, which took more bills to the Supreme Court than a Senator with a personal--wait, I promised not to tell that joke anymore.  Sorry.  

Besides all that, though, abortion being illegal or unavailable will do jackshit nothing to stop it from happening.  Nada.  Nyet.  Ixnay.  Countries where abortion is illegal have just as many abortions as countries where it is legal, and sometimes more.  Things are a little safer than they were in the 60s, where we had maniacs with dirty knives and folding tables, but a lot of women are going to take matters into their own hands and a lot of them are going to die.  We used to have whole hospital wards set aside for women who had botched abortions.  The babies died, the women died, and the women who didn't die usually lost their ability to have children.  

Ironically, Texas lawmakers keep saying that this law will "protect women."