I’ll admit it. When I left Austin for Houston last summer, I did not not have very high expectations, culturally speaking. I figured that I was leaving this haven of music and free thinking for the hometown bubble of job security and family proximity, trading hipster- for suburban sprawl. The Houston I knew before I left for college eight years ago led me to believe this, and rightfully so.
But then I got here. Here here. Montrose. 77006. The Austin, Texas of Houston, Texas. A little haven of the Greater Houston Area, amid all of its oil and sulfur and humidity and people, that somehow retains many of the things I loved (and love) about Austin. It’s not at all the Houston I remember, simply because it is not the Houston to which I was exposed growing up. Sure, there were those couple of times my folks took me to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Free Museum Day or whatever, but as a general rule, we stayed, at the very least, a good twelve miles north of the north side of 610. Until very recently, I had never experienced what I consider the true Houston, Texas, and that’s why I had such low expectations of coming here.
At the same time, what appeals to me about where I live now is its Austin-ness. One thing I loved (and, when driving, hated) about Austin was how pedestrian- and bike-friendly it was. Montrose is very similar in this sense. There are certainly fewer bike lanes (let alone vehicle-friendly roads), but basically everything you need is within walking or biking distance. Montrose is also gastronomically similar to Austin, and perhaps this is in part due to the direct import of Austin’s food scene into the Montrose area. Three examples that come immediately to mind are Torchy’s Tacos, Uchi, and the Coreanos food truck.
Since moving to Montrose, food truck food has become a staple of my diet, possibly to the point of excess. Sure, I appreciate food trucks for their accessibility, economy, and expediency, but the main reason I keep going back to them is because their food tastes so damn good. So far as I can tell, Houston food trucks make some of the best food in Houston (shoutout to Bernie’s Burger Bus, Bare Bowls Kitchen, Ladybird, Fork in the Road).
Food trucks also speak to our ever-increasingly mobile society. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently: the main purpose of Twitter is for food trucks to alert their followers as to where they will be located on a particular day at a particular time. Similarly, the main purpose of lists on Twitter is to aggregate food truck tweets, so that you know all of your food truck options on a given day at a given time. A good 90% of my time spent on Twitter is spent seeking out food trucks (this amounts to about four and one-half minutes per day).
When I, jobless and with a fresh Master’s degree in Information Studies, first moved back to the Greater Houston Area, I proposed a business venture to a couple of my friends. The idea was essentially this: a library/bookstore. A place (particularly a relatively cheap commercial rental space in a strip center) where a customer could buy, rent, donate, trade, and/or sell books, music (cassette, CD, vinyl), and movies (VHS, DVD). We’d start with our own personal collections and work from there – pay a months rent, buy some shelves, et voila. (I understand, logistically, that this isn’t nearly all we would have had to do, but this is the gist of the idea. I even at one point checked a “How to Write a Business Plan” book out from the library.) But then I found a job, and I’ve sort of just been sitting on the idea for the past nine months.
As time has passed, I’ve become increasingly fond of making this (still very hypothetical) business mobile (i.e. of putting the business inside of a bookmobile). Why not? I imagine that we’d function very similarly to food trucks in terms of locations (coffee shops, bars, festivals, &c.) and networking (Twitter, the fb, $17/year website). I also believe our services would very much complement those of the food trucks. It is very easy to eat and read at the same time (no offense, food).
Last month, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) launched a program called Fine Arts + Food Trucks, where, quote, “A curated selection of Houston’s finest mobile food sources park in the lot adjacent to the main entrance of the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or until quantities are sold out.” I chaperoned a bus trip from my library to MFAH last month, maybe a week after Fine Arts + Food Trucks had premiered, and the aforementioned Bernie’s Burger Bus was there, just, waiting for me. The Menil Collection (if you haven’t gone, you must go) similarly invites food trucks to utilize their parking lot and tweets their support. In both of these instances, food trucks and museums are complementing one another as sources of culture. I think that the bookmobile would fit right in here, right beside a food truck, offering the public yet other facets of culture.
There is a neighborhood library of the Houston Public Library system right down the street from where I live, and the West University branch of my library system (not to mention several other branches of HPL) isn’t too far off. It would make sense for either system to work with MFAH or the Menil Collection. A bookmobile service would advance the services of either system (if people aren’t coming to the library, you go to where the people [with proof of mailing address] are) and encourage and strengthen their relationships with various cultural institutions. And yet neither system has one, and I do not imagine that either will any time soon. Unless…
I like to think of libraries as purveyors of culture. Ultimately, I would like to use my (again very hypothetical) bookmobile for the betterment of public library services, be it one particular library system (like HCPL or HPL [therefore, health care]) or for any library in continental North America (self-explanatory).
At my library, here in 2012, a not statistically insignificant number of persons have come in with inquiries about accessing our Digital Media Catalog and downloading eBooks for free onto their iPad or Kindle or Nook or Sony Reader or what have you. Most of these questions can be very easily addressed by a knowledgeable person in a wi-fi-enabled environment. In that sense, the bookmobile, filled with physical library books and audiobooks and CDs and DVDs, could also double as something of a digital bookmobile. The bookmobile takes all of these services out into the community instead of waiting for the community to find its way to the library.
Librarian that I am (destined to be), I also see the appeal of a bookmobile-for-hire service to all public library systems (and college libraries, and museums, and Half-Price Books, and cetera) everywhere, where we would fill the bookmobile with their materials (including, in the case of public libraries, some library card registration forms, pens, library cards, a laptop with ILS software, etc.) and set up as a lending library (or exhibit, or pop-up shop) at a place of their choosing for whatever reason (within reason). And I would personally find the experience of being a sort of Bookmobile Librarian freelancer extremely rewarding. (Brainstorming a name for this venture: Travels with Charley [where the bookmobile is named Charley]).
So, I guess the real question is, do I go to Seattle and buy this bookmobile? Would it be worth it? Would a twenty-seven year old bookmobile even be able to make it back to Houston? Would everything go exactly according to plan? A library/bookstore business (let’s call it a hobby) and libraries everywhere tweeting at me (@charleydabookmobile) for bookmobile gigs? Should I crack open this Foundation Grants to Individuals tome I picked up at the library and give five or ten of those a shot? Do you think I could qualify this as an Art project on Kickstarter? What about you? Are you feeling philanthropic?
Happy belated National Bookmobile Day, everybody!
Somehow, it’s been over eight months since I last posted mixtapes on this blog. I have made several in the meantime, and while it is to be determined as to whether I will take the time to make them available to the World Wide Web, here are the latest two installments of the grawlsy mixtapes – the sister mixes 030512 (cat poop) and 030612 (stupid that’s what i call music or something). The tracklists are listed below.
As always, please enjoy, and please share.
Today, after a-whole-nother story’s worth of chats with various persons from various countries and various understandings of the English language (something one might, someday, in retrospect call a comedy of errors), we had our AT&T U-verse internet and cable installed into our new home.
When the technician left, he checked to see if the DVR worked, as DVR and a luxurious switch from U100 to U200 were presumed to be a part of the switch. The technician even brought in a significantly larger cable box that, for whatever reason, was necessary for us to make the switch. And as it turned out, we still just had the U100 plan. Fine, okay, sure. It will either switch over here in a bit, he said, or you’ll just have to contact them and ask them to, presumably, push a couple of buttons and switch it over. And who are we kidding? Of course it didn’t just switch over.
Say, 9:30, I began chatting with Live Chat Technical Support Representative nr475y (Nikky) to ask her to push a couple of buttons and switch it over. It started out fine, colloquial even:
I cannot say it was quick, because I chatted with Nikky for what felt like days, but things eventually got a bit out of hand:
Here is the full transcript of my conversation with Nikky:
System: Connecting to server. Please wait…
System: Connection with server established.
System: Technical Support Topic: SST: More Help
System: nr475y(Nikky) has joined this session!
System: Connected with nr475y(Nikky)
nr475y(Nikky): Thank you for contacting AT&T U-verse Member Support. My name is Nikky(nr475y) Please allow me a moment to review your account details with the information you have provided.
nr475y(Nikky): I apologize for the fact that you had to wait for a little while to get connected to us.
nr475y(Nikky): May i please know the name of the account holder?
nr475y(Nikky): How may I assist you with U-Verse service today?
You: Today I had my Uverse cable switched from one apartment to another one, and this also included an upgrade from a U100 to U200 cable plan and DVR. And when the technician left, I still only had the U100 plan, and he told me that it should do it automatically, or that I would need to contact you guys and ask you to switch it over.
You: And right now, I do still just have the U100 plan on my TV.
nr475y(Nikky): I am so sorry for the inconvenience caused. I will be more then willing to look in to your concern.
nr475y(Nikky): Could you please provide me with the 9 digit billing account number, as I am not able to pull up account with the information provided.
You: Just a second.
nr475y(Nikky): Thank you
nr475y(Nikky): Your account is opening up
nr475y(Nikky): yes i am seeing that your TV package is U100
You: Right, but it is supposed to be U200 with DVR.
You: Can you help me with this?
nr475y(Nikky): I will quikly change it to U200
You: That would be greatly appreciated.
nr475y(Nikky): I will also provide you with the order confirmation number for your assistance
You: For what reasons would I need to refer to it?
nr475y(Nikky): I am so sorry i would provide you with the confirmation number for your reference
nr475y(Nikky): I will also let you know when you can watch U200
nr475y(Nikky): To confirm that you are authorized on this account, could you please provide me your 4-digit pass code?
nr475y(Nikky): I would like to inform you that the DVR would be free in U200
You: I understand that.
nr475y(Nikky): I have also activated HD service on your account
You: This is free?
You: Or, included?
nr475y(Nikky): $10/month would be the fee for HD
You: No thank you then.
nr475y(Nikky): It would be 100% free for the next 6 months
You: I would like to not spend any more money than I am right now.
You: I am happy with my plan.
nr475y(Nikky): after completion of the 6 months, if you want you can cancel HD service
You: I don’t want to do this.
nr475y(Nikky): should i add HD service?
You: Please stop.
You: Can you just switch me to U200 and that be it?
nr475y(Nikky): $72/month is the fee for U200
You: Alright you know what.
You: forget it.
You: I’m going to talk to somebody on Monday.
You: Or in the morning.
You: That isn’t the price that I was quoted.
You: I’m going to disconnect now.
You: Please don’t change anything.
nr475y(Nikky): I have added discount for $25 for the next 12 months
nr475y(Nikky): so instead of getting charge for $72 you would be charge for $47 for next 1 year
You: Okay, that is what I understood the rate to be.
You: Why don’t your records reflect anything that has already happened?
nr475y(Nikky): what records you are talking about
You: Do you not keep records?
nr475y(Nikky): I have just added promotional discount on your TV package
You: That must be the problem.
You: SOMEBODY HAS ALREADY DONE THIS.
nr475y(Nikky): shall i process the order?
You: Let me ask you this first.
You: How soon will I have U200 if you process the order?
nr475y(Nikky): well it depends on the available due date
nr475y(Nikky): I must need to process the order to get the due date
You: DO NOT PROCESS THE ORDER.
You: DO NOT.
You: I REPEAT DO NOT.
You: YOU SHALL NOT PROCESS THE ORDER!
You: Are we done here?
nr475y(Nikky): Just to confirm would you like me to upgrade your TV package to U200?
You: Are you kidding?
nr475y(Nikky): If i do not process the order U200 will never activated
You: Okay, then I shall never activate it.
You: You are not to do this for me.
AT&T, do you know that this is how you work? Y U NO FIX THIS?
It’s been a very interesting couple of days, and I’ve a strange feeling that it isn’t quite over.
I am not much of a diarist. So far as I can tell, the two real purposes I maintain this blog are (1) to recommend music (and this is the primary reason I have come to perform maintenance on it today) and (2) to, well, maintain a sort of portfolio of writings that I have personally deemed worthy of self-publication (if you are here for the cat videos, you’ve come to the wrong place). However, the period of time that has occurred since my last writing (where I aptly made my leaving town mixtape available), has been momentous.
At the end of June, I quit my (part-time) job and packed up and left Austin (which, as far as I can tell, is the greatest city in the history of civilization) for my hometown, and, still having yet to defeat that (library) job market, I moved in with my parents. I was pretty much living the American dream.
In late July, I had an interview with Harris County Public Library (my third for this particular library system) at the branch library at which I (or whoever got hired) would work. And i remember leaving that interview with the distinct feeling that that job, and that library, belonged to me, and that I belonged to them. Three days later (barring a failed background check and/or drug screening), it was so. I found an apartment across the street from the library in early August and started work a few days later. It is the best job I have ever had. And I save so much money on gas.
I was unemployed for forty-six days. I am one of the lucky ones.
In October, my girlfriend of a year and a half returned, voluntarily, from her adventures abroad and – again, voluntarily – moved in with me – here, uprooted, in Greater Houston. I am one of the lucky ones. In Late November, I proposed to her. Since then, things have been pretty much as awesome as before, just with a 10,000% increase in how frequently one or both of us is asked, “So, when’s the wedding?”, and an increasing amount of comfort using the word fiance.
Here is another reason I consider myself lucky: I am capable of discernment. I take particular pride in my musical discernment – that is, my ability to tell good music from not good music. One of my Professors in library school often mentioned the quote, “Never apologize for your reading taste.” I have ambivalent feelings about this quote. On the one (let’s call it my right) hand, the librarian in me thinks, yeah, I mean, these people’s horrible reading taste is what keeps public libraries extant, but on the other hand (call it Lefty), the discerning part of me thinks, can’t people just read good books? And if we shouldn’t discriminate reading taste, should we also not discriminate tastes in music and movies? And, well, how is that even possible?
We should all be so lucky as to be discerning, and maybe we all are. Maybe I have just discovered the primary difference between an E student and a S student.
All of that to say, I have discerned two year-end lists for your perusal, (1) twenty-five albums and (2) two novels for 2011. Per usual, the lists are comprised of albums/novels which I listened to/read during the year – these albums/novels were not necessarily released this year. I personally think it’s more telling. I’m not trying to make a time capsule for 2011; I’m trying to make a time capsule for my 2011. (Maybe I am a diarist.)
Twenty-Five Albums for 2011:
Nothing is Wrong by Dawes (2011)
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys (2011)
Disintegration by The Cure (1989)
…Endtroducing by DJ Shadow (1996)
Maximum Balloon (2010)
The Queen is Dead by The Smiths (1986)
Odyssey & Oracle by The Zombies (1968)
Gloss Drop by Battles (2011)
Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio (2011)
Astro Coast by Surfer Blood (2010)
The King of Limbs by Radiohead (2011)
Relax by Das Racist (2011)
BiRd-BrAiNs by Tune-Yards (2009)
I Am Very Far by Okkervil River (2011)
The 1975 CBS Demo Session by Talking Heads (1975)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (2011)
Check Your Head by Beastie Boys (1992)
(7) (FIRST TIER)
Kaputt by Destroyer (2011)
Cape Dory by Tennis (2011)
w h o k i l l by Tune-Yards (2011)
Days by Real Estate (2011)
Elephant Eyelash by WHY? (2005)
Treats by Sleigh Bells (2010)
Treats is an album unlike anything I have ever heard before. Listen to it. And while you’re at it, listen to all of these.
Two Novels for 2011:
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (2010)
The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace (1987)
NOTE: I also read Infinite Jest, Consider the Lobster, and 3/4 of Oblivion. All of them are well worth your time and patience. But The Broom of the System, hands down, is my favorite of the four.
As always, I welcome counter-lists and -suggestions. Thanks for your time. Keep it real. Et cetera.
P.S. Happy twentieth birthday to my brother, Anthony.