Friday, December 21, 2007

When All With Baby Hearts

The trees were dripping lights.

Down out of the Austin hills usurped by suburban manicures and anonymous similarity, down the death trap of 2222, once a line of demarcation, now just another exit to colossal growth. But, this enchanted evening we’re headed back into and not out, in search of the Austin that needs no EKG to register its beat. Down the ghost of Balcones Drive, across the now tamed MOPAC highway, diminutive sister to the sprawl to come, almost an asphalt oasis with her genteel curve down what can never again be construed as a west side. East on 35th down the back alley of 34th, across Guadalupe, deep in our annals the street of the virgin and there is and always will be something pure in the virtue with which she threads and guides those who never wish to be lost. She ushers us into a neighborhood grand in its demise, a grandeur Jim Bob Moffett (a man seen in Austin for what he really is) can never hope for in his hill desecrating communities of 18 hole golf.

But, the spirit of this evening is Tiny Tim’s and not Scrooge’s, Dickens takes a back seat to rollercoasting the hills and hopelessly (and eternally) bad 9 year olds’ jokes. We spill out of our donkey van into our Jerusalem Medjugorie of lights, a night when all with baby hearts are assured of miraculous vision as we spill down the avenue of trees. Impossible to think of this wonderland as a month of Sundays spent grousing away from football games, thumbs impaled by errant staple guns, curses as the highest unsupporting branches of oaks are painstakingly climbed and cloaked, surely it was as much a miracle of light for the unreconstructed hippie denizens of 37th street, to wake from dreams fueled by acid dropped 30 years ago and wander into an Oz of some hill fairy’s making. Better yet to imagine an abandoned neighborhood brought back to life by Glinda’s wand because where after all were the tenants who left us their yards their streets their porches their cars their motorcycles gleaming glistening in an afterstream of light? The centerpiece house with lawn chairs for all the twirlers, all of us spinning tops, fighting nausea to see candy colored meteors of our own making. Wrapped entirely in black plastic, an 1800 square foot condom house proclaiming light as our essence our joy our most secret desire: cow lights, pumpkin lights, lizard lights, flamingo lights, chili lights, underwear on clothesline lights, apple lights, bottles of light, spools of light, bubblewrapped lights, egg cartons of light, and the mad genius of packages of light stapled whole to the side of the house. Was it to show us money was no object in our pleasure, was it fatigue at the end of a long day, or was it simply a mirror to the internal circuitry that glows unbidden and tangled within us all?

Catty-corner, then, from Xanadu to Santa’s top, a 20 foot high kaleidoscope of lights where spinning is done for you, a visual bedtime story, your only labor to lie beneath its spinning point, a cluster of light you want to reach out and lick with your tongue it is so near. If Xanadu was phallus then the spinning top is Santa’s breast, a spinning world under which we lie, orphans all brought home, reunited by the circle of our crowns, leaves and wintergrass sticking in our hair as Rosey, my 5 year old new best friend lies beside me proclaiming her love for the green lights, and I wax on for blue, and Tommy is Romeo for the orange freckles in the midst.

Where else to end this magi’s wanderlust but at the speakerphone of an A&W root beer stand, a tray of 6 black cows mooing at us from frosted mugs, suspended from van window, Christmas caroling with Bing or Mel or Nat or even my scorpion sister Joni telling me which way to Barandgrill. Where else indeed, but that would be my own It’s A Wonderful Life Jimmy Stewart dream, back from heart’s death at the bridge, over the frozen river, face warmed by tears of joy and angel wings.

And on those angel wings we will fly to Onion Creek and D. E. Crumley’s grocery store, the progenitor of all the Christmas lights spawned on 37th, a place where every night was Christmas, a veritable junkyard of light, a place where once a lost 27 year old boy, his cheetos bought for a trip south, looked up into a cobalt blue sky and saw that like the moon, the lights never go out, they just are clouded by the industrial strength of our sun-driven dreams.


Blogger San said...


Unparalleled illuminating Yule art. Someday we will have to check it out "in person."

Your Guadalupe-guided sojourn through it all sounds miraculous, a baby-hearted spectacular.

Meander. Thread. Serpentine even. As the spirit moves, go. Get the lead out. Follow the light and make merry.

Christmas Tidings to the House of Paschal.

2:06 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Merry Greetings, San:

There is no question that 37th Street is THE benchmark. No question. What erupted there however many years ago it erupted was/is positively miraculous. Yule-tide anarchy. Peace to the House of Convergence.

2:27 PM  
Blogger anno said...

If I didn't already yearn to visit Austin (home of the fabulous Sam Baker), this would do it for certain. What wrenching beauty you make -- thanks for directing me here.

Wishing you and yours all happiness and joy this Christmas!

2:24 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: I discovered 37th Street as I was heading out for an ill-advised exile to Idaho. Eleven years of New Orleans, I needed tranquility and not decidedly NOT urban. 37th was and is magic. Back to Austin from Idaho after 6 months, Ms Tina walks into my life, Mr Baby into both of ours, 37th still lives inside us even down here in Tres Leches. 37th could ONLY be in AustinTexas.

Thanks for the tip on Sam Baker. I'll have to 'vestigate.

Peace again, amiga.

3:31 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Sam Baker may be an acquired taste, but if Pretty World ( or Broken Fingers ( -- there's a monologue before the song begins, lasts a minute or so) don't move you, then you can probably stop there.

As for that so-called ill-advised exile in Idaho: seems to me it aided you in showing up at the right place and at the right time to enjoy all the blessings that followed. Maybe not such a bad thing?

Hope you're enjoying those clementines. I'm off to find some chocolate. There's got to be some around here somewhere.

7:21 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: Seems you've joined Ms Devil Mood as another of my music guides: I likes the Sam Baker: no more acquired than the scotch used to be. I visited his website and was struck with his "gathering" of language and the phrasing of his delivery. It reminded me of a girl with Downs Syndrome at our church who occasionally does the readings: she has a very similar delivery: it's both idiosyncratic and startling, because words you don't expect to be highlighted are highlighted: you hear these readings in fresh new ways: I'm blown away every time she reads.

Last Sunday, I was asked to read from Corinthians, sort of the "source" passage for our church's birth 40 years ago (we were celebrating the anniversary). Lately, our assistant rector Matt has been encouraging us to read more dramatically, not the usual monastic drone. I broke the passage down into poetic lines, slowed the delivery, and read that way. Afterwards, Tina said it reminded her of the way Katy reads to us.

You're right, there was nothing ill-advised about the Idaho trek. What looked like it might have been a new life simply turned into a six month sabbatical. And when my bullmastiff Sophie died up there, I said, I want to go home. In stating it, I had to then decide just where home was: I called it Austin then, not knowing any better; I now know it was Tina and Walden. It just took a few more years in Austin to get them in focus.

Clementines is long gone (they were most lovely), but I can send you all the chocolate you need.

Feliz Natal.

8:34 AM  
Blogger anno said...

Glad you liked Sam Baker, but I wouldn't be depending on me as any kind of musical guide. Lately all my "discoveries" turn out to be songs people were wild about 10, 15 years ago. Such are the perils of growing older. Without my 15-year-old neo-Victorian gothic waif and the restless energies of my ever outward-bound husband in the house, I would never hear anything new.

Like you, my attention got snagged by Baker's phrasing and decided to stay a while and enjoy the experience. I like the way he makes me hear words in new ways; it wakes me up. Sounds like your readings at rec are doing something similar, both for you and your listeners.

About that Christmas in San Antonio: it was a lifetime ago, back in the early 80s, in the days when I was a photographer's moll and played bass (that is, made soup and paid bills) for a band of painters, writers, and other artists. His mother, the general's widow, lived in San Antonio, and we visited at least once, maybe twice, at Christmas, and once at Easter. She terrified me so, I hardly remember anything at all of those brief visits, except playing mahjong, walking along the Riverwalk, and being thankful for the grace, the warm, chaotic joy of the amazing, beautiful lights on the hill where she lived.

Other than that, my only Texan connection is this: while living in Europe as a child (66-69), I spent so much time with Texan expatriates that I returned to Michigan with a drawl.

Oh, and before my husband discovered software (and met me!), he spent 6 months or so in San Antonio for officer training, but he claims he never got off base but once or twice, so maybe that doesn't count.

I have a Harvard story, as well. It, too, involves a guy, and a singularly awful admissions interview. When I figure out how to tell it, I'll let you know.

I didn't mean to be sneaky. Fifty years allows for a fair number of stories, though.

I'm wishing I could send you some of the snow we've got here. There's so much, it doesn't seem fair not to share. Instead, I'll just send more feliz your way...


1:10 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: You're right, the stories do pile up after cincuenta anos. Have I shared the Spanish cincuenta pun that an octogenarian in-law shared with me? Cincuenta (fifty) is also sin-cuenta (no counting): no counting after 50. She was 88, so she knows of what she speaks.

The general's widow story sounds blog-worthy, most blog-worthy. I wonder if I even know the widow by name. Where was her hill of lights?

M's time: was that Air Force or Army? Army at Fort Sam would make it awfully hard to resist getting off base. Lackland, on the other hand (Air Force), or Randolph (also Air Force) might be a little harder to get downtown. My grandfather's Pat Booker Road is the main road that rolls right into Randolph Air Force Base.

Military brat in Europe? I was there as an elementary bambino in the early 60s.

We share the same musical time-warping. I was big into the Doors and Grateful Dead about 1990. Led Zep broke for me about 2000.

You know the Spanish word "chisme"? Gossip. Can't wait for you to dish the chisme on Harvard and the widow.

Thanks for all the feliz. Natal all back at y'all.

1:54 PM  

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