Our Lady of East Austin and the Downtown Aztecs

December 12th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You probably already knew that, but I had to learn the hard way.

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of horns and some soft drumming.

I decided to see what was amiss.

When I opened the front door, I saw a group of around 15 people holding flashlights, horns, small drums, and tambourines. They formed a slow procession that surrounded a man shuffling along the street on his knees, using a couple of yoga mats for cushioning. Once he had shuffled the length of one yoga mat, one of his buddies brought the rear yoga mat to the front.

I retreated back inside and groggily Googled “Austin parade knees dawn why.” Eventually I learned that the Catholic church down the street has a large Mexican congregation, and that this morning marked the anniversary of the day the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec man on a hill in Mexico and told him she needed him to build her a church. This particularly Mexican version of the Virgin Mary came to be known as Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG)®.

I returned to bed.

A few hours later, a much larger, noisier procession appeared. Most of the performers wore Aztec costumes. The musicians played wild Aztec jazz.

More Dancing

For the rest of the afternoon I saw people headed for the church, many of them carrying bouquets of flowers and pictures of OLG.

“EXCUSE ME! CAN I TAKE YOUR PHOTO?” I hollered at this mother-daughter duo as they scuttled to catch up with the rest of the parade.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In Austin, you can see evidence everywhere of the strong ties between the Aztec people and OLG.

On Cesar Chavez there is a popular business called Leal’s Tires. According to Yelp, they quickly and efficiently patch tires.

Leal’s owners pay tribute to the Aztecs and hot Aztec maidens with the murals on the sides of their building.

I’m not a fan of the body language on display here. Mostly because I’m not a fan of the fucking patriarchy, even if it puts on a feather headdress and disguises itself as a marginalized indigenous people.

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On all fours? Really, Moctezuma?

I’m sure there’s a lot about the Aztecs that we can all still appreciate. Stepped pyramids? Give em to me. Ritualized heart removal? Can’t get enough.

But based on this one mural they seem like macho dicks.

Directly across the street you can visit a liquor store called East 1st Grocery. Emblazoned on the side of the building is Our Lady, looking on pityingly at the tire store Aztecs, as if to say “U think ur hot but ur not.”

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All of the stories of OLG that I read online seemed flat and colorless. In the mist of a sleep-deprived daydream, I suddenly remembered where I had first heard of her.

A certain little storytelling dog named Wishbone covered the legend of OLG in the mid 90s.

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Wishbone played Juan Diego, the Aztec man that bumped into OLG on Tepeyac Hill. Tepeyac Hill is significant because it has served as the location of an Aztec temple before the Spanish smashed it to bits. OLG told Juan Diego that she needed a church in that same spot. She spoke to him in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, so Juan Diego would get that she was down with the cause. Continue reading

Pickle School with the Austin Learnshop

Earlier this year I joined a hippy work space collective. I’ve been freelancing for two years now, and working from home breeds madness. Going to cafes is expensive, and I have a medical condition where I need to be coldly ignoring lots of people before I can do any work.

As an added perk, sometimes my office holds events for its members. Last month I attended Austin Learnshop‘s pickling workshop. I currently live in a household that is at the whim of a kombucha scobie, so pickling seemed like something I could probably incorporate into my lifestyle.

The class was led by a young pickle entrepreneur named Sheena, of Sheena’s Pickles Facebook Page fame.

Sheena’s Pickles: A Brief History

Sheena got into pickling right before one “broke-ass Christmas.” She spread pickled cheer throughout the land, and forever after her pickles were in high demand. Sheena’s fridge is continually packed with pickles, and the hordes of wailing pickle-gobblers are never far from her door.

She also makes jams.

“Any questions?” she asked before we began. Some Paranoid Patty asked about botulism. Sheena explained that botulism only forms at very high temperatures. You only need those kinds of temps for canning – jarring doesn’t get hot enough for that kind of freak funk to form.

Pickle Ingredients

At each table the picklers had an array of flavoring agents at our disposal. Sheena warned us to go easy with the jalapeño: “I don’t want you all shitting fire.”

Sheena passed out latex gloves and warned the gentlemen in the room about the dangers of mixing spicy peppers and penises. Women also put on gloves, who knows why.

(Don’t be naive. In case we wanted to touch penises later.)

We were free to paint our pickle canvases in shades of carrot, green bean, okra, and zucchini. Johnson’s Backyard Garden, an organic farm in Austin, provided all of the vegetables.

Eli, one of my co-workers, sank into a deep depression once he learned that there was no cucumber. He looked at his zucchini, betrayed. “This isn’t cucumber?”

I sharply reminded him that Sheena had specifically announced cucumbers weren’t in season. “Weren’t you paying attention?”

Another woman at our pickling table was more compassionate. Mary kept handing Eli odds and ends to add to his jar, in hopes of cheering him up.

There there. Have a carrot.

Pickle Pout

He pouted for the duration of the class.

“I thought we were making REAL pickles.”

Eventually someone pointed out that Eli’s vegetables were too short for his jar, which increased his sorrows by tenfold.

(I stuffed my jar perfectly. Everyone noticed.)

Dry Jar

For my veggies I tossed in mostly carrots and green beans, along with a couple of okra. Then I threw in some zucchini, so as to not hurt the zucchini’s feelings. I also chucked in a couple of sprigs of fresh dill, slam-dunked a small clove of garlic from the 3-point line, and catapulted in a few hearty pinches of seasoning using a tiny, medieval trebuchet.

Trebuchet

For those of you all who thought pickling was just taking a nap while your cucumbers soak in vinegar: You think you grown, but you ain’t.

There is an arsenal of special pickling tools. Continue reading

There’s This Thing Called the George W. Bush Museum and Libary

Recently, a friend’s wedding compelled me to visit the exact opposite of Austin.

Dallas is famous for its slick exterior and a distinctly southern tendency for being basic.

People in Dallas are…how can I put this delicately. The kind of people who would eat at a Cheesecake Factory. If you read Yelp reviews of restaurants Dallas you’ll notice that food quality takes a backseat to metrics like server smiles per second (S.S.P.S.), and speed. Speed is so important that you’ll find a lot of reviewers take the time to break down their experiences into minute-by-minute increments.

Because I read Yelp reviews to unwind in the evenings, I have a pretty good idea of the ideal Dallas dining experience. It is as follows:

7:05: Arrived at casual dining facility wearing cowboy boots, the same up-do I wore to my high school prom, and full makeup. I look extremely awesome, and there are no non-white people in this restaurant to make me question myself.

7:06: My smiling, blonde-haired ex-cheerleader of a waitress has stuffed my body in a well-oiled SeatingLuge™ and shot me into the nearest dining booth. Piping Hot Queso Dip™ is waiting.

7:07: “Can I get you anything to drink?” the waitress asks, producing frozen margaritas from under her skirt before I can answer.

7:07: I order Beef Tex-Mex™, Chicken Tex-Mex™, Shrimp Tex-Mex™, and a cheescake.

7:10: Food arrives and I leave to eat it in my car.

The day after the Dallas nuptials, my wedding buddies and I had an afternoon to kill.

“Where should we go?” I asked the post-wedding brunch bunch. “Where can someone find any respite from boredom in this twisted Oz of shopping mall dystopia?”

“Go to the Perot Natural History Museum!” said all of the Dallas locals.

“Let’s go to the George Bush Museum,” I strongly suggested, once everyone else was out of earshot.

My travel companions agreed, based on this reasoning: The George Bush Museum and Library is a thing that can only exist in Dallas. Also, it has 4-and-a-half stars on Yelp.

Yelp_GWB

 

GreatPresMuseum

But before you get too excited, no, this is not a museum where you can see the self-portraits of George W. Bush in the shower. Those didn’t even get a mention.

In the museum’s orientation room we got a run-down on the basic premise of George Bush.

“Baseball Value Principles are the Principle Reasons for my Texas Values,” he said, spread out over 20-ish minutes.

Optimistic_Confident

Here is what happened during his presidency, according to the movie we watched.

1. In light of 9/11, did what he knew he had to do: PLAY BALL!

2. Taught the children to read (even the dumb ones).

3. Loved Laura Bush and only Laura Bush forever and ever, amen.

4. Went to Africa to tell AIDS what he thought of it (fuckin sucks).

After the movie ended and the lights went up, my friend surveyed the crowded theater and whispered, “Do you think these people are actually Republicans?”

Judging by their heart-shaped hair clips and 100-year-old bodies, it wasn’t out of the question.

We got to see displays of all the gifts people have given George W. Bush over the years. This stuffed lion from Tanzania was given to George W. Bush by President Jakaya Kikwete.

George W. Bush is singularly ungrateful for this stuffed lion. He never uses it.

Lion_Tanzania

Then there was this.

G_Dog_Homeboys

The display of G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles by Celeste Fremon (with a forward by Tom Brocaw) came with no explanation.

Exhibits about the highlights of George W. Bush’s presidency exist in a vacuum, with no hint of how it all shook it out. No Child Left Behind and the Patriot Act are rolled out like tracks from a greatest hits compilation.

No_Child

I hadn’t considered that this museum would make me relive footage of 9-11. I also had to live through this poem for the first time.

Acrostic_911

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing acrostic poem to share my thoughts about the distruction in N.Y.

America

Marvelous

Endurence

Rescue

Inergetic

Caring

America

Sincerely,

Justin Wood

I’m not bringing up the poem to shit on Justin (but “Justin.” Ew.) I just want to point out that there HAD to have been something better in that sack of mail, and no one was willing to put in the effort to find it. And that’s lazy. Almost as lazy as beginning and ending your acrostic poem with the same word, Justin.

The George W. Bush Museum wants you to know that combatting terrorism is, in fact, exactly like playing a video game. And you can do it, too!

Defending_Freedom_Map

Point n’ click! Fate, decided!

All you need is confidence and a good index finger.

Button_LeftRight

TAP LEFT! TAP RIGHT! Well, that’s Afghanistan dealt with. Lunch? Cheesecake Factory?

But the best part was the Decision Points Room.

In the Decision Points Room, you are the decider. Continue reading

Art Review: “COME OVER HERE AND TOUCH THIS ROCK”

I went to an art gallery opening recently, expressly for the purpose of manufacturing blog material.

 

This is the secret warehouse where their events take place.

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I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure this little pile of rocks on the floor was the main event.

But there’s a good chance I’m reading too much into the title of the exhibit. I didn’t see anyone touching the rocks, or being encouraged to touch the rocks by the artist.

Judging by the events that followed, the rocks were not the point. Far from it.

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There was a collection of thirty or so paintings, with titles like “Navajo Brainwave Water Slide,” “Chachi Loves Droni,” and “Is This My Brain or a Toupe, and Why is It So Small?”

Some were large.

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Some were small.

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But what got the most attention were the shards of glass jutting from between the floorboards.

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Most of the shards were purposefully placed right in front of the paintings, in especially juicy locations for catching people unawares.

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In all fairness, we had all been warned.

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This is the enticing artist’s statement that I received via e-mail, because I am one of the few people in the world with enough moxie to join the Museum of Human Achievement’s mailing list. Continue reading

Machu Pizza: Don’t Bother. (And other tales from Trip Advisor.)

I’ve been writing copy for a travel agency. If you are calling yourself a professional copywriter, it is essential to avoid saying things like:

“The Oxford dictionary defines Machu Picchu as ‘A fortified Inca town in the Andes Mountains in Peru that the invading Spaniards never found.’ But there is so much more to it than that.”

So I spend a lot of time on TripAdvisor, skimming reviews for the highlights and pitfalls of visiting monuments and ruins. It’s good for inspiration, but not adjectives. Everyone describes old places as “magical,” and rates them based on how much “magic” they found to smuggle away in their cavities, to snort up whenever they’re having a slow day at the office.

Machu Picchu, it turns out, is TripAdvisor’s top-rated attraction.

MachuPicchu

And yet, I noticed a few visitors rated it as “terrible.”

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People leave bad online reviews for bad reasons. The line was too long, the weather was bad, it was more expensive than Applebee’s, and they didn’t know that was possible. If there is any kind of exchange of money for goods and services, someone will leave a bad review.

The reviewer in question had to reschedule their visit because someone in their party had a headache. They were unable to get a refund for their entrance ticket, prompting the reviewer to say that “…people here are willing to rip off their ancestors.”

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I located an Incan ancestor for comment.

Seen here being like, “Fuck, you guys.”

Blog_Mummy_Juanita

(This is the mummy of an Incan girl sacrificed in her early teens, probably to ensure a good crop. Archeologists overwhelmingly give this mummy 5 stars for its freeze-dried tissue, and ambiance.)

This particular reviewer describes Machu Picchu as something “nature provided,” as if the Andes just rolled over one day and pooped it out.

I know what you’re wondering. Histories and mysteries are all very well, but how were Machu Picchu’s nom noms?

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For being on top of a mountain in Peru, Machu Picchu has surprisingly terrible pizza, “that has horrible tasting llama cheese on it.”

It turns out the Machu Picchu staff will “do ANYTHING for money.” Even sell you a pizza, like greedy prostitutes, who sell pizza.

After the llama cheese pizza, their next point is that “THE HUMANITY IS LOST HERE.” In all fairness, cheese quality is a good litmus test for overall humanity. My house? Great cheese. Chernobyl? Cheese is fucked, probably.

Btw, Chernobyl gets really great reviews.

Chernobyl is Great

This made me wonder what other famous monuments fucking sucked.

Close your eyes and picture Stonehenge.

Open your eyes and look at this picture of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge_Distance

Think about the fucking name, “Stonehenge.”

Then read the title of this review.

Just Rocks

According to this reviewer, Stonehenge is “The definition of a tourist trap.” The Oxford Dictionary defines tourist traps as “Anything built by druids to track the movement of the sun, that also turns out to suck.”

Just as reviews for restaurants take into account atmosphere, you can’t expect tourists to put on blinders when it comes to crumbling monuments.

The_Great_Wall_of_China_at_Jinshanling

This is not a review of the Great Wall, the reviewer clarifies, but a review of a bad smell he smelled because of his trip to the Great Wall. Continue reading

Hey baby, wanna tingle? The Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) Phenomenon

Have you heard of ASMR?

The Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response phenomenon is becoming a highly-specialized corner of YouTube, with its own lingo and a compelling roster of stars.

What’s a meridian?

Shhhhhhhhhhhh.

It is a term invented by the good people of Reddit, to describe brain tingles that some people experience when they hear the sound of tissue paper, swishing water, hair brushing, or some other gentle noise.

Like so.

It’s recommended that you wear your headphones for the full effect. Others report that instead of tingles, they feel lightly hypnotized. In either case, the result is intense, inexplicable relaxation.

And we have Bob Ross to thank, may he rest in peace.

A lot of online whisperers point to Bob Ross as their inspiration, and the reason they realized they needed the sound of gentle whispering in their everyday lives. He serves as the posthumous High Priest of the ASMR community.

People who create ASMR videos on YouTube refer to themselves, unfortunately, as ASMRtists. They are mostly women, although there are a few well-known dudes, including Tony Bomboni and JustAWhisperingGuy. ‘Atta boys – whoever said men can’t soothe has had their little red wagon gently mended.

Most of the ASMRtists use a pseudo-loving voice, in addition to a soft whisper.

Many of them are accused of sexiness. As a rule, they reject this interpretation. They do not want their work sullied by the unsought tumescence of others. But they do want to comfort, to soothe, and to please the various requests they get to perform various ASMR “triggers.”

Three major players have had their soothe game TIGHT from day one. The following ASMRtists have had a huge impact on the ASMR community, and each has a bevy of imitators. They take their roles as soothing angels pretty seriously. You get the sense these are the types of gals who have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to light teasing vis-a-vis their crystal collection.

Each of these women has over 100,000 subscribers. In case you weren’t aware, in YouTube world that equals a whole bunch of cha-ching from ad revenue.

Gentle Whispering – 300,000+ subscribers

Gentle Whispering (often referred to by her real name, Maria) has appeared in multiple articles related to ASMR, including one in the New York Times.

Listen to her magnum opus, a video entitled “*_* Oh such a good 3D-sound ASMR video *_*”

In it, she taps on a hairbrush like you would not believe. She has a soft, Russian accent and even softer blonde tresses. Her fans fill the comment section with praise for her kindly ways, her radiant soul, and her perfect nails. If anyone accuses her of being cute and coquettish for reasons beyond sweet, pure tingles, adoring fans come to her rescue.

Hey dudes with boners

Fans send her their constant love on her Facebook fan page. Here is some fan art someone made, depicting Maria with her favorite inanimate objects, crystals.

fan art

Maria’s fans have asked for extensive biographical information. She whispered it to them softly in her “Draw My Life” video. When she arrived in the U.S., she had the following options: become a maid, or a stripper. Continue reading

ART ON REVIEW II: I condemn these freaky, ancient people [NSFW]

In my adventures as a freelance writer, I got an assignment to write a series of blog posts about Peru. Through my research, I happened across some art history morsels that made me want to shout from the rooftops, because HA HA HA EW!

But first, a spot of history.

You’ll often hear the Inca referred to as “ancient.” They came to power in the 15th century, started to eat it when the Spanish arrived in 1532. They finally cried uncle in the 1570s, after the Spanish ransomed their last emperor for a bunch of gold, took the gold, said “Gracias for the gold!” and then murdered Emeperor Tupac anyway. “Ancient” indicates something existed before the middle ages. If someone calls the Inca ancient in your presence, yank their still-beating heart right out of their rib cage. It’s what the Inca would have wanted.

The Inca had some help establishing themselves as the bad bitches we know today. From cultures way older, and way freakier.

Come with me on a nasty journey back in time.

The Moche proliferated in northern Peru from 100 AD to 800 AD. They contributed a lot to the field of Boys Will Be Boys.

Unlike the ancients of the Mediterranean, or the Chinese, they didn’t have the perspicacity to leave behind anything tasteful. Much to the delight of Peruvian gas station kingpin Señor Cassinelli. Cassinelli loved collecting the erotic work of the Moches, but let’s assume his wife didn’t want that stupid shit in the living room. He eventually opened a museum behind one of his gas stations, and Museo Cassinelli was born.

Many of the pieces in his collection were purchased from grave robbers.

 

Cassinelli

 

As we can see from the Moche collection, the Moche, like all civilizations, were concerned mostly with weenies. Touching weenies, having a big weenie, and most of all, making sure everyone else sees your weenie.

Did somebody say weenie?

Son, if you choose play with yourself,  there’s nothing I can do to stop you. But I should warn you, there’s a chance the top of your dick will shoot clean off.

Yet, somehow, you’ll still feel smug about it.

 

ART

 

Is he holding out his hand? Does he think he’s earned a tip?

You contribute NOTHING. I hate you, and I hate your hat.

We’ve caught this little goblin in a moment of solemn contemplation. He’s not sure how he feels about this anymore. He donned a helmet to go for a bike ride, and then he remembered he can’t wear pants or use his legs.

 

Exaggerated

 

This statuette bears witness to a dark night of the soul, a realization that no matter how enormous your weenie is, at the end of the day you’re a porn star garden gnome with stubby legs and no butt.

And you’re alone.

And one day you’ll die.

Below is one of the Moche’s famous masturbating skeletons.

He stares, hollow-eyed, at his own peeny-weeny. Seeing nothing, hearing nothing, he grimaces. But his penis remains, pointing the way unto eternity.

What does he think about, as he massages the shaft of his undead tube meat? What furtive thoughts race through his desiccated, shriveled-up cranium? We like to think that our greatest works, our smartest thoughts, and our best jokes are what will live on after us.

The Moche have a different idea.

All that remains is the pluperfect bliss of being left along with your weenus.

 

bony bator

 

The Moche also made a lot of sexy tea pots. From what I can gather from various unreliable internet sources, these pots were used as ceremonial whistles, during rituals that historians speculate would make your butthole pucker for days if you saw something half as icky.

In the image below, the artist captured perfectly the wide-eyed uncertainty of someone who has just realized she doesn’t always make the best choices. Continue reading