Best American Non-Required DJs

Saturday, January 7, 2006

I’m running consistently two days behind writing these posts (it’s January 9th right now) — but I am sticking to my resolution to write about each day this year. Seven (or nine, depending) days in. Fantastic.

So it’s really Monday evening and I’m sitting at Mozart’s in Austin, sipping my way through a latte. Sitting outside on the covered patio overlooking the black Colordao river and the constellations of porchlights out over Westlake Hills. Since I got into those holiday-seasonal egg nog lattes that Starbuck’s has been hawking a few weeks ago, I’ve switched my coffeehouse beverage straight black coffee to a nice, mellow latte. Skim if I remember to mention it.

Maybe I’m becoming too bourgeoisie, drinking my latte, reading my trendy-ish new serious fiction with the ambiguously melancholic earth-toned cover and serifed titling (the new book by former National Book Award Finalist Dan Choan, You Remind Me of Me — if you must know). And don’t get me started about what I read in Mawreen Dowd’s column the other day… (Not really.) Thank god my hair’s an uncut, shaggy disaster and I haven’t shaved in a week. This gives me “edge.” Like David Foster Wallace. Or Viggo Mortensen.


Yeah, I ordered You Remind Me of Me several weeks ago after reading the short story from which the novel developed in Best American Non-Required Reading 2005. I like this series and I’ve picked up the new one each for the past few years. It’s a mix of off-kilter short stories and news articles and comix and political rants and just kind of whatever the editors happen to feel fits the vague “non-required reading” categorization. Anyway, Dan Choan had a short story called “Five Forgotten Instincts” in this about a twenty-something who had been horribly mutilated in a dog attack as a youngster and bore the scars over his whole adult body at the seams where the pieces had been sewn back together.

I like the metaphor, the image. A person with the psychic tears as visible on the outside as they are appart to him on the inside. Sounds corny? It kind of is. But Choan handles it all fairly well. So I picked up the book. Which is quite different, of course, but is still framed around the experiences of Jonah the reassembled man. The image of Jonah has a kind of super-hero tint to it (in my mind, not the book so much): In much of our popular mythology when a person has to endure an unfair tragedy, they either become a caped hero or super-villain thematically connected to the original injury. The Incredible Sexually Molested Girl fights Unloved Adopted Man. Etc.

I’m only a third into the book. So far, no crime-fighting.

No crime fighting on the night of January 7th, either, fortunately. At least, not where I was… Robert Mueller Airport.

Or, rather, the remains of Robert Mueller Airport.

(Involved in law-enforcement in Austin, Texas? You’ll enjoy this.)

Hillary calls Saturday evening with an URGENT message to go to Quack’s to pick up a map to this AWESOME renegade at an undisclosed location (well, the airport) that he and Eric were going to DJ and to not be a PUSSY like some other people and bail on them. The word “mangina” was used in description of those who were not planning on attending, so I knew it was serious. So after bouncing the idea around in my head (and having a cup of coffee with Eric Hawthorne and Susan Buck up at some livingroomish new coffeehouse on Anderson Lane called Genuine Joe’s), cruised down to Quack’s, picked up the secret map with directions and instructions of what to do once arriving at the airport (turn off lights immediately, watch out for potholes, etc.).

And so, after a few minutes of wondering whether to abandon the whole stupid plan, I went for it. Whatever.

Anyway, here’s what’s going on at Robert Mueller Airport. For those of you not in Austin, Robert Mueller is the old Austin airport that had been built on the edge of town many decades ago. Austin grew like crazy for twenty year — suddenly the airport’s, like, nearly downtown and the neighbors hate it and the U.S. Government decommissions Bergstrom Airforce Base in south Austin so the city closes Robert Mueller and now it sits as a huge decaying field of runways and old hangars on a slight plataeu that overlooks the Austin skyline — UT Tower, State Capital Building, Frost Bank Building, etc. Much of the old airport building itself is gone — except the control tower, which still stands rather ominously unlit when walked past at night). So, anyway, people throw parties in the hangars. Because they’re isolated and some have water and power and because it may be the only place in Austin where you can have a loud noisey DJ-fest with a bunch of people that lasts until 6am without having the police called (which is, I suppose, ironic).

“Renegades” are what they call ‘em, now, “rave” being a bit dated by this point and not sounding quite… outlaw enough, I guess. About fifty or seventy people showed up. Hill and Eric DJed for a couple of hours (and really got the crowd wound up, I must admit). Then Merrick went on at 2:30 or so (and I took off). Big, dark room inside a hangar with some blue Christmas lights here-and-there and, later, a big projection over the DJs showing footage that the person handling the visuals had apparently taken from artist work shown at the AMODA Digital Showcases and had been using for his own stuff recently. Funny. So I recognized some of it up there. Pliex. Flora+Fauna. Etc.

Mr. Digital Showcase himself Todd Simmons turned up around 1:45 and we spoke a bit about AMODA and what he’s been up to. It hasn’t been that long, but it’s weird how some people seem so much… older. I also realized that I’ve known Todd, now, for about five years… Since I first performed at a Digital Showcase during the summer of 2001. (Ah, halcyon days.) Cosmic.

Anyway. I knew Hillary, Eric, and Merrick, of course, but I did meet some of the others responsible for the night. The Oscillate Night series still sticks in people’s minds, it seems, which is good. So I have some cred. I should participate in one of these, I was told. Maybe I should. I live in New York most of the time, these days, you know. But you’re here fairly often, right. Yeah, probably more in the future that in the past six months. I’ll be back for SXSW. Cool.