A Tale of Two Cities – Why Houston is Unfairly Dissed in Favor of Austin

I guess city rivalries are a standard thing in almost every state of the U.S. I grew up in the Houston area, lived in Austin through most of the 1990′s, moved back to H-Town, and then recently back to Austin after living in Houston for many years. I like both cities a lot, for different reasons.

But there’s a lot of weird hard feelings and mean-spirited criticism of both cities by people that live in the other, and it seems dumb to me. Especially considering that there are a lot of ignorant fools from outside of Texas that think the whole state is populated with subhuman stereotypes, or that the whole area in unfit for human habitation. They think Texas sucks and that we’re unsophisticated and stupid. Those are the morons we should save our disdain for, not people living a little less than 200 miles apart.

Rather than determine that one city is “better” than the other, it would be far more accurate to just say that they’re very different in many key ways, and the things that make one place paradise for a person, might make it a Hell for a different individual.

There is a really REALLY tired slogan for Austin – “Keep Austin Weird.” Oddly enough, I generally see that bumper sticker or t-shirt being used by the most average-looking people you can imagine. Middle-aged dudes in khaki shorts and topsiders that look like they probably are executives at a bank somewhere, or their completely mainstream (but slightly different) equivalent.

When you’re really weird, you don’t generally need to advertise that. You just are.

That annoyance aside, Austin quit being un-self consciously weird years ago, perhaps decades ago. For good or bad, it went from being a magnet for oddballs from all over Texas and beyond to becoming a hip place to live. It went from being weird to being cool. And cool is only cool if you like it that way.

Yes, Austin is still a college town, and it still has a very lively local music scene. But its population has also boomed, with people from all over the world moving here in droves. That’s fine, but it’s killing a lot of the quirky, small town feel that Austin had been known for. Throw in gigantic music festivals like SXSW that seem to draw a mostly out of town audience while the locals avoid it, and this does not seem like the odd little college town with a great local music scene that it once was.

Yes, many of the local places and pastimes that seemed to mark Austin as a unique city are still around. You can still go cool down at Barton Springs, or see the bats on Congress, and there is live music happening all over town, but it seems more like a Disney World replication of the Austin of years ago. Seeing families with children all over town makes it seem like you’re in some sort of approximation of what a “cool college town” would be if it were sanitized for suburban consumption. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but the spirit of this town has changed a lot, and I suspect that it will continue to.

Houston, on the other hand was never burdened by an image as a hip weird place where “anything goes!” It always seemed to be considered a good place to raise a family and make a living by Texans, but hip it was not.

I have to report that in the decades that I’ve bounced back and forth between these two cities, I’ve experienced just as many weird shenanigans in Houston as I did in Austin. It’s actually a lot more accurate to say “Keep Texas Weird” because Texas IS weird, an enormous state marked by its diversity of people and places. This state often gets snubbed by people from outside of it because…well, because people are stupid and mean, and because some will use anything they can to try to feel superior to others.

Austin is the sort of place where everyone you meet is an “artist” of some sort, and everyone is self consciously trying to broadcast how weird and edgy they are… While producing very little.

Houston wears it’s weird more secretly. It remains hidden, not self promoted as much, and then one day you realize that the quiet normal looking guy you work with has created art or music that’s really cool and strange without most people even knowing it.

I’ve known quite a few idiots that can’t conceive of living anywhere except for a small handful of cities. Places like San Francisco, Portland Oregon, New York City, Seattle, and unfortunately Austin also seems to be on that list.

We all like what we like, and that’s fine and dandy. Acting like anyone living outside those places is a cretin is both pretentious and shows a stilted elitism on the part of the moronic clowns who think that only those places matter. There’s a HUGE country outside of those cities, and it’s not all hillbillies and idjits occupying it. I’ve been all over this country multiple times, and discovered that, almost without exception, people are pretty much the same everywhere. Yes, some cities and even states have a certain “feel” to them that sets them apart from others, but I’ve never found a place that just won over all the rest.

To the people that have found that place that is perfect to them, great. Please move there, enjoy your life, and shut the fuck up about how everywhere else sucks. No one wants to hear from people like you.

Anyway, while Austin has long attracted a certain dubious fame as a hip city, Houston never has. But let’s look a little closer at the things Houston has to offer a person.

1. Houston has Great museums and a good art scene.

Let’s just get that one out of the way first. Houston has many exceptional museums. I’ve been going to the Natural Science a museum and the Museum of Fine Arts since I was a kid. I took summer art classes at the Glassell School of Art, and have hung out at the Menil Collection museum since I was young. There’s a Printing Museum, the Children’s Museum, and countless galleries throughout the area. Then you have the Commerce Street Art Warehouse, and the Orange Show, two longtime havens for local artists of all types. Houstonians have the opportunity to see work by contemporary artists, or head to see work by artists like Andy Warhol and Van Gogh. The city has an enormous art presence. It’s also known as a hotbed of folk art, as places like The Orange Show, Beer Can House, and Art Car Museum demonstrate. Houston also has a vibrant street art scene, and if we’re talking about music, the often dissed city has had a huge impact of popular music, particularly the hip hop world.

Austin is full of artists of various types, and it would never seek to insult the creative people in this city, but its museum presence is negligible compared to Houston’s, which is world class. Musically it’s got a lot going for it, but a Austin can’t touch Houston in regards to museums or other artistic venues.

2. Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in America.

Yes, even more so than New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. This is probably shocking news to some people outside of Texas, but would not surprise most Houstonians who’ve bothered to look around town in the last couple of decades. Houston is full of people from all over the world, and is truly an international city now. There are many areas of town that offer cultural experiences brought from places like Russia, China, Vietnam, Mexico, and the list goes on and on. Perhaps the most notable effect this has had on the average Houstonian is the emergence of one of the nation’s best food scenes, but more on that later. It is common to hear people conversing in many different languages, and this melting pot of nationalities has infused Houston with a wealth of multicultural experiences to enjoy. The idea that Houston is some sort of cultural wasteland populated by lily white faces with red necks is utter bullshit.

Austin, on the other hand, still has a majority white homogeneous population. In a brilliant recent article in Texas Monthly, writer Cecilia Balli brought up the fact that it’s one of, if not the top, most segregated major cities in Texas. Minorities still live behind certain invisible geographic lines in this city, and seeing anyone that’s an immigrant from another country is rare unless they’re in town visiting, or going to UT. It’s just not a diverse mixing pot of people.

What you see a lot of here are a cross-section of white people. Austin’s not even as influenced by Hispanic culture as many other Texas cities are. Austin seems to be full of youngish white folks, a lot of whom are pretty comfortable, having come from nice middle or upper middle class backgrounds. They tend to be more socially liberal than young people in some other Texas cities, and some may look “weirder” – getting a few tattoos, piercings and a weird haircut while they spend their parents’ money pursuing an Art Degree or whatever. They’ll hang out at Austin music clubs, and keep it all weird, until they hit their early thirties and clean up their acts to assume their entitled positions of privilege (that were waiting like the wings of an angel to catch them if they fell the whole time). Then they’ll have kids with whimsical names, and will trade in their Fuck Emos shirts for khaki shorts and flip flops.

One will hear a lot of political and social outrage from these young Austinites, it’s like a real life version of some pissy Facebook community. Of course, there are minorities and white working class people making this city roll along, but those Peter Pan type young Austinites sure are plentiful. A lot of time they’re just waiting tables and biding their time before they can cash in their trust funds and move to some other urban paradise like Portland, which strikes me as an even more affected “weird” city. Grow thy beards and ride thy unicycles. Please just do it somewhere outside of Austin. We’ve got enough of that crap here already.

I guess my point is that Austin seems full of entitled white kids play-acting at struggle, while the people that really ARE struggling (minorities and working poor whites) either can’t afford to live here anymore, or are too busy trying to survive to go check out some fucking music festival. Houston offers a lot more things for people of all types, and socio-economic groups to enjoy.

Which brings us to…

3. Houston is cheaper to live in.

Surprisingly, that’s NOT true over all. Houston is actually a little more expensive than Austin in most ways that people measure their cost of living, and that includes rent, utilities, and groceries. But the average income is also marginally higher in Houston, and where the disparity comes into play is in scale. Houston is a big freaking city, and when we’re talking about things like rent that’s important. Yeah, it’s expensive as fuck to rent a decent place in the previously quirky and affordable Montrose neighborhood, but a broke ass Houstonian can find reasonably priced places to live in many other not so in-demand neighborhoods. Austin is not as small as rumored – it’s currently the 11th largest city in America, and grows with a steady influx of new residents with every passing day. But there are fewer and fewer cheap places to live here. Unlike the mighty sprawl that is Houston, pretty much every neighborhood here is getting pricey, so those rent averages are less “average.” If every place available is $1200 a month, does that make it better when Houston’s average rent is say $1300, but that takes into account rents in the $1500 range AND places that cost much less? You just don’t have a wide range to choose from if you’re on a limited income. InHouston, you’re more likely to find something livable for less.

When it comes to home prices, that also seems to be the case. I live in a modest 1300 square foot home with a train track behind it. It’s nice, but far from palatial. For the same money in Houston, I’d have my pick of much bigger places in some nice neighborhoods. Your home buying money just goes a lot further in H-Town. It’s been weird seeing formerly affordable neighborhoods mutate into hip hotspots over the last twenty years. The run down homes that I once rented in a South Austin would cost close to half a million dollars to buy now. That’s no joke. Some of those places were selling for $80,000 back in the 1990′s.

But this one is somewhat of a draw when either city is compared to other places nationally. Texas cities are just far more affordable for the average person than many other cities across the USA. Neither Austin or Houston bury the other on value.

4. Food. Houston is one of the nation’s best food cities.

It just is. I think it’s pretty obvious to any Houstonian who eats out a lot that the city is pretty special in that regard. It’s part of that international and ethnically diverse trend that’s been happening in the Houston area for decades. You can easily find many different options when it comes to eating in Houston. Vietnamese Pho is everywhere, along with a Indian food, Tex Mex, Cajun, and everything else under the sun. There are thousands of restaurants ranging from four star affairs down to food trucks dotting the culinary landscape of Houston.

Austin, on the other hand, offers much less variety.

Sometimes it feels like Austin has three types of basic cuisines – (mostly watered down) Tex Mex, BBQ, and “Breakfast.”

Be prepared to have black beans and home fries with every fucking meal when you eat out. Also be prepared to encounter vegan and vegetarian options everywhere, including the BBQ joints. I’m not saying that’s a “bad” thing, just that eating out here is pretty homogenized and boring after maybe a year. Houston in comparison is a dining adventure that seems like it could take a lifetime to explore.

But hey! You want some black bean goo on that burger! Fuck it, we HAVE that here!

5. For all of the negative stereotyping, Houston is a tolerant town in general.

Maybe it’s all of that ethnic diversity, or the huge gay population, but Houston is a pretty tolerant place to live. There’s an openly gay Mayor, making it the city with the highest elected homosexual person in the nation. Houston has the Pride Parade, and just feels like there’s a “live and let live” attitude there. Not every place in the country can boast that. I work with two lesbians who came from New York, and both have told me that they encountered a lot less discrimination when living in Houston than either New York or Austin. Granted, that’s anecdotal, but I see no reason to doubt their experiences.

Austin is pretty friendly to gays too, but they don’t have the developed community or leadership here that Houston provides.

When it comes down to it, Houston and Austin are both great cities in their own way, and we should collectively hone our hatred for the miserable shit hole that is Dallas, home of thieves and villainous scum.

OK, maybe Dallas is alright. I’ve never spent a lot of time there.

Let’s get a couple f other things out of the way. Houston by and large is not a “beautiful city”, although it has a sort of spiraling urban charm that some people come to love. I certainly do. Austin is in a very pretty part of Texas, and you’re never more than a few minutes away from some pretty bit of nature.

BOTH cities have traffic issues if that’s really important. I routinely drive during rush hour across town in both Austin and Houston, and I don’t get what the ruckus is. If you live in a big fucking city, traffic is part of the price you pay. I somehow have learned to avoid the traffic hotspots, other people should learn that survival skill too before bitching about “bad traffic”.

When it comes down to it, neither Austin or Houston really “win” over the other. Both are cool places to make a home, depending on what is most important to a person. If growing a stupid looking beard and mustache, and scooting down the road on a unicycle playing your ukulele sounds like paradise to you, you might be happier in Austin. But please do us all a favor and just head straight to Portland with that shit.

Seriously. We’re sick of that crap around here.

OK, more seriously. A young liberal person that wants to be surrounded by people much like themselves, and who really likes things like frisbee golf and seeing bands every night might enjoy Austin more than Houston. Someone that likes living in a huge city, with the cultural activities that offers, while enjoying a diversity of people and neighborhoods would probably enjoy Houston more.

The coolest thing is that you can like both. These are two Texas cities, not warring city states. I love both for very different reasons.

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Sizurp… Houston’s drink of choice.

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Black beans… You’ll be encountering a LOT of those little bastards if you eat anywhere in Austin.

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Always nice to go out and see a band in Austin…. Oh wait… Fuck that.

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Unlikely Moments in Horror Movies…

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I’m feeling down. May I have a hug?

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I was on my way to a birthday party. Have you seen the cake?

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Sometimes I don’t think my family values my opinions enough.

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Soon ye shall taste me briny load!!!

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I really need companionship. This mask helps shield me from rejection.

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The food on the cruise ship was awful! I thought we might be sick for days!

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She called me ugly. I know I’m not Tom Cruise, but that really hurt my feelings.

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I probably should’ve just skipped my prom and went to the beach party instead.

Modern Vampires Suck.

Vampires. I’m a huge fan of horror movies, but I’ve really began to loathe vampires.

To be clear, there are some great vampire films out there spanning decades, and occasionally a really good new one will appear.

So what’s my beef with undead blood suckers? It’s really my disgust with how all things “Vampire” have evolved in pop culture over the last thirty or so years, but especially over the last twenty.

Vampires are a great classic monster. Almost every culture has at least one creepy vampire myth, and the film and literature versions were mostly scary, until 1976 when “Interview With the Vampire” was published. Now, by that time vampires probably needed a dose of originality to keep them frightening for newer audiences, but keeping them as monsters would’ve been preferable to turning them into bisexual immortal super heroes, which is how Anne Rice’s vampires have always struck me.

I’m not the hugest Stephen King fan, but 1975′s “Salem’s Lot” managed to keep the vampires a lot spookier than Lestat and company. If a dead blood sucker isn’t at least spooky then something has been lost along the way.

Yes, the movie vampires have almost always had powers of seduction. It is part of the myth’s appeal, but when the undead begin to resemble gothic club pickup artists more than hell-spawned creatures of darkness, that’s going to get in the way of my enjoyment.

About that gothic club thing…

I’ve been around the gothic music scene since the 80′s, and while I don’t presently claim any sort of membership in the gothic subculture, I am fond of some of the music and associated culture. I own an old Cadillac hearse, I collect horror movie props, my house looks like a horror museum of sorts, and my old bands played gothic and industrial music clubs all over a North America. I have some considerable experience around that scene.

The gothic subculture is a lively one strangely enough, and has mutated and continues to mutate as the years roll on. One of the weirder developments in that subculture was the introduction of vampire role playing games into the mix. Way back in 1991, the “Vampire the Masquerade” game was released, and fangtards everywhere were suddenly born. People that probably never would’ve set foot inside a gothic dance club before were donning leather trench coats and top hats, and snapping in a set of fake fangs for a night out on the town.

This was not a good development in preserving the inherent scariness of vampires. Encountering goofy vinyl wrapped fanboys and girls wearing fake teeth and in some cases expecting others to take their vampirism seriously made vampires seem dumber than ever before.

Yeah, a few of these costumed nerds actually expected the rest of us to believe that they were REALLY vampires. Made me want to drive a fucking stake through the lot of them.

Look, I fully support anyone’s right to shape their reality in any way they see fit, but don’t expect me to believe your patently absurd bullshit. There are even a few of these nouveau vamps that see their fake undead status as a “religion” of sorts, and who see it as some sort of energy transfer..

I would be fine with people absorbing certain aspects of Vampirism into their state of being, but so much of this stuff just looks like a sad cry for attention. Someone who actually possessed certain vampiric qualities probably wouldn’t need to go to some “Vampire Night” at the local goth club wearing a fricking cape.

So there has been a silly convergence of comic book and role playing game style fandom, combined with gothic club culture and vampire fiction.

Somehow this combining of elements has managed to make all of those things worse. Unlike chocolate and peanut butter, some stuff just doesn’t go well together, and gothic culture and vampire wannabes are one of those things.

The Internet has created and organized all sorts of subcultures, and in the case of “real vampires” this has drawn more people to “embrace” the goofiness.

Probably as an attempt to market to these types of vampire fans, a new generation of shitty vampire movies came into being. Films like the “Underworld” series, or the “Blade” films look like they’re tailor made for the fake fang and top hat crowd. Unfortunately, this “Clubification” of the vampire myth has made them less scary. Now they’re just sexually seductive anti-heroes, and might as well be a new kind of super hero. That’s fucking stupid to me.

Let’s review:

Vampires are supposed to be dead, and the real myths are fairly gruesome, not sexy. Most film and book depictions up until Anne Rice shat all over the myth preserved the central monstrosity of vampires even when they were shown to have powers of seduction.

Somewhere along the line, a specific kind of nerd fan base was born, and when vampire role playing games came along, many of those folks started integrating some sort of fake vampirism into their public life.

Movies inevitably came along, and suck followed. Not blood sucking either, just sucking in general. I guess it goes without saying that that I’m not a fan of these types of films, and would like to see the vampire preserved as a scary monster, not the greasy dude wearing ill-fitting vinyl pants in the corner of some dance club, trying to pick up chicks.

Oh yes, the role playing connection has also created an equally stupid “werewolf” subculture. It’s like the vampires except hairier. Also like the vampires, some of these folks expect you to believe their status as a magical being, despite them being unable to demonstrate any supernatural powers at all.

I’ll leave you with this image. Once, many years ago, my roommate and I were working at a comic book convention as part of our job. We accidentally walked through the wrong door into a huge banquet hall filled with mostly obese “werewolf” people in the middle of some sort of live action role playing game. They were all howling in unison, as if the Ramada Inn had been transformed into a Transylvanian Forest.

Roommate and I exchanged a glance and backed the fuck out of that place.

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Somewhere in there is a pimply guy wearing fangs, clutching a copy of “Interview With a Vampire”, and his boner.

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Basically a bible for blood sucking nerds.

Bottom Feeder TV – How Reality Shows Make Celebrities Out of Terrible People.

On some level a lot of us understand that reality television is both not real and mostly awful.

It’s a popular format for good reason. Viewers seem to have an insatiable appetite for the manufactured and random drama being fed to us, and we get to live vicariously through the real life cartoon characters that populate most reality television. In some cases, almost anyone gets the happy thrill of being “better than” the people they see in these shows. That’s an appealing idea to many folks.

It’s a popular format with the people that manufacture these mostly shitty shows because it’s a fairly inexpensive format to produce, and often results in a runaway hit show. Who knew that so many of us would enjoy watching wealthy “rednecks” or alligator hunters in Louisiana?

Who would’ve thought that we’d be so captivated by goofy, living stereotypes of New Jersey Guidos, or “American Gypsies”?

Yeah, so quite a few of us realize this stuff is trash – the television equivalent of making fun of the retarded kid at school, or the poor kids that live in the trailer park on the bad side of town. But unlike those scenarios, these garbage shows let us feel superior in private, and not many people will criticize you for making fun of Honey Boo Boo’s mother.

I work a skilled labor kind of job. Most of the people I work with are crude and a few are pretty abrasive. When I get off work the last thing I want to watch is a bunch of yelling lumberjacks or crab fishermen acting like total assholes to each other. It’s like putting in extra hours at my job.

So there are lots of horrible reality shows out there. Pick your poison, I guess. But the shows that get my goat the most celebrate bottom feeder jobs and the people that work them.

Like something out of a John Waters film, we have elevated pawn shop owners, tow truck drivers, people that go to abandoned storage auctions, and “Pickers” into celebrities. What. The. Fuck?

There’s nothing noble about running a pawn shop. Let’s strip away the bullshit, that is not a particularly nice way to make a living. I’ve seen people argue about how pawn shops fill a “necessary function,” but do we need to celebrate that shit? I’m a musician, and have had gear stolen on two occasions. On both, my stuff was almost immediately sold to scummy pawn shops, and no, the owners were not helpful when they discovered they’d bought stolen goods.

And let’s face it, they prey on desperate people. Yeah, I guess it’s marginally better that pawn shops exist so those folks don’t have to go to some criminal loan shark, but anyone that can make their living as a pawn broker is not someone I’d rank highly on the compassion scale.

Yet there are multiple pawn shop reality shows. I guess the “classiest” is Pawn Stars, since they try hard to act like that store’s bread and butter is museum piece rarities. From what I understand, the guys from the show don’t really work there, most of the walk-ins with interesting items are set ups, and there’s nothing much real about any of it. I’ve heard the pawn shop was the kind of place where junkies would hock gold fillings for 3 AM drug money prior to the show, and that’s not surprising.

I get that people like seeing rare items, and probably enjoy the fake haggling and deal making, but why the hell would anyone like the Harrisons or Chumlee? Can’t we find enough greedy slimeballs and stoners in real life to sate our appetite for people like that?

Then there are shows like “American Pickers”, proving that two guys from Iowa can hop in a van and take advantage of elderly hoarders. It seems to have a similar appeal to the pawn shows. The idea that hidden treasures are out there is one that a lot of people enjoy, and the Pickers are less assholish in general, even though they still manage to come off like exploitative weasels from time to time. They may or may not be nice enough people in real life, but their business model is finding people with cool stuff, and then talking people into selling said stuff for about a third of what the Pickers think they can flip it for.

That’s not necessarily exploitative in itself. People sell things to antique stores or shops that specialize in collectibles all the time. The people running those businesses have to buy stuff at a price that allows them to make a profit, but what’s troubling is that many of the people the American Pickers find who are extremely old. If you listen to the way they haggle, they get pretty cut throat too, or resort to manipulative tactics to convince those folks to sell to them.

I collect the kinds of weird stuff that those two dudes seem to like buying, and I would love the opportunity to tell them to get lost and pound sand if they ever showed up at my front door.

Finally, there are the “Storage Wars” shows. Let’s not fool ourselves. People rent storage lockers, and occasionally lose them because they’re too broke to pay the storage rent. Then the storage facility has a public auction. That’s when the parasites that are the main characters in “Storage Wars” come in.

So we have a show that begins with the premise that someone else’s life has gone to shit, and that they’ve had to abandon what might be their only material possessions. Of course, that reality isn’t brought into this reality show, as that’s just a bummer to consider. I’ve seen an interview where the shows producers say just that. Exploring the locker’s history and backstory wouldn’t set the mood they want to sell.

Reality huh?

This show does manage to make most of it’s primary characters look like the scummy bastards they probably really are, and I guess that’s something. Whenever I’ve caught an episode, I see these slimeballs sifting through the locker contents, probably skipping over irreplaceable family photos in the scramble to find something that they can sell at the local flea market, and I think “these people are total garbage. They should be killed and the Earth cleansed of their presence.”

And I’m probably right about that.

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Buuuuurrrrrppppp!!!

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Hi, we’re all reprehensible parasites.

Good going, America. We’ve embraced a format of television show that really is a race to the bottom of the worst that human nature has to offer. We can now vicariously experience loathsome individuals of all sorts fighting each other or trying to take advantage of other people for financial gain. We should be very proud of ourselves.

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The Skinny Weasel.

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The Chubby Weasel

It’s Time To Do Away With Tipping at Restaurants.

I’m always a little amazed and disgusted when I discover that someone I know is a lousy tipper, or expects some ridiculous level of service in order to extract a meager single dollar bill from their miserly pocketbook.

It’s not usually a case of that person simply being a cold and cheap individual, although it’s obvious that some of those people exist, and like to eat out. It seems to me that a lot of otherwise nice and generous folks just have strange attitudes in regard to the people that serve them their food.

I’ve worked in and around various food oriented jobs for decades. Although I’ve never been a server, I’ve known a bunch of them, and observed the shitty treatment they often get, along with other people in food service jobs. There’s a stupid perception by some that servers must have ended up in those jobs because they “didn’t stay in school” or had low ambition (which is a ridiculous thing to think). I’d love to see the people I know with a Bachelors degree and an office job try to work a busy lunch or dinner service, remembering often picky patron’s orders, managing several tables, and also appearing friendly while doing it. It’s a grace under pressure job, and requires a lot of quick thinking and a heavy skill set. Most people simply can’t do it.

Unfortunately, here in the USA, someone decided that servers should be paid a very nominal hourly wage, and have to depend on tips to really make their money. Who the fuck came up with this system, and how would people in other vocations like to depend on the optional generosity of strangers, sometimes total dickheads, to make ends meet?

I can’t even fathom a situation where say, the local auto mechanic only made $5.00 an hour, and had to rely on tips to get by. Or a company’s I.T. Department? Yep, reroute the servers, and if we like what you do, we’ll tip you. I’m sure that would go over well.

But some people will gladly mistreat their waiters, and tip them less than they should, or will forego the tip entirely if given the chance.

There seem to be different types of lousy tippers too.

You get the “True Assholes”, which are just that. They’re bullying pricks or cheapskates that will abuse someone they temporarily have power over just because they’re miserable pricks. I’d prefer to just see these types of individuals humiliated or murdered when they’re discovered, but that’s not a popular position. These fucks sometimes seem to just have an antagonistic attitude towards servers in general. They might consider them “losers” or less than human. They should look in the mirror.

Then you get the “Super Picky Performance Analysts.” These are probably the most common under-tippers I’ve seen. They’ll “tip” a server, but only if their ridiculous high standards are met. And I’m sorry, but there is a difference in the dining experience depending on the type of restaurant you’re eating at. It’s unrealistic and harsh to expect the server at a Denny’s to lavish the type of attention some diva might require to match his or her expectations of perfection.

As long as the service is competent and friendly, what more does a person want for a $10 meal? If you’re the type of person that routinely goes radically “off menu” and is so picky that your requests veer towards Stupidville, then just do everyone a favor and eat at home.

As much as I hate to bring up this inconvenient observation, there are also certain minority groups that are famously bad tippers. I have to think that this is based in some real phenomena, as almost every waiter or waitress I’ve known has remarked on it, but for some reason it’s not culturally taught that decent tipping is the right thing to do.

Oddly, that seems to be limited to restaurants, as I’ve seen that tipping is happily provided at other venues, for other services.

I guess I’ll also have to throw in the observation that old people are often crappy tippers, even the ones that are comfortably well off. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps it’s just some cultural artifact from the days when $1.00 was a generous tip for a big meal, maybe the elderly just like to hold onto that cash for bingo night, but it is a thing.

I’ve heard some people argue that a restaurant is just too expensive, and use miserly tipping as some way to punish the place. The logical disconnect is astounding, as all they’re doing is punishing the person serving them. The restaurant doesn’t care. To put it simply, if you don’t have enough money to tip at least 15% you don’t have enough money to eat out at that place.

Waiter friends of mine have also mentioned that church groups eating out after services on Sunday often suck at tipping. A few have even received ridiculous religious tracts instead of a real tip. Trust me, your server working on a Sunday lunch service can use the cash more than Joel “I’m a Money Demon” Osteen. Congrats cheapskate religious people, you’ve made Baby Jesus cry. See you in the Lake of Fire.

Honestly, I think there is a sad cultural perception by too many people that the folks in service industries, particularly those that prepare and serve them food, are somehow “less” than them, which is as ridiculous as it is asinine. If you seriously or casually think like that, I’d like to see your face introduced to concrete. Might be a humbling experience. If anything, the people serving others should be looked up to and respected, not treated like abused servants.

My ideal scenario would be for America to change towards a more European model in regards to how we pay servers. Do away with tipping entirely. There’s no reason that a person serving food should have to give a patron a complimentary blowjob just to “earn” a meager wage from super picky pricks that like their power trip.

In France tipping isn’t expected, and the service remains just fine. How is this possible? Just the same way it is in every other business. When a waiter provides consistently bad service, the manager is alerted, and that person doesn’t keep their job for long. If anything, this system weeds out the truly incompetent or unpleasant servers, and provides the patron with a better dining experience.

Restaurants are marginally more expensive there because they pay their servers instead of forcing them to rely on tips, but they’re not THAT much more expensive. Maybe a cheapskate that’s grown accustomed to eating out ten times a week would have to cut down their eating out a little, but that’s a fair thing to do if it eliminates the power they have over another person’s wages.

I’m sure some people reading this won’t like what I have to say. That’s fine, but look in the mirror. Maybe you’re one of the cheapskates that should reconsider how they treat their servers.

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This is not a tip any server would want. Off to the Lake of Fire with ye!

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This is an adequate tip. if it’s 1923.

Requiem For a Studio.

IMG_3352 IMG_3353 IMG_3357 IMG_3367 IMG_3383I remember the first time I ever set foot inside The Studio. My friend Renee took me there. She was a concert promotor at the time, and was friends with an intense local band named Bozo Porno Circus. They had a very cool studio that was located in the heart of the Montrose neighborhood. Soon after that introduction to the place, I was asked to join the band, a decision that would radically change the direction of my life for several years. Possibly forever.

The Studio was located right next to a nondescript mom-and-pop convenience store about a block from the major intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Richmond Avenue. I’d probably passed the place without noticing a hundred times in the past. To the left of the convenience store’s entrance was a blacked out door and display window.  A location that spawned so much Houston music was hidden in plain sight.

“The Studio” was Bozo Porno Circus’s home base, and was a nice set up. It was big enough for a large band like BPC to comfortably practice, was a good storage place for the numerous props and gear that we needed to perform, and was also set up as a recording studio. It was decidedly not fancy but it was one of the better practice rooms I’d ever seen, definitely nicer than any of the band rehearsal complexes that I’d been in prior to that.

As that band became a second family to me, the studio became a second home, and I spent almost every day there for several years. The studio had a benefactor and “System Administrator” named Al that kept the technical end of things running smoothly, while also paying a lot of the bills.

I wouldn’t know it at the time, but Al would go on to become a very good friend of mine over the years.

Without getting into the history of the bands that played in the studio back then, eventually BPC moved on and Asmodeus X became the main client. Even though my band had left, I liked the space enough to want to keep my foot in the door. Spaces like that one were not something I ran across often, and I’d grown quite fond of it over the few years I’d been there.

So I made a deal with Al, and my catch-all music project Pitchforque moved in. By then, the studio was known as Fjardeson Studios and other bands had found homes there.

Honestly, the place meant more to me as a gathering place for creative types and a club house as much as anything else, but it also was the location of a lot of great music over the years.

I became a much less frequent visitor over the last three or four years. There were many reasons for that, primarily a demanding work schedule out in the real world, and I sort of lost touch with the newer bands filtering through the place. Most of those people seemed to view the place as just another practice facility, and a lot of the comradeship that had made The Studio such an important part of my world seemed to taper off. Things change. Places change too. That might be one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in life. Change is inevitable, and it’s probably best to accept that reality rather than to attempt to hold on to something forever.

The Montrose has been gentrifying for the last twenty years at least, and recently it seems like that process has accelerated. It’s sapped away a lot of what made the neighborhood interesting to me, and it’s also made rents skyrocket.

The seemingly inevitable cycle of a neighborhood becoming desirable because of its local color, and then driving out the creative types that gave it its specialness is in high gear. The owners of The Studio property, the family owning the convenience store next door, doubled the rent. Taking it steadily from a “great deal” into “almost a mortgage payment” territory.

Al couldn’t really hang on anymore, and no one else could afford it either. The Studio was going to go away. I actually teared up when I heard the news. Places become a big part of our lives, and like a seemingly eternal family home, it was a shock to realize that the source of so many good times would soon be gone, replaced by a stupid nail salon or flower shop, something ordinary and lame.

But that’s life. I realized that with the loss of the actual place, a location I’d been a part of for over fifteen years, that the friendships I’d made there were the really important things, and that those will last forever.

The Studio will always be part of who I am, and its memory will last the rest of my life. I imagine some of the other people that were a part of that place feel the same way.

801 Richmond Avenue. I will always remember that place.