Reflections On City Living From a Non Nine to Fiver

When your work schedule is no longer Monday through Friday 9 to 5, you find yourself not giving a shit about staying in on a Friday night.  (I’m a musician)  I work tomorrow night, so tonight in the house is fine with me, communicating with my animals.  I also spend my work days/nights in places that other people play, so when I do have time off I find myself not being that drawn to bars or clubs anyway.  If I want to see people drink so much that they are in touch with the spirit world, all I have to do is wait till I play a show.  Whatever I am, I am not a classic extrovert.  I don’t need to be interacting in a crowd to feel energized and happy.  That’s not saying that given the right circumstances I can’t enjoy that, it’s just not what I need to keep going.  However, I do love the art and culture of a city.  When a city is walkable I love walking around at night, seeing what’s going on, even if I’m just observing, as long as it isn’t so crowded that it resembles the movie Blade Runner.

Not only is my playtime not dictated by the usual workweek schedule, but I try, when possible, to avoid rush hour all together.  Now in Austin, driving somewhere at noon on a Tuesday feels like rush hour in many other places, so I can’t avoid traffic all together by any means.  Morning rush hour here is not that bad, but from 3:30 to 7, M-F, stay off the roads if at all possible.  I don’t understand how people that have to drive in that kind of thing aren’t screaming like banshees for some kind of sensible public transportation.  (I did work 9 to 5, or close to it, for many years.)  City dwellers that fetishize their cars are a breed I don’t quite understand.  It’s not freedom.  Having to drive everywhere in a city, especially at normal hours, is like volunteering to be locked in a slow moving box for several hours a day.  Even if the music is great and your seat is comfortable, at some point you are going to pray for The Road Warrior to become a reality.

In this country we have the money and the technology to do whatever we want, if we really wanted to.  Why don’t more people work from home?  Why is our transportation so shitty?  Austin is a pretty forward thinking city compared to some.  We couldn’t even get the populace to approve one train line.  This is when the population of our city, and the world in general, is exploding.  I have a friend that when he used to get baked, and we would talk about traffic, while his eyes were slits, would say about traffic that, “It’s so fucking inefficient!”  If he, in his state of mind, could tell that, what are most people thinking when sober?

Advertisements

Prop 1 In Austin and Public Transportation

I apologize in advance for those of you outside of Austin, although I do think what I’m about to write pertains to people outside of Austin.  In Austin we are debating public transportation right now.  There is a proposition on the ballot that will fund 9.5 miles of rail and improvements to our roads.  It is called Prop 1 on the ballot.  If you want to support it, vote yes on Prop 1.  Even at a conservative estimate the rail is supposed to take 10,000 cars a day off of the roads.  Why is this a conservative estimate?  Because they want to pass more rail in the future.  In order to do this the first one has to work as promised.  They would prefer it to work better than they said, and not worse, so they are estimating that it will take 10,000 cars off the road each weekday, but in reality the numbers will actually probably be higher.

Here are some things that a lot of people don’t know:

1.  The federal government is matching the City of Austin dollar for dollar.  So those that are worried about price, which seems to be why most people are worried, should know that if we pass it now, we will only have to pay for half of it.

2.  Taxes will not be increased fully until 2020 and then it will be on average of $20 dollars a month per household.

3.  Many people don’t understand why the city is starting with one line.  This is because the last time the city tried to pass rail, they tried a comprehensive plan and it was voted down by a small margin.  This time they are trying to do it a little bit at a time so it has a better chance of passing.  They are addressing I-35, which is the worst road in Austin.  This 9.5 miles of rail also hits a lot of the main parts of Austin including downtown, UT, ACC campus at the Highland Mall, East Riverside, and the med center.

4.  Some people are concerned that it doesn’t go to the airport.  If it went to the airport they would have to deal with Federal Aviation and the price tag would be even higher.  Again, this plan was put into place because they were trying to get something that would pass, based on the defeat of last time, while still addressing a wide number of concerns in the city.

Now those are just a couple answers to people’s concerns that I have heard.  There are things I didn’t bring up, like it will be more environmentally friendly than having all those people drive, It’s the kind of project that Americans need to be doing to get off of fossil fuels, it will provide convenient and affordable transportation for those that owning a car isn’t a reality, and it will make the city more livable.  If you were to ask most people what the worst thing about Austin is, most people would probably say the traffic.

But this proposition is also the moral thing to do.  This is where those of you that are not from Austin should be interested.  Both because of climate change and because of conflicts that arise over oil, we need to be finding ways to diminish our use of gas.  Getting 10,000 people a day, and hopefully more in the future, won’t change the world in and of itself, but it is the start of a lifestyle change that we need to be making.

Those that only think of their own pocketbook are missing the larger picture.  We spend money on all kinds of wasteful stuff in this country.  I’m sure that anyone that complains about taxes probably has some kind of TV or other thing in their house that they could do without if they really needed to.  No one is even asking you to go without such things.  I’m just trying to make the connection that $20 dollars a month towards something that is a public good, that will benefit people at large that don’t even live in Austin, although the citizens of Austin will see the most benefit, isn’t really that much to ask.  This is your chance to do something to make the world slightly better.

I have been all over Europe and Japan and most Americans have no idea how amazing good public transportation is.  It is so much less stressful than driving in bumper to bumper traffic.  You can actually enjoy yourself by reading a book, playing a game, or taking a nap.  When I used to work a day job I worked 12 miles from my home.  It would take me over an hour to get home some days.  I don’t care how good of a day I had, by the time I got home I wanted to dismember people.  Imagine if you could get on a train and read instead of do that drive.  It would make day to day life so much better.  In Japan and Europe public transportation is clean, efficient, and enjoyable.  Sitting in your car for an hour every afternoon inching your way forward is not efficient or enjoyable.  It is also ridiculously bad for our environment.

I criticize the GOP a lot on here.  I am largely criticizing the modern ultra-conservative GOP.  It is totally a fair argument to have to make sure that taxes are not spent on wasteful projects.  Even though I rarely agreed with the more moderate conservatives, I understood where they were coming from and felt that those arguments served a purpose.  The questions that conservatives and liberals should be asking is not should taxes be higher or lower, but are we getting something that makes our lives better through taxes.  If we are not then it is not worth spending money on.  If we are than it is.

The public good is always something worth spending money on.  Public transportation and parks and things of that nature, that make life more enjoyable, are worth committing resources to.  Spending billions of dollars on foreign wars in countries that are of no threat to our security are not.  Can we not see that we often spend money on all the wrong things?

I love this city and I love this country.  But we must admit that as a people we are often wasteful.  Things like Prop 1 are our chance to not only make our lives better, but to be better citizens in the world.  On one hand Prop 1 is about the kind of city we want to live in here in Austin.  But really, it is about so much more.

Shows, Shows, Shows

This is a rundown of this week’s Shinyribs show, as well as current upcoming solo gigs.

Shinyribs this week (All Texas):

Thursday – Fort Worth – Capital Bar – 9pm – Free Show
Friday – Lubbock – The Blue Light – 11pm
Saturday – Roscoe – The Lumberyard – 8pm

Kev will also be playing at the Volcano in Houston tonight at 8pm I believe.  This is a solo show and I will not be making it.

Get more info at:

http://shinyribs.org/shows.html

Solo gigs on the books are at Strange Brew in ATX:

November 5th – 6pm – with Kacy Crowley
December 21st – 4pm – with Kacy Crowley

Basically the gigs with Kacy are song swaps, although my partner in crime, Alex Moralez, comes out and plays drums, and I will play bass when Kacy is singing.  I am working on building a solo website, but it will probably take a little time as I am pretty busy between gigs and working on a campaign to get public transportation passed in Austin.  I love Austin, but the traffic here is pretty hellish.  If we could fix that it would be a huge step forward.  We are trying to get the first major step in public transportation passed this November, but all the usual people are fighting it.  The city is supposed to double in size by 2040, so if we don’t do something now it is going to only get worse.

So anyway, at some point I will build a website, and I should have footage of the TV show I did coming to me so that y’all can here what my solo material sounds like.  I hope to make an album at some point next year, as soon as possible.  Working on getting more solo gigs which I will hopefully announce soon.

in the future when all’s well…

Jefferson

High Speed-Rail

images

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/us/delays-persist-for-us-high-speed-rail.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

This is an article about why we have failed to implement more high-speed rail in our country during the Obama years.  There is plenty of blame to go around as the administration, Republicans, and local governments have either made mistakes or directly opposed progress on this issue.

When I was in Japan last year I was blown away by how great the public transportation was.  In seeing the traffic around most U.S. cities, I will never understand why there isn’t a greater public push for more public transportation.

Soul Stealing Traffic

On my days off from music I have been working for a political organization.  Today it took me 45 minutes to get home when I don’t live but just on the other side of town.  Remember that this is a Saturday and I was not in rush hour traffic.  Whenever traffic is that bad I think there must be some kind of accident.  Surely poor city planning couldn’t result in such a clusterfuck could it?  I thought maybe a motorcycle with a side car must have crossed the divide going at tremendous speed and flew right through the side of a propane truck for traffic to be backed up that bad.  At least I hoped so at the time.  Because isn’t it much worse to think that we have created a society that is so ridiculously inefficient that merely crossing town becomes either a soul stealing escapade or dread inducing endeavor.  We could be reading a book on public transportation like they do in Japan or Europe, but instead we are creeping forward inch by inch while ruining our city’s air quality.  But hey, we’re American and cars are an expression of our personal freedom.  USA! USA!

Let the Train Blow the Whistle When I Go

I had a really enlightening conversation with a professor of mine yesterday.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to excel in his class.  As usual, I already feel like I have too many pots on the oven.  Anyway, we talked at length about global warming and how to get more people interested in renewable energy, public transportation, etc.  He was a pretty positive guy that felt that civic engagement at the local and state level was the key.  Austin is doing some positive things about carbon emissions.  Texas, not so much.

I can’t understand why people, especially those that live in cities, aren’t more enthusiastic about public transportation.  When I was working my last day gig I lived 12 miles from work and it would take me over an hour to get home some days.  By the time you got home you were borderline insane.  You wanted to run people off of the road like Mad Max in The Road Warrior.

I’ve been lucky to spend a good amount of time in Europe.  Travel by train there is just amazing.  It’s comfortable and affordable.  Instead of sweating and contemplating murdering your fellow man, you can sleep, read, play games, stare blankly out the window at the scenery, do work, and flat out relax.

In Austin we have an inner city rail line, but it’s not at a level yet that is very convenient for most people.  However, my professor says that people that do live where it is convenient for it to use are starting to realize the benefits of it and are using it in greater and greater numbers.  Once people realize something increases their quality of life they are more likely to keep using it and will want more of whatever that is.  Change is often slow and frustrating, but it can happen.

I was thinking how great train travel would be if we could really invest in it here.  I know many of you will say it’ll never happen.  Americans love their cars and we are a car country.  But trains are part of American folklore.  There are so many great train metaphors in our language.  There are also so many great iconic train songs in our culture.  Johnny Cash alone sang countless great train songs.  Let the Train Blow the Whistle When I Go, Hey Porter, Train of Love, are just some of the many that he sang.  Elvis sang a version of Mystery Train.  We need to get people dreaming about trains again.  The railroad is full of myth.  It would not only make our quality of life better, but it would also make us better global citizens.  In closing my favorite Johnny Cash train song:

LET THE TRAIN BLOW THE WHISTLE WHEN I GO

I don’t want no aggravation
When my train has left the station
If you’re there or not I may not even know
Have a round and remember
Things we did that weren’t so tender
Let the train blow the whistle when I go

On my old guitar sell tickets
So someone can finally pick it
And tell the girls down at the Ritz I said, “Hello”
Tell the gossipers and liars
I will see them in the fire
Let the train blow the whistle when I go

Let her blow, let her blow
Long and loud and hard and happy, let her blow
No regrets, all my debts will be paid when I get laid
Let her blow, let her blow, let her blow

You’ll be left without excuses
For the evils and abuses
Down to today from years and years ago
And have yourself another toke
From my basket full of smoke
And let the train blow the whistle when I go

Let her blow, let her blow
Long and loud and hard and happy, let her blow
No regrets, all my debts will be paid when I get laid
Let her blow, let her blow, let her blow
Let her blow, let her blow, let her blow

The Common Good and Lesser Deities

One of my favorite towns on earth is Bend, Oregon.  I almost don’t want to admit this, because I am greedy and don’t want too many people to discover this place.  The way it is right now is perfect.  Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but it is exactly the right size for a town.  It is big enough that things go on here, but small enough that it is built on a human scale.  You can walk to most places.  I have been here on tour about six times, give or take.  I have spent many hours walking the town and the trails just outside of it.  It never ceases to captivate me.
In Europe there are many cities that seem to be designed for actual people.  Even larger cities have adequate public transportation.  A city as large as Rome or Berlin can be crossed with ease, without even speaking the language.
I have an affinity for the people of Houston, Texas, but I doubt anyone from that town would say it is built on a livable scale.  Often you will see a fururistic skyscraper next to a taco shack.  There are no zoning laws.  There are great neighborhoods and great people, but without a car there, you would be doomed.
I wish we would spend more time in this country contemplating our communities and how they are designed.  I wish we would not be so attached to our cars.  Until you have spent time in a beautiful walkable town, or a city that has great public transportation, you really have no idea what you are missing.  Our quality of life could be so much higher.
When I worked my last day job in Austin I lived 12 miles from work.  It would take me an hour or more somedays to get home in rush hour traffic.  You would begin by taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Slowly but surely you would curse other lesser deities as well.  Eventually you would find swear words for the gods all the way back to antiquity.  No matter how easy your day was, you would get home broken and defeated after a commute like that.  A shell of a man.  As one of my friends stated, “How inefficient is that shit?!!!”
As I have stated before, the free market is great for many things.  It is just not good at doing things that are part of the common good.  Parks and other public spaces, good transportation, these things can make a community and not just a city.  Hopefully at some point we can have a smarter national conversation about these things.  If not, please forgive me in advance, if my middle finger makes itself known next time we are in rush hour.  I might be more animal than man by then.  My patience gone and out of gods to curse.