(foreword: this turned out to be quite rambly; do forgive me.)
The weekend was very good. Allea and I left Austin about 1, and I dropped her off in Houston before continuing on to my parents house where I was to give an investment seminar to various friends and family. We had good margaritas (I always bring some Goodflow Limeade, which makes everything easier) and beer and fajitas, and I spoke to some people. None of them wanted to hire me on the spot, but se la vie. Plenty of time for that later.
Saturday I talked with my maternal grandmother about her mortgage and how to free up cash flow, and I have my people working on getting her taken care of in that respect. I expect to improve her discretionary cash flow by about 5 grand a year, which should massively improve her standard of living; she's 77, and basically doubling the money she can spend on things she enjoys makes me feel really good about the paths my life has taken over the last three years. Doing financial shit for a living can be really mundane and make you feel like you're perpetuating the dominant paradigm, but when you can use your ninja skills to protect someone from the financial sharks who rule the world, it makes it all worthwhile.
Later that afternoon, I drove to Houston to meet back up with Allea. She and her friend Sarah, and her husband Dave were hiking around the Arboretum in Memorial Park. I wandered down the paths alone for a bit, letting my consciousness spread out through the trees, and feeling regret along my periphery that I didn't spend more time just letting myself spread out like that. I found them after a bit, and we went back to Sarah and Dave's house, where I helped Dave hang a new hammock and generally enjoyed the peacefulness of their abode. (I slept better there that night than I have anywhere in months. (Dave's dad is an Episcopal priest, so I'd guess that he learned a little juju somewhere back in his youth, though I doubt he'd a) realize it, or b) ever talk about it if he did.) At any rate, it was a space subtly apart, and I enjoyed my time in it.
When I woke on Sunday, Sarah and Dave were away, and I spent some time reading on their back porch. As it turned out Sarah was at church and David was working at the homeless health clinic he volunteers at every Sunday (both David and Sarah are Doctors of Pharmacy) Allea and I talked about how Sarah has become suburban, and how she (Sarah) kind of regrets it, and after that conversation, as I was sitting on their back porch, I realized very vividly how vulnerable I am to selling out. My entire job as a financial planner pretty much consists of helping suburbanites spend 20 years (if they're smart) to 30 years (if they're steady) building a self-sustaining little wad of capital which they can then enjoy for the rest of their lives without having to work. I know everything there is to know about selling out and living to tell the tale, and when I contemplated their lovely and peaceful backyard, and their lifestyles (Sarah is an administrator at a hospital, Dave is a professor.) I was just a little bit envious, especially when I contemplated my little apartment in Austin and my 65-hour a week schedule. In examining this emotion, especially as it related to the apartment, I realized how easy it becomes, once you have a house, to turn inward and tend your garden Voltaire-style. You then have a space, a refuge, which you will put a great deal of effort into improving or defending, and at that point turning your back on the world is an easy thing. This scares me, partly because so many would-be world-savers get hung up somewhere along the rails, and partly because I'd really like a refuge from the world and I worry that I'll fall prey to the same temptations. (also, we'd spent the evening before watching a Trading Spaces marathon on TLC, which I'd never seen before. Damn, but is that a fascinating/scary show.)
Sarah came home from church, and the three of us went to lunch at what used to be known as The Hobbit Hole, (now the Hobbit Cafe, sigh) one of the most hippiesque venues in all of Houston. (they've been serving vegetarian food, in Houston, for 31 years. Think about that.) It was just as good as it was in 1992, when I first started going there as a community college freshman and an intern at KLOL. My Smaug's Delight had the canonical 1-inch thick layer of mashed avocado, and the recent Lord of the Rings resurgence seems to have them bringing back the old menu, because the Lady Galadriel (a tomato, avocado and portabello sandwich), though no longer on the menu, was the special of the day on the chalk board. It was very easy, sitting on that deck 100 feet off Richmond Avenue, to close my eyes and pretend the last 11 years had never happened. I'm glad they did, but thinking that way for a moment made me realize how happy I am with the path I'm on, and it helped to wipe away the 'a white picket fence and a two-car garage would be so easy to have, knowing what I know' vibe that had been echoing around me all day.
We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and saw the Photography of Lewis Carroll exhibit (damn, but was that one brilliant and hopelessly twisted man.) I noted without much surprise that fully half of the photos in the exhibit were on loan from the Harry Ransom Center. We also forewent an exhibit of Impressionist works from the Musee d'Orsay -- this is huge, because if there's something I love in the visual art world, it's Impressionism (get me to talking about my theories on Monet and astigmatism some night when I've been drinking) -- to go see an exhibit on the History of Photography in Japan.
I found something there that was better than all the Impressionists in the world -- bromoil print photography. It's like impressionism, but without having to have the manual dexterity needed to paint. I'm completely enthralled. I haven't had the experience of finding an art form that I absolutely *had* to learn since I discovered multitrack recording. I've been reading about Alternative Process photography incessantly ever since.
That night, we had dinner with Inhumandecency's parents, recently relocated from London back to Houston. Barry and I had long talks about the oil industry (as usual) and just about anything else he wanted to rant about. Linda was wacky and gracious to a fault, as always. I really like spending time with both of them. What's most weird is that I know Inhumandecency really well; and having spent ~10 days living with Barry and Linda, I feel like I know how they act around non-family members pretty well. But Jesus, put them and Inhumandecency in the same room together, and everyone adopts a completely different personality -- it's really really scary how much people can change in the blink of an eye. I'm glad Inhumandecency is getting his Ph.D. in Psychology, so that one day he can explain it to me.
We drove home after dinner, and went to sleep. It was the kind of weekend that doesn't consist of momentous events, but which reveals the real world to you in hints and half-shadows, and I was very glad that it was given to me to live though.