Monday, January 12, 2009

Still kickin' in Austin

Well, I thought we were going out to hear our multi-talented neighbor, Robert, play his theremin as "background music" at an event at BookPeople on Friday night. Or so my partner had told me -- which was reason enough for me to want to go!

Have you ever heard a theremin? It sounds like a musical saw and works as though through magic. Robert made his own instrument, which is housed in a small, painted wooden box with an antenna-like rod extending from it. Robert moves his hand around in the electro-magnetic field surrounding the rod, bringing eery tones out of thin air. He used to play it with an actual theremin orchestra that grew up in Austin, but most of those players have moved on to spread the gospel of theremin to other locales. So, if Robert had an occasion to make music outside the box, I wanted to be there!

What I didn't expect was to hear Robert include my name along with the other 24 surprised recipients of Spike Gillespie's "Umpteenth Annual Kick-A** Awards (and birthday party)" that the theremin baited me to attend! For my ostensible peacemaking efforts (including this blog, apparently), I was handed a trophy that has a judo guy on a pedestal ... um, kicking a horse's keester. As I accepted the award, feeling a little wobbly with surprise, I wondered how I was going to explain that to my mother. (Actually, she loved it. In her community in Wisconsin, she is, at 83, still one of the most active keester-kickers in town.)

It was a very cool event all around, despite my flustered self. It was very inspiring to hear the introductions, both funny and sincere, of the other awardees -- local movers and shakers who help make Austin the a**-kicking kind of place it is.

I'm talking about people who are artists, entrepreneurs or unsung social service providers, and often are all three at once. These are folks like Peg McCoy, owner of the Farm to Market Grocery on South Congress and Marla Camp, publisher of Edible Austin -- both enterprises that have been effective engines of the local food movement. There were author/comedians, Owen Edgerton and Les McGehee, who presented trophies to each other and had the crowd rolling. Owen also presented an award to his spouse, Jodi, who accepted the trophy while nursing their newborn, Oscar, who appeared to be quite at home eating dinner in front of a roomful of smiling admirers. And Jodi, in turn, presented a trophy, in absentia, to her midwife (who was, at the moment, delivering another baby, "or so she says," said Jodi.)

There were luminaries of Austin theatre, including Barbara Chisholm, Ken Webster and Madge Darlington. There were stars of the Austin Chronicle, Margaret Moser and her dashing brother, Stephen Moser. There was the happily wired (even though he'd just come from yoga) Austinist co-founder, Allen Chen, and there was a former Buddhist monk and a current Buddhist monk, both of whom are much beloved caregivers in the community.

With the serious strife in the world, and even in our fair city, it can give us a boost to recognize the positive, creative change that people do accomplish. Hearing the testimonies, the funny stories, the heartfelt appreciation offered to and received by all these awesome people gave me a real kick in the you-know-what to keep on keeping on.

Thank you, Spike Gillespie, for this gift you've given Austin on YOUR birthday! When Robert (who was presented with a Kick-A** trophy himself last year) played "Happy Birthday" to Spike on the theremin, I felt, in an Austin kind of way, like there was new life sprouting all over.

check out Spike's blog to see a photo of Robert and his theremin and Spike's kick-a** history of the Kick-A** Awards.

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