going to the beach.

Tonight I was driving home from the store and I heard Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville on the radio. I never listen to the radio, but I happened to be driving a car that didn’t have an auxiliary outlet to plug a phone into, so… it was either Bette Midler on NPR or Jimmy Buffet. I went with the beach.
I got a bit depressed today. I’m not sure why. I think it’s seasonal – it’s not uncommon for me to feel down this time of year. Today is the first really cold day of the year, it’s the end of Daylight Savings tonight, and you can finally feel things starting to hunker down for the winter. Seems my heart does the same. At least I guess that was it.
When my mom was sick and dying, I became obsessed with Jimmy Buffet. I had Sirius XM at the time, and whenever I could, I’d listen to the Jimmy Buffet channel. He’s so easy-going, and fun and happy – and he sings about things like cheeseburgers and Margaritas and mangoes… I kept telling myself, when this was all over, I was going to go to Florida and be a beach bum and not do a damn thing for a very long time.
“This” ended up being 13 weeks of the coldest, loneliest winter ever. Every night for 13 weeks, I would go to bed scared to go to sleep because I was afraid of what might happen that night. Every day I got up afraid of what new pain would reveal itself that day. Thinking about Jimmy Buffet and escaping to Florida was sometimes the only way I could get by. And I didn’t really care.
I never made it to Florida after my mom died. I took a few days off and finally went back to work. I don’t know if I didn’t have the courage to do it, or if it just didn’t seem as important anymore. Whatever the reason, I pretty much just forgot about it. Until tonight.
I did go off to the beach later that year, though – my grandma’s beach house in Sunset Beach, CA. I went by myself, for 2 weeks. I had a few adventures, and met some new friends, including a real nice pen pal. It was lonely, but it was good. But I’m not sure I’d categorize it as escaping. It was simply a vacation…

Regardless, I don’t listen to Jimmy Buffet anymore. I guess I don’t need to escape so badly after all. Even on days like this, when I am down, and feeling disconnected and a little lost, the sky is still blue enough and the air is still clear enough right where I am.


​this one time, i was walking around in the grocery store looking for the sweet relish, and i got totally lost. i found the 2,000-roll econo pack of toilet paper, and the even cheezier nacho chips, and the box of healthy cereal that gets smaller and smaller while the price gets higher and higher… but still no sweet relish.

on i walked, past the moth balls, the fiber granola bars, nose hair trimmers, funfetti cake mix, family packs of bologna… still no relish. i started to panic. what if i never find it? or even worse, what if i never find my way out of this place??!?! i started to wheeze.

then suddenly, right in front of the display of holiday themed cupcakes, a giant hole opened up in the floor. it was dark and a bit musty. but i didn’t care – it was a way out! i jumped in, feet first.
and out i came in belize, just like that. sitting under a palm tree, in front of the ocean, a warm, fresh breeze on my face. my friend ruddy appeared, with a fresh coconut, the top cut off, a straw dipped in to reach the sweet, fresh water inside. ok, i thought. i like this kind of shopping.



So I wrote a book.
It’s a short book… I suppose it’s a children’s book but I don’t really think of it as one.
It’s a picture book. For all ages.
I wrote it rather quickly, and only after some time had gone by, did I realize what it was actually about. Does that ever happen to you? I’ll write something and I won’t know where it comes from until after I’m done and I go back and read it and then it makes sense…
After I realized what it was, I asked my Uncle Jan to illustrate it. I was afraid he’d say no, but maybe he realized what the book was too, and thankfully, he agreed to add illustrations to my text.
And here we are, a year later, and the book is done.

The book is for my Mom, who passed away March 10, 2011 after 13 weeks of illness. I can’t explain here what that was like, but I can say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. This is a book about that experience.
My Uncle Jan is a wonderful artist, and it’s so generous of him to have created the beautiful illustrations that are in this book. I know that he did it for my mom. But I also know that it was for me, too. So thank you, Uncle.

The finished product is a gift. It’s a gift for my Mom, it’s a gift for me and my family. I am so very proud of it. To me, it feels like closure, it feels right.
I hope that you’ll take a minute and go look at it. And being the good marketer that I am, of course I’ll point out that if you like it, you can get your own copy… right here.

It’s a beautiful book. I know my Mom would love it.

pull out your book.

Reach under your skull and grab the book that is your brain. Let me see your table of contents.
INTRODUCTION…………………………….page 3

Reason & Logic…………………………..…..Chapter One starts off with a bang. Right off the bat we find ourselves in the middle of the action; the catch is, there’s no way out of the action. Gotcha!

The Greater Plan………………………………Chapter two asks the burning  question: “what the hell for?!?” but sadly, we never get an answer.

What’s Not to Love?………………………………..Chapter three of our journey. It’s all good! Freedom! Music! Dancing naked in your living room! W00t indeed.

The Naked Truth………………………..……Chapter four brings the bringdown. It’s the hangover after the party and its when you say to yourself, “was that me swinging from the chandelier or someone who just kind of looked like me? Ow my head.”

Four Years of Purgatory………………………Chapter five – the darkness. Like they say it’s always darkest before the dawn, and the shadows can seem longer than they really are… We fall pretty far sometimes before sunrise hits.

The Beginning of the Beginning……………….The last chapter is now the first. Open up, be kind, smile, melt. 

oh austin, i really have a thing for you.

So I just went down to Austin for Labor Day Weekend.
It was great. I hadn’t been in 3 years so it was about time!
The trip had two purposes – first and foremost, my friend Dayl and I went for a “girls weekend” together. We’ve known each other since 1997 but hadn’t ever traveled together. AND this weekend was her birthday. No pressure on trying to make it a good trip!
The second purpose was to see some Austin music. Some of my favorite musicians are out of Austin and play pretty regularly, so we could combine seeing a few different acts in one weekend. They didn’t let us down.
On Saturday we saw Bob Schneider at the Luckenbach Dance Hall, just outside of Fredericksburg. It was a 1.5 hour drive from Austin but it was through Hill Country – really, really beautiful rolling hills. Bob is a great act to see live, if you ever get the chance. He’s a prolific songwriter, really funny, and his band is incredible. Dayl had never seen him before, and while it wasn’t exactly her musical cup of tea, I think she enjoyed it… Bob is definitely my cup of tea, and I loved it.
On Sunday, after watching the bats emerge from under the bridge on South Congress, we headed over to the Saxon Pub on Lamar to catch the Resentments. 3 of the members of the band weren’t present that night – it was just 2 guitarists playing an acoustic set. But it was still one of the best shows ever. Going to the Saxon is like being home somehow, and the music of the Resentments, no matter how many members are present, is food for the soul.
We did lots of other things in Austin, like eat, look at shops on South Congress, eat some more, and look in more shops. We almost made it to a museum and were trying to get to Barton Springs, but ran out of time. It was just nice spending time with Dayl and catching up on our lives and Other Important Matters.
It was quite HOT down there, and since I am a Professional Desk Hamster, I don’t get out in the heat much anymore and I wasn’t really accustomed to it. It made me a little less motivated, I’m sorry to say. Guess I’ll have to head back again soon… when it’s cooler though!
So I have a few tips for you, if you decide to make your own pilgrimage to Austin in the summer… these are lessons I learned from the weekend…
Travel Tips:
1. If you are going to drive from Fort Worth to Austin on the first day of college football season, be sure to leave 3 hours earlier than you were planning.
2. Do not stop at a place called Health Camp in Waco. No matter how long you’ve been in the car and how hungry you are (resort to item #3 below). The name is deceptive advertising. Which you SHOULD realize when in the middle of Burger Country.
3. Bring peanut butter and a loaf of bread (and knife) and keep it all in the car. As someone with low blood sugar I need to eat at certain intervals. When you go out to eat, you never know how long you’ll end up waiting for a table; or once you’ve gotten your table, how long you’ll be waiting for your food. Especially if there is a Texas football game on.
If you know that your restaurant is near a food truck (or if your restaurant IS a food truck), you can leave the pb and bread at the hotel. 
5. You will sweat through everything you bring with you, so take one extra outfit per day. I’m pretty low-maintenance when it comes to clothes but you just can’t bring too much extra stuff with you. For reals.
6. Remember to bring socks to wear with your cowboy boots when it’s over 90. Eeeew.
Music tips:
1. When traveling 500+ miles to see a band, always always buy a ticket ahead of time.
2. At the show, laugh really hard when the ticket guy who controls whether or not you get your “over 21 so you get alcohol” wristband tells a really bad joke about Oklahomans.
3. If you are young, female, attractive and are with a friend who is the same, stand up front and act like you’re going to make out in front of the band. I think they like that kind of thing.
4. If a musician agrees to do a podcast with you but you didn’t set an exact date / time, don’t let it slide till the last day you’re in town – it ain’t gonna happen.
5. Bring a damn tripod if you decide to video the band playing a really great song that happens to be over 5 minutes long. My arm nearly fell off.
6. Be sure to see 3 musical acts while you are there – if you don’t go see these, your trip to Austin will have no point whatsoever.
The Resentments
Bruce Hughes and the All Nude Army
Bob Schneider
So do it.

even hotter.

bob sr, bob jr, bruce and ollie

driving into the rain…


I have an idea for a comic strip. Well actually I have ideas for 2 comics. But since I can’t draw, neither are likely to make it big. Or ever see the light of day. One of them will probably just remain a few stupid sketches in my notebook, but the other one, I realized today, might work in another format. So here is my first comic, in film script format.
Andrea C. Neil
Everything is quiet and dark – most everything is still asleep, until we hear the alarm go off.
Andrea wakes up to hit snooze.
BRAIN, too smart for its own good, and a little uptight, starts waking up.
Blah blah blah blah blah hungry blah blah blah blah-by blah.
STOMACH, also generally uptight, wakes up exactly when Brain does. Every time.
Blah blah blah-by blah, sausage blah blah pancakes blah.
Blah blah blah FAT blah blah-by blah, CARBS blah blah blah BLAH.
Blah blah I don’t care. Blah gurgle blah.
Don’t mess with me. Blah blah.
Blurg gurgle blah no. Don’t mess with ME.
PFFFFFFFT. Blah blah blah.
You want PFFFFFFFT? Ok I’ll give you PFFFFFFFT. Pancakes. Gurgle.
(If I could draw, and this comic was in actual comic format, the Brain would have a Mohawk and the Stomach would totally be wearing Converse All-Stars).

ditching it (hopefully part one of a series)

 I really fucking hate going to work.
I know, that’s pretty strong language. I try not to cuss (albeit rather unsuccessfully) and I really try not to use the word “hate.” Too strong. Too negative.
But here it is, Sunday afternoon and I’m doing laundry and I have to iron shirts for work and then there’s dinner to be made and I’m not sure but someone said we have to go to the store for vegetables and I didn’t work out today and I was supposed to vacuum the bedroom and…
And to cram all of that into two days, including everything else I WANTED to do, like write a few things, edit and print some photos, work on a logo for my new online magazine, create some new greeting cards, look at magazines at the bookstore, watch a movie, read a book…
I just have a problem with it all. In fact I have several problems with it all.
How come I have to wait till I’m old to retire? Don’t get me wrong, I plan to be in great shape in my late 60’s, but come ON, I’m already in my mid-40s and this will most likely be as good as it gets. I don’t think anything is going to get less droopier or saggier between now and 65. Why can’t I have time NOW to go hike the Camino, or go to the gym twice a day to do Zumba… while it all still feels good, and I can still enjoy the physical sensations of it all from the perspective of a semi-young (relatively speaking) person…
I’m sure I’ll enjoy retirement, when I get there in 20 years. It’ll be great to putter around in the garden or yak with the gals while knitting caps for premature babies. But there’s a few other things I’d rather be doing, and I’d rather be doing them NOW.
If I could retire now I would spend more time doing the following activities, while I’m still young:
  • Zumba
  • Get in overall better physical shape
  • Travel within the United States and find interesting places for challenging hikes
  • Learn to quilt
  • Cook something more involved than a turkey sandwich and steamed broccoli
  • Write grown-up and children’s picture books
  • Publish a book of essays
  • Podcast
  • Volunteer to teach people to read
  • Day Trade
  • Get one more tattoo and color part of my hair blue – both just because I can and before I’m so old that they both seem even more ridiculous undertakings than they already do.

 And I would spend less time doing the following:
  •  Ironing
  • Making my lunch to take to work
  • Wearing heels and “dress slacks”
  •  Having performance reviews
  • Answering the phone leading off with “thank you for calling – insert company name here.”
  • Going to meetings while listening to people in suits try to sell stuff

I also have a problem with the whole 8-5 thing. I don’t want to work for anyone else. Well really I wouldn’t mind working for someone else, but I don’t want to work for a large company anymore. Sure, the benefits are great – they match my 401(k) contributions and they pay for part of my health insurance and I get a bit of profit sharing. But at what cost? I spend 9 hours a day indoors, with a view of a lobby and a little sliver of part of a tree outside. I am on display for everyone that walks by, like when you go to the Renaissance Faire or whatever and you see they guy making candles, or the woman making jewelry – I am The Hamster using two computer screens and trying to look busy.
I experience two seasons indoors:  “cold air conditioning” summer, and “really cold air conditioning” winter. I work for someone who makes over 5 times what I do. I guess my job helps people, but I still don’t derive much personal satisfaction from it, I’m sorry to say. I am working for The Man and I know it. And part of me hates it.
The part of me that gets a gym membership, enough food to keep me satisfied, a travel budget, healthcare and a new iPhone doesn’t mind the job too much. But the rest of me knows there’s more to life than living this way – trading my life to a corporation for stuff.
I know some pretty creative people – both in my family and as friends. Some of these people make their living being creative. Some are artists, some are film directors, some are entrepreneurs, some are musicians. They have found a way to make it outside the confines of the corporate 8-5 job. Some of them despise the corporate 8-5 lifestyle. For some of them it was never even a consideration from the very beginning.
I live with the constant nagging feeling that if they can do it, so can I, but obviously I haven’t, and so if I can and I haven’t, then there must be something wrong with me… And OK so I have neurotic tendencies, but still. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME BECAUSE I HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT HOW TO DITCH MY DAY JOB.
And here it is, later on Sunday afternoon – no ironing or vacuuming done, I have to get off the computer now so we can go the store because WE HAVE RUN OUT OF ZUCCHINI and I am all bunched up and frustrated.
Well one thing’s for sure – I’m not getting any younger. Will I look back when I’m 60 and regret that I never tried? I really don’t want to do that. Am I too chicken to try? It’s now or never, at least to get started…
Deep breath.
First things first – grocery shopping. Then…

Stay tuned…