The 750- square-foot shop behind Bob Sarrels’s Manchaca home is a bow hunter’s dream. A shoulder mount of Peaches, a 275-pound wild hog—and the star of Sarrels’s most thrilling hunting story—presides over his desk. Rows of traditional bows, handmade from exotic woods like cocobolo, pau ferro, and Osage orange, line the walls of his small office. As Clint Black’s “Killin’ Time” plays on the radio, a friend (and fellow bow maker) drops by to use the shop’s band saw.
The morning that the music video for her new song “Rainy Day Woman” premiered online, Kat Edmonson had a revelation in the shower of her Brooklyn apartment.
“I was feeling so grateful for what I get to do,” said Edmonson, the 31-year-old singer-songwriter from Houston. She had just watched her video, which was directed by Robert Ascroft and was modeled after ’60s-style films like “Charade” and “Blow-Up.”
Her seated posture is perfect. Her hands are tightly clasped and laid squarely in her lap. Then, singing from her diaphragm—the way the great ones do—Lee Ann Womack reminds us that her voice is just as disciplined. Immediately, Womack’s suite at Austin’s tony Hotel Saint Cecilia, designed as a tribute to the decadence of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. period, is transformed into a house of worship.
An exclusive excerpt from Domingo Martinez’s new memoir, My Heart Is a Drunken Compass.
My girlfriend, Sarah, is holding me by the elbow as I trudge slowly to the busier part of my Seattle neighborhood, an intersection of Asian-fusion restaurants and the hangover hookup bar that seems to be in constant operation. She’s persuaded me to wrap my neck in a scarf; put my coat over my decaying cashmere sweater, which I’ve been wearing for three days now; and leave my apartment for the first time in days. I’ve listened to Sarah, and I’ve done all this with a sense of catatonic disengagement.
It’s mid-February 2010, three days since I was taken to the emergency room at Swedish Medical after ripping one of my arms to shreds in a psychotic break at three a.m., alone in my bathroom. Blame a combination of Xanax, some SSRI that had kept me awake for four days, and a steady intake of gin—gin to quiet the shouting in my head, gin to thicken my terror to a sludge, gin to drown out the crushing sense of guilt I felt the moment I awoke during those rare times I could actually get about twenty continuous minutes of sleep. Gin turned the Xanax and the serotonin inhibitors into assassins, and I finally gave up, found an old-fashioned double-sided razor blade, and went at my left wrist, working for the one deep cut that would end it, end all of this, in a bathtub, alone in darkest, wettest February, as I sucked down one last Pabst Blue Ribbon for courage, or self-pity.
“Can you do this?” Sarah asks me now, as I’m stumbling along and beginning to breathe shallowly, quickly, in fear. People are going about their business, crossing the street against the light, drivers avoiding them and making abrupt turns, people meandering on an otherwise unexceptional weekday, and my blood is pumping with cortisol and anxiety, and I am feeling very much like I want to run again, and hide again, and get underground again, and pull the door shut behind me.
“No,” I say. “I don’t feel like I’m a part of this anymore.”
How do these people function day to day? How do they step up onto a bus, ride a bike to work, shop for groceries when at any minute their foundation could be pulled out from under them? They slip through life like people who have not experienced horror, move around as if their closest loved one did not die horribly just a few days ago, as if their children are not at the mercy of a maniac with a rifle and low self-esteem, as if nature is not out to kill them and their families.
At 4:25 a.m. on March 17, 2007, I received a call from Robert, my mother’s second husband, his voice teeming with controlled hysteria as he drove west from Houston at top speed.
“I’m calling for your mother,” he said. “Derek had an accident in Austin. He’s in the hospital there, and we’re on our way now. He’s still alive, but they say it’s serious and they want your mother there. He’s going to have surgery in the next hour. That’s all we know right now.”
I didn’t hear a word from my mother, Velva, who I imagined was in a collapsed bundle in the passenger seat, crying. So I didn’t ask Robert anything. I just sat on the side of my bed in Seattle, where I’d been in semi-exile from my family for the past eighteen years, and waited for the next phone call.
Derek, the youngest of five children, had always been the lost sheep. He was still in elementary school when our mother left our father, fed up with his years of drunken behavior and philandering, and Derek suffered from it in a way the rest of us hadn’t, forced to live in a small Brownsville apartment with my mother rather than benefiting from the embrace of a large family. As a bored teenager he was drawn to the dangerous, which, in Brownsville, can become incredibly dangerous incredibly quickly. Eventually our mother tearfully shipped him off to live with our sister Mare and her husband, Mark, in Corpus Christi. It was then that, to our collective astonishment, he straightened himself out and graduated as valedictorian of his high school class. When he left South Texas for UT, we thought he had put his troubles behind him.
But the burden of being the youngest was crushing, with every one of his siblings holding a degree of authority over him and exercising it in the vacuum created by a family in partial disarray. He was a good kid, and yet his time with Mark and Mare, learning to be the perfect kid, spun him tight, and tighter still, and when he made it to Austin on a full scholarship, he spun out of control.
Derek did anything anyone threw at him. There was simply no stopping how much he would drink, how much he’d snort or take: he could consume triple or quadruple what you thought was too much.
He had our Martinez peasant stamina, our crazy Mexican strength. He was Dumbo, made out of rubber. His optimistic stupidity made him love and trust everyone around him, and they loved and trusted him back, because he was nothing if not an incredibly likable kid.
That was the problem: you combine this pastiche personality with his penchant for addiction, and it points you toward the cliff edge.
Every semester, Derek would beg the family for money to pay fees and fines to the university or to the rubbish fraternity where he was homesteading. He’d beg for a reprieve, beg for that second chance, just $200 from this person, $800 from that family member, please, please, please.
He’d wear the family down, make my brother-in-law crack open his checkbook from fatigue and disgust, saying, “It’s not about the money, Derek. It’s just this lying …”
“Please, it’ll be different this time.”
“You know what you’re going to do if you go back.”
“No, I promise I won’t. I need to finish this.”
Once the check was signed, he’d disappear again for three or four months, communicating exclu-sively by text message, usually something garbled and nonsensical sent at three a.m. I vacillated between a desire to fly to Austin and beat him and six of his closest friends senseless and a desire to hold him down and just hug the broken homunculus inside him and have him cry it all out.
The touring show “The Intergalactic Nemesis” is an adventure story featuring robots, aliens, time travel and magical powers. But its special effects take place exclusively in the audience’s mind, created through an alchemy of old media and imagination. “Twin Infinity,” the third book in the trilogy, premiered Friday night at Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts. The first book, “Target Earth,” will play in Houston on Sept. 30.
Tthe field was a brilliant green on July 6 when Wayne Sibson, in his red-and-white uniform, stepped up to home plate at Estadio Quisqueya, the baseball stadium in Santo Domingo. Wayne had traveled to the Dominican Republic’s capital city with his team, the Austin Blackhawks, to play in an exhibition game against Huracanes del Caribe. He was a long way from home, but a familiar voice ribbed him from the pitcher’s mound. “Here we go, Waaayyyne, you and me,” said his younger brother, Kevin Sibson.
When the University of Texas at El Paso stages its free performance of Handel’s English-language opera “Acis and Galatea” this Saturday, it will mark the latest expression of a century-old connection between El Paso and Bhutan.
One morning in late July, Chris Santos climbed out of bed filled with anxiety over which pair of shoes to wear. This wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary; for Santos, almost every waking moment revolves around athletic footwear. He spends at least an hour a day on websites like NiceKicks (“the most read source for sneaker news, information, history, and release dates”).
Chrome Cactus, The Young (Matador Records, August 26)