A Child’s Cthulu, Redneck Vampires, and the Art of Southern Death: A photo travelogue

What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?

Exciting news! A piece I’ve been working on (and hinting around here…not the fly story) was accepted into an anthology!

And that’s about all I can say at this point.  Vague, I know, but the official line-up won’t be announced for another couple of weeks.  However, I thought I’d start piquing your interest.  Looks like it will be a really fun anthology to be part of.  Stay tuned for more details.

What does the future hold?

I’m going to stick with a theme here, and next Friday, I’ll be posting a portion of another travelogue, this time visiting a friend in Philadelphia.  It will be a little more serious than this week, with some musings on life and death.

But without further ado…

First off, these are not great photos.  They were taken with my phone, just a good old fashioned flip phone (and yes, it was commented on at least twice on my trip that no one has a flip phone anymore, but this one is sturdy and suits my lifestyle) then sent to my email.

Again, these are not professional photos.  They were taken trying to be inconspicuous.

And a little tipsy at times.

But I get ahead of myself.

The trip started on the road from southern Utah to Las Vegas.  On the way I passed a bus.

C’mon, really?  It’s the bus.  And anyone who has taken the bus knows the slogan should read: “Some very special people inside… and some crazy assholes.”

* * *

I’ve always been fortunate to have friends in Las Vegas.  Not necessarily because I like to gamble, but because they live close enough to the airport to save me the time and money of parking there (thanks again, Mike).

This one was taken at my friends’ house in their backyard.  I promise I didn’t move or manipulate a thing.  Okay, so it’s not really Cthulu, but check out that devastation.  That may be an army man crushed by the overturned car, and I’m pretty sure that’s a squad car buried up to the windshield.

* * *

The Las Vegas airport is an interesting place.

Sex sells.  Apparently even at the library.  Taken from the moving walkway, so it’s a little shaky… and I might’ve been laughing.

The laughter might’ve resulted from a release of tension getting through security.  This was my first time going through the body scanner (would’ve taken a picture of that, but I was gathering it probably wasn’t a good idea).

My First Scanner experience:

The female TSA agent moves quickly toward me after I walk barefoot out of the body scanner.  I don’t necessarily feel violated, but…

“You have something in your pocket,” she says.

“Oh, yeah,” I say and I start to reach for my left pocket.

“How did you know which pocket?” she asks, with a sense of barely concealed glee, and in that flash of an instant I realize that she thinks she has caught me doing something wrong.  I’ve gone from “passenger” to “suspect.”

I put my hand in my pocket and pull out the nickel-sized pink tablet individually wrapped in a clear plastic sheath.  “Antacid.”

Then she says, almost in a defeated tone, but perhaps a touch of sympathy? “Pepto Bismol?”

I wonder if it’s just a question, or is she trying to catch me at something again?  The truth is, it’s a generic brand, but I have no idea what the hell the name of it is. Will that matter?

I start to stammer out a response, but something else comes up with the passenger behind me and she lets me pass.

This is why I have pretty regular traveling dreams where there are complications, especially if I’m flying.  I much prefer the open road.

* * *

I want to send this in to those guys who go around the country and find signs with grammar or spelling errors.  There was only one A12 gate.

* * *

My gracious hosts in Austin.  This was actually my second trip to visit my friend George and his lovely bride, Shaun, in Austin (the last time I actually met Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, at a reading), but this is the first time I’ve met their beautiful daughter (who served as my surrogate daughter while away from my own).  And she was a little cutie.

Juliana at one of the several small farms/farmer’s markets located in East Austin.

I read an excellent interview in The Sun with Woody Tasch (June 2010). He said we needed to start thinking about developing urban areas in circles, with outer ring agricultural zones.  Self-sustaining communities where food doesn’t have to be shipped halfway across the country.

This seems like a pretty good idea to me.

* * *

I’ve known George for 15 years.  He grew up in Spain and England, then moved to Georgia for college.  I met him in Missoula, Montana.  Euro-Southern-Hippy.
This picture is actually from 2000, when we saw Willie Nelson.  That’s my hat.

George today. So glad to say he hasn’t changed too much.

This cross was in the gas station.  “For killin’ little redneck vampires,” George says.

I really should’ve bought it.

Also saw this sign at the gas station.  Not that different from many gas stations, although as we are in the South, I’m guessing chewing tobacco is a little more prevalent than other parts of the country.

This is a pretty straightforward warning.  Nope, not a safe alternative.

But still, I gotta say having traveled in Canada back in the days when I used to smoke, we are a bunch of pansies when it comes to warnings.  Here are some actual labels on Canadian cigarettes:

* * *

Speaking of bad habits, Austin has some great bars.  And they would make great settings for stories (so I can write off this round, guys).

Where my phone doesn’t do justice.  This is the outside of one of many Southern ice houses on this block that have been converted to bars.  When you go inside, were it not for the actual bar, you would think you were just in some old gutted house, small groups gathered in murky red lit rooms devoid of much more than maybe a wooden bench or two.

And it’s not so difficult to imagine placing a vampire story here if I ever wrote one.

A variation on that theme in a different bar.  Again, my phone doesn’t do justice.  This one had draped off little sitting areas with various pieces of different styled furniture and artwork.

“We could plan a murder… or start a religion.”

But I think one of my favorites was The Liberty.  Pretty regular as far as layout was concerned, but they had great art.  Here are a few pieces.

* * *

Other highlights of the trip (but of which I didn’t get any photo documentation) included a short float on the San Marcos River, my second trip to Barton Springs (the coolest municipal “pool” I’ve seen), lots of bicycling to get places (something we did a lot of in Missoula but that my current location of 15 miles away from anything prohibits), and of course, the main reason for my visit: George’s 40th birthday party week.

Perhaps it’s better that I don’t have pictures of some of that 🙂

What do I want from you?

Thoughts?  Comments?  Have you been to Austin? If you’re a writer, have you had any trips that provided some great story settings?

As always, links to your blog are welcome.

Finally, don’t forget to check back next week for The Philadelphia Experience.

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23 thoughts on “A Child’s Cthulu, Redneck Vampires, and the Art of Southern Death: A photo travelogue

  1. Hey Paul, first off, big congrats on your story acceptance into a new antho. Please divulge further info as it develops. And secondly: I believe wholeheartedly that you managed to snap a shot of the fabled mini Cthulu. While it’s truly difficult to discern that shadowy white form in the photograph, the evidence of wispy tentacles does seem to corroborate with eyewitness reports. Furthermore, the swath of destruction left behind lends credence to its aggressive, nearly child-like pattern of crankiness. I can only pray that the GI pinned beneath the vehicle met a swift and merciful end. I dare not fathom a guess as to what atrocities await us beyond the cosmos, but you can be damned sure I’ll be checking my daughter’s sandbox before she steps next into our yard.

    1. Hey Joe, thanks for the great comments.

      Ahh yes, the fabled mini Cthulu. Reaking havoc on ankles everywhere 🙂

      “child-like pattern of crankiness.”- Awesome.

      And I’ll keep you posted on the anthology. Thanks again, and I hope you have a good weekend.

    2. Best. Comment. Ever! 🙂


  2. First, congrats on the acceptance into the antho! Very nice. Second, some great pictures and hiarious commentary. I love the Cthulu sand box!

    1. Hey Hunter, thanks for the congrats. And glad you enjoyed the photos and commentary. It wasn’t much of a horror post, but I had a good time with it. Hope all is going well for you.

  3. Are you trying to say that you *don’t* ride to the library on a rocket!?

    Austin has great bars… and jobs! I came here for the jobs, but was pleased to discover downtown was such fun. I am sorry I missed you, but glad you had a lovely visit and survived the brush with Cthulu!


    1. Hey Aniko,

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, my friend George said the recession didn’t really hit Austin like it hit the rest of the country. Glad to hear it for you. And yes, sorry we missed each other, but I have no doubt I’ll be back. And look forward to meeting you in person.

      Hope you had a good weekend. We went to the hospital yesterday to have our baby. More details on that soon. Tired now 🙂

      1. I hope Mom and baby are doing well! Looking forward to details. Congratulations!

  4. Really enjoyed your ideas from those pictures at the bar, (the cowboy and the lantern lit scene). Alas, is there ever enough time to write them all!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Matthew. It was definitely an interesting place to visit. And I love it when I get ideas. Obviously good for the writing, but it also helps justify writing off the trip 🙂

      Hope you’re having a good weekend.

      1. Ah, haha! clever 😀
        * “We could plan a murder… or start a religion.” don’t know if you penned that, but really like that line.

        1. Wish I could take credit. Jim Morrison actually.

  5. Congrats on the anthology! Funny pics too. Incidentally, I have taken the bus and there are *indeed* some very special people inside.

    1. Okay, so do you want me to call you Nathann? (sorry everyone else. Little insider information)

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the pics. Yeah, one of these days I’ll share the brief story from waiting to take the bus from L.A. to Las Vegas that has given me a slanted perspective.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Congrats on making it into the antho!! Enjoyed hearing all about your trip! And yeah, you should have bought the cross 🙂

    1. You know, the funny thing is that I didn’t even think about it until I looked back at the picture. Then I thought, “Wow, that would be great in a writing office.” I may have to send George back for it.

      Thanks for the congrats also. And congratulations to you on getting to number 1 for Fall Leaves and the Black Dragon. That’s awesome.

  7. Congratulations on the anthology, that’s great news! Glad you had a good trip. I love, love, love that cross, by the way!

    1. Thanks for the congrats, Mari. And for stopping by. Yes, I may just have to have my friend go buy it for me.

  8. The Woody Tasch idea is the modernization of a concept called “tiered growth” planning. By this concept communities are planned like a target with the highest population density in the bullseye (tier 1)…the bullseye being decided based upon where the greatest resources for human habitation are located. In the west, this resource is usually water. As a consequence, tier 1 also has the highest population density, infrastructure, and services, such as hospitals, schools, shopping, employment, etc. Tier 2 (next circle) think of as suberbs, and so on to tier 4 which is agricultural and open space lands. Believe it or not, the concept was first proposed for communities out west over 100 yrs ago by none other than Brigham himself and versions of it are still very appropriate today. For instance, the master plan for Iron County is called the tiered growth plan. Very perceptive and I can see why you are attracted to the concept. Today, however, it is sometimes a little difficult to engage tiered growth planning in its entirety.

    1. Thanks for the clarity. I was speaking very generally. It just seems to make sense to me, but yes, I can see how it will be difficult to implement once cities are already so structured already. It’s pretty much a major overhaul. But maybe that’s what’s necessary.

      Not that these two things are linked necessarily, but another interesting development concept that is going on pretty heavily in East Austin where George lives in gentrification. I know other cities use it in areas of otherwise urban decay, but in Austin, it seems like an effort to move the Hispanics out.

      “Gentrification.” Just sounds too close for comfort to some other word I can’t quite put my finger on right now.

  9. AKA socio-economic eviction…non-lethal genocide

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