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The line and the silly name...


It's a Friday night and I'm standing in the Express Lane at the HEB grocery store on Congress and Oltorf, in the old hood where I used to shop for groceries before moving to the sad South Austin suburbs.

I stopped here on my way home to grab a few groceries for dinner. Traffic was still bad, so a few minutes killed in the aisles instead of on the road wouldn't hurt.

It's almost 6:30 and I've picked up the things I needed: A rotisserie chicken, some Odwallas (which my suburban HEB never carries and which I desperately crave the way Marlon Wayans wanted his mommy while writhing in withdrawal in Requiem for a Dream), a soft french bread roll.

I'm a whole two items under the 10-item limit, but this is pure folly because when I say Express Lane, I mean, "Slow Ass Lane Where Hope Has Died."

It's also the Beer Line.

Beer Line is the "Express Lane" at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Not at just any HEB, but specifically at this location, which is at the corner of Muthafucka and Health Nut. All the crazies live around here. This is where all the cool parties happen (right down the road in Travis Heights), where all the beer-drinkin' ex-hippies live, and more poignantly, where a lot of burnouts drink on street corners.

The place for beer linin'.

Five people are in front of me in line. Every one of them is buying only alcohol.

One guy has a case of Rolling Rock.

Another is carrying a six-pack of Shiner and a big bottle of white wine.

Another guy has a 12-pack of Bud Light.

The two guys in front of me have two six packs of Miller Light each.

I turn around. The guy behind me is youngish and thin. He's only buying an HEB sliced marble cake. He's obviously going to a party or dinner engagement with dessert and he can't just leave the line and show up with nothing. So he's waiting, just like me. Behind him, the lines bump up against the aisles and the curve of people snakes 10 deep.

The two guys in front of me are giggling, even though they're probably in their 40s. It's like they're buying beer for the very first time and are scared their fake IDs are going to get taken away. The cashier isn't amused, even when they try to flirt with her like dirty old uncles.

I pay for my stuff. I start walking out the door. Lots of people in raggedy clothes, carting off cases of beer and wine. Lots of people gearing up for parties.

On my way out, I get annoyed by a little girl blocking the exit with her full cart. I wonder why somebody left her in charge of the cart until I see that she is a grown woman, an adult whose head barely clears the top of the basket. And she's not a midget (little person, small wonder, whatever the PC term is). She's just very tiny. She's the tiniest non-midget woman I've ever seen.

I make my way past her.

I immediately hear someone yelling their part of a conversation. "OH YEAH! YOU STILL THERE? YEAH! WELL, I KNOW I SAID I'D BE THERE, BUT GIRL, I DON'T KNOW!"

To my horror, as the screaming gets louder, I realize it's a woman talking into a cell phone and parked right next to my car. She's loading groceries into her trunk with one hand and holding her tiny cell in the other. She doesn't seem to trust the technology.


I wait before I get into my car, breathless with anticipation.

She pushes a button.


I get into my car and drive away quickly.

The HEB I go to now is all soccer moms, dads in Polo shirts, screaming kids.

Sometimes I really, really miss the HEB on South Congress and Oltorf.



So, I started playing on Xbox Live last week, which is the service for the Xbox console where you can play some online games if you have a broadband connection and the "Starter Kit." It comes with a headset and connection disc.

All the online Xbox games allow you to use this headset, which has a chat On/Off button where it plugs into your controller. Within just about any game, you can trash talk, have a conversation, whatever.

I got really annoyed with one kid while playing Whacked. He obviously gets very little attention from his parents because he couldn't have been older than 11 and felt he had to give a complete running commentary of everything he did in the game. Stuff like, "Oh, that's how I got ya!" and "Boink, now you're dead!" Needless to say, everyone got away from his as quickly as possible after the game.

My favorite lately has been MechAssault, which is all kinds of fun in a convenient shiny and round disc form. It seems to attract an older, almost exclusively male set of players.

Here's where I ran into problems.

When I chose my Gamertag, which is the ID you use in every Xbox game, I thought it would be fine to call myself "TerriblyHappy." On the off chance somebody knew of this Web site, they'd know who I was and maybe wanna chat or whatever. Plus it would be easy for me to remember. Once you choose your Gamertag, you can't change it, unless you want to plunk down another $50 for a new starter kit.

Xbox Live headgear: The tool best suited for mocking me.

Okay, try going into large-scale mechanized robot battle with a name like "TerriblyHappy." It got to where if I just virtually stepped into the lobby of a game, I'd start to hear snickering in my headset. "Hey, TERRIBLYHAPPY!" And then laughter.

Within games it's even worse. Everybody calls me either "Terrible" or just "Happy." As in, "Hey, somebody shoot Terrible!" or "Oh, he's not so Happy now, is he?" "Wow, that was Terrible!"

"That Terrible Happy guy is dead! Hey, Happy, get your ass over here and shoot this mech!"

I really should have read this before I picked my name.

It's getting to where I'm really hating the name, but it could probably be worse. Over very greasy food at Chili's (yes, the blossom WAS awesome, thank you very much), Rebecca and I came up a list of names less popular than mine:



















Big pimpin'

The thing I'm proudest to have worked on lately was this huge Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings map I wrote for that ran in our paper Friday, but it doesn't exist anywhere online. I'll try to get a picture of it up here somewhere soon with the help of Design Mastah Dale, the man who designed the package.

Here's a review of an IMAX movie, Santa vs. the Snowman that I wrote last week. Also, a short review of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which continues to give me pleausure in ways I thought only mortal women could manage.

New Smallville recap for "Ryan" should be up sometime today.

The fantasy sex game cracks me up, by the way.


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