Chores of Summer
Austin Dispatches
No. 101
Oct. 7, 2007

Neutron’s machine is finally out the door. So am I.

My immediate supervisor was immediately laid off about week before I was given notice. In other words, as a contractor, I was treated better than the full-time employee, who happened to be in the midst of buying a house.

At my farewell lunch, the shop talk confirmed the reason for my departure. The office has to cut costs to stay within a fixed budget for the year. In standard business practice, this means axing personnel. I’d long suspected the Austin office is operating at a loss for tax deductions.

Then I raffled off a sealed Ant Farm that I obtained at last year’s Christmas party. I used it as an object d’art in my cube. The cute Japanese gal I flirted with in the office had complained I left my cube undecorated and impersonal.  It meant less work when I left. I told her I didn’t think our co-workers would approve of, my cube decorated in, say, Vienna Secession style.1
At lunch, I sought an opportunity to ask her out. It was a long shot, but she’s one of the two chicest women in Austin, we had a good rapport and she laughed at my jokes. However, we never had a moment alone at lunch. That made an overture impossible without risking a loss of face.

Travelin’ Light

Nonetheless, my departure opened up my schedule for some medical and travel obligations.

The weekend before the end, I attended the Ron Paul Texas BBQ Bash in Texas City.2  I introduced a couple of friends to each other while we snarfed barbecue. My first time attending the annual event was mostly an excuse to get together with Chris Loyd in Houston.  Ironically, the event was at the municipally run Charles T. Doyle Convention Center, its air conditioning already leaking in the lobby. Also in attendance: Pat Dixon, Don Zimmerman, Mises Institute President Lew Rockwell, and radio provocateur Scott Horton.3

In mid-September, I visited the West Coast for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary at my sister’s family’s house. In exchange for lodging and transportation, I helped Sis and her husband as they prepared for the occasion in a “hot snit,” including making even sauces and dips from scratch. The help mostly meant keeping a third pair of eyes on my nephew Nicholas, age 16 months, and my niece, Natalie, age 5 going on 13, according to her alternately bemused and exasperated parents.4 

To my pleasant surprise, Mom forgot to invoke the what-are-you-doing-with-your-life, why-are-you-still-struggling-broke-and-single-at-your-age harangue that marred the folks’ visit last year. She means well, but after a while such fretting comments become white noise, even from one’s parents.  Dating nowadays is more difficult than it ought to be, and her last experience with the dating scene was back in the ‘60s.5 

Even the flights were only mildly annoying, despite my sweating like a Greek peasant aboard two of Forbes’ 10-worst rated airlines.6  That, and being hit on in the airport men’s room by U.S. senators.7  I had to find cheap, quick flights with mutually reasonable arrival/department times. All round-trip flights could only meet two of three criteria.

Also, the trip conveniently took me out of town during the Austin City Limits Music Festival.8

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch …

e101fig1 Several days after I returned, I went to a medical office in the U district for preventive dental surgery. After all these years, my regular dentist finally gave me a good reason to have my wisdom teeth removed. I interpreted his previous vague recommendations as an attempt to recoup the cost of new equipment purchases.

“If I agreed to do it, it’d have to be cheap, quick and painless,” I said.

The dentist paused. “In that case, you’ll want to call—.” He named a medical research lab, which shall remain nameless, since I signed a confidentiality agreement.

The dental surgeon used 2 percent lidocaine. Thus, I felt no physical pain, even though the staff jabbed needles in the back of my gums and sheared off the crowns of my teeth with a drill, drenching my mouth in blood before vacuuming out the roots. Still, it was better than the dental surgery performed on me in the ‘80s to separate my adult upper incisors from the maxilla and anchor them in place. During that surgery, the dentist chipped the back enamel on one incisor that resulted in a cavity that had to be filled six years later. I would’ve sued, but Mom and Dad settled for a steep discount on the repair job.

The radio in the operating room was tuned to some easy listening station – when I could hear over the sound of the drill. That’s OK. I wouldn’t want to associate great music with torment.9 

Afterward, with my tongue and teeth numb, I could still think and speak clearly, albeit out the side of my mouth, read a couple of books, and even crack jokes. (Sis and I have talked about this: Apparently, we had an unusual upbringing in that our parents taught us that making jokes was a normal part of life, rather than something only professionals did.)

Eventually, the research lab staff had me remove the bloody gauze from my mouth, so I had to stop with the Brando impersonations.10  When the anesthesia finally wore off, my pain was too mild to stay in the study of a post-surgery antipain medication the research lab was testing for a big pharmaceutical company. I cabbed home and spent the next week eating soft foods and avoiding strenuous activity.

e101fig2In the neighborhood, the Oakville Grocery finally opened at The Domain, vastly behind schedule. The food is good, but the place is more of a glorified deli/convenience store with a few weird, overpriced vegetables, and candy bars at $5 apiece. Nearby, Jasper’s is getting consistently bad reviews on 

Crossroads Community Church has begun holding Sunday services at River Oaks Elementary School as of Sep. 9. The real interest is when the local ACLU or some random atheist squawks about this arrangement.

Austin Death Watch

Environmentalists are complaining a planned development at the north end of the Austin rail line boondoggle is “too pedestrian-friendly.”12

City Hall is opening its coffers to cultural groups. Look for the creativity to go into grant proposals.13

At the county level, the commissioners approved a new tax hike, the second in three years.14 Homosexual Glenn Maxey, a former legislator, is vying to become the next county tax collector, where he’ll be perfectly positioned to ass-rape local residents.15

Speaking of rape, a thousand people turned up at BookPeople on Sep. 14 to see Bill Clinton tout his new book, “Gimme: How Each of You Can Improve My World.” In other words, there’s a sucker born every minute.16 Unfortunately, these suckers also influence public policy in Travis County. Al Gore, however, gave his global warming routine to a less-than-full crowd.17

I Said, “Heel, Damn It!”

The New York Times sent me an unsolicited subscription form. Instead, I printed an outside article detailing reporter Judith Miller’s propaganda on behalf of the Bush administration, to promote the pre-invasion fiction that Iraq had biochemical or nuclear weapons.18  Then I mailed the article, instead of a check, inside the postage-free return envelope.

It’s a tactic I’ve been thinking about for a while. And not just on really easy targets like the Times.19 Other organizations deserve such backhanded replies. Think of it as a cost-free experiment to see how responsive they are to having their financial lifeblood cut off when they make bad choices. After all, ideas have consequences.20 

Obviously, you don’t have to hold the same political views as me to apply this tactic. It should be interesting to see what happens, especially if enough people do it. At least it should cut down on the junk mail we receive. On the other hand, it’ll also mean I have less to snark about for Austin Dispatches.21 

Cultural Canapés

Comedian Steven Wright has released a new album. Wright’s shtick is Borscht Belt-style one-liners in a slow, deadpan manner.22 Imagine him delivering the same jokes at the speed of a Henny Youngman. Then image Youngman telling his jokes a la Wright.23

Chronicle Editor Louis Black clucks about fictional accounts of male masturbation as a persistent subgenre of Short Story Contest submissions. Black attributes this subgenre to stunted imaginations. Maybe the authors figured the Chronicle staff is a bunch of jerkoffs – metaphorically speaking – so why not give them something they can relate to? What these authors don’t understand is that the Chronicle only publishes fiction that’s about mental masturbation – something broader than a subgenre in literature (“Bridges of Madison County” comes immediately to mind).24

The September issue of Brilliant magazine includes an ad for downtown condominiums touted as “New York chic – San Antonio style.” What’s that? Color-coordinated spray-paint graffiti? Grilled rat in queso-chipotle sauce?25

E-mail: austin dispatches - at - swbell net

1 Vergo, Peter. Art in Vienna 1898-1918: Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele and their Contemporaries. London: Phaidon, 1975.
2 Mittelstadt, Michelle. “Paul Drawing Backers Alienated From Parties.” HC 26 Aug. 2007: 1+.
3 AD No. 73 (Nov. 8, 2004); AD No. 89n31 (Mar. 29, 2006); AD No. 98n15 (June 11, 2007)
4 AD No. 37 (Apr. 25, 2002); AD No. 59 (Dec. 2, 2003); AD No. 92 (Sep. 27, 2006).
5 AD No. 22 (Nov. 16, 2000); AD No. 46 (Feb. 10, 2003); AD No. 48 (Mar. 10, 2003); AD No. 53 (July 30, 2003); EAD No. 5 (June 5, 1999).
6 Van Riper, Tom, and Robert Malone. “America’s Worst Airlines.” 27 Sep. 2007 <>.
7 Dalrymple, Therodore [Anthony Daniels]. “Caught With His…” NR 24 Sep. 2007: 32-34.
8 Lindner, Sarah. “Bring Your Camera, but Leave the Dog at Home.” XL 13 Sep. 2007: 19.
9 A Clockwork Orange. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Hawk Films Ltd./Polaris Productions/Stanley Kubrick Productions/Warner Bros. Pictures, 1971.
10 The Godfather. Paramount Pictures, 1972.
11 “gntlmn6464.” “Jasper’s … Go Quick Cause It Won’t Be There Long.” 4 Oct. 2007 <>.
12 Kwon, Jean. “Too Pedestrian-Friendly?” ABJ 7 Sep. 2007: 1+.
13 Cabanero, David. “Cultural Groups May Get Boost From Austin.” DT 20 Sep. 2007: 7A.
14 Ruland, Patricia J. “County Workers Approved for More Pay.” AC 14 Sep. 2007: 22; Toohey, Martin. “Travis OKs Higher Tax to Raise Pay, Add Workers.” AAS 26 Sep. 2007: B1+.
15 Nichols, Lee. “Who Knew a Tax Collector’s Race Could Be This Much Fun?” AC 5 Oct. 2007: 24-25.
16 AD No. 100n29 (Sep. 3, 2007); Kaldis, Megan. “Clinton Draws a Crowd at Friday Book Signing.” DT 17 Sep. 2007: 1A.
17 DeBard, Amanda. “Al Gore Brings Film to Campus.” DT 2 Oct. 2007: 1-2A; Harlin, Claire, and Leah Finnegan. “In It for the Green.” DT 2 Oct. 2007: 4A.
18 Hiro, Dilip. Secrets and Lies: Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Collapse of American Power. New York City: Nation Books, 2004: 122; Sammon, Bill. Strategery: How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2006: 304; Shawcross, William. Allies: The U.S., Britain, and Europe in the Aftermath of the Iraq War. New York City: PublicAffairs, 2004: 235; Wilson, Joseph C. IV. The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir. New York City: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004: xxiv.
19 Nocera, Joseph. "Family Plot." GQ June 1994: 71+.
20 Weaver, Richard M. Ideas Have Consequences. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1948.
21 Kinsley, Michael. “The Check Is in the Mail.” Time 9 Apr. 1990: 98.
22  Ridewood, J. “One-Liner Comedian Returns to Original Stand-Up Beginnings.” DT 20 Sep. 2007: 6B.
23 Youngman, Henny. Take My Wife, Please!: Henny Youngman’s Giant Book of Jokes. 1974. Rpt. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1998.
24 Black, Louis. “Knocked Out, Loaded.” AC 28 Sep. 2007: 6+; Waller, Robert James. The Bridges of Madison County. New York City: Warner Books, 1992.
25 Phyllis Browning Co. Advertisement. Brilliant Sep. 2007: 89.