Its reputation is true. Year’s end finds me on a short contract with
a previous client, a major corporation that for the purpose of continued
employment I’ll call ____.
I never even interviewed for the job or meet my supervisors or co-workers
until the day I started. I haven’t met any of the people at the agency,
either. Nevertheless, the paychecks have arrived on time.
That’s the good part. But I can verify my colleagues’ stories from
the four years since I last worked there.
Since I started Nov. 8, I’ve contended with management reorganization shuffles,
crucial experts on vacation, multiple contradictory source documents on
a file-management system that’s gotten out of control, and administrative
and equipment hindrances. My supervisor’s supervisor actually apologized
for the delays on establishing my e-mail and intranet access with the
company, both of which I obtained only last week. So you know things are
badly managed at ____. Half-assed would an improvement.
(Getting a badge to enter the buildings without having to wait in the
lobby for somebody to verify me also took weeks. Finally, to get that, I
had to get a safety badge, which meant attending a safety course, which meant
driving through morning rush-hour traffic on a drizzly day to an office in
Southeast Austin with wet leaves strewn all over the steps and walkways.
Then I sat inches away from a flickering video screen.)
I’m still pleading for a phone from these bastards. It’s like they
can’t be bothered to give me the tools to do my job since they’re paying
me a record rate. Moreover, the contract was supposed to end yesterday,
but I wheedled an extension through the end of January.
Naturally, after I mentioned the good news,
people started asking me for money.1 Except for close
relatives, nobody gets nothing. I’m not even spending money on myself.
Those paychecks are for living expenses when I’m out of work in five weeks,
and the final wisdom teeth extraction sometime next year. I want to use
the same surgeon as before, but without the
auspices of medical research, it’ll cost me about $1,200.
On the Town
I have to keep hustling work, which meant attending Geek Austin’s
first monthly social at Joe DiMaggio’s Italian Chophouse at The Domain
on Nov. 13. I adjudged it a success. I put the make on an Italian lawyer
with Northeastern mannerisms who looked good in a dress – and I don’t
mean Rudy Giuliani.2 Just being myself at that juncture
– tired, bored, and undergroomed – I got better results than the guy using
the newest generation of pick-up strategy. I got to kiss her, which
is more than he did. Not that I paid him much mind. Actually, I wish more
men copied his approach. Who needs effective competition?3
Dec. 10: At the annual Society
for Technical Communication Christmas party, I met a guy who said he
was a film producer. He asked me a question, and before I could get to the
crux of my answer, glanced at his cell phone, told me he had another appointment,
and left. Then I believed he really was a film producer.
Dec. 16: Ron Paul supporters held an Austin Tea Party. Several
friends also attended. We marched down Congress Avenue from the Capitol
to Auditorium Shores, where the organizers tepidly pretended to dump tea
in Lady Bird Johnson Lake.4 It was nothing like the original Boston
Tea Party.5 Here, the organizers yanked the empty boxes out practically
as soon as they hit the water. If they hadn't, they might've confronted
Austin police in nearby patrol boats. To think people were worried about
polluting the lake. Tea is biodegradable. And the lake isn't the pristine
body of water environmental shills think it is. The contours don't even
resemble a lake. It’s just a stretch of the Colorado River. Up close, it's
a greasy looking wet spot in the middle of town. Add lemon juice and turbinado
sugar, and it might be tolerable.
Austin Death Watch
Elsewhere in water, Austin’s planning to turn Waller Creek into a
copy of San Antonio’s Riverwalk.6 Since a current co-worker
from San Antonio dismissed the latter as “fucking recycled water that
people dump shopping carts into,” and since Waller Creek’s where you go
to get mugged by a homeless drug addict, the city fathers’ concept isn’t
much of a stretch. The real shocker is that they’re thinking of taking their
cues from San Antonio. There’s long been a social chill between the two
The Daily Texan reports that local crime increases during college
football season home games. Officials will simply have to ban this deplorable
practice for the sake of civic order, or else the criminals will have
won.7 The City Council approved a police consolidation plan
that will cost about $2.5 million and take about four years.8
However, Austin police finally did something useful Nov. 15 and arrested
the city’s top FBI agent for drunk driving in the 10600 block of Highway
183 (Research Boulevard).9 It’s a start.10
Meanwhile, the attempt at an anti-street bum ordinance has failed.11
A municipal ban on plastic bags, however, seems likely to succeed.12
Paradoxically, it seems the use of plastic bags at grocery stores has
increased lately, Whole Foods’ new policy notwithstanding.13
Of course, with Austin, officials are likelier to rid the city of plastic
bags than street bums. The Austin Business Journal recently reported an
increase in aggressive bums panhandling downtown.14 Guess which
action would lead to a real quality-of-life improvement in the city?
I thought the “caring, progressive” elite of Austin was going to warehouse them all in South Austin. Apparently
that didn’t work. Maybe they could combine the issues and rid Austin of
the bums by tying plastic bags around their heads.
During the post-Thanksgiving weekend, the new Mueller Regional
Retail Center under the slate gray sky put me in mind of the urban landscapes
limned in the fiction of Joyce Carol Oates.
That’s not the association shoppers ought to make, especially during the
holiday shopping season. Instead, the mall should’ve evoked a Frederick
Barthelmian mise en scène.15
Elsewhere in the derivations of literature, BookWoman, purveyor
of unreadable screeds by dykes consumed by the Marxist notion of women
as an “oppressed class,” is threatened by rising rent on the west side that
high-end clothing boutiques are able to pay. Boutiques, of course, are patronized
almost exclusively by women.
Perhaps the scourge of feminism, which included feminists treating
Mom like dog shit back in the ‘70s, could’ve
been stopped by a few strategically timed shoe sales.16
And speaking of scourges, The Associated Press reports former Gov.
Ann Richards’ grave lacks a gravestone. The story presumes this is just
procrastination. Unless everyone just wants the grave left unmarked, to
discourage gravediggers from noting the lead lining and the wooden stake.17
Mayor Will Wynn lost his temper after being stuck in downtown traffic
because of the residential construction he’s promoted. Nice to see him
suffer like the rest of us for once. The Statesman reported he used a “fog
of profanity.” That’s nothing. People like him have been in a fog their
whole motherfucking lives.18
On Dec. 6, my regular salsa dancing at Ruta Maya was pre-empted by
a fundraiser for the Green Party.19 Who’s at the door but hirsute
Tom Davis the Pagan (“Hi, I’m Tom Davis and I’m a pagan. Notice the pentagram
medallion dangling prominently from my neck? Have I mentioned I’m a pagan?”).
I used to see this guy at Libertarian Party functions
– well, back when there was a Libertarian Party.
We never spoke. I should’ve been outraged to see him consorting with the
Greens. Instead, I was delighted. He belongs with them – Nazis without the
charm. Let him fuck things up in that party. Even without him, the
Greens can’t stay on the ballot because their only solid support is in Austin
and to a lesser extent, San Marcos. Besides, his presence confirmed there are no “left-libertarians.” Just dummies,
pinkos, and liars. They’re only fooling themselves.
In fact, in all the years I’ve been in the libertarian movement, I’ve
never met a self-described “left-libertarian” who expressed any view on
anything that could plausibly be described as “left-libertarian.” One
person who does, to great effect, is Ron Paul,
nobody’s idea of a “left-libertarian.” Rather, he’s a sophisticated thinker
with a knack for combining lines of argument that typically remain separate.
Incidentally, Davis teaches in government schools. Your tax money
Green policy plans at the city level include making housing even more
expensive with plans to impose environmental and energy-efficiency requirements
on existing houses, and to cripple homeowners’ rights to their own property
by designating neighborhoods historic.20
Libertarians protested at The Domain on Nov. 17 against subsidies.21
Unfortunately, they did so under the auspices of a local Lyndon LaRouche-esque
good-government pest.22 In fact, the original directions
were off in the advance announcement. The protest was scheduled for MoPac
Expressway and Parmer Lane, an intersection at least a mile from The Domain,
visible to traffic flowing away from the mall, and frequently patronized
On Nov. 27, KKMJ-FM reported an auto collision at Parmer and Metric
Boulevard. Later that same day, I witnessed the aftermath of an incident
along the northbound frontage road of MoPac that backed up traffic at least
to Braker Lane.
I caught up with the final season of “The Sopranos.” Apparently,
it took HBO eight years to make essentially the same point that “Goodfellas”
did in about three hours.24 Don’t get me wrong. The show
was a lot of fun, if only just to see mannerisms of my relatives depicted.
However, the series also became tedious, spotty and self-indulgent in
later seasons. You’d think a New Jersey mob boss with a contentious household
and the panorama of contemporary American life, ripe for satire, would
keep the scriptwriters focused for a few years. Instead, we got arty
dream sequences.25 On balance, a good show, rather than
In another crime drama, most of the actors appearing in “American
Gangster” are positively gleeful: “Hey, check it out: I’m playing an undercover
cop/drug dealer/mafioso in a gritty ‘70s crime drama. Well, not a crime
drama from the ‘70s, but it’s set in the ‘70s.” Watching it made me wonder
if a director let his actors indulge themselves to their hearts’ content
onscreen, without any restraint on scenery chewing and melodramatic posturing,
would it really be any worse than the usual theatrical fare?26
The movie has its narrative weaknesses, but it perfectly captures
how I imagined a retrospective blaxploitation crime drama set in the ‘70s
would look.27 In fact, I took a stab at writing a blaxploitation
film script some years ago, based on the exploits of Nicky Barnes, a real-life
supporting character from “American Gangster.”28 Midway
through, the movie has a scene set at a nightclub much the same way I
imagined the opening. Here’s my entire script:
SCENE 1. EST. SHOT. EXT.
(Music: An early '70s soul number with an insistant rhythm, highlighted
by wah-wah guitar and congero, and quaverring male vocal)
Open on: A neon sign halfway between drab and vivid reads: Dupree's,
a Harlem nightclub with lots of activity on the sidewalk and on the street
by extras. At its core, the scene is reminiscent of the cover for the Miles
Davis album "On the Corner." It should convey the gritty, squalid look
of New York familiar to viewers of films and TV series like "Kojak" made
during and about that time; and also how it actually was for people who
were there. A big-ass early '70s Motown "pimpmobile" double-parks in front.
The energy level of the crowd outside Dupree's palpably rises. Several people
emerge from the pimpmobile, greated with the likes of "Hey, baby, what's
hap'n?" The pimpmobile pulls away.
SCENE 2. INT. UPTOWN NIGHTSPOT
(A busy nightspot for Harlem's players, decked in styles ranging from
slick-but-conservative to fashionably pimpish. Nicky Barnes, crime boss
of Harlem, and his entourage make their grand entrance. Barnes, a heavyset,
mustachioed black in flashy business attire, basks in the attention from
the club's patrons.)29
I haven’t decided whether this means I have what it takes to succeed
in Hollywood, or whether I’m just a talentless hack. Not that there’s always
a clear distinction between two.30
In other ‘70s stuff, daredevil Evel Knievel, 69, died after stubbing
his toe in the bathroom.31 Excuse me. That’s wrong. He
actually died after the movie he did with Leslie Nielsen.32
All quips aside, he was one of the first living famous people to impinge
on my young consciousness, along with Mr. Rogers,33Groucho Marx and President Ford.34
But Knievel had something over the others: A neat toy line. I had the
basic action figure and motorcycle with the turbomatic energizer to rev
up Knievel’s bike and send him skittering across the floor until he hit
a wall, crashed, and lay there waiting for assistance. It was the most realistic
toy I ever owned.
The new novel “Still Life With Husband” generated a small buzz among
my peers because one of the main supporting characters, the husband to
the narrator, is a tech writer.35 When he’s not depicted
as dull and obsessed by his work, he’s almost an afterthought in the tale
– much like tech writers are typically afterthoughts to projects on which
we work. The novel’s main premise is the “Madame Bovary” story – bored
wife cheats on husband, ruins life – updated to contemporary America. It’s
also ironic, funny and well-written.36
A weightier read is Alan Greenspan’s new memoir, “The Age of Flatulence.”
The former Federal Reserve chairman discusses for the first time his freakish
association with famous people prone to letting rip at inappropriate moments.
Thus, Ford spent a lot of time on the golf course, and Ayn Rand chain smoked
as an attempt to cover up her rancid farts. The conventional account of
Rand cutting people out of her life because of philosophical differences
was just a story everybody used to mask the fact it was her cutting the
cheese that drove others away.37
InSite magazine reports on a factory-set flaw in high-definition televisions
that prevent you from getting good color. The solution? Rabbit ears. Just
like an old ‘50s set.38
Tentacles of Empire
KPRC-TV reports the Houston Police Department is testing flying
drones for surveillance.39
NOTES 1 Daiell, Jeff. “Re: Happy Holidays!” E-mail to Dan Eisler,
7 Dec. 2007. 2 Boyd, Helen. My Husband Betty: Love, Sex, and Life
With a Crossdresser. New York City: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003: 28;
Goldstein, Richard. The Attack Queers: Liberal Media and the Gay Right.
London: Verso, 2002: 98. 3 Ailes, Roger, and Jon Kraushar. You Are the Message:
Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are. 1988. Rpt. New York City:
Currency/Doubleday, 1989; Burns, Kevin. “The Ladies’ Man.” XL 8 Nov. 2007:
34-36; Strauss, Neil. The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup
Artists. New York City: ReganBooks, 2005. 4 George, Patrick. "Ron Paul Supporters Gather for a Modern
Austin Tea Party." AAS 17 Dec. 2007: B2. 5 Brown, Richard Maxwell. Strain of Violence: Historical
Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism. New York City: Oxford
UP, 1975: 48; Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty, Vol. III: Advance
to Revolution, 1760-1775. 1976. Rpt. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute,
1999: Ch. 56. 6 Mistretta, A.J. “City Seeks Lead Planner for Waller Creek.”
ABJ 9 Nov. 2007: 3; "Waller Creek Workshop." AAS 15 Nov. 2007: B2. 7 Jankowski, Philip. "Crime Increases During Football Games,
UTPD Records Indicate." DT 26 Oct. 2007: 1-2A. 8 Plohetski, Tony. "Council May Back Proposal to Put All Police,
Marshals on Same Footing." 6 Dec. 2007: B1. 9 "Austin FBI Agent Charged With Drunken Driving." Austin
American-Statesman 15 Nov. 2007 <http://www.statesman.com/search/content/news/stories/local/11/16/1116fbi.html>. 10 Donner, Frank J. The Age of Surveillance: The Aims
and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System, rev. ed. New
York City: Vintage Books, 1981; Kessler, Ronald. The Bureau: The Secret
History of the FBI, rev. ed. New York City: St. Martin's Paperbacks,
2003 11 Cabanero, David. “Councilwoman Kim Withdraws Support for
Ban on Panhandling.” DT 23 Oct. 2007: 7A; Dille, Ian. “Hey, Brother, Can
You Spare a Buck?” TGL Oct. 2007: 50-55; Dunbar, Wells. “Will Pander for
Votes.” AC 14 Dec. 2007: 18; “McDougleton, Fletcher. “No Homeless Man, You’re
the Asshole.” Texas Travesty Oct. 2007: 20. 12 Coppola, Sarah. "Ban Plastic and Brown Bag It, Group Says."
AAS 25 Sep. 2007: B1; Osborn, Claire. "Austin May Restrict Use of Plastic
Shopping Bags." AAS 17 Apr. 2007: A1; Kwon, Jean. “Forget Plastic … Paper
or Canvas?” ABJ 16 Nov. 2007: 1+. 13 Crider, Kitty. “Whole Foods’ New Rule: No More Disposable
Bags.” AAS 19 Dec. 2007: A1. 14 Mistretta, and Sandra Zaragoza. “Begging for an Answer.”
ABJ 23 Nov. 2007: 1+. 15alt.culture, 18; Jeffers, Mike. “Black Friday Brings
Usual Holiday Rush, Despite Cold Fronts.” DT 26 Nov. 2007: 1-2A. 16 Nawotka, Edward. "BookWoman Fights to Keep Site as Similar
Stgores in U.S. Close." AAS 26 Nov. 2007: E1; O’Connell, Joe. “Female Trouble.”
AC 30 Nov. 2007: 42; O'Rourke, P.J. Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book
for Rude People, rev. ed. New York City: Morgan Entrekin/The Atlantic
Monthly Press, 1989: 234. 17 Shannon, Kelley. AP. "Ann Richards' Grave Still Has Only
Temporary Marker." Austin American-Statesman 28 Nov. 2007 <http://www.statesman.com/search/content/news/stories/local/11/28/1128gravesite.html>. 18 Plohetski. "Wynn Loses His Cool Over Blocked Traffic." AAS
27 Nov. 2007: B1. 19 Kaldis, Megan. “Candidate for Green Party Strives to Defeat
Two-Party Nomination.” DT 6 Dec. 2007: 3A; Whittaker, Richard. “Cynthia
McKinney Greens Up Ruta Maya.” AC 14 Dec. 2007: 26. 20 Kwon. “City May Up Ante on Green Building.” ABJ 14 Dec. 2007:
1+; Kwon. “City Ready to Designate Some Neighborhoods Historic Districts.”
Idem., 12. 21 Benedict, Wes. “Libertarians Participate in Domain Tax Subsidy
Protest.” AL 18 Nov. 2007: 1; Melançon, Rebecca. “Should Domain Developers
Get Your Tax Dollars?” TGL Nov. 2007: 9. 22 AD No. 22n45; Benedict, op. cit.; Smith, Susan. "Petition
Queen Needs to Check Inconsistencies." AAS 30 Mar. 2002: B1. 23 Eisler, Dan. “Are You Sure About That Location?” E-mail to
Benedict, 11 Nov. 2007. 24Goodfellas. Warner Bros., 1990. 25Living in Oblivion. JDI Productions/Lemon Sky Productions,
1995. 26 Carson, Tom. “Do You Feel Lucky?” GQ Nov. 2007: 153-154+;
Robinson, Tasha. “American Gangster.” The Onion 1 Nov. 2007, Austin
ed.: 18. 27 AD No. 56n11 (Oct. 1, 2003). 28 Barnes, Leroy “Nicky” and Tom Folsom. Mr. Untouchable:
The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Heroin’s Teflon Don. New York City:
Rugged Land, 2007. 29 Eisler, Dan. The Prince of Uptown. Unpublished mss.,
1998. 30 Bruck, Connie. When Hollywood Had a King: The Reign of
Lew Wasserman, Who Leveraged Talent Into Power and Influence. New York
City: Random House, 2003; Carter, Bill. The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno,
and the Network Battle for the Night, rev. ed. New York City: Hyperion,
1995; Evans, Robert [Robert Shapera][and Charles Michener]. The Kid Stays
in the Picture. Ed. Marinka Peschmann. 1994. Rpt. London: Faber &
Faber, 2003; Eszterhas, Joe. Hollywood Animal: A Memoir. New
York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004; Greenfield, Josh. The Return of Mr. Hollywood.
Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1984; Leonard, Elmore. Get Shorty.
New York City: Delacorte Press, 1994; McDougal, Dennis. The Last Mogul:
Lew Wasserman, MCA and the Hidden History of Hollywood. New York City:
Crown Publishers, 1998; Schulberg, Budd. What Makes Sammy Run?, 2nd
rev. ed. New York City: Random House, 1990; Young, Toby. The Sound of
No Hands Clapping: A Memoir. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2006. 31 Malnic, Eric. “Evel Knievel, 1938-2007.” LAT 1 Dec. 2007:
A1. 32 AD No. 100n35 (Sep. 3, 2007); Viva Knievel!.
Metropolitan (MTA), 1977. 33 AD No. 24n12 (Dec. 24, 2000). 34 AD No. 96n31 (Feb. 6, 2007). 35 McMurrey, David A. “Another Novel About Technical Writers.”
E-mail to STC Austin Discussion List, 16 Nov. 2007. 36Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary: Moeurs de Province.
1857. Rpt. Paris: Gallimard, 2004; Fox, Lauren. Still Life With Husband.
New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 37 Doherty, Brian. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling
History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. New York City:
PublicAffairs, 2007: passim.; Eszterhas, Joe. American Rhapsody.
New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000: 31, 71; Greenspan, Alan. The Age
of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. New York City: Penguin, 2007. 38 Pera, Radames. “Kill Your Oompa-Loompa-Vision.” ISM Nov.
2007: 3. 39 Dean, Stephen. “Local 2 Investigates Police Secrecy Behind
Unmanned Aircraft Test.” KPRC-TV, Houston. 21 Nov. 2007.