“Nothing has greater potential to annoy a reader than a writer recounting what fun he’s had.” – P.J. O’Rourke

A Holiday Roundup

Austin Dispatches
No. 149
Feb. 11, 2012

Work is slowly resuming at work after the short weeks and frequent vacations. I walked into the office of an expert to ask about the status of some manuals in review, and she was cramming brisket in a crock pot for a Christmas luncheon.1 And that was the liveliest Christmas got. One of my frequent salsa venues was closed for Christmas and New Year’s Day, an Israeli friend and I couldn’t find a satisfactory restaurant that was open Christmas that wouldn’t also be packed, and away from the stores I hardly saw any lights.2 Maybe 2011’s where the hype, cost and unattainable expectations finally broke everyone’s holiday spirit, and they collectively decided they’d be damned at paying another $10 on the electric bill in the futile attempt to delight other people. Sort of like Bobby Womack’s dad:
I was about five or six and wondering how Santa Claus was going to get in the house because we didn’t have a chimney. True to form, my father put me straight. He told me right then that there wasn’t a Santa and that he had ate the mince pies we put out.

“I’m sick of a white man getting credit,” he said. “I went out there to break my ass working and get you those damn toys. There ain’t no one coming down no damn chimney. You know I practically went out and stole to get you that BB gun.”3 
My Dad mailed a card explaining why he didn’t buy me a gift certificate to Mosaic Records.4 He ranted about being charged $10 shipping for the company to mail a thin piece of plastic. “Fuck them,” he concluded, and signed the card “George Costanza.”5 

Detached as I was, I did my part for this year’s holiday spirit by rousting a bum sleeping in my apartment complex’s laundry room on Dec. 20. I don’t have an accompanying anecdote, but on Dec. 26, another bum followed me out of Half Price Books at the Parmer Crossing shopping plaza and asked for money behind my back.

Motherfucker,” I said in annoyance. “Get the fuck away from me.” And the motherfucker did, in fact, get the fuck away from me. Maybe it was the feral glint in my eye. I wonder what other beneficial applications this approach to interpersonal dynamics has to offer.

All this might have something to do with my witnessing Santa Claus, or a reasonable simulation, jogging along Shoal Creek Boulevard about a week before his big day. If he couldn’t give a shit, why should we? However, without distractions and no reason to go anyplace, I accomplished a lot at home. For example, I read a former editor’s expose of the Forbes media empire, apparently in financial trouble. This expose revealed the salaries of staffers during the time a childhood friend worked there, which quantifiably buttresses my suspicion that I’m doing better than him financially once you factor in New York’s taxes and cost of living.6

When I did attend some seasonal event, it was on a weeknight with better turnout. At a tech writers’ holiday dinner, a newcomer was regaling us with stories of her co-workers, including a transvestite software engineer. “Aren’t we skirting the issue?” I asked. “Do his accessories match the rest of his ensemble?”

I also stayed home New Year’s Eve for the first time in 13 years. I scoured the listings but everything that remotely interested me was also inconvenient for reasons of traffic, parking or the likely mix of attendees.7 

The Parish deployed a New Year’s Eve 1981/82 theme,8 but having written about the ‘80s intensively four times in the last four years,9  I’m getting a bit weary of ‘80s nostalgia – certainly the way most other people do it, which tends to be either predictable or incredibly dorky.10 

Moreover, most every event was crammed into downtown, where the City also persisted in holding a family friendly event that ended a good 90 minutes short of midnight. Nothing to start a new year right like gypping the kids.11 

Also, a friend cautioned me to be careful.12  So instead, I worked on a live socket with a spray bottle and a screwdriver while smoking a cigarette and digesting a double bacon cheeseburger.

Meanwhile, the AAA members’ magazine had a piece in its January/February issue about where to find the best chocolates in Texas for Valentine’s Day.13 Premature holiday hype: it’s not just for Christmas anymore.14 Tribeza’s recent “Romance Issue,” chockablock with features on self-satisfied bobo duos as the romantic-companionate ideal to which to aspire, made dying alone seem the better option.15  That magazine’s first-person articles by women who treat their inability to sustain a relationship, until they die alone with their cats, as some sort of commendable trait, were even worse.16  

Austin Death Watch

Police finally cleared Occupy Austin campers from City Hall the night of Feb. 3.17 Mayor Lee Leffingwell complained the pavement had absorbed the odor of urine.18 

Already, the Jan. 18 Daily Texan reported Occupy Austin had lost momentum, after costing residents half a million dollars in police overtime.19 The protestors’ attempt has reopened the old split between the militant and the pragmatic (i.e., bribable) pinkos who misrule Travis County.20 A splinter faction, Activate Austin, has formed to narrow “its focus to address sensitive subjects like racism, classism, gender discrimination, and homophobia.”21  Takes me back to my college days,22  when I covered a panel discussion about said subjects that could’ve been called “Why My Group Is More Oppressed Than Yours.” Amusingly, the militant feminist on the panel sounded like a Valley Girl. I and the editor, also on the panel, couldn’t look at each for fear of laughing aloud during the discussion. Yeah, white male patriarchial oppression, fer sure fer sure.23  

Anyway, the faction organizer is “… committed to a ‘radical analysis’ … ‘of what’s happening in this community, and make good old liberal Austin the city it thinks it is’ ” (i.e., hold meetings exclusively of the very white and very privileged who’ve read too much Noam Chomsky, because none of the “oppressed” groups can stand them, and yammer on until they antagonize the more adroit members of the power elite).24 

Even the Chronicle’s Wells Dunbar had enough, “wondering whether Austin’s terminal nostalgia, sheathed in hegemonic [B]oomer triumphalism, persistently keeps us blind to the bigger picture.”25 The bigger picture, of course, has been limned in previous issues of Austin Dispatches

Now if only we could remove the people occupying the inside of City Hall.

By one account, Austin’s the “most libertarian city in the United States.”26 In reality, Austin’s becoming like some foreign underdeveloped shithole.

The Jan. 20 Business Journal reports that City Hall is frustrating business activity yet again with its backlog of construction permit applications, “traced to a shortage of staff.” This problem should raise the opportunity to do away with permit requirements, rather than looking to solve a problem government created in the first place by hiring more parasites.27 The Texas Department of Transportation inches closer to adding a toll lane on MoPac Boulevard in either direction. Drivers will be inconvenienced by construction from 2014 to 2016, and by tolls thereafter.28

A power outage hit downtown Jan. 28 and lingered into next day.29 A burst water pipe on the fifth floor drenched the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center.30 The City’s new Web site launched Jan. 26, four years after the Council voted to redesign it.31 

Police busted three thieves, whose surnames indicate their ancestors weren’t on the Mayflower passenger list, for stealing $14,000 in perfume and clothing from Barton Creek Square in December.  I’m surprised. I didn’t think there was anything worth stealing from that mall.32 Four good restaurants, the nightclub Momo’s, and the independent music retailer-video rental store Encore have shut down. 33

An out-of-season tornado touched down in Northeast Austin on Jan. 25.34 The neighborhood sustained little damage, thus depriving the power elite of the chance to drive out residents and remake the area to its liking.

Police ticketing of music venues for violations of a stricter noise ordinance are jeopardizing said venues and Austin’s even more inflated reputation as “Live Music Capital of the World.”35

Celebritymonger Margaret Moser, straining to prove she’s still relevant at an age when she ought to be worrying about the ObamaCare death panels decisions, set a new milestone – or is that millstone? – in the Chronicle by writing a favorable cover story about … Christopher Cross? This purveyor of a slick L.A.-esque sound that was actually recorded and produced in Austin, reminiscences he wasn’t accepted by the self-appointed arbiters of the Austin music scene: a few critics, musicians split between unambitious dirtbags and unambitious trustafarians, and a larger number of scenesters. Instead, Cross had to settle for massive radio hits, bestselling albums and a comfortable existence. They showed him, didn’t they? Meanwhile, the denizens of this self-regarding little scene are scrambling to find health care coverage that will pay for their hepatitis C infections.36 It’s part of a pattern sussed by Barry Shank in “Dissonant Identities,” wherein being an outsider, at least among Austin’s white pop crowd, is almost a prerequisite to success.37 It wasn’t even really a musical judgment against Cross, since these arbiters have an amazing tolerance for shlocky music as long as they can rationalize it as a) making them seem cool or ironic, and/or b) pissing off their parents or c) social signaling to bar the wrong sort from their scene. Yes, this does sound suspiciously like high school. Significantly, Moser’s article is as close as we’ve seen to one of the arbiters admit to being wrong for 30-odd years. Still, Chronicle, is that the Best That You Can Do?38

Neighborhood News

I think the new landlord is less conscientious as the old about maintaining the complex. The smoke detector in my bedroom became temperamental and I had to call the office twice before they replaced it. Meanwhile, the landlord employed a construction crew for general window repairs on the building that so far as I could tell consisted of a bunch of Mexicans pounding on the stucco at dusk – you’re not assaulting the Alamo, guys.39 The “repairs” reopened a crack with a vengeance, with water again dripping onto my living room windowsill, requiring further repair.

On Jan. 11, I witnessed the aftermath of a smash-up at Gracy Farms Lane and Hobby Horse Court.

e149fig2 The Jan. 30 Daily Texan praises Austin Cake Ball, a combination bakery and bistro newly opened at The Domain. For the prices, it’s not worth the sin.40 The Jan. 20 Business Journal carries a feature on Hana World Market, a new Asian supermarket at 1700 W. Parmer Lane.41 Workers are building sidewalks on the north side of Kramer Lane between Parkfield Drive and Metric Boulevard, and the southwest corner of the Burnet Road-Braker Lane intersection, and a park at The Domain with a bocce ball court.42 A school opened at Tomanet Trail.43 Two accessories stores opened at The Domain.44

There, Was That So Bad?

Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race, months after ill-informed out-of-staters e-mailed panicked questions to me.45 They were right to reject his candidacy, but their questions revealed their flawed framework – a “left” instead of a “right” paradigm – for doing so.46 Naturally, I had to correct their thinking, but with these people, I’m sure it’s a temporary fix. Nevertheless, Perry, a soulless establishment statist out of a Paul Schrader script,47 just a bit more telegenic and adept at pseudo-religious piety than his Northeastern peers, was nothing we haven't seen before, and had nothing to distinguish him from the early pack of contenders.  Further investigation into Perry’s record48  weakened his chances among Republican voters, most of whom mouth classical liberal positions even if they don’t really understand them.49 Perry left the race by endorsing the vile Newt Gingrich.50


1 Thurber, Cliff. “Crock-Pot.” Retro Hell, 49.
2 Longoria, Bobby. “Funding Woes Lead to Lights Out for Local Holiday Events.” CIN 23 Nov. 2011, Central Austin ed.: 1+.
3 Womack, Bobby and Robert Ashton. Midnight Mover: My Autobiography: The True Story of the Greatest Soul Singer in the World. London: John Blake, 2006: 4-5.
4 Ouellette, Dan. “A Colorful Mosaic.” Billboard 24 Feb. 2007: 61.
5 Costanza, Mike, and Greg Lawrence. The Real Seinfeld: As Told by the Real Costanza. New York City: Wordwise Press, 1998.
6 Eisler, Dan. Letter to Lynn Eisler, 7 Jan. 2012; Pinkerton, Stewart. The Fall of the House of Forbes: The Inside Story of the Collapse of a Media Empire. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 2011: 152-153.
7 “Civics 101.” AC 30 Dec. 2011: 12; Messer, Kate X. “Gay Place.” Idem., 55; “New Year’s Listings.” Idem., AC 30 Dec. 2011: 50-51.
8 The Electric Company/The Parish. Advertisement. AC 30 Dec. 2011: 69.
9 AD No. 107 (Apr. 12, 2008); AD No. 136 (Aug. 10, 2010); AD No. 143 (June 28, 2011); AD No. 148 (Jan. 1, 2012).
10 Renovitch, James. “The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth.” AC 19 Aug. 2011: 32.
11 Coppola, Sarah. “Fete, Fireworks to Ring in 2012.” AAS 29 Dec. 2011: B1.
12 Adams, Celeste. “Please Be Safe This New Year.” E-mail to Dan Eisler et al., 29 Dec. 2011.
13 Fhaner, Beth. “Cocoa Cravings.” Texas Journey Jan./Feb. 2012: 14.
14 Mehta, Anjli. “Consumerism Plagues Valentine’s Day.” DT 10 Feb. 2012: 11-12.
15 Brooks, David. Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
16 Armstrong, Kristin. “What Love Brings.” Tribeza Feb. 2012: 25-26.
17 George, Patrick, and Tony Plohetski. “Police Clear Out Occupy Protestors.” AAS 4 Feb. 2012, final ed.: A1+.
18 Wear, Ben. “Leffingwell on Occupy Eviction: ‘Something Had to Be Done.” The Blotter 4 Feb. 2012 < http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/blotter/entries/2012/02/04/leffingwell_on_occupy_eviction.html>.
19 Jonsson, Kayla. “Occupy Austin Loses Momentum.” DT 18 Jan. 2012: 1-2.
20 Richards, David. Once Upon a Time in Texas: A Liberal in the Lone Star State. Austin, Texas: U of Texas, 2002: 73-76.
21 Smith, Amy. “Activate This!” AC 30 Dec. 2011: 12.
22 AD No. 148, op. cit.
23 Eisler, Dan. “Panel debates free speech issues.” ODE 18 Jan. 1990: 1; Romeo, Darby et al. ”Valley Girl/Dude.” Retro Hell, 234.
24 A. Smith, op. cit.
25 Dunbar, Wells. “The Hustle Bids Farewell.” AC 30 Dec. 2011: 12.
26 Messamore, Andrew. “UT Groups Voice Opinions on 2012 Race.” DT 26 Jan. 2012: 6.
27 Lyon, Cody. “City Hall Overwhelmed.” ABJ 20 Jan. 2012: 1+.
28 Wear. “MoPac Toll Lane Plan Is Picking Up Speed.” AAS 30 Jan. 2012, final ed.: A1+.
29 Mashood, Farzad. “Parts of Downtown Dark for 12 Hours.” AAS, 30 Jan. 2012, final ed.: A1+; Messamore, Andrew. “Power Outage Disturbs Area Downtown.” DT 30 Jan. 2012: 2.
30 Kreytak, Steven. “Ruptured Water Pipe Creates Soggy ‘Mess’ Inside Downtown Courthouse.” AAS 24 Dec. 2011: B2.
31 Whittaker, Richard. “Grading the City’s New Website: Incomplete.” AC 10 Feb. 2012: 16.
32 George. “Three Accused of Stealing $14,000 in Items.” AAS 20 Dec. 2011: B3.
33 “Closings.” CIN Dec. 2011, Northwest Austin ed.: 5; Messer. “Cajun Heat.” AC 30 Dec. 2011: 35; Mongillo, Peter. “Momo’s Closes, Citing Renovations at Building.” AAS 29 Dec. 2011: B5; Schragin, Adam. “Five O’Clock Land.” AC 13 Jan. 2012: 42+.
34 Bliss, Jillian. “Wild Weather Causes Tornado in Northeast Austin.” DT 26 Jan. 2012: 1.
35 Garza, Vicky. “Sound-Rule Change Stirs Up Bars.” ABJ 20 Jan. 2012: 1+; Kanin, Mike. “Trying to Hit the Right Note.” AC 27 Jan. 2012: 14.
36 AD No. 94n23 (Nov. 25, 2006).
37 Shank, Barry. Dissonant Identities: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, N.H.: UP of New England, 1994.
38 Chan, Alekasander. “Portlandia vs. Auslandia.” 20 Jan. 2012: 12; Moser, Margaret. “The Reluctant Celebrity.” AC 20 Jan. 2012: 40+.
39 Northland at Stonehollow. Letter to tenants, 6 Dec. 2011.
40 Smith, Brittany. “Austin Cake Ball Serves Diverse Desserts.” DT 30 Jan. 2012: 11-12.
41 Lyon. “Asian Supermarket Owners Seek to Tap Growing Demographic.” ABJ 20 Jan. 2012: 5.
42 Deis, Amy. “Development Activity Picks Up at The Domain.” CIN Jan. 2012, Northwest Austin ed.: 1+.
43 “Now Open.” CIN Dec. 2011, Northwest Austin ed.: 4.
44 Idem., Jan. 2012: 4.
45 Embry, Jason, and Kate Alexander. “Perry Bows Out, Backs Gingrich.” AAS 20 Jan. 2012, final ed.: A1+.
46 Lakoff, George. The Political Mind: A Congitive Scientist’s Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics, rev. ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 2009.
47 AD No. 43n7 (Nov. 23, 2002).
48  Dellinger, Matt. Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. New York City: Scribner, 2010: Pt. 4.
49 Cox, Stephen. “The Turtle and the Hare-Brains.” Liberty Jan. 1995: 17.
50 King, Michael. “Shameless.” AC 27 Jan. 2012: 10+.