Make Austin Great Just Once

Austin Dispatches No. 194 March 5, 2017


The February Tribeza contains a feature on a psychologist who treats patients suffering election distress.[1] By that measure, I should be wearing a straightjacket in a padded room after decades of unsatisfactory political results.[2]


For example, in the Feb. 17 Austin Chronicle, Co-Editor/Publisher Louis Black moans:


The Trump administration is disturbing enough in and of itself, but what is even harsher to handle is the absolute glee of many of its most vocal supporters not that finally they are in complete control of the government but rather at the despair and anguish of the left/progressives/Democrats. They seem to be taking an untainted joy in those folks having their ideas and policies vanquished. It is not that they’ve won. It is that those they don’t like have lost.


There is all this gloating, all the smug, self-assuring pleasure that this country’s atheist, socialist, pro-Muslim, bleeding-heart, anti-American left is having their faces rubbed in their own shit.[3]


Yeah, so?


Some editorialist in the Dec. 1 La Prensa criticizes Donald Trump’s victory as a sign the United States shares Latin American political “pathologies,” including machismo and strongman rule, then declares “… it is perhaps up to Latin immigrants to teach the U.S. about deepening democratization.”[4] This editorialist displays a shocking lack of irony for a Latin intellectual. His piece ignores about 29 percent of Hispanics nationwide voting for El Donald.[5] So perhaps the increasing Hispanic population is the cause, not the solution, of the pathologies he decries, since “Latin America” has never been synonymous with “good government.”[6]


e194fig1Nevertheless, my euphoria at Trump’s upset and upsetting victory and accession to office wanes with each successive payment for my mandatory ObamaCare policy (total cost so far: $11,107.87). His administration and the GOP-controlled Congress behave like low-energy losers toward the paramount issue of making my bank accounts great again (or, great for the first time, depending on which one).[7]


Furthermore, I must stay circumspect about all this in a county whose voters overwhelming chose Hillary Clinton for president and have been expressing outwardly their outrage at the outcome ever since.[8] The Chronicle has mutated into a monomaniacal anti-Trump rag, fulminating against the president in every article of every issue, even the restaurant reviews.[9] Jan. 20, thousands of anti-Trump protestors inconvenienced evening rush hour commuters downtown while protesting in the wrong city.[10]


These protestations are of a piece with the local power elite’s mismanagement and mush-headedness that have caused the rest of us so many problems. Even NPR finally noticed Austin’s increasingly unaffordable, driving out regular residents and artists alike.[11] Moreover, the anti-Trump focus serves the power elite and its flunkies and dupes as a convenient distraction from Austin’s problems, the power elite’s role in causing them, and the failure of the elite to confront its discredited worldview as the source of both. Alternately, if these people were really upset, they’d be joining the local Red Guards.[12] Except they’re also terrified of guns.[13]



Sad! Austin had such potential for greatness when I moved here, but after the risk of being swept from power on a tide of money during the tech boom, the elite since the 2001 recession has fought off all challenges to its rule and pursued policies to cement same, even if it wrecks the city and destroys its cultural distinctiveness.[14] Consequently, the Dec. 30 Business Journal describes 2016 as “the year Austin discovered crisis.”[15]


Of recent note:


The Travis County power elite’s fondness for foreign trespassers, exemplified by stereotypically indolent Sheriff Sally Hernandez, is beginning to cost the county state money. This may the one thing to bring the power elite to heel.[16] So far, however, Austin and county officials’ actions and rhetoric indicate that given a choice of serving you, or serving foreign trespassers, they’ll serve the foreign trespassers every time.[17] You’ll note they aren’t publicly winking at us not paying taxes, fees or licenses, or ignoring regulations.


Simultaneously, the Jan. 27 Chronicle laments that the Texas Legislature once again is interfering in local matters, though the lament’s scribe acknowledges – briefly – “… an aspect of this is self-inflicted.”[18] To elaborate, if the Austin power elite would content itself with being in charge, and ceased violating our rights with its meddling regulations, the Lege wouldn’t have to intervene. Speaking of the Lege, a Travis County grand jury indicted the Democratic representative for Pflugerville.[19]


Austin’s finally rid of Police Chief Art Acevedo, a would-be caudillo naturally praised by the Chronicle for his “progressive” (i.e., statist, citizen-disarmament) ways. Unfortunately, now Houstonians have to contend with him.[20] Ace’s departure comes as local publications have been investigating the collapse of performance in the APD’s crime lab.[21]


The police department has second thoughts about the chief forensics officer it hired to run that failed lab, because only now did the department review his college grades from years ago.[22] This last aspect is most troubling. For years, I listed my college degree on my resume, but no prospective employer or client ever asked about it, possibly because they didn’t want to be reminded of their college experience.[23] Then, when I dropped my educational qualifications for reasons of space, everybody became concerned: “Did you even go to college?” I wasn’t in a position to give a smart-alecky answer.[24]


The manager of Austin’s Music and Entertainment Division blamed bureaucracy as the reason for quitting his job.[25] In a display of rare good sense, Black’s Dec. 2 column questions whether the city’s leadership hasn’t undermined the music scene, and strongly doubts government involvement will help.[26] If he and the rest of the staff applied this level of thinking to other matters consistently, the Chronicle might become almost as insightful as Austin Dispatches.


Instead, the Jan. 27 issue carries a feature about how musicians in Austin are unappreciated and underemployed.[27] In other words, like most occupations in most eras. The feature doesn’t consider that most local musicians are mediocre and not something worth our entertainment dollars. Even more unfathomable to the Chronicalista mindset is the possibility that Austin just isn’t the hip, cultured, sophisticated burg its self-proclaimed arbiters have insisted for so long, and maybe it never was.[28] The arbiters just fell for their own hype.


Then the Feb. 3 Chronicle frets lowlifes are threatening the viability of clubs on Red River Street. Better still, we have the spectacle of Chronicalistas whining the cops aren’t arresting enough people for the sort of behavior they usually extol.[29]


Furthermore, the Chronicle gripes state government isn’t providing enough incentives for film, television and video game production.[30] If Texas lured manufacturing with such incentives, the Chronicle would denounce it as corrupt and oppressive. And though the Dec. 23 article strives to express sober concern about the state of the arts in Austin, the Chronicle can barely conceal its schadenfreude at reporting the Statesman has laid off its arts critic from the staff, because of declining readership.[31]


e194fig3The Jan. 27 Business Journal and the March 3 Chronicle report the proposed new comprehensive land-use and zoning code is even worse than what we have now, with zoning supporters denouncing the details and a spate of planners fleeing town. CodeNEXT? Code Hexed is more like it. [32] Also, a Mexican special-interest group has denounced CodeNEXT as a “tool of racism.” This group likely doesn’t understand that zoning itself was also deployed as a tool of racism. If it did understand, we might finally be rid of zoning.[33]


Rising property taxes claimed another longtime Mexican restaurant.[34]Austin Community College tried to get a computer company to move its offices into the Highland Mall Campus to fill the floorspace. Then the deal fell through because the company never signed a lease.[35]


Perhaps for these reasons, the Austin Public Health department reports that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Millennials.[36]


Neighborhood News


My refrigerator’s compressor died. Bad enough the appliance only functioned for a year after replacing the previous unit that only lasted four years. The London broil and cheesecake I bought for my birthday dinner began assuming room temperature before a repairman arrived.[37] However, the fridge malfunction served to age the steak. I seasoned both sides of the cut liberally, pan fried it, and salvaged my birthday entrée.


On Jan. 8, a burst water pipe in my apartment building triggered the alarms, same as six years ago. Gradually, the shrill noise – think a feminist lecture, only not as monotone – drove the tenants out into the cold. I didn’t know so many owned dogs. That same week, the smoke detector attached to my dining room ceiling continued chirping after I replaced the battery, a sign the detector needed replacement.


The Feb. 10 Business Journal reports the operator of the shuttered Weirdos is attempting to reopen the bar near the original site.[38]


On Feb. 17, I witnessed the aftermath of a collision at the northbound on-ramp to MoPac Expressway near Parmer Lane. A Feb. 16 traffic incident took out a light signal post at Stonehollow Drive and Gracy Farms Lane. The Statesman’s Traffic Web page reported collisions on Nov. 29 and Jan. 27 at MoPac and Parmer, on Dec. 1 at MoPac and Braker Lane, on Dec. 6 at MoPac and Duval Road, on Dec. 17 at MoPac and Loop 360 and at Research and Metric boulevards, on Jan. 3 at Parmer and Metric and at Kramer Lane and Metric, on Jan. 12 at Stonehollow and Metric, on Jan. 18 at southbound MoPac between Parmer and Duval, on Feb. 20 at Burnet Road and Braker, and on Feb. 21 at northbound MoPac and Park Bend Drive.


Fire officials blamed smoking materials for burning five residents out of their apartment complex off Cedar Bend Drive on Jan. 14.[39]


Numerous more stores and offices have opened in the neighborhood.[40] A Mexican restaurant has expanded.[41] A brewery has expanded.[42] A Louisianan seafood restaurant at The Market at Parmer Lane shopping plaza has closed.[43]


On the Town


Dec. 6: A group of students served free pancakes hot off the griddle outside the entrance to the UT main library. Between that and my courtesy borrower’s card, I’m probably getting more out of the university than the students. On the drive home, I witnessed the aftermath of a three-way smash-up at Braker Lane and the southbound frontage road of Interstate 35.


Jan. 29: I attended the 50th-anniversary block party of KMFA-FM, on East Fifth Street.[44] I ate a free cupcake with icing thicker than a Democrat’s comprehension of how to appeal to blue-collar voters.[45] As I left, I saw a couple of hipsters trying to peddle in a straight line fall off their expensive bikes.


For New Year’s Eve, the Chronicle listings included three ‘80s-esque theme parties, including one that attempted to recreate 1989. The 1989 subtheme appeared to be accurate, for once. Unfortunately, the club chose to honor English fop bands, as a then-classmate termed them.[46]


Cultural Canapés


Among last year’s best books is “Seinfeldia,” a comprehensive look at the successful sitcom.[47] Several readers are surprised I didn’t start watching regularly until the fourth season, on Sis’ recommendation.[48] (She learned of the show from a TV commercial.)[49] Though I knew vaguely of Jerry Seinfeld from among the herd of comics during the stand-up boom in the '80s,[50] the show’s early seasons were semi-obscure, coinciding with my college years when I wasn't watching much television anyway. Then I graduated, entered the workforce full time, bought a set and VCR, and caught up with the earlier seasons when it entered syndication in 1995.[51]


In the Dec. 9 Chronicle, women dramaturges deplore “hypermasculine” theater.[52] In doing so, they sound like the scolding antagonist in David Mamet’s “Oleanna.”[53] Meanwhile, the Jan. 24 Daily Texan doesn’t ask whether a new play about the LBJ presidency realistically depicts him berating subordinates while squatting on the toilet.[54]


Thanks to numerous Web sites, I have now seen more than 100 theatrical films released or debuted in 2014 that I can recommend. The December issue of GQ proclaims Houston the next food capital of America.[55]


Business News


The neighborhood H-E-B stocks General Mills’ Girl Scouts cookie cereal.[56] On the boxes the cereal flakes look larger than the actual cookies these days.


Notes in the Margins


My late maternal grandparents years ago told me about the neighboring girl who became a Wall Street floor trader, and they sent me a copy of her memoir of the experience, one of my publishing picks for 1991.[57] More recently, Laura Pedersen wrote another memoir, of her Buffalo, N.Y., childhood, where she devotes a page to describing my grandparents, to my pleasant surprise.[58]


Nobody correctly guessed last issue’s headline’s allusion.[59]
Home Archives


[1] Yancy, Mary Garwood. “Feeling Residual Dis-Ease Over Election 2016? You’ve Got Company.” Tribeza Feb. 2017: 76-78.

[2] AD No. 159 (Dec. 25, 2012); AD No. 179 (Nov. 26, 2014); CQ Press Guide to U.S. Elections, Vol. I-II, 5th rev. ed. Washington, D.C., 2010; Eisler, Dan. “Re: Sarah Silverman.” E-mail to Mike Eisler, 5 Feb. 2017.

[3] Black, Louis. “The U.S. Swings Like a Pendulum Do.” AC 17 Feb. 2017: 8.

[4] Von Vacano, Diego. “Opinion: Trump Embraces Caudillo Politics As Latin America Shuns It.” La Prensa 1 Dec. 2016: 2.

[5] Hunt, Albert R. “From Surges to the Map, 4 Election Myths to Discard.” Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press 2 Dec. 2016: A6.

[6] Johnson, Paul. The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991: 627-632.

[7] Gawande, Atul. “Trumpcare.” NYR 6 Mar. 2017: 21-22.

[8] Election results. AC 11 Nov. 2016: 16.

[9] Fury, Melody. “Review: Old Thousand.” AC 10 Feb. 2017: 46.

[10] King, Michael. “It Ain’t Just About Trump.” AC 20 Jan. 2017: 10+; Marloff, Sarah. “Keep Marching!” AC 27 Jan. 2017: 12; Schwartz, Jeremy, Taylor Goldenstein, and Philip Jankowski. “Thousands in Austin Stage Anti-Trump Protests, March.” AAS 21 Jan. 2017: A1+.

[11] “In Austin, a Boom in Short-Term Rentals Brings a Backlash.” Narr. Wade Goodwyn. All Things Considered. NPR. 9 Feb. 2017; King. “You Say Affordable, She Says Tomato.” AC 3 Mar. 2017: 14; Novak, Shonda. “As Housing Market’s Heat Eases, Rents Take Breather.” AAS 5 Feb. 2017: F1.

[12] Caterine, Joseph. “Enemies of the State.” AC 17 Feb. 2017: 20-21+.

[13] Black. “It Is the Worst of Times, It Is the Worst of Times.” AC 24 Feb. 2017: 8-9.

[14] AD No. 80n7 (June 21, 2005); Theis, Michael. “Austin Likes Its ‘Weird’ Stores, but Will Hot Economy Price Them Out?” ABJ 24 Feb. 2016: 8.

[15] Theis. “2016: The Year Austin Discovered Crisis.” ABJ 30 Dec. 2016: 10.

[16] Dreher, Lisa. “Gov. Abbott Cuts Travis County Funds.” DT 2 Feb. 2017: 1-2; Hoffberger, Chase. “ICE Freezeout in Travis.” AC 27 Jan. 2017: 11; Goldenstein and Plohetski. “Abbott Keeps Vow, Trims Travis Grants.” AAS 2 Feb. 2017: A1+; Marloff. “Abbott Cuts County Funding.” AC 3 Feb. 2017: 13.

[17] Dreher. “Austinites Rally Against Ban, Wall.” DT 27 Feb. 2017: 1-2; Dreher. “Hundreds Protest Anti-Sanctuary City Bill.” DT 1 Mar. 2017: 1-2; Plohetski, and Sean Collins Walsh. “Inmate’s Near-Exit ‘Sanctuary’ Target.” AAS 15 Feb. 2017: A1.

[18] Whittaker, Richard. “State-Governed Local Control.” AC 27 Jan. 2017: 16.

[19] Whittaker. “Dawnna Dukes Indicted.” AC 20 Jan. 2017: 16.

[20] Angulo, Angela M. “La Partida del Jefe de la Gente.” El Mundo 23 Nov. 2016: A2; Hoffberger. “”Acevedo out, Manley in, Search for Permanent Chief Is on.” AC 25 Nov. 2016: 23; “Austin Police Chief Takes Top Cop Job in Houston.” CIN Nov. 2016, Northwest Austin ed.: 23; King. “What’s Past and What’s Present.” AC 25 Nov. 2016: 16.

[21] Marloff. “Crime Scene Investigation.” AC 2 Dec. 2016: 24+; Marloff. “ ‘Everything Is on Hold.’ ” AC 24 Feb. 2017: 16-17.

[22] Plohetski, and Philip Jankowski. “Foresnic Lab Leader’s Hiring Exposed Flaws.” AAS 8 Jan. 2017: A1+.

[23] AD No. 148 (Jan. 1, 2012), p. 5.

[24] Mad’s Al Jaffee Spews Out Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. New York City: Signet, 1968.

[25] “Austin Music Division Director Quits.” ABJ 17 Feb. 2017: 8.

[26] Black. “An Immodest Proposal.” AC 2 Dec. 2016: 6.

[27] Sisson, Leslie. “Musician Employment Service of Austin.” AC 27 Jan. 2017: 48+.

[28] AD No. 138 (Jan. 13, 2011); AD No. 149, op. cit.; AD No. 176 (July 6, 2014).

[29] Curtin, Kevin. “It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes.” AC 3 Feb. 2017: 20+.

[30] Whittaker. “Money Shot.” AC 27 Jan. 2017: 36-37.

[31] Schwaiger, Seth Orion. “Not Very Statesman-like.” AC 23 Dec. 2016: 28.

[32] Barbaro, Nick. “The New Apartheid?” AC 3 Mar. 2017: 12; Pritchard, Caleb. “DiGiuseppe Dips Out on Austin, CodeNEXT.” AC 3 Mar. 2017: 13; Theis. “Cracking CodeNEXT: The Biggest Issue to Hit Modern Austin Is Here.” ABJ 27 Jan. 2017: 4-5.

[33] AD No. 133n13 (May 4, 2010); Barbaro. “Tool of Racism?” AC 24 Feb. 2017: 12.

[34] Pope, Colin. “El Gallo Site Needs a New Life.” ABJ 27 Jan. 2017: 3.

[35] “ACC Moves on Without Rackspace.” ABJ 10 Feb. 2017: 6; Whittaker. “Rackspace Backs Out.” AC 10 Feb. 2017: 13.

[36] Scaccia, Annamarya. “Suicide Rates in Travis County.” AC 20 Jan. 2017: 15.

[37] LaFrieda, Pat, and Carolynn Carreño. Meat: Everything You Need to Know. New York City: Atria Books, 2014: 176, 180.

[38] AD No. 180n33 (Feb. 10, 2015); Buchholz, Jan. “Weirdos Music Venue Owner Plans Comeback in North Austin.” ABJ 10 Feb. 2017: 6.

[39] Barrios, Nicole. “Blotter.” AAS 16 Jan. 2017: B3.

[40] Barr, Greg. “A Bank Branch With a Startup Vibe.” ABJ 2 Dec. 2016: 4-5; Blackwell, Kathy. “The Art of Living.” Austin Way Winter 2016: 116+; Chung, Frani. “Eat. Drink. Love!” Austin Way Winter 2016: 48+; Denney, Amy. “New Domain Northside Development Aids Local Businesses.” CIN 26 Jan. 2017, Northwest Austin ed.: 1+; Denney. “North Austin Faces Boom in Office Space in Next Few Years With New Construction.” CIN Dec. 2016, Northwest Austin ed.: 17; Guzman, Andrea. “Double Vision.” Austin Way Winter 2016: 64; “In Progress.” ABJ 24 Feb. 2017: 13; “More at The Domain.” ABJ 10 Feb. 2017: 17; “Now Open.” CIN Nov. 2016, Northwest Austin ed.: 7; “Now Open.” CIN Dec. 2016, Northwest Austin ed.: 4; “Now Open.” CIN Jan. 2017, Northwest Austin ed.: 4; “Now Open.” CIN Feb. 2017, Northwest Austin ed.: 7; “Pacific Northwest Outfitter, Filson, Comes to the Domain Northside.” Tribeza Dec. 2016: 43.

[41] “Expansions.” CIN Nov. 2016, Northwest Austin ed.: 7.

[42] Theis. “First Look.” ABJ 9 Dec. 2016: A10.

[43] “Closings.” CIN Dec. 2016, Northwest Austin ed.: 5.

[44] “Community.” AC 27 Jan. 2017: 30.

[45] Kuhn, David Paul. The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma. New York City: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

[46] “New Year’s Guide.” AC 23 Dec. 2016: 35.

[47] Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin. Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

[48] Bjorklund, Dennis. Seinfeld Reference: The Complete Encyclopedia With Biographies, Character Profiles & Episode Summaries. Los Gatos, Calif.: Smashwords Edition, 2012: 45.

[49] Bjerregaard, Corey. “Re: A Question About Nothing.” E-mail to D. Eisler, 19 Sep. 2015.

[50] Adler, J. “I Hear America Zinging.” Newsweek 28 Sep. 1988: 60; Tracy, Kathleen. Jerry Seinfeld: The Entire Domain. Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1998: Ch. 3-4.

[51] Adjust Your Tracking. Romark Entertainment/VHShitfest, 2013; Campbell, W. Joseph. 1995: The Year the Future Began. Oakland, Calif.: U of California P, 2015; D. Eisler.  “A Question About Nothing.” E-mail to Bjerregaard, 20 Aug. 2015; Rewind This! Imperial PolyFarm Productions, 2013; Tracy, op. cit., 187.

[52] Weaver, Shanon. “Is the Play the Thing, Though?” AC 9 Dec. 2016: 32-33.

[53] Oleanna. The Samuel Goldwyn Co., 1994.

[54] AD No. 96n38 (Feb. 6, 2007); Cobbe, Elizabeth. “History Repeats.” AC 3 Feb. 2017: 30; O’Hanlon, Morgan. “ ‘The Great Society’ Chronicles Johnson Presidency on Stage.” DT 24 Jan. 2017: 8.

[55] Chang, David. “The Next Global Food Mecca Is In … Texas?!” GQ Dec. 2016: 114.

[56] Wohl, Jessica. “Marketer A List 2016.” Advertising Age 5 Dec. 2016: 17.

[57] AD No. 114 (July 27, 2008); AD No. 190 (Aug. 30, 2016); Pedersen, Laura, and F. Peter Model. Play Money: My Brief but Brilliant Career on Wall Street. New York City: Crown Publishers, 1991.

[58] Pedersen. Buffalo Gal: A Memoir. Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum, 2008: 152-153.

[59] Burroughs, William S. Exterminator!: A Novel. New York City: Viking Press, 1973: 93; D. Eisler. “Give Thanks.” E-mail to Dennis Lucey et al., 24 Nov. 2016.