Austin Dispatches No. 199 Sep. 24, 2017

e199fig2Earlier phone chats with family gave me the impression that the folks had already attempted a fancy, if premature, celebration of their golden wedding anniversary. Cost prohibited a Hawaiian trip in winter without advance arrangements.[1] A cruise off Baja California was a comprehensive disaster more amusing in the retelling than endured at the time. So the likeliest anniversary plan was something small, if not intimate: perhaps a quiet dinner for two at some bistro, while we children struggled to think of a gift that could be bought and shipped, versus something that requires supernatural means (e.g., restored youth).[2]  

That prospect contented me. I last visited five years ago, just to visit, and the family was too preoccupied to appreciate my visiting like they always said they wanted. Then, for once, I had the time and the money. Since 2012, life’s delivered a constant beating.[3]

In May, Sis took over, planning a big party at her house next door to our parents. Except for one aspect, but I’ll get to that. I countered with an alternative: gathering in Las Vegas, equidistant from most of the immediate family. No, it had to be at Sis’ house in September.[4]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

There, Sis and her husband managed the cleaners, caterers and photographer, and the invitations to relatives and friends of the family, some of whom I hadn’t seen since Sis’ 1996 wedding. However, the folks oversaw the confection of a custom triple-tier cake – one tier vanilla with buttercream, one tier chocolate marble, one tier devil’s food –covered in chocolate ganache.[5] Ants at a picnic couldn’t’ve swarmed it faster. On the basis of the cake, and the rest of the spread, the party – and the marriage – must be adjudged a success.

That’s more than I can say for the return trip. I’d spent the visit dodging Mom and Dad’s drooling dog, resembling a cross between a collie and a tumbleweed, so my wardrobe didn’t smell like eau de Fido on the plane. However, my original night flight was late, so the airline rescheduled me for a direct route to Austin … for 10 a.m. the next morning. Rather than leave, try to find an available motel, and endure security checkpoints again, I spent the next 15 hours pacing or waiting at gates in high dudgeon, until the jet actually ascended. I can’t sleep in terminals or planes, except for catnaps.

e199fig3While awaiting my flight, I watched CNN interview Robert De Niro, criticizing President Trump.[6] He came across less as a concerned citizen, more as an actor reprising his tics for shtick. In other words, just some clown who’s here to amuse us.[7] He's probably really incensed at Trump for beating him or his son in some Manhattan real estate deal.[8]

Also, because I got sick from recycled air in 1988 (the high school graduation gift-visit to see the Baltimore relatives) and 1994 (my first visit to Austin), I’ve since worn a painter’s mask aboard flights longer than an hour. This time, the other passengers, openly coughing phlegm at everyone else as they trudged to the back toilets next to my seat, after guzzling the beverages the stewardesses peddled, gave me strange looks. In other words, it’s socially acceptable to spew mucus and disease in an enclosed space, but not to take precautions.

Toward the end, a stewardess conked me on the head while retrieving an empty water bottle from the adjacent passenger. She apologized and gave me a piece of chocolate. What am I, five years old?

Because of the delays I arrived back at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in time for the evening rush hour. I returned home scungy and frazzled and slept for about 12 hours.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch …

An audit uncovered City restaurant inspectors sleeping on the job.[9] Another audit found a City Hall secretary was selling beauty products on city time. The real scandal is that Austin bureaucrat displayed an entrepreneurial bent.[10] For example, the Sep. 15 Chronicle described the role of two councilors as “combating market forces.”[11] We at Austin Dispatches couldn’t’ve summarized them better.

A fire official is under investigator for rape.[12] The Sep. 7 Statesman reports an Austin cop accused of faking his own death resigned from the force.[13] It's almost as if the cop shows and movies, from two continents, are more realistic than we've given them credit for.

The same weekend as a UT football game, crews closed MoPac Expressway lanes for repaving.[14] Used to be Texans would never permit or tolerate such a thing.

The Statesman’s Traffic Web page reported collisions at northbound MoPac Expressway and Highway 183 on Sep. 7, at southbound MoPac and Loop 360 on Sep. 12, and at southbound 183 near United Drive on Sep. 21.

On Sep. 9, I finally exchanged pleasantries with another longtime resident at my apartment complex, whom I’d seen heading to and from the laundry room – back when we still had that – perhaps as long as I’ve been renting here. He, too, was forced out of his previous apartment.

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[1] Eisler, Dan. “Hawaiian Substitute.” E-mail to Mike Eisler, 16 Feb. 2017.

[2] D. Eisler. “A Future Gift Idea for Mom.” E-mail to Corey Bjerregaard, 15 May 2017.

[3] AD No. 161 (March 12, 2013); AD No. 164 (May 29, 2013); AD No. 168 (Oct. 23, 2013); AD No. 169 (Nov. 22, 2013); AD No. 176 (July 6, 2014); AD No. 179 (Nov. 26, 2014); AD No. 180 (Feb. 10, 2015); AD No. 181 (May 22, 2015); AD No. 185 (Nov. 17, 2015); AD No. 189 (July 4, 2016); AD No. 190 (Aug. 30, 2016); AD No. 192 (Nov. 21, 2016); AD No. 195 (May 7, 2017); AD No. 196 (July 13, 2017); AD No. 198 (Sep. 4, 2017).

[4] Bjerregaard. “Re: Re: Re: Mom and Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.” E-mail to D. Eisler, 20 Jun. 2017.

[5] Rombauer, Irma S, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. Joy of Cooking, 6th rev. ed. New York City: Scribner, 2006: 795.

[6] CNN Newsroom. 15 Sep. 2017.

[7] Goodfellas. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1990.

[8] Levy, Shawn. De Niro: A Life. New York City: Crown Archetype, 2014: 268; Gaines, Steven. The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in ManhattanNew York City: Little, Brown and Co., 2005.

[9] Anderson, Will. “Inspector Clouseau? Um, He’s Having a Power Snooze.” ABJ 8 Sep. 2017: 3.

[10] Jankowski, Philip. “Audit: Aide to City Manager’s Chief of Staff Used Work Computer for Her Side Business.” AAS 19 Sep. 2017: B1.

[11] Barbaro, Nick, and Michael King. “Which Way to CodeNEXT?” AC 15 Sep. 2017: 22+.

[12] Plohetski, Tony. “Fire Official Accused of Sexual Assault.” AAS 20 Sep. 2017: B1.

[13] Plohetski. “City Cop Accused of Attempt to Fake Own Death Quits Force.” AAS 7 Sep. 2017: B3.

[14] Wear, Ben. “MoPac to See Lane, Ramp Closures This Weekend.” AAS 8 Sep. 2017: B1.