Oct. 30, 2002
Sometimes, amidst the thumb-sucking Hooverville this town’s become, I’ll experience a moment that nearly recalls the prosperous glory that was Austin.1
For example, recently I attended a launch party at La Zona Rosa for the Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo. I joined twentysomething women in basic black and 40-year-old men in ponytails2 in scarfing free yuppie hors d’oeuvres, quaffing complimentary Heineken beer and Bacardi rum, and viewing fashion displays from local designers, bad movies, bad artwork, bad sculpture, and a bad rock band.
All this to promote a car.3
It was a fancy design, all right, in its retro ’30s roadster way.4 You could imagine Bruce Wayne cruising around Gotham City in his free time. (Batman, of course, drives a postwar number with tail fins.)5 But you know there’d be a mysterious set of rattles after 5,000 miles and a series of service bulletins after you bought it.
At least the launch party was more entertaining, though less productive, than the Austin XL job networking event I attended earlier. For the first time, I received more job leads from schmoozing people than from posting my resume online and getting cold calls.
While I traded business cards, the sound system played incessant New Wave music.6 Why, it was like reliving my teen-age years in the ‘80s with people who were balder, fatter and more desperate, wearing mortgage payments around their necks instead of spiked dog collars.7
I stationed myself by the hors d’oeuvres table and handed the hungry my business cards. It worked pretty well, except one time when somebody stuck my hand between two slices of bread.
In other tales of damage, a couple of women drivers collided in my apartment complex parking lot and smacked into my parked car. A cop knocked. I awoke and opened the apartment door. He handed me some paperwork. Somebody else's insurance company quickly paid. And thanks to the to good folks at Rebreu Body & Frame, my car looks better than before, the city lights of the night reflecting upon its gleaming black surface.8
Meanwhile, I walked to a nearby presentation at KB Home Studio on how to convert rent payments from my landlord into credit for a KB house. I pocketed the literature on how this deal works and concentrated on the catered meal at the expense of the presentation. However, the food itself wasn’t nearly as good as when I’ve eaten it at Pappasita’s.
Speaking of property, a real estate company is negotiating to buy the former Multek site, near Braker Lane and Burnet Road. The Austin Business Journal reports that experts speculate that the site may become a shopping mall.9 American Bank of Commerce is trying to recoup $2 million it loaned to a man now in federal prison for fraud.10 Infoglide Software Corp. has obtained $4.2 million in fifth-round funding.11 Pavilion Technology inked a $25 million deal with New Zealand’s largest business.12 H-E-B is cutting prices in local stores.13 XeTel filed for bankruptcy.14
The Austin Business Journal started spreadin’ da news that Albany, N.Y., is the new Austin, as far as the semiconductor chip industry is concerned.15 Now they tell me. Whether the industry can overcome New York’s noxious economic climate is another matter.16
The Boston Globe reports on the growing use of a new pill, modafinil, to go without sleep.17 Now, I know it’s a bad idea, but I can't help thinking how convenient it would be for me to get more reading done. I've thought that for years, ever since I saw "Monkey Shines," with the same mindset as the drug company's indulged in by a wisecracking evil scientist, and I don't mean Dr. Clayton Forrester.18
A Guide to Bryan-College Station Eats
Even in Aggieland, there's no reason to go hungry. All the places I can recommend are clustered in one stretch of College Road near where I lived in 1995-96.
Start with the Chicken Oil Company (3600 S. College Road), a burger joint at a major intersection well worth patronizing. The burgers are thick and juicy. If you want one a little drier, order the ostrich burger. Also of note: a side of fries covered with two types of melted cheese.
If you're feeling more health conscious, there's a farmer's market across the street. I bought my fruits, vegetables, dairy and sauces (barbecue and salsa) cheap.
About a block north of Chicken Oil Company is a family owned barbecue place, in a red brick building. They serve your order on butcher paper right at the counter. Across the street from that is Pepe's. It's a local Tex-Mex fast-food joint with the cheapest prices I've encountered.
Michael Mann has a new TV series, “Robbery Homicide Division.”19 We’ll see if it lasts longer than “L.A. Takedown.”20
Delbert McClinton just released another flawed album. Too bad, because the last track, a brassy shuffle titled “New York City” almost makes up for the rest of the songs.21 It’s good enough for David Lee Roth to cover.22
Santana is back – but do we necessarily want him? His new album, “Shaman,” copies his 1999 hit, “Supernatural.” That’s the problem. Now, I actually like Santana, who managed to avoid being just another low-talent '60s rock act stuck in the Official Pretentious Boomer Nostalgia pantheon.23 Carlos Santana improved as a musician, good enough to play jazz with the pros. His mature style dates from around 1976, when he first "sold out" and resumed playing shorter songs that fit FM radio formats.24 Almost half the tracks on "Supernatural" fit that style. The other tracks, with guest musicians, particularly the newer ones, sounded like they were just pushing air.25 Naturally, they're the ones that got airplay. With “Shaman,” Santana sounds like he really wants to play on only about a third of the tracks.26 I don't begrudge the man his success; neither do I feel compelled to buy his new product.27 Instead, check out “Milagro” for some good contemporary Santana.28
Michael Bolton will perform in Austin on Nov. 1.29 He’s shorn his locks in his newest publicity photos.30 Now, instead of a pop star, he looks like a Dell project manager. We need to ship that deliverable by 3Q, Bolton.31
Jerry Seinfeld has released a children’s book about Halloween.32 I gotta tell ya, it’s a strange experience to encounter a work for kids that reads like Jerry’s stand-up shtick. What’s with this marketing concept? Who’s he think he is now, Fran Lebowitz?33 And what makes Seinfeld think he can top “Halloween With Morris and Boris”?34 Besides, as of Oct. 23, I already heard ads for Christmas. Didja ever notice how they jump the holiday promotions like that?
The Oct. 25 Austin Chronicle has a feature on “hybrid restaurants,” eating establishments that feature unrelated cuisines. It’s a nice idea in theory, but the article cites too many local restaurants that are better as counterexamples:
Feedback magazine’s Politics in the Park was rained out and rescheduled for the parking lot behind Alien Records on Fifth Street. I glanced through Feedback, a free color glossy that uses layout and typefaces that are hard to read, and which covers music I know nothing about. Feedback is available at independent, funky stores, along with Push Magazine and TRIBEZA, heretofore unknown to me. When I lived in Phoenix, Cityheat and Java were their noteworthy equivalents. Publications of this sort can be found in any large city in the Western world. They depict a sleek, slick lifestyle full of exotic, beautiful people with lots of obscure, expensive stuff. Think Wired for the trust fund set.39 Even I’ve never encountered people like this in real life, and I encounter a lot of unusual people and unusual situations. Years from now, someone will study these magazines to learn some aspect of something or other at the turn of the century.40
1 New Oxford Dictionary of English. Ed. Judy Pearsall. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1998: 882.
2 Berendt, John. “Ponytails and Earrings.” Esquire Sep. 1991: 57.
3 Moser, Stephen MacMillan. “After a Fashion.” AC 18 Oct. 2002: 42.
4 Elliott, Bruce. “Introduction.” Retro Hell, ix-xii.
5 Fleisher, Michael L., and Janet E. Lincoln. Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes, Vol. I: Batman. New York City: Macmillan, 1976: 48, 54-59, 76-81, 218-219.
6 Ira A. Robbins. "Preface." Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock: The All-New 5th Edition of the Trouser Press Record Guide. Ed. Robbins. New York City: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997: 9-11; Weisbard, Eric. "What is Alternative Rock." Spin Alternative Record Guide. Ed. Weisbard and Craig Marks. New York City: Vintage, 1995: vii-ix.
7 O’Rourke, P.J. Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People, rev. ed. New York City: Morgan Entrekin/Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989: 106.
8 Thief. Dir. Michael Mann. United Artists, 1981; Vannelli, Gino. “Black Cars.” Black Cars. Mercury 510991, 1985; Zappa, Frank. “City of Tiny Lights.” 1976. Baby Snakes. 1979. Honker Home Video, 1987.
9 Hudgins, Matt. “Endeavor to Buy Multek Site.” ABJ 20 Sep. 2002: 1+.
10 Osborne, Jonathan. “Bilked Bank Goes After Businessman.” AAS 24 Sep. 2002: B1.
11 Higginbotham, Stacy. “Infoglide Secures $4.2M.” ABJ 20 Sep. 2002: 1.
12 Higginbotham. “Pavilion Gains $25M Deal.” ABJ 27 Sep. 2002: 1.
13 Crider, Kitty. “H-E-B on Offensive in War of Groceries.” AAS 2 Oct. 2002: C1.
14 Anna, Cara. “XeTel, one of Austin’s Early Tech Startups, Files for Bankruptcy.” AAS 23 Oct. 2002: D1.
15 Higginbotham. “Sematech Rethinks Mission.” ABJ 13 Sep. 2002: 3; Kander, John, and Fred Ebb. “Theme From ‘New York, New York.’ ” 1977. Sinatra, Frank. Complete Reprise Studio Recordings. Warner Bros. 46013, 1995.
16 Caldwell, Christopher. “Empress of the Empire State.” TWS 19 Jul. 1999: 21-25; Moore, Stephen. “Is the Northeast Necessary?” TAS Dec. 1997: 36.
17 Goldberg, Carey. “Who Needs Sleep? New Pill Hits Scene.” Boston Globe 22 Sep. 2002: A1.
18 Beaulieu, Trace et al. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. New York City: Bantam Books, 1996: xxviii; Monkey Shines. Orion Pictures Corp., 1988.
19 Garcia, Chris. “Sketchy Characters Steal From Fast-paced ‘Robbery Homicide.’ ” AAS 27 Sep. 2002: E1.
20 L.A. Takedown. Ajar Productions/Compañía Iberoamericana de TV/Movies Films Productions/World International Network (WIN). Broadcast 27 Aug. 1989.
21 McClinton, Delbert. “New York City.” Room to Breath. New West 6042, 2002.
22 Roth, David Lee. Crazy From the Heat. New York City: Hyperion, 1997.
23 Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. New York City: William Morrow, 1991: 299-316.
24 Shapiro, Marc. Carlos Santana: Back on Top. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000: 153-158.
25 Santana. Supernatural. Arista 19080, 1999.
26 Santana. Shaman. Arista 14737, 2002.
27 “The Epic Life of Carlos Santana.” RS 16 Mar. 2000: 38.
28 Santana. Milagro. Polydor 314 513 197-2, 1992.
29 Angeli, Michael. “Nine Million Michael Bolton Fans Can’t be Wrong. Can They?” Esquire Jan. 1993: 78.
30 Judg. 16:19 Tanakh.
31 Dell, Michael, and Catherine Fredman. Direct From Dell: Strategies That Revolutionized an Industry. New York City: HarperBusiness, 1999.
32 Seinfeld, Jerry, and James Bennett. Halloween. Boston: Byron Preiss/Little, Brown & Co., 2002.
33 Lebowitz, Fran, and Michael Graves. Mr. Chas and Lisa Meet the Pandas. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
34 Wiseman, Bernard. Halloween With Morris and Boris. New York City: Dodd, Mead, 1975.
35 Feit, Rache. “The Hybridity Principle.” AC 25 Oct. 2002: 53-55.
36 Bergen, Peter L. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, rev. ed. New York City: Touchstone, 2002: 62-63.
37 Matus, Victorino. “No, We’re Not That Family.” WSJ 26 Jul. 2002: W15.
38 “Whack ‘em/Tarantella.” Joey DeFrancesco’s Goodfellas. Concord Jazz 4845, 1999.
39 Wice, Nathaniel, and Steven Daly. alt.culture: An A-to-Z Guide to the '90s — Underground, Online, and Over-the-Counter. New York City: HarperPerennial, 1995: 272-273; Wolff, Michael. Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1998: 44-45.
40Andersen, Kurt. Turn of the Century. Random House, 1999.