Nov. 23, 2002
After weeks of delay and wrangling, a major corporation that shall remain nameless and a contract firm that also shall remain nameless finally deigned to give me a job.
Normally, news of this sort would give me more strut to my step than Shaft. Instead, I merely ceased spending the day shuffling about my apartment in a once-white bathrobe with barbecue-colored foulard patterns.
The new routine: clearing up other people’s mistakes, placating two mutually suspicious distaff bosses, and trying to wheedle another extension on the tentative, week-by-week contract, all for less than I got in Dallas two years ago.
I spend the earliest morning hours seeking an easy back-roads commute through the streets of Pflugerville, as tangled as the cords and cables behind a workstation and its peripherals. The town’s local drivers seem unfamiliar with the brakes, turn signals and headlight dimmer switches of their oversize pickups and SUVs.
However, the worst encounter happened in North Austin on Thursday evening, along Metric Boulevard between Howard Avenue and Parmer Lane.
As I drove southbound in the far right lane, a northbound pickup attempted a fast, smooth U-turn. Instead, it nearly plowed into me. The driver swerved away and swerved again ahead of me in my lane as I screeched to a halt. The pickup stopped.
The pickup stayed immobile. I honked. The pickup’s brake lights flared.
The driver got out of the cab and moved toward me.
“You’re so fucking stupid,” he said. “Don’t you fucking honk at me.”
I responded with an upraised middle finger. “You dumb fuck, get the fuck out of my way.”
“You want to start something here? Let’s go.” His body language shifted into the “You-want-a-piece-of-me?” postures.
In the heat of the moment, I thought coldly. I assessed him as a target. But there were too many potential witnesses who could drive by.
“You drive like a cunt,” I snarled. I backed up and swerved around his truck.
He crossed his forearms into an X-Y axis and replied with a jutting middle finger. He trailed in his pickup. He vanished in my sights before I got to my neighborhood. Following me would’ve been easy, but then if he knew what the fuck he was doing, he wouldn’t’ve made that U-turn in the first place.
Even though I failed to bash the dumb motherfucker’s head against his pickup, again and again until he was a silent, bloody pulp, the incident wasn’t a complete loss. The adrenaline eliminated a low-grade headache.
The aftermath shocked me. In the Nov. 8 Austin Chronicle, reporter Lauri Apple gave the Travis County Libertarian Party’s election night party four column inches’ coverage, without the usual Chronicle snideness. I'd like to think the Libertarians' late-night remnant was able to turn on the charm enough to sway the coverage of Ms. Apple – quite the peach. I myself saw to it that she never had to light her own cigarettes – strictly for the good of the party, of course.1
That same night, after months of effort, and visits to such events as the German Sausagefest in Copperas Cove,2 Paul Farris received 1.4 percent of the vote in his race for Congressional District 11. On the bright side, the election demonstrated a new vulnerability for Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards. He received about 51 percent of the vote; in all previous races, he received at least 55 percent. As a general rule, an incumbent is considered vulnerable in the next election if he receives below 55 percent. GOP challenger Ramsey Farley could’ve won. He owes his defeat to the miscalculations of the Republican National Committee, which yanked a quarter-million dollars in advertising from Farley’s campaign weeks before the election, and to President George W. Bush, who refused to campaign for Farley, though his Crawford ranch is within the district.3 Farley indicated his displeasure publicly.4 I met him on the campaign trail. He seems to be a man of character and enough laissez-faire principles. He’s always welcome to join the LP.
Maybe I should’ve run for governor after all.5 I’m still amazed by the margin of victory6 for incumbent Rick Perry, a soulless, blow-dried political whore straight out of a Paul Schrader script.7 In a strict two-way race, with all things being equal, I’d’ve voted for Tony Sanchez. The problem with Sanchez was not Sanchez. It was (and is) the Democratic activists he’d be obliged to appoint to office as payback for getting him elected. In turn, they would vex and oppress us.8 Sanchez’s wife would be picking out the new drapes for the Governor’s Mansion9 right now if he’d run as a Republican. Most of the GOP activists I know weren’t happy backing Perry, for the reasons I described above. As a Tejano outsider-businessman and self-made-millionaire-good-ol’-boy (or whatever the general impression was), Sanchez could’ve swept the GOP primary.10 And even if half the accusations flung against him in the race were true, the GOP true believers would still back him, because they’re convinced that any Republican is better than letting any Democrat win.11 After all, Rush Limbaugh said so.12
The new apartment complex, Stoneleigh at Gracy Farms, has opened for business. Seton Healthcare Network plans to build a children’s hospital at Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane.26 Meanwhile, developers are planning a Target, a Wal-Mart, and a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse around the same intersection.27 Look for ambulances to get stuck in the intersection traffic, and a series of lawsuits to follow.
The Direct Marketing Association now opposes e-mail spam as detrimental to its purposes.28 I don’t know how I’ll fill my time without deleting ads for mortgage refinancing and estrogen treatments.
Sandra Bullock is embroiled in a lawsuit with the builder of her uncompleted dream house on Lake Austin.29 Maybe she should use the experience for a remake of “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.”30
3rd Coast Music reports that country music barely rates third among radio stations in Nashville, Tenn., and that the country music boom peaked in 1993.31 Of course, since contemporary country music is sustained by the fickle allegiance of homogenized, rootless suburbanites, who adopted it as a cultural accessory for several seasons, a down-home disco for the ‘90s, its decline was perhaps inevitable.32
San Antonio’s The Edge Magazine is expanding its coverage to Austin.33
the documentary of Jerry Seinfeld’s return to the stand-up circuit with
a new act. Ach, the angst. Seinfeld, Robert Klein, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby,
Jay Leno, Ray Romano, and a bunch of other comedians you’ve seen on some
cable TV show sit around and pick apart their acts before and after their
sets, trying to eliminate the clinkers in their routines. In between that,
they tell each other jokes so old even Milton Berle must’ve rolled his
eyes – but they still usually work.34 Some of the new
jokes are pretty good, too. Jerry gets wound up about the increasing amounts
of cheese added to pizza: “Pizza Hut has a new item: They bake your head
inside a big block of cheese and you have to eat your way out.” You
also get a sense of why these guys earn a living telling jokes and you
don’t. For example, Cosby can crack jokes for two and a half hours without
intermission. Most of us would be lucky to complete five
minutes. A friend once asked why I didn’t try stand up. Here’s your answer.35
1 Apple, Lauri. “Reproducing Greens and the Silver Standard.” AC 8 Nov. 2002: 26.
2 Easler, Bobbi. “Deutschdelights.” Killeen Daily Herald 30 Oct. 2002: A6.
3 Gee, Robert W., and Bill Bishop. "Edwards Takes Lead Over Farley." AAS 6 Nov. 2002: A15; Lindell, Chuck "All Smiles for Lone Star Republicans." AAS 7 Nov. 2002: A14.
4 Cillizza, Chris. “Stealth in the Heart of Texas?” Roll Call 7 Oct. 2002: 1.
5 AD No. 28 (Jul. 10, 2001).
6 Sayre, Kathleen. “Perry Wins Governor’s Race.” DT 6 Nov. 2002: 1+.
7 American Gigolo. Paramount, 1980; Taxi Driver. Columbia Pictures, 1976.
8 Eisler, Dan. Regime Change: A Strategy for Libertarian Victory and Dominance in Travis County. Privately circulated mss., Nov. 2002.
9 Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Coast Pub. Co., 1996: 112-113.
10 Smith, Amy. “Looking for Tony.” AC 8 Dec. 2000: 34+.
11 Nelson, Colleen McCain. “For Sanchez, More Wasn’t Better.” DMN 7 Nov. 2002: 1A+.
12 AD No. 39n10 (Aug. 1, 2002).
13 Benedetto, Richard. “Voters’ Desire for Change Aids Lawyers.” USAT 7 Nov. 2002: 8A.
14 “Across the Nation.” DMN 7 Nov. 2002: 19A.
15 O’Rourke, P.J. Eat the Rich. New York City: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998: Ch. 3.
16 Lawrence, Jill. “Opponent’s Missteps Gave Campaign Boost.” USAT 7 Nov. 2002: 8A.
17 Welch, William M. "Montana Senate Candidate Quits." USAT 11 Oct. 2002: 12A.
18 “Montana: Drug Turned Candidate Blue.” NYT 3 Oct. 2002 late ed.: A22.
19 Squitieri, Tom. “His Plans Changed, but Message Didn’t.” USAT 7 Nov. 2002: 8A.
20 “The Curly Shuffle.” Jump ‘n the Saddle Band. Atlantic 80141, 1984.
21 Squitieri. “Business experience influences ‘Big Audit.’ ” USAT 7 Nov. 2002: 8A.
22 “Across the Nation.” DMN 7 Nov. 2002: 19A.
23 Johnson, Paul. The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991: 228-229.
24 Lawrence. “Philadelphian Hopes to Unite Divided State.” USAT 7 Nov. 2002: 8A.
25 Tapper, Jake. "Philly Blunt." Salon <http://dir.salon.com/politics/feature/2001/05/01/rendell/index.html?pn=3> 1 May 2001.
26 Scheibal, Stephen. “Children’s Hospital May Not Close as Other Opens.” AAS 1 Nov. 2002: A1; Smith. “The Custody Battle at Brackenridge.” AC 22 Nov. 2002: 26+.
27 Hudgins, Matt. “Parmer Area Growing.” ABJ 8 Nov. 2002: 3+.
28 Bedell, Doug. “Marketers Join Fight on Spam.” DMN 7 Nov. 2002: 3D.
29 Novak, Shonda. “Actress Claims Poor Work, Broken Deal.” AAS 1 Nov. 2002: C1.
30 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. RKO Radio Pictures Inc., 1948.
31 Earle, Charles. “The Ratings Don’t Lie.” 3rd Coast Music Nov. 2002: 7.
32 Scherman, Tony. “Country.” American Heritage Nov. 1994: 38.
33 Freeman, Steve. “Austin Music: Rock From Austin.” The Edge Magazine Nov. 2002: 20.
34 Milton Berle’s Private Joke File: Over 10,000 of His Best Gags, Anecdotes, and One-Liners. Ed. Milt Rosen. New York City: Crown Publishers, 1989.
35 Comedian. Bridgenorth Films, 2002.