Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

Austin Dispatches 
No. 45 
 Jan. 5, 2003
Nowadays, I've got to be my own Santa Claus. Late last year, I acquired some gifts from Dell that'll keep on giving: a couple of new skills I added to my resume. While I continue to work there – at least through the end of this month – I’ll eagerly obtain more such gifts.

Version 7.0 has improved FrameMaker’s compatibility with Microsoft products.1 I might even buy a copy myself. However, while creating a template for Customer Training documents, I’ve already bumped against the limits of what it can do.

Meanwhile, the holiday season was the most dispirited I can remember since the 1973-1975 recession.2 I noticed fewer holiday songs on the radio and fewer decorations everywhere I drove, compared even to last year. Everybody seemed to be in a funk.

I’ve marinated in a mild melancholy mood myself in months recent, what with the election, the new job, and turning 33.3  That said, I did have a good time at the holiday events I attended:

Thanksgiving:  Paul Farris, whose congressional campaign I managed, invited me to the family gathering in Wimberley. The Farris clan is good people. However, I was shocked that they served neither mashed potatoes nor green bean-fried onion casserole. On the other hand, the spread featured five desserts, including the Harry & David crème brûlée cheesecake my folks sent for my birthday.4  I spent the rest of the day semi-comatose.

Dec. 8: The Austin chapter of the Society for Technical Communication held its annual party at the house of Andy Rodgers, director of employment matters for the chapter.5  Andy works as an independent contractor, usually at his house. It’s easy to understand why once you’ve seen his office, which he’s arranged to optimize his computing and superior esthetic preferences – notably hundreds of jazz CDs shelved floor to ceiling. We spent considerable time trading riffs on the subject. In fact, all my colleagues at the party were interesting to talk with on matters unrelated to work, when we weren’t stuffing ourselves with homemade dishes and quaffing gallons of wine, coffee and cider. We were a merry band of tradesmen indeed.

Dec. 14: Libertarian Longhorn Jon Airheart invited me to the premiere of his documentary on NORFED, a private, silver-backed money.6  The premiere was part of a screening of works by his advanced documentary class at the University of Texas at Austin. The other documentaries praised commercial products, cultures’ self-preservation and extension of their heritages, and close-knit families.7

I was shocked. The university’ll lose its funding if the powers that be find out that students were spending time praising catallactics and genuine, rooted communities rather than consolidating the centralized, managerial-therapeutic state from its UT outpost.8

Dec 21: Pat Dixon, Travis County Libertarian Party chairman, threw a Christmas party at his house in Lago Vista. Pat backed me 100 percent in my endeavors for the LP this year, including a long-term strategy for the organization.9  So if nothing else, I attended out of respect. In addition to being the best county chairman with whom I've worked, Pat's a charming, gracious host and a good cook. Pat prepared a turkey and two salmon (one baked, one grilled), plus he served several pies from a local, independent restaurant. I provided libations from my liquor supply. We – mostly Pat's friends and neighbors -- ate, drank and sang ourselves silly.

As a bonus, ex-state political director Robert “Rock” Howard provided Schadenfreude. I met him in 1998, when I was flat on my ass and desperately needed a job. Howard, riding high as TCLP chairman and president of Tower Technologies, contemptuously dismissed me like I was some street corner nigger.10  Subsequently, he lost the chance to let me earn a lot of money for him with my skills. Now I’m working, and he’s on his ass and might have to leave Texas. Ah, the switch! There is justice in this world.

As a bigger bonus, my ex-girlfriend, Miss KT, who also lives in Lago Vista, attended with her new beau, and his 8-year-old daughter.  I’m happy for them. Really. Miss KT and I have patched matters up as far as we can to remain friends. We have a meeting of the minds every time we get together, particularly in public, where we perform the equivalent of Mensa vaudeville routines.11  Even libertarians have trouble keeping up with our banter. Miss KT was the happiest I’ve seen her in about a year and a half. Having a job and a love affair helps; also, she and the “very bright” daughter have a real rapport. I think providing the kid wisdom and attention is for Miss KT an antidote to dwelling excessively on her travails.

The party’s only low point came from deprecatory comments from the LP national chairman. Every time Geoff Neale opens his mouth, he confirms my suspicions. Since winning office last year, he’s gone out of his way to publicly express disdain for about 90 percent of the LP’s membership and support creeping statism in the party’s platform.12

At Pat’s party, our distinguished national party chairman loudly dismissed the Free State Project.13  "Who'd want to live among libertarians? I certainly don't."

I'm paying $25 a year to support this? Is it asking too much for the chairman of the national Libertarian Party to display some affinity for libertarians, if not libertarian ideas? His attitude, which has only worsened since I met him 10 years ago, won’t help him solve the disarray of national headquarters.14

Other than that, Pat’s party was a fine occasion.

Christmas: Saw "Gangs of New York" at the Alamo Drafthouse North.15  My friends and I debated whether to see the Martin Scorsese extravaganza or save a few bucks and enact it ourselves by hitting each other with whiskey bottles. Of course, decades after the events depicted in the movie, my namesake great-grandfather came to America, fleeing the blood-soaked tyrannies of the Old World. Who should greet him at the docks but the Irish, yelling at him to go back where he came from.

Dec. 26: My friend Mary Mahoney, from my first contract at Dell, held a post-Christmas party at her house in Northwest Austin. One of Mary’s guests turned out to be an old ex-girlfriend of Terry Parker, a local gadfly I know. So Austin really is a small town. He used to mention her in conversation, which for Parker, the Bob Crane16 of Austin, meant she was great in bed. However, I refrained from asking this woman whether Parker dumped her when he got bored with her sexually, or whether she dumped him when she finally got sick of his shit.

New Year’s Eve: I visited the Brown Bar about 11 p.m. It’s supposed to be an upscale downtown cocktail joint, but it was packed with downscale frat-boy types who launched a champagne fight in the small club at the chimes of midnight.17  That was my cue to leave. So I went home to bed and dreamt of better parties in the future.

Jan. 3: Finally saw Maceo Parker at Antone’s. He’s appeared there several times, but circumstances of time or money previously prevented me from watching the sax man play a three-hour set of funk worthy of his former employer James Brown, and frankly doing it better than The Godfather of Soul has in many years.18

Media Indigest

KEYE-TV down the street changed its anchor lineup.19

In the Jan. 3 issue, full of Top 10 lists, Austin Chronicle Editor Louis Black writes, “some assume that this is just another attempt by our writers to arrogantly define the culture, laying out what is and what isn’t acceptable. Building a cage of our words and parochial opinion to limit and define the world around us.”20

Nonsense, Lou. All these lists are just an easy way to fill the paper during the post-holiday doldrums when nothing much happens. The most establishment, hack rags – like the Chronicle – do the same thing year after year. And the cage of words imprisons you and yours, not us.

But the Chronicle seems to have subsumed its pinko politics after being stung by the massive Republican victories on Nov. 5.21  Instead, like the weeklies of the New Times chain, it’s focusing on arts coverage. The first post-election issue normally contains massive analysis from the likes of Mike Clark-Madison. Instead, the paper devoted a cover story to the top Top 40 hits from Texas the last 50 years.22  The Nov. 22 issue’s cover story concerns the Austin poster scene.23  If the story dealt with the Austin poseur scene, the issue’d be the size of the phone book.

Russ “Mugger” Smith has sold New York Press.24  To date, the Press has been the rudest, snarkiest, and best metro weekly in America. Unfortunately, the new owners plan to fire editor John Strausbaugh, who wrote “Rock ‘Til You Drop,” a rude, snarky, final nail in the coffin of the bloated corpse that is rock music.25

Cultural Canapés

The great club Ocean’s 11 closed over back taxes.26  I’m disappointed, but not surprised. The club was too small to generate the revenue necessary to cover the overhead. When the “Liberated Space” crew joined me to celebrate my new job last year, I think we occupied one-sixth of all the booth space.

In the wee small hours of Dec. 15, The Tavern, at West 12th Street and Lamar Boulevard shut down.27 I drove by it a million times without venturing in. I planned to sip a cold one there eventually. I read earlier about the impending closure because of disputes over who would pay to upgrade the place to conform with city regulations.  But I waited too long. Now it’s too late.28 I visited the next day and the harsh, bright light of the mid-day winter sun loomed like an accusation upon the faded, empty commercial intersection. It was too late.

Cheesecake Factory opened in The Arboretum shopping center. The restaurant replaced the art-house theater Arbor 7, which is probably a damning indictment of the cultural climate in this town.29

CDNow’s operation has been taken over by Amazon.30  I’m disappointed. CDNow provides 30- to 60-second audio clips for nearly every track of nearly every release, in both RealPlayer and Windows Media formats.  I’ve substituted Cheap-CDs and CD Universe to review music.31  But it’s just not the same.
1 Adobe FrameMaker 7.0 User Guide. San Jose, Calif.: Adobe Systems Inc., 2002.
2 Bayles, Bryce; David Mass, and Jeremy Triplett. “Recession and Texas.” Texas Labor Market Review Jan. 2002: 1-2; Jeffrey, Nancy Ann. “Ho-Ho-No: Companies Skimp on, or Skip, Holiday Parties.” WSJ 13 Dec. 2002, Eastern ed.: B1.
3 AD No. 43 (Nov. 23, 2002).
4 Zind, Tom. “A New Page for Harry & David.” Confectioner Jun. 2002: 108.
5 Cascone, Steven. “The STC Vision: What Do We Want to Create?” Technical Communication May 1994: 204.
6 Apple, Lauri. “Reproducing Greens and the Silver Standard.” AC 8 Nov. 2002: 26.
7 “MiCrOcuLturE.” Documentary screening, Communications Building, University of Texas at Austin, 14 Dec. 2002.
8 Mises, Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 3rd rev. ed. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1966: 232-234; Piccone, Paul. “The Obsolescence of Utopia.” Telos  Spring 1999: 161-176; Stromberg, Joseph R. "Toward an Autopsy of the Marxist Theory of the State." Telos Spring 2001: 115-138.
9 Eisler, Dan. Regime Change: A Strategy for Libertarian Victory and Dominance in Travis County. Privately circulated mss., Nov. 2002.
10 EAD No. 1 (Dec. 1998).
11 Montgomery, Christine. “Mensa: Socializing the Smart Way.” Washington Times 20 Aug. 1998: 8.
12 AD No. 39 (Aug. 1, 2002); Salamon, Jeff. “Austin’s Protest Movement.” AAS 9 Sep. 2002: E1.
13 “Live Free or … Move.” Boston Globe 27 Oct. 2002: D3.
14 Bradford, R.W. “Meanwhile, at Party Headquarters …” Liberty Jan. 2003: 19.
15 AD No. 29n56 (Sep. 4, 2001); Gangs of New York. Cappa Production/Incorporated Television Co./Initial Entertainment Group/Meespierson Film CV/Miramax Films/P.E.A. Films/Q&Q Medien GmbH/Splendid Medien AG, 2002.
16 Auto Focus. Focus Puller Inc./Good Machine/Propaganda Films, 2002.
17 Muldoon, Moira. “Bar Listings.” XL 27 Jun. 2002: 26.
18 Brown, James, and Bruce Tucker. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, 1st ed. New York City: Macmillan, 1986; Moser, Margaret. “Maceo Parker.” AC 3 Jan. 2003: 68.
19 Holloway, Diane, and John Pletz. “Austin Inc.” AAS 3 Jan. 2003: C1.
20 Black, Louis. “Page Two.” AC 3 Jan. 2003: 4+.
21 AD No. 43.
22 Beets, Greg. “Counting Down the Greatest Tex-centric Top 40 ‘Billboard’ Hits of the Past 50 Years.” AC 8 Nov. 2002: 58-66+.
23 Savlov, Marc. “The Smell of Success.” AC 22 Nov. 2002: 58-60+.
24 Kelly, Keith J. “New York Press is Sold for About $5M.” NYPO 24 Dec. 2002: 22.
25 Strausbaugh, John. Rock ‘Til You Drop: The Decline From Rebellion to Nostalgia, 1st ed. London: Verso, 2001.
26 Corcoran, Michael. “It’s Official: ACL Fest Will Return.” XL 21 Nov. 2002: 21; Lieck, Ken. “Dancing About Architecture.” AC 29 Nov. 2002: 51.
27 "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." Sinatra, Frank. The Capitol Years. EMI 96985, 1998; Plohetski, Tony, and Dick Stanley. “The Tavern’s Last Call.” AAS 15 Dec. 2002: B1.
28 Mould, Bob. “It’s Too Late.” Poison Years. Virgin 39587, 1994.
29 Novak, Shonda. “Indie Film Fans’ Arbor Theater Loses Lease.” AAS 15 Feb. 2002: C1.
30 Webdale, Jonathan. “Bertelsmann to Outsource CDNow Operations to Amazon.” New Media Age 5 Dec. 2002: 13.
31 Battey, Jim. “Site Profile:” InfoWorld 15 Feb. 1999: 71.