Feb. 10, 2003
Sly desire flashed in her almond eyes. “Are you serious?”
I was downtown at Buffalo Billiards on a wintry Saturday afternoon for an open casting call for “Around the World in 80 Dates,” a new reality dating series produced by Bruce Nash Entertainment Inc. for NBC.
I blew off filing out the forms. I glanced at them and I wasn’t going to volunteer certain information or agree to the legally binding terms. It saved everybody a lot of time and hassle. Besides, I don’t have the looks or the personality for this type of show. I’m just not ready for prime time.1
Instead, I figured it would be easier to date somebody I met at the club. “You and I could be dating right now, for example. In fact, are you free for dinner?”
“Are you serious?” Lori’s almond eyes alit as she looked up from our pool game.
I’d been bantering with this 24-year-old petite, exotic beauty for a while after prowling the club and eyeing the aspiring contestants, while drinking free Red Bull2 and Corona.3
The women shied from me. They huddled in packs. They displayed the deer-in-the-headlights look if we made eye contact. And they yapped on their cell phones incessantly. Why they persist in trying to talk on them in the midst of a noisy club, with a sound system blaring rock music from their parents’ heyday, continues to elude me.
Lori, however, was a lone wolf, or rather, fox. An excuse to initiate conversation presented itself, and I took it. She liked the show’s opportunity for travel.
We continued our game until she interviewed for the show. Then we dined fashionably late at Frank & Angie’s Pizzeria.4
But the dynamics had shifted at some point between the interview for the show and the end of dinner. She devoted more attention to her cell phone, and her subtle body language and comments indicated waning interest in me. I also doubted the likelihood of future dates as I learned more about her.
Tales of this sort usually climax with a torrid embrace. But this is a seriocomic account of my life, not some tawdry paperback novel. We split the check, exchanged pleasantries, shook hands and went our separate ways.5
My impromptu date is just the latest apex of a return to the local social scene. Like the song says, “Eisler on the Go.” (But if it’s sonic accuracy you want, you won’t find it from some mournful limey pinko.6 Instead, the tune needs to be played at bop speed.)
For instance, on Jan. 24, I attended The Neal Pollack Extravaganza! This book launch party/music concert/poetry reading/cocktail soiree was sponsored by Neal Pollack at Escapist Bookstore to promote his new book. “Beneath the Axis of Evil,” published by Austin’s So New Media, is a collection of bogus journalism pieces related to Sep. 11 and afterward, that Pollack wrote during mind spasms.7 He lives in Austin now, and wants to make literature with a punk rock attitude a regular event in Austin.
“And you’ll be expected to mosh,” Pollack said before the show.8
I obliquely mentioned me and my best friend skipping his high school graduation ceremony to see Coffin Break, one of the last hardcore bands, nearly get into a three-way fight with beefy frat boys and the club bouncers.9
“So there’s a punk side to you under that placid exterior,” Pollack chortled.
Obviously, schmoozing Pollack and the So New Media publishers to further my writing career was fraught with social challenges. Still, the drinks were strong, I met Jessa Crispin, a.k.a., “The Bookslut,”10 and I flirted with the – what’s the latest term? Bohemians? Punkettes?11 Hipster babes?12
I even got an invitation to an after-party party from one of them. Alas, I had to decline. My then-contract at Dell had me on a morning cycle.13 Even though it was the start of the weekend, I was getting sleepy – a basic reason why the bohemian and the conventional don’t usually mix. Wearily, I escaped the Escapist Bookstore.
Austin Death Watch
The Mercury is closing May 1. Local papers lament the end of one the best spots in town for live music.14 I was fortunate to see the Sun Ra (Memorial) Arkestra and Jimmy Smith play there.15
Sound Exchange closed Jan. 31. The employees blame higher rents and changing music tastes among the college kids, but I think other factors contributed to the store’s demise. The hours were inconvenient, as was finding a place to park. And the one time a year I was able to enter the store, the selection was picked over. Guess they didn’t really want my business.16
On Feb. 1, the merchants on South First Street tried to hold a neighborhood fair, “First Saturday on South First,” but attendance was stymied because the city, in all its wisdom, chose that day to repave half the street.17
A neighborhood association blocked fancy Mexican restaurant Fonda San Miguel from extra parking spaces on residential streets. The owner is threatening to shut down a highly reputed establishment. At least I got to patronize the place once before yet another business that makes Austin distinctive gets shut down by the local ruling tribe.18 At what point can we can expect this tribe to cease blaming “outsiders” – usually developers, investors and other evil Republican businessmen types – for destroying Austin’s uniqueness and replacing it with a generic, homogenized city, when the tribe is doing the job so well from within?
Austin’s municipal election will be held this spring, but Austin doesn’t need a mere change of faces on the City Council. It needs regime change.19
Tentacles of Empire
Neighborhood business ClearCube received $20 million from a venture capital fund keyed to homeland defense.20 A new magazine, “Homeland Protection Professional,” has begun publishing. On the plus side, Texas Gov. Rick Perry abolished the Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security.21
Also appearing on the newsstands are magazines from golfer Jack Nicklaus and rocker Gene Simmons.22 Recently, at Central Market, I bought a jar of peach salsa, a new product line from local colorful character Kinky Friedman. Tain’t half bad.23
Bee Gee Maurice Gibbs died from a heart attack. When I first heard about it, I thought he’d succumbed to Saturday Night Fever. I’d consign him to a disco inferno if I could, for inflicting such crappy music upon the world during my childhood, when I was powerless to avoid the miasma of adults’ abysmal enthusiasms.24 Interestingly, that music has been posthumously, publicly played far more than that of what’s his name, the dead guy from The Beatles.25 I mean the new dead guy.26 I hardly heard his music anywhere when he dropped dead a couple of years ago. To me, all this indicates the last nail was driven into rock’s coffin a while ago and now the dirt’s being shoveled back into the grave.27
Austin Chronicle Louis Black has some explaining to do.
On Feb. 5, the Austin Film Society showed Sam Fuller’s “The Crimson Kimono”
at Alamo Drafthouse North. Black and Fuller’s biographers introduced the
movie.28 Here’s what the Chronicle
had to say about it:
… a typically Fulleresque study of American racism, handled with all his usual sensationalism and raw energy. It’s set in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and tells the story of a Japanese-American cop investigating the murder of a blond stripper.29
What really happens in this noirish flick from 1959 is a couple of playboy cops in Los Angeles investigate the murder of a stripper. Then a love triangle develops with a coed art student tangentially linked to the case. The cops spend more time moping around about their love lives than they do investigating the case. In between, Fuller presents a lot of background detail on the local Japanese-American community and some heavy-handed moralizing. To say the film is uneven is an understatement. At the theater, his biographers mentioned Fuller didn’t spend a lot of time rewriting, and it shows. The dialog veers between snappy hard-boiled repartee and mush-mouthed melodrama. James Shigeta, here a leading man, shows why he’s spent the rest of his career as character actor, specializing in ethnic mobster roles on shows like “The Rockford Files.”30
Black rhapsodized about this film, and Fuller’s work in general before the screening. Black’s faults now include dubious esthetic judgment. Don’t get me wrong: It was entertaining, in a schlocky way. As the movie progressed, I traded wisecracks with the people sitting next to me. This would’ve been great material for “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”31 But I still want my six bucks back!
I have no such regrets about paying $8 to attend “Who Is Jim Holt?” at The Blue Theater. Try to imagine a community theater production of an Ayn Rand-influenced musical comedy about gun control, and you’ve got an idea of what the play is like.32 Thespian Separatist Productions revived the work for the Long Fringe Schedule of FronteraFest 2003.33 It was the first time I’d seen a stage play since high school. Sure, the performance was amateurish, but that was part of the charm, along with the local genesis of the play.34
Kmart will close its last Austin store at Parmer Lane and MoPac Expressway.35 Endeavor Real Estate Group plans to start developing the old IBM property between MoPac and Burnet Road into an open-air mall with a nearby apartment complex early next year.36
Now I Have Seen Everything Dept.
So I’m driving through a Pflugerville subdivision where the streets are named after dead famous authors, and I pass Kafka Street. Of all the writers unsuitable for promoting homeownership. What comes with the house, an interminable struggle with a regulatory agency?37 There ought to be a discount on the asking price for the properties on that street.
1 Saturday Night Live. Ed. Anne Beatts and John Head. New York City: Avon Books, 1977: i.
2 Rohwedder, Cacilie. “German Teens Embrace New Drink, but What’s the Buzz on Its Safety?” WSJ 15 Aug. 1994 Western ed.: A5.
3 Miller, Annetta. “Mexican Chic.” Newsweek 30 Jun. 1986: 49.
4 Rice, Dale. “Austin’s Upper-crust Pies.” XL 19 Dec. 2002: 6.
5 Journey. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” Frontiers Columbia QC 38504, 1983.
6 Bragg, Billy. “Eisler on the Go.” Mermaid Avenue. Elektra 62204 1998.
7 Brenner, Wayne Alan. “The Neal Pollack Extravaganza!” AC 24 Jan. 2003: 64.
8 “Moshing.” 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: 155.
9 Coffin Break. Psychosis. C/Z 010, 1989.
10 Badgley, Shawn. “Who’s That Girl?” AC 24 Jan. 2003: 30-31.
11 Green, Jonathon. Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang. 1998. London: Cassell & Co., 2000: 959.
12 Junod, Tom. “And the Hipster Dwarves Shall Lead Us.” GQ Jun. 1996: 160; Lacayo, Richard et. al. "If Everyone is Hip ... Is Anyone Hip?" Time 8 Aug. 1994: 48; Walker, Jesse. "How Johnny Cash Restored My Faith in the Healing Powers of Hip." Liberty May 1996: 44.
13 AD No. 43 (Nov. 23, 2003).
14 Corcoran, Michael. “In May, the Gig’s Up for Mercury.” AAS 9 Jan. 2003: Gray. “Mercury Falling.” AC 10 Jan. 2003: 45.
15 AD No. 17 (Jun. 10, 2000).
16 Gray, Christopher. “Exchange Buffaloed?” AC 10 Jan. 2003: 45; Gross, Joe. “Say Goodbye to Sound Exchange.” XL 9 Jan. 2003: 11-12.
17 “Community: Events.” AC 31 Jan. 2003: 60.
18 Apple, Lauri. “Not So Fond of Fonda.” AC 10 Jan. 2003: 14; Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co., 1996: 272.
19 Eisler, Dan. Regime Change: A Strategy for Libertarian Victory and Dominance in Travis County. Privately circulated mss., Nov. 2002.
20 Pletz, John. “Homeland Security Fund Helps ClearCube.” AAS 7 Jan. 2003: D1.
21 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Beyond City Limits.” AC 17 Jan. 2003: 15.
22 Fine, Jon; Ira Teinowitz, and Wayne Friedman. “Tongue Tied to Brand.” Advertising Age 17 Jun. 2002: 4; “Nicklaus Magazine Tees Off Eyeing Upscale Consumers.” Brandweek 2 Dec. 2002: 8.
23 Crider, Kitty. “Kinky’s Hot Stuff (Well, Not That Hot).” AAS 15 Jan. 2003: E1.
24 Bolles, Don. “The Bee Gees.” Retro Hell, 14-15; Strecker, Candi. “Why the Seventies?” The Book of Zines: Readings From the Fringe. Ed. Chip Rowe. New York City: Owl, 1997: 42-44; Thurber, Cliff; Patty Powers, and Nina Blake. “Disco.” Retro Hell, 56.
25 Gillespie, Nick. “My Sweet Bore.” Reason Aug. 2002: 65.
26 AD No. 24 (Dec. 24, 2000).
27 Strausbaugh, John. Rock ‘Til You Drop: The Decline From Rebellion to Nostalgia, 1st ed. London: Verso, 2001.
28 Badgley. “It’s a Wonderful Life.” AC 31 Jan. 2003: 45.
29 “The Crimson Kimono.” AC 31 Jan. 2003: 74.
30 Robertson, Ed. "This is Jim Rockford ...": The Rockford Files. Emeryville, Calif.: Pomegranate Press, 1995.
31 Beaulieu, Trace et. al. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. New York City: Bantam Books, 1996.
32 Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1986.
33 Barnes, Michael. “Fringe Benefits.” XL 9 Jan. 2003: 15-17; Brenner. “FronteraFest 2003.” AC 24 Jan. 2003: 62.
34 Francis, Samuel. “Beam Us Out.” Chronicles Apr. 1994: 12-13.
35 “Kmart Closes Their Last Austin Store.” Austin Business Times Jan. 2003: 1.
36 Novak, Shonda. “Open-air Shopping Realm Planned for the Domain.” AAS 6 Feb. 2003: C1.
37 Kafka, Franz. The Trial, definitive ed. 1956. New York City: Schocken Books, 1968.