Mar. 10, 2003
I sat down in a metal patio chair, facing a blonde in a gunmetal blue ensemble and an excess of jewelry. I adjusted my tie. I twinkled my eyes.
For the next three minutes, we parried questions back and forth, under a small tent atop The Speakeasy in downtown Austin. Simultaneously, some 50 other pairs did the same.
The HurryDate organizers blew the whistle again. The men rotated to tables designated alphabetically, and packed as tightly as possible. The scenario repeated again for three minutes. And again. And again.
Years of working in situations that require getting the point across, plus even more years of struggle to make myself heard in an indifferent world, have honed my voice into one capable of cutting through any amount of white noise. Harvey Keitel would be proud to have such a voice. However, the conversations were much more amicable than it would be in a stereotypical Harvey movie (“I’M. PAYING. THIRTY. DOLLARS. FOR THIS EVENT. AND YOU’RE PLAYING HIGH. SCHOOL. BULLSHIT. WITH ME?!?”)1
The final whistle sounded. The men stared sullenly. My headache stretched from the base of my skull to my eyebrows. Also, I could barely remember anything about anybody I talked to, beyond some hastily scribbled notes on the match form.
The crowd bolted for the exit. “What a bitch!” exclaimed another man on the way out. I think he was talking about a participant, not the event itself. I didn’t encounter those that night, but I did meet a lot of vapid yuppies and drama queens. During questioning, I learned many were friends who arrived together and sat at the same tables.
Afterward, the women cackled like a coven as they compared notes before disappearing into the cold, dark night. I'm sure they thought of it as moral support. Instead, it had the effect of crabs dragging each other back into the bucket. And they wonder why they can't get a man.
In retrospect, the participants silently, glumly watching the finale of “The Bachelorette” on the television at the downstairs bar when I arrived might’ve been a portent.2 The whole event appeared to be a setup to waste men’s time and money. Somebody should tell the organizers it’s not a good idea to piss us off like that. Still, you pays your money and you takes your chances. I just made the mistake of playing by someone else’s rules.
I obtained better results at the other mixers I attended recently. The week before, I went to a Valentine’s singles mixer at Manuel’s. I was able to initiate lengthy conversations around the hors d’oeuvres table with women who actually had the gumption to show up by themselves to find romance – or at least more ceviche and quesadillas. The Spring 2003 Salsa Party at the Texas Union Ballroom on the 27th was even better. I danced and flirted with a succession of Miss Universe contestants in slinky dresses and high heels.3 I looked pretty suave myself, if I do say so, in a black silk shirt and hair slicked back like Carlos Gardel.4 My only quibble was the amount of merengue music the instructors played.5 If it’s billed as a salsa dance, give me the salsa and cha-cha.6
These other events not only better suited my approach, combined they cost less that a single HurryDate obstacle course.
Meanwhile, my profile resides on several dating Web sites of dubious utility. If I want to send or even receive messages, I’ll have to pay for service upgrades. The one site I’ve used that doesn’t charge, I got an inquiry, but it wasn’t from a dame. It was some guy from Zimbabwe who wants me to help move $25 million out of accounts in Dubai for a piece of the action. So it is easier to find money than love.
On the Town
On the morning of Feb. 17, I witnessed Michael Badnarik announce his presidential candidacy at the Texas Capitol. After all, it’s not everyday someone you know runs for president. He delivered a stirring speech. Representatives from the Austin American-Statesman,7 KLBJ radio, KEYE-TV,8 News 8 Austin, KOOP-FM,9 and Reason magazine attended.10
To its discredit, the Statesman buried Badnarik’s announcement as a brief inside the metro section. Regardless of the politics, this is a “local boy makes good” story with legs, and the Statesman’s going to get a kick in the shins when Badnarik wins the LP nomination in Atlanta next year.11 But then, what would you expect from a Cox Enterprises publication?12 Harry Browne campaigned in Austin in 2000 and the Statesman only mentioned it about two months after Austin Dispatches.13
Likewise, the Statesman dropped the ball on covering U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s speech at the University of Texas School of Law on the evening of the 17th.14 Paul’s speech was jointly sponsored by disparate groups, including the Travis County Libertarian Party, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the American Civil Liberties Union.15 He denounced the looming war on Iraq to a packed, appreciative audience, including a lot of middle-aged “conservatives,” plus Badnarik, his nomination rival Gary Nolan,16 and guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.17
The night before, I saw the "Sean Connery Golf Project" at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown.18 It’s a documentary about a Hollywood prank by Sara Rimensnyder and Rhys Southan that backfired. They snuck into Sony’s studio, filched a lousy script, rewrote it, snuck back into the studio to replace it – and taped the whole shenanigan. The studio found out and pressed charges.
Rimensnyder, an editor at Reason, waxes ambivalent about shows like "The Bachelorette" when she isn't removing trash in Los Angeles under court order.19 Paradoxically, this order does not cover productions directed by Michael Bay.20
Southan, of course, is co-creator of “Who Is Jim Holt?” – an Ayn Rand-influenced musical comedy about gun control.21
If you've wondered why Reason doesn't seem as good as it used to be, the documentary gives a hint. Editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie has put himself and the magazine in a stylistic trap. The staff is trying too hard to make the magazine seem "hip," "edgy," and "irreverent" – anything but bourgeois. Gillespie's a thirtysomething homeowner and family man with two young children, which makes the attempt all the more pathetic, like an aging would-be hipster. And for someone who delights in bashing Boomers as often as he does in Reason's pages, he mimics one of the worst Boomer attitudes.22 For the magazine, it's a losing attitude, because the existing readership is decidedly bourgeois.
And for violating private property (trespass and theft), Rimensnyder got what she deserved.
On Mar. 3, I attended the 21st birthday party of Jessica Caplan, Libertarian Longhorn co-president, at Double Dave’s. She’s finally old enough to drink legally, and the blowout – which went well past closing time – could easily be one of the year’s best parties. Welcome to adulthood, Jessica.
On Mar. 6, I caught Brad Meltzer's mayoral campaign kickoff at Broken Spoke. Meltzer spoke in favor of eliminating City Hall red tape and burdensome regulation for small businesses, and adamantly against a smoking ban and any tax increase to fix the city's budget deficit. That's to his credit.
Whether his style and presence can convey that message to the voters is another matter. Meltzer, a schlumpy, balding, mustachioed middle-age man with a distinctly Northeastern accent, delivered his speech in a dry fashion. If this guy were running for chief accountant, he'd win in a landslide.
This guy is not "Austin," like Max Nofziger, Will Wynn or even Marc Katz.23 I'm undecided about whether that's a good thing or not for the city. Many’s the day I think the erstwhile denizens of this thumb-sucking Hooverville need a swift kick in the ass. It's definitely a disadvantage for his campaign.
He might actually turn all these stylistic liabilities to his advantage, by positioning himself as the dull, grown-up outsider who doesn't have the knack for the political jive of nearly any officeholder you care to mention. Think Dave Thomas in his ads for Wendy's.24 Of course, that itself is a slick political tactic. I don't know if Meltzer or anybody on his campaign would even think to try it.
After the rally, I stayed to have a chicken-fried steak. Broken Spoke has a local reputation for having the best in town.25 Don’t be fooled. It’s just another chicken-fried steak.
A winter storm knocked out power to about 11,000 homes between Burnet
Road and Interstate 35 on Feb. 24.26
The weather only affected me the next day, when I had a job interview scheduled and had to drive downtown during the morning rush hour. Except so many people stayed home a second day, the lower number of commuters on MoPac Expressway made up for the ice on the overpasses. So I made my usual commute time.
The Statesman reports Randalls supermarkets are struggling. I’ve occasionally shopped at the locations in College Station and at Parmer Lane and Metric Boulevard, but the prices are consistently higher than H-E-B.27 ClearCommerce received another $3 million in venture capital.28 Golfsmith plans to expand.29
Pluckers Wing Factory and Grill opened at the Crossroads Shopping Center, at Burnet Road and Highway 183 (Research Boulevard). Don’t eat there. The service is weak and the food is mediocre. I had to wait 15 minutes during a slow period for my takeout order – a sandwich and a side of fries. The Buffalo chicken was dry and the waffle fries had the consistency of vulcanized rubber.
Gillette has introduced a new razor, the Mach 3 Turbo. I’ve been using the plain Mach 3 version, a Christmas gift several years ago. Not to sound like a shill, but it really does give me the closest, smoothest shave. So what’s the Turbo do, peel off the skin?30
The owner of jobs site Dice.com filed for bankruptcy.31 I’m not surprised. As part of its service, Dice e-mails me new job openings. I haven’t received one in months, because it doesn’t have any new openings. Besides, other sites have surpassed it. Still, as useless as the site's become lately, it was one of my first good sources when I was trying to break into the business. Maybe the owners'll give the domain name to this “Dice”:
For celebrity sightings, I give you Harry Knowles and Crispin Glover at Alamo Drafthouse Downtown.33 Take ‘em, please. They were yapping so intently with the theater audience after a showing that they delayed the other movie that I came to see. Shut up, the both of you, and get out.
Speaking of Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News reports some stirring of interest in Hollywood about a script co-written by Robert Heyges that’s premised as a missing Marx Brothers movie.34 If it gets made, Heyges would be a natural to perform. After all, he did enough impersonations on “Welcome Back, Kotter.”35
Tokion, a glossy contemporary magazine, has a ‘90s retrospective theme for its January/February issue. The retrospective, with the implication of enough critical distance to summarize an era, is the first to proclaim the era’s end – even socially.36 Me, I think of the ‘90s as a segment of the Bush-Clinton era, after the de facto rulers of the world who define this era, and in turn, are defined by it. Socioculturally, I’ve enjoyed this time intermittently. Then, at random, fleeting moments I felt I’d synched with the Zeitgeist, or summarized or defined it in a way that’d allow me to float along with it for as long as it lasted. The era has outlasted those particular moods of mine from the ‘90s, and we’ll remain in this era by default until enough changes for us to define a new one. I don’t mind that – usually. Alas, politically, we’re also still in the Bush-Clinton era.37 That needs to change immediately.
MCI mailed a certificate to my dad at my apartment. Dad’s certainly getting around these days. The least he could do is chip in for the rent. This mail isn’t as good as the package I once got from a Hollywood producer who wanted me to review videotapes of a drama pilot because they thought I was president of a journalism association at Syracuse University.38
The newsletter Austin Communicator reports Hollywood has created a new movie about a technical writer, called, inventively enough, “The Technical Writer.”39 I can hardly wait. Last year, William Shatner played a technical writer-turned-aspiring screenwriter in "Shoot or Be Shot," which oh-so-briefly appeared in theaters before heading to its ultimate role as an obscure discount video rental and fodder for bad time slots on cable. Maybe technical writing is the trendy occupation for characters in Hollywood releases. If so, I wish Tinseltown would stick to cops, doctors and lawyers. The boring truth is the job is more like an episode of “Barney Miller” – without the laughs.40
The Evening Standard reports Simon and Garfunkel are reuniting. Apparently, they prefer the sound of cash registers to the sounds of silence.41
GQ reports a group called Demonbusters has declared the pattern paisley to be demonic. I wouldn’t go that far, but it does look like hell.42
I got an e-mail from Collectors’ Choice Music about a closeout sale. I was checking the CDs that look interesting against the online edition of the All Music Guide.43 One of the CDs is a compilation from The Three Suns,44 which later included a guitarist named Joe Negri. During my extended move from Richardson to Austin, I heard his album, “Afternoon in Rio”45 on Saturday mornings on “The Sounds of Brazil,” a syndicated radio program played on KBCT-FM, a “smooth ‘jazz’ ” radio station in Waco.46 Negri performed for many years on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” whose namesake just died of cancer.47
What's going on?
I pick up the Feb. 28 Austin Chronicle and:
Michael Erard ably presents his critique in the Chronicle. My different, but related criticism was confirmed from skimming Florida's book recently. Even by skimming, I could spot overgeneralizations and think of counterexamples at nearly every assertion. I don't dislike the theory. I just think it's underdeveloped.
Graydon Carter, of Spy and Vanity Fair magazines, told the Financial Times he’s a “libertarian.” Now, before you break out the Dom Perignon,53 this clod also qualifies it by saying things like “I like … big government in some areas …. I don’t mind paying my taxes.”54 So after all the hard work hundreds of incredibly smart thinkers have done in defining the theory, and thousands of committed activists in explaining it, it comes down to some member of the chattering classes, without changing his views, suddenly deciding he’s a “libertarian.” With Carter’s wishy-washy views, he could work at Reason, The Cato Institute … or as chairman of the national Libertarian Party.55
Austin Monthly has been getting slicker and fluffier simultaneously. For example, the March issue has a feature on the local couple that runs the company responsible for Paul Mitchell beauty products. Here’s a choice quote from John Paul DeJoria: “Successful people do all the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do.”56 Yeah, that must be why I’m not redecorating my Manhattan penthouse this season.
Another year of this and Austin Monthly will sink to the level of Waterways Lifestyle Magazine, which appears to exist solely to breathlessly describe yuppie weddings in between the jewelry and resort advertisements.57
I picked up the new issues of Propergander, Austin Daze, Contumacy, and
Austin Review. Local publications across the political spectrum, and all equally
repellant to the eye. Bad design, bad layout, and dull writing. Of course,
they can’t all be as cool – uh, “deck” – as Austin Dispatches.58