July 13, 2003
Overall, the holiday weekend was the best of its kind in four years.
From a third-story balcony with a view of the northwest skyline, I drank Michelob,1 chatted with my neighbors, and watched the fireworks in the directions of Round Rock,2 Cedar Park,3 Jonestown4 and Lakeway.5 In an admirable display of Independence Day independence, nearby neighbors ignored the Austin ban on private fireworks.6 Unfortunately, they also attracted the attention of city cops and firemen.
Otherwise, I ate hamburgers, Sun Harvest chips7 and Little Debbie snack cakes,8 drank tea, read Bernard Bailyn9 and Gordon Wood10 on the American Revolution, and listened to a CD of contemporary compositions performed by the Akron Symphony Orchestra.11
No doubt, in retrospect this will all look deluded and frivolous when I’m dying in the gutter, because I was reduced to living on the street after my money ran out, because the local job market12 is dryer than the roads of Coryell County13 this time of year, the national economy is swirling down the toilet, the currency is barely good for toilet paper, and our ravaged social bonds won’t hold up when our audacious tyrants finally blunder their way into a complete collapse of world civilization.14
But I still had a good time on July 4.
Lakeside Au Go-Go
Even better was a party I went to the next day. Someone I just met while schmoozing politically invited me to a friend’s shindig in Volente.15
So I could deduct from my taxes the cost of the food I brought to this fancy manse, I handed out business cards to the host and a couple of guests16 among the dozens, who included Volente’s movers and shakers, Eurotrash17 jet set types, and several strippers, frolicking by the hot tub.
No, not like that. Get those dirty thoughts out of your mind. What do you think you’re reading, Penthouse Forum?18
In real life, the strippers stayed clothed. Disrobing is their job. They were trying to enjoy their day off. Similarly, they didn’t talk much, didn’t want to talk much, and their defenses were up. So I didn’t bother talking much to them, either. Also, their mimbo boyfriends were with them.19
Instead, we focused on “chillin’ and grillin’ ” We nibbled on brisket and boudin. We imbibed Mexican martinis, so potent I effectively stopped drinking about 7 p.m. and tarried to watch the multiple fireworks displays around Lake Travis, then lingered an hour more before the booze wore off and the masses on the roads had gone home.20
In between lecherous comments, the other men slurred something about money, halfway between boasting how much they had and how much everything cost. My heart bleeds. The older women compared health problems. Maybe I should’ve talked to the strippers more.
I did chat a while with this pulchritudinous 22-year-old chick, Lindsey, who was not a stripper. Instead, based on her comments, I suspect she’s actually the scion of a Swiss banking dynasty, even though she dresses and acts like just another Austin slacker.21
I almost wrangled a date. I gave her my card. I casually mentioned a salsa dance with lessons at The Speakeasy on July 9. She sounded interested and said she’d contact me, but of course she didn’t. Maybe she reviewed my credit rating.
If she had accompanied me, she could’ve experienced the novelty of being instructed in salsa dancing by Tony Mogadam, who mixed the imperiousness of a German martinet with the pompousness of a French maitre d’. My sultry dance partners, regulars on the local salsa scene, rolled their eyes when he barked. “He’s not that good,” they confided.
Later, on the way back to my car, some street bum accosted me for money.
“Listen,” I said. “Go to The Speakeasy and ask for Tony. He’s loaded. He’ll give you money.”
The bum thanked me profusely and headed toward The Speakeasy.
Against the Velvet Fist
City Hall doesn't understand the meaning of "no." On July 8, I attended a meeting held by the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department to push the same second layer of zoning regulations upon my neighborhood that I fought last spring.
I was ready to snap some heads off. But the meeting was a snoozer. The bureaucrats told about a dozen residents or business owners that they plan few changes to the area. Good thing, since they admitted what they know of my neighborhood comes from looking at a map. Most of the potential conflict centers on light industrial versus commercial designations for properties within the area.
In fact, I was shocked to hear the bureaucrats genuflect before "market forces" and, obliquely, the concept of private property rights. Of course, that still didn't stop them from presenting a two-page "vision" for the area. They could save themselves a lot of work, since, as the Chronicle often reports, the City Council disregards the zoning master plan to approve cockamamie development schemes like The Domain.22
I did learn that the Mopac Golf Center driving range off the northbound frontage road of MoPac Boulevard is going to be turned into a mixed-use urban village.23 Also, the Gateway Shopping Center’s developer’s planning big changes for the retail site, to make it more upscale.24
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Pavilion Technologies settled a lawsuit with Computer Associates International.25 CarMax, a national used car dealership chain, plans to build near the Interstate 35/Parmer Lane intersection.26
Austin Death Watch
Naturally, this kind of anti-business climate has garnered Austin a couple of bad rankings.27
For further confirmation, the city will wreck Lamar Boulevard starting in August and going through Thanksgiving 2004. And that's the official timetable for city workers to stand around scratching their asses and drinking coffee during rush hour, before leaving us a road that still looks as scarred and pitted as James Woods' face.28 The actual project will take about five years, or until the nearby businesses are wiped out, whichever comes first.
The city did reschedule part of its mangling as a concession to retailers between Fifth and 15th streets worried about the impact on the Christmas season.29 Guess what, guys? You’re still screwed. That’s especially true for The Tavern, which was scheduled to reopen the week of July 7 (but didn’t).30 Years after the projects started, we residents still can’t get around downtown below Sixth Street or along Barton Springs Road west of Lamar, or on Highway 183 north of Duval Road.31
Meanwhile, the Statesman reported that Basil’s, just off Lamar on West 10th Street, will close.32 Basil’s? I never knew about it the whole time I’ve been in Austin, and I’m always in search of a good Italian restaurant. When I finally walked by the place the other evening, it was closed already.
INsite Magazine reports the movie “S.W.A.T” will open in theaters next month.33 Samuel L. Jackson plays – what else? – a strutting badass. No doubt he’ll deliver Samuel Jackson-style lines with aplomb.34 I’m intrigued to see this movie, bad as it could be, because it’s a movie version of a ‘70s TV series I knew about at the time, but couldn’t watch ‘cause my folks wouldn’t let me stay up that late.35
Texas Technology magazine has switched to a shoddier paper stock. Austin
Monthly now charges a newsstand price. The Austin Film Society relaunched
its quarterly newsletter as a mini-magazine.36
1 “Michelob to Get Increased Ad Spending.” Beverage Aisle 15 Dec. 2002: 8.
2 DiGesualdo, Jane H. Historical Round Rock, Texas. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1985.
3 Taboada, M.B. “Growing Cedar Park Ready for More Health-care Options.” AAS 4 Oct. 1999: A6.
4 Shah, Angela. “Jonestown Bets on Bank to Usher in More Growth.” AAS 11 Jun. 2000: B1.
5 Varner, Byron D. Lakeway, the First 25 Years: And Earlier Times Around the Colorado River. Austin, Texas: s.n., 1988.
6 “Naked City.” Ed. Mike Clark-Madison. AC 4 Jul. 2003: 13.
7 Raiola, Ralph. “Sun Harvest May Eclipse Competition, Say Sources.” Supermarket News 21 Apr. 1997: 65.
8 Reyes, Sonia. “Little Debbie Tempts Gen X Males.” Brandweek 12 Aug. 2002: 4.
9 Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, enl. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1992.
10 Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution: How a Revolution Transformed a Monarchical Society into a Democratic One Unlike Any That Had Ever Existed. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
11 Akron Symphony Orchestra/Alan Balter. American Voices: The African-American Composers’ Project: Premier Works of Billy Childs, David Baker, and William Banfield. Telarc CD-80409, 1995.
12 Gee, Robert W. “Austin was Lone Big Texas City to Shrink in ’02.” AAS 10 Jul. 2003: A1.
13 Scott, Zelma. A History of Coryell County, Texas. Austin, Texas: Texas State Historical Association, 1965.
14 Rockwell, Llewellyn H. Jr. “The Present Age.” Sage Capital Management Conference, Houston. 12 Mar. 2003.
15 Kreytak, Steven. “Competition Stiff to be First Leaders in Volente History.” AAS 19 Apr. 2003: B1.
16 Internal Revenue Service. Miscellaneous Deductions. Pub. 529. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2002: 5.
17 “Eurotrash.” alt.culture, 76-77.
18 Letters to Penthouse I: There’s Nothing Like the First Time. Ed. Edward Springer. New York City: Warner Books, 1994.
19 “The Stall.” Seinfeld. NBC. 6 Jan. 1994.
20 Waggoner, Susan, and Robert Markel. Cocktails A Go-Go. New York City: Universe Publishing, 2003: 94.
21 Slacker. Detour Film Production, 1991.
22 Clark-Madison. “Life After Smart Growth.” AC 4 Jul. 2003: 14.
23 Clark-Madison. “Austin Stories.” AC 11 Jul. 2003: 13.
24 Breyer, R. Michelle. “Rethinking Gateway Site.” AAS 27 Jun. 2003: C1.
25 Higginbotham, Stacy. “Pavilion Settles Patent Case With N.J. Company.” ABJ 13 Jun. 2003: 6.
26 Hudgins, Matt. “Auto Retail CarMax to Build N. Austin Store.” ABJ 4 Jul. 2003: 6.
27 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Naked City.” Ed. Clark-Madison. AC 27 Jun. 2003: 13; Ladendorf, Kirk. “How Does Austin Stack Up?” AAS 25 Jun. 2003: D1.
28 Hirschberg, Lynn. “Introducing Jimmy Woods.” Esquire Apr. 1984: 197.
29 Osborne. “Delay on Lamar Road Work Gives Merchants a Break.” AAS 4 Jul. 2003: B1; Smith, Amy. “Merchants Talk, City Listens: No Lamar Roadwork for Christmas.” AC 4 Jul. 2003: 20.
30 The Tavern finally reopened a week later. Hilliard, Todd. “Suds and Steak are Back as Tavern Reopens.” DT 15 Jul. 2003: 1-2.
31 Smith, Amy. “Deconstructing Downtown.” AC 20 Apr. 2001: 26+; Smith. “Road Rage.” AC 30 Aug. 2002: 24-27.
32 Rice, Dale. “Downtown Italian Restaurant Shuts Its Doors After 23 Years.” AAS 11 Jul. 2003: D1.
33 Sonniksen, Dirk. “A Desperate Attempt to Avoid Summer.” INSM July 2003: 5.
34 Fretts, Bruce. “The Making of a Hit Man.” EW 25 Nov. 1994: 34.
35 McNeil, Alex. “S.W.A.T.” Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming From 1948 to the Present, 3rd ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 1991: 654.
36 Alvarado-Dykstra, Paul. “Ideas Made Manifest.” P.o.V Summer 2003: 1.