From the edge city suburbs of Travis County …

Austin Dispatches
No. 56
Oct. 1, 2003

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. But enough about Styx.1  Mostly it's better for everyone else. Where's mine?

Yes, it's time for another installment of bile and woe, courtesy of Austin Dispatches, the forge wherein Northeastern and Texas affinities meld into a uniquely obnoxious alloy.

The aggregate economic indicators are up,2  even locally.3  But the only thing that’s moving fast is money out of my accounts. Nobody's hiring me quick enough. I'm not destitute – yet – but it galls me to watch my assets shrink when it took so long to build them up. People offering temp jobs aren't responsive, because they figure I'll leave immediately as soon as something better comes along. Most of the calls lately have been from out of town, but I'm up against the local talent pools in every metropolis.4  The landlord wants to know about renewing the lease before it expires in two months, but I can't answer definitively. Of course, with the U.S. government indulging in record indebtedness and in monetary inflation, the aggregate optimism may be brief, too.5

And Harvey Pekar thinks he's got problems?6

Paradoxically, my social life has seldom been better.

The schlemiel facilitated a meeting with a second woman, a government shyster.7  But she fidgeted constantly and her posture was extremely tense (insert obvious crass joke here). She avoided most talk and all eye contact, and couldn't wait to leave. Maybe she read Austin Dispatches. I'll take my chances at salsa dances.

Meanwhile, I obtained some temp work last week from a new local Libertarian, an Eastside real estate wheeler-dealer who paid me to erase computer files. This guy is now my second favorite Libertarian, after Paul Farris, because they actually put money in my pocket.  The rest just wring their hands over my plight.8  At lunchtime, KOOP-FM9  played vintage funk as I prowled the nearby thoroughfares in search of a suitable eatery.10  The music and scenery created the ambiance of a blaxploitation flick.11  All I needed was a '70s Cadillac, or maybe a Mark IV.12  Hey, it was an esthetic moment.

Anyway, I figured out how to recycle that pocket money. For example, I’ve finally visited Ruta Maya, which has salsa dance lessons every Sunday afternoon. The hardcore local practitioners, the same ones I keep seeing everywhere I go, dominate the dancing afterward. They tend to be snooty about knowing the moves, but I know some moves in life unlikely to be mastered on the dance floors of Miami or the South Bronx. I handed out business cards and delivered an uptempo, staccato rendition on the merits of hiring me. Thus I can deduct dancing from my taxes.13  One guy stared at my card in confusion.

“What do you write for?”

“Money,” I smirked.

I knew what he really meant to ask, but I thought I'd level our social status disparity with some Eisleresque wit and swagger.

The important thing is that I’m getting out and meeting new people and having a good time. Pekar would never chronicle something like that.

For a different outing, on Sep. 19, I got sucked into a multi-level marketing sales pitch. Some guy from Austin Alliance called up and mentioned an interview that afternoon for something that sounded like a trainer’s job. I think he got my resume from some resume blaster that I never authorized, but it could just be a side effect of handing out my business card to people like candy bars on Halloween.

Anyway, I suited up and arrived at a generic office building on the southeast side of town, just off Highway 290. That’s when I got the pitch about selling health and beauty products by Liquidity International. The “kid” giving the pitch had a Caesar haircut,14 a cultivated tan, and a gray plaid suit framing a black shirt with a light tie. The look was suitable for clubbing, but not a disreputable pyramid scheme. C’mon guys, you want to pull a slick, white-collar con, you got to dress the part.15 Think respectable, upper-middle class WASP veneer. Think banker. How come I understand this better than them?16

Company honcho Marc Accetta, with his hard eyes and spiked coif with receding hairline, summarized the pitch on video. He even quoted Tony Robbins, that cheeseball purveyor17  of diluted Objectivism.18  The pitch was your basic MLM plan. It works the same as the payment structure in the Mafia. You kick a percentage of your earnings up to your boss, he does the same, and so on.19

Jim Kelly Lives!

Badass martial arts master Jim Kelly appeared at Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek on Sep. 28 for a double feature of his most famous ‘70s movies.20  I didn’t know he was still alive. Why hasn’t he appeared in a career-redefining performance in a movie by the likes of Quentin Tarantino21 or Robert Rodriguez?22

Technology spared me agitation. The local publications ran mini-reviews of the current releases by the bands playing at the Sep. 19-21 Austin City Limits Music Festival.23  I was prepared to drive downtown and park within earshot. But listening to sound clips at Cheap CDs and CD Universe convinced me to stay home.24  Most of the acts whose CDs I listened to favor sustained drones for backing accompaniment. I’ll pass, especially when even I can afford to see jazz great Sam Rivers25  live at The Elephant Room for $7.26

In a related vein, I investigated the various CD releases of Igor Stravinsky. Turns out recordings of the man himself haven’t been reissued comprehensively. Instead, the sessions, often from the same record labels, have been chopped up and scattered across various CD sets.27  It’s a shame. Then again, it also means one less thing I feel compelled to buy.

A federal court sentenced pothead Tommy Chong, 65, to nine months in federal prison for selling bongs and other drug paraphernalia over the Internet.28  What took ‘em so long? Yeah, yeah, I know, unjustified intrusion upon rights by government minions, enforcing a secularized attempt to stamp out sin over the private, consensual activities of adult citizens, and all that.29  But Chong?  Now? After all these years? He did just about everything to flaunt marijuana consumption except park an 18-wheeler full of weed in the lobby of the DEA headquarters. Which, come to think of it, sounds like a plot from one of his old movies.30  (I never saw them.) But after all these years the feds finally get around to doing something. This is not exactly a crowning accomplishment by U.S. paramilitary agencies, from whom you have nothing to fear, unless you’re innocent. (You pipe down, Osama.)31

Went to the discount theater and finally saw the trailer for “Bad Boys II.”32  Henry Rollins, playing a Drug Enforcement agent? This guy came to fame singing ditties like “Police Story” for Black Flag and loudly, publicly proclaiming his opposition to everything phony, corrupt, and authoritarian.33  So how come every time I see him in the movies it seems like he’s playing some sort of cop? Better be careful, Henry. Otherwise your fan base might dismiss you as a phony sellout. What’s next, voiceovers for big corporations? Oh, wait, you already did that.34

Multifaceted entertainer Larry Hovis died. I remember watching him on “Hogan’s Heroes” syndicated reruns. Turns out he was teaching at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos in his later years. A local radio station played selections from a music album he recorded, where he croons over some cool jazz combo. Sounded pretty good, too.35  Of course, we probably won’t see his life depicted in a sleazy, depressing biopic from Paul Schrader.36

 “Thirteen” director Catherine Hardwicke has the obligatory feminist denunciation of “make-up and the beauty myth that we basically cram down everybody’s throat every day” in the equally obligatory gushing interview by the Austin Chronicle. But Hardwicke looks like some backwoods roadhouse floozy in the accompanying photo. You might want to work on your look, hon.37

James Caan stars in a new TV crime drama set in Las Vegas.38  If it last long enough, the show can air an episode where Caan solves the mystery of what happened to his career.39

Ain’t It Cool News reports a “Starsky and Hutch” movie is slated for release next year – as a comedy, with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear.40

Cultural critic Mark Dery predicts the rehabilitation of the mullet.41

I’ve Got Mail

Either the mail-order merchants trying to make a buck off me don’t actually pay attention to any of the information about me compiled in commercial databases, or that information is seriously flawed, from my sex to my wealth.

For starters, a local property firm invited me to examine a new development for a free bottle of wine. The houses were robust, full-bodied, and supple. The wine was spacious, secluded, and yet centrally located.

Then I received an Urban Outfitters catalog. Designers appropriating retro fashions must be confused about which era to copy. The cover has a model dressed in the winter clothes one used to see Mary Tyler Moore wear on her TV show back in the ‘70s.42  Similarly, the furnishings would be familiar in a singles apartment complex or a frat house from that decade; and the men’s apparel, including Earth shoes,43  would befit the road crew for Earth, Wind and Fire.44  But about half the women’s clothing looks like copies from the early ‘80s.

Further up the fashion chain, Giorgio Armani mailed a slick, arty … well, I guess it’s a fashion catalog, even though there’s no price information about the eyewear, underwear and jewelry adorning pouty vixens in black and white photos. I could put this on my coffee table, if I had a coffee table. Actually, since I’ve written favorably about Armani’s work over the years, the least he could do is compensate me with some nice garments. Men’s garments, that is.45

Similarly but worse, my bank tried to tell me how much they appreciate me. So they sent a friggin’ Zagat’s movie guide. This is the best you guys can do? This half-assed “gift” is just enough of an insult, after years of you making more money off my money than I do.

Even my alma mater sent me something interesting, after years of crap. The alumni magazine’s latest issue has a cover feature on a couple of coeds who graduated a couple of years after me and now run a safari in Africa. They're a couple of shapely brunettes showing a lot of leg by Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.46  OK, it’s not much, but compared to every prior issue, I was surprised, since the alumnae photographed in this mag tend to be harridans who wear Guatemalan peasant garb and Navajo jewelry to display their “solidarity” with “oppressed indigenous peoples” from their tenured perches of the managerial-therapeutic complex. But these brunettes are still just as dumb as the hags. The story mentions them hitchhiking around parts of the world that outsiders with sense avoid. For starters, they could've been killed by one of a plethora of land mines strewn about several war-torn African states, and that's if they're lucky.47

Neighborhood News

The H-E-B at Parmer Lane and MoPac Expressway has rededicated one-half of an aisle to Asian food. So now I don’t have to drive so far to buy hoisin sauce for my noodle dishes.48  I developed a taste for Vietnamese food in San Antonio, of all places.

Nearby, a new bar should be opening soon, on the west side of Mopac where the southbound frontage road intersects Waters Park Road. I think that property has been unused since I moved to Austin three-and-a-half years ago.

Speaking of property, the city planning department has decided to merely change some "neighborhood" property zones from light industrial to commercial, which is what they already have become. As intrusions by Leviathan go, it's a mild, wise one. The next struggle will be over those big shopping mall projects. Now Simon Property Group has its palm out for city incentives to build a shopping mall at the Pickle Research Center. Because after all, the Council already said yes to Endeavor for its Domain project.49  Meanwhile, UT plans to build a biomedical site at the PRC.50

360Commerce picked up $12 million to expand.51

On Sep. 17, two cars collided at the intersection of Metric Boulevard and Stonehollow Drive. Looked like community college kids who took too big a chance at a critical moment.

Business Roundup

The Statesman finally reports on the declining number of trade shows in Austin,52 now that I’ve perfected my techniques for getting trades shows, and even job fairs, to benefit me, instead of the other way around. I’d show up in a suit and tie, glad-hand like some hot shit MBA and dispense my business cards.

South Congress merchants and nearby residents fret First Thursday is getting too crowded. I’ve skipped the last three because I couldn’t find a convenient parking space within 10 minutes, or I didn’t feel like jostling through the masses of cretins wandering outside in the summer heat. Now the merchants are phasing out the free booze.53  Once again, Austinites have managed to ruin something of theirs that was good.54

Jersey Mike’s Subs, “authentic subs since 1956,” opened a franchise in North Austin. I ordered a meatball sub, which I use as a quality test of sub shops the way Miss KT orders chile relleno at Mexican restaurants. The sub's authentic, all right. Authentically mediocre. If this is the best Jersey Mike’s can do, it shoulda stayed in Jersey.55  Even Subway (headquarters: Milford, Conn.) does better.56

I’m shedding crocodile tears for The Alligator Grill. It filed for bankruptcy. I ate there last year. The food was unmemorable and my waiter was very slow on a slow day. Also, he looked and acted like he was on drugs. I still gave him a tip: a note that read, “Get off the drugs.”57

Habitat Hunters, run by my friend Jody Lockshin, made the Reader's Poll in the new Austin Chronicle "Best of" issue.58

After jerking around Milburn Homes for a year and a half, Austin city government is finally allowing the developer to build an old-timey mixed-use project on Dessau Road, between Parmer and Rundberg lanes.59

Federal Reserve notes are increasingly literally resembling Monopoly money. The U.S. government changes the color on the new $20 bill to peach come Oct. 9.60

Political Follies

More than 170 American cities already declared opposition to the PATRIOT Act. Some of them are real podunk places, and not nearly as enlightened as Austin likes to think of itself. So what the hell took the City Council so long?

Mybe the procrastination on this matter is an indication of why the Council can't make real spending cuts in the city budget or keep from killing various neighborhoods or the local economy overall.

If I had money to spare, I'd wager that the Austin City Council will grovel like poodles when the feds start using the carrot and stick. Or more precisely, when the feds start using the carrot as the stick ("Feds delay funds over PATRIOT Act compliance.")

Thanks for nothing, City Council.61

The Los Angeles Times reports California Republican strategists are trying to recruit comedian Dennis Miller to run for statewide office.62

Russia’s Justice Department recognized the new Russian Libertarian Party.  At the rate things are going, the Eislers may be moving back to the old country.63


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63 “News From Russia, and LP Wedding Bells.” LPN Oct. 2003: 15.