Jan. 28, 2004
The twist: It’s a telecommuting job.3 I’ll be doing most of the work from my apartment, with the occasional business trip to Midland. In fact, I was at the company headquarters two weeks ago.
I spent most of the time in an office building that looks like it was decorated by a pimp: life-size reproduction giraffes amid the fake foliage in the lobby; swirling pink and teal swatches on the loggias, faux bamboo screen reliefs on the elevators’ exterior doors, and mortadella- and prosciutto-patterned marble tile throughout. Around 6:30, I'd knock off with my supervisors and they'd pay for dinner and drinks at fine restaurants. Then I went back to my motel and watched television until midnight. I haven't owned a set for a while (not by choice), so this was a chance to indulge in brain candy.
One of the few offerings I watched all the way through was "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I’d read about the show for a while but never seen it before. It's even easier for Larry David to do than "Seinfeld." From what I saw, a typical episode goes something like this:
There’s a Midland bar called The Hemingway everyone says I'll have to visit next time. I'm sure I will drink well and honorably at my dark, clean table.5 It could be worse. The place could be The Melville (“I don’t normally do this, but here’s my number. Call me, Ishmael.”).6 Or The Tolstoy (“All happy drinkers are alike but an unhappy drinker is unhappy after his own fashion.”).7 Or The Poe (“Hey, can we get another round here?” “Nevermore!” “Funny, I’m thinking the same about your tip.”).8
However, because of this trip, I endured the Orwellian ambience of the Austin and Odessa airports.9 The federal security goons frisked me and pawed through my luggage, because my supervisors at Key didn’t reply promptly about how long they needed me in Midland, so I had to buy one-way tickets, which alerted authorities. If my name was Abdul Nasrallah and I showed up with a bomb strapped to my chest, they’d probably have waived me through.10
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…
Hardly anything changed in my absence. I came home to an empty apartment with an empty refrigerator, and 142 e-mails, about half of them spam11 for tranquilizers. Meanwhile, the Statesman now requires registration to read its stories. I can still access the home page and scan the headlines. I used to click on stories that might be of interest. With the Statesman’s new system, I’m not interested enough to bother. Thus I’ve shaved 30 minutes off the amount of time I surf the Net.
Earlier, the gap between the job offer and the start date dovetailed with my holiday preparations, which I had completed by Dec 5. I stocked up on groceries and library books to avoid the holiday crunch. Then, in the evenings, I could concentrate on attending other people's parties and investigating several downtown nightclubs heretofore unvisited.12 I even finally found a bar with the Galliano to make a Harvey Wallbanger.13 Now if I can only find a place that still serves mint juleps, I’ll have tried every famous cocktail.14
On Christmas, I played golf for free at the Hancock municipal course.15 If that seems impious on such an august date, I did invoke the Lord's name several times,16 particularly after rain cut short my play on the fifth hole. On New Year’s Eve, I attended the “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” party at Footworks Dance Studio, where I hoofed with blonde Russian minxes in black cocktail dresses.
Unfortunately, this turnaround happened after I already curtailed my Libertarian activities. For example, I might've gone to Atlanta this May, since Michael Badnarik is seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination, and is likely to win it. However, the timing – with my finances, the job offer, and the registration deadlines for the convention – was and is unfavorable.17
Worse, I had to decline to seek the chairmanship of the Travis County LP. If I had the wherewithal, I’d’ve thrown my hat, my white tie, and my tails into the ring.18 I opted to concentrate on replenishing my coffers. I didn’t want financial uncertainty distracting me from giving the job the attention it needs. Yet circumstances may never again be so favorable for a political bid. I had the support of the TCLP leadership and the rank and file, ties to the members of like-minded groups, a comprehensive strategic vision,19 and the determination necessary to overcome internal and external opposition, and turn the TCLP into the county’s dominant political machine.
Instead, the next chairman will be a previous chairman, Rock Howard, the missing Stooge, without the laughs.20 In fairness, his work as chairman from 1998-2000 made it possible for his two successors to build the party as well as they did. But he’s underqualified to take the TCLP from its current state to the next level.
Howard expressed the strongest opposition to my strategy, built in part on eschewing the approach he advocates, the general failure of which is chronicled in a book that he owns but has never read.21 Beyond that, his thinking is muddled. He wants to be accepted by the people who run the county. They know better to than to admit an insurgent to their cozy cadre, unless they can co-opt him.
I also had the displeasure to work with him at TCLP outreach efforts to the club owners and clubgoers of downtown Austin two years ago. He spent much of the time flailing around to some psychedelic rock band instead of doing what he was supposed to. Worst of all, I left a very enjoyable party at Miss KT’s place only to discover how flaky he could be at inappropriate times.
I was so annoyed by his behavior that I apologized to Miss KT by e-mail after I got home. As she said in response, “You’ll note Ron Paul didn’t get to where he is by doing the groovy hippie thing.”
Several other members could acquit themselves as chairman, but they’re either moving up (the principled and competent Pat Dixon will serve as state LP chairman),22 moving away,23 or are hamstrung by financial considerations.
Texas Journey has a feature on the Wilson House in Temple, test-built with newfangled laminate and preserved in 1959 style.24 Budget Living features a New York metro hipster couple’s holiday party with a predominantly ‘50s esthetic, down to the food and drink recipes.25
Not everyone can maintain or extend styles from a particular period. Specifically, a new CD, “Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop: The Concert” shows the limits of the past as an exercise in lucrative nostalgia, as various acts rehash rote renditions of their hits.26 Tellingly, PBS aired the lifeless concert as an enticement during its ceaseless begging for money beyond what it accepts in tax revenue.27 Years ago, PBS did the same with a James Brown concert in East Berlin in 1987. Once, he was the hardest working man in show business, but there and then, his act was just tired.28
Boomer icon and has-been Art Garfunkel was busted for pot in New York,29 though not on Second Avenue, as one might expect.30 To pay his legal bills, Garfunkel has re-recorded his hit “The Sound of Silence.”31 The new version is called “You Have the Right to Remain Silent.”32 He’ll debut it at an upcoming benefit concert sponsored by Yoplaintiff, the first yogurt for trial lawyers.33
Finally took a serious crack at "Illuminatus! Trilogy."34 It read worse than when I glanced at it years ago. I got through about 50 pages and lost interest. It was like listening to some pothead smugly telling me stuff I already know about, and either not getting it right, or telling it poorly. Anyway, the authors are actually writing in an old style. Check out "Tristam Shandy" by Laurence Sterne for a real innovator.35
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. may open a “ScoopShop” franchise at MoPac Expressway and Duval Road. Any money I might’ve spent on those hippies’ ice cream has been coerced from me in Social Security withholding. Tough luck, guys.36
The post office moved west along Parmer Lane to the shopping plaza at Parmer and Metric Boulevard. It’s inconvenient for me.
A new Hilton opened downtown.37 The décor might be best described as frontier moderne. The hotel sound system played real jazz, even Ornette Coleman.38 A few blocks away is the newly opened Frost Bank Tower.39 Now that Austin has a conventionally post-modern skyline, when will it adopt the mindset that actually allows for prosperity?40 This problem has become common knowledge. The other day, I saw Marc Maron perform at the Capital City Comedy Club.41 One of the opening acts got a laugh from the audience about how the City Council is wrecking the streets.
Nestlé has introduced Toll House cookie candy bars. They’re pretty