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Austin Dispatches No. 65 
May 22, 2004 
I’m in limbo. I’m not really working, or earning money, but I’m still employed. I’m just waiting around.

Key Energy is still floundering. The executives, including my immediate supervisor, are stuck in meetings in Midland to release the KeyView program, which the company needs to recover from its sudden financial travails.  Recently, the president e-mailed the company to assure everyone of its basic soundness. Regardless, these endless meetings are holding up my job situation.

Understandably, Key doesn’t want to pay me for not working. However, I don’t want to be waiting around while the company lurches toward a decision. If I had the clout, I’d charge the $25/hr. rate as a retainer fee. That might even spur Key to complete the KeyView project.

I won’t feel any loss until around July, due to Plan b’s payment schedule. But it galls me that someone else’s mistake costs me when my life was just starting to move past its peak – in early 2001, retrospectively.  When you’ve lived on nothing for so long, a little goes a long way. I could even indulge again in some fripperies (below). Now all I need is a woman.

Mostly, though, the situation amuses me. I’m confident about getting another contract, based on the inquiries from Austin recruiters. Also, having worked for an energy company should give me entrée to employers in Houston.1  The challenge, like a good chess move, is to get other employers to see it my way on my timetable, so my income is continual, and at the same time to leave Key on good terms. I want some favors from my supervisors and to keep open my chances of working in the energy industry again.

Meanwhile, my foray into telecommuting could be hampered by my phone and Internet provider. SBC workers finally went on strike.2  (Although I notice telemarketers get through just fine.)  The strike will also hamper my timetable for upgrading my telecom service with SBC.

Why stick with SBC? You don’t want to fight more than one fight at a time. When I first moved in,3  another company owned the physical phone lines inside the complex walls. I endured a month of buck passing between the companies before I resolved the matter to my satisfaction. When the time is right, I’ll smack SBC around. I’ll smack around my current bank, creditors, and insurers, too.

Meanwhile, I’ll browse various brick-and-mortar retailers for the new computer.4  I could order from Dell, but Miss KT told me I can get a better price offline. Besides, it’s too much like giving my wages back.

The Very Merry Month of May

May 2: Heard Al Green at Stubb’s in the usual fashion.5  He’s not hitting those high notes the way he used to. I liked only about half the tracks on his new album.6

May 5: To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I visited the newest restaurant in a familiar location. The Honduran-Mexican restaurant Rincon Catracho is at least the fourth establishment at 9120 N. Interstate 35 that’s opened since I moved to Austin. It replaces another Mexican restaurant, which replaced an Indian restaurant, which replaced another Mexican restaurant. The food was OK, but judging from the turnout – I was the only customer at noon – Rincon Catracho will be a brief occupant of the building.7

May 6: Danced with a lithe brunette in a black cocktail dress at The Copa, a new club at 217 Congress Ave. I thought we might have a connection, but she got nervous and left with her friends. Meanwhile, the club owner kept kissing my ass like I was somebody important. It worked. I intended to patronize The Copa often.

May 7: Austin Review contributor Clark Patterson hosted the Libertarian Longhorns end-of-school-year party at his condo just off campus. The party started around 11 p.m., after students fleeing UT freed up street parking. I still had to circle around for a space for 20 minutes. I’m glad I ate before I arrived. Clark’s apartment décor is all black, with dim lighting. Except for the kitchen, a gleaming bright white oasis of booze. I fixed myself a vodka and tonic8 and decided I hadn’t been amiss in ordering a “large” milkshake at Players that’s served in a mug about the size of my forearm. The burger ‘n’ fries were sizeable, too. The party almost had parity between the sexes. It wasn’t a sausage party. Dennis Lucey would be pleased.9

May 8: Jim Beam’s great-grandson, Fred Noe, was promoting Knob Creek bourbon at Cool River Café. The Austin Chronicle’s calendar listing had the event as free, but either the Chronicle got the information wrong (as usual), or the organizers pulled a bait-and-switch.10  I had to contribute a $5 donation for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. I asked for a receipt.11  The hostesses looked like I just asked them to solve a quadratic equation. The buffet selection was 45 minutes late. Headhunter Doug Whatley was chewing other guests’ ears off, although with him, it was SOP, not hunger. I ended up talking shop with an Irish immigrant programmer.

I could’ve drunk more than I did, but I drove downtown for the Feedback magazine anniversary party at The Copa. I probably would’ve had a good time there, if I’d been able to find a parking space. After 15 minutes I gave up and went home. Oh, and the bourbon was OK.

May 9: Chris Loyd visited.  We went to the Sunday afternoon salsa lessons at Ruta Maya. Unfortunately, too many men showed up. The instructors weren’t well organized. It was a change from their usual haughtiness. Later, Chris and I tarried outside in the unseasonably mild weather and the mosquitoes treated my arms like an all-you-can eat buffet. To avoid frightening others, I’ve had to keep my arms covered like a New York junkie.12  Anyway, the sex ratio the next week was only slightly better. I’m not driving across town to surrender my shekels so I can attend a Massachusetts Marriage License Bureau,13  albeit with better music.14

May 11: Went to a welcome back party for presidential candidate Michael Badnarik, on the final swing of the campaign trail before the LP nominating convention in Atlanta.  I even met his friend and supporter Jimmie Vaughan.15  But they were a sideline at 219 West in the Warehouse District16  to my lengthy flirting with several attractive women. It’s nice to know my technique can return to near-peak form so well after months of disuse. Now if I could just get the same results with my golf game. I finally tried one mint julep, the last classic cocktail that intrigued me.17

May 14: After a 15-minute search for a parking space, I visited Miguel’s.18  The spirit of Miguel’s seems to have diminished, now that everybody knows it’s closing. Of course, I could be biased. Everyone at the club had coupled off before they arrived, so my dance opportunities were restricted. Once you’ve had dance experiences like the week before at The Copa, you tend to get spoiled.

May 15: I attended KOOP’s punk prom at Club de Ville. The prom was so much better than last year’s execrable Maple Surple Variety Hour Puerto Rican Summer Social.  The organizers and the club itself credibly recreated the old New York punk ambience, right down to street bums and other undesirables shambling outside the club.19  Unfortunately, the event also credibly recreated high school society, complete with cliquishness and ennui. Still, it was cheaper than a real prom. Also, the music was better.

May 20: After 10 years of driving by the place, I finally patronized the Burnet Road Putt-Putt miniature golf course in the evening.

May 21: Took free classes at Footworks Dance Studio.20  The classes were part of a package deal to go to Miguel’s afterward for a discounted cover charge. That was my intent, but – again – I couldn’t find a parking spot.  Rather than burn up a tank of gas – nearly $2/gallon locally – I reluctantly went home.21

Austin Death Watch

Thirty Three Degrees record store is closing by the end of May.22  Less than half the good brick-and-mortar retailers from when I moved here remain,23  and two are jeopardized by road construction on North Lamar Boulevard.24   Chris pointed out this situation gives an ironic spin to Austin’s claim as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”25

That construction on Lamar, and another city project on Enfield Road, has turned the Old West Austin neighborhood, into a killing ground for neighborhood pets from detoured traffic. Neighborhood association traffic coordinator Paige Pape says city officials have been unprepared for and unresponsive to the problem.26

Neighborhood News

The May 7 Austin Chronicle cover story is on the Austin Police Department’s efforts at community policing in the North Central Area Command, which includes my neighborhood.27  Big Lots is moving into the old Kmart building at Parmer Crossing.28  Workers are tearing up the landscape at Braker Center, particularly around the Braker Lane/Metric Boulevard intersection, to no discernable purpose.

Cultural Indigest

Instead of whining about the ways of the world,29   Kate X. Messer finally made herself useful and authored a guide to Galveston in the May 14 Chronicle.30

I received a free copy of Tracks magazine, a new publication devoted to music releases for the adult sensibility.31

Speaking of music, my brother tells me that actor James Gandolfini is now an enthusiastic owner of his debut CD, “Stages.” If you want to find out what puts a smile on Tony Soprano’s face, let Rob know.

On May 12, Bruce Willis performed at Antone’s.32   When he’s not acting in Hollywood, Willis moonlights as a band leader for his die hard fans.33

“The Critic” is finally available on DVD. When the show first aired, I told my acquaintances to watch it while they could, because it wasn’t broadly tailored enough to stay on for long.34

I’ve been reading the translated novels of Russian expatriate Edward Limonov, set during his years in New York City in the mid-‘70s through the early ‘80s. Think book-length Austin Dispatches, with worse poverty, even worse attitude, and really sleazy sex. Also, Limonov, or “Limonov,” complains about being subjected to “… these tear-jerking Russian songs about loved ones found dead under the snow.”35  Imagine if he had to attend a bluegrass festival.36
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Eisler, Dan. Letter to Chester Kiser, 6 May 2004.
2 Rayasam, Renuka. “102,000 Workers Walk Out at SBC.” AAS 21 May 2004: A1+.
3 AD No. 17n1 (Jun. 10, 2000).
4 AD No. 60 (Dec. 20, 2003).
5 AD No. 53 (July 30, 2003); AD No. 58 (Nov. 2, 2003); Gross, Joe. “The Rev. Al Green Finds His Soul Again.” XL 29 Apr. 2004: 20.
6 Green, Al. I Can’t Stop. Blue Note 93556, 2003.
7 Eisler, op. cit.
8 Boston’s, 142.
9 Lucey, Dennis. /~lucey/blog 30 May 2003. <>.
10 Chisholm, Barbara. “Calendar: Community: Events.” AC 7 May 2004: 76.
11 Internal Revenue Service. 2003 1040 Forms and Instructions. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2003: A-4.
12 The Panic in Needle Park. 20th Century Fox/Didion-Dunne Inc./Gadd Productions Corp., 1971.
13 Ho, David. “In Massachusetts, Gays Can Now Marry.” AAS 17 May 2004: A1+.
14 Gill, John. Queer Noises: Male and Female Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Music. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1995: 77-78.
15 AD No. 48n17 (Mar. 10, 2003).
16 “Warehouse District: ‘6th Street for the 30s Crowd.’ ” AAS 8 Feb. 1998: A10.
17 Boston’s, 31.
18AD No. 50n20 (May 14, 2003).
19 Basquiat. Dir. Julian Schnabel. Eleventh Street Production/Jon Kilik/Miramax Films, 1996; Chance, James. Irresistible Impulse. Tiger Style 37, 2003; Desperately Seeking Susan. Orion Pictures Corp., 1985; Fear. “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones.” The Record. Slash 23933, 1981; Liquid Sky. Z Films Inc., 1982; Retro Hell, passim.; The Andy Warhol Diaries. Ed. Pat Hackett. New York City: Warner Books, 1989.
20 AD No. 51 (Jun. 24, 2003); AD No. 61 (Jan. 28, 2004).
21 “Austin Area Average Up 6.5 Cents for Week.” AAS 21 May 2004: C2.
22 Gray, Christopher. “Another One Bites the Dust.” AC 7 May 2004: 65.
23 Corcoran, Michael. “Megahyperglobalmusic: In Praise of Non-super Stores.” XL 25 May 2000: 15.
24 AD No. 52 (July 13, 2003); Gray. “Record Store Roundup.” AC 21 May 2004: 63.
25 AD No. 29n54 (Sep. 4, 2001).
26 Smith, Amy. “Old West Austin Fights the Cut-through Menace.” AC 21 May 2004: 22.
27 Smith, Jordan. “North Central Blues.” AC 7 May 2004: 28+.
28 AD No. 46n35 (Feb. 10, 2003); “Big Lots Builds Up Its Brand.” MMR 3 May 2004: 130.
29 AD No. 24n5 (Dec. 24, 2000); Stepney, Charles, Maurice White, and Verdine White. “That’s the Way of the World.” Earth, Wind & Fire. That’s the Way of the World. Columbia 33280, 1975.
30 Messer, Kate X. “Oh, Galveston.” AC 14 May 2004: 38-39.
31 Light, Alan. “From the Editor.” Tracks Summer 2004: 24.
32 “Roadshows.” AC 7 May 2004: 104.
33 Die Hard. 20th Century Fox/Gordon Co./Silver Pictures, 1988; Kaylin, Lucy. “Big, Bad Bruce.” GQ Jun. 1996: 156-157; “Moonlighting.” McNeil, Alex. Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming From 1948 to the Present, 4th ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 1996: 567-568.
34 “The Critic.” McNeil, op. cit., 187.
35 Limonov, Edward. It’s Me, Eddie: A Fictional Memoir. 1979. Trans. S.L. Campbell. New York City: Random House, 1983: 210.
36 Rosenberg, Neil V. Bluegrass: A History. 1985. Rpt. Urbana, Ill.: U of Illinois P, 1993.