September of My Year

Austin Dispatches
No. 71
Sep. 15, 2004

Classes resumed last month around Travis County. Darned if the weather didn’t suddenly seem more early autumnal. Granted, it was already unseasonably cooler, but it’s as if institutional prerogatives accelerated the season’s wax and wane. A fall term that begins the third week of August doesn’t exactly conform to nature or tradition.1  I wish I had that kind of clout. Then again, merchants have been hawking Halloween merchandise since August’s advent.

This means two things to me. First, I have to use my full range of defensive driving tactics – daytime headlights, mind zaps, and the horn – to avoid winding up a traffic statistic around the Northridge Campus of Austin Community College. In my neighborhood, Jim Hightower is finally right about something.2  Why, just today, a three-car collision occurred at the northwest corner of the Gracy Farms Lane/Metric Boulevard intersection. Where’s the draft when you need one?3  Ship these kids and their cars out to the Mideast, and they’ll wipe out al Qaeda without even trying.4

Second, I can walk into the UT libraries evenings and weekends and check out books, many of which haven’t been borrowed in 10, 15, 20, or more years.

Meanwhile, back in Midland, the Key executives decided that something other than the KeyView project is the top priority. Lately, I’ve had no billable hours, though I’m officially still on contract. But the checks are still drifting in about two months after my invoices. At the start, that delay really enraged me, but now it’s an advantage.  With my temporarily looser daytime hours, I scheduled an eye exam.

The good news: My eyesight has remained constant. This makes me eligible for laser surgery, but even at dropping prices – about $500 an eye last I checked – I don’t dare spare the cash while I’m in job limbo.5

So I’m still relying on glasses as a stopgap. I shuffled into an eyewear store after my checkup and a salesman started hustling me on buying new frames. His was the hardest sell anyone’s pitched me since I dealt with used car salesmen while looking for my first Honda.6  And I mean the full-on stereotype of feather-haired, mustachioed, polyester and gold chain-clad hustlers sweating between cigarette breaks to make a deal. Naturally, I broke their balls.

The eyewear salesman tried to steer me to some trendy frames like he was wearing: the thin, boxy spectacles about the size of sticks of chewing gum. Even in my dilated condition, I could see they weren’t suited for my face. That’s about all I could see in my condition, though. I waited out the rush hour in a nearby supermarket with some doughnuts and coffee, on the speculation that enough stimulants would override the eye drops. Soon I could preoccupy myself with Joey Pants’ engaging memoir until I was ready to drive home.7 

During the Labor Day weekend, I visited Chris Loyd in Houston. We spent several hours trudging around the Galleria, where the elite shop – for real. We just browsed. I scarcely saw anything I liked.  What happened? These high-end stores used to be filled with cool garb I couldn’t afford. It was torture. Now, you couldn’t pay me enough to wear most of what’s on display. And what I did like – either the prices made me blanch –  $125 for a single shirt? – or I know where to find it elsewhere for a lot less. For example, a couple of weeks earlier, I picked up an ‘80s Armani necktie at a Goodwill in South Austin for less than $5.8

Business Roundup

Speaking of the ‘80s, The Boston Globe reports a disappointing year for biotech IPOs, overall.9  I suspected as much. After the tech boom fizzled, the business press began churning out stories about biotechnology being the hot new industry – just like it was about 25 years ago.10  I hadn’t seen too many stories like that lately.

Krispy Kreme has introduced a New York cheesecake doughnut.11  Kevin Meany was unavailable for comment.12

On the Town

Aug. 27: I got lucky and found a parking space downtown. Thus, I was able to return to salsa dancing at Copa Bar & Grill. It was a breakthrough night. I got some completely new tips that improved my dancing. But even before, the salseras there – some of the really hardcore dancers on the local scene – finally started making nice with me.13

The next night, Go Dance held its free grand reopening at Northcross Mall with free drinks.14  Naturally, the place was packed. I must’ve danced at least a dozen times – but who’s counting?

Aug. 29: Bobby “Blue” Bland took to the stage of The Pier, as the grey, scummy water lapped against the timbers of the ramshackle venue across the Colorado River from the Emma Long Metropolitan Park. Had I known better, I’d've driven to the park and listened for free.15  

Sep. 3: Caught Dallas saxophonist Marchel Ivery at The Continental Club.16  Ivery’s set proved why he was good enough to once play in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.17

Labor Day: I visited the Badnarik for President campaign headquarters, near Cameron Road and Highway 290. It’s in the same building where I endured a multi-level marketing sales pitch last year.  Anyway, we Libertarians watched C-SPAN for a presidential debate between Michael Badnarik, and Green Party nominee David Cobb.18 

Based on TV performance, I thought Badnarik won easily. To put it bluntly, he came across as a real man. He could’ve smiled more, but then he is a patriot witnessing our beloved country sliding into the abyss.  By contrast, Cobb has an effeminate, nasally voice, and delivered his message of overturning society (i.e., pushing the country further into the abyss) in a loud sing-song.19  Think Mr. Rogers as a Nazi spokesman, and you’ve got the idea.20  This assessment may seem superficial, but the masses decide elections by such criteria.

And judging from Cobb’s attire, his salad days are long gone. Which is why that shyster could sneeringly dismiss low-wage entry level jobs as unmeaningful work. Investment adviser Doug Casey once described this disdain for entry level jobs, and manual labor in general, as an inherent feature of Cobb's “socio-economic grouping that gravitates toward political power.”21

Afterward, I bought groceries at a nearby City Market for the first time. If you want to know what grocery stores looked like as recently as the late ‘70s, before they yuppified, this is the place.22  Unfortunately, the prices are up-to-date, reflecting all the inflation (a.k.a., increasing worthlessness of U.S. currency) from then to now.23 

A jelly roll was among the comestibles I bought with Labor Day in mind. Now, I’ve lived a while, and I’ve eaten a wide variety of food from around the world, but I’d never tried a jelly roll, despite having heard about it for as long as I can remember. In that case, the concept is more interesting than the execution. The bread part’s texture managed to be spongy and sandpapery at the same time, a combination that only regular supermarket bakeries seem to produce. I pitched most of the roll into the garbage with only the merest twinge of self-disgust at squandering $2. As Dad would say, it wasn’t worth the sin.

Sep. 7: Attended a Brazilian Independence day celebration at The Cactus Café.24  Foreign civic holidays on U.S. soil are just an excuse for a party. In this case, also a chance to see some really good bands.

Sep. 9: Schmoozed at the monthly meeting of the Austin Software Process Improvement Network at Parmer South.  Then I tested the new “Latin Night” at Sky.25  But the scene was dead. I contented myself with a fashionably late repast of South Texas fried antelope in jalapeno gravy at The Bitter End.26

Austin Death Watch

On Aug. 30, the Capitol Metro authority board voted unanimously to submit a transit rail plan to local voters on the November ballot.27  This was in spite of strong, across-the-board opposition from the public. I’d have spoken against it myself, but I arrived late because of traffic. The ballot language is similar to a measure that lost in 2000, gratifyingly.28

Between this, proposed tax-supported toll roads, and newly approved school district bonds of half a billion dollars, Travis County's ruling coalition of  is saddling we citizens with intolerable levels of debt.29

The time to put this politely has passed. This coalition has fucked up the county, is fucking up the county as you read this, and will continue to fuck up unless checked. We don’t need to “keep Austin weird.”30  We need to keep it financially sound. But to do that, we first need regime change.31

After more than 10 years of driving by, I finally stopped at the Poodle Lounge.32 My main impression: There’s no working lock on the men’s bathroom door, no hand soap, no paper towels and no toilet paper. The ambience isn’t as depressing as Buddy’s, farther north on Burnet Road, but I won’t visit either one again.

The property manager of Discount Cinema is replacing the theater with a Walgreen’s drug store.33  Thus my avid moviegoing days will come to an end after four years. I rapidly availed myself of its last showings to see “Anchorman,” one of the rare funny comedies featuring “Saturday Night Live” alumni.34  If I had to choose between taking a chance on this film at a first-run theater matinee or waiting for it to become a video rental, I might never have seen it. Nowadays, Hollywood product is too inconsistent for me to risk my time and money. We’re not talking the occasional jelly roll.

Media Indigest

XLent, the Austin American-Statesman’s entertainment supplement, marked its 10th anniversary.35  XLent has matched and often surpassed the the Austin Chronicle’s arts and entertainment coverage. Just as the Austin Business Journal has matched and sometimes surpassed the Statesman’s business coverage. For that matter, a growing number of local events I attend aren’t even listed in the papers.

A new broadsheet, The Austin Student, competitor to The Daily Texan, has survived to publish a second issue.36  Brilliant magazine, once free, now charges on the racks.37
Texas Journey gave a favorable review to the Bakehouse Restaurant and Bar in South Austin. I disagree. I ate there last year and was unimpressed. AAA should stick to writing about automotive matters.38 

Cultural Canapés

The owners of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” are suing the Mister Sinus group and the Alamo Drafthouse for copyright infringement in federal court.39  I actually saw a Mister Sinus Christmas show in 2000. I thought the foul language and smut actually undercut their performance.

The former bandmates of U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s prep-school surf band have re-released their self-produced 1962 LP.40  The horror, the horror.41

In fact, since I’ve been hearing from the media all year that this is the 50th anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll, I can’t comment any better than Nick Tosches:

    [L]et’s get it straight. Rock ‘n’ roll is dead. Deader than the eighties. Deader than Liberace. Deader than the papal penis. Dead. Bill Haley, the first white rock-‘n’-roll star, came, turned to shit, and went all in one fell swoop, by the summer of 1954. In other words, the cycle was already complete, the beast of rock ‘n’ roll had been tamed for the circus of the masses, by the time Elvis (another dead fuck) came along. …after which came the Beatles, or the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll as culture, replete with a fucking limey accent – culture .... Even the idea of rock ‘n’ roll being dead was old by then.

    I mean, here we are in the 1990s, whatever the fuck they are, and this rock-‘n’-roll culture shit is still with us. Take a good look at the bald spot on Paul Shaffer’s head. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is today: a fucking bar-mtizvah band led by some fucking asshole baldy. … It’s Muzak on the elevator to middle age….

In a related development, The Sep. 2 Houston Press reviewed a dinner theater production of “Footloose.”43


1“The Summer List.” And More by Andy Rooney. New York City: Atheneum, 1982: 142-143.
2 Hightower, Jim. There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. New York City: HarperCollins, 1997.
3 Paul, U.S. Rep. Ron, R-L-Texas. “No Conscription.” Speech. U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, D.C. 9 May 2002.
4 Bergen, Peter L. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, rev. ed. New York City: Touchstone, 2002.
5 AD No. 65 (May 22, 2004); Jackson, Joab. “Eye Opener.” TT Oct. 2000: 18-19.
6 Shook, Robert L. Honda: An American Success Story. New York City: Prentice-Hall, 1988.
7 Pantoliano, Joe, and David Evanier. Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy. 2002. Rpt. New York City: Plume, 2003.
8 AD No. 29n23 (Sep. 4, 2001); AD No. 54n13 (Aug. 22, 2003).
9 Krasner, Jeffrey. “As Money-raisers, 2004’s Initial Offerings Fall Short.” Boston Globe 16 Aug. 2004: C1.
10 “Investors Dream of Genes.” Time 20 Oct. 1980: 72.
11 AD No. 25n5 (Jan. 4, 2001); APSB, 65; EAD No. 5n11 (June 1999).
12 AD No. 36n23 (Mar. 9, 2002).
13 AD No. 65; Aparacio, Frances R. Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures. Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan UP, 1998: 145.
14 AD No. 67n38 (June 5, 2004).
15 Stevens. Darcie. “Soundcheck.” AC 27 Aug. 2004: 96.
16 Trachtenberg, Jay.” “Music: Texas Soul Quartet w/ Marchel Ivery.” AC 3 Sep. 2004: 100.
17 Goldsher, Alan. Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corp., 2002: 156.
18 Badnarik, Michael, and David Cobb. Presidential candidate debate. Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church, New York City. 31 Aug. 2004.
19 Clecak, Peter. America’s Quest for the Ideal Self: Dissent and Fulfillment in the 60s and 70s. NewYork City: Oxford UP, 1984: 30.
20 Junod, Tom. “Can You Say… ‘Hero?’ ” Esquire Nov. 1998: 132; Peikoff, Leonard. The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America. New York City: Stein and Day, 1982: 175-180; Sifry, Micah L. Spoiling for a Fight: Third-party Politics in America. New York City: Routledge, 2002: Ch. 6.
21 Casey, Douglas. “Class is in Session – Will They Learn?” Liberty Apr. 1993: 23-26+.
22 Sheraton, Mimi. “Taking Out, Eating In.” Time 11 Apr. 1988: 75.
23 AD No. 70n5 (Aug. 26, 2004).
24 AD No. 58n35 (Nov. 2, 2003); Lynch, David. “Music: Antonio Dionisio & Friends.” AC 3 Sep. 2004: 100.
25 Sky. Advertisement. AC 3 Sep. 2004: 117.
26 Rice, Dale. “Bitter End Gives Texas Cuisine a European Accent.” XL 13 Nov. 2003: 6.
27 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Capitol Metro Stays Its Course.” AC 3 Sep. 2004: 22.
28 AD No. 22 (Nov. 16, 2000); “What’s on the Ballot.” AC 3 Sep. 2004: 22.
29 AD No. 70; Clark-Madison. “The Traffic Report.” AC 10 Sep. 2004: 32-33; Johannessen, Christian. “Voters Approve All 6 AISD Bond Propositions.” DT 13 Sep. 2004: 5C.
30 Kanter, Alexis. “Keep Austin Weird?” DT 9 Sep. 2004: 8A.
31 AD No. 50n63 (May 14, 2003).
32 Muldoon, Moira. “The Lonesome Man’s Best Friend.” XL 10 Oct. 2002: 11; Stevens. “31 Nights and She Lived to Tell.” AC 10 Sep. 2004: 62.
33 Savlov, Marc. “Short Cuts.” 3 Sep. 2004: 59.
34 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. DreamWorks SKG/Apatow Productions, 2004; Hill, Doug, and Jeff Weingrad. Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. New York City: Beech Tree Books, 1986.
35 Barnes, Michael. “Wish Us a Happy 10th Birthday; Then Come Get Your Presents.” XL 26 Aug. 2004: 4.
36 Potts, Samantha. “Good Start for ‘The Student.’ ” Letter. The Austin Student 9 Sep. 2004: A4.
37 AD No. 62n53 (Mar. 18, 2004).
38 Morthland, John. “Bon Appétit.” Texas Journey Sep./Oct. 2004: 58.
39 Green, Lacy. “Mr. Sinus Troupe Faces Lawsuit.” DT 1 Sep. 2004: 1A+.
40 Kamps, Garrett. “Electra-fied.” Houston Press 2 Sep. 2004: 78.
41 Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” Youth, corr. ed. 1917. Rpt. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1942: 149.
42 Tosches, Nick. Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Birth of Rock in the Wild Years Before Elvis, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Da Capo Press, 1999: ix-x.
43 Williams, Lee. “Shake, Shake, Shake.” Houston Press 2 Sep. 2004: 44.