It’s My Party

(And I’ll Snark if I Want To)
Austin Dispatches
No. 75
Dec. 5, 2004

Now that I’ve dispensed with the feel-good holiday obligations, we can return to the usual sharp remarks and colorful details. 

Lately, everything’s come together nicely. I have money in my pocket, a six-month contract lined up,1 an interesting social life, and a better feeling about just turning 35.

Every morning when I stagger into the bathroom and view my reflection, I notice silver glints among the black. Paradoxically, everyone keeps telling me I look younger than I am. Used to be they said the opposite.

e75fig1 Anyway, at the Badnarik campaign election night party, I propositioned Jessica Caplan about organizing a birthday party for me, for a fee plus her bar tab.  Some time ago, she told me she was interested in event planning.

It was my first big birthday since 1988, when my freshman friends took me out for ice cream. Usually, I’ve celebrated with my immediate family, or better still, with a date.  Jessica and I envisioned a more sophisticated soiree. We settled on Tambaleo. The fact that the owner didn’t charge a fee to reserve a private room helped, too.

Some of my closest, wittiest local friends –  the elites of four counties –  paid their respects and distracted me from the fact that I’m slowly dying.

Because of the varied types I invited, I picked music on the mellower side of my collection. As opposed to, say, free form jazz.2

e75fig2 Once again, those of you who were invited and didn’t show missed out.  (If you’re reading this and I didn’t invite you, it’s only because you live too far away to have conveniently attended during the Thanksgiving weekend.)

The next morning, I brunched at J.C.’s Steakhouse, read a book by Fr. Stanley Jaki,3  saw “Los Angeles Plays Itself” at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown,4  then danced at Dallas Night Club, a kicker bar that’s added salsa dancing to its schedule. In other words, Life as It Should Be.

On the Town

Moreover, the party was just the icing – really thick icing – on the cake:

Nov. 10: Singer Traci Lamar held a CD release party at Antone’s.5  It was a classy show. The Nash Hernandez Orchestra backed her. I fondly remember seeing the band more than six years ago at The Continental Club.6  Among the dancers at Antone’s: musician Marcia Ball.7 

Nov. 11: The Lucky Lounge celebrated its seventh anniversary.8  The most impressive thing about it was the several customized, black, tail-finned cream puffs parked outside the club on Fifth Street.9  Inside, I got a free meal from the buffet, but if you wanted to actually talk to somebody, you had to stand by the bathrooms up front. There really wasn’t anything to distinguish it from the other times I’d been to the club. It’s crowded, everyone’s off in their own little groups, and you have a tough time reaching the bar.

I didn’t want to do that, so I went to Sky, which is offering Latin night again, this time with no cover.10  The dancing was delayed by a photo shoot on the dance floor for Study Breaks magazine. I talked to a couple of foreign chicks – briefly. They weren’t interested in talking to me, and I wasn’t interested in expending the effort to persuade them otherwise. I left and drove home.

Nov. 18: After months of bad timing, I finally attended a Tribeza magazine happy hour, at Zin American Bistro.  Austin’s beautiful people also attended. I sipped a lemondrop martini, which tastes like lemon yogurt in liquid form, and sampled the hors d’oeuvres buffet. The shindig was trendy as possible, including Thievery Corporation pulsing from the sound system,11  but I suspect the hors d’oeuvres recipes were taken from some early ‘60s cookbook for young hostesses.

Meanwhile, I chatted with a couple of editorial assistants, who wanted to know how I got into tech writing. I also gave my business card to the magazine’s editor, who said he’d pass it on to the managing editor.

Then I drove to The Copa  for a free tango lesson. I picked up some basic technique. The instructor invited me to a milonga at someone’s house on Nov. 20. It doubled as a farewell party for a woman who was an occasional salsera partner.12 She's moving to Houston.

Glover Gill’s trio performed at the milonga, off MoPac in the Great Oaks neighborhood.13   It was one of at least four events I could’ve attended that night. I chose wisely: In between sampling red varietals,14  I flirted and tangoed with a vivacious blonde mortgage lender. What’s more, I held my own against the foreign greaseball lotharios – maybe because my hair was slicked back more like Carlos Gardel than theirs.15  Even better, I gave her my business card, so I can write the evening off my taxes.16 

Admittedly calculating, but I might as well get something out of these tantalizing encounters of increasing frequency that don’t lead anywhere because the women can’t get it together enough to experience the interpersonal happiness they supposedly want

The host told me Portland, Ore., has a thriving dance scene in general, and a thriving tango scene in particular, disproportionate to its population, because it has a disproportionate number of ballrooms. I once lived there; this was all news to me.17  

Nov. 19: I attended the Martin Banks Benefit Concert at Jovita’s Mexican Restaurant. The tribute featured a bunch of terrific local musicians. (The food, however, is mediocre.)18  Between this, David “Fathead” Newman at St. James’ Episcopal Church on the 12th, and Ornette Coleman at the UT Performing Arts Center on the 14th, I’ve seen as much jazz – the real stuff – in a week as I have in four years.19  

Thanksgiving: Once in a while, the critics and the public unite in their dislike of a major movie, and that dislike proves valid. “Alexander” is such a movie.20  I thought Oliver Stone could pull off a big-budget historical epic about a Greek perv conquering the classical world with his sword – no, not that sword21  – and imposing a progressive empire in Central Asia. He couldn’t, but I was too stupefied from a large holiday lunch to do anything about it.

Nov. 26: After several years, our schedules finally jibed and I caught W.C. Clark at The Saxon Pub, which wasn’t very Olde English, unless you give extra consideration to the dark wood paneling.22  Anyway, Clark was celebrating his birthday – his 65th.  He mixed blues standards with selections from his albums, many of which should become blues standards. He plays a lot locally; if you get the chance, go see him live.

Likely, you won’t witness a medical emergency. Some old guy stumbled, fell and hit his head on the concrete floor. Paramedics swarmed around the guy, thereby blocking others from entering or exiting the club, and also from reaching the restrooms. Meanwhile, a crowd surrounded the paramedics, rubbernecking and kibitzing. And the band played on.

My Old Haunts

Before I settled on my current contract, a New York company interviewed me in Grapevine, in the lobby of the DFW Hilton,23 for a position in Phoenix doing Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.24  The interviewer, a Fredo lookalike, was in town on business and decided to combine matters.25  

On the way up, I stopped for lunch at Snappy Jack’s Restaurant on I-35 East. I had a meal of gravy. Occasionally, I ate something I thought was something else, but it was probably just lumpy gravy.26

I spent about eight hours on the road for an interview that lasted maybe 15 minutes. However, I did manage to dine – sans gravy – with my friend Bola Ijagbemi and his fiancée in Richardson.

The Metroplex stations were already pushing Christmas music. The tuner stopped at another station that played rock hits from 10 years ago, some of which I could actually stand. Then the station promo called it “Vintage Edge.” Then I wished I were being subjected to Christmas music again.

Neighborhood News

A San Francisco real estate investment management company is buying the Braker Center for $25 million.27 

A downstairs neighbor put up his Christmas lights on Thanksgiving. He’s still the first one on our block. Definitely the first one in our complex.

Cultural Canapés

Some collegiate feature writer laments Austin isn’t New York City:
Yeah, so Austin’s sort of a cultural oasis in the middle of the most conservative, least exciting section of the country, but for all those disillusioned bar rats who know the name of every door guy on Sixth Street, Brooklyn is the Mecca. In the magical world of New York City, there’s a good show almost every night, last call’s at 4 a.m., the graffiti is actually cool looking and everyone dresses better than everyone else. Those of us who could afford to have already moved there, and the rest of us are working late nights at some “Keep Austin Weird” business to save up enough money to take our yearly pilgrimage.

A few places in Austin have picked up the on the vibe, and realized that all you have to do to make a club hip is pretend you're in New York. Charge a lot for drinks, hire some trendy bartenders, have some DJ play dance pop music once a week and you've got a new "hot-spot." 
Of course, this lament ignores the complaints of New Yorkers for years about how their city’s become increasingly homogenized. At least living in a dull town, you don’t have to worry about missing out. But you would if you lived in New York, because most likely, you’d have to work at a regular job, and between that, sleep, and basic living functions, like shopping for groceries, you’d still have to miss out on most of the cool stuff you wanted to experience, and you’d be paying New York prices to miss it.28 

A friend once told me I turn anyplace I live into an outpost of New York. With my solution, I don’t even have to pay a cover charge.

The Nov. 17 Daily Texan has a good feature on the plethora of children’s books written by celebrities.29  The author might’ve included such books written by seemingly inappropriate heavyweight writers like Political Rants

The new downtown Austin City Hall opened Nov. 20. The Austin Chronicle praised it as “Not Your Grandpa’s Government Building.” That must be why it looks like the main office at a ski lodge. It’s also less accessible than when the Council met at the Lower Colorado River Authority’s headquarters. Texas LP Executive Director Wes Benedict told me he visited and noticed the underground garage floods when it rains. Taxpayer cost: $57 million.32 



1 Grisales, Claudia, and Melissa Ludwig. “Grand Jury Set to Take Over ERCOT Inquiry.” AAS 1 Dec. 2004: D1.
2 Litweiler, John. The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. New York City: William Morrow, 1984.
3 Jaki, Stanley L. The Purpose of It All. Washington, D.C. : Regnery Gateway, 1990.
4 Los Angeles Plays Itself. Thom Andersen Productions, 2003.
5 Stevens, Darcie. “Soundcheck.” AC 5 Nov. 2004: 94.
6 AD No. 50n8 (May 14, 2003).
7 Shank, Barry. Dissonant Identities: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, N.H.: UP of New England, 1994: 66, and passim.
8 Lucky Lounge. Advertisement. AC 5 Nov. 2004: 97.
9  “Teaching From the Classifieds.” And More by Andy Rooney. New York City: Atheneum, 1982: 48.
10 AD No. 71n29 (Sep. 15, 2004); Sky. Advertisement. AC 5 Nov. 2004: 112.
        Sky Lounge has since apparently switched to a retro theme on Thursdays. Advertisement. AC 3 Dec. 2004: 111.
11 AD No. 50n11 (May 14, 2003).
12 AD No. 71n13 (Sep. 15, 2004); Aparacio, Frances R. Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures. Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan UP, 1998: 145.
13 The Companion to Latin American Studies. Ed. Philip Swanson. New York City: Oxford UP, 2003: 174; Loyd, Chris. “Re: Austin Dispatches No. 70.” E-mail to Dan Eisler, 29 Aug. 2004.
14 WB, 4.
15 AD No. 48n4 (Mar. 10, 2003).
16 AD No. 56n13 (Oct. 1, 2003).
17 Eisler. “Road Construction to Hit Record Levels.” Daily Journal of Commerce. 29 June 1990: 1+.
18 “Martin Banks Benefit Concert.” Nokoa 18 Nov. 2004: 2.
19 Gross, Joe. “For Coleman, Flashes of the Divine in an Earthbound Set.” XL 18 Nov. 2004: 21; Hernandez, Raoul. “Equality.” AC 12 Nov. 2004: 70; Trachtenberg, Jay. “Music: David ‘Fathead’ Newman.” Ed. Stevens. AC 12 Nov. 2004: 99; Trachtenberg. “Live Shot.” AC 19 Nov. 2004: 76.
20 Alexander. Warner Bros./Intermedia Films/Pacifica Film/IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3 Produktions KG, 2004.
21 Beaulieu, Trace et al. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. New York City: Bantam Books, 1996: 165.
22 Saxon Pub. Advertisment. AC 26 Nov. 2004: 113.
23 AAA Texas, 2003 ed. Heathrow, Fla.: AAA Publishing, 2002: 368.
AD No. 72n3 (Oct. 24, 2004).
25 AD No. 64n9 (May 1, 2004).
26 Zappa, Frank. Lumpy Gravy. 1967. Rykodisc 10504, 1995.
27 Kaspar, Mary Alice. “Braker Building Deal Tops $25M.” ABJ 5 Nov. 2004: 1+.
28 Cannon, Tyler. “Vice-Recordings Showcases Its Musical Talent.” DT 16 Nov. 2004: 8B.
29 Thompson, Lauren. “Writer’s Bloc.” DT 17 Nov. 2004: 8B.
30 AD No. 42n33 (Oct. 30, 2002).
31 David Mamet: A Casebook. Ed. Leslie Kane. New York City: Garland Publishing, 1992.
32 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Your Beautiful New Home.” AC 19 Nov. 2004: 32+.