I couldn’t sustain the triumphs of late
November. In expectation, I completed my holiday obligations by
Dec. 1, a record. Alas, ‘twas all for naught. My life’s momentum sputtered,
Originally, my new contract was supposed to start Dec. 6.
However, some internal snags prevented the client from processing its
paperwork in a timely fashion. Instead, I started on the 27th. Between those
dates, I was in a state of suspended animation. I could do little except
read biographies of entertainers from the Golden Age of American Show Business,
Friar’s Club division.1
Now, daily, my car glides along what once were quaint county back
roads being transformed into arterials for multiplying exurbanites,
to ERCOT’s operations center hard by the Taylor airport. Inside the refurbished
corrugated shed, each cubicle comes with Herman Miller chairs. These are
the most comfortable office chairs I’ve ever encountered. (Starting at $500,
they’d better be.)2
All that is small satisfaction against the regret at not visiting
my family, including several members in various stages of decrepitude,
for a larger-than-average Christmas gathering. If the start date
had been settled in advance, I could’ve traveled, even with the attendant
logistical hassles and aggravations,3 and even though
it would’ve left me subpar mentally and physically just before I started
the new job.
Even if my December schedule hadn’t been so dicey, a personal gamble
that failed wrecked my health.
My worst expectations manifested when the woman I met Halloween unmistakably snubbed
me after a show of the Austin Cobra Players in the early hours of Dec.
20. I’d thought we had potential. But my hope dwindled after she failed
to reply to my phone calls and my birthday party invitation.
Going to her show was an emotional long shot, but she intrigued
me enough that I had to take the risk. She wouldn’t speak to me. Wouldn’t
even make eye contact.
Atop everything else, I caught a cold from spending two hours in
the drafty concrete cube that is Beer Land. So instead of choking on
regret and self-disgust, I choked on post-nasal drip.
I’d already flown with the flu in February.
It’s an ordeal to be avoided under almost any circumstance, especially
Although it might be worthwhile to leave town: Austin is the unlucky
site for the next season of “The Real World.” 4 Filming
begins this month; the train wreck airs in June.5 Look
for lots of tilted zoom shots of the downtown skyline from Auditorium Shores
in between the wacky antics of seven dolts picked to get on each others’
nerves while living in a trendy apartment rent free. Of course,
this being MTV, they’ll emphasize canned drama over real, street-level
experience, such as …
On the Town
Dec. 8: Oslo held a “Holiday Sip & Shop.”6
I attended out of curiosity. For once, the place was packed.7
Under the atypically bright lights, swarms of women examined knickknacks,
seemingly Christmasy but with perennial use. At least, that’s what
my untrained eye discerned before I mentally recoiled at the scene.
I’d hoped to meet women, but they were in shopping rapture. No
man, not even Brad Pitt, can compete against a woman’s search for
the perfect toiletry.8
I fled across Sixth Street to the Thistle Café and Bar.
There I had an easier time attracting women’s attention. Several followed
me from Oslo, trotting into the restaurant giddily with their purchases.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed a delightful artichoke-chicken pesto pasta.
Dec. 14: Saw Glover Gil and the Tosca String Quartet at
the Cactus Café.9
Dec. 16: Dick Dale, king of the surf guitar, played at
Red Eye Fly. Lots of minor-key, 64th-note tremolo picking with heavy reverb
over 120 b.p.m Bo Diddley rhythms. Dale also played drums, harmonica and
trumpet.10 The raucous crowd cheered lustily.
Dec. 17: Speaking of lust, I was invited to a party
at Dr. Natasha’s sensuously redecorated house.11 She
and her fellow décolleté San Antonian lifelong gal
pals, all of whom apparently now live within blocks of each other in
the fashionable, tree-shaded side streets near Shoal Creek, dominated
the affair, but seemed flustered when interacting with me, until, succumbing
to their desires at last, they – stop that.
Most of the other men looked liked aging golden boys whose looks
were starting to crumble from the ravages of time and dissolute behavior.
It’s a sad state of affairs when the most interesting person to talk
to was an IRS agent. I conveniently avoided mentioning my radical, anti-tax
views.12 By the same measure, I also avoided choking
the life out of him, so maybe I’m mellowing with age.
Actually, the party was quite dull. Maybe I just had that
effect on everybody. Maybe they couldn’t wait for me to leave so they
could start an orgy. Nice house, though.
Dec. 18: KOOP-FM celebrated its 10th anniversary at The
Off Center in the east side’s bohemian archipelago. I enjoyed it, partly
because the performances I wanted to hear were scheduled at the beginning.
DJ Little Danny finished playing vintage boogaloo tracks; some self-proclaimed
hillbilly band started. I didn’t feel like putting an ironic distance
between me and the group, particularly in some unheated concrete warehouse
with Everest-grade steps, wobbly patio tiles, loose railings, ice-slick
bathroom floors – and a self-service wine bar. (Maybe whoever organized
the party really wanted to get rid of the station’s listeners.)
Instead, I went to the new salsa spot Mambo Kings to hear a band.13
The club was closed. I glanced into the other clubs as I trudged up and
down the hills of downtown back to my car. The scene was deader than my
dating prospects in Austin.14 The bums, however, were
out in strength on a rapidly cooling night, desperate enough to hustle
even blacks for handouts (e.g., “Say, m’man, you can help a brother out
with some spare change?”). No deal, obviously. I guess Robin Harris routines
didn’t filter down to the gutter.15
(I finally made it into Mambo Kings on Jan. 15. I stood around
for 30 minutes while the band took its sweet time setting up for its
scheduled performance. I was one of the few gringos in attendance, and
one of far too many men, all of whom steered clear of me when they weren’t
also standing around, waiting for something to happen.)
Dec. 31: I recovered well enough to go out for New Year’s
Eve. After weighing the options, I settled on a succession of bands playing
Brazilian music at Ruta Maya. The other venues were expensive, inaccessible
(i.e., in a downtown that’s still torn up with roadwork and other construction
projects), too potentially annoying (dating mixers for the lonely and desperate),
or a combination of the above (e.g., paying $45 to watch other people have
a good time gyrating to something that sounds like a cement mixer in operation).16
I think I made a good choice. I sipped a single beer, wished everyone a
Happy New Year at the stroke of midnight, and left, because I have to stick
to an a.m. cycle required by my new job. Driving back home on the surprisingly
deserted elevated expressways, I saw multiple fireworks capping a 180-degree
view of the metro lights stretching from Dripping Springs to Pflugerville,
laid out before me like an glitzy gift.
Later that morning, I awoke with a clear head and a clear conscience,
and caught the first showing of “Beyond the Sea.”17
A lot of critics’ve been giving it bad reviews.18 Those
critics are idiots. I was prepared to enjoy a cinematic disaster, fuelled
by the colossal ego of star/writer/director/producer Kevin Spacey. But
it’s actually pretty good. It’s the best movie the Rat Pack never made.19
The betuxed Spacey and his backing band look like they’re having a blast
playing up-tempo renditions of obscurities from the Great American Songbook
in a reproduction of The Copacabana.20 There’s nothing like
a song, expressing heartfelt, tender emotions, being rattled off at
The real weak spot comes when Darin embraces the hippie counterculture,
which stalls the movie like a constipated turd. Lots of entertainers made
that mistake. But between “Beyond the Sea,” “The Aviator,”21
and “Auto Focus” from 2002,22 I’m discerning a new theme:
embracing hippie counterculture = career death. Now, that’s a Hollywood
message I can get behind.
Jan. 14: Go Dance held a social. I got in some quality
time on the dance floor, especially some cheek-to-cheek rumbas with
an older hot blonde from New York. At evening’s end, she snatched up some
sugar cookies and began munching them on the way out of the studio. I regarded
her quizzically. She had a flash of self-consciousness and looked embarrassed.
She said she felt so comfortable around me that she guessed she didn’t
think anything of it. Under the circumstances, I wished she were a little
more uncomfortable around me.
The Statesman’s Dec. 16 entertainment supplement managed to go
completely off the rails with a holiday fashion cover story,23
featuring some of the ugliest apparel I’ve seen since the first Lollapalooza
tour.24 Trailer trash wouldn’t be caught dead in most
of these clothes, which, naturally, weren’t plucked from thrift stores,
but instead retail in trendy boutiques per item for about what I spend
every month in car payments. To cap the embarrassment, the model on the
cover, whom I’d normally appraise appreciatively, poses in a fur stole that
makes me think Oscar the Grouch died for his pelt so she’d have something
to wear to a basement boîte.25 In some respects,
Austin’s a deliberately hick town – perpetrated by the same people who aspire
to be denizens of a world-class city26 – but I almost never
see anyone dressing for an Ozarks bordello when I go out, and I go out a
lot. Who buys this stuff?
Donald Trump, New York real estate mogul and game show host,
now has a magazine named after him: Trump World Magazine. I flipped through
it. The glossy appears designed to pimp his properties. Although I don’t
know if I want to take vacation advice from someone who can’t stay out
of bankruptcy court.27
Similarly, you can own Trump – as a poseable, talking action figure.
The hair is incredibly realistic.
The release of a JFK assassination video game has generated
much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, lead by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy,
It’s beyond my ken how this human distillery29 and unindicted
killer30 musters the blarney-stone gall to feign moral outrage
about anything, even the death of a relative, after what he and his
shanty clan have done against the republic.31
Enough praise of that slimy Hibernian politician from Boston.32
Real Americans don’t look to government to provide “hope” in their lives.33
Even most foreigners know better. It’s enough to make one root for the
The Kennedy administration can’t even claim credit for early ‘60s
style: tail-fin sharp and martini clear. True, much cultural creativity
flourished during the Camelot period, but most of it was independent
from Camelot itself.35 This era’s creative output had
more to do with broad, favorable factors – demographic, educational, economic,
etc. Put another way, Camelot gets credit for defining the era, but it's
really the era that defines Camelot.36
Inexplicably, the game penalizes shooting others, including Jackie
Kennedy, a snobby gold-digging spendthrift (“In an early letter to [couturier
Oleg] Cassini, Jackie instructed, ‘Just make sure no one has exactly
the same dress I do…. I want all mine to be original & no fat little
women hopping around in the same dress.”).37
Mind you, back when I was a kid playing video games in seaside
arcades, in the period between “Pong” and “Space Invaders,” one military
first-person shooter game in particular I liked deducted points for zapping
ambulances and stretcher-bearing corpsmen. I quickly realized I could
make up for the deductions with sheer volume by blasting through noncombatants
to valid military targets that would otherwise have evaded my ammo.38
Difficult to believe, but the Chronicle’s news coverage just deterioriated
further. City Editor Mike Clark-Madison, one of the best Austin reporters,
is leaving the paper. News Editor Michael King will pick up the slack.39
While King is no Louis Dubose – King at least understands it’s 2005,
not 198040 – he shares Dubose’s incomprehension about
how the world works and why. A consequence of filtering life through the
prism of an enragé pinko. The real misfortune belongs to the readers
who naively engross themselves in the weekly’s news hole, instead of
skimming them on the way to the arts listings and futon ads.
Meanwhile, their boss, Editor Louis Black, tells Austin
Daze he’s dyslexic and “a self-righteous asshole.” That explains a lot.41
Rumbo, a new Spanish-language tabloid, has appeared in local
In No. 56 I pondered Jim Kelly’s
career. Well, he’s back – in a supporting role as a trash-talking
villain in a Nike commercial.42 But it’s not as action-packed
as a Pacers game.43
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation
Policy Board got an earful from disgruntled citizens at the Dec. 13
board meeting in the auditorium of the LBJ Library and Museum, a
pharaonic monument44 to a terrible president45 done
in the best Space Age Nazi style.46
Except for the spineless players from the Austin Real Estate Council
and a couple of other business groups that kowtow to government officials
(and give other businessmen a bad name), most everyone in the audience
jeered the board for trying to impose tolls on pre-existing major routes.
Time magazine has emerged from years of irrelevance to expose this project
as a vast boondoogle.47
One woman, a retired schoolteacher, i.e., a former government brainwashing
agent feasting off my money, got up afterward and emphasized she was
not a Libertarian. “I guess this would be a bad time to ask her for a
donation to the Texas LP,” I whispered to Wes Benedict.48
Andiamo, an excellent restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine,
opened at the North Point Shopping Center at Rutland Drive and Burnet
A Scottsdale, Ariz., company bought ClearCommerce for $19 million
Capital Metro installed a bench at the stop at the northwest
corner of Stonehollow Drive and Gracy Farms Lane. LAN’s Edge moved from
Northcross Mall to the Furniture Row shopping plaza at Burnet and Highway
183 (Research Boulevard).50 The Texaco station at Metric
Boulevard and Parmer Lane has been dismantled. On Dec. 28, KUT-FM reported
an auto collision at Burnet and Duval roads. On Jan. 6, KVET-FM reported
an auto collision at Parmer Lane and an I-35 frontage road.
Moving Trading Co., which sells and rents CDs and DVDs, opened
for business on Dec. 10 at Highway 183 and Loop 360 with a small, dull
1 King, Alan [Irwin Alan Kniberg], and Chris Chase. Name
Dropping: The Life and Lies of Alan King. New York City: Scribner, 1996:
Ch. 17. 2 Chien, Ginny. “The Aeron Chair Gets Unseated.” Daily Variety
6 Dec. 2002: B4. 3 AD No. 60 (Dec. 20, 2003); AD No. 61 (Jan. 28, 2004). 4 “Naked City: Headlines.” Ed. Mike-Clark Madison. AC
31 Dec. 2004: 15. 5 “Dell Products Land Spot on ‘Real World: Austin.’ AAS
14 Jan. 2004: C1. 6 Oslo. Advertisment. AC 3 Dec. 2004: 25. 7 AD No. 67 (June 5, 2004). 8 Martel, Jay. “Hot Actor.” RS 14 May 1992: 54. 9 Buchholz, Brad. “Embracing the Cactus.” XL 29 Jan. 2004: 18-21+;
Loyd, Chris. “Re: Austin Dispatches No. 70.” E-mail to Dan Eisler, 29 Aug.
2004 10 “Recommended.” XL 16 Dec. 2004: 22. 11 “Best Politics and Personalities: Critics Picks.” AC 26 Sep.
2003: 87. 12 AD No. 36 (Mar. 9, 2002); AD No. 75 (Dec. 5, 2004). 13 Goodsell, Jonathon. “Put on Your Dancing Shoes for Mambo
Kings.” XL 18 Nov. 2004: 16. 14 Rayasam, Renuka. “Single.” XL 11 Nov. 2004: 34. 15 Harris, Robin. “Gonna Change/Spare Change.” Bé-Bé’s
Kids. Wing/PolyGram 841960-1, 1989. 16 Dunbar, Wells. “New Year’s Eve Events.” AC 31 Dec. 2004:
62; Goodsell, Jonathon. “At Dawn of 2005, the Rave Springs Eternal.” XL
13 Jan. 2005: 11. 17 Beyond the Sea. Archer Street (Beyond the Sea) Ltd./Tigger
Street Productions/QI Quality International GmbH & Co. KG, 2004. 18 Baumgarten, Marjorie. Review. AC 31 Dec. 2004: 68. 19 Quirk, Lawrence J., and William Schoell. The Rat Pack:
The Hey-Hey Days of Frank and the Boys. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co.,
1998. 20 Denison, Charles. The Great American Songbook: The Stories
Behind the Standards. Bandon, Ore.: Robert D. Reed Publishers, 2004. 21 The Aviator. Warner Bros./Miramax Films/Initial Entertainment
Group (IEG)/Forward Pass/Appian Way/Cappa Productions/IMF Internationale
Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3 Produktions KG, 2004. 22 AD No. 45n16 (Jan. 5, 2003). 23 Scheidnes, Jean. "Don We Now Soiree Apparel." XL 16 Dec.
2004: 24-27+. 24 alt.culture, 135-136; Tapken, Erin, and Dena Lechtenberg.
“Top 10 Lame Things at Lollapalooza 1993 (Des Moines, Iowa).” The Exchange
Winter 1993/94: 38. 25 Romeo, Darby, and Nina Blake. “Sesame Street.” Retro Hell,
189; Spinney, Carroll, and J. Milligan. The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the
Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons From a Life in Feathers. New
York City: Villard, 2003. 26 Clark-Madison.”Over and Out.” AC 14 Jan. 2005: 15-16. 27 Strauss, Robert. “Trump in Bankruptcy.” NYT 15 Aug. 2004,
5L. 28 “Kennedy Family Says JFK Video Game is Despicable.” The
Herald (Glasgow, U.K.) 22 Nov. 2004: 5. 29 Kelly, Michael. “The Last Brother.” GQ Sep. 1990: 274. 30 Damore, Leo. Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick
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Led Us into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did. 1985. Rpt. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins UP, 1998: Ch. 3; Collier, Peter, and David Horowitz. The
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Life – For Better or Worse. New York City: Basic Books, 2000: 293-296;
Hersh, Seymour M. The Dark Side of Camelot. Boston: Little,
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A Memoir. New York City: Random House, 1995: 353-381 32 Reeves, Thomas C. A Question of Character: A Life of John
F. Kennedy. New York City: The Free Press, 1991. 33 O’Rourke. “Modred Had a Point – Camelot Revisited.” Give
War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind’s Struggle Against Tyranny,
Injustice and Alcohol-Free Beer. New York City: Atlantic Monthly Press,
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Chronicle.” Austin Daze Nov./Dec. 2004: 5, 8. 42 Strasser, J.B., and Laurie Becklund. Swoosh: The Unauthorized
Story of Nike, and the Men Who Played There. San Diego: Harcourt Brace
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502-511. 46 Hughes, Robert. The Shock of the New, rev. ed. New
York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991: 107-108; Mailer, Norman. Of a Fire on
the Moon. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970: 17-23; Speer, Albert. Inside
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Rpt. New York City: Galahad Books, 1995. 47 Thomas, Cathy Booth, and Hillary Hylton. “The Next Wave in
Superhighways, or a Big, Fat Texas Boondoggle?” Time 6 Dec. 2004:
40-42. 48 Reeves, Kimberly. “CAMPO Gets Toll Road Weary.” AC 17 Dec.
2004: 25. 49 Hawkins, Lori. “Austin’s ClearCommerce Bought for $19.4 Million.”
AAS 13 Jan. 2005: C1+. 50 AD No. 67; “LAN’s Edge News.” LAN’s Edge. 8 Dec. 2004