The Real Real World: Austin

Austin Dispatches
No. 79
May 22, 2005

Now that the cast of the latest youngsters picked to make fools of themselves on camera while a big corporation picks up the tab for staying at a downtown dwelling with bad ‘70s décor has slunk out of town during postproduction work, it’s time for me once again to stop being polite.1  Of course, they would show up after the roadwork south of Fifth Street is finally over. I’d like to have seen the cast contend with that.2 

Meanwhile, in my world, after many years of procrastination, and a couple months of research, I finally consulted a doctor about laser surgery on my eyes. It’s not going to happen. Because of my astigmatism, I’d probably need two separate surgeries.3  This increases the risk of uncorrectable damage to my sight.4  The doc couldn’t give me the assurances I needed to go ahead with an invasive cosmetic procedure for $5,000.5  Nothing against him. The good news is I could have eye surgery when I’m much older. By then, the techniques may have improved.

Austin Death Watch

The Statesman’s May 12 entertainment supplement has a cover feature on the “Fortunate 500,” a.k.a., “The Stars of Austin’s Social Universe.” Problem is, I only recognize about a fifth of the names total, and only two of the 13 people XLent profiles in sidebars.  (One of the people listed among “business and high-tech stars” is Don Martin,6 but I don’t think it’s the Don Martin I remember.)  Moreover, I’ve seen only six of these people about town, and actually met two of them.

In other words, my experience undercuts the whole premise of the article:

In Austin, jewels and jeans coexist seamlessly. It’s a town where everyone knows everyone else, not everyone else’s checkbook. Not that we don’t like money. We do. But we try not to let it define us.

We pride ourselves on not being a Dallas or Houston, by not letting social stature take precedence. In Austin, we know what really matters. What’s important. We’re a tolerant, evolved town not hung up on social status.7

Bullshit. If this town’s so tolerant, how come people can’t smoke in local bars anymore?8 

e79fig1 I have no special interest in this matter. Although, if it weren’t for the adverse side effects, I’d smoke all the time, just so I could indulge in James Woods-style attitudinizing.9  I’m sure you’ve seen a scene somewhere like this from one of his earlier movies, when he was gnawing scenery on the way to establishing his reputation:

Other Actor:
That was the most vile, despicable thing anybody’s ever done.

James Woods:
[Blows lengthy stream of cigarette smoke at Other Actor, then flicks the live butt at his torso]

Welcome to the ‘80s.

Disappointingly, my friends Steve Adams and Wes Benedict lost their bids for City Council, although I was able to help Wes take the lead in my precinct.10  The local ruling establishment, including the press, tried to ignore or belittle them, until the Place 4 incumbent’s campaign violations that Wes’ team uncovered made that impossible.11

(Other county municipalities produced better results. Voters elected my friend Pat Dixon to the Lago Vista City Council.12  In Pflugerville, Marcus Gladney and Bruce Wood won Council races after campaigning to reduce city taxes.)13

All that remains of this year’s political season is the June run-off election for Austin councilwoman, Place 3, between Margot Clarke and Jennifer Kim. I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the forthcoming catfight between two cash-strapped statists, each of whom occasionally has a good point. For all of Kim’s faults, at least she’s not a hippie mush head like her opponent. Clarke is opposed to placing toll roads on existing thoroughfares, but she’s still a hippie mush head.14 

Speaking of mush heads, the audience for an Apr. 16 forum hosted by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., scarfed up all the available parking around the UT campus when I was trying to renew my library card.15 Even when he’s not in D.C. he’s fucking with my life. So, Kerry, from me to you: Fuck off, loser. Go back where you came from. 

Similarly, saxophonist Kenny Garrett played at UT on Apr. 16. I’d have more to report, but I couldn’t find a parking space without being shooed away by some officious university type. So I didn’t attend. Good thing I didn’t buy an advance ticket.16 

Various government agencies that deal with infrastructure will soon being reconstructing 45th Street from Airport Boulevard to Division Street for the next 14 months. Translation: Don’t even think about driving on 45th for at least the next two years, and when they’re finished, you won’t notice any improvement.17  At least local residents had sense enough to snarl about the city’s planned – and unwanted – streetscaping for Shoal Creek Boulevard at a May 17 meeting.18 

I might’ve been more impressed by the new Third Thursday on Guadalupe, except about half the stores between 24th and 38th streets were closed. Permanently. The event was supposed to go till 10 p.m., but most merchants were shutting down by about 8:45.19 

Gene Hackman, Call Your Agent

This fall, “The Godfather” will reappear as a video game, featuring the voices of James Caan, Robert Duvall and Marlon Brando.20 

INSite Magazine lists 22 theatrical releases for the summer movie season; Michael Caine and Christopher Walken each appear in two apiece.21 

After my eye surgery consultation, I watched “Star Wars” III: “Revenge of the Syph” – er, Sith.22  When the characters start talking politics, it’s pretty clear Michael Badnarik didn’t write the script.23  In fact, the basic plot strains plausibility, even for a galaxy far, far away. The lead villain’s takeover looked alternately too easy and too complicated. His approach was plausible in “The Phantom Menace,” when he maneuvered into the chancellorship, but an intra-parliamentary gambit is a smaller effort than taking over an entire galaxywide polity.  On Earth, modern, big-time dictators work really hard every day, and will go so far as to foment crises, to obtain and consolidate power,24  but that usually takes a long time, and even the most conspiratorial would-be tyrants don’t stage their own elaborate fake kidnappings with a very real risk of death.25  Nor do they use brute force all the time. Instead, they assemble coalitions, often of outsiders, to propel themselves into power.26  Once there, they also deploy “payoffs, exchanges, logrolling, and illusion strategies” to keep power.27  Maybe that’s one of the benefits to the Dark Side of the Force: you don’t have to waste time schmoozing and glad-handing on your path to becoming a galactic ruler. I gather the official, George Lucas-controlled and -approved literature confirms the political machinations, but that’s not what I witnessed on the screen after I paid my $5.75.28

Before I drop-kick this topic into the dustbin of history,29  I must express continued surprised at the encomia to this series as some sort of touchstone for late-wave Boomers and 13ers.30  I distinctly remember being oblivious to “Star Wars” until more than a year after the first film was released. So were all of my peers. I don’t think any of us discussed it until the toy ads started showing up on Saturday morning television.31  With the benefit of experience, the best thing ever about Star Wars was an artifact playfully inspired by but definitely outside that universe: a Willis Jackson LP called … “Bar Wars.”32 

On the Town

Apr. 3: The Spring 2005 Austin Record Convention was held again at the Crockett Center.33  However, the Crockett Center itself has moved from East Highway 290, near the Liquidity International sales pitch  and the old Badnarik for President headquarters,  to Lamar Boulevard, across from Chuy’s. This means the event is the closest it’s ever been to where I live, even though it still usually coincides with my being strapped for cash or being out of work. I pay the admission fee just for the intense immersion in about 70 years’ worth of pop culture, including a glimpse at rare albums, behind the vendors, often spoken of or written about but seldom seen.

Apr. 22: I attended a Geek Austin luncheon at Star of India off Anderson Lane. I schmoozed some strangers and actually picked up a job lead.34  Later, I sauntered over to the Alamo Drafthouse Village35  and saw “Kung Fu Hustle,”36  which I can best describe as Bruce Lee meets the Three Stooges.37

Apr. 23: During a salsa dance at Go Dance studio, one of my partners praised my dancing. Maybe a year ago, elsewhere, she’d castigated me for the same.

May 10: I attended a business after-hours mixer at Iron Cactus North.38  Or rather, I would have attended if the organizer, Network Now Speednetworking, hadn’t been charging $20 a head – when the event was listed as “free” in the online calendar of the May 6 Austin Business Journal.39  I immediately assumed a bait and switch by the organizer and returned home to launder my clothes instead.

Neighborhood News

Mangia Pizza and Ben & Jerry’s held a block party May 14, now that they’ve finally opened at the strip mall at Gracy Farms Lane and Burnet Road.40  The mall project is behind schedule. The developer’s on-site billboard had announced the mall would be open last fall. Anyway, I walked into Mangia’s on May 1, during its unofficial opening. and received a free meal.

Immediately after Mangia opened, the city decided to strip the surface of Gracy Farms Lane between the Metric Boulevard and the northbound MoPac frontage road, even though that stretch was perfectly serviceable.

Tut’s Bar & Grill opened off the southbound frontage road of MoPac, near the intersection with Parmer Lane. The food is lousy. A hornet buzzed into my space outdoors as I was trying to eat. I let it get complacent. Then I smashed it with the book I brought to read while waiting for my meal. Fitting, the book’s an insider’s analysis of the Chicago Democratic Machine.41

Sherlock’s Pub opened in the Furniture Row Shopping Center. I was curious about trying such British fare as spicy tempura shrimp tacos, but when it came to something elementary like a waiter showing up to take my order, the restaurant was without a clue.42

The University of Phoenix has established its Central Texas campus at the Braker Pointe office complex, at the northwest corner of MoPac Expressway and West Braker Lane.43  Used office supplies store Tops opened at the northwest corner of Braker and Kramer Lane.

Dandy’s convenience store has switched its gasoline logos from Phillips to Chevron. Meanwhile, Dandy’s nearest competitor, Sunrise Mini-Mart, has switched its gasoline logos from Texaco to Diamond Shamrock.

On Apr. 25, two vehicles collided head-on at the northwestern corner of Stonehollow Drive and Gracy Farms Lane.

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1 Holloway, Diane. “When Austin Gets ‘Real.’ ”AAS 9 May 2005: A1+.
2 Smith, Amy. “Deconstructing Downtown.” AC 20 Apr. 2001: 26+.
3 Slade, Stephen G., Richard N. Baker, and Dorothy Kay Brockman. The Complete Book of Laser Eye Surgery. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2000: 47.
4 Brint, Stephen F. The Laser Vision Breakthrough: Everything You Need to Consider Before Making the Decision. Rocklin, Calif.: Prima Health, 2000: 159; Slade, op. cit., 233-235.
5 Brint, op. cit., 87-88, 272; Kornmehl, Ernest W., Jonathan M. Davidorf, and Robert K. Maloney. Lasik: A Guide to Laser Vision Correction. Omaha, Neb.: Addicus Books, 2001: 31; Slade, op. cit., 69
6 Spezia, Karen Odom. “The XLent Fortunate 500: The Stars of Austin’s Social Scene.” XL 12 May 2005: 29.
7 Ibid., 17.
8 Alexander, Kate. “Smoke Ban Passes With 52 Percent.” AAS 8 May 2005: A1+; Mottola, Daniel. “Smoking Ban.” AC 13 May 2005: 20.
9 “James Woods.” American Film May 1990: 18.
10 AD No. 37 (Apr. 25, 2002); King, Michael. “Place 4.” AC 13 May 2005: 24.
11 Alexander. “Candidate Files Ethics Complaint Targeting Austin Police Group.” AAS 27 Apr. 2005: B7; Alexander. “Dunkerley Accused of Campaign Form Errors.” AAS 19 Apr. 2005: King. “The Council We Deserve?” AC 22 Apr. 2005: 34+; B3; King. “Full Campaign Disclosure: Here Comes Late Money.” AC 6 May 2005: 22.
12 “Election Roundup.” AAS 8 May 2005: A12; Ruliffson, Bob. “Pat Dixon Wins in Lago Vista.” AL 8 May 2005: 1.
13 Herrera, Leonard R. “Gladney Becomes First Black Elected to Pflugerville City Council.” Nokoa 12 May 2005: 1+; Toohey, Marty. “Wood, Gladney Elected to City Council Seats.” AAS 8 May 2005: A12.
14 AD No. 77 (Mar. 3, 2005); Coppola, Sarah. “Council Runoff Pits Different Visions of Austin.” AAS 9 May 2005: A1+; King. “Saturday Smoke Signals.” AC 13 May 2005: 17.
15 Dunbar, Wells. “Kerry Visits Purple Austin.” AC 22 Apr. 2005: 32.
16 Trachtenberg, Jay. “Music Listings.” Ed. Darcie Stevens. AC 15 Apr. 2005: 100.
17 “Reconstruction of 45th Street to Begin This Spring.” EnergyPlus Apr. 2005: 1.
18 Mottola, Daniel. “Shoal Creek Boulevard Frankencurbs Drawn Ire of Residents.” AC 20 May 2005: 22.
19 Welch, Diane. “Calendar: This Week.” AC 20 May 2005: 72.
20 “Best Digital Cannoli.” Stuff Jun. 2005: 30.
21 AD No. 29n58 (Sep. 4, 2001); AD No. 58n7 (Nov. 2, 2003); “The Big Picture Summer Movie Preview.” INSM May 2005: 21-23; Rafferty, Terrence. “Caine’s Mutiny.” GQ Mar. 2003: 191.
22 Hayden, Deborah. Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis. New York City: Basic Books, 2003; Savlov, Marc. “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” Review. AC 20 May 2005: 84.
23 Badnarik, Michael. Good to Be King: The Foundation of Our Constitutional Freedom. Cranston, R.I.: Writers’ Collective, 2004.
24 Higgs, Robert. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. New York City: Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy/Oxford UP, 1987; Porter, Bruce D. War and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics. New York City: The Free Press, 1994.
25 Pipes, Daniel. Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where it Comes From. New York City: The Free Press, 1997: Appendix B.
26 Francis, Samuel. "Neoconservatism and the Managerial Revolution." Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism. Columbia, Mo.: U of Missouri P, 1993: 95-117.
27 Rockwell, Llewellyn H. Jr. “Rule by Force Alone.” <> 25 Apr. 2003.
28 Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1998: 424; Sansweet, Stephen J. Star Wars Encyclopedia. New York City: Ballentine Pub. Group, 1998.
29 AD No. 44n1 (Dec. 10, 2002).
30 AD No. 39n15 (Aug. 1, 2002); Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. New York City: William Morrow, 1991: 304.  
31 Baldwin, Stymie; Darby Romeo, and Winnie Weshinskey. “Star Wars.” Retro Hell, 208-209.
32 Jackson, Willis. Bar Wars. Muse 5162, 1978.
33 Spring 2005 Austin Record Convention. Advertisement. AC 1 Apr. 2005: 10.
34 “LinearB.” “Lunchies on Friday!” Geek Austin 21 Apr. 2005 <>.
35 AD No. 29n56 (Sep. 4, 2001).
36 Savlov. “Kung Fu Hustle” (Review). AC 22 Apr. 2005: 100.
37 AD No. 61n20 (Jan. 28, 2004); Clouse, Robert. Bruce Lee: the Biography. Burbank, Calif.: Unique Publications, 1988.
38 Rice, Dale. “Pared-Back Menu Gives Iron Cactus New Sophistication.” XL 12 May 2005: 6.
39   “Calendar.” Austin Business Journal 6 May 2005 <>.
40 AD No. 61n36.
41 Rakove, Milton L. Don’t Make No Waves – Don’t Back No Losers: An Insider’s Analysis of the Daley Machine. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana UP, 1975.
42 Without a Clue. Incorporated Television Co. (ITC), 1988.
43 AD No. 34n31 (Jan. 14, 2002); Greenwood, Giselle. “University of Phoenix Latest Entrant in Adult Education Market of Austin.” ABJ 8 Apr. 2005: 6.