Click for Austin, Texas Forecast
Heavy Weather
Austin Dispatches No. 84
Oct. 10, 2005

No, I missed Hurricane Rita.1 The closest I came to a hurricane was the cocktail special at The Copa on the 24th.2 Also, I took no precautions,3 except to avoid the local northbound lanes of the major highways, carrying traffic from the Gulf Coast, at rush hour.4 In fact, on the 24th, the feds blocked every south- and westbound intersection to Interstate 35 in the Delwood neighborhood because Dubya and his entourage were visiting the North Austin emergency command center for public relations purposes.5

By the time a hurricane reaches Austin, it’s become a severe thunderstorm.
6 Instead, the local weather was hot and mostly sunny the whole time,7 just like last year.8

Austin Death Watch

Rather, Austin contends with man-made disaster, which cause and effect I’ve chronicled before.
9 And the hits keep coming. Most recently, the local electric monopoly plans to jack up rates in January.10 Mervyn’s plans to close its Austin stores around the same time. Mervyn’s is one of the few mainstream retailers I patronize. In this case, for basic clothes.11

Increasingly, Austin's chief product to the world isn't information technology, singer-songwriters,
12 or even urnite.13 No, the berg’s new leading product is irony.

For instance, after nearly 14 months, a special prosecutor is dropping a drunk-driving case against Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe. Apparently, Biscoe was affected by medication for diabetes and high cholesterol when the Austin police pulled him over for erratic driving. In other words, the guy shouldn’t have been on the road to start with. Nevertheless, he is politically connected, yet even he can’t get a relatively minor legal matter cleared up quickly. However, I am gratified to learn Biscoe “received about 60 to 70 e-mails ridiculing him … 95 percent … from a faction of residents unhappy with his vote on a toll road plan.”

Speaking of ridicule, turns out District Attorney Ronnie Earle gave documentary filmmakers access to his investigation before he indicted U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on campaign finance violations. The filmmakers made their documentary look like a noir crime story so people would actually watch it. Now Earle faces criticism. Even better, Earle knows even less about movie styles than he does about legal ethics. Otherwise, he might’ve reconsidered. The still shot in the Statesman shows the longtime D.A. underlit, which is the standard approach to make someone look sinister.
15 But isn’t Earle supposed to be the good guy in this narrative? Oh wait, this is noir. There are no truly good guys in that genre.

Earle and the filmmakers were also undercut by the Austin City Council. That smoking ban cuts down on the thick haze of cigarette smoke they could’ve filmed. It’s one of the motifs one must deploy in noir, along with deep shadows, rain-slicked streets, Venetian blinds, fedoras, roscoes, booze, and femme fatales.

Yes, the smoking ban remains in effect. So naturally, recent issues of the Chronicle have contained ads for the Zippo Hot Tour at various Austin clubs.

At the municipal level, the Austin City Council wants to add another $100 million to the city’s debts after the pretence of pinching nickels the last several years. The real beneficiaries will be surrounding municipalities that operate with sounder principals.

On the Town

Personally, I’ve been a little preoccupied.

Every group I’m remotely associated with decided to hold a meeting the third weekend in September. However, I battled a cold that week, which put me in an introspective mood and set me to snorting phlegm like Bobby “Blue” Bland.
17 Obviously, this cold mooted my priorities that weekend.

I finally recovered enough to attend the Texas LP conference at the Radisson downtown. It was all right, except some waiters had spilled onion soup on heavily trod industrial carpet; a smell akin to a decaying corpse permeated the hallways.

I attended a presentation by LP activist Mary Ruwart,
19 “How to Turn Bleeding-Heart Liberals Into Die-Hard Libertarians.” Based on her presentation, I think the answer is, “You can’t.” These people have mastered ignoring the consequences of the policies they support. But when you confront them on the results, they suddenly become hardheaded and demand stringent proof.20 The presentation topic should’ve been “How to pry their pudgy fingers from the levers of power.”21

Then I jaunted over to the ice cream social at the Badnarik for Congress headquarters, in the same office used for his 2004 presidential campaign.

Sep. 22: I networked at Sky Lounge.
22 The Acton MBA program sponsored the meet ‘n’ greet. I wonder what Lord Acton, a 19th Century classical liberal and Roman Catholic, would have made of the drunk stockbroker who handed me his card and slurred, “Call me. We’ll do lunch.”23

Then I visited the Apple Bar for the first time, after driving by it for years. It was a nice, slick, quiet bar with discounted flavored martinis. For a long time, I was the only customer, so the bartender – who was pretty cool to begin with – gave me free samples of various martini recipes on the menu – like watermelon and pineapple upside down cake. They were like liquid desserts.

Total cost of the evening: $6.

Sep. 23: On the way back to my car from The Copa, I witnessed a brawl outside Ringside at Sullivan’s, aptly enough.
25 The participants threw punches like girls.

Sep. 28: At my physical checkup, the doctor told me, “You’re in rude health.”

“Yeah, what’s it to you?” I replied.

“About three hundred twenty-five dollars once I’m finished.”

I clutched my chest and blacked out. When I revived, I noticed my wallet was missing.

Sep. 29: On the first real day of autumn, I guzzled beer and played miniature golf at the Peter Pan course with the Austin Young Active Professionals. I narrowly lost the match by three strokes. Worse, the weather didn’t preclude mosquitoes from feasting on my fingers.

Oct. 7: Musicians, including the Neville Brothers, are relocating from post-flood New Orleans to Austin.
26 The Nevilles have already settled into the groove of things, so to speak. But for various reasons I missed seeing them play at one venue or another. Finally, I caught the clan at a jam session at Serrano’s Café and Cantina on Red River Street, a benefit for the Engineers for a Sustainable World Gulf Coast Fund. (My extra advice with the $20 admission: Don’t build a city below water level.27 The engineers weren’t amused.)

Unfortunately, the 7th was the first really inclement day of autumn. The water level rose for Waller Creek, separating the band from the audience. That prompted numerous comments from the Nevilles during the show, and beforehand, over drinks. Worse, the temperature dropped to about 50 degrees while I endured 90 minutes of sound checks and the opening act, one of the worst bands I’ve ever heard. Rotten fruit was too good for ‘em. Finally, the jam session started. It was suitably funky, but I could only take about 90 minutes before the weather got to me. I left for home, wondering if I should’ve attended another of the multiple entertainment options that evening.

The next night compensated. Plena Libre played The Copa the second of two nights. The weather was good enough for it to play on the patio. The band was aflame.

Cultural Canapés

Rhino Records has released a box set of the complete ‘50s Atlantic recordings of Ray Charles. Such a set is long overdue.

Hollywood plans a remake of the old Terry-Thomas film “School for Scoundrels,” this time with Billy Bob Thornton. I do say!

A Chronicle film critic visiting the Toronto Film Festival wrote she enjoyed "Thank You for Smoking," despite the film's "core of soulless libertarianism."
32 It put me in mind of Gene Santoro, the music critic who couldn’t write an album review for Down Beat in the ‘80s without criticizing the Reagan administration.33 No wonder all those roots rock albums didn’t sell.34

3rd Coast Music reports the Country Music Association is moving its annual awards show from Nashville to New York City. I’ll just quote columnist Charles Earle:

[W]hat the hell was the CMA thinking by moving their award show to New York this year? … The average New Yorker doesn’t give two hairs off of a dead donkey’s balls …. Ask a guy in the Bronx what he thinks of Brooks & Dunn and he’ll grab his crotch and say, “I got your Brooks & Dunn right here.”35

Well put, sir. When cable TV arrived in my childhood town in the early ‘80s, my family laughed at The Nashville Network, because it and the entire country music machinery seemed to be colossally embarrassed to be associated with something supposedly by and for drunken hillbillies.


Dennis “Mr. Fusion” Lucey finished hiking the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine.37 If he’d driven, he’d’ve gotten there faster.

The Old College Try

My alma mater’s Annual Giving Program mailed me, but the cover letter didn’t say how much I’d get. Nothing less than seven figures will suffice.

Actually, it’s another fundraising pitch that asks “What’s so special about” my alma mater. Beats me. Lots of mediocre cow colleges like to wrap themselves in pretension. A few paragraphs later, the pitch switches to beating State U in some fundraising competition. All breast-beating aside, both schools are formally unified under the State Board of Higher Education, which happens to be financed by taxpayers through the state Legislature.

In other words, my alma mater is appealing to my non-existent school spirit over a phony rivalry, rooted in an endeavor I care nothing about, to pick my pockets for more money that I don’t have. Go State.

Neighborhood News

My landlord is warning residents of a spate of vehicle break-ins.39 A yoga place and a Goodwill bookstore opened in the strip mall at Gracy Farms Lane and Burnet Road on Sep. 10.40 The U.S. Postal Service’s Bluebonnet Station is expanding its hours of operation.


Barnes, Michael. “Austin City Limits Fest Was Hot; Thankfully, Rita Was Not.” XL 29 Sep. 2005: 4.
2 AD No. 65 (May 22, 2004); Boston’s, 96.
3 AMLI at Stonehollow, letter to residents, 22 Sep. 2005.
4 Grisales, Claudia, Renuka Rayasam, and Camille Wheeler. “Austin-Area Gas Stations Running Low on Supplies.” AAS 24 Sep. 2005: F1.
5 King, Michael. “Austin Stories.” AC 30 Sep. 2005: 17.
6 Bankston, James Scott. “Hell and High Water in Austin.” DP 29 Sep. 2005: 6+.
7 Sanders, Joshunda. “Heat Breaks Records; Relief Near.” AAS 26 Sep. 2005: B1.
8 AD No. 72n15 (Oct. 24, 2004).
9 AD No. 26 (Apr. 27, 2001); AD No. 37 (Apr. 25, 2002); AD No. 46 (Feb. 10, 2003); AD No. 49 (Mar. 23, 2003); AD No. 50 (May 14, 2003); AD No. 51 (June 24, 2003); AD No. 52 (July 13, 2003); AD No. 55 (Sep. 3, 2003); AD No. 60 (Dec. 20, 2003); AD No. 65; AD No. 70 (Aug. 26, 2004); AD No. 71 (Sep. 15, 2004); AD No. 75 (Dec. 5, 2004); AD No. 76 (Jan. 17, 2005); AD No. 77 (Mar. 3, 2005); AD No. 79 (May 22, 2005); AD No. 80 (June 21, 2005); AD No. 81 (July 7, 2005); AD No. 82 (Aug. 18, 2005); AD No. 83 (Sep. 7, 2005).
10 Zehr, Dan. “Higher Electrical Bills in City’s Future.” AAS 8 Sep. 2005: C1+.
11 Novak, Shonda. “Mervyn’s Closing Its Austin Stores as Chain Cuts Back.” AAS 8 Sep. 2005: C1+.
12 Shank, Barry. Dissonant Identities: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, N.H.: UP of New England, 1994.
13 Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co., 1996: 306.
14 AD No. 70n20; Kreytak, Steven. “Biscoe DWI Case to Be Dropped.” AAS 1 Oct. 2005: B1+.
15 AD No. 78 (Apr. 2, 2005); Copelin, Laylan. “ ‘Crime Story’ Documentary Stirs Political Ire.” AAS 1 Oct. 2005: A1+.
16 Zippo Hot Tour. Advertisement. AC 30 Sep. 2005: 63.
17 AD No. 17n12.
18 Eisler, Dan. “Lessons From the Conference.” E-mail to TCLPActive, 19 Sep. 2005.
19 AD No. 22n8 (Nov. 16, 2000).
20 Sowell, Thomas. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. New York City: Basic Books, 1995.
21 AD No. 43n8 (Nov. 23, 2002).
22 AD No. 75n10.
23 Powell, Jim. The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000 Year History Told Through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions. New York City: The Free Press, 2000: 345-351.
24 Muldoon, Moira. “Apple Bar is Nice to the Core.” XL 30 Jan. 2003: 6.
25 Rice, Dale. “Original Sullivan’s Sets Standards for Steaks.” XL 20 Feb. 2003: 6; The Irish in America. Ed. Michael Coffey. New York City: Hyperion, 1997; Sowell. Ethnic America: A History. New York City: Basic Books, 1981: Ch. 2.
26 Corcoran, Michael. “Forced From One Live Music Capital, Musicians Find Welcome in Another.” AAS 8 Sep. 2005: A1+.
27 AD No 83n14.
28 “Club Listings: Friday.” AC 7 Oct. 2005: 102+; “Comedy.” Idem., 78.
29 “Club Listings: Saturday.” Idem., 106.
30 Charles, Ray [Ray Charles Robinson]. Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1952-1959. Rhino 74731, 2005.
31 “Quint.” “John Coffey, Karl Childers and Napoleon Dynamite Go to a SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS?” Ain’t It Cool News 28 Sep. 2005 <>.
32 Baumgarten, Marjorie. “TIFF Notes.” AC 23 Sep. 2005: 70.
33 Anderson, Martin. Revolution: The Reagan Legacy, rev. ed. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1990.
34 Christgau, Robert. Christgau’s Record Guide: The ‘80s. 1990. Rpt. New York City: Da Capo Press, 1994.
35 “Charles Earle’s B-Sides.” 3CM Oct. 2005: 7.
36 Wondrich, David. Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot 1843-1924. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2003.
37 Lucey, Dennis. “Katahdin.” E-mail, 8 Oct. 2005.
38 Oregon Daily Emerald Survival Guide.  Ed. Thomas Prowell. Eugene, Ore.: Oregon Daily Emerald, 1989: n.p.
39 AMLI at Stonehollow letter to residents, 6 Oct. 2005.
40 AD No. 79.