Austin Dispatches

No. 89

March 29, 2006

My team lead thinks our work at Neutron will continue past our contracts’ original expiration date. All this time, my co-writers were privately complaining to me about each other. Finally, some managers caught the Indian napping on the clock and dismissed him while the rest of us were in the clean room.

Internal animosity at the Technical Publications Department isn’t what’s pushing back the timetable on the delivery edge wafer processor, though. The engineers keep redesigning the system, even redesigning and rebuilding it in the CR. This means Neutron has to special-order unique metal parts from other companies, which have to build them by hand. Construction and shipping take time. All just standard practice in the semiconductor business, says the team lead.

On Dec. 22, Neutron employees met at Fast Eddie’s because some of them thought the official holiday party was too constraining with their significant others around.  Instead, the gathering at Fast Eddie’s was even more constrained. Nobody wanted to say too much for fear of saying the wrong thing. A lot of the team from the CR had been working non-stop for more than eight hours; when they said anything, it was either about work or sports. Fast Eddie’s name is misleading, by the way. All of us at the table had trouble getting service, which ranged from slow to non-existent. I stayed until traffic thinned and left for excitement. Which I didn’t find.

In January, the office boss returned to Japan. In his honor, Neutron sponsored a luncheon at Beluga, where a Russian owner served Japanese and Korean food while Brazilian-esque electronica created by waiter played on the sound system. It’s the best Japanese food I’ve had since I dated the barnburner.  Then there was that time I ate at a Chinese-German restaurant. The food was delicious, but an hour later I was hungry for power.1

The Togetherness Holidays

All things considered, work’s been the most satisfying part of my life for the past several months, which are dominated by “the togetherness holidays.” Unless you’re with family,  or otherwise with someone special in your life,  it can be a challenge to fill the hours until regular life resumes.

Christmas, I played golf again at Hancock Golf Course.2  Several golf balls vanished in the water hazards and leaf-strewn rough, and I scored in the double digits on every hole. I had a better time the night before at The Copa. Enough people – and enough attractive women – showed up to simulate Yuletide bonhomie. I even got to dance, which has seldom been the case since this summer (more on that later).

I celebrated New Year's Eve at my neighborhood bar.  In other words, I sipped weak drinks amid ugly women and surly rednecks, a succession of whom sang off-key karaoke renditions of Rage Against the Machine numbers.3  Had I known, I’d’ve arrived later. A significant minority of patrons disregarded the city's smoking ban, even in the presence of a sheriff's deputy, who did nothing. Nice to see government sloth working for the average Joe for once.4

So why'd I go to this place? Because it was better than drinking alone in my apartment, even though the ambience, audio and alcohol are all adjusted for my approval. Even I’m not immune to the pull of “togetherness.” And because almost all the interesting stuff was concentrated downtown, meaning I'd find no place to park, even if the city fathers hadn't deliberately wrecked matters by promoting the family oriented Austin First Night.5  KOOP-FM reported before 8 p.m. that downtown was crowded. Don’t get me wrong: In several respects, my parents treated me and my siblings as adults when we were growing up, but New Year’s Eve was and is an adults’ holiday, and it ought to stay that way. As Spy magazine correctly pointed out:

Childhood is not a utopia but a holding pen; the good stuff comes later, when you're ready, when you've earned it. Children look abysmal in evening clothes and are problematic in theaters, restaurants and concert halls; as a rule, children are useless after 4 p.m.6 

Still, if I’d overcome the logistics, it might’ve been worthwhile to observe the collision of holiday esthetics. In particular, a “pimps and hoes” themed party was being held at Fado, of all places.7  How a stereotypical Old World Irish bar got to host an event using demimonde tropes commonly associated with American blacks is something I’d like to know.8  Was there also a corresponding Eastside party whose dark-hued participants chugged overrated beer and jabbered like the Lucky Charms leprechaun?9 

My other option was a milonga at someone's house in the West Hills.10  But I've never been to this house and I sure didn't want drive around there looking for it on New Year's Eve.

Thus, 10 minutes after the stroke of midnight, I walked home, churning with disgust and dissatisfaction about my life and its prospects. I’ll have to take drastic actions if circumstances are to change – and they won’t be pretty.11 

Then, on Valentine’s Day, I danced with an exotic, high-cheekboned beauty clad in a black halter dress at The Copa, where I wound up by default after abandoning a singles mixer off Lake Austin Boulevard that was simply too crowded to mingle at.12  Against my own expectations, I managed to enjoy Valentine’s for the first time in years.  I would’ve enjoyed it even more if her boyfriend hadn’t been with her.

The Latin Mix

The Copa was the site of another recent minor achievement. The owner, a pretty cool guy, started an “Open DJ” theme for Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Buzios Room. Anyone could come in with a MP3 or CD mix of salsa and have it played on the club sound system.

By chance, I inaugurated this new approach. I have few Latin music recordings,13  and much of that Latin jazz14  and thus not oriented toward dancers, but I was able to comb through my collection and assemble a set of proper salsas, mambos and cha-chas, likely unfamiliar to most, and sequenced the way I’ve noticed the club DJs do. This has been one of the few times I’ve ever done anything like this. (And after all the work it took, it’s no wonder.) Few people heard my mix, but those few are major participants in the local salsa scene, and they really liked it.

More gratifyingly, the discernable decline in participants on the local scene since last summer appears to have halted and even reversed. This means more opportunities for me to dance. Yet despite this steady trickle of good tidings, and my gradual acceptance inside the scene, I remain soured about it.

The scene is like a replay of high school society, only with legal drinking and consistently better music. I ran this notion by an instructor with whom I have a good rapport; he didn’t disagree. Nevertheless, much of my mood results from a frustrating interaction with one of the salseras in the same period.

This woman, let’s call her “Melanie Ordones Welker,” first captured my attention, even among the attractive women, because of her resemblance to at least two local women who’ve made an impression on me the last several years.15  Yeah, there’s a type I like. Of course, a man would have to be blind, retarded and queer not to notice her.

I didn’t approach her right away. The resemblance made me question my own motives. Her dancing was several leagues above mine. And the salsa scene, owing to the preponderance of non-native English speakers, is my one social network where my advantageous verbal dexterity is neutralized.

Also, it just took a while to work up the courage to approach her. This was atypical. Finally, the opportunity appeared at Go Dance’s monthly Salsa Social in July. Turns out, she’d noticed me noticing her. Welker wasn’t expecting to be asked if she owned lakefront property in Lago Vista, nor what she was doing on the night of Nov. 28, 2004.  As you might expect, I fawned over this woman. I could see the conflict in her face: I don’t even know this man – but he’s interested in me – I don’t know if feel comfortable with this level of interest – but he’s so intriguingly different from the other men I encounter on the local salsa circuit. Etc.

Well, I garnered a dance, although it was painfully apparent I'd have to improve dramatically as a dancer just to chat her up any further.

I did, and I did. That’s when the real trouble started.

On the dance floor, this gorgeous, half-Puertorequeña redhead told me I’d improved. Off the dance floor, I learned that both the same generation, both work as technical writers, both have a healthy respect for firearms, and her birthday is the day after mine. She also has a sense of humor. She ought to be an ideal match. When other people regard you as one of a kind, or at least one in a million, it’s harder to find someone compatible.

Unfortunately, she’s not enough of a match for any real chemistry to develop.  From what little she told me, dancing is her one main interest in life. It’s a common problem. A colleague at Movêro Technology who used to dance on the local salsa circuit told me that the people in that scene are consumed by it and don’t otherwise get out socially. 

Because while she’s a queen of the dance floor, salsa dancing is only a small part of life. At best, it’s a quarter of my life. I’ve resisted letting it consume me. But what happens when the music stops? I don’t think she’s interested, and if she were, I don’t think she has enough interests – i.e., indicating she’s multifaceted enough – to keep us together. On the other hand, she still didn’t indicate strongly enough that she was interested – in anyone. In fact, she became more guarded as my questions continued. Even if she were more interested, there’s still the problem of our respective dancing abilities. Beyond that, if the affair failed, we’d have to co-exist in a small social circle of many mutual acquaintances. It’s a circle in which she’s the insider; I’m not.

So I backed off. Since then, she’s alternated between looking uncomfortable when we’re in the same club, and staring daggers at me. I can’t win. After four years on the scene this was the closest I’ve comegenerating a romance, which is the main reason I started dancing in the first place.  All my flirting and speculation was for nothing.

Cultural Canapés

e89fig2 A DVD set of “The Electric Company” finally appeared on the market. We 13ers have been clamoring for one for years. Officially, it’s called “The Best of The Electric Company,” but a more accurate title would be “Rita Moreno Introduces a Bunch of Episodes That Showcase Her in Song and Dance Numbers.” It’s good material, regardless. About half the content I’d never seen before, despite the show’s practice of recycling.16  Coincidentally, in my recent reading I discovered that the talent for the show was supplied by Silent Generation17 entertainers who came out of New York cabaret 18 or stand-up comedy.19

In a related note, Lou Rawls is dead. He played Austin last summer. If I’d had $200 to spare, I could’ve seen him. Now I’ll never get the chance. Well, not to be ghoulish, but perhaps Mr. Rawls’ death will spur the production of a comprehensive CD box set.20

U.S. Sen. Ted “Chappaquiddick” Kennedy, D-Mass., has authored a children’s book.21  He’s well suited to write a book from that perspective: He’s certainly behaved like a dog – if not lower – lo these many years.22

KPEZ-FM has dropped its classic rock format – a.k.a., the same aural crap with which Boomers have been clogging the airwaves for decades – for “Christian pop-rock.” The Chronicle considers this a bad thing. That rag’s hacks – too busy churning out disjointed, rambling paeans to minor band Thin Lizzy23  – Ireland’s last contribution out of its few to world culture – must not have actually listened, because every time I’ve heard the station recently, it’s playing some secular ‘80s hit with embittered, negative lyrics.24  I guess the owners don’t listen, either.

On the Town

Jan. 28: Chuck Berry performed at The Paramount Theatre. He played like a post-punk guitarist c.1980. He ended songs abruptly, rather than with grand flourishes, and played in a dry, discordant style, often using the strings percussively. In other words, his performance was the antithesis of the rote nostalgia act I anticipated. The guitar slinging was handled by opening act Gary Clark Jr. I saw him open for Texas Johnny Brown at The Victory Grill when he was still in his teens, and he was impressive even then.25 

Feb. 15:  Speaking of impressive plectrists, jazz-rock fusion guitarist extraordinaire Allan Holdsworth played at a downtown club formerly occupied by Mambo Kings.26  I only learned of his appearance by happenstance viewing of an ad while re-perusing the pages of local publications for something to do on Valentine’s Day.27  But a substantial audience attended, including my friend Pat Dixon (as I’d half expected),  plus a smattering of attractive women (which I didn’t expect). Holdsworth and sidemen performed a 90-minute set of fast, complicated compositions over odd-meter time signatures with a distinctive concept and sound, located somewhere along the frontiers of jazz. (Salsa abuts another frontier.)28

March 4: I attended Staple! The Independent Media Expo at Northcross Mall.29  As soon as I paid my $5 and entered the exhibition room, I struggled through the atmosphere of hipster pretension. These people have a lot to learn about the business of media.30 

Someone at an exhibitor's booth tried to tout his magazine.

“Great. What are your contributor rates?” I asked.

The guy emitted a queasy chuckle. “You’re a writer?”


He thrust a publication forward. “We can give you a byline.”

I took the publication. “Thanks.”

“Oh, you’re supposed to pay for that.”

I thrust it back into his hands. Amateurs.

March 7:  At the primary election-night party for Don Zimmerman’s statehouse campaign,31  I learned a Jewish businessman of our mutual acquaintance had converted to Christianity. He seemed fundamentally happier.

March 12: A specialty shop, Ana Brasil, celebrated its first year in business. I sampled feijoada with farofa, and guarana,32  and flirted with the Brazilian women – you gotta stay in practice – who sauntered about the parking lot like it was Ipanema Beach and they were waiting for someone to immortalize them in song.33  Sorry, gals, this enty in my Web zine’s the best I can do.

Neighborhood News

Workers have built a connecting sidewalk on the south side of Gracy Farms Lane, from the entrance to Tivoli to the railroad tracks. Hypothetically, I can now walk to a contract at IBM without getting my shoes muddy.34 

The Blue Cupcake, a bakery and lunch café, opened at the Gracy Farms strip mall.

The owner of a recently opened wafer equipment manufacturing plant at Braker Lane and Metric Boulevard is being bought by German technology firm for $11.8 million.35  Simon Property Group has begun work on The Offices at The Domain, at the northeast corner of Braker and MoPac Expressway.36

On the morning of Jan. 18, KMFK-FM reported an auto collision at Metric Boulevard and Stonehollow Drive. That evening, I witnessed the aftermath of a two-car smash-up at Stonehollow and Gracy Farms. On March 5, I witnessed the aftermath of a collision at Duval and Burnet roads. On Feb. 21, I witnessed a Metro bus broken down on the eastbound lane of Gracy Farms and delaying private traffic. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.37

The annoyingly chatty downstairs neighbor moved out. Meanwhile, a non-profit cycling group is eying the J.J. Pickle Research Campus for a velodrome.38

Political Follies

Chris Bell, who won the March 7 Democratic primary, could conceivably place third or fourth in the gubernatorial race.39  Ironically, his chances might’ve been better in the general election if he’d been forced into a primary run-off. That way, the Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Richard “Kinky” Friedman independent campaigns would have less time to collect signatures to appear on the ballot.40

On the other hand, the Strayhorn and Friedman candidacies are squeezing out the Democrats financially. The Capital City Argus reports that much of Strayhorn’s nearly $10 million in raised funds “came from sources that traditionally donate to Democrats – the trial lawyers and heavyweight fundraisers such as former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes and Waco millionaire Bernard Rapoport.” 41

At least Strayhorn, unlike Friedman, hasn’t inflicted several dozen novels on the unsuspecting public. These novels are hyped, tedious, and self-indulgent. Much like Friedman’s campaign. Is this the sort of man we want sitting in the governor’s office? In a comfortable chair, at an escritoire, poised to sign either a bad bill into law or to pen another novel with a central protagonist named Kinky Friedman? This matter is an outrage to Texas literature, and I won’t stand for it. In fact, right now I’m sitting down to express my displeasure.42 

In U.S. House District 14, incumbent Ron Paul trounced Cynthia Sinatra, a shyster broad put up by the Bush administration to knock off its most incisive critic in Congress.43  La Sinatra even appeared on the hustings with her ex-husband, the underrecorded and underappreciated Frank Jr.44  But ultimately, she lost because she gets hungry for dinner at eight.45

Media Indigest

Texas Journey, AAA Texas’ bimonthly magazine, reports that several food purveyors in Texas have turned the Frito pie into a gourmet item.46  So what wine do you pair it with?47  Austin Music Magazine, oriented toward tourists, has been appearing in motel rooms and sundry about town.48  The Austin edition of Rumbo has closed. 49

E-mail: austindispatches@swbell.net


1 Cavett, Dick, and Christopher Porterfield. Cavett. New York City: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974: 227.
2AD No. 61n15 (Jan. 28, 2004).
3 Doherty, Brian. “Rage On.” Reason Oct. 2000: 48.
4 AD No. 79n8 (May 22, 2005); Mencken, H.L. The Days of Mencken. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947: 251-252.
5 Faires, Robert. “The Last Shall Be First.” AC 30 Dec. 2005: 36.
6 Rudnick, Paul. "Presumed Innocence." Spy Oct. 1990: 67-71.
7 New Year’s Eve Fado for Pimps & Hoes. Advertisement. AC 30 Dec. 2005: 85.
8 American Pimp. Underworld Entertainment, 1999; Goines, Donald. Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp. Los Angeles: Holloway House Publishing Co., 1972; The Mack.1973; Milner, Christine, and Richard Milner. Black Players: The Secret World of Black Pimps. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1972; Pimps, Players & Private Eyes. Warner Bros. 26624, 1992.
9 Klan, Barry. “The Irish-American: An Underdog Story.” The Centurion Mar. 2005: 13.
10 The Companion to Latin American Studies. Ed. Philip Swanson. New York City: Oxford UP, 2003: 174.
11 EAD No. 11n7 (Jan. 11, 2000).
12 “Valentine’s Day “Singles Mingle” at Lucy’s. Advertisement. ISM Feb. 2006: 15.
13 Morales, Ed. The Latin Beat: The Rhythms and Roots of Latin Music From Bossa Nova to Salsa and Beyond. New York City: Da Capo Press, 2003.
14 Fernández, Raúl. Latin Jazz: The Perfect Combination/La Combinación Perfecta. San Francisco: Chronicle Books/Smithsonian Institute, 2002.
15 AD No. 22 (Nov. 23, 2000); AD No. 73 (Nov. 8, 2004).
16 “DVD Watch.” AC 24 Mar. 2006: 53; Gaffney, Sean, and Jazmine Yates. “The Electric Company.” Retro Hell, 64.
17 Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. New York City: William Morrow, 1991: 279-294.
18 Gavin, James. Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret. New York City: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991: Ch. 8-10.
19 Nachman, Gerald. Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. New York City: Pantheon Books, 2003.
20 Jones, Steve. “Lou Rawls: 50 Years of Class, Soul.” USAT 9 Jan. 2006: 3D.
21 Ferguson, Andrew. “Dog’s Day.” Liberty Mar. 2006: 7.
22 AD No. 22n12 (Nov. 16, 2000); AD No. 76 (Jan. 17, 2005).
23 Hernandez, Raoul. “Renegade.” AC 20 Jan. 2006: 56-59.
24 Gray, Christopher. “The River Runs Through It.” AC 20 Jan. 2006: 55.
25 Cowles, Ginger. “Duck Walk Over to the Paramount.” AAS 28 Jan. 2006: E2; Gray. “TCB.” AC 27 Jan. 2006: 53; Gray. “TCB.” AC 3 Feb. 2006: 59.
26 AD No. 9n34 (Oct. 23, 1999); AD No. 76n13.
27 Red 7. Advertisement. AC 10 Feb. 2006: 114.
28 Fernandez, op. cit., 118.
29 Brenner, Wayne Alan. “Giant-Sized Annual.” AC 3 Mar. 2006: 44.
30 Doherty. “The Embarrassment of Riches.” Reason Aug./Sep. 1997: 21.
31 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Primary Numbers: Never Have So Few…” 17 Mar. 2006: 28; Smith, Amy. “March 6 Primary Report.” AC 10 Mar. 2006: 20.
32 Roe, Lisa Wyatt. “Destination: São Paulo.” Austin Traveler Spring 2006: 14-15.
33 Jobim, Antonio Carlos, Vinicius de Moraes, and Norman Gimbel. “Garota de Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema).” 1962.
34 Hightower, Jim. “The Hightower Report.” AC 30 Dec. 2005: 25.
35 Greenwood, Giselle. “Austin Tech Plant Could Expand After Sale.” ABJ 6 Jan. 2006: 3
36 Kaspar, Mary Alice. “Retail Giant Sets First Office Project.” ABJ 3 Mar. 2006: 1+.
37 Wear, Ben. “Cap Metro Makes Loan Deal for Rail Cars.” AAS 28 Feb. 2006: A1+.
38 LeBlanc, Pamela. “A Cycling Epicenter.” AAS 4 Mar. 2006: A1+.
39 Verrill, Ashley. “Perry, Bell Headline Texas-Sized Race.” DT 8 Mar. 2006: 1.
40 King, Michael. “Lessons Learned.” AC 17 Mar. 2006: 21-22; Smith, Jordan. “March 6 Primary Report,” op. cit., 21.
41 “Political Briefs: Democratic Candidates.” Capital City Argus 13 Feb. 2006: 6.
42 Abedin, Michael. “Kinky Friedman … Political Action Hero.” Austin Wide Open Mar. 2006: 4-7; AD No. 77n43 (Mar. 3, 2005); J. Smith. “Here Comes the Guv.” AC 17 Feb. 2006: 26-28+.
43 “Election 2006: Congress.” HC 9 Mar. 2006: 6; Paul, U.S. Rep. Ron, R-L-Texas. Speech, U.S. House of Representatives, 15 Feb. 2006; Steinmetz, Greg. “Her Way.” WSJ 8 Jul. 1999: A1.
44 Junod, Tom. “Frank Sinatra Jr. Is Worth Six Buddy Grecos.” GQ Jan. 1994: 96; Taraborelli, J. Randy. Sinatra: A Complete Life. Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1997: 293-294, 317-318.
45 Rodgers, Richard, and Lorenz Hart. “The Lady Is a Tramp.” 1940.
46 Morthland, John. “Frito Pie.” Texas Journey Jan./Feb. 2006: 11.
47 WB, 83-88.
48 Outon, Chantal. “Music Magazine Hopes to Strike a Chord With Austin Fans.” ABJ 13 Jan. 2006: 5.
49AD No. 76, op. cit; “Headlines.” AC 24 Mar. 2006: 17.