|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
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;
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
6 Rudnick, Paul. "Presumed Innocence." Spy Oct. 1990:
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
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:
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:
22 AD No. 22n12 (Nov. 16, 2000); AD No. 76 (Jan. 17,
23 Hernandez, Raoul. “Renegade.” AC 20 Jan. 2006: 56-59.
24 Gray, Christopher. “The River Runs Through It.” AC 20 Jan.
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.
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:
30 Doherty. “The Embarrassment of Riches.” Reason Aug./Sep.
31 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Primary Numbers: Never Have So Few…”
17 Mar. 2006: 28; Smith, Amy. “March 6 Primary Report.” AC 10 Mar. 2006:
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:
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:
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.”
46 Morthland, John. “Frito Pie.” Texas Journey Jan./Feb.
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.