“The Southwestern Webzine With New York Attitude.”
Austin Dispatches
No. 96
Feb. 6, 2007
e96fig3 Last month’s ice storms put my life on ice. The mid-January freeze shut down the city, and cost me 20 billable hours.1 

The operators of the new toll roads started charging on Jan. 6; rush-hour traffic was bumper to bumper, even though the roads were supposed to ease congestion.2  Then the ice storms hit and the toll roads were deserted.3  I spent my time outdoors picking and scraping inch-thick ice off my car, and my time indoors watching character actor Ray Sharkey imitate half my mannerisms on the DVDs of “Wiseguy,” a show I missed during its broadcast years.4

The H-E-B at Parmer Lane and MoPac Expressway experienced multiple leaks in the ceiling because of the weather.5  On the same visit, I found a 20 cent Dutch Euro piece. Top that, Dennis Lucey.

On the thaw of the 18th, the neighborhood trees discharged ice cubes worthy of a refrigerator icemaker.

After the thaw, I caught the flu that's going around. My condition’s improved to where my coughing is as shallow as Carl Milstead's reasoning.6  Under such circumstances, I haven’t felt like going out. Between the weather and the flu, I've been out at night only once since New Year’s Eve.

Holiday Leftovers

Then, I dined with some acquaintances. Unfortunately, after the meal ended around 11 p.m., I needed to crap in a clean, well-lighted place with a reliable source of toilet paper.7  Instead of carousing, I returned home. Since I also felt sleepy, I went to bed about 10 minutes before midnight. Naturally, what my co-workers imagined happened was better than reality.

Before that, I attended the Victorian Christmas street fair downtown, where I washed down a haunch of venison and spotted dick with a flagon of ale. In my post-prandial promenade past the high street shopkeepers, in my greatcoat, and ivory walking stick, I bestowed a ha’penny upon a bootblack.

“An’ a Merry Christmas to you, sir,” he uttered with gratitude, before dashing toward the nearest victualer.

Fortunately, this magnanimous bestowal made me late for the Arabic Christmas bazaar. By the time I arrived, emergency crews were hosing the viscera and shattered glass off the streets.8

The day after Christmas, I finally visited the new Ikea store in Round Rock.  Much of the merchandise looked identical to that in The Container Store, only cheaper. However, I don’t know if I want to go to the trouble of transporting and assembling the furniture myself. Even Ikea’s in-store ads conceded that’s not as easy as it ought to be.9

Herb Tarlek’s Revenge

I haven’t even been able to shop much in stores, even to replace household items like clothes. When I was shopping, though, I noticed a lot of white shoes and belts for men. Is the Herb Tarlek look coming back?10 

In movie news, I’m pleased to announce my family will be producing the sequel to that popular porcine character, “Babe: Pig in a Blanket.” The narrative tension results from an argument over what type of barbecue sauce to use.11

Meanwhile, the November issue of Five Magazine, a Southwestern arts magazine, reports on the increasing numbers of celebrities, living and dead, who have their names on wine bottles. For example, Bob Dylan has a wine label. That’s fitting, since his whole music career, such as it is, has been one long whine. The cabernets and chardonnays from Graceland Cellars go especially well with peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, while the Jerry Garcia merlot requires approval from the DEA.12 

In other media matters, I want to congratulate all of you for being named Time’s person of the year in its Dec. 25 edition. I always knew you were capable of great things.13  I don’t know if this happened to the rest of you, but when I picked up the issue, Time’s depiction of me in the reflective image on the cover was distorted. It reminded me of why I stopped reading Time regularly. My understanding of the world changed and Time’s coverage seemed increasingly erroneous. 

Later, I received an unsolicited subscription form from Newsweek, offering a discounted price of $223. When I subscribed to Time, 15 years ago, I paid about $90 a year.

Austin Death Watch

The Nov. 28 Daily Texan ran a feature on North Austin, where I live, and quoted some expert as saying Austin is the Detroit of the information age.14  Detroit? I don’t like the comparison.15

Leslie, transvestite street bum, Austin celebrity, and frequent candidate for local public office, is now also the subject of dress-up refrigerator magnets.16

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport backed off on requiring English proficiency for its employees. I guess if you need help finding a bathroom or your luggage, you’re screwed. Welcome to Austin.17

Speaking of the airport, Councilwoman Jennifer Kim's attempt to get special treatment going through airport security has illuminated her Clintonista side that predominates these days. Ironically, Austin's ruling elite is using this to pummel her.18 

County officials say parasitic infections caused the deaths of 63 birds on Congress Avenue in early January. Regular people in that part of town were happy to have them gone.19

InSite magazine reported many guest consider the Feb. 3 Carnaval Brasileiro as “a liberating practice where they are free to surrender established social and gender roles.”20  In other words, they made it sound like a grad school seminar in feminist bullshitology. No wonder I got sleepy the one year I attended.

Not all the local news is bad. Hick bloviator Molly Ivins finally died of cancer on Jan. 31, age 62. I saw Ivins once, a few years ago, in Whole Foods downtown, bossing around her black nurse like some plantation overseer.  She combined latte socialist views with a yokel style that was stale back when Mark Twain used it.  Ivins was no Twain. She was no Robert Anton Wilson, either, which is about the best that can be said of her.21  Ivins will be buried somewhere, as soon as the mourners can find a coffin big enough.22         

Neighborhood News

I fixed the family recipe for my apartment complex’s Chili Cook-Off. Mine was one of the milder batches – one version used wasabi.23

Opal Devine’s has opened a third location at the Parmer Crossing shopping plaza.24  Across Parmer Lane, a Panda Express eatery has opened. I thought pandas were endangered. The Marquis at Walker’s Bluff apartment complex has been rechristened Chez Moi. It’s still the same vaguely Caribbean stucco apartment complex.25 

A new local community paper, the North Austin Bee, began publishing in November.

On Jan. 18, KGSR-FM reported a traffic collision near Duval Road and the MoPac frontage road.

Political Leftovers

Two interesting twists from the otherwise dismal, dull, static results and implications from the establishment consensus in the 2006 elections:26  First, Reagan Democrat James Webb, winner of the U.S. Senate race in Virginia, could become the first libertarianistic Democrat at the federal level since his predecessor, Harry Flood Byrd Sr.27  On the other hand, another Democrat, Keith Ellison, is also the first Muslim elected to Congress.28 Worse, he’s from Minnesota, where all the women are veiled and there is no God but Allah.29  Try to avoid any flight he’s on, especially those nonstop to Washington.30 

Presidential Pratfalls
Defeated President Gerald Ford finally died on Dec. 26 at age 93. He was the first president I remember.31  Fittingly, I learned of it while watching the first season of “Saturday Night Live” on DVD, with Chevy Chase stumbling about as Ford.32 

Miss KT remembers him trying to eat a tamale with the husk still on during a visit to San Antonio.33  His clumsiness was grist for the topical comedy of the time. Ford himself wasn’t above exploiting this reputation for laughs.34  Even the failed assassination attempts against him were just so many yuks.35  


He amused us well, this klutz.


Even as clown, Ford maintained a certain dignity. Unlike other White House occupants, Ford did not snort cocaine (Kennedy),36 screw molls or foreign spies (Kennedy again),37  berate underlings while sitting on the toilet (Lyndon Johnson),38 vomit on foreign leaders (Bush the Elder),39  receive a blowjob from an intern while conversing by phone with congressmen (Clinton),40  generally act like a Branson, Mo., lounge act (Clinton again),41  choke half to death on a pretzel (Bush the Lesser),42  or stumble off a stationary Segway (Bush the Lesser again).43

On the plus side, Ford refused to bail out New York City from its massive debts,44 and presided over the repeal of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 executive order that turned Americans into criminals for owning gold,45  and the end of the permanent state of emergency created by successive executive orders since 1933.46

On the other hand, he pardoned his criminal predecessor;47 tried to involve the United States in a post-colonial conflict among rival Marxist factions in Angola;48  approved the creation of the Federal Election Commission, which, among things, thwarts outside challenges to the establishment parties and routinely attempts to quash political speech, in defiance of repeated judicial rulings;49  and OK’d a Muslim government’s invasion, and subsequent slaughter of a Christian minority.50  (Nowadays, the latter set of achievements would just about qualify Ford for membership in the Libertarian Reform Caucus, but that's a rant for another issue.)  Later, he made a cheesy appearance on “Dynasty.”51

Essentially, President Ford tried to split the difference between loyalty to “us,” the American people, and “them,” the proponents, minions and beneficiaries of the corporatist, managerial-therapeutic, warfare-welfare state that was on the defensive before, after and during his administration.52  Ford's straddle created an opening for Ronald Reagan to challenge him for the 1976 Republican nomination. Ultimately, Ford paid for his divided fealty with his job.53 

Family Matters

Finally, I’m pleased to announce the recent births of my newest cousins, Lenna Marie and Julia Lynn.54 

E-mail: austindispatches -at- swbell.net

1 Coppola, Sarah, and Ben Wear. “Lack of De-Icer Backs Up Airport.” AAS 18 Jan. 2007: A4; Grisales, Claudia. “Ice Storm Chilled Business, but Activity’s Warming Up.” AAS 19 Jan. 2007: A6; Toohey, Marty, and Kate Alexander. “Watching, Waiting.” AAS 15 Jan. 2007: A1+.
2 Terrell, Jim C. “Free Rides to End on North Austin Toll Roads.” 3 Jan. 2007: 1; Wear, Ben. “Plan Looks at “Managed” MoPac Tolls. AAS 15 Jan. 2007: B1+.
3 Wear. “Why De-Ice Toll Flyovers, Not Others?” AAS 22 Jan. 2007: B1.
4 McNeil, Alex. “Wiseguy.” Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming From 1948 to the Present, 4th ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 1996: 919-920.
5 Eisler, Dan. Letter to Chester and Mary Ruth Kiser, 14 Jan. 2007.
6 Doherty, Brian. “The Portland Plank Massacre of 2006.” Reasononline 7 July 2006 <http://www.reason.com/links/links070706.shtml>.
7 Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” 1926. Collected Stories. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1987: 288-291.
8 AD No. 61n10 (Jan. 28, 2004); Chronicle Gift Pages. Advertisement. AC 15 Dec. 2006: 27.
9 Spencer, Melanine. “How Swede It Is!” AAS 9 Nov. 2006: E1.
10 Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. “WKRP in Cincinnati.”  The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network & Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, 8th ed. New York City: Ballantine Books, 2003: 1273-1274.
11 Babe: Pig in the City. Kennedy Miller Productions, 1998.
12 AD No. 70n38 (Aug. 26, 2004); AD No. 71n42 (Sep. 15, 2004); Eisler, op. cit.; Speck, Brandon. “Celebrity Shiraz.” Five Nov. 2006: 24.
13 Grossman, Lev. “You.” Time 25 Dec. 2006: 38-41.
14 Norton, Ingrid. “North Austin All Grown Up.” DT 28 Nov. 2006: 1A+.
15 Four Brothers. Paramount Pictures/Di Bonaventura Pictures, 2005; Garreau, Joel. The Nine Nations of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981: 57-58, 61-64, 75-76, 82-88; Grosse Point Blank. Caravan Pictures/Hollywood Pictures/New Crime Productions, 1997; Hamper, Ben. Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line. New York City: Warner Books, 1991; Kentucky Fried Movie. KFM Films/Kentucky Fried Theatre, 1977; Leonard. Mr. Paradise. New York City: William Morrow, 2004; Narc. Cruise/Wagner Productions/Cutting Edge Entertainment/Emmett/Furla Films/JR Media Services/Lions Gate Films/Narc LLC/Paramount Pictures/Splendid Pictures/Tiara Blu Films, 2002; Oates, Joyce Carol. them, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Modern Library, 2000; Out of Sight. Jersey Films/Universal Pictures, 1998; RoboCop. Orion Pictures Corp., 1986; Vergara, Camilo José. American Ruins. New York City: The Monacelli Press, 1999.
16 O’Neal, Sean. “Austin Holiday Gift Guide 2006” The Onion, Austin ed. 7 Dec. 2006: 6.
17 Alexander, Kate. “English Test for Airport Employees Doesn’t Fly.” AAS 9 Dec. 2006: A1+.
18 AD No. 77 (Mar. 3, 2005); AD No. 80 (June 21, 2005); King, Michael. “Flying Air Kim.” AC 2 Feb. 2007: 15-16; Plohetski, Tony. “Kim Seeks Special Airport Access.” AAS 27 Jan. 2007, final ed.: A1+.
19 George, Patrick. “Officials: No Public Risk in Dead Birds.” AAS 20 Jan. 2007: B1; Sanders, Joshunda. “Bird Deaths’ Conspiracists Let Theories Fly.” AAS 11 Jan. 2007: B1.
20 Beach, Patrick. “Life of the Party.” AAS 3 Feb. 2007: F1+; Pyle, Kim. “Surrender to the Sights and Sounds of Brazil: Thirty Years of Carnaval in Austin.” ISM Jan. 2007: 17.
21 AD No. 61n34 (Jan. 28, 2004).
22 “Funerals and Memorials.” AAS 3 Feb. 2007: E4.
23 “Best Chili at Stonehollow.” Resident Life Jan. 2007: 1.
24 Opal Devine’s Marina. Advertisement. The Onion 28 Dec. 2006: 6.
25 AD No. 17n1 (Jun. 10, 2000).
26 Ramsey, Bruce et al. ”The Blue Tide – the Wreckage and the Lifeboats.” Liberty Jan. 2007: 17-22+.
27  Heinemann, Ronald L. Harry Byrd of Virginia. Charlottesville, Va.: UP of Virginia, 1996.
    Thanks to Dennis Lucey for his insights.
28 Wolf, Richard. “First Muslim Lawmaker Takes Oath With Quran.” USAT 5 Jan. 2007: 4A.
29 AD No. 70n36 (Aug. 26, 2004).
30 AD No. 30 (Sep. 11, 2001); AD No. 31 (Nov. 17, 2001).
31 Updike, John. Memories of the Ford Administration. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
    I only remember Richard Nixon as ex-president, and that's mostly because around the time he was hospitalized for phlebitis, Dad turned that into a slapstick story to amuse me while waiting for Mom to finish grocery shopping. See Aitken, Jonathan. Nixon: A Life. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1993: 532-534.
32 Rabin, Nathan. “Live in ’75.” The Onion 4 Jan. 2007: 20.
33 Woods, KT Hernandez. “Re: Jerry Ford.” E-mail to Eisler, 2006.
34 Carpenter, Liz. Presidential Humor: For Candidates, Speechwriters and Voters, Preachers, Housewives, Janitors, Hecklers, and Other Political Types. Albany, Texas: Bright Sky Press, 2006: 109.
35 “Dangerous but Inept.” Saturday Night Live NBC-TV, 25 Oct. 1975; Rothbard, Murray N. “Politics: November ’75.” LF Nov. 1975: 2.
36 Jacobs, George, and William Stadiem. Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra. New York City: HarperEntertainment, 2003: 140; Reeves, Thomas C. A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy. New York City: The Free Press, 1991: 8.
37 Hersh, Seymour M. The Dark Side of Camelot.  Boston: Little, Brown, 1997: Ch. 18, 22; Reeves, op. cit., 261, 320.
38 Caro, Robert A. The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. III: Master of the Senate. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002: 1,019; Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997: 872.
39 Podhoretz, John. Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies 1989-1993. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1993: 67-68.
40 The Starr Report: The Official Report of the Independent Cousnel’s Investigation of the President. Rocklin, Calif.: Forum, 1998: 81, 84.
41 “Assorted Cheeses.” GQ Aug. 1995: 166; Laskas, Jeanne Marie. ”Branson in My Rearview Mirror.” GQ May 1994: 168.
42 “Bush Chokes on Pretzel.” Toronto Star 14 Jan. 2002: A1.
43 Maney, Kevin. “President’s Tumble Off a Segway Seems a Tiny Bit Suspicious.” USAT 18 Jun. 2003: 3B.
44 Johnson. Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties, rev. ed. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991: 670; Rothbard, op. cit.
45 Rothbard. “Government and Economy.” LF Jan. 1975: 3.
46 National Emergencies Act of 1976, 50 U.S.C. 1601-1651.
47 Schulman, Bruce J. The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. New York City: The Free Press, 2001: 47-48; Woodward, Bob. Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1999: Pt. 1.
48 Kwitny, Jonathan. Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, 1st ed. New York City: Congdon & Weed, 1984: Ch. 9; Stockwell, John. In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story. New York City: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978.
49 Hayward, Steven, and Allison R. Hayward. “Gagging on Political Reform.” Reason Oct. 1996: 20-26.
50 Nevins, Joseph. A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 2005.
51 “Carousel.” Dynasty ABC-TV, 21 Dec. 1983.
52 Rothbard. “Politics: November ’75,” op. cit., 1-2.
53 Dionne, E.J. Why Americans Hate Politics, rev. ed. New York City: Touchstone, 1992: 204-208.
54 Kiser, Jane. “See Our First Granddaughter!!!!” E-mail to Eisler et. al., 6 Dec. 2006; J. Kiser. ”She’s a Sweetie!” E-mail to Eisler et al., 28 Dec. 2006.