The Audacity of Rope-a-Dope

Austin Dispatches No. 203 Mar. 11, 2018

Austinites might deny this, given the self-appointed arbiters of our community’s propensity to signal their loathing of the evil – er, problematic – Trump, but the external ennui I’ve noted began to vanish after he signed the tax cut into law. Walking around, I saw more holiday decorations during the lull after Christmas than the past several winter holidays seasons combined.

Nevertheless, the holiday spirit revived too late. I e-mailed many friends and family Christmas cards, to no response. That’s the last time I make even that minimal effort for them. The holiday spirit must intensify much before it matches the year Miss KT and I sent a Christmas newsletter to more than 100 people (about 25 replied).

Better, Jan. 2, I fielded several calls from recruiters about a tech writing position in Wells Branch. The calls themselves represented two promising indicators. First, the first day after a major holiday, typically everyone back at work spends most of it mentally reconstructing where they left off before they left the office. The calls start the day after. Second, even in the best job climates, January’s in the midst of a dead season for hiring tech writers. The best times are spring and fall.

Foremost, and as I half expected, getting a price break on my final stretch of ObamaCare-compliant medical insurance was the cosmic factor in rejoining the work force – with forfeiting the insurance subsidy as a trade-off. As I trudged off to work, the media buzzed about the movie “Barack Panther,” whose eponymous protagonist fights his foes by increasing their premiums.

These late-stage ObamaCare entanglements are just one issue that keeps me in a sour mood as I strive to replenish my coffers and claw my way back to the prosperity of six years ago. Simultaneously, I must confront the repair or replacement of several major possessions, and must calculate how to backhand and replace my bank, my landlord, and my Internet service provider. In sum, I’m still troubled by the prospect of a brighter past than future.

Neighborhood News

Feb. 24, a gym at The Domain offered free food at my apartment complex as an enticement to sign up new customers. I was on the way to the leasing office to pay rent, so in between scarfing breakfast tacos, I regaled the trainerettes with an anecdote from Austin Dispatches about James Bond Fitness. They failed to laugh. The food was just OK.

Burglars burglarized several mailbox centers in another section of my complex on Jan. 20. A brief power outage struck my building the morning of Feb. 4. Fire broke out at another complex on Jan. 17.

I witnessed two near-collisions, involving the same driver, on March 6 at the southbound frontage road of MoPac Expressway and Duval Road. The Statesman’s Traffic Web page reported collisions at Metric Boulevard and Denton Drive on Jan. 10, at Metric and Cedar Bend Drive on Jan. 11, at MoPac and Parmer Lane on Jan. 24, at Research Boulevard and Burnet Road on Feb. 5 and 9, at MoPac and Duval on Feb. 15, at Metric and Energy Drive on Feb. 20, at Braker Lane and Metric on Feb. 21, and at Metric and Parmer on Feb. 22.

Professional soccer’s interest in Austin has shifted to McKalla Place. The neighborhood’s crowded enough without shoehorning a stadium. However, I might be willing to tolerate it if the organizers can guarantee ‘80s-style European riots with drunken lumpenproles in fisticuffs with cops in full riot gear.

Amazon opened a bookstore at The Domain on March 6. The mainstream selection won’t lure me away from the Web site. Meanwhile, here’s a sample of books I’ve read lately, or tried to before losing interest:


A sushi restaurant at Crossroads Shopping Center has turned Cajun. Developers plan to rename and redevelop the Stonecreek office buildings near Burnet and MoPac and make them part of The Domain. Throughout the neighborhood, nine other businesses have opened and five have closed.

Business Roundup

Two companies that didn’t see fit to hire me continue to experience adverse turmoil. Serves the bastards right.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Jan. 23 Daily Texan about the clamor for Amazon’s second headquarters compares Austin unfavorably to Seattle. I interviewed at Microsoft Sidewalk in Seattle in 1999, and I was never so happy not to get hired, because I had such a negative impression of the city and its inhabitants – and I’m talking about people I saw in the downtown business district. My best friend moved there after high school and quickly came to despise everything and everybody in Rain City.

Lately, the media has been publicizing the practice of today’s youth ingesting Tide pods, brand-name laundry detergent packets. What particularly irks me is that these packets look to be the closest equivalent of Fab 1 Shot detergent/fabric softener packets, introduced in 1987 – one of the best items of that year – and discontinued a few years later, to my annoyance – and this is how I have to learn about a new commercial product I might buy.

Austin Death Watch

Even Councilwoman Laura Morrison, a stalwart supporter of zoning regulations and our municipal zoning code revision project, laments the project’s cost quadruply exceeding the original budget of $2 million.

The Jan. 22 Statesman reports cracks have formed in the new sound-suppression walls on North MoPac that will require repair work. Moreover, the latest botch of the MoPac Improvement Project happens next to fashionable neighborhoods populated by the sort of people who dominate Austin. The Statesman story is just the latest confirmation of my prediction for the project 11 years ago. Incidentally, the MoPac Improvement Project office was at a neighborhood office park where I once worked. Similarly, the City concludes Waller Creek Tunnel Project, after $161 million, is too flawed to properly control flooding downtown.

Jan. 12, a federal jury ruled Austin police officers used excessive force arresting a downtown jaywalker two years ago. The next week, the police department fired two officers for a different excessive force case. The cops arrested one of their own Feb. 26 for drunken speeding on Sixth Street. Meanwhile, the police union decided the City’s police monitor’s office can’t look at police department files, at least while the police don’t have a contract with the City.

A cigar store blamed City indifference as the reason it closed its East Sixth Street location after 20 years. I’m surprised officials didn’t target the business in an anti-smoking frenzy. Speaking of frenzies, the sexual harassment outcry has reached Austin, as the top people at Alamo Drafthouse grovel and cringe in the face of accusations, splashed on the cover of the March 2 Chronicle.

This winter’s flu has induced heightened local health concern, but not so much that people gave second thought to running in the cold, damp outdoors while underdressed.

Bevo and Butt-Heads

The University of Texas rejected funds from a foundation with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Surprisingly, because educrats tend to be both money grubbing and statists of the reddest kind. My alma mater’s parent organization, for example, accepted a donation from a foundation founded by a Japanese reputed crime boss and Axis war criminal, with the rationale that the much-needed money had passed through enough hands to remove any taint.

Despite the official story, I half-suspect UT officials really were offended at being expected to kowtow to deviationist capitalist roaders. Because Feb. 20, the University hosted a workshop and panel discussion celebrating – celebrating – Karl Marx’s 200th birthday. A more suitable commemoration would be called “200 Years of Getting Everything Wrong” where people pelted a cardboard likeness of the dead commie with rotten fruit.

The trustees of the Austin Independent School District voted Feb. 26 to strip Confederate names from four schools. Something I’ve not read in all the argument about the issue is how much it costs for a comprehensive name change – money that might be better allocated even within government schools. Also, while Chronicalista Nick Barbaro cheers the AISD decision because “times change,” by implication, times can change yet again. Perhaps in the future, the names of Civil Rights Movement heroes will suffer the same treatment.

On the Town

Jan. 22: I stopped for lunch at Buffet King at Capital Plaza. The food was so bland, Buffet King should be deposed.

Jan. 23: I saw a hydraulic lowrider for the first time in real life, idling at the intersection of Research Boulevard and Ohlen Road. The driver had a lot of guts to take a custom car out at the tail end of the evening rush hour, especially at that crossroads.

Jan. 26: Whilst grocery shopping on Australia Day, the supermarket sound system serendipitously if coincidentally played the song “Down Under.” Nearby, one clerk explained the lyrics to another.

Feb. 17: Local Asian grocers fret about the metro’s Oriental population thronging the new chain store competition by the rather inscrutable roadways near Lakeline Mall. My cursory impression, amid the teeming masses, was that H Mart’s prices on basic items were higher than its Western counterparts. Wait’ll its intended customers learn “H” doesn’t stand for “haggle.” The 99 Ranch Market at The Crescent shopping plaza, which I visited March 5, is similar.

Feb. 22: Evening traffic in Manor was such that I spent about an hour idling within the city limits because of my decision to shop at a dollar store there after work. That gives new meaning to the slow pace of small-town life.

Media Indigest

Cox Enterprises finally sold the Austin American-Statesman. The Austin Chronicle begged for donations in its Jan. 26 issue, so it can continue for the next “four decades” without “charging for the paper or putting up a paywall.”

Cultural Canapés

The rise and fall of Enron has become the grist for a new musical.

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