Dispatch in Search of a Theme
Austin Dispatches
 No. 17
June 10, 2000

Greetings from Austin, Texas.

I'm barely settled into my vaguely Caribbean stucco apartment complex1 in the "Edge City"2 that is North Austin.3 My apartment is the nicest I've ever inhabited. Instead of the usual view of auto body repair shops and freeway overpasses, I can look upon the world's highest concentration of information technology companies from my balcony, including my former work site at IBM's “pink palace.”4

Yes, I've moved to greener pastures, so to speak. Now I work on contract as the Eisler at the Dell.5 Hi ho the merrio, indeed.6 As a pleasant coincidence, Linda Weber, my former Avnet supervisor, also works at Dell.7

We left Phoenix and were replaced by the killer bees, and by Sonny Barger, the man who helped make the Hell's Angels famous.8 Both should generate more bemused, cheesy, sleazy stories for Phoenix New Times, which remains on a hot streak more than a year after I started reading it.9

Myself, I'm maintaining a sedate presence in my new hometown, in contrast to my time in the Valley of the Sun, to which my thoughts often turn fondly. Circumstances force me to concentrate on work, and on boring adult matters like eye exams. My socializing hasn't yet resumed its Phoenix levels, though I've tried to go out as often as possible.10

Why, just last month, I attended a tomato and pepper festival at a garden supply store in South Austin. I imbibed free Italian wine and nibbled free Southwestern nouvelle cuisine under the shade on a balmy Saturday afternoon.11

I saw blues singer Bobby "Blue" Bland at Antone's.12 He and his band put on a good show, marred only by his voice snagging when he launched his quavering falsettos like a jet from a carrier.

I also saw the Sun Ra Arkestra in downtown Austin.13 Of course, Sun Ra is dead (or back on Saturn), but two of the original sidemen and several multidecade veterans remain.14 The band emphasized vocals and swinging standards a lot more than cacophony and electronic sound effects, which was even stranger, since the band still sings about outer space and dresses in a '50s sci-fi version of Eastern Orthodox vestments.15 For example, vocalist Art Jenkins happily crooned the Tin Pan Alley tune "East of the Sun" in the over enunciated manner of a Vegas lounge singer.16 The band also played numbers that could have come from a 1920s territory band, and the audience, unexpectedly youthful, with a substantial number of women, responded by hoofing the Charleston and similar dances.17

Last week, I attended a Louisiana-themed festival downtown.18 I wrote previously that Austin is the westernmost outpost of Louisiana culture (soon to be disgraced as MTV sets another season of “The Real World” in New Orleans).19 That, and the 90 degree humidity, made it seem like being in the bayou, without the effort of travel. I tried a gator po’ boy. It was distinctive and had some bite to it.

Less exotically, I dabbled in health conscious grocery shopping at Whole Foods. What a gyp.  Everything, especially the produce and deli items, was twice as much as the regular unhealthy, "corporate" supermarket. The organically grown produce was twice as much as that, and looked just the same.

Or is sticker shock supposed to make me forget the claustrophobic aisles, the tepid worldbeat music, or the employees standing around, talking about their personal problems. Are the hardwood floors meant to delude the rail thin, pinched-lipped Clintonistas into thinking Whole Foods is a folksy, "alternative" co-op, instead of an interstate corporation that crushed unionizing efforts in Berkeley, Calif., a decade ago?20

Or are the floors intended to distract me from noticing that the lids of the bulk food bins don't open far enough for me to actually obtain any of the contents?

Worst of all, Whole Foods doesn't carry White Castle cheeseburgers in the frozen food section!21

Lastly, this Web site is temporary. I will upload the content back to its November size after I redesign it and settle on a permanent site host.22

1 Greater Austin Apartment Guide March 2000: 208; "Welcome to AMLI." AMLI Life: AMLI at Stonehollow February 2000: 1.
2 Barnes, Michael. “This Couple is Wired, but Totally Grounded.” AAS, 3 Mar. 2000: H6; Garreau, Joel. Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. New York City: Doubleday, 1991.
3 Greater Austin Apartment Guide March 2000: 180-181.
4 AD No. 15 (March 12, 2000); High Tech Austin: Millennium Edition. Ed. Robert Lawrence. Austin, Texas: High Tech Austin Annual, 2000: 73; Gosdin, Melissa. "Austin's Power." TT July 2000: 42+.
5 EAD No. 4 (Mar. 24, 1999); Kobler, 23, 283; Laster, Paul. "Made in Austin: Dell — Direct Success Born in Austin." AM 10 Oct. 2000: 6-9; Orman, Neil. "Dell's Ripple Effect." ABJ 17 Oct. 1997: 27-28+; Pletz, John. "Dell Targets Profit on New Battlefield." AAS 7 Apr. 2000: A1+;  Royal, Cindy. "Finding Fame in Fortune." ABJ 11 Aug. 2000: 21+.
6 "The Farmer in the Dell" in 500 Best-Loved Song Lyrics. Ed. Ronald Herderer. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1998: 95.
7 EAD No. 5 (June 1999).
8 Laughlin, Laura. "Swarming Trend." PNT 25 May 2000: 19; Strausbaugh, John; and Don Gilbert. "Hell's Angel." NYPR 24 May 2000.
9 EAD No. 12 (Jan. 16, 2000).
10 EAD No. 5 (June 1999).
11 "Community." AC 5 May 2000: 98.
12 Dahl, Bill. "Bobby 'Blue' Bland.” All Music Guide: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Recordings From Thousands of Artists in All Types of Music, 3rd ed. Ed. Michael Erlewine et. al. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1997: 478-479; High Tech Austin, 10; Vance, Bill. "Upfront: Quick Picks." XL 27 Apr. 2000: 4; Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co., 1996: 248.
13 "Music." Ed. Christopher Gray. AC 12 May 2000: 116;  Szwed, John F. Space is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra. New York City: Pantheon Books, 1998.
14 Corbett, John. "Sun Ra Legacy Still Up in the Air." DB Feb. 1994: 16; "Upfront Picks." XL 18 Nov. 1999: 4.
15 APSB, 68-69.
16 EAD No. 12 (Jan. 16, 2000).
17 "Charleston." Cambridge Encyclopedia. Ed. David Crystal. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 243.
18 “Bluesical Notes.” Southwest Blues March 2000: 3; Lloyd, Robert. "Up Close." LAW 9 June 2000. <http://www.laweekly.com/ink/00/29/tv-lloyd.php>.
19 Webster's, 1050.
20 Kauffman, L.A. "New Age Meets New Right: Tofu Politics in Berkeley." The Nation 16 Sep. 1991: 294; Royal, op. cit.; "Introduction." World Music: The Rough Guide. Ed. Simon Broughton et. al. London: Rough Guides, 1994: viii; Strecker, Candi. " 'Alternative' " and "Hippie Food Goes Mainstream." in Retro Hell, 5, 97.
21 Richman, Alan. "The Real Burger King." GQ Oct. 1996: 62.
22 Kobler,  219, 268, 276.