Mar. 18, 2004
My telecommuting job has turned into a commuting job, requiring my regular presence at Key Energy headquarters about every other week.2 A real bait and switch. For a long stretch, we Plan b contractors weren’t paid on time. Plan b moved its office in January without telling us first. Naturally,3 I managed to track down the new office so I could fax my invoice, and got one of those nervous chuckles ("heh heh heh") from the guy on the other end of the line.
Maybe this is how they do things in California,4 but elsewhere professionals expect promptness from agencies. The matter was serious enough that the Key project manager promised direct payment to us if Plan b didn’t come through.
Thus assured, I was ready to start asking around for a pit bull lawyer to file suit in Orange County, Calif., for breach of contract.5 Meanwhile, I tried to put telemarketers to use.
“Listen, since I’ve got you on the phone….” I explained the situation above. “Now, what I want you to do is call Chief Operating Officer Doreen Wakefield at her direct number and tell her that since she’s got my money, creditors like you will start collecting from her directly.”
“Mister Eisler! I – I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can. You guys are always calling me, wanting to know if you can better serve me, ‘cause I’m such a valued customer.6 Well, here’s your chance – hello?”
You’d think I ordered a chicken salad sandwich.7 I was serious about my request. Although, after all the shit my Dad and I have given telemarketers over the years, we should be on an industrywide do-not-call list by now.
In addition to all that, the flu hit me mid-February.8 I felt like a mobile oil rig backed up over me. This happened while Midland experienced below-freezing temperatures, so no place was warm enough for me. Plus, total strangers suddenly decided to strike up conversations. People pick the damndest times to become friendly. You'd think they'd have sense enough to skip the close-quarters chatter when I’m visibly preoccupied, withdrawn, and spewing pints of lime mucus from half my orifices.
At night, shivering in my motel room, I managed to boost my waxing and waning health by working myself into a rage over Plan b’s behavior, certain that Wakefield had screwed me out of my rightful compensation. I truly felt better physically, though my mood remained blacker than a Kentucky coal mine.
At work, despite the flu, I managed to nail down the scope of the documentation for the project I’m on, write an overview, outlines of the respective documents, and send formal requests for information to the respective subject matter experts. But by Friday, all I could think about was returning home.
Historically, Friday the 13th has been lucky for me. Not this time. Because of the weather, I sat in the Midland International Airport as the fever and chills returned, while the return flight was delayed nearly an hour. Airborne, the shifts in altitude reclogged my sinuses. I continued to snuffle, sneeze and wheeze amid my fellow business travelers. Back in Austin, I opted for cab, thinking I’d get home quicker. The foreign cabbie didn't know his way around North Austin. Few cabbies do, but this hack's accent was so thick I had trouble understanding him, even without my ears clogged up. I ended up having to give him block by block instructions for an hour.
Because of the delays and my illness, I had to miss a big salsa dance at UT, and seeing Ravi Coltrane (son of) at The Elephant Room,9 plus several social mixers for the lovelorn over the Valentine’s Day weekend, plus all the Carnaval and Mardi Gras events. Of course, because Plan b stalled on payment, I didn’t have any money to attend anything anyway.
After the wasted weekend, I had to go through the rigmarole of seeing a government-licensed doctor just to get a prescription for antibiotics – big horse pills – to treat the virus.10
For the first time in days, I was able to sleep for more than two hours, instead of choking on my post-nasal drip or awakening every two hours with the sweats. Except the commuting makes me feel like a stranger in my own home of four years.11
Lucky for Plan b, my first check showed up when Wakefield’s flunkies said it would after I called them. My mood improved. I splurged on a set of headphones for $4.95 at Fry’s. Back in Midland, I plugged them into the laptop and listened to uptempo music through satellite radio while cranking out admin guides.12 It’s healthier than coffee.
Eventually, I recovered fully. Then I attended two parties back to back on Mar. 6. First, Pat Dixon held an early St. Patrick’s Day party at his house in Lago Vista. Miss KT and I spent most of the time in fast repartee, as usual when we get together.13 Later, I drove to Jessica Caplan’s house for her birthday/toga party, which promised “general decadence.”14
To cover both events, I wore a vibrant green silk shirt while I supped at Pat’s. Then, around 10:30, I dropped Miss KT off at her house and continued to Jessica’s. I put on a robe, dark blue shading toward royal purple, and behaved in an imperious manner. The bottle of Chianti15 I brought neutralized any objections to my sartorial conformity. Overall, the attire tended toward opaque garments that cloaked the participants, who behaved decorously throughout their imbibing. I guess decadence isn’t what it used to be.
Now, if I’d unbuttoned my shirt to the sternum, and substituted the robe with gold chains,16 tinted aviator shades,17 and a purse, I could’ve posed as a modern Roman.18 Subtract the purse, and I’d be a Northeastern guido.19 Mediterraneans can be so tacky.
Speaking of tacky, I attended the TCLP county convention on Saturday, Mar. 13. It’s the only event that could get me downtown during SXSW.20 I needn’t have bothered. Attendance was maybe a third of the 2002 county convention. Unfortunately, this remnant still elected Rock Howard to a second, non-consecutive term as chairman.21
However, to my surprise, outgoing vice chairman Rick McGinnis arose to speak against Rock Howard’s nomination. McGinnis pointed out that Howard doesn’t listen and doesn’t know how to present himself in public.
That’s for damn sure. Back in November 2001, Howard spent a four-figure chunk of his own money to bring former Rep. Don Gorman, L-N.H., to Austin to conduct a two-day seminar on how to win. By the end of the second day, Howard was visibly confused.22 What’s more, Howard never integrated Gorman’s expensive advice into his political approach, and actually dismisses it when someone brings up his name.
Howard won the chairmanship with the lowest number of votes of anyone
nominated at the convention.
On the plus side, the delegate elected my friend Bob Ruliffson secretary, so the accounts of the coming debacle will be accurate.23
Volunteer Petition Coordinator Wes Benedict thinks the Texas LP has a 50 percent chance of failing to regain ballot status for this year’s election.24 If that happens, all the LP candidates must cease their campaigns, and the party will have to wait until 2006 to seek ballot status again.25 The TCLP meanwhile would effectively retrogress to being a social club, making Howard “King Shit on Turd Mountain,” to borrow my dad’s memorable phrase.
The TCLP also nominated several candidates for public office. During the vetting process, Howard asked if I thought “Beau” Howell, a contender for district attorney, would be an embarrassment to the party, “like Neal Boortz.” I refrained from uttering one of several cutting comments that came immediately to mind, because I didn’t want to unduly influence Howell’s nomination.
Mind you, the LP has a pretty high threshold for embarrassment. Nancy Neale, organizer of the LP convention in Atlanta in May, and wife of lame-duck national chairman Geoff Neale, invited Atlanta-based radio pundit Boortz as a convention speaker. This is the same Boortz who continues to support the Iraq invasion and the expansion and use of federal police power to crush domestic opposition to the war.26
To hear or read their prickly evasions, it’s obvious the Neales are trying to avoid admitting publicly that they fucked up by inviting Boortz.27 In turn, Boortz has been pissing on their shoes ever since.28 The Neales have been squirming about that, too.
I suppose I should be touched that the Neales are defending each other. I once heard Geoff loudly proclaim that if he decided to kill himself, the opinions of his immediate family were of no concern to him.
In fairness, a lot of people, even a lot of libertarians, have flunked the issues raised by events since Sep. 11. Only Geoff has managed to flunk at least three times. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was – well, whatever the opposite of an agent provocateur is.29
(As an aside, several of my readers have inquired about an Austin Dispatches that focuses on the post-Sep. 11 developments, particularly the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. I’d anticipated writing such an issue, but the topic has become so large, multifaceted, and fluid, with new developments almost daily, that I can’t write about it to my satisfaction, given my time and financial constraints.30 Instead, I’ll have to stick with what a friend called “Seinfeldesque”31 commentary on my social life. Various pertinent books have been published in the last three years, but I have yet to read most of them. The few I can recommend can be found at my recommended reading list, Part C(7)(d).)32
Hershey has introduced a new candy bar, S’mores.33 This new candy is a tidier, room-temperature variation on what Pat McManus describes as a:
child’s standard camping dessert, consisting of chocolate bars and toasted marshmallows sandwiched between Graham crackers. Have been known to cause child to become semipermanently attached to his clothes, sleeping bag, pine needles, and anything else he comes in contact with. Although a child may consume half a dozen S’Mores, two are considered a lethal dose for adults.34I felt better about buying that candy bar than some other sweets. Recently, in a low blood sugar mood, I was conned into buying a box of Girl Scout cookies, thereby supporting a group with a one-world government, radical lesbian agenda,35 and itself the distaff spin-off of a paramilitary group started by British imperialists36 after the Boer War37 to brainwash youths to fight and die for thinly disguised theft and murder. On top of that, the box is the same size but the contents have shrunk by half – a mere dozen sawdust-texture cookies for $3!
Thomasville Furniture has introduced a new line of furniture, the Bogart Collection. The ad campaign harks back to the glamour of the ‘40s and ‘50s,38 even though Humphrey Bogart specialized in playing seedy, hard-boiled types.39 I imagine Bogie looking around at some arrangement and asking, “Of all the knickknacks in all the furniture stores in the world, why’d you have to buy this piece?”40
Characters actors Robert Loggia, Steve Buscemi, Joe Santos, and Frank Vincent have joined the cast of “The Sopranos” for its fifth, and presumably next-to-last, season.41
In a related vein, union goons shut down nonunion production of MTV’s “The Real World” in … Philadelphia?42 Organized labor did MTV a favor. Philly’s vibe is way too ethnic, gritty, and blue-collar to mesh with seven white-bread morons culled to live in a house without paying rent.43 Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom described the city as “One big swamp of miserable humanity. They cut your throat for a laugh down there.”44 Unless the network wants to do a confrontational reality series where the protagonists get conned by cop killers45 and corrupt politicos;46 get beaten by irate union members; get murdered by hippie gurus,47 eccentric old money scions,48 or mafiosi sharking their way to the top;49 or get fat scarfing on cheesesteaks,50 scrapple, and soft pretzels51 with cream cheese52 because there’s nothing else to do in town. I’d subscribe to cable to watch that.
A new glossy magazine, Brilliant (“Texas style and substance”), has hit the racks. February’s cover story profiled Texas’ most eligible singles.53 Once you read through this article, you understand why these people are single. They’re too high maintenance.54 For example, Lisa de ‘Chantal Endres. “Marketing director of Worldwide Court Reporters and Worldwide Litigation Group in Houston, she works with the top law firms throughout the country…. Biggest turn off is negativity ….”55 Negativity? Hon, you work with shysters.
The March issue of Hill Country Sun has a feature on the shop of a business acquaintance, Lani Steingraph.56
Conspiracist broadcaster Alex Jones was mentioned repeatedly by callers on Mar. 12 during C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” much to the dismay of host Brian Lamb.57 I’ve met Jones. He’s entertaining in small doses.58
A Caucasian suspect robbed the Wells Fargo Bank branch at 1700 W. Parmer Lane on Mar. 6.59 Austin police charged the survivor of a Mar. 5 two-car traffic collision near West Braker and Kramer lanes with intoxication manslaughter.60
J.C. Penney is closing its call center, at 12246 Running Bird Lane, just southeast of the Parmer Lane/Metric Boulevard intersection, by the end of May.61 Neiman Marcus will move into The Domain.62 Touch-screen manufacturer Touch International Inc. has moved into a plant at 2222 Rundberg Lane.63
The Lower Colorado River Authority rampaged through Gracywood Park to trim trees away from power lines, to the dismay of local residents.64
Return of the Son of Cheaper Movie Premises
Candyman: Sammy Davis Jr. tortures the world with a cheesy pop tune.65
Platoon: Manager rotates players during a baseball game.66
The Wiz: Black family tries to get northeastern home electronics chain to deliver purchase to their ghetto residence.67
Bounce: Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow must work in a fabric softener commercial when their Hollywood careers crap out.68 William Shatner appears in a supporting role.69
Wolf: Jack Nicholson leches and leers at attractive women. Actually, this premise isn’t much different from most of his movies.70
A Shaggy Dog Story
Recently, Mom baked a blueberry pie. She set it on the cooling rack on
the kitchen counter. Then she went upstairs to do something. A while later,
she and Dad heard a yelp. They went to the kitchen. A big bite was missing
from the pie. They went into the laundry room. One of the dogs was trying
to act nonchalant, oblivious to the prominent blueberry stain on the white
fur around its lips, straight out of "The Great Pie Robbery."71