Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bright Star

But there is no light

Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.   Keats, John “Ode to a Nightingale”

 

Melancholy has descended upon me. I’m wondering if the trigger was the movie “Bright Star” that Rayda and I saw the other day. It is the story of the love of John Keats and Fanny Brawne. The problem with stories about Keats is that he always dies at 25, and he dies of consumption every time too. This movie was doubly tough because it focused on his love interest, Ms. Brawne, who took all of this kind of hard. I usually can’t be dragged to a sad movie. This one I went to because I knew there would be a lot of Keats poetry in it. With the exception of Shakespeare, Keats wrote the purest and most beautiful English of any poet in our language. He had the good sense to stop writing at the age at 25, although that decision was thrust upon him. It is a rare poet who can produce anything of true greatness past 30. In fact, it is  a rare artist  of any kind who can produce anything of true greatness past 30. The soul ages in rough proportion to the body, except to the truly gifted such as Grandma Moses and Nolan Ryan.

 

At any rate, watching young Keats cough up blood was probably not the most life affirming way to spend a weekend. Although truly, it is a marvelous film. I don’t know anything about the Greek philosophy of drama and the need for the human being to experience catharsis. I’d just as soon that we all hummed along our merry way and never had to deal with the uncomfortable. I always thought that those 7 Dwarves lived a pretty good life until Snow White moved in on them. After that it was nothing but trouble. But you know, no one would go to see a movie about happy dwarves. Walt Disney used to say that every movie has to have a tear. He took that view to its extreme in “Old Yeller”, but I suppose that he was simply being faithful to his source and true to his artistic vision.

 

It can be a sad world, but sadness is often made beautiful. Keats’ buddy Shelly said it best. “We look before and after and pine for what is not. Our sincerest laughter, with some pain is fraught. Our sweetest tales are those which tell of saddest thought.” In other words, the human being is not a Skylark, or a spelunker dwarf for that matter. So we have to take the sadness of life and make the best of it. We have to learn from it and try to make things of beauty from it as we wind through these “ mossy ways”. And then, of course, there is always Prozac.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's a Living

I was seated at my desk Friday afternoon when I heard the beating of drums out in the street. My window is on the second floor and, unlike high rise office buildings, my office is a “participant observer” in the drama that is daily life on Congress Avenue (The Main Street of Texas !). Drums are not an unusual sound for me to hear, they usually herald some parade, or perhaps a protest marching down Congress. Since it was not a holiday, I assumed that  a group of people was outside my office, marching down the street with a banner which could have been anything from “Honk if you hate lethal injection” too “Obama is not a U.S. Citizen”. I chose not to get up and look. The drum beat went on for a few minutes and then stopped. Ah, the passing parade. But then, about ten minutes later the drum picked up again, just as loud and just as insistent as before, and by now, interfering with what little thought process I have late of an afternoon.

 

I finally summoned the energy to walk the ten feet or so to me window to look out. What to my wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature man, looking much like a homeless elf, squatting next to the bus stop bench across the street, beating insistently on a large white plastic bucket (turned upside down for the purpose of  percussion). Well, this is something up with which I do not have to put. I called my office manager and asked her to call the Austin Police to come do their duty and remove the little drummer boy from the area, or at least force him to stop drumming. She told me they’d called with no luck, the beat went on. I then called the police myself and asked why they had not responded to this violation of the Austin noise ordinance being brazenly  perpetrated six blocks from the Capitol of the greatest state in the Union. They replied that, at present, they had bigger fish to fry (they were probably holding one of their interminable press conferences where they are forced to explain why they have managed to kill yet another citizen in the course of making an arrest). Fine. “I’ll handle this one myself” I said. I was urged to be patient, but patience was never my forte, and what little I had had long ago run out.

 

 

It took me less than a minute to walk across Congress and confront the homeless elf over the  choice of venue for  his concert. “Stop beating the drum” I suggested. “I’m trying to make a living.” he replied. Several bus patrons, waiting for the heavily subsidized Capitol Metro gave me angry looks. This deterred me not a whit. “You are breaking the law. “ I explained. By this time I could see that the wee man was about my age, he also appeared to be missing a number of teeth. All this time, the drumming continued. “Well “ he explained, “at least I’m not robbing your house, some people feel bad for me and contribute money to me so that I don’t have to play.” This is known in the big city as extortion. “No one is going to pay you, although when the Police arrive I’ll tell them of your little scam, let’s just wait for them.”

 

Here my new friend raised up in horror, “why did you call the police ?” he asked, “a nice person would have just told me to move along and given me some money. Besides, I have a lawyer, I’ll be out of custody in 15 minutes. “ Well that was fine with me, that meant that he would be gone for the rest of the day. The elf then picked up his drum and began to “move along” as the cops say. As he walked away he continued shouting at me. To his credit there was no cursing, just a constant reference to the rudeness of my behavior. The bus crowd had, by now, tired of the sport, and greeted his removal with indifference.

 

I went back into my office and maybe a half hour later a cop showed up. “Where have you been ? “ I asked. He responded that the Police had more important things to do when I called, and then proceeded to tell me how I had done everything exactly wrong and that I should have been “patient” and waited for him. He was unimpressed with my argument that I would have then been subjected to another half hour of mindless drumming. He then went on to describe the long since fled culprit to me and it was obvious he knew exactly who we were dealing with. “I could not have done anything anyway because you told him I was coming, I need to sneak up on him and actually hear the drumming. I am getting some overtime to try to crack down on this type of thing.” “How about the extortion ?” I inquired, “do you have to hear that ?” “ No” he said,” I don’t deal with extortion, you have to call the D.A. about that. “ with that, Wyatt Earp turned on his heel and walked out of my office for what I assume will be the last time. We understood each other, he and I, we just did not agree upon anything. His view was that only he is allowed to stop noise nuisances on the street, it is also his view that he usually does not have the power to stop it, so, really, he is of almost no value. My view was that he was lazy and/or hamstrung by the law, and so with regard to this type of crime, a man is on his own.

 

I left later, It had been a good day’s work. I was beginning to “clean up” Austin, Texas. Clean it up to make it a decent place for us and our families to live. I was leaving downtown a better and, importantly, quieter place, than I had found it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Les Miserables

 “Great talent allows for great license.” Dan Akroyd, ( upon being confronted with the fact that the late John Belushi was a drug abuser of outlandish proportions prior to his death).

 

While much of Europe, and a good deal of the cinematic community worldwide, is attempting to turn Roman Polanski into Jean Valjean over his weekend arrest in Switzerland, perhaps it is time to look at one of my favorite issues, whether greatness in any form can be used to trump justice.

 

A long time ago, Roman Polanski admitted to having sex with a 13 year old girl. When it became apparent that he might have to do some jail time ,and find out for himself  what it is like to be on the receiving end of non consensual sex, he skipped of from the United States to Paris where they have a more lenient attitude toward such things. There he has remained for thirty years, continuing to make outstanding films. For thirty years, the thirsty bloodhounds at the Department of Justice have been waiting for him to slip up and wander into a place where they could extradite him. Switzerland was such a place and after a  routine document was filed and acknowledged by the Swiss under out treaty with them to be correct, Mr. Polanski was picked up and held.

 

This lead to the current brouhaha which when broken down is really an argument over two points.

1.       If you can hide from the law for thirty years for a crime you have admitted to, should you be allowed to remain free ?

2.       If you are a world renown film director (or athlete or astronaut or politician or actor,etc, etc) should you be exempt from punishment from the laws which protect 13 year old girls from sexual predatory behavior by adults because you are just so damn talented ?

 

Here we have the French, in the person of Mr. Jack Lang, the former French Cultural Minister, explaining to us that “Mr. Polanski is a great creator and artist”….”In Europe it would be unimaginable to punish someone in this situation.”

Now to be fair, the folks in Arkansas would have agreed with this up until a few years ago (although the couple would have had to have been married) so I’m not here to pass judgment on what would appear to me to be a singular perversion of modern sexual mores. Maybe there are all kinds of reasons why old film directors should be deflowering 13 year old in Europe. It is all somewhat arbitrary anyway. How old was the step daughter  of American Director Woody Allen when he decided that “the heart wants what it wants” ? Right, the heart wanted it , or should I say IT . I don’t recall the girl’s age, but it was close enough to this situation to sicken many of us, leaving aside the putative incest.

 

But as I said, putting aside sex, should a great director get cut slack just because he is a great director ? If you think so, it is probably because you know that that’s how the world works anyway. If you think not, you are probably not going to burn in everlasting hell along with Roman Polanski (again,  I’m trying not to be judgmental). Roman Polanski is a fugitive from justice, perhaps Victor Hugo would have found more sympathy for his position than I do. Perhaps he really is Jean Valjean and the American authorities are nothing but a collective version Javert. Or perhaps Mr. Polanski is really Paul Muni as James Allen in “Fugitive From a Chain Gang”, the 1932 American rip off of Hugo. Whatever. I will bet anyone that Roman is not going to serve time in an American prison. You see, the rich are different than you and I Mr. Hemingway, they are allowed to screw 13 year old girls.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In the Grippe

Influenza is running through Austin now at a brisk clip. Since there is more than one strain going around, and the medical community is no longer checking for the so called “Swine” flu, no one is quite sure of just what strain they are getting. I suppose that since the treatment and symptoms of the two flues are basically the same, it does not matter a whole lot once you come down with it. You still shiver and sweat and ache  for about a week.

 

I can recall three separate occasions of my contracting influenza. A lot of people think they have the flu when they get a bad cold, or sometimes when they have stomach problems (the spectacularly misnamed “stomach flu), but the “true flu” is a different animal, if viruses are animals. If you ever had the flu, you’d know you had it. In fact, it would probably cause you to get vaccinated each and every year against that particular strain. That is what turned me into a flu shot evangelical. I had it two years in a row back in the 80s, and that was enough for me.

 

So I went down last night to get a “seasonal” flu shot (which does not protect against the swine flu, aids or other STD’s and may have certain side effects). I went to the “Minute Clinic” at my CVS Pharmacy where my insurance would cover the shot. When I arrived I began to see the shortsightedness of giving flu shots at a Minute Clinic. The Minute Clinic is an invention of CVS to try to have people diagnosed with diseases which require drug therapy, prescription or otherwise, right in the drug store. The theory is sound. It is certainly convenient to walk three feet over from the Doctor (or Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, whoever is doing the prescribing that day) to pick up your drugs. It is the same reason that Optometrists can be found in optician shops and, for that matter, the same reason why the sell popcorn at the movies. There is nothing as desirable to a seller as a captive customer, especially one with 102 degree fever.

 

The problem is that the Minute Clinics are stuffed back into a corner of the drug store and there is no “waiting room”. People kind of mill around and cough and sneeze on each other. Worse, to sign in, you have to do about a fifteen minute check in procedure on a tap screen computer (that everyone in front of you has already tapped with their infected fingers). So those just there for a shot are taking quite a risk. Only CVS has figured out how to get the people most scared of the flu into contact with the people already suffering from it in such close quarters. It’s not good for the patient, but it is a step up for the Minute Clinic concept of a “point of diagnosis” drug sale. Now CVS can actually make large groups of people sick who would otherwise have never had a sniffle except for the fact that they decided to get the Flu shot (which does not help you until at least a week after injection). For years pharmacies have been trying to figure out ways to increase drug sale, now that they have hit upon this strategy of intentionally making people sick, they are going to really see the profits roll in.

 

Well call me cynical, but I figured out what was going on at the Minute Clinic pretty fast. I left what was at least a thirty minute wait in an area which  sounded like a TB ward and went home. My plan was to get up early this morning and be at the clinic when the doors opened. I would have made it too, except I misplaced my glasses this morning and my vision is so bad that I need glasses to find my glasses. When I finally stepped on them, I had lost 10 precious minutes and thus was only second in line at the clinic. First in line, already punched in on the computer, was Typhoid Mary. I’m not kidding, this was a thirtyish year old woman in the midst of actively dying. I watched her go into the Doctor’s office and expected that if I saw her come out again it would be feet first. Indeed she stayed in with the Doctor for over half an hour while the corner at the clinic filled up with more of the living dead. There were also a couple of guys my age just in for flu shots. One of them was smart enough to move over to the magazine rack, thirty feet away, where I was cowering. He gave me a nod and a knowing grin.

 

When Typhoid Mary was finally released and was having her will notarized by the CVS Notary, I was called in. The Doctor was a young attractive lady whose visage reminded me of  those  in the Civil War movies after they have sawed off about 8,000 legs following the battle of Shiloh. “Pretty rough ?” I asked. “it was wild yesterday” she responded “and today looks like it is going to be more of the same, you are lucky you came in, we are almost out of Flu Vaccine”.

 

“What good is the vaccine going to do me anyway ?” I asked,” it does not protect me against the Swine Flu, and I bet that’s what your last patient, Ms. Lazarus had.”

“Well, you are right” she said “but think how much better you are going to feel after you get the Swine Flu knowing that you at least can’t get the seasonal flu.” Well, she had me there. So I rolled up my sleeve and assured her that I had no egg allergy. She gave me he shot. It must have been some new technique where they inject it into the bone, it hurt like hell. “Any advice on avoiding the Swine  Flu ?” I asked. “Sure” she replied, “Stay away from places like this. “

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Requiem for A Pony

Some things in life you take for granted. They have always been there, they always will be. But that is almost never really the case. The Pink Pony, a Scottsdale restaurant where Time stood still ( at least during the early part of the evening, when “Time” was still sober enough to stand) has closed its doors after a 60 plus year run. For tens of thousands, it is a sad, sad event. For some of us though, it is almost unthinkable.

 

The Pony opened in 1949 and probably had its heyday in the 70s and early 80s. By the time my friend Broyles and I stumbled on it in 1988 it was still the best known and probably best loved restaurant among baseball fans in all of Arizona. You could not miss the Pony, its pink edifice and silhouette of a pink horse (both roughly the shade of aged Pepto-Bismol) beckoned to you as you cruised down Scottsdale Blvd, past the giant cut out cowboy who welcomed you to Old Town. It had been beckoning since Harry Truman ran the country  and it is sad that I missed the first forty years of its reign.

 

While the outside looked like “Pink Barbie” had thrown up all over the sidewalk, the inside was a true institution, assuming that we are talking about an institution of 1955 or so. The booths were fully occupied by the ghosts of the post World War II families, stepping away from their ranch style homes, wearing their sport coats, boots and bolo ties, sipping Martinis and ordering steak medium rare. At least a million tons of iceberg lettuce had been served to those families over the years in the salads the Pony handed out. For the real sports in the group, you might throw in the extra 50 cents (later a dollar) for the homemade blue cheese dressing. I once directed a friend of mine to go to the Pony when I heard that he and his family were going to Scottsdale. He called when he got back and gave the perfect description of the experience (he had been twice). “Wade” he said, “it was just like  a place my dad would take my mom for their anniversary, their FIFTH wedding anniversary.” That was the Pony, but only a portion of her.

 

The Pony was also a room full of drunk baseball men and spring training tourists, jostling for tables and trying to catch the eye of the owners wife who “worked the rope line”). There she would sit, chain smoking, and woe unto those who wandered in during the month of March without a reservation. She would give you her shriveling look of disdain at the nerve of one who believed that the Pony took walk in trade. The she would turn in her spiral bound notebook to look for a date that week when she might just squeeze you in. Even when you had a reservation, of course, you had to wait, often for quite awhile, but that was OK, you could stand at the bar and look at the Pony’s grand collection of baseball memorabilia. If you were over about forty, every name on picture, bat or ball evoked a memory, and a pleasant one at that. But that was March, that was the Pony’s season. March. Come back in November and you would be sitting alone in the same dining room you had fought so hard to get into. One of the sadder things in life was the Pony in winter. It was dark and quiet, only the overwhelming smell of  tobacco ,which was layered into the wall paper over the decades, reminded you  of where you were, that, and the homemade blue cheese dressing. The bats and balls hung glumly against the darkened walls, unsung, awaiting the coming of spring.

 

But I prefer to think of the gayer times. The night Harry Carey came bursting into the bar hollering “Hello everybody” and the crowd returning the salute in unison “Harry !” . It was the first time I had seen Harry in the flesh and was, of course, the sad harbinger of the events, set in motion by myself, which lead to that great man’s death years later. I like to think of the night I turned  to the short dumpy man in the urinal next to me, when I sang out “How ya doin’ Zip ?” believing myself to be standing at relief with the manager of the Chicago Cubs. I like to think of the great night when Gaston and I lead our brides into the Pony and had the table picture made for us by a willing waitress. If the girls had had corsages, it would have been a perfect picture. It was not a perfect evening. My wife had to struggle to overcome the putrid smell of the evil weed which surrounded you on all sides, the noise of the drunken baseball fan and, in her words, “a completely tasteless Pork Chop”. Well excuse me your royal highness ! Not even a nice word about the thin blue polyester ties with the pink pony emblazoned on them that Gaston and I sported for the occasion. Some restaurants are an acquired taste, some, like the Pony, are given as a birth right. Rayda never ate a good meal at the Pink Pony. I never ate  a bad one.

 

All the weeping in the world won’t bring the Pony back, and, after all, sixty years is a pretty good run. Still,  there is an emptiness in the  soul now which can never be filled, for the Pony was not really a restaurant, it was a Temple. A Temple that smelled like cigarettes , looked like chewed and discarded bubble gum and (often) tasted like cardboard, but a Temple none the less. The old world is dying.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lowbrid

Last year at this time, the good people at Hertz made a mistake and gave me a Cadillac. This was before G.M. went into bankruptcy and the Cadillac mark still had some value. I walked over to my stall at the Hertz garage in the San Diego airport Friday and found that I had been given an Altima, which seemed nice to me.That was before I got into the car and could not find the slot for the key, and before my wife told me that we had been rented a Hybrid. Did you know that these Hybrids use push buttons instead of keys ? Did you know that there is nothing on the dashboard which tells you how the button works ? Did you know that when you push the button, the engine turns on but you can't hear it which means that you keep pushing the button again and again, like you are waiting for an elevator ? Well I did not.Did you know that if you scream loud enough about trading in "this piece of shit hybrid for a real car" that your wife (or at least my wife) will get upset with you ? Some of you did know that.

The world is moving too fast. Why did it become necessary to turn this Hybrid into a keyless vehicle? Can't we just take things one step at a time when we are changing the way we have lived for the past 80 years ? If you have to push a button, couldn't they make the engine roar like a jet airplane when you push ? That way you know that you did something right. No amount of world fuel savings can possibly be worth my having to change a lifetime of familair automobile patterns.I don't know why they don't check with me before they do these things.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Amon, Allen and Barbara Allen

Don’t you remember the other night

When we were in the Tavern ?

You drank a toast to the ladies there,

And slighted Barbara Allen.                Barbara Allen, Traditional

 

I can hear the seagulls now.              Allen Porter, attributed to Will Rogers

 

 

Alastair Sim , the English actor, was the finest Scrooge in the history of film. He appears in the 1951 version of the “Christmas Carol” should you ever want to see it. At the end of the film, Scrooge, having survived his three ghosts, pays a visit to his nephew Jacob’s house for Christmas Day. Jacob is the son of his late sister, his only surviving relative. Scrooge has been invited to the house yearly and has never gone. As he makes his way up the walk toward the door, the snow is falling and all we see is Sim’s back and the back of his head. Just as he is about to knock, the strains of Barbara Allen begin to play and his shoulders and head slump briefly in a sign of regret, which the song symbolizes. It is this moment which separates Sim from all the other actors who have ever played the role. The simple sign of regret.

 

In the song Barbara Allen, both Barbara and the “Young Man” die of regret, or at least are   in a regretful state as they die,seperatly and alone. Nothing in the world is sadder than regret and it is almost impossible to escape this life without having some, even if you are Sinatra and have “too few to mention”. I have had some regret the past week are so.

 

I have been reading a biography of Amon Carter. Carter was the longtime publisher of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and about half of the public spots in Ft. Worth are named after him. In his heyday, the 20s through the 50s he and his paper spoke for West Texas. The book, written by a fellow named Jerry Flemmons about thirty years ago, is delightful. My father was a West Texas boy in the Carter days. The paper on his breakfast table (and every breakfast table from Ft. Worth to El Paso) was the Star Telegram, and when he was old enough, he went down to the Train Station every morning, picked up and delivered the Star Telegram to the folks in his town. The newspaper and the country shaped my father. He lived in the big  city for almost sixty years, but a part of him was always West Texas. A part of him was always the Star Telegram and the myths of Amon Carter about West Texas.

 

Many years ago, someone, I think it was  the New York Times Magazine, ran a chapter of the Flemmon’s book in their publication. I don’t recall why. I was delighted with the story and sent it onto my father who was equally delighted. The next time I saw him he told me that he regretted that his brother Mike,  who had recently died, had  not seen the story. For a number of years I searched for a copy of the book for my father. It was quite rare because the publishing house which printed it had had a fire and it had destroyed most of the inventory. Every time I found the book at a used bookstore, it’s price was too high, always $50.

 

Book people (and I am one) are funny. They may pay $100 for the most frivolous time imaginable, but they will only pay exactly what a book is worth. I knew that book was not worth fifty dollars and I never bought it. Until last week, when I found a battered copy for $7.00. I began to read the book and found it to be even more delightful than I had imagined. Then, somewhere along the way, I began to hear the strains of Barbara Allen. Why had I never purchased the book ? Was my own father not worth a lousy fifty bucks, even if the book was overpriced ? Every few pages there is a reference in the book which reminds me of him and the stories he used to tell me about his boyhood. Regret set in deeply.

 

My favorite part of the book involves Will Rogers, a man who was very close to Amon Carter. Flemmons tells the story of Carter taking Rogers to the bank of the Trinity River and explaining to him how Ft Worth was going to dredge the river to the Gulf of Mexico, making Ft. Worth a port. Rogers wryly smiled and told Carter, “I can see the seagulls now. “ Or according to Flemmons that’s what he said. When  my dad told the story he  substituted the word “hear” for “see” which, because of the distinct cry of the Gull , is a lot funnier than the Rogers version. I’d have given anything to talk to my dad about that part of the book. Rogers had been a particular hero of his and he was devastated when Rogers and Wily Post died in a crash in Alaska when my dad was about 12.

 

Time passes so swiftly, my dad has been gone for a year, Flemmons for ten years. Carter died more than a half a century ago and we are fast approaching the 75th anniversary of Rogers death. All of these folks are closely linked in my mind, how can they be separated by so many years ? I would have to check, but I’m not sure that there was ever a time when they were all on the earth together. But there they are all joined, in my mind, the strains of Barbara Allen playing over them.

 

I think regrets are natural. I’m not even sure that they are always such a bad thing. They are life lessons, even f they are of the “hard knock variety”. I think it’s better that I have the regret that that I never got to read the book at all. It has been good to be with my dad again this last week.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Local Man Celebrates Return to Dillard's Men's Department

Austin blogger Wade Porter strolled into the Dillard’s Men’s Department at the Barton Creek Mall this morning, announcing to anyone  who would listen that “they have seen the last of me in the ‘ Big and Tall ‘ Department ! “

Porter, who has dropped enough sizes on his present diet to have to now shop where normal sized men shop, was met with a decidedly mixed greeting from Dillard’s Men’s Wear sales personnel, many of whom had caught Porter’s act before.

 

“This is not the first time that Porter has “returned” to the Men’s Department. “said department manager Hubert Stone. ” “ He is one of the type of customers that we refer to as ‘yo-yos’ because their weight goes up and down , at times straddling the sizes of pants where Men’s Wear merges into “Big and Tall” wear. Actually, Porter is beyond yo-yo status. We call his kind ‘Super Balls’ because they go down in weight, but then bounce back so high that we don’t see them again for years and years.”

 

Some of the newer sales personnel appeared dubious that Porter could fit into anything on the rack in “Mens”. He was directed over to the “relaxed fit” area and urged to try on a pair of “expanding” pants. While being taken to the dressing room, Porter waxed philosophical about his weight loss. “It’s not really a diet” he claimed, waving off the very idea, “it’s a life style change ! “ One salesman noted that this was the third such “lifestyle change” he had seen Porter go through and wondered aloud just how many life style changes a person can get away with in one lifetime.

 

“He will come out in a minute to have us look at his pants” muttered Chester Walton, department assistant manager. “ Then he will go into an elaborate explanation of his dieting regimen. It will be a complicated and confusing recipe of exercise and nutrition, and you know what ? In the end it will be a matter of him burning off more calories a day than he takes in. Some big secret.” Walton continued, under his breath, “then he will buy only one lousy pair of pants because he will tell us that he has no idea how much weight he will lose, so he can’t afford to buy a lot of clothes that will not fit him in a couple of weeks. I’m tempted to tell him that he will always be able to wear them again when he starts regaining the weight. “ At this point, several of the salesmen began speculating as to whether this meant that  Porter had to wear the same pair of pants every day. “You think the other pants just fall off of him ? “ asked Sonny Craig, who is moonlighting at Dillard’s during the current recession, having been furloughed from his job at Vinson & Elkins law firm and starting up his own practice in a trailer in his back yard. The comment brought a general uproar from a sales staff that had not sold three items between them during the first four hours the store had been open.

 

Porter emerged from the dressing room and beckoned a couple of salesman over to look at the fit of the pants. Noting that he had no discernable butt, a couple of salesmen said that the fit “did not make a whole hell of a lot of difference anyway. It’s not like anyone gives him a second look.” Following the purchase, Porter left the men’s Department, taking the long way out  of the store so that he could hold his new pants up over his head in triumph  as he passed the “Big and Tall” department. “Big deal, he’s still fat” shrugged Lester Whitehall, longtime “Big and Tall” salesman. “He will be back”, said  department manager J.B. “Shorty” Nowatny, “they all come back.”

Friday, September 04, 2009

RE: September Song

 

 

From: Wade Porter
Sent: Friday, September 04, 2009 11:50 AM
To: Wade Porter
Subject: September Song

 

Oh it’s a long long  while from May to December

But the days grow short when you reach September

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.    Weil and Anderson   “September Song”  from “The Knickerbocker’s Holiday” (1938)

 

 

Try to remember the kind of September

When life was slow and oh so mellow.

Try to remember the kind of September

When grass was green and grain  was yellow

Try to remember the kind of September

When you were a tender and callow fellow.   Schmidt and Jones, “Try to Remember” from “The Fantasticks” (1960)

 

 

You can look at Septmeber  any number of ways. I always look at it fondly because it means that the month of August, which is tied with February for the worst month of the year, is over. The writers above looked at September in two different ways, but both teams were using Septmeber as a metaphor for a particular time of life. Looking at a life span as a year is a traditional metaphor, and it is a good one. Not that metaphors have that much to commend them. Metaphors are really  only half a loaf (get it ?). A metaphor is what is left remaining  after the myth is no longer believed. It is myths that speak the truth to us. Metaphors are just descriptions. Short hand renditions of the truth. They spring from the mind of a single writer (before they are stolen by others) and not from the collective memories of the human species,  as does the myth.

 

I am, in the words of Sinatra, in  “the autumn of the year”. I like to think that it is September, but I am sure that more than a few of my friends believe that I am more closely approaching Halloween than Labor Day. But it’s my blog, and September it shall be. Weil and Anderson say that the days are growing short. I guess that’s the traditional view (before the institution of daylight savings time, which now runs through Novemeber). Of course these fellows were writing during the depression when the life expectancy of an individual was shorter. I like to think that October is the new September and that a lot of us may survive at least until next year’s Groundhog Day (are you starting to see the limits of metaphor?).

 

But assuming that the old limits still apply, the days are going to “trickle down to a precious few” here at any time, if Weil and Anderson are to be believed. “September….November…”, the message is clear, soon comes the chilling frost, even in Austin, where that metaphor is normally as useless as seatbelts in  a New Hampshire car. That last phrase was really more of a simile.

 

But then we have the more optimistic tones of Schmidt and Jones. Where we look back on Septmembers as wonderful times, when not only was the grass green, but you (and I) were tender and callow fellows. Will my September find me tender and callow ? To say that you are callow implies that you know what the word means. Callow comes from the German word for bald and for some reason has come to refer to an immature youth, or, more appropriately, unsophisticated (when it is used at all).I don’t think that Schmidt and Jones meant “Tender and bald fellow” Why would that be such a pleasant memory ?

 

I am many things, none of them are callow, with the exceptions of some parts of my hairline. Still, I like the idea of looking back on these September days with great fondness. September is, like January, a beginning. It goes back to when we were in school and started afresh every year (except in Geometry, which for me was sort of a dejavu experience all thorough high school).It was fun to buy the new school supplies. The 64 color crayon pack with the pencil sharpener was a little out of my league, but there was enough to make me happy. Fountain pens and cartridges which would stain a callow fellow all up and down his shirt sleeves. Rounded scissors, Big chief Tablets, Loose leaf notebooks with the little circle enforcers. On top of that, new jeans and shoes and shirts, a “back to school haircut”. The list of the “newness” of it all was endless, new schools, new teachers, new friends, new enemies, after awhile new cute girls.

 

I’d like to feel that kind of September again. Actually, I’d like to feel a Currier and Ives September just once. Blowing leaves and crisp autumn days, no one sweltering at a  football game. The things we saw in our reading books every year in elementary school in the “back to school” stories. But I’d even settle for a Texas September, unless it included the occasional Hurricanes we had to deal with.

 

I wish everyone, in the September of their lives, or  who is just excited about the beginnings inherent in the real September a great Labor Day weekend. Don’t forget to put away the white shoes until  next Easter (white shoes being a metaphor here).

 

 

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Victory For Common Sense

-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah Eckhardt [mailto:Sarah.Eckhardt@co.travis.tx.us]
Sent: Wednesday, September 02, 2009 7:03 PM
To: Wade Porter
Subject: Re: this morning's paper

Wade:

I couldn't agree with you more. These two are human being with whom I
have personal relationships. While I see great good in them, their
continued employment was a poison to the organization. It is in the
best interest of the organization (and hence the tax payers) that they
move on. I moved to definitively terminate their employment yesterday
and my motion received a slim majority vote.

Thanks for putting in your two cents. I appreciate knowing there are
people keeping tabs on what we do.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

this morning's paper

Commissioner: I had a chance to meet both your mother and father over the years and had a good deal of respect for them. Due to that fact, I am assuming that their offspring can act as the ambassador to reality over at the County Courthouse. Sarah, I never get involved with county matters (until they turn into lawsuits). However, the article in this morning’s paper involving our tax funds paying a quarter of a million dollars a year to two people that appear to have been bent on poisoning everything in their path, including hard working employees who just wanted to stay out of the way, is more than I can take.

 

Now I am a liberal and proud of it. I believe that government can be used as a force for good in our society. It is hard to make arguments like that, for instance for health care reform, when we are treated to  front page stories of waste, incompetence and (really worst of all) extreme pettiness on the part of high echelon county  employees. It does not help to see that we spent $12,000 on a fruitless mediation to try to straighten the two out. The $12,000 would have been better spent on electroshock treatments for the both of them, since I doubt that anything else in the psychiatric arsenal would have worked.

 

All I can request at this point is your vote in preventing either of these two from receiving any further emoluments from the people of Travis County. Their activity shames our government which, in turn, shames all of us.