The Austin Chronicle


Don't Cry for Rainey

July 23, 1999, Columns


Apparently you know traditional neighborhoods about as well as Dan Quayle knew Jack Kennedy. Let me tell you, I know traditional neighborhoods. And Rainey Street ain't one.

I grew up in a traditional neighborhood. My grandfather's barber shop was downstairs, right under my bedroom. I was awakened every morning by the first clatter of the 6am trolley rolling by 30 feet from my window. The police station was across the park next door. The drug store (soda fountain and all) and the grocery store were four and eight hopscotches away.
School was a 15-minute walk. In winter, a 10-minute run. A 10mpg Suburban to take us to Little League practice? Ha! "Young man, it's only 20-minute walk, the car is for emergencies and vacations ..."

We often played in the street because many yards were little more than grassy postage stamps. We'd hook tin cans to two ends of a string and stretch the 10 feet into our buddy's bedroom in the house next door, pretending we could hear each other through the cans, when really our voices could carry the distance better than our "technology" would allow.

Let's don't despair of the loss of what some perceive to be "traditional neighborhoods." Instead, let's create them by building sidewalks, sprinkling retail and services into the existing neighborhoods, and encouraging a variety of housing types, densities, and lot sizes which stimulate vitality, diversity, and economic equity and make mass transit economically viable.

Your newspaper can be a catalyst in encouraging that type of change. But you can't cry over the development of "every empty lot in the inner city" and lament "unabated ... sprawl" at the same time.

Richard Maier

Movie Review Not Explicit

Dear Sir:

The movie I went to see Saturday at the Dobie was sold out. We picked up one of your Austin Chronicles to find out about the next movie starting which was Relax ... It's Just Sex. Whoever told you that they had seen Relax and wrote the review printed in the 7/9/99 paper needs serious help. Nothing in your paper's write-up mentions that this is explicit gay sex. I realize that we heterosexuals are becoming a minority in Austin, but maybe we could get along better if we were properly warned about movies like Relax. Five minutes into the movie we left. Where can one get an accurate, honest preview of movies if you do not choose to fill this need?

The Chronicle let us down completely on this one. Thanks for your time.

Carl Noble

Clueless Coach


Hey! "Coach" Cotton! Would you like to hear a definition of "an idiot"? "An idiot" could be someone who spends a great deal of time making a great deal of noise on a subject he or she knows absolutely nothing about. But I can't blame an idiot for being an idiot. What I can blame you for is being dead-ass lazy in your column on the women's soccer World Cup [Vol. 18, No. 46]. This piece was a regurgitated, don't-have-a-clue, spiteful version of the same crap you shat out for the last men's soccer World Cup. Geez, I hope the Chronicle doesn't pay you actual money for this! Only one sentence in that entire bitch session had any truth to it at all. "What do I know?" When it comes to soccer, Andy, "Nut'n. Absolutely nut'n." A bit of advice. Stick to your "it-ain't-a-sport-unless-the-scoreboard-changes-every-fifteen-seconds," instant-gratification, no-thought-required kiddie games and leave the most popular sport in the world to those who are capable of appreciating it.

John A. Blackley

Embracing Baldness


In Charles Harp's piece on baldness, he's concerned that women are not seeing that bald is beautiful.

After a near lifetime of being bald, it is my observation that, yes, women as well as men like hair. Most like a lot of it. However, I believe it is a very secondary aspect of one's appearance.
Perhaps a bald person does have a disadvantage in first glance attraction, but charm, wit, and grooming will win in the end.

Furthermore, the baldness disadvantage can be overcome by means other than transplants and toupees. Scarves and hats are an obvious way but tanning is the cheapest, easiest, and most effective. A nice brown sphere can radiate sex appeal effectively just as the antennae of hair does. That's why Afro men look so good bald.

A paint job on the head can also be used positively. I've done this on Halloween and it is fun as well as attractive. Even a self-induced marking pencil could make you more interesting. Chinese characters even.

A last resort perhaps would be tattooing. A large bird with feathers flowing into the hairlines would simulate the look of hair. Or a master tattooist might be able to tattoo the looks of hair itself on one's head. Saving on shampoo might be sufficient to encourage hairy headed men to shave their heads and get a permanent solution to the balding worry.

Tommy X Hancock

Too Sexy for His Hair


You asked what women really think about baldness. Well ... Men who get bald up front are thinkers. Men who get a bald spot in back are sexy. Those who get the "horseshoe," as you called it, think they're sexy.

Lila Guzman

Car Culture


In response to yet another tiresome powwow on light rail held Saturday last, I would like to offer this paragraph from a book review in Sunday's New York Times. The book, The Distance to the Moon, written by James Morgan and reviewed by Bruce McCall, is an examination of American life and the automobile. The book's title refers to the fact that the average American male drives the distance from the Earth to the moon every 17 years. The following is McCall's paragraph.

"What Morgan discovered -- or reaffirmed -- is that cars present and have always presented a rich emotional realm to those millions of Americans inclined (or driven) to explore it. We almost need to drive, for a host of reasons that closely resemble compulsions. For excitement, yes; also for escape, adventure, communion, privacy, therapy, self-expression, even self-understanding. The American passion for driving ultimately involves struggles between independence and conformity, hedonism and logic, individualism and anonymity, action and passivity -- all so interwoven with stubborn historic traits in the national character that we might all think twice before betting the house on mass transit as a panacea for our transportation future."


Robert P. Gerstenberg

Rail Taxes the Poor

Howdy, y'all

I attended the Cap Metro light rail meeting (TCAP) in 1986 and the light rail meeting (AIM) last Saturday. We are told that Cap Metro wants "community input." Same format was used both times, those who attended were herded into smaller group secessions. Two vote-reporting charts were presented to each secession group.

Many members refused to vote for light rail at all, stating it was too expensive or not a step into the 21st century, not modern transportation.

The no votes to all light rail were not allowed on the chart by the moderator; the no votes "input" was to be ignored. In some groups, secession members managed to present their own choice on the second chart, and voted for a more modern transit system other than light rail this was good.

Dissent ran thick throughout the Cap Metro meeting. Gentrification and its rapid eviction of the lower classes in many neighborhoods caused by these light rail plans was actively discussed, many of the secession groups were concerned, and vocal.

Light-rail planning here in Austin is a carbon copy of the planning used in Portland. Light rail is the backbone of the Smart Growth gentrification beast, a beastie with a spine that is enhanced by plentifully planned station/mini-mall vertebrae. These mini-mall/train stations accelerate the rapid increases in neighborhood property values and are placed all along rail lines into the central city core.

Our Cap Metro/Chamber of Commerce does not want any information on above-ground modern transit, just light rail at ground level. Above-ground transit stations tend to be just for transit use -- no frills and no retail stores involved.

Our Smart Growth mayor with Cap Metro's help is desperately trying to raise property taxes in the central city core to pay huge debts caused by excessive land annexations. The plan is to remove the lower-class Austinites from their current affordable housing and land; they are to be "sacrificed, for the greater good." Is the Austin elite building a world-class city, or a no-class city?

Rick Hall

Love Our Mass. Transit

Dear Chronicle,

I found it mildly amusing to read the ongoing discussion of the parking and traffic situation in Austin that included the mention of Boston along with most of the Northern cities as having "very good rail and bus systems" because "cars aren't affordable" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 42]. While Mr. Sumner brought up an excellent point when taken into the context of the present, the fact is that the Boston subway system (fondly known to us as the "T"), the oldest in the nation, began operating before automobiles were even being mass produced!

I recently attended a wedding in Austin when I picked up a copy of the Chronicle, and I've visited Austin on business in the past an am truly enamored with your city, in much the same way that so many college students who study in Boston choose to make it their home after graduation and add to our population. Over the years I've met many inner city dwellers who only need to use mass transit for their weekday excursions to and from work, but have their cars garaged outside of the city as an economically sound choice.

Personally, I find mass transit to be more convenient and sometimes faster than driving, when you consider the difficulty of finding a parking space in congested areas of Boston or Cambridge during peak hours. It's good to see an abundant amount of discourse on this issue, and I hope that you can all work to encourage your city government to make the proper adjustments to your mass transit system to accommodate your growing population. Now if we Bostonians can only convince the "T" to keep their trains running on weekends after the bars close ...


Greg Jamiol


Tomorrow Never Knows


Cheap-shot artist is probably too strong a term for Tom Tomorrow, whose latest "This Modern World" takes a familiar approach to exposing religion for the con game he thinks it is [Vol. 18, No. 46]. Mr. Tomorrow is a master of the unfounded but likely sounding conclusion, and in the July 16 edition the premises are these: a) most if not all of those who claim to have a strong faith in Christianity have sinned; b) people who claim faith and also sin are hypocrites; and c) hypocrites are not to be trusted under any circumstances.

Many have made the same illogical and unfortunate conclusion -- that people who profess Christian faith are not to be trusted. Christianity is a popular target for those who see injustices as a phenomenon that springs from certain ways of thinking, and for some reason it is fashionable to pile on these days. While I do not subscribe to the theory that intent is as important as results, I do feel pretty strongly that the intent of most Christians is to make all of our lives better. What is the intent of those who continually attack Christianity?

Even my limited exposure to the Bible has taught me that according to Christianity, no man or woman is perfect, that everybody sins. Does this make everybody who aspires to an unattainable perfection a hypocrite and thereby untrustworthy? There is not a great thinker in history who would pass the hypocrisy test that is applied to Christians. If we always ignored or derided the words of hypocrites, what would be left?

For the record, I am a non-Christian who worships logic whenever possible.

Michael Bolduc

Save Our City

Dear Editor,

What's happening to Austin? I moved here to go to the university. Once I was here I noticed how conveniently located things were and of course I loved the parks.

Now it seems that Austin is sprawling all over the place. Air quality has worsened, evidenced by ozone action days and more common throat, lung, and sinus problems. I was recently looking through some photos I have of an area by Town Lake. The circle of trees by the Lamar/First Street intersection was so pretty in the spring photos I have, taken back in the late Eighties. I realized driving to work the other day that half of those trees are no longer there.

It really is sad to see the once beautiful skies of Austin turned brown by pollution. It is unfortunate that a solution for growth was not implemented sooner; however, I would really like to remain in Austin and feel that it is not too late to save this city that could once again be beautiful.

Our city and transportation planners need to develop a way to maintain Austin's quality of life by building alternatives such as light rail, repairing existing streets and sidewalks, improving the bus system, and developing shopping and work space in neighborhood centers. Let's not just talk Smart Growth, let's make it happen!


Pam Gonzalez

Threadgill's Not the Same


If only the demise of the nine-vegetable platter were the only change -- but there are others. In an unscientific survey conducted by people who work in my office (who tried to order what they usually do at Threadgill's), we came up with the following list: no biscuits (therefore no biscuits and gravy) and since somehow "yeast rolls" that contain jalapeƱos don't perform the same function as biscuits and gravy; cornbread is still served but only "on request" and it seems somewhat difficult to make one's request known; eggplant casserole is no more; the large and small entrees also have been eliminated and the new "blue plate special menu" is misleading. We hesitate to think what else has been changed or eliminated that we just didn't notice. Each of the individuals reporting had one or more personal favorites eliminated.

May Schmidt

AISD: The Inside Story

Dear Editor:

I am an eighth-grade student at Lamar Middle School. After reading Ms. Smart's "AISD Wins Callous Award," Ms. McDaniels' "Flippancy Affects Children," and Mr. Ruisinger's "More Caring Than Callous" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, Nos. 41, 42, 43], I came up with my own "Postmark."

Ms. Smart wrote, "No wonder kids bring guns to schools." I'm wondering if some adults are so clueless and callous that you're missing the point! It's not about cookies or childish seventh graders who did not get awards. Humiliation, no recognition, and being an outsider lead to resentment, depression, and anger, which equals GUNS IN SCHOOLS!

At Lamar I do not see us as a big happy group of Scotties. It's a complicated web of "in groups" and "out groups." Being in a clique can make or break you. I am not in a clique at Lamar. I will most likely never win an academic award. This is like walking around with a big red bull's-eye target on my shirt. I am the type of person a clique thrives on. With every verbal blow to me they become more popular, and I become more devastated and more depressed. Let me tell you, it sucks to sit there and see the same kids get awards for "academic achievements" when that same kid has been mean to you all year.

It sucks that "the teachers who spent countless hours preparing the award ceremony" forgot my parents and other parents who were not "cheap with their generosity or time." It sucks that the kids that did get awards for high TAAS scores were the same kids that teased and bullied others for being the last to finish the TAAS test. How many other kids across this country are forced to sit through these award ceremonies feeling left out? How many kids across the country are made to feel worthless by their peers and teachers? I can think of at least two out in Colorado.

The awards ceremony at Lamar Middle School did not celebrate the diversity of its students. It celebrated a hierarchy of cliques. These cliques live and breathe on alienation and exclusion. Just as the award ceremony excluded many students for achievements that were non-academic. Why not have a ceremony that recognizes outstanding achievements of all types? The message my principal and teachers gave me is that if you make great grades and do well on the TAAS, yet treat others like garbage, you are better than the student who barely passed but helped others by volunteering or just being a kind person. Seems like the wrong message to me, but then again who cares as long as we pass the TAAS?!

And Ms. Smart should be thanked for warning parents about middle school, because it's not just a scary place -- it can be hell, and the TAAS doesn't prepare you for that!


Andrea Taylor

Local Police Chief Needed


I was robbed on June 29, about $1,400 worth of tools I work with for a living. It was the fifth time in two weeks of break-ins in which other items of lesser value were taken. Hesitant, called 911. Sure enough, a despotic female voice rushed me through the call. I was lucky to have a lab guy over in a matter of minutes. On July 7 and 12 I'm there talking with "investigators" on their air-conditioned 11th Street office, and was told, after looking in their computers, that nobody's been caught to match identifiable fingerprints. For the past 15 years, in this neighborhood, we have lost property, even lives, thanks to the negligence, despotism, and cowardice of the police force and its chief. We even have caught thieves, put them in their hands (to be taken to the court circus). We have talked to station commanders, former chief, former mayor, and they all agreed on us buying burglar bars, security systems, and stupid "neighborhood watch" signs, while thieves laugh, tearless, to death. Mr. Stan Knee should resign, get back to where he came from, and let a cop, raised and schooled in Austin, from within the force, to put all this guevones panzones to work inside the community, out of their cars, out of their offices. You know, make them sweat on their paychecks, and rid the taxpayers of potential lawsuits and violence. We don't want a police chief from California or Houston, and we don't want a police chief playing war games with the elderly, the poor, the immigrants.

Paul Avina

Luther's Theses

Hey Chronicle Dudes,

Every time I read the paper I hear some conservative moron (aka corporate brown-noser) babbling about the NRA, abortions, blah, blah.

First of all, anybody that needs a gun to protect himself in America is a big pussy. The Muslims in Yugoslavia were not unarmed, thanks to Bush Sr.'s arms embargo they were underarmed (go figure). Second, if guns weren't legal people might have to think before they killed each other, so instead of using an overexaggerated phallic symbol they might beat each other to death with breakfast tacos or something. Anyway, if we kept people with life sentences in jail, maybe we could cut down on some of the violence. I read that they sentenced five Mexican mafia members in San Antonio to life in prison. Sending Mexican mafia members to prison is like sending cokeheads to Columbia (I mean c'mon).

And finally I'd like to know why if kids can just say no to drugs and guns they can't just say no to abortions?

Got me befuddled.

Out y'all

Mike Luther

Notes From a Sister

Dear Editor:

A cult has emerged from the gloomy depths of hell, enslaving the hearts and minds of more and more Americans every day. A cult far more dangerous than any "hillbilly," "red-neck" organization ever conceived. Even government officials have joined the ranks of this misguided group of people. What do we call this hateful and destructive group? "FEMME-Nazis!" They make ritual sacrifices of male genitalia on a daily basis, while chanting "All men are chauvinist pigs!"

It was indeed a sad day in history when all of the ugly, overweight women of the world decided to blame men for not being attracted to them. The pure hypocrisy they spew is so blatant that few people ever see it. To say that all men stereotype women is, in itself, a stereotype, and to blame men for the shortcomings of women is simply obtuse. I'm not saying that men don't tend to be chauvinistic, merely that women have their faults, as well. We tend to be overemotional, overly sensitive, and entirely ruthless. In years past, was it not the Queen who arbitrarily commanded the beheading of thousands? More recently, is it not women who suck the lifeblood from their ex-husbands for petty and vengeful reasons? If you say no, you're either blind or a liar.

In today's society, women have the upper hand. We have greater access to scholarships, low-cost housing, and -- lest we forget -- welfare. In addition, we have near complete control over men for we hold the infamous "go directly to jail" card.

So, I say to all the aesthetically challenged women of the world, be proud of who you are. Thank God for what you have, and don't blame men for what you lack.

But what do I know, I'm just a woman.

Joy Simon

Round Rock

Send 'em to the Showers


I have seen the glimmer of hope and it is in Mr. Steve Burns! Yes! Please continue, brother! Amy Babich and her ilk do have "the IQ of a retarded monkey." I support you wholeheartedly. There is no need in Austin for more B.O. I have yet to go to any public Austin function (the Convention Center, book fairs, 7-Eleven) where I have not been inundated by the wretched sour smell of three-day-old sweat coming from a fucking hippie/loser who doesn't use deodorant or bathe properly. The smell of rank death has shocked their olfactory nerves and they no longer smell themselves. I have a suggestion. Let us no longer just walk a safe distance away from these piles of puke, but let us confront them. When you next happen to be standing in line near a person (it is somehow worse when a woman smells this bad, and some do) who smells like he/she has been coated in sour milk and vinegar, do not just walk away. Confront them. Let them know how much they offend you. For example,
"Oh my God! I cannot believe that you haven't dropped unconscious from your own fumes you dirty bastard! Take a goddamn shower, or jump in a fountain if you prefer."

This rank B.O. is pollution. Let's treat it like that. If said stinkpot gives you a rude comment after you tell him/her to clean the fuck up just try vomiting in their face. Make them eat it and breathe it up their nose. That is what they do to us clean citizens every day.

So if you are one of those stupid fucks who feel showering is "uncool" and deodorant is "a giant conspiracy to make us all smell the same and lead us into conformity " (I have heard that one before), then please consider the pleasures and benefits of a little water, some soap, and the knowledge that you will no longer smell like the rotting pussy of a dead gutter-punk whore. Remember people, tolerating this offense is almost as bad as committing it. Do something for the community! Clean up, Austin!

Extremely Sincere,

Roberto Torres-Torres

P.S. Just to clarify, I am not talking about homeless people or those who work outside all day and sweat in the hot sun. These people have a reason. I am talking about all the 16-35-year-olds who choose not to wear deodorant or bathe daily. You fucking stink!

Rail Lightens Our Wallets


Ms. Babich ("Postmarks," July 16) confuses opinion with knowledge and fantasy with fact. Her letter contains the usual assortment of ridiculous ideas and opinions, but her most outrageous statement is that we should tax gasoline at $5 per gallon and use the proceeds to fund public transportation. Transit subsidies are already far larger than highway subsidies, both in total dollars, and more telling, per passenger mile. In 1996, subsidies for transit totaled more than
$19 billion while approximately $2 billion went to highways. Per passenger mile, subsidies were 47 cents for transit and 0.07 cents for highways.

This incredible amount of money is being poured into transit systems around the country that are losing ridership, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of total passenger miles.

Now Capital Metro and misguided citizens are pushing light rail to solve Austin's transportation problems. Light rail in Austin will be a triple gold-plated boondoggle. To illustrate, let's take a quick look at the starter light rail system proposed last year. The following numbers are from Capital Metro's report on the proposal. $700 million construction cost 20,000 initial riders daily $45 million annual cost (including debt service on bond issues). From these figures we can calculate: $35,000 per-rider construction costs $4,700 per rider annual operating cost. Nine Dollars operating cost per person/trip (based on 250 working days per year).

How much more money does Ms. Babich "know" we should pour down this drain? These numbers are optimistic because, according to the Department of Transportation, construction estimates and ridership estimates for transit projects are off by 50% or more on average.

If light rail is such a boon to urban transportation, why am I unable to find a single favorable study of an existing or proposed light rail system? I have looked.

I will take Ms. Babich up on her invitation to attend Capital Metro's public transportation workshop. I plan on doing everything I can to prevent construction of light rail in Austin.

Ron Riley

Where's Texacala?


Must admit seeing your reviews of female musicians in "Lipstick Traces" and knowing that Texacala Jones' new CD on Honey Records was omitted saddened me. A pity that a trailblazing punk rock singer/songwriter is ignored in her own hometown.

Walter Daniels

What's the Big Stink?

Dear Editor,

I was shocked and offended after I read the letter from Steve Burns titled "Good Neighbors Bathe" [Vol. 18, No. 46]. I could not believe that there are people who could be so close-minded. The point Ezra Teter made in his letter to the editor two weeks ago was that people should ride their bikes more, not ride them exclusively. The weekly bike cruise provides people with an opportunity to learn that bicycle riding can be fun and pleasurable. I am offended by how Steve Burns was unable to say anything constructive in his letter. He was only able to thrash Ezra's letter with full vitriolic fury. If Steve Burns likes the way our city has become a concrete and asphalt hell, then perhaps he should say so. Otherwise, he should stop complaining about those who try to make it a better place to live.

Thank you,

Faran Brygo

With Friends Like This ...


Coach Cotton isn't alone in denouncing the women's World Cup soccer match. The game was almost as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow. Even less exciting was ABC's coverage of the match. I've been a sports fan a lot longer than the life span of women's soccer. I will decide what is exciting and what isn't. Nothing turns me off faster than a hard sell, especially a politically correct hard sell. The coverage was so lame I was almost expecting to see some lesbian love story surface in the aftermath.

The coach was right on the mark with his views of media manipulation. The Austin American-Statesman coverage of the WNBA is another prime example of media hard sell. I just polled 54 people along the Shoal Creek hike and bike trail, and not a single person has ever read about the WNBA in the Statesman. The Statesman's extensive full color coverage not withstanding.

History will show the only real draw of the soccer match was its "us vs. them" international spin. Further, the main TV sponsor wasted its money trying to market to me. I'd quit drinking beer altogether if my only product choice was Budweiser.

In closing, some radical, left-wing feminists are no doubt calling me sexist, so please answer this question in writing. Why don't women compete against men in pool (8-ball, 9-ball, etc.) or chess on a pro level?

Kurt Standiford

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