Our readers talk back.
A Terrible Loss
I am writing to you and The Austin Chronicle family because today in the Austin American-Statesman I saw an obit for an employee of yours. This fellow and I first ran into each other just last month for the first time ever. Actually, he ran into me while I was parked behind him in line for the ATM machine at the Wells Fargo Bank on Far West Boulevard. That is how we met for the only time; he backed into my car in his big white Ford Club Wagon on Feb. 11 about 2:30pm because he didn't see my little car behind him.
He told me his name was Chris Robbins but I noticed that the AA-S said he was Kris Van Robbins ... it was the same fellow I know because he told me then that he worked for The Austin Chronicle under Dan Hardick.
He immediately apologized and said that he was sorry for backing into my car and causing the damage that occurred to my front end; I told him that it was lucky that the Chronicle was not distributed on Tuesdays and I did not mention to him that I knew Margaret ... or Nick ... or Louis and Anne. There was no need to mention it because he was so refreshingly open about everything; he insisted upon the two of us going inside Wells Fargo Bank so that he could give me a photocopy of his insurance policy.
He was a tall, striking guy with piercing eyes and a humble manner. He struck me as being so very honest about what he had just done that I liked him immediately. When we talked that day last month, neither of us knew that he would be dead in three weeks and a day. His insurance company has since told me that he backed into someone else the next day (Feb. 12) on North Lamar.
The obit in today's AA-S implied that he was an accomplished musician. How very sad for everyone in the Austin music community to lose someone so young.
So Long, Kris
To many folks within the Austin music community, the death of a friend and fellow musician Kris Van Robbins comes as a tremendous shock. Kris apparently took his life on Tuesday, March 4. He will be dearly missed.
To those who knew Kris, he was a true friend, a great drummer, totally unselfish, extremely dependable (he would even find a replacement if he couldn't make the gig), full of wisecracks and jokes (plenty of dirty ones), full of life, inventive, and an all-around unique and amazing person. Kris performed with so many Austin-based musicians over the years, such as Color, Mantic, Floramay Holiday, Jane Bond, Danni Leigh, Thunderfoot, the McKinney Brothers, Kevin Fowler, Colin Gilmore, and others.
Everyone who knew him also has some classic "Van" stories, such as the very often pause (like talking to him via-satellite) whenever you'd ask him a question or tell him something. Or him always asking for Lone Star Beer, no matter what state he was traveling through. And then there were the frequent dirty jokes, or the way he could get you laughing hysterically, and to only start laughing harder because of his goofy laugh.
Many of us are feeling selfish right now, because we weren't ready to let him go. Kris helped so many through difficult times, and we will all always be grateful that we got to know him and call him a friend. As one of our mutual friends said "Heaven just got one hell of a drummer."
Fashion Avatar/Political Pundit
To Stephen Moser,
I just wanted to commend you on your excellent essay re: the stupidity of our nation's leader and his insane desire to further upset the world with his war against Iraq ["After a Fashion," Feb. 28]. I feel I am neither a "peacenik" nor a "flag waver" but pretty much a "middle of the roader" in most things. In the "whatever-happened-to-Osama-bin-Laden" vein, what ever happened to the reconstruction and democratization of Afghanistan, why two years after the event of 9/11 is Iraq suddenly the big fright? Well, I digress, I just wanted to tell you I appreciated your (and all the others) column.
P.S. As regards to alerts, I don't feel I look good in yellow either but it is preferable to orange.
[Re: "As You Like It," March 7]
Good work, but you missed a favorite -- the burgers at the Central Market Cafe (either Austin location). CM may be from south of here, but they know how to put a fine burger together.
S. John Ross
[Re: "As You Like It," March 7]
The burgers and fries at the Crown and Anchor are worth trying. My wife likes Hut's burgers the best, and she is a real burger connoisseur.
Hank Van Slyke
[Re: "As You Like It," March 7]
But you forgot Top Notch on Burnet! Who else has a bag of Kingsford sitting in front of an open charcoal pit that goes all day? Great, thin, tasty grilled burgers, excellent onion rings, and maddeningly thick shakes (one strike for using cheap straws). All that and car-hop service too. But thanks for the other tips.
Long Live the King
When I moved to Austin in the summer of 1991, I went to Sixth Street my first night in town. That night I saw several bands in a few different clubs that are now of course long gone. The one thing I can clearly remember about that evening was stopping for a moment to be entertained by Mr. Van King ["APD Deposes the King," March 7].
I consider myself to be a fairly creative person but find myself at a complete loss trying to imagine what possible harm the King might have been causing to anyone. It's about time the city of Austin puts an end to the lie of being the Live Music Capital of the World. Live music exists in this town in spite of the city, not because of it. It would be just as appropriate if the council were to put up a sign at the airport declaring Austin the leprechaun capital of the world.
Keep Austin Cheap
Informal poll results: Why did I move to Austin? Twenty percent fell in love with someone here. Twenty-five percent, it seemed like a cool place to be. Ten percent got a job here. Thirty percent, I went to school here and can't party like this anywhere else. Fifteen percent, I'm not sure.
Attempts to legislate this sort of phenomenon will most likely fail. Want to keep Austin weird? Keep rents low and the rental apartments and houses groovy.
To James McWilliams:
I really enjoyed this article ["What's in a Face?" Feb. 21]. I am a past resident of Shamrock, and my dad managed the Tower Station, in your photo, during the Fifties. He also always entered the beard-growing contest, and I even have a picture of him wearing one March 17 a long time ago.
This special place, even though seemingly comatose, is filled with wonderful people, who nurtured many a kid like myself into pretty darn good adults contributing to our world.
I hope you were able to get to know a few of them. My cousin Kathy Cantrell Rushing runs the Cantrell Petroleum and Gas company near the Tower Station.
By the way, when do you think this documentary will hit the big city of Seattle where I live?
Thanks again for digging up information and background of this movie. I really hope it is "worth digging into" and not an embarrassment to sweet Shamrock.
I'm So Bored With the USA
It's nothing new: An entire nation's moblike protests are an ineffective factor in the freaky dance of global politics; and then there is the voice of one man, Hans Blix, and his troupe of fellow inspectors. Although he has had the chance to unequivocally say to the world how dishonest Saddam Hussein is or isn't, those reports are now subject to wide interpretation looser than his Swedish socks. Why in this time of fear, collective distrust in our leaders, and the threat of terrorist juntas hasn't a single song been written to canonize or vilify Hans Blix? (Sometimes I wish Joe Strummer was still alive.) Is anyone angsty enough to step up to the plate?
Now's Your Chance
Because the Texas Legislature meets biennially, there is only a single five-month window every two years in which to create state laws. Fortunately, we are currently in the middle of the 78th legislative session, meaning that now is the time to go to the Capitol and voice your opinion.
Regardless of your personal politics, participating in the legislative process is important. Everything we do is somehow affected by politics; our ladders are a certain height because of legislation, our property taxes increase a certain percent because of legislation, city parks exist because of legislation. We like some of these things, and dislike others. We discuss them over dinner, but rarely do anything about them. Now is the time to change that.
Go to the Capitol and tell your representative and your senator how their district looks on the ground. Be organized, articulate, confident, and brief. Afterward, celebrate your role in shaping the future of Texas. Then, plan to do it again the next day. And the day after that. Take advantage of your power as a constituent to create a state you are proud to call home.
House Bill 600
As a citizen of the state of Texas, I urge you to support House Bill 600 as the best way to lower homeowner and auto insurance rates, require 100% rate regulation, ban credit scoring, and improve protections for consumers when insurance companies decide to leave the market. This was a campaign promise of the GOP, and I would like to see if anything actually gets done about this serious problem. I believe that through the support of the media in this state the bill may actually be passed. We will then be able to see if the veto comes out from Perry.
Reviewer Speaks to the Heart
I'd like to inform Kate [Cantrill] that I'm up tonight, as I was earlier, reading her wonderful words, words that are light in the heart and make one want to laugh out loud ["Book Review," March 7].
I'd like to meet her at BookPeople and hope that she brings copies of this incredible piece.
This is the first time someone, a reviewer, has truly spoken with words that were in my head. Eden is not for one race or gender or restricted to the folks of Pyke County, but for all.
Thanks, Kate, for getting it. Finally, someone finally got it. You.
Libertarians Are Better Than You
War on Iraq is being promoted on faith-based "logic." We are good, and they are evil, so war is justified.
In the 1980s America secretly simultaneously supplied arms to Iran and Iraq while they were at war. This had the effect of prolonging the war and driving up the body count. A million men died. America committed an evil act.
It is now known that Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld facilitated the arms shipments. Today they ask us to trust them that war on Iraq is necessary. People who support war on faith-based principles should find better men to place their faith in.
Libertarians sign an oath that they will not initiate force to accomplish social or political goals. Someday the world will adopt this principle.
Vincent J. May
Austin Blues Still Kicking
After scanning the list of 600-plus bands listed to appear at SXSW, I saw 17 blues acts. The music industry considers blues to be only 3% of the market? In the Chronicle this week it was said, "Forget about phrases like 'up and coming.' Gary Clark Jr., a newly minted 19-year-old, is the heir to Austin's blues crown, one that's grown dusty the last few years." And, "Long gone are the days when Austin was defined by its blues scene." Maybe the blues style is better than ever, and the Chronicle and SXSW should sample what's out there more.
Austin had a well-known blues scene in years past -- and it still does, although blues is more prevalent and popular in California, the Northwest, New England, and Florida. Does anyone remember watching Freddie King tear it up and vow, "If they shut us down will y'all go to jail with me? I'm gonna play 'til the sun shines!" (1972 -- Shaboo Inn, Willimantic, Conn.). Or how about at Antone's watching Kim Wilson front an all-star band with members who played on some of the greatest recordings ever made? Or how about seeing local Gary Clark open for Bobby "Blue" Bland at the Victory Grill?
Surely we all remember blues shows that blew our hair back and made us want to go out and buy a guitar. Nothing has changed! It's all still there! Great blues records are coming out monthly, and there are many talented artists making the rounds -- some from here in Austin but many more from all over the USA. Come out and see Gary Clark, the Keller Brothers, Los Lonely Boys, Zach Parrish, or Randy Pavlok's band 24-7. These guys rock -- and play slow, and write songs that will make you dance or even cry. Isn't this what live music is about?
Maybe next year SXSW will support the still-vibrant blues scene and recognize more talent from the blue planet.
"Big Steve" Bigler
The Zach Parrish Blues Band