Page Two: Sitting on the Dock of the Bay Watching the Tide Roll Away
The Chronicle at 35
By Louis Black, Fri., Sept. 2, 2016
"The present-day composer refuses to die!"
– Frank Zappa, interpreting Edgar Varèse, in the liner notes for The Mothers of Invention album Freak Out!
"Do not write down to readers, write straight at them, and if they have to reach some that is a good thing."
– Ed Lowry's advice to me when I began writing for CinemaTexas
I. Kimberley Jones: "Hey Louis. Next week's issue is the anniversary issue, with the theme of 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Weird.' Short version: Weird = being passionate = which is exactly what we've been doing as a paper and what we're especially celebrating in this issue. ... I imagine you might have a lot to say about the anniversary and our theme?" [email sent Aug. 22, 2016]
II. "Old paint on canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: A tree will show through a woman's dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter 'repented,' changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again." [Pentimento, Lillian Hellman]
"All of it would have made a fine eulogy. But Lawrence Woodman is an old Bohemian whose life experience forms a closely knit mosaic, and to abstract any part of it would for him, rob that part of meaning. To tell about Joe Gould he had to tell even more about himself ...." ["Joe Gould Deceased: Last Rites for a Bohemian Who Stayed on Too Long," by Dan Balaban, Village Voice, August 1957]
III. Manifest Destiny was a deep-seated belief in the 1800s that the United States was destined to stretch from ocean to ocean. The driving idea was that American exceptionalism was moral and philosophical, and inherent in the country was the need to conquer the wilderness, from sea to shining sea.
IV. Ed Lowry: "The process at hand is the construction of an ideal America in the West, a metaphor for the birth of the United States out of Europe and a reinforcement and justification of the American culture. In its confrontation of values (possible alternatives for America), Stagecoach rejects certain attitudes in favor of others: It upholds the traditional family, but rejects inherited status; it encourages individualism, but disavows big business; it forwards a code of personal ethics, but denigrates the restrictions of narrowly enforced laws and public 'morality.' Thus, it conveys a positive image of the values dearest to America, not as it actually is, but as it ought to be." Think about Austin in this context. [CinemaTexas Program Notes]
V. First issue of The Austin Chronicle was published in September 1981. The cover was a disaster. The content was fine.
At the time it seemed like an awfully audacious enterprise. Now, 35 years later, it seems almost inevitable.
This is not a memoir nor a history. It is not a column. It is not really a mosaic but it pretends to be. It offers a lot of Chronicle voices but it is not comprehensive. There are so many not here.
Imagine this as hearing voices, barely audible sounds drifting through one's life that you can't quite make out. But are certain if you just listened harder you could. I can't.
VI. At dinner with the legendary artist, designer, cartoonist, and culture provocateur Paul Mavrides in San Francisco talking about the Church of the Sub Genius. There was so much extraordinary work done in the early days of the Church, he points out, because we were working to wow each other.
VII. "Beat on the brat
Beat on the brat
Beat on the brat with a baseball bat
Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh-oh"
– "Beat on the Brat," Ramones
Where to begin this is so vague as to be uncertain but only because there are so many places. Any number of tent poles which if fully explained could bring a very small part of the picture into greater, more detailed focus. The obvious story, of course, is the last 35 years of Austin history. The just over 1,600 issues of the Chronicle published tell that story in multidimensional ways. And the story of the paper and the people who create it.
The past informs, entertains, instructs, and evokes memories, but in ways is not relevant.
The place to begin is today: The most important story is this issue and the next and the next. It is what is happening and what is coming.
VIII. There are three entities – with three actual physical locations – that figure into the birth of the paper.
CinemaTexas: A graduate student-run film society at UT's RTF department, where Marge Baumgarten, Nick Barbaro, Louis Black, and Ed Lowry met. CinemaTexas showed movies in conjunction with classes in the Radio-Television-Film department (where they were all graduate students) four nights a week. Each film was accompanied by a set of program notes, carefully researched and thought through.
The Daily Texan: the student newspaper at the University of Texas where many of the different players in this early history meet up. This includes Jeff Whittington and Sarah Whistler meeting Barbaro, Black, Lowry, and subsequently Joe Dishner, which led directly to the Chronicle. Other folks who passed through the Texan include but are not limited to Steve Davis, Jay Trachtenberg, Marge Baumgarten, Sylvia Bravo Martindale, Karen Hurley, Cindy Widner, Brent Grulke, Jody Denberg, and Mark McKinnon, among others.
Raul's: Austin's punk/New Wave club on the Drag
Margaret Moser: "I didn't know that Louis considered me valuable because of my notorious-woman mystique. That was probably because I had slept with John Cale a bunch of times and was shameless about it. My girlfriends were a gaggle of groupies known as the Texas Blondes, and we ruled the backstages of Austin and pretty much anywhere else we wanted like rock & roll courtesans. Raul's (and later Club Foot) was our home base, and I was fascinated by it not only for the music but as a magnet for creative energy. Every night was an adventure. It was the CBGB/Max's of Austin and spun off talents that are still doing incredible things." [The above descriptions are quoted from an extensive oral history of the Chronicle published on its 20th anniversary. A history few read. And almost no one noticed. It was published Sept. 7, 2001.]
IX. Nick Barbaro: "Thirty-five years ago this summer, on what may have been July 9, The Austin Chronicle moved into our first office, sharing space with the sorta-famous art collective known as Sheauxnough Studios.
"We were enormously fortunate to fall in with this group – and not just because $300 a month for 10,000 square feet of office space Downtown was a remarkable bargain, even if it wasn't air-conditioned. The Sheauxnough folks had been part of the Armadillo Art Squad, turning out a decade's worth of amazing posters for that seminal Austin club, and had also brought that design sense to The Austin Sun, a hugely influential underground paper of the mid-Seventies (some of whose staff went on to found LA Weekly a bit later, helping move the industry from 'underground' to 'alternative').
"Micael Priest was the leader of the pack, but the other artists in residence were equally talented: Guy Juke, Danny Garrett, and Dale Wilkins at that point – other folks moved in and out, and stopped in to work or hang out, but those four were the core group while we were there. And 'in residence' was not just a figurative term; each of the guys had a makeshift bunk set up, so they could literally roll out of bed and get to work, and we were so jealous, because we had to go home to our own shitty apartments each night, and who knew what drama, or inspiration, we might miss.
"As an added bonus, the space came with a marvelous old Robertson process camera that was about 30 feet long, and took up two rooms, one of which was a darkroom where various substances were consumed, relationships consummated, and tears shed. But with that 30-foot span, the Robertson could reduce or enlarge an image to anywhere from 20% to 500% of its size, with a single exposure. The mind boggled.
"Priest, and then Juke, defined the early look of the Chronicle, and a lot of the worldview, as well. Then within two years, that era was over, and that building was torn down. The Chronicle went on to other spaces, and other eras, and bore witness to the maturation of an Austin music industry, and then a film industry, and then a tech industry. And the artists moved on as well, a few of them still working prolifically, others not still active, but still providing an inspiration to the generations that have come after." ["Public Notice: Shared History," July 8, 2016]
X. Postmarks: "Dear Whoever, You people have a serious attitude problem! By the time I got through your Jan. 22 issue I was worn down by your snotty, groovier-than-thou, ultra-hip, sniveling, fuck everybody attitude ... I hope your publication dies a quick and painful death in the finest Austin tradition." [The paper had only been publishing half a year.]
XI. "It's a hard world to get a break in
All the good things have been taken"
– "It's My Life," The Animals
There was a house on Hollywood near the Delwood shopping center where Ed Lowry and I lived. The first year was the best of my life, the second one of the worst. In September of the second we launched the Chronicle.
Jonathan Demme watched the films he later presented in the Made in Texas program at the house. Paul Bartel called there to ask me about presenting the first public screening of Eating Raoul, his new film. Being such a fan of Private Parts and Death Race 2000 we were happy to oblige, setting up a screening at the Varsity. Eating Raoul co-writer Dick Blackburn hung out with us there. Blackburn, a legendary record collector, helmed the cult classic Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural.
Bad mouthing Stan Brakhage and engaging in long social raves on silent films, Kenneth Anger visited. He was traveling with the latest "Lucifer" to star in Lucifer Rising, seemingly being often reshot and reworked. Or at least Anger routinely talked about it. They were staying at a hotel Downtown when this "Lucifer" beat him up and stole his money and the VW van in which they were traveling.
Part One of an Ondine Story in Three Parts: In order to show Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls you had to hire Ondine, the Pope of the Factory, who flew in with the film.
XII. Louis Black: "We were having a party behind Rollo Banks' China Sea Tattoo Company about a block from our office (Michael Corcoran lived in the back storeroom). We had arranged trade for beer, but, it being a Saturday, we had to pick the kegs up by a certain time. The beer distributor was 15 minutes away. Five minutes before the last possible second we can pick it up, Nick and company pull into the parking lot in a truck. I am furious. Nick is delighted. They had stopped to buy a new basketball, with which he was very happy. We hit every red light. As usual, my anger cup runneth over. Finally, we get to the old Shiner distributorship on Pleasant Valley Road. They've waited; we get the beer. Still, I'm angry; back in the days of no money, these parties, which gushed food and drink gathered on trade, were critical.
"When we got back to Rollo's, I started ranting about what a jerk Nick was, how he was late, how he was late because he stopped to buy a ball, how we almost didn't get the beer. Nick was just happy. Rollo laughed at me. "That's why he's the Captain," he offered. "Look, you worried about being late, about not getting the beer. Nick didn't worry. Nick has his ball and got the beer. He's the Captain and," he slapped his ass and added, "It doesn't matter a rat's ass how hysterical you get, Nick is in control of the ship, and all your worrying is worthless." [From the Chronicle's 20th anniversary issue]
XIII. Michael King: "This week, the Chronicle is hosting the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia Conference, and dozens of visiting journalists (and production and business staffers) are in town, conferring, exchanging reporting methods and story tips, and of course partying. Don't swing any dead cats in the vicinity of Downtown bars, and if you get a chance, give a Texas welcome to that dazed, overheated wanderer shooting group selfies outside Stubb's – she's not just a tourist, she's a writer.
"Presumably, it's a good moment to ponder the contemporary state of independent journalism, lightly signaled by that 'Newsmedia' moniker. Until a few years ago (2011), the 'N' in AAN meant 'Newsweeklies,' designating those newsprint relics of the Sixties that showed up on the weekends to tell you where to go and what to see, and ideally to provide an analytical sense of the underside of the city news beat. In most cities, we were 'alternatives' in both style and substance. We covered the places and the stories that the dailies (and certainly the TV and radio stations) neglected, and from angles disdained in official journalism schools. Ideally, from the bottom up, with a dedication to uncovering injustice, but also with attention to the offbeat and the 'weird' – embodying a conviction that the ongoing cultural insurgencies were just as important (if not as urgent) as the country's seemingly endless military adventures." ["Point Austin: Welcome to Media World!", July 7, 2016]
XIV. In October 1985 we ran an ad for a screening that would become the Austin Film Society. The first South by Southwest was presented in March 1987. In September 1988, the Chronicle went weekly.
June 1, 1990 issue of the Chronicle. After an all-night City Council meeting SOS is born. After almost a decade of struggle the Chronicle begins to come into its own.
XV. "Life is change/ How it differs from the rocks"
– "Crown of Creation," Paul Kantner
Differing from the rocks, the Chronicle moved into the all-brick former headquarters of a brick company.
XVI. I.F. Stone: "I am I suppose an anachronism. In this age of corporation men I am an independent capitalist, the owner of my own enterprise, subject to neither mortgager or broker, factor or patron. In an age when young men setting out on a career in journalism find their niche in some huge newspaper or magazine combine, I am a wholly independent newspaperman, standing alone, without organization or party backing, beholden to my readers. I am even one up on Benjamin Franklin – I do not accept advertising." [Introduction to The Haunted Fifties, an anthology of pieces that appeared in Stone's Weekly between 1953 and 1963]
XVII. Part Two of an Ondine Story in Three Parts: "We were in the middle of an orgy being run by a friend of mine," he would tell us. "We were all very engaged on the bed, when I looked over to the side. There was a guy just standing there, not getting involved, just watching, very intense, you could feel his presence. I said to my friend, 'Throw that thing out!' And he did. That was the first time I met Andy."
Ondine was known as the Pope, very much presiding over the Factory. Chelsea Girls is the Warhol epic meant to have two reels being projected at the same time. Ondine was in the projection booth conducting which sound track needed to be turned up or turned down.
Louis Black: "Ondine had detailed comments about everyone involved in the Factory. Joe Dellasandro was exactly as described in 'Walk on the Wild Side,': 'Little Joe never once gave it away.' Whip dancer Gerard Malanga was a jerk; Paul America beautiful, sweet, and very dumb. As can be seen in Chelsea Girls, publishing heiress Brigid Berlin was always jabbing people with hypodermics, even through their clothing, earning her the name Brigid Polk.
"Ondine adored Mary Woronov, with whom he later appeared in Sugar Cookies (1973) and Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973), and would spring to Nico's defense: He hated it that people called her cold. 'She could curse you in five languages,' he'd say in her defense. Edie Sedgwick was a close friend, for a time he was her French maid, sleeping in the park and then coming over to her apartment every morning to take care of her.
"Ondine was a revelation, and for the first time I really got the Factory: It wasn't just freaks and misfits posing and pretending. Their very preposterous audacity meant they really were superstars of the new American culture. There is no way to duplicate Ondine's brilliant speech or capture his unending humor as he told the most outrageous stories in the most casual way. Ondine's life was his art, and was even more than art in its passion, wit, and intelligence. After that stay, many of us found our way of thinking about some things changed forever." ["On Ondine on Film," Oct. 17, 2003]
XVIII: Walking in the Back Door of the Elgin Butler Brick Building. It has been the headquarters of The Austin Chronicle since the early Nineties. The first office you encounter is that of Editor-in-Chief Kimberley Jones and James Renovitch, web editor. They both have standing desks at which they seem to always be at work. Many years ago holding Eli Black I kicked a desk in that office, back when the politics staff officed there.
The first office on your right walking down the hall is home to Robert Faires, Arts editor; Josh Kupecki, Screens editor; and Brandon Watson, Food editor – except Watson is barely a week out from orchestrating the annual Hot Sauce Festival and deep into coordinating and editing the Best Of issue. Until two months ago, this was Nick Barbaro's and my office. Across the hall is System Administrator Brandon Watkins' office. Behind Watkins' office is the Editplex: Film Listings editor Marjorie Baumgarten; Arts Listings editor Wayne Alan Brenner; the Music Dept: Raoul Hernandez and Kevin Curtin; and Mark Fagan, Listings editor.
XIX. Kimberley Jones: "After a lot of resistance (read: self-righteous, swoony monologues about the tactile superiority of bound books), I've become a convert to e-reading. And I hit the jackpot with prodigious readers for parents who are kind to share their Kindle library with me despite my years of sneering about Amazon overlords and you can't dog-ear a device, Daaad.
"Most of the books I've read recently come from this shared library, including Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last and David Nicholls' A Question of Attraction. It adds a weird/fun fillip to the reader experience, these over-the-shoulder looks at what the other is reading, and anticipating my parents' reactions to, say, the pornier parts of Atwood's sex-robots, or the pop culture and political agitation in Nicholls' bildungsroman set in Eighties-era England. (Of the latter, the many Kate Bush references don't track with either of our generations. I liked Nicholls' movie adaptation, Starter for 10, better. Teenage dunderheadedness goes down smoother when the dunderhead is played by James McAvoy.)" ["Bedside Manner: Sharing Shelf Space," June 22, 2016]
XX. Robert Faires: "To see art as a task, as a duty, as work, is to blind ourselves to many of the aspects that make art worthwhile: the passion it displays, the beauty of its form, the simple spark of creativity behind it. When I was so focused on getting under the skin of Olivia Moore's exhibit at Women & Their Work, I was overlooking the obvious pleasures there: the sumptuous shades of orange utilized in the tiles of her entry wall, the care with which her Ghost Station's steel frame was constructed, the subtle graininess and flecks of color in the pulped posters pasted on the wall and illuminated. Never mind buried treasure. Here were riches right on the surface. But it took a certain disconnection from my mental process to realize that." ["All Over Creation: Come and Don't Get It," June 26, 2015]
XXI. Marjorie Baumgarten: "What is there to say about a picture hailed as 'the date movie of the summer' that leaves you cold and running for the exit when all those around you are laughing their heads off? That you're having an off night? That your date is less than ideal? That you are right and the world is wrong? That the world is right and you're a mess? Vacillating between these conclusions, I haven't yet been able to pick the right one. It'll probably take another viewing before I am certain of what I'm feeling but, in the meantime, here's a little bit of what I'm thinking. Sleepless in Seattle is hopelessly romantic. Its bedrock is the belief that there's always an 'other' out there for each of us. Our only task is to find that person and fulfill our destiny. Once that person is found, he or she will fit so perfectly that all emotional struggle will cease and, of course, we will live happily ever after. Let's just say that I believe that romantic love is borne of many things but that 'destiny' is not one of them. At another level, Sleepless in Seattle purports to be a commentary on the classic depiction of love in the movies and, in this sense, it plays it both ways. While celebrating the lushly romantic, it also tweaks the tradition so that Sleepless in Seattle ends up something akin to a feature-length Taster's Choice commercial." [Film review, June 25, 1993]
XXII. George Morris: "... [Blake] Edwards is best known for his comic expertise, and movies like The Great Race, The Party, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and S.O.B. are among the most hilarious farces to lurch across the wide screen ... pain, humiliation, and sexual impotence recur throughout Edwards' comedies, and like Frank Tashlin and Jerry Lewis, he will exhaust a joke until it's no longer funny, forcing us to analyze comic modes even while we watch them." [Oct. 10, 1986]
Big was released in June 1988. The Chronicle went weekly at the end of the summer. Movie reviews then ran uncut as long as the movie was in Austin. George Morris wrote one of the few negative reviews of Big in the country. Week after week it ran.
XXIII. Part Three of an Ondine Story in Three Parts: Original founding member Sterling Morrison left the Velvet Underground in August 1971. He entered the Graduate English Department at UT where he would eventually earn his Ph.D. In Austin he mostly played in the Bizarros, which also featured Bill Bentley.
Still, Morrison hated talking about the Velvets for the most part and was known to go off on how rock lyrics weren't poetry when pushed. We were always friendly but we didn't talk about the Velvets.
When John Cale played Austin, on at least two occasions Morrison joined him to play on Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso." Turned out that Sterling and he went way back and Sterling loved him.
Ondine was most welcome in our home where the menu ranged wide from hamburgers to spaghetti and back. Striding through the house in vividly bright red pajamas, he held court. Cooking a still fondly remembered beef Stroganoff his last night.
The afternoon before, I came home to find Ed Lowry, Marjorie Baumgarten, Ondine, and Sterling sitting in front of the house as Morrison told story after story about the Velvets.
"Well the girls would turn the color
Of the avocado when he would drive
Down their street in his El Dorado
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you
– "Pablo Picasso," Jonathan Richman
XXIV. Recent popular Chronicle pieces online:
"Resident Barack Obama," April 1, 2016 – over 88,000 page views
"Breakfast With Bigots," Dec. 6 2015 – over 51,000
"Prop 1 Election Results," May 7, 2016 – over 48,000
"Chronicle Endorsements," Feb. 2, 2016 – over 37,000
XXV: But This Is Not a History.
"In One Ear" by Margaret Moser was the Chronicle's first music column. It was followed by "Don't You Start Me Talking" by Michael Corcoran, her very deliberate pass-off.
As Corcoran described it to Austin Powell (another former music columnist), "When I wrote for the Chronicle back in the 1980s, I was very influenced by the punk rock attitude. The difference between Margaret Moser's column and mine was that hers said 'fuck me' and mine said 'fuck you.'"
Moser went on to discover any number of other writers. Encountering current Kevin Curtin in a head shop, she encouraged him to write for the Chronicle. He debuted as the "Playback" music columnist on April 20, 2012.
Letter to the Editor: "If I am to recall correctly, Margaret Moser has decided to hand off the 'music' column to a bong salesman that apparently has some sort of encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary music. Putting aside the fact that Moser apparently considers 1982 to be contemporary, I am at a loss for words when someone that has a gig in a head shop (no shame there) gets promoted to music columnist for the city's only quarter-decent newspaper based on a conversation over weed-ware. How insulting to anyone that has tried to write professionally. I guess they didn't have that dragon's-head bong in stock. What the fuck? You know, your paper used to actually have an edge." [Postmarks, April 2012]
Association of Alternative Newsmedia 2016 Awards, Category – Column: "Playback" by Kevin Curtin (Honorable Mention)
XXVI. Raoul Hernandez: "Moby Grape's rock of ages produced unintentional gospel music by and for a fraternal order unequaled in the modern canon. Whereas the Band's harmony siphoned into a principal songwriter, all five Grapes composed from deep within the American songbook – folk, blues, country, Owsley – while weaving one voice that devoted booster David Fricke once dubbed the Moby Tabernacle Choir. Sundazed's bejeweled restoration of the San Francisco quintet's Columbia catalog, 1967-69, raises high five stone tablets brought down from the mount. The squelch and squeal of three guitars and unison yowl of 'Hey Grandma' opening 32-minute debut Moby Grape introduces the initially manager-made brotherhood. Northwest tandem Don Stevenson (drums) and Jerry Miller (guitarist No. 1) backing monster voice/songwriter Bob Mosley (bass) and Loretta Young's son of a Byrds disciple Peter Lewis (picker No. 2), who all bowed to the group's Syd Barrett/Roky Erickson, Alexander 'Skip' Spence. 'Omaha,' Spence's summation of 1960s electric brotherhood, presides over Mosley's sanctified 'Come in the Morning,' Miller's equally devout 'Naked, If I Want To' and his Stevenson co-kill '8:05,' and Lewis' barroom greyhound race, 'Fall on You.' Spence's closing 'Indifference,' whose refrain, 'What a difference a day has made,' again encapsulates the great awakening, seals 1967's rock ark of the covenant. Wow opener 'The Place and the Time' isn't quite right from the get-go, but 'Murder in My Heart for the Judge' rebounds next as a song once heard never forgotten. Mosley's gorgeous 'Bitter Wind,' Miller/Stevenson's stomping 'Can't Be So Bad,' and Lewis' gentle 'He' swaddle Spence's open throttle 'Motorcycle Irene' before deflating mid-LP with the loss of their captain. 'Skippy got messed up right off the bat [in NYC],' writes Miller in the liner notes. 'He was never the same again. It wasn't the same for any of us.' [Reissues review, Dec. 14, 2007]
XXVII. Wayne Alan Brenner: "Lot of films at SXSW being screened for the first time, and who knows what, precisely, all those state-of-the-art projectors will bring? Except that some of the works among the dozens and dozens – some of them will be downright brilliant.
"Which is why the lines to get in can be pretty damned long.
"Which is why it's best to be, all boyscoutwise, prepared.
"Which is why the Chronicle's own Josh Kupecki – a frequent film reviewer for this media powerhouse of ours and a generally good guy to know, all smart and acerbic and so on – Kupecki says to me, 'Brenner, it's almost time for me to stand in a lot of lines. Can you recommend a book about this size' – he holds up a trade paperback of middling thickness – 'to keep me occupied?'
"Why, the retroactive hipness of this Kupecki! Planning to read a book instead of staring into and incessantly poking and prodding some personal-device screen like the rest of the queueing mobility!
"What an honor to get to recommend something to this fine broth of a man, I feel. And so I'd better make sure the book is 1) approximately the physical dimensions he specified, and 2) neither so dense nor dry that it's gonna tax his brain, and 3) a story that can keep a potentially distracted human fully engaged with its action, its dialogue, its wit, and alla that fine well-wrought narrative stuff.
"Takes me no more than 10 seconds to realize the perfect book for Josh Kupecki. Which may be the perfect book for anyone waiting in any line, and just a damned enjoyable book under any circumstances.
"The book I'm talking about is the art-scene/cop-thriller novel Some Dead Genius by Lenny Kleinfeld." [Film Premieres: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part, March 11, 2015]
XXVIII. Louis Black: "Hitchhiking cross country to a wedding many years ago, Michael Ventura passed through Lubbock and visited a house where Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely, among others, lived. Ended up there for a long time. Then he drifted off to other adventures and different travels. A year and a half after he left he was back in Lubbock. Unannounced he walked into the living room where folks were talking. Without missing a beat, in mid-sentence Gilmore, seeing him, continued, 'Michael, as I was saying ...,' and went on to make his point.
"As I implied when we last spoke – and as we have been noting in one way or another since we began publishing 34 years ago, on Sept. 4, 1981 – the Chronicle is our paper. Not ours in that it belongs to the people who produced/produce it. But ours as in all of us. All of us who live in this community, reader and staffer, activist and observer, creators and audience members. Ours.
"We live in a city that we dreamed and dream but now the plaint is that the dream is lost. The city we love seems to be horribly morphing into a weird futuristic nightmare community of high-rise buildings, constant construction, flocked building cranes, and too much traffic. Beloved businesses and institutions are gone; seemingly mass produced, generically faceless stores have taken their place. Many now say Austin is dead, its best days past. Declaring this is so ever-present and fashionable that it has become trite. The morning prayer now is to decry the loss. To say you should have been here when. That it was so much better 40 years ago and 20 years ago and yesterday. That tomorrow it will have been better today.
"Glory, Glory Hallelujah! There is nothing to argue.
"But I don't agree." ["Page Two: Picking Up the Conversation," Sept. 4, 2015]
XXIX. Michael Ventura: "A Sicilian proverb haunts me (I'd like for it not to be true): 'Everything must change, so that everything may remain the same.'
"As the lyric has it, 'The fundamental things apply.'
"It is 3:01am. I wanted to complete my 40th year as a working writer, come hell or high water, because I like closing circles, and, anyway, I'm a romantic, which is more fun than a lot of other things one can be.
"Beyond the world that calls itself 'the world,' in the world which is ours and which is everywhere, an elderly individual, me, will enjoy the beginning of his 70th year in the inviting dark of 4am, sipping whiskey-laced tea, bundled against the chill, sitting on a bench in the park across the street, thinking whatever, feeling this and that, and watching a small part of the world that is ours wake up to a day that is far more unpredictable than most people would prefer.
"Hey: Good luck to you.
"For myself, now there's nothing between me and my novel but me, and nothing to do but write it. Live it. Write it. Scary shit. No column. Just me. Crazy-exciting. (And, as my mother used to say, 'Funny-peculiar.')
"A friend asked, 'So you're quitting?'
"'I'm not quitting. I'm turning. Leaves turn color before they fall.'
"And the days become weeks, and the weeks become months, and the months become years." ["Letters at 3AM: As Time Goes By," Nov. 14, 2014]
XXX. Kate X Messer: "Choo Choo Ch-Boogie"
"The track unfurls with the promise of destinations ahead. The whistle and horn blow with the resonance of times passed. You can't see this perspective from car or air. The history of railroads, freight and passenger, is the history of Texas. As spoken at the August 2015 dedication of the historical marker denoting the spot at Third & Congress where Austin's twin train depots once stood, 'When the trains came to Austin, it was like the Internet and I-35 happened at the same time. You could tell in the historical records all the big changes that happened. New people and new ideas came to town.' Indeed." [Best of Austin issue introduction, Sept. 11, 2015]
XXXI. Brandon Watson: "There's probably no more effective impetus for changing one's life choices than being yelled at by a paramedic for failing to properly vomit. Since having a heart attack in 2014, I have wound up in the ER several times complaining of chest pain and weakness. They were all false alarms, but this Saturday felt more intense. I was pretty sure that whatever I was feeling was a direct result of SXSW excess, but when it comes to me living, 'pretty sure' doesn't cut it. And nodding off into a barf bag didn't seem to bode well for my overall prognosis.
"Once I made it to St. David's, it turned out there were high levels of cardiac enzymes in my blood. Later in my stay, I failed a stress test. I didn't have another heart attack, but both results were enough for the doctors to want to perform a catheterization, and that was enough to give me pause. Temporarily, at least. Minutes after being released from the hospital, I busied myself in the process of forgetting what just happened, shoving down a fistful of Whataburger fries. I suppose it was only natural to gravitate toward the worst thing I could think of after half a week of eating St. David's 'heart healthy' diet, but advisable is an entirely other thing. The immediacy of pleasure has always been an inescapable torrent. I suspect I share that with a great many people in the hospitality industry. The same mindset that finds near bliss in a perfectly cooked porchetta is likely to seek out other thrills. Tales of chef misbehavior now fill the cultural vacancy that Seventies Rolling Stone tour diaries used to, both writ large in memoir and carried from ear to ear as gossip. It's no secret that where there is a thriving culinary scene, there is also a thriving drug culture. It's no secret that last call doesn't really put an end to drinking." [The Take-Out, April 1, 2016]
XXXII. "For advertisers interested in reaching people who support the arts in Austin, the people who spend money on dining and entertainment, The Austin Chronicle will be the most visible cost-efficient medium available .... The Austin Chronicle is dedicated to bringing all Austin closer together. We are convinced that this is a service the city needs, and that The Austin Chronicle will make Austin a better place to live." ["Letter From the Publisher," Austin Chronicle Prototype, Summer 1981]
XXXIII. Ed Lowry: "The optimistic tone of the film can be traced largely to the central fact that, as long as the wilderness exists, there remains the possibility of escape from societal restrictions. The paradox is, of course, that as man moves into the wilderness he transforms it and begins the process of civilization once again. By the mid-Fifties, Ford has begun to question the openness of the metaphorical expanse; and in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), its possibilities are locked in a flashback from a present time in which civilization has already closed the opportunities offered America by the West. But in Stagecoach, Ford is still hoping; and perhaps that is what makes the film one of the clearest and most beautiful expressions of the American ideal ever to emerge from the Western genre." [CinemaTexas Program Notes]
XXXIV. Louis Black: "[In Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, in the] ... sequence in which Oates ends up in a grave, as does Alfredo Garcia, as does Isela Vega, as will most of the other characters in the film, is the climax of the story. In a sense, after the grave sequence Oates is already dead in the same way that all of Peckinpah's heroes are already as good as dead in the worlds they inhabit. And this is how Peckinpah views himself. But none of them, neither Peckinpah nor his heroes, will lie down in the grave; they stride out and do what they have to do. The last part of the film is the rant of a madman and the vision of a madman, but it is also a last desperate attempt to accomplish something, to live by one's own standards and to bring a certain amount of dignity into one's life. It is in these attempts that the cinematic vision of Peckinpah is defined, a vision that is lived out in the films he makes and through the battles he fights to make them." [CinemaTexas Program Notes]
XXXV. There really is no present. Certainly no past. There is only next week's issue, and the week after that.