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That’s Right, I Invented Tokémon Woah.

1 Aug

by Roger White

 

It hit me—almost literally—the other day just how pervasive this Pokémon Go craze is when my daughter yelled at me to stop the car (in the middle of the road, mind you) as I was driving in our neighborhood. Panicked, I slammed on the brakes, fearing I’d unknowingly plowed over a squirrel or baby deer or a neighbor kid or two.

 

“Wait! Wait, I almost got him,” Lindsey ordered. She had her cell phone aimed at a stand of trees beyond the curb.

 

“What? What is it?” I cried, scanning the area for a gray fox or some rare albino ocelot or something.

 

uh, Magmar“It’s Magmar. There, I got him!”

 

I kept eyeing the trees to our right, hoping for a glimpse of the magmar, whatever the heck a magmar was, until the driver behind me honked at me to get my butt in gear.

 

“Magmar?” I asked, waving apologetically at the driver’s one-finger salute to my traffic faux pas. “What is that? Like a roadrunner or something?”

 

My daughter scoffed at my ignorance. “Magmar, Dad. He’s a Pokémon dude. Looks kinda like an angry duck on fire.”

 

Lord. “You mean I almost got us rear-ended for that silly game?”

 

“Not silly, Dad. Magmar’s very important. He could help me take over a gym.”

 

I shook my head in amazement. I wondered what the most horrifying development of the year was: the prospect of the lunatic Donald Trump becoming the leader of the free world or our country’s absurd obsession with risking life and limb to capture imaginary cartoon characters. I’d heard the stories of people getting hit by trains and walking off sheer cliffs in blind pursuit of these Pokémon creatures, but I presumed they were cautionary myths. Not so, apparently.

 

Lindsey gave me a layman’s tutorial—Pokémon Go for Dummies—whereby she explained that there are three teams of different colors: Team Mystic, Team Valor, and Team Instinct. Players join a team based on whether they think they’re brainy, strong, or intuitive. The object of the game is to capture creatures that pop up on one’s cell phone while one is out and about in the real world, then battle each other at places called Pokémon gyms. I asked Linz if they had a Team Dad, wherein players could capture beers throughout one’s house and battle to take charge of the couch. No response.

whatever

This got me thinking, however. What if we came up with a local version of Pokémon Go? Ya know, Austin being Austin, how ’bout something like Tokémon Woah? Think about it. You could have Tribe Willie, otherwise known as Acapulco Gold. Members of Tribe Willie would be guided by music, a somewhat relaxed attitude toward paying one’s taxes, and simple pleasures—like sittin’ ’round in their underwear. Then there’d be Clan Kinky, or the Grandaddy Purple Tribe. Folks drawn to Clan Kinky would be inspired by satire, matzah ball soup, and delusions of living in the governor’s mansion. And then, of course, you’d have Clique McConaughey, or Tribe Redbud. Redbud Tribe members would be moved by such things as UT football and nude bongo-playing. Alright, alright, alright.

 

Now, the object of Tokémon Woah would be to venture about the capital city in search of various Tokémon creatures, such as Budzilla, Panama Red, Buzz Lighthead, Bong Bong, Roachymon, Spliffowak, Ganjasnorf, and the like. Once you capture a Tokémon, you pluck out any wayward seeds and take your Tokémon to the nearest Tokémon CrashPad, where you compare your Tribe Willieparticular Tokémon with those from other tribes. Once it’s established which tribe has the smoothest Tokémon Woah, that tribe enjoys dominion over the album selection for that CrashPad. No Stairway or Free Bird, however. Any playing of Stairway, Free Bird, or any and all Styx selections is grounds for immediate CrashPad banishment.

 

I got really stoked about this. I went so far as to fax my game proposal to the offices of Mr. Nelson, Mr. Friedman, and Mr. McConaughey. I got two “Cease and Desist” orders and a handwritten response that simply stated, “It’d be a lot cooler if you’d leave me the hell alone.” Hmm.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

We Can Make Austin Great Again – By Winning!

14 Mar

 

 

by Adolph Felcher

felcher mug

Editor’s note: Keeping in the spirit of this year’s extraordinarily robust political climate, “This Old Spouse” columnist Roger White has graciously stepped aside to offer readers valuable insight into the ideology and platform viewpoints of the major candidates in the 2016 presidential race. In this edition, we welcome guest columnist Adolph Felcher, chairman of the Central Texas Chapter of the Donald Trump for President Campaign, for a candid look at Mr. Trump’s vision on the local level.

 

Hello, and you’re welcome, Central Texas. If you have been paying attention to the exciting and dynamic rallies being held across the country, then you understand how much greater our nation is going to be when the great winner of all winners, Mr. Donald Trump, leads us back onto the path of greatness and winning. My name is Adolph Felcher, and I’m here to share with you what this return to winning and greatness will look like here in Texas.

Let me tell you, when the Great Donald, who is worth many billions of dollars, becomes the nation’s CEO, this country—and particularly, this Central Texas region—will know what it’s like to be winners again. Great winners who win through the power of their greatness and their vast amounts of money know that winning is what is important, not trivial details such as coherent foreign policy, thoughtful economic programs, or niggling, meaningless things like education reform.

For example, the city of Austin will be a winner again, unified in purpose and skin tone, when we build a wall—a huge, huge wall—just east of gentrified downtown, right around Comal Street or so, to keep out the losers and the lightweights. So das wallmany of the people who live on that has-been side of town are the types we don’t need: illegals, rapists, criminals, minorities, poor people. You know, those who aren’t like us. We’ll build a wall so these losers can’t affect our winning way of life.

The wall will be paid for, of course, by the layabouts and illegals in the outlying areas of say, Del Valle, the Montopolis area, and the eastside ghettos where the less desirables hang out. The Circuit of the Americas race track will be exempted from any financial obligation through a special elite business exemption program we’ll call the Korporate Kommunity Kickback, or KKK.

The Austin City Council will be replaced by a corporate board of very rich people called the One Percent Commission (OPC). We all know that the best way to revitalize a community is to put the winners of the city in charge. The highly successful people who will comprise the commission—business executives, celebrities, lottery winners, independently wealthy Republicans who inherited trump 2their family fortunes, Lance Armstrong—will run the town with the assistance and visionary guidance of Special Secretary (SS) Chris Christie. SS Christie, personally appointed by Mr. Trump himself to inspire OPCs nationwide, will be in charge of party morale by leading them in weekly rallies, to be called SS Rallies. Rallies will include singing odes to the Great One (with favorites such as “How Great Trump Art” and “Trumpland das Trumpland”), staring lovingly at the Official Trump Portrait, and practicing self-defense techniques against Muslims and Mexican rapists.

On a personal note, I’m beyond delighted to share with you that I, Adolph Felcher, will be in charge of the local arm of the new youth exercise and indoctrination program, called Trump Youth. My assistant, Mina Kampf, and I have so many wonderful things in store for the guidance, direction, and discipline of all Central Texas youth ages 6-16. Mmm, discipline. Mandatory signup centers will be located at area commercial real estate offices and private country clubs.

A quick reminder: The next Austin area rally will be held at the America’s Academy of Pro Wrestling in Westlake. Local metal band Orange Combover will provide music, and there will be a $500,000-a-plate dinner afterword.

A supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump scuffles with a protestor during a rally in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)Entertainment includes a mini-Trump Casino and 3-D Whack-an-Immigrant family fun game. Legal fee expense reimbursement forms will be available for those enthusiastic supporters who wish to forcibly expel any loser liberal protesters. Onward, Trump Troops!

 

Adolph Felcher is chairman of the Central Texas Chapter of the Donald Trump for President Campaign and owner of Felcher Films, currently in bankruptcy court.

 

I Would Shake Your Hand, But . . . Ebola, You Understand

21 Oct

by Roger White

Dear Diary: Day 37 of my quarantine finds me gazing out at the swath of graceful oaks and maples that crowd the greenbelt beyond my back yard. Two slender brown squirrels skitter and climb among the lower branches of the trees with effortless agility. They chatter excitedly as they chase each other and run from the marauding blue jays. The jays can’t stand the squirrels. They see them as interlopers who invade their got itfeeders and scavenge the seeds and nuts on the ground before they can harvest them. Jays are natural bullies, and the squirrels are their foils, carefree clowns both aloof and contemptuous of the great birds’ status as authority figures of the suburban greenery. You can see in his eye as the large male jay tracks the movement of the squirrels bounding below him: “Why, I oughta…”

I wonder if the jays and squirrels worry about ebola.

And there it is. I realize now I can’t do one thing, engage in one activity, carry one thought in my mind, for more than three minutes without being drawn magnetically back to the dreaded “e” word. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeebola. (Picture here the Swiss dude in lederhosen and Swiss hat blowing on an outrageously long alphorn in that cough drop commercial.) Out of an abundance of caution, I’ve been sentenced to weeks of isolation because of my tangential exposure to the deadly virus du jour. You see, I was in the nuff saidDallas area recently to visit my mom, and I happened to stop in for a soft drink at a south Fort Worth gas station. Come to find out that the cashier at this gas station had recently been in the same movie theater as a guy whose son played on the same soccer team as another kid whose mother had been in the same Walmart as a woman who’d washed her car at the same car wash as a man who had been on the same airplane as the father of a girl who attended the same high school as a kid whose grandmother’s hairdresser rode on the same bus as the accountant of a guy who had changed a tire for a woman who’d played canasta with the aunt of a guy whose sister drove past the hospital where the whole ebola thing started here in Texas. So, yike. I’m practically at death’s door here.

Har. Don’t get me wrong. Ebola be bad. Lord knows we have to panic about something, so it might as well be a nasty virus from across the Big Pond. Better than the usual hyped tripe from the cesspool of politics. HOWDY, coughBut I do believe we’re taking it just a tad too seriously, no? I saw a Facebook post that summed it up nicely: More people in the United States have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from ebola.

And yes, I kid on the quarantine. In actuality, I was gazing out my rear window watching the squirrels tease the jays in a conscious effort to avoid my TV. I’m a television junkie, I freely admit, which creates a twisting cognitive dissonance in me wee cranium due to the fact that I truly and completely loathe the media. If today’s media aren’t the cause of all things evil, then they’re most definitely exacerbators of it. Members of the media foment more distress, disharmony, and dyspepsia than any other group of humans on the planet other than politicians.

Case in point: ebola. As a test, the other night I got out a lovely, unopened bottle of Jack black and decided to play an updated version of an old fraternity game. I sat in front of the tube with a shot glass, the bottle of Jack, and the remote. The game: Roam among the cable news channels, stopping for just a few minutes at a time on each channel, and guzzle down a shot at each utterance of the word ebola. I started the game at approximately 7:15 p.m. By 7:41, I was schnockered. I was so hammered that I somehow found myself standing inches from the TV, watching the halftime of a football game, though I wasn’t sure how I got to that channel. Vision was fuzzy, so I can’t be sure, but I swear the halftime band marching around the field had formed itself into a giant ebola virus. There’s no escaping.

Ah, for the good ol’ days, when all we had to worry about was ISIS and gun control and the president’s secret socialist agenda. Sigh.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

…Only to Find Gideons’ Flatscreen

23 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Well, I’m back, my fellow existential exam-takers. Just flew in from the far reaches of my psyche, and, boy, are my neural dendrites tired. Actually, I’ve been in Baltimore, but it’s about the same.

 

Although I was encamped in the city’s trendy Inner Harbor for bidness purposes, I did partake of some of the local tourist fare, which involved, in various proportions, many images of Fort Wipken WayMcHenry, the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, mounds of Maryland blue crabs (and all the accompanying crab hammers and pliers and crab-innard removers and bibs and things), and thousands upon thousands of orange-clad Orioles fans. Note: Every third street, boulevard, and/or quasi-large building in Baltimore proper is named for Cal Ripken, Jr. There’s Cal Ripken Road, Cal Ripken Way, Cal Ripken Hair Restoration Clinic, you name it.

 

For those of you non-baseballites, Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” played for the O’s for something like 173 years, and he holds the major league record for consecutive games played. He Call Calsuited up and took the field for—seriously, now—2,632 games without so much as a potty break, or something like that. Anyway, the folks of Baltimore worship the guy. There’s even an Our Lady of the Shortstop Catholic Church near Camden Yard, where parishioners bless themselves with the sign of the 8 and refer to themselves as Cal-tholics. OK, not really. I kid.

 

Anyhow, the city its own self wasn’t nearly as crime-infested as I had pictured it. For many years, Baltimore carried a not-so-savory reputation with regard to one’s personal safety. The pro basketball team wasn’t called the Baltimore Bullets for nothing. They were going to be called the Baltimore Brick Upside the Heads, but they couldn’t fit it all on the team jerseys. However, I must say that during my brief stay near the Chesapeake, I was accosted not once—unless you count the very large, very moist man with the Phil Spector hair and leopard-print thong singing Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” at the top of his lungs. I wasn’t sure if he was panhandling, making some sort of pro-life statement, or on the run from the Cal Ripken Clinic for Mood Disorders, but I ponied up a fast fiver and got the hell out of there.

 

A bit off topic from Baltimore per se, but I have to report—the Spouseman not having lodged at the finer inns on my own dime for a good while—that I was thoroughly gobsmacked with regard to one particular aspect of my accommodations. Hotels, I have come to conclude, are absolutely convinced that their guests cannot go one fraction of a second without access to a television. Gads, man. There was a TV in the bathroom—built into the mirror, mind you—a TV in the elevator, a tiny telly on each treadmill in the fitness room, a TV on every wall of the lobby, several in the bar, TVs in the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. CNN, Fox News, and General Hospital were everywhere. Live with Kelly and Michael was practically ubiquitous. I didn’t really need that last sentence to make my point, but I enjoy using the word “ubiquitous” whenever possible. I can be obsequious, dare I say insouciant, like that sometimes.

gotta have

With the preponderance of boob tubes, I found it a tad ironic when I read the little sign in the john that instructed me to please reuse my towels. The hotel explained on its quaint recycled-paper missive that it was trying to help the planet and save money—which would, of course, keep their rates lower—by asking that visitors gently reuse their towels during their stay. I kinda figured they could save a bit more if they gently stopped cramming high-dollar television sets into every conceivable space they could find. I, for one, do not require a flatscreen, high-definition TV built into my toilet paper dispenser.

 

On the plane ride home, I actually considered writing to the hotel manager about my concerns, but the tiny little TV in the seatback in front of me was gently playing an Andy Griffith Show rerun. So I got sidetracked. It was a really good one, though. The one where Aunt Bee enters her kerosene-flavored pickles in the county fair…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Galveston, Oh, Galveston…

14 Apr

by Roger White

 

It was high time recently for a mini-getaway. You know how it is. In the midst of those long weeks, dare I say months, between full-blown vacations, the work stress, kid stress, money stress, in-law stress, and no-football-on-TV stress pile up until your neck and shoulder muscles are clwhat theenched tighter than Joan Rivers’ cheeks. You develop a chronic eyelid twitch, and you suddenly find you have the posture of Marty Feldman’s grandfather. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel has dimmed to a faint flicker, and that tunnel hangs low and dark and menacing over your head like the belly of an unmarried pregnant velociraptor. Just go with that one, okay?

 

You can always tell when it’s time to cram the family in the trusty sedan and drive away for a few days. At least I can tell when it’s time—when the wife says it’s time, that’s when it’s time. So the other weekend, just as the steam began to vent from wifey’s ears, we piled the tribe into the Honda and headed south. To Galveston, in particular.

 

Now, despite what many of you hoity toity California beach hipsters or Jersey shore traditionalists may think, you can have a terrific time in the Oleander City without suffering any tarballs, mosquito-borne diseases, or attempted muggings. Really. Galveston’s nicknamed the Oleander City, by the way, because of the proliferation of the humongous, color-splashed flowers all over the place. The oleanders are gorgeous, but if you eat them you’ll fall over stone dead, just sayin’. So don’t eat them.

 

Anyway, we had a blast. If you want quiet oceanfront time, which we did mostly, rent a condo on East Beach. This is far from all the public hollering and drinking and shenanigans at Stewart Beach and points west down toward the curio shops, nightlife spots, and all the leather-skinned street people who talk to their hair and smell oddly of vinegar and machinery.

 

If you want action, rent some bikes or drive down Seawall Boulevard toward the lights and CRAB!!the signs featuring gigantic crabs and shrimp made of plaster of paris. There’s some good eatin’ at Gaido’s and The Spot and several other Seawall greasy spoons. Now, if you haven’t been to Galveston in a while, you’re not hallucinating when you spy a kaleidoscopic gaggle of roller coasters and ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds where the old Flagship Hotel used to be. The Flagship’s not on the pier anymore. The old gal finally sank. Ah, remember the crusty Flagship? Your room options weren’t smoking or non-smoking. They were roaches or rats, take yer pick. Yes, those were the days.

 

Nope, the ol’ Flagship has been replaced by the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. The Landry’s folks bought the place and decided, after Hurricane Ike pretty much creamed it in 2008, that instead of trying to renovate the old fleabag, they’d start over with a small Pleasure Pier!amusement park. And by golly, they did it. As hard as it is to believe that you can stuff an entire amusement park onto that slender shaft jutting out over the water, the Pleasure Pier actually has more than a dozen rides—including a truly terrifying roller coaster—a gauntlet of carnival games, souvenir and sweet shops, and even a restaurant or two. Even our daughters, both of them thrill-ride veterans who can tell if an amusement park is the real deal or just a poseur, had grins plastered on them by the time they were done.

 

What’s even cooler about the Pleasure Pier is that they offer field trips/classes for schools, wherein the kids do coursework in between the rides. They have textbooks and everything, all tying in s141a. to your ritauch disciplines as physics and math to each ride. Here’s a sample question, I kid you not: “For safety purposes, the Carousel’s floor is coated with a nonstick surface that has a coefficient of friction with the average pair of sneakers equal to 0.7. With this coefficient of friction, how fast would the rider have to be moving while standing next to one of the outer-ring horses to be thrown off the ride?”

 

Judging from this and other questions I read, I’m thankful I went to school in the era of Dick and Jane.

 

Anyway, fun was had by all, and we even won a giant inflatable alien the girls nicknamed George Lopez. And the getaway seemed to work. My eyelid twitch is pretty much gone. Posture’s better. The Joan Rivers muscle tone has eased. Now if I can just get these jellyfish lookit the pretty AAAHH!barbs out of my feet. Watch yer step on those moonlight beach strolls, ’kay?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Just Chill: Most News You Can’t Use

29 Oct

by Roger White

You’re familiar with the old saying, “Don’t shoot me. I’m only the messenger.” To this I say pish and posh. This old adage doesn’t apply anymore. The messenger today IS the problem. The messenger—this insincerely smiling, hair-weaved, plastic-faced talking head—needs to be shot in the behind with a paintball gun, and his message needs to be torn up, stomped on, and burned to ash. Pish and posh, I say.

The messenger I’m pishing and poshing on, of course, is the media—namely, the national outlets: CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. Do you ever stop to wonder why your stomach is nervous and sour all the time now, why your heart beats out the bossa nova, why you fret and bite your lip bloody just sending the kids to the school bus stop? The media, I tell you. It’s the media. stop the pressesBecause of our nonstop over-exposure to the national news organizations’ sensationalistic babble, we have all come to believe, consciously or not, that our world has become a living hell. As each of us workaday folks tries so hard just to crawl out of bed each morning to keep food on the table, the electricity on, and our children on the straight and narrow, we have to combat that nagging, pecking sense of doom—that we’re only a mere happenstance away from grisly death, violent criminal mayhem, or worse, a government-led socialist agenda.

Two real, recent examples of headlines from CNN: “Weatherman Eats Cat Vomit” and “Teens Attack Mom; Plan to Eat Her Liver.” No lie. Did we truly need to know this? And did these teens plan this liver feast after watching the weatherman scarf cat puke? These kinds of “news items” are not merely useless—they’re harmful.

Every single cotton-picking day you have to digest (no pun intended) BREAKING NEWS of the latest multiple homicide, the most shocking tale of kidnap, abuse, and mistreatment, the most recent sordid instance of demented behavior (and sometimes this doesn’t even involve Congress) such as the headlines above. The thing of it is—and here is where you have to stop yourself and understand motives—the world really isn’t all that bad. Really, it isn’t. It’s the media’s job, however, to make you feel that way. It’s not CNN’s goal per se to give every man, moidahwoman, and child in America a massive case of peptic ulcers, but it is their job to make money. And gruesome, terrible, apocalyptic headlines mean more views, which mean more advertisers, which mean more money. With news on a 24-hours-a-day-eight-days-a-week cycle now, every second of the day we are fed the most grisly, horrific stories that these “news gatherers” can find—because that’s what they think we want to see.

But here’s the deal. We’re not going to hell in a handbasket; it just feels like it. Did you know, for example, that since the early 1990s, crime has actually declined in the United States and that current crime rates are no worse than they were in the 1960s? True, these stats come from the U.S. Bureau of Justice. The homicide rate in America has declined substantially since 1992 from a rate of 9.8 per 100,000 persons to 4.8 in 2010, according to latest figures. That’s still high, as far as the rest of the industrialized world goes, but, hey, in Russia it’s 13 per 100,000, and in Venezuela it’s 48 per. And nobody here commutes to Honduras, right? There, the homicide rate is 78 per. We’re practically a Buddhist monastery by comparison.

Here’s more: A research think tank known as the Millennium Project produced these eye-opening numbers in 2011:

• The average life expectancy worldwide rose from 64 years in the mid-1980s to 68 years today.
• Infant mortality worldwide has fallen from nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 people to 40 deaths today.
• Poverty, defined by the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day, fell from 43 percent of the world population in the mid-1980s to 23 percent now.
• The percentage of the world population with access to water rose from 75 percent to more than 86 percent.
• Secondary school enrollment rose from 45 percent in the mid-1980s to nearly 70 percent today.
• The number of major armed conflicts declined from 37 in the mid-1980s to 26 today.


Unfortunately, these kinds of numbers aren’t found on your average national news site now. In yukkkfact, if you ask me, the best, most useful news you can find these days is in your local, community newspaper. The little weeklies and bi-weeklies that actually cover neighborhood news, civic involvement stories, and human interest items that have nothing at all do with cats in microwave ovens are where you’ll discover “news you can use.” As far as Fox and CNN and all the rest are concerned, pish and posh, I say.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Life in the Closed Lane, Part Deux

14 Oct

by Roger White

 

I’ve harped on the many traffic woes of this sardine-packed city before, but now with my youngest chomping at the automotive bit and with the wife and me renewing our primal fears of bodily injury to our kiddos (and yours if they’re not nimble enough to get out of the way), I figured it was time to revisit the demolition derby that is life on these Austin streets.

 Packed like sardines

There are those who put forth that a car is merely an extension of one’s personality, and I am not one to disagree. In fact, I believe placing a human being behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound mechanical contrivance actually amplifies one’s basic behavior to the extreme. If you’re a bully in your daily existence, then you become a truly monstrous a—hole in your behemoth pickup truck. If you’re the extra-careful, nervous type, this translates into that modest little Yaris attempting earnestly to stay six carlengths away from every other vehicle—even in the Target parking lot. If you’re the meditative, peaceful sort, you transmogrify into Gandhi in a ghia, waving and smiling serenely at those who curse and aim middle digits.

 

Add to this car-as-extension-of-self phenomenon the stifling overcrowding of our byways these days and you get what we are experiencing now: critical car mass. We’re not simply employing our autos to get from one point to another—no, sitting in the sedan, waiting for the light to change or the wreckage to clear, has become a way of life. We’re in our Toyotas and Hyundais so much of the time that we eat, sleep, communicate, transact business, recreate (and, yes, re-create), and conduct practically every other function of living in our cars as much as anywhere else. I hear that Honda is actually working on a driver-activated toilet for its higher-end models. No pun intended. Okay, I made that up.

 

Despite the notion of having a potty on the go, I have come to truly despise driving now. Sadly, I used to enjoy getting in the ol’ jalopy. I envied the guys who had the gleaming hot rods. Now I see these immaculately restored muscle cars, and the occasional collector on the goPorsches (usually driven by guys old enough to remember Ferdinand Porsche personally), and I puzzle over these machines with their massive motors grumbling against the walking pace of traffic. I mean, it’s a bit like owning a racehorse in Manhattan. What’s the point?

 

Anyway, from my daily stop-n-go grind I’ve concluded that there are five basic automotive personality types. And here they are, in no particular order: You’ve got your breakneck-speed, tailgating Reckless Kellys. These guys are always late for something, and you are always in their way, for heaven’s sake. Every lane that a Reckless Kelly is not in is the lane that he or she wants desperately to be in. Conversely, you have your Vehicular Vigilantes. These are the self-appointed regulators of the Reckless Kellys, and they can be just as annoying. VVs are the ones who speed up just enough to not let others in if they feel a traffic injustice has been done. Vigilantes enjoy wagging their fingers and shaking their heads correctively at other drivers. On the other end of the extreme, you have your Motorized Milquetoasts. More than three cars on the road at a time frightens MMs, and decision-making is tough for this mild-mannered sort. Keep your distance. MMs are often seen waiting for a stop sign to turn green. Clueless Cloggers used to be an obvious category; these were the very young and very old vehicular pilots. Currently, however, CCs have grown to include every one of these imbecilic drivers who insist on monitoring their mobile devices while they themselves are mobile! Lord help us. And last but least, you have thback off pleaseose temperamental types who think of themselves as Vigilantes but are in actuality a lethal and unpredictable combo of every known personality on the road. These are the most dangerous, maddeningly volatile drivers you can ever come across. They are convinced that their path and their mission are the most important, and they will compromise with no other automobile. If anyone gets in their way, these asphalt autocrats will do anything in their power to seek vengeance—to the point that they are willing to shut down the whole traffic system to get what they want.

 

These frightening folks are, of course, the Boehner Beamers. Steer clear of BBs; you’ve been warned.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

How to Unclog the Duodenum of Texas

8 May

by Roger White

Guess from whence I’m writing this installment, my kaleidoscopic cohort. In my car. That is correct. I haven’t touched the accelerator or the steering wheel in the last six minutes and nineteen seconds—traffic is this clogged—so I figured I might as well put the time to good use. Or silly use, anyway. I can now see a spider web forming from my front left hubcap down to the highway pavement. And I swear that little fuzzy monster is grinning at me. One should not be able to see spider webs and smiling arachnids on the highway.

puttputtSuch is life in Austin. I read the other day that traffic here in the duodenum of Texas ranks fourth-worst in the nation. The entire nation! Only LA, Honolulu, and San Francisco are worse. We’re more cars-trophobic than New York, Boston, and D.C. even. Get it? Cars-trophobic? I made that up, so no copying. I mean, cripes, Forbes magazine recently named our little—correction—NOT little burg as the fastest-growing city in America. It’s gotten to the point where I, your most genteel of scribes, have sunk to the point of using crude, contemporary slang that I vowed I would never employ. Alas, here goes: Trying to get from Point A to Point B in this town now officially … cough, “sucks.” Ew. I said it. I hate that verb. Kids today do not have the verbal alacrity to describe any experience, flavor, relationship, teacher, concert, class, ex-friend, or social exchange with any nuance at all because all they can say is that this or that “sucked.” This is why I hate the word. It bashes creativity. That being said, however, I again acquiesce because I, too, can conjure no other description of living in this town today. Other than it sucks. Like, man.

where am iWhy doth it sucketh, you ask? I’ll tell you. There are too many of us here. Come on, already. Stop moving here. Get this, and I quote from a local news source: “The Austin metro area added 67,230 people during the last 15-month period—4,482 people a month.” Cheese and crackers, folks, that’s 149.4 people glomming onto the city per day. I’m not sure where the .4 comes from, but for the love of Mike, somebody shut the gate.

It’s our own fault, really. Austin is so artsy-craftsy. Everybody and their therapist is an oh-so-sincere musician with a new folk song coming out about riding the backroads to Babylon or somesuch; we have organic food fairs every weekend that feature gluten-free honey-caressed love veggies that have been hand-raised by Buddhist hippies who live in a house made of dirt; everyone young and old runs and bikes by the lake—even the fat people; Robert Plant shops for groceries south of downtown, even though nobody recognizes him anymore because he apparently looks like Marty Feldmanmarty er robert now. Plus there’s a god-forsaken concert or charity run or awareness walk or some civic-minded, hug-inducing love-in wherein they block off every street in or around downtown—every goddamn week! It, uh… well, it sucks.

So, my clarion call to you, my fellow dwellers of the duodenum, is to, um, suckify the city its own self. If people are coming here by the droves because we’re so weird and wonderful, then the only way to reverse the trend is to unweird ourselves. You, over there in the hipster jeans with holes in just the right places, put down the guitar. That’s it, don that gray shirt and apply for that assembly line job at the pliers factory. You there, the lazily grinning hippies selling arugula out of your van. Take a shower—separately, please—put on some real underwear, and drive to Phoenix. You see, we have to tone down the originality and show some real, authentic normalness. Drabness even.

While researching the absolute worst cities in America, I read on more than a few sites that Stockton, California, ranks as a shining example of, er, genuine suckitude. Take a look (and I quote from the internet, so it’s gotta be legit): “In July 2012, Stockton became the largest city ever to file for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Also in 2012, the city was ranked one of the most dangerous cities in America. In 2013, Stockton was ranked as the third-most illiterate city in the U.S., with less than 17 percent of adults holding a college degree.”

Ah ha! Citizens of Duodenum-ville, rise up! And dumb down! Engage in some petty thievery. Kick a tourist or two in the groin. City planners, dabble in a little malfeasance. Cook a book yea stocktonor three. Mr. Mayor, get caught with a city secretary in a Bangkok hotel. Then, and only then, will we stem the tide of people crowding into our fair hamlet. In short, to prevent this city from sucking so badly, we must make it suck somewhat. I think.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here, watching that little smirking spider make a home in my hubcap. Man, this sucks.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Austin, I Love Ya–But Enough with the Festivals Already

12 Mar

by Roger White

 

Enough. I’m festivaled out. I can’t muster the strength to attach one more day-glo wristband to my tired, old wrist.

 

Don’t get me wrong—I love Austin. I really do. I love the laid-back jeans-and-sneakers milieu; I love the true Tex-Mex food and killer margaritas; I love the endless live-music yummmselections; I love the weather (except for the kiln-like days of July and August); and I do relish the fact that li’l ol’ Austin is the one blue-tinted bastion of rational thought and human compassion amid a red sea of fear mongering and “I got mine—git yers, dammit” mentality.

 

But Austin, enough with the festivals already. As I write this, we’re deep in the throes of South by Southwest (SXSW to you hipsters), an extended music party that runs pretty much all of March. It used to be mainly a music thing, but now SXSW includes films, speeches, hipster nerd gatherings, and all sorts of interactive events, whatever that really means. Seriously, what constitutes an “interactive event”? If I get up from my desk to get coffee, and I bump into Larry at the coffee machine, and Larry says “Hi, Rog, how ’bout them Cowboys? Ha, ha, ha,” and I tell Larry to clam up, doesn’t that qualify as an interactive event? Didn’t we just interact back there? I hate Larry.

 

Anyway, this here SXSIXWI thing sucks in about 18 million people from all over the planet, and it makes getting around town a royal pain in my interactive regions. There is no place to park; every downtown bar suddenly charges ten bucks for a beer; and there are some mighty weird-looking people roaming around. Lots of them. I’m talking weird for Austin. That, my friends, is nuclear weird.

 

The one thing I do enjoy about mega-fests such as XXSWXSIW is perusing the band names. Here are a few of the outfits performing this year, I kiddeth you not: The Airborne Death by Death or somethingToxic Event, BadBadNotGood, Bass Drum of Death, Bloody Knives, Bombay Show Pig, The Creepy Creeps, Diarrhea Planet, Flosstradamus, Gringo Star, Idiot Glee, Marijuana Deathsquads, Mutilation Rites, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Two Cow Garage, Warm Soda, The Wet Nuns, and, of course, Zorch.

 

Somehow I envision Two Cow Garage and Diarrhea Planet on the same bill, don’t ask me why.

 

However, my gentle flock, I’m not here to rail merely against SXSKXIW, but the perplexing proliferation of all these pagan parties all over my picturesque place. Man, Austin is averaging almost a festival a week, I’m telling ya. In addition to SXSW, we have the Austin City Limits Festival, the Annual Kite Festival, Star of Texas Rodeo, Circuit of ACL Dudethe Americas Formula 1 Race, the Annual Bun Run, Austin Marathon, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Pecan Street Festival, that X-rated Carnaval Skin Thing, the Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin Film Festival, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and a ton of others I’m forgetting at the moment.

 

Call me old, call me fuddy, call me duddy even, but enough with the glow sticks and the turkey legs and roasted corn and too much cleavage all over the place and waiting in line for an hour to use a porta-potty that smells like a Two Cow Garage. Sheesh. Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Well, if you don’t like the festivals, you don’t have to go, you old coot.” Right you are, but wifey and I have two teenage daughters—two teenage daughters who feel it is their duty to attend every single cotton-pickin’ happening that happens through town.

 

So guess who’s driving in the middle of all this mess, so these daughters don’t suffer the gobbler leglife-altering trauma of missing out on Diarrhea Planet or The Airborne Toxic Event, hmm? That’s right, my wife. Hey, honey, can you pick up a turkey leg while you’re there?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.