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That’s It. We’re Toast. Finito. Game Over. Unless…

21 Nov

by Roger White

 

I knew it. I just knew it. We’re doomed. No, I’m not referring to the results of some recent political goings-on you may have heard about (electoral college be forever damned). Although if you want to infer that’s what I’m talking about, go right ahead. I didn’t imply; you inferred. Your bad. No, what I’m yammering about is the impending end of all life on this planet. Some would say that the events of this second Tuesday of November have pretty much opened the gates for such an apocalyptic consequence, but far be it from me to lay blame for the extinction of mankind on the Great Orange Combover. If that’s what it sounds like I’m saying, again, you’re making assumptions.

 

Sigh. Let’s start again. So I read in one of those scientific, researchy-type magazines recently that, according to a prediction by no less than the renowned theoretical physicist, astronomer, and all-around alien-like brainiac Stephen Hawking, we oxygen-breathers don’t have long before it’s lights-out on this big, blue marble. Yeah, bummer, dude.

 

o-godAccording to Dr. H, unless we can figure out a way to colonize other planets and soon, we’re cosmic toast. Yep, unless we can, say, gentrify the Tharsis Upland Region of Mars (by developing high-rise biodome condos and thereby scooting all the tiny, little ethnic Martian micro-organisms off to the lower-rent Hellas Impact Basin—ain’t that the human way?), then our galactic gooses—sorry, geeses—are cooked. It may be nukes; could be climate catastrophe; maybe an asteroid; might even be a violent overthrow by nasty self-aware robots who finally get fed up with having to scrub our sewage-treatment plants, but one way or another, if you pay heed to the Hawkman, the species Humanus Textus While Drivus is a goner. The rolling Hawking-genius-bot gives us 1,000 years, tops.

 

Now, I know that 1,000 years seems like a long time. And, well, it is. But I got lots to do, and I’m just not sure if a millennium is enough time for me to check off every item on my bucket list. So just in case I don’t make it to Thanksgiving of 3016, I’ll need some of you to finish out my to-do things.

 

i-r-writerHigh on my list is (4) become a published novelist. I had this one scratched out several times, thanks to a string of smarmy suck-up literary agents who were so convinced I was on the fast track to the bestseller list that I had a Central Park brownstone all picked out and even had a pen-name to go by in case I got too famous for my own good. One guy even hooked me up with an LA screenwriter who was also quite confident I was the second coming of J.D. Salinger. Nothing ever came of any of it. Four novels, gathering dust in the closet, and a pile of rejection letters from every publishing house from Nantucket to New Zealand stacked high enough to be a fire hazard. Oh, my pen name. Was going to be D.J. Slingerland. I dunno, just sounded good. So there it is. I have four perfectly good mediocre novels waiting for some intrepid soul to champion. One is horror genre; the other three are historical fiction, science fiction, and a heartwarming coming-of-age memoir. You could even mash them all together, if you like. Call it a very long heartwarming historical sci-fi coming-of-age horror memoir. Or something.

 

wtf-circleThe other top-three items on my finish-by-3016 list? They are, in order: (3) learn how to navigate a traffic circle without having to contact my insurance guy; (2) finish the chicken fried steak at Hill Country Cupboard in one sitting (damn near impossible; it feeds a platoon); and (1) talk to someone live and in person who has actually been hospitalized for having an erection that lasts for more than four hours. I mean, is that even a thing? I can’t even.

 

Hey, look! I made it through this whole mess without uttering the word “Trump” once. Aw, dammit.

 

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

 

 

 

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…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.

 

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.

 

Keep Oak Hill Odd (and Full of Oaks, Please)

7 Oct

by Roger White

 

Funny thing how towns, neighborhoods, and areas get their names—you know, like Oak Hill. This southwest Austin community we call home contains oak trees aplenty, as does a tiny parcel within the Oak Hill area known as Oak Acres. Now, to get to the lovely oak-lined circle of homes called Oak Acres, you go south on the Highway 290 service road just past Industrial Oaks and turn right onto, you guessed it, Oak Boulevard.

 

Stay with me, because there’s a very good reason the word “oak” is mentioned more than just a few times here. This cool little collection of homes is an agrarian alcove of green land, lush dollops of wildflowers, and—here it comes—lots of grand oak trees. This may not be for long, however, if developers have their way. Spurred on by deep-pocketed builders, the city of Home in Oak AcresAustin is considering a zoning change that would allow for the construction of 80+ condominiums in the small tract of gorgeous land behind Oak Acres. Where now one views a blanket of blue larkspur and evening primrose, wild rabbits, a copse of graceful trees, and glorious, expansive sunsets, one may soon see only the bedroom windows of two-story condominiums and lots of industrial-grade siding.

 

Yes, Oak Acres may soon become Condo Corner.

 

What’s happening, you see, is a sad refrain of what happens to so many treasured places these days. Big-money developers see unused virgin land; virgin land owners see dollar signs; city officials look the other way; and area homeowners see their precious community turned into Cleveland. You hear these woeful stories all the time.

 

In this particular case, the area known as the Harper Park Tract, which butts up against tiny Oak Acres, was recently coveted by a megalithic homebuilder who will remain unnamed. The builder sidled up to the owner of this rural acreage, flashed some impressive dollar figures, you get the ideaand you can guess the rest. The homeowners’ group in Oak Acres has tried to negotiate with the developer (this should be read as “the developers’ high-priced lawyer team”)—but after mutually agreed-upon concessions were ignored or completely changed by the developer’s legal beagles when ink was put to paper, the Oak Acres homeowners decided to fight.

 

Understand, good people, that there are fewer than 40 homes in this charming little neighborhood. This means there aren’t too many folks going to bat for the Oak Acres team. If you’re getting a David-and-Goliath sort of image in your mind’s eye about now, then you are getting the picture. If you’ve never been to Oak Acres, you should go. It’s just a simple circle—one way in, one way out. The homes are unpretentious and appealing; the properties are well-maintained and full of bicycles and toys, front-porch swings and gardens—the pleasant trappings of family life on the rural edge. The lots are about a half-acre or more each, with room to breathe and play. However, if the condos clamber in, at an average of about five of them an acre, the folks here can kiss this quality of life goodbye.

 

yer typical lawyerAs it stands now, the little guys have a petition in place; the Oak Acres folks need at least two city council members to vote with them to oppose the zoning change, effectively blocking a super-majority required to override the petition. What this would mean, of course, is that a city official would have to side with homeowners, not big-money business. That’s always a tough one, it seems. Last I heard was that the city council was planning on meeting October 17 to consider the matter.

 

Who’s willing to go to bat for David? Wouldn’t it be something for the little guys—the homeowners—to win one?

 

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.