Monday, December 31, 2007

Kiss Me Deadly (Behind the Right Ear, If You Please)

The Chuck Rosenthal email saga keeps on giving, what with mullahs of the local Republican Party asking the district attorney (unanimously!) to withdraw his re-election bid and Rosenthal telling them to go screw themselves (figuratively, as the D.A. himself might put it). This GOP “advisory committee” is certainly powerful: So far all they’ve done is to ensure the matter gets even more media attention during the traditionally slow local holiday news cycle and, in an even neater trick, managed to make Rosenthal a sympathetic figure (well, almost). Perhaps they are a super-clever bunch and that was their intent all along.

We should note here that all the above-mentioned individuals are getting what they justly deserve for presenting themselves as the earthly representatives of Jesus Christ and Dr. Steven Hotze. Especially the district attorney. Yet we’re not sure what exactly Rosenthal is guilty off, other than being a Late Middle-Aged Lover Boy (is there nothing more pathetic?) and leaving himself open to the courtroom bullyragging of Lloyd Kelley. The use of a county car by executive secretary Kerry Stevens, the object of Rosenthal’s semi-amorous electronic mailings, is indeed bothersome if not a raging scandal, so perhaps the D.A. could usher in the New Year by announcing his executive secretary will henceforth be driving her own vehicle (or bicycling, or taking the bus) to and from work. We doubt, however, that the resplendently tan and headstrong D.A. will bring himself to do even that modest bit of housecleaning.

It’s rich---the notion that the filling of a high-profile county office might hinge on supposedly unintentionally disclosed emails in which the sender tells the recipient he wants to plant a smooch on her right ear---if not enough to make us want to cast a ballot for Clarence Bradford for D.A. (What’s the matter with the local Democratic Party: It couldn’t disinter Lee P. Brown and prop him on the ballot for some high office?) It certainly threatens to set a new standard of saintliness for the holding of local office. Perhaps the League of Women Voters should ask the following question of candidates for its next Voters Guide: Have you ever carried on an affair of any sort with an underling in your workplace, or sent emails from which a reader might reasonably infer you were conducting an affair? Perhaps Rosenthal could ask the question of whatever GOP primary challengers the party scares up.

Let’s get it on!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Oh, Now He’s Sorry

The supposedly inadvertent disclosure* of emails from Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal suggesting he’s been carrying on with his executive secretary has proved a satisfying holiday diversion---much better entertainment than, say, driving through River Oaks to “look at the lights.” Any story that includes an extramarital tryst involving a high elected official and returns Lloyd Kelley** (bad ’90s flashback!), the not-so-lovable Irish cop from the east side, to the public stage … well, as Rosenthal himself might say in another context, We are truly blessed.

Ordinarily we aren’t exercised one way or another by anything an elected official does behind closed doors (short of pedophilia and/or heroin addiction). We figure his or her rich and rewarding private life is his or her business and no one else’s. But in Rosenthal’s case the media intrusion into his extracurricular activities is wholly justified, if only on the grounds that this longtime pillar of the Second Baptist Church has exuded a very thick air of sanctimony throughout his public career.

But there’s the more tangible question of whether putative gal pal Kerry Stevens’ $75,000 salary is out of line for the work she does---a point Chronicle birddog Matt Stiles endeavored mightily to prove in Saturday’s newspaper (although the figure doesn’t seem that outrageous)---and the even more tangible question of why Stevens is allowed to use a taxpayer-funded county car that she can fill with taxpayer-funded county gasoline. The last perk bugs us: Stevens is a secretary and presumably must only drive to and from the courthouse in connection with her job, unlike, say, an investigator for Rosenthal’s office who has to get out and about. We’ll be thinking of Stevens next time we gas up at our neighborhood Hugo Chavez gas station.

We hate to have to be the first to point out the obvious, and we’re sure the principals would strenuously object, but it would seem that Stevens is the walking definition of a “kept woman.” Here’s the chronology, as supplied by Rosenthal before he clammed up: He and Stevens had an affair back in the ’80s when both worked in the D.A.’s office and he was married to his first wife, although the relationship did not cause the break-up of that marriage. Since then he’s taken a second wife, a special agent for the FBI. After winning election in 2000, Rosenthal elevated Stevens to the executive secretaryship and, at least until very recently, was sending her such icky-poo professions of amore as “The very next time I see you, I want to kiss you behind your right ear” and “I always want to see you. You own my heart whether you want or not.” The “kiss you behind your right ear” line suggests a certain old-school gentlemanlyess, but you’ve got to wonder about a politician who’d convey such sentiment via publicly funded email, especially in light of the way elected officials’ electronic missives are FOI’ed right and left these days.

Rosenthal has said he’s sorry, and his apology included the somewhat cryptic suggestion that his public embarrassment is part of God’s plan:
I also understand that sometimes things happen for a purpose. This event has served as a wake-up call to me to get my house in order both literally and figuratively.***
Yeah, the D.A. sounds remarkably like many of the criminals he's prosecuted over the years: They’re always sorry after they get caught.

* How did the judge “accidentally” unseal the emails? Wasn’t he a Reagan appointee?
**Another question: Hadn’t Lloyd Kelley been married three (or four) times back when he was an elected city official, and wasn’t he once accused of having a fling with an underling in one of his offices (or it was strongly implied that he had …)? Maybe we’ve confused him with some other ex-official.
***We’re not sure what this means, exactly, but if Rosenthal needs help getting his house in order literally we’ve got some time on our hands right now and would be available for housecleaning duty at $50 an hour. We realize this is higher than a professional firm would charge but we’re fast, organized and speak nearly impeccable English.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Corporate Dominated Power Structure Can Knock Down Our Bucolic Project Abodes, But They’ll Never Take Away Our Large-Screen TVs

The ruckus in New Orleans over the city’s plans to raze four public-housing projects landed on the front page of the Houston Chronicle Friday via a pick-up of a Los Angeles Times story (which we can find no evidence of in the Chronicle’s on-line archives, so you’ll have to take our word on it). For some reason the Chronicle decided to lard the Times story with a local insert that did not address how the demise of these complexes might affect former residents still biding their time in southwest Houston apartments but instead quoted at length one Nick Cooper, a “volunteer from the Houston chapter of Food Not Bombs who has made several visits to New Orleans.” Mr. Cooper’s expertise in the matter---hey, he’s made several trips to New Orleans!---apparently accorded him the standing to be directly quoted at a length found in the local paper only when its publisher is trying to explain away the latest fall in circulation. Thus the insight of Mr. Cooper:
“What happened today in New Orleans is in many ways microcosm of New Orleans and the U.S. … A corporate-dominated power structure using weapons and making decisions for people of color who are without the ability even to attend a public meeting …

This is not a New Orleans issue … This is an issue of housing redevelopment in the South, trying to turn public housing into mixed income.
Well said, comrade! Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney couldn’t have had it written for him any better, if he shared your particular ideological orientation (which we’re pretty sure he doesn’t).

We happened to make a brief swing through New Orleans this week, spending just enough time there to make our first post-Katrina visit to the reopened Camellia Grill, which appears to be run by a Middle Easterner but retains the same general sort of white-jacketed waiters behind the counter, including a youngish white guy who repeatedly addressed the cook, a black gentleman of extremely short stature, as “little gay guy” (as in, “Gimme a Spanish Omelet, Little Gay Guy!”*) and pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Times-Picayune, which had in-depth pre-demonstration coverage of the housing issue (which basically boils down to the loudly enunciated demand of some past and present project dwellers and free-lance activists such as Mr. Cooper to have the feds spend untold millions to renovate and repopulate the ancient yet architecturally significant hellholes versus the aim of federal housing officials and the local housing authority [run by the feds in recent years due to local corruption] to replace them with less dense mixed-income developments).

Part of the new assimilationist policy calls for displaced project residents to use vouchers to rent private apartments, as is done elsewhere with almost no commotion, but that’s apparently a problem in New Orleans, where, according to the Picayune, “many former public housing residents avoid privately owned apartments because they typically face utility and deposit expenses not charged in public housing.” The paper relates the complaint of Sharon Jasper, drolly identified as “a former St. Bernard complex resident presented by activists Tuesday as a victim of changing public housing policies.” Ms. Jasper, pictured above (when we downloaded the photo from the Times-Picayune for unauthorized use here we noticed some wag had titled the file “Miss Saigon”**),

took a moment before the start of the City Hall protest to complain about her subsidized private apartment, which she called a "slum." A [housing authority] voucher covers her rent on a unit in an old Faubourg St. John home, but she said she faced several hundred dollars in deposit charges and now faces a steep utility bill.

"I'm tired of the slum landlords, and I'm tired of the slum houses," she said.

Pointing across the street to an encampment of homeless people at Duncan Plaza, Jasper said, "I might do better out here with one of these tents."

Jasper, who later allowed a photographer to tour the subsidized apartment, also complained about missing window screens, a slow leak in a sink, a warped back door and a few other details of a residence that otherwise appeared to have been recently renovated.
The cutline under the picture was more accurate: “ … details of a residence that otherwise appeared to have been nicely renovated.” In the online version of the story Ms. Jasper was quoted saying, “I might be poor but I don't like to live poor. I thank God for a place to live but it's pitiful what people give you."

Well, yes. But judging by the T-P photos, Ms. Jasper’s new home is hardly a slum: One shot of the exterior shows a spruced-up if unadorned Double Shotgun, while the above interior view suggests a nicely appointed if smallish living space. It also suggests that Ms. Japser might have been able to repair the slow faucet leak and scare up some window screens IF SHE HAD JUST PURCHASED A SMALLER TELEVISION.

(Sorry to be so hard-hearted and unfeeling here at Xmas …)
*Gotta love New Olreans!
**Gotta love New Orleans!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What We All Knew, and When Did We Know It?

It was unfortunate that on the day the Mitchell Report was issued the Houston Chronicle’s front page bore the headline “Baseball braces for report on use of steroids” adjacent to a large picture of a large man with an unusually large head diving into third base beneath the overline “ASTROS: Club finally gets its man---Miguel Tejada” (a juxtaposition that was somewhat more unfortunate for the Astros than the newspaper). Deeper in the Chronicle it was reported that

Roger Clemens was filming a video for the Web site of the Memorial Hermann Hospital Sports Medicine and Human Performance Institute that carries his name when he learned that the Astros had acquired All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada from the Baltimore Orioles.
Yes, well, we hope the filming wrapped up early because the report for which baseball was bracing on Thursday morning left the mere concept of a Roger Clemens Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance overly fraught with irony (the real funny kind!) by Thursday afternoon. (Allegedly, of course.)

The Mitchell Report’s allegation that Clemens had pumped himself up on something other than 12-oz. rib-eyes from H-E-B quickly supplanted the Pasadena resident’s dispatching by shotgun of the two house burglars as Local Topic of Public Discourse #1. It appears that the notion of The Rocket being hit in the ass with a spoonful of testosterone has robbed Our Town’s dewy-eyed baseball fans and pious sports scribes of the last vestiges of their hard-won innocence.

But we were not surprised, according to Chronicle sports columnist Jerome Solomon, who hastily offered up this considered wisdom:

Roger Clemens? Andy Pettite [sic]?

Yes, it hurts.

We all knew. We all knew. But, still it hurts.
OK, man, here’s a hankie. Compose yourself.

Now explain what you mean by “we all knew” (and was that a cut-and-paste typo or did you mean to repeat “we all knew” intentionally, for, um emphasis?). Is that a far-flung global pronouncement to the effect that “we” “knew” that baseball had a “drug problem” similar to the “drug problem” “besetting” society at-large (that is, “we” take drugs, of all kinds, to make “us” feel better and enhance our human performance; at this very moment, for instance, we [that is, me] are enjoying the tail-end of the performance enhancement provided by the Advil Cold and Sinus pill we swallowed some six hours ago). Oh, the pain!

Or was that a “we all knew” in a more localized sense, as in “we all knew that Clemens and Pettitte were doping themselves but really didn’t know, or pretended not to know,” which gives rise to the question, “Why, then, didn’t you exercise your journalistic duty to tell us?” If that’s indeed the case, than Jerome Solomon should immediately fold up his blog and turn in his membership card to Sigma Delta Chi or whatever professional organizations he belongs to.

But we don’t suspect he “knew.” How could anyone have known about Clemens, a guy who seemed to get bigger and better as he got older (for a while, anyway), contrary to the way most of the rest of humanity has aged for hundreds of thousands of years?*

Personally, we (that is, I) don’t care if Clemens juiced himself. He was an unreconstructed prick before the Mitchell Report was issued and he doubtless will remain one (he’s also a hellacious competitor and one of the two or three best pitchers in baseball history---conditions that are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing). We see that he’s denied the allegations and joined Councilwoman Carol Alvarado on the list of celebrities who’ve hired Rusty Hardin as counsel even though they have been accused of no crime.

So he’s exactly like Barry Bonds, without the indictment---he’s accused but denying or in denial. For some reason, though, we suspect the fans and sportswriters won’t be quite so hard on The Rocket.

* Consider, for example, the decline in the quality of this blog over the years.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Diversity in Action: A Tale from the Schoolyard

A young gentleman of our acquaintance has eagerly related to us information regarding a recent event at his very diverse (and highly rated) public middle school, a story that he believes deserves wider dissemination. We explained to the lad that while the story did not rise to the level of “news” as it is traditionally defined, it was the kind of “news” in which we have become increasingly interested, and we would do our part if he would “write up” an account. We instructed him to pretend he was a “reporter” and try to stick the “facts” as he witnessed them, without seeming to favor one side or another. This young man has been in the USA for only a couple of years and thus is not fully comfortable with the nuances and complexities of our difficult English language, yet he already possesses a talent for sequencing and chronology that far surpasses those of much older and more experienced native English writers with whom we’ve worked. We present his report here, with only the lightest touch of the editor’s hand, not to embarrass the young man but because … it’s interesting (a lot more interesting than, say, this prattle). The youngster’s title for his story was “The Race War,” a choice that may or may not reflect his mastery of the American art of hype. We cannot vouch for the veracity of all of the particulars, but then again it sounds real true. We have changed a name to protect the innocent:
The war started with a childish arguement during lunch. When this Asian kid said “Asians are the smartest race.” And then this white kid said “hell(x2) no, female dog!” [and] “F***ing Asian.”

Then all these Asian kids started to beat this white kid. Using the Asian martial arts such as Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kung Fu, etc. And then reinforcements came from the other side of the school. Yelling “White Pride.”

However they didn’t fight they just stared at the fight. The kid who was getting beaten up saw these Mexicans laughing at him and said “D**n Mexican” and then the strongest and biggest kid came and joined the war.

That kid was a bully who was the violentest kid in the whole school (one time he brought a weed and guns to school and went to juvenile detention canter).

He said “Hey kid, I heard that you are talking sh** about Mexicans.” The kid who was getting beaten up literally shook by the time he saw the bully kid coming. When that Mexican kid came Arab kids said “ooh ….,” then the kid who was getting beat up said “shut up you F***ing terrorists.” Then the whole school surrounded the arena. When the teacher noticed that all the kids are gone, he ran to the courtyard and stopped the violent action. He gave 1 little detention to a Japanese kid who hit the pressure points to the white kid and then he gave 3 ISS (in-school suspensions) to all these white kids. That was the end of the Race War of 2007 at [Ambrose Bierce Middle School].
We suggested to the author that there was only one element missing from the story---a quote from Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg---but the boy apparently did not understand our lame attempt at jocularity.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Congo, Meet Oscar

Friday’s New York Times brought news of Congo, a four-legged denizen of the “well-to-do Ivy League town” of Princeton, N.J. One of six German Shepherds who populate the household of Guy and Elizabeth James, Congo last summer mauled a Honduran landscaper named Giovanni Rivera. Four of the Jameses' other pooches joined in the attack on Mr. Rivera (the couple says Congo was provoked when the dog-shy landscaper “became scared of [Congo] and grabbed Mrs. James.”). Mr. Rivera, who “received 65 rabies shots … and spent five days in the hospital after a three-hour operation, according to his lawyer,” has accepted a $250,000 settlement form the Jameses’ insurer. In October, a municipal court judge in Princeton Township “declared Congo vicious and the attack unprovoked.” Having made that determination, the judge had no choice under New Jersey’s “vicious dog” law but to order that Congo be put down.

But hold on---the bell tolls not for Congo, at least not yet. According to Times scribe Sarah Kershaw

State Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen, a Democrat from Union, has introduced legislation, which he calls Congo’s Law, that could spare the life of Congo and other dogs in similar situations by giving judges more discretion in meting out punishment.

And now, thousands of people from Princeton and elsewhere are petitioning the governor for a pardon. (There is precedent for such things in New Jersey.)
And during Congo’s trial …

The Jameses also submitted to the court dozens of letters from character witnesses and others who had come into contact with Congo during his 18-month life.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Congo over the past two years and feel confident in stating that my relations with him have always been friendly and warm,” wrote one friend of the family.
Nevertheless, and despite the “more than 4,000 telephone calls, letters and e-mail messages on Congo’s behalf” that have deluged Gov. John “Speedy” Corzine’s office, the shepherd passes what could be his final days under a sort of Death Row/House Arrest arrangement while his masters appeal the judge’s decision to a superior court.

This story struck a faint bell, but we couldn’t immediately locate the source of that feeling of déjà vu. Then we remembered: It was just a few days ago that we had learned of a similar outpouring of testimonials on behalf of another Alpha Male who ran into legal trouble, Houston oilman Oscar Wyatt (once semi-famously rendered a soggy, Croce-esque canine cliché by Texas Monthly, or maybe it was Good Housekeeping, which described the old boy as “meaner than a junkyard dog.”) Thanks to the “amazing letters” attesting to the humanitarianism and all-around wonderfulness of the 83-year-old husband of redoubtable socialite Lynn, a U.S. district judge on Tuesday sentenced Oscar to less than the minimum dictated by federal sentencing guidelines for paying kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein in return for oil- purchase concessions. According to the Houston Chronicle, a Wyatt attorney said he couldn't remember another time "when a judge had gone below an agreed-upon sentencing range."

Obviously the testimonials worked much to the favor of Oscar Wyatt, who will probably spend less than a year in prison while poor Congo awaits an uncertain fate in the New Jersey judicial system. Then again, Congo never donated $20,000 to the Houston Police Department after being impressed by an officer who had stopped him for a traffic violation, and thus was unable to secure a letter of recommendation from former part-time Houston mayor and part-time police chief Lee P. Brown.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Hell You Say!

Unseen dangers lurk, especially during the holiday season, but fortunately experts are standing by with invaluable counsel. We only wish we had read the dispatch headlined “Think twice before drinking and shopping” in Friday’s Houston Chronicle before we waded out into the deranged mobs that besieged our local establishments of commerce. According to the author, John Campanelli of Newhouse News Service,
The Baylor College of Medicine even issued a public advisory about it several years ago: "Don't drink and shop during holidays." Sipping and shopping "impairs judgment and decreases inhibitions," psychiatry professor Kristin Kassaw cautioned. "You may find shopping bags full of impulse buys that you might ordinarily think twice about."
What’s worse is drinking and shopping while packing a loaded handgun, which we understand could possibly be the subject of a more recent advisory from our august local medical school.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Absolutely Bestest Show on TV (As of This Fleeting Moment in Time)

A few weeks ago, while hurriedly passing through on our way to some larger point, we made the not-so-novel observation that HBO’s The Wire was the best show on television. We’re afraid, however, that this grand pronouncement proved to be just another of our transitory enthusiasms, because at the time we had not seen Last Dance, which we stumbled across on one of those cable stations that’s way, way up there on the digital dial.

You’ve seen Last Dance, haven’t you? The show about the geriatric dance troupe that travels from town to town, chasing the Terpsichorean muse and searching for late-life adventure? And by “dance” we don’t mean Arthur Murray or Lawrence Welk-style hoofery or even square-dancing or boot-scootin’. Nope, Last Dance shows America’s elders in all their butt-twitchin’, arm-thrusting, synchronized hip-hopping glory. It’s a brilliant idea (apparently no one has taken credit for Last Dance’s creation, although we detect the subtle hands of both The Sopranos’ David Chase and Deadwood’s David Milch, as well as some other guy named “David”), because if there’s one thing that Americans love even more than Joel Osteen, Internet porn and salty snacks, it’s watching old people dance like teenagers. And with the first of the nation’s Baby Boomers now eligible to draw Social Security, Last Dance is demographically right on time.

You can tell that Last Dance is something different from the opening credits, when a phalanx of Harley-riding geezers comes roaring out of the darkness, into the sunshine and toward the camera, their turkey wattles flappin’ in the breeze while Psychotic Reaction rises on the soundtrack (not the Count Five original, either---the Brenton Wood cover, which as scholars long ago confirmed is simply the backing track of the Count Five version with the Oogum Boogum Man’s vocal dubbed on top; Last Dance is too hip for the room---any room!). We can’t get enough of the dance routines, especially the weekly show-closing to Super Freak, but it’s the finely drawn characters and their stories that have kept us coming back week after week. The conceit, of course, is that all the dancers are over 70 and thus when off-stage susceptible to the insults of old age---tight bowels, loose dentures, dowager’s hump, debilitating arthritis, permanent erectile dysfunction, unexplained grumpiness, etc. When the lights go up they come alive as “one organism,” as the troupe’s director, a finicky 73-year-old gay man with a heart of gold, always says, but during their off-hours the characters fuss and fight, pair up for furtive sex (this is cable, so if you’d be offended by the sight of two fully unclothed 80 year olds going wham-jam on the queen-size of $79-a-night hotel room you’d best steer clear of Last Dance), commit gross infidelities, become addicted to gambling (slots, mostly) and various drugs (prescription and non-prescription), and are occasionally stalked by homicidal maniacs. It’s just like ER or Grey’s Anatomy (neither of which we’ve ever watched, so we’re just guessing here), except with an older cast and a grouchy female lead whose signature expression is “Suck my c—k, c---sucker.” (Again, the subtle hand of Milch?)

In an early episode that has “Emmy” written all over it, one of the troupe’s two black males decides he’s gay and “comes out” at age 83. His fellow dancers are accepting, except for one---the remaining straight black male of the troupe, who derides his former friend as a “butt-wheedlin’ sissy” (again, it’s cable). Of course, the bigot sees the error of his way after the newly gay character rescues him while the troupe is out ice fishing between Wisconsin engagements. The episode ended with a massive group hug, and if it doesn’t bring tears to your tired eyes have someone call the coroner, ’cause you ain’t got a pulse, Chester.

There’s a little somebody for everybody on Last Dance---a WASPy incontinent former corporate lawyer whose last divorce, from a 17-year-old Guatemalan mail-order bride, left him bankrupt and in need of work (“All my life, I’ve wanted to dance---to just get down,” he confides to another character). There’s a remarkably well-preserved Indo-American female named “Shiva,” as well as real-live American Indian (played by a real-live Indian) who often sits out the dance routines because they “shame” his ancestors. Our favorite, though, is the crotchety old Jewish guy, who is casually revealed in an early episode to be Israeli, which explains why he’s rude to everyone, including his 101-year-old mother, who travels with the troupe doing their laundry and whose frequent lapses into “dementia” provide some of the series’ more poignant plot twists. There’s even an elderly Italian-American, an ex-Mafioso with no 401(k) who looks suspiciously like the guy who played “Paulie Walnuts” on The Sopranos (it couldn’t be him, could it?).

Well, anyway, check it out: Last Dance is much, much better than John from Cincinnati.

Wait, scratch this posting: We just saw Drinking with the Stars.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Product Placement

A while back our local daily newspaper began running advertisements on its previously sacrosanct section fronts. That was fine by us, because we understand the challenges faced by hugely profitable monopolies in today’s complex and competitive media and information environment. We fully expect to awake one morning in the near future and find the front page plastered with ads. That, too, will be OK. After all, the reader who can’t tell the difference between an advertisement and a news story---or even an advertisement masquerading as a news story---probably has more pressing matters to attend to than scanning the daily paper.

Yet we must acknowledge being somewhat nonplussed by a recent development in the Houston Chronicle: that of advertisements literally jutting into adjacent news stories. We first noticed this phenomenon several months ago on a page inside the front section of a Saturday edition. The ad was a two-column page-length strip for the 2007 line of Jeeps and depicted three models whose front bumpers protruded in a most unfortunate manner into a half-column of the adjacent news copy. Two of the three vehicles were nosed right into a reprint of a New York Times dispatch on an acknowledged but never-convicted pedophile whose “exhibitionistic blogging about his thoughts on little girls” had riled parents in Los Angeles and raised vexatious free-speech questions.

We tried to finish reading this most interesting story but just couldn’t get past the blithe blurring of the line (the literal line!) between news and advertising. Then there was the slogan that had involuntarily arisen in our mind: “Jeep Commander Limited: The Ride Preferred by the Blogging Pedophile of L.A.!” Perhaps this was just a one-shot experiment, we thought, but as usual we were wrong: Just this Friday the front ends of a whole ’nother line of Chrysler products were parked in a news story, this one about a Holocaust survivor from Belarus who was orphaned at 7 but managed to hang on until the end of the war as a "mascot” of pro-Nazi Latvian troops. Those protruding Chryslers sort of cheapened the story for us, if you dig where we’re coming from.

This must be a fairly effective advertising technique, though, because on Saturday Jeeps were poking out into stories all over the front section (“MySpace hoax called reason for suicide,” “Japan, U.S., tout common ground”* and “North, South Korea make multiple deals”**).

We wonder whether the Chronicle has considered the possibilities this layout style holds for those “Super Sex pill” advertisements.

*Future Pulitzer finalist for "Most Scintillating Headline in a Daily Newspaper with Circulation of 500,000 or Above."

**Runner-up to Pulitzer finalist.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Me and Julio (and Fred and Lamont and Roberto and Dionny) Down by the Schoolyard, Then and Now

In episode 76 of Sanford and Son, recalled by posterity only as Julio and Sister and Nephew,“Fred's anti-Puerto Rican attitude suddenly changes after Julio's nephew is the victim of discrimination in school.” That’s according to, the Web site for the cable network on which we viewed Julio and Sister and Nephew just this Saturday night.

Like most one-line summations, the TVLand listing fails to capture the nuance of Julio and Sister and Nephew. Julio, played by a rangy character actor you used to see on TV a lot, usually portraying a badass in some crime drama, is Fred’s noble Puerto Rican neighbor and often the target of the irascible L.A. junkman’s coarse ethno-racial repartee. In the aptly titled Julio and Sister and Nephew, Julio’s sister and nephew come to L.A. from the old country and, for reason or reasons we missed while in the kitchen fixing supper, wind up lodging temporarily in Fred and son Lamont’s digs. Fred treats the sister with something less than respect and puts her to work cleaning the Sanford Arms---are you hanging with us here?---but refuses to eat the ethnic dishes she cooks, explaining that “my doctor has me on a strict diet---no garbage!”

The conflict, if you will, emerges when nephew Roberto (if we remember correctly) enrolls in the L.A. school system. He’s a fifth grader but is told by the school that he must go back to the fourth grade because, according to his teacher, he can’t speak or understand English well enough to “keep up”* with the class. This makes young Roberto angry, and tearful. “I’m not a baby,” he declares, in what sounded to us like perfectly serviceable English.

Then, sometime in the near future---we missed the transition on a return trip to the kitchen---comes word that acting-out Roberto has been suspended from school. Roberto’s mother prevails upon a reluctant Fred---Lamont and Julio apparently are “out”---to accompany her to the school to suss out the situation. There the pair meet with the principal, a dignified African-American gentleman with stentorian voice, who explains that there’s nothing he can do about Roberto’s problem---the teacher is adamant that the boy’s English skills aren’t up to the 5th grade.

Then Fred has a bold idea: “Why don’t you stay after school and help him [with his English]?”

“I can’t do that---I’m the principal!” sez the principal.

“Well,” ripostes Fred G., “how about forgetting about your principal and worrying about his interest?”

The studio audience applauds heartily, and the principal, moved by the junkman’s unassailable and punning logic, agrees: “Yes, I think I will!”

This obviously was back in the day, when a school principal just rolled out the balls and burnished the heavy wooden paddle and didn’t have to fret over standardized test scores. But what really betrayed the datedness of Julio and Sister and Nephew was the fact that a 1970s sit-com created and produced by Norman Lear, the consummate Hollywood liberal of the time, was sermonizing on behalf of pushing Spanish-speaking children to immediately learn English (albeit with the help of special after-hours tutelage from the school principal).

Yes, this was so long ago (we assume the episode was made sometime between 1972 and 1975), back before the Mexican economic dislocations of the late ’70s triggered the massive and sustained illegal immigration to the United States that only recently has shown signs of abating, and back before the perfessers down the corner College of Education misread Thomas Dewey and saddled the public schools of the land with bilingualism (which, as we have noted too many times previously, turned out to be monolingualism, the lingualism being español) and other flavor-of-the-month theories regarding child-centered education (as opposed to education-centered education).

Our viewing of Sanford and Son followed our learning of the news in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle that the Houston school district was for the first time to conduct University Interscholastic League academic competitions in Spanish (and not just for the subject Spanish, we should note). The newspaper explained that this was sort of a UIL-sanctioned experiment that could spread elsewhere in the state. The school district’s organizer, identified as Michael Fain, was quoted as saying, "There is not a single person that has said we should not do this."

Obviously Mr. Fain needs to get out of the house more often.

This struck as a fairly significant story, given the hallowed place of UIL competitions in Texas public education, yet it was written with the typical gee-whilikers, ain’t-this-wonderful approach the Chronicle invariably takes to such stories (it’s FOR THE KIDS, and how could you be against something that’s FOR THE KIDS, even if it’s bad FOR THE KIDS?) The human interest angle comes in the person of a competitor in the Spanish-language creative-writing contest, 7-year-old Dionny Rodriguez, who “came to Houston this year from Mexico, where [she] used to recite poems in Spanish” (which suggests that the youngster may have been getting a better education down in Mexico, recitation being rote memorization, which is roundly condemned down at the College of Education, ’cause, y’know, it could be too hard and boring and whatnot).

She came this year … couldn’t they find somebody who had been in the country longer than a few months? (We’ll pause here to catch our breath and point out what seems to have flown right past all the geniuses and their analyses of last week’s election returns: One reason for the narrowness of victory of the HISD schoolhouse-bonds referendum is a growing backlash, especially among blacks, against the metastasizing cost [new schools, bilingual teachers, summer school, etc. and so on] of educating the children of illegals---mark it and check it out.) What about all the Chinese and Korean and African and Albanian and Bosnian kids (and don't forget the Meshketian Turks!) in the local schools who aren't being served in their respective native tongues like young Dionny and therefore have to get strokin' in English? Wouldn't fairness dictate that they get their own UIL competitions?

But don’t worry. According to the Chronicle, this foray into UIL bilingualism (monolingualism) “doesn't mean football fouls will be called in Spanish anytime soon.”

Football fouls?

Hold on, Elizabeth, I’m comin’! (Grab chest, fall over.)

*Keeping up with the class---what a quaint notion!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Southampton Residents Warn the Rest of Houston: Hands Off Our Ordinance, Plebes

As far as we know no one has even pretended that the now-delayed-for-90-days ordinance aimed at keeping a 23-story high-rise from affronting "affluent" homeowners of the Southampton and Boulevard Oaks neighborhoods is anything but a whimsical maneuver tailored to satisfy one small, localized constituency of the well-off. But must the Southamptonites and Boulevard Oakies be so flagrantly proprietary about it?

We're referring to a comment the Houston Chronicle's Mike Snyder extracted from Chris Amandes, identified as "an attorney who chairs a task force of leaders of the two neighborhoods," who's

worried that a lengthy delay [in city council approval of the ordinance] would prompt efforts to add features to the ordinance that might jeopardize its passage.

"There are lots of opportunities for anybody who has any kind of land-use issue to tie their wagon to this ordinance," Amandes said.
In other words, Away with your wagon and other nettlesome development issues. This is our ordinance.

If nothing else, this controversy has made for an edifying spectacle, in particular the notion of these agitated rich folks rallying to forestall the creatively destructive impulses of market capitalism.

Then there's Mayor White, who must be putting a little extra strut in his step following the 86-percent stamp of approval he received in Tuesday's election. According to Snyder, White said the message he's sending to the developers of the planned high-rise is this: "You'd better stop this thing, because I'm going to stop it unless you stop it."

It's Marshal Kane, with the Southamptonites as his Quaker bride.

Cue the Tex Ritter.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Slampo’s Place Exclusive Endorsement: Bill White for Mayor (’Cause He Lays off the Grass)

After a long and careful review of the candidates and the issues while waiting for a bus at the corner of Fondren and Beechnut, the editorial board has voted unanimously to again throw the full heft of Slampo’s Place behind Mayor Bill White in his bid for a third and final term.

That means, of course, the election is all but over, unless one of the other candidates---aren’t there one or two?---would like to send some cash money to us in an envelope (no return address necessary). Fifty ($50) could swing it (having spent our formative years in the "Gret Stet" to the east, we’re not only corrupt but come cheap). Contact us at the email address above, and remember when you leave a message to specify which candidate we are to endorse. Be quick about it.

We, of course, have had our differences with Whi … ah, scratch that. We accidentally hit the “insert editorial writing cliché here” button. Here’s what we meant to say: We agree with many things The Guv’nuh has done, disagree or are puzzled by others, consider his “tax cuts” a silly joke but overall think he’s been a good mayor, better than his immediate predecessor for sure (small, small praise) and probably better than his immediate three or four predecessors (at least). We don’t even hold against him---not too much, anyway---the mess made of our neighborhood for a year and a half by the public works department and the soon-to-go-bankrupt contractor the city council picked for a major water pipe replacement project (now fading fast into pained memory).

We’re occasionally tickled by our brethren and sisteren or whoever-en in the blogosphere who attribute every action or pronouncement of White’s to base political motive in advance of his putative run for governor. (We also have to laugh at the mayor’s protestations that his political future doesn’t factor into his decisions---the muddled truth most likely is somewhere in between.) If White were a calculating Clinton-esque triangulator (which he is) but nothing more, then you’d have to say he’s an inept one. Take the attempted eviction of the mentally retarded from their longtime home near River Oaks: What percentage was there for White in that maneuver? It’s not like a donation or two from a developer, if he even were to get them, is going to get him elected governor. From a political standpoint, it was dumb---which nine out of ten people on the street could have told him, if he had asked---so we can only conclude the mayor truly believed he was pursuing the fiscally responsible course, even if it was politically dumb and (if you please) morally wrong. (As age teaches, there are certain arrangements in the world that, upon close inspection, are that way for a good reason and should remain undisturbed by the improver’s hand.)

So White strikes us as a serious person, with a tendency to list toward self-righteousness and sanctimony (and how). That was brought home to us by something called Living Green that appeared inside the Oct. 25 Houston Chronicle. Living Green is the latest in an apparently endless parade of niche publications the Chronicle is trotting out. Perhaps you’ve seen them: There’s Glop, or Gloop, and Health (can Wealth by far behind, or did it come and go and we missed it?), and Sexy Boxing Latinas (“The Chronicle niche publication for dudes who like to watch hot chicks fight”) and Frenchette (“The Chronicle niche publication for Houstonians who pretend to know something about wine”) and our favorite, Sweat ("The Chronicle niche publication for Houstonians who perspire in large and unsightly amounts”). The Lil’ General (5 years=no Pulitzer=hari-kari … oh, he’s not Japanese) who rouses the troops at 801 Texas recently declared that the niche publication is one of the key fronts on which the Hearst Corp. is battling the mysterious “all comers” (some come fast ... some come real slow) in the war against falling circulation and revenue.

And what’s this got to do with Bill White? Hold on, we’re getting to that. Right now we’re building momentum, kinda like the Dead in the 8th or 9th minute of Tennessee Jed at Hofheinz back in November of ’72.

Anyway, regarding Living Green: We won’t waste much time here pointing out the irony of a newspaper whose existence depends on the clear-cutting of acres of forests and the burning of copious amounts of fossil fuels presuming to offer instruction, or even “tips,” on environmental correctness. We’ll just open up Living Green and note that the first item to offend the sensitive reader is deep reportage on the “green habits” of various celebrities such as Demi Moore and Martha Stewart, which appeared right next to a full-page Gallery Furniture ad for an expensive German mattress made only of "natural materials." (And for this, we guess, the newspaper laid off or fired veteran reporters and editors.)


Deeper into the section is a double-truck feature in which some consigned-to-hell Chronicle minion was forced to ask various local personages---a well-known restaurateur, the head of maintenance at Metro, etc.---to rate Houston’s “greenness” on a scale of 1 to 10. That wasn’t the only thing that was asked of them---apparently each of these experts was asked to be photographed holding a FUCKING PLUG OF GRASS, which you would presume is the logo or symbol or whathaveyou of Living Green. It’s unclear and unspecified whether this was a flat of common St. Augustine, as it appears, or some native grass, or perhaps a slab of wheat grass, the kind that is pressed into the juice we drink only when Councilman Peter Brown is buying shots for the house at Whole Foods. Whatever it is and whatever its visual "point," all the participants are pictured holding a FUCKING PLUG OF GRASS---the pained expression on the restaurateur’s face suggests she’s extending a paper plate of DOG POO---all, that is, except for el alcade. The mayor is pictured wearing a goofy green golf shirt, most likely left over from St. Paddy’s Day, and bizarrely gives Houston an 8 of 10 for greenness (ah, it’s a joke anyway, so why not give the city an 11?), but he IS NOT HOLDING A FUCKING PLUG OF GRASS. Maybe he thought, “I’m not participating in this stupid gimmick that somebody thinks will burnish the bottom line of the Hearst Corp., no matter how many back massages and foot rubs I’ve been given by Rick Casey and the Chronicle editorial board,” or maybe he wasn’t thinking that at all, but whatever the case the FUCKING PLUG OF GRASS ended up still in the picture but well behind the mayor on a window frame.

So, um, as far as we’re concerned he's got that going for him, and he’s deftly denied his Republican opponent in the 2010 gubernatorial race the chance to run a negative ad featuring a picture of Bill White looking like a mope with a wad of grass in hand.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Down in the Hole: The Newspaper Business is Just like Any Other Business, Only More So

If you were one of the unfortunates at the Houston Chronicle whacked by the wide-swinging scythe of publisher Smilin’ Jack Sweeney’s “position elimination program,” take heart: You can set aside some of that buyout money (if you got bought out---hey, the Hearst Corp.’s hurtin’) to get hooked up to the cable and order HBO (which, we must sadly report, has risen by $10 a month under Comcast's ownership of the city's cable monopoly). Then you’ll be ready to pull up a chair come January for the fifth and final season of the network’s The Wire---now the best show on television after the exit of The Sopranos*---whose main story line will be devoted to downsizing at a big-city monopoly newspaper. It will be worth forgoing a few meals.

We can’t wait for the new season: It’s probably the first time we’ve actually looked forward to something on television since we heard The Beatles were going on Ed Sullivan. Given The Wire’s grand theme---the relentless commodification of the human, on all fronts---and its past treatment of the drug war, urban politics, the declining white working-class and shot-to-hell public schools, we suspect its approach to the faltering newspaper business will strike a chord for anyone involved with, or concerned about, the faltering newspaper business.

In a long story on The Wire in a recent New Yorker, bombastic creator David Simon offered some lacerating insights on the state of newspapers. We knew that Simon was a long-time cop shop reporter for the Baltimore Sun before his book Homicide was turned into a television series in the early ’90s, but we were surprised to learn that he had worked at the Sun as late as 1995 and left only after “bitterly” accepting a buyout offer, believing the newspaper “was squandering talent under new management.” (“Tone-deaf and prize-hungry and more interested in self-aggrandizement than in building lasting quality at the paper,” is the way Simon describes his superiors; the last season of The Wire will be partly set at a newspaper called the Baltimore Sun.) He’s a newspaper guy but clearly sees the medium’s major (and self-imposed) limitation:
This final season of the show, Simon [said], will be about “perception versus reality”—in particular, what kind of reality newspapers can capture and what they can’t. Newspapers across the country are shrinking, laying off beat reporters who understood their turf. More important, Simon believes, newspapers are fundamentally not equipped to convey certain kinds of complex truths. Instead, they focus on scandals—stories that have a clean moral. “It’s like, Find the eight-hundred-dollar toilet seat, find the contractor who’s double-billing,” Simon said at one point. “That’s their bread and butter. Systemic societal failure that has multiple problems—newspapers are not designed to understand it.”
Yes, there’s little that comes neatly packaged in black-and-white on The Wire, but it’s a more accurate depiction of the master narratives of urban life circa 2007 than you’ll ever get from reading a daily newspaper, including the two or three left in the country that are worth a shit.

*Meaning it’s the second-best show of all time, behind The Sopranos and just ahead of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why Are There No Grandmasters Seeking the Highest Office of Our Land (Or Even an At-Large Seat on City Council)?

We occasionally devote this space to our tiresome grousing about the ongoing and apparently inexorable dumbing-down of our native land. It’s one of our “themes,” so to speak, yet every once in a while we are reminded, with a piledriver-to-the-forehead vengeance, that it’s actually much worse than we let on.

Such was the case last weekend when we happened upon Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO, which we lay prone to watch after Maher announced that one of his guest panelists would be Sheila Jackson Lee (although we believe Maher mangled SJL’s name on first pronunciation). To our mild surprise, The Ubiquitous Congresswoman from Texas’s 18th Congressional District, as she’s formally known, came off well, within the narrow confines of her reflexive partisan predictability (the heathen Maher managed to elicit a grudging admission from the voluble congress gal that she “believes” in evolution, a view we suspect is not shared by many pastors in the 18th District). She did, however, manage to hog most of the dialogue---no mean feat, considering one of the other two panelists was Chris Matthews---and her appearance moved us to wonder what it must be like to be married to SJL, or to be one of her offspring, or to be even a four-legged pet in the SJL household, when no occasion is undeserving of a Major SJL Pronouncement: “Well, Bill, let me say this about [that] …” (which is how she actually seemed to preface every answer she gave Maher).

But we did not come here this evening to take a cheap and easy shot at Shelia Jackson Lee, which would be just too cheap (and easy). What really grabbed our attention on Maher’s show was the pot-puffing host’s interview with Garry Kasparov, the former World Chess Champion and candidate for the Russian presidency next year (he also has new book to sell). Kasparov was trenchant and funny (as in funny-dead serious) and demonstrated a notable ability to think on his feet while directly answering a question---notable, at least, when compared to the 18 or 20 or however many supplicants are still seeking the presidency of the United States, where SOP for candidates is to open the can and pour out the market-tested horseshit.* We especially enjoyed his cogent explanation of rival Vladimir Putin’s cozying up to Ahmadinejad (had something to do with the price of oil---can ya believe it?)

Kasparov wowed his audience: “He’s something, huh?” enthused Maher after the by-satellite interview ended. “Why can’t run in the Iowa caucus?” A lathered-up Matthews declared himself especially impressed by Kasparov’s ESL ability: “Do you ever get the feeling we’re playing checkers and they’re playing chess? That was sophisticated …our guys never get to that level of sophistication! They talk down to us … And he’s thinking in Russian!”

It was indeed quite a performance, as it apparently stunned Shelia Jackson Lee into an unprecedented silence.

This is the Kasparov-Maher interview.

*For the time being we must exempt the callow Obama from this gross generalization, because like our podnah Peggy Noonan we’ve begun to notice that the Illinois senator actually seems to consider questions and think before he speaks. Sometimes he even appears to be talking with people, rather than at them, and mildly embarrassed when he has to resort to pre-packaged blather. There’s no way in hell he could be president!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

War in Iraq Affords Opportunity for Another "Local Boy" to Get His Name in the Paper

The Wall Street Journal reported on its front page Thursday that a Houston businessman named Samir Itani is a “key figure” in what appears to be a wide-ranging federal investigation of fraud, kickbacks and price-gouging by contractors supplying food to the U.S. military in Iraq.

Mr. Itani---doesn’t ring a bell, does it?---is described by the WSJ as a Lebanese American who runs privately held American Grocers Inc. According to the Journal, Itani

has worked closely with a pair of Kuwaiti companies that lie at the heart of the U.S. government’s fraud inquiry. American Grocers supplied them with peanut butter and other food items, according to court records and corporate spread sheets. Investigators suspect the goods were overpriced.
The two Kuwaiti companies, Sultan Center and Public Warehousing Co. (the latter being the main contractor for providing food to American troops), appear to be intertwined, the Journal says, with “members of Kuwait’s powerful Sultan merchant family … among the largest stockholders in both.”

Sultan Center acted as middleman in supplying Public Warehousing with pepperoni, calzone, potato wedges and other American products made by Con-Agra Foods and other U.S. firms, which originally shipped the products to American Grocers. It’s unclear why American Grocers couldn’t ship the food directly to Public Warehousing, instead of adding Sultan Center as a middleman.
It’s also unclear why American Grocers was a necessary link in the food chain, at least according to the scenario the FBI has outlined. Itani was indicted in July by a federal grand jury in Houston on 46 counts of conspiracy to defraud the government, an event that rated just five paragraphs in the daily newspaper (Itani appears not to have generated much in the way of publicity prior to his indictment). The indictment alleges that American Grocers gained about $2 million from the false claims. In a lengthy news release following the grand jury action, the FBI summarized one part of the scheme:

Itani allegedly instructed an American Grocers employee to bill [Public Warehousing Co.] for the cost of trucking food products to its warehouse, when in fact American Grocers did not incur such costs. American Grocers directed its suppliers, according to the indictment, to ship products directly to PWC, bypassing American Grocers’ warehouse in the supply chain. At Itani's instruction ... the employee billed PWC for the bogus trucking costs by inserting the costs into invoices that American Grocers presented for payment to PWC. PWC paid the invoices, and pursuant to its government contract, billed the government for the moneys it paid to American Grocers, which included the bogus trucking costs. The government then reimbursed PWC for the bogus trucking costs PWC paid to American Grocers.
Peanut butter, calzone, Houston warehouse, fraudulent invoices, Sultan merchant family ... war in Iraq. Yes, we've lost our appetite now.*

*An indictment, of course, is not a finding of guilt. (Hey, we really believe that!)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Priscilla Slade is Still a Thief of the Public Purse, No Matter What a Jury of Her Peers Says

We saw that Priscilla Slade was thanking God for answering her prayers and hanging up the jury in the former TSU president’s trial for “misapplying” more than $500,000 in public funds.

If that’s so, and God was actually moved to deadlock the jury on Slade's behalf, then we again must conclude that God is one colossal ass.

When we were first informed of the judge’s declaration of a mistrial, but before we had sampled any media reports on his decision, we idlely wondered whether the jury had been hung along racial lines---whether black jurors had had pulled a nullification gambit, a la O.J. Then we saw a group of five or six jurors at a post-trial sidewalk news conference on Channel 13, all white except for one, and thought, “Shame on us for being such a cynical honky SOB!”

But we obviously weren’t alone in the thought, and the Chronicle undertook to address and apparently put to rest that very question---belatedly, but better late than never---in its Sunday follow-up, wherein the newspaper reported that just three of the 12 jurors were black and that the foreman and another white juror “emphatically said that neither race nor gender” were factors in the 6-6 deadlock.

Ok, we believe ’em, but we gotta have an answer. The seemingly popular notion that running up a $100,000 tab at Scott Gertner’s SkyBar and Grille is just the normal run of taxpayer-funded entertainment expenses for university presidents is flat bullshit.

So our suspicious mind next settled on the jury foreman, a white guy who’s a tax attorney. He’s been pretty accessible to the media since the mistrial was declared, and while we haven’t seen that he’s specifically revealed how he was leaning, he did speak disparagingly of the prosecution’s efforts---“They just didn’t get to the heart of the case”---and said that TSU needs someone like Slade “so they can get the right things done.”

Our question is: How did a tax attorney get on the jury? Or more to the point: How did the prosecution let a tax attorney get on the jury? Think about what a tax attorney does. We must agree with a former assistant county D.A. named Ricky Raven, quoted in a sidebar story in Saturday’s Chronicle saying “the battle in the courtroom is won and lost in jury selection.” Raven allowed that Slade attorney Mike DeGeurin “masterfully picks jurors … which may have won an advantage in Slade’s case.” Yes, quite often it’s all over when the jury is seated---the ability to read would-be jurors’ predispositions, proclivities and (most importantly) prejudices is the reason that Joe Jamail is today one of the state’s richest humans---and we’ve always thought the younger DeGeurin stood far out from the throng of blustering, sawed-off defense attorneys tottering around town in their cowboy boots with the 3-inch heels. He’s the guy we’ll call if we ever get caught spending $100,000 of taxpayers’ money on home furnishings.

This was a point made by two old black guys---both consummate barbershop bullshitters---whom we overheard discussing the case as we were dressing after a “workout” Saturday at our Y. One guy noted that “she didn’t do anything they all do,” meaning other university presidents, and he proceeded to click off the name of every local institute of higher learning----“Rice, U.H., Houston Baptist …”, except possibly for DeVry Business College, where he believed expenditures of the epic Slade scale were routinely incurred by university presidents in the pursuit of … well, being university presidents. The lockerroom dialogue between these two unclothed gentlemen rambled around on this point for a while until the pair came to a mutual agreement that Slade, whatever the merits of the state’s case, managed to slip free because she could afford to hire an exceptionally talented lawyer. "It's too bad if you're poor," said one before the conversation veered into a near reverential appreciation of Marvin Zindler.

Yep, it’s like our granddaddy always said: It’s nice to have God on your side, but it’s better to have a good lawyer.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Out of Towner Uglies Up Adopted City With Unsightly Political Signage, A Slampo’s Place Pictographic Exposé

We’ve spotted our first misplaced political sign of the still-young campaign season, and damned but if didn’t belong to recent immigrant and city council candidate Jack Christie, known in some quarters as the Larry Craig of Houston politics* and in others as The Man Who Couldn’t Keep His Pool Clean.

The sign---check out the rich, bold royal blue---is affixed to the fence of what we believe is an HISD charter school at the corner of Bissonnet and Rampart in southwest Houston. It’s got very high visibility, as they say.

We’re not sure about the legality or propriety of the placement and whether Christie, a former member of the State Board of Education, has some connection with the school or property owner, but it’s not the sort of thing to engender warm feelings toward that HISD bond proposal (on which we remain decidedly undecided).

We're pretty sure you wouldn't see this sort of thing in Bunker Hill Village.

*We are not of course referring to Christie’s proclivities in the men’s room, which we assume are the same as ours (do your business and shove off, and try not to make contact with the toilet seat), but to his on, off and on-again campaign.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sweet Hitchhiker (A Cautionary Tale of the Road)

The recent mass exhumation of the literary remains of J. Kerouac (that’s us in the group picture, back row, third from right, holding our Bic aloft), which culminated, we hope, in this belated but very sharp appreciation by Louis Menand in the recent New Yorker, as well as an even more belated parsing by New York Times tight end David Brooks, who uses the 50th anniversary of K’s On the Road as an excuse for Baby Boomer-bashing (which is OK when we do it, ’cause we earned the right), compels us to document for posterity---or whenever this Internet thing craters---our first hitchhiking experience, which coincided, perhaps fittingly and perhaps not, with out first massive, nerve-mangling hangover experience.

Our story begins on a Friday evening, during the summer after either our freshman or sophomore year in high school, when we laced up our desert boots and sauntered over to our friend St-ve’s house to “spend the night,” as we informed our parents. We did not inform them that St-ve’s parents were away and his older brother, who was either a senior in high school or may have been in college already (but whatever his academic standing was a nice guy, and we were sorry to learn of his recent passing away), was throwing a party for his peers, and that St-ve had beckoned over some of his associates to mull around the periphery and observe the proceedings, perhaps pick up a few pointers in the art of acting “older.” The plan was that we---that is, us, St-ve and another buddy, R-b---were to arise early the next morning and head up to a weekend “ranch” north of town where St-ve had arranged for us to clean out a barn and rebuild a fence for some rich guy.

We passed the evening eating popcorn (the kind that was actually popped on a stove; this predated the advent of that nasty, carcinogenic microwaved crap, as well as the advent of the microwave) and sipping from the many available bottles of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, a popular beverage of the day which in the not too distant future we would be purchasing from the 7-11 with our doctored high school I.D., which proclaimed us to be two years older than we actually were but showed us to look two (or more) years younger than we actually were. There was swingin’, swayin’ and record playin’: lots of Beach Boys and the Buffalo Springfield one with On the Way Home on it, and somewhere in there, as the evening took on a hazy, golden glow and St-ve’s brother’s friends began retiring to various secluded parts of the house, The Lettermen’s A Summer Place. Emboldened by the Boone’s Farm, late in the evening even we undertook to do the boogaloo with a Weejun-wearing, mini-skirted blonde of 18 or 19, who most likely perceived us as “goofy” and “harmless” (as well as “drunk”) but of course was unaware of the dark and powerful sexual energy coiled within our mostly hairless 15-year-old body.

We had had a nip or two here or there dating back to 7th grade, but were a decided amateur in the art of drinking, and we eventually partook of so much Boone’s Farm that we puked half-digested popcorn all over self before puking out what seemed to be all of our insides, then passed out---or fell into a coma---at the foot of a tall oak in St-ve’s front yard. It was there that we awoke shortly after dawn and noticed that R-b had also ended his evening at the foot of a tree, about 10 yards away. We had never felt so bad, maybe to this day (and if we try real hard we can recall the smell of the regurgitated Boone’s Farm at the base of our throat, laced with the fine tang of urped-up popcorn). But somehow we pulled our self together enough to be on board a couple of hours later for the drive out to the work site.

Then came the bouncing ride with the clanging tools in the back of a pick-up, the overpowering smell of the creosoted timber at the barn, our pressing need to vomit again shortly after arriving, and our subsequent announcement, after only an hour or so of desultory toil in the blistering sun, that we would be forgoing the further opportunity to earn $1.75 an hour stringing barb-wire and would be heading for home. Our pending departure was met with derision by St-ve and R-b, and we exchanged a round of insults and counter-insults that most likely were confined to such terms as “little girl,” “big pussy” and the chart-topping favorite “you big f-----' queer.” Such were the parameters of male adolescent repartee in the Hub City.

Unbeknown to us, St-ve and R-b would pack it in within the hour and drive back to ease their hangovers in the leafy green of suburbia, but we were in a decided hurry and made the long walk down the dirt road and out to the highway, where we stuck out our thumb by the side of a thoroughfare called the Evangeline Thruway (‘cause it went straight through town, we think). In very short order we were picked up by a car driven by a small brown-skinned gentleman, a native of the Subcontinent who must have been affiliated with the petroleum engineering branch of the local diploma mill, as there would have been no other reason for an Indian from India to be in that town then, the non-chain motels all being locally owned. Not too long after we climbed in the car, which was stuffy and stinking of B.O., the driver inquired in a small, tentative voice whether we would like to stop at the coming-up-on-the-right K-Mart to try on bathing suits. Not believing we had heard what we had heard, we asked the driver to repeat the question, which he did, but at much more of a mumble. We politely asked to be let off, immediately, then proceeded to walk all the way home, a good 5 or 6 miles as the crow flies.

This, we’re embarrassed to say, was not to be the last time we would hitchhike, or drink to excess.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New Heights in Victimology: Should We Call Southampton Residents “Refugees,” or “Evacuees?"

We’re in general sympathy with homeowners of the “affluent” neighborhoods of Southampton and Boulevard Oaks in their efforts to thwart construction of a 23-story apartment tower along a two-lane stretch of Bissonnet, and we're also down with Guv’nuh White’s vow to all but position himself in front of the oncoming bulldozers, although the mayoral proposition does set an interesting precedent for similar future development conflicts.*

But we didn’t know how deserving of our sympathy the genteel folk of the Rice University-area neighborhoods were until we read an opinion piece in the Sept. 25 Village News/Southwest News, a weekly throwaway rag that circulates to the east of our domicile.** The writer is identified only as “Leslie Miller, Ph.D.,” and Doc Miller’s argument apparently was so incisive that it reappeared, with the only the slightest touch of the editor’s hand, on the front of the Sept. 30 Outlook section of the Houston Chronicle.***

In the Village News/Southwest News the doc’s piece was ominously titled “Houston: Living in the Shadow of Greed,” while the Chronicle (which more fully identified the writer as a “native Houstonian and resident of Southampton for 35 years”), opted for the similarly faux-spooky but slightly more pop culture-friendly “23-story high-rise would be nightmare on Bissonnet.” In both pieces---and here we must link to the Chronicle’s version ( thus helping to account for the newspaper’s claimed 50 million [or is it jillion?] monthly page hits), because we can find no evidence of an online presence of the Village News/Southwest News---this native Houstonian and holder of a Ph.D., who after all that time clocking-in here suddenly finds herself in the “shadow of greed,” draws a slightly strained analogy:
In this mix of unregulated development and a proliferation of developers without concerns about the impact of their actions, we are witnessing the destruction of our neighborhoods and the diminution of our quality of life.

A perfect storm is brewing — literally in my back yard in Southampton and yours.

The mayor of our city, Bill White, exercised great courage and civic responsibility in helping thousands who were escaping from the terrible storm, Katrina. I would urge him and all those on City Council to exercise that same courage and civic responsibility to stop this impending storm.

Its destruction will be every bit as real.
So can we expect to soon see the bloated bodies of Southampton homeowners floating down Main Street? Will the intrusive tower force the residents out of their homes and into shelter at the Astrodome, the first stop on the road to longtime government-subsidized residency in cramped southwest Houston apartments? Perhaps Kinky Friedman, while readying himself to run against the courageous Guv’nuh White in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary, can come up with a mock talkin'-blues number---as a working title, we’d suggest Buckhead Done Drove Me Down---that could be used as a soundtrack behind CNN’s footage of the beleaguered and bedraggled Southamptonites lining up to catch a bus out of town.

Oh, we’ll stop now. At least we can’t accuse Leslie Miller, Ph.D., of exploiting 9/11.

*Say, for instance, if some developer suddenly lost his or her mind and wanted to drop down a 23-story tower along a major thoroughfare fronting our much less affluent neighborhood, would the mayor come to our rescue? On second thought, never mind---we’d welcome a 23-story tower right down the street, and if things don’t work out along Bissonnet we’d like to invite Buckhead Investment Partners to investigate our area. It’ d be prime for an “Enclave Near the Foodarama/Wing Stop.” We’d voluntarily help assemble the parcel.

**We’ve kept a jaundiced eye on this rag ever since the publisher, many seasons back, ran for a state representative seat and suddenly was having her newspaper tossed onto the driveways of our neighborhood, which was in the district she sought to represent but previously had not been in the rag’s distribution area. After her election loss the newspaper summarily, and thankfully, did not appear on the driveways of our neighborhood.

***Although the subject is only tenuously related, we are again moved to wonder about the criteria for employment at the Chronicle. We know the daily newspaper requires prospective employees to piss in a cup and have their urine inspected by a private contractor, but apparently the newspaper does not force actual employees to submit to IQ exams or random field sobriety tests. We were moved to this conclusion after being among what surely were the single-digit number of readers of Tuesday’s “Sky Watch” column, a monthly feature whose lede ran thusly: “This is a great month for early rising planet-watchers but not so good for the evening crowd.” The headline over the column read “Star-gazing better in the early evening.” Gaaawwwdamn!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

At the Frozen Edge of the Solar System

“Rock musician Bruce Springsteen is 58 …"
“Birthdays,” The Houston Chronicle, Sept. 23, 2007

So hand me down my walkin’ cane
And my travelin’ shoes
And my Smith & Wesson .44
And my EZ tag sticker
And if it’s not too much trouble
could you reach over there and hand me down
that can of WD-40?
Stuff always comes in handy.

And, um, hate to keep botherin’ you but ah how about fetchin’ me
that box of Grape Nuts? The big one. Right there.
Thank you so much.

'Cause I woke up this morning
on Pluto, but found a local station playing
Astral Traveling (from Thembi, Pharaoh Sanders w/Lonnie Liston Smith, ABC-Impulse, 1971),
“A gentle rain on the African veldt.”
But here’s no veldt here,
just miles of rock and ice
and the occasional "no smoking" sign.
And parentheses inside brackets inside parentheses,
but no clear order of operations.

The deejay claims Pluto’s no longer a planet
but still takes 248 years to circle the sun.
Which is why I’m going back to bed.

So could you please put all that shit back where it belongs?


Thursday, September 27, 2007

What was with that McDonald’s Commercial We Saw on TV a Couple of Weeks Ago?

Perhaps you saw it too: The one that showed a vaguely Hispanic guy sitting in a hammock or lawn chair on a sunny stage set decorated with fake blooming flowers and buzzing birds and/or bees? The guy is happily feeding his face with a wad of grease from McDonald’s while an announcer yammers something about the entrée costing only a dollar now and in the future, too, apparently because the dollar is so strong (which was news to us and the rest of the world, English-speaking and non-English speaking). Then you see another, similarly Euro-ish Hispanic guy who for some reason is holding up a hand-lettered sign that says “8.75 pesos” (it may have said “9.3 pesos,” as we weren’t taking notes, saw the ad only twice and didn’t snap-to to pay attention until the second viewing*) while standing against a dark, moody, urban-ish backdrop. The guy in the hammock smiles and waves the guy with the sign over, the non-verbalized message being that he needs to be over in the sunshine, where he can unload those shaky pesos and enjoy the still-only-a-dollar feed from McD’s. Next thing you see is the guy with the sign, except now he’s in the sunshine/on the hammock, eating some artery-clogging McDonald’s fare and motioning over a woman who’s standing against the dark backdrop and holding a sign reading “10.75 pesos” (maybe 11-something), a fairly remarkable slide in the space of 60 seconds.

This was one of the most bizarre things we’ve seen on television in a half century-plus of watching**---stranger, even, than the mere notion of the oreo pizza, our new favorite metaphor for early 21st century America---and not just because it’s the only commercial we can recall that uses currency exchange as a hook to sell a product. We can only conclude that McDonald’s is urging all of Mexico to come on over, have a hamburguesa and enjoy our strong, stable dollar (at least when compared to the peso, which may not qualify as a real currency).

But a multinational corporation wouldn’t encourage illegal activity just to sell hamburgers, would it?

We only hope one of our Republican U.S. senators will promptly sponsor a resolution condemning this outrageous abuse of free speech.

*This was about three weeks back and though we have waited eagerly for its return we have not seen the ad since, suggesting someone at McDonald’s may have sobered up.
**We’ve fallen into a deep depression after realizing the implications of that line. Excuse us while we sit down.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sunset Over the Freeway, 09/24/07

The other evening at dusk we found our self in the parking lot of a small shopping center off a major thoroughfare in the metro area, just as a class was being dismissed at a storefront karate school. Almost all the exiting acolytes appeared to be under 12 and white---a curiously large percentage were tow-headed---although there were a couple of blacks and a Hispanic or two in the mix. Right next door to the dojo was one of those franchised “learning centers” where parents send their kids for help with their homework or to sharpen their English skills or bone up for their SATs. The learning center also was letting out for the evening and we couldn’t help but notice that every child leaving that establishment was Asian, mostly Korean and a few Japanese (we’re the attentive round-eyed type who can differentiate, even at a distance).

We duly noted the mild cross-cultural irony the scene presented but also were moved to ask our self a rhetorical question: Thirty years from now, who among those divergent crowds of kids will be working for whom?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wherever Injustice Rears Its Head, City Councilman Jarvis Johnson Will Be There to Loose His Terrible Swift Sword, Or at Least to Write an Op-Ed Piece

City Councilman Jarvis Johnson, who when last we noticed him was pitching on behalf of a no-bid contract extension for an airport concessionaire, and previous to that was knee-deep in December's raging CAFR controversy (you remember it, do you not?), was accorded 14 or so inches* on the opinion page of Friday’s Houston Chronicle to explain why he motored over to Jena for Thursday’s big march. We’re not sure that anybody asked for or needed a justification from the councilman, or even noticed him there among the estimated 10,000 (according to the New York Times) or “tens of thousands” (according to lefty Amy Goodman of radio’s Democracy Now!) of protestors who took to the streets (street?) of the Louisiana town.

But there it is, as they say.

The councilman, of course, was way too young for Selma and Montgomery or even the Herman Short-TSU riot, so it’s understandable that he’d be moved by the opportunity to make his bones as a front-line combatant against injustice. And right here, lest we find our humble blog being linked by David Duke’s Web site, we’d like to stipulate into the record that we do believe there was an injustice committed in LaSalle Parish and that the prosecution of the “Jena Six” has been way out of proportion to the crime. Alleged crime.

Yes, there is an allegation of a “crime” at the back of all this, and while it may have been only one small crime in a string of crimes large and small dating back to the beginnings of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, somebody got hurt. There’s a lot of murk in the entire story---here’s a quick summation by Meagan McArdle---but there doesn’t seem to be any question that the six black boys stomped a white boy’s ass, and if you get knocked unconscious in a brawl, or somehow “fall” into unconsciousness, as has been suggested, then you have indeed suffered an illegal ass-kicking, whether or not you’re up and about three hours later, as the victim is said to have been. But the councilman, who’s quick to invoke the Scottsboro Boys and Jim Crow, gives the crime the following passing mention:

… a schoolyard brawl ensued as a direct result of several white students hanging nooses on a tree that certain whites assumed was reserved for Whites Only…**
A schoolyard brawl … and that’s it. The crime is just an inconvenient fact that doesn’t fit Johnson’s assumed narrative, which seems to be that this one episode in a backwards and out-of-the-way burg*** somehow means the entire nation is a seething cauldron of double standards and racist motive.

Most of the information we’ve gleaned on the story has come from listening to Goodman’s show on KPFT-FM, 90.1. Goodman’s been on the story for months (by contrast, our local daily newspaper, the largest daily newspaper in the region, belatedly decided to parachute a reporter in for some undistinguished wire service-style reportage on the protest) and despite her biases has been talking to all comers and occasionally wandered into the realm of even-handedness. Today we heard her interview the mother of the white schoolboy victim, a manager at the local Super Wal-Mart, who asked whether the protestors believed the Jena 6 should escape any punishment at all for the beating of her son. This is a good question (although we personally think the kid who’s already done 10 months while appealing his conviction has done more than enough time). It’s a question that possibly Councilman Johnson could answer in his next op-ed contribution.

In the meantime, we must agree with the councilman’s explanation for his trip to Jena:

Some might say a Houston City Council member has no business meddling in the affairs of an issue in Central Louisiana. I beg to differ, because if an injustice can happen in Central Louisiana, it can also happen in Northeast Houston in District B.
Yes, it sure can. It can happen anywhere. It can even happen in Durham, N.C.

* Rough estimate.

**The nooses and the Honky Tree are the sort of phenomena that give us pause whenever we start fantasizing about moving away to enjoy our old age in a quiet little town.

***We attribute some of our own interest in this story to our having once worked with a girl from Jena who told wickedly funny stories about the place (she was a female Junior Samples), most of which we cannot repeat on a family blog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does Philip Roth Hate Houston, and If So Why Does Philip Roth Hate Houston?

Damned if we know, and it’s probably premature to raise the question, but we’re moved to ask after reading Christopher Hitchenswithering (yep) dismissal in the recent Atlantic Monthly of Roth’s forthcoming novel Exit Ghost.

Apparently Houston has a bit part in the book, not as setting but as touchstone for the pork-eating goyishe heartland beyond the metropolitan New York area that the septuagenarian novelist seems to now view with an alarmingly deluded fear and loathing, if you’ll pardon our imprecise application of that overworked phrase. In Exit Ghost Roth revives his longtime alter ego, the novelist Nathan Zuckerman, once unbound but now, according to Hitchens’ description, forced to “wear Pampers and to endure the regular humiliation of feeling sodden.” Zuckerman has left his hideaway on a Massachusetts mountaintop to return to New York “in the hope of an operation to repair his urinary arrangements” and there crosses paths with Jamie and her “slavish husband,” Billy, which is where Houston figures in. Hitchens quotes at length from a Rothian passage he finds especially uninspiring, prefaced by Zuckerman’s inquiring of Billy about Jamie’s background:
And so he told me, lavishly expatiating on her accomplishments: about Kinkaid, the exclusive private school in Houston from which she’d graduated valedictorian; about her stellar academic career at Harvard, where she graduated summa cum laude; about River Oaks, the wealthy Houston neighborhood where her family lived; about the Houston Country Club, where she played tennis and swam and had come out as a debutante against her will; about the conventional mother she tried so hard to accommodate and the difficult father she could never please ...
Hitchens continues:
The dull reported speech with which Roth economizes (so much easier to do the background of WASP-dread secondhand, rather than evoking it directly as he used to do) is limpid and engaging when set beside the great swaths of soliloquy-as-dialogue* in which the remainder of Exit Ghost is bogged down. (One of Billy’s later answers, about old and new money in the Greater Houston area, and its relation to anti-Semitism, goes on for almost two and a half pages. We are not spared further deep thoughts about country clubs. Everything is a cliché …
So it seems Roth is conveying the notion that the very upper crust of Houston, consorting behind the high walls and greenery of River Oaks and the Memorial-area villages, still nurses some Gentleman’s Agreement-style anti-Semitism, or, perhaps, is preoccupied with it. We, of course, don’t move in those circles and have no interest in defending the smug and the comfortable, of any stripe or economic station, but let us go on record here as saying we ain’t buying it.

Hitchens’ review, however, has whetted our appetite for Roth’s book, at least two and a half pages of it, and we now anxiously await what is surely the impending rebuttal of the novelist’s slander by our favorite port commissioner from the 77019 zip code.

*Although we admire Roth’s late-century trilogy, especially The Human Stain, Hitchens here hits on something that we’ve always found bothersome about the novelist. It’s why we often find our self going “Aww, nobody talks---or even thinks---like that” when reading recent Roth (us=stickler for “reality”).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Don’t Vote for Zaf Tahir If He Persists in Running for Houston City Council (A Special Slampo’s Place Non-Endorsement)

Zafar Tahir may be a prince of a fellow and for all we know would make an exemplary public servant, but he shouldn’t be running for city council, at least in Houston, and if he continues with his charade we call on all right-minded readers of this blog---at least the two or three who are registered to vote in the city---to shun his candidacy in favor of some suitable alternative (your choice).

Last week the Chronicle’s indefatigable Matt Stiles reported that Tahir and another candidate for the Position 5 at-large seat, former state board of education member Jack Christie, had both assumed addresses of convenience in the city in order to meet the loosely interpreted “residency” requirement for candidates. Each lived outside the city in before launching his campaign---Christie in the wealthy northwest enclave of Bunker Hill, Tahir in the rapidly diversifying burg of Sugar Land. Stiles proceeded to beat on Christie with his reportorial Ugly Stick---and it was beauteous thing---by revealing that Christie not only was claiming two homesteads for tax purposes with his estranged wife but had allowed an unsightly build-up of algae---what some would call “scum”---in the swimming pool at his in-town rental digs. Stiles’ reporting apparently led not only to a health department citation for the algae but to Christie’s quitting the race (results!). That was a good thing, because we're fairly certain we weren’t the only Houstonian unwilling to vote for a man who couldn't keep his pool clean.

Tahir, meanwhile, has of this writing escaped further blows from the Ugly Stick, apparently having no algae-infested pool---and possibly no pool at all---at his throwdown address, and no marital complications that might result in dual homestead claims. He has called for a return to a discussion of, ahem, real issues, whatever those are, presumably with the idea that the residency matter is but a temporary and minor obstacle on his road to taking his rightful place on City Council alongside his sponsor, fellow Paki-American and former (still?) non-Houston resident M.J. Khan. (And isn’t it a little odd for an incumbent council member to be so out front in backing an aspirant for another, open council seat at so early a date? It’s not, you say? Sorry we asked.)

We notice that Stiles’ stories have generated some discussion over whether “residency” really matters. Let us resolve the issue by explaining why it does: When you move into a jurisdiction solely to run for an elective office, you’re telling us (at least me) that you view the office first and foremost as a vehicle for your personal ambition(s), not as an opportunity for public service or to engage in the setting of public policy (yes, we know, most candidates for office are slightly touched egomaniacs driven by an admixture of motives, personal ambition being foremost, but the taking-an-apartment-in-town ruse makes it just too damn obvious). What you’re saying is that place doesn’t matter, that one is just the same as the other (false), and, above all, that commitment to place is meaningless. Commitment as in establishing a home and paying property taxes (at the least) in the jurisdiction where you want to serve, becoming part of a neighborhood (and not some phony-baloney “community”) and, if you want to get real crazy, sending whatever kids you have to the area public schools (okay, that might be asking too much).

We don’t know much of anything about Tahir, but we see his campaign Web site is full of blather about transforming Houston into a “truly global city” and so forth. We didn’t see the word “potholes” on the site, but maybe filling ’em is kinda passé and boring in our new borderless, place-less, flattened-out, gimme-the-money globe. Tahir himself apparently is in the business of expanding global economic opportunities, through an entity called International Spectrum Development and his affiliation with the government of Pakistan’s Board of Investment.

We suspect Tahir could find a similar opportunity for service on the Sugar Land City Council, although it might leave something to desire in the personal ambition category (less money, fewer outside business contacts/opportunities, less ass-kissing and having your ass kissed, etc.). But at least he wouldn’t have to bed down in that little townhouse all by his lonesome for the next two months.