Nov 09 2006

On Losing Edges and Winning Senate Seats

Her job as urban watchdog now redundant, Zippy roams the Texas Hill Country with a spring in her step and a howl in her heart.

I once possessed the hypersuperpowers of a cross between a Navy Seal and a Thompson’s gazelle, the guile and sagacity of a denizen of a war zone, the graceful-if-slightly-jokey self-preservational finesse of Jackie Chan.

No more.

When I moved back to Austin after my 25-year exile in St. Louis, I lost my edge. I don’t mean I lost my mental acuity; my reluctant estrangement from that treasured faculty is, alas, entirely unrelated to geography. No, I allude to the finely-honed kill-or-be-killed jumpiness I developed as a survival skill when my home was a lawless, freewheelin’ Interzone of crackheads, artists, lunatics, racist cops, drunken musicians, Vietnamese restaurants, homophobic hoosiers, and the furtive thugs who collect in doorways like old newspapers.

The topography of my new hippie South Austin neighborhood is not composed of crumbling despair and neglect, nor does it smell like a brewery, nor does its sparkling ambience derive from the glittering crunch of broken auto glass beneath every footstep. The route between my bungalow and the quickshop is not impeded by desperate junkies screaming “Scuse me! Scuse me!” (which siren call, a preamble to the separation of the own-business-mindin’ ambulist from her pocket change, is the most commonly recorded vocalization of any species — other than the police car — on St. Louis’ South Grand Ave). Nothing about my tranquil Austin domain encourages me to open the eyes in the back of my head, or to constantly re-calibrate my extrasensory ability to identify a raving nutjob at 50 yards merely by assessing the quality of his gait, or obliges me, when brunching at the lesbian coffee shop on Sundays, to absorb with my scrambled tofu the weekend casualty report: Fran was raped in her apartment on Friday night, Clara and her boyfriend were mugged outside the Upstairs Lounge on Saturday, all of Thee Lordly Jellycups’ equipment got ripped off from their van at the Hi-Pointe, that nice guy Eric died in a suspicious fire, Renee’s addict girlfriend killed herself, Elroy’s brother Spud –you know, the dude with the pit bull and Picasso’s Guernica tatooed on his neck — got stabbed in Tower Grove Park.

Before I moved back to Austin (the Lone Star State’s blue oasis in a desert of unenlightened red), I was under the impression that these elevated levels of violence and debilitating melancholy were normal. So it was unquestioningly that I’d slither through town like a ninja, scanning the horizon for raging dope-fiends, checking between cars for shadowy attackers, listening in the dark for sinister footsteps, inspecting the bushes for unconscious overdosing acquaintances.

But now that I’ve lost my edge — possibly a more accurate description of my new edgelessness is that self-preservation no longer demands that I maintain high levels of hyper-adreno-vigilance-with-persistent-low-grade-anxiety — and have been lulled into a non-false sense of security, a weight the size of Guam has been lifted.

“But what,” you’ll want to know, “occasions this tiptoe down memory lane, this comparison of rotten Midwest apples to organic Hill Country oranges?”

Well, the explanation is twofold. The first fold is this: I heard on NPR the other day that St. Louis has just galloped home with the gold in the race for our great country’s Most Dangerous City, not that it comes as any great shock. St. Louis has never been far out of the running for top honors, it’s just that we’d usually get consigned to also-ran ignominy by an extra last-minute double-murder in East St. Louis or something — East St. Louis being the continuation of regular St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, a right proper hell-hole where dissipation-friendly Illinois laws encourage the sale of liquor, crack, angst, and strippers until 6 in the morning.

Anyway, having discovered how footloose and fancy-free a spinster aunt can be who doesn’t feel compelled by patriarchal tradition to hasten down the street with her keys protruding from her knuckles, I can’t help feeling a pang for the decent and deserving homeys I left behind in St. Louis. I can’t help wishing that they, too, could know the incalculable joy of emerging from a nightclub to discover that their car hasn’t been broken into, their favorite mix tape gone forever, and a sinister used condom left on the seat.

Of course, now that I’ve gone soft, I can never go back to St. Louis. I’d be eaten alive.

The second fold of my twofold explanation for this hokey St. Louis reminiscence is that in the agreeable wake of the midterm elections, I feel exactly the same way that I did when I escaped the the Gateway City and learned that life did not have to be lived beneath a subumbra of persistent personal peril. A pestilential gloom the debilitating extent of which I had only the vaguest pre-election inkling has, I am delighted and somewhat surprised to report, been ameliorated by the exceedingly pleasant turn of recent political events.

In other words, I had no idea how chapped my hide had really been for the 6 years that W and the Godbag Killers’ Coalition were the Champions of the World until I heard the words “Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives”* emerge like dewy unicorn rosepetal sundrops from my clock radio on Wednesday morning.

I’m not saying that I won’t continue to suffer post-traumatic stress. There are two more years of W, and anyway, let’s face it: if my fellow Americans ever take to nurturing — in the comforting, legislative way that honky male Christians take for granted — the interests of the radical feminist lesbian atheist spinster aunt, I’ll eat my mouldering garbage bag of sports bras. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that I sprang from the Twisty Tempurpedic and did a little whoopty-dance when I heard that the odious maggot Jim Tallent had been smushed like a slimy, oozy rotten-log-inhabiting invertebrate by Democrat Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race. You go girl!
* But could you believe fucking W, in the press conference where he knifed Rumsfeld, when he made that lame “joke” about decorating tips for Pelosi’s new office? I noticed he didn’t have an opinion on interior design for Rumsfeld’s replacement. Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that Pelosi, as a woman, should first and foremost concern herself with drapes. My god, what a knob.


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  1. For me, it’s like when the sun finally comes out after 5 months of gray sleety misery. (I’m a TX expat living in Boston.) It just lifts your spirits and gives you hope.

  2. ohprettylady.blogspot.com

    Oh, darling, you are tempting me to leave The City. Just as we get a lock on the foyer door, too, so the junkies, hookers and crackheads are forced to find another place of residence.

  3. Yeah, well, I’m glad *someone* appreciated the election results.

    Me? I’m depressed that Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Colorado, Virginia, and Wisconsin decided to constitutionally niggarize American homosexuals. I mean, south of the Mason-Dixon line, I understand. (I hate it, but I understand it. But Wisconsin? What’s next? A new generation of Jim Crow Rainbow laws?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I keep faintly hearing shouts of “Juden! Raus!”

  4. markw.livejournal.com

    Gawrsh, and just as I had convinced myself that opening a shop at the Interzone Strip Mall wouldn’t be, you know, too bad.

    Remember me fondly!

  5. educatinghercules.blogspot.com

    I voted for McCaskill and it’s a great day to be a Missourian, for a change!

    Good riddance Talentless, you sexist zealot.

  6. pinkpoodledog.blogspot.com

    I loved reading this post — I’m still adapting to the idea that there might be some checks and balances to the Bush Idiotocracy. That maybe I won’t have to constantly anticipate the next failed experiment in Repub mismanagement. Yesterday morning the CA clouds burned off as I watched TV and listened to Nancy Pelosi speak… entirely blue skies by 9:50 am, when the newscasters learned from the AP that Rumsfeld is resigning.

  7. lauragayle.com

    I too voted for McCaskill and rejoiced when she won. I also voted for the “dead guy” a few years back (democrat Mel Carnahan against John Ashcroft in 2000) who won. And yes, Nancy Pelosi. What breath of fresh air.

    I hope she told W what to do with those drapes.

  8. Yet, for some reason, it doesn’t feel like a victory.

    As I mentioned to some other folks earlier, I was waiting for That Fireworks Feeling, but, it seems more like someone handed me a lit M-80.

    Considering Bush dismissed Rummy faster than he could get the National Guard to New Orleans, I have to wonder if they haven’t been sitting on a “blame the Dems for Iraq on the way out” strategy for some time.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for the reprieve. But, the country has been pushed so far to the right, this return to the center still doesn’t quite feel like a return to center. If you know what I mean.

  9. I take my political joy where I can, though the helpings are tiny tiny, and yesterday was a good day, until that shitty comment about interior decorators wiped the smile off my face.

    I’m still stuck with Trent Fucking Lott, but at least I get Gene Taylor back. I have been looking forward to voting against Lott since I moved here five years ago, so at least I got to do that.

  10. I had a similar experience recently moving out of my native Baltimore-one of the most murdering, junkyfied, cities in America. A short while ago our crime rate was second only to Camden New Jersey and we gave the world Stop Snitchin’. My new job landed me in a hippy town in northern California, and when I say hippy I mean the original article aging ass aquarians driving around in frankenstiened VW buses playing guitar songs on the street corner about “the story of a time called now”.
    But I didn’t feel relieved to move away from the city, I felt like kind of a liar. I felt like the world is full of bad shit – drugs, poverty crime and the town I was in benefited from our outrageous class system without paying the price of seeing its darkside. In my new town, real estate is at ridiculous levels, organic produce abounds, no building is over 4 stories high the roads are high and people drive 3 blocks for Tai food. Poorer people are almost invisible and are forced by the prices of food and housing to the outskirts of town. Clean air, saftey, the beach and the redwoods are everywhere. But this wouldn’t be possible without poor people suffering somewhere else.
    Perhaps growing up in a crumbling city has just given me a slanted view of whats normal, perhaps my Catholic upbringing just can’t let me enjoy a nice place with feeling guilty.

  11. I’d heard St. Louis had toppled Camden from the top honors. I’ve spent my time in Philadelphia unsure whether I should venture into Camden to visit the aquarium. Philly only managed to place 29th, which, given last year and the year we’ve been having so far really makes me wonder how it must be to live in Detroit or East St. Louis. Or St. Louis, or any other city that “beat” Philly for the dubious honor of being incredibly crime-ridden.

  12. “like dewy unicorn rosepetal sundrops”

    lovely, thank you.

  13. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    Oh, I’m looking forward to a break from the viciousness and banality, viciousness and banality — which is all, it seems, the right has had to offer.

  14. cypress.typepad.com

    I’m feeling smart for reading wonderful writing, from a smart lesbian who uses [i]subumbra[/i] in a fabulous sentence!

    Canadians are celebrating, too. Although some of us worry about the tendency of Democrats to protectionism in trade.

    Two years ago I moved from Vancouver, working in the poorest postal code in Canada [where the HIV sero-conversion rate is terrifying and among the highest in the world] for an arts organization, to a small resort town a 40 minute ferry ride away, where people use crack, which I read in the paper but do not see on the streets, and panhandlers are few and far between. The air is clean, the cedars monumental, the elder ladies poorer than they look, or than their property value might suggest.

    I too sometimes feel a flash of guilt for my comfort. But I worked in the arts for many years, and am involved still in community politics. I have no pension. However, we do have a cottage we run as a successful small business. I will also continue to work at other tasks to support my home and my wonderful wife – also an artist with no pension – for some years to come. I think the guilt is a product of catholicism, as Carpenter suggests above, and can therefore be ignored.

    Here progressive people are concerned that the federal government, currently run by inexperience far right populists of the worst kind, will try to roll us back to the neo-con dream of constrained liberties for other people and increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, while it celebrates the possibility of the rapture occuring soon. In the quaint way of Canada, this is a minority government – kind of like the repugs not having control of the house or the senate, but not – and could fall before it does much more harm.

    They [i]are[/i] planning to have a debate in the House about marriage and who gets to benefit from the patriarchal institution thereof. In any event, I am married to my lesbian wife, and there’s nothing much going to change that, whatever steve harper and his pals think they might be able to do about that, dreaming of flying in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada.

  15. Yesterday and today, waking up in the morning I did not have a sense of impending doom, nor did I feel impelled to turn on the computer to find out what the Republican corruptocrats were trying to corrupt, oppress, or otherwise destroy. This is how it felt in the days before DeLay came to power and declared that the sweatshops and sexual servitude of Saipan were the future of this country. While I am certain they will try to cover their tracks as much as possible, I think they will have to stop trampling the Constitution to do so.

  16. vera.wordpress.com

    My dear friend Lila and I spent yesterday calling each other’s voicemail and singing messages of glee. Lila sang something like, “Rumsfeld’s gone ha ha ha” to the tune of Happy Birthday. That was my favorite.

  17. Actually, the drapes comment was a reference to something Dubya said a few weeks ago: “The Democrats have made a lot of predictions. Matter of fact, I think they may be measuring the drapes. If their electoral predictions are as reliable as their economic predictions, Nov. 7th is going to be a good day for the Republicans.”

    But God, how I hate Jim Talent and his war on cold medicine.

  18. You takes what you can get in this wicked world, and after six years of previously undreamt-of levels of insanity, I’ll take Nancy Pelosi and a Democratic Congress, for now, quite happily.

  19. politblogo.typepad.com

    It’s odd because I was kind of expecting a rant involving a certain Cat and Girl cartoon [ellipsis]

  20. I too voted for McCaskill and rejoiced when she won. I also voted for the “dead guy” a few years back (democrat Mel Carnahan against John Ashcroft in 2000) who won.

    Good gods — does this mean that Jim Talent is going to be the next attorney general? (“Heckuva job, Jimbo!”)

  21. Mandos – which Cat and Girl cartoon? I must know!

  22. politblogo.typepad.com

    The one Twisty wrote about a few months ago.


  23. datesbubbas.wordpress.com

    Twisty, this was really wonderful! Austin is the “blue oasis in a desert of unenlightened red.” Now I know why I like Austin so much. :-)

    I know exactly what you mean about losing your edge and knowing that you’d be eaten alive if you ever went back. I wonder if that’s also a political metaphor for where this country is headed.

    As for Rummy – he had it coming. I don’t know that replacing him with the Aggie president is much better, but… at least we know that W is now the Flip-Flopper-in-Chief.

  24. You know, you probably wouldn’t get eaten alive going back. Old habit die hard. Interestingly enough, a friend of mine and I actually got into a fistfight on the streets of Baltimore one night(not out fault) and after that I actually felt more confident walking around. When I was younger, I was constantly on watch for people sneaking up behind me, I alwys had my keys in my hand. When I lived in one particularly bad part of town (a handfull or so shooting per year there )I carried a camping knife. As years went by, particularly after I came through my one and only altercation, I actually got much calmer. Crazy people might bother me, dealers might constantly ask if I was buying pills, tranny prostitues mught always be on the corner of my block, I might get mugged(never happened to me )but I never felt like I was going to got shot in the head for being in the wrong place. I began to feel as though just walking around looking people in the eye encouraged everyone to mind their own damn buissness and it got easier and easier to navigate the city.
    Ive seen infitily more fronting, fake toughness, rude mysogyny(staring, ofhand coments) in the town I’m in now. Eveyday is a staring contest with some dude, people never learn to mind their buisness, and several times Ive opened a can of east coast whoop ass on dumbfucks harrasing women outside the Borders(cuz there’s no place a tough guy can look tougher than haning out-side the Borders). While the streets are paved, and noone gets shot I never got this yuppy-attitude from the tranny prostitutes.

  25. faultline.org/place/toad

    I was most gleeful-relieved about the defeat of the execrable Pombo from the district next door. I was not alone: Joe went about all evening humming “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead” as a sort of homage to old times. One hopes the slugfucker will go home and be eaten by a rat.

    And Santorum got santorum’d. Let’s wash the sheets and be done with him, not that the rape-by-fetus advocate replacing him is much better.

    And ya know? There are worse people in the world than Nancy Pelosi. San Francisco values, OK!

  26. Re GW’s comment about the drapes.

    This is, after all, the same knob who groped Angela Merkel at the G8.

  27. norbizness.com

    As for the various political colors around Texas, there are other bluish cities; Dallas and Houston, for instance. Unfortunately, they are generally surrounded by deep red, H3-driving suburbanite jackasses, who now outnumber and outvote the “inside the loop” population. In rural areas, the border and East Texas tend Democratic, but turnout/antiquated voting procedures and equipment are also a problem.

    But Rick Perry only won with 38% of the vote; John Cornyn beat a BLACK MAN OF ALL PEOPLE for Senator by only a 55-45 margin in 2002. It doesn’t particularly pain me to say that significant inroads could be made with a unifying leader. I nominate noted lecher Henry Cisneros. I don’t care that he’d be pilloried by values voters and professional tut-tutters. There are millions of votes east of I-45 and South of I-10.

  28. Mandos, I put a photocopy of that Cat and Girl cartoon on my office door when I saw it here. But I sure am glad that my new Congressional rep is the first Muslim elected to Congress, and one of my Senators is the first woman elected to the Senate from my state, and that I actually also like both of them.

  29. Although I found Tuesday’s results fairly satisfying, my victory dance was subdued, due to my fellow Wisconsonians choosing to vote discrimination INTO the state constitution. But hey–good news! They also want the death penalty brought back!

    When it comes to Mr. “Hoof in Mouth Disease”, I’m surprised he was able to make a comment to a woman about drapes, without asking if they match the carpet.

  30. justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com

    I agree about the enthusiasm, but also about its being subdued. not sure if that’s because some of the candidates I was rooting for didn’t win (Lois Murphy a particular blow), or because there’s still two years for the Bushies to make more evil outside of the legislative process, or just because I’m beat down and don’t remember how to rejoice. I did buy myself something expensive and celebratory, but I just didn’t quite get all the way to sunshine and rose petals. only time will tell…

  31. justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com

    (p.s.) I also lived in St. Louis for a long stretch, but in a nice and relatively safe section (the revitalized Central West End), so I was a bit more surprised to see the Most Dangerous City thing. not to say that there aren’t large inequities there (and especially that toxic combination of economic and racial downtroddenness), but just that much of the city seemed pretty easy to live in, from Symphony to cheap Vietnamese…

  32. man-ifesto.com

    Amen to the relative safety of Austin! I just got back here from a weekend in Wilmington, Delaware, where I made the mistake of thinking that it was safe for me to do a late-night walk through a few blocks of downtown, from the hotel where I was staying to the hotel where my friend who was getting married was staying. Eh, not so safe. Got punched in the face by some punk kids (well, one kid I guess, but he had his two punkass friends around for backup in case I decided to retaliate, which I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even if he was alone, but still, if you’re going to punch a random dude in the face for no reason, you should have the decency to do it without backup).

    I’ll survive, and I haven’t suddenly become a law-‘n’-order quasi-fascist Republican, but it reminded me of something I already knew, which is that feeling safe is important, and nobody should have to walk around doing their day-to-day activities in fear of being assaulted or mugged or harassed. Poor people shouldn’t have to do it, and affluent people shouldn’t have to. I’m sure there are some places that have attained a level of safety by excluding the poor and the differently-colored, but there are also plenty of places — Austin being one, I think — where it feels pretty safe for most of its residents, rich and poor, black and white, to live.

    And sure, Austin is pretty prosperous right now, which helps, but I grew up in a poor city, Springfield, Massachusetts, that felt far more safe than its poor neighbor to the south, Hartford, Ct. Well-run cities which actually pay attention to their citizens’ concerns, care about their safety, and that try to manage racial and class tension (as Springfield did and Hartford didn’t), are just happier places to be than the cities that have pretty much given up.


  33. kathymccarty.info

    God, Twisty, I have lived in Austin since I was 10 years old (that’s 35 years folks) and I have NO IDEA how to survive in what might be termed “normal cities”, they sould like Hell on Earth!

    I don’t know if you guys KNOW this, but it has been established as FACT now (not tin foil hat stuff) that the CIA has been pumping the inner cities with their “disposable” black populations with Heroin and Crack Cocaine for decades now, to finance their illegal, secret wars.

    Who knows WHAT our cities would be like if these sort of evils ceased.

    I will try to find the FOIA documents that establish this as fact and post about it.

  34. “… there are other bluish cities, Dallas and Houston for instance.”

    Hey, the former elected a Hispanic lesbian for sheriff a couple of years ago.

  35. I prayed to the almighty Goddess that the Dems would take the House…and when Ted Haggard was found to be a ‘crystal Meth-odist’ and a hypocrite of enormous and evil magnitudes, I was ever so grateful. The timing of his downfall was magnificent.

    But when the Dems took the Senate too…I felt as if 50 pounds had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt such RELIEF…I believe I heard the Statue of Liberty let out a huge aaaaaahhhhh as well.

    And now the fun begins….Hearings, Subpoenas, Indictments. Oh, Karma on this regime is going to be something to behold.

    I’m stocking up on popcorn and champagne…and the TV is turned to C-Span until 2008. John Conyers with Subpoena Power…I’ve waited for this for so long.

    This Election was huge! And when W finds himself at The Hague, Nancy Pelosi, the first women to be Speaker of The House, can tell him that draperies are not allowed in jail cells.

    I sang: NA NA NA NA HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE! And I danced and waved goodbye.

  36. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    it’s a happy day in pennsylvania. mostly. it’d be happier if we had a real progressive, but at least we’ve got someone who will vote with the (new)majority and, strangely enough, he’s balanced by Repub Arlen Specter, the senior senator, who is pro-choice AND pro-stem cell. It’s a weird place, PA is. The republican senator is more of a democrat than the democratic senator is. I believe it was James Carville who said PA has Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle. Around here we call that place “pensyltucky”.

    I do feel hope now. It kinda tingles. I like it.

  37. Though many past examples have been savored in their season, I am once again bedazzled by the gift of Twisty. I had not hoped that such intra-patriarchy political games would be worth her notice, but, once again, she deigns to create a chic bag from unpromising materials; after all, what do Rethug officials need with ears?

    I, too, must acknowledge a sense of relief, however admixed with expectations lower than a rattler’s navel. Even one or two prosecutions would go a long way at first, then prehaps we can turn to rewinding this century, and start over.

  38. And the Missourians are dancing.

    I am, at least.

    More satisfying than the actual victory was the sight of my neighbor’s crumpled Talent sign sticking out of her trash bags the day after election.

  39. datesbubbas.wordpress.com

    norbizness – If there’s something other than red around Houston, it must be some light shade of purple because I’ve yet to see outright blue. Unfortunately, those millions of votes east of I-45 and South of I-10 are disenfranchised by the representatives pretending to represent them.

    I know one thing… Houston deserves it’s rank of 10th most dangerous cities with a population >500,000. Austin ranks 5th safest in the same category. How very interesting. I wonder how different it would be if the capitol were in Houston.

  40. imponderabilia.blogspot.com

    My elation here in Michigan was tempered by fact that the state proposal banning affirmative action passed. Of course, this state already outlawed gay marriage two years ago.

    I had no idea St. Louis was so bad. It makes Detroit look good.

  41. Not to poop anyone’s party, but I can’t help it — I’ve been depressed for so long over politics any joy I may have felt is subdued. And the Supreme Court has been tipped so far to the right as to be sickening.

  42. My uterus breathed an (admittedly, guarded) sigh of relief when the voters here in Ohio told our corrupt, evil Secretary of State to kiss our collective asses re: being governor. “Patriot Pastor”-loving piece of garbage. It’s just a first step, of course. Now we’ve got to get rid of the moronic elections commissioner here in (Cleveland’s) Cuyahoga County.

  43. arsepoetica.typepad.com

    God damn, Twisty, this prose. It makes me want to dance on my chair. And yes, I was damn near giddy on Wednesday, which is a state this self and this body have not known for years, if not decades, if ever. I’m sure it was just some hysteria brought on by overwhelming relief — for wresting control from the godbags, for the Murkan sheeple getting their shit together, for the fucking media godbag-lites being smacked by the unspinnable power of mass action, for the remotest inkling of a hint of a possibility of the hope that the arc of progress would continue and not lie bleeding in a ditch (as it has for the last 6 years). So, yeah, I feel you.

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