Austin, Day Six

The cold front is sitting over Texas like despair in a geriatric ward. I take a wander round my new neighbourhood, crossing a public golf course and meandering through the plush university campus ending up on the fringes of downtown. It’s early and there’s hardly a soul about. It’s a relief to be walking. I buy a New York Times and dive into a local diner. Standard fare – eggs and burgers – but seemingly run by an academic lesbian co-op. They’re all very friendly and pretty in a geeky way and I feel as if I am on the set of one of those awful post-modern sitcoms. In the last two nights I have managed to watch – or rather, witness – two of the worst comedies I have ever seen; The Dictator and The Sitter. The latter is perhaps the less excruciating but it’s repulsive sentimentality is unforgivable. As for Baron Cohen, to describe his comedy as broad is like saying Richard Littlejohn is a little uncomfortable about homosexuality. The thing about these films is, that once all the taboos of taste have been broken you’re left with a kind of dull pornography. There’s no frisson of danger, it’s just mechanical. It’s clowns throwing faeces over one another and mugging at the camera. It’s like watching Mickey Mouse, drunk and pissing on a kitten.

In the afternoon I attempt to go and see Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master but the guy in the queue in front of me buys the last two tickets. Coincidentally, I had walked right past the Scientology centre in the morning. I peered in to spot some freakery but all I could see was a secretarial type talking on a phone at the back of the lobby. For a religion its public face is remarkably light on iconography or spiritual design. There are no symbols or spires, just posters and rows of books. It’s just a corporate HQ for a brand. A brand of lunacy, to be sure, but a brand nonetheless. Eventually they’ll figure out, for sheer fuck-offery, you can’t beat a massive dome, or steeple or minaret, preferably decorated with some horrific representation of a guy getting tortured to death on some planks of wood.

I drive back to my new gaff with my tail between my legs having failed in my mission to get myself entertained. I stow token foodstuffs in the fridge and take to the sofa to read and listen to music. The shuffle god throws up Bowie, Paul Westerberg,* Bill Callahan and Thelonoius Monk – the only known jazz artist to have become rhyming slang for human ejaculate. I read about David Foster Wallace’s harrowing mental states as described in his new biography. I’d ditch talent and creativity for sanity, wouldn’t you?

I have an early dinner (it might be so early that it’s officially tea) at a Thai place on a main drag. There appears to be a feeder with his obese wife at the table opposite. They share a dessert but he’s spooning up all that stuff into her mouth, not his. They look blissfully happy. My charming teenage waitress chases me to my car with the bill. I had mistakenly left her a fifty instead of a twenty. US dollar notes are all the same colour so it’s easy to confuse the denominations in a dark restaurant. This has happened to me plenty of times before with a different outcome. I humbly thank her for her honesty.

In the morning the sun reappears, somehow burning an aperture through the thick low cloud. There will be drums, bass and guitar today. I am apprehensive about working with all these unknown entities. I feel like I’m auditioning. Lord, make it rain.

 * This tickled me, see photo