Q: A few months ago I was flying out of the Austin airport on the way to my honeymoon. As I reached the front of the security line, I realized that I had mistakenly left my pocketknife—a gift from my new bride—in my carry-on bag. My only options were trashing it or using an automated kiosk, run by a company in North Carolina, to have the knife mailed back to my house. I’ll spare you the long, frustrating details, but suffice it to say, 83 days have passed and I still haven’t received my beloved knife.
“I’ve learned I have the perfect person to steer me. When I’m contemplating one of life’s difficult decisions, I generally consult with Ben Dorcy. Bless his barely thumping heart, Ben is my canary in the coalmine. When faced with a difficult decision, I observe Ben and do the opposite of what he does.”
– Willie Nelson (with Turk Pipkin),
The Tao of Willie, 2007
James McMurtry, the Austin singer-songwriter, is generally regarded as a political force. His George W. Bush-era rant “We Can’t Make It Here” was a Camp Casey classic. But on his new album out Tuesday, Complicated Game, McMurtry trades in the electric guitar for the acoustic and his gritty murmur for delicate enunciation to create a batch of mostly tender songs about the people and places he’s encountered while touring.
The first rule of the Internet is never trust the Internet. This is particularly true of Twitter. Case in point: this past Thursday San Antonio Express-News reporter John W. Gonzalez tweeted out the following gem:
Helps pay the bills: We now carry pet obits. RIP Piggy Porter. pic.twitter.com/pHNeelZe2I
— John W Gonzalez (@johnwgonzalez) February 12, 2015
As silly as it sounded, Gonzalez’s tweet kind of made sense, in a knee-jerk way. In the age of the Great Newspaper Decline—with publications pulling out every single trick to keep from losing readers and revenue—of course a newspaper, even one as esteemed as the Express-News, would resort to selling pet obits.
Except they don’t. Technically. Gonzalez was joking. Technically.
I know this because I called up the Obit department at the newspaper. The young man on the other end of the line was—as all obit writers are—polite and kind with a gentle lilt to his soothing voice. He directed me to the Classifieds department. Once I was patched through, the woman on the other end of the line filled me in on the details, specifically whether the pet obits were meant as some sort of new revenue-generating scheme by the paper. Short answer: no. It’s part of the same classifieds section in which one can try giving away free dirt. All ads are based on a two-line minimum with extra charges for additional lines and photos.
“We’ve always [offered the pet obituary]; we just don’t have very many people who actually do it,” she said. And by “not very many,” my new friend in Classifieds is being generous. “I’ve been here ten years and I think this is the first one I’ve ever done.”
Eric Benson’s dispatch from Reynosa in the February issue revealed yet another disturbing consequence of the cartel violence that has swept through the border towns. As the crime syndicates have become more powerful, they have infiltrated Mexican newsrooms and intimidated journalists, going so far as to dictate what can and can’t be written.
Half an hour before tip-off in the December 10 matchup between the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs, assistant coach Becky Hammon was at work on the floor of the AT&T Center passing basketballs to Spurs players. Hammon, a star in the WNBA for sixteen years who has never lacked for confidence—a necessity, perhaps, given that she stands at a modest five feet six inches—moved nimbly around the court.
New agriculture commissioner Sid Miller announced that his first official act would be to grant “amnesty” to cupcakes by publicizing a 2014 policy change to state school nutritional standards that he said ended a 2004 rule prohibiting schoolchildren from bringing sugary desserts to celebrate class birthdays.