Hi from Austin Texas, Burckhart Country, where I’m the guest of Texas Monthly. The assignment is a dreamy one: float around the Capitol, grab what’s there and, somehow, put together a story. The first couple of days on any story is about orientation; finding out where the lines interest, color and maximum relevance are. An early Monday meeting with TJ Tucker, the designer and I was off to the dome. Things started to come together quickly. This is a very easy place to get around in. People are extremely friendly. But none more so than Marc and Janice who invited me over on Monday. They live in a kind of characteristically low-key-high-style home perched on a hill overlooking glittery downtown Austin on one side and the river and a music arena on the other! Paradise to a surreal power. Marc’s image insignia for this year’s Texas Medal of Arts Award was on display at a cocktail reception we went to. The next night was the big award ceremony. This award honored Texas high achievers, among whom are Walter Cronkite and Ornette Coleman, who are both here.
Here’s Marc’s image
Here’s a 3-D version someone made, out of, what looked like cream cheese.
The big oak door to the State Capitol building with brass knobs. It takes effort to open them and people seem to have something to say as they do it. “The high point of my day” some lady said to me.
Seen at the bar of the Hotel Omni (where Texas Monthly offices are). This guy was German.
The Capitol has a real lobbyist problem. They hopelessly outnumber everyone and everything else. I suspect they’d call an exterminator but Tom DeLay would show up.
The House session went very long last night. Here’s a lobbyist having a “Tuesday night supper”, a Snickers bar.
After the House adjourned a meeting of the Environmental Committee began. Into the night they took up bills that would regulate coal plants. The governor, Bush’s successor Rick Perry, has contributed to the green backlash here by promoting coal plant building, using the dirtiest technology. This has galvanized ranchers, tree-huggers, corporations (who will lose if the area is condemned for its air quality). They have knocked out a good number of these plants so far. This was actually thrilling to see.
Paul Rolke, a Central Texas Rancher and no eco-advocate and organizer against the proposed Oak Grove plant, to be built 5 miles away from his ranch.
The chairman of the committee is Rep. Dennis Bonnen, not usually a friend of the environment, but last night very pissed off at the huge volume of faxes he’s been getting. “Are these from environmentalists? Killing trees???!”
Randy Eminger, a lobbyist form the coal industry, “We need the plants, he said. Or we’ll have blackouts. People will die.” He confided that this was not a good time for his kind of work . . . all of a sudden.
On the Senate side I found John Whitmire, the longest-serving senator. Looks already like a bust in the hall.
Walter Cronkite appeared yesterday in connection with his award. Senators lined up to meet him. He’s 90 and very hard of hearing so I don’t know if that stern expression was because he knew the guy he was meeting, Sen. Dan Patrick, a right wing talk show host and local media mogul or not. Any way Patrick looked like was meeting God. He was sitting down because he injured his Achilles tendon playing tennis at 88. I can tell you he does not have a 90 year old handshake.