Going tubing in New Braunfels is a time-honored Texas tradition, but like all Texas traditions that involve actual fun, it's a bit under fire these days.
Authorities have come up with lots of ways to cut down on excessive drinking, and now they're taking on America's high-tech upgrade to that endeavor: the beer bong. New Braunfels City Councilman Ken Valentine has proposed an ordinance banning the device.
Luckily for frat boys and anyone else who wants to see wasted coeds flashing in the 30 seconds before they barf egregiously, the movers and shakers of the Hill Country town aren't that enthusiastic about the idea. Valentine defends his plan:
Q. Do you have a lot of support?
A. I gotta tell you, I'm out there like Erin Brockovich. I'm not getting a lot of help. And the reason for that is that I think we love the sinners' money more than the sinners' bad behavior. We can wink at these problems and [say] "it's just the bitchy people who live along the river that want to have a private river."
Q. Why the beer bong? Can't you get just as drunk without one?
A. The beer bong is an icon of competitive and perhaps theater drinking The theater that I see is like the gladiators, and they've got the lion. And just as the gladiator's going to stick the lion, that's when the girl puts the funnel in her mouth and they pour the beer down and all these people are out there yelling and screaming, "Take it off, get drunk, show me your breasts."
[Pause here to deal with the mental confusion of picturing a lion with a funnel in its mouth and a gladiator ripping off his metal plate to show his tits. Pause again to wonder if anyone ever really yells, "Get drunk," even at a frat party.]
Q. Aren't you afraid you're just going to come off looking like some crotchety old guy?
A. I'm 61. There's always that issue.
Hurry Up and Wait
New mayor Bill White comes from the business world, where executive fiats get listened to. He's enduring a bit of a learning curve at City Hall.
White introduced a proposed ordinance April 13 to force rental car companies to pay the $1.2 million in unpaid parking tickets their customers had racked up since 1992. The thought somehow didn't appeal to them.
Lawyers for the rental car companies pleaded for time to come up with a compromise. "Give us 30 days to begin discussions to see if we can address these issues," attorney Jim Lemond said.
Hmmm Thirty days. To begin discussions. To see if the negotiators can even address the issue.
White balked and told the lawyers they had two hours to work out a deal. "There's nothing worthwhile in life that takes 30 days to do if people get on it," he said (on his 103rd day as mayor of a still traffic-plagued city, but that's apparently another story).
It was a noble enough sentiment, but nowhere did it contain the words "billable hours."
The two sides met but came up with no changes to the proposed law.
White decided to go ahead with a vote, but Councilman Michael Berry tagged it, delaying matters for a week.
A compromise is expected to be worked out. Slowly.
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John Pisciotta, a Baylor University economics professor, is walking tall these days. He's brought the Girl Scouts to their knees.
Pisciotta was livid that the Waco chapter of the Scouts was partnering with a cabal of Satan-worshiping Wiccans known as Planned Parenthood! And then, he says, his lividness "reached a little bit higher level this year with the Girl Scouts designating the CEO of Planned Parenthood a 'Woman of Distinction.' And gave her that honor."
Not shocked yet? "And then there's this," he says. "The collaboration is a Girl Scout co-sponsorship of a local sex education program called 'Nobody's Fool.' And that had been going on for nine years!"
Nine years that have turned Waco into the fetid cesspool of freewheeling kinky sex that it is now known to be, a place where members of the opposite sex can even dance with each other and -- on nights when the moon is full and Beelzebub is nigh -- hold hands. Without shame!
Pisciotta quickly moved to do what any God-fearing Baylor economics professor would do: He organized a cookie boycott.
So what did this involve -- haranguing 11-year-old girls ringing the doorbell to sell Thin Mints?
"No, no I had printed up a little card, and what we were going to do was, if a parent came with the child, that we were going to say, 'I'm not buying this year,' and to hand the parent that information card."
Pisciotta ended up on the Today show, and the local chapter rescinded the partnership that had spawned such diabolical schemes as exposing seventh-grade girls to It's Perfectly Normal, a sex-ed book endorsed by Ann Landers and T. Berry Brazelton. "It's a pretty outrageous book!" Pisciotta says.
And thus ends all premarital sex in Waco. At least they still have the Dr Pepper museum to keep the kids occupied.
We at Hair Balls have spent years being baffled by Calvin Murphy -- where much of Houston obviously loves the man, we tend to be put off by badly dressed, clownish, raving egomaniacs. (See Mac, Mattress.)
We have no idea if the sexual abuse charges leveled by some of his daughters have any merit; we'll let the courts hash that out. But what's stunned us is that Murphy has 14 kids. By up to nine different women.
Geezus. There must be something mysteriously alluring about height- challenged baton twirlers. Forget boo-yah highlight dunks -- chicks must really dig record-setting free-throw shooters. Who don't use rubbers.
Of course, pinning down Murphy's baby's mamas -- at least the ones he knows about -- is proving tricky for journalists. Harris County prosecutor Lance Long says there are nine women with whom Murphy's seed hath borne fruit; MSNBC has reported it as six, the Sports Network newswire as three and the Associated Press as "several." The Buffalo News (Murphy was a college hero at Niagara) finds four and then throws up its collective hands by saying "circumstances surrounding the births of the remaining four [children] are unclear."
Long insists he's confident of his head count. "They're scattered all over the country, but that's the number I've been told," he says. (Rusty Hardin, Murphy's lawyer, didn't return phone calls.)
The Houston media has been surprisingly tepid about Murphy's playa past, but Long says he has no criticism of the Calvin-friendly coverage. "Hey, I grew up in Houston; I had his poster on my wall," he says.
Good thing it wasn't one of those family-tree posters. It would've blocked the door.
This Modern World
We've been a bit confused lately by the pages of the Houston Chronicle. More than usual, we mean.
On March 26, they write, "His fellow Skyliners give him 'props' -- high fives with hands or feet." Four days later it's "To appreciate the shirts, he says, people have to 'get' them, meaning understand their intended sarcasm and humor." Two weeks earlier: Poker games "begin to cross the line into illegal gambling when the host, or 'the house,' takes a cut."
Like we say, we were "confused." Meaning perplexed. Did they really think their readers wouldn't "get" (as in understand) a hip, happening word like "props" (as in airplane propellers)?
Then it all became clear with Leon Hale's April 14 column about "the funnies." He described a Doonesbury strip where one roomie is looking at his computer monitor; the other says, "Well, she certainly seems determined," and the first one answers, "Well, it's a loop, man." To which Hale wrote: "Does that mean anything to you? Is it funny?"
First tell us what a "computer" is, Buck Rogers, then we'll answer.
Hale then went on to a lengthy discussion of the Paleolithic-era Gasoline Alley and Gil Thorp, which also helped make matters clear.
Boners for Books
Governor Rick Perry wants to solve Texas's perennial crisis in education funding by, among other things, charging a $5 "sin tax" on anyone who enters what the industry insists on calling a "gentlemen's club." So the next time you read about a teacher layoff or the dropping of a music education program, don't just whine -- do your civic duty. Every visit will help some young student earn a piece of the American dream.
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