Demitasse #5


Demitasse -- a sip of the Compendium
Spring '97
Demitasse is a free sip of the sardonic social commentary and reports of real-life weird that fill the Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology (the Compendium).
(c) copyright Kathy Biehl 1997


Feel free to distribute copies or excerpts of Demitasse, as long as you include the copyright notice and do not distribute Demitasse for commercial purposes.

Does glancing through the morning paper leave you with the vague, unsettled feeling that something is horribly wrong? We 've discovered that current events have a utility beyond causing our collective head to shake. They're the fodder for BeastWatch(TM), our latest public service, which tracks that rough Beast as he slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. Currently he's 910 paces out. Check out his latest movements in the spring issue of The Compendium and at Cafe Compendium.
Think you've seen the Beast move? Send all sightings to [address defunct] for analysis.

Speaking of public service, The Compendium has long offered to its readers the services of its resident male-energy expert AskAGuy. Over the years AskAGuy has explicated a variety of perplexing situations -- male-female, corporate, and interpersonal -- with insight and predictions that have been borne out time and again. Cafe Compendium now offers direct, on-line access to the insights of AskAGuy. There's only one catch: all correspondence is deemed submitted for publication. So send him those tricky social problems (theoretical only, please; all attempted deliveries of actual people will be refused) and see what he has to say.
AskAGal, AskAGay and AskADyke also available on request.

See startling evidence of the effect living in a petrochemical dump has on the creative spirit. Take a weird tour of Houston (now complete with photos; thanks to Special Paolo for the scanning, and Ben Her for rescaling.)

And if you aren't already deluged with reading material, skim through the Cafe Bookshelf, which spotlights extraordinary works of literature that have gone under-recognized. I won't lend you my own copies, but you can order any you want for yourself from through the Cafe.

Lately life in Houston has become downright grizzly. An epidemic of Obstaculation, largely in the form of road construction, has swept through the inner city. Now, road work is not uncommon to this burg. Construction has been ongoing since I moved here 17 years ago on one highway alone, I-45, which is our local equivalent of the Winchester House in Santa Cruz. The owner, who was the heir to the Winchester fortune, believed that she had to keep adding on to the house to avoid the spirits of people who'd met the rifle's fire. Exactly what is being evaded by the constant reshaping of the Gulf Freeway (as I-45 is commonly called) is not as commonly known. Theories do abound as to the impetus behind the current state of the city's streets. The cynical, or perhaps the astute, credit the rampant ripping up to this being a municipal election year.

Whatever the cause, utility work, repaving, resizing, widening and a number of less easily identifiable actions are blocking city streets in every direction. This statement is not an exaggeration; it is Verifiable Fact. The problem is so dense in my neighborhood that I cannot drive from one point to another on my daily rounds without coming across a road barricade. The outbreaks spring up and disappear without warning. The terrain changes from day to day, as in a war zone, or a deranged video game. People are lost, disoriented, and grouchier than ever behind the wheel. In a land that believes carrying a gun is a God-given right, this is a development that inspires great confidence.

Appropriately, it is while the streets below have been rendered impassable that the Gulf Freeway has been undergoing its most drastic restructuring. Miles of an elevated portion, which just happens to encircle downtown, have been closed for months. Even with advance notice, which was given, for a change, it didn't sink into the brains of plenty of us that this closure was going to affect more than northbound traffic on the Gulf Freeway; it was also going to cut off access to a heavily trafficked ramp onto another major freeway. The first time I toodled up the Gulf Freeway after the closure, I whizzed blithely past all the exits that detoured freeway traffic onto city streets and headed for the old, familiar ramp onto the Highway 59 South-- until I saw the barricade. The only alternative to crashing through the barrels was veering onto 59 North, which I did, screaming a mantra of triple obscenities all the way to the first exit, which was almost 10 minutes away. The mantra intensified as I did a U-turn under the highway and realized that I was not all sure that there was any way to get back onto the highway before the access road disappeared into the bowels of the most dangerous neighborhood in the entire city. Irritation turned into terror as the situation sunk in: I was a white woman driving by myself at 10 at night heading straight for the biggest crack-dealing intersection in town. I fled onto the entrance ramp with relief, and it wasn't till after I passed downtown that the physical nature of my reaction subsided.

I soon suspected more had been going on than my freaking out. A girlfriend told me the exact same thing had happened to her that week -- veering for a closed ramp, taking the same exit, screaming the identical triple obscenity and zooming through the Fifth Ward certain that her life was about to end. The real cause of our reactions was then revealed: We had driven into a vortex of obscenity. So many people had already encountered the closures with such aggravation and vehemence that they left behind a dense cloud of G** f***ing d*** its hanging low in the air, poised to ambush drivers like us as we swerved into the detour.


Rich Wilhelm reports:
9:15 a.m.
I leave my cubicle to go the copy room and fax a very important document. As I'm walking, Sheila emerges from a partition that had up to that point, separated us from each other. We almost collide, but do not.
Seconds later, just as I'm about to enter the copy room, Sheila, who is now in front of me swings back one of her arms in a jaunty way, and the pork chop she's holding flies out of her hand and into the air. It arcs gracefully, then lands...on my shoe. Sheila turns to retrieve it, saying "Shit!" in a somewhat unquiet way as she does.
I enter the copy room. Audrey enters just after me and says, "Sheila just dropped her pork chop." I say, "I know. On my shoe." I reach down and scrape a tiny bit of grease off my shoe.
Update the next day:
I've just learned that the porkchop situation I described to you recently is not an isolated incident. Informed sources have told me that the perpetrator also recently dropped a meatball on a co-worker's purchaser order.
The story has spread like wildfire, infiltrating both the the higher echelons of this workplace and to a considerable population outside, via word-of-mouth retellings and the internet.
What's Up With the Compendium

Those accolades just keep pouring in. Forget what you previously thought; a Zine World reviewer has identified me as a "pretentious socialite." Fooled you, huh? Actually, his real target was my zine; I got mentioned only peripherally. What he said was that my zine is the "vainglorious puffery of a pretentious socialite." He reached these conclusions, which have been lost on the rest of the world for decades, after perusing a 24-page double issue for only eight minutes.
Several friends and readers reacted to this news with reassurance and defensiveness, as if it could really upset me. No, no, no! Pretentiousness is nothing if not a shield against the petty squawkings of the common rabble.
And actually, I love it. This sort of thing being out in the open brings a strange relief. I can't wait to pass on word to my fellow alums of the High School Class That Spawned John Hinckley, many of whom ascended to this title quite a while ago and will no doubt make amends for not having recognized me earlier as one of their own.
It may come as less of a surprise to some of you that I have also been designated "The Vortex of Weird." Tara Calishain bestowed the mantle in her on-line review of Cafe Compendium. Check it out.
How to subscribe to the Compendium

Send $10 ($14 outside US and Canada) for four issues to:
[address defunct! SEND BACK ISSUE INQUIRIES TO    kbiehl AT]

Or send $3 ($4 outside US & Canada) for the current issue:

Reports of Our Demise Are Premature '97 (Vol. IX, No. 4!) featuring:
Eating Out is Fun! (ha!)
It hasn't been lately, and here's why. Includes a guest
commentary by Joey "Send Me Email Please Please Please" Berner.

How Can You Tell It's Performance Art? Everyone Wears Black
and the Tickets Are Only Five Dollars
Risking my life for Art.

Also: BeastWatch(TM)! The Annals of Stupidity! Lotsa Random Weird!
Letters! E-mail!
How to subscribe to Demitasse:

Demitasse is an electronic newsletter of highlights from the Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology. It's published just as erratically as the print zine, which is to say, whenever. It will also contain behind-the-scenes announcements and ramblings that may or may not make it to the photocopied page. It's free for the asking!

[address deleted due to defunctitude]

The Compendium on the World Wide Web:

You are cordially invited to visit Cafe Compendium
"progressive and original" -- Netsurfer Digest
"the home of an intelligent, sophisticated woman and
cult goddess who has a droll sense of humor and who
notices things." --Little Home Page on the Prairie
"The Vortex of Weird." -- Zine Review Stomp