Love thine anomie.
There is much ado about the new decade, as if by stepping into the Eighties we should be able to perceive a
different quality to the air or the light, or a different timbre to the clang of a New Year’s Day hangover. Many of
the Decade Roundup stories of recent weeks cite the peaks and valleys of the Seventies as if we were on some new
spoke of the cosmic wheel. We are writing off the Seventies, they suggest, and starting fresh. Zero-based culture
It is something we all seem to have agreed on, although we can’t as yet agree on what to call the confusing and
irritating decade we’ve just kicked. Everyone accepts the Roaring Twenties and the Fabulous Fifties, but what easy
sibilance shall characterize the Seventies, for the benefit of future producers of musicals and fashion
For that matter, have we even decided on what we should be calling the Sixties? A recent survey of three veterans of
that decade brought these conflicting remembrances: the Soaring Sixties, the Sexy Sixties, and the Sick Sixties.
Well, right on all counts.
Wherever you stood in the spectrum of the Sixties you had your hero shot. We were often agonized but less inhibited,
disenfranchising saints and taboos. We sent some men to the moon, and 600,000 more to Vietnam.
Vietnam carried its pre-eminence well into the Seventies and ended, for us, with images of people dangling from
desperatelys kewing helicopters on the roof of our embassy in Saigon. For much of the rest of the decade, worrisome
little demons were called to our attention, things that went bump in the night and also in broad daylight.
Legionnaires’ Disease. The Brown Recluse spider. The saccharine cyclamate, nitrosamine, Red Dye No.2 scares. Beware
the maraschino cherry and the rasher of bacon. Thus conditioned, it was a piece of cake to watch a Shah go down the
pipes or to learn to look for red or green flags at the gas stations that used to ply us with Cowboy tumblers if
we’d let them fill us up.
As I recall, it was shortly after Three Mile Island’s broad hint that our expectations about the glittering age of
nuclear power might need reworking that I mentioned to a sociology major my alternating demons of dread, foreboding,
and apathy. She said I was probably coming down with a touch of anomie.
When I found the word in the unabridged it said I had a genus of thin-shelled bivalve mollusks, comprising the
saddle oysters, having the right valve deeply notched for passage of the byssus, and forming with a few related
forms the suborder of Filibranchia.
Well, what next, I thought; when it rains it pours. This didn’t particularly distress me, which I suppose means I
really do have a good case of anomie, which was the next word down in the dictionary column from anomia, which I had
accidentally read. Anomie is more like it: On an individual basis, it’s a condition commonly characterized by
personal dis-orientation, anxiety, and social isolation.
When I’m in the throes of my anomie, 1 worry about things like how Grover Cleveland would have handled the Iranian
hostages problem. It is possible to project this worry through history, from Teddy through Taft, and Coolidge, and
Truman, and JFK. You end up wondering how Jimmy Carter would have handled it.
Now that we know what to call our anomie, maybe we can work on it in the Eighties. We know now that some things just
aren’t going to be as we had assumed without a lot of work; life no longer imitates art, and the malevolent fanatic
in the turban no longer comes to grief before getting a chance to run countries and capture embassies and aggravate
Anomie may be the last refuge for a patriot stunned by a tide of events that no longer allows admiration for our
economy, respect for the dollar, and immunity for our diplomats. A tide which moves a major Dallas bank to run a
television commercial showing how it backs two businessmen who are sweating out, hats in hand, a decision on their
proposal from a roomful of Japanese businessmen.
Meanwhile, and oddly, it would appear that every anomie has a silver anomaly, for there are many reasons to believe
that Dallas is a better place here on the cusp of the Eighties for what it has endured in the Seventies. And for
some, at least the existence of the future is assured. A friend of mine recently bought a house with a VA loan and a
30-year mortgage. He’s making payments until October 2009. He has it in writing.
Inflationary Circle Spiral
To understand the most exciting game of Monopoly in Dallas, you must first put yourself in the place of, say, the
chief executive officer of a firm from, say, New York; you have just moved you, yours, and the corporate
headquarters to someplace like, say, Las Colinas industrial park. After so many years of having to root for the
Giants or the Jets, here you are with a neat and often victorious team like the Cowboys to enhance your corporate
image. You want to take friends and clients out to watch America’s Team playing America’s Game, and the more monied
your firm, the more you want to go first class.
You want an Inner Circle Suite at Texas Stadium, where you can feel pride, and do “bidness” at halftime, and write
most of it off. Who can blame you?
But you will now pay through the nose, for the inner-circle-suite markup has made Park Cities’ real estate look like
the garage-sale league. In 1971, when Texas Stadium opened, an inner circle suite cost the buyer/bondholder $50,000.
These were olden times, when a gallon of premium cost 35.9￠. I was at Brennan’s when a hamburger-chain owner lugged
in a thick paper-board box, which, he explained, contained the title to his new circle suite. The box, which would
have held a ream of stationery, held a ream of Texas Stadium bonds. There were, in fact, 200 ornate certificates,
printed in $250 denominations. There was some raucous, and probably envious, ribbing of the proud owner over such a
cocka-mamie arrangement. This guy had to pay all that money for a boxful of bonds and title to a bare cubicle that
he was going to have to pay to have decorated, plus buy tickets for his 14 guests each game. Not to mention having
to endure the decadence, conspicuous affluence, and year-round climate control of a House Beautiful capsule plopped
into the midst of a vibrant football stadium. And the wet bar and the microwave for nachos and the color TV monitor
and the other optional amenities.
Other than being adopted by a sheikh, a circle suite was probably the best investment and inflation hedge a
Dallasite could make in the early Seventies. The businessmen-owners of two adjoining suites in a prime zone on the
west side were recently offered, but turned down, one million dollars for their tandem properties. That’s a bid of
$500,000 for a $50,000 item, and a 900-percent profit. One of the businessmen declined to go into detail about the
offer, other than to say it came from “an awl cumpny,” whose suite tooth was so intense that they offered
combinations of the following provisions: all cash or 10-year payout, plus interest on the balance, “and they’d even
let us keep the bonds if we wanted to.”
The same man has found himself acting as a broker for five other suites in recent seasons. “The owners’d get in a
squeeze for cash and sell their suites. I bought ’em and resold every one of ’em at a little profit, but nothin’
like what they’re gettin’ now.
The new era of circle-suite economics apparently began in the summer of 1978, when a food-family millionaire found a
$235,000 offer too much to resist. A suite in the end-zone now fetches $300,000, according to the man who just
turned down a half million for his. The last circle suite in a good sideline location sold for more than $400,000,
“The offer from the awl cumpny was temptin’, of course,” he says, “but I bet I do more bidness and see more folks
when I’m in my suite or prowlin’ the halls than any other time. Besides, the government would take most of what I
made, and think what I’d have to pay for another box.”
The Spanish language probably has no finer moment than its earthily eloquent word for hangover, la cruda.
Sunday mornings, on the stretch of Harwood Street that yaws from the McKinnon/Tollway access curve up to the
Channel 13 studios, one of the longest curb-service operations in the city convenes. Chicanos and clued-in Anglos
drive into the street and line up, bumper to bumper and hangover to cruda, for Menudo To Go from the Dallas
Tortilla Factory. This intensive-care unit is located next door to the Aztec Varment & Bird Control Co.; from
shortly after sunrise to noon, there’s a traffic jam and soup line combining the atmospheres of a rural trades day
and disaster canteen. Men sell oranges and plaster statues from pickup beds, but the main event is the menudo,
ladled from steaming tureens into cartons and bowls brought from home. Aficionados such as jeweler Tommy DeLeon
swear that Dallas Tortilla’s is the most authentic and potent of Metroplex menudos. Some prize its torque, while
others say that it is indeed the most efficacious hangover-fighter there is – pending some breakthrough by the
chemists at Sharp & Dohme. The chile piquins and the chile ancho, in journeyman proportions, give the palate and
gullet so much to think about that you could sail un-anesthetized through root-canal surgery. If you are unfamiliar
with its contents, perhaps it is just as well. I find the broth most restorative, and try to spoon around the chunks
of honeycomb tripe, beef-foot, and hominy.
Game of the Name
I have recently noted with thankfulness and a rare feeling of continuity that Minnie Magazine is still on the
masthead of Time. I am an incurable masthead reader, and to understand my affliction you have to be the kind
of person who reads the sides of cereal boxes and the little decal messages that are stuck beneath the wings of
model airplanes. Time’s masthead, because of the cosmopolitan staff and the fact that they like to use all of
their names, has always been a favorite. Sometime around the mid or late Sixties, a writer by the name of St. Clair
McKelway (!) had a short piece in The New Yorker about his fantasies concerning the Time masthead,
wondering what people with those names would be like. They had resonance and rhythm, all the way from managing
editor Henry Anatole Grunwald to Bradford Darrach to Fortunata Sydnor Vanderschmidt. The current Time roster
has lost little of its pizzazz, for Minnie Magazine is surrounded by colleagues who sound no less exotic. There is
Jordan Bon-fante, Anastasia Toufexis, Oscar Chiang, Laurie Upson Mamo, Bing Wong, Strobe Talbott, and Ursula Nadasdy
de Gallo. My association with D Magazine (which has entered Rowland Stiteler, Natalie Kitamura, Darlene
Galassi Cass, and Hutch Looney in the masthead derby) has given me access to shelves of current city magazines. Just
a cursory skim convinces me that masthead culture has never been stronger. You can find Ladislaw Reday and Haneczka
Czer-nysz-Czerniachowski on the staff of Orange County Illustrated. Parke Rouse Jr. and Taylor Dabney are at
Richmond. At San Diego, we have Zenia Cleigh, Eleu Tabares, and Tershia d’Elgin. Dixie Snell, of
course, does the travel calendar at Southern Living; you might see her at the office party with Farmer Seale
and Yukie McLean. New West gives us Ciji Ware, Ehud Yonay, Mard Naman, T. Swift Lock-ard, Nena Branchflower,
Holiday Jahn, Flordeliza Lim, and Sat Siri K. Khalsa. New York, New York, it’s a wonderful masthead, with
Rinker Buck, Nik Cohn, Anthony Haden-Guest, Quita McMath, Stu Silk, and Orde Coombs. Melanie Schoephoester and Hale
Printup are at Miami. What a masthead, or diplomatic corps, we would have if all these redolent and arresting
names could be brought together. Anyway, they all go into a new file marked Masthead All-Stars. Readers are invited
to submit others that leap out from the mastheads of their choice.
Love thine anomie.