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Ik ert 4 Austin’s only open-air dance floor is now open every day and night for live music and homestyle meals. Come enjoy our laid-back tropical garden atmosphere. Fine wines & beers 405 West Second Street 477-0461 Life Insurance and Annuities Martin Elfant, CLU &Aire 600 Jefferson St., Houston, TX 77002 OF CANADA lins says, there is a quality EMS service from Rockport to Corpus Christi, and he is thinking about agitating for one in Corpus, too. Mullins himself is among the beneficiaries of his EMS crusade. He had a heart attack this summer, and says if paramedics hadn’t treated him promptly he’d have been dead at 47 years. Mullins feels the paper also has served to put some pep in local affairs, that it has “smashed a few icons.” But politics is not really the sphere of the Toast, for which there is much to be thankful. “I’m an ultra-conservative and proud of it,” he says. “I’ve been characterized as being nine yards to the right of Genghis Khan.” The incessant coverage of accidents, too, may even have a point. Mullins thinks about auto carnage the way most reporters think about government corruption. He wants to write about it all the time. But is this a departure from the rest of the media? After spending an afternoon at the Toast, I watched the Corpus Christi six o’clock news. Two stations led with auto accidents. Since the automobile is one of the major killers of all time, it is impossible to argue that wrecks aren’t news, especially for a paper whose goal is “to tell what happened last week as straightforwardly and honestly as we can.” This is not to advocate extensive wreck coverage for every paper, but for a local, well, it is local news, and people do want to know. Besides EMS, Mullins says the Toast can claim one more achievement: the creation of a sense of community in the coastal bend. “In sticking to our guns and persisting, we have made it where the little towns here are not so isolated . . . we’re all in the coastal bend boat rather than isolated little communities,” he says. “We have acted as a community forum all along. It took a lot of prodding to get people to write letters,” he says, but now the pages are routinely full. “And,” he says, “we won’t withhold a letter if we disagree . . . getting people stirred up in the coastal bend is important in itself.” That is the heart of the value of The Toast of The Coast. But the heart has defects, all of which might generally be lumped under the heading of pandering. It is a truism that sex and violence sell best, even if watered down and homespun and not particularly mean-spirited. So, if the evolution of The Toast of The Coast has been from a miserable little nothing to a misery-inducing something, what has been lost and gained? What has been lost is a chance to return to the community perhaps more in the way of guidance than titillation. There is a poignant validity in the complaints of Rockport burghers that the Toast gives the town a bad image. It does make it seem as if every week consists of nothing but wrecks and arrests and maybe a “beautiful” shot of a sunset. When Mullins says the paper should record everything that happens, he enters a pretty rugged battleground, and I’m not sure he realizes it. What “happens” in a week? Is it a two-car collision? The death of an old man? The baptism of an infant? The making of a sandwich? The motion of a sandcrab? The exchange of real estate? The merger of businesses? The thoughts of a sixth-grader? The . . . the . . . the . . . what “happens” depends on interpretation, subjectivity. The Toast of The Coast reports some things that happen; but certainly there are broad strokes of reality that do not come from a police radio or a news re lease. Of course, this is metaphysics and it’s not up to Pat and Emma and Ed and Mac Mullins to resolve a plague of the cosmos, if there is a cosmos. But neither is willful ignorance a defense. This is getting pretty far from the sledge-hammer nuances of publishing a newspaper in Rockport, Texas. Nobody here cares very much about the finer points of libel or whether layout is zoomy or if the stories are much beyond legible. Journalism! Hell, you couldn’t find six people on the jetty who’ve heard of the word. Woodward and Bernstein might be a steak sauce, or a Houston law firm. It’s really beside the point in this milieu to raise matters of taste, or of professionalism. You might as well shake a fist at the gulf for being dirty. This is a hard part of Texas, where mobile homes squat among the mesquite, lean-to bars hunker off the oyster shell roads, where a man hid from police by taking refuge with the alligators on his alligator farm, where the tourists are never Beautiful People but always people who are stuck in Texas or Missouri or Iowa and need a coastline, where boarding up for hurricanes is as natural as looking out for snakes and scorpions and vile things in the gulf. The Toast of The Coast simply mirrors its surroundings. It’s a working class paper run by a working class family, lately petty bushwa, who more or less figure this is what journalism is up to. A little higher up on the professional scale this once was codified as printing the news and raising hell, and it very much depends on how you look at it. Looking at it. That’s what people around here are doing. They’re reading the paper. Not as anything authoritative it’s, a total lark but as something with a little pizzazz. By comparison, The Rockport Pilot comes on like the instruction sheet in an aspirin bottle. Nobody but the Toast, see, dredges the dreck. No, no, not “investigative reporting,” just the dreck, real dreck, because nobody else wants to wade into the dreck. There, in the dreck, is where The Toast of The Coast lives, rather happily, an unpretty creature in an unpristine ecology. 0 the legendary RAW DEAL Steaks, Chops, Chicken open lunch and evenings 605 Sabine, Austin No Reservations THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11