,k&Auumui, l r Austin’s Largest Selection of International Folk Art, Silver jewelry and Textiles 1if TRADING COMPANY* 041 FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD 511, 209 CONGRESS AVE AUSTIN 512/479-8377., \\1OPEN DAILY 10-6 www.tesoros.comz, T’ESOROS of flying backward. They’d like to try that themselves, they say. So would I. Kinky closed the book, and Campbell was quiet. “I asked Kinky to read something,” she said finally. “I didn’t know what he was going to read…” Her voice broke. She began to cry. “You’ve got me in tears.” She gathered herself for a moment and said, “I wanted to see all the faces of Kinky today, and I think I like this one the best.” “One eye’s crying,” Kinky said, “and one eye’s laughing.” In late September, Kinky gave an especially raw interview, even by his standards, to WFAA-TV in Dallas. When pressed repeatedly about what specifically he would do in office, Kinky lashed out. “All the little issues you’re talking about are bullshit. It’s all bullshit!” he said. “You can talk aboutI would deregulate this and my plan is to give a 7 percent raise in the textbooksit’s all bullshit! Because the people who are doing these things are all crooks, and they’re corrupt, and they don’t give a shit about the people of Texas. That’s the truth.” Here was Kinky distilledwithout the charm and disarming humor. He seems to have reached a level of cynicism in which he’s lost faith in the functionality of government. In his speeches, Kinky asserts, with little direct evidence, that many state politicians are corrupt, that our democratic system is broken, that lobbyists are pocketing money from the state’s general revenue fund. There is corruption in Texas, but Kinky’s rhetoricthe system is so wrecked it needs a total reinventionappeals to people’s worst suspicions about their government. He has worn down populism to rank negativity. It is, however, quite liberating for the candidate. When you believe the public-policy process is broken down and corrupteda nowhere-to-go-butup mentalityit doesn’t matter if your campaign consists of jokes and one-liners or if your policy proposals are short on details, because you can’t make it any worse. That thinking also apparently frees Kinky from any guilt about poten tially playing the role of spoiler. Recently Bell, the Democratic nominee, asked Kinky, unsuccessfully, to leave the race. The Bell camp fears Kinky will draw enough progressive votes to sink Bell’s candidacy and hand the election to Perry. I asked if Kinky found the spoiler argument convincing. “I think it’s complete and utter bullshit,” he said. “It’s what they say every single time… Those votes don’t belong to the Democrats or the Republicans. They belong to the people. People will decide where those votes should go, not Chris Bell… In fact, I wouldn’t be running if I believed he was that much different than Perry. I don’t?’ Kinky argues Bell and Perry are equally corrupted by “politics,” and the only difference between Democrats and Republicans is which special interest groups hold power. Unless he wins, Kinky says, nothing will change. “Some of what I’m saying is getting through,” Kinky told me the last time we talked. “Some of who I am is getting through.” It was a telling remark. Kinky presents himself as the only medicine for a corrupted government. He’ll clean up the mess. And if he can’t, well, it doesn’t matter because the situation has gotten so bad that Kinky can’t make it any worse. As it turns out, the slogan on those bumper stickers isn’t just a cute line and a clever piece of marketingit’s his political ethos, the ideology of a cynical man. In short, Kinky’s pitch really is, why the hell not? Most of the interview consisted of Kinky’s usual routine. But toward the end of the 45-minute taping, the host, a spry 83-year-old named Adell Campbell, asked Kinky to read a piece he had brought with him. Kinky opened one of his latest booksa 2005 collection of essays called Texas Hold ’em: How I was born in a manger, died in the saddle and came back as a horny toadto a piece entitled “The Hummingbird Man.” I live alone now in the lodge, where my late parents once lived, and I’m getting used to it. Being a member of the Orphan Club is not so bad. Sooner or later, fate will pluck us all up by our pretty necks… I’m married to the wind, and my children are my animals and the books I’ve written, and I love them all. I don’t play favorites. But I miss my mom and dad… They bought our ranch outside Medina in 1952, named it Echo Hill, and made it into a camp for boys and girls. It might have been 1953 when my mother hung out the first hummingbird feeder on the front porch of the lodge… And those first few brave hummingbirds had come thousands of miles, all the way from Mexico and Central America, just to be with us at Echo Hill. Every year the hummers would make this long migration. Now, on bright, cold mornings, I stand on the front porch of the old lodge, squinting into the brittle Hill Country sunlight, hoping, I suppose, for an impossible glimpse of a hummingbird or of my mother and father… And I still see my dad sitting under a dead juniper tree, only the tree isn’t dead and neither is he. It takes a big man to sit there with a little hummingbird book, taking the time to talk to a group of small boys. He is telling them that there are more than 3,000 species of hummingbird. They are the smallest of all birds, he says, and also the fastest. They’re also, he tells the kids, the only birds who can fly backward. The little boys seem very excited about the notion NOVEMBER 3, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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