10 Questions: Jim Schutze

Our own investigative curmudgeon, legendary political writer and sometime author of crime narratives sure likes to stir the pot.

He's been called a liar by targets of his reporting, touched off verbal feuds amongst elected, drawn the wrath of...well, a lot of people. Along the way, he's won national awards for such things as 'best column of political commentary.'

That's good stuff.

Schutze graduated from the University of Michigan oh so many years ago. Before joining the Observer staff he worked for the Detroit Free Press, the late Dallas Times Herald and as the Houston Chronicle's Dallas bureau chief. In between, he managed to write several books on crime and city politics.

He's a tough journalist after all that. But he still takes the precaution of sneaking a little something into city council meetings...

1. What do curmudgeons eat for lunch?
Christian children.

2. Isn't constantly eating on the run bad for you?
No. Obviously eating is good for you, since otherwise you die. Also, it is well known that running is very good for you, so eating and running at the same time should be twice as good.

3. Do they at least serve snacks at city council meetings?
They do serve very tantalizing snacks at city council meetings, often including croissants, sliced melon, couple different brews of coffee, soft drinks, etc. Only hitch is this: only the city council and city staff can partake. There is a big fence between the food and the taxpayers, and there are also armed guards to make sure the taxpayers don't try to eat. This is not a joke. It's a true fact. I have pondered many times what this handling of food tells us about the real culture of City Hall: 'We are the people of the castle. You are the peasants. Shut up and turn over any good looking virgins you may still have in your grubby little homes.' I have to sneak a small thermos in with coffee, and I can get in trouble if they see me trying to sip. But, you know: how else am I gonna stay awake?

4. Which mayor has had the worst eating habits?
I have never seen a mayor with really bad eating habits. There was a council member who used to slurp soup in a way that was picked up by the public address system. It was very disturbing but not half so disturbing as the time I took her to lunch. I bought her a barbecue sandwich. Now that was ugly. That was ten years ago, and I'm still off chopped beef and onions.

5. Do you think that old-fashioned McDonald's downtown is cool?
The "old-fashioned" McDonald's downtown is actually a highly sophisticated McDonald's representing cutting edge thinking about how to run off homeless people. They're the ones who discovered that classical music broadcast outside the building makes homeless people stay away. No one knows how it works, but it does. As a liberal, I am very much opposed to people running off the homeless, unless I happen to want a hamburger, in which case I want to be able to eat it in peace, which is why I like that McDonald's a lot, but I don't approve of it. Life is complicated.

6. Would they let you in Cafe Pacific?
I go to Cafe Pacific all the time, but I disguise myself as a Highland Park matron. It's easy. I just wear a chest-flattener.

7. Ever interviewed a drunken politician?
In my earlier life, I have interviewed many politicians while drunk myself. Whenever I read my notes the next day, those guys were total idiots!

8. Do you miss the days when journalists finished up their columns at the local bar?
I believe that I would miss those days if I had a more detailed memory of them. The part I don't miss is when the wives of the jolly journalists came into the bar with the barefoot kids and the empty peanut butter jars begging for money. Nag, nag, nag.

9. If you could sit down at happy hour with one historic figure, it would be...?
Thomas Jefferson, definitely. He believed a free press was more important than the constitution itself. But he hated reporters. Life is complicated. Did I say that already?

10. Are you excited that pieces of the bridge made it all the way to Houston?
The city is trying to run off all the scrap metal dealers in the river bottom because they say they're unsightly. A caller suggested to me last week that, before they close the recycling companies, maybe they should load the bridge steel up on some trucks and run them over the scales. We should see what they'll offer. This could be a win-win type situation...sort of. Lose-lose-win? Lose-win-lose? Man, I'll tell you. Life sure is complicated.

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