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Sunday, March 20, 2011


I have the munchies.  I also have a headache and feel rather the worse for wear.  Although I haven't had a drink, I feel like I have a hangover.  I am suffering the after effects of 'breathing in the atmosphere' at SXSW. 

After last weekend, I decided that my collection of t-shirts and useless items would suffice, and my craving for all things free would be somewhat satisfied.  After all, how many guitar picks does one person need?   However, I now realise my craving is more of an obsession.  Addiction is such a strong word! 

By Tuesday the bands were arriving, and the venue at the back of our office was filled with teeny boppers, trying to glimpse the latest up and coming, hopeful (but doubtfule), chart toppers.  The noise was bearable, but the music was non-existent.  The main topic for the majority of songs seemed to be about someone's mum, and another person for whom they did not have high regard!  The traffic was starting to get heavier, and we realised that our route in and out of work would start to become intolerable.  There were a number of unidentified cars in our office parking lot, and our landlord had given me the number of the tow truck company.  Feeling rather empowered, I checked with the other business residents as to which vehicle belonged to whom, and suggested they display their permits on their dashboard.  Some obliged, other's, perhaps not understanding the English accent, thought I was making a perverse request!

As we attempted to take our usual route to the office on Wednesday, we were met by a very young, very enthusiastic police officer, who told us that perhaps we should consider an alternative route, as today was the day that two thousand bands were coming into town.  He continued to explain that SXSW was an enormous music festival.  Feeling almost sorry for the lad, and sensing that he had absolutely no idea the impact two thousand bands, together with their multitude of followers, was going to have upon him and his colleagues, we thanked him for his consideration and wished him a good morning.  Later in the day, we saw the same young man, exhausted, running up and down the street, moving barriers and trying to stop unauthorized traffic from entering prohibited zones.  The dream he had of experiencing the festival was turning into a nightmare. 

Eleven o'clock in the morning is not the best time to be reminded that pro-creators are roaming the earth, especially when screamed from a talentless (yes, my opinion) youth, dressed in leather.  Obviously not making enough money to replace his torn clothes, which were held together with safety pins, he continued to scream other obscenities, which made it virtually impossible for us to hear anything else in our office.  You may think I am exaggerating, but the first telephone call to the police, reporting the noise pollution, was met with, 'Oh my goodness, that sounds bad!'  Fortunately, within minutes the offender was silenced and the afternoon's selection of bands performed somewhat more melodically.  I resisted venturing out of the office, although Samantha travelled the streets, the main roads which had now become pedestrian precincts only, and returned with a lighter, and an energy drink from the 'Monster' Truck.  Our usual five minute drive to the post office at the end of the day, took little more than twenty minutes, for which we were grateful!  We were leaving 'downtown' a much more crowded place than when we had arrived.

St. Patrick's day is celebrated as heavily in Austin as it is in the Emerald Isle itself.  If you do not wear green, you should not be seen.  My stock reply to 'why arent you.....?' is simply that I am not Irish.  It would appear that most do not know whom St. Patrick actually was, and most do not seem to care.  As the noise cranked up a notch at the venue behind our office, once again, I decided that I would attempt the human approach, and appeal to the better nature of the manager of the bar.  In previous years, he has come to our office with profuse apologies and offered us tickets to an all exclusive party, which we have declined, graciously.  However, it would appear that there has been a management reshuffle and the current hierarchy are not as obliging as their predecessors. Before you write me off as an old fuddy-duddy, I would mention that the floor was actually vibrating and the windows were shaking. Wearing my fifties style shirt-waister dress, complete with high heels and pearls, I walked across to the back entrance of the bar.  Entrance is permitted with an official pass, which of course, I did not have.  Not able to hear a word I was saying, as the person on stage was strangling a cat (although I did not see the feline, I could hear it's screams!), I proceeded forth into the den of iniquity, refusing to acknowledge the waving of hands and frustration of the security guard on the gate.  I was a woman on a mission!  Having entered the inner sanctum, there were two more bands setting up for their opening number, and an ocean of people queuing for the bar.  Receiving many stares, as my clothes were in tact, and I did not have a vacant look upon my face, I made my way towards someone who looked like he may be 'in charge'.  Denying responsibility emphatically, he left me standing in a patio area, which opens onto the adjacent road.  Tables were set up, full of t-shirts and other items, waiting to be taken by the partakers within this particular venue.  My first instinct was to grab a couple of items and make my way back through the crowds, but that would not have solved our problems with the racket that was infiltrating our workplace. Instead, I found another body and attempted to explain my predicament.  Appearing rather sympathetic, and somewhat intelligent, she went looking for a manager.  She came back to inform me that 'Joe' was going to look for him.  'Joe' was the first person who denied responsibility, and didn't appear to have much luck looking for a person in charge.  This was hardly surprising as Joe was not looking in the right places.  If I did not know better, I would say that Joe was helping set up for the next delinquent who would abuse my eardrums, as he was looking under microphone stands and drum kits! 

As I stood by the bar, feeling most conspicuous, I noticed a small room to the left of the exit.  A couple of people were popping their heads in and out, and if, again, I was a suspicious person, I would consider they were waiting to see if I had given up, and left the premises.  Not knowing my staying power, one emerged, and I shouted as loud as my lungs would allow.  'Excuse me', I screamed, politely.  I was face to face with someone who must have used his older brother's ID to get the job, as he couldn't have been older than twelve.  Resisting the temptation to ask, 'is there an adult to whom I can talk', I proceeded to give him the benefit of the doubt and continued.  I explained that whilst I knew this was SXSW, we were trying to work, and it was impossible to hear anything, other than the noise from the bar, in our office.  I didn't want to cause a problem, but they really needed to turn the volume down, just a notch or two.  Tiny Tim looked at me in disbelief, and then almost reprimanded me in his response, to wit, 'This is a music festival.  It would be a bit impossible to turn it down'.  That was the wrong answer!  'Obviously you are not old enough to know the law', I retorted.  'There are noise levels to which you need to keep.  I have tried to be nice, but you have left me no option but to report YOU to the police!'  Storming out of a bar, wearing my high heels and pearls, in my pre-flower power style dress, head held high, was rather invigorating.  I re-entered the office and growled at Dana, 'Do you know what they said!'

311 is the number one calls in Austin to report non-emergencies.  The telephonist was most sympathetic, and thought my treatment I received, was abysmal.  She could quite understand why I would want to report such a tragedy, and put me through to the local police.  I do believe they have my last name on file, as we are regular callers during the week of the festival.  It was not long before Tiny Tim and his gang of reprobates were being read the riot act and our office was once again filled with the contrasting harmonious sounds of heavy metal, being played in other nearby venues.  The trip to the post office took 45 minutes.

The end of the work week is never more celebrated than Friday of SXSW.  We found another route into work as the Policeman on Thursday waved us through, then came running up to tell us that it was an offence to move a Police barrier, which barricaded the road.  Dana informed him that we thought he had waved us through, and we, naturally, thought that he was telling us to proceed.  He told Dana that his wave was, in fact, telling him to stop.  Obviously sign language has its language barriers too!  SXSW is a wonderful source of revenue for the city, but there seems to be very little thought given to the residents who conduct business that do not benefit from the festival.  Most companies within our area are bars, restaurants or convenience stores.  As process servers, we have very little to offer in
the way of resources for the visiting consumer. 

By ten o'clock the 'freebies' were starting to appear.  Samantha and I ran across the road and procured a bag with a t-shirt, sticker and Frisbee.  Who doesn't need a Frisbee!  There was also an invitation to a party, which was open to the general public which started at noon.  The young lady handing out the bags misinformed us that the first person in line would win the latest computer tablet.  Samantha, not wanting to be second in any line, decided that as the venue was just a block from the office, she would go to line up immediately.  I could see her from the office, so I was quite happy that she was safe, although there was little reason to suspect otherwise. 

At 11:30 am, 311 got their fourth call.  Dana appeared to be bouncing off his seat, as the volume got louder and the vibrations stronger.  The telephonist found it as shocking as the first time, and could not believe we were still having to call.  My telephone call was from Samantha.  I had to get to the party, NOW!  Unfortunately, being first in line was not a guarantee to win the star prize.  Each entrant was given a raffle ticket, and the winning number would be called at 1pm.  I had to go and get a ticket.  Friday, I wore a similar dress, in red.  My heels were as high and my pearls as white.  Almost there, I called Samantha to explain that I would have to return to get my ID.  'You wont need ID!', were not the words I most wanted to hear.  I may look older than I am!  The outcome was, that for approximately ten minutes, I was at a rave!  Free alcohol and a band playing, and all I could say was, 'I need to get back to work!'

Dana was out of the office for a couple of hours in the afternoon, at the Capitol Building, fighting would be legislation that would cripple our business.  Samantha was out collecting more guitar picks, and I was trying to stop things falling off the desk as the vibrations overtook the whole building, and the band had found more cats to strangle.  Fortunately either someone else had called to complain, or there was a very considerate policeman at the right place at the right time.  The trembling in my office stopped.  By the end of the day, however, I had breathed in enough of the air not to have a care in the world.  My desk was piled high with work, and I was just feeling so very mellow.  And hungry, I was so, so hungry!

I had been approached several times by surrounding restaurant staff who had forgotten their parking permits, begging me not to have their cars towed.  It appears they thought me to be the guardian of the tow truck, and were almost curtsied as I gave them another copy to place on their dash!  I wouldn't let the power go to my head though.  Never one to tread on others if I rise in life, I was still compus mentis enough to realise that on Monday I would just be another tennant!  Still it was fun while it lasted.  Leaving the downtown area was not an easy task, but we managed to get home, after enjoying a lovely meal at a restaurant on the way home, far from the madding crowd!  The bags Samantha had deposited on the kitchen table before going to a free concert by the lake, did not phase me, and I went to bed, quite docile.  

What induced me to go downtown on Saturday is still eluding me.  I woke at 4am, with a pounding headache, and later fought to keep up the pace with my housework chores.  Dana was in the office, working, being serenaded by a young couple, playing the guitar and wailing.  Samantha and I walked up and down sixth street, and then the surrounding streets.  We collected yet more t-shirts and more guitar picks than we will ever need.  I took a challenge to tango with a bottle of soda in order to try to win tickets to see a band that I would not go to see, and made a complete fool of myself, just to prove to myself that I was not really such an old codger.  I didn't win.  I stood in the road, trying to catch a t-shirt that an aging rocker was throwing out to the crowd.  He pointed to me and threw one, which landed on the roof.  He suggested I get it.  Wearing yet another dress, although this time a flowing summer style, I questioned, rhetorically, 'you want me to climb up there?'  He laughed and aimed the next shot at my hat.  Another one for my collection. 

I left downtown, high as a kite.  Samantha won VIP tickets to one of the hottest venues in town, and was permitted a 'plus one' so her and Edward saw a couple of bands, as well as the actor, Dennis Quaid, who played with his band, on stage.  She was delighted that her weekend ended on such a 'high'.  My 'high' was continuing as I went through the menu at a local restaurant that was playing sixties music; such a comforting sound.  Heavy Metal is one thing, but bands like Led Zeppelin or Iron Maiden sound like Pure gold bullion compared to the din that had to endure.

This morning I woke, again, with a pounding headache, dizziness and generally feeling 'under the weather'.  Another week of merriment and mayhem over for yet another year, and the effects of other's habits.  The effect is wearing off and the predictable 'low' has come and gone.  Tomorrow will be yet another day, the start of another week, and time for me to come up with....another story.

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