Two cliche's sum up the week for me; there is no such thing as a free lunch, and you don't get something for nothing; although I understand that metaphorically this is usually the case, literally, this week, they were both somewhat inaccurate.
Monday morning was very busy. Saturday's post arrived after Dana had left the office, and the delivery on Monday took place shortly after we arrived. This did work to my advantage. Our relief postman has taken to 'inverting' his route, which allows our mail to be delivered first, (for which we are very grateful) rather than at 4pm, when everyone is winding down for the day. By mid-morning, my spurt of efficiency had paid off, and I was ready for a 'wander' downtown. Some of the roads had been closed last week, in anticipation of giant booths and tents being erected to house new products being advertised, by giant computer and telephone companies.
Our first stop was in the Convention Center, where we were greeted like long lost friends, by the lady who had suggested we 'drop by' to have our caricature drawn, on the new Samsung Galaxy. The first available appointment was in about 45 minutes, and so we had time to scout the area for possible future visiting venues.
The HBO Network were also promoting their new series, 'Girls', and as well as handing out skinny t-shirts, they were offering coffee. Obviously, the caffeine was more appealing to me than the clothing, and I stepped inside the tent to receive my prize of a travel mug filled with iced elixir. Admittedly, I would have preferred it to be hot, but it would appear that the stars of the show had that right reserved. My age would prove to be a deterrent for the first time this week, as I did not know the lead male who, apparently, was about to make a guest appearance. Talent spotting came in second place to stomach filling, as the option of swooning over a hot muscled (or not) young man, did not appeal as much as a hot freshly made, sweet potato breakfast taco. However, taking the t-shirt appeared to be compulsory, so I accepted it graciously.
With the first meal of the day consumed, and a couple of never to be worn tops stuffed into my 'swag bag', (lesson one; never leave home without a small drawstring backpack during 'give away' times), we returned to have our portraits drawn. Making an appointment to have a likeness sketched on a telephone, does not compare with sitting for Leonardo da Vinci, but the artist was suitably attired in black, with a beret neatly positioned on one side of his head, and the list was stretching into the late afternoon. I took poll position and, when beckoned, seated myself on the stool. My toothy grin seemed to be appropriate, and I waited while the artist waved his stylus over the screen, and created an image of Dot Cotton from Eastenders (sorry for those who do not know the English Soap Opera, but you can google), and sat back proudly, before asking 'where would you like this to be emailed?' Much as it was not going up on the wall anywhere in public view, I accepted a copy as part of my SXSW experience.
As soon as I arrived back in the office, I received a message to say that the HBO Girls team were at the pizza restaurant, a few blocks away, and if I showed them this very message, I could get a piece of pizza. Not to be completely selfish, I claimed a piece of pepperoni, a this is Dana's favourite. Samantha returned to claim a second piece of vegetarian for me, but it was so big, I had to save half for another day.
Unfortunately, Dana was not well on Tuesday, and blamed the pizza. The HBO Girls team were at the cafe opposite our office, and while Dana slept in the back room, I ran across and claimed my breakfast, waving my phone at anyone who was interested. I had not only accessed my Twitter account, but managed to find their tweet. I was rather impressed with myself. I realised that praise that is befitting a five year old, is also given to the post fifty year old, when they eargerly show their completed task to a pre thirty year old. Dana re-arose from the back room around noon, and insisted that I join Samantha and Kelly (my friend, who also serves papers for us) on a walkabout. Samantha knew just the place to go, and marched us off to a venue that had been so popular, that it had been forced to close early. Quite despondent, she suggested we make our way to the conference centre to see if we could find some 'fun stuff' to do. Kelly and I were not in a position to argue. We were just following orders. On our way, we saw a sign from the Federal Express company. 'Charge your phone and have lunch on us'. We got into the queue, not quite sure as to what to expect, when a young guy, wearing a thin jacket, asked if we wanted to charge our phone. Samantha and Kelly were both in need, so he gave them a wire, one end of which went into their phones, the other into his jacket. He was a human charging station, with his jacket being the supercharged battery pack. 'Bratwurst or egg salad sandwiches?' he asked. I wondered if this was the challenge question to retrieve the telephones, but he did indeed mean lunch. The Fed-Ex van had been turned into a food truck, and the small boxes were food cartons, which contained a very sumptuous lunch. For those who did not have their phone charged on the move, there were wooden picnic tables with chargers set into the slats. Having both phones and bodies refueled, we made our way back to the office, picking up more t-shirts, hot sauce and ice cream, as well as a few energy drinks, compliments of the brewer, Monster!
Wednesday saw the midweek changeover. The music part of the festival kicked, in and the weekend promoters gave way to a new crowd. I had to make my own lunch! However, all was not lost, as I had won tickets to the Austin Music Awards. Samantha had turned them down, and I had offered them to Chara, Dana's daughter, who seemed excited at the prospect of attending the event. Samantha's disappointment when receiving the text from Chara, 'you missed out, THE BOSS is here!', was reasonably short lived, as she went out to meet her step-sister for fun on the town, and after show parties, hoping to catch sight of Mr. Springsteen at some other event. It did not happen, but she had a good time.
Our route into work had been altered, due to the various road blocks that had been placed across the adjoining streets. The pass that we had to allow us into the 'private parking' areas, appeared to be useless. On Thursday morning, I marched across the road to the policeman who was manning one of the said blocks, and asked if Samantha could come down the road that crosses over 6th Street to our office. He said she could not as she would need somewhere to park, and there were no parking spaces. I explained, in my best English accent, that she had a private parking space, behind our office. Confused, he said that 6th Street was closed to traffic. 'She has a pass', I pleaded. 'How does she get to work, in our office, over there', I said. The response of, 'who works in an office down here this week?', was serious. He had obviously worked this beat before, but still told me, 'No'. He moved the barrier and waved Samantha through as she waved the piece of paper at him, when she approached. It appeared that actions did indeed speak louder than words, and the pass was very similar to the one given to the delivery vehicles who needed access to the various businesses in the surrounding area. I shrugged and walked away. He smiled, then frowned, with that same confusing look, as I jumped into the mini and was driven away.
Dana's food poisoning proved to be a stomach bug, as Samantha and I became ill on Thursday afternoon, but fortunately, as with Dana, it was short lived. By Friday morning I was much better, and by lunch time I was famished. Kelly, Samantha and I decided to have a last tour of duty, and walked the four blocks that had become our collection area, cutting up from 6th to 7th Street to walk back. 'Lunch ladies?' was the question asked by a heavily tattooed gentleman (well who am I to judge!) who was sitting outside a bar. 'Free food, beer and music', he continued. I was tempted to ask if we could have a choice, perhaps one out of the three, but realised they came as a package. We didn't partake of the alcohol, as my two companions were driving, and I just 'dont'. The music was loud, but not unpleasant, and not without a vague melody. 'Hey, how you doing', I was asked by the jolly lady behind the table. 'Fajitas?', she asked. I replied that I was very well, and we chatted for a while about the festival. She was going to take a vacation next year, so perhaps she could just enjoy the festival, or just get out of town. I thanked her, and she said it was her pleasure. I moved along the line, wondering if the Queso was ready, as the guys in front of us had been told it was not quite cooked. It must have been my lucky day, as the lady stirring up the cheese told me it was just about done, and poured it over a stack of tortilla chips that she had put on my plate. 'What a lovely crock pot', I commented as we left the food bar. Kelly agreed, and Samantha rolled her eyes and said; 'we are in the middle of the biggest music gig in the world, and all you can comment on are the kitchen implements!' Oh well, ho hum. I am what I am!! We sat and enjoyed a wonderful Tex-Mex lunch, in an alcove, far enough away from the band to enjoy the music. We claimed our t-shirts and went back to the office.
Finding out later in the afternoon that it was not a 'straight' bar, explained why the cheese was available when we reached the amazing crock pot!
The police were called several times on Friday afternoon, as we were seriously concerned for our windows. The glass partition between Dana's room and the reception area was moving, as was Dana, with the vibrations. The noise that was emitting from the bar behind our office was not music. I am reasonably tolerant of heavy metal, but this was more like weighty rusty girders! I was not sure whether it was the police, or an ambulance that was needed, or perhaps a vet, as the wailing sounded as if they, and their cats, were in agony. When the staff wear earplugs, you know that the sound levels are not healthy. The excuses given as to why no one had been to check the sound levels were varied, and very imaginative. Finally, an unsuspecting supervisor was found loitering just beyond our front porch. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time had never been more apt. 'I don't have the spare man power to send over there,' was not the right answer. Dana stood tall (being over 6'4", this is not a problem) and spoke to the much smaller officer, in his usual manner, (being 6'4" this is normally considered by most to be authoritative) and suggested that as the officer was, indeed, a supervisor, all that was was needed was for him to go and ask them to turn it down, until 5pm. 'I will see what I can do, sir', was the second wrong answer. Dana explained, again, in his polite, authoritative manner, that the officer needed to go over to the venue, and tell them to turn it down, until 5pm, approximately half an hour away. Not wanting to be struck 'three and out', the officer made his way over to the venue, under the watchful eye of the 6'4" citizen. Operation American Pie was a success. It was the day that the music died; at least until the time we left.
We waived our pass at the guarding officer on Saturday morning, and he smiled, and waived us through. Lunch was enjoyed again at the same bar. To say Samantha dragged me in, would not be completely true, but she was wooed by the hot dogs, as well as the competition to win a trip to Vegas, and, of course, the possibility of yet another t-shirt. We didn't get the shirt, but we did have a chance to win the trip. My success at winning this week was high, even though the prizes were not always the most desired. In the Copenhagen tent, I had won the 'tool' game. The young girl had said that if I could put all the tools in alphabetical order in a minute, I would win a prize. Perhaps it was surprise that she stood in, rather than awe, as I completed the task in record time. 'That was thirty seconds, she whispered. I smiled, omitting to tell her that I was once married to a builder, and I am an alphabetising administrator!' I won my bandanna. Winning again, this time on a wheel spin, I was told that I could have a selection of all the prizes, (cotton candy, stickers, and pinwheel), but had just missed winning the mobile phone, that had been won five minutes ago! Playing 'name the song or artist', was a piece of cake, when Nora Jones came warbling through the earphones, but being somewhat phone keyboard challenged, I could not get the answer in quick enough to beat my opponent. The nice (young) lady felt sorry for me, and gave me a bag, anyway!
Samantha and I walked the streets and claimed some more beverages and candy items, listened to some bands that were set up on the sidewalk, and then made our way back to the office, where we found the mini alone in the car park, and drove home, via Walmart to pick up some groceries. The silence was quite soothing. I had waived a fond cheerio to SXSW, although Samantha returned to see the open air concerts and was treated to a performance by a (shirted) Matthew McConaughey playing the bongo's.
Today, I am feeling quite strange. It is nearly six thirty, and I have not passively ingested any contraband substances, something that I have been used to for the past six days, so I assume that cold turkey is kicking in. I don't have the munchies as I have for the last three or four days, but I am feeling rather weepy. Having said that, I have had a wonderful English Mother's day, thanks to my American based family, but that is.....another story.