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Sunday, March 17, 2013


Where do I begin?  It seems appropriate to answer with another line from a song, (made famous by my heroine, the great Julie Andrews,) 'Let's start at the very beginning'.  Perhaps the 'very' beginning is not exactly where I will start, but it will be near enough.

After last weekend, and the start of SXSW, we had to get to work on Monday.  The roads that led to our office had been closed during the weekend, but we were able to get onto Sixth Street and into our car park with no problem.  The crowds were starting to form by mid-morning, and tents were being erected on every 'side' road that led to the main event.  I knew, that by the end of the week, the only song I would be singing would be, 'Tell me the way to go home!'   However, determined not to be a killjoy, I attempted to go with the flow. 

My social secretary (Samantha) had a list of venues for us to visit during the week, and was on the search for the best culinary venues.  Having enjoyed lunch on Friday, and Saturday, last week, she came up with a number of options for sustenance.  Tuesday morning was very quiet, both in the office and on the streets.  Dana insisted that Kelly join us on our 'walkabout', and we came back to the office with a smorgasbord of delights.  Jack in the Box burgers were being handed out like candy at Halloween, and one of Austin's best food trailers was at another venue, providing Indian and Thai food, as well as Louisiana gumbo.  Fed and happy, both work, and atmosphere, picked up in the afternoon.   By quitting time, we had a lot of mail to be deposited, and as the contents of the drop box which is located at the end of our street is emptied at 4:30, I volunteered to walk to the facility on Congress Avenue.  It was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, as it gave me the chance to check out the latest booths.  As I reached the counter at the Post Office, I was asked if I had come into town for SXSW.  The girl at the second counter, burst into laughter, and said to her colleague, 'No, she is the one who broke the ......'.  She did not need to finish, as I was recognised by the rest of the staff, all of whom started to howl with laughter, leaving the customers to draw their own conclusion as to the mayhem.  Once they had settled down, the first employee asked me if I was 'any good with phones'.  I pointed to Samantha, and told them that she was the expert.  Having shown them how to retrieve pictures, the assistant who had taken my mail proceeded to show the rest of the customers (although audience would be a more apt word) a picture of Snoop Dog, that she had taken at a recent event.  It was more like a party than a post office, but this is Austin!

My efforts to win tickets to see Eric Clapton were not successful, but I did claim my prize for the Austin Music Awards.  Last year, I had given them to my step-daughter, and the special guest was Bruce Springsteen.  This year, I said I would accompany Samantha, and we remained hopeful.  This added to the already interesting day that Wednesday was. We enjoyed breakfast on 4th Street, and then lunch at a different venue.  Tacos are always acceptable, and once again, another of Austin's finest trailers was feeding the town.  My first attempt at not being a killjoy was thwarted in the afternoon, when I called the police and asked them for a 'soundbite' test, to see if the levels that were emitting from the venue behind our office, were above what is permitted during the day. I was content to sit at Dana's desk, and bear the racket, until the windows started to shake, and my body was involuntarily bouncing on the chair!  The receptionist was sympathetic, firstly when I told her that the owner of the bar had basically told us to, 'get a life', and secondly, when she could not hear me above the blast which falsely advertised itself as music.  My response to 'would you like an officer to come and talk to you', was quite simple.  'I don't need repeat what I want done.  I want them to do what I have already asked!'  Patience was a virtue that was wearing rather thin.  I am surprised I did not have someone come and arrest me for verbal assault!  However, the noise level was reduced within ten minutes. (The venue did not have daytime music again all week!  Coincidence, perhaps.  Do I care?  No!)  Samantha had her own brush with the authorities.  It would appear that after extensive meetings, and negotiations, with the city and SouthBy officials, and the issuance of entry passes for the residents of surrounding offices, the rules had been changed.  We had been told to insist on entry to Sixth Street, and if denied we were to ask for a supervisor.  My daughter, who is known for NOT saying boo to a goose, had been told that she was not permitted to drive down the hundred yards to our car park, despite having the recognised permission.  She refused to give up her pass (which were being confiscated from other vehicles) and called the office and explained all to Dana.  She had asked to speak to a supervisor for the second day in a row, and refused to move.  Dana had spoken to a couple of policemen outside our office, and they had radioed through to find out what was happening.  As the pedestrian level had increased tremendously, all through traffic, apart from bands and beer trucks, had been denied access, but no one had bothered to inform those who needed to access.  With the surrounding roads taking the brunt of the overflow, cars were 'bumper to bumper' (or to be more apt, 'fender to fender') along the outskirts.  To take an alternative route would have taken another 45 minutes, rather than the thirty seconds it would take to drive from the top of the road to our office.  Eventually, after much deliberation, and the threat of a call to the Commander, my daughter was given a police (albeit bicycle) escort.  The apologies were forthcoming, and we were told to enter our little one way road, from the opposite direction, e.g. the wrong way, for the rest of the week.  After finishing work for another day, we left for the Austin Music Hall, whilst Dana, and the dog, left for home.  The sentence heard the most this week was 'If you tweet....', and Wednesday was no exception.  'If I see you tweet now, I can give you these', was the offer.  Not only did I have no idea what was on offer, I have chosen not to use most of the 'apps' on my phone.  My social secretary doubles as my 'know how; know all;' assistant, and I handed my phone to Samantha, as making a sound like a sparrow, and even dancing to the tune of the Birdie Song, was not acceptable.  The latest in earphone technology was now mine, along with a t-shirt to confirm that I was one of the trendy. 

It was a first come, first served basis for the seats at the Music Awards, and I made sure that I was 'first come', as I could not imagine standing for four hours.  The surprise guest, if there was one, did not appear, but the music was worth the ticket.  I never thought I would enjoy Country and Western, but living in the Music Capital of the World (not my original saying) it is impossible not to be infiltrated.  It was also far more preferable to the headbanging noise about which I complained earlier in the day.  The finale was given by Bill Carter and Gary Clark Jr.  By the reaction of the crowd, I was the only person in the room unfamiliar with the artists.  I found myself 'bopping' along with the multitude, and enjoyed the experience that is SXSW.  The hike back to the office was less entertaining.  Sixth Street was 'wall to wall' bodies and it was impossible to walk in a straight line.  We managed to reach the car, and set off to meet Edward at the shopping mall by the Interstate, and he took Samantha back into the fray, while I took my aching feet back home. 

I chose not to attend the Woodie Awards on Thursday, despite being given a pass, and the fact that Macklamore was making an appearance.  (Oh yes, I know his hit single, Thrift Shop - as to anything more I am ignorant)  My brain wrestled with my limbs, as to whether I should let Samantha go alone, but the limbs won, and I went home with Dana, and the puppy.  I did make another trip to the post office before leaving town, and gave the ladies at the counter a full description of the days events.  Having whetted their appetite, they decided to check out the festivities the following day. 

The last working day of the week saw me in a rather mellow mood.  As I have told most people who have telephoned, and asked how we were coping, 'By Wednesday, I am a little stressed; by Thursday my patience is tested beyond its boundaries; By Friday, I just don't care'.  I had breathed in enough stale beer and other aromas to make me wonder whether I was fit to be at my computer, let alone the wheel of a car.  I was the poster child for the instructions on the side of the medicine bottle; 'If ingested in any form, do not operate machinery'!  Kelly had accompanied me on a walk about the previous day, and had been promised a pair of American Airline pyjamas.  We had managed to 'check in' on our Foursquare app, virtually unaided!  (I feel I am regressing rather than progressing!) and claimed our prize.  Having won a pair of PJ's earlier, I chose the latest phone accessorizing clip.  I will admit that I was as (un)impressed with the item, as I was with the earphones, but they had caused such a big 'wow' with the younger generation, and promises had been made should we receive more!  We walked up to the next block, and forewent the offer of a t-shirt, in return for a tour around the latest Chevy Sonic, and, instead, scanned our wristbands, that we had been given the previous day.  As I watched for the screen to show the message, 'Bummer, you have not won. Come back tomorrow', my eyes almost popped out of my head when it shone, 'Winner!'.  I had won two music bands for the rest of the festival.  These, although not as expensive as the badges for all or part of SXSW, are still a 'big deal'.  Everyone on the Chevy stand were very excited.  After answering a few questions, such as my name and zip code, and being told that I could assign different names when I registered., we made our way to the Convention Center.  After being sent to four different windows, we finally found someone who was willing to help.  I had put Samantha down as my plus one.  Although it was not generally permitted to change the names on the coveted music wrist bands, (much like an airline ticket,) the girl at the counter took one look at me, assumed I would prefer to be at home knitting, and said she would, in this instance, allow me to give my band to Edward.  I am not sure whether she did it for me, or for the venues, as a middle aged wet blanket may not be what they want on their 'wall of fame' pictures.  Kelly and I returned to the office, and continued to work until it was time for me to take my daily trip to the post office.   

Being a glutton for punishment, I once again returned to the office on Saturday morning.  There is something rather satisfying at being given permission to drive along a one way street the wrong way.  It gave me the opportunity to shout at a pedestrian who pointed out, 'this is one-way, man', that I was 'only going one way, man!'  After a couple of hours of walking in the hot sun, I had, once again, had my fill of SXSW.  We had our photo taken at several booths, one with the caption, 'Again, another picture!'  We had collected several iced teas, Monster Energy drinks (which I swapped with Edward for his Iced Teas), a couple more t-shirts, and enough packs of Doritos to open a snack bar, I was ready to leave behind the crowds, music, passive smoke and sour beer.  We had found another American Airline lounge area, where we could 'check in', and got yet more prizes.  I did not really want the accessory bag I was given, and asked if I could have the pyjamas.  The representative showed me, on the scan, that I had been designated the bag.  Either he felt sorry for me, (there was a lot of that going on!,) or he just didnt want to take the track suits home, and he relented then granted me my wish.  'Have you got them in large?' was met with a sigh.  Although he checked, I could almost hear him swearing!  He did not.  I thanked him for his kindness.  He grimaced!   It was time to say au revoir to the biggest music festival in the world, and return to my own smaller, yet more comforting world.  I had not been as judicious in my collection of freebies as I had hoped, and Dana's t-shirt collection had grown (although not quite as much as last year) as I could not resist.  I was satisfied that there was enough iced tea in the office to last a couple of weeks.  I am not quite sure when I am going to use my very own, 'roll your own' tray, or with what I am going to fill the fly paper!  My wardrobe has been complimented with a different coloured pair of sunglasses for every outfit! 

The dog stayed for another sleepover on Saturday night, as Edward came to relieve me, and took his place by Samantha's side when I left on Saturday.  Dana and I had our own rebellious twenty minutes, when we went to get an ice-cream later Saturday evening.  Well it is March!  Samantha let me know she was home at 3:04 a.m., as she presumed, correctly, that I may be slightly concerned due to there being thousands of people all leaving downtown at once.  She came to collect her dog on Sunday, and we all had a nice, quiet day.  Work on Monday will be done without the accompaniment of instruments, but that will be welcome.  We were fortunate to have some musicians, with talent, set up their 'band' outside our office windows.  During SXSW, (almost) anything goes!  Things will heat up, no doubt, on a different level, as the law makers in Texas make their decisions and we attempt to make our voices heard.  I wonder, sometimes, if it is easier for us to be heard over the SouthBy music, than in the sophisticated committee rooms, where one person talks at a time.  If that sounds politically incorrect, then so be it!   This is Austin!  Whatever the outcome, it will be...........another story.

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