Saturday, October 31, 2009

Holy Cow!

We have just finished going through the house-closing from hell. We were supposed to close on our house in New Hampshire on Thursday. Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm Lee started getting phone calls from SIRVA (the relocation company) and our Realtor. The sellers had run into a problem with their bank and couldn’t get the payoff amount for their loan. Suddenly the whole sale was thrown into question.

Apparently (as we discovered later) the sellers had gone into forbearance. I had to look up what this meant. It means that they had decided to delay the payment of their last two mortgage payments and instead take them out of their payoff amount. There was no problem with their mortgage per se, and they had enough equity in the house. But by doing this they had thrown their mortgage out of the bank’s automated system. Not realizing this, they didn’t start asking for the payoff amount until a couple of days before the closing, and hadn’t realized that it was really going to be a problem until Wednesday. Add to that a messy divorce and some incompetent participants and we had a potential disaster on our hands.

We spent Thursday waiting by the phone. Late Thursday afternoon we decided to go ahead and do the walk-through at the house and sign all of the paperwork that we could without the seller’s payoff amount. At least that way if the amount came through in time we would be ready.

This was only the second time I had seen the house. It was strange to finally see it again. There are some really, really nice things about it, and some things I don’t like too. The main area of the house is just beautiful. The kitchen is huge, with lots of cabinet space, and the cabinets are really nice. The living room has beautiful French doors looking out over the back yard, an old stone wall, and the conservation woods beyond. The dining room is open to both the kitchen and the living room. The front walk leads to a BIG front porch. I love front porches and have always wanted to own a house with one and can’t wait to decorate it with furniture, etc. The master bedroom is spacious and has a FANTASTIC walk-in closet. There is a separate wing on the other side of the kitchen that includes a large laundry room and a room we are going to make into a library that can also serve as a second guest room. The stairwell that leads to the basement and the garage is just neat and different. The garage is huge, and there is a basement! And I’m sure once we move in I will discover other things that I love as well.

Now for the negatives. The master bathroom is small, with only one sink, a small linen closet, and no separation for the toilet. The guest bathroom has no linen closet at all. The area in front of the house is limited. There is a wetland in front of the house which we own and can look at and enjoy, but there are restrictions on what we can do with it. The driveway isn’t paved and right now it badly needs a load of gravel that will need to settle in until we can pave it next spring. The deck on the back of the house is ugly and we want to tear it out and redo that whole area. The lake is really nice, but the neighborhood and surrounding houses are kind of strange. Until probably ten years ago it was all little summer cabins and many of these cabin/shacks still remain, interspersed with nice houses like ours and other houses that can best be described as lower middle class. There seems to be some kind of boat yard storage area on one side of our property that we didn't notice until the leaves started falling off the trees! It’s a real mixture and will take some getting used to. The town of Salem is different from many of the other surrounding towns because it is a tax-free Mecca for Boston shoppers. A lot of areas look like a tacky strip-mall.

Okay, back to our closing saga. The pseudo closing was very depressing. We met the woman that was selling the house and her realtor. We could tell that the seriousness of the situation was just really dawning on them. The man was represented by a lawyer that came on very aggressively and seemed to have an attitude that suggested that if there was any delay in the closing she was going to figure out a way to blame it on us. The notary that conducted the closing was the most pompous self-important little man I’ve ever met. He was so irritating! He seemed to think he was the funniest person in the world, but none of us thought his jokes were humorous at all. Like many of the other people at the table he only slowly began to realize that this was not a very happy occasion.

Friday morning Lee and I started to plan what we would do if the sale fell through. The contract on the house expired at midnight on Friday. We had to move out of our service apartment on Friday. We had to cancel the delivery of our furniture and it went into storage in Boston. We moved into a Staybridge Suites. It wasn’t too bad – still had two bedrooms and a small kitchen. It would serve our purposes for a week or two if need be. We decided that we would start apartment-hunting if the contract fell through. And we weren’t going to give them an extension, but might propose another contract on Monday, but maybe not. We’d take our time searching for another house.

By Friday afternoon we were back in Salem. We went by the house to see if we had any mail. We worried about how long we should wait before we cancelled the utilities. We cancelled the Comcast installation. We decided we should go to the Post Office and put our mail on hold or get a PO Box for the time being.

I walked into the Salem Post Office and stood in line for several minutes. When it was my turn I went up to the counter and began discussing our options with the clerk. As we were talking Lee comes running into the post office waving his phone. The sellers had received a pay-off amount from the bank, at the last possible moment!

We went to a nearby Barnes and Noble, bought some coffee, and sat down to wait for another phone call. The realtors still needed to receive their copies of the final paperwork before we could meet them at their office and sign. At around 4 pm we got word that the paperwork was ready for our signature. We went over to the office, signed the papers, shook hands all around, and received the keys. We had a house!

Now today we’ll start going down our list of things we need to do before we move in. There’s some unexpected painting that needs to be done because the woman patched all the nail holes and unintentionally made a mess. We need to order gravel, plan where the furniture will go, decide about the purchase of a generator for the power outages that can occur during winter storms, go pick up our snow blower at Sears, order the new decking because the stuff we want is on sale right now, and buy a piece of baseboard that is missing in one room. I can also go ahead and do the remaining changes of address on our employers, credit cards, frequent flyer accounts, etc.

Now our furniture will be delivered on Tuesday and we will be unpacked on Wednesday, but Wednesday morning I will be on my way to St. Louis to see my mom, who is having a lot of health problems right now and has been in the hospital the past couple of weeks. I have definitely been thinking about my favorite John Lennon quotation these past couple of days. Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Well, we’ve had a major “life” attack this past week!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Goodbye Austin

Here I sit in another service apartment, almost 8 months after we returned to the US from Hong Kong. This apartment is even more temporary for me than the last one (although Lee has been living in it for almost 2 months). In two days we close on our house in New Hampshire; in three days we start moving in.

I’m going to change the title of this blog. I don’t know WHAT I’m changing it to yet, however! But I’d rather just change the title than start an entirely new blog. This transition, from one place to another, and yet another, has gotten fairly tiresome in the past year. I’m ready to settle down in one place for awhile, make a house into a home, plant a garden, and get a dog and a cat.

But in the meantime I feel like I owe Austin more than just a fleeting “seeya!” before I plunge headlong into the end of a New England fall and straight into a snow bank! Austin has been part of my life in one fashion or another for almost 30 years. My sister and her husband moved here in the early eighties so that he could go to engineering school at UT. I know I visited them in Austin before I had Sarah, but a lot of those visits are kind of jumbled up in my mind. I remember a student apartment that must have been somewhere close to UT. I remember their very-long-lived cat, Otis. I remember going to 6th street and wandering in and out of various bars, listening to the music change and trying not to get lost in the crowds. I remember going to Amy’s Ice Cream, when “smushing” mix-ins into ice creams was a new and delicious idea.  I remember going to Las Manitas for breakfast, somewhere way out in the country for a family-style meal, Central Market for groceries.

Then we both had children and I started taking turns with each child. One year Sarah would come with me, the next year it would be Daniel. One time Sarah and I had to run through the Dallas airport to make our connection (this must have been pre-Sky Train!). I had her grasped like a football under my arm, a fellow passenger had me by the hand, and we FLEW through that airport, all the time Sarah quietly insisting “put me down, Mama, I can walk!” I didn’t even bother to argue with her. We made that plane, too!

Then my sister and her husband moved out to Pflugerville in the late 80’s. I got a whole different perspective on Austin. There were highways springing up all over the place, and the traffic was terrible. Suburban Austin didn’t have near the charm of the older parts of the city, but I think part of the problem was that this one visit I came in October. The weather was hot and miserable, and the baby Jessica saga was on TV (remember the child that fell down the well? That happened in Texas). Every other time, I came in the spring, which is when Texas is at its very best.

In the early 90’s my sister moved to the neighborhood near 35th Street and Jefferson. It was a beautiful neighborhood. Her kids went to Briker Woods Elementary School. We went for walks on Schoal Creek, went shopping at the Arboretum, and visited the State Capitol.

Until the mid-90’s my memories of Austin are all happy ones. I don’t want to get into it here, but the late 90’s were not a happy time for my sister and her family. I have very sad and horrible memories of this time. Although it is not fair to somehow blame Austin for my sister’s problems, it’s only too true that my perception of this city is forever altered by the events that took place back then. So, when we found out that we would be moving here, my feelings were inevitably mixed. I was happy, because it was the start of a new chapter in our lives, one that we hoped would lead to new challenges for Lee and new adventures for the both of us. But I was worried as well, because of the unhappy events that had occurred here. Eventually the opportunities for Lee and the adventures for me all came to pass. We lived in Austin for almost 2 years before we moved to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong never would have been possible if we had not moved to Austin first.

During this period of time our house was burglarized. This experience left me shaken. I learned once again that my judgment was sometimes flawed and someone close to me was not trustworthy. It left a lasting feeling of being unsafe in my own home that lingered even after we returned to Austin from Hong Kong.

What will I NOT miss about Austin? I will not miss the endless summers. I won’t miss day after day of 100 degree plus heat. I won’t miss the giant cockroaches, or the scorpions, or the mosquitoes. I won’t miss the feeling that my liberal-leaning vote was irrelevant in such a conservative state. I won’t miss feeling like I live somewhere that I don’t really belong.

What WILL I miss about Austin? I will miss the wildflowers in the spring. I will miss the mild, pleasant winters. I will miss the friends I made. I’ll miss some of the great restaurants we found. I’ll miss the uniquely Austin music scene. I miss running on Town Lake. I’ll miss getting to go to ACL, mud, heat, dust and all.

When it’s all said and done, am I glad I lived in Austin, Texas for a time? I have to say ultimately – yes. Texas and I may have never meshed all that well, but that’s okay. Austin is part of who I am, and it seems like it was necessary for me to live there to complete a portion of my life. I’m glad I lived there and I’m glad to be moving on. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I get a craving for Tex-Mex though…

Web images courtesy of (Amy's Ice Cream), (Las Manitas), (Texas road construction). The blue bonnets are mine.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Magic of Social Networking

Wilkes Blvd 1972

I've had the most interesting thing happen in the past few months. I'm trying to process it, because it really is pretty amazing. I had a large group of very good "hippie" friends...some of which I met when I was a senior in high school and others of which I met in college. They were all sort of interconnected. We drifted apart after graduation and I gradually lost touch with all of them. I would think about them off and on, wonder where they were, what had happened to some of them. They were mostly "back to nature" type hippies and not very involved in drugs (at least by those day's standards!).

Well, one of the girls had a letter to the editor published in the New Yorker (!) a couple of months ago and that seems to have started something. I went on a very determined search for her online and finally found her using LinkedIn. I sent her an email and she replied! From her I was also able to get in touch with her sister (they're only a year apart in age and so we were all friends). At around the same time another person from this group found me on Facebook and we started catching up. From him I was able to get back in touch with two other people from this group, and it appears that this is going to lead to finding even more of them!

I'm kind of in awe of this happening right now in my life. These people were a huge part of my coming-of-age-and-growing-up process. I'm very happy to have reconnected with them and it seems that so far the ones I've found are happy, healthy and doing well! It’s funny far it doesn't appear that any of them are living anything close to a hippie life-style. We’ve all become middle-class members of society! Our 40th high school reunion is coming up in 2010. They are seriously talking about finding as many people from this group as possible that went to Parkway Central in St. Louis County class of 1970 and encouraging them all to attend.

1969-70 was really a volatile year to be a high school senior. It was the year of the Moratorium (protest marches for Vietnam), the year we broke the dress code (all the senior girls wore pants to school on the same day; they couldn't send ALL of us home, so the administration just sort of threw up their hands), the year of all the demonstrations and strikes on college campuses across the country, the year of Kent Parkway some of the "hippies" in this group decided that they would run for school office. These were people that had never been involved in school politics before, but to many people they represented all the outcasts, geeks, dorks and ignored kids that were looked down on by the "good" kids (or that's how we felt anyway, I know now that's not really how it is, kids like me were just invisible)....anyway, they won - president, vice president, etc of the senior class; all the major offices were taken over by the hippies!

The kids that had always won those offices in the past were very annoyed. They complained to the administration, saying it wasn't fair since the people that won didn't "deserve" to win because they had never participated in school politics before, but the administration said they had won fair and square and let the results of the election stand.

It’s funny to think of all of us showing up at a class reunion. I remember the night of prom (none of us went), we were all over at one girl’s house, very aware that it was prom night. Part of me would have loved to have gone to prom, and I think that at least among the girls there were similar unspoken feelings. We laughed about going to where the prom was being held and “crashing” it. Back then it was unheard-of for anyone to go to prom without a date, and even more unthinkable for a girl to ask a boy out. I’m very glad that times have changed this situation for teenagers now.

Most of the people in this group went to college at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. None of our parents had very much money so the state University was the obvious choice. By our sophomore year we were all living together in houses on a street called Wilkes Blvd. There we hung out together, rode our bicycles where-ever we wanted to go, smoked too much pot and dropped a little acid, and occasionally went to class.

As our college years continued, things began to change. People fell in love; some even got married. Some people started to excel in school and chose careers or graduate school as their next steps. It was harder for me in some ways. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I didn’t really want college to end. At the time I would have liked it if we could have gone on forever living on Wilkes and being college kids, but of course this could not be. Eventually even I made choices that took me away from Columbia, toward a new life.

Since this was before the age of email, some of us stayed in touch via letters and phone calls for awhile, but time and distance made this increasingly difficult. If not for email and Facebook I probably would never have talked to any of them again.

And now we are back in touch, exchanging emails and family photos. It’s kind of thrilling in a way. I’m so grateful for these tools that have reconnected me with old friends. Sometimes people kind of sneer at Facebook and other social networking sites. Granted they are a great way to waste time, and I’m certainly as guilty of that sometimes as the next person. But when something like this happens I find myself just amazed. Technology can be annoying at times, but it’s also magical. Our lives have been transformed by computers and I’m very happy to be able to experience its benefits!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Columbus Day in the Berkshires

When we visited Chris and Adrian on Long Island and in the Berkshire this summer they told us all about the Hancock Fire Department’s big snow equipment sale during the Columbus Day weekend in October. We decided that skis, outerwear, snowshoes and other snow season must-haves at ½ price or better were too good to pass up. So when we were deciding which weekend I should return for another visit it was easy to decide – October 8th-13th it was.

I arrived at Boston Logan on Thursday afternoon. Daniel picked me up, on the way to a job interview in downtown Boston. Things are coming together for him a little. He has a job at Banana Republic where he’ll pick up some hours and get some inexpensive clothes. The afternoon interview was at a temp agency. It sounds promising and hopefully will lead to something that will generate enough money for him to get his own apartment and start taking the classes he needs.

I was impressed at how easily he made his way around Boston. I am not at all ready to drive in downtown! The streets are really, really confusing and the drivers are aggressive. We parked in a parking garage near where his interview was going to be and decided to walk around a little since it was still early. We managed to get lost, just walking around the block, or so we thought. I don’t think there is a simple right angle anywhere in this town!

On Friday Daniel and I went to the Rockingham Mall, right over the border in New Hampshire. I thought it would be bigger, since it’s something of a Mecca for people searching for sales tax free bargains. I went there to see if they had some J Crew coats in the store that I could try on (and they did). Daniel went to get a haircut. I did finally buy a J Crew wool coat. White, lined, mid-thigh length. It takes care of one of my coat needs – a nice coat to wear into the city when it’s cold but not frigid. Now I still need a nylon shell to wear over a fleece for hiking and other country pursuits. And I need a nice, long puffy down coat for city life when it’s really cold. Oh and maybe a sweater dress and some leggings…!

Friday evening around 4:30PM we piled in the car and started heading for the Berkshires. It was supposed to be around a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive, but it took us closer to 3 ½ hours. It was pouring down rain and the traffic was TERRIBLE. I think most of Boston was headed in the same direction. I was never so glad to finally arrive somewhere in my life. And I didn’t even drive…

It was great to see Chris and Adrian again. We were all starving to we immediately headed over to Jiminy Peak and the Powder Horn for dinner. We were so busy talking and having a good time that they had to kick us out so they could go home.

Saturday morning we got up early and headed straight to the sale. Well! Turns out that sale was worth the trip and then some. Everything we bought was new. Lee bought downhill skis and boots, cross-country skis and boots and snowshoes. I bought cross-country skis and boots, snowshoes, two sets of long underwear, a nice fleece and microfiber socks, all for less than 900 dollars! Now all I need to do is learn how to cross-country ski…

Saturday night Lee cooked dinner for the Alleys and us. He made a traditional Nill family dinner: Chicken a La Becca, Phil’s Green beans, bread and salad. We of course had to explain the story of how the chicken dish got its name. It’s a chicken baked with garlic, rosemary and canned tomatoes. A long time ago when Sarah and her friend Becca were maybe 7 or 8 years old, Becca and her sister Stephanie spent the weekend at our house. One night Lee cooked this dish and Becca really liked it. When she went home she asked her parents “why can’t YOU cook like Sarah’s dad?”! She got a dish named after her as a result!

The green beans (roasted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) are a recipe from her father, Phil, so that’s two dishes named after the same family!

Sunday morning we went on a short hike, part of the way up Greylock Mountain, the highest point in Massachusetts. The leaves were just spectacular! New Englanders are justifiably proud of their fall foliage. We were impressed. The only thing was, after the hike we decided to take the road up to the top of the mountain for a cup of coffee. Apparently all those people we saw on the road from Boston on Friday evening had decided to do the same thing. We decided the coffee back at the Alley’s was perfectly acceptable instead.

Sunday afternoon it was time to head back to Boston. As we were leaving Chris and Adrian handed us a huge bag of apples from their apple trees. Hmm, apple pies and apple sauce!

Daniel was going to Cambridge to join up with some friends that were going to a concert Sunday night, so Lee and I decided we needed to go out to dinner in Boston. We tried a sushi place that was pretty good, but nothing incredible. We know there must be some really great restaurants in Boston; we just need to find them.

Today Lee and I drove around Salem, looking at a few of the nearby trails where we can run and ski. We found a really nice trail not far from the house that is part of the New Hampshire rails-to-trails system. I’m excited about that; it’s like the one in Columbia and will be great for long runs and cross-country skiing. Now I just need to find a place where we can rent skis for when visitors come.

OH! One more thing; our house in Austin sold today! Finally; we dropped the price once we had our appraisals from 3M and that’s all it took. That’s one worry put to rest. So, it’s back to Texas for one more week and then the movers come. I am SO READY!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ACL 2009

Friday, October 2nd, 2009.
Jim the taxi-man comes and gets us at 12:30. I’m waiting excitedly in the dining room, looking at the street, like a little kid waiting for a birthday party to start! The traffic is crazy – we have to turn around and go the back way to the drop-off by Austin High School. But all is well when we get into the park. Gorgeous weather – the best they’ve ever had for ACL. Highs in the 70’s, sunny, puffy clouds.

First up Blitzen Trapper, a Grateful Deadish sounding band. This is our first introduction to the biggest problem of the day. The sound is loud, and the bass is overwhelming. And if you sit far enough back to not go deaf sound bleeds through from other bands. This is the first year we’ve ever noticed this. One of the great things about ACL has always been that there are so many choices and the stages are constructed so that sound-bleed has never been an issue. I don’t know if it’s the bands or the sound-systems or our ages but this year it’s noticeable.

We listen to about ½ of the Blitzen Trapper set, and unimpressed, walk over to hear Mishka instead. He’s a rockin’ reggae performer that is very enjoyable. After that we walk over to hear Jonell Mosser, a lovely Bonnie Rait-like singer. She’s got a really nice voice; sings creative covers. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of her.

Then it’s over to another stage to listen to Todd Snyder. He’s a hoot – clever lyrics, talking blues. I wouldn’t buy him though I’d go to hear him again in a second.

From there we go over to our old spot under the trees near the AMD stage. We plan on just hanging out, but we happen to be there for Phoenix, a French pop band. At first I’m only half listening but as their set goes on I realize I really like them. They’re good, and it seems like all 65,000 people at ACL agree. It gets crowded, REALLY crowded. Since we never stay to hear the headliners this is by far the most crowded I’ve ever seen ACL. I think this band might be on the verge of becoming the next Coldplay or something. Well if so I can say we saw them “when”!

Then it’s over to Xbox360 stage to listen to Raphael Saadiq. R&B with a beat. He’s fun but this is another thing about ACL. At some point I go into musical overload and really can’t process what I’m hearing anymore. That point comes sometime during Saadiq’s set. I know he’s good but I really don’t care. I decide I need a glass of wine.

Lee goes over to hear the Greencards (bluegrass); I stay on the west side of the park to listen to John Legend. He’s beautiful and his band and backup singers are polished and professional, but I’m too far back again and the bleed from the other end of the park is bad and distracting. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of him though.

After John Legend Lee and I meet at the Hudson Cone stand for dinner. Oh those shrimp and avocado cones….one of the best features of ACL is the food. It’s not just corndogs and fries at this festival. Local restaurants put on as good a show as the bands. Earlier in the day Lee and I split a small Amy’s Ice Cream…wow how we’ve changed….we’re just not used to all that butter cream and sugar anymore.

I’m ready to listen to Andrew Bird, except for the whistling he’s one of the best performers on Friday. He’s very good, violin, voice, everything. I’m going to buy more of him at some point.
Then Lee leaves and I stay. I listen to Kings of Leon for awhile but they don’t really hold my interest. I turn around and listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs instead. They’re more my style – I like Karen O’s kimono at any rate!

At the end Mel and Stan and I meet as planned. We walk into the Stafford Road neighborhood and Lee comes and picks us up. A good day…but I’m really tired and we all sleep soundly. I don’t know what today is going to be like. Rain, heavy at times is the prediction. We don’t plan on leaving for the park until around 2 pm, and we don’t plan on staying late either. Will we be okay with parkas and umbrellas? I sure hope so! I really want to see Bon Iver and the Decembrists, rain or no rain!

Saturday, October 2nd, 2009
Well the rains came just like expected. We wait until later to go to the festival this day. We went to Shoal Creek with Mel, Stan and their children Brett and Lindsay for lunch first. I didn’t vary from my favorite thing on the menu this time – Cajun Gumbo with their wonderful roux, smoked duck and andoille sausage. From there Mel and Stan drop Lee and I off by the Mo-Pac bridge because I want to hear Grizzly Bear and they don’t want to go until later.

Grizzly Bear is good, but I don’t take notes so my memories aren’t quite as detailed as what I had on Friday. I remember that I liked them, but not a clue what they sounded like! But in the back of my mind I know they’re a group I want to listen to again. We placed our chairs in a circle somewhat equidistant between the Dell and Livestrong stages. It started raining harder and harder. I had brought my Shanghai Tang umbrella. I worked well to keep most of the rain off. Lee just had a water resistant jacket with a hood and he got pretty wet. Vickie and Michele showed up at one point and donated a VIP rain poncho to him, and he was grateful. Even with an umbrella I got fairly damp at times. Water would accumulate in the seams and eventually drip through, on my nose usually.

The most problematic part of the weather ended up being at our feet. I had decided on flip flops, thinking that wet tennis shoes would end up feeling pretty unpleasant. At first this wasn’t too bad. Yes my feet were wet, and covered in grass, but it wasn’t cold so it was tolerable. Later on, however, was another story.

We stayed in our circle of chairs through a band called Mute Math and another called Citizen Cope. I enjoyed Citizen Cope, enough to want to listen to more of him at some point. When he was almost finished with his show I decided I wanted to try to get up closer for Bon Iver and bid farewell to the chair circle. We agreed that I was on my own at this point, since the rest of the group wasn’t sure they would stay in the rain for much longer.

I edged my way closer, keeping my umbrella up and trying not to get in anyone’s way. I made it close enough to hear the show well, but not close enough to see much more than the video screen.

Bon Iver was surprising in concert. I’d read an article about him (Justin Vernon) in the New Yorker and on his albums he doesn’t have a band, he plays all the instruments and does all the harmonies himself. But of course on stage he had to have a band. He also changed his arrangements a little, adding some electronic flourishes and even rocking out upon occasion.
His songs are beautiful and his lyrics complicated and mysterious. He’s got a limited repertoire though. His last album came out in 2007 and it doesn’t seem like he has much if any new material yet. I wonder if he is working on things that aren’t ready yet or has just written what he has got to write and that’s all there is?

After Bon Iver I decided to get something to eat. I would have liked to have heard The Levon Helm Band, but I wanted to hear The Decembrists (and stand up close) more so I knew I would have to get a place to stand early.

I wanted a P.Terry’s veggie burger for dinner, and so did a lot of other people. The line, although long, moved quickly. The biggest problem was at our feet. The beautiful grass which had held up so nicely on Friday didn’t handle the rain and those thousands of feet so well on Saturday. In many places it was quickly returning to mud. This was a problem with flip flops. At first I thought people were stepping on my heels but then I realized that the mud was sucking at them and almost tearing them off my feet with every step. I tried taking them off and walking barefoot, but then I had the muddy, nasty things in my hands, so I just put them back on my feet and walked carefully.

Back to the Dell Stage I went veggie burger in hand. I inched my way up as close as I reasonably could. I had a really decent look at the stage, if I managed to avoid the tall people that inevitably decide they need to step to the front. There was also a hue and cry against umbrellas up close and I complied once the show started. I got out my trusty white running hat with the flap to cover my neck and a bill. This kept my head reasonably dry.

The Decembrists put on an AWESOME show! He has a new album out and he has incorporated two women vocalists into his act. One of them has a beautiful low voice and on her solo just stole the show. The other had a high, pure voice, an angelic face, and a shimmery white gown! I’ve heard some of his new songs and they are great. Once again, after hearing him live I know that’s one album I’m going to buy for sure. Lee makes fun of me for liking him. He finds him pretentious and yes, his lyrics are over the top sometimes, but I love the stories he tells. They excite my imagination and I often find myself daydreaming about them after I have had him playing on my IPod.

I enjoyed day two very much, in spite of the rain. Today (Sunday) we’re heading to the park early. We want to catch Black Joe Louis and the Honey bears at 12:30 and the B-52’s at 2 pm. After that it’s the Heartless Bastards and then home. Pearl Jam plays tonight at 8 pm. They have a new album that is currently the number one album in the country. I’d really like to hear them, but right now, even after 3 cups of coffee I’m pretty tired. I’m a little apprehensive about the mud too. It could just be a quagmire by tonight. And Lee has a 7AM flight to catch tomorrow morning. All that probably adds up to me not going. I hope it doesn’t end up being like Coldplay four years ago, where we left and I spent the next year regretting it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday dawns without rain. Yay! It appears that the rain has moved away from Austin. It’s cloudy, not too hot and we’re ready for the B-52’s! We decide that we don’t need chairs today. It’s going to be muddy, so we go for old tennis shoes and clothes that will wash easily.

We head for Zilker earlier than we have on the other days. There’s a soul band called Black Joe Lewis and the HoneyBears at 12:30 that we want to hear on the AMD Stage. We get right up in the “no chairs” area and figure out that if we stand against the edge of the sound booth there is a small metal walkway all around the booth. We can stand on this walkway and don’t have to stand directly in the mud. We can put our bags down without getting them muddy and we can lean against the booth too. This is a good deal. The mud is viscous, gooey and a bit smelly too. It’s just nicer to not have to stand directly in it.

The Honeybears are lots of fun, but I’m restless, so I volunteer to go get our lunch. I want barbeque from the Saltlick and Lee gets a steak frites sandwich from Aquarelle. Mine is good (I get it with cole slaw right on the barbeque) but Lee’s is REALLY good. Steak thinly sliced, some kind of creamy sauce and spicy French fries right on the sandwich. He has a little trouble getting his sandwich back from me after he offers me a bite!

Then we have an hour in-between the Honeybears and the B-52’s but we don’t want to lose our spot so we decide to just hang out. I entertain myself taking pictures of all the darling Wellies trouping by. I used to see these colorful rain boots in Hong Kong sometimes and I would think people were crazy because when it rains in Hong Kong it’s usually hot and muggy as well. Rubber boots in those conditions would be extremely uncomfortable I would think, but today at ACL they’re a must-have fashion item it would seem.

Finally, the B-52’s begin their show. First thing – hey, they’re old! They’re at least as old as I am, and I’m charmed by the sight of wildly dressed women grooving onstage in their signature beehive hairdos! I just feel kind of proud of my cohort there for a moment – their arms aren’t flabby, their gowns are cool and their makeup is out of this world…and they can still really, really sing. Roam Around the World, Love Shack and other songs that sound vaguely familiar are a treat. I bounce around and clap and sing along with the best of them.

After the B-52’s we bid farewell to Mel and Stan. This was their first ACL; I hope they had fun. We want to hear the Heartless Bastards, so we head gamely over to the Dell stage. Oh my…on the higher ground the mud isn’t too bad, but as we come down the hill by the big tree there’s a river of mud at the bottom. We walk through it and attempt to find a place to stand that isn’t too disgusting. The Heartless Bastards are good, but as we stand there I start to realize just how tired I am. I look over at the Livestrong stage, where Pearl Jam will play tonight. I think about how much farther I would need to go into the sea of mud before me in order to hear or see anything. Three days of walking, standing, and dancing, in sunshine, rain, and mud have taken their toll. I’m ready to go home and Lee is agreeable so we leave, and I know then that I’m not coming back tonight.

As always ACL is just fun, fun, fun. This was an unusual year. Held later because of a bye week for UT football, it was cooler, but going later into the fall in Austin always means there is a higher risk of rain. It was nice to not have to deal with 100 degree temps though. And the music was good, very good. I have a huge list of performers to listen to in more detail and like most years I would imagine that I’ll end up with several groups that become my favorites that before this weekend I had never heard of before.

Going to something like ACL keeps me young and at the same time makes me feel old. I was really tired after the festival this year. The bands seemed louder too, loud enough that we employed the use of ear plugs, which we haven’t done before.

I hope the grass recovers, and I hope it doesn’t rain next year. And I hope this isn’t the last ACL for us.


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