Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brilliant design

There is a lot to say about the Austin Wine and Music Festival, and I will get to it, but the thing I want to over-discuss is the brilliant design of the multi-tab wristband.  It is almost enough to make you want to return to event planning.

That is hyperbole.  Just so you know.

But "Goodbye Drink Tickets," the lady in the 1960s commercial might say, her flip-do bobbling with excitement.  "I discovered multi-tab wrist bands!"  Here is how this worked.  Entry to the festival entitles you to a certain number of "pours."  We forgot how many.  WOOHoo - it's a wine festival.  You tear a little tab off your wristband to pay.  They litter the environment and confetti the landfill, and ...oh, be quiet you.  Let the plastics industry have their moment.

Also with your wristband comes a wine bottle six-pack shopping bag and a souvenier glass.  And a 100 degree day of drinkin' and shoppin'.  And there is a band if you can find it.

The celebration of Texas' vineyards, especially those in the temperate Hill Country, has been going on for 5 years.  Some things are working; some are not.  This year, it fell strangely close to the actual Hill Country Wine Festival, but then in New England, we never met an ice cream weekend we didn't like.

The festival came to the Austin Sprawl Area's "Domain," a new faux downtown of high-end shops anchored by Neiman's, a Westin convention hotel, and a crazy big field next to the highway, where events can take place.

1.  An outdoor festival is greatly benefitted by trees.  Austin is full of them.  Why pick a place like this?

"5.2 grassy acres at The Domain near Burnet Road and Esperanza Crossing."  "Grassy" here has a meaning like "chocolatey."  (not really grass)  So yes, hot.  Bloody hot.  But with a stiff wind to keep the bugs down, good canopy cover.  And 10 tabs of wine.

2.    Signage will kill you?  My hosts confirm that they have been to more than 1 event at this location, which is really set up like an old downtown -- which Austin also has -- but contains no signs indicating that a giant festival is taking place in it.  So one drives around hopelessly until one asks the valet at the Westin, who seems very used to this aspect of his job.

3.   Cheese plate + wine = v.v.good.  Cheese plate + 100 degrees = this is not brie.  But the fine people at the Spec's stand gave us an extra for free, so they didn't have to sell it.  And a pound of cheese on any day is still deee-lishius, however sweaty.

4. Things we liked:
Tempranillo:  a Spanish grape, very warm and velvety, but too warm for the day.  Needed a bison steak to go with it.
Rose:  Seriously.  They've changed it.  Still pink and giggly, but not the sticky kool-aid you remember from the senior trip.
Viognier:  100% Texas fruit, flowery and crisp.  A good end-of-the-hot day refresher or standing by for the chicken to grill.
White Port: who knew?  I did not care for this as much as my hostess, but mostly because my palate was not prepared for the liquory bite, which lord knows I enjoy in my amber beverages.  I would have to come back and visit it with a chocolate cheesecake.

We finally found the band tent, and a few co-workers, all of whom are officially on call as government workers on a federal holiday weekend, but they are not First Responders or cemetary officials.  So it's OK.  Even LBJ enjoyed a cool one.

Wine makes me flush, so I sweat right through my jeans, and my water bottle began to make soup.  We wondered about families who brought their children to a scene where there was literally nothing for them to do, and remembered we had one at home.

Later that evening, we invited another couple over with a 4 year-old and a 5 week old.  They marvelled at the tale of our wine festival as if it would never again happen for them.  But of course it will.  Maybe we should stay with the kids next year and let them go alone.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What we do for fun


After 10 days of rain, we just wanted to be outside.  After more than 20 years in Boston, we wondered what we could do that was at all new.  But Paul always delivers.  deer4

Deer Island is a spit of land in the inner Atlantic where Boston and the Bay Colony have traditionally kept what they felt was untouchable.  It is officially one of the Boston Harbor Islands, and therefore National Park Land, but not of the camping and fishing variety.  Definitely of the hiking, jogging, biking, marveling at the scenery variety.


When it has been raining for 10 days, and 50 degrees, then dawns as a clear-sky hot blue day over 70.  Then you discover that even if you are casting a shadow in the parking lot of Charleston Chew, don’t say, “I guess I won’t need my jacket,” as if that is ridiculous.

deer2As we drove closer to coast, Paul said, “I don’t care for that…. smog?” and pointed in front of us.  Indeed, a brownish haze hung thick ahead, and seemed to originate from a place so specific we thought something was on fire.  But nothing was burning.  As we headed onto the isthmus that the Big Hurricane brought, making Deer Island no longer an island, we were plunged into London style fog.

So the “Dramatic views of the Boston skyline and Harbor Islands” and “Specatular [sic] closeups of airport landings and takeoffs” were lost to us.  Instead, everything took on the eeriness of a potential sighting of Jack the Ripper.  People and dogs would suddenly appear out of the deer3nothingness like ghosts, birds would hang in midair as if pasted there, and the invisible closeup landings and takeoffs suggested the Blitz. 

Then there was the creepy, Alien set of the treatment plant itself, which is odd enough looking in the light of day, but in silhouette against nothingness was truly otherworldly.


Yes, sort of like that, only you couldn’t even photograph this. 

Later,  online, we tried to make sense of it on Google Earth, using the topography we had made up on the spot, “Is that Tatooine, or was that nearer to the Contact turbine?”  I’m not convinced we were even on Earth.


We walked the seawall until it was too stinky to move on, which takes much longer than you would expect, and yes, you will know exactly when it happens.  I now present the giggly ironic poop-humor of touring the city’s wastewater treatment compound.

  • There are port-a-potties.  But there are not hand sanitizers
  • You have to clean-up after your dog.
  • The Deer Island Scavenger Hunt
  • It includes the item “Find and name 5 unnatural items you see on the beach.”  
  • Constant use of the term “breathtaking.”

We will have to visit another day, when we can see, and photograph, and get a little sunburn, instead of just wet.   Because we had no pictures, I have borrowed the work of more talented and equipped others.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Census Dater

I decided to see how "typical" I am, in comparison to my fellow villagers -- having already determined it is not at all normal to read the census data.  In a town of 15,000, it can be interesting to know if you really are an anomaly, and if you will ever fit in.  Remember when we learned how Marketing had defined the personality of your zip code?  Abandon this post if that one bored you.

Thanks to outsiders like me (Richies, think the natives), this town is growing.  Housing sales peaked, then prices fell, just like anywhere else -- only now they are lower than they have ever been.  So none of us is leaving.  And the cost of living is still higher here than the national average.  Ask my Alaskan friend who just came for 3 days of dinners.  If the US average is expressed as 100, my town is 115.6 (Boston - 136.  that's why anyone lives this far out).

As a town, we are not as much older than the state average as we look.  This may say more about me and where I hang out than it does about the town.  There are more women than men, but not by much.  The census now uses this quaint phrase, Female householder with no spouse present (another fancy play on Unmarried Person).   There are 1105 of us.  I am forming a book club.  We outnumber the men by 355.  But even combined, we can not take on the 2082 married-with-children.  Though it would be one heck of a game show.  They could combine forces like a Survival Tribe of alliances; we would just hire people to do it for us.  And go for brunch.

Nearly 1300 of us are "foreign-born."  I enjoy checking this box due to its specificity.  My birthplace is not one of the common of my town.  We do not have an ethnic center.  But then, I speak German not-at-all.  We have far more Central Americans than the state as a whole, but our Haitian population is about equal.  This is fascinating, since I never see this represented in town day OR Leprechaun round-up.  The Canadians are 9% of our town, but I have seen not one maple-leaf.  Are they all running the Wheetabix?
  Should they know how to spell it?

It is still mostly a white town, for all of that.  15 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (!)  12 Native Americans.  I simply must get on the town day committee.   Since 67 O'Malleys and 36 McNamaras died in this last census round, there may be room for a Touissant or an Escobar to shake things up in Central Park.

For the record, I do not live in Massachusetts' smallest town. (I honestly wasn't sure, but I verified...)  We have a designation of "Very Small Towns" and they are wickit smwall. Smaller than our force of Female Householders.   I am actually, by our standards, in a "Small City," ha-ha, where the number of bars is not in fact, anything remarkable and never has been.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Do you know what your company needs?

Corporate Chaplains of America does. 

You know how one of the lines in our cultural liturgy has become "Counselors will be present on site for those who need assistance"?  I found out where they come from.

When I worked in the world of Higher Ed, nuns and priesst, and rabbis and chaplains were easily had -- and I'll admit it: sometimes we talked to them about stuff we might not have talked to the Boss about.  I would say the same about the campus nurse and the head of student counseling.  So maybe it wasn't just the collar.  Maybe it was the well-scrubbed hands.

Anyway, I dare say that if you don't now work on a college campus, or in a Bon Secour hospital, you may not have ready access to the holy word in your workplace.  My position is not going to be for or against this in principle.  It is going to be wonder.... what that character on your little show would be like.

Because if you thought these 2 jokers were weak and ineffectual....

One of my favorite moments on The Office is Andy Bernard trying to mediate a conflict resolution, "because I was an R.A."  That's pretty much what I imagine your Corporate Chaplain is like.

"Corporate Chaplains of America implements a variety of means for caring in the workplace. These include any or all of the following: confidential care giving, crisis intervention, critical incident care team specialists, management consultation, programs for worship or prayer, referral to other professionals and agencies, training and education for employees and supervisors, employee/community/church relations and programs, and special events scheduled in response to needs which arise in the workplace. "

This need might have been such a need.
Maybe instead of the Muscle, the big man could have brought the Heart.
{{blllli-i-ii-ng..... The More You Know...}}

Start your visit to CCA through their introductory video.  Enjoy the corporate gear the chaplains get to wear.  I think we all know how much respect is given the co-workers whose jobs require the logo -- without irony.    "Their dress code is khakis-casual."  Their own press says that.

"Whatever the scope of each family's problems or concerns, Corporate Chaplains of America has a network of qualified and caring outsource providers that can help."

family?  seriously, CCA.  That is not helping.

HOW trained?  Oh, highly trained.
And temperament tested.   Like dogs from the shelter.
I wish this were also true of my management tier.  I think if we started our monthly departmental meetings with a round of "Peace That Passeth Understanding" ... I was going to say something else, but now I am just going to say... I would pay for that myself.  I might just start it on Wednesday.

 This is why he is so happy.  Cause you-all is craaazy.  And he gets to leave tomorrow.  The site explains that your chaplain is shared among 3-5 other companies.  Are they comparable companies?  Are they competitors ? Does he organize sandlot baseball, like Bing Crosby might have done?

This slide comes at the end of the video.  They hope you haven't noticed the line at the beginning, where they promise "...a life-nourishing resource built on christian faith and a helping hand."  Non-denominational must mean "other than ours."

Do not scoff at Corporate Chaplains.  Their 5 year plan might be more ambitious than your own company's.

They slid the dry-cleaning and the workout room right in on you.  They made you think you wanted your dog there.  And as long as the United Way decides where to spend the charitable donation the dept director pressures you into, you might as well have Bible study there too.  Why leave?

Coca-Cola has 25 of them.
Tyson Foods, 127.  Corporate Chaplains
LubeFast.       (stop it. that's not funny)
Though I should clarify that those companies were contracted from  A rival corporate chaplain placement service.  Chew on that phrase a while.