Saturday, February 28, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 5

My day began oddly but pleasantly: A former co-worker and still friend, Joe, proved to be staying in the same hotel. This happy coincidence granted us about twenty minutes to catch up. Joe's a great guy, one of the best salespeople I've ever known, and someone I wish still lived around here. I hope his day in Austin went well.

Much travel then occurred, all of it better than I had any right to expect but still not what one would call a good time. Travel rarely is these days.

One of tonight's activities was a bellydance performance that involved Jennie and many dancers from all over the state. The dances were generally fun, and I had a pleasant time watching them. I also learned from the organizers how to keep snack consumption relatively low: serve only healthy vegetables. People would walk up, stare at the veggies, lap the snack table a time or three, and warp off. This could prove to be an important budget tip in these tight times.

Friday, February 27, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 4

This city's roads never fail to amaze and confuse me. Access roads run for huge stretches next to highways, as if they're going to parallel the highways forever, and then the access roads vanish for no apparent reason. One road might have three or four names, but you can drive on some of them for half a mile or longer without seeing a single sign with any of those names. When I mention these issues to folks who live here, they just laugh and say, "Yeah, that's Austin!"

I'd think it was an effective way to keep away visitors if the place wasn't growing constantly. I swear it's bigger each time I visit.

Most of my adult life I have fought to keep my feelings and behavior under control. That's essential for work, relationships, parenting, everything it seems. Yet just under the surface I feel as full of boiling emotions as I did as a teenager, and sometimes after long work days or in other periods of exhaustion I wish I could let it all out. It's like that now, but instead of doing anything visible I will work--on PT stuff, on my stand-up show, on the book in progress. The next book is going to be the most emotional one yet, the most powerful--at least to me--and I am both chomping at the bit to dive into it and terrified of what it might cost me. Regardless, I'll write it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Today's far from over, but I thought I'd take a break and write this entry early. I definitely ate too much today, in large part because a client friend suggested we eat lunch at Chuy's. Now, as you can tell from the site, Chuy's is a local chain that's spread to a few Texas cities, but despite that status (or maybe as the reason for that success) it combined a fun and funky atmosphere I instantly liked with some fine TexMex food I quite enjoyed. The chips were light and hot and fresh, and the queso was thick and spicy and wonderful. I should have eaten a quarter of what I did, but when the conversation turns good and the chips keep coming, a lot of food just vanishes.

Despite that over-indulgence, we had reservations tonight at Lambert's, so we headed there for an upscale/gourmet barbecue dinner. It's true that "barbecue" and "gourmet" don't often hang out in the same sentence, but in this case they truly belong together. (And this despite the fact that the meat is not cooked all day over wood; they simply add wood for the smokey flavor.)

Today was an absolutely beautiful treat, with a high in the low 80s and breezes blowing all the time. Back home, it's about 30 degrees colder, which will no doubt hit me as quite a shock on the weekend. This trip has made me wish spring would pick up its skirts and hustle on to North Carolina.

As a final note, I'm sad to report that SF writer Philip Jose Farmer has died. Joe Lansdale notes his influence in this CNN piece, and I think the tribute is at least in part deserved, because at times Farmer really did push the boundaries of the field. I never met him, but I wish I had.

On the road again: Austin, day 2

Good and interesting meetings today. I'm lucky to have great clients, great prospects, and tons of opportunities for our company to work in intriguing areas.

Dinner was a fine sushi meal at Uchi, followed by some ice cream at Amy's. I ate too much and didn't need that dessert, but boy, it was all yummy.

In a moment of blazing insight today, I realized that the companies that make pills and tooth-cleaning powder and other medicinal products were missing a great opportunity. Most of them use candy flavorings, but there's a minority of the American population whose members can't stand the smell or taste of candy. (Okay, maybe I'm the only one, but go with me on this.) So, those vendors should expand their product lines by making meat-flavored chewables. Why have a sickly sweet cherry Tum when you could chow down on a steak one? Forget mint! Barbecue will be the next great medicine flavoring.

You get the idea. It works for pets, and it could work for us.

They said Tesla was mad, too.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 1

Last night, sleep proved illusive, so I rolled out of bed this morning exhausted. I passed the plane flight to DFW largely in a stupor, working some but then just closing my eyes and wishing I could sleep. My second wind arrived in DFW, and I've been fine since then, but I'm definitely ready for a good night's sleep--and hope to have it here in my hotel room.

Tonight's dinner was at a frequent stop on these Austin trips, a place I've mentioned many times before: The County Line by the Lake. I enjoyed the 'que a great deal, as I always do, and I managed to talk myself into leaving before their wonderful cobbler could claim me. It was a close call.

I'm increasingly antsy about not being at the writing stage yet, but I'm not, and there's no point in starting until I understand the book better. I need more knowledge to write the book well, so more knowledge I will get.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Joyous circles

Scott played in the All-State Strings orchestra today. As always, I'm amazed at his musical talent and very proud of him; he's made All-State both years of upper school. (Sarah, as a senior, no longer has to try out and so did not do so, but she also made it all three years.) The weekend away did not, from Scott's description, sound like much fun, but the result was great and wonderful to hear. The program focused on classical interpretations of various other types of music, including a version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." I know what some of you are thinking, but it worked, it really worked.

In one of those joyous circles life sometimes provides, the conductor of Scott's orchestra, Christopher Lees, was the second American conductor to win (in 2006) the Zander Fellowship with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. In that role, he assisted and traveled with Ben Zander, about whom I've blogged before. Lees' energy and passion reminded me of Zander, and I had a good time listening to the performance.

As always, staring at the sea of parents around me, I also found myself happily in touch with the rest of humanity in a way I rarely manage to be. We all stress about our lives, and each of us must inhabit our interior landscape alone, but in the greater picture we're all just trying to live as best we can, and in that knowledge I often find great hope for humanity.

Humility via eBay

I was on eBay searching for old pulps for my friend, Dave--hey, his birthday is only seven months away!--and, as I sometimes do, I searched for my books there. I found a few folks already selling the advance reading copies (ARCs) of Overthrowing Heaven. These things have only existed for a few weeks, and already they're on eBay! Wow, book reviewers move fast.

To be fair, I don't believe book reviewers get much at all in the way of pay--I sure didn't when I reviewed for our local newspaper--so I don't begrudge them selling the ARCs to get a little extra money. I was just surprised to see the suckers already for sale.

I hope the folks that buy them enjoy them.

As for me, each time I indulge in these acts that combine ego stroking with masochism, I wonder why I bother. What I can do is write the best book I can, then write the next one. I shouldn't worry about the rest.

I figure if I remind myself often enough of this fact, it might eventually make its way through my thick skull.

Or not; it is a very thick skull.


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