IMR: Entries: 2003: October: 18 — Saturday, October 18, 2003

Austin Stories

It's just past midnight. Not counting a catnap en route, I've been awake now for 39 hours.

[ Austin Airport ] [ Greg's Place ]
The relatively new Austin airport. Very shiny. Greg's cozy apartment complex. Not as shiny.
[ Care and Feeding of a Website ] [ Curra's Grill ]
Greg homeschools his many cool websites. The gratuitous 'we ate here' photograph.
[ Downtown Austin ] [ Welcome Mixer ]
The great drive up Congress into downtown Austin. Welcoming smiles from our friendly hosts.
[ Welcome Mixer ] [ Welcome Mixer ]
Everyone scrambles to match the faces to the URLs. The infamous JournalCon webcam, rated PG-13.
[ Stephen and Brian ] [ Petunia ]
Stephen and Brian ponder The Brick Oven. Petunia takes all the madness in stride.
[ Web Writers Gone Wild ] [ Heather ]
Web Writers Gone Wild: Let's talk about sex. The effervescent Heather leads the proceedings.
[ Greg ] [ Beth ]
Greg tells a tale about Superman's spandex. Beth tells us about the birds and the bees.
After a 90-minute stopover at Houston Intercontinental Airport, which was teetering precariously near the edge of skanky, I jumped a short interisland-esque flight to Austin, where the relatively new airport was bright, open, and clean. Greg met me at the baggage claim, and after collecting my suitcase and giant box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, we jumped in his car and hit the road.

First impression? Austin is warm but dry, clean but dusty, modest but growing (construction cranes and cement trucks were everywhere), and very, very flat. Greg insisted the area was "hilly," but I didn't see it. The most dramatic geography I saw during the drive was a swooping dip in the highway. It was incredibly disorienting to be able to spin 360 degrees and see nothing but land leading up to the sky.

Greg giggled every time I remarked on things I saw that were nothing special to most everyone else save people from Hawai`i: billboards, drive-through banking (more the norm than the exception — the Wells Fargo we stopped at had six lanes of car tellers), and train tracks. He also had to bring me up to speed on the difference between a city and county government, because as it turns out, there is a difference on the Mainland.

First we stopped by Greg's place, and he gave me a quick tour of the living area, music studio, server room, and the bedroom. (They're all the same room.) He showed me the guts of and Austin Stories as they whirred away under his desk, and then browsed through an online Austin city guide to find a place for lunch.

We ended up at Curra's Grill, a Mexican place. We both had shrimp enchiladas with a nutty, licorice-tinted sauce, which to me tasted almost Chinese. Greg sprung for a margarita, and expounded on the virtues of a Texas margarita. I decided to take his word for it.

After lunch, we headed downtown along Congress Avenue, and I was immediately struck by how the street seemed to strech forever in a perfectly straight line to the Capitol Building on the horizon. As it turns out, that was the idea: Greg explained that the building's visibility is built into the government's building codes.

We went over to the Raddison Hotel, located right on Town Lake (which is actually a river), and I checked in. The place was in the middle of renovations, and before I could get my key I had to sign a statement affirming that I knew about the construction and noise and I guess wasn't going to complain about (or sue over) it. Then we headed over to the Omni Hotel in the heart of downtown. That's where the hills were, and it was an uphill hike from my hotel to the conference hotel.

Good thing Greg agreed to be my chauffer for the weekend.

We strolled into the Chambers Bar, where registration was rolling along nicely. There were badges and goodie bags and color-coded stickers, and I got to meet a lot of the team that put this year's gathering together: Pineapple, Jette, Rachel, and Devota. (The great Omar breezed by at some point as well.) There were a few familiar faces, and quite a few new ones. We loitered for a while, but with the first meet-and-greet event not scheduled to begin until 5 p.m., we decided to save our social-stuff energy and walked back to the Radisson via Brazos Street. Greg pointed out the landmarks, including 6th Street (nightclub central) and the Warehouse District.

When we returned to the Omni, the place was packed. Many more people, and fortunately many more familiar faces. Beth was there, of course, already well on her way to charming the entire room. And I was especially happy to see the few veterans of the first JournalCon in Pittsburgh: Dreama, Amanda, Stephen Deken, Brian Shicoff, Columbine, Emily, Amy...

Enough people I knew so that I could get up the nerve to wander around the people I didn't, rather than lurking in a corner, basically.

I met a few great folks for the first time, including serious journaling veterans Doug Franklin and Bill Chance (who was there with his son, JD). And while the names and faces are already becoming a blur, I chatted with dozens of folks, including Elizabeth, Kate, Thea, Lyn Never, Maxwell (and Eric), KarenD (and Mr. Karen), and there were over 100 people so I'm just going to stop there.

Greg, Dreama, Brian, Stephen and I headed out to dinner, snagging Petunia in our net as well. We drove to a place called The Brick Oven, which featured pasta and pizzas, and despite a problem with their gas stove, they cooked up some pretty good stuff. The disjointed, occasionally ridiculous conversation we had there tonight has already made this trip worthwhile, I think.

We then headed back to the hotel for the Web Writers Gone Wild session, which featured writers reading their favorite entries about sex. Great stuff, including delicious performances by Beth (reading what'll easily become a classic entry) and Greg. I also got to meet Eileene and Heather, whom together put me in a bit of a fanboy tizzy.

For most folks, the night was just getting started, but I didn't think I was going to be able to do much more before passing out. Still, I hobnobbed a bit, chatting with Emily (now the only journaler to have attended all four JournalCons), Heather, Mad Redhead (who insisted I didn't know who she was), Gwen (who flattered me by thinking I was Greg), Agonippe and — finally — my roomate Jason Tamez.

Despite my anxiety yesterday, the adrenaline drained away the minute I saw Greg, and I'm actually enjoying myself. I've talked to people I don't know, who don't know me, and somehow, nothing exploded.

And I should have been unconscious a while ago, so here ends day one.


Holy crap -- I have to do something about that double chin.
NemesisVex (October 18, 2003 10:54 PM)

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