IMR: Entries: 2003: October: 19 — Sunday, October 19, 2003

Grumpy Old Men

I can't remember the last time I've been inside a music store.

[ ] [ ]
Mmm... egg and chorizo breakfast tacos. Instead of a parade, how about a marathon?
[ Greg and Double-A ] [ Swag ]
Greg gets a big 'Howdy!' from his lovely associate. Free stuff of all shapes and sizes (mostly round).
[ Wake Up! ] [ Niches ]
One of the random "Wake Up!" icebreaker panels. Greg shares his wisdom on niche writing.
[ What Not To Wear ] [ Everything You Ever Wanted to Know... ]
Website makeovers, like Trading Spaces for geeks. Taking questions (and a few jabs) from the audience.
[ Leaving the Omni ] [ Me and the Frost Building ]
We venture out for some lunch. Eventually. The gratuitous 'I was really here' shot.
[ Lunch at Schlotsky's ] [ Photo by Brian Shicoff ]
Schlotzsky’s? At least the company was good. The "LLoJ" (so aptly named by Brian) and I.
[ Extra! Extra! ] [ Writing for your Readers ]
Journalists take another look at blogging. Is it all about you, or your readers?
[ Marketing and Money ] [ For Better or Worse ]
A panel from the panelist's point of view. Writing on the web, for better or worse.
[ Molly ] [ Stephen Deken ]
Molly and the rings that caused a stir. The dashing Stephen Deken of Diary-X.
[ Dreama ] [ Brian and Greg ]
The delightful but sometimes deadly Dreama. Brian and Greg share a special moment.
[ Waterloo Records ] [ Waterloo Records ]
Waterloo Records, where Greg does his thing. Tower Records, eat your heart out.
Instead of joining the JournalCon masses at what will undoubtedly be yet another unforgettable evening of drunken karaoke (which they not only mispronounce here as "carry-okee," but also do so with a serious southern twang), I ran off with Greg to visit one of his places of employment: Waterloo Records.

I haven't bought a new CD in years, except as gifts, and even then, quite reluctantly. But with a place as wonderful as Waterloo, and with Greg's generous employee discount, I was happy to make an exception. In fact, I came to Austin with a mission from Jen to grab a stack of alt-country acts, and after consulting with Greg and a few of his stunningly smart coworkers, I'll be returning to Honolulu with eight great discs, ranging from Calexico to Wilco.

Oh, and the "Kill Bill" soundtrack, to which I'm now listening.

I started to get a funny feeling at Waterloo, too. As soon as I started browsing the racks and listening to employees debate in detail the merits of this artist over that, I began to remember how dangerous being a music lover can be. It's an expensive habit, for one. But secondly, no matter how awful retail work fundamentally is (and how weird music store employees are in general), you find yourself secretly daydreaming about prowling the racks and making fabulous recommendations to the "less cool" for a living.

Jen will no doubt put that romantic fantasy back to rest immediately upon my return.

The day started with a jolt, in the form of the hotel phone ringing at 8:17 a.m. Though I was supposed to meet Greg in the lobby of the Raddison at 8 a.m., I had made the common mistake of going for "just five more minutes" when the alarm clock went off an hour earlier. Frazzled and dizzy, I scurried downstairs, apologizing profusely. We walked half a block to Las Manitas Avenue Cafe on Congress, a Mexican place Greg highly recommended for its breakfast tacos.

Delicious. Thick, soft, warm flour tortillas with scrambled egg and bacon or chorizo — I had two for $1.25 each, and a tiny glass of orange juice that, comparatively, cost an arm and a leg.

We headed over to the Omni only a little late, and went first to the hospitality room to drop off our swag: a stack of mix CDs from Greg, and a stack of chocolate covered macadamia nuts from me. The others there simultaneously cursed me for bringing the candy and thanked me as they snagged some. And I collected some swag of my own. There was some fantastically creative stuff out, from beautiful handmade pressed leaf and flower bookmarks from the elegant Eileene to "garden porn" photo postcards from Lisa to tiny punch-and-fold origami somethings from David. While circling the table, I also got to see Kymm, who remains to this day sweet as a biscuit.

Eventually we headed upstairs for the first event, "Wake Up!" It was an icebreaker exersize, but as such things go, it was pretty fun: surprise panels were called to the front by pulling names at random, with unsuspecting attendees asked to talk about themselves and answer questions like in any other session. Beth was one of the lucky ones (no pun intended).

When it was time to get down to business, Greg spoke on a panel focused on niche sites. He talked about music, Lisa talked about gardening, Erin talked about her weight loss site, and so on. The other panel going on at the same time, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know...," was noisier, but that's because they were smart enough to reward audience participation with mixed drinks.

For the next block, I gave up "Freelance Writing" to sit in on the website makeover session "What not to Wear." I wasn't alone in my reasoning: many of us have been big Eileene fans for years. We got to see Elieene unveil the design she created for Devota, and Rachel show off the site she created for Pecan. There was much oohing and ahing and trading of useful URLs.

When we broke for lunch, I lunged forward to make sure I ended up wherever Eileene was going. The problem was, no one had a clear idea of where to go to eat. As the inevitable, paralyzing group indecisiveness dragged on, the group grew and grew. Eventually, Tim was designated the pied piper (making the rest of us rats, I suppose), and a dozen or so journalers made their way to Schlotsky's — Tim lured primarily by their free WiFi service.

While the food wasn't remarkable (since a Schlotzsky’s in Austin is essentially the same as a Schlotzsky’s in Honolulu, except for the awful chlorinated water in the Coke), the company was stellar. The nonstop, sometimes dizzying conversation ranged from celebrities spotted in town (R. Lee Ermey from "Full Metal Jacket," who was reportedly very cool, to Curtis "Booger" Armstrong from "Revenge of the Nerds," who wasn't) to celebrity deadpools on the Internet.

Our meal was capped off by a most surreal encounter: a scruffy, spazzy gentleman wandered over, circled our tables and eyed me for a while before blurting out something unintelligible. I blinked and went straight to the defensive "grin and nod" stance, and he turned his attention to Molly, seated across from me.

Eventually, we collected enough fragments of intelligible speech to determine that he was awfully excited by the numerous rings that Molly was wearing on both her hands. He wanted to know if I'd bought them for her, or if not, who did.

Before anyone could stammer out an answer, he swiftly turned, apparently hoping to make a cool and dramatic getaway. Instead, he spiraled straight into a chair, and very nearly tumbled to the floor in a heap. The sound startled everyone, and he continued mumbling and gesturing all the way out the door.

Needless to say, we were half bemused and half disturbed by the episode.

The first session I sat in after lunch was dedicated to the hotly debated distinction between traditional, mainstream media and personal publishing. The panel, made up mostly of journalists, led a great discussion that I couln't resist jumping into now and then. High point: I asked about "Fisking," and Amanda thought I said "fisting."

Next, Greg was participating in a second panel session on "Tech Talk," but I wasn't able to sit in... because I was on a panel myself at the same time. The theme was "Marketing and Money," but as I disclaimed to my fellow panelists, my role at the front table was mostly as the conference equivalent of hamburger helper — I wasn't anywhere near qualified to be speaking on the topic, unless you counted the "losing money on the web" perspective.

Our session got off to an uneven start, I think, in part because of the longstanding awkwardness that comes with mixing personal writing and capitalism. Our moderator, Megan Ward, was a genuine real-world marketing whiz rather than a journaler or blogger, and had to work hard to connect business marketing concepts to the types of things web writers do pretty much for fun. Once we got going and the audience stepped in, though, we were able to touch on a wide variety of topics. Conclusion? No one's going to get rich doing this stuff anytime soon.

The last pair of sessions was going to be either readings or a panel about the ways websites have affected people's real lives, but as it turns out, just about everyone wanted to hear the latter, so the former was cancelled and we all sat in on "For Better or Worse." The panelists shared disaster stories, largely centered around getting found out by bosses, relatives, or friends. The moral of the many stories told pretty much boiled down to: "Write with the assumption that your writing will be discovered eventually."

The standing-room-only audience had a million comments and questions, and we ran out of time. Next came dinner.

Once again, I found myself in the hotel lobby with a crowd of people who didn't know where to go. We tried valiantly to get a group together, by the time one missing person turned up, another had wandered off. As soon as I was asking if everyone was ready, someone would ask, "Wait a minute, where did that guy go?"

Greg, true to form, just snorted in disgust and started walking away. Shrugging meekly, I followed him. We ended up at Marrakesh, a Middle Eastern restaurant. Fortunately, Dreama, Stephen, Brian, Molly, Petunia and Angeline, found their way over soon afterward.

To describe the conversation as animated would be an understatement. I started to get a headache following its many threads. Partisan politics, digital photography, bellydancing, bad drivers, the weirdo at lunch, and more naughty double entendre than you could shake a stick at. Brian was feeling especially rascally, and teased us all with the assertion that he "does the world's best impression of Ariel from 'The Little Mermaid' — then refused to demonstrate. As the banter flew, I reveled in the fact that only something like JournalCon could bring such different people together — folks who would never take the time to become friends, or would even outright avoid each other, had it not been for the strange compulsion to publish the details of their lives on the web.

The conversation, occasionally contentious but always colorful, made up for the so-so food, and the fact that we'd missed the scheduled bellydancer (who ended up waltzing in just as we were wandering out).

The evening brought a premature JournalCon farewell for Brian, who had a seriously pressing work project to complete. Bummed as we all, my sorrow was eased somewhat by the prospect that Brian might be coincidentally visiting Hawaii next month. Perhaps, I threatened, I might be able to see that mermaid impression after all.

For everyone else in JournalCon land, the fun was just getting started. There were a few great performance pieces by journalers on a stage nearby, and a karaoke outing to follow. But Greg, Dreama and I had a different mission, and after wishing the dinner group well, we made a beeline for Waterloo.

The store was larger and cleaner than I expected from a renowned music outpost in this city of music, and reminded me a great deal of the only other retail outlet with which I'm familiar: corporate whore Tower Records. But despite some of the similarities in the physical plant (unavoidable, I guess, given the product), it was clear early on that Waterloo was throbbing and pulsing below the surface with more personality and smarts than you could shake a stick at. I loved the listening stations and the "open anything" listening policy, I loved the extensive (and organized) used CD area, and both the coworkers and regular patrons that Greg introduced me to just projected rich vibes of coolness.

Now, such coolness could actually be a problem, and Dreama and I shared the same general reluctance to shop, borne out of the fear that we were simply to uncool to acknowledge. But despite the fact that I had an Emmy Lou Harris album in my hand early on, the folks Greg and I talked to were still willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, and to give me other good suggestions. (Only one employee, seeing Greg with the CD and not me, sniffed at "that hipster crap.")

The final take?

Most were part of the "alt-country" educational program, but the "Kill Bill" soundtrack was just too fun to resist and the Verve remix compilation was chosen in the delusion that I will be trying NaNoWriMo again this year and that I would therefore need something good but fairly inobtrusive to listen to while writing.

By the time the CDs were finally bought, my head was spinning and my knees were aching. Greg and I found ourselves back in my hotel room at the Raddisson, just lounging around and talking story about damn near everything until our exhaustion started to swallow our thoughts mid-sentence. As Greg left at the ridiculously pansy-ass early hour of 10 p.m., we both chuckled to ourselves: we are, indeed, the cranky curmudgeons of this con.


I've added the Caitlin Cary to my Amazon wishlist so that I remember to buy it later, thanks for the recommendation! Also: Dang. Every time I see a picture of myself (and there have been a few so far) I marvel at my unreal hair. Oi.
angeline (October 23, 2003 4:59 AM)

Dreama (October 26, 2003 9:20 PM)

I'm lovin me some Emmylou, too. But you could've saved yourself the bucks on Lucinda. She's been sitting at the bottom of my "someday I've gotta sell these" CD box for over a year now.
Angela (October 29, 2003 3:58 AM)

E kala mai! Comments have been disabled due to overwhelming abuse by spammers. Please click through to any of the video hosting services linked above to leave a public response, or feel free to send an e-mail. Mahalo!

© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: [ PGP ] · Created: 13 November 1997 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008