Sunday, February 25, 2007

Downtown Living

Yesterday we made the decision to try to move downtown. In this picture you see a balcony we would like to be standing on in a little over a year surveying downtown Austin. The building at 360 Nueces is called 'The 360' and it's up about eleven stories and our desired location is there on ten. The building's WEB site is here, but I warn's an annoying one.

Getting closer to this decision made me want to go home and throw away 7/8 of my things. There is so much we don't really need. Of course, when I got home I was exhausted from making decisions and worrying about the future and I went out and had bacon and eggs and then goofed off and read the paper, went to the gym and generally avoided working on my taxes.

Spent a pleasant evening looking at friends' remodeled house and then dining at Restaurant Jezebel in downtown Austin. Yummy food accompanied by my new favorite wine...a 2005 Siduri Pinot Noir.

We were downtown within view of our building under construction again today at the crack of dawn. My blog entry on the Intel Shell Implosion is here.

Friday, February 23, 2007


I guess the things we procrastinate most about in life are the inevitable ones. Death and taxes. A lot of people delay thinking about wills and estate planning. And every year we do anything to avoid pulling together the 1099's, K1's, stock sales, W2's, etc. and placating the IRS.

I get lots done while displacing. I write e-mails to family, respond to requests for trivia for articles people are writing, do laundry, shred ancient receipts, file things and get my budget and accounting stuff up-to-snuff. I play tennis and then figure there is still time to go to the gym for a workout. I see chores around the house I need to do like dumping faded fresh flowers and cleaning the vases.

I even sort through and edit old shop window pictures like this one.

But there it remains on my 'to do' list: taxes.

Finally, you can't avoid it. But yesterday I managed to continue doing so. We had a couple of early receptions to attend. Finally, it was imperative that I get a shower if we were going to be on time for the first one so we could slip out and go to the second one. And then my friend called to see if I could rescue her poodle from the groomer and take her home. Groomer and home are only minutes away so I did that.

No time for taxes. We were home from the receptions by 8:30. But I sort of have a rule that the night is my time to read and watch TV. And do important things like figuring out why my DVR stopped recording Jeopardy and refused to start again. (A boot solved this, of course.)

Today, I am really, really going to work on the taxes. But first I have to reorganize some bulging files in the office so I can find things. And it's almost lunch time. Wouldn't want to go into this activity hungry.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

So Many Things I Should be Doing

I am blogging when I should be shredding stuff, doing my taxes, cleaning out things.

This picture was taken in my back yard. Does that vine coming out of my neighbor's yard give anyone else pause?

Talked to a friend today about how, when you are cleaning things out, everything is even more messy because you pull stuff out of closets and sort it around on the floor and every available flat surface.

Today I needed to work on my taxes. But what I really did was everything else. I even put TxTags on our cars and took the dealer's license plates frames off of them because of this.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Whatever Works

Things are broken, confused, out of whack.

This used to be our blue reflecting ball. It still reflects (that's me in my black sweats reflected), but it's status as a ball was compromised by ice crashing out of trees during the ice storm. We should have thought to bring it in. We did that once when large hail threatened.

One of the toilets in our house had a breakdown I couldn't fix. The good news is that it didn't flood like the accident at my dad's house. But our toilet karma is bad of late. Dad's house (carpets, walls, etc.) is dry now, we hope. Lots of suction, giant fans and dehumidifiers later. The carpet was designed for a wheelchair user and, I think, had no pad. I have an insurance adjustor coming tomorrow to look at the furniture stains, etc. Then I have to get a plumber to look at the toilet that created the deluge. And our toilet.

That's life. It's so exciting.

Meanwhile I was planning a trip. I was putting printouts about reservations in this small notebook with transparent pages. It is a type of notebook that is great for organizing trips. The pages have lots of holes and the rings open and swing out to rearrange or add pages. They are light and easy to use. I also printed online TripTix from AAA for the driving portion of the trip. Some things work. Some things don't. I'm always trying to achieve victory with office supplies and trying different filing systems and filing supplies. A few work. Most don't. Mess ensues that is always needing reorg. We have achieved a system with our household budget that works and migrates all the paper through a process where it can be used to enter budget entries on the computer and then get stored so it can be located and, after a while, shredded. A few other filing ideas I've had over the years work well, too. When I get a birth, graduation or wedding invitation or announcement I stick it in a folder. Sorting through this folder, I can find answers to birthdays, anniversaries and even to questions like "who was x's first wife?" I usually don't look at the stuff again, but it's always there.

Some things in life work. But some days it seems, not much does. Especially toilets.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Second Journal

I decided to set up a special blog to explore what I call Unintended Consequences. You might expect it to be all about, say, the war in Iraq. And we might get around to that. But really my "Journal of Unintended Consequences" will encompass many issues.

Really it's just my answer to all those people to whom there is a straight line between intention and action and outcome. And all sorts of tidbits will appear to support my belief that everything does happen for a reason...but very rarely a reason that can be clearly traced and predicted.

And it will be a fun spot to complain about life's little practical jokes. And I even get around to Bush in the first entry. Although not like you might expect.

The Visible Woman will continue as well, rattling on about anything and everything and taking pictures of shop windows and junk shop offerings.

Black Tie Charity

This is not a picture of us last night. I think we are not this fat now. (But I'm often deluded.) I have no idea when and where this was taken. But we are in black tie outfits. I am wearing a silver mock turtle. I wore it last night, too.

What is it about raising money that inspires people to dress up, serve fancy food and drink and decorate? I hear people say "just let me give the money, I don't care about the gala." But when you go to the next one, it's crowded with people.

Last night's event was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Performing Arts Center at the University of Texas. Which will soon close down for renovation. A dear friend invited us after taking a table sponsorship. The drill was this: (1) black tie, as mentioned; (2) arrive at 4:30 for cocktails at a giant tent atop a workout facility near Memorial Stadium (we had a little trouble locating valet parking but finally did); (3) mill around and take in the tables with giant silver candelabras and flowers and the cones hanging from the ceiling with changing colors of LED lights while seeing everyone's finery; (4) sit down to a three course dinner catered by Four Seasons while presentations are made and videos are shown (dessert was a chocolate thing with a Lion King logo on it); (5) take a shuttle bus to Bass at the PAC where we noticed that the tower was completely orange and the windows spelled out '25' for the anniversary of the PAC; (6) watch a very credible performance of "The Lion King" (they ripped out seats to make the aisles correct for entrances similar to the Broadway production); (7) take the shuttle back to the tent where it's now set up as a cocktail party with an African-influenced band and servers are offering fancy popcorn (truffled??) and French Fries and sliders and beignets and drinks. (Didn't we just eat? Whoa!); (8) dance a little, eat a few bites, have coffee and water, talk, talk, talk; (9) wait in a valet line after getting a box of truffles as a souvenir; (10) get car (it's midnight...this has been a seven and a half hour party!); (11) drive home.

It was really a lot of fun. I'm strangely attracted to tuxedos and such. And, this being Austin, someone had on a cowboy hat and I'm sure if I'd looked hard enough there would have been boots. (FFP had on tuxedo pumps, though. He told me he needs new ones that fit better, however.) The people were delightful, our hosts impeccable. But you gotta admit that society has evolved a strange bunch of rituals around raising money.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's Always Something

People say "it's always something." My dad has a better saying. "There's always something to take the joy out of life."

I haven't taken a new picture lately. I'm lazy and, well, there have been those joy-sucking things.

This picture is from 2004. Austin has a art studio tour of the East Side. When we went in 2004 we visited the workshop of the guy who did our first found object musician sculpture in our backyard. (Barry George.) Inside and outside there were bits and pieces, he'd collected for his work. This pile of bits including a rusted out typewriter caught my eye.

Since last we spoke, I chased my Uncle's appetites. His surgery was canceled. He was admitted to the hospital to have an echo to look at what they suspected was a clot and was. This was disappointing because it made his surgery too dangerous. But the procedure would have been (to paraphrase the doctor) amazingly suitable to his heart problems. He had to return to his Dallas area home and try to work on a regimen to dissolve the clot. Before the gang left, though, they had to be fed. And restaurants were full of people going out before Valentine's Day. So I had to take my uncle of the appetites to the grocery store where deli fried chicken, ribs, fruit salad and ice cream were seleccted. The next day the relatives left. But within an hour or two there was a toilet flood at my dad's that soaked carpets and I got a call that my uncle left his hearing aids and they needed to be overnighted to him. I found them since I was standing there watching a water removal guy I hired suck water out of the carpet. I put them in a plastic Easter egg that was, for some reason, in my Dad's dining room with some napkin to cushion them and took them to my favorite mailing place, Beyond the Mailbox, to be overnighted.

I am thrilled for my uncle that he may get the clot dissolved, get back down here and get a procedure that will help his heart keep up with his appetite. But I'm not looking forward, honestly, to the time when they come back. I'm so selfish about my time. But as Dad says, there is always something to take the joy out of life, and it would be nice to have my uncle be able to exert himself without getting so breathless. I hope it works out. My aunt and uncle are very independent but they are getting older. And I worry about them. They maintain a home in Maine and an apartment in the Dallas area. It seems like more than they should do. And they don't have kids so it will be up to nieces and nephews to help. Which brings us to the situation FFP and I find ourselves in. We are childless. So we have to put ourselves in a situation where we can take care of ourselves or pay someone to do it. Our current dream is to spend our old age in a downtown condo where we can walk to stuff (you know if we can walk) and we don't have a yard and a roof to maintain and we have a concierge to bribe to do things. Meanwhile, though, we have these parental units in houses living independently (after a fashion). And other older relatives. I guess the good news is this: I don't have kids! If I did they would theoretically be grown and independent and helping me out. But with my luck they'd be the type who were moving home to 'find themselves' after consuming an expensive education.

Maybe I'm a cynic. I know I'm lucky. I'm retired. I have time for these things. But it is always. Something.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Things Change

On February 25, I understand, they will implode the Intel Shell. So Austin won't be hanging signs on it, dancing and rappelling off of it and making fun of it. They will build a Federal courthouse there. Not another high rise condo like the mayor thought of at the eleventh house.

Yeah, things change.

I spent some time taking my elderly uncle to have some sort of CT scan of his heart today. His appetites will outlive that heart. Later he wanted raw oysters, beer, a crab cake and Krispy Kreme donuts. Tomorrow he goes to the hospital for some kind of heart procedure.

People get old. Things change. Unfinished shells that represent the dot com bust get blown up.

By the way, at the Krispy Kreme they had posters saying the donuts only had 200 calories. And, to placate me about the 30 second or so wait for a box of the things, a guy shoved a donut my way. I was shocked. And kind of full from a beer, oysters and an iceberg salad as big as my head. So I waved it off.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Black Tie

The picture was snapped at some event in 2004. I'm thinking the Opera Ball but I'm not absolutely sure.

I just consulted my calendar and realized that in the next six weeks or so we will go to four black tie events. Two are this week.

FFP was looking at his tuxedo shirts a night or two ago. He really has just one tuxedo he likes to wear. He has several shirts, a bunch of ties, cummerbands, studs, suspenders, etc.

I have a variety of things with beads, sparkles and black. Flat tuxedo-pump style shoes. I haven't gotten anything new in ages. Five or six years probably. I have a tuxedo, too. Tuxedos on women were a look that came around (and probably went somewhere and will come again). I will doubtless see some of the same people at all four of these events. So I better figure out how to make four outfits out of my disparate pants, skirts and tops. Or I could just not worry that people care what I wear.

Black tie. It's a funny description, isn't it? Well, of course it refers to the man's (once black) bow tie. Distinguished from the man's white tie. I've never been at something described as white tie. And I'd have no idea what women might wear to such an event. Of course, this being Austin, dress 'suggestions' are not always taken to heart. You always see someone flaunting the prescription or pushing the edges.

It seems that when raising money for charity, getting people all dressed up raises more money. All of these events involve charities somehow.

And it's just clothes, after all. So I'll make up four outfits. Digging in the depths of my closet.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Changing Plans

Picture? 2004. Congress Avenue. Shop Window. I had time for trivial stuff then...wandering and taking pictures. It was March. Note short sleeves. It will be warm here soon.

Plans for this weekend have been changing and evolving for weeks. First I realized that it was a friend's birthday tomorrow. We had tickets to see "Present Laughter" at the Zach Scott theater on Friday (yesterday). I'd already purchased some tickets for Frontera Fest 'best of the week' on Saturday, hoping a friend's play would make it in since his was showing on Wednesday when I had a board meeting. Another friend was singing at Reed's Jazz and Supper Club on Saturday evening. My friend's actual birthday was Sunday. all seemed pretty complicated but I offered to said birthday girl any and all the weekend's events since I had extra tickets and offered that we could just dine some place nice on Sunday. We could go to Zach, go to Frontera, catch a later set at Reed's, go out on Sunday.

Things got more complicated when my aunt and uncle decided to come down. They never seem to be able to make the trip to Austin (from their winter home in the Dallas vicinity) but this time my uncle has a doctor's appointment Monday and possible visit to the hospital here on Tuesday for a procedure so they have to come and are coming early to visit with my dad and I. Apparently there is some special kind of heart doctor here.

The weekend is still evolving. We three (FFP, the birthday girl and I) went to Zach last night. We snacked at the Schlotzsky's nearby beforehand. Enjoyed the Noel Coward with Cole Porter entertainments intreact. We found out that my friend's play didn't make the show tonight and we three have decided to forgo Frontera Fest and I will entertain the relatives a bit and then we will maybe hear jazz singing later. The birthday girl's throat hurts a bit but she hopes to rebound.

My head is spinning. I'm not keen on confusion and I don't like being responsible for other people's amusement. It is complicated when they are old, ailing or both. But it should be an interesting weekend. There is never a lack of things to do in Austin, that's for sure. And I better get a workout because Monday and Tuesday I'll be driving folks to medical facilities. Not my favorite thing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

New York Treasure

FFP got off this shot in New York in 2005. I wasn't with him. I was in South Africa.

Late September perhaps. Still warm. Everyone needs to catch a little air.

When I have a moment I've been sorting the pictures. The idea would be to winnow down to the ones that really deserve space on the hard drive. We won't even talk about all the actual photos that need sorting with some getting tossed, some getting scanned. I probably have four or five cubic feet of actual physical photos around here. When I'm worried about downsizing, I think of cubic feet of whatever. Photos sure take up less space on hard drives. But a lot of them still creates a confusion that can be not unlike the shoebox with loose photos.

At one point I thought I might collect old photos. I stumbled on some in a bin at a junk shop and thought that I thought were so cool. This collection didn't get off the ground. And I don't know where those few I bought actually are. Somewhere in my office, I guess. If I find them, I'll scan them and show you. Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of New York.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hearbeat 1.1

I'm still here. Feeling overwhelmed a little by my schedule and making some financial decisions.

The good news is that I'm very lucky. I have a little money to worry about. I have these social obligations because I have friends and charities and family. Life is good.

And...I'm not in a bread line. About three years ago we went to Washington, D.C. to see Ballet Austin at the Kennedy Center. We went to the FDR memorial where, I think, this installation was meant to immortalize bread lines. FFP queued up for the photo. When snow hit D.C. the other day I saw a picture somewhere of this sculpture in the snow. No FFP in that one, though.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


This detail (from a junk sculpture of a sousaphone player in our backyard) seems to reveal an absence of a heart. Too bad the artist didn't think to add one.

I haven't blogged since Sunday. When my favorite bloggers don't blog daily, it irritates me. It isn't that I expect them to give their all and write a nice, well-crafted essay every day. It's just that once I've mentally invaded their lives on a circadian cycle I want to know that they are there. It's the difference between what I expect of my aunts (occasional calls and letters with updates) and my dad (speak with him every day). It's like the people who post (almost) every day are completing a welfare call with the world. After all, that's why I speak with my dad every day. If he weren't alone or had someone else I wouldn't do that. But most of these bloggers have someone else to be sure they wake up in the morning and haven't fallen (and can't get up).

One of the bloggers I like is John Bailey. He can be properly called a blogger since he's switched to a blogging site. For a few days he hasn't had the spirit for the well-crafted essay of the day and pictures. So he's simply posted what he calls 'bloglets.' He's just checking in. Just giving us a heart beat on the day.

So, yes, this is my heartbeat for my readers (about a thousand less than Mr. Bailey has). I'll be back and all the more clever. (Right.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Things I Love, But am Not Good At

Those of you know me, knowI love to entertain. I like people coming together, hearing music, eating and drinking and enjoying. I like to have the right glassware and linens and do the 'theme' to a T.

But I'm not great at it. We gave a charity dinner last night. Our dinner was one of a couple of dozen happening all over town. All had their own themes, food, dress code, etc. devised by the hosts who were picking up all the costs. The guests signed up for dinners that sounded good to them, paid money to the charity and were placed at a party. We knew some of our guests. We didn't know others. They call the event "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"

Anyway, I love decorating the tables and having the stuff just right. But I'm really sort of lame at it. FFP helped me by doing the flowers to go with my stuff but mostly I fretted over the table settings myself. Our theme was "Red, White and Bleu: French with an American Twist." It was an excuse to serve sort of American food with a French twist and use Eiffel towers and French flags as decoration. In the spirit of the moment, I suppose things did look a bit like a French cafe when the votives were flickering and Christine Albert and Chris Gage were performing songs from the French songbook. Only Christine sings translated lyrics, too, which is good. In spite of my minor in French I still have trouble translating. Ciel? That's sky. Wait...the song has gone on without me. Coeur? Heart, yeah. Where were we? I love French. All languages really. But I'm not very good at them.

Like all Austin parties this one was about making connections. The new sous chef and the longtime office manager from Fonda San Miguel connecting to some people who live in the neighborhood. A woman whose grandmother lived in Ft. Worth in the very house that relatives of a man in attendance had built. They had never met before. After our dinner there was a massive reception at The Nest in Whit Hanks. The organizers of the event said our party had gotten 'rave reviews.' But they would say that, wouldn't they? This morning there are still a few things to put away and clean up but not much. FFP hired Ballet Dancers to help serve and they stayed and bused the tables, washed the glasses, filled the dishwasher and rearranged furniture. Dancers amaze me. Just they way they walk around. I love dance. But I'm no dancer. I'm not even as good at waiting tables and washing glassware as the dancers. But I like little chores like ironing and washing dishes well enough in spite of being sort of bad at them.

Maybe I have a strange attractor to things I'm not good at. That may be it.