Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I’ve been to Austin, Texas many times, but this is the first time I can remember setting foot in the airport here. Yep: I’m in Austin, site of the legendary Blown-Star Blodgemeet a little over a year ago.

I’ll confess to feeling a twinge as I piloted my Rental Vehicle over the highway, enroute to my Great Corporate Salt Mine Bidnis Meeting. The last time I had driven these roads I had been with the late, great Rob Smith, and his absence was almost palpable. It’s the same semi-wistful feeling of loss I get in Savannah when I visit Rancho Alegre, the little Cuban hole-in-the-wall restaurant where the Missus, the Mistress, and I last broke bread with him. Alas.

Having lived in Sweat City on the Texas coastal plain for so many years, the topography of Austin is always a happy surprise. They don’t call it the Hill Country for nothing. There’s a lot of up-and-down, especially on the southwestern side of town. The vista I saw as I turned off US 290 and got on Loop 360 headed north was impressive...and as I approached my destination, the hills got even more prominent. It felt a little like being back home in Atlanta.

For the next couple of days, I will be a bird in a gilded cage, as it were. The accommodations at the Barton Creek Resort and Spa are nothing if not tony. Outside the meeting room, they pile an impressive array of snicky-snacks on the table - fruit, granola bars, and a freezer full of ice cream bars (which I will do my Fat-Assed Best to avoid). The golf courses, where I will be spending a goodly chunk of the afternoon tomorrow, are lush and inviting. But I am stuck here amongst my Salt Mine Colleagues when what I really would like to do is roll a few miles down the road and enjoy some Blodgy Hospitality. Oh, well - another time, perhaps.

The Cocktail-Hour looms nigh. A prime opportunity for some Face Time with the Big Cheeses, one of whom is enjoying his pre-retirement Swan Song. And I recall the immortal words of C. S. Calverly, the 19th century Cambridge don:

But hark! a sound is stealing on my ear -
     A soft and silvery sound - I know it well.
Its tinkling tells me that a time is near
     Precious to me - it is the Dinner Bell.
O blessed Bell! Thou bringest beef and beer,
     Thou bringest good things more than tongue may tell:
Seared is, of course, my heart - but unsubdued
     Is, and shall be, my appetite for food.

I go. Untaught and feeble is my pen:
     But on one statement I may safely venture:
That few of our most highly gifted men
     Have more appreciation of their trencher.
I go. One pound of British beef, and then
     What Mr. Swiveller called a “modest quencher”;
That home-returning, I may “soothly say,”
     “Fate cannot touch me: I have dined to-day.”

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