I'm Tough and Stuff

In case you weren't aware, September was National Preparedness Month. People in Florida have this ironed out after Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne paid them visits this summer. But what does "preparedness" mean? We're Texans. We don't need no steenkeeng preparedness. We're tough and stuff... or so I thought until Allison decided to flood the Houston a couple of years ago. Plus, she did it last September. Everyone knows floods should occur early in the week so that we don't have to work and can still get paid.

Rather than discuss what we should do to be prepared for a terrorist attack or a category five hurricane, it is much more enjoyable to talk about things you should know prior to taking your late summer vacation to strange, foreign lands.

Let's do this in the "framework" laid out for us by the U.S. General Services Administration, which consists of three basic steps:

1. Make a Plan
2. Get a Kit
3. Be Informed

As is the case with many governmental processes, the steps are backward. How can you make a plan if you're not informed? We'll get to that in second.

Be Informed

My plan usually consists of not having a plan and free styling as things happen. Unfortunately, it is typically not very effective as my parents will tell you. Discovering what you don't know before you arrive comes into play.

Free styling a plan is cool until you're stuck in a hotel bar eating a crappy sandwich while watching WWE on mute with Celine Dion blasting in the background, which is what happens on business trips to Mississauga, Ontario de Canadia.

Picture a cool Euro-looking town complete with low pollution, funny money and interesting food. Now blend that vision with an image of Deer Park circa Urban Cowboy. Oh, and do not forget that your hotel is connected to your office, i.e. tu es sans voiture.

Had I only known these details prior to departing George Bush Intercontinental Airport, I could have executed Step 2 in the GSA Preparedness list: Get a Kit.

Get a Kit

No matter how Tough and Stuff you are, a good kit is a key ingredient to surviving outside of Texas or even some places in it. No matter how misinformed or ignorant you are a good kit (not a uniform for the Brits) can bail you out of any situation, just ask MacGyver.

According to the GSA web-site, our kit is supposed to consist of, among other items, all things battery powered, extra batteries, duct tape and plastic sheeting.

NOTE: you may want to include baby oil to get the duct tape adhesive off your skin. Don't ask. Let's just say I saw it on the Discovery Channel. Thank me later.

Since most Texans I know already have this stuff in their toiletries kit, I encourage you to develop your own Not in Texas Survival Kit (NTSK). Using the Mississauga situation as "basis for comparison" (buzzword), let's "drill down" (buzzword) to the core elements of a NTSK.

Hot Sauce of Choice
Canadian bacon is about as haute as cuisine gets at the Mississauga Novotel (the Motel 6 of Canada). My jerked chicken wrap was as big as an adolescent enchilada and tasted like it had been jerked from the side of the interstate. It needed some pep. I was jonesing for some Cholula in a bad way. You should definitely bring your own hot sauce.

Booze (or beverage of choice)
I'm not an alcoholic, but I played one on stage once. However, that said, I do enjoy kicking back with a cocktail after a long day at the office. So, I ordered a Jack on the rocks. What I got tasted more like a watery Jack snow cone. I could have easily averted the situation with a quick trip to the duty free shop. Coke drinkers should heed the bring your own advice as well. Canada (and other countries for that matter) have their own formula of Coke. Let's just say, "Not a big fan." Lesson #2: B.Y.O.B.

If you were paying attention earlier, this entry needs no explanation. Celine Dion during dinner? Celine Dion during wrestling? Celine Dion during anything? I need to send the YouHaveBadTasteInMusic.com guy up there. I suggested that the barmaid use my iPod to save those us from Celine, but she was not digging Lyle Lovett, The Scabs, Bob Schneider, The El Orbits, Pat Green or any other Texas type musicians I suggested. Kit part #3: music
There you have the three key ingredients for survival outside of your natural habitat. You may also want to include something regional. For example, if you are from Alpine, you'll definitely to bring your own goatheads and prickly pears.

Make a Plan

We don't need no steenkeeng plan. We've got a kit.

Post Script: You may also want to add extra alarm clocks to the kit so you don't end up stranded in Lost Wages after oversleeping and missing your plane... like me.

This was originally posted on TheBackWord.com, a Texas-centric eZine that has gone the way of the jackalope.


12 Steps for Surviving Austin City Limits Music Festival 2005

Attending and surviving an everyday concert is as easy as a two-step algebra problem. Doing the same for a concert of the magnitude of Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival requires a few more. It's been said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Bigger attendance at next year's ACL Fest can be added to that list as well. Here are 12 steps that will enable you to deal with the heat, humidity and humanity as effectively as possible. With a little luck, you'll survive next year's fest in one piece, or just a couple really big pieces.

1. Accept Reality
Repeat after me. I will be hot, sweaty and nasty within moments of departing my parking spot of choice. There will be thousands of people all over the place. Many of these people will trample me, my blankie and my friends to see their favorite band or get a beer. I should not attend if I'm going to be a colossal PITA (Pain In The A…) to my friends or other Festers. I'm OK with these hard facts and realize that I only have control of myself (and my leashed-up children or significant other).

2. Buy a Three Day Pass
Even if you may only be able to attend one day. Chances are better than average that you will end up going for all three days. When you do, you will be psyched that you paid $25 per day instead of the $40 per day alternative. Better still is scoring free VIP tickets from a buddy. Be forewarned, this may cause some of your other friends to be grumpy at you. Should you need to bail on two of the three days, you will have no problem unloading your three-day tickets at a nice profit. (Ticket brokers do it. Why can't we?) One more thing, you only have to remember to bring your ticket one time if you get a pass a.k.a. wristband. Oh, and another thing. You can escape to Barton Springs for a deodorizing dip during the slow parts of the Fest. No re-entry with a single day ticket.

3. Use Sun Protection
ACL Fest Saturday was officially the hottest day thus far in 2004. You don't want to end up as the barbequed knucklehead at the office on Monday do you? How about the hapless individual in the first aid tent with heat-scrambled brain between your ears? I didn't think so. Bring a hat, sunglasses and wear tons of sunscreen. The cocoa butter scent will cover up the stench you created whilst trekking to Zilker Park.

4. Ride Your Bike
You already know you're going to be sweaty so save on parking fees and walking by riding your bike. Ain't got one? Buy one from a pawn shop. You'll probably be able to find one that will cost you 30% less than a three-day rental. When you're finished just re-pawn it or park it in your buddy's apartment garage since you live in Houston. No guarantees that he won't give it away to the hottie Danish exchange student living down the hall. If you are using, "I don't live a bikeable distance from Zilker" as an excuse, don't sweat it. Get your dually driving buddy to deposit you and your sled some place close or just drive you own vehicle to a free parking lot and ride in from there. Find a way to ride a bike. You do not want to be stuck in the Saturday shuttle line.

5. Go With a Group
There are endless benefits to going with a group. Here are a few: you'll have partners in crime to aid you in protecting your area. Multiple people equates to more people to buy festival supplies like beer, snacks and sunscreen. Plus, a group is essential to implementing the "Two Blanket Strategy."

6. Two Blanket Strategy
Key to a successful Sunday. You need to have at least four to six in your group to pull this off. Skip ahead if you don't or if you don't care about being spitting distance from Ben Harper or your Artist Of Choice (AOC).

Blanket 1 - Base of Operations (BO): arrive early enough to stake out a primo spot in front of the AOC's stage. Pending a tight line-up, you should be in a good position to enjoy a great afternoon of music. Be certain to get enough space to accommodate the Roamers.

Blanket 2 - The Roamers: this will be your roaming base for checking out the side stages and other acts around the fest. Roamers should return to the BO sufficiently early for the AOC.

6a. Location, Location, Location
Choosing the right set-up location is important particularly if you are a single base of operation. That said, the best place to set-up is in between two venues with decent site lines for each. All you need to do is rotate your chair. For example, there was a really sweet spot in between the Cingular (only our phones will work) stage and the Bank of America stage. A simple rotation afforded our team views of Modest Mouse and then a primo view of My Morning Jacket.

7. Bring a Chair
Unless you are planning on noodle dancing or laying down, a foldable chair is worth a four dollar investment. Your back will thank you. Plus, you can use it and your buddy's chairs to stake off your BO. If that's not enough, chairs make great flagpole holders.

8. Bring a Banner
Thirty-five years of New Orleans Jazz Festers can't be wrong. Bring a "distinctive" banner or flag to mark you group. "Distinctive" infers that there will not be another one like it. If you insist on bringing an American flag or a Texas flag, be sure it's unique like my friend G.C.'s Texas Mardi Gras Flag, Texas flag in Mardi Gras colors. Having a banner helps your posse regroup and let's people know you mean business.

9. Drink a Lot
of water. Texas is hot. But, you knew that already. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on your bodily tissue, i.e. it will cause your pea-sized brain to shrink resulting in a super-sized headache and potentially worse. Drinking water does not mean you're a wuss. It means you don't want your friends to have to carry your sorry ass to the first aid tent during The Pixies or another AOC. You've got no excuse. You can bring in two bottles of water per person; size does not matter in this case.

10. Eat Kettle Korn
My friends all laughed when I came back from an emergency snack run with a plastic bag full of popcorn. Neither the laughing nor the corn lasted long. Think of it as crack in a bag; everyone who tasted it was couldn't quit eating it. Sure it's a guilty pleasure that brings back memories of cabbage-smelling carnies peddling it. It also happens to be the best value for your money in the snack arena, and it's vegetarian friendly.

11. Figure out your rendezvous strategy beforehand
What happens when you put 70,000 people in a 15 acre park? 50,000 cell phone users show up and all want to call their friends at the same time. Your phone won't work no matter how you yell into it whilst I'm straining to hear Jack Johnson over your whining. Avoid the issue and set a time to meet them at the Tag-a-Kid. Your friends and I will thank you.

12. Check out the Texas Artists
You have doled out dough for primo tickets and all of the necessary accoutrements. You owe it to yourself to check out as many Texas artists as you can. Terry Allen. Bob Schneider. Joe Ely. The Gourds. Patti Griffin. David Garza. Etc. See you at the Fourth Annual ACL Fest next year. I'll be the cool dude on the purple ladies bike.

This was originally posted on TheBackWord.com, a Texas-centric eZine that has gone the way of the jackalope.