Page Two

Page Two
Gathering together at restaurants and bars to wile away the night with booze and food used to be a way of life at the Chronicle. Wages were meager but there was always some trade account where we could eat and drink, charging it to the Chronicle. There would be almost regular gatherings the day an issue came out. In those days, though, our life was the Chronicle and the Chronicle was our life. If trade balances ran high, as they often did, then we would eat and drink; it was one of the perks. In the earliest days we would fill a table or two but gradually we grew to take up more and more of whichever institution we were visiting. Our mainstays were the Texas Chili Parlor and the Hole in the Wall, though we had a glorious run at a short-lived campus bar called Uncle Su-Su's where drinks were served in quart jars. There we got too drunk, talked too much, saw the Butthole Surfers for the first time and had crushes on the bartender. Actually, this description, in one way or another, fits all the places we frequented.

As the staff grew larger, gradually these excursions became more and more impractical. I remember one gathering at the Hole in The Wall, which began with three tables joined together, ending with almost every table in the bar shaped together in some twisted snake-like configuration. Eight or 10 people gorging out (filling our maws, as it were) was one thing. 20, or 30 or 40, something else.

Over the last years, that social nature of the Chronicle has, by necessity, changed. There are more staff, more families, more people. Occasionally, we still gather to cook hot dogs and play volleyball in our backyard, only now a couple of hundred people show up and our backyard is four empty lots.

The other evening our fulltime staff -- with one guest apiece -- dined together at the Granite Cafe in honor of our 15th anniversary. (Coincidental to the staff dinner, Rebecca Chastenet de Géry reviewed the Granite Cafe for this issue. She was not present at the staff dinner.)We completely filled the restaurant. There was wine rather than quart drinks. There were companions, and dates rather than just Chronicle staff, and salmon and pork loin instead of reality sandwiches and chili burgers. There were two vegetarian choices, because so many of the staff lean in that direction. The party didn't get as dangerous as they used to get regularly, but to those of us who had been there, this was an extraordinary relief.

Everyone was talking, visiting each other, eating, drinking, and always more talking. It wasn't like it once was; it will never be that intimate and immediate again, thank god. It was more mature, less desperate... in a way, richer and calmer. There was the innate sense of people who enjoyed working together and knew and were comfortable doing the jobs that needed to be done.

We didn't look forward to the next 15 years (especially when Nick Barbaro kindly pointed out that by then, I would be 60), so instead we drank to the indefinite future, the next few issues of the Chronicle, the next few weeks, the next few years, (would it be too tacky to quote Bob Dylan here, who once pointed out that those not busy being born are busy dying?). We drank to the paper, the staff that puts it out, and the city that reads it.

No more cheap nostalgia, only the expensive, endless kind, but a revitalized CinemaTexas is back showing films on campus. A graduate student-run film society of that name was where a gang including Nick Barbaro, Marjorie Baumgarten, original Chronicle founding editor Ed Lowry (now deceased), game wizard Warren Spector, and myself first met.

This new incarnation is showing an impressive schedule of student films at UT beginning Thursday evening, Sept 26; for more info, see Jen Scoville's story on page 46 or call 471-6659.

Restaurant Poll time, be sure to vote. This is your chance to check in on one of Austin's favorite topics: food. n

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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