Now, it used to be that everyone at the Chronicle was pretty much alike, from the way they dressed, to where they ate to what they drove (always clunkers, often nothing). The styles ran a gamut, from the better-dressed ad staff to the editorial side, whose clothes and personal habits often violated basic hygienic standards. (I exclude neither Nick Barbaro nor myself here.)
We've always had big parties offering liberal amounts of drink and sprawling quantities of food. They used to be preludes to long and intense nights of partying by most of the staff, often together, the Friday night often just an introduction to a weekend-long stagger. At these gatherings, in terms of age and dress, we were a pretty homogenous group. There were also less of us - a lot less. That was a time when we finished an issue and the whole staff would go out for drinks. Usually, we went to the Texas Chili Parlor or the Hole in the Wall, where the Chronicle had trade. In the beginning, we filled a table or two. After a few years, the Hole quite sweetly and correctly asked us to stop coming because we filled every available table.
Over the years there was the growth of the paper, and the ever-growing staff, among whom there were marriages, children, divorces, buying cars, and owning homes. Friday's party really brought it home because there was such a variety of people clustered about as well as so many children running around. My generation has long since become the old folks, the younger staff gather together in groups, often under the tree, and snicker at us as we make our way along. They will be up all night partying; we'll be home by 9:30pm.
The most unexpected part of the party was when Ken Lieck evolved into Uncle Ken, King of Children. This occurred after he downloaded games onto every computer in the production area with one or two children at each (this is after they spent a long time running around both inside and out). It looked like an arcade, and Lieck genially presided. Children would come and get Lieck because of some technical problem or to ask a pertinent question about the game. The back room filled with kids playing games fathered along by a smiling Uncle Ken, helping, consulting, downloading. Things sure have changed.
The "Best of" ballot for our upcoming annual "Best of" issue is currently running. Throughout the year, we hear about how we neglected this place or ignored that business. This is your chance to speak not only for those places but to all the readers, and to tell them what you think. Fill out as much or as little of the ballot as you like and then send it in. In the past few years, we've gotten a terrific response to this poll and the issue is one people save forever.
You are not limited to just these categories. There is a write-in section and we encourage use of it. This is the time to sit down and think about the things in Austin that really mean something to your life here, things you don't mind sharing (naturally, some places you just have to keep for yourself). Make sure your voice is heard: Vote.