The latest

8/26/2010 Thursday 5:25 pm

So much has happened in the week and a half since we returned!

Glenda’s birthday was Tuesday – she’s 35 (as I will be in October) – and to celebrate she wanted to go to “East Side Show Room” Tuesday night.  We loved it.  Kaua’i is unbelievably gorgeous but Austin is unbelievably cool, eclectic, and artistic.  Its great to be home.

I just left an address to the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters – I was asked to relay my experience as a former Little Brother.  What a tremendous organization BBBS is – I hope someday to volunteer as a big brother myself.

Lunch today was with Tricia Forbes, she directs the SIMS Foundation.  SIMS provides free and reduced-cost mental health care for Austin musicians, and I serve on their music advisory panel.   It was a terrific lunch and we plotted ways I might be of service in the coming year.

I had a great call with the owner of Trilogy Guitar (John Silva) in LA shortly after lunch – Trilogy will be supporting ACGS this year with a large advertisement and a sponsorship of our spring ensemble festival.  Yay.  Thank you John and Trilogy.

I had a delightful meeting this morning with a development whiz who might be helping us out at ACGS with some big events coming up.  More on that soon.

So what’s happening?  I guess I’m hitting highlights working backward?  Yesterday I had a great meeting with Suzanne Warmack over at KMFA.  I just love KMFA!  We talked about the new season – and I also got turned onto the great blog entry KMFA’s Dianne Donovan did on our June festival.  Thank you Dianne!  Speaking of Dianne – I got in the mail the CDs of the live broadcast she and Tony Morris hosted of Pepe Romero’s concert opening our fest.  They’re masterful!

And coffee yesterday morning was with PR whiz Molly Browning – who did PR for Austin Lyric Opera for 17 years.  She is a amazing person – and she’s gonna help out ACGS!

Tuesday (Glenda’s Birthday) was fun because we went to the Bauer House (the home of the UT System Chancellor) to meet Rod Caspers who runs system events.  We were there to plan our October party the Chancellor is hosting.  So exciting, its an amazing place and we are incredibly lucky.

Monday I met with Ed Fuentes, who is the director of the KLRU documentary on our June fest – we’re putting the last pieces in place – and I had a really stimulating talk with the President of Texas American String Teachers Association.  We’ll see where that leads (more news, perhaps, to come!).

Man, that is just a few highlights from this week – to say nothing of last!  A few unusual items from last week, lessee… We got word from our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse that we’re definitely on for a private viewing of the premiere of our documentary on September 30th.  I talked for an hour Friday with Alfred Foss – owner of Fingerstyle Magazine.  Had lunch with the Development Committee of Texas Choral Consort (where I serve) and came up with a near term development strategy.  Lunched with John Henry McDonald (super power for ACGS board) and Jim Rainbolt (JH’s friend, and development genius in Austin).  And sat down with Jacqui Schraad at the Heritage Society to talk about a new partnership we’re looking at launching in the spring with a series of salon concerts in historic homes.

Why list these meet ups?  Partly for my own records – it feels good to set it all down, and take a moment to remember it all.  But there’s a bigger and better reason.  It has to do with the spirit of Austin.  There is something incredibly special about returning home and being treated to a veritable flurry of contacts with so many people – all of whom are excited about doing great things for the community. All of whom are open to new ideas and willing to think creatively and generously.

Tomorrow Bill Ash, director of the St. Louis Guitar Society, flies in to Austin and we’ll spend the bulk of the day together talking about running a big guitar festival.  He thinks he may host the festival in St. Louis that we hosted here earlier this year – so hopefully I can help steer him a bit.

I’m teaching like a mad man.  The studio is totally full with around 35 contact hours.  So I’m on until 9PM Mon-Thur and I have 9-1 Saturday and 2-5 Sunday!  I enjoy it tremendously. Whenever I can squeeze in a spare hour, I’m writing feverishly on the online training program document for ACGS education.  This is our next strategic step, and we need to finish it out.

More soon.

Back in action!

8/16/2010 Monday 10:24 pm

We’re back!  It feels good to be back.

Today was a whirlwind return to normal life – which is considerably quicker-paced than life on Kaua’i.

And even though we were mostly interested in Puka Dogs and snorkeling while there, several “businessy” things happened while we were away that are worth mentioning.

KLRU asked if we could meet today (that is, they asked 10 days ago if we could meet this morning) to do some final taping in our offices.  They are editing the documentary they made of our giant international festival – 32 hours of footage to be narrowed down into a 54 minute piece – and they had found the need for me to “frame” a few things to help with context and introductions.  So Ed Fuentes, the documentary’s director, came by the office today to film some segments, he also borrowed a guitar to take back to the studio with him for “credits” shots.  So if you ever see the documentary, you’ll know where the guitar came from!

Also while we were away, we asked if the Alamo Drafthouse would host our world-premiere viewing of said documentary on September 30th.  They will!  So I’ll be busily planning that event in the coming month – in addition to ACGS’ annual benefit concert to be held at Jeff and Gail Kodosky’s on September 18th.  That concert, incidentally, features my mentor from Oberlin – Stephen Aron (see a short performance and a neat interview with Steve here)!

Another fun email I received on the road was from my friend Bill Ash who runs the great St. Louis Guitar Society.  Bill asked if he could come down from St. Louis for lunch and visit about running festivals.  It will be really fun to brainstorm with Bill, he’s a neat guy with deep dedication to classical guitar.  He’ll fly in on Thursday the 26th and we’ll spend much of the 27th together.

Someone that I cannot wait to meet emailed me while we were on the road as well.  Louis Black – (not the comedian) founder of the Austin Chronicle and South by Southwest among other things!  Today was our big chance to meet since he’s traveling tomorrow like crazy (Boston, London, to name a few) until September 3rd.  Needless to say, we were not able to connect, but we will soon.  Not yet allowed to reveal what’s on his mind, but I look forward to sharing as soon as I can!

ACGS is deep into the newest phase of our curriculum development.  If you don’t know, we developed a curriculum product from 2005-2008 that has become a somewhat influential middle and high school classroom curriculum product around the US.  People are using it all over the place, but here in Austin it powers our affiliated programs reaching about 700 kids a day.  The next phase?  An online training component.  We’ll do it in three phases: write the text, film the video and make the schematics, and then build the product online.  We would like to finish “phase 1” really, really soon, but there is a lot of work to do.  A moment ago I finished two hours of solid writing on it, and on the plane home Saturday I wrote for three hours straight.  Its a fun and engaging, if not daunting project.  But we’ll knock it out!

So the pace appears to have picked right back up – much more on the plate for tomorrow.

Kaua’i Day 14 (The Kaua’i Ultimatum)

8/14/2010 Saturday 4:07 pm

Well it’s arrived.  We are just about to shove off into the sunset and back to Austin.  What an amazing time we’ve had.

Last night, as if we hadn’t eaten enough already, we decided to break into this incredible Dragon Fruit that we had bought earlier in the week.  It’s like a kiwi, except way better!

Isn't that cool lookin'?

...and inside its like a giant tasty kiwi! Juicy, sweet, little seeds, yum. I asked Glenda why we don't eat these all the time and she said something about "rare" and "special". Well they're delicious!

Kaua’i is beautiful this morning – and every morning:

A shot from our Lanai early today...

We managed to get breakfast in before packing and cleaning up…

Matty's "Kitchen Sink" Potatoes. This is what results when, in the fridge, you have half a tomato, a potato, a quarter onion, veggie oil, salt, pepper, cheddar cheese, and hot pepper flakes - all in need of being used up! Oh, and lotsa love!

Did I mention packing?

Here's the start of the pack-a-thon!

...and just like that... magic!

…and we’re off.  Here’s a shot, from about two minutes ago on the Lanai.  You can even barely see Glenda’s lovely flower lei.

Aloha everybody!

Kaua’i Day 13

8/14/2010 Saturday 4:05 am

Today was our last full day in Kaua’i.  We heard that there was a high chance of rain, like 60%, but this turned out to be one of the only days where we saw zero rain.  In some cases we saw evidence of recent rain, but we experienced none ourselves.  It was a glorious day in every way.  Here’s our morning view from the deck (they call decks “Lanais” here).  So, ahem, here’s the view this morning from our Lanai:

The sun is just coming up here over calm seas - Kaua'i was preparing a glorious day!

With a bit of pancake fixin's left we felt, well, obligated to finish 'em off this morning before our departure tomorrow.

So our fist order of business was to head back to Po’ipu.  After much discussion we decided we really wanted to get another good snorkel or two in today, and the best snorkeling we’d found on the island was in Po’ipu.  It’s about an hour drive south.

Here's Matt with top down - ready to rumble.

Hellooo Glenda! Here sporting the local island beach-frequenters' style... Sarong hugs swim suit with panache. Confidence yet sophistication radiate from this stylish twist-tie of color and texture! (Sarong courtesy of Linda Light - thanks Linda!)

We didn’t take the camera to the beach today.  But I have to tell you, it was: The Best. Snorkel. Ever. Again today!  I know what you’re thinking – “How could they have the best snorkel ever three times in one vacation?”  But it’s possible, and it happened.  We started at Po’ipu Beach, the one with the cool dividing peninsula out to the sandy rocky sand bar?  And there was a large brown monk seal tanning himself on the sand bar!  It was so cool.  He did absolutely nothing for like the entire time we were at the beach.  Could’ve been dead, flopped there like that.  It was awesome!

Then we snorkeled on both sides of the divider.  The right side, where we went yesterday, brought lots of great fish like we saw before.  Then we went over to “Urchin Alley” on the other side which was rougher, and rockier and full of urchins!  We didn’t do that very long before returning to the right side where we ventured out pretty far into deeper waters and saw a huge school of stripy yellow fish.  I feel the need, at this time, to list some of the fish we’ve seen: Lagoon Triggerfish, Achilles Tang, Ornate Butterfly Fish, Raccoon Butterfly Fish (loads of these), Orangeband Surgeonfish (lots of these too), Longnose Butterflyfish, Blue- and Orangespine Unicornfishes, Needlefish, Saddle Wrasse, Moorish Idol (super cool fish), Spotted Boxfish, Yellowfin Surgeonfish, Bullethead Parrotfish, and even a White Mouth Moray Eel!  There are more – but those come to mind.

Glenda had also been interested in checking out a nearby beach called Lawa’i near “flubbering horn”, oh, I mean, “Spouting Horn”.  I, as is my usual MO, was more interested in: a) sticking with things we already knew, and, b) going to Puka Dogs ASAP.  However, not only was she insistent, but we also ended up at the beach showers next to a guy who was talking all about how he had seen turtles at Lawa’i Beach.  Turtles, along with monk seals, have been high on our list.  So, off we went to Lawa’i.

The water was rougher there, but we got in anyway and poked around.  Some very cool reef formations there, great fish, and we saw a simply enormous red Parrotfish.  It was a great snorkel.  Even so, there were no turtles.  So eventually we decided to get out.  Glenda had just reached the shore and got her head out, and I was close behind, when I saw him – a big sea turtle right in front of me at the waters edge being washed up and down the shore!  I watched him for a few seconds before calling to Glenda.  She was able to hop back in and get buffeted around by the waves with the turtle, like, they almost touched!  So cool.

And so there you have it.  Our best snorkel ever because it was a great snorkel, plus we got to see a Monk Seal and a Turtle.  Yippee!

I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that all of that was a preamble to my not-so-secret main mission of the day.  Our return to Puka Dogs!

Look at all of these people who have clearly been reading my blog! Puka Dogs was packed today!

I'm pleased to be able to bring you rare footage of the inner workings of Puka Dogs. Yesterday I mentioned the heated spikes they put the buns on... now you can actually see them. In this pic, there are two visible black spikes, all around them are overturned hot dog buns, themselves inside of white paper bags. This is a snapshot insight into the magic behind the Puka!

What could possibly be better than a Puka Dog?  I wracked my brain today to no avail. Until inspiration struck!  What could be better than a Puka Dog?

2 Puka Dogs! (one of these is for Glenda). I went with spicy lemon garlic sauce on both of mine today, with coconut relish and ketchup on one, and mango relish with yellow mustard on the other. Glenda had a veggie dog today too, and did mild lemon/garlic sauce with Pineapple relish and Lilikoi (Guava) Dijon Mustard. These things are incredible! In retrospect, I may had had one Puka Dog too many...

We followed Puka dogs with some delicious gelato - caramel mac nut and Belgian Chocolate in a chocolaty mac-nutty waffle cone. Yum!

Post-Puka we decided to head up to Kapa’a where there was a waterfall Glenda had read about.  On the way we passed:

I had an odd sense of deja vu passing this road. Like I've been down it before - perhaps even many times, and often...

Eventually, however, we made it to Ho’opi’i falls west of Kapa’a.  Say THAT 5 times fast!

Glenda is walkin' the trail...

Wow, a river, dense trees, the wilderness. I was straining to hear banjos, but thankfully all I heard was the roaring of the falls...

Oooo. The falls were very impressive!

So everywhere you drive in Kaua’i you see signs advertising “Ice Cold Coconut”.  We thought this was very strange.  “Ice Cold” is not the first thing I would think of if I were to make a sign advertising a coconut stand.  I might write “fresh” or “local” or “delicious” or something.  But I would be the odd coconut-man out, because everyone selling coconuts on the island has a sign advertising “Ice Cold Coconuts”.  We were intrigued and we pulled over to a place that, in addition to the obligatory “Ice Cold Coconut” sign, also advertised “The Coconut Experience”.

Here we are, having the "coconut experience". The fresh coconut has just had a hole drilled in the top of it and a straw stuck in it. We were instructed to drink the milk inside.

After we drained the coconut, the lady, a young woman with a one-and-a-half year old son, held the coconut in one hand and hacked at it with a machete until it split in two, she then scored and extracted the meat for us to munch on. Yummy! And ice, ice cold, baby!

After extensive snorkeling, double doggin’ it at Puka’s, a good vertical hike, and the coconut experience, we went back to the condo, showered and got cleaned up for our last night on the town.  The town?  Hanalei!

Glenda's lovely outfit for the evening. We took this picture in front of a Hibiscus bush in front of the condo.

We walked back down to Hanalei Beach Park - here we are entering the park as the sun is nearing sunset.

We walked along the beach to the point we could see the sun going down around the hills... Lots of boats in the harbor tonight.

Here's Glenda on the beach with the sunset-lit sky behind her.

After the sunset, we walked into town and decided to stop off at:

Kalypso! We had wanted to go since we saw it nearly two weeks ago. I had a taro-garden burger and a Mai Tai. Glenda was saving her tummy for sushi...

Here's the Hanalei Dolphin, bar, restaurant, and sushi bar! We hadn't been, and this was Glenda's special request.

What to get, what to get?

Glenda got Ono Sashimi. That's a local white fish served raw and with nothin' - no rice, no roll. Just a bed of greens and fish! Glenda is a purist who really appreciates high quality and very fresh fish. She was delighted. Not to be outdone - and because the pancake breakfast, double Puka Dog with chips, Gelato, and Garden Burger with all the fixin's, fries and onion rings left me feeling a little peckish - I ordered a veggie roll and a local brown ale. Just perfect!

Whew!  What a whirlwind.  It was a great day with lots of activities and lots of fun.  Tomorrow we will get busy in the morning with final pre-travel prep and board a plane around 2 PM.  We love Kaua’i, we look forward to coming back, but we both love our life in Austin and feel just peachy about returning there tomorrow.

We especially can’t wait to see all the great people we love so much back home.  Won’t be long now.

Kaua’i Day 12

8/13/2010 Friday 2:22 am

What a remarkable day Kaua’i served up for us today.  After all the bluster of yesterday, today was still, and beautiful, and sunny almost all day long!  And that’s a great thing, because we had a lot planned!

Here was a quick shot I took from the "Garden View" side of our condo as we were rushing off this morning!

Our first goal of the day was to head south on 56, along the east side of the island, toward Po’ipu.  We haven’t really been to Po’ipu, though we’ve been near, and we’ve been by, and we wanted to check it out.  If there’s a “resort central” of Kaua’i its Po’ipu.  The Hyatt Resort is there, as is a particularly swanky restaurant called Josselyn’s.  We wanted to see what all the hubbub was about!

Oooo. So if you look carefully you can see that in the middle of this beach there is a peninsula that juts out to a sand and lava sand bar - with water on each side. This gives the unusual character to the Po'ipu beach. We set up camp off to the right...

So we're now in "our camp" looking back left at the peninsula and sand bar.

And here's a look to the right from the same place. The whole beach has this round, curvy sort of feel.

So the main thing we did at Po’ipu was snorkel.  We’d heard stories of both seals and turtles!  Unfortunately for us we saw zero turtles and seals today.  Plus, this snorkel spot has very little in the way of reef and coral activity – it was like swimming around in a fish bowl!  But even with all of that this was our:

Best. Snorkel. Ever.

Why, you ask?  It was comfy, gentle water and filled with lots of super-duper fish.  We saw types of fish we’ve seen elsewhere, but the specimens here were much bigger.  And then there was the “fish-nado” incident…  At one point Glenda and I were snorkeling and a particularly large fish, with an attitude, swam by lookin’ at me.  So I thought at him “I’ll show you, fish” and I decided to look back!  Look I did.  As he swam by I slowly turned around, making my body vertical to do so.  So as I turned around, he actually began swimming around me in a circle – like we were in a stare-off (which, of course, we were).  So I thought “I’ll out-stare you, fish” and I kept turning around, and he kept swimming around me… for a long time.  The even crazier part is, that after several revolutions, all these other fish, like tons of other fish, started revolving around me too.  It was nuts.  And for a long time – like a minute – I had tons and tons of all kinds of fish swimming around me in a giant fish-nado.

Don’t believe me?  Glenda was right there witnessing the whole thing.

After fish-nado, we were hungry, and we decided – thanks to Glenda’s amazing research abilities – that we needed to visit Puka Dogs.

Here is the Puka Dogs surf board menu. You choose "Polish Sausage" or "Veggie" then mild, medium, or hot garlic sauce, then one of 6 sweet fruity relishes and/or traditional condiments.

Glenda about to order a Puka Dog... So once you order they take a giant hoagie-sized bun, and stick it - vertically - on an inside-out bun toasting hot metal poker. This creates a hot, toasted hole, lengthwise in your bun which they fill with goodness.

Wow, nice Puka Dogs! I had a veggie, medium spice, pineapple relish and yellow mustard. Glenda had a Polish Sausage, mild garlic sauce, Mango Relish, and Lilikoi-dijon mustard. Oh my gosh, these are so good, I think I absolutely have to go back for another tomorrow, I don't care if it's an hour away!

OK, so with Puka Dogs sadly fading into memory behind us, we decided to check out “Shipwreck” beach in front of the Hyatt.  It was hot, hot, hot – like must’ve been upper 80s!

Here's a big lava outcropping at "Shipwreck" Beach. The crazy local kids jump off of that thing into the water!

We decided to leave Po’ipu, head back north to the condo and regroup.  It didn’t take us long!  Soon we headed back south – just a few miles – to a new place for us called “Secret Beach”.  A left off the highway, first right on a dirt road, park and look for the steep trail down!

Glenda in her lovely wrap from Anthropologie with some wily, crazy surf slamming the rocks behind her at "Secret Beach".

Secret Beach is actually wide and sandy, but there are some rocky outcroppings which are great for spotting one of my favorite ocean critters... Crabs! On the black lava rocks we usually just see the black "Bat man" crabs, so this little guy was a surprise.

Here he is from behind, I got really close for this shot!

Here's a shot with Glenda doing her "Captain Cook" pose. Behind you can see the lighthouse at Kilauea, and out to the left a good shot of the little island which is a bird sanctuary.

Our steps in the sand! Can you tell whose are whose?

We returned from “Secret Beach”.  It had actually been raining a bit there, and the weather was dubious, but we wanted to go to the St. Regis Resort nearby where we heard the bar has a fabtastic view of the sunset…

Here's Matt, all prepped to go to the St. Regis. I even put on a shirt and did my hair!

We've arrived at the St. Regis. It's gorgeous. Definitely cloudy and rainy but still a great view - especially when Glenda is part of it! For context, we're actually looking out here onto Hanalei Bay. That's where our adventures began here in Kaua'i, where we watched our first sunset...

Glenda with our drinks. I ordered a "Green Flash" which is rum and pineapple juice, and Blue Curacao and a handful of other things including a lightbulb-ice-cube! Glenda ordered a delish Lychee Bellini.

Here's the Green Flash with recipe/description card. A "Green flash", by the way, is the phenomenon seen at sunset here, just at the last instant before the sun sinks below the horizon. As it disappears this amazing green flash occurs that is totally awesome. At least it would be totally awesome, I'm sure, if I could see the darn thing. This is another one of those times when Matt looks avidly for a natural phenomenon, only to hear everyone else "ooo" and "ahhh" about it while he scratches his head wondering how he could have missed such a spectacular and special natural occurrence... anyway, the drink was tasty.

Our food arrived! Yum. I got tempura and Glenda got Shumai with crab and other goodies. The sauces were "totally solid", as they say here. Mine was a green lime and basil, hers was a rich balsamic and brown butter.

And in spite of the clouds and rain, we got a breathtaking view out west as the sunset from the bar. Truly a remarkable place.

And that was Thursday!  Tomorrow is our last full day here, so we’re making our lists of the thing we’d like to do before leaving.  So far my list has only one thing on it: Puka Dogs.  As long we get to go there again, I’m good.