7 Mar 2021

The pit at La Barbecue.

The pit at La Barbecue.

Previously, the hottest I’d ever been was in Dubai. That was beaten the day I arrived in Austin.

After checking in at my accomodation, I asked the host where he liked to get BBQ from. This was, after all, the main reason for coming to Austin. He directed me to a place just down from where we were on Cesar Chavez St. I can’t remember the place he recommended, but I’m confident I missed it, opting instead for the first BBQ joint I came across which turned out to be a now defunct, outdoor La Barbecue.

Sitting under an umbrella at midday, eating a brisket sandwich, I was possibly the hottest I’d ever been. Respect goes to the pit master who tended to the smokers which sat inside a metal shed of death. For the brief minute that I was in there to see the money end of the operation, I was sweltering, but this hero works these smokers in the inferno, preparing around 50 briskets a day.

Alaskan of the week

2 Feb 2021

The Capitol.

The Capitol.

The stage was set for an interesting senate session. The Democrats had signalled their intention to speak into the night about the state of the impending vote on Trump-care; the contentious topic of mid-2017 (ah, the good old days). To recap, the Republican’s mission to repeal and replace Obama-care involved scheduling a vote on their bill in the coming days, despite there being no bill currently available. Only a select few Republicans knew the contents of the bill with the intention being to release it 10 hours before the senate session to vote on it, leading to the amusing line from McConnell: “I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.”

In retrospect, naive I was to think that anything interesting was going to happen. Upon taking a seat in the gallery, my introduction into the inner workings of US democracy was to listen to Alaskan senator, Dan Sullivan, use his floor time for his regular instalment of “Alaskan of the Week”. Naive I was to think that floor time had to be on topic; truly, truly naive.

Regrettably, I stayed for a further 3 hours, watching a 95% empty floor work it’s way through its list of speakers. The monotony broken only by the occasional glimpses of Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren walking through the chamber.

Having had enough, I slowly unwound the multiple layers of security to leave the building and take the above photo. While security was tight, it was tight for the purposes of controlling law-abiding guests. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was security theatre, it didn’t compare to, say, entering the Bundestag. It’s quite reasonable in my mind to conclude that a mob with conviction could overwhelm whatever defences there were and make their way inside. I wouldn’t have expected to be able to get this far, though.