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Texas Monthly BBQ, OctoTea, David Evans and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

FOOD: Austin drips with fests. Especially in the fall and spring. Save some time next year for the Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival. There’s nothing like it. Especially if you savor meat slowly smoked to perfection. Arriving early under a robin’s-egg-blue sky Sunday, I sampled only from tented booths sponsored by spots I hadn’t tried in the past. That strategy translated into tangy sausage from Austin’s Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew and black-peppery brisket nurtured by Austin’s LA Barbecue. Must return to these outlets in their home towns: Tyler’s in Amarillo, City Meat Market from Giddings and Cousin’s out of Fort Worth. The event on the Long Center terrace was sold out; lines snaked down to Butler Park an hour before the gates opened to the general public. Why not expand to two days? Not enough volunteer staff, one official told me. Too much burden on the eateries, which must close for a day to participate, said another. (Makes sense.)

NIGHTLIFE: High-octane OctoTea. Wikipedia tells us that the “tea dance” derives the practice of giving an afternoon dance in the summer or fall — the analog to a tea party — and started during the French colonization of Morocco. The gay community translated that tradition into a sort of all-purpose happy hour, perfected by the seaside colony in Provincetown, Mass. That bacchanalia could get crazy back in the day. OctoTea is a younger Austin tea dance that benefits the Octopus Club, which raises cash for clients of AIDS Services of Austin. The event has generated some memorable parties on the Long Center terrace and Emma Barrientos Mexican American Center plaza. Its new home, Brazos Hall, is just as magical. Mostly male partiers split up between the open ground floor of this former warehouse for eating, drinking, bidding and mingling and the rooftop terrace for dancing. Well, that was the plan. Lots of people gathered on the dance floor. Not many took the next step. An OctoTea official asked afterwards for tips. Back in college, at house parties or clubs, dance-happy friends split to different sides of the room, then signaled with crisscrossed fists that it was time to dance. (If it appeared that people were dancing all around, spontaneously, others were more likely to join.)

HEALTH: Integrating mental health into health care. My story in Monday’s Statesman: “During the 1960s, a young David Evans opened up child care services at public housing in Pontiac, Mich. “One thing I learned was grace matters,” the Austinite says. “They took care of me during the day, but you are on your own after dark. I also learned that, not only does poverty have social consequences, but certainly in that area, there was a high correlation between race and poverty.” Now CEO of Austin Travis County Integral Care, which provides services for those with behavioral health problems and developmental disabilities, Evans began to think about racism and intolerance by way of immersion. As a volunteer for newly-created VISTA, the domestic version of the Peace Corps, the Detroit native never stopped asking questions about the junction of poverty and need. His focus these days is mental health care as part of overall health care. He’s also the CEO of the New Milestones Foundation, which raises private money for those served by Integral Care. Thursday, the group will hold its annual benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel, where journalist Tara Ebrahimi will talk about her family’s encounters with emotional disorders.” http://shar.es/IDgwv

ARTS: Fantasy No. 1,377. Other people indulge in fantasy football. I sometimes dream of fanstasy producing. Now that Zach Theatre has proven it can nail large-scale musicals such as “Ragtime” and “Les Miserables” in its new, handsome, roomy yet intimate Topfer Theatre, my fantasy runs this way: Open another Topfer-scale theater just to the south of the complex’s plaza and produce only traditional musicals to complement what Zach does. Start with Silver Age musicals from composers like Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Bock and Harnick, Herman. Then selectively explore the Golden Age (pre-1960) repertoire from Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, Berlin, Loesser, Porter and the Gershwins. Encourage a national network of 440-to-500-seat houses that can do Broadway, but at a fraction of the production price tags of the Great White Way and its touring circuit. (After all, it’s hard to make up for limited seating and runs. Ask the now defunct Austin Musical Theatre.)