In my brain, Austin was a land of tacos, bbq, and blues, so I figured there was no way I wouldn’t love it. Plus leaving the cold and rainy temperatures of Seattle to soak up some sunshine is always a plus for me.
When I arrived, I wondered how I was in Texas–a state that I imagine everyone toting around guns and wearing hats and cowboy boots like in the old west.
In fact, the only time I really felt like I was in Texas was the point where I was taking a tour of the Statehouse. I wish I could provide some history I learned, but the man giving the tour was wearing a custom made leather eye patch with a buckle in the back, and I unfortunately spent the entire tour racking my brain for a reason why he would need the buckle.
I was totally sold on the practicality of having a custom eyepatch. I’d have a variety of colors and styles myself if I was missing an eye. But did he gain weight on his head in the wintertime? I highly doubted his head had ever gotten fatter since he had the patch made for him.
My friend and I went to the Museum of Weird at one point and saw all sorts of things: shrunken heads, the ice man, mummys, skeletons, casts of Big Foot footprints. A man named Doc Ravencraft brought us through the tour, and I wondered about this man and how he found his way to be the tour guide of the museum of weird.
He asked a little girl what her favorite part was, and she said, “The characters.” The second part of the museum was all molds and statues of characters from various horror films—my least favorite part, and an answer that I figured Doc Ravencraft would scoff at—after all, I was appalled by this child’s weak answer when there was a room full of two headed pigs and a fish covered in fur. But he simply nodded in appreciation of her answer.
But it’s weirdness like this that actually makes me love Austin more. It was charming and odd and had a shitload of personality.
We went to see live music every single night at a few different venues, as well as attending Hippie Church on Sunday morning at a place called Maria’s Taco Xpress. A soul/gospel band brought the house down while everyone danced and drank margaritas at noon.
The woman sitting next to me told me to order my margarita “with trouble” and it would be better. She said the bartender will pour some Grand Marnier in there as well.
A man in a tutu and tie dyed shirt was dancing around, and people seemed genuinely happy and embracing the tradition.
When we left we were asked to come and join the congregation again next week, just as you would with a “real” church. I figured if I lived in Austin this would be a dangerous albeit wonderful place that I’d likely end up on Sunday mornings if only to people watch and sip on my trouble infused margaritas while inhaling tacos.
When my friend and I ventured to see the graffiti wall, I talked to a guy there who told me that he moved to Austin because he wanted to be challenged creatively.
“This is the place to do it. I needed to be in a community that embraces creativity and fosters it. If everyone around you is creative, then you don’t really have a choice but to push yourself as well.”
Valid advice from a complete stranger, I thought to myself as I mulled it over later in a long ass line waiting for barbecue and wondering about my life choices.
Impatience is one of my more prominent traits. I’m working on it. So waiting in a line was not on my list of Austin activities to partake in. My friend, who doesn’t even eat meat, convinced me it would be worth it, and I was thrilled by the time I got up to the front.
There was a man who was short and balding with a leather apron, a knife, and meat fork asking me what cut of meat I wanted.
I obviously opted for the brisket.
He asked how much I wanted, and I said, “Enough for me?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you,” he said as he expertly sawed a chunk off of the slab of meat in front of him, dunked it in sauce, and threw it on a tray. “There you go, Sweetheart, now you have a wonderful evening.”
My ovaries exploded. I’ve never been so attracted to a middle aged balding man in my entire life. Turns out, all I needed was to be fed a slab of meat and called Sweetheart.
Patrons are simply given wax paper on a tray to dump their packet of meat on once they pay for it and then have at it with a fork and knife (though really it falls apart without need of a knife).
A few British men sat down next to us on the long picnic table style seating, and the one next to me asked how he was supposed to eat it.
I told him to dump it on his paper and just go to town. I figured this likely seemed weird, especially if this was one of their first stops in the US.
“Welcome to America,” I joked, without getting a laugh. “Don’t worry, we don’t always eat like barbarians off of paper. This is the exception, but just embrace the barbecue culture.”
When we went to see bats fly out from under a bridge aptly called “Bat Bridge,” I was obsessed with it all day. The crowd gathered and it got dark and a woman next to me in pearls pacing around exclaimed, “I have dinner reservations…who signals for the bats to fly out?”
“It’s nature, bitch. It happens when it happens!” I wanted to yell, but held myself back.
I couldn’t believe she thought someone signaled the bats to fly, like they didn’t simply wake up and take off because they were fucking starving and it was time to grab some grub.
She left before it started, but the guy next to me whipped out a phone and showed me the echolocation app he had that sensed the bats beginning to awaken.
I wanted to ask if he was just a weirdo that already had that app or if he was obsessed with bats and downloaded it before he came here today, but didn’t know how to broach the subject, and also saw myself getting dragged into a conversation that would be a lot longer and a lot more detailed than I actually possessed the patience for.
It was really dark and we couldn’t see the bats as clearly as we could in a lot of pictures, but it was cool to see all of them waking up and soaring out for their nightly feast.
Between live music and the food (and the bats) it was a wonderful, re-energizing trip, and I was sad to leave so soon. But Austin certainly made the list of places I’d go back to.