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w January 05, 2008

Austin City Limits

If you watch PBS, you might understand that admittedly lame title for this post, but it was the best I could do mid-coffee on a Saturday morning.

At any rate, here is the long-awaited recap of our TEXASTRAVAGANZA '07. I know y'all are just dying to hear it.

Flight from San Jose was quite easy, thankfully, though we discovered that traveling with a busy toddler who isn't entirely mobile yet is somewhat...exhausting. Peabo was very well behaved, but it took a lot of dog-and-pony act from Mom and occasionally Dad to keep her that way. Still and all, that's the job. Our world traveler of a five year old just chilled out with the iPod and her dolls, although kind of lost it as we were landing. Hard to figure out where that came from, but let's just obliquely say she was kind of needing to, um, clear herself out and that didn't really happen until Monday morning. After which time she was a much more cheerful child. The rental car area at the Austin airport is conveniently right across from the departures level, so at least there was no schlepping of bags and children and carseats particularly far. We located what we thought was our car on the Avis board, get locked and loaded and head out. Except. The car code doesn't match the paperwork they handed us. Hm. Do we have the wrong car? That's what they are telling us. We were pretty sure we could read our name on the board though and count to 09. After some admirably cranky yelling by the older woman at the gate to the tweenagers running the show inside the booth, we discovered that we had the right car---they had the wrong name. I didn't get a good look at the card but I think it said something like "Reichman". All I could think was "Hoffman, Reichman, all those Jewish last names must look the same in Texas". Unfair? Probably, but it made me laugh. We get out of there, find the highway that will take us an hour and fifteen south to the middle of kind of nowhere wherein my parents and their huge dogs are waiting. Yeah, see, we weren't in *Austin*. No. We weren't even in New Braunfels or Seguin or San Marcos. We were in Canyon Lake, sort of. I think in the summer it is probably a lot more hopping, what with the boating and the tubing on the Guadalupe River and the horse riding and all that. In the winter, well...anyway.

We find the condo, unload while stepping over dogs et al, try to figure out bedroom configurations for six people and two rooms. It was maybe a little cramped but we finally sorted out the best arrangement and people mostly slept all right, though I'd have to say that resort needs to upgrade its pillow choices. Lumpy McRockersons. Trying to keep the kids on California time meant we didn't have to figure out dinner until about 7 pm, at which point we cruise into happening downtown Sattler to a Chinese restaurant recommended by one of the teenage staff at the resort. At first glance, it was a bit 'let's gird our loins for gummy and cloying sweet and sour pork products' -- essentially a log cabin with the most egregiously un-PC illustrations on its signs. We walk in to a silent and nearly empty restaurant with the barest of furnishings -- but actual Chinese people staffing the kitchen and front. Heartening. Well, as it turned out, that was some of the tastiest inexpensive Chinese food I have ever had. Gene and I agreed that we would happily eat there if it were plop in the middle of the Bay Area amid all the other myriad Asian offerings. The waitress was a doll and it seemed like Dad was in the kitchen turning out some excellent crispy tofu with vegetables; whatever the situation, it was a good start to the trip.

Brief stop at the surprisingly well stocked grocery store, at which I chuckled to see the standard sign in Texas: "The unlicensed possession of firearms on this property is a felony". Actually the restaurant had that sign too -- EVERY place in Texas has that sign. I realize a lot of people would find that horrifying at best, but you have to understand, this is Texas, and trust me, no one whips out their licensed firearm and starts shooting up the joint. It's just part of the culture, and please for God's sake no one go off on me about how this culture pupped George W. and thus is the problem with the country today blah blah blah. Texas came into the Union as an independent republic and there is still an underlying sense that if need be, they could go back to being that, so you might as well be ready to take care of business if it arises. They will tip their hat to you beforehand, though.

Okay, tangent, sorry. Gene and I went up to Austin Sunday night to have a much anticipated overnight away from our darling but constant daughters; had a good dinner at a place called Louie's 106 where all their wines were half off. No, I'm serious, ALL of them. We took advantage of this by ordering a '94 Far Niente Cabernet and I had the world's strongest Negroni prior to dinner. While this was greatly enjoyed, it did obviate the possibility of stopping next door at the famed Driskell Hotel bar to have a nightcap. I ordered leaded coffee just to be able to walk back to our hotel, and that is sort of embarrassing, people. Clearly, everything really is bigger and better in Texas. As much as I tried to sleep in the next morning, apparently my body doesn't like staying that way past 7 am (9 am Texas time), so I read some of Conrad Hilton's autobiography found in the nightstand drawer. Can I just say, he would be appalled at his descendants, and I think his mother is probably still spinning in her grave like a lathe.
Went to brunch with a friend from California and her husband; they had moved to Austin four years ago and are happy as clams, particularly since Austin has poached Santa Cruz' slogan: Keep Austin weird. Let me assure you, Austin is pretty weird, though at the same time, it's still a south-central Texas country town. It's actually an incredibly appealing mix, and I could easily live there. Being able to wear my cowboy boots and jeans with a nose ring and tattoos and having no one bat an eye, well. Appealing. Anyplace that expects good manners and thank you notes but still supports a thriving alternative community? Rock ON. Drive back to the teeming metropolis of Canyon Lake, kill the afternoon, try to figure out what to do for New Year's Even dinner when you've got two small ones in tow. We were going to try this place in Gruene called The Gristmill; Gene called and was informed "no reservations taken but between 6 and 7 pm? NO PROBLEM". He grills them a bit further, and they stick to their guns. We get down there and what do you know. Forty five minutes to an hour. There is no way in hell I'm making my kids stand outside in 35 degree weather for an hour waiting to eat. So this starts our odyssey to find food -- any food. I won't go into the gory details, but suffice it to say -- not easy. We finally end up back at the condo an hour and a half later ordering pizza. Hindsight being 20/20, yeah, we should have just done this to begin with or I should have cooked. Anyway, get the kids into bed, watch Elizabeth I that my parents brought (quite good, that) and remember to drink champers at about 12:20. The most exciting NYE in history? No, but pretty much what we could all handle. Spent New Year's Day in San Antonio with my cousin Josh and his wife and daughter (about 2 months younger than Peabo) eating fajitas and watching football. As his awesome wife said "this is New Year's Day, Texas style". Indeed. The next day my godmother stopped in on her way from south Texas to a town south of Austin, after which time she was driving the 500+ miles back to Alpine. Yeah, see, this is also part of Texas culture. It's so damn big, but people think nothing of driving miles upon miles upon miles. Of course they fly too, but the whole road trip thing is just what it is. Hard to explain, but I don't get the same sense in California. I suppose having a lot of flat land helps. Whatever, it was really fun to see Ellen and have her meet my girls, and hear updates on people I vaguely remember from my small days in Alpine. It was also discussed how my parents apparently did not realize quite where Alpine was when my dad applied for the job at the university there; Dad had supposedly said to Mom "okay, you're from Texas, where the hell is this place?" Mom thinks and says "Alpine. Hills. Oh, East Texas". Yeah. Not so much. It's not that my mom is vague about geography in general, it just points out how freaking HUGE Texas is. We asked Dad when they figured out where Alpine was, exactly, and he said "you know, pretty much when we got off the plane". I can only imagine the paradigm shift.

More tangents, sorry. Heather drinks coffee. So the next day is our departure, and we also have to find a place to ship a box home. Yes, as per grandparents everywhere, my parents had brought a lot of admittedly great stuff for the kids and us to some degree, so the pack 'n' ship hunt is on. Apparently, no one in Austin ships stuff. Anywhere. I will spare you the details, but we finally find a little independent place completely accidentally, and they even give us the box, which was just very nice, and very Texas. Have an early dinner with my parents near the capital building, after which time they are going to drive back to McKinney, and we mosey back to the airport. Our flight was surprisingly on time, helping soothe my fears of monster delays due to the storms that were supposedly hovering over home; for two and a half hours of the flight, I managed to keep Peabo entertained, particularly since she had taken a shine to the people sitting behind us and kept wanting to stand on my lap or her car seat and shout "Hi! Hi!" at them. Fortunately they were lovely and thought it utterly charming. But oh, the last hour. It was already past bedtime California time, and waaaaay past on Texas time. We had 'that' kid for about 10 minutes before she collapsed into slumber in her car seat. No one seemed to mind too much except for this snotty little 13 year old in front of us who was practicing her stink-eye. I can only hope this was good birth control. If I can help but one person...needless to say, Bean curled up on her carryon bag and fell asleep. Thank god for mellow five year olds.

We got home about 9:30 and can I just say, so happy to be home. So, so happy. Our dogs were so small! So well behaved! There was so little...stuff! around. I do love my parents dearly, but they have this unbelievable ability to travel with what seems like everything they own, rather like the turtle. Two enormous and unruly dogs only add to the festivity, as you can imagine. I will say this, though -- unless I absolutely have to, there will be no air travel with the Peabo until she is way closer to two. I know two year olds are your basic asshole, but at least then she will be under her own steam and if we have to walk to the bathroom forty times, so be it. My hope is also by that point movies on Dad's laptop and stickers and coloring books will help kill some time. Still and all, we survived, and even got an overnight that was much needed. Having brunch with my friend was wonderful, and I loved seeing my cousin again. And for what it's worth, I love Texas. It's wacky, yeah. It's not for everyone, yeah. It's damn hot in the summer, yeah. But as far as I have a continuous sense of 'home' in the States, that's it. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but Texas was and is always where we seem to have family in nearly every corner of the state, and I know I sound like a broken record, but I love any place where I can wear jeans and boots and yet being polite and respectful and well mannered isn't an option, it's the ONLY option. It's sort of Southern, mostly Western, but entirely Texan. In a perfect world, I'd live in Austin, but for now, at least I know the rental car place isn't a hell of a trek.

by at January 05, 2008 9:53 AM | TrackBack Comments

Hey Heather,

Enjoyed your post. Vero and I learned how
to SCUBA in Canyon Lake (hand feeding beenie
weenies to the catfish was the highlight :-).


Posted by: Bill on January 14, 2008 2:54 PM
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