What a trip: Austin, TX

This photo begins what will be a series of shots taken of bar menus
that feature drinks I hope to re-create at home. Just wait.

“You haven’t updated your blog in a long time,” Arrogant Smarmy Bastard said when I picked him up last Thursday for trivia. “I just got home,” I said. (Seriously: My plane landed at 7 p.m., I picked him up at 9.) “I feel like I’ve been so busy going places and doing things, I haven’t had time to blog about them.

Also, although I like to imagine that readers are breathlessly waiting for details about my every escapade, I’m not sure they’d be as interested as I was in my friend’s sons earning their high yellow belts in karate during my visit to Austin. But they did, and I was there.

One of my favorite moments was when I was taking surreptitious photos at the testing with my iPhone and the mom next to me asked, “Are your other kids in karate, as well?” and I just nodded and said, “Yes,” rather than trying to explain that I wasn’t a parent. It made me feel like I was getting away with something — and also I like to imagine that woman’s confusion when the actual Mr. Vane arrives at a later event and she tries to reconcile the different men that Sharyn apparently is cycling through.

Right after we left Grand Junction, Sharyn and I tried to visit each other at least once a year. I spent a holiday week with her in West Palm Beach, where she was a bureau editor at the Post; we took her to a show at the old 307 Lounge, where she would see Celia Putty’s Joan Crawford/Exorcist combo set that years later still gave her flashbacks. I was one of her attendants at her wedding at The Driskill — in fact, the profile photo of tuxedo-clad me was taken at the ceremony just as we were headed down the aisle.* I like to pretend that they named their second son Sam mostly after me (and the fact that Mr. Vane has an older relative named Samuel is just coincidence).

* Trainer Brian and I stayed at the Hotel San Jose, which I believe was my first “oh my God this is a cool hotel” experience.

Then all the usual life things happened, and this summer I realized that the same young Sam that I had last seen wedged into a child carrier is now old enough to be in day school. So as part of Sharyn’s present I flew down for a visit of a few days. (The more tangible Part II: The book Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange and a cool color of Chanel nail polish — I can’t remember if it was the Black Pearl at right or the metallo-citron Péridot.)

I think I was the perfect excuse for her to try places like East Side Showroom, where we ate dinner and I fell in love with a drink called the Corpse Reviver No. 2, and also the cool lighting along the walls. The customers and staff were hipsters, not hippies (one Foursquare commenter had called the venue something like “a little bit of Brooklyn in Austin”), which made me sigh a little because I’m experiencing Hipster Fatigue.** It appears the “Keep Austin Weird” folks aren’t exactly pleased about this, either; I noticed local shops with T-shirts emblazoned with phrases like “Go Back to Williamsturd.”

** Now that there’s even a major-network sitcom set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has hipster-dom reached the mainstream and thus lose its cachet?  (The show is cute, though.)

I made Sharyn take me to find UT-related garb — which, in Austin, is not particularly difficult, especially since there’s a giant multilevel University Co-op store downtown, where I had my photo taken doing the “hook-’em horns” hand gesture with a similarly oversize statue of Bevo. (Click the thumbnail to see the full-size photo in a new window.) I had hoped to also find a similar shirt with some sort of  Aggie slogan, in respect to a friend in Phoenix, but had to settle for an “I [shape of Texas where heart would be] BBQ” tee instead.  And instead of risking heartbreak while trying to replace my long-gone Nocona ropers, I steered well clear of the boot shops.

We did, however, hit Alamo Drafthouse, where we saw Attack the Block. (Very enjoyable, once you begin parsing the dialogue through the characters’ pronounced accents.) I just saw that the theater is currently re-screening Mean Girls — see thumbnail at right — which made me smile. I miss theaters that have a sly sense of humor about their offerings, and don’t just hew to a roster of new releases. I also loved the chain’s “SERIOUSLY, TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES” mini-movie; Sharyn told me that awhile back, even notorious hardass Texas governor Ann Richards was featured in one — see it YouTube here. (We, meanwhile, were treated to one featuring the writer and one of the actors from Attack the Block — see it here.)

My new co-worker Kat, a former Austin resident, had told me to have a Mexican Martini while I was down there. I had assumed she was joking, but it turns out that a variation of the drink was a staple at almost every bar and restaurant we hit — including Garridos, pictured top, where we ate on my last night in town. (We opted for mango margaritas there instead — delightful.)

But mostly, I spent a lot of time just appreciating that I could reconnect with someone who’s been very important in my life. Sharyn was probably a little worried about whether I would be bored while we traipsed off to school for parent association meetings or on my 1,000th Beyblade battle (“Three, two, one, let ’er rip”) or Lego Star Wars video. I, similarly, had wondered whether we would notice a devolution of what had been our notoriously similar mindsets, which had unsettled her mom years ago. (“You think exactly alike, you’re like a couple of sharks” was Lorraine’s actual phrase, I believe.)

But while we were driving around on Day 1, there came a moment when she said aloud, word for word, exactly what I had been thinking about saying but had feared would sound inappropriately bawdy. And that’s when I was reminded that great friends never really grow apart, no matter how different their paths in life may be. I burst out laughing then and vowed to stop thinking about our relationship and start enjoying it.

WHAT SAM WORE: 9-19-11
The shirt: Tipped-collar button-down shirt from Ben Sherman, New York.
The pants: Corduroy jeans from Uniqlo, New York.
The shoes: Custom All-Stars by Converse, a gift from Funny Michael.
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5 responses to “What a trip: Austin, TX

  1. Missed these kind of posts…wasn’t really into your music phase. I’ve been considering going to see an old friend of mine who I was extremely close to and haven’t seen in a couple of years. She lives in a little town in The Netherlands with a 10 year old and a 7 year old. Time to give her a ring. Thanks.

  2. Most favorite column ever!!! We miss you and your Beyblade battle skills 😉

  3. Smarmy Bastard....

    see, people read this thing…. and its Smarmy Bastard…

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