Austin, Texas

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Cowboy Hats, Guns, Over-Zealous Christians, Patriotism, J.R Ewing, Heat, Belt-Buckles, JFK, BBQ, Country Music, Desert, Tex-Mex, SIZE…

Just some of the things myself and others proclaim when asked what comes to mind when thinking about The Lone-Star State. At least 85% of these i experienced on our tour of this fabulously intriguing place. Shit happens in Texas and our experience of it was to be no different…

The drive from Louisiana to America’s largest state took us, at least part of the way, along the Gulf Coast. And as i was low on oil at that time, i decided to scoop up some of that ol’ Coast liquid and you know what, it kept me running all the way to Canadia! Thanks BP…

And as we headed inland towards our destination of Austin, a city with a rep that exceeds the State it’s housed in and that we were both proper excited about, the surrounding topography surprised the b’Jesus out of me. I expected monotony. I got England! Check this out

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That’s not what you think of when you think of Texas, huh?
Once in Austin we were staying with Sammy and how that came about shows the true warmth and friendliness of your average American. A guy we met at ‘THE’ house party in Memphis, the one shining light, emailed his friend the night we told him of our plans to hit up Austin and they came up trumps, saying we could stay with them for our entire duration (5 days). You see, fellow English people, not a flakey behavioural pattern in sight. The guy said he would do something and he did it… take heed you mongrels…

Everyone we have met on our journey up to now who had been to Austin had raved about it and most said it was their favourite U.S city and some of these people were those whose opinion i respected. So it was ON!! Now, i knew that because of the Anarchistic beliefs of those whose abode we were heading to not to expect too much in the apartment stakes, having learned from my previous errors of judgement. And when we finally arrived, on this wonderfully warm and sunny day, i was glad i listened to myself! It’s always slightly stressful when you are heading somewhere you’ve never been to stay with people you don’t know. The Lord knows we have done it so many times already on this trip and will continue to do so many times I’m sure. And when we rocked up in the ‘hood of Sammy and Co, it was the Proper Ghetto!!! And at first i was thinking ‘Our van is gonna get trashed here, in less time than it takes to chase a cat with a pound of Stilton’. But once we were given a spot in the gated car park, i felt 4.173% better. The house we were staying in was rancid. No other word can describe it. Well, i guess a few others can. For example Fetid, Putrid, Lurid, Bilious… It stank of a mixture of dog, smoke and Satan, hadn’t been cleaned since World War 1 and was covered in a film of grease that reminded me of the films Grease AND Grease 2. However, I, being a judgement free zone, made no such thing… other than ‘These people must be grossly unclean’!! But they weren’t, they were friendly, open, intelligent, charming, warm and inviting and so it just goes to show, cleanliness ISN’T next to Godliness, that’s just a line from a bunch of control freaks to make you think God won’t like you if you hum.

Gil, the name of the dude who set us up with this ‘home-stay’ from Memphis also turned out to be here too. Now a few li’l words about Gil if i may.  Gil is one of those guys who lives his life the way HE wants to, by his rules and no-one elses and i respect him greatly for this. He doesn’t seem to have two pennies to jam into his nostrils, let alone rub together but he still manages to cross this vast country and experience it and its people in all its glory. He hitchhikes, walks, sails and crawls (maybe… I’m sure he has at least once) around America, couchsurfing, sticking up Anarchic posters and generally trying not to live the way the establishment wishes him to. Oh and he’s 19…! NINETEEN!!! I am constantly meeting teenagers who have done more in their short life than i have in my middley one! It’s amazing, i truly love it, seeing young people live by their rules, being ballsy enough to be doing what they want, where they want, not giving two hoots and a quack what other people think

Gil is a man of Indian descent with a very ‘andsome look, almost Prince-like and with a good brain, he wears a leather jacket and the same pants for a few days on the trot. This all makes me like him a very tiny amount more. I can’t tell you why. It’s none of your business quite frankly. But i enjoyed his and his lady’s and her housemates and their friends’ company. However, i do feel had i not been there, maybe their friends would have been better off…

I’m gonna tell you a story in my best Max Bygraves…

A group of us were walking around the city one early afternoon. The sun was out, so were my pre-cooked chicken drumstick like arms (in colour, not shape and size, that would be both David Lynch-esque and Vulture-fearingly terrifying). Mike, a really lovely young chap, had his skateboard with him and chancing upon 3 flights of concrete steps, decided to try to skateboard down them. These were the new kind of steps that lead down to a building, probably housing accountants, administrators and the such, sandstone in colour, ending at a path that was bordered, on one side at least (the right) by a lush green lawn that happened to be receiving its weekly manacuring by a man with a large biped-driven mower. Along the side of the stairs that were closest to the lawn, following them down to their conclusion, was a smooth surface, about 2 feet wide.

Now, i cant draw it here, it’s not saving properly for some reason but you get the gist I’m sure. As you looked down the steps at the bottom right hand-side was a big heavy metal lawnmower positioned on the edge of the lawn by the path. This is why I’m describing this in detail…

So Mike tries to board down the steps but fails after getting only a few feet. And because i am one who wants people to achieve their aims, in most scenarios, i point out to Mike that next to the stairs there is a ramp he could go down instead. I didn’t tell him to go down it, i didn’t put my hands under my armpits and wiggle my elbows up and down, providing mimicry of a farm-yard bird and i certainly didn’t say ‘Mike, if you don’t do this, you are a half-man, half-pansy flower petal’. No, i merely pointed out that in his quest to use his skateboard as a device for reaching the bottom of the stairs, he may be more successful if he went down the smooth ramp adjacent to them. And before he could be warned of the perils of such an undertaking and i guess before he gave himself time to enable fear to make the decision for him, he flew onto his board and aimed himself downhill on the ramp of EXTREME DECAPITATION!!! (please don’t read on…) There were three ramps to navigate. He made the first ramp and hit the flat at quite a speed. He made the second one and hit the next flat at about 120 m.p.h. He even made the final ramp, gathered about another 735 m.p.h and hit the last flat before the jump to the path below…

Which is when the horror that life can conjure from its depths grabbed this situation and shoved its forehead right into Mike’s life’s conk…

It wasn’t the fall that caused the damage, as luckily he missed the bottom of the steps and therefore potential ankle snappage. It wasn’t even the landing on the ground at Mach 4,016. It was the dastardly placed heavy metal lawnmower that, as Mike rolled toward, stood firm to deter all possible attacks by skateboarding hero’s, placing its big heavy handle solidly against his right eye. And the feeling that i initially experienced as this event unfurled itself in slow motion before me was akin to the feeling you get when you see an accident happen and then someone get up appearing to be unharmed, only to notice seconds later that their arm has fallen off… The gardener just sat and watched, choosing not to go to Mike’s aid when he saw blood gushing. Maybe he was annoyed that his verdant lawn was now somewhat rouged but to Mike, this was a lack of compassion that he, nor I had i been in that situation, could handle. So a big, bold FUCK YOU was tagged in permanent marker on the Orwellian machine as the gardener swanned off into the building, with an unintentional red squiggle seared right through it from Mike’s volcanic-crater-like eye wound. It didn’t help that my travel tart started proclaiming ‘You told him to do it, he wouldn’t have done it had you not said to, it’s Saul’s fault everybody, IT’S SAUL’S FAULT!!! Of course, it wasn’t my fault that Mikes eye had a gash just above it to rival a proper, real, overused gash. But i still felt a tad responsible and so an hour later, when recovery mode had started to kick in and after he had bought some superglue to stick it back together and some cheesy crisps, probably bought with a thought along the lines of ‘Well, I’m gonna bleed to death so i may as well get cheesy-crisp-cancer too’, i bought him a pizza slice and took some photos of rad street art such as this by Shepard Fairey…

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as well as of a sweet American automobile, possibly a Plymouth…

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I was hoping that the skateboard incident was to be the one and only time i was to see gushings of blood during my time in Austin. And i believe it was.

There were many cool things to do in this city, too many for one visit. But as my travel beau and i are keen to get as much out of our experiences as possible, we tried to do them all.
As in Portland, Oregon, Austin is littered with food trucks selling every sort of nourishment the body both does and does not require.

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At one end of the scale, we experienced an amazing taco truck. At the other end of that scale, my soon to be Birthday Braud did what all soon to be Birthday Brauds should do and got her cupcake injected with whipped cream…

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from this li’l establishment…

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And having heard that there is a sweet shop that sells chocolate covered bacon, we went on the hunt, found it and although they were out of the bacon, i did sample a New York Egg Cream, a soda containing chocolate, soda and yep, you’ve guessed it, zero egg and even less cream. And although it wasn’t chocolate covered bacon, it was a soda.  And it was also the most Wonka-esque sweetshop i ever went in.  See for yourself

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We also yammed ourselves silly at George Bush Jr’s favourite Austin BBQ restaurant and the number 1 voted BBQ Restaurant in the whole damn State, Iron Works BBQ www.ironworksbbq.com (if you click the link, go to the bottom right hand-side of the page and see for yourself).  And i gotta say that it came pretty darn close to what Memphis’ Central BBQ had to offer, although there is something about wet bbq that just does it for me over its cousin, the dry kind (Texas = dry, Memphis = wet, got it?!).  But hey, if George Bush says it’s his favourite, then it’s mine too.  After all, he’s spot-on about most things, right?

Austin is also a very pretty city to look at during the night-time, although you’ll have to take my word for it as i only have these shots and they probably don’t do the place justice. Although, George Bush Jr likes it too so…

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Clearly the local government knew we were coming to town as they put up this sign in our honour

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We hit up a Tuesday Night Slam Poetry event one… Tuesday night and boy, there is some SEEEERIOUS talent in Austin. The place was jammed to the rafters with clever wordy-talkerers and people willing to cheer or cuss anything they heard. It was awesome! They even had in residence one of America’s poets of the year, a fine filly who, although said a lot of things about a lot of stuff i didn’t quite understand, did say a lot of things about a lot of stuff i did understand and i thought THAT stuff was wicked. I guess i just assumed the stuff i didn’t understand was probably wicked too cos i clapped well ‘ard…

Another thing that i noticed about Austin that i didn’t notice about the rest of Texas (mainly cos i didn’t see many towns or cities) was its huge Hispanic population.  Now, I’ve gotta say, i think one culture that we’re missing out on in England/Britain/UK/whatever is the Hispanics.  The food cooked up by these tanned-titans of World cultures is just SICK.  And that’s SICK in the way that Americans mean it to mean, not SICK in the pukey way we meaningly mean it to mean.  I’m gonna go off on one in a minute cos quite frankly every time i think of this, a li’l shiver runs through me bones and i salivate insanely, but for me, the Taco is the World’s tastiest snack.  Not that shizzle that you get in English supermarkets, packaged as Old El Paso Taco’s, but actually produced and packaged in Croydon (maybe) in their Wild-West-depicting yellow boxes that contain ‘Everything you need to experience the authentic taste of Mexico in one novelty box’.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NOOOOOO.  I mean a REAL TACO.  With fresh coriander, pinto beans, onion, salsa and meat/prawns/avocado, and placed on a (for me soft) tortilla, made there and then by a ‘mango de manila’ who gives a shit about what people are putting into their bodies.  You can generally pick them up for a buck or two each, which means that for less than a fiver, you can eat two or three of these delicious morsels, wash it down with something liquidy and then snog for the next 3 hours knowing that you’re belly is satisfied even if your snogger isn’t (due to the onion consumed, not the technique undertaken!!) Other things i love about the Hispanics is their penchant for a right dance-off, their incredibly friendly demeanour and the rounded booties of their women, generally seen amongst men who like such things as the greatest bee-hinds on’t planet.  For the first time in my life, i went into an Hispanic supermarket (i love supermarkets of other cultures, fascinatingly more interesting than our own back home… just stay away from meat and fish!!) and within this dimly lit David Fincher-esque building, was a small kitchen that looked like it had just been dragged kicking and screaming from its home on the streets of Mexico to Texas, which, really, is still Mexico, just with some very patriotic white people who happened to move in and decide twas to be theirs.  As hunger had struck, or probably just because i saw the word Taco, we decided to check out this strange li’l place for its stomach filling abilities.  If you’d have seen it, you’d have thought us mad.  But madness brings its own rewards and we were to be rewarded with some of the best Mexican food i had ever eaten.  And you know what?  Because of that place, i don’t think you’ll ever catch me in one of those ‘Mexican’ restaurants back home again.  Y’know, the ones where at happy hour you can get 2 jugs of Sangria for £10 and some tucker dressed in more cheese than it takes to induce a heart-attack on a Bison, whilst listening to ‘Manu Chao’ or ‘Masque Nada’ for the seven thousandth time!!  In the UK, any food sold in a supermarket isn’t fit for the street pigeons in Bermondsey, but here i would eat every day of the week, 5 times on a Sunday!!

It’s not just food and Hispanics that Austin has going for it though, OH NO.  It has some pretty impressive nature and landscape around it too.  One day, which just so happened to be a certain lady’s birthday, we went to swim in a natural spring, which proved a li’l too cold for me (skinny dipping in freezing water in my white see-through underpants in front of some strange folk never rang my bell if you catch my drift…) but not for my peripatetic partner who was a tad better prepared as you will see…

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and then headed toward a huge natural ravine, which from these pics, wouldn’t make you think that in the height of summer, its half full with H2O, which if you look carefully at the first shot, you can see a waterline of…

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There, we met some more friends of friends who were totally cool hippie types, totally interested in what we were doing, so interested in fact, that they took us to the little camp they had made up in the woods for when they needed a li’l solace with nature and gange! It was amazing, this li’l Stig-of-the-Dump palace in the woods, a perfect retreat that was totally in tune with the surrounding environment, made entirely of sourced materials and it even had a romantic hammock-for-two attached, for swinging away on those searingly hot Texan summer days. No doubt by the time you have read this (which should have only taken you a fortnight) some Republican Capitalists will have destroyed it as part of their campaign against free-thinking radicals!

On the way back from the Ravine, we stopped off at the local supermarket to grab our sustenance for the next day or two.  Notice i used the word Grab just then, not purchase, buy or barter for.  No, i used the word Grab.  I did this for one reason and one reason only and that was in the name of Dumpster Diving.  Yes, in true Anarchic form, our host Sammy refuses to pay for her groceries when food fit enough for the King of Barking is tossed away every few days from her local supermarket.  And who the hell can blame her.  The things we picked out of their were totally edible, though out-of-date, totally fresh (oranges, apples, pears) and totally FREEEEEEEEEEE…!!!!!  The only free thing that we didn’t require but decided it was coming home with us anyway was the bit of rotten chicken that Sammy sat on but what’s a bit of foul-smelling farm bird in exchange for 816 loaves of bread, more fruit than you could throw at a child and cakes galore?!!  My first and most definitely not last experience of diving in dumpsters for food, though the local book shop owner wasn’t to keen on us doing the same outside his book store which seems ironic cos you can’t eat a book but you can leave it in landfill for 74 years before part of it becomes the Earth again (not the plastic wrapped around it though, I’m sure).  The Madness of the Modern World, when we step back and actually look for it, is apparent in all things…

That night, we hit up the coolest Cinema I’ve ever sat in, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.  At midnight every Wednesday, they show a film as part of their promotion, aptly named Weird Wednesdays, for only one buckeroo!!  And that’s just the start of the weirdness, although i guess if you go every Wednesday it stops being so weird (does something stop being weird with regularity?)  So, you sit down, as you do, and a waiter comes up to you and gives you a menu of WICKED cinema treats to order from.  You can get Burgers, HotDogs, PROPER Nachos, Beers, bottles of wine and best of all, a $5 milk-shake.  And hot-diggety-damn if that wasn’t the best shake this side of Jack Rabbit Slims.  The film they were showing on this particular Weird Wednesday was none other than ‘Fleshpot on 42nd Street’ (read about it here… http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062980/synopsis).  It’s one of those films that makes you think it’s at once both the worst film you’ve ever seen and one of the most realistic and kinda cool films you’ve ever seen. I guess it’s because the acting was so awful and the editing even worse but the film itself about as true to life as any film on the subject I’d seen that made me think these ‘ere thoughts. It’s the sort of flick that these days is shown on the wall at a warehouse party in Dalston to create a sense of creative destitution that, when the viewers eyes shift away from said wall and glance around at the party scene, doesn’t need to be said with a 70’s Sexploitation film! We sat through the pre-movie introduction by a man, i sipped my $5 shake and had 8 mouth orgasms every pop, then gazed at Fleshpot on 42nd Street thinking how grim it must be to a) be a man who puts himself in a prostitute and b) to be a prostitute who has to have a man inside them who they probably don’t like very much…

Anyways, i went home, watched an episode of Frasier and crashed out in the camper knowing that a) i wouldn’t wake up in the house that bacteria built smelling of fags, dogs and Anarchy and b) my dreams would be all the sweeter for Niles, Martin and Daphne. Seriously, i am working my way through the entire Frasier back catalogue on this trip, i must have watched about 3 episodes a day on average, more when stuck in Trixie at night due to being in the arse end of nowhere listening to the sound of ice forming all around my skin-cocoon!  From 1970’s Harlem prostitutes to modern-day upper-middle class Chopin-loving shrinks in less time than it takes to stump up the cash for a night with a street lady!!  Don’t you just love being privileged…!!!???!!!

It was fantabulous to meet these young punky kids in Austin who were genuinely interested in us.  Refreshing too to break down a li’l bit of discrimination i had regarding young kids who live in squalor and don’t work very often. I am starting to come to the conclusion that a lot of people in the World only wanna talk to you about themselves and that surely doesn’t bode well for a compassionate society, does it? And yet here were a bunch of young kids, trying to make sense of the World around them, trying to figure out how to live the way they believe they should live, not how society expects them to live. Isn’t that what we all should be doing in reality?

For all of the perceived thoughts we have about Americans (the majority completely unfounded) they really seem to be an intelligent, compassionate, fun and unique bunch of people to hang out with. And yes, that even stretches to those weird Republican folk, as i found out on the next stop of our journey, in that city that’s named after the old t.v show, Dallas … Dallas

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4 thoughts on “Austin, Texas

  1. Every time I read one of your posts I think “It’s the best post ever.” I really like how you look at the US, your vantage point. Although I am 61 years old, I really get your experience with your skater friend. I would have told him to try the ramp, too! Knowing a whole big bunch of skater-13-year-olds makes me think that Mike (if he still has their mentality) will actually thank you for sending him down those ramps and into the lawn mower…it makes SUCH a great story for later. Skaters while away their spare time re-telling these hair-raising escapades. So you did him a favor.

    Mexican food is SO awesome, and I bet you are making your own really good tacos right now in London. If you want me to send you some proper ingredients, I can. Seriously.

    At the moment I have an absurd craving for a cupcake loaded with cream, and I think it might be your fault. Or Daniella’s.

    Did you sneak looks at Frasier while you were in Corvallis, Oregon?

  2. Does he live in Corvallis????? An opportunity most certainly misses!!!! And yes, i would LOVE some proper taco ingredients, i’m thinking of trying to open a place here in London!!!

    Thank you for reading and leaving comments, it seems that you are the sole heir to to my comments page!!

  3. What a wonderful time! You captured it perfectly, as always. Wouldn’t you just love to transport that amaaaaaazing Mexican supermarket here? Shame we didn’t get any shots, then again, that would have been kinda weird! Thanks for the memories. That cupcake…jeeez you think we could handle that sugar now?!

  4. I could handle your sugar!! We weren’t eschewing meat back then, not sure it would be the same for us now!

    Lets do it again sometime…

    x

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