Headed out of the Truck Stop for Austin. This sleeping in truck stops is economical but not for your sleep. At times there have been gurgling Mac trucks idling next to Foxy Brown the whole night. My needs have gotten smaller and my tolerance is high, as long as I have a bathroom, fill my thermos with hot water and sleep in a safer place than a rest stop.
In the AM, I'm heading east on 10 and have 6 hours to get to Austin. The plan is to rendezvous with Ian and Jill, a couple I met briefly in SF.
Crossing Texas in April, the wildflowers make the highway a colorful blur as the desert gives way to lush vegetation and the rolling hills are painted thick with purple and yellow. “Yaw Missy, it’s the right time of year to cross Texas.” A local drawled to me. This is a fertile area and far from West Texas landscape. I pull into a little town called Fredericksburg settled by Germans. Hence the wineries, beer gardens, galleries and home furnishing stores line the streets of this small town. I’m craving a beer but resist the delay of my Austin arrival by forgoing the Beer Garden temptation. Driving on, we come to President Johnson’s hometown, where they have renamed everything Johnson. Heard the presidential library was excellent but still trying to make time.
I find myself a $12 a night accommodation in Austin at the Pecan Grove RV Park. It’s nestled inBarton Springs and looks like I’ve found the place that Austin folk go to unwind. The park is lush with rolling hills, picnic tables, a public swimming hole and hiking trails. I park the vanshower, and rendezvous with Jill and Ian at of all places, a beer garden in the newly developed part of Austin, by the airport. Diesel sits under the picnic table and acknowledges every plate of food that gets passed over his head. Jill is a writer and editor for American Fiction, a small non-profit and is working with the SF folks of Litquake for Austin’s version of the literary festival. Ian is a computer programmer, and an accomplished musician. In retelling my Marfa experience he blurts out that he knows Solange, Beyonnce’s sister. He sold her a song for one of her albums and she remixed it to end up in one of her movies. Small creative class here in Texas or at least they all know each other. Later Ian would take me around to the Red River Street scene and we would check out three different bars all with live music.
My first day in Austin starts with Jill’s recommendations. I head out to find the bookstore, Domy that she thought I would like and found myself lost and driving by her recommendationWally Workman Gallery. A woman smoking out of the gallery window greets me and I think I love her for that transgression. We discuss Ian Shultz’s work and she tells me he had a show in San Francisco and the galleriest left town with all of his work! I asked, “Which gallery?” sure that I would know it or know of it. She sheepishly replies, “Heist” on Geary Street. Well then, I can’t say I ever heard of it, but sometimes thieves hide in plain sight, as it would seem in this case. Wally Workman, and that is her name, gave me the tour of her gallery and recommendations on other galleries to check out. Loved Ian Shultz’s large expressionist strokes of his paintings and hope the painter can retrieve his work from Heist.
Finding my way to the other side of town, I enter Domy Books. A “creative space” and bookstore. Graphic Novels, self-published writers, a great art show and an event schedule for live readings. Russell, the proprietor loved Diesel and when he heard our story, was eager to give me tips on Austin and where to go. He knew Tim from the bookstore in Marfa and I was beginning to think I am in this network of fascinating people that are conspiring to keep me in their web. From there we headed out on Russell’s tips. On South Congress we hit the food truck and shop scene. A beautiful airstream ablaze with Hey Cupcake met me with a greedy eye. Musicians lugging equipment to their next gig. Dogs and more dogs, in the bookstores and in a beautiful vintage/object d’art junk shop.
It’s getting close to sunset and I take my leftover lunch from Magnolia Café and hike it down to the South Congress Bridge. There is a crowd forming for the spectacle of the flight of Bats that emerges every evening to feed. By 8pm the nocturnal creatures finally leave their roost and if it weren’t for the red searchlights from the tour boats on the river, one might not see them at all. Apparently, other times of the year make for better viewing.
My first foray into the Austin nightclub scene is to “The Broken Spoke”. Russell recommended it, as it’s a classic real deal Texas Honky Tonk nightclub with live music and two-step dancing. I enter the hall and there is a cover, the woman drawls, “You alone, honey? You gonna dance with men that ask?” I nodded and stuttered something about not knowing how to 2 step. She motions me to go on in, free of charge. I find a table with a woman in full western glitzy outfit. I sit really close to the band as they are tight and pulling me in with every twang on their guitar. Watching the dancing was like watching a free for all interpretation of the 2 step. There were college kids throwing their partners through the air and a ninety-year-old couple moving evenly and smartly through the crowd. Another middle aged man had a swing partner who put them all to shame. The band was tight and the dancers interpreted their music with a Honky Tonk glee. The band introduces the woman sitting with me as she used to play with them. Her voice roars out of this little woman with fantastic clarity and she takes the house down. I’m blushing with that instant fan feeling when she comes back down to sit with me. Jane has her own band now and we have a drink together while her new found fans come up and congratulate her on her fine voice.
Closing my first Austin bar and its only Tuesday.