Monday, December 5, 2011

Austin, Texas, Come Over Here RIGHT NOW and LET ME GIVE YOU A BIG FAT HUG!!

Photo courtesy of and copyright: Sarah Bork Hamilton (2010)
Most weekends I am wrapped up in my wedding business but December is a slow month for getting hitched, so this past weekend I had an entire Saturday and Sunday to myself. There was a great temptation to stay in bed with the dogs and read-- possibly my favorite comfort activity. But the voices insisted that I get my ass up and do something. I think this might be related to Middle Aged Brain Syndrome whereby I have come to know myself well enough to recognize that the so-called Holiday Season is a potentially dangerous time of year for me. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a distinct possibility, and with it comes my holiday motto, "Keep the oven full so there's no room for your head." What I'm getting at is that common sense, at long last, seems to prevail. So realizing that lying around in bed can be the start of something bad, I dragged myself out into the world, determined to stave off holiday depression this year.

You have to see it at night!
In truth, I got a running start last Tuesday night, when I headed over to Mueller for the lighting of the NOEL sign atop my beloved air traffic control tower. This activity went beyond tolerable and into the arena of downright pleasant, and thus armed I got a funny idea in my head. I thought, "Wouldn't it be funny on several levels if I went to the John Aielli Christmas Tree Caroling and Lighting Festivities at the capitol?" I mean, I was actually considering doing this in a non-sarcastic fashion. Fast forward for a second-- I did not, in fact, make it to the event, but just the fact that I considered it is a sign to me that either a) I am finally lightening up after 46 years of hating Christmas or b) I actually am exhibiting signs of early Alzheimer's.

So what did I do Saturday? I started out with a yoga class at East Side Yoga, where Lance cheerfully kicked our asses, an activity in which we joyfully and willingly participated. Lance likes to adjust my poses and gently lift me by the head and ask, "Can you feel the difference?" And I'm like, "Duh, Lance, of course I can feel the difference, you're, like LIFTING MY HEAD FOR ME!" Maybe I can start doing yoga by proxy, whereby I stay in child's pose while Lance whips through forty sun salutes on my behalf, but courtesy of some Steve Jobs beyond-the-grave technology, my ass shows the sculpted results of Lance's efforts. I like this plan.

This is a picture of a balloon release that was part of the remembrance ceremony for Chris Kern in September. 
After yoga, I hopped over to Cherrywood Coffeehouse to catch up with Simon. Simon is one of my absolutely favorite people and we met in large part thanks to the beautiful memorial bench down at Town Lake that is dedicated to the memory of Chris Kern, who died twenty years ago, the victim of a drunk driver. It's a very long story how this bench brought Simon and me together, but let me just say that bench is magic, the energy in it amazing, and if you've never visited it, I hope you'll put that on your list.

Danny at Peacock makes my hair all pretty.
After Simon, I scooted over to Peacock Salon on the East Side because my ego had insisted I make a hair appointment with Danny back when I still thought I could be part of The Moth without selling my soul. Even after I discovered otherwise, I kept the appointment because Danny has been doing my hair off and on for 20 years, and he helped to raise Henry, and seeing him is always a hoot. As he was finishing up, I asked if there was a place nearby to get a plant, and he told me GREAT news: Big Red Sun, which once upon a time had a retail space, but then didn't, now does again sell plants to the public.

Big Red Sun is BACK! Yay!
Better still, Big Red Sun is just a few blocks from Peacock. I went in there right before they closed and it was like my Narnia or Wonderland or something. Just the two nice folks running the place were there, along with two nice dogs. Leonard Cohen was singing an especially maudlin, beautiful tune. The place is so gorgeous on the inside, and outside there are tons of succulents to choose from. I walked through the massive sliding door and had the backyard to myself, and with Leonard crooning I just took my time drinking in the succulent succulents until I settled on a couple. One for me, and one for Chris's aforementioned bench. Because Saturday was December 3rd, the anniversary of Chris's birthday. I usually remember it because it's the day after Henry's. For many, many years I took flowers or plants to the bench on his birthday and death anniversary, but I'd fallen out of the habit and wanted to change that.

I want to live in a house filled with succulents.
So I took a little succulent down to the bench, and Town Lake was deserted thanks to the weather. It was quiet and muddy and wet and gray. I was just there for a minute, but it was a minute full of a million memories, the countless times I'd been to that bench, the nearly thirteen years I walked around the lake nearly every day.

A truly terrible picture of the Mother Falcon show.
Then I scooted home-- by now it was too late to join forces with John Aielli, but still I wanted to go downtown because Mother Falcon was playing at the Frost Bank Building. I LOVE MOTHER FALCON and, bonus points, Henry's got friends in the band. Jill joined me and we found a miracle parking spot (this is my secret hidden talent in life-- good parking spots). We only had about twenty minutes because we were also heading to a play. So we strolled down Congress at a good clip, and there were tons of people out for a big, orchestrated Holiday Stroll. I could hear the Minor Mishap  Marching Band behind us, yet another reason I love Austin. But we didn't have time to wait for them. So we scooted down to the MF show, and lots of folks were gathered, sitting on these yarn-bombed yoga balls that I had seen just the week before at another event. (I am being followed by yarn covered balls, people!) In the very short period we were there, we witnessed yet another one of those SPECTACULAR AUSTIN MOMENTS that makes you wonder why anyone would live anywhere else in the world ever. The Minor Mishap band had made their way to the Frost building. They gathered, en masse, behind Mother Falcon and then, in a moment of unity I shan't ever forget, both bands played Johnny Cash's  Ring of Fire. OMG-- I am getting weepy just recalling it. It was SUPER AWESOME!

I am being stalked by these yarn bombed yoga balls. Not a bad thing. 
Then on to Zach Theatre to see God of Carnage featuring the inimitable Lauren Lane. I'm going to write a full blown review of the show in a day or two (hint: IT IS SO FUCKING FABULOUS BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!). After that, as if the show itself wasn't splendid enough, there was a fantastic after party with food by Austin Catering. Hello, world living outside of Austin? What fools you are!

Doesn't this explain a lot about why I like to spend so much time in bed?
I got home Saturday night so elated that an idea came to me. Instead of spending Sunday reading the NYT-- (totally pleasurable once I rip that GD Texas Tribune sticker off the front ENOUGH WITH THE TexTrib STICKER!!!)-- what if I stayed on a roll and went out again, and just kept the excitement going? I was thinking a lot about my old job with JetBlue where I used to write thirteen articles every week about how fantastic Austin is. That was such a good job that it was crazy-- to be paid fabulously well to go around writing love letters to the city. I decided to re-inhabit those days, to go for it, to skip NYT and seize Day Two of the free weekend.

What a splendid choice.

Sunday looked like this:
Meditation at East Side Yoga

A slow drive around East Austin with Ross-- Ross and I raised our sons together. We stopped at East Village Cafe, an awesome, seemingly undiscovered cafe on 11th Street. Then on to Cisco's for the migas-- my favorite place to get migas.

Cisco's Migas. Food of the Gods.
After brunch, I scooted home to put on my church clothes because I had a memorial service to attend. For those of you who did not know Joe Gracey, you can learn more about him here and here. He played an absolutely pivotal role putting Texas music on the map. I only met Joe once, when I had dinner at his place with him and his wife, the amazing singer-songwriter Kimmie Rhodes. Joes's story is stunning-- a DJ from age 14, cancer took his tongue and his voice when he was 28. He reinvented himself. He was so beloved. His memorial service was held at the new ACL Moody Theatre and around 2000 people attended. Joe Nick Patoski gave a great send-off, as did Joe Sears dressed as a preacher. The Flatlanders played and so did Alvin Crow and others. I don't think Joe would mind me saying that Austin is such a bad ass town that even the funerals rock.

Water bottles with Joe Gracey's picture on them at the memorial service.
Flatlanders open the memorial service. That's Joe Sears in the vestments-- he did a hilarious "sermon."
Post-memorial service, it was off to Jo's on Second Street for some hot chocolate. This was very good, but I confess that I will spend the rest of my life desperately seeking the chocolat chaud experience I had in Paris in 2009. I know it's not going to happen. But damn, I keep trying.

Drinking Jo's hot chocolate makes me look a LOT younger! JK, JK-- this is Jill, my weekend partner in crime.

From Jo's we went over to the Alamo Ritz for the Master Pancake Christmas Show. SILENT SHIT, HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE! Have you seen this? Owen Egerton, John Erler, and Joe Parsons ad lib their way through a bunch of Christmas show clips and they also throw in sketch comedy. I laughed so hard I think certain parts of my body won't ever recover. The show plays through the rest of the month and you really need to go see it. Sweet Baby Jesus these guys are hilarious. 
Me and the Master Pancake Geniuses!
You might think that by the time I got out of there I'd be ready to collapse. Au contraire! I was totally energized and even, oddly, felt like maybe I didn't hate Christmas after all. So I insisted that Warren and Anderson go with me over to this house in Clarksville behind Jeffrey's, where every year the place is covered in lights. A year ago I performed a wedding on this lawn, and that was one way I fought off the threat of Holiday Depression 2010. (I am really starting to get the hang of Not Hating the Holidays So Much.)

Then I popped by Toy Joy for a second to grab a magic wand for a friend of mine. I carry a magic wand with me wherever I go and it really helps me magically improve people's moods (including my own). I think I need to just carry a case of them and hand them out.

Toy Joy!
Post Toy Joy I swung by Wheatsville and procured some local chevre, some brie, and some Honey Crisp apples. These I shared with friends, before finally-- FINALLY-- going home to collapse in bed with the dogs.

A cheesy finish to a fantastic weekend.
What an absolutely fantastic weekend in Austin. I had been so busy for so long with weekend weddings that, while I never ever forget what a great town we live in, I sure had forgotten precisely how fun it is to go out on the town like you're a tourist. Seriously, you should try it-- forget about decking the halls. Just clear the decks instead, screw the housework and errand running, go out and enjoy our fine town, goldang it. OMG we are so lucky to live here!


clearspace said...

I saw God of Courage too. Look forward to your review. Enjoyed your tour of
Austin and agree we live in a fabulous town!

Owen Egerton said...

What a great weekend! Like an Austin guide to good living. And you do live so very well!