Cheer Up, Austin

Trip Start Jun 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

           DAY SIXTY-FOUR:  The morning begins early, or at least early for us, for though we're all exhausted, the sand is now flooding through the glass in showing how much time remains before we’re due back home.  Oy, the trip is nearly finished!  Kuntz gets back by nine and, having not slept a wink that night (for having spent it on Bourbon Street with his girl, her friend, and their three flamboyantly gay roommates), he passes out immediately on the couch.  We collect our things to the best of our ability, and leave with a heartfelt goodbye, for so rare is it to meet people so generous and fun as Mika and his crew. 

            The day is honestly spent driving the whole time, eight hours or more from New Orleans to Austin.  We pass innumerable bogs, rusted or abandoned bridges over ravines or gorges lined by swamps that extend past the eye’s capacity.  At Mika’s recommendation, we stop along the way at a Specialty Meat Shop, which is not the bayou shack I’d expected, being instead rather clean and frozen and run by teenagers in themed shirts, but they do have alligator and turtle and gallon vats of "Hog Lard", and they do make their own cracklins, that disgusting deep-fried pork fat, not to mention jerky and boudin.  We grab a pound of boudin and holy dog’s breath it’s delicious, that tube-shaped blend of pork parts, rice, and spices, and then we keep going.

            From here on, through this spiky Southwestern sandbox, it’s just that serpentine strada, ever so frequently stretched out straight through the sky, and with these gaps of interest we are more frequently sleeping than not, or at least I am.  One such interruption is at one of a million truck stops; it is important to note that east-Texas truck stops are home to the most obnoxiously simple music on earth, songs sung with that omnipresent cowboy twang about idiots meeting  Most of us dissipate inside the shopping center, perusing all the C-class DVDs and cowboy shirts and crankshaft-inverting lippitoodles, when, having emerged from disgusting old Arby’s we find that before he could even pump the diesel, Kuntz has gotten the nozzle stuck in the bus completely.  This is not something that I have seen before, and I can’t suspect that many others of us had, just the same.  Of course, Kuntz being Kuntz, he’s unwilling to let it rest and wait for help; he’s disassembled the entire handle in no time while trying to proactively move toward a solution.  In that regard, Kuntz is never sleeping, to where everything with suitable time and effort invested should produce an appropriate result, so on and so forth.  One of a kind, that Kuntz; he hates this nickname.

            We get into Austin rather late and pull immediately to the house of a mutual friend, that of Andriod, named Anon while blaring through a version of “Gimme Shelter” that accidentally happened.  He’s an Israeli-born, American-bred Computer Science PhD with a solid and generous head on his shoulders, and he quickly climbs up to the roof with us to look into the night while discussing the nature of the military industrial complex and the moral consequence of his occupation within it.  We have difficulty in deciding to drive into town or take a taxi, and eventually Cornbread opts to take with wheel, breathing a little hot for it, not because he isn’t willing to, but because he’s tired of being the only one concerned with practical matters; he’s completely fair in this regard. 

            So Cornbread drives us where we need to be, which is at The Liberty, a colorful, particularly purple, adobe-esque bar with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on TV and a big, dusty courtyard in the back.  Behind the back, which is full of shirtless fat ex-cons with Hulk Hogan mustaches and High Life tallboys.  We make our way back to the end of the courtyard, where a mobile food cart waits, ready to serve friend beet fries with curried mayo, fresh papaya salad (som tam), barbecued pork belly with cucumber kimchi and hoisin sauce, and my favorite, sliced tongue bun.  All is drenched by us in sriracha sauce and supported by Lonestar, supposedly the Texan PBR, which sports slightly more flavor, and when everyone’s not mocking my driving skills (or lack thereof, they might say) behind my back, we’re readying ourselves to make it to the legendary food buses down the street, one of which serves the elusive chicken and waffles, the other, Texas BBQ.  We’re excited, oh yes, and though Anon’s friend, Larry, has just arrived with a beer and a double whiskey, we make him drain them (he’s happy to comply), and walk down the street.  Of course, they’re all closed, which is how things work, and what’s more, none of them are school buses, so our dream to build a bridge to mobile food knowledge and brotherhood has already crumbled at first step.  Thankfully, there’s a backyard bar called Cheer Up Charlie (two Wonka references in one night?  I LOVE this city already!), and when we set up there for a drink, everyone has already left.  I get a Pearl, a tasteless Fort Worth beer, and everyone else has Lonestar tallboys resting on a very uneasy table.  What can I say from here?  Larry seems quite like a steadier, more likeable character from Richard Linklater’s Slacker, but conversation is in the typical bar style, and as we’re the only people left in the bar, we leave for a favorite of theirs, whose name escapes me (I want to say Rio Tinto or similar, but who cares).  They have a Mystery Beer for $2.50, which is built for me, so very exciting and random, giving you whatever you get, and the bartender, an aging alternator with tattoos and attitude, referring to us as “Dudebro”, kicks us out when the clock strikes 2am.

            Back at the house, we take the whole thing over and Anon is, as have been all of our hosts, completely patient and generous.  We take over his entire house, sprawled all over the floor, trying to get his roommate’s fat orange cat to show us silent attention in the night; she hates us.  The roommate, meanwhile, arrives later and appears to be beautiful, but also quite drunk, and she passes out almost immediately into her room.
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