We got to Austin just before the sun came up and, thanks to G's mad awesome friends, had a place to crash until we could drag ourselves into daylight, intoxicated on misfit sleep, teeth fuzzy and pits stinkin' around 2pm.
G had already reserved a hotel (real-deal! No more couch crashing!) for the next few nights, and since it was finally check-in time, we stumbled in there, ga-ro-dy at the front desk of this marbled lobby where all surfaces are mirrored to look Grand, I suppose, but really just reminded me in every direction how greasy my bangs were. Upstairs we went, showered, changed - brand new people! - and headed down to begin our first day in Austin & prove to the hotel staff that we weren't just dirty zombie ruffians.
After breakfast & a big coffee at a crepe restaurant (where the owner spoke French! My ears swooned), we headed down to Lake Austin (which looks like a river, very confusing) and walked along it, rejuvinated by the perfectly gorgeous weather. It seemed like everyone was outside with their dog, that fine Sunday afternoon, and we watched big ol muscular dogs un-selfconciously belly-flop, the object of their desire bobbing just out of reach, and bitty munchkin dogs tottering down the path like overstuffed sausages with toothpick legs.
We crossed a bridge & into City Park, which was full of people enjoying the day; there were four guys playing a roving game of bocce ball, downhill, uphill, cheering like it was a football game, and there even seemed to be some sort of tutu party (yes, AB, we thought of you!) under a tree in the distance.
Shoeless, shirtless (well, him), we climbed a grassy hill and found our ideal spot; we could see the lake and the city skyline, people-watch and close our eyes to the sun. After a while of sitting there talking, watching dragonflies land on the cuff of my jacket and deciding that the next time we're here (when will that be?) we'd bring a frisbee, we rolled down the hill like in "The Princess Bride" - aaaaas youuuuu wiiiiiiish...
Ok, no, we didn't, but we wanted to; we walked down the hill like the sane & normal people we aren't, and found a nice flat spot for G to practice walking on his hands and me to practice spinning in a circle until I fell down dizzy drunk. It was one of two perfectly perfect outdoor Austin afternoons.
The second one was also on the lake; we rented kayaks and paddled our way downstream, past rows of turtles lined up on half-sunken tree branches, wrinkly necks and feet stretched taut to catch the sun (they need a tan to be attractive to other turtles, of course). It only took a few minutes of being on the lake to completely forget we were in the middle of a city; the traffic noise faded ghostly next to the alive sounds of birds and bugs and the slap of paddles on water.
We had the lake mostly to ourselves; G said, "I thought there'd be more people out - it's a beautiful day."
"It's a Tuesday afternoon; they're probably all working."
"Ugh. What are they doing with their lives."
Not this, I thought, not living.
I was quickly soaked from the splash of rowing (and had stupidly worn clothes over my bathing suit even though G had warned me and, really, I know better) so when G found rope swings tucked away in the overgrown trees lining the shore, I was game. We ended up on the island in the middle of the lake, G swinging like the monkey boy he is over a long stretch of land to a 10 point dismount into the water - once startling a female rowing team and once being filmed by a stranger who, I think, kind of wanted him to hurt himself for the sake of YouTube. I, knowing my lack of upper body strength and lack of rope-swinging experience, decided to try an easier one first. Good thing I did; from the minute I launched myself off the side of the tree, my grip was loosening and my feet were dragging, and I barely missed the rocks at the edge of the shore. Lame. So I jumped off gnarly roots & went swimming instead. Still fun.
We went as far as we could go until the dam cut us off then headed back, chasing the setting sun. We played bumper kayak wars til G resigned (you did! You said "I give up!") and admired the houses on top of the flanking hills, dismayed at how not a single one of them had a water slide into the lake.
As we neared the bridge, a main road and pedestrian walkway, G stopped, pulled my kayak over so we were side by side, and we both leaned back, drifting, enjoying the last patch of warm sun, looking up at the busy people scurrying above us with somewhere "better" to be. But you can't get much better than this. A few people looked down & noticed us, waving, smiling, a couple even taking pictures. We would be a story over someone's dinner.
The rest of our time in Austin was spent in much less healthy pursuits. Drinking in bars filled with filthy blues guitar, cabbing to kareoke bars to make fools of ourselves ("Purple rain..."), and eating fried pickles and reuben sandwiches at 3am. Our tabs were taken care of because G is friends with everyone; even people he doesn't know gave us things for free (like margaritas at Lake Travis).
We met up with G's high school friend, his wife & their new baby; they took us for Mighty Fine burgers (mmmm...), which had the coolest hand sanitizing machine I've ever seen (yeah, that sounds dorky but you would be impressed too, it's like a massager!), and we brought over beer and totally corrupted them. Hence this photo:
We had a lot of fun, I was impressed by their musical knowledge (the three of them, sans baby, are like a musical superpower!), and we laughed loud enough to wake the baby - but didn't. I got to see one of my high school friends too; we caught up over a couple beers & I wish I could've had dinner with he & his wife (also from high school) but alas, it didn't work out. It was great to see him though.
Our last night in Austin, G & I went to the Salt Lick, which is about a half hour outside of Austin but well worth the drive. OMG OMG OMG so delicious. I have missed southern BBQ in LA. We both almost got family style (all you can eat) but decided we wanted dessert too, so settled for a plate - which was still a ton of food. Let me just tell you, I had a BBQ baby a'growin in my belly that night, and I was haaaappy.
I was really sad to leave Austin. Especially because it was the last flight of my All-you-can-jet jetBlue pass. BUT it wasn't time to go home yet - I headed back to Raleigh, NC for yet another wedding!
I am so happy and grateful for:
~ good friends, food, drink, music, fun
~ living in the moment