Friday, October 8, 2010

Texan Hospitality

Texas woos like a frat boy, with shots.  Houston hit on me brashly, under the fluorescents at last call; Austin was more subtle, luring me in with a sweet guitar solo pouring down 6th street, a cocktail waiting at the bar. 

I arrived in Texas red-eyed and exhausted but super excited to see my good old college friend G as he pulled up to the rocking chairs at the airport.  He's a musician in Houston and I jumped right into his musician's hours, taking a long afternoon nap that then kept me energized to meet him at 12am, after his bar closed, and go out for welcome drinks with his buddies til 3.

This also, I'm ashamed to say, caused a hangover the next day that only perpetuated the cycle I couldn't seem to break in Texas, of going to bed just before the sun came up and not waking til the afternoon.  That's ok though; Texas knows how to party.

Houston is a business city that seemed, to me, mostly sterile in the daytime.  Tall, sleek buildings and carefully groomed parks in the heart of it, and then, out by the stadium and what G calls "homelessville," squatty dirty clubs, chain link fences and, incongruous in it's affluence, his very nice, very new apartment building.  Someone's investment in gentrification gone sour.  But it's a nice building, gated, and he can bike to work so it's understandable, although I (usually somewhat fearless when traveling) didn't walk his neighborhood alone after dark.

Even though I was practically nocturnal, we still managed to do some cool stuff during the day.  We went to the Science Museum where we marveled at dinosaur bones (when they find a petrified egg, how in the hell do they know what kind of dinosaur egg it is???), warily eyed an exhibit on energy funded by BP (took the overly cheery kids ride down into a simulated oil well), and read up on immigration in the late 1800s/early 1900s (it slowly dawning on us that you could easily change the dates & country names to write practically the same story about our present situation).  We wandered through a beautiful park where we sat next to copious amounts of duck poo, made up stories about the goose sitting next to us (we named her Monica), and G did what he does best - climbed a tree.

We had some good Mexican food, drank veggie juice, and went to a riverside trail where I walked around examining the city skyline from different angles and swung on a swingset for so long that I got a blister on my hand.  I spent my last evening in Houston watching the full 6 hour dueling piano show he plays in, sitting alone at the crowded bar, and was not bored once; it was so much fun.  And he is a great musician and super amazing at his job.  If you're ever in Houston, go see him at Pete's - but make sure you've got your drinking pants on, the place is ca-ra-zy.

But my favorite night in Houston was the night I wandered the city on my own.  I don't usually do that; if I have friends in a place, they usually are off work and hanging out with me in the evenings, and if I know no one in a place, I usually stay at a hostel and meet people to hang out with.  But obviously, G works nights.  So this was a cool experience, even though when I first stepped on the platform of the light rail, feeling conspicuous even in my jeans and sweater next to the bums stumbling from the ticket machine, I thought what am I doing...?

My first stop (besides the stop I made because I went too far and had to go back - you're not really a traveler if you don't get lost) was The Continental Club where 80's cover band Molly and The Ringwalds (great name, huh?) were playing.  They were fantastic.  Another first - I've never gone to a live music venue where it's solely a dance floor alone; at first I felt stupidly self-conscious (no one to yell over the music to!  What do I do with my hands?  Do I look dumb dancing alone?) and then I slapped myself mentally with "you'll never see any of these people again & if you do, they won't remember you!" and just let loose.  So fun.

Unfortunately(ish), after they played, the door started enforcing a retroactive cover (lame!) so I headed out.  There was another bar next door, Big Top Lounge, a kitschy dive complete with a giant velvet elvis and a fooseball table; I was literally one of 4 people there but a band was setting up & the beer was cheap, so I decided to stay.  I'm glad I did because the Allison Fisher Orchestra, a damn good (and motley) blues band deserved an audience. 

During their break, I was sitting at the bar, texting chick and enjoying my PBR and olives (yes, I know it's weird - I'm a fool for olives!!), when the guy at the end of the bar asked me to dance.  Not to dance to the live music, no, to dance to the radio intermission.  It didn't take me long to realize he was drunk as a skunk and an absolutely horrific dancer, as he steps on my feet and holds me way closer than is comfortable between strangers.  But he's harmless and funny, and I haven't had anyone to talk to for hours so I humor him.  He tells me he's from New Orleans and I'm "right" (apparently a complement), and that he's a chef here in Houston.  He tells me he just recently slaughtered a goat; he wants to learn how to butcher every meat that he prepares.  Logically (and stifling laughter at the randomness of this story), I ask, "Oh so your restaurant serves goat?"
"No, I've never cooked it.  But my sister raised a 4H prize goat."
"Oh, was it her goat?"
Then he tried to dip me.

Later, when he pulled up a chair next to me at the bar & ordered a shot, I thought how I would word my refusal of said shot and the possible invitation home that usually occurs when a strange drunk guy asks a girl to dance at a bar.  But sweetly, wonderfully, the opportunity never arose; he took his shot, we chit chatted some more, and then he said nice meeting you and wobbled out the door.  The whole thing was actually kind of lovely in it's oddness.

Whenever I travel alone, I have a rule that I'm not to get drunk because I have to keep my head clear and find my way safely back to where I'm staying.  I'd had a couple beers and was feeling a little tipsy, so I decided to pop into the taco place next door, where I got a coffee (it was midnight but I knew G wasn't off til 2) and the BEST veggie verde taco I have ever had.  Tacos A Go-Go.  I sat savoring and sobering, enjoying the eclectic decor and the booth all to myself like a cozy king bed.

Sufficiently awake, I hopped back on the light rail going the opposite direction to The Flying Saucer, a large bar that boasts over 200 beers on tap (apparently it's a chain but I'd never seen it before).  I had a really delicious stout and laughed to myself at the girls sitting next to me drinking Miller Lite bottles - why would you drink that here?

Then it was almost 2am so I headed to Pete's in time to see G's last set.  It was last call, and within 5 minutes of being there, I was swarmed by drunk guys, flinging bad pick-up lines at me like slow-moving and mis-aimed arrows, desperate to take somebody home so their night wouldn't be a waste, even though they wouldn't remember it anyhow.  The first guy slurred like he was on sedatives, leaning in so I could smell his liquor breath, and even tried to grab my ass, but I could've knocked him over with my pinkie, he was so wasted, and I easily kept him at bay.

Then his two friends came over, buzzing like flies but not quite as drunk, under the guise of "sorry about our friend."  One was Scottish and the other Norwegian; the latter kept telling me I was a "beautiful butterfly" and the former telling him that was an insult because it implies that I flit from flower to flower (ha! Never thought of that before).  They stole my camera and took a picture of me, in all my butterfly glory, which resulted in this face <------------------

They were comical and actually nice, without the guts or drunkeness to do anything worrisome.  Though the guys behind me must've told me four times that they'd pretend to be my boyfriend if I needed saving.  I have never been hit on so much, all at once, in my life.

Of course, when G was done & came out from backstage to put his arm on my shoulder, they scurried away like so many rats.  The whole thing cracked me up.

On Saturday, after I got the full (and uninterrupted by any major flirtations) Pete's dueling pianos experience, G and I went back to his house, packed up and drove to Austin.  Yes, it was 3am when we left, no we didn't know where we were going to crash that night, (don't worry mom, he was sober and awake), but that was all part of the fun...  to Austin!

I am so grateful and happy for:
~ hanging out with one of my favorite people
~ an unpredictable night of adventures
~ live music!

xo!  n.

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