Thursday, May 31, 2007

What I did on my pre-summer vacation: an essay in multi-list form

So is anyone still waiting for some sort of Austin recap? Sorry about that; it's been another one of those weeks where I somehow manage to forget that the Internet exists. I would like to say this means I've gotten all sorts of productive and satisfying things done at work and home, but frankly that is just not the case. Even without the Internet, I can still find ample ways to distract myself, it seems.

Anyway, I thought maybe I'd do a trip recap in list form, ala -R-'s recap of her weekend in Chicago, but if I did that, the whole post would look something like this:

  • Walking
  • Walking
  • Yet more walking
  • A little more walking
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Getting scoped out by a smarmy guy in an elevator
  • Walking, walking, walking
  • Eating
  • Eating
  • Extremely unimpressive hotel bar
  • Watching School of Rock in my hotel room
  • Walking
  • Horrible shin splints (legs and feet feeling like hobbled, bloody stumps)
  • Drinking
  • Walking

Sounds thrilling, I know. You all want to travel with me now, right? So instead, how about I start off by comparing my actual trip with my preview of fun facts before my trip? OK? Here we go.

  1. First off, I mentioned Austin's live music scene, and my fake boyfriend Bob Schneider in particular. Well, since hanging out in bars was the one part of traveling solo that I didn't quite manage to embrace on this trip, my time in live music venues was sadly minimal. As for Bob, he actually was in town during my stay in Austin, but he was playing somewhere not within walking distance of my hotel and on the night before my 5:00 a.m. wakeup call for my flight home, so I decided I would have to pass on the show this time. I did, however, see a guy who I am convinced must have been Bob's brother working as a waiter at Gueros' Taco Bar. Sadly, he was not my waiter, and I got no photo to serve as proof. You just have to trust me that a younger, possibly more clean-cut and innocent-looking version of Bob is roaming around Austin, and you might just spot him at Guero's. Yum.*

    * "Yum" serves in relation simultaneously to Bob, his maybe-brother, and the tacos and margaritas at Guero's. Did I really need to footnote that when the reference is actually right there directly above? Whatever. I thumb my nose at MLA and make my own rules, obviously.

  2. Despite being happily encapsulated within the "blueberry in the tomato soup," I still ventured over to the Capitol, mainly because it was within walking distance of my hotel** and because an indoor tour sounded like a good idea on an inconveniently rainy day. I also got a glimpse of the Governor's mansion on my way over, and I amused myself with the question of whether King George walked the mere block and a half to work during his stay there or if he rode over in an enormous and inefficient HUMV every day. You know my guess, obviously. Happily, it seems dissent is not unheard of, even in Texas. Yay.

    ** This trip actually proved, however, my long-standing statement that anyplace is within walking distance, if you have the time.

  3. Austin is, in fact, weird, but only in select pockets, I think. The pocket where you can buy a head in a box, for instance. That's just a little bit weird to me.

  4. Lack of sports leagues. Right. I actually don't have anything else to say about that. Does walking 13 miles in one day count as a sport? Is it in the Olympics yet? Likely not. OK then. Moving on...

  5. The bats. Yes. Let's talk about the bats, shall we? Supposedly, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue bridge every night. I saw about 20 of them. I remain convinced that the bats are an elaborate hoax stirred up by locals to give themselves something to point and laugh at every night. Hundreds of tourists, on the bridge, waiting pointlessly for a natural spectacle. I suppose I can't blame them for having a bit of fun with us, but I do think the signage is a bit much.

Well then. It seems that list format really is the best option for me tonight. Here are a few other lists, then, to round out this recap.

Cool things about traveling solo:
  • There's no worrying about what anyone else wants to do; it's all at my own pace, and all decisions (about where to go, where and when to eat, how late to sleep, etc.) are mine.

  • In the hotel room, all the hangers and all the bathroom counter space is mine! ALL MINE!! [*evil laugh...*]

Not-so-cool things about traveling solo:
  • Going to bars is really a "with friends" sort of activity, so a town that is very much about the bars and nightlife would maybe be more fun with a friend.

  • I can't let anyone else worry about orientation and map-reading skills; the not-getting-lost responsibility lies with me and me alone. (Though actually, this was rather a good thing as well. I am fully capable of being the map-reader on my own, and I could use more opportunities to force myself to go ahead and take that role.)

Cool things about my hotel (possibly the swankiest in which I've ever stayed):
  • The adjustable-comfort bed, which, set to the softest and highest-number setting, was about the squishiest and dreamiest sleeping surface ever.

  • The clock radio with the MP3 input, which worked even with my iFraud! (Nifty!)

Fun (and, in some cases, not-so-fun) things about Austin (and Texas) in general:
  • Just to prove they are the live music capital of the world, Austin greeted me with a live band even in the airport.

  • Everything really is bigger in Texas. The onion rings at Hut's were the most enormous I've ever seen. I really must get over my self-consciousness about taking photos on my own in public, because those "big as half of my face" rings really ought to have been documented.

  • That whole "Lone Star" thing is really just a fallacy. Texans will put stars absolutely anywhere they can.

  • Pens are not allowed in the Blanton Museum of Art. You know, because one of them might just leap out of my hand and subsequently irreparably damage a painting. To be fair, the nice guard who caught me scribbling in my travel journal on a bench did offer me a tiny mini-golf-style pencil to use instead, but still. Come on. Ridiculous.

  • Stefs-with-an-F really are everywhere, after all. The night before I stopped in, someone named Stefanie Fix played at Flipnotics. Who knew?

  • The Whole Foods at the Austin headquarters is bigger and more magical than any I've ever seen before. They have no fewer than eight sit-down restaurant spots! IN the grocery store! Some with beer on tap! In a grocery store! Plus, free wine tasting! And a lovely outdoor courtyard with a stream running through it! At a grocery store! Oh my.

Memorable quotes (or, rather, overheards, since "quotes" would imply conversation):
  • Lady on her cell phone in the seat behind me at the airport: "No, we don't watch Dancing with the Stars... I didn't even know there was a show called that... No, we watch Idol..." [and then, a mere 45 seconds later]: "Yeah, we went through a lot of that when Tom was getting sober."

  • Guy on the Flipnotics patio: "Puff the Magic Dragon is not about smoking pot."

  • Lady outside Magnolia Cafe: "Really?? I thought they were real, and she had a reduction..."

  • Kid next to the Congress Avenue Bridge, sticking his head inside his shirt to hide himself from the bats: "Now they can only get my hair... They don't really like my head, because it's mostly skull..."

  • Lady who remained as unconvinced as I was about the whole bat-surge phenomenon: "I have not seen ONE. DAMN. BAT." [and later...] "I want my money back. Where's that guy I gave $5 to?" and: "People are booing!" (Hee.)

So. In summary. Austin: cool town. Lots of bars. Lots of music. Lots of walkable streets. Not so many bats. C'est la vie.


NancyPearlWannabe said...

I am way jealous of your trip. Especially the Whole Foods part; I have a bit of a grocery store obsession and Whole Foods is at the top of the list.

Awesome pictures!

Darren McLikeshimself said...

Head in box. Makes perfect sense to me.

-R- said...

Did you not get my e-mail with pictures of the bats?

It sounds like you had a fun trip. Except for the bloody stump legs part.

L Sass said...

I have heard that the Austin Whole Foods is an amazing paradise! I hope to one day visit it. AS's best friend from college is marrying an Austin-native this summer. I'd hoped that the wedding would provide me with an excuse to visit... but they're getting married in Milwaukee instead. Read that again. Milwaukee. Uffda.

I've done some traveling by myself (in Europe) and really enjoyed it for the time to reflect and observe by myself. But I missed having someone to share the memories with, too.

stefanie said...

NPW--I actually rarely go there myself (because there isn't one conveniently located for me and it's so dang expensive anyway), but I had to check it out since it was the headquarters. If the ones in the Twin Cities looked anything like that, I might have to start going there.

Darren--Well, sure, right?

R--Seriously, it took about three days before I could walk normally again (i.e., not hunched over hobbling like an old lady). Ouch.

L Sass--Hey; what's wrong with Milwaukee?? :-) You know, there's actually an awesome Whole Foods there, supposedly, as well. Possibly even bigger than the one in Austin. My friend Carrie recently went there, and she said they even sell CLOTHING at that one. I can find out where it is if you're interested.

lizgwiz said...

Maybe the bats heard there was a hater in the house, and decided not to put on a show. Hee.

The head in a box store looks interesting. Did they also sell a Dick in a Box?

Poppy Cede said...

I find it hilarious when people start to spontaneously boo.

L Sass said...

The REAL reason I am less than enthused about the Milwaukee wedding is not Milwaukee itself (it's a cool little city). It is that we are compelled to stay in a fancy hotel for nearly $300 per night.

I feel certain that there are better hotel deals to be had in Milwaukee!! But, it's AS's pal, so he gets to choose.

stefanie said...

Liz--Yep; I'm sure it was all completely my fault. I'll have to apologize to all 200 other people standing on the bridge!

Poppy--I know, and booing at wild animals, no less! Too funny.

L Sass--Oh my; there are CERTAINLY better deals to be had than that!! Did you try Hotwire? Or did AS pick that hotel because it's where the wedding is (or where the wedding party is staying) or something?

Married Jen said...

I didn't get to see that Whole Foods when I was Austin! I'm so amazed. Of course I was like 23, with a group of college friends and barely remember being there.

Maybe Bush borrowed Al Gore's jet's or one of his SUV's :)! They all suck.

nabbalicious said...

I clicked on that link, hoping it was a picture of Gwyneth's head in a box. Alas, it's still awesome.

Sounds like you had a really fun time! Love the recap.

kerrianne said...

Beer on tap, wine-tastings, Whole Foods. Well, that sentence just sounded like heaven to me.

stefanie said...

MJ--I barely remember 23 as well. ;-)

Nabb--They sell a lot of things at that crowded little store, but no, Gwyneth's head is not one of them.

Kerrianne--I know, right? Who knew a grocery store could be so magical.