I’ve been scarce around these parts as of late, first because I had nothing to blog about (well, not really nothing, but my mind was fixated on the Texas FLDS compound raid and I seemed to want to blog about that but couldn’t produce anything beyond a long and rambling post that went nowhere, and the presidential race was really getting boring and even my family wasn’t saying or doing anything noteworthy, or at least not noteworthy enough to overcome my sudden blog inertia)–oh my goodness, where was I?  I was going to write a sentence, and I ended up channeling Faulkner.  You see what happens when you’re out of practice?  This is harder than I remembered.  So yeah, at first I had nothing to blog about, and then I had to go on vacation, and only now am I getting around to blogging again, and that only because I feel obligated to document said vacation before the memories fade away and all I’m left with is my souvenir refrigerator magnets. 

So Sugar Daddy and I decided last year that for our eleventh wedding anniversary, we should take a vacation together, alone.  Like a real one, lasting several days.  Originally, we thought we might go to Paris because SD fell in love with Paris when he went there for business a couple years ago, and he thought that I would enjoy it, too, despite my xenophobia, because it’s such a nice place, that Paris.  You know, it’s got the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and it’s the city of looooove and whatnot.  Plus, he wanted me to try real foie gras.  (The stuff in the can had not impressed me.)  Anyway, this was the plan until we considered the fact that Paris is in France, and it takes, like, 47 hours to travel there, and in order to make the trip worth the time and expense, we should probably stay there for about a couple weeks.  We didn’t think the younger two children were ready for us to be gone for two whole weeks, so we decided that Paris should probably wait for another year or two.  So, Paris being out, we decided to go to the second-most romantic place we could think of:  Texas!

What do you mean, you don’t get it?  What’s not to get?  You were expecting what, Hawaii?  Acapulco?  Some other tropical locale in close proximity to the ocean, the better to have moonlig ht walks on the beach with?  We saw the ocean on our first honeymoon.  We didn’t decide to spend eternity with each other only to live in the past, people!  Get with the program.

So yeah, we spent last week in Texas.  And no, we did not visit the Yearning for Zion ranch in El Dorado.  We went to Austin–the other city SD fell in love with while traveling for business, and which he knew I would love too, because of my great love of barbecue, live music and speaking English.  Frankly, it didn’t matter to me where we went on vacation, so long as I was able to sleep in and eat all my meals without holding someone on my lap.  Oh, and that we were together. 

I get bored with chronological treatments, so I will recount our visit thematically.

The Airplane

We had to get up at 3 a.m. Monday to get to the airport in time.  Madhousewife never wakes up at 3 a.m. on purpose.  Fortunately, I’m used to getting up at 3 a.m. against my will, so this wasn’t as big a deal as I was fearing it would be.  Not like I had to fly the airplane myself or anything. 

Two thoughts:  1) Economy class is so freaking uncomfortable.  Not that I’ve ever traveled anything but economy class, but still–it’s getting ridiculous, don’t you think, the way they keep cramming more seats together?  Mark my words, in a few years we will be packed in there like veal calves, drinking our own urine and wishing that we’d given money to PETA when we were still free.  2) They served us dry roasted peanuts for a snack.  I thought it was against the law to serve peanuts anywhere but your own home these days.  I mean, I was grateful for the sustenance–better than drinking my own urine, anyway (I assume)–but I couldn’t help but notice that dry roasted peanut dust was getting strewn about the cabin, and couldn’t that kill somebody?  Do they offer peanut-free flights?  Wouldn’t they have to maintain peanut-free airplanes?  I know most peanut-allergic people aren’t allergic to the air that peanut dust abides in, but what if your kid just starts randomly licking the seat in front of him?  Is flying still safer than driving?  I’m just asking.

Books read:  1)  Wicked by Greory Maguire.  Pretty good, I guess, but near the end I kept thinking, “I must not dwell too long on the larger themes this story suggests.  Either the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards, or I will get a severe headache.  Perhaps I should have just watched the musical.”  2)  Confessions of a Teen Sleuth by Chelsea Cain.  Chelsea Cain is a columnist for the Oregonian, and she is one of the funniest writers I have ever read.  At first I didn’t know whether I loved her or was insanely jealous of her because she basically has my dream job:  get paid for writing about the irrelevant.  Could this have eventually been my career if I’d stayed in journalism instead of pursuing my lifelong dream of bearing children and scraping dried fecal matter out of little boy underpants?  No, I am not jealous, I decide.  I love her.  Confessions is a work of fiction, a parody of the Nancy Drew series.  Not quite as good as it could have been, but still pretty darn funny.  Five bucks at the Urban Outfitters.  Not that I shop at Urban Outfitters, but the book and I just happened to run into each other there; it was like it was meant to be.

The Food

I can take or leave Tex Mex.  You know, I like Mexican food a lot, and you can’t get very good Mexican food in Oregon, except at the roach coaches in the Big Lots parking lot, or so SD tells me.  He took me to a taqueria in (freaking) Tigard once, which I understand was pretty close to roach coach goodness, but I haven’t actually tasted of the true roach coach myself because when I go out to eat, I like to sit down and have people wait on me.  Eating while standing is too much like being at home.  But I digress.  Where was I?  Oh.  So the Mexican food I’m used to is California Mexican food, and Tex Mex is different, because it’s got the gravy going on–and that’s fine, because I like the gravy.  It’s just not what I live and die for.  So I enjoyed me some Tex Mex because I was, after all, in Texas, but what I really want to tell you about is the barbecue because holy cow and other farm animals, that was some tasty crap. 

Our first meal in Texas was at the Salt Lick, which is about 30 miles (I think?) outside of Austin, in the middle of freaking nowhere.  Seriously, there are farm houses and stretches of land containing nothing, and then you have the Salt Lick, which doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but trust me.  It was de-freaking-licious.  Maybe because I had nothing but dry roasted peanut dust in my stomach prior to dining there, but I suspect some culinary talent had a hand in things as well.  Our last meal in Texas was at the Iron Works, which is a freaking metal shack in downtown Austin.  We ordered two sampler plates and a whole rack of pork ribs.  That may have been overkill.  But we were in Texas, you see, so it wasn’t, technically.  We felt a little bit guilty afterwards, and I kept telling SD to stop talking about how much food we ate and how wrong it was–couldn’t what happened in Texas just stay in Texas?–but he wouldn’t listen to me. 

My husband is better suited to restaurant reviewing than I am–I went straight from covering the pet and senior citizen beat to the whole poop-scraping gig, and my foodie vocabulary is sorely lacking as a result, so I apologize for not evoking mouth-watering images and pontificating about smokiness and sweet-tangy something-or-other.  Maybe I’ll talk SD into writing an ode to Texas barbecue joints.  Myself, I will just tell you that if you go to Driftwood and don’t get the Salt Lick’s cobbler and the pecan pie, you are committing a major sin of food-omission.  I don’t care if you don’t like pecans.  Unless you are allergic to tree nuts, you will order the pie and you will like it.  After you have eaten the cobbler (peach and/or blackberry), warmed and a la mode.  Don’t argue.  I’m through with you.

Because we are snobs and wanted to sample the upscale Austin-dining experience, we also paid a visit to Jeffrey’s, which comes highly recommended by George W. Bush, also known as the current President of the United States, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention to current events.  I didn’t order the fried clams, which are supposed to be W’s favorite–I’m sure they’re delicious, but I was more in the mood for the leek-and-brie tart.  (SD had the smoked foie gras because he always gets foie gras whenever it’s on the menu.  I had some, too.  It was good.)  Yeah, I had some tart and a baby romaine salad–at least I think it was romaine, it was baby anyway–and a beef tenderloin with cauliflower manchego gratin and mustard-peppercorn sauce, and then we split a Chocolate Intemperance cake for dessert.  Plus ice cream. 

I also ate some fried pickles at Katz’s.

Also noteworthy:  I drank more diet Coke on this trip than perhaps I have ever drunk in my history of diet Coke-drinking.  I’m not crazy about carbonated beverages, but lately I really get a hankering for the diet Coke, preferably with lime, but not necessarily.  This is the way Mormon housewives let loose.  We binge on diet Coke and barbecue.  When the kids aren’t around, I am a regular hedonist.

The Music

On Monday we were fortunate enough to have tickets to see Guy Clark, Joe Ely, John Hiatt, and Lyle Lovett at the Paramount Theatre.  I had seen Lyle Lovett in concert many times, but not in about six years.  I don’t get out to see concerts much, since I got married.  We saw Lyle Lovett six years ago and Nightwish back in November, and that about covers it, I think.  Anyway, when we found out Lyle was going to be playing in Austin, of course we had to go because he is my favorite.  He wasn’t with his Large Band, but it was just him and the other aforementioned gentlemen and their respective guitars.  They had no set play list, and they each just took turns playing songs and telling stories, and it was just a very intimate and casual show.  They were all four very humorous and charming and enjoyable, and musically speaking, it was freaking awesome.  (My formal training is somewhat limited, but I believe “freaking awesome” is the technical term.)  Seriously, just four extremely talented men with their guitars.  John Hiatt was in especially rare form.  That cat was amazing.  But they were all wonderful. 

As I said to SD, while it was a much different experience than a heavy metal concert, the thing I enjoyed the most was the same thing I enjoyed most about seeing Nightwish–just watching these people who love music and enjoy playing together, there’s something quite touching about it.  

On Wednesday night (Tuesday night being our night to hang out with SD’s cousin’s family–proof positive that some things are just in the DNA, but that’s another blog) after dinner at Jeffrey’s, we went looking for some more live music, Austin being the Live Music Capital of the World and all (take that, Paris!), and eventually ended up at Nuno’s, watching a very talented blues musician whose name we never did get.  His band was interesting, as his bass player appeared to be twelve, and they were joined by a trumpet player who appeared to be out of his mind.  Oh, we were hep cats, sitting in the blues club and sipping our diet Cokes.  I noticed that one of the ladies dancing up front had apparently had a C-section at some point in her life.  For some reason that detail stuck in my memory and the name of the band escaped me.  What can I say? 

My life being what it is, I haven’t spent a lot of time in bars, be they blues clubs or otherwise, but whenever I’m in a bar, I always think how depressing it must be for people trying to meet other people in bars.  Do you ever see a happy couple and ask them how they met and they say, “Oh, we met in a bar”?  I’m sure such people exist, but if I were reduced to meeting potential romantic partners in bars, I think I would spend a significant percentage of my nights crying myself to sleep.  Maybe it would be different if I drank something stronger than diet Coke.  That’s neither here nor there.

The Sight-Seeing 

We saw the capital.  It’s big.  Nice-looking, too–made of Texas red granite.  Very pretty. 

We visited the Museum of the Weird, located in the Lucky Lizard shop on Sixth Street.  Free admission with purchase of a t-shirt, but we didn’t care for their t-shirts, so we paid the $3 per person to get in.  Freak of nature stuff–Fiji mermaid, shrunken heads, two-headed cows and two-bodied pigs–totally messed up.  I would have bought a post card, but it was just too gross. 

We went to three art galleries.  The first had an exhibit of art by local high school students.  That was better than one might expect.  I was impressed.  Then we saw some contemporary art by emerging Austin artists at the Austin Museum of Art.  Our favorite was the video by Jill Pangallo about her adventures with her custom-made twin doll.  That was surreal and wrong.  Just the way we like it.  And we went to the Mexic Arte Museum, where we saw contemporary art by Mexican-American artists and an exhibit of retablos.  Bonus.

We visited a myriad of shops that sold handmade kitsch and Dia de los Muertos stuff.  Also an antique shop, where we purchased an authentic stop sign for Elvis, despite the fact that it is somewhat heavy and could be used as a weapon.  We were in Texas, and everything seemed justifiable at the time.  We also spent about thirty seconds in a souvenir shop that smelled like my other son’s butt.  Not to be crass, but it was as if someone made soap out of my son’s butt and this store sold nothing but Eau de My Son’s Butt.  It permeated the entire facility.  It defied alternative explanations.

I am very careful about buying souvenirs, I think.  Or at least, if I’m careless, I feel guilty about it.  I already have so many possessions, and I don’t relish the thought of adding to my collection of useless crap.  But I am a sucker for the refrigerator magnets.  Why do I love refrigerator magnets?  Probably because they’re so easy to hang.  On this trip I bought three souvenir magnets–one with the Austin Museum of Art logo (to represent my art-viewing experience), one with a guitar (to represent the music-listening experience), and one that says, “You all may go to hell, and I will go to Texas” (because I’m just that way).

What Remained Unseen

So Austin is also famous for its Bats at Dusk.  Our hotel was right by the famous bat cave where all these bats live and at dusk they’re supposed to fly out and cover the sky with their bat-ness, but they never did show up.  I was somewhat disappointed.  I had really wanted to see some bats.  More particularly because I was not deprived of the experience of smelling the bats, and I just think that if you’re going to smell the bats, you should be able to see them, too.  Oh, well.  Maybe next time.

We didn’t take many pictures on this vacation, mostly because we kept forgetting to bring the camera with us, and also because we’re just really bad about taking pictures.  I’m especially bad at taking pictures of places, as opposed to people.  I just don’t know how to do it right.  Which is how I managed to visit New York ten years ago and not bring home a single photograph, no, not one.  But that’s another story.  Desparate for a material souvenir whereby to remember the concert at the Paramount–given that no merchandise was sold there and not even our tickets had all the performers’ names on them–we took some pictures of the marquee before they changed it.  Perhaps I will make a refrigerator magnet out of it someday.