Bopper has no air conditioning, and to those of you who have never been in West Texas in summer, recall the last time you used your oven. Know that blast of hot air that hits you everytime you open the oven to check on your food? Now imagine wind that feels like that....for 10 hours. I was "that guy" in the car driving without a shirt on. Eric and I could only drive 2-3 hour shifts in the heat before we became exhausted and would fall asleep for a bit while the other person would drive. Bopper, Eric, and I went through a lot of water on that leg.
We made it into Austin about 10:30 at night, and we stopped at the gas station on the edge of town where I would always stop I was an undergraduate. A fellow traveler on a motorcycle saw our little Tercel filled with gear, with the guitar to boot, and asked us if we were musicians for the biker festival (yeah, I wish, maybe there's a market for Johnny Cash impersonators). Turns out there was a huge biker festival in Austin the same weekend we were there, and lame ol' me thought "f**k, where are we going to stay? all the hotels are gonna be booked." Sure enough they were. We drove around for two hours in Austin trying to find a place to crash for the night. We even stopped at my old dorm and asked if they had rooms for "visiting scholars," cause, hey, I am an alumnus neuroscientists, and my roadmate is a molecular biologist. Didn't work.
But we finally found a hotel room by the highway for about $65, though only for the night, as the rate was going to shoot up to $150 once the biker festival swung into full tilt. We booked the room for the night, didn't even take our gear into the hotel room, and went straight away to my favorite live country music bar in Austin (Hole in the Wall) to try to catch the last bit of live music and have some Shiner Boch. We talked to some cool local struggling musicians over a couple pints, the night ended too damn soon, and we had to motor back to the hotel at 2 AM, with full excitement in our hears to be in another city but unable to be jubilant simply because we got in too late. But..in the hotel I received a text message from my old college girlfriend who was still working around in Austin, and we set up a lunch in for the next day.
Next morning, I got up, took a shower to wipe the days of grime from my skin, loaded the car, dropped Eric off on Central campus so he could surprise some old high school biology friends who went to UT for grad school, and I picked up my old college sweetheart. Twas an old feeling I've never felt before, almost like a country music song. I haven't spoken to this person in 6 years, but she still knows me pretty well, asking me about my research and family. We had a minorly awkward lunch at Threadgill's, a popular local soul food/ Southern restaurant, and the feeling that permeated the table was the unsaid thought running through my mind and probably through hers: "I am really glad to see you again, though I know the relationship is over, and it probably is a good thing the relationship is over." It's still very hard for me to describe in words what it felt like. Happiness and an odd sort of bittersweet nostalgia at the same time. After lunch, I dropped her off at her car as she had to go to her second job, and I said to her, "It was great seeing you. I do think about you, and I am glad we were able to hang out, at least for a little bit. This went well, considering the last time we spoke you said to me, 'This is it, Don't ever f**king talk to me again.'" She wouldn't admit she actually said that (that's what I seem to remember), but she did admit she probably felt that way, with a grin on her face.
After that, I wandered around my haunts on the UT-Austin campus. I walked by my old lab, but I found myself pausing and staring at the entrance, simultaneously wanting and not wanting to walk in and say hello to my old advisor. Given that I had defended but still technically was not a PhD due to the revision requirement, I couldn't bring myself to walk in. I stood outside the door to my old lab, stared at my old posters still on the wall, and I then slowly walked back down those stairs I used to walk down all the time. I excited the building where I decided to go to graduate school in the first place and went on to further explore the the old town.
Eventually I hooked up with Eric again, and ta da! turns out there is a hostel in Austin, and they had 2 beds available for the next two nights for $50 total. Damn that expensive! A hostel for $25 a night?! But whatever, we didn't have any other options, and it wasn't a big deal. The hostel was in a beautiful location on the Colorado river which some local water fowl liked to frequent as well.
I didn't even get a nice sleep. One of the drifters in the hostel, the type that travels for months on zero budget, woke me up at 8 AM to ask for a ride to the nearest town 20 miles away because he had found a job "distributing flyers" by the road, in the hot sun, for $100/day. Wow, I guess wanderlust is a powerful thing for some people; I would have headed home if I was in that much of financial dire straits. Feeling sorry for him, I agreed to get up and give him and his friend a ride.
Not much happened the rest of the day, as my legs were crazy sore from all the walking the day previous. Eric and I simply went to a local natural pool, Barton Springs, swam for a little bit, I played a little guitar, and we both napped and tried not to look at the jail bait.
For our last night in Austin, we decided, again, to go to Hole in the Wall. It's my favorite bar in Austin, a good music venue of alt-country and roots rock and roll, as well as just being an all around excellent chill dive bar. Allegra came by, and we all ended up playing shuffleboard with some pleasant NSF-REU students from Georgia visiting Austin for the summer.
While we were there we saw this emo dude sporting some serious bling. I really didn't know what to make of it. But that's not the interesting part.
And the next week they were married! Official Shot below.
Coming up Next: Getting Schooled in Memphis, or the Most Awesome Blues I have ever heard.