Category Archives: Austin

The great adventure of marriage

So I haven’t been blogging at all since I’m focusing on my upcoming wedding- writing has taken a back burner but not for long. There are lots of stories backed up in my head…they need to be released.

I thought I’d share a little thang I wrote about a class my fiance and I took…on the road to marriage.

Marriage Class

I got a bad feeling about it when I saw the dirty feet of the bum’s girlfriend peeking out around the corner of the Baptist Association. Hey, it didn’t have to be a downer did it? This was true love, for better or for worse. They were curled around each other, toothless and half-naked in the early morning heat. We stopped and watched them for a second before they jerked awake.

“I’m sorry, man, we’re headed out right now ain’t we sweetie?” He grinned through his beard and his love pulled her shirt down and grabbed their little bag of belongings, already heading out. “You gots you a hottie there, man,” the bum said, winking at me and scuttling off. Before Nathan could say anything, they were gone. Men always address him first, probably because he’s a bigger guy and might look intimidating when he’s not smiling. I can’t see the intimidation factor- but maybe that’s because I know him. (And I can kick his ass.)

We shrugged it off and tried the door. Right on time- the email had warned us rather rudely not to be late, so here we were. Locked, and dark inside. I sighed. “Let’s go get some coffee, babe,” I said, and we walked over to grab some at the convenience store next door. We noticed a couple of other people waiting in the parking lot, some more couples out to get their freebie. We sat outside in the bum’s spot and tried to wake up.

 “It should be good,” Nathan said, always the optimist. “Maybe we’ll learn something.”

 Another sleepy couple wandered up. She was short with short dark blonde hair and freckles, and he looked like he might work in a mechanic’s shop out in Kyle or somewhere similarly small-town Texas.

“You here for the marriage class too?” I asked, and they nodded. We all did the ‘Hey, it’s free!’ shrug. Finally, a tall thin black man pulled up outside, rushing around his minivan pulling out papers and folders.

“I am here!” he said with an African accent. “I am very sorry I am late. I was getting ready for some conference in which I am speaking today, and the other instructors today are not showing up, so I was thinking I would cancel, but then I realized that I had people counting on me today so I am here for you.” Did he want a cookie or something for showing up at all?

 He unlocked the door and let us in. Two more couples showed up while we were waiting, all flustered about being late. We let them know they had no worries, at least about being late since the instructor wasn’t too timely himself. After another 20 minutes or so of set-up time and pointed glances back and forth, we finally got going.

 “So, thank you for being here. We are here to learn all the fundamentals of healthy relationships, however I have not looked at our materials at all. The other instructors were supposed to be doing this and now I am teaching this myself so we will learn together.” Wow. This was really starting out strongly. He proceeded to hand out various packets of paper, miscounting and shuffling them back and forth for about 15 uncomfortable minutes. It was very apparent that it was the first time he’d seen any of these materials.

I looked around the room. The first couple was next to us, and next to them in the semicircle was a nerd couple. He was white, mid-40s, bearded and dressed in mismatched clothing and a baseball cap, and his woman was short, coffee-black, with a pierced lip and thick coke bottle glasses. They fidgeted and look uncomfortable. The latest arrivals were an adorable blonde doll-like woman with porcelain skin and a very pregnant belly and a tall tattooed dark-haired man. We all introduced ourselves and told a few key facts. We learned that Nerd Couple were the only ones already married, and that Nerd Dude had been married several times and wanted to make this one work. So they were the only ones not in it for a free marriage license. Also, he let us know that he hated his father, and was uncomfortable in social situations, and also that he had no friends. Sweet. His wife liked acting, and they went to karaoke together weekly. The first couple we had met, we’ll call them Small-Town couple, had a couple of kids together and were from a small town. They seemed fairly normal, and also a bit unsure about the whole class situation. The last couple, The Austinites, had met working at a bike shop and had had a lot of relationship problems but wanted to make it work for the baby who was soon to make an appearance. She seemed very sincere and wholehearted about the class, and I started to feel sorry for her immediately. I had a feeling this was not going to be something that would help her out. Her boyfriend didn’t have much to say, but seemed like a laid-back stoner type.

 The instructor proceeded to lecture us all about what a good relationship he and his (white) wife had, about how her family called him a nigger at first (everyone almost shit a brick right in class when he said this, loudly, obviously to see what reaction he got), and told us various stories about being a pastor and helping people, followed up by what a great relationship he and his wife had. He was Nigerian, and had a self-help book that he let us know was in his minivan if we needed a copy. He would also be leaving during our lunch break to attend his aforementioned conference, but he would be right back to help us structure our relationships.

 I sat in a kind of dull awe as he read directly from his class manual, including word-for-word recitation of the intended “skits and performance” parts of the manual, i.e. “Person number one stands at front of class. Ok, ok we need a person number one. Ok, thank you Nerd Woman. You are an actress, yes? Perfect. Ok, person number two stands next to number one and pretends to be in an argument. Ok, you come up to be person number two. Ok, go.” It was all I could do not to burst out in full-on howling hyena laughter the entire time. I studiously avoided Nathan’s eyes but I could feel him about to explode next to me. He was trying hard to take the class seriously but I was already done for. There was no way I was going to make it through a whole day of this.

Nathan tried to talk to the instructor and argue when he said that the family must always do everything together. “Hey, we take vacations separately a lot,” Nathan said. “We feel that keeping our separate lives is important, and we have a great relationship,” he pointed out when the instructor talked about how you must come to terms on vacation spots when you’re married, or whose family it’s time to visit.

During one skit the Nerd Dude blurted out that he wanted to take his wife home to bang her, which was greeted by dead silence from everyone else and a full pig snort from me. I couldn’t help it. I was bursting with unfulfilled laughter. It was right at the bottom of my throat and it wasn’t going to take much to set it loose. The perfect release was soon to come, luckily for my strained esophagus.

Nathan was asked to participate in one of these read-from-the-page skits, which were getting much worse as willingness from the participants started to wane. It’s always my favorite when Nathan is asked to do anything which places him in the spotlight because he hates it. The skit proceeded as follows:

“Ok, ok now you stand here Nathan. Now, you Austinite dude stand in the middle. Ok, Nerd dude on the other side. Now, middle dude, you lift up your arms. You are representing the tree which is the – let’s see, it says you are representing the family. Now, guy on the left, Nathan right? You bend over at the waist. Ok, like that.” At this point I was shaking silently, looking at the floor. Nathan was starting to turn a dull brick color. “Ok, now, Nathan, you bend over at the waist and you grab on to this guy’s thigh.”

 “I’m not doing it,” Nathan said, and returned to his seat, ruining the beautiful skit of the tree and the roots.

 That was it, I lost it. Everyone else stared at me but I couldn’t help it. This was too funny. Were we being Punk’d? I was sure there was a camera somewhere.

It was such a train wreck that we came back from lunch break-tacos with the very sweet, genuine Austinites-waited for 10 minutes (the Nigerian was late again), and headed for home. It was sad that something that could have been a useful class was so ill-prepared, and mostly I felt sorry for the other couples. I gave a small wave as we drove past them on our way to “far away from there.” They were all waiting at the door disheartedly for the Nigerian relationship expert. Worse than the sadness over a crap class was that we wasted all that time and still didn’t get a free marriage license. But we strengthened our relationship in more important ways. We can agree on when it’s time to jet!

Advertisements

VIVO- I live, I live, I am a restaurant!

The candle wall- watch for hot wax! Or, go looking for it...

The new Vivo location is open! I think “I live” is a little high-and-mighty a name for a restaurant. I would name my restaurant something a little more descriptive, like COMO, or “I eat!” But whatevs. The north side of Austin finally has a place for the Barbies and Kens of the area to go out for date night, pick up other Barbies and Kens, and have some good ol’ “healthier” Tex-Mex fare.

Plus, 18 and up- that’s the best way to get me to frequent any spot! No screaming kids, no messes for the waitstaff, and no watching your language- say the F word all you like and don’t get dirty glares from your neighbors! The racy art here is the reason, the owner Roger Diaz made this last-minute decision before opening to avoid possibly offending, and for the most part patrons have approved of the idea.

The artists are all from San Antonio, where Diaz has his roots (his mother owns a popular Tex-Mex restaurant on the Riverwalk.) Gilbert Duran was commissioned for some of the focal art, the gold nudes that are placed above each black leather booth. Carla Veliz’ round, feminine figures bring a splash of Mexican vibrancy and color, and another San Antonio artist whose name I forget provided the black-and-white photo collages.

My favorite sexy lady

The restaurant is the second Vivo to open in Austin, and hopes to mirror the popularity of the Manor location. The restuarant plans to have an extensive patio finished by summertime, which is sure to add to the draw for after-work drinks and dinner. They have good food, with less lard and more vegetarian options- one of the specialties is the puffy tacos, the best thing I’ve had here is the shrimp enchiladas which are a weekend special- BOMB-ASS green sauce and grilled shrimp.

The decor and feel of the place is very feminine, sexy, and club-like, with great lighting and plenty of places to get cozy. They’re currently only open for dinner, and they just began happy hour daily from 4-7. Check it out, $1 off beers, $2 of cocktails (my favorite is the Vivo Ria, sangria made with tequila, also love the house margarita with cucumber puree.) The drinks are pricy, so take advantage!

Long, sleek, modern bar

Disclaimer: I am working part-time here. I want you to come in and spend money, on tips to me! If I wasn’t working here, I would totally be hanging out here anyway. And from what customers are saying, they are all very grateful to have a place on the north side that provides some ambiance and some “Austin” without having to drive all the way downtown.

I like a little sex with my Tex-mex...

How did I end up here??

Yep

Hard to believe, but some people feel that way

OK, so maybe I am known for being in random places at strange times. This time was another gig that I acquired in a means that was round-about, through-some-people-who-know-some-other-people, and besides I can really use the money so anyone who offers to pay me usually piques my interest.

It was posed to me as a “last-minute, can you come down here tomorrow?” way to make a little extra money selling flags. No problem, I can do that. I’ve sold wine, train trips, and food before. Flags will be easy. Little did I know that I would end up in the middle of a conservative rally, one which schooled me on the validity, nay the GODLINESS of what they report on Fox News.

I agree, in theory, that government spending will not fix the national debt. That most government-run programs are inefficient, spend too much money, and result in poorer service. But NOT having healthcare is also not an option that’s working too well for us. Obama has to do something, and I don’t know if what’s he’s working on is the best solution…but come on people, Obama is the devil? And seriously, you STILL don’t believe in global warming?? I thought people like this were a joke of a stereotype, unfortunately not so. I heard “We watch Fox News, we’re smart!” “NOBAMA!” and various other surprising rallying calls from a supposedly bipartisanship effort- this Tea Party Express Tour that’s been going from coast-to-coast spreading the word. About thugs in Congress, and how Obama sucks, and stuff. And I was right in the middle selling conservative buttons, which included “Stop Global Whining” the old “Obama as the Joker” image and other hilarious sayings. They sold pretty well. I felt like a turncoat, even though I wouldn’t describe myself as a liberal or a conservative. I feel too strongly about too many issues on the opposite sides of these parties to lump myself with the rest. I have to go Independent, because I really think the death penalty is a good thing, like to carry a gun, and wholeheartedly believe in a woman’s right to choose on abortion and that we have to do something about our oil consumption. Besides, I didn’t hear a great solution besides “hand these thieves a pink slip,” and they never mentioned the fact that these ousted politicians would only be replaced by more politicians just like them. Doesn’t sound like a fix to me.

Anyway. I skulked among the “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, took surreptitous photos, and generally marvelled. It was my birthday, and I was glad to be in a spot I never expected. If I ask for anything on my birthday, it’s for the unexpected and memorable. Thanks for supporting the effort! (This was the least  hypocritical thing I could say to the button purchasers, so I’ll sign off with that line.)

TC’s rocks the East side

I reiterate that dive bars are sweet. More than just a dive, though, TC’s is an authentic neighborhood bar, one where everyone knows the two ladies that run the bar, everyone knows the regular drunks that frequent the spot, and you can go there looking totally trashed out and no one cares. When you walk up to TC’s, you aren’t quite sure if it’s a bar, which means there’s a lot of people in town that you’ll never catch here. And I like that about it.

Is it a bar? A crack house? Better, it's TC's!

We went this past Wednesday to see Soul Track Mind, local soul band, and send off a Couchsurfer who’s felt the call to get back on the road after a few fun months in Austin. The music is good, and everyone gets out on the dance floor and shakes it, even without air conditioning. I don’t think I could last in here during the summer. You’re dripping with sweat in minutes and rubbing it all over everybody, but unfortunately it goes both ways. If I was anointing the masses with my body sweat, that’s one thing. When they anoint you back sometimes it’s frightening. I’ve also never felt a dance floor sway down far enough to hit the foundation. I have a feeling one of these days it will collapse and fling all the soul-lovers straight down to hell.

TC’s has a cover most of the time when there’s music, they say $5, but there wasn’t one on Wednesday. They also have free food- it was just hot dogs this time, but I’ve heard once in a while there’s real, good home-cooked chow.

If you want to be real “East-siders” try to avoid Wednesday night, which they call “white night” cuz the whiteys like Soul Track Mind and everyone flocks here almost turning it into busy central bar. I think the rest of the time it’s pretty chill, though I heard tell that Monday also gets crazy sometimes. Very fun place. Hang out back by the dumpsters for extra fun.

It’s not a sex club..that’s a bummer

I like to be hip, so that means on the occasion that I’m the first person I know to hear of a place, it’s cool to go there. Cuz then I’m hip. I discovered Lustre Pearl accidentally while walking past in the evening- don’t ask why I was walking in this area I probably couldn’t find any parking closer than I-35. At first it looked like a house party. Then I saw the hula hoops on the walls and the lack of signage, so then I thought it might be a scandalous private kind of club. Obviously I had to go there immediately. Walking around the front, it’s still not apparent it’s a bar, but the sign  “Lustre Pearl” gave me enough to go on.

Lustre Pearl at night

Lustre Pearl at night

Back when I first checked it out, their website just said temptingly “We’re open.” Now, in the busy part of the waning summer, it’s a happening place with a huge backyard and a very austin food truck parked outside. It’s a little like partying at a friend’s house back in college, with plenty of places to sit and a welcoming feel.

Lustre Pearl's backyard feel

Lustre Pearl's backyard feel

The owners are developing this area into the next “hot spot” of the downtown scene, probably much to the chagrin of the people that still actually live here. The bar is a renovated old house, with most of the rooms made to look intact, a nice bar, and decent drink specials. Try the “oldest beer in Texas”, Pearl. Or not. It’s like PBR, cheap and nasty. Plus, hula hoops!

Oldest beer in Texas...try at own risk

Oldest beer in Texas...try at own risk

 

My hoops skills

My hoops skills

I’m afraid this place is soon to be a 6th-street-type college bar, but check it out now. It has great potential as long as it attracts great clientele.

TOOBING in Texas

Yes, I know it looks retarded. I would never write the word toob if it wasn’t all over the place, and plus I like it because it looks like boob. I have deduced that people in Texas can’t pronounce most things correctly- case in point, they drop the ‘e’ from Guadalupe, they say LAN-NO for Llano (yan-no). I think they just refuse to do anything in any way other than the Texan way. So, yay for toob. At least it can’t be pronounced “Tewb.”

Now being an Arizonan, at least a lot of the time, I’m used to tubing on the Salt up near Phoenix. Surrounded by desert, 100+ degrees, nice cold water and lots of drunks.

Tubing in Texas is great, because there are so many options. Even in a drought, we’ve got several rivers to pick from in an hour radius from Austin. For July 4, we tried to float the Guadalup-AY, had campground reservations in Spring Branch, Texas, the whole thing. I’d heard this part of the river is much less crowded with fewer frat boys puking in the water. We showed up with our 3 carloads of people, set up camp, only to be informed that “Oh, wait, we forgot to tell you, we aren’t running the tube tours because the river is too low.” This is DIRECTLY AFTER the guy told us that the first bus had just left with the first load of tubers. And also AFTER we had unloaded all our camp gear. What a douche. Being the resourceful people we are, we weren’t about to let that asshat get in the way of a good drunk time.

So we packed up and headed for the Comal in New Braunfels. Talk about a cluster-f. First, there are a few big tube rental places. We picked one at random, paid $10 to park, and took our big man-size cooler over to wait in line for our tubes. We paid something like $15 each, only to be told we could only have this little wussy-size cooler that might hold 8 beers with no ice. What the hell is that good for? And oh, it also cost $10 or something. SO, once again resourceful, we used the mesh trash bags that are for “Keeping our river clean” to stuff with beer, white-trash style, and tie to the tube. The river’s cold enough! We cram onto the smelly bus and get dumped off with an entire battalion of other partiers. Normally they say the Comal takes an hour at max. I think it took us 2 and a half. The Comal is pretty, and cold- but imagine one tiny little man-made loop of river winding through town with approximately 2,323 people per square foot. This led to people being scraped along the (concrete) sides of the river as the masses behind them shoved through the little chutes they built to cross the dammed areas, of which there are 3-4 before you get to the area where the bus picks up. I’m not exactly sure how many there were, but I AM sure that we lost an entire bag of beer as we were squeezed through one chute and shot out like a slippery sex-toy on the other end.

 

You can't even see any river

You can't even see any river

This is how small the 'legal' coolers are. I can maybe fit 2 hours worth of beer in there.

This is how small the 'legal' coolers are. I can maybe fit 2 hours worth of beer in there.

We dove for beer and came back with a few, which turned out to be plenty. We also hopped back on the bus and did it all again, since we were here to party. Back at the camp we got to sweat it out in the tents and listen to some real cool guys attempt to play beer pong all night.

Now, in complete contrast. This weekend, we went looking for Don’s Fish Camp, a legendary spot on the San Marcos with an old man who lets the drunks use his land as a river party spot. True to form, I was a little too fly-by-my-pants and didn’t print out directions, figuring we’d just see the place. No dice. After getting lost and yelling at Nathan for a while, we just went back into town and did the little 1.25 hour float from the Lion’s Club tube rental in San Marcos. Guess what- no stuid cooler restrictions out here!

No pictures, but imagine the same kind of river with way fewer people and a much calmer vibe. Much better.  We saw some rednecks on lawn chairs in the water, eating a box of fried chicken. Even the tattooed Mexicans floating next to us said… “Damn, that’s ghetto.” Much more my style. We did see some local cops hassling the hippies, searching through their coolers for their stash. Profiling! Asses.

Next time, we’ll definitely go to Don’s Fish Camp. 3.5 hours, no cops, and now I know where it is.

 

Oh yeah. And here’s one more picture for your viewing pleasure. She managed to hang on to that beer for half an hour somehow.

Sleepytime

Free stuff in Austin- Blues in the park!

One thing Austin loves better than anything is free shit. KGSR Radio  has been doing free concerts throughout the summer, every other Wednesday. There’s one more concert left, this coming Wednsday- if you’re around, head over to Waterloo Park and take a blanket and a cooler. Last Wednesday I got to check out an Austin Legend for the first time- Miss Carolyn Wonderland.  This scarlet-headed girl can play some amazing guitar and has the voice of a soulful black woman…I’d heard about her not long after making it to Texas so was stoked to check her out for free, surrounded by people of all kinds.

She arrived in the Live Music Capital and lived here homeless for a while, barely scraping by. I’m glad to see her doing so well. I have nothing but respect for those who pull themselves up all on their own and don’t bitch about having a future all laid out for them. The Austin Chronicle wrote a good profile of her here. Check her out, it’s a story worth hearing.