Tag Archives: texas

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!

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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.

Riverwalk- like riverdance but less Irish

What do I say about San Antonio? It’s like a much prettier El Paso, with clearer air and definitely more water. I hadn’t been to the Riverwalk since I was a kid, so it was like seeing it all for the first time again. The guy turned 30 this month, so we went down to celebrate a little and spend some time together. He’s been working too hard and I’ve been…well, I’ve been working hard too.

We wandered around, looked at the fake Alamo- did you know they rebuilt it after it was destroyed, it’s not even the real thing! I felt kind of gypped, but I’ve never been a history museum type of person. I’ll walk right by to go listen to some music or check out art, but Texas history just doesn’t do much for me. Yep, Mexicans, yep, Texas Rangers, cowboys and Indians. And what’s-his-face Davy Crockett was found hiding under a bed I heard…which is why I tend to discredit stories from history that were written by the forces left in power- which happens to be a large part of them. The grounds are beautiful, and the shady trees and landscaping hide the fact that you’re right in the middle of downtown surrounded by tons of tourists.

Nathan is pissed that it's fake too

Nathan is pissed that it's fake too

We were in town on a Dallas Cowboys training weekend, so there were lots of people lined up for hours in the hot sun hoping to catch a glimpse of the big guys. I was not one of them, but it would have been cool. I am a long-time Dallas fan, even though I’m just barely becoming a fan of the actual state of Texas. I guess I always had a thing for cowboys as a girl…Instead I watched them from our 28-th floor Marriott room.

No don't look at the ghost in the window

No don't look at the ghost in the window

We did the couple thing, wandered in circles around the waterways and watching the flatboat tours and held hands for a few minutes (too sweaty ick). I wanted to tell the tourists in the boat could walk the whole thing faster and that we’d probably beat them to the end of the tour but people don’t walk these days anyway. That’s called exercising.

No trolls under there. Only on top.

No trolls under there. Only on top.

 

Nathan's "leaning on the rail" pose

Nathan's "leaning on the rail" pose

We ate, we drank. It was good. It felt like we were traveling, and that was good enough. Economy, blah blah, staycation, blah. We’re broke, and weekend excursions are gonna have to cut it for a while. Until we buy our Airstream and hit the road like old times. I’m thinking that isn’t too far away.

I'm flying away

I'm flying away

Riverwalk at night

Riverwalk at night

Yes there is a Hell

So I don’t believe in a hell, per se. At least not the kind with little demons running around making your death unbearable, and the slow cooking fires over which you roast for eternity, screaming in agony and wondering what in the…hell…you did to deserve this. But silly me, I was wrong! Hell is Six Flags Fiesta Texas in the summertime. I found it, all by accident.

Now don’t take this the wrong way. I am a roller-coaster lover, including any ride that scares the crap out of you while NOT spinning you around in concentric circles and making you upchuck all over the person next to you. Fast rides, terrifying rides, elevator drops, those are all great fun. However, I hate waiting in lines, I dislike most children—especially those that are already hot and cranky and whiny—and being outside in sweltering heat in the middle of the day is not on the top of my fun list. Actually, all of these things combined equal Hell.

Hell from above. I waited in line 2 hrs for this pic

Hell from above. I waited in line 2 hrs for this pic

Six Flags Fiesta Texas was the first place I rode one of those 4-story drop line rides, the one with three massive poles and a little person dangling up at the top that has to pull the ripcord and fall into space. This was years ago, before I could drive and I was brought along on a San Antonio road trip to visit my uncle. I would like to say that none of my family members would agree to ride this thing with me, though one of my brothers has since grown up to become a paratrooper. Probably out of guilt for leaving me hanging…So it was just me, all by myself pulling the ripcord above people that had very slowly become ants as I was cranked up into the sky. With these fond memories, I was looking forward to going as a grown-up. I guess I just blocked out the reality of the thing and thought, hey, this sounds like a good idea.

Ma'am. you need to put your camera away

Ma'am. you need to put your camera away

 

OHHH GOODD NOOO

OHHH GOODD NOOO

This coaster pictured above, the Rattler, is an old-fashioned wooden coaster and my favorite at the park, but I just about chipped a tooth and my future father-in-law definitely threw his back out. This thing is like riding a giant salt shaker. You WILL fly out if you don’t hold on. No more of this, especially not on a weekend, and definitely not in the summer. I knew I disliked fairs and carnivals for a reason…mostly because carnies have small hands and smell like cabbage.

Pineapples are chasing me- Brenham Texas

 
It’s tough for a gypsy-type to settle down. It might be other people’s main goal in life, to have their own place, to feel rooted somewhere. For me, it feels wrong in many different ways. I feel at home when I’m driving on a long road stretched out in front of me. My mind clears, my nerves calm, and I am content.

To help deal with my semi-permanent current state of settling-down, weekend trips are necessary. With the countless little towns spread throughout this massive state, there may be enough exploring to do to keep me here for a while. And since my little sis is leaving this week after a fun summer of spending time with me before both of us get married off, we decided to head out to the country for some girl bonding. There’s a little town out on 290 about 90 miles east of Austin called Brenham. I’d been out there to look at the blue bonnets in the spring, and wanted to go back and spend some more time in the quiet, pretty little town. When possible, I prefer to stay in a bed and breakfast if we’re doing hotels instead of camping. The experience is so much nicer, and it’s usually close to the same price that a hotel and breakfast would cost separately. This weekend turned out to be pretty booked with citified Texans all having the same idea we did, but we found a room at the Ingleside B & B right near “downtown” old Brenham. Old Brenham is the original part of town, where the village square has been turned into a typical photogenic little tourist trap, but which is still authentically small-town enough to make you feel as if you’re seeing the place close to what it was in the 1880s.

I left work early and picked Sophie up, and we turned the music on “loud” and followed the traffic out of Austin. As the miles unfurled behind us I felt the tightness that had been building in my chest start to dissipate. As we drove with our own thoughts, I wondered how it had gotten to this state. How had freedom gradually become “the grind” over the years? And what am I going to do about it?

As we rolled into town in late afternoon, the sun still baking down on Texas, I stopped thinking and it was the best thing I’d done all week. We found the red brick building with a wraparound porch after a bit of driving around. Ingleside is apparently in the style of “American Foursquare” which means absolutely nothing to me but looks like a Georgian plantation home. They had some patriotic bunting outside and some old people on the porch, so it looked like the South for sure. They had a big pineapple on the sign, which I didn’t think much about at first but which turned out to be significant later.

American Fourposter style or something...

American Fourposter style or something...

Does this bride know what she's getting into? Who is the lucky dude? We have questions

Does this bride know what she's getting into? Who is the lucky dude? We have questions

I think I may just move to a B & B

I think I may just move to a B & B

That evening we tried to make it into a few bars but only succeeded at one. Soph drank non-alcoholic beer since she is not quite 21. It turned out for the best, though, because a long peaceful night of sleep was perfect. I awoke once to the wail of a train coming through town, and my soul thrilled to the sound. We lived near the tracks often in childhood, and it always reminded me of my father’s stories of his train-hopping days. The noise amplified the silence once the train had passed, and I realized how much I miss the solitude and quiet. Living in a city has its perks, but the slow pace of life outside city limits reminds you that life shouldn’t be a rush to the finish line. There’s no reason to hurry.

They were EVERYWHERE >:-)

They were EVERYWHERE >:-)

Morning dawned warm and humid, and we enjoyed coffee on the porch before it hit 100 degrees. Connie cooked us a gourmet breakfast and we were off to explore. Sophie was glad to be free of the looming pineapples. The spiny fruit seems menacing when there are too many grouped together. We had planned to visit the Blue Bell Creamery, home of some of the best ice cream around, but were disappointed when our innkeeper told us tours don’t operate on the weekend.

“They’ve said they’re in the ice cream business, not the tourism business,” Connie said, rolling her eyes.

We visited the Monastery of St. Clare, but it was closed on Saturday. We clucked at the miniature horses the Poor Clare nuns raise and marveled at the tiny babies with their big heads. They looked like My Little Ponies, and when trotting they are hilarious. We also visited a lavender farm off the beaten track on a dirt road through several ranches, and walked around a Masonic cemetery in the tiny town of Chappell Hill.

Masonic cemetery in Chappell Hill

Masonic cemetery in Chappell Hill

Our last stop on a too-short trip was the Pleasant Hill Winery. We happened to be there during an event they put on called Crush for Fun, but it wasn’t as exciting as we’d hoped. We wanted to jump in a giant vat of grapes and stomp them but it was more like stepping on a few grapes in a washtub. We decided not to pay for that pleasure. As you can see, more non-alcoholic drinks for Soph. I had thought about working at a vineyard a few times, but after taking the tour and seeing how much work is involved I decided it probably isn’t the place for me. Wine takes far too long and I hate waiting. I do, however, love wine, so I will visit every winery I come across.

Pleasant Hill vines

Pleasant Hill vines

And so relevant

And so relevant

It's not West Texas out here, folks

It's not West Texas out here, folks

Lessons learned on this trip:

You can still smoke in many bars in Texas.

Pineapples are frightening but also a symbol of hospitality.

The Blue Bell Creamery doesn’t give tours on the weekends.

Wine is good.

http://www.inglesidebb.com/

http://www.monasteryminiaturehorses.com/

http://www.pleasanthillwinery.com/