Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Trip to Austin, Texas. Pt. 1

Mrs Elliott has a conference to attend here in Austin, the PBS 2010 Annual Meeting, and I tagged along. 

I don't know why. I'm not a big fan of the South for various reasons, and didn't go to last month's conference in Atlanta, Geo., but I once spent a week in a workshop in Big Sur with a bunch of therapists from Austin and they said it was pretty cool. An island of hipness in Texas. And I've seen"Austin City Limits" on TV so I gathered that the music scene is good.

So after departing from RDM at 6-fucking-ay-em for a 2-hour layover at SEATAC, we arrived at Austin in the late afternoon. The sky was hazy with that orange/yellow cast that illuminates buildings and pavement I've only seen in Bend when there's a forest fire or controlled burn nearby. It's the normal color of sunlight in Los Angeles and much of SoCal, a color I associate with pollution and heat and glare.

We took a cab from the airport to the Hilton, where the convention is being held, and Mrs Elliott quickly set up her booth. The hotel we're staying in, a Marriott Courtyard generic hotel is only two easy walking blocks from the Hilton so we walked there and checked in. Generic double-queen hotel room. Could be anywhere in the USA in that place.

After freshening up, we wandered around downtown. It was easily 90 degrees F, and very humid. Not my favorite weather. I miss the high desert already.

Here's what I know so far about Austin:

The downtown seems to be bars. Pretty much that's it. Bars. I like bars and taverns as much as the next bar fly, but these bars have that Western bar gloominess and grunginess which requires lots of drunk people partying to enliven it. There are not lots of drunk people partying on weekday nights to overcome the Western bar gloominess and grunginess. So they are just gloomy and grungy.

The two bar bands that were playing on Monday night did a mixture of blues, Hendrix, and James Brown-era funk. The lead guitar and drums in one of the band were dead-steady and in the pocket. They drove the band like a steam locomotive. At the same time, the band had the first Africa-American bass player I've ever heard who was totally unfunky. That's gotta hurt.
Cultural Side Note: There's an early '70s influence downtown in the recorded music playing in most of the bars, and in the bar artwork. Maybe Austin had a heyday in the '70s? 
For my beer-lover fans, most of the beer in the downtown bars is very usual uninteresting stuff. But there are two pubs here that enjoy some fame in that department -- the Ginger Man, and Lovejoy's Taproom -- so later this afternoon I might have a glass. I will report on that later.

So while Mrs Elliott populates her booth, I'm on my own. Pretty much all day and early evening.

I have found a nice funky coffee house downtown on Congress Street, The Hideout Theatre, which is where I am right now. They make a pretty good cup of espresso, and with a little coaching managed a right good cortado. The barrista told me that if one were to walk down Congress and across the river, there are some nice little shops and restaurants there.

Like many downtowns, hardware stores are evident. The flapper on the wheel of fortune that Mrs Elliott uses at her booth to attract clients has a couple wrong-sized nuts on it so it doesn't stay put.

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