And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
My God! What have I done?
Everyone who knows me remembers that I spent quite literally years ranting about how much I hated living in Texas. So it comes as a great surprise, and I think it very deeply weird to find that the 1,476 days I spent living there have turned out to be the single best thing that ever happened to me. So this weekend, I made what amounted to a spiritual pilgrimage back to Austin for the 16th anniversary party for the social club I started* when I was living there. It’s my association with that group and my notoriety for starting it that came back into my life last year and turned everything around. Amid all the sturm und drang of the divorce, it made me a minor celebrity in some circles, and it led to many, many good things happening in my life. Hence the pilgrimage.
I flew out on JetBlue just like last year, and it was a very pleasant trip. Leslie was planning on accompanying me, but her father had a stroke just a few days before the trip, so she had to cancel. There was an empty seat next to me on the flights both ways. But even though I was traveling alone, I still had a good time.
When I got to Austin, I could feel the heat through the airplane window. I’d heard that it had been exceptionally hot and dry there recently, and it was over 100 degrees when I arrived. My friend Paul came to the airport to pick me up, and we went to the hotel where the event was being held. After getting installed in the hotel, we headed down to Pok-E-Jo’s BBQ for dinner. I’d announced a “Founders’ Dinner” for Friday night. This was not an official part of the event, but I thought it would be nice to see some of the ‘old-timers’ to start things off. Only about three people said that they were coming, so I thought it was going to be a small turnout, but when we got there, there was a long table full of people. I got my usual brisket sandwich and fried okra. And all was right with the world.
The official start of the event was a social and mixer held at the Chain Drive, which is the local gay leather bar near downtown Austin. There was a good crowd there, which was nice. The place also had a broken air conditioner, which was not so nice. July in Texas is a very bad time to have the AC break down. Still, it was a very fun time. I got my official event registration packet, T-shirt, and a new pin for my vest. I saw lots of old friends, and made several new ones. It was good fun.
Saturday was the main event. The hotel monitors showed the day’s events, which included four rooms with seminars that ran from 10:00AM to 5:00PM, a vendors area in the ballroom, and a buffet luncheon. At the luncheon, I got to get up and speak to the group for a few minutes. I told them about how seeing the event they’d put on made me feel like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s just so good to see something I created doing well and doing good things for the community. Then I introduced the keynote speaker, who is an old friend, and he gave a very entertaining and interesting talk.
At the end of the afternoon events, they tallied the results of the silent auction. I bid on and won a couple of items, including a mummified alligator claw on a stick. I have no idea what to use it for, if anything. I just thought it was so deliciously weird that I had to bid on it.
The main event Saturday night was a party, held at an old-style Texas dance hall out in the country. On the way out there, we went to the dinner for the presenters and other VIPs at the Catfish Parlour. Fried food all the way. Then it was out to the party. I didn’t plan on doing anything at the party, aside from just milling about schmoozing and holding court. I saw even more old friends from many years ago, and it was just great seeing everyone enjoying themselves there.
On Sunday morning, I had breakfast with my old college friend Mike. We traded stories of our adventures since last year. His included trips to San Francisco, New York, and London. Apparently his bicycle shop had a very good year last year. Something to do with gas being $4 a gallon or some such. Go figure.
Sunday’s event was a picnic at Recreation Plantation out in the country, near Dripping Springs. The directions to get there included going several miles down some very narrow country roads before turning off onto a dirt driveway that turned out to be over a mile long. To say it was secluded just doesn’t do it justice. It was in a little hollow by a creek, surrounded by low limestone hills. Sounds we made there would echo off the hills, which was actually a nice effect. Fortunately, the heat wave sort of broke on Sunday, so it was not too brutally hot. Also, they had a pool there, so I spent the latter part of the afternoon in the water. It was a very nice time.
After the picnic, I bummed a ride back to town to my friend Leona’s house. I had dinner there and told Leona and John about the adventures of the weekend and the past year.
I stayed over Sunday night in order to not have to leave the picnic early on Sunday, and also to have time to visit with my friend Stu on Monday. He picked me up at the hotel and we went to the Yellow Rose. Austin has the best topless bars I’ve seen anywhere, and I learned a lot about how that business works back in 1992-93 when Cathy worked there. So I like to go back there whenever I get the chance.
After Stu dropped me off at the airport, I got some food to take on the plane, as well as a souvenir for Lucinda. Walking around the airport and seeing all the Texas tchotchkes in the gift shops, I saw lots of things for Keep Austin Weird. I like to think that I’ve done my part in that. I felt so incredibly fortunate to have had the experience of being there and contributing to the community.
Overall, it was a Most Excellent Weekend.
* I could have made a link to it here, but I’m not going to, since it’s sort of NSFW. If you really want to find it, it’s not hard. The Google is your friend.