Back at the homestead, where Renovation hangs on like a lingering party guest, I waited for our new backyard fence to be finished (to keep our cats safe at night and grow things without the intervention of deer). Our contractor, John, finished it the day before my flight.
I left for the airport on a surprisingly balmy December afternoon and, like The Accidental Tourist, agreed to relinquish any further control of my journey and let the best thing happen. My plane sat on the tarmac in Medford until after dark for an undisclosed mechanical issue. When we arrived in Salt Lake City everyone dashed off, hoping to catch their flights. I ran faster than I’ve moved since The Great Fall, huffing and puffing with my rolling carry-on for what seemed like a half-mile through dimly-lit tunnels. Even though I had “cheated” for this trip, placing a heel-lift into the boot of my recently rebuilt left leg, I arrived at the closed gate limping and wheezing.
“I waited as long as I could,” the agent told me. “We can either send you to a hotel until tomorrow, or else you can fly all night and get to Austin in the morning.”
Hmmm… fly all night? Sounded slightly Peter Pan-ish: Second to the right, and straight on till morning. I’d have to wait till after midnight for a cross country flight to Atlanta, GA, then another one at dawn, back to Austin. I settled myself at the airport brew-pub along with several other travelers from my Medford flight, ordered a micro and opened my laptop to catch up on The Muppets shows.
Later on, I nibbled on a chocolate chip cookie made from Oregon’s finest just before the plane to Atlanta took off at around 1 a.m. The lights of deserted streets became tiny white smears and I slept all the way to the east coast. I curled up on a seat in the pre-dawn Atlanta airport until my flight boarded, then dozed until I heard the final coffee call. Throughout this odyssey, the people around me were amazingly calm, considering it was December 19 (and then 20).
After a nap, we went to the Palmer Events Center venue, all gussied up for a special awards ceremony featuring various Austin luminaries, movers and shakers of the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, celebrating its 40th year! I finally began to understand the magnitude of it. The warmth emanating from these people is tangible, plus I could see that they just love Wayne. And of course, practically everyone wears cowboy boots.
We stood outside at the railing on the top floor of the PEC with our drinks, taking turns demonstrating the power pose we’d both seen recently on the news: you stand tall and firm, as if you are Supergirl or Superman, feeling your imaginary cape flapping in the breeze, for several minutes. It’s a great pick-me-up.
Later we met with my long-lost cousin Susan and her partner Chris for dinner. I arrived hot and sweaty, a victim of having overdressed for a more humid December than I could have imagined. In spite of my self-consciousness, we had a wonderful dinner and I’m glad to know more fun and interesting people I’m related to.
The next day the temperature soared to 82°! Shorts and a t-shirt! Had lunch with Paula and did some shopping on South Congress, then hit the Armadillo later on, meeting Wayne and a friend for dinner after his shift. Another warm, lovely Austin person named Art. We got back to the ‘Dillo just in time for Asleep at the Wheel. I’ve seen several versions of this band over the years, although the fiddle player/singer, Katie Holmes, is one of the most upbeat performers I’ve ever seen. I felt happy just watching her. As the crowd edged closer to the performance area, taller people gently nudged me closer so I could see and take pictures.
Afterwards, we swung by the ACB to join Wayne for one more night of music and shopping. Wayne’s been collecting art from this venue for a while now, this year’s favorite from Ironworks: the Flying Monkey. We each bought one, unbeknownst to the other, so we now have a pair. Bill Kirchen was playing that night, joined by various guests, such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
We had Christmas dinner at Threadgill's. Just the two of us, for the first time since we’ve gotten married. After more than an hour wait in their pleasant courtyard, we settled into their southern home-style cooking at a quiet table. Then we visited with our friend (from high school!) Ellen, aquarist and art collector, before heading over to the Continental Club to hear Dale Watson.
The next day we visited Maria’s Taco Xpress, and another artist friend, Steve, whose last name is actually Austin, and his cat, Boogie.
After our last visit in 2014, I had become fixated on buying some of Ron’s art. Having a piece of art hanging on our wall from someone whose imagination and creative process continues to astonish me, has become important. Wayne and I deliberated, and finally chose the piece called “Joker’s Artificial Heart.”
After three trips to Austin, I conclude that it’s probably the grooviest place I’ve ever visited. Texas twang, warm, friendly people, moonlight towers, retro-neon signs, breakfast tacos, an impressive focus on chicken-oriented art… no wonder so many people want to live there.
Back to the Pacific Northwest for us, though. Skiing awaits, and so do our cats.