Keep Austin Weird

“The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate,” sayeth William Sidney Porter, better known as author O. Henry. I have never heard of William Sydney Porter or O. Henry, until I stood in front of the house he rented back in the 1800s. A house, which apparently, is also a museum. But it was nearly 5:30PM on a Saturday when I spotted the house, quaint and old fashioned, standing out subtly amidst the tall hotel buildings and convention centers along 5th street Austin. And it was closed. So that was that. But, I was to also discover through aimless wanderings that this was not the last historic building I would see that night.

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O. Henry’s rented house found on 5th street

 

 

My mom and I were on our way to Congress Bridge to watch the bats fly out at sunset when we chanced upon the O. Henry house. After the house, we got to the intersection of 5th and Congress when a small white Schnauzer-looking dog came running down the busy street. I was like “Whoa! What the heck is a small dog doing in the middle of the street?” I was certain that it was going to meet its doom leaving its poor owner crying somewhere.

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Congress Ave, which leads up to the Capitol.

 

There were guys running down the street after the dog which kind of relieved me  and gave me hope that the dog was going to live. One of the guys running after the dog stopped right in front of us and gave us a quick rundown of what happened earlier. Then strangely enough, he said “Ladies, I’m not a bum, I’m HIV positive and I have a $10 co-pay which I need your help with.” My thought bubble read: Well that escalated quickly! So I made up a story about me being new in the area and just starting to build my own life and sorry, I couldn’t help him in that respect. So yes, I did lie. I’m sorry about lying but his sudden segue freaked me out.

It was only the day before that my Mom and I decided to drive down to Austin. The drive took us through I-10 and HWY71 for about 4 1/2 hours. Seriously, my back was worn out but Henry my car and Garrie my GPS chugged along like the troopers that they were.

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I-10 and Hwy 71 pretty much takes you all the way to Austin where we come from.

 

 

Before all the hullabaloo about the running escapee dog and HIV positive non-bum in need of a $10 co-pay, we went the Capitol. May I just say, that it is a BEAUTIFUL building. It was huge, stately, historic – a Texan palace if there ever was one.

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The State Capitol, Austin TX.

 

And there was nothing like two rallies happening simultaneously on either sides of the building to bring me out of my architecture trance. Catching a glimpse of  huge group of people wearing orange rallying behind PRO-CHOICE and an equally big group of people wearing yellow  rallying behind PRO-LIFE is kind of exciting. A reality check but exciting nonetheless because it made the Capitol more real – that it wasn’t just a Texas-sized palace but a actual functioning state office.

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The only picture I could find of the rally. Too bad I don’t have one for the yellow group.

Now apparently, the Capitol also serves as setting for a photoshoot. The woman in the blue shirt in the picture  below is my mom, who without shame and to my utter embarrassment, asked permission to take pictures of two young girls in their Quinceanera gowns. And what’s even more amazing is that the girls’ mother agreed. So I tried my best to blend into the background and prepared my denial “I’m just standing here, how can you tell if the woman in blue my mom or not?” (Seriously, my mom is cute and charming and gets away with pretty much anything!)

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My mom missed her calling as a Quinceanera photographer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Senate chambers, we found this photograph:

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And then in a stage whisper, my mom asks, “Where is Hilary Clinton in the picture?” *Insert brain explosion* I told her that I don’t think Hilary Clinton is from Texas nor is she part of the State Senate legislature. She didn’t seem convinced but let it go and went on to take more pictures of the Capitol interiors.

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The Lone Star!
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The State Senate

 

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The State Congress

 

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Supreme Court

 

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Archives and Library

 

After the Capitol with its rallies and Quinceanera photoshoots, we found O. Henry’s house, saw a white Schnauzer run through Congress Ave, lied to a possibly sick man and waited to watch the bats fly out from under the Congress Bridge. After an hour of hanging out at the bridge, a guy with a camera approaches to ask if we were waiting for the bats. We said we were to which he answered, “Oh, they’re in Mexico. They’ll be back in March.” I guess the bats know better than me to vacation in Mexico during winter.

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Prior to coming to Austin, I read in the internet that food trucks were really popular there. So on Sunday morning, my mom and I walked to Good Life lot where there were supposed to be a lot of food truck. Supposed to be. Because, all we found were a pink food truck that apparently sold burgers (but was not open yet) and a long line of people waiting for barbecue.

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Incredibly pink food truck not yet open at 11:30 AM.
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Incredibly long line for barbecue!

After failing to get any food from any food truck, my mom and I drove up to Zilker Park. I found a parallel parking spot by the park but to my great humiliation, I failed to properly parallel park. My mom said she’d try and so we switched seats but she was dumbfounded with how my automatic car worked. Finally, the guy in the car behind us got out and asked if we needed help. I was so embarrassed and desperate that I asked him to parallel park for me. Yes, I asked a complete stranger (who is not a valet) to get into my car and park it for me. And he did, God bless him, he did. Which was good too as the other cars behind us were not too happy with the hold up.

What to say about Zilker Park? Not much really, except that it was huge and filled with people and dogs. Not much can be said about Zilker Botanical Garden. It’s not the plants’ fault. January is considered a winter month. Not looking like much is what plants do during winter.

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Zilker Park on a Sunday morning

 

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Zilker Botanical Garden – at least one of the ponds in it

 

What I did enjoy though was Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar. Luckily for us, we arrived at the bar at around 7:30PM the night before and show was starting at 8PM, hence no lines! Unluckily, I didn’t know that we had to reserve a table so we ended up in the side benches used by walk-in customers. Luckily for us still was that the benches were elevated and provided a decent view of the stage and more leg room than the tiny tables.

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After accepting the fact that the famous Austin bats were off to their winter vacay in Mexico, my mom and I trudged down Congress Avenue all the way to 6th Street.

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Austin 6th street is known for entertainment and the bright lights, live music and drunken laughter I experienced upon entering the street justifies it. There were souvenir shops, tattoo parlors, cheap beer ads and a busy vibe, expected in an area known for its night life.

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A shop with odd and ends
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Austin 6th Street

 

Upon research, I decided that Pete’s Dueling Piano bar on 6th Street was the best place to take my mom to because it had pianos in it. I don’t think any other instrument holds my mom’s interest the way the piano does. It probably stems from the fact that I used to take piano lessons as a kid but quickly found out I was no musical prodigy – that I was better off appreciating other people’s music than making my own. Epic fail voice lessons probably didn’t help either. But, that’s another story.

The verdict: Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar does not disappoint! The musicians were awesome. I wouldn’t say they have perfect voices (like I’m really the best person to judge that!) but somehow, everything was just right. I downed two Angry Orchards, my mom had one and we scarfed down two pizza slices (which you had to buy elsewhere because they don’t serve food) while singing, tapping our feet and laughing with the talented people on stage.

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A weekend of runaway dogs, vacationing bats, Quinceanera ball gowns, barely there trees and plants, two food trucks, dueling comedic musicians and Texas-sized palace ground, how do I sum up Austin? As William Sydney Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry sayeth, “He seemed to be made of sunshine and blood-red tissue and clear weather.”

 

 

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