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Late Doors

Austin, Texas, Horse Walks into a Shop.

Not long back from the lone star state and its beginning to piece itself together. I really need to start acting my age at some point. On second thoughts do i chuff, we had, to borrow the local vernacular, a fucking awesome time man.

Five of us on what i guess was my stag do flew over last Thursday and came back yesterday. Si and i had been before 19 year ago as part of a bigger trip around Texas but didn't really explore it as we only had blues venues on our mind. This time we had good look at it.

First and foremost it was the live music and bbq we went for but of course there are other sides to the city. Its renowned for being the most liberal democratic place in Texas for instance. Of course this is all relative as a self professed feminist and gay rights champion told us after explaining his gun collection of 40 different self defence tools was a thing of beauty. It's also the cultural capital as well as the civic capital of Texas and is home to thousands of students in the campus area north of downtown.

But lest anyone is under any illusion i can assure you all that we had four and a half days well and truly on the piss from mid afternoon to midnight and beyond.

The super 8 motel on 12th and interstate was our base. Probably wasn't wise to play MrsD Jason Isbells "don't wanna die in a super 8 motel" before we went but it was nowhere near as bad as she feared.
First night after travelling for 18 hours we headed straight to j Blacks feel good lounge for beer and pulled pork sliders. Then a short walk to Woodrow's down 6th that was showing the NBA playoffs. Lots of Houston Rocket fans as they are the big Texan team in the bar as well as a few golden state fans. Fabulous atmosphere akin to a play off footie game in Leeds when we are away. Very exciting game as well with Houston fluffing a chance to win it in literally the last second.

The mornings and early afternoon time was essentially a time to find ways of keeping the big lad and Ged the Red out of the bars. Breakfast was a good start and what monumental concoctions they are. Platters with bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, toast and chilli hashed potatoes for instance. Massive piles of fried chicken on waffles with enough syrup to take the calorie count into five figures and Omelettes an inch and a half thick. I abstained usually from the bloody Marys unlike the other four but even i couldn't resist a special bacon infused special in one place with an actual rasher of bacon dunked in it. I wonder where the line is between these so called " pick me ups" enjoyed by the affluent sophisticates and a can of special brew by the bed. "It's not like a real drink" said big Shaun after his third.

Very conveniently next to the 24 hour diner breakfast place was the brilliant Waterloo records which kept us entertained for a hour as well as relieving us of a few dollars. It's what we came for though and the exchange rate was in our favour. Quite similar to Jumbos actually except bigger of course.

From there a 60 minute walk south over the congress bridge via the coolly named Mellow Johnnies bike shop ( more a bike supermarket than a shop) and we were in the Soco (south congress) area. It's a stretch of congress avenue lined with independent shops and bars as well as the brilliant continental music lounge. Here you could buy quality t shirts, cowboy boots and Texan hats amongst lots of other less tourist gear and paraphernalia. It was also here we came across the horse in a shop of the thread title. Carrots, that was her name was stood in the window with a bloke singing Country songs on her with a girl from Castle Howard playing guitar who recognised our accents. It was a lovely half hour listening to the music browsing the shop talking to the owner who gave us beer. Of course we bought stuff but if that is entrapment give me more.

By half two in the Friday afternoon heat it was beer time. We plumped for a bar on the main drag in the middle of the Soco area.

Beer has come a long way in the states since our first trip in 88 when all you could get was shitty bud type piss. We had crisp lively pale ales, full bodied hopped interesting IPAs and rich tasty porters. We had no choice but to stay there for a couple of hours before the 60 minute walk back to the super 8 via Stubbs BBQ on Red River St. for another ale or two.

Half hour later we were back in for ribs, brisket and turkey BBQ. Not the finest but good enough. The place is great with a huge beer garden where bands play bur the real treat was meeting up with an American couple from Tennessee down for a family wedding. They were great and loved us. Genuine British guys they said as if we were something special. So much so they came with us to the lucky lounge on 5th, a fab music venue with a fab band playing whom we got talking to. They recommended the Speakeasy nearby for later on in the night.

After saying goodnight and exchanging contact numbers with our friends from Knoxville we went to the speakeasy for another band where things disintegrated very nicely into a noisy haze. A great day and night ending at 3 am and it was only our first full day there.

I'll write some more later and hopefully get some pictures up.



I'll give it a Lone Star.

The Clit Eastwood of Reg.
Late Doors

it was well ace


Saturday morning slumber was dispersed with inconsiderate guests in the Super8 banging about and talking loudly on the balconies. The recent incident in nearby Waco made me think twice about any remonstration with them.

We were out and about by 10am to another diner on 5th that served the bacon infused bloody Marys I mentioned earlier and the huge breakfast plates. It was called Franks pork militia, proud purveyors or pork and its tasty friends. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue unlike the food but Just as importantly the place was ace. Cool, semi chic, great background music which was a feature of the whole city and the usual terrific staff who make our so called service deliverers more like school dinner matrons. Waiting on busy tables is hard work and i am constantly mega impressed whenever i go to the States. It's a place i have no problem tipping at all unlike here.

The city is extremely walker and bike friendly so a nice saunter west to Barton springs passed Saturday morning. It's a local beauty spot where people swim, canoe and generally frolic in the lovely flowing river that eventually feeds into the massive Colorado river  underpinning the City to divide north and south areas.

Then the expected rains came and we ensconced on mahogany ridge in the ace uncle Billy's brewery bar on Barton spring rd. We knew a downpour was due so got in early to get a good table. Sure enough by the second pitcher of IPA the place was nicely packed with that lively organised and relaxed atmosphere you get in American bars.

Boy did it rain. The sky darkened and unleashed a torrent but people were still outside in it shirtless, walking and running through it as if it was there personnel shower. Not everyone though as more drenched souls entered the bar.

I guess half a dozen beers each were sunk along with buffalo wings along with laughs and chat until it ceased and the staff got us a taxi back to the Super8.

The taxi driver gave us his number and we christened him Henry the ninth on account of seemingly to be related to royalty and being one of those guys been every fucking where and who's done  every fucking thing. Good fun though and knew every fucking thing about Austin.

Half hour later we were back on his cab going north to the campus area specifically Freidman's BBQ. Unfortunately it was graduation day and the place was completely full so we had ring Henry up again to take us back to the Soco area. Friedman's gave us all 10 dollar vouchers each and promised us we would get in tomorrow.

Meanwhile in Soco we arrived in this hugely popular pizza place but waited a hour for a table. By this time much beer had been drunk and the huge delicious pizzas were devoured. They were mouth wateringly yum. As usual with American Bar food it was probably disgracefully unhealthy but fantastically tasty.

Then more rain. We thought the afternoon's was bad enough but this took it to another level of incredulity. We sat outside under the shelter eating pizza, drinking beer and watched aghast as the storm blew in. I'm struggling to describe the shear driving dense intensity of the rain. It wasn't rain as we know it, more like millions of spears of water belting downward into the ground saturating the air with soaking anger. Then it stopped after half hour to allow the sky's to be cracked open with incessant jagged lightning and a rolling sinister thunder. Then more rain even heavier than before. Just unreal, even by their standards it seems as locals stood and watched too. It was like this for nigh on a hour. The aftermath was cruel, homes were washed away on the surrounding country and ten people were still missing. I shall never moan about the rain again.

It finally eased just on cue for the short dash to the Continental lounge almost next door for the ten o'clock music set. The Continental lounge is an Austin institution. The main hall is about the size of the Irish centre whilst upstairs is the more intimate gallery lounge.

Five draught IPA s at the lengthy bar and the band came on. They were the White Ghost Shivers and clearly have a local following. They mixed ragtime prohibition music with vaudeville music hall to a great lively and quirky fun sound with faux horror. Interesting but not something you play at home.

That was Saturday. I'm pretty sure we left the place in two groups in taxis. I got propositioned by what i am assuming to be a hooker outside. Quite funny really, she sang that hello song, "is it me your looking for" to me. Maybe she wasn't a hooker but obviously i had to thank her and bade her goodnight. It was a good night and another fab day.

Last Full Day Tomorrow

Bloody hell LD, sounds like you had a blast. I'm salivating reading about the food. What an amazing place. Glad you had a good trip mate, it's what lads of yours and their calibre deserve. Top reporting and thanks for posting!
smiling badger

Brilliant stuff, glad you had a great time.
Late Doors

Last Bit

By now a routine had developed. Shaun knocking us all up for the off for half nine. Across the interstate along 12th, left down Red River St and West along 6th.

It was back to the 24 diner for chicken and waffle brekky, bloody Marys and lots of water and earl grey tea. Next door to Waterloo records to scoop up any music that was playing on our minds and back down across the river to Soco for souvenirs and t shirts. Not before saying hello to famous Austenite Stevie Ray Vaughan or at least his statue riverside scanning the city. There's a Willie Nelson one somewhere as well that we came across. Can't see a Ricky Kaiser one cropping up in Leeds anytime. Maybe a Mick McCann one.

Up in Soco Carrots the horse had left the shop but the assistant greeted us warmly. Ged the Red fancied some Cowboy boots but not at about 500 bucks a pair. I fancied some kind of hat but not at 300 bucks. It was all good quality stuff but sense got the better of us as we stuck to t shirts.

Obviously we had to go to the bar and managed to stave it off till half two. Two taxis then took us south to the ABG Austin Beer Garden where the Hugh Cornell band were due on at four. Another fabulous venue but with it being Sunday afternoon very family oriented. It was good to be in and amongst a different busy and lively vibe. We were getting a lot of attention" oh, you one of the British guys" said one lass and we were chatting away again. Not i state in a flirty chat up way just nice friendly chat. It was ace. Americans i find, especially on their own patch are the friendliest most welcoming people around. We have much in common yet seen so different which i will try to articulate later. I love the way races mix. Yeah this place was mainly white middle class but there were plenty of Hispanic and black middle class around as well.

The band played blues boogie rock, rock n roll and country exceptionally well. They are the Sunday house band so not original but still live and still great to have in the same room as mates, new friends and  cold IPA. Henry picked us up and took us back to the super 8. Another cab picked us up to take us back to Friedman's with our ten dollar off vouchers. The bloody place had sold out of everything so we frantically hailed the cab back to take us back into town along 6th.

As i said earlier it was graduation day and the city was packed with graduates and their mums n dads all seemingly intent on pinching our BBQs. Finally settled on J Black's feel good lounge, the place where we started on Thursday all that time back. It too was heaving but the waitress was brilliant and soon we were into brisket chicken and crab cakes along with the by now "usual" IPA.

It got late and we were behind schedule if in fact such a schedule existed. We caught the last twenty minutes of a band in the ace Lucky Lounge and sat at the top bar high up for another hour.

I first met Ged the Red on the first day at work nearly 40 years ago. Big Shaun also started that same day but it was Ged who i went to the stores with to get steel toe capped boots. "These will be good for kicking some scum fans" i said. " I'm a Man U fan you twat" he said and we have been best muckers ever since. He is half the size of Shaun, always has been but drinks like him. Consequently he gets absolutely twatted. One of those people who don't have an in built auto turn off switch. I love him, we all do but he can be a fucking liability on the piss. His jack Daniels slid off the bar and crashed into the glass collection. So did his next. We left the club him almost on his knees. He fell into a table and chairs knocking everything in sight to the floor covering it with his flailing torso and flapping limbs. I picked him up and led him out. The bouncers bid us a cheery good night. They are no strangers to this behaviour in this area of town it seems.

Right said Ged " Speakeasy" and in we went. I barely remember it but we caught the back end of another band before the best band of the trip came on and shot through the addled fuzz of my head. I cannot find out their name. They had a female Singer along the lines of Chrissy Hynde, the Yeah Yeah Yeah lass Karen O and more recently Courtney Barnett. The sound was awesome, dirty gritty in your face and exiting. They aren't in any listings. I suspect it was an unpublished appearance and i just have a blurry picture of them. They were tremendous. Maybe i was just overcome from the whole thing.

None of us has any idea how we got back that night. There is certainly a missing hour at least unaccounted for by four of us and we don't even know if we came back together. Greg left before us and had to put Ged to bed so he knew the time Ged was back but that is all. I do seem to have acquired a homemade CD dedicated to me by someone calling themselves small hands. I hope that doesn't explain the lost time. I have a vague recollection of talking to him at some bar. I've not played it yet though. No matter we had a good laugh about it the day after as you do.
The day after was all about the journey back. We were all surprisingly chipper as we checked out and climbed into the taxi for the airport. The flight from Chicago was delayed 2 hours so guess what we did. I say we but me n Greg abstained. I more or less had to pour Ged into the plane. Thankfully the staff didn't care or notice. They even plied him with more bloody Marys until they too twigged and activated his switch off.

That was that. A tremendous fun and exciting trip packed with laughs, comrade and dare i say not a small amount of hedonism. None of us do drugs none of us do whores. Were  55 not 25 after all although none of us spend any time thinking about that.

To be honest the live music although plentifully wasn't what i was expecting. I was expecting Brudenell type stuff galore, Americana, alt country etc but it was more straight rock or quirky dramatic stuff. Keep Austin Weird says the t shirts but i don't think it's weird. Definitely tolerant, artistic and open but not weird.

The rest of the craic was exactly what i was expecting. You can't beat America for that. I know it's a massive place but the city craic is pretty much the same all over. The people are generally very much ace especially when they know you are enjoying their country. They are always eager to find out about British culture but it's pretty obvious what they know they get from the telly on films, TV and music. Pretty much like we do about them i suppose. It can be pretty comical though hearing them being apologetic when the say how great Braveheart is because they think we might be offended.

The thing that always strikes me whenever I'm there is space. There's huge amounts of it both in the cities and  the country. It seems to rub into the culture and mentality. There is a vastness to everything that really juxtaposes with our compactness both in geography and attitudes. It was the states where Bob Dylan first made sense to me and now where i now understand how Wilko can exist. Neither of them could be created in the UK just as much as Joy Division could not have started over there.

Here money and the pursuit of it inhibits life, restricts it somehow but over there it lubricates life. Over there capitalism is the unquestionable religion of normality. It cannot be questioned especially by anyone who isn't poor. It is simply the divine way. And it works, it works brilliantly. There's a freedom it brings that i can never find here. Here i will always be a working class northern chancer no matter how well i do. There's an undercurrent of class and regional division that makes capitalism dishonest and restrictive. Over there it's a much more open and honest capitalism that actually liberates. I understand why it is loved so much. Over there i feel at home. I'm judged and taken for what i  am. Manners, respect, behaviour and intelligence are what matters. Here you can have all that but if you don't look and talk right you're a scumbag. A bit dramatically put i know but that's the gist of how i feel and how i have felt every single time I have been to the states. I'd hate to be uneducated and poor over there though. Forum Index -> Strange plaices
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