The drive up there is actually pretty pleasant -- not scenic, exactly, but an easy drive, and you start seeing signs of life as soon as you hit the Austin city limits. It really is a world of difference from San Antonio: it's a prettier town, with rolling hills, lakes and what you'd call "scenery", and there are points on the map where you can stand, look five blocks in any direction, and not see an ugly agglomeration of chain stores, something you can't do here. Austin's high hipster population is both a blessing and a curse -- I saw more pea coats and blond boys with dreadlocks than suits me -- but their existence helps support a thriving arts scene, which is sorely lacking where I'm at.
I met up with my gracious hosts, Dutcher and Julie Beth Stiles (who surely have the most awesome real names of any couple I've ever met); much of the Austin contingent was already in attendance, including scottvond and his tiny-skulled dog Maury, oilyrags, and a visiting andrewlevine, a hail-young-fellow-well-met who I did not at any point have the urge to physically assault. There was some talk of seeing Redd Vollkaert, but given the lateness of the hour, we decided instead to stick around and plan dinner. A van was stuffed with all present and guided along the 2222 to County Line BBQ, where we ate like the pigs that we ate once ate. From there it was back to Casa de Stiles, where very, very much liquor was consumed (it seems almost certain these days that sotol will be the death of me) and games were played. Game #1 was Settlers of Catan, which I haven't played in a long while (having forsaken it for the superior Cities & Knights), but it's good to see that I haven't entirely lost my touch. The next game was many, many, many games of poker, for which I have no touch, but I still came out slightly ahead (to the tune of about 90 cents), due largely to the intoxicated state of my fellow players. God bless you, alcohol!
The festivities wrapped at the ungodly hour of four-something, and after waking up hung over and hapless, I was treated to a "breakfast" (if you can call something served at 1PM "breakfast") of powerful hangover-fightin' potency by Dutcher & JB. Then it was solo to some Austin hot spots (Waterloo Records & Video, the big Whole Foods flagship store, and Book People, a multistory bookshop) before hooking up with thehighhat and his lovely wife and robust boy. Here is what li'l' Sphere had to say:
And so said we all, until it was off to meet oilyrags and andrewlevine at the Alamo Drafthouse to take in the new Guillermo Del Toro flick, Pan's Labyrinth. It was pretty good, but mostly on account of the stunning visuals rather than the pedestrian story and the spotty acting (the female leads were great, but the main male character took a one-dimensional villain and made him half-dimensional). The pre-show footage of triplet contortionists was more enjoyable in a certain sense. The Alamo Drafthouse is pretty great, though, featuring not only beer aplenty, but a full-service menu gathered in a clever fashion. There's one here in SA, which I might throw some custom one of these days.
That was about it for the big weekend; I headed back Sunday night to beat the icy rain I was assured was coming Monday and spent all of yesterday polishing off the freelance work and watching DVDs. Oh, the life of a loser. Thanks to all my friends in Austin for their graciousness in putting up with my doddered carcass.