When one is touring on the kind of budget that has you pitching a tent in culverts, begging showers from strangers, and celebrating peanut butter going on sale at Dollar General, behaving comes easy - pretty irritating really. When production values increase on my next Grand Project (with the same Grand Result?), I'm gonna come back here and get exhAusted.
Austin's downtown core caters to non-abstainers, a horizonless ocean of bars, taverns, roadhouses, beer joints, and dives - all with live music. Coffee shops are sprinkled strategically, islands of temporary respite in a sea of saloons. Pub crawls in this town must be epic, and frequently lethal, the Mt. Everest of alcoholic endurance. "Keep Austin Weird" is the town slogan, with the runner-up slogan, "Keep Austin Wasted", presumably losing by a narrow margin. The monster music festival "South by Southwest" starts this weekend, prompting locals to leave town in droves and rent their places for anything from $1000-$5000/night to people no longer accustomed to PB & J unmixed with caviar.
I'm sitting at a profoundly hipster-ridden coffee shop - feeling right at home, thank you - called Juan Pelota, attached to Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop. The entire complex is owned by Lance Armstrong. In Spanish, Juan Pelota means One Ball and, say what you will about his ethics, the guy's got ball.
Seb is wandering the city, hoping to have a conversation with someone other than his father. Last night we stayed with Warmshowers hosts T.J. and Lonnie, such normal, together, successful people that it was almost off-putting. Many of our hosts so far have been clearly broken people, so needy, so emotionally crippled, so fringe in an unhealthy way, that Seb and I feel less like mooches, and more as if we're performing an important task by playing the role of bobblehead doll, agreeing with the rant-of-the-moment, lavishly heaping praise, and complementing their evident, generous spirit. T.J. and Lonnie were more like our own friends (broken but in a way that we choose to deem healthy) - well, many of our friends - and the mooch meter was firmly fixed on "Freeloader".
Tonight we're staying with Laura, Aaron, and 4-month-old Ayla. We met Laura at this same coffee shop yesterday - go serendipity! - her first words to us being "Don't crowd me." As any new mother with fine instincts would do, once exposed to Canadian Culture and Charm - Belleville Edition, she invited us to stay at their place on the proviso that we help clean it up. They're renting it out for the weekend to some of the aforementioned SXSW high rollers; everyone wins, with the possible exception of whoever does the toilets.