Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Austin, Texas 8/27-30, 2005

I’m so fucking spoiled when it comes to traveling. I live in one of the easiest pedestrian cities in the United States, and, as a result, sometimes forget that the rest of the country isn’t anywhere near as tightly wound as my home (or me).

The first day of any trip is a haze: new settings, old friends, lack of sleep. I had been out drinking with some of the camp posse after work on Friday night, then talked to K. on the phone for a while when I got home. Just like that, five o’clock rolled around, my normal bedtime, except I had to get up at seven-thirty. Totally conked out on both flights before arriving groggy in Austin. I had the good sense to leave my contacts in their travel case, opting to skip sandpapery nap eyes in favor of wearing glasses. I wandered around the airport in a state of corrective lens dystopia before Amanda called out to me. Hadn’t seen her since the winter, but it didn’t even matter as we hung out and talked and filled each other in on what had gone down. Happenings, finds.

I napped, went out to dinner, checked out this huge house party. Chatted with the locals (about football, mostly) and developed an intense relationship with Lone Star, the national beer of Texas. Castro caps, plastic cups, a DJ playing Modern Lovers in the cavernous main room. 128 when it’s dark outside, all the kids mouthed as I stood on the side watching.

The next morning, Amanda drove to the record store that she works at, handed me the keys. She’d be done by 6:00, leaving us plenty of time to get to the Scottish Rite for the Jandek show.

A hundred degrees outside. Little humidity, but still- a hundred is a hundred. I walked down a largely abandoned Sixth Street, stopping in most every storefront I could find to get some AC, find relief from the brutality of the weather. I drank a few bottles of water, ate some lunch, still felt dizzy. Fuck it. No walking once I got back to the record store.

The streets ran in numbered order, instilling a sense of direction that was able to override my utter lack of directional bearings- I only got lost a few times, minor instances all. I drive so infrequently that getting behind the wheel still makes me a little nervous initially. After a little while, though, it all comes back, just as it does with old friends- driving a car is just like riding a bicycle.

Amanda’s CD changer cycled through discs as I bumbled my way around town- ‘Ill Communication’, Mission of Burma, Devo, and this one disc that I kept going back to. Cleanly produced, loud/soft radio friendly emo-ish stuff, but with soul. Like they were a touchstone, a linchpin rather than an ape.

“Knapsack,” Amanda said when I picked her up. A band that she had recommended to me like ten times this one summer when she still lived in Boston.

The next day, I dropped her off, drove around some more- managed to get only nominally lost driving to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library listening to Devo and (yes) Knapsack, again. All presidential libraries are essentially the same, I think- the history at the beginning to put things into perspective, which bleeds right into the man when he was young, then right into the administration itself. Still had a good time, tripped out on the paper teleprompter roll from LBJ’s “I shall not seek and will not accept” speech, smiled when the guy behind the front desk told me that our blizzard-wracked winter was penance for the Sox winning the Series.

Back at the record store to pick up Amanda, rush hour traffic, “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver.” Running late, topical stress atop a calm that I hadn’t felt for months. An air-conditioned car during rush hour with a stereo, everything left behind, if only for a few days.

A keg of beer when I arrived- promotional perk of the day at the store. I wandered around, had a few, talked to strangers about the Red Sox. Knapsack was unavailable, so Amanda pointed me in the direction of The Jealous Sound, the singer’s new band. More of the same polished dyn-emo with up-front lyrics and surgical musicianship. I checked all of the usual spots in the used bins, looking for a few elusive Lungfish, Three Mile Pilot albums. A new band, that dog. , has been added to my used bin scour- an act that is largely out of print. Their singer, though, Petra Haden, recorded an a capella cover of “The Who Sell Out”, which landed in my grubby little hands. All the parts- guitar, drums, bass- sung, with album notes by Mike Watt. Dork heaven.

Before I left, Amanda burned a copy of the Knapsack record for me, handmade a cover. It’s barely come out of the CD player since.


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