Saturday, June 4, 2011

City Limits

Like anyone with a heartbeat and the occasional neuron firing between my ears, I hate losing. As a kid I'd hit the reset button on a games console as much as I would the ones on the controller. Backyard cricket with friends would occasionally result in an 'accidental' beamer coming down from one end of my parent's back yard to the other. Emotionally, I still struggle for perspective when one of the teams I support lose - it's never 'just a game'. Sometimes I wonder if I hate losing more than I love winning; there's no excuses for victory and it's easier to be gracious with a win than it is to take defeat lightly.

Oddly enough, losing the other day felt good.

As Dicky Peach, Max and I walked alongside the river and back to our hostel Max started a simple game. "First person to spot a cloud wins," he said.

We all looked skywards, and eventually pirouetted when our necks couldn't turn 180° in either directions. We all lost. Never has defeat been sweeter.

Our final night together began downtown. Still nursing a sore head, and knowing that the others had to be up early we promised a quiet night. It started with a quiet beer and a burger before heading to the area under Congress Bridge. Countless runners and bikers moved past us, oblivious to the heat and painting a very different picture of that fat Texan stereotype. With a vantage point directly under the bridge, we waited over an hour for the sun to go down. When it had sufficiently sunken, bats poured out of the bridge's supporting pillars and into the sky.

Thousands fly out in unison in scenes that are more biblical than Texan. We put aside our fear of guano and watched them circle and squeak above us. The sheer number of them is amazing, and the bridge's housing system is tardis-like, miraculous bigger on the inside than out. Once the bats had their 15 minutes of fun, we went back to 6th street for the final time together.

It was almost poetic that we were ordering the cheapest beer at every bar and playing terrible games of pool. It's become what we're good at. Buoyed on by a remarkable Dallas Mavericks victory on the screens, the quiet night got louder and louder.

We moved between a few bars, before settling for the previous night's rooftop. A live band entertained crowd members more equipped with ethanol into some great dance moves. No comedian in the world would have been funnier.

Slowly, we drank our cans (or dropped them all over myself) and were there for the transition from live band to dj. The clocks hadn't hit 1AM, but we'd opted to bring the party back to the hostel. Drunker than we'd planned on getting, we signaled the first taxi we saw for a return to the riverfront hostel.

There was the typical courtesy between a taxi driver and three drunk passengers, and we asked a few questions about his night and his job. Only, somewhere along the way he started on a rant that ended at the hostel, with us having to sit in the car 30 seconds after it came to halt as we waited for him to finish. Jekyll had turned to Hyde, and he was yelling at us as if we were the antagonist from his story. It was more American craziness, and like a rollercoaster, it was frightening until the point where you unbuckle yourself and step out of the ride.

Like the night before, we returned to the pontoon staring up at the sky and looking at the city in the distance. To get to Austin from Massachusetts, the odometers we had all been carrying had been given a bashing. Still, there's no readout for how far we'd all come throughout our time together. In all my days before America, meeting such people and spending our final hours together on a small pontoon on Austin's Colorado River had never entered my mind. Yet, there were few other places I'd rather have been. I barely remember what we were talking about, but I know I didn't want to go inside and eventually to sleep.

With brains full of beer, the following morning was a rushed mess. We all packed our bags, Max waiting for his ride to the airport, Dicky Peach heading to Dallas to fly to Las Vegas and me to spend a few more days in Austin while I figured out where to go next.

The telephone call came at the front desk, and Max's shuttle showed up. He did his best to delay it, but we had to say our good-byes. We shook hands, hugged and wished eachother the best of luck. The same activity was repeated 30 minutes later, as Peach's taxi came and took him to the bus station. The good-byes weren't teary or long, but they were sentimental.

With friends like those two good-byes are never too tough. It's not for a lack of feeling, but more to do with the comfort that we'll see eachother again. It happened to me with people I lived with in Scotland, and no doubt the kinship with people I've met throughout this year is as strong. We've got separate lives to live on opposite sides of the world, but for mates like those two, such hurdles are cleared with ease. It's never really good-bye anyway.

As they left the realisation that I'll be back in Australia soon hit. Again, I'm on my own, but this trip has been given a full stop that manifests itself in a late night flight from Los Angeles on June 28. That feeling of 'home' has become dynamic to the many different places I've laid my head, and I'll be just as upset at the idea of leaving America as I will be about returning to Australia. Until then, my love for America, and yearning for Australia will grow higher than Denali.

Working out where I'm going next really depended on two things. A ticket to each Weezer show in Austin on Monday and Tuesday. After a few quick words with my Mum, and a financial surprise from my Nan I bit the bullet, and treated some scalpers to a nice bit of inflation. Sure I have to stay in for the next few nights, and my food intake has gone from take-out to a strict diet of noodles, pasta and beans on toast, but I'm finally going to see a band I love on two special nights. If it meant not eating at all over the next few days I still would have bought the tickets, I'm just lucky to have an amazing Nan who can still save my skin from the other side of the world. I can not wait to see her in under four weeks.

Obviously, with the food and social life concessions I have to make over the next few days, this also extends to accommodation, and I'm hoping to do some couchsurfing over the next few legs. Fingers crossed the people of Dallas and Santa Fe are as pleasant and hospital as the rest of this country.

Pedo Bear

I spent most of yesterday shying from the heat, and finding my feet again.California is calling, but for a sense of my own personal pride I want my route there to be like my one to Texas - on the ground. It might be just words to most people, but I want to be able to say I went from Cape Cod to San Diego overland. No doubt renewing my relationship with the Pacific Ocean will feel amazing after this great year.

Foolishly, I walked out under the Texas sun at midday. For miles and miles, I walked from the hostel to downtown and around the city's streets. The thermometer never let up, much to the chagrin of my body. The time did fly by however, and Austin showed itself to be a very beautiful place. New Orleans is a lot of fun, but Austin is the queen of the south.

In a park that sits next to the river is a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and it's a great thing that the city should choose to give him such an honour. His is the only statue, as like real life there are no comparisons - he is simply above everyone else. In the area next to his statue manic dogs play in and around the water. If you are ever after some cheap entertainment go to a dog park, if the dogs there were people they'd be acting out the funniest play anyone had ever seen.

By the time I walked back to the hostel, it was nearing 6PM and the temperature was still over 35°. My feet are blistered, and a slurpee has never felt so deserved. I'm broke, but still, there a few other places I'd rather be as I wait to see Weezer. No doubt this place is a highlight on my trip out west - even if part of my stay meant seeing off two great companions, and even better friends.

I found a great bookstore today. If it weren't for the weight of hardcovers, I would have loved to have grabbed the Tom Waits lyrics book as well as Mozipedia. Alas, I'll have to settle for their songs instead.

Tom Waits - I hope I don't fall in love with you

The Smiths - This Charming Man

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