In the spirit of one of my favorite holidays, and this being my fifth Thanksgiving in the state of Texas, I decided to share something I wrote about my first Thanksgiving after arriving here in Austin.
A lot has changed since my first years here, and the voice of my narrative definitely sounds like my former 24-year-old self. A little bit of word soup here, and a tad more cockiness there with a dash of waxed poeticism.
But it’s still a pretty funny/entertaining short read, and it brings back fond early memories of my time here…
I woke up this morning immediately thankful for the lack of a steamroller or God-knows-what-else heavy equipment rolling outside my bedroom window. I slept until quarter after twelve.
I had no idea what I was going to do for food or drink today, so I just munched on some leftover Hawaiian French Toast and had some coffee. The first few hours of my day passed with no ado at all. So, long story short, The Patriots won, we had some laughs, and we were crossing the river on the bus by 3:45.
We wasted our time wandering around the 500-600 block between Congress and San Jacinto looking for a place to find some food. Most places were closed. Those that weren’t looked, for lack of a better term, gay. Or at least touristy. We were approached by the random homeless guy, using Thanksgiving as the ploy to give him our money.
“Sorry, buddy. No change.”
“Oh come on, man! Nothing?!… Oh, shit man.. You didn’t need to flash your blade man, it’s cool!”
And then Patrick realized as he looked down, when he went to scratch his back, it pulled his shirt up to where you could see the jack-knife that’s always clipped to his waistline.Before we could explain, the guy had already backed away to his group in the grip of mind-controlling alertness that allows you to survive on the street.
We were bewildered with laughter for quite a while, replaying the scenario again and again, before the hunger caught up with us.
So we found ourselves making the run down the Northbound side of Congress Ave, passing by whatever place we could remember… Roaring Fork? No. Marakesh? Not a chance. We were on our way to check out West 6th, which I had an immediate distaste for when I remembered Union Park: one of the last restaurants I applied at before finding my current employment, and being so happy about not getting the “call back” a few weeks later when I passed by drunk on the street and “You Oughta Know” by Alaniss Morrisette was BLASTING on their house P.A. system.
Wait. What? Oh, yes. Thanksgiving.
Luckily the intervention of the Capitol Metro Public Transportation System led us down the fast lane of the old Straight and Narrow to the Guadalupe Drag outside of the West edge of the UT campus. We passed by the usual dumbass UT fans, who were pissing themselves in the street over the day’s game. I still don’t know who won. Or care. But what’s important here is that we had little money and a patience that grew shorter as our appetites increased, when we finally settled on the Kerbey Lane Cafe – a fine establishment of eating and hospitality, but we never even found out if they were open. We happened by the Hole in the Wall first.
“Dude, let’s go in here and get a drink.”, Swainy instisted, “I need to piss.”.
We shrugged and leaned through the door.
The bartender greeted us warmly, and we ordered beers and shot the shit briefly, but it was once he informed us of the free potluck that they were hosting that we instantly felt more at ease and really drove it home with a round of Wild Turkey 101s and Shiners. We had arrived.
I had been to the Hole in the Wall once before with Josefin and Elisabeth, our first couchsurfers, when we stopped in for a margarita and beer a few weeks ago. But I had no idea how far the place stretched back. It seemed to keep going until we made our way to the shuffle board table, which I claimed as my own with a flawless shuffle board career victory. Words cannot express my pride or feeling of righteous determination. My dick is big.
We made ourselves well at home by holding faux professional commentary on the Dallas/NOLA game and basically shooting the shit with any random passersby, and simultaneously hijacking Alex’s (a local classically-trained pianist, who was cute and pleasant, but understandably befuddled) table. We made nice and shot absurdities until I wandered into the back with Alex and fired up with some of the staff and started a game of pool with Patrick and Swainy that we ditched without a second’s afterthought when they announced that the food was ready.
Turkey, green bean casserole, cheese and crackers, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, deviled eggs, stuffing, dressing… and we were already half in the bag. We ate like the Kings of Vagabonds, also after hijacking another random named Janeane’s table.
And then the Bluegrass started.
It seemed all too perfect. A day that grew cooler by 20 degrees after we woke up, a full Thanksgiving spread that we stumbled onto, a vast communal vibe of camaraderie permeating through the entire barroom, some classic Thanksgiving banter with the family over the phone that made it clear that they were having their fair share of toasts, and now some down-home goddamn Bluegrass. I had a Chesire grin that would paralyze any 19th-century dope-addled European man-child. Yeah, put THAT one together. I have $15 for the first person that can.
But it seemed apparent amongst us that our time there had been served well, but was over. We settled on one last shot of Turkey and hit the streets, which weren’t nearly as chilly as they were when we walked in.