An ode to Austin, Texas
July 19, 2012 | 1:00 pm
(Updated: July 16, 2012 | 2:09 pm)
By Amy Lynn O’Connell
If you had a soundtrack for your life, what songs would make the cut? Maybe you would have a scattered jazz jig – you know the kind you hear some random night at Dazzle surrounded by men snapping in skinny jeans. Perhaps it’s a selection of stumbled-upon local bands that you picked up in shotty homemade CD sleeves last summer at UMS. Pause here and thank your friend with a “mixed tape” entitled Music of the Moment for that skip in your step lately.
When I think of all the places I’ve traveled, one of the most brilliant places to feed the beat of my soul is Austin. I don’t claim to be an expert on the town (hell, I’ve never even been to the SXSW festival) but I’ve stumbled into some fun around a town I believe is a slightly more mature version of the Mile High.
To all you Denverites soul searching for a jam to shimmy and shake to, head to the hot haven of Austin for a selection of sizzling sounds.
Strap a Gee-Tar to Your Back
Mid-week at work, you find yourself wondering if you’ll suddenly snap the next time someone asks you for a “status report.” You peruse Travelzoo for the latest cheapo trips. Austin? Click. Booked. Heading home you wonder what to stash in your luggage. Something about Austin feels rough and cartoonish, like you should travel there in overalls, whistling, with a long stick over your shoulder – your clothes dangling at the far end wrapped in a plaid sheet.
You arrive in Austin early in the evening, hungry, and place a quick call to your local friend ready to reminisce about collegiate mishaps. Remaining faithful to a city famous for barbecue, you vow to indulge your inner carnivore in lieu of tofu and tempeh. You stash your spurs at the historic Driskill Hotel – a haunted place famous for the ghosts of many artistically brilliant guests. Your friend arrives to take you to a dusty joint with peanut shells crackling under your shoes. Green Mesquite, a shabby little watering hole is not far from the cliché commotion of 6th. It’s been perfection since prime time ’80s, and you hum ’88 chart-topper George Harrison “Got my mind set on you,” laugh to yourself, and point to the smoked turkey on the menu. Belly full, you request loud and live music and head down to 6th – stashing the car for the night in favor of cabs and cocktails.
Recalling a recommendation from your overly chatty plane-mate, you elbow your friend and point up to a sign: Brew Exchange. In-between the stories about his failed business ventures, Mr. Plane-Mate suggested this hot spot on upper 6th that sells all local brews priced by their popularity on that given evening. You’ve never been one for investing, but bring on the bull market! You dart in and out of several seedy bars, meeting new friends and enjoying the live music –secretly expecting to see Warren Haynes busing out “Sick of my shadow” from some rickety raft of a stage. The people in this city are fun, funny and carefree, and it’s not just the copious amounts of delicious beer. You end the night at a local’s recommendation: Lipstick24 on 7th. Deemed “the IT bar” for the lesbian scene, it serves its purpose with strong drinks, some cute people and no exes in sight. Sweet bliss. You retreat to a properly air condition room, kick off your boots and wonder what took you so long to head to this city?
After sleeping in Saturday morning, you head to Ladybird Johnson Lake – a pleasantly packed pool that’s actually fed by the Colorado River (shout out to CO!). Spend the afternoon struggling to stand-up on your rented paddle-boat and head back to the hotel to freshen up.
Early evening, you find yourself in SOCO, a short cab ride across the river. Take a seat at Woodland, a trendy restaurant with friendly wait staff offering duck empanadas on special. OK? In. Why not? Sip some lemon and lavender vodka delight and smile with your sore and satisfied paddle boarded muscle.
After dinner you decide to treat your eyes to some people watching and head down S. Congress – making a mental note of all the cute shops you’ll return to tomorrow for pre-flight shopping. Your server gave you a run down of legitimate local secrets for live jazz – perhaps you’ll catch someone famous at The Continental Club. Walking up to the unmistakable sweet sounds, it almost misses your attention for looking so common. It really captures Austin’s energy as being understated and rugged chic; you never know what treasures you’ll find in the rough.
Ready for one last refrain, you stop at Amy’s Ice Creams for a sweet cream single scoop and start to head across the bridge, back to the city. The buildings are lit up in full force, cars drive past you with bass booming. You hum a tune of your own design, brush shoulders with other night-walkers and let the rhythm of your feet carry you closer to the lights. ]
Looking for a few more draws to the city that stays weird? Check out a few of these highly recommended treats: