“Howdy y’all, how y’all doin’?” “Y’all come back now.” People really do say those things here, and sound like they mean it. People in stores and restaurants are unfailingly polite, patient and friendly. This is a wonderful open city, with music everywhere, much going on, a very youthful spirit. Lynn loves it so much, she’s reluctant to go back to the south of France, which shows you how great it is.
Odd thing: many of the streets have no sidewalks. City life revolves around the car; one of the main architectural wonders is the number of above ground parking garages of all styles and sizes. I passed a daycare centre today with a big playground outside – a play house, play cars and a big play gas station. Gettin’ them ready. There are almost no stores downtown, all are in distant malls – which means that the streets downtown, even huge Congress Avenue, are amazingly empty, full, I gather, only during the festivals. Of which there are many. The city is filled with ornate mansions, shapely old trees, and very loud birds – competing with the music pouring from every door, perhaps.
Today Denis left to fly back to France, and after a slow morning, Mme. Blin and I took the bus to the university; she worked at the library and I went to the Blanton Art Gallery nearby, a nice collection, including – take note Brucie – a real Claude Lorrain, and a Last Supper in chocolate syrup by Vik Muniz. I wandered around the university, noting that the entire campus is deemed smoke-free, and passing a large building entitled “Longhorns for Christ.”
In fact, the Man himself is very much in evidence everywhere – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many churches, even in Catholic countries. On our drive the other day, there was a church every hundred yards, it seemed, with a highway sign – “Church” – to let you know there’s one coming up, in case you feel a great urge to pray.
We took a free shuttle bus to the groovy part of town, where there’s a fabulous record store called Waterloo and the best bookstore in Texas across the street. At 5, there was a free concert at Waterloo by the Wheeler Brothers, mucho rockabilly talent, great fun, much toe-tapping and looking at a vast array of CD’s, including singers like Ontario’s Kathleen Edwards and Ron Sexsmith. Supper nearby, delicious beer, local produce, a big open room, as friendly as everything is. And then a wander around the bookstore, which was full of left-wing signs, kindred spirits, no “We don’t dial 911” spirit here. Lots of readings coming up there, and more free concerts at Waterloo, tons of interesting people coming to town – Tony Kushner, Kate Atkinson, Kris Kristofferson tomorrow, and soon – be still my beating heart – Paul McCartney himself. Maybe I should come back. Maybe Lynn and I should just set up camp.
“Y’all come back, yuh hear?” they say. To which the only answer is, “Yes ma’am!”
P.S. As usual, my French friends know how to appreciate the best of wherever they are. On Denis’s last night, our dinner at home consisted of avocados to start – the avocados here are unbelievably good, so we just ate them French-style, cut in two and filled with vinaigrette – then steak (because he was going back to France where beef is five times more expensive) cooked just with salt and pepper, a piece of corn, and for dessert, divine local mangoes. They marvel too at gas prices – again, five times cheaper than where they live.