Touring Central Texas On a Budget

Posted: January 2, 2008 in The Roper Files


The last 13 days have been nothing short of a blur; an out-of-body experience. Or was it a dream? Today is my last day off; gotta go work ONE day this week tomorrow. At least I get paid. But the last week especially has been a kaleidoscope of countless cups of coffee, bad traffic, friends, food and getting off my pimply ass and exploring Central Texas. I needed this; a change of routine is welcome indeed. Talked to a cousin I haven’t spoken to in 30 years. Found out I could play the bongos. Visited every guitar store between here and Austin. It’s been a full griddle week.

Thursday my friend Baird, his wife Susannah and their dog Shelby arrive and pick me up. I have crammed five days worth of clothes into a single backpack; we’re off! We cruise down I-35 past the “gentlemens” clubs, the “all-ratings” video stores RV dealerships and endless antique and craft stores. We stop at Kupps in Waco for burgers and reach Austin shortly afterwards. Baird and I take the dog for a walk and then adjourn to Freddies for steaks. Tired, we spend the rest of the night playing with Bairds guitars and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD Everyone wants to crash early, myself included.austin.jpg 

Friday and Saturday are a real blur; can’t even recall what we did. We explored some parks, visited a Guitar Center and Austin Books where we stocked up on comics. Ate at the Green Mesquite Saturday night. Otherwise a pretty forgettable Friday and Saturday. mack-and-me.jpg

Sunday we visited Mack White ( ) and his charming wife Dianne, who treated us to her delicious chicken enchiladas. We ate and conversed the entire afternoon well past sundown.  Mack also gave us  a sneak preview of a comic story he just finished for HOTWIRE #2 ( )   No visit to Austin is complete without visiting Mack and Dianne. After dinner we go to the top of the multi-story parking garage at their apartments, which has a panoramic view of the ever-changing Austin skyline and the new toll roads. The view says a lot about Austin; lots of cranes everywhere.

Monday morning I got hold of a cousin on the phone who I hadn’t spoken to in 30 years. Her family have just moved to Austin from Seattle; she had to work that day so we couldn’t get together but I did at least get to talk to her for a few minutes. Spent most of Monday taking it easy in preparation for New Years. We went to a club and saw the Gourds to ring in the New Year. A few cute single girls in the crowd but not many, mostly couples. Everyone was drunk (except me) and dancing. A hot sweaty evening on an otherwise freezing cold night.


Tuesday I re-cram everything back into the backpack and climb on an Amtrak back to Fort Worth. Four or five hours of lurching along through the wastelands of Appalachia, Texas past endless discarded tires, refrigerators and rusting car parts. The view from the window is dismal; gas wells, cotton fields, seemingly nameless podunk towns. Like the background of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon we rumble past one Lowes, Home Depot, WalMart and McDonalds after another. I bury my nose in Ralph Steadmans latest book The Jokes Over, which is about his working relationship with Hunter Thompson. When I finally arrive back in Fort Worth, I walked into such a sad time at the station (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one) Downtown is deserted; just me and a few angry-looking homeless people standing around. The sun is out but it’s freezing cold; a typical Texas winter day.

Post-holiday depression setting in; felt that beast moving in on me New Years Eve while surrounded by happy drunken couples. Tried to shove it in the car trunk for the holidays and almost succeeded, but Monday night it started creeping in on me again. I could feel its evil presence lurking in the shadows. I know its not going to get any better tomorrow when I have to go back to work. What am I going to do?

After a week in Austin, Fort Worth seems pretty anti-climatic. Too quiet here for my taste. Have to put on some music to break the silence, whereas in Austin all you have to do is listen for it. Austin besides being a college town is also very big on music; everyone there is a musician it seems like. Oh well…someone has to live in Fort Worth; everyone can’t live in Austin.


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