Alone Star State: Chapter 3
Upon making acquaintance with a young lesbian couple visiting from Los Angeles, we all decided it was time to nourish ourselves by way of an Asian-influenced taco truck helmed by none other than Top Chef Season 9 winner, Paul Qui. Beet home fries? Yes, please. I quickly learned that in this part of town, there was nary such thing as a brick-and-mortar dining establishment, Austinites opting instead to have their food stored conveniently behind their bars in parking lots filled with trucks. After some drunk googling (droogling?), I discovered that with over 200,000 food trucks, Austin was the US capital of mobile munching, lending a new if less altruistic meaning to Meals on Wheels. Lauren, Joanie and I (names have been changed to protect “Joanie”, the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister back home who is not yet aware of her recent life choices) had entered into a routine: zigzagging from bar to truck and back to bar again, having our presence felt in every nook and cranny of the neighborhood. One venue had locally famous DJs spinning dubstep tracks du jour, another had an indie rock outfit that was one Last Call with Carson Daly appearance away from national recognition, and a third featured live karaoke, a New York delicacy, at best. We stuffed our faces with the smorgasbord of sounds, all of it in one square mile and over the course of one night. After some admittedly sloppy dancing, my new best friends regrettably informed me they needed to wake up early tomorrow for a full day of sightseeing; with pecks on my cheek, flicks of their hair and turns of their heels, I was alone yet again, the nouveau-metal band getting louder behind us and drowning out my final goodbyes.
What on Mother Earth was the name of this song and how did it possess the key to my soul? How come Shazam never seems to work when you finally remember to use it? It couldn’t be 3AM already, could it? Do they have ruffies in Texas or did I just order one too many Long Island Iced Teas?
I couldn’t be sure, but around two hours had passed since the lesbian lovers left my side and I was trying to navigate my way toward a successful end to my first night on the town. A scene-y rock band was nearing the end of their set as the crowds began to thin. When in a club by yourself on the other side of the country, you tend to overreact to exchanged pleasantries with the opposite sex. Struggling to make conversation, I indulged in probably the barest minimum for what could be considered coincidence—Oh my God, you went to college? Me too! I needed to make a bee line for the exit. And fast. After a small scuffle with the bouncer about whether or not I could leave the venue with half a glass of beer in tow – I lost the argument – I exited the bar stage left and saw in the distance a square-shaped dance hall decorated with lights of every color beckoning me to come hither. Finally, I thought, the bar that struck the perfect balance of pandering to the ironically bearded while paying homage to the Texas of yesteryear. Just when thinking I had seen it all, I became a master of the two-step at The White Horse, Austin’s very own hipster honky-tonk.
It’s a testament to my sheltered upbringing and childhood shaped by mass entertainment that the first thing I thought of upon entering the bar was Friday Night Lights. Raised by television and a tendency to travel internationally instead of road-tripping cross country—let’s give #FirstWorldProblems a final curtain call before retiring the phrase—my idea of Texas was molded by Brian Grazer and Peter Burg. However skewed my version of Texas might have been, it was not hard to imagine Smash Williams, Tim Riggins and most of Dillon celebrating a late season victory at a place just like this one. Patrons both young and old, native and transplant lined the bar, a shot of whiskey in one hand and a Lone Star in the other. I mosied on over to the dance-floor, minding my own business, when, out of the blue, a middle-aged woman from El Paso sidled up next to me and began the Texas Two-step. Our traditional gender roles reversed, I followed her lead as the house band took us back to the roots of country music. Some of the band members looked old enough to be Willie Nelson’s father and I got the feeling you’d be in trouble if you walked in and played some Taylor Swift. Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Next thing I know, a crowd had formed around us, people started clapping, I’m staring into the eyes of a complete stranger twice my age, my feet moving so fast it felt like dancing on a cloud…and I could not stop laughing for the life of me. Sometimes, the experiences you all but force upon yourself, the lasting memories you try so hard to cultivate, end up finding you first.