Tripblog 2

The thing about my family in Dallas is they are family in some sense I never aspired to. They all lived along Hillcrest Avenue the last fifty years. My aunt’s kids went to school close to home and the two boys have lived there again since college though the older one just moved out last week. Partly this is generational but actually they both make a decent living and Dallas is cheap and I could never fucking figure out how they could stand to still live there. (I am very fond of their parents, but.)


So then in a certain state of emotional agitation I think what if MY whole problem is that I can’t figure out how they could stand to have spent so much of their lives so close to home. What if that would have been better, and I would have been nicer, and had some core to my life. It continues overheatedly down that line.

I-35 between Dallas and Austin is a good drive for my particular brand of escape fantasies. The ones that really rescue me in certain moods are the ones about moving to a terrible little town where I don’t know anyone but where you can maybe buy a house for $40k and not do much of anything ever again. I guess escape fantasies are supposed to be nicer?


My friend Jim had what he dauntingly termed a reception for me, people I like a lot though we don’t necessarily keep in touch. We drank a fair number of margaritas and made the old inside jokes about Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, as one does, and afterwards I slipped out for a few minutes to walk around Hyde Park feeling overwhelmed by being there and to get a burrito at Taco Cabana.


I slept terribly. It’s hard to go to sleep the first night in Austin because every time I’ve been there in the long while before, I’ve woken up back in New York, and there is always a fairly not-in-jest fear of that happening, the first night.

(What I’m trying to say is I dream I’m in Austin a lot.)

Saturday was a little Austin tourism, Mount Bonnell for the best view of town from above, Mayfield Park because SURPRISE PEACOXZ.


The strange part was a few hours on South Congress which has turned from a nothing stretch of road to an insane pedestrian mall with people standing in hour-long lines for stuff that used to be no big deal to anyone. We sat outside at Güero’s patio/music space and had Shiners. The local beer, not the face injury.

It was strange to me to be showing Dave my town in a form I completely didn’t recognize. But we walked around Travis Heights which looked about the same as ever and then as we were driving off, I realized we were very early and parked by South First, which also used to be nothing but now feels kind of like parts of Austin as I knew them in the 90s. Much, much quieter.


Oh and we had barbecue at Ruby’s. I had considered a barbecue junket to one of those towns one goes to in order to feel like a barbecue martyr, but we felt more like seeing things in town. Having been a vegetarian when I lived in Texas, I’m not connoisseur, so though I thought it was great, I was nervous my foodier friends would look askance, but then everyone was actually fairly skance about it when I said we’d gone there so I guess it was an ok choice.

I was killing an hour at Half Price Books and they said over the PA “Anne-Marie, your book buy is ready” and I thought “huh, I went to school with an Anne-Marie” or rather it registered rather faintly and then a few minutes later, there she was. We weren’t good friends but unexpectedly running into someone I know is a friendly thing Austin always does for me to say “hey, I still remember you.”

Sometimes around native friends I notice my speech getting a little Texan around the edges which is faintly confounding because it never really was that, but isn’t intentional so I don’t really know, am I supposed to make an effort not to do it?


Austin is still peopled by my people. Everyone says “oh the place is full of Californians” and acts as if it’s diluted somehow, but I still know the people I know, and they haven’t been replaced with Californians. The skyline is different and you see fewer eccentric looking people and South Congress is fucking weird, but it is still my town.


12 responses to “Tripblog 2”

  1. LP says:

    Wood-paneled walls and a Dr. Pepper machine, ahhhhh. Is that a restaurant? Because it sure looks like home to me. Or at least my grandmother’s house.

    “We drank a fair number of margaritas and made the old inside jokes about Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, as one does”: lines like this are why I get excited seeing a new Smearcase post. Can’t wait for the next installment.

  2. Smearcase, Mr. says:

    It is a restaurant in West, Texas, a little pocket of Czech culture in (counterintuitively) central Texas. It felt like cheating to include that picture, which is from my last trip, but I didn’t seem to have anything from the I-35 Dallas-Austin corridor from this trip.

  3. T-Mo says:

    Thanks for continuing this, Smearcase. It feels like 2008 to open up TGW and see new posts two days in a row.

    I know, I know. I have done my fair share of contributing to the slowdown, and I could and should be writing, but all the same, this is great! Anyhoo, here come some observations.

    Would that happen to be your granddad in photo 1? In that pose he seems to embody a late ’50s/early ’60s American male confidence.

    So you’ve lived in two Hyde Parks in your time? I don’t know, maybe even more.

    Escape fantasies, we all have them, especially about moving to an uncomplicated little town in the boonies where nothing ever happens and everything is cheap. It’s hard to see a rootless cosmopolitan such as you sprouting roots and staying in such a place, but you know that already. Fantasies are fantasies, and we all need them.

    Keep the Tripblogs coming, please!

  4. Smearcase, Mr. says:

    Oh hey, no need to thank. I think the thing about writing here right now is that there’s no use thinking of it in terms of the survival of the blog. The blog will continue or not. I’m writing because I have something fun to write about, and some pictures.

    That is my grandfather. He embodied some very narrow archetype of the 1950s self-made Texan Jew.

    I have lived in two Hyde Parks, yeah. No London. No Hudson Valley. (I think there’s one on the Hudson Valley.) Austin’s Hyde Park was where I had a little over-air-conditioned studio I loved dearly and paid $370/month for. It was horribly furnished with an unraveling rattan chair and a twin futon mattress on a flat pallet frame. I think there was a poster of Bakst’s Narcisse Bacchante tacked to the wall, and almost nothing else. I cried when I left it.

    In the escape fantasies, I turn into a different person. I mean that’s the heart of the escape fantasy, of course.

    I guess I will blog the last part though frankly most anyone who’s like to read it was there.

  5. swells says:

    I have family in Dallas too. And prefer to see them at weddings in other states. Lots of UT alums in my family though, and I came very close to joining them. My folks got married on campus. Lots of hot childhood 3-day drives to Houston all smushed in the back seat with no air conditioning. Lots of cicadas there, as I recall.

    Anyway, enough about me cause reading your voice is one of the great pleasures of TGW. In this and your last travel blog, I’m struck by your stylistic tendency towards the statement. It’s not like the rest of us write with a bunch of exclamation marks and question marks, but something about your sentences here just feature the period so prominently. So declarative. And you know I have always envied your sense of voice. I’d love to hear it with the edges of that Texas accent.

  6. Smrcs says:

    Hey thanks Swells. You all say such nice things, it makes it very worth putting things up.

    It is a stupid situation, loving Texas. I defend it sometimes but of course it is also just an endless disaster.

    The sound of the cicadas is very evocative for me. I started to say Proustian but I kind of overuse that.

  7. ssw says:

    Wow. Thanks for writing-and please do finish the last part. You invoke so many feelings about home–it’s a big part of growing up to reckon with all that. On a much lighter note, I love to watch Friday Night Lights. Even though I’m not from Texas, I love that show because in some ways it’s not too far from the type of place I grew up in and it’s fun to watch some of the reenactment of my childhood. It would drive Bryan crazy because he couldn’t wait to get out of where he came from. For me, it’s not like the good old glory days, but it was the landscape from which I emerged. Great piece!

  8. T-Mo says:

    “He embodied some very narrow archetype of the 1950s self-made Texan Jew.”

    It seems Kinky Friedman had his forerunners, too.

  9. Smearcase, Mr. says:

    SSW: That is the best show.

    T-Mo: My mother went on a couple of dates with Kinky Friedman in college. His real name is similar enough to my father’s that friends called her in a state of shock to say “you’re marrying Kinky Friedman?”

  10. Bryan says:

    This line cracked me up: “everyone was actually fairly skance about it when I said we’d gone there so I guess it was an ok choice.” I sometimes feel warmly toward my hometown when I visit, but it wears off. Then again, I’m not from Austin.

  11. Hometown is an ambiguous term here. The town I grew up in I am skance as all get out about. Austin is the town I chose.

  12. Oh wait I just misused my own jokey back-formed adjective. What I meant to say is I am not keen on My Old Kentucky Home.