Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fried Green R&R

My husband has been celebrating my birthday for nearly a week now. With so many thoughtful "because it's your birthday"gestures . . . that I should be at least 3 years older. Not gonna go there. Not. But, yesterday morning we did go on a ("because it's your birthday") trip to Austin. And I loved every single minute. Probably because--for this native Californian--it feels a bit like home. Which is probably the very reason that the rest of Texas lovingly forgives Austin for living up to its tag line: "Keep Austin Weird" (as printed on tee shirts, hats and coffee mugs everywhere). It is wonderfully true. And was a great place to spend the last official days of my week-long birthday celebration. Which came after SO many LONG days of hustling to get a grip on CODE TRIAGE, the third in my Mercy Hospital Series. A book set in San Francisco, California, an intriguing city that reminds me a bit of . . . Austin, Texas. Imagine that! So here's a few cool things I got to experience on our whirlwind 24-hour visit to the Texas state capitol:

1) Fried green tomatoes (dipped in chipotle ranch dressing) at Threadgill's. Boasting "Feel good food and great music for 76 years and counting." The photos of celebrities who'd performed there floored me, and the warm and friendly "What can I get y'all?" from our waitress was . . . frosting. What she got me . . . was fried green tomatoes. Hot, battered, and better than birthday cake!

2) Austin's annual "Art City" event: more than 200 artists in tents along the closed-off Caesar Chavez Street, with every media you can imagine: blown glass, wire sculpture, digital photograpy, oil, pastels, watercolor, pottery, woodworking, leather . . . hand carved guitars. And music in the streets, from Hip Hop to country and everything in between. Free shuttle buses, and "rabid recycling" (Austin is oh SO "Green") which had a goal of "zero trash" beginning to end. What an amazing celebration of the arts!

3) Dinner at Stubb's Barbecue, another Austin landmark, for a dinner that included (beyond brisket, of course) pecan topped mashed sweet potatoes and cheesy creamed spinach, laced with jalapeno--water between every delectable swallow!

4) A taste of 6th Street: Amid historical houses from the 1800's, this area boasts the gamut from cafes to upscale restaurants to bars, art galleries, tattoo parlors, and--above all--music that spills from doorways. And people, everywhere . . . including UT students, street folks, politicians and celebrities. We strolled the streets and ended up watching a young guitarist named Trent Turner who played his heart out--awesome.

5) And then, just to end on a softer (lower decibel and caloric) note: we went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, an incredible expanse of acreage developed by former this former first lady and actress Helen Hayes, in 1982 to protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes. Flowers, native grasses, stone buildings, butterfly habitats . . . enhances by the work of local artists and sculptors. Awesome, indeed.

All in all, from fried green tomatoes, to tents filled with art, to electric guitar, to native Texas wildflowers, it was an amazing--and refreshing, revitalizing--24 hours. I saw it, ate it, heard it . . . experienced it. A real birthday treat.

R& R. Austin style. I loved it.

Tomorrow morning--way too early--I'll be back to my fictional world at Golden Gate Hospital. To bring my readers my best. The same way all those artists in Austin--sculptors, chefs, musicians, painters . . . and more--will continue to do the same.

A brotherhood, without a doubt. Right down to the chef who battered those fried green tomatoes. Way cool--I love it.