Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I went to Texas this weekend. Went to hang out with my friend Lori and see what Austin is all about. I'm city shopping at the moment, trying to figure out where why and how to live, and Austin sounded cool. I mean, yeah, 100+ degrees underwater�but cool.

I fly out Thursday morning. On the way, the landscape below is bizarre. After I cross the Rocky Mountains, everything goes completely and utterly flat all the way to the horizon, like a poorly rendered landscape in an old video game. It's even divided by farm lots into perfectly geometrical grids. Very Tron.

I'm sitting next to a lady in her mid 60s from Detroit. We strike up a conversation that gets deep extremely fast, plummeting like a bathyscaph into dark depths of personal tragedy and profundity. Her husband just died a year ago. She has no one left except her daughter, who she's going to be visiting in Austin. She tells me about her Grief Groups and how pretty much all her friends now are fellow Griefers. She says she thinks she may be addicted to going to these groups, and I think of Fight Club but figure she wouldn't appreciate the reference. She tells me she feels like she's pretty much starting over from scratch, trying to figure out where to live and what to do with the rest of her life. I remark that we're in pretty similar places in life, her and I, except on opposite ends of age. We share a world-weary nod and look out the window. We haven't even exchanged names yet.

As we near Austin, clouds of smoke billow out of the plane's air vents. After five minutes of letting us assume we're about to burn alive in midair, the pilot casually mentions that it's just condensation steam. It continues to blast out even after we've landed and are deplaning. It's like a Halloween party up in here. I wonder if the flight attendants and pilots dress up like ghouls or zombies for Halloween. Might make some people uncomfortable, I would think.

When I arrive in Austin it's something like 85 degrees. I learn that during the summer months people pretty much don't go outside at all, they just hole up in houses and vehicles and suck down air conditioning. You need a space suit for the trips between car and home. Out in the sun, you can feel your internal organs sweating.

Lori suggests visiting various local attractions, but since I am fairly anti-tourist and prefer the unbeaten path, we pretty much just go to restaurants and bars and walk around and do normal stuff. The feel of Austin is somewhere between Seattle and LA. Plenty of bands and hipsters, but also plenty of buff Marine-looking dudes and tan babes glistening brown in barely-there blouses. There are cool shops and bars everywhere, all with vast outdoor seating. Everything is a bit more open and easy-access. You can smoke indoors. Grocery stores sell liquor. Stop lights run horizontally instead of up and down. There are bizarre little black birds with glowing yellow eyes who make chirps exactly like the bloops and waaohws of an old analog synthesizer.

Friday night I go with Lori to her friend's wedding. This is the first time I've been to a wedding where I don't know the bride, groom, or any of the guests. It feels a little surreal, being a complete stranger at such a warm human celebration. I feel like an alien visitor observing the event from outer space.
Who are these fascinating little beings? What are they doing down there?
Oh look, an open bar.

I am lying spread-eagle in the grass of the orchard outside the wedding area, staring up at the sky while a rusty metal windmill creaks above me. Suddenly, without warning, the scorching hot evening explodes into a violent thunderstorm. The wedding facility, an Alamo-ish castle of stone and mortar, is suddenly inundated with thick, pummeling rain. Within an hour or so, every sensible person has left the reception, and only the hardcore remain. The hardcore are, of course, raging drunk. There are wild dance parties in the fierce rain while the entire place is lit a surreal purple by nearly constant lightning. I encounter a soaked woman huddled against the wall sobbing into her hands. She waves me away when I ask if she's ok. Oh, and me and Lori's ride home is gone now too.

Lori and I fumble with a phone trying to call a cab. No one seems to know exactly where this place is. The cab company hangs up on us. Finally, we land a ride with some of her friends, and I find myself sprawled out in the bed of a truck driven through the muddy streets by drunken Texans I've never met.

The rest of my stay is pretty uneventful. We go to a party. I meet Lori's friends, and receive yet more confirmation that gorgeous people only hang out with other gorgeous people, like tribes, like species. We go to various restaurants and bars. We seem to be drinking a lot. We remember details of the nights before only later in the day. We are plagued by inexplicable headaches and fatigue. Where the hell did I get these grill marks on my fingers? Oh right, when I tried to pull the pizza out of the oven with my bare hands.
I guess I'm living the authentic TX experience. Might just go ahead and move here.

P.S --- Many of you have gotten my book The Inside recently and some of you have started reading it. When you finish, if you have anything good to say about it, I'd love it if you could email me your comments. Not because I crave praise, but because I want to use your "reviews" as review blurbs to try to help sell copies. You don't have to sound like Booklist, just a quick sentence or paragraph saying what you thought of it. Thanks!

Please send your thoughts to:

isaacinspace at

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