Read the rest of the tales from their road trip here.
Full disclosure: there’s a very famous anecdote about The Lone Star State. We firmly believe that size does indeed matter, but we’re not going for the low-hanging fruit here. While we’re hoping that the length of this missive does qualify, it’s a cheap purchase and we only like nice things.
Texas is the kind of place that wants you to know yer in it. It’s hard to forget you’re there. Once you cross the state line, you see its logo traced into the walls. Highway markers, storefronts, tattoos, anything that can be lined or embellished with stars, lone or otherwise, will be. The state flag flies at equal height to Old Glory. The whole takeaway from its most famous fight is to remember it. Grace is from Texas, born and raised, the daughter of two very different sister-cities, Austin and San Antonio. Driving back there to see her family, her towns, wasn’t an opportunity to recall where she’s from, since it’s genuinely impossible to forget.
Noah’s dick not available for scale.
Pearl Brewery, because “Rural Juror” was not available.
Rolling into San Antonio was the culmination of almost 23 hours of straight driving, with Grace picking up the lion’s share of the last 10. She trooped while Noah was pooped and only started feeling drowsy as we navigated the last mile or so onto the city itself. We sent a text to Grace’s mom when we arrived, around 5am. We settled in, the alarm system calmly alerting us that the front door was open. It literally said, “Front door is open.” When we woke up around 11, Grace’s Mom, Kate, was waiting with coffee and her surprise that two people could move into her house with a 6-month-old puppy, shower, unpack and, while the house would announce it, she could sleep through the whole ordeal. Like Mother like Daughter. We had Grace’s favorite local Mediterranean food, Pasha, where they started the meal by bringing us a piece of fresh-baked bread that was at least 16 inches in diameter. We knew where we were. After debating the appropriateness of wearing pants in June in Texas with two generations of woman who knew Texas weather better than he ever could, Noah begrudgingly agreed to buy a pair of shorts. One peppy, but not preppy, green pair of shorts richer, we headed to stroll the River Walk. Hildy pooped in the shadow of the famous Pearl Brewery. She met and entirely disagreed with ducks and blue herons. There were some very nicely appointed rape tunnels. Us California folk soaked up as much hot Texas night was we could legally smuggle back to L.A.
Just let us suckle from the teat.
Daniel and Emily, one of whom has a legitimate academic job.
The next day, Grace’s Dad had flown down to the homeland to meet us. We had delicious coffee at a local joint called, appropriately, Local. It serves Texas beans from a company called Tweed. We followed that up with a visit to one of Grace’s old haunts, Bubble Head, where we saw Drafthouse pal Daniel Tucker and his special lady-friend, Emily, who is a brain scientist.
Texas beers. Not pictured, the sign that says “No Bud, no Miller, no Dos XX’s”
The Spurs had won the Basketball Award, so the entire population of San Antonio got in their cars to celebrate. We moseyed on down to The Cove, a restaurant/bar/ice cream parlor/car wash/playground/dog park/music venue/laundromat with 150 Texas-brewed beers on tap. It feels like Punk Rock Chuck E. Cheese. It was Grace’s parents’ anniversary. They think they’ve been married 26 years or so. Walking distance or not, it was a good reason to drink beers and eat fish tacos and generally make a really good case for people being in families and sticking together and loving one another. Then, as we are often want to do, we ended the night by playing Spades with a newly purchased deck of Elvis Presley playing cards.
Our last day in San Antonio was brightened by the arrival of Liam, Grace’s teenage brother. He had been in the city the whole time, but was busy shooting a movie he had written all year over Skype with his buddy. That’s how the kids do it these days. He has beautiful long hair, and sports T-shirts that say Joy Division or Woody’s Manhattan. We made the little venture out to the Hill Country outside the city to where Grace did most of her growing, counting deer along the way. Her parents had sold the old house to a cute young couple for a great price before realizing they were Aggies. As a result, all the plant life, as well as anything else interesting, was gone or drastically and detrimentally changed. Fuckin’ Aggies.
Threadgills, where no one knows your name.
We were in Austin by nightfall. Grace’s Dad’s old bandmate, Tom, who is now an environmental attorney (or as Grace calls him, a Water Lawyer), lives in a super rad place he built just off Lamar, the heart of hip Austin. In true SLC PUNK Dad style, he didn’t sell out, he bought in. Still the musician and producer, he constructed a freestanding recording studio with a private bath and a bed, and behold, we had the most luxurious of crash pads for our few days in town. Grace’s aunt Annie and her cousin, Jane, also live in Austin, along with her uncle Bob, who is her uncle. The whole Phipps Clan got together and jammed to Threadgills, where Janice got her start and armadillos still reign supreme. Something-teen of us sat at a very long table and apologized the way only WASPS can to a flustered waiter. We sat on the opposite end of the table from Bob’s wife, Aunt Karen, who arrived twenty minutes after we hurried to meet her because she had texted that she was already there. She and Grace aren’t blood-related but they should be. Even at the other end, we still heard her quote Oscar Wilde at least six times over dinner. We had a long, Midwestern goodbye, Karen and Grace agreed about something Wilde said and we spread out across the city once more. When we came home to find that Hildy had gone native in the burrs and bamboo around the yard, we fixed her up with an appointment for a haircut.
We rose to Aunt Annie sitting on the bed telling us to wake up. Once Grace realized it was not Christmas, as an early Annie wake-up usually indicates, we dropped our dirty pup off at a groomer called the Plush Pad, or the Poodle Place, or the Panda Polisher. We took the 90-minute drive back to San Antonio, which at that point felt like a quick jaunt to the grocery. We still needed to pack up our stuff and show Noah The Alamo. Due to poor time-management (read: nap), we forget about The Alamo (see what we did there?) and run back to the Prancing Puss/Pooped Puppy/Pamper Palace and picked up our girl. She had a haircut fit for the military, especially considering that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed. We tried to convince her to wear a UT Longhorns football jersey, but she seemed to hate wearing it. Fuckin’ Aggies. The man behind the cash wrap, who looked like he still has more turquoise jewelry at home, took the time, a lot of time, to explain some of the finer points of whatever weird Libertarian ethos he subscribes to. There was the whole “Strawman” thing, which Noah always confuses with The Wicker Man. We politely left with our freshly laundered dog in-leash. There was a trip to Spec’s, our local liquor emporium, and the acquisition of some fine drinkables, including a local gin, Waterloo, that became the basis for an entirely new cocktail. When we were in Kentucky at Party Source, the largest liquor store in the country, Noah had grabbed a sixer of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda, which is his favorite soft drink, and difficult to find where there aren’t Jews. It’s celery soda. It’s delicious. And very Sephardic. There’s a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge on the can. There were a couple cans left over when we rolled into Austin. Combining the local gin, a little Triple sec, some citrus and the Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray, Grace has devised a delicious and refreshing cocktail that we look at as the best combination of Texas and Jew. Dear reader, we present to you The Kinky Friedman.
Grace had a High School buddy, Zach, in town, and we met up with him. Since she had yet to enter an establishment on the famous bar boulevard of 6th Street without a fake I.D. or Sharpie Xs on her hand, we thought that’d be a fun night’s excursion. We walked into a few joints, feeling like Goldilocks. One place was too groovy, another not groovy enough. Poetically, we went into “Shangri-La” and she was just right. The jukebox was stocked with The Undertones, Iron Maiden and Lee Hazelwood. Zach had recently graduated from bartending school and kept trying to order drinks with Galliano in them, to which the bartender would respond “No” and serve him Screwdrivers. It’s perfect. Eventually, Cousin Jane showed up with her acupuncturist, who also does cupping and has a beard. Austinites, there’re just like us!
The California Zephyr. And a train car.
Jacob Gentry saw it coming.
Hard at work, riding the rails.
Having a horrible time with horrible people.
Needless to say, the night ended in a blur and next day we found ourselves getting Chinese foot massages and fresh-squeezed juice before a delightful adventure courtesy of our family at Drafthouse. Those crazy Rolling Road Show folks devised a plan to send the movie-going public on a steam-powered locomotive to a nearby city to watch Snowpiercer, the new Bong Joon-ho joint. We ran into lots of pals on the train, took turns sticking our heads out the windows and spiked our drinks. We arrived at the field where we would be watching the movie, which was already populated on the periphery with beer stands and food trucks. We grabbed up some BBQ and some Shiner. Bong Joon-ho walked around the park taking pictures before le grande fromage, le Tim League, pulled him in for a pre-show interview.
You still can’t talk, bro.
Trickle-down leadership, in effect, with Brandy and Tim.
On a hot Texas night, we took in what will surely be a science-fiction classic, if not just for Tilda’s teeth. Beyond the movie itself, the whole experience was a testament to the Drafthouse Philosophy, with a picture and sound that would rival any theatre, let alone a random outdoor acre in rural Texas. The audience truly wanted to be there with the movie, to keep their fucking mouths shut and commit to making a memory. On the way back, we found our way into the “Disco Car,” which you’ll get if and when you peep the flick. It was all decked out with multicolor lighting and raucous music. Disco had been dead for a reasonable stent, and was taking a minute to be revived, so we set upon walking the length of the train, picking up and dropping off friends along the way. Don’t listen to that episode of Sex and the City; trains are still great. When we arrived back at Tom’s, we’d been locked out while Hildy had been locked in. The big glass door and windows made it feel like we were visiting her in prison, a really nice prison. Tom’s teenage daughter, Coco, and Liam were having a tame-but-unsupervised house party, which was really just a handful of sophisticated intellectual kids hanging out upstairs. They were apparently the only teenagers in the world who did not have their phones on them. After a racket by us and the dog, an obviously stoned girl finally stumbled downstairs and let us in, silently and sheepishly. Hildy had survived her first house-party and we’d survived our first steam train.
Good band names.
On the record player at the grandparent’s.
For breakfast, we hit up The Spider House coffee for dirty horchata, which is horchata with espresso. While Urban Dictionary may have an entirely different definition, to us, it’s really just that and it’s delicious. Auntie Annie and Cousin Jane met us and brought their dog, Bucket, who tolerates Hildy. Jane’s go-to Halloween costume is a Spider House Employee, so she can spend the night wearing eyeliner and being mildly standoffish to everyone. We located Liam and headed to Houston, Land of Moist. We sat in shitty traffic and stopped off for roadside peaches and eventually made it to Grace’s Grandparents house. We played more Spades and ate pasta and they set us up in their backyard, to sleep in the RV. Camping in the RV was really fun and satisfied Grandma and Grandpa’s inclination that, as children of Iowa farmers, animals live outside and get eaten and do not sleep in houses. The RV is one of those “full-featured” models, with a bedroom and a shower and kitchen and definitely fancier than Noah’s house in Los Angeles, so we didn’t complain.
What to bring to a dinner party.
Matt’s lab. He’s like if Walter White was nice and brewed beer.
Mac 'n’ cheese.
Wine Jell-O is still mostly wine.
Meredith did most of the work.
Matt just finished it off.
Being in Houston, seeing two of The Best People, Meredith and Matt, was a priority. They live on an acre of land in a castle that they’re in the process of turning into a full-fledged brewpub. Matt’s got taps already, along with a giant brewery waiting to get set up and his own system that should really be patented. We sampled everything from a coconut porter to a Saison that they’d infused with grapes. They’ve got a smoker, which had turkey in it, and somehow, Matt managed to incorporate beer into macaroni and cheese, which it should always be. Meredith soaked fresh blueberries in white wine Jell-O, topped it with whipped cream and freaked us out. If they weren’t swamped being Happy Scientists already, we’d besiege them to write up the mac n’ cheese and dessert recipes for all y’all to enjoy. Meredith and Matt truly have it all, so what do you bring your gourmand pals who already have food and drink covered? As we trolled a grocery before seeing them, looking at flowers and wines, we found something that we knew would be a worthwhile gift. The three-foot-tall piñata shaped like a boot was the obvious gift. We bought about fifteen pounds of various candies, mostly traditional Mexican confections that had chilies and spices, and filled the boot. After dinner, we strung it up and took turns smacking it with Matt’s Louisville Slugger. The man of the house finally nailed it, and we finished our feast with dulce-de-leche candies. Like all good, true friendships, we finished the evening with dogs on our laps, watching YouTube videos and nodding off.
The next day we said goodbye to Hildy. She is going to a wonderful loving place for two months. It’ll be swell, like camp, shooting a movie, serving a minimum security sentence for financial crimes or other things that are fun for up to a couple of months. Even with her extended family and the companionship of Zelda, lots of cat-poop to eat and a big yard, Grace still cried knowing she had to say goodbye to her dog-daughter. She cried a lot, like as much as you cry during the first 15 minutes of Up. Our therapists (everyone in Hollywood has some) confirmed that it was acceptable to be sad about missing our fluffy baby with her bad breath, in addition to missing Hildy. We drove through San Antonio instead of straight back to Austin because Grace wanted to see her high school acting teacher, Mr. Connelly, and also because Noah had yet to see the Alamo. We ate delicious food at Pasha again (San Antonio’s seminal spots are rather limited), then we went to The Alamo. The Alamo is a pretty cool, small box made of rocks. Someone’s idea of a joke is to put James Bowie’s spoon on display. Because he was really famous for that. For a battle that stemmed from an order to retreat, it sure gets a lot of play. The motto for the Alamo is “come and take it,” which was really not sarcastic at all. They should’ve just let them have it. We got a raspa from one of the numerous carts outside. That’s a snow cone. We stopped at the Salt Lick to enjoy some barbecue with our pals en route to Austin.
We missed Hildy.
Noah tried the Red Snapper. It was delicious, as always.
Back in the capital, we got to see Grace’s high-school pal, Julia, and her boyfriend. After a classic Austin breakfast at Kirby Lane Cafe, we all went to the Texas Natural Science Center at the University. It’s a little museum hidden within the campus itself, with lots of geodes and dinosaur bones and taxidermy. It was Grace's favorite place as a child, and she spent more than a few summers there conversing with a life-size replica of a mastodon. Noah’s from New York, where its Natural History Museum has a life-size replica of a blue whale, which he also used to chat with as a child, so he understood the camaraderie. That night we got together with some friends who work at the Drafthouse and had a delicious dinner, followed by karaoke at the classic Common Interest joint. Mo, who works with Mondo, killed Prince and Greg, a Drafthouse-r, managed to be invited on stage for practically every performance. There is a surprising dearth of Liza in most karaoke books, so as per usual, Grace brought the house down with “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret.
On our last day in Austin, the city must’ve known we were leaving. It rained. Hard. Perhaps the town was already missing us, or was so stoked to see us go that it broke the drought. Water-logged but not wet-eared, we were determined to continue seeing Austin Movie Friends until the last possible moment. An epic triple-date was launched, which included Mexican food and a performance of Silence of the Lambs: The Musical. The show was good, a high school classmate of Grace's was in it, a pleasant surprise, and they sold novelty bottles of wine reading "I can smell your Chianti." We bought two bottles. The evening ended with three couples sitting around a handful of drinks and desserts, that sense of camaraderie and contentment you get from knowing that even though we were visiting, we knew and would know our friends longer than just this trip.
As we faced the end of our trip, we carried with us the comfort that we’d be back soon, for Fantastic Fest and Austin City Limits and barbecue. It made the drive home not feel so final, and for that, we are so very grateful. For us, the trip through Texas was truly a homecoming, rife with family. Most of our blood relations were forced to accept and welcome us. Our pals, bonded through a little work on movies together and a lot of affinity for them, took us in with the same affection. We would like to believe that it isn’t a coincidence that so many people we adore are in Texas, and none of them are exes. For years, most of our lives, Texas has taken us in, and we simply can’t help but acknowledge that its love, its people, our kin, are indeed bigger.