Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mother Plucker

Mother Plucker

This is the name of one of the many absurdly and equally inventive, caloric and delicious donut offerings at “Gourdough’s - Big. Fat. Donuts.” here in Austin, Texas.

I personally opted for their Miss Shortcake this morning, a golden-orb-fried-miracle dolloped in perfectly balanced cream cheese frosting and Texas-red strawberries.

It is important to note that this came after a morning of free paddle boarding in Lady Bird Lake, a misnomer, since it’s really a river.

And what a river!

Standing in the middle of this green river, surrounded by trees the lushest I have seen since I lived in Wales, in the middle of the fastest growing city in America. 158 people move here each day. 

Skyscrapers rising in a rush behind me.

Other early Sunday morning revelers surround me, rowing and paddling and kayaking and running with their dogs, making the most of this rare wet grey summer morning, although they’d probably have come out anyway, as Austinites seem to take pride in ignoring excruciating weather.

Freeways loop and cross over our heads and the river and her trees. Never have I seen concrete and bark and water look so natural and peaceful side by side.

My friend Emily, a biologist and devotee of rivers far and wide, found turtles sunbathing on the banks. I encountered a father and his toddler toe-head daughter perched on the front of his yellow kayak, paddling slowly down the river.

The park also has trails along the river and through the entirety of the city for miles, green and deep and meandering.

We found a bench in a bend in the river amid the forest path. And then we got the fluffiest, softest donuts in a parking lot across the river.

I think these bits and pieces are reasons why the saying “Don’t mess with Texas” is true afterall.

Not because of the guns or vigilantes or heat or holy rollers. But because of the equally extreme magic that can be found in parking lots and holes in the wall and free, quiet paths along the water. It’s hard to argue with free rivers and donuts in parking lots on a Sunday morning.

I feel this fried goodness seeping into my staunchly Californian veins, the body that always remembers the direction of the Pacific. And it scares me. I could get used to big clouds and big heaping portions and big blue skies and even a sun that feels larger than before.

Did I mention that from my bed you can see the Capitol building, the Don’t-mess-with-Texas one that is the only state Capitol building to say f@#$ you to the national Capitol by being taller? I was doing lesson plans on my bed looking at the dome while Wendy Davis redefined what “Don’t Mess With Texas” means earlier this week in the coolest filibuster ever. When have filibustering and pink running shoes ever gone together before?

I wish I had been there, but my kids! Grading and lesson plans on you-name-it . . .

And on Friday night, after I gorged on forementioned tortilla chips and nutella, I got in my friend’s Jeep and drove with her and a bunch of our friends to San Antonio.

We saw the Alamo and the river walk, but the true reason for our 3-hour roundtrip driving adventure in an air conditioning-less car was to go to Helotes outside the city proper to listen to Green River Ordinance at the John T. Floore Country Store.

I agreed to go along, because why not? Little did I know that this was the honky tonk bar immortalized in Willie Nelson’s song “Shotgun Willie,” considered his ‘birth place’ and frequented by Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, and Lyle Lovett among many others. I trusted my wonderful new friend Emily’s music taste and her enthusiasm for this band I had never heard of.

And anyway, who doesn’t want to drive on a highway in Texas with new friends one summer Friday night after a long week, bulleting into the impossibly green countryside to hear beautiful music for the first time?

Speaking of the lush countryside, it brought me back to driving in Uganda three summers ago. Except for the sprawling, excessive car dealerships every few miles or so, they look so similar, green and shrubby and flat and extending far, far, far.

What I found in Helotes was so real it was unreal. I landed in Footloose, which I had always assumed was a Hollywood exaggeration. But the metal bull sculpture outside the liquor store and the sign proclaiming the “World’s Best Homemade Tamales Bread Sausage Country Butter Eggs Everything Nearly” and the girls walking in the middle of the street under the live oaks in short jean shorts and cowgirl boots were inarguably real.

Inside, the ceiling of the John T. Floor Country Store is decorated in sixty years of anti-taxation signs, hanging cowboy boots and twinkly lights.

For twenty bucks, five of us devoured platters of brisket, pulled pork, bread, pickles, sausage and pork tamales outside on picnic tables near live oak trees and a stage painted with the Texas flag.

The wonderful-wonderful band started (look them up!) and we sipped margaritas in plastic cups as they dedicated songs to the Marines and talked of singing to them at a BBQ for 1500 on a naval ship near Bahrain. A marine in the audience introduced himself and everyone cheered, hollering America-proud slogans I had never heard before. And perhaps I won’t ever hear again, which says a lot since I’m pretty fond of this country as liberal Californians go.

After the magical-magical music stopped, we went outside and watched taut, tan men in tight, white t-shirts, Wrangler jeans, and cowboy boots approach girls in boots and dresses with the sleeves pulled down over their shoulders. They talked and mingled as they sat on picnic tables in gendered clusters. Some spat chewing tobacco into empty plastic margarita cups.

The next band started with a song about women going down on men in fields all night long: “We got a spot beneath a cottonwood tree/And she knows what she's gonna do to me.”

The crowd cheered. We left.

We drove back to Austin and talked about our gods. The entire time it was over 100 degrees. And I came home and went to bed in my 70 degree room.

These are just bits and pieces of my weekend. Just bits and pieces of Texas. My descriptions feel acutely incompetent, but they are all I have to offer you to get a taste of this place.

Moral of the story: Don’t mess with Texas, Mother Plucker!

ps- I forgot to mention what the Mother Plucker involves! Spicy fried chicken smothered in honey butter. . . on top of a freshly fried donut.

1 comment:

  1. Helen Murdoch here from SB! Glad to see you're doing well and having fun. I was in San Antonio last October, staying on the River Walk. The Alamo was smaller than I expected. Good luck with your blog! I've been blogging for almost 4 years and it's a pretty fun gig.

    Sounds like you have a fantastic summer and junior year ahead of you!