The city, the airport


13-1-10 Omni south park hotel. Austin TX

The drive from the lake house to Austin was fairly uneventful. Most things about scenery in Texas seem to be uneventful. Everything seems to be either dead or dying or covered in tarmac.

Perhaps we only saw the worst bits. I saw no oil wells at all. I though that’s what this place was all about.

Quick note to all that when booking your Omni hotel in Austin check it’s the one in the city and not 5 miles out. 5 miles out is just lovely for business travellers but not so good for us tourists looking forward to walking everywhere.

On a plus point the room had it’s own coffee maker. Better than a kettle and some Nescafe.

Spent the evening floating in and out of bars on 6th street trying to see which ones would let us in as one member or our party (to remain unnamed) forgot their ID for the night…

Austin is cool. Or maybe it’s not cool but just cool in comparison to the cultural wasteland that is most of Texas that I’ve seen so far.

14-1-10 Austin TX

Little City is a pretty funky cafe right beside the Capitol building in the centre of Austin and does exceptionally cheap coffee and food for brekkie. And free Internet which is always a bonus.

That wasted a few hours in the morning till we conducted our own tour of the Capitol building and historic sites of Austin. They were nice. If not very historic. Europeans win hands down against Americans for history. If they hadn’t wiped out all those native Americans then they might have a better history…

We ended up in the Texas history museum all prepared for learning. Instead we found they had an IMAX cinema in the museum that was showing Avatar in 3D. Education be damned I want exploding aliens.

Avatar has a predictable plot and some truly awful dialogue but it is very, very pretty to watch. Even more so in 3D.

So after our extensive Austin cultural experience we retired to another funky coffee house for more of the Grapes of Wrath.

Our last night in Austin was spent watching blues bands and the bizzare texan concept of dueling piano bars.


16-1-10 Connolly railway station 1740

Central station waiting for a train… That kind of vibe.

We left Austin in the rain. As the sky brightened and the interstate packed.

I dreamt of Dad. That we got some kind of slightly dim, confused version of him as a replacement but then he was sick too and we had to work out what to do.

I dreamt of cerebellar tumours and dysdiadochokinesia and kind smiling faces and me bearing my suffering well with smiles and witticisms.

We drove. Aquaplaning the deluge, more nervous, more alert. Conversations held without eye contact, eyes not wanting to leave the road.

It was dry in Dallas. The arched concrete and web of junctions and turnpikes sent us the wrong way, we tried again.

We turned our trusty steeds over to the rental guy in the airport. Hundreds of miles covered effectively without incident. And then We put one of the cars into the front of the car in front actually in the rental car park. Actually as the rental guy looks things over. Actually.

No damage. They make bumpers of this plastic these days – so that it crunches in and crunches out again.

Something like that anyhow.

Our party splits. Some to keep driving, some to fly one place, some to fly another. Goodbyes are weird. I think most are irrelevant. For the folk I know I’ll see in 2 weeks then I don’t see the point. For others who know when you’ll see them again? There’s no plans (we love our plans even if we know they’ll never work out), there’s no fixed date. There’s ones and zeroes thrown across little glass fibres under the ocean but that’s hardly the same.

So we say goodbye. And some feel sad but, we go through our rituals. Mainly I feel awkward. That seems to be my default emotion for a lot of situations.

Maybe that’s what men are better at doing. Substituting a certain unease for lack of genuine engagement.

America seems much happier to be letting us leave than welcoming us into the country. No 2 hour queues. No questions, no invasive DNA tests, no polygraph, no full body cavity searches.

Just when I thought that America and I were entering a new phase in our relationship she goes and ends it like this. The silent treatment. Not even a stamp in the passport.

We flew from London on the way out. We had one of those 3-4-3 formation planes with little TVs in the back of the seat in front. You felt you were going somewhere classy.

Now we’re flying home to Dublin and we’ve got a bod standard Boeing in a 3-3 formation and air con so loud you’d think someone had left one of the windows down.

It’s full of parents and their young kids. And they are excepionally well behaved. Hats off to them.

The sky brightens out the window. As we head full tilt at 450 miles an hour into the approaching sunrise.

Ireland is still white where she makes the effort to throw up a hill or two. The Wicklow hills watch our descent as we turn to land from the ocean. The plane bumps down. Every time we don’t die it amazes me.

Kind housemates picked us up and brought us to maynooth. And made us tea and toast and let me sleep in their bed till I could at least form a cohesive sentence.

I missd my train home. I thught they still let guys run along side trains as they left and climb on the back of them. Instead they quote something about health and safety.

So I sit in Connolly waiting for a train. Watching the corner of Amiens St. and Talbot St. with the spire in O’Connell St in the distance. The endless buses veering as they make the corner.

I shelter behind my guiness. Headphones in. Watching the endless movement of our glorious humanity. All the fears hopes and joys. With my head full of the grapes of wrath and steinbeck’s implicit humanity and dignit of the people he writes about. With all that and all this I still hide behind my guiness and my head phones and my phone.

Still. I’m back at least.

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5 Responses to “The city, the airport”


  1. 1 Jay January 25, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Another great post. Sounds like an interesting trip 🙂

  2. 2 meinmysmallcorner January 28, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I may have missed the explicit stating of it somewhere in these long (dare i say rambling?) posts, but were you reading GRapes of Wrath? Or was it some metaphor for your journey?! Awesome book. One of my faves. Must dig it out again soon…

  3. 3 Nelly And I January 28, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Ta Jay

    small corner – who me? ramble? But yes i was reading it, figured i should read one of the great american travel novels while travelling.

    small corner – who me, ramble? twas indeed what i read, figured i should read one of the great american travel novels while i was there.

    and don’t complain about the long posts or i’ll go back to doing ones on medical trials and statistics. This is your last warning…

  4. 4 meinmysmallcorner January 31, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Lol… don’t take it to heart, I’ve enjoyed hearing at least one person’s perspective on the great trip of twenty ten!

  5. 5 Roads February 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    All the Texans rave about Austin. Apparently, it’s the best bit.

    Although I must say that strangely I’ve gone off the idea of visiting since Lance Armstrong (its most famous resident in recent times) ditched his wife a year or two ago for a younger/more famous model. It’s not about the bike (he said).

    But that’s clearly some kind of double standards on my part. Just because he’s an inspirational cancer survivor, doesn’t mean he has to be an angel, right? He’s clearly entitled to the same kind of fuck-ups as the rest of us, but somehow it’s hard to see it that way sometimes. Even if it wasn’t (quite) in the John Terry or Tiger Woods class of PR disasters.

    I love The Grapes of Wrath. My mind plays out that opening scene every time I hear the opening of Ventura Highway. Road. Man. Destiny. etc..


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