Sunday, September 27, 2009

Its important to be nice

Here I have been writing primarily about food, law school, and the banalities of my day-to-day life, when I am in the Live Music Capitol of the World. It is notable that I haven't been to much live music here. I've been around live music, whether at the greenmarket or the Hot Sauce Festival, but tonight was the first time I made a deliberate effort to go see some. When I moved here I was overwhelmed by Austin's music reputation and was in a sense paralyzed - I didn't know where to start. Of course, this is a poor excuse for not taking advantage of an enviable scene. I decided about a week ago that I wanted to go to the Continental Club ( on S. Congress as my first foray into Austin music. A friend from law school, who happens to be from Brooklyn, lives near this famous venue; we agreed to go there together sometime.

She has a friend visiting from New York and they made plans to go to the Continental Club Gallery tonight to see Jon Dee Graham (, who she described as Tom Waits-ish. This comparison didn't mean much to my ignorant music mind but I know my dad likes Tom Waits so I was sufficiently intrigued. I met her and her friend at a seafood restaurant across the street from the Continental Club and we arrived at the 8:30 show around 8:35. The man at the door cut us a deal on the cover, 3 for $30 (compared to $12 each.) On the way upstairs I smiled at the sign on the wall (Mr. Cool Ice Says: Its nice to be important, but its important to be nice.), see above.

Maybe it's only in New York that shows start about a half hour after their advertised starting time*, because Mr. Graham and his lovely guest for the evening, Erin Ivey (, were already playing when we arrived. The room was small and intimate and the only three seats available were directly to the left of the stage so we tip-toed around to take them.

I wish I was a music critic so I would have the proper vocabulary to describe the show but I'll try my best with what I have. Mr. Graham has a throaty, gruff voice. He is the father of your friend who you think is a grump but actually turns out to be a softie. He told a story about teaching a fellow musician to hug and moments later insisted on an awkward silence to make the audience feel uncomfortable. He is self-deprecating, sore, and sad but all the while hopeful and full of love. The last song was about a friend praying for him. That's the kind of faith he has - the faith in a friend who prays for him, but not the faith to be the one praying. He is also a terrific guitar player and his slides seemed to make the guitar cry.

Ms. Ivey is pretty and looks younger than she is. I just read her bio and she mentions coming to Austin for college and subsequently says, "as ten years in Austin approached..." Honestly, I am relieved. I thought she was prettier, more talented, and younger than me. Turns out she's only prettier and more talented. One song she sang, "Little Star," made me think of the black sweatshirt with neon stars that I wore everyday when I was three years old. The song obviously triggered in my memory the stars, but also youth and innocence. Maybe this is why I thought she was younger than she is - this is what her voice conveys.

Mr. Graham and Ms. Ives probably played only 6 or 7 songs in their hour and a half set. The show didn't seem to be rehearsed and one would join the other in their respective songs. At one point, Ms. Ives asked Mr. Graham to accompany her on his electric guitar, "but not too loud." He was dismayed by the instructions and their banter suggested he would not oblige, but sure enough her soft voice was never obstructed.

After the show, I hailed a taxi to get home. The van pulled over and as I opened the door to the backseat, the driver said, "No, sit in front. More comfortable." On the way home I learned he is a cricket player, moved here twelve years ago from Kashmir which he described as "a very poor country." "Do you know it?," he asked. "Heard of it," I responded. "Like the sweaters," he said. Embarrassed, I wondered, how can he tell I am not well-traveled and like soft knits? He literally won citizenship to the United States when he finished high school. There was a lottery in his country and his name was pulled. "And I was the one who won," he went on, "worth more than a million bucks." I could tell he was serious. When he learned he won, he asked a friend where the coolest place in the United States is, and his friend told him to move to Austin.

*When I looked at Ms. Ivey's website I noticed she advertised the Continental Club start-time as 8:00, so while I originally attributed the half-hour leeway in advertising showtimes as a New York/Austin thing, I now think it is generational.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ummm... dildew?

I can't tell if this is a joke but either way it's reason #9 I love Austin. This sign was hanging in the laundry room of my apartment complex.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Least of These

Last Thursday I went to a screening at the law school of "The Least of These," ( a documentary film about T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a controversial family detention center in Taylor, Texas, for immigrant families awaiting asylum hearings or deportation screenings. Specifically, the film focuses on the efforts of a UT law professor and immigration attorney, Barbara Hines, to address the prison-like facilities that were housing these families, including children. The film can be viewed for free on its website and can also be found on Netflix. I encourage anyone to see it.

The crux of the issue at Hutto is as follows: sick of the "catch and release" policies on immigration, where an undocumented immigrant was instructed to appear at court and sometimes would not, the Bush administration began detaining these people until their asylum or immigration hearings. Because many of the people crossing our borders came as families, the concern was then how to keep families together within this new paradigm of detention. This is how the Hutto Center began. In what was formerly a medium-security prison, the largest private prison operator in the country, CCA, was contracted by our government to create a family detention center. This poses the obvious problem of keeping children in a prison-like, or actually, a prison environment. The legal problem for Professor Hines, her students, and her colleagues, was whether the facilities complied with the federal standards of housing children, but there is also the larger moral problem of detaining children. One official at CCA lamented that unfortunately sometimes children pay for the crimes of their parents, but in our just society, is this an assumption we should be so willing to accept? The legal question was within the jurisdiction of Professor Hines and her students and colleagues but there was always that larger moral question lingering throughout the film.

The Least of These is inspirational, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. I initially heard about this project from a New Yorker article published about a year and a half ago ( and I was reminded of the story when it was mentioned at the admitted student days I attended in Austin last March. I remember when I first read the article being so impressed that law students' work could have real-life results. Professor Hines was teaching an immigration law clinic at UT so her students became intimately involved with the case. Hearing the story of Hutto and the efforts of Professor Hines, her students, and other attorneys that became involved in the case made me proud to be a part of an institution that is willing to speak for those marginalized in the legal system - I have been here for only a month but this sense of responsibility of lawyers, that relatively small subsection of the population who is trained to understand and interpret the law, is very apparent in the legal education here at UT.

I don't need to summarize the film further but there are a couple of scenes that stuck out for me. In one case, a family from Iran had escaped persecution to Canada, and their son was born in Canada, making him a citizen. The parents, however, were denied asylum in Canada and the family was sent back to Iran, where the parents were tortured and eventually paid for forged papers to return to Canada with their nine-year-old son. On the way to Toronto, a passenger died on their flight so the plane was redirected to land in Puerto Rico, where the false documents were discovered and the family was detained at Hutto. While there, the family (and other families at Hutto) were forced to have their child present for meetings with their attorneys, where the parents recounted the horrific stories of torture in Iran. The mother and father had hoped to shield their son from the traumatic knowledge of this past, but he was present for these meetings for asylum, and learned of the abuse his parents endured. This aspect was among the most heartbreaking for me. The hope that the parents could shield their young son from the knowledge of the torture inflicted in their home country was shattered in Hutto. It is such a fundamental parental instinct to protect their children and yet at Hutto, the freedom of such an attempt at protection was stripped.

Another scene that stuck out was towards the end of the film. A young mother, pregnant with her fourth child, escaped from her abuser, the father of the children, to America. She had scars on her face from the machete he assaulted her with, and she was forced to leave her eldest daughter behind with the abuser, who held the child at knife point while the pregnant mother and the two youngest girls fled. The mother, her two girls, and now infant baby were released from Hutto recently and the oldest of the girls, probably about six, was being interviewed for the film. She said how she was amazed by the beauty of Houston, a statement which, while there was hardly a dry eye in the audience I was among, still elicited a chuckle. The interviewer asked her more specifically what was so beautiful about life outside Hutto, in Houston. The girl replied (I am paraphrasing): There's a place called McDonald's, which is so beautiful, and has a big toy where you can slide down into a pool of balls.

Such innocence and sadness accompanied this statement by the young girl.

The title of the film comes from a passage in Matthew, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I am proud to be at a school and in a country that believes in the possible embodiment of this statement through our legal system.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adverse Possessors

Apparently law students love legal puns. As I mentioned earlier, the Thursday bar event is called the "Bar Review." I learned recently that the Halloween party at the Law School is called "Ex Parte." And my intramural football team is called the "Adverse Possessors."

Yup, I'm on an intramural football team. All the classes of 1L students have their own teams so it was natural for me to participate in mine. Tonight was our first game of the season and we played a team studying Nuclear Physics at the grad school here. The game started at 8:00 and our coach asked us to be there at 7:30 to practice a bit. I left my apartment at 7:00 to catch the UT Shuttle to the IM fields but I couldn't find the bus stop, so I walked the 25 blocks to the fields.

I walked through an Austin neighborhood called Hyde Park. I've heard of this area before as the place where a lot of graduate students and professors live. It has a real neighborhoody feel, the first I have noticed since I moved here. As I have professed, I love Austin, but I must say that aesthetically it doesn't have much on New York. There are no rows of brownstones, and sidewalks seem to come and go with no reason; it is primarily a driving city. I am a walker who enjoys meandering and getting lost in the grid of pre-war New York City buildings and townhomes, so this has been an adjustment for me. Sure, Austin has a certain funkiness about it that I really appreciate; it is utterly unpretentious with a kitschy charm. And although I think the West Village in New York is generally too overrun with designer labels and yuppies and hipsters, there is nothing like the quaint two or three storied brownstones that line those cobblestone streets, their basement bars and hidden back gardens giving New York that "New York" feel. The feel of a small town in a big city.

In Hyde Park there are no brownstones and no townhouses, but there are cottage-like houses with small yards lining narrow streets where each intersection has a four-way stop. The houses are modest yet polished, there are trees with swings hanging from them, a public swimming pool and tennis courts, and people taking evening walks. It's charming in the homey sense. It's the small town feel in the city.

I arrived at the IM fields at 7:40, a bit late but nothing catastrophic. We threw the football around awhile and the game was on. I am proud to say that I was on the receiving end of the first complete pass of the game. My problem, however, which I first noticed in practice, is that when I catch the ball I am so proud of the catch that I kind of forget to run; the flags around my waist were immediately stripped. Our team played fine and was certainly not out-matched by the Nuclear Physicists we were up against but sadly, we lost. The loss was comforted by team margaritas at Trudy's after the game.

The IM fields at UT, like just about everything here at UT, are enormous. They are not lying when they say everything is bigger in Texas. We played under the lights and the evening was uncharacteristically cool compared to recent weather. It was lovely.

I'm hoping the Adverse Possessors will have a couple practices before next week's game. Once the bulk of us get more comfortable with the game I think we'll be a solid force. In the meantime I'll enjoy my walk to the field.

Monday, September 14, 2009


It's kind of embaressing that I am writing about meat again. But last Sunday I went on a lunch trip with a friend from school and her boyfriend to Lockhart, Texas (aka the Barbeque Capitol of Texas) and it was such great fun I can't keep it to myself.

I enjoyed the trip for numerous reasons, not just the brisket, which I will iterate:

1) The furthest outside of Austin I had been within Texas is the Austin Airport, which probably doesn't even count. Though we ventured less than 30 miles outside of Austin, the surroundings felt very different very quickly. Austin is known for its lakes and hills, and as we were heading south the landscape changed noticeably. The land was suddenly very flat and barren. We passed trailers, pecan trees, and cows between Austin and Lockhart and not much else. The clouds were looming, adding to the ominous character of the land. To pass so quickly into such a different territory was itself an experience.

2) Smitty's. We tried out two different BBQ places, sampling different meats from each. My friend's boyfriend had done a BBQ tour recently so he knew just where to bring us and just what to order. The first place we stopped was Smitty's ( When you walk into Smitty's you basically walk into a smoker. There are exposed flames from the wood logs that are burning to create the smoke which flows into the large pits. It's one big room with granite floors and brick walls, and the savory smell of smoked meat. This is where you order the meat by weight, which is served on wax paper. The next room from the smoke room is a cafeteria-like dining area where you can pick up your sides and sweet tea. We skipped the sides to focus on the important stuff, took our seats and got to work. Our sampling included their brisket, sausage, and pork chops. The pork chops hands down were my favorite. A thick, juicy cut that you have to eat with your fingers. They literally do not have forks in this place. The food coma was starting to set in but we still had some BBQ to try.

3) Black's Barbeque ( We were glad we went to Black's BBQ second because it has a cozier feel for eating, and with the mounting daze from all the smoked meats we knew we would want to take a seat for awhile after eating and before heading back to Austin. We also decided to try out some of the sides and desserts here. Our sampling included brisket, smoked turkey, jalapeno cheddar sausage, banana pudding, blackberry cobbler, candied marshmallow yams, and deviled eggs. Wow, this seems even more decadent as I write it out. Each of the sides is in just a small bowl so I swear it's not as bad as it sounds, and three of us were tasting. I tried everything except the yams and my ranking from best to worst is as follows: 1) smoked turkey; 2) banana pudding; 3) brisket; 4) deviled eggs; 5) jalapeno cheddar sausage; 6) blackberry cobbler. The turkey was a welcome break from the delicious yet moist and fatty brisket that I have been consuming entirely too regularly since I moved to Austin. It was smoky and lean and guilt-free. The banana pudding was to die for. I don't think I have had banana pudding before and from what I hear it is pretty easily made but I was still impressed. The blackberry cobbler was disappointingly bland and as for the sausage, well I don't really like sausage flavored with too many additions. Nothing against Black's BBQ, but just meat is fine by me. The brisket was good, and the deviled eggs could have been creamier and less yolky. An altogether satisfying second lunch and I was glad we were able to linger in the booth we were sitting in. There were also longhorn horns (?) above every doorway, inspiring me to look on Ebay for a set for my apartment. My bedroom is a bit too girly and nothing plays down girliness like some dead animal paraphernalia.

4) Lockhart's Caldwell County Courthouse is just stunning (see above.).

5) It's nice to spend some good time with good people, especially in a new place. Makes it feel a bit more like home.

I fell into a food coma when I got home from the outing and was useless for the rest of my Sunday afternoon, but with no regret.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The list continues...

Reason #8 I love Austin: I needed an electric drill to hang up my curtains but alas my tool box is nonexistent. I knocked on my next door neighbor's door to inquire whether he had a drill (although I believe I mistakenly called it an "electric screwdriver"). He said no, but he has a friend who does and he can call him and ask him to bring it over. I insisted it wasn't necessary to inconvenience his friend and thanked him for the offer. Two hours later there was a knock on my door and I open it to find my neighbor and his friend, toolboxes in hand.

Unfortunately I told them the wrong places for the screws. I have since had to backtrack and remove the screws, but I can't get one of the screws out. I borrowed a drill from a law school friend, drilled another screw in the wall next to the unmovable one but again in the wrong spot. I placed the holders for the curtain rod too far apart so I have the holders in the wall and can't hang the rod. This is my own damn fault. I still love Austin.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will you be my friend?

It's taken about three weeks to get settled into my apartment and into the rhythm of law school but I realized after last weekend the one thing missing is friends. Jacob and his Texan buddies were in town last weekend so I was able to mingle a bit, but of course visits are fleeting and relatively infrequent. I'm going to be here for three years - a support system imported from the Northeast isn't going to cut it.

What added to this realization was Jacob's constant teasing last weekend that I do not have friends here. Every time I was introduced to someone new, my first question was, "do you live in Austin?," hoping to establish a contact here. When he pointed this out to me I realized my desperation. Something needed to be done.

Making friends here is different from what I've experienced in the past. Because so many Trinity friends transplanted to NYC after graduating, I haven't really had to try to meet people since I went to Trinity eight years ago. The experience of making friends as a 17-year-old freshman at a small college nicknamed "The Bubble" is vastly different from making friends as a 25-year-old 1L at a huge school in a vibrant city. I don't live in a dorm here. When I entered Trinity, I, like most of the freshman class, was single and excited to meet people of the opposite sex - that incentive is (happily) gone. 80% of students at UT are from Texas, which means they have family and friends somewhere in this huge state, and well I just don't. We are encouraged to "network," which for me makes social situations even more strained and awkward, as if there is some calculable end to the forced laughs and clinking of the beer bottles. The most difficult thing for me, however, is the sheer necessity of it. I have never felt like I needed to make friends; it was always a pretty natural process.

So I needed to be more deliberative and proactive - I, for the first time I can remember in my life, had to make a forced effort to make friends. When I heard about the happy hour for our Society (about 100 of us who have two classes together) I knew a free beer scene would be the best possible situation for my newfound resolve.

The open bar event was at 6:00 at Scholz's beer garden, on the edge of campus. I went to a meeting at school at 5:30 for a group I am interested in joining, and at the meeting was a fellow "4C" student (I still don't have a hold on the system, but UT Law divides you into societies and sections - our society is about 100 people; our section is a smaller group from the society of about 25 people with whom you have all your classes.). Recognizing each other from classes, we started chatting and turns out she and I lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, as did our Criminal Law professor. We were both heading to the Society happy hour and she offered me a ride with another girl and guy from our Society. This meant I had three new friends before we even got to the bar.

At the happy hour I got to know some of our other classmates better and I found myself enjoying the conversations - nothing like the forced Q's & A's I had feared. I exchanged some phone numbers, and was on a roll. At about 8 I left with two girls in my class and we decided to walk downtown, about 10 blocks, to get dinner before the "Bar Review" party at a downtown bar. (The Bar Review is every Thursday night and is put on by the Student Board of Advocates. It is just a pun in name and has nothing to do with the Bar, like my mom thought, but rather simply takes place at a bar.)

On our way downtown we walked past the Capitol building and through its grounds. (See the picture I took, above.) The Capitol is just stunning. It is massive, I believe larger than our Nation's Capitol building, and the grass there is pretty much the only green grass I have seen since I have been to Austin, due to the drought. We also saw a possum lurking around the building and bats flying above, circling the capitol dome. It was a beautiful walk. We ended up getting a slice of pizza and then headed to the Bar Review.

I stayed at the Bar Review until around 1:00 and hopped in a cab to go home, which I shared with a girl I had met earlier that evening who needed to pick up her car on campus. More phone number exchanging ensued.

I woke up with a headache the next day but felt pretty good about the previous night. Making friends isn't so tough. Oh, and I found out Jay-Z is coming to Austin Nov. 22, and UT students can get $25 tickets. Made plans with my new friends to go.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barton Springs

When I was moving to Austin my dad kept telling me to "find the fountain." "OK, dad," I said each time. I had no idea what he was talking about. My dad used to be a professor and seems to still use lectures to convey his ideas so I didn't ask him to expound, fearing a drawn-out answer. Well, turns out he was talking about Barton Springs.

In Austin's Zilker Park you will find quite literally, an oasis. Barton Springs is a three-acre natural spring-fed pool that provides swimming pool-like aquatic relief for Austinites on the hottest of days, maintaining a cool 68 degrees temperature. Fun fact: Robert Redford learned to swim there at five years old. (Pshhh I was 3 when I learned to swim.)

Last Monday, Labor Day, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. After a long, hot, boozy weekend I needed some relief. I packed my backpack with cookies, an apple, water, a book, and a towel, threw on my bikini and a cover-up and set out to take the bus to Zilker Park. The bus ride was miserable, requiring a transfer on a detoured bus route downtown running on a Sunday schedule. The compounded effect of transfer x detour x Sunday schedule took a toll and I found myself lost in the middle of downtown in 100 degree weather being misdirected by a friendly, yet clueless police officer. That kind of sucked, but in the end the experience added to my appreciation of the relief that Barton Springs provides.

When I arrived at Zilker Park, I found my way to Barton Springs and paid the $3 entry fee. Right before you get to the pay-entrance you pass a playground, rows of covered picnic tables, and a snack bar featuring sno-cones. I was already thinking about what flavor to get for the way home. I entered the pool area, spread out my towel, and picked up my book but soon found myself just looking around. The pool in some ways looks like any artificial in-ground pool. The water depths are marked on the side and there is a cement sidewalk surrounding most of the area. There are stairs leading down into the water. There is a diving board with a long line of surprisingly old bathers waiting to do tricks off the board. The differences are there is algae floating in the water, there is a slippery bottom of rock and moss, the opposing wall from me that bordered the pool is rock, and it is much larger than any backyard pool I have seen. After taking in the scenery I began to listen to the people around me. In front of me was a French family with a plump mom, a very handsome dad, and three young children. I tried to make out what they were saying but my very elementary understanding of French was no help. To the right of me was a Chinese couple, the woman in a two-piece with bottoms that reached well above her belly-button and the man in a speedo. They too were speaking in their native language. Behind me were two young Australian men. I was surprised at how many countries were represented just within my auditory range.

I quickly got hot and went for a dip in the pool, which was colder than any lake I have been in. It was so refreshing, to be in the cool water surrounded by rock and grass, with hundreds of people young and old all around, and odd too, to at the same time see the tall buildings of downtown Austin not far away. An oasis indeed.

I was getting sunburnt so I dried off and left the Springs after about two hours, stopping for a lemon sno-cone on the way out. Thankfully, the bus ride home wasn't as bad as getting there, although while I was waiting for the second bus a pregnant woman sat down next to me and lit up a cigarette. She looked pretty scary so I didn't say anything.

If it doesn't rain too much this weekend I think I will go to Barton Springs again, only this time with a friend so I don't have to take the bus.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Joe Wilson, you lie

For a few minutes, the Wikipedia site for Joe Wilson had only one line under his name, "the man who embarrassed himself and his country."


Claim: Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.

False. That’s simply not what the bill says at all. This page includes "SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE," which says that "[e]xcept as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act and by subsequent regulations consistent with this Act, all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services." However, the bill does explicitly say that illegal immigrants can’t get any government money to pay for health care. Page 143 states: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." And as we’ve said before, current law prohibits illegal immigrants from participating in government health care programs.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bus Conversation

On the bus heading home from South Congress last Thursday, a young heavily-tattooed man takes the seat across from me.

Tattoo:  With those boots you're lettin everyone know you're from Texas.
Me:  Funny thing is, I'm not from Texas.
Tattoo:  Oh yeah?  Tennessee.
Me:  Nope.
Tattoo:  South Carolina.
Me:  Nope.
Tattoo:  I know, North Carolina.
Me:  Nope.
Tattoo:  Well then where in the hell are you from.
Me:  New York.
Tattoo:  New York!  Well if you ever want to get inked come to my shop, it's called Between the Lines.
Me:  Ok, thank you.
Tattoo:  You know, if you've had a few shots of Patron and you want a little butterfly tattoo.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hot Sauce

Update: Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival raised $14,269 and 29,413 pounds of food items for the Capital Area Food Bank!

AND apparently I have quite the sophisticated palate - Tears of Joy Tequila Lime Hot Sauce won 1st place in the Special Variety Hot Sauce Contest!

No Law Day

This weekend I was officially indoctrinated into Texas culture.  I attended UT's first football game of the season.  Apparently, Texas home games are referred to as "no law days."

My friend Jacob is in town for this weekend - he lives in DC and worked on the Norm Coleman campaign (tough break, guys) with a UT graduate, Bob.  Bob was meeting his friends in Austin for the first football game and invited Jacob to tag along for a Texas-sized weekend.  So I tagged along as well.  

Bob and his friends are true Texans.  They call me "baby" and are very gentlemanly.  And they liked my cowboy boots, so I really enjoyed their company.  I met Jacob, Bob, and the gang Friday night at a BBQ restaurant downtown (yes, that means brisket two days in a row) and we went to 6th Street after dinner until closing time.  What a scene!  The street closes to cars around 11 and is lined with bars, most of which have a live band playing.  We were out dancing till 2 AM.

The next morning was a bit painful, but I had to rouse to make it to the tailgate.  I met Jacob & friends at Taco Shack, about two blocks from my apartment and rode in the back of a pick up truck with Jacob to the scene of the tailgate.  We drank some Miller Lites in the parking garage and I was ready to go.  There is a very strict uniform for the UT game and tailgate - burnt orange clothing, or for the girls, white dress and cowboy boots.  I opted for the dress/boots combo.  

The whole UT campus is littered with tents for the tailgate.  The prime areas are in reserved parking lots, where the heavy-hitter donors are awarded with a parking spot.  After a beer in one such lot we mosied to another lot which housed what ended up being my favorite tailgate.  Some people had a school bus that had been converted to a Longhorn fan bus with tents attached and water spritzers to keep cool.  They also had two choices of beer on tap and a smoker for the homemade brisket, chicken, and smoked sausages that were being served up (consecutive day #3 of brisket).  Bob introduced me to his friend Phil, one of the owners of this particular tailgate, so I will be happily visiting Phil again next home game.  

We left Phil's party bus around 4:30 and met up with the rest of the crew at a tailgate that one of their friends who was on the football team in college had set up.  He had brought a flat screen TV to broadcast the game and his homemade pulled pork.  This was the best pulled pork I have had - seasoned with a spicy original recipe barbeque sauce and plenty of black pepper.  I have eaten a lot of meat the past three days. 

Game time was at 6:00 and Bob's friends were nice enough to supply me with a ticket.  I signed up for the Longhorn sports package for athletic tickets, but apparently you have to actually go pick up your ticket for the game.  Of course I realized this too late and was lucky enough that one of the guys had an extra seat.  

According to Wikipedia, Texas Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 100, 119.  This makes it the 36th largest stadium OF ANY KIND IN ALL OF HISTORY.  It is HUGE.  I've never been to a pro football or college football game before so this was all completely new for me.  Our seats were pretty high up but I had no problem watching the game.  I loved seeing the sea of orange before me as thousands of Longhorn fans packed into this massive venue.  I especially loved the camaraderie of the "hook em horns" hand sign (see above).  About half way through the game a UT player was injured, lying on the field, and the whole crowd held up their horns in a show of concern and solidarity.  When he finally rose and was driven off the field in a golf cart, he held up the "hook em" sign and the crowd went wild.

Of course, we won the game.  I met Jacob and friends at the Alumni Center during the 3rd quarter and forced down a whisky and Coke but decided to call it a night around 9.  I walked home in my dress and boots, passing still-active tailgates with the cookers lit, the kegs still tapped, and the flat-screen TV's showing the game.

I love Texas.  Hook 'em horns!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ruby's BBQ

With my first full week of classes behind me (my last class of the week ends at 11:20 AM Thursday - amazing) I decided to treat myself to a Texas BBQ lunch.  When Robby was here to help me move in, we went to the famous Stubbs BBQ downtown near 6th Street on the recommendation of our taxi driver but we left dinner unimpressed.  Robby thought that Hill Country in New York was better and I thought what an irony it would be for us to be surrounded by Texas Hill Country here in Austin and yet have "Hill Country" in NYC be the better BBQ joint.  Shouldn't the original be the best?  I had to keep looking in Austin.

When someone told me that Ruby's is a great Austin BBQ spot I rejoiced - it's only 2 blocks from my apartment!  I decided to check out Ruby's for my Thursday afternoon celebratory meal.

Ruby's looks like a classic Austin spot.  I mean this mostly architecturally.  A lot of the buildings here are one story, with low ceilings, hardwood floors, and wood beams throughout.  Many also have outdoor areas.  Ruby's is just as I described, and although I love dining al fresco, with the temperature at 102 I decided to sit inside.

Being ignorant as to how it Ruby's is run, I posted myself at the counter and asked if I could sit at a table.  "Just one," I said unabashedly.  Ruby's doesn't have full-on table service; you order at the counter and when your food is ready one of the servers brings it out.  Upon instruction, I grabbed a menu and took a seat at a table by a window.  The window looked out onto the parking lot but the sunlight beaming off the table was beckoning.  

I had done my research before going to Ruby's and surmised that the brisket was the way to go.  The only question was: sandwich or plate?  The sandwich ($5.75) is 1/4 lb brisket with a side of pickle and the plate ($11.95) is 1/3 lb brisket with two sides off the menu.  Feeling decadent, I opted for the plate.  I was curious to try the spicy baked beans, which I chose as I side and wimped out with a side salad for my other side.  Gotta eat your veggies!

My plate came with the brisket served sliced on wax paper accompanied by the spicy beans in a bowl, the side salad in a bowl, two slices of thickly cut whole wheat bread (white bread is the other option), and a small serving of BBQ sauce.  The brisket was perfectly marbled - not too fatty, not too lean.  I made myself an open-faced brisket sandwich with the meat and bread, and the BBQ sauce drizzled on top.  

BEST BRISKET I HAVE EVER HAD!  I savored every bite and even though I was planning on bringing leftovers home for dinner, my tray was bare by the time I was done.  Ruby's has made my list for go-to spots in Austin and even better (or worse perhaps) it is a 3-minute walk from my apartment.

I also love that Ruby's advertises wedding catering on their website.  Slow-cooked cow breast sounds like a great party to me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Reason #7 I heart Austin:  Met a friend for drinks, we each had 3 margaritas, our check came to $23.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Love 'em boots

Cowboy boots are a hit already. I took them for their first stroll this evening to my local grocery store and within 30 seconds, received two compliments. The first came from two undergrads on a balcony, "nice boots!" and the second from a young cowboy in a pick-up truck, "love your boots!"