Noon on a Saturday


On a Saturday, after a rough week, I need to do something to feel better. I make myself a Denver omelet: eggs, ham, bell pepper, lots of cheddar. It’s so good that I make blueberry pancakes as an encore. In the home stretch of flipping cakes, I get a text from Mike, who happens to be visiting Austin:

Hey we are going out to South Congress I guess!?!? If you want to meet us there 🙂

What times and whereabouts? I ask.

We are there now!

Well, snap.

Mike is a legendary old friend. I can’t pass this up. Today I was supposed to…oh well. I toss the day’s schedule aside, eat pancakes while I dress, and head out on my bicycle, already breathless.

South Congress is the Austin strip, a tourist magnet. It’s lined with funky, punky shops and restaurants; places you have to stand in line to get into. It’s also on top of a hill, with about ten thousand more hills between me and it.

I discover this the hard way.

Halfway there, I’m struggling to haul my bike and full stomach uphill on the narrow shoulder, my stomach complaining that this had better be worth it and legs saying it probably isn’t and we should stop now.  Fortunately, the next turn puts me on a road with a posh two-way bike lane that shoots into the perpetual carnival that is South Congress. I fall in with tourists and students drawn by the dynamic food offerings and kinky shops sporting local wares.

Mike and friends find me loitering outside a pizza joint comprised of two different buildings and a food truck, people queued at every door and window, and we wander away and into a store whose name implies wearable industrial creativity. In a burst of enthusiasm I buy a bright green shirt with a dinosaur that says ‘The Saurus knows all the words.’ I am not a writer if I don’t get this shirt.

After we stand bewildered outside the store holding paper bags of clothes and oddities, wondering where to eat, we head away from the center of South Congress to Torchy’s Tacos. I’m still full from my epic breakfast and opt for just sparkling water, nibbling at Mike’s nachos but really wanting just water to sip.

We sit all together outside in a fenced-in gravel yard and eat tacos and discuss little-known aspects of Torchy’s menu with a waiter who looks faintly like Jeremy (and is from Wisconsin, in fact). He tells us goodbye, because it’s the end of his shift and he’s going home, which happens to be next door. It’s like eating at someone’s house instead of a restaurant. Most of us in the group are from Reno, or lived there at some point, so we have things in common.  We talk and talk about the familiar, surrounded by foreign things, the conversation stopping only while our mouths are full.

I’m glad to be here, hills notwithstanding.


I Saw Her at the Riverwalk

There is no way to capture, in fullness, a very great day.
I try to, when I wake up on my birthday and see a warm June sky out my window and know it’s finally summer.  I try, as we walk out into the bright blue morning and drive into the Third Ward.  We park on a side street and pass people walking to work and go inside an elderly marble building to buy a dozen donuts from Holey Moley. I try to hold onto the moment, fix it all perfectly in my memory. I almost try too hard and anxiety creeps in.
Back off a little, I tell myself. Let today just be today.  Things will happen and you will enjoy them. That is all you need to do.
My breath comes back and I’m better.
We drive to Liz’s white house with the clover-filled yard and bounce on the steps at the back door waiting for her to let us in. We make coffee and tea and pour glasses of milk, eating the donuts. We post pictures and everyone is jealous.
We sit outside, celebratingGlorious donuts the first perfect day of the year and new patio furniture, Liz and me crisping in the sun, Jeremy cool in the shade.
We plan an excursion into Milwaukee and go to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart. We buy All The Cheese: brie and gouda and cheddar horseradish. Cheese with balsamic, cheese with chives.  Cheese flavored by itself.
We walk the Riverwalk, passing men in suits, women in business-casual lounging on patios that bulge out over the river.
We lose time in the Public Market, wandering from stall to stall. Looking (again) at (different) cheeses.  Discussing Wisconsin paraphernalia; long socks advertising COFFEE; the surprising recommendability of Harry Potter; mussels on the half-shell eaten raw. We show Liz the glories of flavored balsamic vinegar.
I Saw Her in the Library
I Saw Her in the Library – Print by Emily Winfield Martin
We buy a baguette and walk down the construction-ravaged street to Hot Pop, me carrying the baguette like an awkward stick and waving sheepishly to the lady at the counter. Welcome to Hot Pop, the gift shop of the Internet. Baguettes allowed.
I find there are a few prints left of I Saw Her in the Library. I’m delighted.  I carry one around the shop with me, wanting to get it but talking myself out of it at the last moment. Liz buys it for me, and I buy her a Totoro lens cleaning cloth.
Now it’s all our birthdays.