! Woo-woo!" He’s snapping pictures, filming me at the desk with her, reminding her of the nature of our trip there, doing everything in his power to embarrass me, just as a concerned parent would, and I’m all apologetic and excusing him as might an insecure and unappreciative teenager. Upon my return to the bus, everyone is lying out on the lawn, being harassed by some predatorily friendly homeless people, reminding you occasionally of how close to that line we’ve walked. In fact, that’s an insult to homeless people everywhere, and I strike it from the record; nevertheless, they’re getting close, and one of them, who looks like Huey Lewis covered in a few layers of grime, keeps barking instructions on where to visit while in Austin, and I’ve the key in the ignition, saying, “thank you, thank you, we’ll try,” while he keeps inching closer, one step at a time, helping more, and we’re all, “thanks, that sounds great, but we have to go now,” and it ends up with me basically gunning the engine, then driving off as one of his feet hits the pavement. Bums here are incredibly friendly, and I would neither call it absurd, nor would I assume I’m the first person to do so, were I to call it the Portland of the South (that’s attributed to the Portland in Oregon, of course).
We finally pack it up and find the famous Barton Springs that everyone had urged us to visit, and for good cause
. Putting sunscreen on in the planar Texan summer sun (while in a bus) turns the cream into a soupy, drippy mess, a rather moot application if you get that far, and considering the heat, a sunburn is as well if you’re passed out from dehydration. No one’s at the parking booth so we pay nothing, and everyone sprints over the burning blacktop in bare feet or similar while I freshen up with my usual bathroom burpy dance; once I’m out I see that Hum-Yai’s waiting for me near a bronze statue of a reading child. He, so waiting because he’s the most consistently kind-hearted person you’ll ever meet (so much so, that his goodness can grate), tells me that the entrance on the right costs three bucks, while the lefty is free, and we follow everyone in that direction. Left shares the same frigid natural waters as right, only right is developed into a rectangular (read: square) concrete pool where left babbles over mossy rocks and a graffitied runoff pipe. Here attracts the ramblers and misfits, and so where we can only see the wealthy tops of heads in the pool, we delight in all the beautiful tatooed bikinis, all college-aged and blue collar, wading hip-deep in water that makes even their balls recoil, which is a feat considering their clear lack of balls. Kuntz, Shmark, Mr. X and The Beard are all splashing around therein, with Kuntz and X drifting conspicuously close to the high school girls, while crash in, pshhhh, and recoil in shock; it’s amazing how one moment you’re dying of heat and the next moment you’re hypothermic, but then I’m spoiled by Los Angeles, which is so often neither hot nor cold (I’m also stripped of all my baby fat and therefore unable to insulate my icy bones). Nevertheless, I sit on the bank as the banjo player’s dogs lap up the water around me, crossing my arms, looking as cool as is possible, while Cornbread and Hum-Yai chat nearby, presumably doing the same (though as cool as they look, who needs to try? Count it), when we all spot two spots on the other side of the water: boobs
. Two boobs, in fact, and they’re all bouncy and pinkish-brown and boob-like, and it’s cool. About twenty minutes later, eyes crane upward to their owner, and oh dear, how disappointing, she’s Scrooge McDuck in a room of gold coins, completely cowshit crazy, going brbbb with her lips, jumping up and down, running up to people, presumably drooling on them, reaching her arms into the air to call attention to herself (as if her floppy, bare chest weren’t enough), altogether the most irresistible lass these eyes have yet to spy. The Beard snaps my concentration by climbing up through the runoff pipe, muscling himself through that downward rush of water up into the high-class pool, and as a clueless lifeguard walks past him, he waves to us playfully from above, and we’re reminded again of his resourceful mania. My competing move is falling asleep on my hand while sitting in the same spot. Little did I know I was getting sick, BAM BUM BUM (just exercising my prophetic foreshadowing rights as someone writing this retroactively).
Leaving the pool, we cross a harmonic park with stripey planks and mallets acting as marimbas or such, and it’s nice to see a city supporting creativity in their citizens starting at a very young age. With that said, it’s not a spirited child banging away at these vertical wooden gongs, but a bulbous man in an unfortunate Speedo, and if he’s the slightest bit untalented he hasn’t the slightest clue, for he bangs away malifluously (invented word) with great fervor
. When some of our guys approach the five other smiling musical setups to contribute some play to the playground, the territorial twit pounds that much more aggressively, taking his eye off his plate only long enough to glare at Shmark or whomever, which is hilarious because he’s probably forty-three, not three. I mean, really, what an asshole, and if someone didn’t fart on him as we walked to the parking lot, they should have. Hahaha, really, I mean, what a truly pathetic idiot. I was going to comment, by the way, on this magazine that Kuntz grabbed from a bar last night: it’s called Misprint, and it’s the most wretchedly negative collection of words I’ve ever seen in print, something written to really make its readers feel awful, perhaps because its authors hate themselves so deeply – they’re always categorizing things, tearing them down, insulting people that like them, etc – and then I realized, whoa, hey, you’re like that, too! Sorry I am, then.
From this point onward, we begin making a true beeline for the west coast so I might make it to my grandfather’s eightieth birthday celebration on the 28th (Happy Birthday, Grandpa Bernie!). So from Austin, it’s our intention to see the only other liberal city in Texas (supposedly), though I feel an urge to drive to Crawford with a rocket launcher pointed at a certain person’s house. No, in favor of presidential homicide, we choose Marfa, a little oasis in the west known to draw in artists from all over, though our reasons shuttle between its supposed presence of a food bus and the fact that a mutual friend, Borealis, lives there.
Well, if Austin to Marfa seems like a lazy jaunt on a map, it’s not, and we’re left driving all day long
. That’s fine, of course, because we live on a bus, and because on this bus our collective energies suddenly spike at the same moment: with The White Stripes’ “Conquest” simply BLASTING over our tiny speakers, someone shouts to Kuntz, “fireworks,” and in no time we’re all hanging from the ceiling like shrieking monkeys, laughing hoo-hoo-hoo, yay explosion go boom, as the pyrotechnic lights fuses with a smoldering incense stick, then tosses these tiny dynamites into the exploding sky. Oh, the thunder! Everyone should experience the thrill of being on a bus whooshing through the bone-white Texan landscape with gun powder blasting in the handmade sky above you and your whoopee friends. May we recommend, further, that you play The Who, too?
By nightfall my cold’s in swing and we’re on the side of the road at a rest stop with a bench, and a, and also an, and even a trashcan! I pound Airborne medication taken from The Beard as if it were beer or whiskey while Shmark cooks tonight’s Technicolor feast of jalapeņo-cheddar sausage, quinoa, beets, and spinach, and it’s pretty damn good. Cornbread’s lying on the ground, transferring the moon’s chill from the pavement to his angular frame, while some of us strum guitar and Kuntz fashions a bota from the goonsack with duct tape and a carabiner left by Navin. Our faucet is not working.
DAY SIXTY-FIVE: Rolling out of bed and into the strong sunlight, Anon bids us farewell and packs our rucksacks with good cheer and considerable advice on where to go and what to do before complete departure. We head toward Franklin Barbecue but they're closed; we head toward the food carts from the previous night but they, too, are closed once again. In the vicinity, I mention my interest in visiting the campus of the University of Texas, which is sprawling, sun-baked, and in fact quite ugly of that which we can see (in that 1960s, pale brick-and-concrete university architecture sort of way), but the guys are generous enough with their time to allow me to stop for a visit, and so I park Pearl on a side street, scraping her side brutally with the side of a series of tree branches. Quickly I stride to the quaint, whitewashed cottage cooling beneath the shade-giving trees and find myself greeted warmly at reception. She invites me to have a seat, and launches into her introductory speech, outlining the merits of the program, most of which hang on the beautiful nature of their funding, blah blah it sounds incredibly attractive, and about halfway through, Hum-Yai bursts in with his camera, "how’d it do, y’all