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Austin, TX

Austin is if you took Portland and put it into a landscape resembling Los Angeles, and made parking way easier. Food trucks are plentiful, there’s a ton of Mexican food, a lot of art and music scene, and hip neighborhoods full of hipsters, overpriced coffee, local beer, and lots of tchotchke shops that sell random cute things you want to buy when you see them but never use when you have them at in your home.

Soco, South Congress, is a super hip neighborhood with trendy hotels, bars, hipster barbershop, and coffee shop that serves butter coffee, which is not really my thing, but a lot of people seem to like it. We walked around, looked at cute things, Haejung bought a nice pair of earrings, 3 pairs of jeans at a thrift store for a whopping total of $4! They were having a moving sale at 75% off. The neighborhood pizza shop, Home Slice Pizza, was a solid lunch spot. Their Sicilian pizza, which is a thicker chewy fluffy crust pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, was the best of its kind we ever tasted. Umberto’s in North End or even the pizza we had in Sicily did not match up to the one here.

Contemporary Austin’s sculpture garden outside the city had some cool pieces. Right by the river, it felt sort of like we were in Thailand. We had no idea Austin was this humid and jungly in climate. Then it started raining… which it continued for about 4 days off and on. Luckily, we had some indoor activities lined up. Contemporary Austin had a last look party for Mark Motherbaugh’s exhibition. We sifted through a sample of Motherbaugh’s collection of 30,000 postcards, we made a couple Motherbaugh style postcards, listened to a DEVO cover band, got some free beer and free snacks, and walked around looking at some odd, bad-ass art. This guy was part of a popular 70’s band, created some amazing visual art, and also composes for big films, including The Lego Movie. Pretty amazing.

On Sunday morning, we woke up early and got in line at The Franklin at 8 AM for a 4 hour wait to get the best Texas barbecue in town. At The Franklin, 3-4 hour wait is standard. They open at 11 AM, and close when the food runs out, which is around 3 PM. If you want to order take-out, you need to order at least $100 worth, and you need to do it a month in advance. When we got to the line at 8 AM, there were about 20 people already waiting. They’ve probably been there since about 5 or 6 AM. There is a stack of chairs you can grab to make yourself comfortable for the next 3-4 hours, a time span long enough to start and finish “Lawrence of Arabia.” We got lucky and met a very nice couple from San Francisco and chatted with them the whole time, although we had a movie on an iPad and an audiobook prepared. They were here for the weekend to eat food. That was it. It was the guy’s 2nd time at The Franklin, and he said it’ll definitely be worth the wait. The waitress came by and took an assessment for what we might order. You can change your mind, but they need to get a sense of how long their food will last, so they can properly warn people who are standing at the back of the line that they might not get to eat, so wait at your own risk.

4 hours of getting to know each other and playing charades on our iPhone was a pretty good way to pass the time. At Noon, we got to finally order. We ordered brisket, lean and fatty, pulled pork, sausage, and ribs. Briskets were the most tender and juicy briskets we’ve ever had. Pulled pork was fine. I’m not really sure what the big deal is with pulled pork. Sausage was smoky and super flavorful, and ribs were juicy and slipped right off the bones. Was it worth the 4 hour wait? Well the food was… really really good. Would I wait ever wait for 4 hours just for the food? No. As a fun experience of waiting with other people and having an amazing barbecue, would I convince other people to wait 4 hours with me? Definitely.

After the 3 days of non-stop pouring rain, the sky cleared up, and the sun came out, just in time for Color Inside. Color Inside is an installation piece by James Terrell at University of Texas Austin. In an oval space with seating against the wall, there is an oval opening in the middle of the room, with ceiling and the walls going up to it in clean white surface, which changes color accordingly to the light beaming up. The colored light paints the surface so evenly and cleanly you can’t tell where the lights are. It just seems like the surface itself is changing color. There is a sequence that happens at sunrise and sunset. We had reservations to experience the sunset. The docent encouraged us to move around, even lie on the floor, to get a different perspective. As the color of the sky changes subtly, the color inside shifts ever so slowly that you don’t even notice the change happening until you are seeing the next color. Yellow, pink, turquoise, red, blue, purple, and everything in between, you get to watch the color of the sky dance with the color surrounding it as the sun paints the atmosphere with different palettes. For about an hour, Haejung and I lied down on the floor staring up into the sky, surrounded by gorgeous color combinations. It was very moving. It always feels like a spiritual experience with James Terrell. Did you know that he served a year in jail because he was teaching kids how to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War? Pretty bad-ass.

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