Sunday was a busy day for us. First on the list was something of an Austin icon: Ginny’s Chicken Shit Bingo. Everyone has heard about it but not that many have been there to actually witness it. The bingo occurs in Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, a fun little dive on Austin’s North side. At 4:00, a bartender walks out onto the patio, into the throng that has gathered there, and selects a table at random. The line rapidly forms as the patrons pounce on the opportunity to buy a number out of the bucket for $2. The resident rooster is well fed and tended to all afternoon until, at 4:30 sharp, he is placed in a wire cage with a numbered floor. When the chicken “selects” a number, the ticket holder takes all. Good clean fun for all.
Our next stop is back downtown. We are going to see and event at Austin City Limits. They are in the Moody Theater these days, not outside anymore. The theater is a beautiful structure with ample stadium seating, and nice food and beverage sales areas. We have an amazing “tamale pie”, shredded beef and vegetables on a cornmeal biscuit with a fiery green chili sauce. Tonight’s show is a tribute to Texas Songwriters and installs four of them in their Hall of Fame. Most of them are people we have never heard of. They wrote the songs and others performed them. For instance: JD Souther wrote “Heartache Tonight” for the Eagles; Will Jennings wrote “Higher Love” for Steve Winwood; Joe Ely wrote “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” for the Clash. The lists goes on and on and the songs are mostly familiar and the performances great. But we came for the fourth songwriter to be honored: Roy Orbison. Roy was unique in that he wrote his own music to fit his own music and voice. We all remember that amazing voice and that little growl / purr that he would slip in now and then. Raul Malo takes the stage and brings the audience to their feet with dead on covers of a few of Roy’s hits.
The next day we are back on the food trail. This time it takes us out of town to the Salt Lick BBQ. This is a place that gets mobbed on weekends so they have parking for hundreds and probably a half acre of patio dining. It is not real busy on a weekday so we get right in. The menu is simple, by the pound or meal combos. We select the senior version of baby back ribs and get big platters with ribs, beans, potato salad, and cole slaw. The BBQ is so good, it brings a tear to your eye. Perfect texture, color, flavor, just a splash of sauce. On the way out, we pause to watch the pit master flipping racks of ribs and briskets. I would pay just to stand there and smell the smoke.
Still no luck finding great Tex Mex or Mexican food. We tried a couple of places and found the “stuff wrapping in a tortilla” plates with murky beans, bland rice, and maybe some lettuce without dressing. That said, we did find some excellent tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. We had to search a big mall area to finally locate the place, but it was worth it.
The LBJ Presidential Library is a trip back in time for us Baby Boomers. The country was changing back then, evolving into kinder, gentler, more inclusive and safer country. The LBJ administration and congress passed legislation that affected civil rights, clean water, student loans, highway safety, veterans benefits, and medicare, among many others. But then there was that damn war.
We finished off our day with a great brewery, ABGB. This is a big shed with long rows of picnic tables. You get in line to order their beer and food, then take a number and find a place to sit. We claimed some stools along the wall and settled in to eat and drink and enjoy the band. Warren Hood and band fired up some fine fiddle music. Something along the lines of “Orange Blossom Special” but all his own. Never seen anyone strum a violin before, but he does and the sound is amazing.
Lots to do in Austin and I know we could have done a lot more but we run out of time and energy. Not sure if I would return. Austin has grown so fast, the city can’t keep up with itself. The most popular places (and highways) are jammed with people. Real estate prices are rising so rapidly, the locals are getting priced out. Philosophizing over beers, some of the locals said they were happy to see us, but please don’t stay.
Next up: El Paso