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international librarian of mystery

Sunday, March 13, 2005

As fine as cream gravy

So, here I am in lovely Austin, Texas!

I had big plans for writing up my last few (eventful) days in New Zealand on the plane on the epic trip over, but there seems to be some sort of inverse physiological relationship for me between height-above-sea-level and motivation, whereby if the former ascends, the latter plummets. As soon as the plane took off from Auckland the desire to write was completely replaced by the need to play Galaxian, to watch all three dire Hollywood films shown, and to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to complete just one cryptic crossword on the 12 hour flight. I had a few hours at LAX to burn before my connecting flight to Austin, but at that point jet-lag, culture-shock, and the pure fascination of people-watching in a foreign country again put paid to thoughts of blogging.

In fact, it wasn't until today, the day before the Bloggies, that I've really had a chance to fire up my laptop. It's been non-stop sleeping, socialising and sight-seeing since I arrived.

Jenny picked me up from the airport in a pick-up driven by Alan, a local boy who has friends working on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe production back in New Zealand, several of whom have taken time off to come back to the States for the SXSW festival. Quite a few kiwis working on the Wardrobe production have decided to head over as well, so, along with Jenny's documentary team, and all the various NZ bands playing at the music festival, there's actually a decent sized group of people to call upon for help.

Not that it appears I'll need any. All the locals are so friendly. After enduring a mind-splitting jet-lag headache on my second day in town (I slept it off), I struck out on my own to do some sight-seeing over the weekend. And everyone I asked for directions when I was lost not only pointed me in the right direction, but offered hints on good places to stop and eat, notable local attractions, and the best place to buy some decent boots. Three different people, with no urging on my behalf at all, told me about Allen's Boots, so I made it my mission to find the shop, and purchase myself some bona fide top-notch Texan cowboy boots. And maybe a hat.

On the way, I made the classic mistake of not looking the right way when I strode out onto the street, and nearly got cleaned out by a pick-up truck. (Not a 'ute', as I have since discovered.) Despite the fact the truck was 100m (320ft) past me by the time I had even realised I had nearly become another number in the USA's impressive road-deaths statistics, I skipped backwards to the footpath (sidewalk!) letting out a belated cry. Instantly, I was surrounded by locals concerned for my welfare. Having ascertained that I was a New Zealand girl wandering the streets of Austin alone, there was no shortage of sympathy. We happened to be outside a place called Jo's Coffee, and a coffee and bagel arrived from somewhere to help allay my shock. And then two lovely older gentlemen escorted me the rest of the way up the hill to Allen's Boots, ensuring I understood the mechanics of the pedestrian crossings on the way. Arriving at the much-hyped store, I found that, indeed, there were a spectacular range of not only boots and hats on offer, but jeans and cowboy apparel in general. I was in heaven.

While perusing the boots, I noticed a good-looking cowboy stride purposefully into the store, walk up to the counter, and start talking to the staff. There were appreciative nods and gesticulations at his fairly battered cowboy hat, and he handed it over to them, before heading my way.

"Given up the ghost has it?" I asked.
"Pardon me, ma'am?"
"Um, your hat. Is it worn out?"
"Oh no, ma'am. Just needs a steam. Then she'll be as fine as cream gravy."

And indeed, a few minutes later his hat was returned to him by one of the very nice staff, looking as good as new. While we had waited, I had cajoled my new cowboy friend into assisting me with my own hat and boots purchasing decision, which eventually led to an invitation by him to a barbecue later that week, which, if time permits, I might just take up. My credit card didn't complain when I went to make the purchases, and the cowboy gave me a lift to the University of Texas, where I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Harry Ransom Centre, a library which has, amongst other things, a great collection of early 20th Century manuscripts and letters from DH Lawrence, James Joyce, and New Zealand's Katherine Mansfield. Bliss.

Then, back to Alan's where yet another posse of freshly arrived kiwis and friendly american's were firing up yet another barbecue and downing a few Shiner Bocks.

So, yes, having a wonderful time. And the Bloggies tomorrow!

Fingers crossed!