My first glimpse was of the red hair - I was looking specifically for the hair, because we'd had the discussion days (or a week) ago about dying the hair red. And then I saw a grinning face and a hand that waved and there was just enough blur (from my contacts or the sun, or my grin splitting my own face and making my eyes crinkle) that all I saw was hand and happy face and I knew, just knew, that the weekend was going to be absolutely fabulous.
After the slow people ahead of her got off the escalator, finally I was able to hug EB in person!! And I discovered many good facts (or well kept secrets, or things that one needs to know about EB). The first: she is totally cute. From the wicked grin, to the cute girl voice that matches the cute girl it comes out of, to the cute short-cut curly red hair, to the adorable dress sense that tends to contain a little purple, to the ivory colored skin and well-chosen glasses. The second: EB gives great hug. The third: EB bounced with me. I bounce with excitement sometimes - it just leaks out and then adds springs to the balls of my feet. And EB bounced with me!
So, we made our way to the car, to the house, to do the official introductions between EB & Neil & Felix. EB brought us a beautiful present- one of those cool coffee table books with pictures of Helena (which is a WAY cuter town than she ever hinted at!! OMG so cute.) I gave EB the tour, showed off the freshly-cleaned house, and we decided to head out to the first of a string of meals.
Apparently what we do in Austin is feed people and take them to see the bats. Can't let EB miss out on any of that!
Especially since it's pretty much a requirement for us to ensure people get BBQ at least once on their visits here. We started off with that. BBQ at a place downtown called the Ironworks, where they serve you gigantic beef ribs on a paper plate with a piece of white bread and some beans and potato salad. Picture it - a completely rustic restaurant, built out of an old ironwork building, with exposed beams and wooden benches. They still have the wood stove in the middle of the place, and probably use it to heat the restaurant in the winter. Swamp coolers kind of blunt the heat, but don't cut it enough to stop the sweat from starting once we really set to. It's the kind of dinning where the food tastes GOOD because they only do half a dozen things. You order from a menu that's up on the wall above the order window, and pick your drinks out of a massive ice chest. It was great fun sharing paper towels, deciding we all liked the spicier bbq sauce. But the kicker to dinner had to be when Neil saw a rat run along the rafters while we were eating. Yep, you read that right. A rat. He said it was big, too. But we are hearty and tough and not willing to compromise our meat eating for anything, so hey, we finished what we could and got a to-go box to take the rest home!
After a meal like that what can you do but walk? That's what we thought too. I managed to corrupt EB just a little bit (she was willing to have her own clove!) and we walked down to 6th street to have a drink at the Driskill to show EB a little Austin elegance after the ... Austin... charm?... of the Ironworks. It was perfect - it's a hotel lounge where you can actually hear each other talk and drink decent liquor, and still wear your shorts and flip flops. Did you know that EB drinks straight gin? I didn't either! I do now! And of course, I had my usual girlie drink - apple martinis and me (the cherries get me every time).
At midnight or so we walked back through the general melee of 6th Street on a Friday night, made it back home, and then put on the classics: LA Story and Frighteners. It was great fun, even if I did end up spoiling the end of Frighteners so that EB would know what was coming up next. Neil pooped out before that was done (he did get up for work that morning after all) and so EB and I closed down the house after giggling at the ending and the okness that is Michael J. Fox doing a Peter Jackson movie. And the house went silent, all the little monkeys sleeping until morning.
EB lied - she said she wasn't going to wake up before the rest of us - and yet, she did! Maybe it was because we didn't actually wake up until 10:30 or so? Nah, that can't be it! She did it on purpose! But it all worked out, since Neil and I both stumbled out and EB was nice to us because she knows we're not morning people (not being a particularly morning-type person herself). It's SO nice to hang out with people who understand your brain just isn't functioning until you've been up for a while. I can, however, make coffee in my sleep. So I did. And then, after my eyes finally realized they were open and I found myself in the kitchen, I made raspberry crepes for breakfast under EB's watchful (and delightful) eye. Nothing wrong with starting your day out on a sugar high. Really, promise.
We'd decided to head to the Blanton (the only art museum in Austin that boasts multiple collections) and braved the evils of Austin heat to head up to the uni and over to the museum, where we discovered that I get in free and EB only cost $3!! Talk about a cheep date! *grin* It was SO much fun. EB indulged me and let me complain about the plaques on the modern art and their pretentious interpretations (I like making up my *own* pretentious interpretations, darnit!) and we were simultaneously horrified and amused that all of the sculptures except for one had fig leaves over the male parts. I mean, seriously, they're penii! They're stone penii! They're not going to hurt anyone! At least, not attached to the statues they won't. But whatever, it's Texas, and god is that scary.
What's even scarier is that we were both excited by the western art! Yes, I was actually kind of stoked that they had something by Albert Bierstadt, and downright pleased to see a Thomas Moran in person, and they had a Remington and I sqeed. That art history class has totally perverted me for all time - I can now find value in cowboy paintings. My favorite was this piece by a *gasp* artist from Montana that EB totally knew about, so we were both excited about that one. EB, what was that guy's name? I can't figure it out!
BUT, the BEST, and MOST fun was when we got kicked out of the instillation art! There was this one piece, a kind of room really, called How to Build Cathedrals. They had spread pennies on the floor, with stone around, and black fabric draped from a series of lights and bones in the ceiling. And we couldn't resist parting the fabric and going inside. That, apparently, was fine. What wasn't: we decided to step on the pennies to look at the chain of communion crackers hanging down in the middle. It was awesome, pennies sliding out from under our feet, the crunch of money sliding together, and the silly breathy impulse that made us do it and then made us giggle the entire way through, and didn't stop when we turned around and headed back. And really wasn't curbed by the dosant who came over right after that and asked us not to step on the pennies! To which we breezily replied that we'd already been out there and wouldn't go back. It seems silly that they invite you to go on the stepping stones, but not on the pennies - it's not like the pennies could get hurt!
We giggled our way through the rest of the modern and postmodern art exhibits, and discovered that the entire first floor held nothing for us - horrible 4 shelf gift shop, 2 exhibit spaces that had no art in them, and the front door. So we used the door.
Next was the driving tour around the university - there's no way I'd make EB walk in all that sun and heat when she doesn't have to. We did, however, stop at the turtle pond and get out, because turtles are worth admiring.
So are LG and The Fiance! Who were at the coffee house when we arrived. We sat out in the heat, EB gamely hanging in there with the smokers and we all managed to have quite the lively conversation about fic and kitties and dogs and all kinds of fun things. Alas, we could only take the heat for so long. Besides, we had to get back, meet Neil, and figure out where we were going for dinner that night.
I think we managed to ensure that EB isn't going to have to eat for a week. EB took us out to a new place (both for us and for EB) in the same neighborhood as the Ironworks but in a completely different class. This class involves baked brie, scrumptious fish, delicious steak, crazy yummy mac and cheese, and gigantic desserts that we took home because there was no way we were finishing them there. Oh, and a waitress so cute and so sweet that Neil instantly developed a crush, EB soon agreed, and by the end of dinner, even I was convinced that we should take her home. Of course, we didn't, we just smiled and grinned and thanked her profusely.
Stuffed to the gills, we staggered back home and went for more classic vid - Hackers. MMM. There's nothing like a little Johnny Lee Miller and young Angelina Jolie. After that we passed out, either food coma or the goofy day sending us to sleep.
It's not a complete visit without dragging people to Kerby Lane for either migas or pancakes or some kind of breakfast treat. EB was game (thank goodness) even though we'd stretched her tummy to capacity the night before. An hour or two later, we shopped our behinds off to help digest breakfast and find the perfect pressed powder (and possibly some souvenirs for the kids back home? Yes, possibly!). We braved the heat on South Congress, ducking into shops with silly t-shirts and yummy furniture (and some other things too). By then it was time for us to head home, feed the cat, and contemplate getting ready for the bats.
Neil and I have, we think, taken the Bat Boat 5 times. We've seen the bats fly in huge clouds, as they drop out from the Congress Avenue bridge for their evening meal. But this time was totally different. Usually they fly out just after the sun has set, in that twilight time that's more dark than light. Sunday night they flew while it was still so light out the sky was golden and they were illuminated by the setting sun. It was massive, and beautiful, and crazy, because we could see them so sharply and clearly. Our boat guide (a new man!) showed us doppler radar of bat emergences, told us about an opening with the bat cruise line, and rescued a baby bat that had fallen into the water. That's right - he managed to pull the boat around, scoop the bat up in the pitcher he normally uses for tips, and try to put it back in close to the column so it can climb up and reach flying hight. In the meantime, we got to see a bat up close! We got to take bunches of pictures (because EB let me manhandle her camera) of the bats in the air, against the bridge, and the poor little baby bat in the pitcher before we dropped it off. SO CUTE! So bat-like! So much fun.
Really, nothing tops a bat boat run like that. Or, not much that you can do on a Sunday night/Monday moring. We didn't even try. Instead we plopped on the couch, pulled out the computer, goofed around - all three of us - with random comments and looks at links and all kinds of things you just DO when you're comfortable with each other and it feels like home. I had a feeling that it was going to be like this - knowing someone for three years makes meeting in person unlike anything I've ever experienced - a knowing and familiarity and comfortable air that was just delightful. But it was nice to have it nonetheless.
After that? There were goofy movies on the TV, some book exchanges, some sleeping, and some getting up on Monday morning. Neil didn't want to work, I didn't want to work, and I don't think either of us really wanted EB to go home. However, the airplanes don't really let you miss their flights with impunity, so EB had to say her farewells. Not before I'd managed to show her the delight of buttered pop tarts (really, it's all Neil's fault, he's the one who introduced me to it). She hugged Neil, petted and kissed the Felix, and we tromped off to the airport. I hugged my girl goodbye, and sadly drove back to work.
It feels a little funny *not* to have EB here, now, or did for just a little bit, because she fit right in with us so well. It was a great weekend, a perfect visit, and perhaps, someday, we'll have pictures to share as well! Regardless, I've got the pictures in my head, and the visit itself was simply awesome.