Route 290, en route to Austin.
Greener than we thought it would be.

This was taken on Thursday, less than 24 hours after they checked in. Can you imagine what it must have smelled like by Sunday morning?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
SXSW 2004: Part Two
TX, generally

We flew down to Houston. Since Justin was full of thoughts that morning, he had another one: they should just take the reclining option off of plane seats. On the whole, humanity would benefit. At one point, we looked up across the landscape of seat tops, but didn't see any 10 gallon hats protruding mightily towards the ceiling of the plane. And we were on a plane to Houston! What a disappointment.

The plane landed just before noon. The common thrill of seeing our bags slide out of the delivery ramp for the baggage carousel was compounded tenfold by the fact that the without our stuff, the whole trip was a bust. Off to the car rental place, where the attendant guy made the fatal mistake of laughing at our cutesy jokes. Here's a bit of advice for those who meet us for the first time - do not laugh at our cute jokes. It sends us the wrong message. Stare at us blankly and we'll get down to business much quicker, promise. But if we think that you think we're funny, we'll play it for all it's worth and then some. If you see a dog for the first time, you do not drop to the floor and begin to whine in submission. The dog will think it has your number. This is the same principle at work. So the car check out took longer than it should have, but before long we were muddling our way from Houston.

There's pretty much one road that you take the whole way, and it starts off running alongside power line towers. Because these towers headed west, we could only assume that they were providing overpriced Dynergy brand power to supine Californians. For the first 20 miles, Thad kept muttering over and over: "I can't believe how much new infrastructure they have". This is what happens when you ride with our band - we complain about infrastructure.

(Thad: For the record, my complaint about their infrastructure centered on New York sending a lot more money to Washington than receiving back in services. One of the reasons is because New Yorkers are paying for Houston's overinvestment in roads and freeways - one of the largest capital outlays of government. Hey, Houston, if you want free government money, stop whining about how much you hate taxes! You don't even have a state income tax because you have milked the Washington cash cow for so long that you don't pay for anything yourselves anymore. Talk about the "welfare queen driving around in a Cadillac" - that's Texas. But I digress.)

Not many things of note during the pleasant, if uneventful, ride. We stopped at a pretty decent Mexican food place in some small town. The head waiter guy seated us next to four or five guys wearing short sleeve polo shirt knock-offs, negotiating some deal about how best to provide broadband service to the tiny berg where we were eating. It was only through sheer force of will that we avoided ordering the very, very cheap beer.

A few dozen miles later, we passed a sign claiming that we had entered the Presidential Valley. After talking about it for a moment, we realized that Texas had provided more 20th Century presidents that any other state if you count GWB. That also included our assumption that Dwight D. Eisenhower was from Texas. Subsequent research indicated that Ike was indeed born in Texas, but he grew up in Kansas. Still, we included him for purposes of this discussion. Excluding Ike puts Texas in a tie with Ohio for 20th Century presidents. However, Texas presidents have all occurred post-World War II, when America's ascension as a superpower occurred. If that doesn't make you think about how important oil has been to this country over the last 100 years, then we're guessing that you've already thought about it. We hadn't.

Anyway, the ride was rounded out listening to John Krakauer read from his latest book. We sat smugly in our cheap rental car, enjoying vast moral superiority over the psychotic polygamists the book chronicles. Needless to say, it wasn't hard.

We entered Austin without incident and headed down to the La Quinta that housed our friends from Hydra Head. Marky, Paul and Jay were lazing around, the first two shaking the last of a bad hangover. Justin stole Paul and followed some terrible directions to a music store to pick up supplies. He mentions this only to tell everyone this important fact: when Justin and Paul came back to the hotel room we found Jay Bennett (heavily tattooed underground music journalist), Marky Thompson (wild looking co-chief of a post-metal record label) and Thad Calabrese (1/2 of the migraine-producing Austerity Program) watching Oprah. Go back and read that last thing again. The three of them, basking in the bland radiation of "The Oprah Winfrey Show", the official TV show of America's Soccer Mom. Clearly, it was time to get the hell out of there.

The South by Southwest music conference takes over downtown Austin for a few days every year. By the time that we pulled up to the club, cops were starting to close off streets and the sidewalks were filled with people wearing black t-shirt and sporting laminated conference badges. Still, the affected area was maybe a dozen square blocks, making the scene feel like a very laid back Bourbon Street, rather than the vast and hostile energy of lower Manhattan.

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