Completely Texas (Texas I, Travelog entry 20)

Austin

On our last day in New Orleans, I wake up in the middle of a dream about Louisiana crab cakes and we head back to Surrey’s but they are still out of crab cakes for the crab cakes benedict. I order some other giant egg breakfast, as is my wont, and Egon orders an Italian sandwich, just like the last we came into Surrey’s. I wonder why he is already eating lunch, since it is early, but eventually it dawns on me that this is the closest thing that he could find on the menu to a Norwegian breakfast, a slice of bread with a slice of ham on it. Here he gets a giant Italian sub roll with a stack of ham and fixings, but it is still closer to home than steak and eggs or any of the breakfasts on the menu.

 

But now it is time for us to leave New Orleans. We are headed to Texas. In Norwegian, ‘texas’ means mayhem and chaos, as in cowboys punching each other and breaking chairs over each other’s heads (often combines with ‘helt’ meaning completely: ‘Det var helt texas!’ “It was completely texas!” said of a parking lot scene after a football match).

 

We still have a lot of Louisiana swamp to cross, so Egon has whipped up a playlist that starts with ‘Alligator wine’ by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, then continues the alligator theme with Roky Erickson’s ‘Cold night for alligators’ – Egon explains that Roky Erickson is from Austin, our first destination in Texas. The soundtrack continues with Johnny Cash (from Memphis, aka Jerusalem) covering Texas artist Steve Earle ‘Devil’s right hand,’ and goes on in that vein.

 

Gradually, the swampy, steamy, kudzu-choked vegetation starts to dry up as we pass into Texas and approach Austin.

 

Austin has become the indie-rock capital of the US and is renowned for its thriving music scene. We check into the funky Austin Motel south of the center (recommended by Erik, a friend of Egon’s who is VG’s US correspondent in New York), separated from downtown by a bridge that has a million bats under it (you can walk to the bridge at dusk to see them all swarm out at once). The area near the motel is lively and we choose a restaurant for an authentic Tex-Mex meal, and afterward check out some of the local bars.

 

The next day we head downtown for a record store, Waterloo, that Egon has heard a lot about. We want to go out on the town afterwards so we leave the car at the motel and take a bus to the center of town, and then hike a number of Texas-sized blocks to the record store. Egon finds plenty at Waterloo that he can’t live without and so he leaves with a huge crate of records. It is a good thing we have such a big car since he is accumulating a lot of records on this trip. But unfortunately the car is a long way off and we are headed in the opposite direction to Ruby’s Barbecue for dinner.

 

Western cities are laid out on a big scale and the restaurant is a long way off so we decide to take a taxi. After a long wait a taxi appears, and it turns out to be driven by an incredibly annoying and talkative taxi driver. As the driver is babbling away about traffic and population growth, Egon discovers that he has lost his iPhone somewhere.

 

The taxi driver doesn’t miss a beat and launches into a long story about the time he lost his phone. We have him head back to Waterloo’s, and Egon searches for the phone there while I mind the huge crate of records in the car and call Egon’s phone so that it will ring, making it easier to find. But the driver won’t shut up. He tells me all about how people moving here from California are buying up property and driving up prices so that he can barely pay the rent. Egon comes out of the record store in mood so black he looks daggers through the driver.

 

He has left my phone number with the staff at Waterloo so that if they find the phone there, they can call me, and we decide that we need food, so we head for the restaurant after all, and while the driver’s incessant babble drones on in the background, we discuss what possibly could have happened to the phone, which pocket it was in, where he last used it, and so on. By the time we get to the restaurant, far on the northwest edge of Austin, Egon has also remembered the app “Find my iPhone” and even figured out how to use it.

 

Using my iPhone, Egon punches in his code and presto, we get a Google map (it may be a good thing that I haven’t updated to the latest OS yet, since everyone complains about the new maps) pinpointing the exact location of “Harry Kúre’s iPhone” (named for an obscure soccer player for Sarpsborg from the 50’s and 60’s; Egon’s love of football trivia matches his passion for facts about rock ’n’ roll).

 

We can see from the map that the phone is somewhere near Waterloo, and we realize that time is of the essence because it might be discovered at any minute by some unscrupulous person. But we are in West Bumfuck and have a terrible time finding a cab. By frantically waving at cabs, we manage to stop one, but the nervous young driver says he is on his way to pick somebody else up and so he can only drive us part of the way. We don’t know what else to do so we hop in.

 

En route, we see that Harry Kúre is on the move! The little blue dot is no longer at Waterloo! The app gives the options to erase or lockdown the phone, so in a split second decision Egon locks it down.

 

By zooming out we can see our own location on the map as a triangle, and we can see where we are in relation to the blue dot labeled “Harry Kúre’s iPhone.” We’re trying to persuade the cab driver to pursue the blue dot, but this is too weird for him and he just wants to get rid of us. He pulls up behind another cab, telling us to hop in that one, and demands five bucks for the half a ride. With no time to argue we pay him, jump out and open the door of the other cab. As the first cab speeds off into the night, two girls run out of an apartment building yelling “Hey, that’s our cab!” The taxi disappears with them in it and we are left on the sidewalk in some random part of Austin while Harry Kúre glides off, further and further away.

 

Eventually we find another cab and persuade the driver, a cool and unflappable south asian guy, to follow the blue dot. We pass through central Austin headed southeast. We pass the freeway and enter a dark and confusing part of the city. Egon and I sit in the back seat, glued to the tiny glowing iPhone screen, watching our triangle slowly crawl across little yellow city blocks toward the blue dot.

 

Suddenly my phone rings and the display shows that Harry Kúre is calling! I answer, and a mysterious female voice asks if I have lost a phone. We’re completely puzzled because we thought Egon’s phone was locked, but the mystery caller says that a call-back option still works despite the lockdown.

 

She says we can come retrieve the phone, and she gives me an address which seems to be consistent with the current location of the blue dot on the Google map.

 

The address is still too far out of downtown for the taxi driver to recognize it, but he punches it into his GPS and follows that. We watch our progress on the iPhone, and wonder what is going on. How did the phone get all the way across town so fast? Why is it in such a weird location? Did the mystery caller find it after it moved or before? Is this some kind of set-up? We wonder seriously whether we are being lured into a trap. I ponder whether Egon’s huge box of records can be used as a defensive weapon.

 

Finally, we pull into a tree-lined street in a suburban neighborhood and the triangle closes in on the blue dot marked with Harry Kúre’s name. In fact, we can now see which house the blue dot must be in, and the house bears the address we were given. Egon and I hop out of the car and a girl appears from the shadows and walks up to us looking as skeptical as we are.

 

It turns out she found the phone on the ground near Waterloo and drove home with it before figuring out how to call us on it. We offer her a finder’s reward but she turns it down, telling us what goes around comes around, i.e. she believes in karma. She seems to be enjoying our bafflement and delight. The taxi driver has been waiting for us and we have him drive us clear across town to Ruby’s, and we give him the finder’s reward as a tip, keeping our karmic balance up.

 

God I love technology! Driving across Austin after a moving target on an iPhone was the most James Bond experience I’ve ever had. Of course James Bond would have been driving a sports car instead of riding in the back of a cab, but let’s say we were the French James Bond, perhaps Jacques Bonde.

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