28. Hot damn, that number's really getting big. I can't believe that I became legal ten years ago and it seems simultaneously so long ago and also not really all that long ago. Time is a strange phenomenon; a pair of opposites that contradict one another. The past is left intact to linger while the future shifts perpetually. It's so weird that you can only go forward in time. You are continually left to make the best of wherever and whatever you are in the Universe. The more I swirl around this heaping expanse, the clearer it becomes that I better just hang on and enjoy this moment. The present can be an exciting place to discover surprises. And the present sure had a few hiding in its coattails.
Speaking of presents – have I mentioned that I got a new car for my birthday? I hate to sound so materialistic after the sense of enlightenment I just projected in the previous paragraph, but there really isn't a grander sense of pleasure than darting around in your dream mobile. That said, one week in it was time to take it out on tour, test the hybrid's ability to limit my personal carbon footprint, and determine its personality so I can finally give it a name it so deserves.
And And wouldn't you know, there just so happened to be a music festival – El Cosmico in my favorite little West Texas dot through my birthday weekend. This would be my third time making the 6+ hour trip to Marfa, and I was unbelievably excited by the prospect of driving there for the first time in my beautiful new car with my good friends Vicki and Matt. The last two years Vicki and I went with varying groups of friends for the Chinati Open House when the unsuspecting railroad depot turned ephemeral art village is bombarded with 2,000 hipsters for the free weekend of art, food, and some legendary rock band like perhaps Sonic Youth. However, Vicki and I were aching to renew our Marfa experience, and thus opted for the more low-key El Cosmico this year. We weren't 100% sure what this event was all about, but here is what we did know:
El Cosmico is the pet project of Liz Lambert a hip developer out of Austin with the touch of gold. She worked with Lake|Flato on a number of projects including the San Jose Hotel in Austin and the Thunderbird Motel in Marfa. Both are retrofits of old motor-inns which are places that I wish I could afford to stay at whenever I visit either location.
El Cosmico is a timeshare concept. A flat expanse of desert scrub just south of downtown Marfa (which is basically a stoplight) that will one day become a kind of art commune made up of restored vintage Jetstream trailers and will one day host a variety of facilities including silkscreen workshops, pottery studios, a dark room, and a swimming pool. But for now, visitors camp and indulge in wood-fired hot tubs arranged into a masterplan also designed by Lake|Flato.
The Marfa Pizza Foundation would be open this year during El Cosmico weekend which might help me finally get over the fact that they were closed during Open House last year, citing "too many hipsters to handle." Considering that this was deemed likely the greatest pizza I had ever tasted the year prior, I was left wrecked and devastated, yet eternally hopeful.
Our friends Jonathan and Cameron went to ground-breaking festival last year. Aside from informing us that they got pizza, they also mentioned that they had a really great time.
I I hadn't heard of any of the bands, but how bad can a music festival be anyhow?
It goes without saying that I was anticipating this to be a really great weekend.
Our excitement was further augmented by the fact that I landed a place to stay in Marfa for the weekend. My former co-worker Beto had recently completed a house there on a property which he shares with his friend Candid, another architect who low and behold built a complementary little house on the site. Vicki was thrilled by the idea of not having to camp. Plus, it was going to be cool to be able to play house as we sometimes do when she housesits for her boss. And we would get to stay there for free in lieu of paying the camping fee at the festival.
Yep, we were pretty stoked, which is why I guess that it came as such an appalling blow that ALL OF A SUDDEN the week of our trip Vicki had a deadline for work, which would delay our getting onto the road at lunchtime Friday like we had planned. Then, the next day Matt divulged that he had a meeting for work in Austin Friday afternoon that he couldn't reschedule. Even though it's slightly unfair to get on their cases about it for work-related issues, I was super pissed at both Matt and Vicki and proceeded to throw a rather embarrassing tantrum. Afterall, we've had these plans for weeks, and it's a six plus hour drive and its scenic and we don't want to do it at night and I'd be driving my new car and how dare they put me in the imposition of using it as a potential-deer-carcass magnet. And we would miss almost the entirety of the Friday night bands if we left at 5 o'clock instead of noon. I mean, how inconsiderate right?
Clearly I was upset and decided to call my friend and recent Seattle transplant Julie to complain. But what was she supposed to say, exactly? She tried her best with a reassuring, "Ben, you're going to have soooo much fun this weekend!" Which, oddly enough, was the exact same thing that my friend Heather Weiler said when I had whined to her about it earlier Wednesday night.
Then on Thursday night after our regular community garden potluck/meeting, Marc Toppel was also given the imposition of consoling me about my inability to cope with such an insignificant thing as leaving a little later to get out of town. However, he smirked and said, "Don't worry. You're in for a really BIG surprise this weekend!"
I glared at him with my patented, "thanks for putting me on notice" scowl and then explored in my mind what possible big surprises lay in store, because how can you not when someone says something to you like that. Maybe my L|F friends had all pulled together to get me a bike rack for my new car, or maybe they were going to throw me an ice cream party. After all, this was my birthday weekend!
So Friday I was feeling a little more upbeat. So what if we were getting a late start. I have a new car for God sake! Why would let anything ruin my mood? I called Julie that morning before leaving the office to tell her what an asshole I had been and to apologize for being such a whiny bitch on the phone the other night, but strangely her phone was off… I wondered why, and vaguely remembered her saying something about going on a long hike that day. Oh well, I guess I would have to tell her after the weekend.
I used the afternoon to finalize my car loan paperwork and run a few errands. After I finished packing, I loaded the car and drove to Vicki's house where we had planned to meet. She explained that we didn't have to wait for Matt – he would be driving separately and didn't want us to have to wait. I suppose this was a nice way of him not wanting to hear me bitch anymore. I thought it was a little silly that he should have to drive all that way by his lonesome, and Vicki made some snide remark about how she doubted he would put forth the effort to actually drive all that way anyhow.
And with that, we were off at circa 3:30pm.
Unfortunately, just outside of Loop 1604 traffic had stopped due to a rather nasty accident ahead. It took us another 45 minutes to get going again.
In the meantime, Vicki took a little nap.
When she woke up we indulged ourselves with several episodes of Dan Savage's Savage Love podcast which kept us more than amused by his snarky sex advice and filthy mouth. After a few hours on the road, we pulled off I-10 for a bathroom break, to get snacks, and to prematurely fill the hybrid with gas.
As the sun set across West Texas, I couldn't help but feel total bliss driving my new car and enjoying the ride with one of my favorite people. Though I had already apologized, I still felt silly about having given Vicki such a hard time about leaving several hours after I had wanted to. I even felt a little remorse about leaving Matt in our wake. It seemed ludicrous that he should drive all that way alone.
A few miles west of Ft. Stockton, we pulled off the highway and took State Road 67 south toward Alpine. We still had about an hour and a half still to go and that's why I was chagrined when my phone rang. From his wife Heather's phone, Jeremy Fields asked, "where are you guys? You're missing the show…"
"Thanks for rubbing it in, asshole," I spouted. "We're still on the far side of Alpine."
"Are you feeling better," he asked?" (Clearly referencing the bitchy grumblings I subjected his wife to earlier in the week.)
"Well, I don't think it's possible to feel bad when you're having such a good time driving your new car, you know…"
"That and," he interrupted, "sharing the ride with one of your best friends from Seattle who surprised you for your birthday?"
"WHAT?" I exclaimed. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Ugh," he moaned, "I gotta go!"
The phone immediately clicked, leaving me with a dial tone and the undeniable question: DID JULIE FLY TO TEXAS TO SURPRISE ME FOR MY BIRTHDAY? This must be the big surprise Marc had suggested. And what a fool I had been – she was obviously coming with Matt. He and Vicki had tried and failed to delay me! What a jerk I had been! Oh well. I took a moment and absorbed the fact that Jeremy clearly just spoiled the effort.
"Who was that," Vicki asked?
"Jeremy…I think he just said something he wasn't supposed to."
"What did he say?"
"Nothing," I pouted. I tried to forget about it, leaving the remaining shards of my birthday surprise intact for later.
At some point, we rolled into Marfa. It was dark and we were looking for a series of back roads to take us to our home for the weekend. Eventually we found Candid and Beto's pair of modernist boxes. We fiddled around with the combination lock on the large, rolling door which formed the east wall of Beto's house. Finally we got it to work, and we got a look at where we would be staying. There was a living room that opened directly into the gravel courtyard when the door was opened. It had a small kitchenette with a little bathroom adjacent to it. There was a fixed ladder which led to the sleeping area upstairs where there was a series of bunks and one queen-sized bed. We swept the floors as per our instructions, checked for spiders, and sheeted up the mattresses. I couldn't help but be reminded of my Taliesin West experience and living in tents and shelters similar to these (without the electricity and plumbing).
We threw our bags in the house before heading over to El Cosmico for whatever was left of that evening's revelry. We couldn't wait to find our archi-geek friends staying in tents so we could gloat about the prime accommodations. We stopped at a convenience store to buy beer on our walk across town to the festival.
Luckily, we did arrive at the top of the set for that evening's last act. I don't remember their names but they rocked out well enough.
There were several hundred people around –not too many; a wholesome crowd for the most part.
There was a bar (above) serving Lonestar and Shiner (so Texas) and crappy wines, but get this – the Topo Chico was free!
Sure enough, we ran into friends. Miriam, Jeremy, with Vicki hanging out near the bar. Jeremy was being a particularly obnoxious drunk, despite his feeling guilty. Apparently Vicki gave him a well-warranted hard time for tuning me in. I on the other hand, was working hard to forget about it even though I kept getting asked what time they would be arriving whenever Matt would call to update us on their estimated time of arrival. Whoops – he slipped up too.
Meanwhile, I made more friends. Ladies and Gents – I am pleased to introduce Gabriel. I found him hanging out on a fellow festival-attendee's forearm. I had never held a real tarantula before. It feels really weird and unnatural to have a critter that big scampering all over you. The guy behind me in the green shirt was Jeff – the bass player for the El Cosmico headlining band Lil Cap'n Travis from Austin.
Near Full Moon and the backside of the stage (also known as the men's room).
At some point after midnight, the festival wound down and dripping with anticipation (I wonder why…) I suggested to Vicki that we meet up with Matt back at the house. Surely he had arrived by now.
He had indeed. But who should come enthusiastically teetering out of the darkness???
And I really was, by the way. Maybe it would have been more dramatic if Marc hadn't tipped me off and Jeremy hadn't have blown it. But still! JULIE TOTALLY ROCKS! And she really played it off so well, what with all the whining and bitching I did, and all the explaining of how though she'd like to make it down for my birthday, it just didn't seem practical or feasible having just moved to Seattle and not having an income yet and all. Matt and Vicki did a super job as well of keeping their little clandestine operation from me. Way to go guys.
Before we arrived, Matt and Julie had been hanging out at the boxes with Candid who had also arrived for the weekend.
Candid went to bed, and the four of us took off on a little adventure to seek out the Marfa Mystery Lights. We drove up to the roadside observatory, but tragically the lights were not galvanized by our presence. Other than a few things that looked suspiciously like blinking radio towers and headlights in the distance, we could not make anything out of the otherwise blackened horizon. Leaving 20 minutes later, we held out hope for witnessing inexplicable illuminated swamp gases or the ghosts of conquistadors searching for gold another time.
We returned to our box and got ready for bed.
Vicki flosses her teeth. She does have nice teeth.
We all went upstairs and collapsed onto one of the mattresses. Even though the entire east wall is clad in translucent polycarbonate, they aren't operable like the rolling doors (clad in the same material) downstairs. Ho-hum, the desert night air was soothing and cool – reminiscent of sleeping in shelters back at TWest.
Morning struck all too early. The heat of morning bottled up inside our sleeping box. One by one we piled onto the couch downstairs, but it was no use. The intense desert sunshine was impossible to hide from in our starck, white, illuminated oven.
Check out that morning glare!
Matt tries to escape…
Despite forcing our all too early rise, the sun allowed us to get a better look at our weekend getaway.
The swivel gate between two boxes.
Candid and his rusted, corrugated metal abode.
An exercise in saving space, his dwelling also features a sleeping loft.
However, the loft is not only ventilated, but shields the morning blaze form thine eyes.
Underneath the cantilevered loft.
Give up Matt!
Candid's small shelter – courtyard view.
We dusted ourselves off, wiped the crispies from our eyes, and headed to the Brown Recluse to settle the morning coffee fix. This breakfast retreat has amazing omelets and desperately strong coffee.
Bee in the jelly.
After breakfast Vicki headed out with Candid, and her friends Leyla and Miriam to the hot springs up in the Chinati Mountains. Since it was a little on the warm side, Matt, Julie and I opted instead for the cooler waters at Balmorhea Springs State Park. But first, a quick jaunt to the Chinati Foundation for a minimalist art attack.
Apparently when it's not Open House, you can't just wander around the grounds without supervision. We were told that we would have to come back on Sunday to see the artwork because Saturday's four hour tour was booked. Despite their silly rules, we chartered a self-guided walking tour of Donald Judd's concrete monoliths:
We gave a good ogling of DJ's milled aluminum sculptures from outside the former hanger gallery.
Tiring of minimalist art for one day, we drove back downtown to scope out the bookstore, which is really quite an anomaly considering the abundance of glossy-paged, high caliber art & architecture books.
There, we ran into Jonathan…
Marfa turns even the geekiest into to-cool-for-school hipsters. Thus, it was time to change into our unfashionable board shorts and venture out of Marfa to the springs!
But first, we had to swing by the El Cosmico grounds to pick up Heather and Jeremy.
It was great to see it in daylight – a makeshift, whimsical spirit abounding.
Inside the one of the refurbished airstreams, for sale likely or rent.
There were fantastic clouds out!
The wood-fired Dutch Tubs.
Inside one of the tents.
Inside someone's Yurt homebase.
The hour drive to Balmorhea was a lot of fun – overtly scenic with its numerous sharp turns through mountainous desert passes.
Patterns of light and shadow form outside the men's changing room at the park.
The spring pool was vast and meandered in a large arc across the grounds. It was teeming with all kinds of life – large catfish, little minnows, and turtles. It varied in depth between a manageable four feet and about twenty feet deep, which meant the pool had a couple of high diving boards. The water remains a crisp mid-70 degree temperature year round.
Matt and Julie rented snorkeling gear to better observe the underwater wonderland.
There were a dozen or so scuba divers taking advantage of the unusually clear and lively large relatively large body of water in the middle of a large expanse of desert about as far from an ocean as you can get.
Anyway, at some point we grew very hungry and remembered that there was an open pizza establishment awaiting us back in Marfa.
A "Julie Appreciation Moment" at the Marfa Pizza Foundation. I split one of their fresh and decadent "bread and tomato salads" with Julie and shared a most anticipated veggie-topped pizza with Jeremy. Mmmmm. Totally worth the drive.
We went back to our pad to have a few beers, shower, and relax a while.
The early evening light was far more pleasant than the morning was, so a short nap was not out of the question. I even remember a hammock being involved.
But alas, we bid adieu to our boxes and headed over to El Cosmico, where a BBQ dinner was just ending ad the evening's festivities unraveled.
We indulged in the complementary El Cosmico photos taken by a professional photographer and distributed free of charge. So much is free in Marfa.
We sat at a table close by the fire and listened to the first band whose name I can't remember.
Tift Merritt – a talented lady singer/songwriter from North Carolina. She totally rocked my world. And she had a drummer that was clearly having a good time. Seriously, I could not take my eyes off the guy.
Although photographic evidence was limited, following was this incredible blues band fronted by Barbara Lynn who did a spirited rendition of several classics including one by Ray Charles that really brought the house down.
Last up were the headliner's from Austin, a jam band by the name of Lil' Cap'n Travis. I really enjoyed their rambling country pop tunes. They had this great moment where they utilized the light up crank-TV seen between the speakers in the above photo. They had a volunteer from the audience come up and crank the roll of images seen through the screen inside the box. The song's lyrics corresponded to the images. It was good silly fun.
Oh, so that's a pedal steel guitar.
I think we left El Cosmico toward the end of their set. The festival was winding down and so were we. It had been a long day and we were nothing short of another ridiculously early rise thanks to the inevitable rise of that mean-spirited, though live-giving fiery orb.
And although we again melted in the morning brightness, we were enticed to wake up by the suggestion of a new breakfast joint.
The Austin Street Café was awesome. Matt and Julie grabbed a quick bite (and a quick etch-a-sketch in Julie's case) because they were headed to the 10am Chinati tour, while Vicki and I lazily hung back to enjoy our morning breakfast of "Green Eggs" – a crust-less spinach quiche.
We ran into Heather and Jeremy and wandered the grounds of this adorable new restaurant, which also serves as the proprietor's home and studio. They had recently moved to Marfa from Santa Fe which is apparently giving Austin a run for its money in the battle to see which city can bolster Marfa's thriving art scene more.
Vicki and I returned with Candid to our boxes where we hung out and napped some more made possible by the sun which had gotten out of the freaking way by now. Matt and Julie finished the morning leg of their tour and joined us in our relaxed daze. At some point, it was time for Matt to hit the road. Unlike the rest of us, Matt hadn't taken Monday off work…though isn't my birthday worth even that?
We said our goodbyes and headed back to the Pizza Foundation to get our fill for another year, before the longing sets in again. There I ran into Liz Lambert, purveyor of all things El Cosmico, who was sharing a pizza with Amy Cook. I introduced myself and thanked her for the wonderful birthday weekend. Turns out it was her birthday too. How auspicious!
After lunch, Vicki opted to hang out in the Marfa bookstore while I took Matt's place on the Chinati tour.
We really just went to check out the Dan Flavin installations, which summon that crazy desire we all have deep inside to take crazy pictures. See below.
There were just a few others on the tour with us, coincidentally two were from Seattle where Julie had just moved. We chatted them up a bit. Then, oddly, the desert sky opened up and rain descended upon us as we left Chinati.
It had been our intention all along to check out the town of Alpine during our Marfa visit. As mentioned earlier Alpine is a town of 5800 people about 30 minutes East of Marfa on Highway 90. It is home to Sul Ross State University which I've always thought was a little strange because of how remote it is out in West Texas. But I guess there are schools in places like Kansas, too, so maybe it's not too strange. Anyway, similarly to Marfa (and maybe even because of Marfa), Alpine has its own art scene and a surprisingly robust thrift store culture. Or so we heard… turns out, nothing is open in Alpine on Sunday afternoon. With one exception – the Museum of the Big Bend!
We enjoyed this playful museum with kitschy mock-ups of Old West dioramas, despite the fact that we were sharing it with a bus load of geriatrics-on-tour who we youngsters had to help push buttons on the interactive displays and what not because they didn't know how to push the perfectly well lit buttons. Yee-haw.
Then we gave up on Alpine and headed back to our small but spry little town of Marfa. It rained thoroughly the whole way, it was one of those mighty desert monsoons you always hear about.
The storm swept by briskly as we watched it blow over our metal box.
At some point we decided to eat again because that is what you do on vacation. We headed over to the Thunder Bird Hotel to ask which restaurants were open in Marfa on Sunday. You know which ones were open? NONE OF THEM. Well, except one, the pricy Jett's Grill in the El Paisano Hotel near the courthouse.
Before we drove over to the restaurant, we lingered by the Thunderbird's photogenic lounge.
My two favorite ladies.
So we moseyed on over to the very European looking patio at the hotel. It was like we were suddenly dining in Antwerp or something. I had a delightfully lime-infused margarita and a corn tortilla-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and fancy broccoli. The hotel is famous for hosting James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor when the movie Giant was filmed in Marfa back in the '50's. It's interior had a much more Western aesthetic than the restaurant patio, but had a very strange men's bathroom which I really wish I had photographed. It was a single room bathroom, but had a urinal and two (I said 2) commodes – all on the same wall, but there were no stalls or partitions! WTF?
On our way out, we ran into the couple from Seattle who were on the Chinati tour with us, we started chatting them up and suggested they hit Balmorhea pool on their drive back to El Paso. They were game, but then the girl remembered that they were going to stop by Prada Marfa on the way back and make a contribution.
What, you ask, is Prada Marfa? What it's not is a Prada store in Marfa – that's for sure. It does, however, look just like one. If Marfa ever got a Prada store, we would all know that Marfa had sold out. So, what some artist did two years ago, 40 miles West of Marfa was erect a faux-Prada store along the deserted highway as a self-conscious, anachronistic, guerilla installation. I had never bothered to see this "art" over the past two trips out to Marfa (much to Vicki's chagrin) because the added 40 miles of driving each way just didn't seem worth it for an experience that I could entirely imagine.
The couple explained that they went out of their way to see this thing; its buzz having reached Seattle by now. They came across the lonely artifact and very much enjoyed it. Upon exploring the backside of the edifice, they noticed a ledge full of relics people found on site and intentionally placed in a row upon it as though everyone who visited, was contributing to the piece by leaving a bit of junk behind. They found a cool piece of glass that they wanted to include, which they were going to bring to the ledge on their return journey. But that pool sounded so glorious…and wait, you guys have never been to the Prada Marfa before? Before I knew it, the girls had volunteered to take it there for them. I didn't want to be a stick in the mud, and what the hell else were we gonna do anyway?
So, 40 miles later – guess what we came across?
Yep. Just like I imagined it.
Good thing they got the tempered glass.
And our little art collaboration…
Vicki was happy.
They say that they (whoever the hell they are anyway) even keep Prada Marfa up to date with the current Prada collection. I don't know if I buy that though since there were some ugly ass bags inside. Unless ugly is the new black?
Upon driving back, we promptly collapsed in our box.
It rained through the night which worked out stupendously because it was overcast, shedding diffused light into our morning coffee. A nice change of pace for the weekend, indeed.
By 9:30 or so, the sun had returned to bid us farewell. We closed up camp one last time and headed into town for one last splendid breakfast at the Brown Recluse. The proprietor gave me a free pancake breakfast. Why – it was my birthday, whoop!
Since it was on our way, we decided to stop in Alpine again and give it another chance. With a few exceptions, Monday mornings it turns out, are a lot like Sunday afternoons in Alpine and much of everything was closed. Unless, perhaps someone was playing a practical joke on us; a thought that crossed our minds when we actually came to a bakery to get some cookies for our long-ass drive ahead that actually had a damn sign on the door that read, "Open 730am to 11am, 11:30am to 4pm." We were there just after 11!
Alas, "The Alps of Texas" came through for us… yes, I bought a cowboy hat at a saddle outfitter store. I am a real cowboy now. Or perhaps more likely a complete poser. Either way, Vicki, Julie and I made out like bandits in the Alpine thrift store – I bought some porcelain bowls, a MmmBop Hanson baseball Tee, and a Halloween costume! For under five bucks!
For the next three hours we meandered through what is possibly the most desolate stretch of road in all the land between Marathon (a hipster ghost town) and Del Rio (possibly the only safe border town in Texas) where we stopped off for a quick lunch to appease Julie's hunger for salsa. Another three hours or so and we were back in good ole San Antone. After passing through countless towns with populations below 100 people throughout the day, it felt refreshing to be back in America's 8th largest city. Despite the fact that it was my birthday, I opted to reserve Tuesday night to continue the celebration. All of my friends were at the Flaming Lips concert anyway. Julie and I were exhausted, but still managed to do several loads of laundry and save room for ice cream.
Since Julie was staying until Wednesday, I decided to blow off work Tuesday to spend with her. We didn't make it to Austin when she came to Texas for New Years, so it seemed like a good place to waste the day away. Besides, Vicki gave us a super awesome list of things to scope out – some of which I hadn't even seen before.
First up was the inspiring "Cathedral of Junk" – which you can read more about here. Essentially, starting in 1988, a craftsman named Vince started assembling junk he had been collecting in his back yard.
Over the years, it has grown into the ultimate homage to recycling.
It's really more of a Palace of Junk – it even has a throne.
There are several places to climb up into the structure. It towers over his backyard. Its beyond inspiring.
At some point we dragged ourselves away from this man's fantastic creation and headed up to South Congress for a splendid tour of the district.
Low and behold! What's this at Hotel San Jose?! El Cosmico in Austin! Go figure…
Cowboy in a Hanson shirt.
Amy's Ice Cream on S. Congress.
We checked out the Texas State Cemetery, which had an interesting portal to the grounds - another Lake|Flato project.
I figured Julie would like it since it's mostly a landscape architecture project. I really liked this little window.
More Amy's Ice Cream. Julie is a glutton.
Then we went to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin – another monument to the wild Texas landscape. It was designed by Overland Partners – another San Antonio-based architecture firm, whose work I admire.
They had a nice display in the exhibit hall of all the native blooms picked that day, very cool!
They had a nice observatory.
It was bloody hot, and Julie and I thought it best to sit admiringly at the formal gardens rather than subjecting ourselves to the blazing heat of the natural trails. This worked out well because we needed to get back to SATX for my birthday dinner which Vicki had spent the day setting up.
I decided I wanted to try the famous Niki's Tokyo Inn – San Antonio's first Japanese restaurant. Marc Toppel, Penny, Melissa, and Keith all came.
So did Jeremy and Heather.
As did Matt and Karen.
Vicki totally rocks for making all the arrangements.
Whoa – loads of sushi!
Oooooh – eating all those big fish eggs all at once was one squishy challenge. What a weird thing to eat!
After dinner, we retired to Beethoven's for several pitchers of fine German cerveza. And yes, because it was my birthday, Matt actually pretended to like Texas just for one night.
As I was taking Julie to the airport the next day, having driven my new car over 1500 miles, my new car's name came to me… The hybrid is all about reducing my personal carbon footprint and who reminds me more of this fact more than former Vice-President, Academy Award winner, and Nobel Laureate Al Gore? I can't name my car after him because my car is obviously a girl, and that's why I opted for Tipper instead.
So, I am a little silly. Maybe a lot actually. But so what! Someone loves me enough to have given me the best birthday ever. Thanks Julie for all the love – Tipper and I greatly appreciate your support.