Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hey, Hey, LBJ

Austin, Texas

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's a progress map and some shots of Austin from my first day in the city.

After moving to a new Walmart on the far north end of Austin, I visited the LBJ Presidential Museum on the campus of the University of Texas. Lots of exhibits about the large amount of social legislation he pushed through. Nobody before or since did or has done as much good as he did in that area, without question. But if you didn't know better you'd come away from the museum thinking the Vietnam War was a sort of minor hiccup during the Johnson presidency. Of course when it comes to long drawn out pointless wars in remote places, LBJ gets a run for his money from Bush/Obama. I guess the lesson is that you can pretty much stay somewhere forever as long as you don't use the draft.

Then over to the Texas State Capitol, a really large building for a really large state. Very nicely appointed, too. Red granite outside, lots of nice woodwork inside. I took the guided tour, along with a collection of aliens and out-of-towners. The guy was showing us the state senate, and I noticed the floor sloped slightly toward the front of the chamber, away from the door. I asked him why and he said it had been an attempt at improving the accoustics. I said I thought it might have been to keep the bullshit from flowing out into the hallway. The Japanese didn't get it.

Down at the south end of the Congress Street Bridge there's a gigantic bat colony. At twilight, about 7:30, the bats started coming out for the evening, at first a few at a time, then gradually more, until they were flying out from under the bridge by the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. Little silent children of the night. Quite a sight.

After that I walked around on Sixth Street, the center of the music club scene. I got that feeling I get sometimes, like I'm doing what everybody says you should do when you're in a certain place. They tell you to go to Beale Street in Memphis or the French Quarter in New Orleans. Drink. Party. Buy a t-shirt that says "I Drank and Partied Here." I don't know.

Lots of houseless beggars hanging out around the clubs, looking for this and that--rummaging through dumpsters, eyeing everyone suspiciously. A skinny woman who looked about fifty but was younger asked me if I had any spare change. I didn't. As I continued to walk past, she got angry, and yelled, "Hey! I'm six months pregnant!" I thought, "Lord, Lord, what a country." Any way you look at it.

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