An All Too Brief Interlude

When I took the job at Vigil six months ago, I knew it was not going to be easy. I was moving 2,000 miles away from not only Nicole and Kate, but also Seattle, a city that had become a home after 13 years there. And sure enough, the transition to Austin has been hard. I was lucky enough to have some friends here already, and more have moved to the area after me. Still, I miss my family, I miss my house, and I miss my city. Since the move, I’ve been able to see Nicole at least once every 5-6 weeks and Kate a bit less than that. These visits, be they here on back in Seattle, are the things I look forward to the most. After one particularly shitty day at work, Nicole texted me a simple message: “Three weeks.” That was the time until her next visit.

Said visit ended this morning when Nicole left my apartment at 4:40 am to catch her flights home. It was, as always, difficult to part. We had three and a half days together and they went too quickly. She arrived Wednesday afternoon and it was tough to get through those last few hours at work before practically sprinting to my apartment. That thing about absence making the heart grow fonder? Totally true, in case you were wondering.

While I was at work on Thursday, Nicole was on a mission. Back in Seattle, she would sometimes organize freezer parties with friends, which entailed people getting together to prep a bunch of freezer ready dinners that could be pulled out as needed. I can and do cook, but I don’t enjoy as much as Nik and I’m lazier about it. She was determined to leave me a freezer full of food that was ready to go. It was a freezer party for one. I was amazed how much she got done in a day and deeply appreciative for the culinary feat. I will be eating a lot better for the next month and a half.

Friday I took a personal day and we decided to drive over to Houston, a city I’ve only ever flown through. Nicole had a friend there she wanted to visit and I was ready for some time away from my apartment so we took off late Friday morning. We had hoped to squeeze in a trip to NASA in the afternoon, but we got a slightly later start than we wanted and then we spent an hour in traffic once we got to Houston before we made it to our hotel. So instead of exploring space we began eating and drinking early at Pappasito’s Cantina. While a Tex-Mex joint, this is part of a local food empire started by a Greek family. Too funny. We met Nicole’s friend Ruth and her boyfriend Bill there and had a surprisingly tasty dinner. It was way better Tex-Mex than anything I get near my office. I did notice one small nod to Greece in the appetizer section though: flaming cheese. This brings to mind one of my old sayings: “I like my cheese flaming and my wine fortified.”

After dinner Ruth invited us back to her house and we sat out on the patio drinking and talking until midnight. Ruth is a teacher and she invited over one of her cohorts who’s a game nerd. He’s a music teacher primarily but teaches a mini course about board game design, which is quite cool. There was no one teaching game design anything when I was in middle school.

Saturday we spent most of the day at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. I had been drawn there by the USS Texas, a battleship launched in 1912 that fought in both World Wars. I enjoy touring old warships, particularly from World War 2. Reading about ships like this is one thing but getting inside one is something else entirely. Standing under those 14″ guns, it’s still hard to imagine the heat and the noise that must have erupted when those things were fired. Once we got to the bowels of the ship, however, I found it all too easy to imagine drowning down there. I snapped a lot of photos and I’ll be making a Facebook album for them shortly.

After touring the ship we drove across the park to the big monument (or as I jokingly called it, the “penis of Texas”). It commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto, fought on that spot in 1836. This was the battle in which Texas won its independence from Mexico, so it’s an important part of state identity. The monument is large and suitably impressive and you can take an elevator up to an observation platform, which we did. Below there’s a modest but well put together museum about the fight for Texas independence. We watched a 35-minute documentary on the topic in a theater by the museum as well. There appeared to be some markers out on the battlefield itself, but they were not organized into a walking tour like you can find at Manassas, for example. That made it harder to get a sense of the ground, but we enjoyed the museum and the view from the top of the monument.

On our way out of town we stopped on Bellaire Blvd, which seems like Houston’s equivalent of the International District. We tried a place called Crawfish and Noodles that Nicole had read about. We had Viet-Cajun crawfish and spicy basil fried rice and both were fantastic. We did not overdo it on crawfish so we felt justified walking across the plaza to a place we had spied on the way in: Chez Beignets. This silver lining of French colonialism made us beignets to order and I got some chicory coffee as well. Steaming hot doughnuts is a fine way to end any day. With full bellies, we then listened to Tin Fey’s book Bossypants on the three hour drive back to Austin. It is, as you’d expect, quite funny and her reading makes it even better.
So now I wait for another five weeks. Next time I get to see Kate and other friends in Seattle, so I’m looking forward to it. In the interim I’m actually going to Brazil (visa willing) in mid-May. More on that another day.
Originally published on LiveJournal on April 25, 2011. 

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