This past weekend I went to Texas again for a high school reunion. Usually I go to Heath’s reunions, but this was my bunch from the 80s and 90s. I usually don’t get to go for some reason or another but my friend Anita Norstrom was coming from Australia and I wasn’t about to miss seeing her. She came for the reunion in Las Vegas in 2002 but Katy was just a baby so I wasn’t able to go.
I arrived in Austin on Friday afternoon and stayed in a hotel right between the Capitol and University of Texas.
I had a few hours to kill and thought I’d walk over to the Capitol and see what there was at the gift shop. Every trip I have ever made to Austin has involved a death march around the Capitol complex in the heat and humidity. At least this time I was NOT pregnant. The last time I went to Austin it was in 2001 for Heath’s SAS reunion and I was about five months pregnant, just enough to really be feeling it. So I did my march around the Capitol.
The first official activity was a meet-up at Craft Pride brewery at 8 but Lauren, our organizer, suggested we get together for dinner at Cooper’s Pit Barbecue at 6. Naturally I was the only only there at 6. I sat on a bench by the door and never did see anyone I recognized. Finally, Michele Moorehead walked in and saw my SAS alumni t-shirt so we had dinner together. She and I were in the same learning community in seventh and eighth grade and had lot of fun talking about our friends and teachers from those days. She left Singapore in high school and moved to Cairo and I heard about that. About the time we finished eating, Anita found us. She was sitting with Lauren and a few others so we moved over there.
Anita and I hadn’t seen each other since I was in 10th grade and she was in ninth. She moved back to Australia toward the end of the school year. We had been cheerleaders for the same team (Aggies) in middle school and her mom was our coach We had a lot of fun together.
After dinner we decided to walk down the street to the South Congress Bridge and watch the bats. There’s a massive amount of Brazilian free-tailed bats living under the bridge and every evening in the warm months they come out from 7-8 p.m. to find their dinner. Crowds of people show up every evening to watch them. You can read more here: http://www.batsinaustin.com/.
I gave up trying to take any photos, bats are really fast and by the time the shutter opened the bat was out of the frame. So I got some video. It was neater in person. You can also watch them by boat, either your own canoe or kayak, or a river boat tour.
By the time we had enough of the bats Lauren got a message that the crowd at Craft Pride had moved down the street to a bar called Lucille’s so we walked down there.
It was really crowded, Friday night in a college town. There was a good group of SAS-ers. It was so noisy I really didn’t last long and was ready to head out when up walked Tina Jenkins. Tina was in my grade and had been at SAS in seventh, half of eighth grade and ninth grade. She was on the Aggies with Anita and me. She and Anita spent a lot of time together in school.
We chatted some and then I really had to head back to the hotel. It had been a long day.
Tina, Anita and I planned to get together Saturday afternoon but Anita and her jetlag didn’t wake up until around 3. I spent the morning cruising Congress Street just near UT. I was on a mission to find a Keep Austin Weird t-shirt for Katy but never did find anything I liked. About 11:45 Matthew Arnold shared on the FB organizing page that he and his wife were going go to the Texas History Museum at noon so I joined them. Matthew moved to Singapore after I left so I didn’t know him back then but we were in the same hotel and had met earlier. These reunions aren’t like your regular American high school reunions. They’re more like military reunions. You might not have known each other back them but you have this really unique bond and you make new friends.
I moved from Sweetwater to Victoria in 1996. In 1995 archeologists discovered La Belle, the ship that brought the first French settlers to Texas, in the waters of Matagorda Bay, not far from Victoria. When I moved there they were just doing the excavation and it was really neat and big news. Shortly after, they found the fort and the cannons. Historians knew that the French had settled somewhere in the area but never had any archeological evidence so this was a major discovery. There was a small model of La Belle on the first floor.
We went upstairs and looked down and saw what looked like a big box. Actually, it kind of looked like a coffin. It took a minute and then I said “they’re building La Belle”. The exhibit is supposed to be open in the fall.
It was the usual Texas history, Remember Goliad, Remember the Alamo. Some on post-slavery, agriculture (sugar cane and rice), natural disasters and, of course, space.
After the museum I had a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant the hotel desk clerk recommended and then took a nap. I know a few others had plans to head to Zilker Park and a dip in Barton Springs and canceled that, it was just too hot.
Saturday night was the big reunion dinner at the Hula Hut. I took my camera and didn’t get a single picture. Very unusual for me. The restaurant is right on Lady Bird Lake and we had a pavilion that overlooked the lake.
I met up with Anita and Tina and a fourth Aggie, Kellie Mistich. Kellie’s twin sister, Shellie, was also an Aggie, but she wasn’t able to make the reunion. We did miss her. The four of us had a great time catching up. I did some mingling and talked to a few other people.
We had fun with the photo booth.
We finished up dinner about 10 and headed for some place with air-conditioning. The four of us, along with Tina’s and Kellie’s husband’s and Anita’s guy Simon (who had no problem fitting in and finding people to talk to) headed to a bar at Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin hotel. A few other people ended up there, too. It was really nice. As Anita said, “this is an adult bar”. It was quiet and you could talk at a normal level. About 12:30 as I was about to keel over (I don’t do those hours anymore) the waitress came out with a tray of drinks for everyone in our group. It was about a six-ounce cup with about a shot of something in the bottom. She said was Mexican tequila. All I know is I smelled tomato juice and alcohol. Then after that she comes out with another tray, once again just a swallow. Some took a sip and said “this is a Singapore Sling”. Someone had been chatting up the bartender who then went online and found the recipe for a Singapore Sling and made one for everyone. Not being a drinker (bleah) I couldn’t vouch for it but everyone said it was really good. So someone dragged out the bartender for a round of applause. I’d like to point out that the only people who drink Singapore Slings are tourists. If you want to blend in, don’t order one! But they’re a tradition.
I called it quits about 12:45 and Kellie and her husband gave me a ride back to the hotel. I have no idea how late everyone else stayed but the bar probably closed at 2.
I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning. Even without having anything to drink I still felt like the morning after the night before. There was a “recovery brunch” but it wasn’t added to the schedule until after I’d already booked my flight and it was going to be pushing it so I didn’t make that. I had a waffle at the free breakfast at the hotel and found out the Texas-shaped waffle-maker isn’t designed to make a half a waffle.
I ended up at the airport much earlier than I needed to be but that just gave me more time to shop. I found Keep Austin Weird t-shirts for Heath and Katy.
Now and I’m home and there’s nothing left but the laundry.