The Austin Trip – 2003 V

I pulled in at the Exxon station where Mr. Helpful suggested I stop. He must have had the town wired. It turned out the attendant (of Mid-Eastern descent) just happened to have a detailed map of Lakeway. We laid out the map on the counter, and there was the most labyrinthine layout of streets ever conceived outside of Boston. By sheer perseverance. we finally located Jan’s street, Crescent Bluff. I sketched out a map and thanked Mohammed for his devoted help. My gosh, I felt like I was going on a treasure hunt.

I took off on what I thought would be simply a peninsula-circling road (Lohman’s Crossing) that might, just might, get me in the vicinity of Jan’s house. It looked good on paper. As I was cruising through the neighborhoods, it was obvious that this was one of those nouveau riche, up-scaled communities. Well, at an intersection Lohman’s Crossing vanished into thin air. The two street signs read something entirely different. I instinctively turned right and soon found myself twisting and turning through a malaise of unfamiliar streets. I had jotted in the names of some streets on my map, but I couldn’t find any of them. I was really becoming discombobulated. To make matters worse, I couldn’t find anyone out and about to assist me. Not one person was out walking, or biking, or mowing their putting green lawns. Everyone was behind draped windows and closed front doors in their Euro trash mega houses (just like North Dallas). I was about at my wits end when I came upon an inviting, one-storey, front-porched dwelling with an open front door! A forty-something man answered the door, and after showing him my crude map, he scribbled in some revised directions. I graciously thanked him and said, “The reason I stopped was that you were the first and only front door I’ve seen open on this peninsula. Your welcoming front porch seemed to say, ‘Come on up and knock on the door’.” He said, “Yeah, people tend to keep to themselves around here behind those big facades. It’s really a shame.”

I backtracked to where I had made the wrong turn, and started off again. And again, I found myself pursuing phantom streets. By then, I was beginning to believe there was an ectoplasmic barrier surrounding Miss Walner’s abode. Then, like a message from Zeus, I found a familiar street, and then another, and finally Crescent Bluff! I pulled up in front of No. 208 and literally collapsed on the steering wheel. I couldn’t believe I had finally found Jan’s house. It was about 4:30, so figuring she was not at home after all the unsuccessful calls I had made, I wrote a note saying in short: “Sorry I missed you.” I rang the doorbell and was about to slip the note in the jamb when she answered the door. We were both in a state of shock. It turned out she had just crawled into bed after having worked since 4 A.M. Graciously, she said, “It’s okay. Give me a few minutes to change.” I said. “I won’t stay very long and then I’ll be on the road.”

We had about a hour and a half visit catching up on each other. Her job at The Market working on a commission was far from satisfactory, so she took on this moonlighting work of creating estate sales. I commented, “That’s not the familiar euphemism for a garage sale, is it? You’re talking about real estate sales, like the whole shebang, right?” She replied. “Exactly. A lot of the nouveau riche came in and built million-dollar homes and then saw their businesses go belly-up. They’re bailing out like sky-divers.” I said, “Let me guess. I bet that most of them were in the dot com or energy business.” She totally agreed. We talked about our respective brothers, and I was finally able to decipher her affectionate nickname for brother Bob. It was “Boogie”. She had adopted the name the day he was born. I told her about Franz reuniting with his ex-wife, Lynnet. She respectfully said “Please tell him I’m very glad they’re back together, and I wish him all the happiness he deserves.” I thought that showed a lot of class, considering how abruptly their relationship had ended. Before leaving, I asked Jan to draw out an escape route out of the jungle. Then I gave her a buss on the cheek and said, “Franz said to give you a peck for him.”

Jan’s directions easily extricated me from the tangle of streets back to F.M. 620 and then TX 71 where I stopped at H. E. B. for some more chicken thighs. The initials stand for the man who started and built up a chain of superb super markets in south and central Texas. After all, would you buy groceries from a store named Harry Butts? I headed west on TX 71 to the junction of U.S. 281 where I turned north. Now was the time of day I really enjoyed driving with the sun low in the western sky and a gorgeous sunset in the making. I started looking for a roadside picnic area where I could spend the night. And there were plenty to choose from in the Hill Country, to say the least. Kudos to the Texas Highway Department (or whatever they call their group) who really outdid themselves by strategically placing picnic tables in areas where one could really enjoy the splendor of the Hill Country.

I pulled off at one picnic area that overlooked the Colorado River, but there was no arboreal protection. I needed to be under a tree to feel safe. Is that so odd? Remember the childhood game of “Home Safe” when you had to grab the trunk of a tree to be “safe”? Well, enough said. I made my way through the picturesque town of Marble Falls and finally found the ideal rest stop – a bunch of picnic tables under a panoply of live oaks. It was perfect. The sun was just setting behind the trees as I scribbled some notes in my journal on the picnic table. I retired to my easy chair and listened to the Astros – Cubs ballgame. A gentle south breeze had picked up, making the evening all that more pleasant. I thought: “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” Then the unexpected occurred.