Sunday in the Park
March 4, 2011
When last I left you, Gentle Reader, I was in Austin, Texas, with my two adult children celebrating my 60th birthday. The story continues …
On Day Two, my daughter had planned a stroll through Austin’s botanical and sculpture gardens. It was misty and strange in the emerging timeframe: no longer winter (there) but not yet spring. Plants cut back, pansies up and blooming. Fish ponds deserted — save one giant grandfather Koi, semi-frozen, slowly circling in a pond. The sculptures were strange with giant hands and heads. We were reflective and took separate paths and didn’t chatter much.
Next stop, the quintessential barbecue spot — The Salt Lick. Huge portions on wooden tables. A hill country wine-tasting followed and then back to the hotel to change for the evening. We had tickets across town for the opening of the new theater for Austin City Limits. The featured entertainment? Styx. Yep. Remember "Music and Lyrics," the Hugh Grant movie a few years ago about the aging rock star? It was like that. Very funny. Made funnier by adult beverages. And a bit of a busman’s holiday to see how others run a venue and an event.
Back at the hotel for a late-night supper, I was suddenly in the middle of a heated debate by my two adult children (which, by the way, is really an oxymoronic expression). I had no idea they felt the way they did and I was impressed with their arguments, and their passion. And their knowledge. It was worth the price of the trip.
Sunday was a late brunch in the historic Driscoll Hotel. Created by a cattleman. Marble floors and polished wood harkened back to a time when folks wore starched white shirts and dresses with lace collars.
As the afternoon rolled around, we rolled up to Lake Travis to a spot we were told was THE place to watch the sun set. Honestly, I was happy to take the drive but rather skeptical. I mean, at my age, I have seen many suns set in many places. And it turned out to be the tackiest place we visited in Texas (and trust me, we visited more than a few tacky places). Plastic cups the size of Big Gulps for overpriced adult beverages are always suspect on an outside deck. But the evening was nice and we ordered a snack and we talked about walruses and kings or other such stuff. And before we knew it, a big, orange, round yolk appeared, playing hide and seek among the clouds. And then it happened. The clouds parted, the giant orb — so close, so round, so burnt orange — started dropping into the lake and it was spectacular. I have never seen a sunset so startlingly different. When the sun hit the lake and disappeared, the deck burst into applause and we joined them. I thought of an old Ziggy cartoon, where the Ziggy character sees an amazing sunset and says, "Go God! " It was like that.
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Dinner was at another place on Lake Travis, award-winning with regional specialties, that a Park City foodie had recommended. "If it moves slow enough, we’ll grab it and serve it up," said the waiter. Which explained the rattlesnake appetizer but not the transcendent honey lavender cheesecake.
At one point over the weekend, we had, as a taxi driver, a South American woman who was putting five children from her first marriage through medical and law schools while helping raise her stepdaughter in this country. She said she planned to retire in Ireland with or without her current husband. He is welcome to come, she said, but added with a wink that he doesn’t like to travel. She sang to us and offered her thoughts on her father-in-law, who had never accepted her because she Latino, who was about to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame. (This was only a 15-minute cab ride, at most.) During her discourse, she said, "I decided years ago, I could be happy or I could be normal. I chose happy." And the weird wisdom of all that seemed so Austin.
The gift my children (and their families) gave me, of their unstructured, undistracted time, for enough days on end to have full and significant conversations, was priceless. I have a couple of photos to treasure, a new pair of cowboy boots to walk in, and a new appreciation of two contributing, high-functioning humans who did a remarkable job of figuring out things on the planet. Enough so that they continue to leave me in awe of their kindness and wisdom most every day, including Sundays in the Park …
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.