Our Trip to Austin

Notes about our trip to Austin this past weekend, to visit and begin to settle the house and estate of my old friend Larry Kramer, who died last September.

We flew to Austin Thursday, from Oakland via LAX; spent all day Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning there, and flew home Sunday afternoon, again via LAX and Oakland. I’d booked all our flights on Delta, but some some reason our Austin to LAX leg was switched to a United flight. So when, coming home, we landed at LAX at a United terminal, we had to make an excruciating 30m walk from Terminal 7, where United lands, to Terminal 2, where Delta takes off. We had barely 15m to grab a bite to eat, since airlines these days don’t serve meals….

Larry Kramer RIP:


I had been to Austin a couple times previously; once in 2006, for a World Fantasy Convention, and again in late 2012. Each time I saw my friend Larry, who had moved to the area earlier in 2006, and whose estate I am now settling.

Before WFC I visited him and he showed me around town a bit, around downtown and the river district and its gay bars, and Capitol Square, and I stayed at his house the first night before checking in to the convention at some hotel northwest of the city. In 2012, just a month or so after my lay-off from Rocketdyne after 30 years, Larry had a hospital procedure and asked if I could fly in to take care of him for a few days, which I did. That’s the last time I was there.

His house is in Driftwood, not so much a town (there are no stores, no cafes) as an area defined by a zip code, with a small, country-sized post office, in the vast region between Austin and San Antonio full of subdivisions interlaced by highways and rolling countryside, with the businesses lined up along the interstate, not much different from similar areas I’ve been through in Illinois and Kentucky and Tennessee. Except for the occasional enormous Texas flag with its single star. The occasional service agent (as when we checked out our rental car) would say “have a blessed evening.” That’s the South, I guess.

The weather was warm, in the 80s F, and humid, but not as uncomfortable as I’d expected, given constant overcast and a slight breeze. It rained intermittently, and we had a thunderstorm Sunday morning before we checked out the hotel.

The hotel was the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton at the northwest corner of Capitol Square, and just south of the University of Texas at Austin campus (where apparently protests against Israel in support of the Palestinians were happening every day). The rooms were all suites — bedroom, sitting room, kitchenette — but the first room we were in had no hot water. The second room had a better view, and a balcony, but a completely different set of TV channels and TV remote than the first room; and neither of them streamed NBC, that we could find. Very odd.

I’d chosen this hotel because, among other options, it had parking, and an on-site restaurant. Well, turned out the parking was valet only, at $51/night, and the restaurant was under renovation, though we could still get breakfast at the far extension by walking out onto the street and entering the breakfast area from the corner. Typical breakfast, $23.

Well, that’s what it costs to travel these days. Even if some mornings all I want is some yogurt and a bit of granola.

We noticed that there was in fact an underground parking lot beneath the hotel. Why no self-park option? I can guess that, given the line-ups of vehicles in the driveway in front of the hotel, that so many people, apparently even visitors, drive these ginormous trucks — mostly Ford F-150s — that would not fit in the standard parking slots. This was another Texas theme: everything really big. Of course.

We had three good dinners. On our arrival night, because the hotel restaurant was closed, we were directed around the corner to a TexMex joint called the Texas Chili Parlor, a casual, noisy, burger and chili place. Great food, and relatively inexpensive. Turns out, the place is on at least one list of best places to eat in Austin. (Of course Facebook, once we were in the area, kept feeding me ads and listsicles for Austin restaurants.)

TexMex checked off, on Friday we searched for a steak house, preferably within walking distance from our hotel, and went to Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille, a large, white-table-cloth upscale-place with a pricey menu. It was very good, and since we haven’t traveled much in the past five years, we indulged.

Similarly on Saturday: the restaurant Lonesome Dove, a “western bistro,” partly steakhouse. Tired of meat, I ordered a rabbit ravioli, which was really good, nontraditional but still one of the best raviolis I’ve ever eaten. And yes, the restaurant was named after the Larry McMurtry novel. On a wall by the men’s restroom was a huge map showing the trail depicted in that novel, from Texas to Montana, and back.


I’ll need to do one or two more posts about this trip. When you deal with settling someone else’s life, of course, you reflect on your own life. I’ve thought about this for years.

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