AUSTIN-TACIOUS! DENNIS VISITS THE TEXAS CAPITOL (PART 2)
Story and photos by Dennis Hensley
After four days of sating my gay cinephile at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival -- How much affirming can one man take? -- I stuck around for a day to explore more of the city that bills itself as the "live music capitol of the world."
My big day started with an 'Urban Retreat' massage at the milk + honey spa, an oasis of tranquility located in the upscale 2nd Street District. In addition to giving me an amazing rubdown, my masseur Scot Maitland also served up some fun facts about Texas, like that it can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag and it's okay. No other state is allowed to do that. And we wonder why W's so cocky.
Later, I met up with the delightful Cindy, a member of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. We headed to the Austin Visitors Center to take a GPS walking tour of downtown Austin. Once I figured out how our video Ipod-like gadgets actually worked, it was a techno-cool kick. As we arrived at different landmarks, like the Capitol Building and Paramount Theatre , the GPS tracker would know that and play video clips with related fun facts and trivia. I learned that the stately Driskill Hotel is supposedly haunted by a little girl who, back in the day, fell down the stairs to her death while chasing a ball. Singer diva Annie Lennox claims that when she stayed there a dress of hers mysteriously moved from the bed to the closet. Is she sure it wasn't just the maid? Or Elton John, maybe? He's mischievous like that.
After our tour, Cindy drove me one of Austin's best kept secrets; Laguna Gloria , a lush Euro-style garden that is affiliated with the Austin Museum of Art and is often rented out for weddings and parties. The main dwelling is a gorgeous Mediterranean-style villa on the water that was built in 1916 for Clara Driscoll, who is known as the savior of the Alamo. It's like hanging out at George Clooney's villa in Lake Cuomo, Italy without the naked frat boy hazing rituals. Lovely.
'Keep Austin Weird' is Austin's reigning mantra and it's well deserved. The city hosts a Spamarama, for crying out loud, a cooking festival where people share their favorite Spam-based dishes. San Francisco wishes they were that quirky. Austin may be smack dab in the middle of a red state, but it's blue in the way that it celebrates diversity and takes folks for who they are. I hope return soon. I just need to fine-tune my recipe for Gay Wedding Spam Surprise. I think I've been using too many chocolate sprinkles.