At The Gates

The following post is part of my account of the fairy-tale that I was lucky enough to have my friend share with me earlier this month.  If you’re so inclined, please feel free to start at the beginning with the first five posts:

Tuna Cavatappi Be Damned (6/6/12)

Unintentionally Apt (6/7/12)

The Demon Known as Self-Doubt (6/8/12)

Time Present and Time Past (6/11/ 12)

Enjoy the Ride (6/15/12)

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“Reality was much prettier than a dream.” –Carolina Maria de Jesus

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Friday, June 1

The Airport and the Drive

The Austin airport seemed larger than I thought it would be.  Admittedly, my experience is somewhat limited, and really—anything seems larger than Charleston’s airport, even with its International moniker.  There were gift shops boasting hot pink t-shirts that read Keep Austin Weird and signs displaying giant cowboy hats and steer skulls.  The smell of barbecue permeated the cavernous halls, making me keenly aware of the fact that I hadn’t eaten a solid meal since three-thirty the afternoon before.  Unfortunately, my camera was tucked back in its bag, and the little point-and-shoot number that I’d brought with me was locked up in my carry-on, so no airport pictures.

We followed the signs which indicated that the baggage claim was downstairs, and as I inexpertly swung my carry-on onto the escalator, Cheryl gasped and pointed.

“That’s me!  Michie, take a picture!”

She was pointing at a man, holding an i-pad that displayed her name.  An i-pad.  Of course.  What a brilliant idea that so did not quite mesh with my envisioned white placard.  An i-pad.

“I can’t take a picture.  My camera’s in the bag right now.”

We approached the man and let him know who we were. Cheryl pointed out her bag on the carousel, and then we were off.  And when I say we were off, I mean it.  I barely had time to retrieve my camera from my bag before we were half walking-half running through the sliding doors to the row of town cars waiting outside in the hot-dry air.

Holy crap.

That town car was for us.

I snapped a quick picture of Cheryl, just to remind myself later that all of this had been real.  This was real.  It really was.

The leather inside the car was soft.  The air was cool, maybe too cool.  The windows were tinted.  We could stare openly at anything or anyone and no one would know.  This is a good thing when you’re a goofy tourist.  I remember walking down the streets of DC in the middle of the day when we first arrived in the city.  I could have caught flies with my mouth.  It’s a wonder we didn’t get mugged.  I was glad no one could see me this time.

Forty minutes of driving in almost complete silence that was occasionally punctuated by a quick tap on the arm to point out some unusual-to-us feature.

“It’s hillier that I thought it would be,” Cheryl commented.

And it was—almost like being in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, but only height-wise.  The trees and plants were like nothing I remembered ever seeing before.  I mean, I was born and lived a very short time in a desert-like environment, but I have no recollection of what it was like since we’d away moved when I was three.  The trees were low to the ground, and despite their green leaves, they were tough and gnarly looking.  And there were cacti and what appeared to be some type of…what…a sunflower maybe?  The ground wasn’t the vibrant green of a low-country summer.  It was a sort of brownish-green, and the roads appeared to be cut through the hills, exposing layers of rock.  And the trees…they grew out of the rock.  But this, I suppose, if I were to look at it from another perspective, is no stranger that trees that grow out of beach sand.

At some point in the drive, we were stopped at a red light and I looked over to see a white Porsche Carrera idling next to us.  Then a few minutes later, a very nice white BMW went shooting around us at top speed.  It was then that I stopped eying the landscape long enough to really pay attention to the cars around us.  Audis, Cadillacs, BMWs.  There was the occasional beat-to-hell-and-back Chevy truck, but for the most part, these cars indicated money and lots of it.   Then we saw the houses.

Cheryl pointed.  I gulped.

“Everything is bigger in Texas.”

What seemed like fifteen minutes later—fifteen minutes plus a mild heart attack when a not-very-bright woman in what seemed like her early twenties decided that pulling out into the middle of the road in her giant white Suburban (what is with all of the white cars?) and stopping directly in our path would be fun—we were sitting in front of a set of stylized gates that led to the spa.  These gates were so quintessentially Texan. 

Now, here in Charleston we have gates.  Gates, gates, and more gates.  Artisanal ironwork gates.  And they are everywhere.  Pick up a book about Charleston, South Carolina, and I will guarantee that you find at least three or more photographs of iron-worked gates.  But these gates, they were long double gates– so long I could only take a photo of half of them.  And they were sort of a rusty brownish color, not black (or “Charleston Green” as it’s called).  They were thinner and gave the impression that you were entering a ranch where you’d find dirt on the ground and a steak at the dinner table, not a Southern garden filled with hydrangeas and sweet iced tea on the piazza.  These gates were like nothing I’d ever seen before…except maybe on Dallas where JR Ewing was a dreaming dead oil baron.

“Two guests for the resort,” the driver said into the little box strategically placed outside of the gates.

And like that, the gates to the Lake Austin Spa Resort swung opened and we drove inside.

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