Anyone who has any fear that Austin is in danger of becoming conventional, need worry no longer. Whether 'Keep Austin Weird' is a Statement, or a plea, is no longer the question. It is definitely the former. However, I do wonder if weird is an anagram. Weird, or wired? Either would be very fitting.
Halloween is no longer confined to one day, nor one weekend, but has taken over the month of October. It does not take a lot to convince the residence of Austin that parties are required, or that weird needs to be activated!
Our month has been both wired, and weird. Dogtoberfest is October's answer to the many dog shows that are in, and around, the area during the year. October has its own natural sense of 'weirdness'. The summer, never willing to leave, gasps its final breaths, but refuses to go without a fight. Autumn waits patiently for its cue, understanding that it may last for but a short period, depending on when winter decides to rise from its hibernation. The mornings start a little fresher, and takes slightly longer to awake. However, the October sun, when shining, is still very strong. Choosing what to wear for outdoor activities becomes one of my biggest challenges, although this challenge was of a different source to those who were participating in the parade, that was to take place in the shopping center to the north of our house.
I had agreed to accompany Samantha, and the dog, to the Domain, which is an open air 'village', comprising offices, apartments and, of course, shops and restaurants, mostly consisting of the likes of (and including) Tiffany. Usually, it is possible to drive through the small lanes, and park in the designated bays, but the main thoroughfare was blocked to traffic. We managed to find a space in the covered car park, and made our way outside. The dog, ever anticipating, was barking excitedly, and made his presence known for about five minutes. He then, quite characteristically, got completely overwhelmed, and all but asked to be carried. I was just about to avoid the crowds by walking down the center of the street, when I realised this was the catwalk (excuse the misappropriation of vocabulary) for the 'fancy dress parade'. Dynamic duos literally started to walk along the road; Batman was accompanied by her canine Robin. The caped crusader, who led the way with her four legged sidekick, were one of the less flamboyant pair.
Some dogs had better costumes than their owners, and some owners better than their animals, and some it was impossible to tell who was who, or which was which. Children were dressed up as dogs, and vice versa. The embarrassing element was more for those of us who were not dressed up, as we were definitely in the minority. The judges then had to select a winner from each category. Unlike conventional competitions, this did not separate breeds, or large from small. The categories consisted of; Best Owner/dog duo; cutest; most creative; and perhaps keeping within the weirdness of Austin, wackiest. The dachshund dressed as the sheriff was, for my vote, the cutest, although the Highland Terrier in full Celtic attire, was definitely a close rival. I doubt the one I believed to be most creative, due to the clever subtlety, probably did not win; it was the Great Dane dressed as the standard French Poodle. Subtlety is not weird.
I was disappointed that the individuals, without dogs, did not have a category of their own. However, I could not be sure who was dressed for the event, and who was wearing 'civvys'. We are living in Austin! I have learned not to point and laugh!
It is true that I have taken part in many a fancy dress event myself. When I worked as a secretary at a school in England, during 'Book Week', I was gullible enough to believe the answer, 'very', when I posed the question, 'How dressed up, is dressed up?' I wore my wedding dress, and a crown, and came as Cinderella, whilst my colleagues wore black trousers, black sweaters and cat ears, the latter removed after the first hour of the school day! A delivery truck driver asked, 'Is it fancy dress day?', to which I replied, 'No! Why?' He did not return without scepticism, and always asked if anyone else was able to sign for the packages. However, my fairytale princess would have been rather unimaginative compared to 'Attila the Hound' and the varying degree of zombie that roamed in broad daylight.
With so many to judge, the event that was due to finish at 4pm, went on for much longer, and we left before the finale. Our superhound, came into his own once back in the parking lot. Scared of his own shadow, his confidence increased as we neared the car, and we could almost interpret the bark to say, 'that showed them!' Security guards prevented cars from entering the main road, and many cross words were exchanged, by the powers that were, and those who were not sympathetic to the canine friendly, and foul temper over took distemper. The Domain, however, is probably the venue chosen due to the high level of resident dog owners. Most of the shops have water bowls by their front doors to quench the thirst of any pooch. Most large dogs appear to have vertically challenged masters, and most Chihuahua's belong to basketball players, but all drink from the designer bowls filled with lashings of LaCroix. (Dogs;one has to presume the owners do have some degree of dignity! Although.... Keep Austin Weird!)
The next ten days saw the weirdness expand rapidly, and the popping up of pumpkins reached epidemic proportions. Personally, I would prefer to celebrate All Souls Day, or All Saints Day, which seem to pass by on 1st and 2nd of November, without mention, but there would not be a connection between these two days and dressing up as a tiger, or a gnome, as the one that is so obviously associated with 31st October! (Answers on a postcard as to the direct correlation will no doubt be few and far between!) Restaurants, cafes and shops, suddenly developed vast amounts of cobwebs, lurking with giant arachnids, during the preceding week, and weekend, prior to All Hallows. Samantha had two parties. In her incredibly homemade costume, she became 'Smurfette'; painted blue with her four fingered gloves, together white shoes and smurf hat. She was convinced that this was the night she would be 'pulled over' by the traffic cops! Fortunately, her powers of foresight are not finely developed, and this did not take place. Neither was she stopped on her way to, or returning from, the 'zombie' party, where her 'zombette' outfit was downplayed to her brilliant theatrical open wounds. What a talented daughter I have; although I think she should stick to making cakes, as there is not much call for a disfigured smurf very often. However.....Keep Austin Weird....I live and learn!
Not entirely believing the majority of madness would have reached the crescendo by Sunday night, I was less than surprised to see the weirdness bled over (no pun intended) into the day itself. On Monday, Samantha and I took a walk to take pictures of some ornamental cows that had not yet been removed from their temporary homes. As we were returning to the office, we spotted a group of zombies crossing the road. The vacant stare that I was given ,was very haunting, and my attempt to laugh at the costume was not particularly convincing. We followed the crowd, keeping a safe distance, and then headed East, as they entered a cafe. We were, u met by a group of gnomes. (You see, there lies the correlation!) Rather tall but none the less, extremely convincing, (one had her own toadstool connected!) they walked brazenly across Congress Avenue, (presumably in search of a pond, or garden,) just prior to the musical explosion, that was the opening bars to the late Mr. Jackson's 'Thriller'. All heads, feet and toadstools, turned, and the crowd grew in front of the bus stop. The group of zombies put on a performance that was worthy of an award. Perfectly in time, they recreated the moves that first hit our television screens 27 years ago, and probably at least half a dozen years before they were born. (A legacy indeed for Mr. J!) To a tumultuous round of applause, and shrieks of delight, they stomped into the crowd, which reluctantly dispersed, so as not to be infected by the undead.
Absolutely delighted at what we had just witnessed, we continued on our way back to the office, passing the couple walking their pet pig (obviously not weird enough, as the pig wore a costume; I think its owners dress in ripped black leather daily, as they seemed rather comfortable) and beckoned across the road by dog driving a jeep.
This was just another day in downtown Austin. We did not stay to see what horrors 6th Street held for the evenings entertainment, but judging by the bottles and cans that were being swept away by our faithful street cleaner, on Tuesday morning, a good time was had by all.
We are leading into a more sombre mood for November, as Veterans Day is on Friday, and Remembrance Sunday honours those who have fought on our behalf. Thanksgiving will lift the spirits towards the end of the month, and the pumpkins will reappear for a brief time, before getting squashed into pies. The season of Turkey and eating will be upon us and I shall be looking for.....another story.