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It became apparent early in my tenure at U.Va. that I should plan a trip to Texas.  My job was originally conceived as being one in which I would be based in my region and travel from there, reporting back to the Office of Engagement at U.Va.  I was eager (!) to get out of independent film / festival  development and unable to find more work in reality television casting in Austin.  A Real Job where I could stay in Texas and travel extensively would also be a Dream Job.  When I was extended an offer, however, I was to be relocated to Charlottesville, Va.  Given that I’d just moved halfway across the country to be somewhere other than Charlottesville and had found the friends and social/cultural experience I wanted, I was dismayed (!).  But I was also really excited.  And let’s be honest– Texas was in my region, and Austin was centrally located between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.  I would be back.  And I would have the best job, ever.

Dallas

I know Dallas quite well.  In fact, I’m quite certain I know it better than many Dallas locals.  As a casting associate for MTV’s highest-rated season of its hit reality dating series Room Raiders, I interviewed about 2 hundred 18 to 23 year olds in their homes in Austin.  When casting ended and the production crew arrived, I asked my casting director if he would re-hire me to do the same job in Dallas.  He said that if I could find a place to live in a week and learn the entire highway system from Fort Worth to McKinney, the job was mine.  I interviewed another 2 hundred young people… and also took in a rodeo at the Fort Worth stockyards, the Dallas Arboretum, the State Fair of Texas, Six Flags over Texas, all three Escapade clubs, NASCAR at the Texas Motor Speedway, Medieval Times, and any event and bar found on Wild On Dallas.

Upon my arrival in Dallas, I immediately went about replacing my perfume, which can only be purchased in large cities.  (It’s a legitimate need for a businesswoman!)  Inevitably, this called for a trip to the Dallas Galleria, basically a ginormous shopping mall that, unlike other more polarized malls in Dallas, has both a Forever 21 and an Arden B.  I also enjoy seeing large shopping malls decorated for the Christmas holiday season, and, with Halloween having just passed, I knew the Galleria would not disappoint.

On recommendation from an alum in Dallas, I stayed at Hotel ZaZaDallas.com describes ZaZa as a place where guests are “shamelessly pampered,” and I agree.  The lobby is dimly lit.  Where you’d expect to find a bowl of peppermints in a restaurant, the concierge has a large glass bowl of Hot Tamale candies with a silver serving spoon.  On hallway walls are risque photographs, blown up in black and white or oversaturated colors.  My bedroom was, to put it simply, sexy.  And to say that is an understatement…

The hotel lived up to its reputation.  I had a cocktail at the bar of Dragonfly, a popular restaurant independent of the hotel.  The skeleton of a dog served as the focal point of the bar, between bottles of liquor.  As my dining partner and I left the bar, we were asked if we were there for the fashion show.  Uhh, yes!  Obviously, we were.  We were ushered into a tent full of Dallas’ pretty people (and it must be noted that Dallas’ people are especially pretty).  The hotel pool had a glass cover over it where, presumably, the fashion show had just taken place.  It reminded me of working for MTV– the glamour and superficiality of it all.  I do miss it at times!

On this visit to Dallas, I wanted to do one of the very few tourist activities I’d not yet done: ascend the Hyatt Reunion Tower.  The tower is a striking addition to the Dallas skyline, with Antares restaurant at the top.  I knew better than to shell out for a pricy meal there, so I stopped at the Dome Lounge for a sunset view with a glass of red zin.

Austin

My stay in Austin was highly anticipated and also very brief.

There was no question as to where I would stay: the San Jose Hotel on South Congress Avenue.  When I lived in Austin, my apartment for the first year was only a five-minute walk from the San Jose, on South Congress, toward downtown.  Before I had many friends and a real job (the latter of which never materialized, as I said), I would go to various coffee shops around the city, hoping to find “my” place.  Spider House was fun– a place to wear expensive rags (vintage) and skip the makeup, and enjoy the various glowings of cigarettes, Apple logos from the backs of PowerBooks, and colored tea lights.  I later caught on to Mozart’s on the water, ironically, in the winter– they will forever make the best red velvet cheesecake of my life.  But my favorite place and the one I call “my” place was the courtyard of the San Jose.  I loved their $5 tempranillos and the tinto de verano: one part red wine, one part “orange-colored soda in a bottle with a label written in Spanish.”  But I loved most the scene on the courtyard: rockstars, politicos, Kate Malay.  I used to go by myself and sit with a book and keep one toe near the pool, one hand near my glass.  Dip.  Sip.  Turn page.

The hotel is a great place for a worldly traveler to stay– one who wants to be immersed in any local culture.  I’ll admit that I even applied for a job at the San Jose in my “blue period” and I’m certain I would have enjoyed it.  The front desk will check out movies made by Texas directors or that were made in Texas, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused and Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi meeting both criteria.  They also have different rooms at different prices.  A standard single goes for $150, but you can get a single and share a bathroom for $90.  (Note: When I first stayed here, I took the shared bathroom to offset the cost of ZaZa.  I never even saw the other guests, and flip-flops were provided.  I have since stayed in the standard, and I did prefer it, but I would stay in the shared bathroom without question!)

A highlight of the trip was to take a 4.5 mile run on the Town Lake Trail, and by “run” I mean “walk with occasional hustling.”  I used to do a combination of this run and step-aerobics five times each week.  Unemployment– amazing what fantastic shape one can be in without work!  Regardless, I was never able to get a picture of the swans on Town Lake until this trip, when I actually went on a mission to take a picture of the swans.  If they hadn’t been there, I would have Photoshopped them in.

San Antonio

My stay in San Antonio was especially brief and entirely work-oriented, as it should be!  I stayed in the Mae West room at the Painted Lady Inn, a lovely B&B just outside the city with quite possibly the best B&B owner I’ve yet found.  When I walked in, the radio was set to NPR.  I was so enamored of the welcoming tone that I never once turned on the TV.  Given that I have a TV but do not subscribe to cable, this is not completely unusual for me, but it is a bit rare.  I do my best to catch up on smutty reality TV at hotels, after all.

My work colleagues and I ate at Las Canarias, the restaurant of the Omni Mansion Del Rio.  The food was great but not memorable (as it’s now June and I can not remember what I ate), and I clearly remember having difficulty hearing my colleagues.  I can not complain, however, about being serenaded by a small ensemble of Latino musicians all night…

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Taken in the Atlanta airport, I think, en route to DFW.  Underground tunnels between terminals are not at all unusual, but the Chicago and Detroit airports have made transportation a spectacle, and it’s a welcome improvement.  (Both links are quite good.)
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Dallas Galleria ice rink.  Note the multi-story shopping!
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Dallas sunset– typically beautiful.

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View toward the city before sunset from the Reunion Tower.
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View toward the west (Fort Worth) after sunset from the Reunion Tower.  Traffic.
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Hotel ZaZa by day.
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One view of my room.
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The other side.  It’s a very large room, I should add!
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The fashion show.

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San Jose Hotel, Austin.  I enjoy this shot…
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View of one of the buildings that make up the San Jose Hotel, from my balcony, which came complete with a cactus garden and view of Factory People, where I had one of my favorite nights in Austin, involving Shiny Toy Guns during sxsw with a certain someone who I shared a moment in time with.
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Night view of the entrance to San Jose.

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The swans.  Rather unspectacular right now.  But they’re there!

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The Mae West at the Painted Lady.
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Upstairs at the Painted Lady.

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