A Salute to Our Dads’ Visit

24 Oct

I’ve met Caitlin’s dad many times. Caitlin’s met my dad many times. Whether it was spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Wittlifs or Lollapalooza weekend with the Teiblooms, all interactions have gone swimmingly*. We’ve met the parents. This is the sequel. The meeting of the Fockers if you will**. And the jokes were only slightly less cheesy. How would my dad meeting Caitlin’s dad work out? I was mostly confident that they’d get along just fine, but each dad had given me slight reason to worry. I wished Caitlin’s dad a happy birthday on Facebook the day before my dad came and he responded with some German and then “Looking forward to Friday. What do I call your Dad? ‘Dad’ seems somehow redundant, or maybe just … odd. Unless he is a surfer dude, and it’s Dadio, or Heydaddy.” My nervous laughter seeps through my response of “Haha Gene will be fine. He asked/joked about whether or not to salute since you’re ex-military. I think Gene and Lance will be just fine.” What I’m referring to is the other thing that had me slightly concerned. My dad kept telling me (joking about) how he planned to salute Caitlin’s dad since he’s ex-military. So what did Caitlin’s dad call mine? Was there a salute? I’ll give you the B.B.B. (Teiblooms like to re-cap vacations with a B.B.B. or blow by blow.)

*Even if they don’t all include swimming. (Read on.)

**I haven’t seen this film, but judging alone by the movie poster, I’d guess my dad is Dustin Hoffman. No way! Your dad is De Niro. 100%. Hoffman is the goofy jewish guy who wants everyone to lighten up. De Niro is ex-C.I.A. and intimidating, but with a good heart.

I picked my dad up at the airport and took him to check in at his hotel. He didn’t waste any time trying to embarrass me (that is part of a dad’s job, after all.)  The front desk clerk at his hotel said “I’ve got you down for a single queen.” “That’s correct, but I’m not,” my dad joked. I knew the joke was coming as soon as he said single queen, wincing while skimming the USA Today at the front desk. My dad then made a joke about paying for the room in Kleenex, referencing when my grandmother once tried to pay for a meal in Kleenex at an advanced stage of Alzheimers. With the clerk thoroughly confused, we got him settled and met his old friend for a drink at Z Tejas (we’ll have to go back to rate their margaritas),and met some of my friends for a drink and then we finally we got to hang with Caitlin!

We’d cleaned and vacuumed and scrubbed the toilet so my dad would be impressed with our apartment, but, as I told him in an e-mail that morning, we could have tried to make a mess and it would still look a million times better than any apartment I lived in before. My dad was impressed with all the work we’d put into painting and transforming “The Cock Dungeon” (long story*) into “The Wittbloom Apartment.” Caitlin came in from a rough day of work and we booked it to Kerby Lane. Kerby is our go-to comfort food stop and we needed it after a week full of overtime. My dad wanted to experience Texas food, so the queso was a given. I had pumpkin pancakes while they’re in season and Caitlin had a grilled cheese while we re-told her the story of me dropping grilled cheese in my tomato soup as a little kid and having my mom rip off the soaked side as I didn’t notice it was the same sandwich. A relaxing dinner was all we had time for Thursday, with a full day of Friday events planned.

*My understanding is, Zack’s friend group (dubbed The Lighthouse) had an events calendar they used to use to organize their activities. There was going to be a cocktail party, and… a Dungeons & Dragons marathon?  I can’t remember why Dungeon got involved (They were seeing a band named Dungeon). All I remember is, Google Calendars decided to be humorous and cut off the words to “Cocktail Party,” and something about one of these things being related to Zack and his old roommate Bryn’s housewarming. Our apartment will never, ever be called this again.

I’d been e-mailing my dad about Franklin BBQ for months, showing him articles boasting it was the best in Texas. He’s a big fan of Smoque in Chicago, among others, so getting him to admit this was better was an uphill battle. The hour and forty five minute wait didn’t help the situation. We decided to split a Brisket plate and a Rib/sausage plate with potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans as sides. It was my first time having Franklin BBQ warm and I was totally sold. The ribs literally fell off the bone. The brisket was the moistest I’d ever had (sorry Grammy) and the sauce was boss. My dad wasn’t nearly as impressed. I’ll blame it on a combination of him taking the wait into consideration, his allowing the meat to get dipped in beans and that he got a fairly fatty cut. He said it was right on par with Smoque, but not worth the wait. I do think it was better than any BBQ I’ve had before, and even though I wouldn’t wait in that line unless I had an out-of-town guest to impress, the pound of Brisket my dad got me to go has been savored all week and really holds up in a work fridge. I’ll finally polish it off for lunch today. 

We were stuffed from lunch and needed to walk a bit, so we headed to The Harry Ransom Center. I’m sad to admit I’ve never been there before, even though our friends Lisa and Christine work there. We were especially drawn to the exhibit on banned books, but were thoroughly impressed by everything we saw. As we were just about done, after reading all the plaques for an hour, Lisa came to meet us and gave us a special behind the scenes tour of the archives. We peeked at some of the extensive Robert De Niro collection of his film props (you wouldn’t believe how much they have up there) and Lisa even showed us some old puppets and posters and it was great to hear her put on her “tour voice.” It was exactly like I imagined it would be and we felt lucky to have gotten a behind-the-scenes look. Thanks, Lisa! We then took a quick shopping trip to get me some clothes, a wallet and flip flops and laid out by our apartment pool for an hour before heading to the Chuck Klosterman book reading at BookPeople.
What a brilliant reading! Klosterman started by mocking the idea of a reading, saying “Reading is a solitary activity, unless you’re a child.” He then read us a portion from The Visible Man, which I devoured in two days right before the reading. He fielded a series of random questions in which he denied the challenge of a “beard off,” calling it “the laziest competitive thing” he’d ever heard of, told us he loved the new Wilco album, but found the finale to Breaking Bad “cartoonish” and chastised a reader for predicting his own future disappointment at a Stone Roses reunion show. I was in heaven and even though 90% of the references were over my dad’s head, he agreed it was a very entertaining event. Even though I bought the book on Amazon, I told BookPeople I bought it there so I could get a signing wristband and got to take this pic and told him “thank you.” I just wanted to thank him for inspiring me as a writer. Then I told him a far-fetched idea for the paperback of his book and asked him about Caitlin and my Halloween costumes (even though he said he’d be dressing as someone who is annoyed that everyone else at the party is dressing up.) It was fantastic. Klosterman was so smart and engaging and kind, I had to change up my top 5 Man Crush* list*.

*Current list: 1.Jack White 2.Chuck Klosterman 3.Bill Simmons 4.Derrick Rose 5.Louis CK

*I asked if this meant I could have a lady crush list. Zack said yes. Here’s what I have so far: 1. Alison Mosshart Good start.

After the Klosterman reading, we headed back to the apartment to meet Caitlin and her dad. Caitlin’s dad got there first, so the three of us made small talk about why Texas is called the “Lone Star State.” I think my dad was really just testing me telling him that Caitlin’s dad was very knowledgeable and that as a former teacher, he’s known to wax poetic on a subject that interests him. We heard all about Sam Houston and Stephen Austin and my dad got an extensive history of Texas and I’m not sure we ever got to the root of the answer, which the always dependable Wikipedia tells me can be boiled down to, “Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as an independent republic and as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico.” Anyway, they called each other Gene and Lance (thankfully) and Caitlin arrived and gave her dad an awesome looking book about Big Bend National Park for his birthday. 

Caitlin drove us and wisely chose not to attempt a parallel parking job, with three harsh critics backseat driving, and we found street parking and decided on outdoor dining. We ordered three orders of cheesebread trio (pictured above*), which is what led Caitlin to know about Rio’s in the first place. Caitlin’s dad and I had a Big Bark Amber beer, Caitlin had a Mexican Coke and my dad had an iced tea while we enjoyed the lovely “fall” Austin weather. For entrees, I continued to order the same thing as Caitlin’s dad as we both got the Chicken Stroganoff, while Caitlin had a Pastel de Abobrinha (Empanada) and my dad had the Tijuca sandwich. I think the Stroganoff was the winner of the bunch, but all were tasty. Conversation was easy-going and flowed from Gerald Ford to those escaped animals in Ohio to the World Series. All that was left was the salute. I was relieved my dad hadn’t saluted upon meeting Caitlin’s dad, but instead, as we talked about some of his experiences in the military, my dad asked the proper way to salute. Nice way to avoid doing it, but actually doing it. Clever guy, my pop. Caitlin’s dad showed us the triangle positioning of the arm, the curled fingers and the rotation back down to your side. “I had to,” my dad told me on the walk from the car.  

*No, not Obama. Although it would be fairly exciting if I could order a cheesebread trio at a restaurant and the President hand delivered it to me.

Saturday, it was time to entertain Gene with some of Austin’s finest fare. We took him to the Gypsy Picnic at Auditorium Shores so that he could taste a ton of our favorites for cheap, and without having to travel around town to get to them. I was slated to drive on Saturday, so I looked up road closures in advance to avoid the traffic I knew Gene hated*. We swiftly avoided traffic and got down to the lake in record time, but then came the issue of parking. I knew there wouldn’t be any by Auditorium Shores, and I knew we were planning on going for a dip at Barton Springs after our morning feastfest. I asked Zack if he thought parking at Barton Springs would work, and he said he believed so. As I drove closer to Barton and further from Auditorium Shores, I started to worry that my choice would put us too far away from our destination, and that I’d be seen as some kind of torturess taking my party on the Bataan Death March. Zack removed blame by saying he was the wrong person to ask, so I took my chances and parked us on the Zilker side of Barton Springs. We began our journey toward the Gypsy Picnic, and although the weather was gorgeous, I think the big unknown of just how far we were journeying made it a little uncomfortable. Still, we passed the time trading stories and initials for the initials game, and got to our picnic in no time.

*You wouldn’t believe how much the topic of traffic came up as conversation when we were in Chicago. Literally every time we got in the car. 

There were so many choices (and so many dogs!) at the Gypsy Picnic, it was hard to know where to begin. We made a beeline for Gordoughs, since that is a staple for Zack and me, and Gene dug in to a “Naughty & Nice* (sugar and cinnamon) doughnut. Big thumbs up, and then we traveled around the rest of the fest to see what was being offered. I remember sharing a cake ball from Holy Cacao with Shiner in it (and being surprised by how much I adored it), and then I remember the boys eating meat from a lot of places while I walked from German Shepherd to Golden Retrievers, filling my fingers with soft hair and my eyes with smiling dog faces. After I woke up from the cuteness coma, we were at Torchy’s, where the men shared some kind of meaty breakfast taco**, and then I wandered over to Conscious Cravings for a spicy chickpea concoction that was good, but probably just too spicy for me (I’m mild! What can ya do?) Finally, we were ready to hit up the truck I was most excited to stop at:  we grabbed giant, melting ice cream cookies of our own creation from Coolhaus. I can’t get enough of their freshly baked cookies with gourmet ice cream stuffed between, and I went classic with vanilla bean and chocolate chip cookies. The men shared a chocolatey glorious creation, with chocolate nutella ice cream between fudge oatmeal cookies. We were all in heaven, sitting down with our ice cream as puppy eyes looked up longingly and decent Texas rock played in the background.

*My old college nickname

**Green Chile pork. Not usually designated for breakfast

After we finished our food, we had seriously sticky fingers, so we waiting in line to wash our hands (yep, really) at the Meyer’s hand-washing station. We then trekked back to the car and decided to forego swimming for some relaxing back at the apartment.

Before heading back to the apartment, we returned to Book People so my dad could buy his girlfriend a gift, and so I could support Man Crush #2 (and an Austin store I love and had kind of screwed over the day before) with a purchase of “Killing Yourself to Live.” Of all the books in the store, somehow Caitlin and my dad both picked out the exact same “Book of Awesome” and it became abundantly clear that it needed to be purchased for my dad’s girlfriend. Me and Caitlin also separately suggested he add something awesome about her into the book itself, but my dad found that too cheesy. And at that point, it was already gift-wrapped. This just in: She loved the book, even without him adding her to the list of things that are awesome.  

Zack taught his dad our dice game, Clickity-Clickity-Clack! and we played a few rounds. We switched over to Gene’s choice of Crazy 8’s, and I got to find out where Zack gets his competitive streak from. After getting ourselves together, Zack drove us all to the airport and we said our goodbyes.

I was somewhat nervous about the weekend, but mostly excited for it. At the end of it all, I think it went really well, and more than anything, it made me feel closer to Zack. Always a good outcome for any weekend. I had confidence our dads could pull it off and was glad my dad seemed to enjoy his visit. It was great to see him and show him around, and I was extra thankful for his generosity all weekend long. I hope we have another dad weekend soon. (Salute)

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