In the short time I’ve lived here, Texas has offered a wide-range of cultural experiences. I’ve appreciated box seats at the opera, visited world-class art museums, been to both the ballet and the theater, and of course, living in Austin, have enjoyed many live music venues. However, my two favorite Texas “cultural” experiences both happened during this past week in the city whose motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”
BEARDS AND MOUSTACHES
Last night my friend Cindy and I made a last minute decision to attend The Sixth Annual Misprint Beard and Moustache Competition at Mohawk, a downtown Austin bar and live music events venue. We’ve both been feeling pretty serious about our lives over the past couple of weeks, so we decided we needed to break the pattern. The event was dubbed as “The biggest, baddest, funnest and dumbest beard competition of all time,” so we figured this was about as unserious as we could get. While standing in a block-long line of hipsters waiting to get in to join about 1400 other people attending the event, we were greeted by a grown man in a giant bunny costume with one of the longest beards I’ve ever seen. Cindy and I looked at each other with the realization that “tonight is going to be fun!” And it was.
People traveled from all over the world to compete for titles such as “Gnarliest Beard,” “Sweetest ‘Stache” and “Fiercest Chops.” We found ourselves laughing, cheering, and even feeling a bit star struck when the granddaddy of chest-length beards, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, made an appearance.
CHICKEN SHIT BINGO
I recently made an awesome new friend named Tom Kane at TEDxAustin. Tom is smart, creative and has a razor sharp wit. But what really drew me to him was that his journey has been very much parallel to mine. A couple years ago he realized he wasn’t satisfied with his life. So he left his job in Pittsburgh and took a 4 month journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway. As he puts it, somewhere in the middle of Russia he realized he needed a total life change and decided to move to Austin. Like me, he had only been to Austin once before moving here. When Tom and I were talking, I mentioned that I had just heard about something called Chicken Shit Bingo. Tom offered to take me, given, compared to me, he’s a bit of a Chicken Shit Bingo connoisseur (meaning he’s played 4 times).
So, last Sunday I threw on my cowgirl boots and Tom and I headed to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. It’s a tiny Austin dive bar where a multi-generational frat pack overflows into the parking lot with their folding chairs and ice cold Shiners. For those lucky enough (we weren’t) to score a place on the world’s tiniest dance floor, a little two-stepping can be done to Dale Watson’s honky tonk tunes.
However the real star at Ginny’s is named Red. Red is a chicken. For real. Red lives in a pen at the back of the parking lot. On Sunday afternoons Red is brought inside and is placed on a large plywood bingo board sitting on top of a pool table covered by a chicken wire cage. Red then waddles around the bingo board, begging for grapes and pieces of bread and chicken feed that Ginny throws to him. All the while, members of the standing-room only crowd shout words of encouragement if the chicken comes near the numbered tile to which they hold a ticket…because, if Red drops his lucky load on their number, they win $100. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours. And it’s really really fun. Really fun.
Now that my week of nonsensical outings is coming to a close, I see that Austin doesn’t take herself too seriously. Perhaps I can learn from this new city of mine and not take myself too seriously either. Life is a lot more fun that way.
Don’t miss more ridiculous photos in the slide show below!
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