It's no secret that Austin is one of the more amazing places on earth. Blues on the Green, Barton Springs, the Broken Spoke, Zilker Park, bicyclists abounding, dancing and eating outside under enormous live oaks bedecked with white christmas tree lights... it's mighty nice. And Donn's Depot. Can I tell you about Donn's Depot, please? Because I love it.
Hmm. Now that I've said I want to tell you about Donn's, I'm not really even sure where to start. Well, how about this. Imagine, if you will, the following things: red shag carpets, railroad cars, pendulous cobwebs, a house band called Donn and his Station Masters, a free popcorn machine, a stripper pole (in the ladies' room), and an itty bitty dance floor, about which trot an enthusiastic assortment of smooth movers from 21 to 97 years old.
I'm not kidding about the 97 year old. He told me he was, right before he dipped me so low my hair touched the floor.
I love Donn's Depot. I love Donn and his Station Master's, I love that they play reliably good covers of classic country tunes like "Waltz Across Texas," "All My Exes Live in Texas," and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." I love that it's one of the rare places I've ever been where hipsters, yuppies, middle agers, and the geriatric crowd all gather in the same place, enjoying and participating in the same event. I love that they ask everybody for ID at the front door. And I mean EVERYBODY, even the silverbacks. I love that the drinks are cheap, the popcorn is salty and free, and the shag carpeting is the lurid red of a 19th century bordello. I love that at least half of the cobbled-together building is made from old railroad cars, and I love that when you look up at the ceiling you immediately look down, determined to never ever look up again, for fear of what might fall in your eyes.
And I love that, no matter how reliable the above-mentioned delights might be, every now and then, Donn's still manages to surprise me. The other night, for example, Handsome and I went there with our friends Bake and Toto for a wild night of dominoes, drinking, and dancing. I always love a good two-step, and the waltz... well, that goes without saying. I've loved the waltz since I taught myself to dance it by watching the "I Know You, I've Walked With You Once Upon A Dream" scene in Sleeping Beauty twenty million times on repeat.
But as the four of us sat there chatting and laughing and playing dominoes the other evening, I noticed something. The music was out of control. Where was my George Strait? My Porter Wagoner? My Glen Campbell, and Johnny Cash? Instead, Donn and the Stationmasters were leaning heavily on the synthesizer and playing a bizarre series of songs that included all of the following:
1. The Rose. (The Rose? Seriously? They wanted to channel Bette Midler's maudlin tune?)
2. The Girl From Ipanema. (Ha ha. They're kidding, right? No? Well... just... wow.)
3. Can't Keep My Eyes Off Of You. (doo dee doo dee doo dee dah doo, dee doo dee doo dee doooooo... I LOVE YOU BAAABY, AND IF IT'S QUITE ALL RIGHT I NEED YOU BAAAABY FOR ALL THOSE LONELY NIGHTS.....)
4. Suspicious Minds. (Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. LEFT. THE. BUILDING.)
5. Smooth Operator. (You know when Tweety Bird clocks Sylvester the Cat upside the head with a 20 pound hammer and Sylvester's eyes turn into spinning circley things and bells and birds clang all around his head? Yes? OK, that. That's my reaction.)
All I have to say is that the hipsters have something to learn about irony and counter culture if they think a weird haircut, multiple tattoos, and some skinny jeans are going to cut it. Let them first stand upon a stage and croon the words to "Smooth Operator" with nary a blush or giggle. Furthermore, let them do it as a grey haired middle aged man with a slight potbelly. And then, let them partner up and glide across the dance floor, executing flawless spins, graceful steps, and exhibiting a total enjoyment in the moment. That, my friends, is counter-culture cool.
As Handsome and I were dancing later that evening, he said, "Do you you ever feel, sometimes, like when you're in here, you've stepped into some parallel universe, like maybe a little piece of small-town Texas from 1984 got picked up in a vortex and splashed down on 5th street in Austin?"
I said yes. And I love it.
Here's a YouFace video of Donn singing one of my favorite songs of all time. The video quality is pretty bad, but it's a glimmer, at least, of Donn and his glories.