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Summer Fun: A Cheeseburger at the Blue Hole

An extra pair of tickets for Jimmy Buffett in Austin May 31

By Raoul Hernandez, 5:25PM, Fri. May. 16

Summer Fun: A Cheeseburger at the Blue Hole

Barton Springs: Love the lawn, fear the water. Wimberley’s Blue Hole, there I’m a duck. We made it out three times last summer, the final one with our beloved Aunt Nancy, who died during SXSW in March. Four people killed in a hit and run, a dear friend and SX crew chief lost her father suddenly that weekend, and my wife’s aunt – Nancy Varnum – never woke up.

“But at night I’d have these wonderful dreams/ Some kind of sensuous treat/ Not zucchini, fettuccini, or bulgur wheat/ But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat.”

Maybe that’s what I remember most about that hot August afternoon – the drive down. We all swam in the Blue Hole’s heavenly slice of creek that feeds the Blanco River, body-temp-lowering but not Barton Springs glacial, with sun dappled tree coverage employed by the Army in the Forties for soldiers based in San Antonio. We ate, we lay, I read Decibel magazine. Yet seared in my memory is a casual glance into the rearview mirror on our way there – seeing Nancy sing along to Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

“Buffett” means “water” in Parrothead, only we didn’t know our sole local family sponsor was a card-carrying cult member – and decades before we ever knew the club even existed. Nancy was ground floor all right, an ex-Silicon Valley hippie gone Texan long before we arrived. When we discovered common knowledge of the secret handshake, Agnes bought her tickets to see Buffett at the Circuit of the Americas at the end of this month, May 31.

I’d been working on a 2-CD Buffett summation for months, so I tried it out on Nancy, an overworked, underpaid, Austin nonconformist. Tired etched her pretty face as she stared out of the car window and bobbed occasionally, mouthing words to songs memorized when my spouse and I were probably still kids. “Cheeseburger in Paradise” lit her up like the hair bands (Def Leppard, Scorpions, etc.) her boyfriend Rick and her sought out from Cedar Park to San Antonio.

She wolfed down that burger with gusto.

“Cheeseburger is paradise/ Heaven on earth with an onion slice.”

“Cheeseburger is paradise/ Medium rare with mustard’d be nice.”

“Cheeseburger in paradise/ Worth every damn bit of sacrifice.”

We ate in Wimberley at dusk, Italian not burgers. After a day on the Blue Hole’s virtual putting lawn, drunk on sun, water, and heat – get there early, because their capacity’s about the size of Beerland and once it’s reached you have to come back later – we feasted before heading back to Austin. Naturally, Buffett was our soundtrack.

The Monday after SXSW, we drove out past the Y in Oak Hill to look for a will in Nancy’s house. Just a couple days earlier, as I’d started yet another festival work shift after an actual day out seeing music on South Congress (Cody Chesnutt at South by San Jose), Agnes put in that awful call and more or less ended my SXSW. Hungover from the six-week work overload and an unbelievable Sunday at Rodeo Austin (Dwight Yoakam), we dug through closets of an impacted house never meant for investigation by anything other than Nancy’s eight dogs.

Tasks like that turn both hair and heart gray.

Room after room we explored, taking papers, bills, anything to sort an intestate estate. Our souls sank lower and lower with each new door cracked. As my wife and I turned to exit one room, she spotted a box of records rising up from the floor. On top, under an inch of red dog dander, Jimmy Buffett’s Living & Dying in ¾ Time.

A waltz-time afternoon at the Blue Hole? Any day of the summer, thanks. I just wish to God we didn’t now have an extra pair of tickets to see Jimmy Buffett in two weeks.

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