John Grogan - The Longest Trip Home


Why I Love Austin

Saturday, November 22, 2008

You want to know why I love Austin?

Well, partly it is because it's one of those quintessential college towns. Where the margaritas are made the way you just know God would make them if he were bartending. And where the crab enchiladas can turn even the most hard-bitten skeptic into a believer. And where the hot sauce is just a few degrees shy of life changing.

But those reasons are only why I like Austin.

Here's why I LOVE Austin. Where else in America can you walk into a tiny bar on a weeknight and stumble onto one of the great music legends of our lifetime? That's what happened to me Wednesday night. I had arrived in Austin a day early for a book signing at the very cool indie store Bookpeople. It was my final stop of a week in Texas, with stops in Dallas (where I participated in a literacy fundraiser with the elder George and Barbara Bush, who both were gracious and lovely) and Waco (where I spoke before 1,200 people at Baylor University).

As my schedule happened to work out, I had one free night to kill in Austin so I went out strolling and music-trolling on the city's famous Sixth Street. On a Wednesday night I had low expectations of happening upon the next Lucinda Williams or Roseanne Cash. Sure enough, the first few acts I eavesdropped on were perfectly competent but not very inspired Stevie Ray Vaughn cover bands. I had one beer and was about to call it a night when I heard a thumping rythmn beat coming from Nuno's, a tiny tavern with a stage squeezed in the front window. Walked in. The house band was whipping through accomplished versions of blues classics. Then the guitarist said, "OK, let's give a warm hand for our friend Pinetop Perkins."

Up hobbles a very old black man, leaning on a cane. And it's him. Pinetop Perkins... THE Pinetop Perkins. Blues legend. American icon. He takes a seat at an electric piano and begins to play. Then sing. And magic fills the tiny space.

It's Pinetop Perkins, live and in person. The real deal. On a Wednesday night. In front of 30 people. At a joint with no cover, no minimum, and where beers are $4 a bottle. With a backup band so tight it threatened to peel back the wallpaper. And before the night was over, the band from the bar down the block piled in and soon its members were on stage too, joining in, two drummers sharing one drum kit, two guitarists passing back and forth one Fender Stratocaster. And pretty soon it was 2 a.m. and last call and, Pinetop long retired for the night by now, the combined band was serving up a sizzling version of Voodoo Chile that would have made Jimi smile from the grave. And the young tourists from Denmark were grinning and snapping their photos in front of the band, and from their smiles you understood they appreciated what we natives so often do not -- that America, for all its quirks and problems, is a pretty damn amazing place.

And that is why I love Austin, Texas.

Over and out from the Austin airport where it is 5:10 a.m. and I'm about to board a plane home for Philadelphia.

posted by John Grogan at 9:39 AM


Blogger Julia said...

Hi John,
Your book was incredible! Probally the best I've read. Marley is so inspiring. I would pay anything to be you and have all the expierences with Marley! I was crying like tears rolling down my face when I read the end! Send me something at ! I'd love to hear more about Marley.
Julia Lindwall Age 9

11:37 AM  
Blogger AC... said...

John Grogan.
Sou do Brasil, não sei escrever em inglês, só algumas coisas básicas, então, se conseguir traduzir, melhor, acabei de ler Marley e Eu, ri, chorei, me emocionei. Quero lhe parabenizar pelo livro.
AMEI o livro.
Se puder, responda para o meu e-mail:
Virgínia Menezes Pinzon
Brasil, Rio Grande do Sul, Barra do Ribeiro
Thank you

11:39 AM  
Blogger ddevor said...

Dear Mr. Grogan,
I really, really love your book! I can really connect with "Marley"! I have a dog of my own "Molly", who is a pistol... I can't wait to see the movie "Marley and Me"! I would love to hear more stories about you and Marley. The ending was so sad,especially Marley's last photo. I told my mom she has to read the adult book! That's all for now. Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Bye.
Delaney Devor, age 9

2:48 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

We lost our Pita (can you guess what it stands for?) 5 years ago and we still talk about and to her as if she were here. She was a great friend.

I want to tell you that I have read both of your books and there is not another writer that can make me laugh until my sides hurt, remember my childhood vividly, and also make me cry like a newborn. You have such a talent. I am an avid reader and no one has ever brought out those emotions before. And you have done it twice! Please keep writing. I also have your children's book and can't wait for your movie to come out. I know where I will be on Christmas Day. Thanks

6:23 PM  
Blogger Sabrina said...

Hello Mr. Grogan,
I'm from Brazil, I read you book, and OMG it was so great!!!
I laught a lot with Marley's stories, and I cried so so so much at the end, because I get sick when I think that one day, maybe, I'll need to take my 3 dogs to a clinic to do the same as you did with Marley. I'll post the photos from my dogs! I'm so anxious to see the movie!

5:48 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Nice piece on Pinetop Perkins. The best things happen when least expected.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Joanie said...

This post has been removed by the author.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Joanie said...

Glad you got to see Pinetop. Too bad you didn't get to see him with Honeyboy at a Blue Shoe Project performance. The two legends together? Beyond magical.

Happy Thanksgiving!

8:57 PM  
Blogger organic gardener said...

Good morning John: I just finished reading your beautifully written memooir, The Longest Trip Home, and, as was the case with Marley, I found tears streaming down my face in the end. Tears of shared emotions and of remembrance of my own journey. Wow, what a story. Your beautiful parents gifted you with many outstanding qualities, not the least of which were a loving heart, huge capacity for compassion and beautiful honesty... I will, as I did with Marley, shout from the roof tops what a wonderful read this book is.
Thank you for your willingness to share your journey with us. What a ride.
On a side note, I just finished spreading the last of the leaf mulch on our gardens in preparation for the winter sleep here in the Willamette Valley.
Warmest Regards,
Your Organic Gardening friend from Oregon.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Alesia said...

Your book was something I read in record time.I thought I was reading about our big old lab Ladygirl who passed last spring. By far my favorite dog of all times. I am a new author about to be published and you have inspried me.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Matt H said...


just finished reading Marley & Me and I loved it so much. I'm sitting here at 3:40AM on Thanksgiving morning crying like a baby.

What a read. 1st time I ever read a book and cried.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Matt H said...


if possible I would also like to interview you.

Please e-mail me at


12:41 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

Hello John,
Can't wait for the film! Hope all is well with you and yours. Augustus is 10 years old now, he doesn't kill geese anymore, he just runs them off. He's oficially a senior citizen now. Miss you in Philly Man, is just not the same without your column. All the best for continued success! Don't forget to take some time deserve it!

11:04 AM  
Blogger Eugênio Fonseca said...

Sou do Brasil, Belo Horizonte, MG.
Estou apaixonada... terminei ontem o livro Marley e eu e até agora estou emocionada!
Eu ri tanto, eu chorei tanto, eu pensei tanto, eu enxerguei minha vida, meu filho e minha casa de outra forma. Me emocionei com o amor e a dedicação com que MArley viveu e me aliviei em ver que ele se foi tão amado e teve uma vida tão profunda, tão vivida!
Me fez ter vontade em ter um cão, claro, pequeno, porque meu apartamento é pequeno.. mas Marley, nossa! Marley é ar, é vida, é amor e não sei como tantas pessoas abandonam e maltratam seus animais. Gostaria que todas essas lessem o livro, pra pelo menos terem compaixão.
John, você está de PARABÉNS! Que DEUS lhe dê em dobro tudo o que você dedicou a Marley, que você receba mil vezes o amor e a dedicação com que deu a Marley no decorrer de sua breve vida!
Estarei orando por você!!!

Beijos a Jenny e às crianças!

Samara Araujo,

8:03 AM  
Blogger Simbafreak said...

Hi John,
I just finished reading your book. It was awesome. I to had a lab that wasnt as quite as bad as marley, but I sure loved her and miss her dearly. I would love to hear more about Marley and his michevious ways.haha. Thank you so much for letting me into your life with a wonderful-bad behaving none the less lab. By the way my name is jenny also and im from Austin, texas.

Thank you so much.
Jenny Hassmann

7:07 PM  
Blogger john said...

Being from Texas, we all love Austin. Hope you get back soon. Try to see the bats fly out at sun set. Sit on a blanket with wine and snacks. You'll never forget it. I love Marley. My found golden retriever Hemmingway, who was such a good boy, died three years ago and I still miss him. He is the only animal I know that had his own pets, a kitty and a cocker. He brought them home and kept them. We got to play with them but they both knew who their master was. John and Diane

3:03 PM  
Blogger JennyBee said...

I used to love Austin for the very reason you wrote about in this blog, but too much of the city has become yuppified and filled with government hangers-on and rear-end lickers for my taste. That said, there is one bar on sixth street that remains true to the old days and encourages performers to drop in and jam away. Even better, patrons are allowed to bring their dogs in to enjoy the show. Canines are served with their own water and treat bowls.

Some friends of ours are regulars there with Shelby the deaf (and admittedly dumb) German Shepherd and King the 120 pound Lab. Alan Haynes stopped in one night and couldn't resist hanging out with the dogs. Forget the owners - he couldn't resist those huge dogs wallowing in all the attention.

King got most of his demolition tendencies out of his system the first week he came to live next door. After a steady diet of wire crates, window screens, fence boards, locks, windows and metal gate fixtures, he gave it up as a bad job when the cattle wire got installed.

King just cannot be left without human companionship and no mere man-made barrier will stop him when he wants to socialize. My husband and I woke up at 2:00 one morning to find an intruder in the house and our own two dogs going ballistic out in the hall. While my husband went out in the dark to investigate with the dogs, I remained bug-eyed in bed with the phone clutched in my hand ready to call the police, an ambulance or both.

When the first hot blast of wind hit my face, I hit the lights and screamed bloody murder. It was King smiling at me while beating the nightstand with his tail. Sleeping with his dad got too boring so King decided to bust out a few fence pickets and let himself in through the dog door. I just want to know how my husband and both of my worthless dogs walked right past a 120-pound Lab who started the whole thing. :-O

7:21 PM  

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