By Emmy Serviss / Boston
Since getting vaccinated back in May, I’ve managed to take a couple quick trips to visit my parents in NYC and see my brother get married in Indianapolis. And while spending time with my family provided some much-needed love and hugs, my need to travel wasn’t quite quenched. However, way back in the early days of Covid-19, my ComedySportz friend Lucas and I came up with the idea that we should take a two-week road trip around Texas.
Why, you ask?
Lucas and I are both improvisers with our local ComedySportz teams – he a member of CSz Buffalo, and I a member of CSz Boston. And since ComedySportz has locations in over 30 cities across the US (and one in Manchester, England) we had become online friends with other improvisers who lived across Texas that we had never met in person. Plus, neither Lucas nor I had been to Texas before, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity!
Talk about embodying the age-old improv proverb of “Yes, and!”
So, Lucas and I decided that we should run with our absolutely ridiculous idea and while together on a Discord video call, we booked our flights. The plan was to fly into Dallas, meet up with our friend Manny and then drive to Austin, Houston and San Antonio, and then fly home from San Antonio. We booked our flights on April 6, which meant that we had to then wait seven whole months until it was Texas time.
It felt like an eternity.
I kept reminding myself that I had spent 18 months locked away in an apartment, and I could make it through the next seven months. Time ticked by sloooooooooowly. But finally…the big day arrived. It was time to saddle up and fly south.
From Fort Worth to Dallas
First stop was Dallas. Lucas and I were both lucky enough to get our booster shots the week prior to flying out, so I had absolutely no qualms when our friend Manny picked us up at the airport and immediately engulfed us in a massive bear hug.
We got to perform with CSz Dallas, tried fried Okra for the first time (it tasted like a cross between eggplant and zucchini), visited some amazing waterfalls right in the middle of downtown and watched a mini-cattle drive in the historic Fort Worth Stockyard. We spied with our little eyes a BIG eye and had our first taste of Texas BBQ.
From the very early stages of planning this trip, Lucas and I were adamant that we sample BBQ in each city we visited, in order to make an informed opinion about which city had the best BBQ. In Dallas, we ate at Intrinsic Smokehouse and holy cow (pun intended), did they set the bar high! Their brisket was tender and flavorful and the ribs fell right off the bone.
Additional adventures in Dallas included:
• Eating deep fried bacon.
• Viewing the site of JFK’s assassination.
• Exploring a Neiman Marcus and almost getting kicked out.
• Learning the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine.
• Discovering that Texas REALLY enjoys taxidermy.
• Like, a lot.
• Starting the tradition of saying “boots” every time we encountered boots.
• Which was also a lot.
Batty for Austin
Next on the list was Austin! I had heard the expression “Keep Austin Weird,” but I also lived in Portland, Ore. for three years, so I felt like I had a good handle on the weirdness that was in store. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised by Austin’s weirdness! We watched the daily parade of bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, had a drink in a spooky Halloween-y themed bar and enjoyed some delicious boozy milkshakes at Hopdoddy Burger Bar.
But the weirdest thing that happened in Austin, was when Lucas and I got matching crab tattoos.
You may be asking, “Emmy…WHY did you and Lucas get matching crab tattoos??”
The short version is this: over the course of our quarantine, our group of friends that played Jackbox games together adopted a crab as our unofficial mascot. Instead of applauding for each other or cheering, we’d turn our hands into pretend claws and repeat, “Crabcrabcrabcrabcrab.” It’s silly, but sometimes we need a little silly.
Anyway, Lucas and I had discussed it and decided that we’d get our crab tattoos while in Texas, and surprise everyone with photos later. I had already gotten three tattoos previously, but this was Lucas’ first tattoo! Donny from Mom’s Tattoos took amazing care of us and we couldn’t have been happier with our newly inked crustaceans.
The only downside was that Austin BBQ is really hard to acquire. Every time we tried to plan a meal, the establishments we called either had a 60–90-minute wait for a table, or they were sold out. Like, completely out of BBQ. Apparently, this was typical, and some restaurants would run out of BBQ at 2 p.m. and that would be it for the day.
We did manage to sample some brisket during brunch at Phoebe’s Diner on our way out of town, so Lucas and I were still able to check Austin off our BBQ list.
Hungry in Houston
Two cities down – two to go!
While en route to Houston, we made the obligatory pit stop at Bucee’s – a Texas staple. If you’re like me and you had never heard of Bucee’s before, it’s essentially a glorified highway gas station. However! It’s the biggest and nicest gas station I’ve ever seen! Bucee’s is a Texas chain, so each location has a gas station that is attached to a GIANT convenience store, which sells far more than your typical 7-Eleven fare. You really could do your Christmas shopping there and not even feel guilty about it.
Anyway. Moving on to Houston.
First stop was CSz Houston to perform with them for their 31st anniversary match! The following days were filled with new friends, kolaches and lots of shopping. And if you’re like me and had never eaten a kolache before, it can be either a sweet or savory pastry that is very popular in Texas. The most noteworthy purchase was the most ridiculous shirt anyone has ever seen. When I tried it on, I became a walking sequin. Naturally, everyone demanded that I buy it. Who am I to disappoint?
For BBQ experience #3, we went to Goode Co, Barbeque. The brisket was succulent, the mac was cheesy and I didn’t dare touch the jalapeño bread. (my tolerance for spice is spectacularly nonexistent) The meal was made complete when I was chatted up by a very nice man who was at least 25 years my senior, and he decided to tell me all about the Doctor Who spec script he intended to write. (Best of luck, Norman!)
Bonus Houston shenanigans included:
• Finally mailing out the postcards I had written back in Dallas.
• Getting my first experience of Texas queso! (seriously, so tasty)
• Meeting my friend’s adorable 2-year-old and watching Tangled together.
• Lucas deciding that getting French toast at 10 p.m, was an immediate need.
• Trying to convince my friend Scott to follow us to San Antonio, so he could finish my meals and I could stop hoarding leftover containers.
Unfortunately, we had so much fun hanging out with our ComedySportz friends, we didn’t actually get to see much of downtown Houston. I guess I’ll have to plan a return visit in 2022!
Reunited in San Antonio
Somehow, we found ourselves on the last leg of our road trip to San Antonio. Our first stop was at La Marginal – a Puerto Rican restaurant that served food so authentic, it made Lucas and Manny embrace in utter joy. I had never had Puerto Rican food before and it was absolutely delicious. We had intended to go back for a second meal, but sadly we weren’t able to squeeze it in to our schedule. The next few days were absolutely jam-packed with all that San Antonio had to offer!
Somehow, we did all that and also had time to perform with CSz San Antonio, have an in-person game night and go out to karaoke. I think I remember sleeping at some point, but maybe that was just a fever dream between activities.
Back to Boston
Finally, it was time to return to life in Boston. I honestly don’t think I could have fit all my Texas gifts, snacks and souvenirs into my luggage, but thankfully one of our Houston friends gave Lucas and I duffle bags, so crisis averted! While flying back home, I replayed all the amazing fun I had on my very first trip to Texas.
I thought about how happy I was to finally travel again, and that I had enough money saved up to make this trip happen.
I thought about how lucky I am to have friends like Lucas and Manny who will not only agree to go on a whirlwind vacation with me but will ‘yes, and’ every step of the way, and make the trip an absolute joy.
I thought about grateful I am to have made such amazing friends through ComedySportz during a global pandemic, and then to be able to meet them and continue those friendships in person.
While I can’t say that I’m thankful for Covid-19, I WILL say that I’m thankful for the opportunities that were born from the aftermath.
And I’m also thankful that my cats remembered me after having been gone for two whole weeks.
Emmy Serviss is a Boston-based writer, actor and video editor. Once it is safe to return to live theater, you can find her performing with ComedySportz Boston and the sketch group SUZZY. When not on the stage, Emmy enjoys indulging in her new pandemic hobbies, laughing way too loudly and counting the days until Halloween.