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East Coast Meets Deep South: The Tex-travaganza Tour!

By Emmy Serviss / Boston


Eye had a great time in Texas! (Eyeball sculpture created by artist Tony Tasset)
Eye had a great time in Texas! (Eyeball sculpture created by artist Tony Tasset)

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!”


The author and Lucas in a video call, moments after purchasing tickets to Dallas
The author and Lucas in a video call, moments after purchasing tickets to Dallas

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.


Seriously everyone, hugs are so good
Seriously everyone, hugs are so good

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.


There is a REASON these cows are called Texas Longhorns
There is a REASON these cows are called Texas Longhorns

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.


The Fort Worth Water Gardens is a hidden gem
The Fort Worth Water Gardens is a hidden gem

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.


Left: deep fried bacon, Center: Mounted antlers at a local shop, Right: The infamous Book Depository from which JFK was shot
Left: deep fried bacon, Center: Mounted antlers at a local shop, Right: The infamous Book Depository from which JFK was shot

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.


One of us drank their milkshake in under ten minutes. Guess who?
One of us drank their milkshake in under ten minutes. Guess who?

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.


Current mood: state of crabbiness
Current mood: state of crabbiness

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.


You may not find YOUR mom at Mom’s Tattoos, but you’ll find A mom
You may not find YOUR mom at Mom’s Tattoos, but you’ll find A mom

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.


Left: photo opportunity on Congress Avenue. Center: a Lone Star outside the Bullock Museum, Right: an ominous sign at Crow Bar
Left: photo opportunity on Congress Avenue. Center: a Lone Star outside the Bullock Museum, Right: an ominous sign at Crow Bar

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.


Obligatory photo with the Bucee beaver
Obligatory photo with the Bucee beaver

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?


From left to right, Benji of CSz Houston, the author, Lucas of CSz Buffalo and Manny of CSz Dallas
From left to right, Benji of CSz Houston, the author, Lucas of CSz Buffalo and Manny of CSz Dallas

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!)


After much deliberation, I will declare that Goode Co, Barbeque had my favorite brisket from the trip
After much deliberation, I will declare that Goode Co, Barbeque had my favorite brisket from the trip

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.


Left: Lucas successfully aquired french toast, Center: Random armadillo statue, Right: The sparkliest shirt I have ever owned – and that’s saying something!
Left: Lucas successfully aquired french toast, Center: Random armadillo statue, Right: The sparkliest shirt I have ever owned – and that’s saying something!

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!


You know the food is good when hugging occurs after the first bite
You know the food is good when hugging occurs after the first bite

We shopped at The Pearl and Market Square.

We walked through the River Walk and the Japanese Tea Garden.

We remembered The Alamo and the Tower of the Americas.

And finally, we ate at El Mirasol, The Magnolia Pancake House and Two Bros BBQ Market.


Holiday lights made the trees at The Pearl absolutely breathtaking
Holiday lights made the trees at The Pearl absolutely breathtaking

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.


Left: first time visiting the historic Alamo, Center: serenity is achieveable at the Japanese Tea Garden, Right: the Tower of the Americas could give Seattle’s Space Needle a run for its money
Left: first time visiting the historic Alamo, Center: serenity is achieveable at the Japanese Tea Garden, Right: the Tower of the Americas could give Seattle’s Space Needle a run for its money

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.


the final ComedySportz match of the trip featured players from Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas AND San Antonio
The final ComedySportz match of the trip featured players from Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas AND San Antonio

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.


There’s no place like home
There’s no place like home
 


Photograph by Caitlin Arcand
Photograph by Caitlin Arcand

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.

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