December 15, 2019

Wintry Mix Tour Part Two: Austin & Dallas

In case you missed it, here's part one.

I'm truly not sure where to begin for the Texas half of my Wintry Mix trip because things got weird fast. We spent an entire day in a car driving down to Austin from Omaha, then didn't bother with hotel arrangements until 1am when we spontaneously decided not to camp out. I'm not kidding when people ask my plans and my answer is "I don't know yet." A lot of the time the plan is no plan, and so far it always works out. What's the worst that could happen, we end up on the street?

Thanks goodness we decided not to camp though, because when we rolled out our blankets to sit on in line the next day, one friend in our group got a pretty nasty surprise. It may not be in my usual vocabulary, but this situation can only ever be called the s*** sleeping bag story. The story is that three of us are comfortably lounged on an old school New Kids On The Block sleeping bag, but it just won't fit four people, so Heather goes to the car to get her brand new sleeping bag that has never been opened since we chose not to camp. She pulls it out of the bag, folds it in half, and for a split second I think I see a big dark stain underneath that looks vaguely like smeared tar, but I say nothing, because at the time I did not know that this was a new sleeping bag. Maybe she camps all the time in actual wilderness conditions. Maybe this sleeping bag has been dragged through rugged muddy mountain terrain or perhaps dropped in a puddle like my sweatpants. What do I know of its past lives?

Or maybe, just maybe, let's say for argument's sake that some sadistic human being pooped on it and returned it to Walmart, and then Walmart resold it without ever checking the condition of the item they accepted back into their inventory. I'd like to be joking, but no, 1,000%, this is what actually happened to us, and I still can't believe it. So she did what any rational person who has just purchased a s*** sleeping bag would do. She called the Walmart where she purchased it and somehow with a straight face and serious tone managed to deliver the line: "Hi, I'm calling because I would like to know what is the protocol for buying a sleeping bag that has literal feces on it?" Meanwhile, Morgen is crying laughing hysterically in the background, and I'm trying and failing to shush her so they won't think it's a prank call. I WISH it was a prank call.

In the end, Walmart tells her that they can only refund her money (a whopping $10) if she brings the sleeping bag back with the receipt. That's right. They want us to roll up and repack this poop burrito of a blanket and put it back in our car where we just unknowingly drove with it for seven hours. That's gonna be a massive NOPE. Dear Walmart, I saw this thing in person, and I'd pay me $50 just to promise NOT to bring it back. Trust me, you do not want it in your store. You don't even want it in your garbage can. In the end, we left it in a dumpster where it should have been thrown in the first place before some psychopath returned it to Walmart, and where it DEFINITELY should have been thrown once Walmart took it back if they had any protocol for inspecting returned items. There are two takeaways here: 1. Don't buy sleeping bags from Walmart, and 2. Always keep your receipts, because God knows if you ever find yourself in need of a bathroom, you can always just use whatever you have on hand and Walmart will pay you to take it away and make it someone else's problem.

If you have any desire to harass Walmart a little bit about this or at least boycott one location, you can check out Heather's original post here. And heads up if you're a fan that goes to Hanson Day: this thing was bought at a Tulsa location. At this point I don't care about $10; I'd just like a little reassurance that Walmart isn't going to accidentally sell me another human being's poop in the future. That's what I call really crappy customer service. (sorry not sorry)

And speaking of crap customer service, Emo's in Austin did a really weird thing. About an hour before doors, they sent out a security guard named Tree in a giant cowboy hat who seemed cool and all until he split the line maybe 20 people back and then pulled person #20 and everyone behind her forward to create a 2nd line that would be entering at the same time. Meaning person #20, 21, 22, etc. would be entering right next to #1, 2, 3 and so on. I was in the 30s or 40s so none of this really affected me, but I totally get why the front of the line flipped out. Tree gave lots of speeches about how he's been doing his job for 20 years and how he knows how to handle lines, and he kept saying who was he to say that someone who showed up 30 minutes before doors didn't deserve to be up front just like everyone that had waited for hours? Then he went on about how if anyone cut in line, he'd send that person and whoever allowed it to happen all the way to the back. It was a bizarre mix of morals that I didn't quite understand, but the fans up front finally took it upon themselves to reorganize, so hopefully nobody got too screwed over by the whole thing. I just stood back and watched and was further grateful that we opted for a hotel.

The shows were very similar to the first two I went to in Denver and Omaha, but I was in no way sick of the songs and the overall upbeat vibe of the show that they created for this tour. We got a different new solo from Zac in Austin called "One," and I think I liked it, but I only heard it once out of the four shows so I don't remember much. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get to hear the title track for "Against the World," especially since we could hear them sound checking it from the line in Austin and they posted a video for how we should sing along. I suppose I'll be grateful because I want the album to feel as new to me as possible when it comes out, so there's one more song I still have to look forward to hearing for the first time. I won't be surprised if we get some of these new songs in Jamaica next month, anyway.

After the shows we were lucky to catch Isaac and Zac who were kind enough to stop and take photos with everyone. We ended up with some unintentionally bad paparazzi MOEY style photos with Zac in Austin, which I probably like more than the normal one. Then in Dallas we got caught up in a weird smashed dog pile of strangers when we tried to bend down to let people behind us meet Hanson too, and it was kind of awkwardly great and ended with Zac being amused enough to take a photo. The picture doesn't quite capture how weird it felt to have my knees wedged into a stranger's abdomen, though. Good times.

So in the end, I didn't get to do all the sightseeing and touristy things I told myself I was going to work harder to do this year. I didn't eat a single bite of barbecue in Texas, we saw a pretty cool aquarium from the outside while it was closed, and the most authentic sightseeing we did the whole time was inside a Buc-ee's (move aside, Wawa and Sheetz, we have a new winner in truckstop hybrids of greatness). Truthfully though, I'm not really sad about that. I didn't do much that would sound impressive to people outside of other fans, and I don't have any well-crafted instagram posts of epic landmarks, but I got back that feeling of chasing the music that I think was a little bit missing for the one-offs or my 15th time seeing String Theory. I'll always be happy to see new parts of the world when I have the chance, but it turns out even gorgeous beaches and tiny penguins can't quite give me that butterfly-in-my-stomach feeling of hearing a favorite rare song or the excitement of getting a brand new one. And I don't care what tripadvisor says is the top attraction in any given place, you can't tell me that Hanson's vocal chords aren't a national treasure everywhere they go. This trip gave me back the excitement of following the music first and the world second, and I'm so ready to take on the best of both with this next album and tour.

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