LAST CALL

Austin, Texas is one of those cities where any excuse to visit is a good one. Any time of year, there’s great music, an ever enlarging and ever more interesting restaurant scene. One of the best food truck environments in the country. Great bars. Nearby, there’s like lakes and nature and shit (so I’m told). You can buy yourself a pair of very nice cowboy boots. And they have the best barbeque in the country.

Yeah. I know. Bold words. Especially coming from a guy who has said many times that North Carolina whole hog style is his preferred last mouthful—and that Kansas City is the best all-around BBQ Center.
That was before. This is now.
I am reasonably sure—no…I’m damn sure—that I have NEVER tasted barbecue so perfect, so technically accomplished, conscientiously prepared, austerely seasoned (un****ed up), moist, juicy, tender, still shimmering with perfectly suspended internal fat as the beef brisket at Franklin BBQ and the beef ribs at JMueller. You can LOOK at this stuff and tell I ain’t lyin’. And I challenge you doubters to do just that.

It was sort of counterintuitive to try and shoot an episode in Austin during South By Southwest Festival. Already jammed with musicians and crawling with hipsters of all stripes, you’d think we’d want to find a more relaxed time, a less frenzied environment. But my crack team of professionals like a challenge. And there were so many bands in town and the idea was to see how much music we could jam in one episode between mouthfuls.

Of course, I’m exactly the wrong guy to DO a South By Southwest show. As I was painfully aware, time and again, finding myself sitting next to kids 1/3 my age talking about music. It would have been much more age appropriate, I think, if I’d been selling them drugs. Put it this way: when I was their age? I would have robbed me.

In the end, I made my own, private peace with hipsters I think. God love them—they’re the driving force behind just about every restaurant we want to eat at these days—behind (almost) every positive development in food. We may think we’ve seen quite enough ironically bearded cooks with pig tattoos on their forearms? But let’s face it: we need them for our guanciale. I’d still rather eat in a loud restaurant where I can barely hear my companions over the music than eat in a room with a bunch of golfers.

Speaking of tattoos, I got another one. Let me be clear. At this point, no tattoo is ever going to make me look better or cooler or younger or more relevant. In fact, there’s something tragic about an old dude getting inked in the full knowledge that that thing’ll be hanging off him like a blue smudged mudflap in a few years. I’m just beyond caring. And when those nice kids in Sleigh Bells offered—well…I try and be a good guest. It seemed ungracious to decline. The little black sun was, after all, much more age appropriate than the full back Ozzy Osborne and Angus Young shoveling coal down the crack of my ass one. THAT took some lasering to get off, I can tell you.

Thank you, by the way, to all the bands and musicians who took part in the show: All of them shockingly nice: SLEIGH BELLS, THE SWORD, NEON INDIAN, UME, ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, GOLDEN BOYS. I truly don’t know what’s wrong with you all. Didn’t anyone ever tell you to hate and distrust old people? Let me be the first then.

Seven new episodes of NO RESERVATIONS left—interspersed, I’m afraid, by three (count them, THREE) shows made up of “repurposed” material—aka clip shows.
Seven shows seemed like enough to me. Especially since knowing they were to be our last, we put our heart and soul into them. Austin , Burgundy with Ludo Lefevbre, Emilia Romagna with Michael White, Sydney, the Dominican Republic, Rio de Janeiro and Brooklyn. I like the idea of going out on a high note—still doing strong work. But smarter minds than ours insist that seven is not enough. And that audiences either love—or won’t notice—old footage reedited to look like new—aka “special”— shows. This, apparently, is what passes for creativity in the stratosphere of executive thinking.

I’ve been with Travel Channel for a lot of years now—since back in the day, when it was just me, Samantha—and a bunch of old white guys playing poker. The network, and all four administrations we’ve survived, have been very good to me. Few people in the history of television have had as much creative freedom to do whatever they want, go where they want to go—and tell stories as they wish. Me and my partners have been privileged to be able to make the shows we have over the past 8 seasons—and for that, we’re grateful. It’s a catalogue of shows we’re very proud of—even the failures. We tried always to present—if nothing else—a moving target, to separate ourselves from the herd, whatever it took.

There’s always a right time to leave a party. Any party. No matter how good it is. Some examples of when—exactly—one might consider the notion that one has tarried too long could include:

1) Your host asks you to leave
2) You’re tired.
3) You’re drunk or otherwise inebriated and well on your way to memorably embarrassing yourself.
4) You’re among the last people there and staying longer would make you seem tragic or desperate
5) An unapologetically steaming butthole has just arrived and no possible good can come from you being in the same room with them.
6) There’s a better party down the street.
7) Someone puts Nickelback on the sound system.