Although these days he spends most of his time riding horses on his Hawaiian ranch, Willie Nelson is just about as synonymous with Austin as Zilker Park. He's made such an impression on the city that we honor him in every chance we get: in murals, as a statue in front of the Moody Theater (which sits on Willie Nelson Blvd.), on T-shirts and with his 4th of July Picnic.
So in celebration of the Red Headed Stranger's 88th year around the sun, here are just a select few of the reasons Austin loves Nelson.
We get to celebrate his birthday twice
Nelson was born just before midnight on April 29, 1933, in Austin, Texas, the county courthouse didn't record his birth until the next morning, officially giving him two birthdays, as he explained on Sirius XM in 2018. Nelson celebrated on April 29 exclusively until he turned 18, joined the Air Force and obtained a copy of his birth certificate. Instead of fretting about the clerical error, Nelson saves people the confusion by celebrating on both days. If anyone deserves two birthdays it's him, right?
He has done some outlandish things for weed
It's not a secret that Nelson has a certain affinity for the devil's lettuce but he didn't start smoking it until he was 21, even refusing the first time it was offered to him. He has since been serious about destigmatizing the use of cannabis. He recently started his own line, called Willie's Reserve, and held a cannabis convention this year. In the in-between, though, Nelson says he's been busted more than a few times for possession.
Upon coming home to see his Tennessee house on fire in 1969, Nelson ran inside in search of two things: his beloved guitar and a pound of Colombian bud. However, Nelson says he didn't go after the weed to save it but to keep himself out of jail for possession.
Equally crazy, Nelson once smoked a joint on the roof of the White House with Jimmy Carter's son, Chip. Ticking off the bucket list, Nelson tried to do the same on the roof of the Governor's Mansion but was caught before the goal was achieved.
One of his albums was released to pay off IRS debt
Owing an estimated $32 million in taxes to the IRS, which Nelson attributes to mismanaged money and bad accountants, federal agents raided Nelson's home in 1990 and seized some of his assets. After the seizure, the IRS charged him $16.7 million. Nelson released a two-disc acoustic album titled "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?" and gave the IRS a portion of the profits. The ordeal was settled in 1993 and Nelson is proud to say he lived to tell the tale.
He's been a performer since he was a child
The first time he ever performed in public, Nelson was 5 years old and recited a poem. He had such a bad bout of stagefright that he started picking his nose until it bled onstage. Though his first performance didn't go well, he was gifted a guitar one year later, when he was 6, wrote his first song when he was 7 and joined his first band when he was 10. By 13, he had played with Bob Wills, the "King Western Swing" music and got a job in a Bohemian Polka band as the lead singer and guitarist. The rest is history!
He's been playing the same guitar for 50 years
Named "Trigger" after Roy Rogers' horse, Nelson has been playing the same guitar for 50 years, which explains the scratches, nicks and beat-up look the instrument has, but he loves it the same. After his trusty Baldwin was damaged beyond repair by a drunk man at a show, Nelson got into the market for a new one. A Martin N-20 classical guitar, Trigger has been with him through his house fire and when the IRS came to raid Nelson's home, he sent Trigger to his daughter, Lana, in Maui, Hawaii, for safekeeping. The guitar has been through hell and back, it even has a hole in the body from use, and sees a guitar technician frequently but still plays as good as it should.
We hope you have two "Willie" nice birthdays, Mr. Nelson!
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🗓 All weekend
Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities
All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park
This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.
6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.
10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park
Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.
Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.
11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway
Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”