OR: “One Year in Texas Makes a Hungry Man Humble”
(sung to the tune of the Murray Head song)
A year ago today my wife and I packed everything we own into a U-Haul truck, and headed west. A day and a half of driving, countless conservative billboards, and a regretful stop at a Mississippi Burger King later, we arrived in Texas’ capital city. 365 days later, some thoughts on the blue atoll in a red sea that I now call home, this island Austin:
For starters, this place should steal Chicago’s sobriquet ’cause it is windier than a bag of farts here, like, year-round. We weren’t quite prepared for that, but were given a heads up by the locals about “the allergies here” and “the bugs here” and “the humidity here.” Those warnings, it turns out, were a bit overstated. Sorry, Austinites, but none of the three compare those of the pollen and critter-filled swamp that is my former home, the Sunshine State. And “the traffic here,” while crappy, is nothing to this former Angeleno. Okay, that’s not true. The traffic is freaking AWFUL. Lanes often play out with zero warning, and during morning and evening rush hours, the highways are more jammed than Lord Helmet’s radar. That said, Texas motorists are, by and large, far nicer than those in California and Florida. You’re reminded when you enter the state to follow suit and drive “the Texas way.” They do, however, tell you it’s cool to punch it on the freeways!
So, yeah, the town suffers from plenty of the same drawbacks as any metropolis — urban sprawl, way-overpriced housing, and LOTS of homeless people. I mean, there’s an almost-comical amount of the latter. Playing ‘Hipster, Hippie, or Hobo?’ is especially difficult to do in Austin ’cause there are tons of each everywhere you look (see, they all have beards, vintage coats, and dead eyes, so the trick to guessing correctly is identifying their varying bad smells). The one thing with homeless folks here is that, because there are so many, a lot of ’em do their darnedest to try to stand out. I’ve seen a dude juggle for change, an ol’ timer with classic movie trivia on his signs, and no lie, another doing stand-up with an unplugged mic.
While this left-of-center spot is monumentally different than the rest of the Lone Star State, you are still constantly reminded that it’s surrounded by the Republic of Texas. Stars and the state’s outline are slapped on everything, from boots to bridges to building sides. Stuff really is bigger here, too. The capitol building is even a few feet taller than our nation’s capitol because of course it is. All this state pride is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just odd to see so much of it. I mean, I come from Florida, America’s wang and political punchline, where every day is Sinkhole de Mayo.
All told, though, I truly am a fan of this happening, wacky, bat-infested city. Its many positives far outweigh a few nitpicky negatives. The food here is freaking amazing. The Tex-Mex, as one would expect in “Tex,” es muy bueno, as are the breakfast tacos (why those aren’t a thing everywhere in the country is beyond me). There’s no shortage of fantastic burger joints either, but that’s not the kind of cow this area’s famous for. Barbeque beef brisket is a religion in these parts, and once you try it, you realize why. There are also food trucks galore. I’m talking permanently stationed ones in designated food truck parks all around town, and many of ‘em are open super late.
More than that, the amount of cool stuff going on at all times is overwhelming. The Alamo Drafthouse, an Austin-based theater chain that I love dearly, hosts world premieres, quote-alongs, and classic screenings almost nightly. And they don’t call this place “the live music capital of the world” for nothing. On top of the vibrant music scene, there’s festival after festival spotlighting more than just tunes. South By Southwest, Fun Fun Fun Fest, ACL Music Festival, Fantastic Fest, MondoCon, and Moontower Comedy Fest are just a few of the annual norms here.
Walking down the backside of Austin City Limits’ Moody Theater, you can look up and see local icon Willie Nelson out on the balcony (under a sign that reads: “Willie’s Place”) partaking in the hippie lettuce before and/or after the SiriusXM radio show he records inside for his own channel on their dial. Following a movie at the South Lamar Drafthouse with drinks at the connecting bar, The Highball, you can end up bullshitting into the wee hours with the likes of ATX residents Elijah Wood or Doug Benson (I’ve been fortunate enough to experience all of these things).
You can never run out of restaurants to try, or things to see, do, or discover in this lone blueberry in a giant strawberry patch. It’s a unique place, Austin — as bohemian and as weird and as crowded and as hipster as you may have heard. It’s my kind of town. It’s where I’m supposed to be.
Thanks for reading, guys and gals. Feel free to come and visit anytime… preferably before late October, when our guest room will become a baby room!