Sunday, March 18, 2007

Austin, Texas on my mind

Many of you know that I have started a tradition of taking an exotic trip for my birthday. The first two years I spent whiling away days in historic Cuba with fresh mojitos while listening to live music. Then last year I really upped the ante by going to Afghanistan. Of course that was so far out that I couldn't even remember that it was my birthday. This year fresh off my India trip I decided to take it down a notch, but not too far down, so I chose Austin, Texas. Yes, I know... Texas, did I say Texas?

Many of you may be asking why because perhaps you aren't as familiar with Austin and its many virtues. Others who have been there before automatically get why I'd pick Austin. One friend told me the saying goes "that once you go to Austin, you never want to leave" And I can assure you that my travel companion, Christy, and I spent many, many hours contemplating what our life would be like if we moved to there. Would I buy one of those cute little houses and fill my lawn with yard art, which can be seen all over? Would I have the energy to go see bands and dance the night away every night like it seems like people in Austin do? Could I really trade in all my black for blue jeans, buckles, boots and hats? Perhaps I should give up my career and get a bartending job, work on my rhythm and really learn to two step? Or better yet, there is a lot of cool sustainable growth issue stuff going on in Austin. Could I be part of that?

Yes, that's right; Austin wooed me and stole my heart! Maybe it was all the good looking musicians and cowboys? Or maybe it’s just a continuation of my love for hats. Mostly I've been charmed by turbans this year, but cowboys hats sure stir the heart. The sunny skies and bright clear weather didn't hurt either.

Austin is one of the hippest, coolest, kitschiest cities I've even been to. It's got fashion and style. I've never seen so many colors of blue jeans or so many cool t-shirts. Not to mention the sunglasses! Wow, I wish I had pictures of all the folks in their huge trendy sunglasses! People there have a sway and a stagger. It might be because of the abundance of musicians. (Austin has the third highest density of musicians in the country and calls itself the live music capitol.) Those musicians manage to look hip no matter what they are doing. They are clad with outrageous sideburns and crazy hairstyles!

The music scene in Austin really adds to the city's charm in many ways. First there is always something to do. At many clubs the same bands play all the time and their regular fans seem to have really formed a community. We spent most of our nights at The Continental on South Congress and by the third night there had become regulars ourselves. Christy, who has more of a flair for dancing, gracefully swung around the dance floor, while I chatted up the people by the bar.

I especially liked the multi-generational crowd. Austin is the home to University of Texas and its 50,000 students can be seen everywhere, but there also is room on the dance floor for a much more mature crowd and age doesn't seem to be a factor. In fact we spent my birthday night at a bar with a bunch of 80-somethings and the energy in the room was no less than the younger crowds I spend most evenings with. I think the music and the dancing keep people young. And if age is just a state of mind, Austin is the place to stay young forever.

Some people say that Austin isn't really Texas for which I can only say that people do seem to have moved there from everywhere. We met people from New York and California, as well as many other places in the country. It seems to be a real melting pot for the creative class. Museums line the streets. Hollywood actors are settling there in droves. People are proud of their liberal politics and speak often about how this contrasts with the rest of Texas. And again, music is everywhere.

For someone who is charmed by the Texas of lore, I was happy to take a drive into the Texas Hill Country and bond with cattle. I'm not kidding when I tell you that we had cattle competing for our attention on either side of the road. When we went to one side, the cattle on the other side would make noise and whine a bit till we came to visit them. Driving through the rolling hills by big entrances for the local ranches made me want to see more. We joked about buying a ranch and really leaving New York life behind. For my next trip, I'd like to visit rural Texas to get a totally different feel, after all this is the state that had both Ann Richards and George Bush as governor. It’s certainly more complex than we often give it credit for.

Lastly, Austin had one more little treat for me, the political person. Its home to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Political Library which really brought back to the life the pain and progress of the 60's. Again, I saw the contrasts of Texas life. The president who brought us legislation to stave off poverty, grant more civil rights, clean our water and air... was from small town Texas. He deeply understood the needs of the poor and worked very hard to make our government more responsive to them.

While I'd like to write forever, I have a job to look for and for now its still in New York and Austin will have to wait for me...

1 comment:

Jay said...

Awesome photos and blog entry Cordelia! You really captured Austin... and made me want to return and investigate my Texas roots... thanks for sharing!