A Snapshot of My Austin

It was two days after my birthday, at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday.  I was standing on the corner of 4th and Colorado in downtown Austin wearing a bikini and a Harry Potter towel.  My hair was wet, my makeup was smudged, and I’m sure I smelled like chlorine.  As I waited patiently for the “walk” signal, I noticed two guys dressed as Uncle Sam (in ridiculously small cutoff jean shorts, I might add) heading my way from across the street.  They joined me on the corner and we happily struck up a conversation.  You know, just a girl in a bathing suit in the city and two dudes in costume.  Totally normal.  But then, that’s the city where I live. 

I knew almost immediately that I’d be writing about it.

Almost eight years ago I packed up my life and left beautiful western Massachusetts, bound for the scrappy hills, hippie-cowboy vibe, and artistic and academic culture of Austin, Texas. 

A lot has happened in those eight years, but I’m not going to get into that here.  I already do a lot of reflecting back to years past, and right now I want to think about the last seven days.  About how Austin has become my home and my center.

Last week I turned 32 (despite one friend’s repeated insistence that I’m 33; ugh).  It was a Thursday.  Just a normal day, when the only thing I had on the books was time for writing and a few ultimate games.  I’ve never been huge on birthdays (as evidenced by how frequently I forget others’), so it wasn’t a big deal to me that I didn’t have a party planned or that I’d be playing ultimate for three hours when I could be drinking 32 for my 32nd.  That said, I still made a point to meet Sheila in the afternoon for a margarita at the coffee shop/bar/performance space Spiderhouse Café.  Sure, I should have been hydrating for ultimate…but what fun is that?  Sheila is relentlessly smart and funny, so naturally we had a fantastic time just sweating it up on the outside patio, margaritas in hand.  (I had the spicy melon, she had the cucumber lime.  Both were delicious.)

I was pleasantly surprised when Tina also suggested that we grab a birthday drink following our games.  I’m a teacher on summer vacation, so I happily accepted.  Go to a bar in sweaty athletic clothes on my birthday?  Why not?!  It’s not like I had to get up in the morning. 

We went to one of our favorite spots, Black Sheep Lodge, owned in part by a fellow ultimate player and friend named Keith (a.k.a. “Homie”).  I was further pleasantly surprised when a number of other friends showed up to wish me a happy birthday, making it a far more celebratory gathering than I’d originally expected.  Homie kicked things off with birthday shots and a tasty IPA (I still don’t know specifically what it was because he ordered it for me), and Jenna helped out by driving me home at the end of the night…Thank goodness.

On Friday I hit Barton Springs with fellow teacher and ultimate player Dawn (a.k.a. “Dawngo”).  She and I slathered ourselves in sunscreen, laid down two huge blankets, and hid her cooler away in her bag since it’s considered Against the Rules at the springs (even though we only had ice and water inside).  The pool was blissfully cold as always, the weather fantastically hot, and we fell into deep conversation while lounging in the sun.  About halfway through our stay, we ran into new friends Bonesaw, Hoag, Connor and Morgan (the first two are members of the Austin band Full Service, the other two houseguests of theirs), who were looking for a reprieve from the heat since they’re currently building an addition on their house off South Congress. 

This is one of the things that I adore about Austin:  It has all of the great restaurants, happenings, culture and activity of a big city, but the small-town feel of my own Amherst.  Running into the guys was a complete coincidence, but it wasn’t really a surprise.  It’s Barton Springs.  Everyone goes there in the summer.  (Especially when you’re a musician who makes your own schedule or a teacher on break.)

Dawngo and I eventually recognized that we needed to get out of the sun, so we said our goodbyes and I went home to get ready for the evening’s birthday activities with Allison:  Dinner and the Full Service show at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q.  Things started off great—with Mexican food and just enough margaritas to set the mood—when I got a text from Hoag saying that the show was cancelled due to plumbing problems.  So sad.  We paced around outside of Stubb’s for far too long, mourning the show’s cancellation, but eventually ended up at Lovejoy’s drinking good beer and playing “Conversion” (a game I’d explain here except that it’s really too complicated and not all that important). 

The next morning I hit up free yoga at Barton Springs and followed it up with an iced turbo (a sweet, cold, frothy coffee drink) at Jo’s.  Amanda popped over on her bike to chat, and then we both headed from there to Hannah’s place at 2nd and Lavaca, where we laid poolside with Holly, yet another Hannah, and Jess (a.k.a. “Venus”), basking away the Saturday afternoon.  When I finally left, I realized that I didn’t want to put on my dry clothes…Which brings me to the chance encounter with my Uncle Sam-impersonating friends. 

The guys explained that they were on a scavenger hunt, and shared their current clue with me.  We laughed about taking a picture together—two guys in costume, one girl in almost nothing—in the middle of downtown Austin.  They walked me to my car and I wished them luck as they took off at a run for Rainy Street.  Then, on my way home, I caught a glimpse of a march going down Cesar Chavez, which appeared to be a men’s statement against domestic violence.  I rolled down my window and caught a picture as they turned off Congress and passed by my car. 

It had already been a busy weekend, so I was happy to slow down with Alexa that night.  We ordered pizza, baked cookies, and watched Labyrinth, laughing and gasping like little kids the whole time. 

Sunday was pretty quiet, with a little housecleaning, time at the gym, and The Hangover Part II with Hannah for my birthday.  We went to The Alamo Drafthouse, though, which is easily my favorite theater in Austin.  A menu with my movie?  Yes, please!

On Monday I started ultimate camp at the UT Intramural Fields.  We have an almost entirely new staff at camp this year, but they’ve proven themselves to be amazingly adept at this coaching thing.  Their instincts are spot-on, they know exactly how to engage the kids, and they’re a hard-working bunch.  (Breaking the stereotype of the always-late, lackadaisical ultimate player.)  Monday night picked up with wiffle ball with the Full Service guys and friends.  I’ve only recently joined their game, but I’m hooked.  We play around various obstacles in the park—a cement bench, a sand volleyball court, low-hanging tree branches, etc.—and it’s always a bit of an adventure.  But the hazards keep things interesting, and we all show up for the company and the competition anyway.  On this particular night, we followed up the game with a trip to Barton Springs for the free hour from 9:00-10:00.  I’d never been at night before, but Bonesaw had promised me that it would be worth it, and he was right.  There was something very summery about the cooler air, the quiet chatter, and the artificial light in the night sky.  Save Our Springs Alliance featured a bluegrass band that night—Whiskey Shivers—who played while we paddled around in the freezing water.

On Tuesday I hit up my regular yoga class at Yoga Yoga (although my instructor, Mandy, is out of town for her honeymoon), and that night I went to Cipollina with Nazish for my birthday.  We split the crepes and the risotto—mmm.  After dinner we walked over to Contigo for a few more drinks and a bit more conversation.  (I had a Moscow Mule, she had El Pepino.)  We’re neighbors now, so we stumbled our way back home, alternately giggly and pensive.  Because our lives are never simple, but for as long as I’ve known her we’ve shared them with each other.

 Wednesday brought the first practice of the year with my women’s ultimate team, featuring a gorgeous sunset over the IM Fields, solid play, a strong turnout, and an overall good atmosphere.  At one point, after setting up cones for the field, I stopped to reflect on how good it felt to be surrounded by such a positive group of women.  Walking up to the cluster of ladies as they laced their cleats and took swigs from their stickered water bottles, I reveled in the comfortable chatter.  It’s a mixed group of women, ranging almost two decades in age, and many of them don’t yet know each other.  But they were happily introducing themselves, laughing, and gearing up for some frisbee.  I started the team just last year with two friends (Amy and Naz), and I’m captaining again this year.  It was gratifying to see our first practice so well-attended, with the girls gelling quickly and smoothly.  My girl-athlete heart swelled. 

After practice I chatted with Amy in the parking lot about how well practice went.  Then, throwing sleep out the window, I caught the tail-end of an impromptu Full Service jam and hit up Opal Divine’s for beers and darts with Hoag and Connor. 

And that brings me to today.  Thursday.  I’m now 32 and one week, and if you’re only as old as you feel, well then I’m…I don’t know, younger than 32.  I feel like every day holds new excitement and new discoveries here in Austin.  I’m back at Spiderhouse with Allison in a corner booth, both of us clicking away at our laptops, occasionally pausing to talk about our sordid lives or ask an academic/professional question.  We’re both yawning, because neither of us sleeps enough.  I’m still in my clothes from camp this morning, whereas she looks put-together and polished (as always).  We have earbuds in, but sometimes we’ll share a song with each other when we need a break.  I’m drinking an Italian soda because I just can’t have any more coffee, and she’s on her umpteenth refill of caffeine.  I’m headed back to summer league tonight, and even though know that I will once again be without a female sub, I’m looking forward to it.  I’m exhausted already, and my voice is hoarse from pushing it too hard at camp all week.  But it will be good to run around and play, however poorly. 

My good friend Tessa once told me that she moved back to California in part because California is in her blood.  That its culture is the right fit for her.  My family is in Massachusetts, and it’s a struggle being so far away from them all the time.  I miss them tremendously.  But I’ve found another family here in Austin, and when I’m honest with myself I know that the culture of this city is—as Tessa might say—the right fit for me.  I’m a Gemini, so I love its eclectic feel.  I appreciate meeting so many different kinds of people all the time, and it’s that much better that everyone seems so warm and open.  Austin is liberal with a sense of humor.  It’s quirky and cosmopolitan.  It’s educated and down-to-earth. It’s come-as-you-are.  And no, I’m not saying that I’m specifically all of these things, just that I appreciate these qualities about this city.  There are times when I wish that I could slow down a little bit more, but Alexa told me over the weekend that she’s never seen me so happy.  So maybe there’s something to that.  Maybe this activity does sit well on my shoulders.  Maybe this snapshot of Austin—or my version of the city—is the one that I need to frame and hang on my wall, or keep on my bedside table.  Because it’s the one that’s giving me strength and life.  It’s the one that I want to remember and hold on to.

One Response to “A Snapshot of My Austin”

  • SCO Says:

    Love it! what an awesome 7 days 🙂 For the record, you are the youngest 32 year old I know.

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