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Living fast in Austin

About three years ago Gail and I were driving home from the Dallas airport after a trip to the city of my birth, Pittsburgh, Pa.. We had been struck by how beautiful a city Pittsburgh is with its rivers, hills and woods. As we looked with fresh eyes at the brown, flat, litter strewn and concrete covered metroplex we had been calling home, me for most of thirty years, Gail for almost all of her life, something snapped and we both realized that we were not happy to be where we were. Gail said "I have something really serious to tell you. I hope you won't get upset." I figured she was going to ask me for a divorce. Of course I was going to get upset. Instead she said, " I don't want to live in Dallas anymore. I want to live someplace nice." What a relief! I don't know which of us was first to name the destination, but we hadn't driven a mile before we were making plans to sell the house in Dallas and move to Austin.

Our home for the last two years, Austin, TX, sometimes referred to by other Texans as The People's Republic of Austin, is the un-Texas. We had been here enough times before we moved to know there was something special about this town but living here has surpassed our expectations.

It is so not-Dallas here that it is somewhat dangerous to drive from one city to the other. The problem is that the attitudes of drivers are so different that to have a Dallas frame of mind in Austin or an Austin frame of mind in Dallas is downright dangerous, possibly fatal. In Dallas it's drive fast, look out for yourself and don't give 'em the benefit of a signal 'cause they'll only use it against you. In Austin it's after you... no after you... no, really... after you... aw, shucks... are you sure?

When Gail and I went to talk to the Austin mortgage banker he was wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. He told us we would love Austin. He said he had moved here from Dallas too, and as he entered the city limits he realized his blood pressure had dropped 50 points, he had changed political parties and he misplaced all of his ties. Now that is a pretty cute statement from a banker.

The geography here is very sweet with the Texas hill country starting on the west side of the city. Also the town has a lovely and scenic river that divides it north and south. You see folks on it in canoes, row boats and even sculling. There is no motor boating on the part that goes through the town. Very nice. The State capitol building crowns Congress Street and you can go there and demonstrate against the war or racism or whatever you want just about any day of the week. The Congress Street Bridge has recently been renamed the Ann Richards Bridge after our late, truly missed and the most fun governor Texas ever had. Every night until the colony migrates thousands of Austinites and visitors sit under and on Ann's bridge to wave off the largest, best loved urban bat community on the planet as they make their nightly sortie to gobble up lots of bugs. The University of Texas is here and keeps this a young city, with plenty of interesting events, lecture series, concerts, plays, sports etc.. lots of them free. I have friends who choose between two and three interesting events at the university every day when they are not politicking.

And of course there is the music. Every where you go in this town there is live music. There are festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, free concerts in Zilker Park by really wonderful musicians, free concerts in front of City Hall every Friday, etc. etc.. Musician songwriters up the kazoo... and of course, the patron saint, Willie Nelson. There is a fantastic radio station, KGSR featuring local music as well as a really locally in tune Public Radio station.

There are lots of neighborhoods, and they tend to have their own personalities, nifty stores, coffee shops, weird shops, great restaurants, etc, etc.. Lots of folks walk and get around on their bikes and don't even go too far around the city since most things are pretty close.

The city not only sponsors concerts and supports local music, they send out a truck to hall off your old fridge and give you money if you get a more efficient one or get a more efficient air conditioner on your house. There are organizations that randomly go around and plant trees and a powerful political group is called Save our Springs. The city owns the power plant, encourages conservation and even sells rain collection barrels for 1/2 price so you won't use up all the water watering your grass.

The local motto is "Keep Austin Weird" and the citizens all seem to do their part. You see people and things here on a regular basis that would stop traffic in many American communities but only get a smile and a thumbs up from Austinites.

Just as a for instance:





"Keep Austin Weird"? That reminds me ... we've got "Keep Dallas Plastic." Is that the best they could think of? (There's even a website www.keepdallasplastic.com)
-- Greg
This makes me want to post all my Austin photos. Maybe I'll get around to it tomorrow. Thumbs up on the blogging, oh Scott! Keep up the good work!
I checked out that website, and it shows a lot of really cool, progressive un-Dallas kinds of things going on. There has been some really nifty progress in Dallas and lets not forget that the big D joined Austin and went majorly (is that a word?) Democratic in the last election. Who woulda thunk?


As a fairly constant companion in your life adventure, I enjoy reading your musings and seeing your photo accompaniements also. Keep it up! Gail
Hey, you have got your SPOUSE reading your blog! That is an accomplishment I have not managed except for about ten minutes the last time I was in Nepal and things were going badly. Suzan called him and said, "What's going ON???" and he had no idea and had to read the blog to find out. But since then, nada. Which is comforting in a way, actually, since sometimes I say things I'm glad he's not reading.

BTW, usha123 mentions you in her post today. This is one way to get readers-- other people refer to you in their posts.
I think it would hurt my feelings a bit if Gail didn't read my blog. I know that if she had one, I would read hers... unless it got all girlie, but Gail doesn't really go all girlie too often anyhow... though she does love her clothes and her nail polish...surly she wouldn't devote too many entries to shoes and nail polish. I also guess it is possible with Gail reading this the blog world may witness some spousal spats... but that is just a regular part of our existence and though we minimize it, we sure can't deny it.

But you know, to JF's defense, I don't think reading in a language that is not his native tongue is likely to be his favorite thing to do. I suspect it is a lot of work for him and that is probably not the best way for him to relate to you.

Off the subject... don't you think it is weird that the LJ spell checker doesn't know that "blog" is a word? I there someone we can point that out to to fix it?
JF prides himself on his ability to read in English. In fact, he's MUCH better at reading in English than I am at reading in French. Almost everything he reads is from the local library in English. So that ain't it.

He doesn't relate to me through my blog because he only very marginally cares about my mind, my mental life, my work.
Ann Richards was cool....I actually voted for her and I was still a Republican at the time. Dallas has it's enclaves of funkiness, it's just hard to find property there!!



Christmas time in Dallas 1968. I've got the German Measles and a fever. I'm home from NTSU and no one is around. I feel like crap. Fortunately, I found a joint and began to fell better. So much better, I climbed into my red VW bug with a smiling orange/yellow sun painted on the drivers door. Words in pshycadelic scroll spelling out "our matrix sun the indian". painted across the car. I have no idea what it means or what I meant, it sounded cool. My electrified Afro red hair stuffed in the beetle I steered down I35 toward Austin. The paradise island in the midst of many rednecks. The land of art and music and free thinking. Paradise. I immediately found the Vulcan Gas Company and enjoyed the blues. Lightning Hopkins was playing for about 15 of us, no cover. The pulsating plasma light show was swirling colors behind Lightning. Another joint and I looked up at the capitol building. Walking along congress I was felling much better. Austin would always be in my heart mind -RBennett

Re: Austin

Wish I'd a been there back then, Robert. Thanks for checking in... and that's some pretty nifty writing, I might add. Maybe a novel is in your future.

January 2009

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