Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Welcome to Austin


June 5

There are some cities that are easy to describe. All you have to do is walk down their streets, and words fly out at you, getting stuck in your hair, sticking to the soles of your flip-flops, and dancing around your head like flies till you pluck them out and slip them into your bag.

My first day in Austin, which people had already pushed up onto a pedestal with praises and odes, and I walked slowly, with my camera around my shoulder and my eyes wide open. I was scouting the city, watching closely, gathering ammunition for my day’s blog. And I wasn’t disappointed.
My friend’s apartment is close to UT, Austin, and there are little shops and cafés that sprout up on street corners no matter which direction you take. The heat, the papery bougainvillea, and brown people with black hair – there is a lot here that reminds me of home. The small almost-grocery shop located right around the corner from these apartments also feeds into nostalgia. Friendship store, anyone?

The city is bubbling with energy, the laidback mellow happiness of a summer that has just started. There are young people everywhere, talking way too loudly in the night, carrying six packs of beer and walking in shorts and flip-flops. Groups of kids peering into the turtle pond, couples holding hands, or solitary souls walking to the beat of their music; like most areas around university campuses I see very few older adults or little kids. After a week in suburban Dallas, it doesn’t bother me. I like the energy, the potential for dreams. It’s like the excitement before a trip you’ve been planning for for a very long time, and the excitement just mounts as the date creeps closer. You pour a drink into a glass and it bubbles golden, frothing eagerly and swiftly. A big house in suburbia is when the glass is full to the brim and the bubbles overflow and then they start dying. And yeah, it’s a glass full of something you like to drink but the excitement is gone. It’s just there. Like all things that are just there, you start taking it for granted.

Anyways, as usual I digress with the metaphors. There are the young people, and the cool architecture. We had Mexican food at a café on a street with works of art for homes. There was one with a square, minimalist structure and a wide balcony, with a slow moving fan in the balcony. Another with an entrance dolled up in fairy lights of all kinds, tastefully tacky. And another with its entrance slightly elevated above ground, a modern-style silver walkway angling up to it. There was a large indoor lamp placed outside next to a bright green plant by the walkway.
‘The city’s motto is to keep Austin weird,’ my friend told me.

Then there are the bugs. You can hear them in the trees. ‘Birds,’ my cousin told me, ‘crickets!’ my friend said, ‘locusts,’ her boyfriend corrected her. They buzz and hum, as loud as leaves rustling in a storm, raucous as birds at dusk. Cockroaches, and crickets, June bugs and that strange black one that hops around in the evenings by bright lights. Spiders and mosquitoes. Everybody wants to be in Austin, I guess.

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