Summer of Color:
The ATX Farewell Tour -
Part I: Home Is Where the Weird Is

Austin is known as the Live Music
Capital of the world.
Ah, Texas. Texas is...well, it's weird. It's so weird, that its capital even took that as its motto. No, really, "Keep Austin Weird" is a thing, and they're serious about that shit. It really is one of the most eccentric cities in the world, and no little part of that has to do with its relationship to Texas. As my brother Jaya and I have often said:

"This is Austin: individuality or death.
...but this is also Texas, so don't think we won't go for death."

Texas Bluebonnets
Texas itself is huge: it ranks second largest in both land size and population [according to 2013 census]. Within this enormous land mass there are multiple terrains & climates: desert, forest, plains, swamps, and even some beaches & mountains. It's broken up by winding rivers and a plethora of decent-sized lakes. It gets hit with droughts and floods, hurricanes on the coast, tornadoes on the plains, dust storms, and even snow. Driving across this vast state, you can't help but be hit with the marked differences...even if it takes most of a day to reach them. 

And set right there in central Texas's Hill Country is Austin, Texas's capital.

Downtown Austin

Outdoor Rotunda - Texas S
It should be noted that its Austin's relative proximity to the rest of Texas that makes its cultural isolation from the rest of that state so interesting. It's said by visitors and inhabitants alike that Austin is a Democratic/ Liberal/ Leftist oasis in the middle of a Republican/ Conservative/ Rightist sea. While this is true, it is decidedly diverse, taking all kinds, like some sort of weird refugees that fell off a music festival truck while looking for breakfast tacos. This is partly due to its status within the state as a major college town (University of Texas, St. Edward's, and Concordia to name a few) and tech center, but it doesn't end there. It has activists and artists, politicians and government officials, ranchers and farmers, tech gurus, college students, old hippies, revolutionaries, filmmakers, and more. Immigrant diversity ranges from California to Detroit to Mexico and beyond. (Which also means they get a lot of great cuisine.) Recreation and entertainment includes a plethora of hiking & biking trails, street performance, garage bands, and even opera & ballet. There's also sports.
(Left)  University of Texas at Austin
(Right)  Skeleton and umbrella street art 
[Looking for name of artist to give credit]

So, Austin has always had to keep this odd balance of divergent personalities, a situation which would make a single person "weird," let alone an entire city. Austin does it with a distinct touch of class. Yes, Austin style is distinct, ranging from hippie to hipster, chic to college-pajama chic. In other words, as long as you make it your own, anything goes. That's kind of how Austinites treat everything and everyone. It's been my home for the last fourteen years. So imagine how tough a decision it was to decide it was time to leave.

Old Spicewood Springs Road

I feel it's important to note that, as a military brat-raised gypsy, it's in my very bones to keep on the move. I itch if I stay in one place for too long, and my extended time on the West Coast fostered a particularly fierce hunger for oceans. So, after being landlocked in the Midwest for 13 years, during what would become my junior high through college years, the last thing I expected was to be landlocked in Texas for another 14 years (and before you even go there, neither the Missouri nor the Colorado are large or encompassing enough to slake my thirst for the Big Waters).

But that's the kind of pull Austin has. I went for career reasons, and ended up staying for the people, the scenery [read: the art scene is everywhere in that town, on the streets, the walls, in your food], and the complete and total lack of snow (that once a year dandruff-dusting on Valentine's does not count). And the food? ...well...there might be a few good places to eat...

Chuy's has some of the best queso in town.
It doesn't just mean "cheese."

I found myself happily sated from a philosophical and spiritual standpoint, as Austin's diversity and independent attitude has encouraged spiritual open-mindedness, too. It's no small thing to find yourself on the patio of a coffee shop at 3am, engaged in dialogue with a Buddhist, a Christian, and a rockabilly vampire over things like quarks & comic books. It was sort of perfect, so why leave?

Cedar Street Courtyard
Nearby is Peche, a speakeasy-style restaurant & bar,
Fado Irish Pub,  and Halcyon coffee shop & cigar bar.

It's a bit cliche, but life really does take us in so many directions. Sometimes it surprises you and you find yourself moving before you even realize what has happened. Moreover, when it's time, it's time, and while I was satisfied from the standpoint of my personal growth, I had fallen into kind of a rut ambition-wise. It's yet another reason the fiber arts feel so timely. It was time for a change. I took less than two hours to make the decision to move back to Iowa, and here I am. But before I could go, I had so many farewells to make.

Before I get to those, however, I want to give a tease to the next post I'll do in this series, as well as a more in-depth post I'll do at a later time. 

Texas State Capitol
As a traveler, I love learning about the history of a place. I learned quite a bit about this quirky little town, as well as Texas, while working as a tour guide at the Texas State Capitol for more than a year. It needs be mentioned that, for better or worse, Texas has some of the most dramatic history of any state in the union. Did you know that Texas was its own country separate from the U.S. for nine years before becoming a state? Or that Austin was meant to be the Capitol of a grand empire stretching to the Pacific? Or that it wasn't even named Austin originally? There are so many stories. Maybe I'll do a series of posts. Here are a few photos to tide you over:

 (Left)  Texas's State Capitol boasts a beautiful facade & spacious grounds.
(Right)   These bronze hinges can be found on all the large doors 
of the original building. They weight upwards of 7 1/2 lbs each!

Saying Farewell

When you live in a town like Austin, saying goodbye isn't a simple matter of having a bon voyage party and leaving town (although I did have one of those; more on that in an upcoming post). No, like some wrathful island god known for drinking too much, Austin demands tribute. Fortunately, tribute for Austin simply to go have more fun exploring, and this god is happy to share its flask with you. Mexican martinis and strawberry margaritas all around.

So, to do justice and say goodbye to my beloved city, I made some plans. Some were even on purpose. Please know that there are so many things in Austin to do, see, eat, and drink, that it would be impossible to do it all in two years, let alone the week mom was going to be down there with me (not that we didn't try).

During my final months prepping, I knew I wanted to hang with good friends and get out have some fun. I'd have to hit South Congress to see the bats take flight one more time.... 

Millions of bats fly out from under Congress Ave. Bridge at dusk,
a nightly occurrence from May through September.

Take in a show or two...

The Wheelwrights play at Guero's on South Congress.

And need I remind you about the food? Well, don't worry. I'll be talking about that at length in a couple posts or so. I know, I know. I'm evil.

All these things were wonderful, but I confess to being particularly excited about one event...

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

I was really excited to see the new Guardians movie, and I knew it was going to be the last time several of my friends and I would get to do our routine movie meet-ups for some time. So, of course, there was no other place to do it than here:

Neon sign over the bar of the now defunct Lake Creek location.

Much of my time in Austin was spent here. That's right. A movie theater. Well, a chain of them. And if you've seen my movie blog, you're probably starting to see a pattern here. I worked at the Drafthouse, movie theater and full restaurant/bar when I first moved down to Austin. It represented an important and sometimes traumatic period of growth for me. I still love this place through its many incarnations, and I believe in its talking philosophy wholeheartedly, which mostly boils down to, "shut up." I'll do an entire post about this place another time, but feel free to check them out here.

After the movie we retired across the parking lot to another staple of Austin: Epoch Coffee's Circa 13 coffeeshop. This is a typical scene you would find from one of our sessions of coffee, cigarettes, games, and discussing literally everything under the sun, including movies...especially movies...

Magic Cards, cigarettes, and caffeine.

It was a great day, and reminiscences were high. I wasn't done with my bon voyages, however, by a long shot. More to come!

A view of Congress Ave. Bridge and downtown Austin
from the south shore of the Colorado River.

Next Time: Picking Mom up at the airport...and dragging her all over creation.

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