Saturday, January 10, 2015

Austin Dispatch Part I

I don't miss Phoenix, and only the Facebook feed of Arizona Highways magazine, with its occasional grandiose photos of rugged craggy sandy-colored Saguaroed desert, is capable of inspiring a pang in me.  But I've always loved the high desert and the forested west and the canyons and peaks and plateaus - who wouldn't?  I remember driving north on the I-17 as a twelve year-old with my dad, off to see some family in Cottonwood, staring out the truck windows at the sun setting over canyons spotted with pinions and junipers and thinking, I love you! I love you, desert.

One of the most annoying things about recent transplants to new cities is their tendency to draw constant comparisons between places.  I did it every minute for months.  Fog?  Oh we don't do that.  What are all these stickers for my car?  I don't like IPAs!  Don't you guys know Four Peaks, jesus I thought the whole country loved them.  Sometimes I don't feel like having a taco for breakfast.  Toll?!

I'm finally beginning to stop as the treeish, big-little city of Austin starts to feel like home.  I think I offended my dad when I called here "home" on the phone the other day, but I can only have one home at a time and Arizona ain't it.

I love a new place because I love learning new history and new plants.  I have a thousand questions, and I feel frustrated when locals don't have the answers.
  • What's the difference between an oak and a live oak?  Are they different?  Oaks here are often smaller than I expect, and twisty like an olive tree.
  • Is this an acorn? Is this other thing an acorn? 
  • Do you call it a crik or a creek?  
  • What is cedar fever?  When will I get it?
  • What's with the whitish-yellow granite?  Slabs of this locally harvested stone are EVERYWHERE.  Houses are built from it, and long rectangular hunks line freeways and parking lots all over the county.  Pieces of it are arranged artfully in front of city hall as makeshift benches that no one uses.
  • Conversely, the Capitol building is built seemingly exclusively of a decidedly pink granite, which I understand to be found in the hill country.  It's everywhere in there, dusty pinky gray.  The Capitol is an expert combination of gilded era polish and 19th century rusticity.  Inside, you will find quality oil paintings of every governor of Texas since the Confederacy.  I happily took a photo of poet/ladies man/Texan president Mirabeau Lamar, but Bush II was also there.
  • Where are all the references to native tribes?  Streets and areas here are named after the topological features, or early Texan politicans.  Cedar-this and lake-that, Lamar here and Houston there.  I have observed zero references to native culture.  There is a modicum of Spanish names, but nothing remotely proximal to the Mexican heritage or population.  Even crazily-racist Arizona has native names galore.  What the fuck, liberal Austin?
  • Why is everyone so nice to me?  Do they want money, or sex?  I don't understand.  
  • What will happen when even more people move here?  The city, small until approximately 8.5 years ago (based on a verbal Pew poll, just kidding, based on anecdotes) is bursting with obnoxious new people who drive the rent and traffic snarls up up up!  How dare they?!
I don't know if I'll stay here forever, probably not, but this is the only place I've ever been where I can eavesdrop on the conversations of construction workers and find they're talking about how to blanch kale, and where I can chat with a bus driver about the premier bat caverns of the world (hint: they're here!) and where the best Detroit pizza is (yes this is a thing), and where people on the street smile at me for no reason in a non-sexual way, and where twenty-somethings who elect to be homeless sit on Congress and bang on overturned buckets next to dogs lazily blinking in the sun.  Those guys aren't unusual in a city, but the ones who hang out around my office are clever even by my asshole standards, and when someone can call something to me in a street and I don't get offended and possibly even laugh openly, then magic has happened.  

The end.

1 comment:

Nick said...

It sounds like your curmudgeonly sensibilities are in peril. Be careful, or maybe, congratulations.