Last fall marked 10 years that we have lived in Austin. Â Ten. Â Years. Â That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life. Â If you had told me in high school that I would end up in Texas I would have laughed. Â A lot.
We rolled into town for the first time on November 1st, 2001, the day after a tornado struck south Austin. Â That didn’t bother us much. Â We had just flown into New York after three years in Korea. Â August 23th, 2001. Â A couple weeks later everything changed. Â The United States was oddly foreign and the world seemed fragile, waiting for the next disaster, man-made or not. Â So Austin seemed as good a place as any. Â There was music and warm weather and all of our belongings still fit into the back of our station wagon, a green Ford called Nok-cha.
Before long we were doing the jobs-marriage-house routine. Â I was particularly interested in having a yard. Â Living in apartments for 9 years had given me a craving to dig around in dirt and grow things. Â So there we were, working, diy-ing, mowing, growing babies, playing music, making friends. Life stuff.
And still, after 10 years I can’t get it out of my head that this place is temporary. Â I always feel a vague disbelief that I don’t see mountains on the horizon; that the highest point for hundreds of miles is a skyscraper; that all the plants and animals are pointy and/or poison; that strip-malls block the scenery; that everything looks the same; that the thought of summer brings dread instead of excitement. Â Right now the mountain laurels and wildflowers are blooming. Â I admire them with a sense of panic at the impending crush of heat, just as I anxiously enjoyed the fall colors before being buried in snow when I lived in upstate New York. Â After last summer, the feeling that Austin is just a phase in my life has been more urgent.
I guess there are always trade-offs. Â I’ve been talking to a recent California transplant. Â The weather there is perfect. Â The scenery is beautiful. Â But the word she uses to describe California is “competitive”. Â Competitive for money, land, schools, jobs, the right clothes, the right look, the right kid activities, the right people. Â In Austin, she feels a vague disbelief that she can take her kids to swim for free; that such a variety of people mingle so easily; that she can leave the house without make-up. Â Another friend of mine from Brooklyn is equally amazed that she can wear flip-flops to Fashion Week; that no one bats an eye at her filthy batman-costume-wearing kid; that people are truly friendly and helpful.
Austin somehow feels like a small town with big city stuff to do. Â Sure the traffic sucks, the rest of the state doesn’t think too much of us, and the kids say the Texas pledge every morning at school. Â Weird. Â But I like this kind of weird. Â Rob loves his job, the kids love their school, the cost of living could be so much worse. Â And the weather? Â Well, every place has its pros and cons. Â Maybe Austin is a phase, but it could be a long one. Â And most of the time I’m enjoying it.
Just ask me again in September.