Part One: Undressing Austin

by Rachel Gertz

Friday Night Lights in Austin
Right after a million bats pelted us, we hit the Congress bridge to watch traffic. This city is not a boot.

I’ma spread this into two posts to give Austin the detailed review it really deserves.

It seems fitting to wait until our last day in Austin to relate any personal experiences about Austin. We wanted to eat it all up like a complete taco & fried pickle combo before commenting on its flavour and unique charm. And if I may be so bold, the delay had a lot to do with the fact that I was constantly scarfing down guacamole which really makes it very difficult to type. Possible, but difficult. Green keys. Yech. 

So anyway, here we are. Our last day in this hot little pocket of fun, and we’ve been left shaken and stirred. Much like our last tribute, this one is glowing. Then again, last year’s experience involved merely cozying down for a week during one of the busiest festivals of the year (SXSW). This year sparkled at a different frequency. I think it’s because we really got to see its underbelly.

Because We Lived Here!

When you commit to living —really living in a city, you get the chance to explore it from the inside out. Now, If you stay for a week, you can comment on the overall level of well-being you get from said city. You can usually thumbs up or down the food, and get a general impression of the people that inhabit it. You might even get to know the transit route or cabbies fairly well and feel well suited to make commentary on the local sports team. If you dare.

But you don’t get to sink your teeth into the city. You come, you pull your shorts and cigars out of your suitcase and you whisk yourself here, there, and everywhere filling up your calendar with booze, playdates, and prostitutes. You don’t get to pause and just breathe in the city. You don’t get to muddle your thumbs through the pages of its history. 

That’s how we felt last year. We loved Austin, but we sure as hell didn’t get to know it. PS, there were no prostitutes, but I do know some people who could verify a night on the town and some strippers. Living in a city for a month gives you a unique opportunity to blend in. People didn’t even know we were Canadian until we opened our mouths to say, ‘It’s about 3 miles that way’. That damn rounded ‘o’ gives us away every time. There’s nothing wrong with being Canadian, by the way. We just get shy when people call us out on our rounded vowels. 

This type of living is actually more adventurous than moseying around in a Winnebago (although that was fucking fantastic —don’t get us wrong). Our trick was to avoid that wide eyed look that totally gives us away as tourists; instead casually hanging out in local Austin watering holes. For us that meant coffee shops, bars, and theatres. Not to mention a ton of other places I’ll mention later. 

Outdoor Patios and Sunset Purple
A twilight patio. Not like the movie. That’s some stupid shit about imaginary things.

Watering Holes

Coffee Shenanigan

Now, I am a strong purporter of coffee shops. You can really get to know a city by swirling a chai latte around in your glass while watching Austinites moving efficiently through their day. Since Trav and I happen to spend our lives on the interweb, we’re in them a lot, working —or pretending to.  Austin has a diverse range of coffee shops from Jo’s Coffee (with full menu and beer list) to the ubiquitous Starbucks filled with the chillest people around. 

Verdict? The coffee shops are relaxed, friendly, and non-judgemental. People read lots of paperbacks, study lots of textbooks, and show lots of affection to friends and lovers without being obnoxious. I remember other coffee shop patios where it took 3. 4 seconds for someone or their dog to fray my nerves. By the way, Austin’s a dog town, but the dogs are as chill as the people here. You can sense their respect for space and boundaries. They hardly ever pee on your shoe. 

Not only do the coffee shops let us people watch, we also get a chance to read news and find out what’s actually making the city tick with energy and with anger. How often do you read a full paper on a week long vacation? There’s so much more to tell you, but I have to move on.

Drummin' on Blocked Off Streets
 A drummer peddling his snares. Because people can here, they do. Everywhere. And they effin’ rock the crap out of Austin doing it.

Bar None

Another way to know if you have a dead ringer awesome city is to go to the bar. Now you may know that I am no stranger to bars, beers, and alcoholic tears.  And you may already know that Austin has a lot of them.  I don’t want to paint the picture that I need liquor to have fun. We ventured out plenty of times and I only drank a few vodkas.

Okay, wait: wrong weekend. That was SXSW I’m remembering. That was Scrivs’ genius plot to get us drunk on a vodka and a new bar every five minutes which ended in this shenanigan. Apparently there exists equivalent footage of me doing the Künt Svaggar, but I deny it till the evidence is undeniable.

Red lipstick makes you invincible. Or drunk.
Evidence of vodka: note the blurry boob shot and red lipstick. Yep. Vodka will make you wish you stopped after the 6th or 10th. Was it 10th? PS: That’s @Scrivs on the left boob and @Stickel on the right.

Umm, what I’m thinking of is post-SXSW, while we were detoxing. There’s nothing more pleasant than casually sipping a Shiner or Lonestar on a sunny deck filled with beautiful Austintonians. I was going to name a few of our favourite locations, but just realized that you really have to go out of your way to find a shitty bar. I’ll let you do that.

The bars. They’re all good. They’re all relatively cheap. And they are all busy on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night. Now that’s how you party. 

Drinking up Theatre

The secret to living in an awesome city is to fill it with historic theatres that serve beer and a full menu. Austin has at least two of these, and they are called the Alamo. Wednesdays are cult film night. Need I say more? I had a dream last night that we converted our Scotia Theatre in Calgary into a power house of delicious beer, movies, and cheddar nachos. I’m pretty sure I experienced the big O when I brought the cheese to my lips. 

Just sayin’. 

What Does This Mean? Dancers in Red
I don’t get it either. But I like it. Austin dancing its bleeding heart out.

Walk All Over the Bitch

Walking a city is a surefire way to get to know a city. Our friends and other south byers understand that inflammation and bunions  mean you have gone where the cool kids go, and you have seen the pearly gates of heaven. Or Austin (depends what you call it). SXSW is a ten day marathon of walking. We learned to respect our feet because after a good 6 -10 miles a day for ten days, we started feeling like our feet were made of raspberry jello, and the bones were only there to poke fun. 

When you walk a city you begin illuminating that Zelda-esque map of imagination. Cupcake joints, BBQ, funky clothing boutiques, that new Whole Foods Market. Stirring locations all start popping out of the blob of buildings you failed to notice the day before. I love this process. I could walk the streets like this over and over, wandering around slack jawed and dithery until someone offered to call the nuthouse on my behalf. These are days where I mostly leave Travis to his own devices. He goes a little batty if there’s no particular destination in mind.

I found: 

  • Duo: a boutique of awesome dresses that called me in twice to explore &/or purchase
  • Cafe Crépe:  A tiny yellow cafe that serves homemade crepes with gold inside them. Seriously. Melt in your mouth gold.
  • Yogurt. Not one place in particular. Just frozen yogurt and your taste buds in a 2 pm rendezvous.
  • Delish: Cupcakes Umm. Red velvet. Fuck me gorgeous.
  • Parts & Labor: Trav found a shirt. Burt Reynolds & Tom Selleck as unicorns touching horns. There’s a rainbow in the background. Tagline: Dreams come true. It’s beautiful.
  • Barton Springs: A cold spring in Austin flowing at a steady 68 degrees, this spring is just the thing to keep your privates close and under duress. We earned a great sunburn. But our darling Calgarian, Chelsey, suffered worse. 
I told you. Burt and Tom make it real. Shirts.
I told you it was real.
Pee-wee Herman pleads for a Second Chance
Pee-wee Herman on the walls Austin. He’s cool—minus that weird shit he did in the theatre.

Anyway, you get the idea. Lots of awesome when you walk the streets. Except if you’re hooking and your pimp finds out you’re eating cupcakes instead of eating cupcakes. If you know what I mean.

Apologies for the vulgarity. We’re emptying the fridge right now which means a Riesling and at least five beers. Oh, and two oversized cupcakes. Bitches.

Moving on. Don’t let me forget the local wildlife…

Bird is The Word

When you get to know the birds of the city , it’s a sign you’ve gotten familiar with it (actual birds, not a derogatory euphemism for women). Here in Austin they have these wacky little birds that flop all up and down the pavement like addled pterodactyls. Someone told me they’re called grackles. Many of them are missing feet which likely is a conspiracy. Turns out they migrated up from central America.  Listen to their crazy squawks; they’ll send a chill down your spine. You probably won’t notice them until they… 

A. Poop on your head. 

B. Start puffing up their bodies & spinning their heads around. 

They sound like they’re gargling satan’s seed. There’s more birds here than just grackles, but I don’t want to bore you with the details. You’ll hear them when you get here. Birds, man. Birds.

Grackle kind of sounds like Rackel which is my nickname. Fact.

Stay tuned for a deuce. It’s coming.

I might be drunk.

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