When you live in a city as loud as New York, you have to find ways to drown out the noise coming from the streets below filled of insomniacs. Ironically, for me the best way to do that, is with more noise, a.k.a sounds from a sound machine app. I usually alternate between a mix of sounds I like to call “Just Around the River bend with Pocahontas”… a native american themed compilation of tribal flutes, forest canopy critters, and naturally running water… and “Irish Countryside”… a soothing celtic melody with soft beach waves in the background. But my favorite, the one I save for those exceptionally restless nights, is “Blissful Getaway”. Close your eyes and imagine a lazy harmony of piano strokes that overlay the sound of the highway… the strong breeze surging into your windows as your car cuts through the air with force and speed, and the gradual whisk of other cars passing by. That is the sound I shut my mind off to and settle into a thoughtless bliss.
So as I sat in the passengers seat on the road to Austin, I often let my mind unwind to the rhythm of the real highway and imagined a melodic accent of sound with each passing car. It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t think about the uncertainty behind me or risk ahead of me, I just sat contentedly in the present with the sun on my face.
And let me tell you that sun was HOTTT. Texas oh Texas, you hot and big son of a bitch. The only state besides Alaska where you can drive for four hours and only get to the center. Where 110 degree afternoons are normal. Where you can’t listen to the radio without hearing brainwashing republican propaganda. Where the lone star flags are as common as ranches, one on every corner. That is until you get to Austin and more and more uncommon things come out of the woodworks in an unabashed “I’m weird, but you love it” kind of way.
One of our first stops was to SoCo, South Congress, for some antique window shopping. The photo above is not my own, but I added it here to sum up the nature of this avenue. Shop after shops displayed an eclectic mix of Mexican inspired “Dia de los Muertos” art and clothing. My favorite was Uncommon Objects, a wonderfully extensive antique shop with some of the most fascinatingly weird southern vintage furniture, pictures, paintings, clothing, and decor I’ve ever seen. The books, for example, were so decrepit, full of yellowing pages, and bound with covers thicker than hide. It reminded me of something I read in a futuristic novel where they referred to printed novels as “textual artifacts.”
Because no antique shop is complete without the borderline creepy, I saw some masks, taxidermy, and dolls that could’ve been used for ancient voodo or dark magic rituals in New Orleans. A block down from Uncommon Objects is a well-known candy shop, Big Top, with a early 20th century circus theme. Pictures of oddities lined the walls… Wolfman, the three- footed boy, the 600 pound woman. It had chocolate covered bacon and more varieties of salt water taffy than necessary. The little girl in me ran free in that shop.
We stayed with a friend this time and kept the tourist spot hopping to a minimum in exchange for the insider’s point of view… always preferable. Now I’m not sure if you can call this a local experience, but we checked out the food trucks. Now, I’m a big fan of food trucks, restaurant quality food for the take out price… hell yeah, but… wait for it… food trailers and buses (!!)… phuck yeah!! Austin beats out Brooklyn and comes second to San Francisco’s Off the Grid food truck spots in my opinion. Because of the live music, San Fran will always reign in the all encompassing mobile food experience, but Austin gives it a run for it’s money.
Like all emerging cities, Austin had it’s fair share of hipsters. I like to think of them as extreme hipsters though because their edgy short haircuts, ferociously long beards, and platformed clogs made them distinguishable. Honestly, it might have just been the beer garden we went to later that night, Cheer Up, on Red River street. I had meet up with a new friend from Italy. Amiee and I went to Rome together and from the moment I meet her I knew she had a unique free spirited sense of style. Now, knowing a bit about Austin first hand, I know why. After catching up, Amiee took us to Cheer Ups, her regular place. It was crawling with extreme hipsters, but I loved it. The indie band and the colorful courtyard made for a chill time with good people.
I hear Austin is known for it’s outdoor recreation and, although we did get to walk along the creek behind my friend’s house, we didn’t have the time to check out one of Austin’s must sees, Barton Springs. As you can see from the pic above, courtesy of WallyG on Flicker, this is a gorgeous swimming hole in which the locals flock to. I mean who needs a pool, when there are crystal like, shallow springs to play Marco Polo in?
Up at the crack of dawn the next morning and back on the highway, listening to my authentic sound track, we passed what looked like a village of state of the art windmills. They seemed to go on for thousands of miles, each one greeting us with their rotations of sustainable energy. It was a not – so – subtle reminder that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, so to speak (although we did pass under it 😉 ) and of the vastness that stood between U.S. coasts. Austin was a glorious halfway point indeed.
Up Next Albuquerque, Grand Canyon, and Sedona!