I was probably the lamest person at ACL

I am a grade-A claustrophobe. Even with the shared experiences of hearing great music and drinking cold beers and spending a weekend outside with friends, a large, unwieldy crowd of people is almost always a dealbreaker for me. That means I’m probably not the best candidate to attend a pretty big and famous music festival.

So when a couple of family members came down for a three-day Austin City Limits experience they’d been stoked about for quite a while, I knew I had to steel myself for a long weekend of panicked crowd navigation in the name of getting to see a ton of superfamous and supergreat musical acts all in one place.

OKAY: I am not going to act like I’m morally superior here by offering up my piping hot take that I think concerts are terrifying. I might get the tiniest bit sanctimonious when I’m salmoning upstream amid a throng of glitter-sprayed college kids. But I also really love drinking beer in the sun while listening to good music. Here’s the thing, though: I can do that wearing headphones on my balcony. By myself.

I really do love live performance and am, ahem, an ardent supporter of the arts. But there’s another thing that made ACL not the best fit for me: I have kind of weird taste in music. It’s just not super… ACL-friendly.

Spotify doesn’t lie.

Again, I am not writing this as some sort of backdoor claim to coolness because it’s so devastatingly hip to express disdain for, or misunderstanding of, what everyone else likes. I got over that, like, a year ago. (I KID.) I’m not going to feign bewilderment at how one could possibly have fun listening to music they love, LIVE, while jumping around with their friends. I get being immersed in an experience. Hey, I went to Lilith Fair like three times in the 90s.

It’s just that Christopher Cross doesn’t really headline at gigs like this. And that’s great news for us both! (OK, he might not feel this way.) Typically you get to sit down to have live showtunes in your face for a couple of hours. I can totally appreciate the insane levels of talent I was sharing a park with all weekend, but if my options are a) a lot of great acts about whom I’m moderately enthused and b) running for the hills in order to avoid a crush of people and an inevitable string of real panic attacks, leaving early will win 11 times out of 10.

We really had fun with our guests, and – more importantly – they really loved ACL. I came to the stunning and freeing revelation early on in their visit that they weren’t here to see me, they were here to see Jay-Z and Chance and the Killers and all the other bands they raved about the next morning… after I’d gone home each night. So, we all won: I got to hang out during the day, keeping my exposure to nightmare-fuel crowds to a minimum, and everyone – myself included – could be mercifully spared from my inevitable freaking out by being stuck among tens of thousands of people having a way better time than I ever would have.

I don’t know, maybe this is one of those things I get to just be fine with now that I’m an actual adult rather than someone who thinks I have a factory defect because I don’t like X or Y or Z. I’ve said this in other spots on the internet before – if I don’t like something, I can either suck it up and have a good time; I can shut up and not be a dick about it; or I can leave.

I’m really glad that my ACL recap turned into Meditations on Feeling Obligated in One’s Mid-Thirties, but if I’m being honest that’s where 90% of my thoughts inevitably careen these days.

Me with a few thousand of my closest friends, and clearly the best one is Miller Lite.

Empirically, ACL was a wonderfully run festival. The food was great. The park was huge and beautiful. Paying for things by just swiping my wristband was fantastic. The lineup was impressive, to say the least, and I don’t know anyone who had a bad time. It was just an experience whose fullness was lost on someone whose enthusiasm was anemic as mine was. But I’m not slagging any part of the weekend – that’s on me.

Live, thank you! Ryan Adams, I really enjoyed the five minutes I caught of you! Andrew McMahon, a high five to you and yours! Portugal. The Man and First Aid Kit, many happy returns! The other acts I saw but didn’t recognize, thanks for you and your art. I know you gave a whole lot of people a whole lot of joy.

Just don’t expect me in the pit next year. Unless you’re at a Steve Winwood show with, like, three other people.


(POSTSCRIPT RECORD SCRATCH: This is a story for another time, but last year I did choose, plan and pay to go to a Pitbull concert and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life.)


I realize I may have been inadvertently playing the condescending, disingenuous “oh, how will I ever understand the complicated ways of this crazy new town” angle. Listen: I’m not Balki. Nor do I believe for one hot second that any of the places I’ve lived before this are better or worse than where I live now. I don’t want to come across like I’m some sneering City Mouse who thinks I’m now surrounded by oily bohunks. I AM NOT.

My neighborhood in Chicago was about as sleepy as one could get inside the city limits, and I am in no way longing for the hustle and bustle of stereotypical urban life (minus public transportation and gridded streets). I’m just externally processing my own awkward feelings about transition, and understand I may have seemed like a real dick about it along the way.

So with that said, I want to make sure there is enough positivity here. #goodvibesonly, obvs.

Here are 10 things I truly love about Austin:

The food.
You guys. There are so many wonderful places to eat here, and for us, they’re so easy to get to. There is a reason why I have embarked on two stupidly restrictive diets after only having lived here for four months. I literally can’t stop shoving tacos or BBQ or so much fusion food in my gaping face hole.

In our house we have adopted a “surprise Friday dinner” date night, and each week we alternate turns choosing a place to eat and surprising the other person with it. It is really fun, and we have gone to some truly amazing eateries. Odd Duck! Pitchfork Pretty! Old Thousand! Caroline! Plus, there’s Uchi, Launderette, Hillside Farmacy, Takoba, Perla’s, Wu Chow… the restaurant scene here is just wonderful all around.

In addition to the food being great, so much of the restaurant decor is generally just really well-thought-out and charming. A+, would buy from seller again. Austin, I love your food.

The bars.
Listen, I’m in my mid-thirties. I’m sure as hell not heading over to Dirty Sixth at 11 p.m. on a Saturday. But I’ll be damned if I don’t love a good happy hour, and there are so many of them here. And not only are the bars very chill and great – there are a ton of awesome breweries. I am still desperately seeking my HG IPA here, but it’s been REALLY fun exploring the local options.

The casual attitudes.
I have worn jeans to multiple job interviews and it has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Like, I might never have to buy another pair of those lined poly blend pants from Banana Republic. I might never have to use or even think about the word “blouse.” This is something that speaks deeply to me.

I have the wardrobe of a college student. And I’m not sorry about it. In my old life, every time I had to dress more than semi-professionally for events or conferences or meetings, I looked and felt like a monkey dressed in human clothes. Overall it was just not a good look. Lots of scratching and tugging. AND SWEATING.

Multiple times before we’ve gone to events or restaurants here, I’ve asked if what I’m wearing is OK. Eleven times out of 10, that question has been answered with a “you’re in Austin. You can wear whatever you want.” HEY, SIGN ME THE HECK UP.

The people.
OK, here’s the thing. I’m not going to act like I’ve got some superior city attitude and it baffles me that people say “hello” to each other here. It’s not that. The issue is that I am an alarmingly aloof and awkward individual who goes incredibly far out of my way to avoid human contact. I mean, as a child my mom had to force me to go up to the McDonald’s counter to ask for more ketchup. And this was when I was, like, twelve. (I always refused to do it and silently suffered with undressed fries.) GrubHub is the best innovation of my adult life; I just really like cutting out the middle man. And by middle man, I mean interpersonal interaction.

But everyone here is so friendly. My first friends here were bartenders and baristas who struck up genuine conversations. I get the question “how’s your day going?” (literally, those exact words) at least once a day. The other day I was waiting to have my car serviced and had a NINETY MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH A STRANGER.

People are just really NICE in Austin. Maybe it’s that a lot of people are transplants, and can sense when someone else is, too. But whatever the context – professional, social, transactional – I’ve been floored, and slightly disarmed (in a good way), by how genuinely nice people are.

The size.
Living as close as I do to the city center is a real luxury – we can walk downtown in 15 minutes or less. But even the nucleus of Austin is pretty manageable. You could probably traverse the whole thing in less than half a day. There’s way more of a sprawl when you get out of the hub of everything, but today I ran a zillion errands in various neighborhoods adjacent to my own, and it was just a bunch of five-to-10 minute drives. That’s not ideal for me getting super immersed in a podcast episode, but man, it sure is convenient.

The pace.
Hey, I could be biased. This might have something to do with being unemployed, if you can fathom it. Maybe once I’ve joined the land of the working again this particular item will drop off the top 10, but life just seems a little less stressful here. Maybe there’s molasses in the water or something. (Oh man please let me still believe this when I have a job.)

My neighborhood.
We live in sort of a “hot” neighborhood (although a lot of Austin is “hot,” I guess. I am also very elderly) and that means convenient access to similarly “hot” (please take me to the nursing home now) restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, et cetera. I love living in a place where I can walk to get to the things I need (I’m including a cold beer in the “need” category here, obviously). There’s just a lot to explore and do here, and even in the dead of summer, I’ve really enjoyed hoofing it around these neighboring blocks and poking my head into local haunts. Plus it’s really easy to park.

The airport.
O’HARE AIRPORT CAN GO DIRECTLY TO HELL WITHOUT COLLECTING $200 OR ANYTHING ELSE EXCEPT MY UNDYING SCORN. That place is a festering sinkhole and I hope I never have to go there again. Midway, while exponentially better, is in No Man’s Land. (When I’d fly back to Chicago from a weekend away, getting back to my apartment was either a $50 taxi or a 90-minute public transportation ride. BYE.)

I really, really, really hate airports and turn into an actual, living demon the moment I step through any of their doors. But Austin-Bergstrom is new, small, clean, efficient and manageable. It’s also like 10 minutes from where we live. If I’m going to have to deal with an airport, that one’s very high on my list.

The Whole Foods.
I mean maybe this should be a sub-bullet under “the food,” because the seafood restaurant in the flagship Whole Foods on 5th and Lamar has one of my favorite meals in this whole town and I legit eat it at least once a week. I am a staunch hater of grocery shopping, but stepping into this joint is just super soothing to me, probably because I can shop with wine.

This could, again, have something to do with my employment status and the fact that I’m able to go to the supermarket at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. (This is a psychotic privilege and I feel very lucky.) Also, if I want to keep shopping here with such wild abandon I definitely need a job. But it’s a wonderful spot, and I truly enjoy my outings there. I never thought I’d say that about buying groceries.

My roommate.
Well, I did ultimately move here for love. [Barf emoji.] And after a decade together, this is our first go at cohabitation. Even in this tiny temporary apartment, even though I spend all day as a kept woman in athleisure wear, even though we keep different schedules and even though I am a nightmare person, this has been so easy and so much fun. And I’m excited I get to keep exploring life – and Austin – with this human.


A note on those devastatingly hot Texas summers

I am no stranger to hot weather. I have spent my fair share of time in temps that hover in the hundreds. And when I started telling people I was moving to Austin, their first comment was often something related to how on earth I was going to contend with the heat.

Same thing with my talking to strangers immediately post-move; once they found out I was a newbie – and that I’d arrived right at the beginning of the steamiest season – most folks would drop some small talk about how if I could make it through my first summer in Austin unscathed, I’d be fine. (This was then frequently followed by a quip about how I certainly wouldn’t miss Chicago winters.)



So, it was hot this summer. People tell me it was a particularly bad one. To me it just felt… hot. But certainly not like a completely new circle of hell.

Really, the thing that surprised me most about the climate here, and something nobody told me about: HOW COLD I’D BE ALL THE TIME.

Texas, your A/C is aggressive. Everywhere.

I found myself seeking out restaurants and coffee shops that had misters and fans instead of sub-70-degree air conditioning on full blast. The sweatshirt section of my closet was regularly in the laundry, and I perfected the dinosaur foot socks-with-sandals technique. (Don’t worry, I only resorted to this when I was safely in my apartment building. Most of the time.)

I’m a monster

Granted, I live with a person whose resting body temperature runs at about 150 degrees. And, truth be told, I love being dressed in a lot of layers. But home life aside, this summer I was often in long sleeves and long pants, LIKE A RUBE, because everywhere I went was so G.D. cold. Of course, during the brief interstitial times I actually had to be outside, I was dressed completely inappropriately and felt it, but come on. I’m an indoor kid. And that air conditioning on blast all summer made me feel like I was in Anchorage, not Austin.

Here’s a picture of me enjoying a nap on the couch. In July. In Texas.

Typical Austin summer apparel

I understand that even in mid-September, I have a solid month of summer ahead of me down here.

I just hope I have enough sweatpants to get through it.


Today we ventured out to Lake Travis, where I stupidly believed we could spontaneously rent jet skis rather than reserve them in advance. Spoiler alert: We did not find available jet skis in the middle of the afternoon on a 90-degree Texas Saturday. WHOEVER WOULD HAVE THUNK.

But, we scoped out the area and grabbed a couple of beers at a few different locations on the water, walked around a park, took a dunk and got the lay of the land. It was lovely, and I’m very excited to go back after having gone through the appropriate reservation channels so I can jet ski around that lake like I’m Kenny Powers.

On the way in to one of the places we stopped, there was a huge piece of art that perfectly illustrated what I talked about in my previous post regarding Texas pride. I mean… it really IS a thing, you guys.


I found this brand of smug, willful ignorance and “us vs. them”-ness on the tacky end of this particular spectrum, and certainly one of the most on the nose. I’m sure there are a lot of pieces of memorabilia similar to this, and I need to just get over it. (Again, mostly I just feel validated.)

But I guess at the end of the day, I can’t be too aggrieved. Because no matter the size of your Texan pride, wherever you are in the state, you’ll never be able to get over being home to the worst high school ever.

Only 107 characters. Definitely a Tweet.

Well, nobody ELSE is stressed, that’s for sure.

This afternoon I’m coming at you from a kolache restaurant and drinking a Topo Chico. So basically feeling very Austin.

When I was in line to order my vegetarian sausage kolache (also very Austin), I was standing behind a woman wearing a bracelet that said “She’s so Texas” and another bracelet with a charm of the state of Texas on it. I see that type of stuff a whole lot.

I’ve only lived in places with very serious city or regional pride. Pittsburghers bleed black and gold and will seek each other out around the world. Same goes for Chicagoans. A solid one quarter of my friends have that “Midwest is Best” shirt. And, southerners love it down there. (Or, over there, I guess.)

But I’ve never really experienced state pride like this; Texans looooove to be Texan. I mean, there are songs about it. I’ve seen dozens of bumper stickers and t-shirts and accessories about being a Texan.

I guess I’m not the only one a little mystified: Just google “Texan pride” and the first results are articles and listicles and forum questions asking, basically, what the deal with these people is.

In fourth grade we all did “state reports,” which were exactly what they sound like, and I don’t know why I put that term in quotes. But for some reason I chose Texas. I remember being stoked about that choice, but I don’t remember why. Was it the size? Was it the mystery of it? That my parents watched Dallas?

Whatever it was: Perhaps my decision to spend six weeks exhaustively researching the state for my multiple-pronged project (hahaha just kidding, I believe this was, at 10, one of my first all-nighters) was prophetic. Who knew that 25 (!!!!) years later, I’d be just as Texan as the hat I made to wear in our state parade – huge, red and covered in a giant, glittering star.

I’m not there yet, but give me a minute. I just need to find one that will fit over my bouffant.

Same, Google. Same.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and obviously this includes football fandom

The football team I have seen play the most games in person is the Northwestern Wildcats. On Saturday we went to the UT game. Let’s just say they operate on a much different scale.

So. Much. Orange.

You guys. I even wore a hat. (It looked super awkward.) I’m not really used to a lot of sports gear, but apparently neither are UT Longhorns fans. There were so many burnt orange outfits and accessories. Like, all I could think of was how much money some enterprising Etsy seller makes from offering a stadium-sanctioned clear plastic purse with an orange and white paisley strap. (This is a real thing I saw.)

They also fire off an actual cannon. And fireworks. I jumped miles and miles into the big Texas blue sky the first time that took place. And there is an actual bull, named Bevo, who came with his own team of wranglers. I asked if they were an a cappella group.

Even Bevo wears team colors.
The Bevo singers (actually handlers)
All right, all right, all right.

Oh, and Matthew McConaughey was there, on something called the “McConaughCam.” YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS SHIT UP, MY FRIENDS.

I’d also never been to a college stadium that served booze. I’d like to thank the University of Texas for slaking my Miller Lite Tall Boy thirst. That sure does make football better.

Anyway, it was so funny and so weird. And I SUPER can’t wait to go back.

McConaughey out.


  • Doctors
  • A hair place
  • A Botox place (listen, I’m 36 and it’s my forehead. I DO WHAT I WANT)
  • An eyebrow place
  • A local analog to my most-loved Chicago beer
  • Friends
  • A job

It’s been four months, and I’ve knocked those first four action items out of the park. (Seriously, just ask me to furrow my brow.) Just gotta work on those last three now, maybe at a little faster clip this time than my month-a-bullet average. Cross your fingers for me.

Day 3: Welcome to Texas. Everything’s huge here.

Armed with another load of old UYD episodes, it was time to get home. There’s literally nothing to report from this drive except how we were rolling around the backseat of my car like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal with all of our winnings from the night before. (That is a joke.)

The next, and last, exciting thing we did before rolling into the 512 was to make a VERY important stop at our friends the Gaines’ house. Or silos. Whatever.

Hello, Jo. Hello, Chip. Hello, silos.

I stumbled into HGTV addiction very late in the game – the second half of 2016, to be exact. I still credit the Property Brothers (and boxed Pinot Noir) for getting me through those dark days after November 8, and have found these house renovation programs to be a soothing, formulaic balm for so many emotional ailments. So it was important to go pay our respects to Chip and Joanna at the actual Shrine of Magnolia.

Waco was a perfect last stop. We fumbled around in awe at all of the shiplap and chalk signs and straw baskets. It was pretty overwhelming, to be honest. But the outside was amazing! The whole thing just felt so huge, and I began to get my first inklings that this new sense of scale was something I was going to have to get used to.

After a few more hours on the road, we were in familiar territory once again. I’ve been coming down to Austin regularly over the last several years, so it was nice to recognize some landmarks and streets and queso restaurants. Mostly queso restaurants.

The rest of it is your average moving story. We threw down our bags, went to our favorite Mexican place for dinner and passed out. And that’s how I hope it’s gonna be down here for a lot of years to come.

So here I am, here we are – and now, here’s where the real story starts.

Road trip, day 2: Austin or bust

(We chose bust.)

Like five seconds after their fountain processional, two of these ducks started getting pretty... frisky.
Just ducky, Memphis.

After a tough drive from Chicago to Memphis, we decided to not push ourselves and head the whole way to Austin the next day, per our original plan. After watching the Peabody ducks and housing some delicious Memphis BBQ for lunch, we hopped in the car and went, “nah.”

We figured out that Shreveport, Louisiana was a pretty good approximate midpoint, and then figured out that we could get a cheap room at JIMMY BUFFETT’S MARGARITAVILLE RESORT AND CASINO in Shreveport.

We did, and it was awesome. Full stop, zero irony. We had such a fun night. And, we ended the evening up at the blackjack tables, so… thanks, Sir Buffett. We’ll be back.

(Seriously, we had such a good time there that we’ve decided to make this an annual pilgrimage. You should all go.)

April 2017: In which the transition process begins

Because I didn’t start this blog at the very beginning of my move, I’m going to hop in a time machine to give some context. Maybe this is boring, but I’m chronicling it for future space generations who will get in a pod and be teleported to their new cities. (Who am I joking, the world’s gonna go up in flames in like five years.)

April 7, 2017 was my last day at my job. I spent the following week packing boxes and day drinking, canceling my cable and crying that I’d never see the ladies who worked at “my” Walgreens ever again.

On April 15, I flew to Ireland for one last craic of a trip before my big move. I married two very dear friends. I went to Amsterdam. I flew home.

A day and a half after I returned to Chicago, movers came and loaded all of my stuff onto a truck, to be delivered to Texas sometime the following week. I closed the door on the condo where I’d lived for 12 years for the last time, and walked to a bar where my silly and wonderful and loving friends threw me a goodbye bash. I drowned in my favorite beer and only cried twice.

And the next day, Jeff and I got in the car and started driving to Austin. I shed zero tears driving under that Chicago Skyway sign, with my favorite skyline in the rearview mirror. I was excited, exhausted, hung over and happy.

Okay, then it rained all day when we drove to Memphis and we wanted to kill each other, so that blush wore off pretty fast. Moving’s a process, you know?