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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
THERE YOU HAVE IT, MY LOVE LETTER TO AUSTIN. PLEASE STOP THINKING I HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE, BYE.