Friday, March 30, 2012

Helping Keep Austin Weird: Aged One Year

I arrived in Austin, to live here, a year ago today.  In one of those time-space continuum conundrums, I simultaneously feel like I moved here yesterday and like I have lived here forever.  Except that every day I discover new roads, routes, stores, and fun activities that usually involve beer, BBQ, and being outdoors.

I've written before, trying to adequately describe the town, the people, and the vibe, but as with any place or thing you actually like, it's far easier (shorter) to list the detractions rather than the attractions.  Without further ado, the worst three things about Austin:

1) Parking Lot Design.

Civil engineers in Austin seem less interested in creating an efficient traffic flow that leads to correctly facing and spaced parking spots, than simply trapping cars into a found-object art exhibit.  Forget passing your driving test, the Mensa test to park at the grocery store separates the men from the boys.

2) Korean restaurants, namely lack thereof.

A week ago, I would have cited a noticeable absence of Korean restaurants; they all sit in a neighborhood up north, labeled in Hangul or hidden inside other stores.  However, last Friday I convinced a friend who I have turned into an adventurous eater, to track down a rumor of a place: a lunch counter inside a grocery store.

Halleluiah!  Glory Be!  This place was like manna from heaven, which incidentally was its name: Manna Restaurant.  Danny and his mother at Mandu in Dupont trained me well, so after ordering all the basics by name instead of number, the cute little grandmother-waitress and I were enamored with each other.  It helped that she served us ponchon and dolcot bibimbap and just kept bringing more food. 

AK, if you're reading, it's finally safe for you to visit. 

Oh wait, this was supposed to be a reason why I don't like Austin.  Manna is more than a 15 minute drive from my apartment. 

3) None of My Girls are here.

I had to leave my ladies who lunch group behind when I left DC, and fittingly most of them have since scattered around the globe.  Unlike DC after college graduation, Austin didn't come with a build-in social group; I've had to build from the ground up.

The farther I meander through life the more I believe that friends come into your life when you most need them.  Such is the case here, too.  I've got gossipers, serious thinkers, training partners, academics, coffee talkers, nerds, and wing-women.  They each slipped into the rotation almost without me noticing, but in retrospect, exactly when I needed them.

My Girls will always be near and dear to my heart, if not to me, but Mis Mujeres have helped me navigate the From-North-Of-The-Mason-Dixon-Line syndrome.

But seriously, who can dislike a town that erects a shrine when its most famous "urban outdoors-man" passes away?

RIP Leslie.  My only regret is that I arrived in Austin too late to really know you.

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