I left you all with the tease about tacos and the gospel, and indeed, I met a group of 8 folks at Maria's for spicy food, live music, and Sunday afternoon dancing. I indeed felt blessed :). Since then I've been busily doing what I do here in Austin while trying to fit in as many sites with as many people as possible. There isn't a thing I can think of that I'd like to do (except jump in the ocean) that can't be done in Austin. I've even joined a "Francophone" group but I've yet to have the time to get there! See below for a few highlights of the past 2 weeks.
There were many comments/queries regarding my current seasonal job. Honestly, I don't mind the job itself a bit; it's relatively mindless and there's nothing that can't wait till tomorrow. In fact, when I was 4 or 5, a favorite "task" of mine was to organize my mother's penny can into groups by date or by sets of 5 or 10 or more. I didn't realize what great job training that was. I am literally perusing, organizing and moving nearly a thousand pieces of paper daily by category.
I have to say that the people are as nice as can be, and I'm lucky to be sitting near a tax examiner who writes short stories; we've bonded. However, there is a food obsession among many that reminds me of Seinfeld's "birthdays at the office" episode.
I'm now past 3 weeks and expect to see 3 more weeks before I say "au revoir". It's the schedule and "lock-down" that's just too inflexible. There is no flexibility to the 7:30 am - 4:00 pm scenario (which I haven't done in about 17 years), and once I'm in the office, there is no wi-fi, no leaving at lunch, and no Web access. Tight security for understandable reasons but as one gal said to me, "Does this patio feel like a jail yard to you?".
Right now I have 19 items on my "to do in Austin before you go" list, and with an estimated departure date of May 17th, I really can't keep going to work! Austin reminds me very much of Portland, OR in the mid-to-late 90s, and I'm so lucky to be here now. It is indeed in heavy gentrification mode with astronomical housing prices and continued sprawl. I've even been hearing people say, "Why do the Californians have to move here and ruin it?". Flashbacks to Portland and Seattle.
I must say that housing aside, I am in glee with how cheap it is to live here. Eating out is a $10 investment vs. $25. Produce is amazingly cheap (there is no limit on how much asparagus I will consume here). My favorite wine is a pinot noir at $3.15/bottle; NOT on sale. Gas is still $2.12/gallon at Mobil, and O'Malley, I haven't paid a single toll in 5 weeks! Between the job income & the prices, I'm living high off the hog, baby! Until next week ...
I have indeed survived my first week's rehearsal for the sequel to Groundhog Day. Have been rising at 6:15, doing my 12-minute commute in the dark, and flashing my IRS badge at the gate. By day 3, Bill Murray was top-of-mind. That said, it was a great coincidence that we changed the clocks as I returned to "the American scheme," so I still have 4 hours of well-lit play time to enjoy.
I now have a Saturday & Sunday bike group, and yesterday the ride leader yelled, "armadillo up" and indeed, there was one but running too fast for a photo! Honestly, I've heard many cycling warnings before but this was a first! Weekdays I'm doing low mileage on hilly terrain so I can ride with the big boys before I leave here!
Joined an Austin Social Meetup this weekend, too, and my first get together is a Sunday service of gospel music & tacos. That's next week's story! Making my "what I need to do in Austin" list now as I feel like time is already of the essence.
It's been a busy week of figuring out the necessities of life --- how to cycle from my front door safely; finding a nice group to ride with on occasion; and of course, stuff like locating the supermarket, bank, post office, and library. Good to go! I also enjoyed a free event with Brazilian music (yes, some bossa nova in Portuguese!), some great fish tacos, and a farewell dinner with a hostel pal I hope to see again. I dropped in on a public meditation sitting one night but the jury's still out on that one. Overall, finding my way around Austin by bike, foot and auto while stunned at how cheap the cost of living is here (except housing). More on that another day!
Next entry ... what's it like to return to a day to day job? what's it like to work for the IRS? Can I report on that?
I've been busily on task here in Austin for the past 8 days as I set-up a semblance of "real-life" so I can stay a while. In my naive (optimistic?) manner, I arrived thinking it would be easy to find a room to rent for 2 months or so. I had no idea that housing is very tight here ( & $$$), coupled with the fact that South by Southwest is a March event that draws over 20,000 people looking for a room. Some locals even leave their homes during SXSW because they can rent them for great income.
All that said, I ended up with 2 options that were both just fine (I did have to contact about 12-15 people to get to 2!). This is when I toured neighborhoods for bike friendliness, safety, and proximity to commuting. I've now moved into a small townhouse (2/1.5) with Katie; a very relaxed gal in her 30s who moved here last year from, are you ready?, Bethesda, Maryland! I can't make this up. More photos to come.
SO, I mentioned commuting. I indeed have a seasonal job starting on March 9 with the IRS! Don't you wish you had been nicer to me? :) I will be working M-F 7:30-3:30 as a clerk in the Document Perfection Operation, and as you can imagine this is NOT going to interfere with my post-work & weekend enjoyment of Austin. It's a means to an end! I could not afford to live here for 2 or so months without this income, and there is so much to do here that a couple of months is just about right. I'm excited!
P.S. My sister, Eileen wins the award for the only person to attempt to answer the question, "What was I singing crossing the Mississippi through Baton Rouge?" She had some good guesses but no prize. The answer is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTHRg_iSWzM
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover