Monday, September 22, 2008

Adios to Austin

I flew down to Austin for business last Friday, staying for the weekend.

Austin is one of my favorite places. Not necessarily for the food, the live music, the attractive UT coeds, or the scenic landscape.

Austin Texas is where I spent too much of my first 3 years of college. Because I went to school in College Station, going to Austin was a convenient diversion from what I was supposed to be doing, namely, getting an education.

I learned a lot about myself from this experience. I learned that I was too immature to fall in love, I learned that no matter what shithole I put myself into, only I have the capablility to extract myself from said shithole, and that I really enjoyed new experiences, and should not be afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool.

When I first left Austin for the last time, it was 1983, and as I drove north on IH-35 toward Illinois, I thought it would take some doing to get me back there.

In the early 1990's, however, I was back, at the time scouting for a place to live, as my friend Artist James and his wife, Kathy, were going to move to Austin, and my wife was going to transfer to Austin with Motorola. My hopes were dashed when we could not make the move. The Austin of the early 90's was similar to the Austin of the mid '80's. I found that I still loved the city, the Capital, the food, the nightlife, etc. It could do no wrong.

After James and Kathy settled in Austin, my wife and would make annual trips to see them, just a 2 1/2 hour plane ride and I could be back in Utopia. We'd always go in the Spring during Bluebonnet time. We still made regular trips after our daughter was born. I felt it was important to return as often as possible so I could retain my Texas 'citizenship'.

Sadly, after our son was born, we only made one more trip down. I guess our family decided to make future vacations more destination driven, and Austin sort of fell off our screen. I'd make the suggestion to go, but it was shot down. My wife seemed to think that my love of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes was a bit provincial, saying that they really weren't any different from the yellow dandelions and other 'weeds' that grew along Illinois roadsides. I continue to love my wife even though she doesn't understand.

By some great collision of fortune and ability, James and Kathy (and Emma and Murray) are leaving Austin soon to spend a year in New York City. After that year, they have no idea where they will go. Probably not back to Austin. And now, suddenly, any excuse I have to visit Austin is gone.

That thought occured to me Sunday morning as I left my hotel and drove down Guadalope one last time, remembering the dragworms, the BK Lounge, all the sights, sounds and smells of a magical time long ago. A wave of great emotion overtook me, and I found myself wanting to call the old girlfriend who lured me to Austin over 25 years ago. I didn't call her, of course, I really wasn't sure what to say or how to say it. I just thought that in some ways, my greatest joy was experienced in those blocks between 15th street and 30th street. Despite the turmoil my hopelessly romantic heart experienced back then, I know that in some ways I was never happier.

Austin in 2008 has changed a lot since 1983. More high-rise buildings compete with the view of the Capital, Sixth Street parties a little too hearty, although the UT Coeds going to the football game in their short denim skirts and cowgirl boots remind me of my youth, poorly spent.

An older, perhaps wiser, 45 year-old man left Austin yesterday, eagerly returning to the family that he loves in Illinois. I really don't know if I'll ever find myself in Austin again, but until then, adios, dear friend.

Plakovic's "The Live Music Capital of the World" adorns this post. Visit to purchase.

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