Austin has clear blue skies, cute houses, green grass, beautiful foliage, and rivers and lakes for swimming. Today I rode all around the rivers, through the parks, a stream, and into the city. Down east 6th Street there were great bars, restaurants, diners and cafes, and they all had outdoor patios where you could sit and soak up the sun. I remembered something a friend in Brooklyn told me about this trip, “Watch out that you don’t like a city too much and get stuck there”. It’s possible I could get stuck in Austin.
I would have loved growing up in this city. I can imagine riding my bike to the watering holes on hot days, and making a tire swing and swinging into the river. I would play baseball in the grassy fields. In high school we’d have loaded up a pickup truck and had a party in the woods next to the river. Everybody would have been drinking cheap beer and smoking weed, and I’d meet a girl and we’d go sneak off and make out for hours.
I just described a million movie scenes, but I figure the memories of people who grew up in places like this are where those movies come from. Dazed and Confused, My Girl, Stand By Me… I could picture all of them being set in Austin.
Later that day I met up with my cousin Damien. He was a smart kid. He could play classical piano (among many other instruments), and picked everything up quickly. He was like a little grown-up at 11 years old. His parents were sweet, funny folks. People always say that your cousins are your first friends, and that was the case for me. Unfortunately, after I grew up and settled into my own hobbies, my cousins and I drifted apart and became the family I see twice a year on holidays. I regret not becoming better friends with this cousin later in life. I hadn’t seen him in a while and didn’t want to impose on him. Spending a whole weekend with his long lost cousin was probably not on the top his list. But that day was pretty fun.
My Cousin Damien
We went to Hillside Farmacy where I ordered some incredible mac and cheese. He got a steak tartare, and for the next 30 minutes we discussed an abridged version of our last 10 years. We took some interesting paths and were both glad we left San Diego. Then we walked to a dive bar and met up with some of his friends. It was great to be included into an existing group after all the recent bouts of introducing myself to strangers in bars.
I usually have pretty decent conversational skills. I’m not a wallflower, and I try to insert myself into conversations whenever I can without being overbearing. I’ve heard people say conversation is an art, and I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected the art, but I’ve been getting a lot of practice on this trip. I find out right away if I’m being interesting or not, because strangers aren’t obligated to listen to me. The good part about talking to strangers is I can tell them all the stories I’ve told my friends a million times. I hope I was somewhat interesting.
I had a great time, and it made me realize that having a good group of friends should be more of a focus in my life. I began to realize this in New York, where it was tough to make new friends, even with millions of people packed together. People there can be closed off to outsiders, and I felt the truth in the statement, “Even in a city of 8 million people, you can still be alone.”