Obviously, Texas is one of the largest and most populous states in the country, full of all kinds of people. However, the kid in me always seems to think of it like this silly scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure:
The closest thing to wide open spaces that I saw during my five-day trip, complete with cowboy hats and boots, was at a house show I went to my first night in town. But even then, it wasn't so much what people were wearing as it was the warmth, the hospitality, the hugs from strangers.
It was at a ranch house about an hour outside of town, with a bunch of local bands and artists playing.
The 20- or 30-person audience was mostly made up of Jenni and her boyfriend Neil's friends, acquaintances, at a beautifully constructed cabin. Surrounded by open fields on a clear night, the stars were bright and it was a beautiful sight. Part of me wishes I had pictures of it, but I would've never been able to capture it on film the way I saw it anyway.
Intimate live performances are always the best. My favorite band by far from that night was RF Shannon, which is a local folksy band with a trippy side to it. Also: The band has a lap steel guitar player. Case closed. Haha.
So now that I have the experience of visiting Austin, Texas under my belt, I have a few things to take away from it.
Expectation #1: Texas is going to be damn hot in August.
Reality: It was hot, mostly in the mid to upper 90s when I was there, but wasn't nearly as hot as I was expecting, since the humidity (at least in Austin) didn't come close to what it does here in the Northeast. Also, I wasn't outside for crazy amounts of time, making the little bits when I was more tolerable.
Another unexpected thing: There were cacti everywhere. If it's a place that's dry enough for cactus, then the humidity probably isn't all that terrible.
Expectation #2: Tacos will be damn delicious.
Reality: The tacos I ate while I was there may have surpassed my expectations.
I think we had tacos three different times, and I never got sick of it. Breakfast tacos at Veracruz All Natural (pictured above) were unlike anything I've ever eaten. I'm hoping to make my own migas at home. (Eggs with tortilla chips!)
Expectation #3: Austin is freaking huge.
Reality: I'll admit that a city of 800,000, with roughly 1.8 million living in the region, I was expecting a ton of congestion. However, the downtown area was fairly small, and had a lot of sprawl.
I always seem to compare Pittsburgh in other cities in this regard, since Pittsburgh city limits are relatively confined and there's relatively little city sprawl, more just burbs. I've still have never found another city that's quite like Pittsburgh in that way. (The book The Paris of Appalachia, one of my favorite texts about Pittsburgh, talks about this concept with a ton of detail.)
Overall, my favorite things about Austin, besides the fact that a great friend of mine, Jenni, lives there, were THE TACOS and variety of food trucks, Barton Springs, and the overall vibe I got from the place. It was an artsier town, but people seemed relaxed and not crazy in competition with one another.
Also, I loved the vintage shopping there, but my thoughts on that are worth a separate post.
Have you ever been to Austin? If so, what were some of your favorite things about it?