On Saturday night we sat in folding chairs beneath the trees while Strings Attached adapted the Beatles to South Austin. A little Texas Swing. A bit of Latin. A full complement of voice and instrument and heart, so much heart. We gathered in the front yard, all around us camp chairs and bug spray and tank tops, regulars settling in and kicking off their sandals. A woman in a head wrap offered massages on a portable table. People danced in the margins in their long skirts. Once there was a way / to get back homeward, they sang. Once their was a way / to get back home. Everything scruffy and overgrown, the barefoot child swept up into so many arms. This is a place I once knew. This is where Austin went when we weren’t looking.
July 11, 2015
Wherever you look, another pathway inviting your feet, another sidewalk, cracked or not, another street to cross after double checking both ways. Three miles one direction, three miles the other. Up the steep hill toward Travis Heights, how the slope slows you, reminds you your legs were once stronger. Pride of Barbados a shock of brightness. On the other side of the street, a girl who once sat for your cat doesn’t notice you. Waiting for the beep. Choosing the shade. A suit of armor painted red in a backyard. A giant wooden chicken by the front door. Shrimp plant. Old marquee. Drifting scent of pizza. The curly-haired cyclist with the basket on her bike passes you both ways. Does she ride this street all day? Let me know.
July 6, 2015
It’s one of the gifts of summer: late strolls after dinner, the air still warm but not seething with heat, the smattering of joggers and unicycle riders and Latino families with children leaning to look for fish in the water. It stays light far past when we expect it to, and downtown looks impressive, shiny and aglow. We live here. So often we complain: the traffic, the prices, the scruffy city we fell in love with transformed into something else. But didn’t we fall for each other when we both lived in tiny apartments and mouthed off about simplicity, paring down, though for a decade we have had 2200 square feet and squabbles over the lawn? We can’t spend forever on the sagging deck of a coffeehouse listening to Guy Forsyth strum his guitar. Sometimes we turn and are struck anew with delight for our midlife selves dressed in the better clothes that midlife allows. And so our city too, offering a different kind of impressive while we saunter along, the day mostly behind us, rail lights illuminating the way toward home.
July 5, 2015
Instead, a smattering of what life has brought my way. An old friend in front of an old painting. A wedding, a message, and century plants towering against a stormy sky.
Meanwhile, back home, the daily continues. We shave and brush and swab and spread. We read Nora Ephron’s prescriptions of marriage, shared by a friend in a wedding card. We fail to sit on the living room furniture and fail to sell it on Craigslist. (Vintage rattan could be yours.) And the CSA basket keeps coming and cornichons go into vinegar and pickling spices and we can’t stop eating them.
In Austin the rents still rise and a few places, against the odds, keep the faith.
And, finally, a spin through Waco on the way home. A wedding ring store leaves me with far too much to say.
We strung the balloons. We filled the coolers with ice. We laid out plates and forks and weighted the napkins under bottles of ketchup. We cleared enough books from the shelves that nothing is left stacked, and we laid them on end on a table for choosing. We bought hot dogs sealed in plastic and sunscreen and insect repellent. We greeted Michael in his orange hat and watched him pile charcoal in a chimney for the grill. We waited. They came. They came with children and dogs and sisters and cousins. They came with memories and nervousness and for a quick spin or the whole day. They looked for people they knew. They hugged us hello and hugged us goodbye. Their children played in the water and came back slick and cool. The sun climbed high in the sky and the temperatures rose. The park grew busy and full. The hotdogs were eaten, one by one. We packed up. We thanked our volunteers, left behind a few cakes for the group behind us. We retreated to the air conditioning. We counted our numbers. We slept.
June 13, 2015
Behind the knife shop, where chain mail stands by the door, are the targets. Practice your skills — throw and land, throw and land. Next door, the The Pit. Across the street at Maru, tilting toward the sidewalk, they call Chris a “faithful customer.” Add a bow. Then change your angle. You’re sipping a Barolo at a wine bar over oysters. You’re eating a taco with chili aoili swirled artistically over the top. You’re admiring what the architect has done with this space that used to be so humble.
June 6, 2015
“Everyone deserves a chance to walk with everyone else.” — “Hero,” Family of the Year
I spend my third day wandering and remembering how wandering connects me to my creativity. Seven miles in and around the city, past the crowds and down quiet pathways. Out the boardwalk and into the city center, onto a stool at the counter of a loud diner where I read The Sun and drink coffee. Into a store or two and back out, down past the construction cranes. Then I sit with a watermelon agua fresca at the cafe of the disgraced cycling star and the story begins to come. It’s like it was when I was a graduate student, me and my notebook and a table somewhere with the music I didn’t choose piped in above. Words on paper that might become something. On a Sunday afternoon in almost-summer Austin, I am one of many women in a tank top and skirt, cap on my head, women on bikes and on foot and walking with daughters wearing the same outfits. We have somewhere to go, or nowhere to go. Later, on the Congress bridge, I help two older tourists find their way to a CVS. I walk past so much of my history up on the hill and through the streets of Travis Heights. Back home I lie on my bed, cats at my feet, looking for the first time at the paper. I’m not ready for the book review, for all the novels I may or may not read this summer.
May 31, 2015