Just when I thought Austin could not get any hotter, I went to the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. I knew I would love it when I read on the website that admission was three items of non-perishable food. Hot Sauce Festival/Food Drive sounds like my kind of afternoon.
The Festival was in Waterloo Park, at 12th and Red River, not far from the Capitol Building. I decided to ride Jenny there, to test out bike-riding to downtown. Half of the trip was through the University of Texas campus so I was able to check out a side of campus I haven't seen. Man, is UT huge. From the edge of UT to Waterloo Park was only a few blocks and I was able to navigate through smaller streets, making a bike ride to downtown Austin very manageable. Good to know, especially now that Jenny is equipped with a basket on the back to carry groceries and such.
When I arrived I locked up Jenny on a fence and entered the tent-covered grounds, depositing my three non-perishables in marked boxes on my way in. There were lines at each tent for the hot sauce and salsa tasting and I immediately got in line to taste "Tears of Joy" sauces (http://www.tearsofjoysauces.com/store/customer/home.php). They were having tastings of their red sauce, green sauce, a hot sauce, and their tequila lime hot sauce. I really loved the tequila lime hot sauce - it has quite a kick moments after you have actually tasted it. Perusing their website I just noticed they have a "lawyer's breath" hot sauce. I should make a trip to their place on 6th Street for a bottle.
After tasting at Tears of Joy I proceeded to the main tent for the blind tastings. In the tent you are handed a bowl of tortilla chips and you proceed down a table tasting all different kinds of salsa. I got in the red sauce line and tried about ten salsas. The variety I tasted was amazing. There was a bbq sauce based salsa, what tasted like a ketchup based salsa, one salsa with asparagus, and another with olives. All salsas are certainly not created equal.
After the salsa tasting I was full and sick of waiting in lines so I went to the main stage to check out the live band. There was a line-up of five local bands for the afternoon and I was lucky enough to catch Nakia & His Southern Cousins (http://www.myspace.com/nakia). I LOVED THEM. Nakia has a booming soulful voice and is backed up by two lovely women in cute matching dresses with sweet high voices. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more of their Austin shows. In front of me at the show was a young family with the cutest blonde twin daughters, probably about 2 or 3 years old. Each parent had a girl on their shoulders, and the girls were wearing matching polka-dot dresses. I noticed the dad had a camera in his hand so I asked if he would like me to take a couple pictures of the four of them. They were a very precious, gracious family and I enjoyed telling them that I am a twin as well.
As much as I loved Nakia & His Southern Cousins, I was getting hot, tired, and thirsty so I left the festival and hopped on Jenny to go home. As I was leaving, I was stopped at a red light and a man on the corner said, "My wife likes your bike!", and there was his wife next to him grinning and nodding. I thanked them and then I got the nicest compliment I have received in a long time. The wife said, "It fits you!" My Jenny is beautiful and sassy and sunny so for someone to think I could be the right match for her is certainly an honor.
On the way home I stopped at the law school to pick up my Con Law book and remind myself that I am here to be a law student. With that I will now hit the books!
This morning I took the bus to the Austin Farmer's Market. The Market is in downtown Austin and a 15-minute bus ride from my apartment. I want to make a shrimp stir-fry tonight so I brought my grocery list.
I approached the seafood stand advertising "Texas Gulf Shrimp" for $9.99/lb. Having five dollars in my wallet and only cooking for myself, I asked for a half pound of shrimp. The man at the stand apologetically told me they only had pre-sorted 1 pound bags to sell. I shrugged and said that's too bad because I only have $5 with me. He responded, "well, if you promise to tell your friends about us I'll give you the 1 lb bag for your five dollars." I didn't tell him I don't really have any friends here yet, and instead graciously accepted his offer. Roberto introduced himself to me and asked if I was a UT student. I told him I just started at the law school and he pulled out his card and handed it to me; turns out he works at the Attorney General's office. He encouraged me to contact him if I was ever interested in an internship.
So if you are in Austin on a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday morning, be sure to visit the San Miguel Seafood stand at the Austin Farmer's Market.
Since I moved to Austin, I am reminded daily of what makes this city so special. I am enjoying discovering this new weird place, which brings me to start a list: Why I am falling for Austin. Here are a few to begin:
1) Roberto San Miguel at the Downtown Austin Farmer's Market
2) On the bus ride to the Alamo Drafthouse, a homeless man gave Robby the finger. (Robby commented that this was the coolest thing to have happened in his visit to Austin.)
3) I have been asked twice if I am a freshman at UT.
Since I began thinking about moving to Austin, people who had been to Austin or who lived in Austin started telling me about a seemingly mythical venue where one can watch a movie and be served beer and food at the same time. This sounded amazing, and I immediately thought of how much Robby would love something like this. He has trouble sitting in a movie theater and gets very antsy. With the aid of food and booze he shouldn't have any trouble sitting through a whole movie. (We have walked out of theaters numerous times, not once on account of the film.) When we were nearing the end of Robby's trip to Austin with me, we decided the last night we would go to one of these places - An Alamo Drafthouse.
When you arrive at the Drafthouse, you buy tickets like you would any other theater. Except the prices are drastically lower than NYC and UT students receive a discount - our two tickets were $13. The movie theater also looks like any other theater but for one thing: in front of each row of seats is a counter, about chest-high. On the counter there are menus, sheets of paper, pencils, and underneath the counter is a light to help you read the menu. Soon after we took our seats, a cheerful waiter came to the two of us sitting side-by-side and explained the process to us. On the sheet of paper you write your order, you then put the piece of paper in a silver slot that runs the length of the counter, and waiters will regularly check if you have placed an order. This was awesome. We happily placed our first order of the German beer bucket and chips and salsa.
Did I mention that rather than previews they play British sketch comedy? I was in heaven.
We were planning on seeing District 9 but the show was sold-out so we decided instead on In The Loop. I don't think it was a very good movie, but I can say that Robby and I enjoyed it as much as anything. We were drinking beer and laughing for two hours. An evening well-spent.
Post Script: The Alamo Drafthouse also has different kinds of showings; in addition to current movies you can go to, for example, an 80's one-hit wonder sing-a-long, or the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Law school orientation started Monday and classes started yesterday. As I have been spending more time on the University of Texas campus, there are some differences I have noticed between this school and Trinity, or the Northeast in general. Here are a few:
At UT, EVERYONE wears Longhorn gear.
At UT, people carry backpacks rather than tote bags or just books. This is because the campus is so massive and it is less of a strain to wear the backpack. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way and will be expecting my new bag to arrive next week, none too soon.
At UT, the standard wardrobe for girls is orange running shorts (Longhorn color) and sneakers. I mentioned this to my mentor and she said there's a joke at UT that you can recognize a sorority girl by her orange Nike shorts and her pearls - thus making the sorority girl/pearls relationship pretty consistent on a national level.
This is more of a difference between Austin and NYC, but the people working the crappy jobs are nice. They actually seem to enjoy what they are doing and want to help. My theory is this is correlated to the cost of living in Austin. Unlike in NYC, in Austin you can still afford a pretty good quality of life with a low-paying job. And the people you are serving aren't that much richer than you (or plain aren't richer than you). This further makes me believe that a widening income gap is harmful to society - it penetrates the most fundamental interactions of everyday life. Which brings me to theorize that I will become more of a socialist living here...
People's eyes widen when I say I moved here from New York City, making me feel pretty cool.
Robby ran to the campus bookstore on Saturday to get a Stats book for his own impending studies and he returned with a flier from a local bike store to receive 10% off any purchase. I had been looking for a bike since I arrived in Austin to no avail, and he knows how much I love a good deal. After meeting a friend for lunch (yes, we knew one other person in Austin), we walked to the bike shop, about 10 minutes from my apartment. That's when I laid eyes on this beauty. I have always loved Schwinn bicycles and her yellow paint caught my eye. Then I noticed the leather handle bars and seat, and the "commuter" style with room behind the seat for a crate. She was perfect. I took "Jenny" for a short spin and fell even harder for her. But the price was hefty and I was afraid of bike thieves - I knew it would be heartbreaking to have her stolen. We left the bike shop empty-handed.
On the walk home, Robby, being the wonderful generous boyfriend that he is and knowing how much I loved Jenny, offered to split the price with me. He knows me well enough to know when I really want something but he knows me best when he tells I don't need ONE MORE THING. His offer gave me confirmation of what I already knew - this would be a special possession. A few hours later I called the bike shop to see if Jenny was still available. She was; this was the bike for me. With Robby's offer the purchase was suddenly affordable, and armed with a strong lock and the diligence to keep her in my apartment, I could protect her from thieves. When I arrived at the bike shop the bike guy was already tuning her for me. I rode Jenny home (getting lost on the way back in my typical fashion) and arrived back at my apartment with a huge smile. I called Robby on my way home so he could step outside and see me pull up on my beautiful new bike.
Jenny is my main mode of transportation in Austin and has been a huge help in my first week here. She has accompanied me to Walgreens, Law School Orientation, my local grocery store the Wheatsville Coop, and she will be with me for my many journeys to come.
I'm starting this blog to record my first year in Austin at law school. It's for my own record, and for my friends and loved ones to tune into this new chapter in my life. I've only been in Austin for five days and yet already my life feels so different. My apartment is almost completely set up, I have experienced five days of 100 degree + weather, I got a beautiful new bike, and I am constantly reminded of the weirdness that is Austin. UT classes are starting this week so there has been a huge influx of the student population, as 50,000 students file into their respective dorms, apartments, and houses. Austin is so different from New York City. Perhaps because of the heat, everything seems a bit slower. People say y'all. EVERYONE wears UT clothing. There is a saying, "Keep Austin weird," as though the weirdness is a source of pride or identity. There are frat boys, sorority girls, washed up hippies, hipsters, yuppies, musicians - the whole lot. There is certainly something for everyone.
Off to orientation, more updates and anecdotes to come.