The Wind Brought Them to Texas

My friends Caitlin and Jed are on a world tour for the next 365 days. They quit their jobs. They sold their condo in Chicago. They packed up 6 pairs of underwear each (no, seriously…I’m not joking).

And one of the first stops on their journey was to visit us in Texas!

So this past weekend, we gave them our best Texas tour (within 200 miles). We took them to First Friday in Downtown Bryan where we introduced them to our College Station friends and to Big Red margaritas. We took them to Bryan’s only gay bar, Halo, for a night of dancing and drag queens. We took themĀ to Lexington for BBQ (Caitlin and I ate kind bars and yogurt, since we’re both not the beef-consuming kind).

Along the way, we stopped and took obligatory bluebonnet photos.

Caitlin and Jed at Snows

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On Saturday night, we took them to the eastside of Austin to enjoy food truck pizza and beers at Violet Crown Social Club. We showed them a little of 6th Street. After no luck finding a decent place to stay, we threw caution to the wind and settled on a Super 8. It was not so super (particularly the plethora of cop cars in the parking lot when we got back from our evening out), but it worked out. On Sunday afternoon, we gnoshed on vegetarian vittles at one of my favorite Austin restaurants, Bouldin Creek Cafe, and then parted ways in the parking lot.

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Caitlin and I have been friends since freshman year of college. She was one of my bridesmaids. This girl is like family to me. I’m in awe of her courage. Not everyone has the cojones to give up the life with which they’ve grown comfortable and go out in search of the unknown. If there’s anyone who will be a pro at it, it’s Caitlin. In college, she studied abroad in Belfast. After we graduated, she was in the Peace Corps in Zambia for two years. I was always amazed by her enthusiasm and her adaptability. And, really, anyone who can poop in a pit deserves some kind of award.

I am hoping to take a page from her book as I prepare for my trip to Brazil. Thanks to her infinite knowledge, I’m learning about things like traveler’s underwear, which I’ve already purchased three pair of. I’m hoping that I can be as easygoing as she is, as willing to open myself up to new experiences… as willing to go wherever the wind takes me.

Safe travels, my friends. Hope to see you soon, perhaps on the other side of the world.

 

Texas Love

There are things about the town I live in now that took some initial getting used to. One of those things is my town’s version of the ice cream man. Growing up, I’d delight at the sound of “Turkey in the Straw” each summer as the ice cream truck would slowly roll through the neighborhood. Upon moving here, I heard the sound of jingling bells every evening, a sound I eventually learned was coming from the popsicle peddler. The peddlers ride around neighborhoods with a little refrigerated cart attached to their bicycles. The sound of their bells is so uniquely Texan, but the joy they bring to children’s faces is universal.

Out here, Patrick and I have also developed a love for Mexican grocery stores. Back in Nashville, we frequented the Indian grocer and the Asian market in town. We love looking at foods that are unusual to us, and nothing makes me happier than buying a 20 pound bag of rice (I’m taking suggestions for how to re-use the empty burlap bags).

On Saturday night, when other normal couples went on date night to the movies and out to dinner, Patrick and I headed to the new Mexican grocer in town to delight in fresh garbanzo beans and ogle tamarind pods. On our trip to Marfa we discovered a Mexican sparkling mineral water called TopoChico.

It’s refreshing and bubbly, and, best ever, it comes in lime and peach flavors (in addition to plain old original). Yesterday, it got up to 90 degrees here, and we both decided it was the kind of day where all you want to do is drink TopoChico. If yesterday is indicative in any way of the kind of summer we’re going to have here, it’s safe to say we’ll be going through a lot of TopoChico (I’m taking suggestions for how to re-use the empty bottles).

Dance Like No One’s Watching… Because They’re Probably Not

It’s easy to be afraid of alone. And self-reliance isn’t always one of my strong suits. When it comes to my own life, I can’t pick out anything without needing a second (or third or fourth) opinion. I suffer from a severe case of buyer’s remorse nearly every time I make a purchase. And if you haven’t already noticed, I’m back to the old blog background. (My dad, who’s my go-to guy for almost everything, hated the new look, so I, being the obliging daughter, changed it back. I may find a new look later.)

But sometimes alone can be a wonderful place. Lately I’ve been running with friends. My friend Dean provides me constant motivation on runs and never complains when I slow him down. And my new friend Marianne makes a thirty-minute jog seem like five thanks to our great conversations. Tonight, however, I ran solo through downtown Bryan.

I had a lot to think about and be thankful for during this alone time. First and foremost, I was thankful for my dad, who has had some health problems lately. I’m so far away from him and my mom here, but I’m learning more about standing on my own two feet in Texas (which ties back into that whole self-reliance thing I mentioned early).

I was also thankful that running through this town, I saw friendly faces that I recognized, people who waved to me as I passed. There’s something comforting about this place now. It took more than a year to feel settled here, and while I wouldn’t call it “home,” I can safely say Bryan/College Station has its charm. Some of the people I’ve met here are among the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever known.

I saw this video not too long ago, and I think it’s pretty neat (and I really want her slippers). You may have already seen it, but if you haven’t, enjoy.

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In other news, my mom is so amazing. She emigrated here from Poland when she was 18, and occasionally (well, more than occasionally), she mixes up expressions. As we say in the south, bless her heart.

Today I was talking to her about how stressful things have been lately and she attempted to tell me in her own way that you have to make lemonade when life gives you lemons.

Instead she said: “Sometimes you get thrown towels, and you have to mop up the dirt.”

Another “Dorothy-ism” for the books. Just one of the many reasons that we love her.

I better go get mopping.

Tennessee to Texas

The Sky Over Tyler

On the long ride back to Texas this Labor Day, Patrick and I have been listening to various podcasts to pass the time. Our favorite is This American Life, but we also listened to Radiolab for the first time on this ride. Fittingly, the show was about time. The episodeĀ  featured stories about how the definition of time developed in Sandusky, Ohio and a time-lapse recording of a little girl through the years. There was also a story about various kinds of clocks including a spice clock that delivered time you could taste – imagine an hour that tastes like cinnamon.

Today many Americans are wishing time would slow down, prolonging their long weekend, as they sip beer and enjoy the last remaining moments of summer.

With a thirteen hour-car ride for Patrick and me, time is especially of the essence. The whole day is about passing time, moving forward. Despite wishing we could force the time to elapse more quickly, we’re stuck in this car together for at least three more hours. We pass the time with long conversations and these stories about time. Fortunately, I have my computer, so I also pass the time with work and blogging.

But if there’s something to take away from this day, it’s that we should enjoy the moment. Not everyone is as lucky as us to have the day off: the countless truckers we pass on the road, the gas station attendants, the radio DJs, the cops pulling people over (yes, even them) are all spending this holiday on the job. And since you can’t (easily) change the passage of time, you might as well just appreciate what you’ve got and enjoy the ride.

A Vegetarian in Texas

I’m kind of an oxymoron these days. Everything is bigger out here, including the meat. And I’ve found myself in some especially carnivorous situations lately. I recently went to a restaurant in College Station where the SMALL sirloin was 16 ounces. When is a one-pound slab of beef small? The business cards by the register read: “All Beef. No bull.”

Antlers on the wall are commonplace here. And when I found myself at a barbecue place this weekend, I snapped a quick shot of one of the cashiers.

In case you can’t read his shirt it says: “I didn’t claw my way up to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables.” Needless to say, the only thing I could eat at this place was the banana pudding (and that probably had lard in it…)

Either way, Texas has been a lesson in adaptability. The vegetarian thing is one minor manifestation of that. I’ve learned a lot about myself here, including the fact that I’m okay being the girl who brings a veggie sandwich to a BBQ joint.