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Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

All About Austin

For whatever reason, Austin has been on my mind a lot lately. I look back on my six months in Austin, Texas (from June to December 2002) as one of the best times of my life, but it is important for me to remember (especially right now) that it didn't start out that way.

As strange as it sounds, things didn't start going right for me in Austin until after my car accident on July 24, 2002. The car accident, which occurred on my way to work, wasn't my fault (a large moving truck made a left hand turn in front of me while I had a green light) . I easily could have been severely injured or even could have died; instead, I broke my big toe from slamming on the brakes so hard. I also had bad bruises from the seat belt and a cut behind my ear (the molding of my car somehow struck me there). If I had had a passenger, he or she probably would have been severely injured or dead (all I could think of was my little brother, whom I used to cart around a lot).

After the emergency room visit and the visit from my Mom (she flew out to Texas to help me get a lawyer and a new car), I was banged up, but OK. Then, and only then, did the University of Texas college students who were my roommates inform me that my sublease was only for two months. I had to find another place to live. Quick. It didn't help that I still didn't know many people or that I had a walking cast (doctors were worried about the metatarsal, the larger bone in my foot).

In the end, the weekend before I had to move, I found the perfect roommate. I utilized the internal classifieds at Applied Materials and met Karen. Karen literally graduated from high school the year I was born, 1980. She is a single mom (her son was three at the time) who was feeling lots of financial pressure at the time, despite her good job at Applied Materials. She happened to have an extra room and bathroom. We hit it off right away. She never seemed that much older than me, and it was as if I lived with a fun aunt for four months. Better yet, it was only eight minutes from work.

Around the time I moved, my personal life got much, much better. During my initial training, I befriended a woman who used to work at Motorola. As we got to know each other during that week, she became determined to set me up with a former coworker of hers. The problem was that he had taken an extended vacation in Peru, and after I got to know him, I realized just how busy he was.

Well, it was through Melissa that I met Andy. I still had a walking cast on our "blind date," but I will never forget it. We went to a place call Flipnotics in a trendy part of Austin. On the bottom floor, there was a clothing store (closed at night), and above, there was coffee/traditional bar with a nice patio. I was incredibly embarrassed having to slowly walk up the stairs in my walking cast. I think that Andy felt bad about it. Flipnotics served as a small venue for local musicians, which is exactly why Andy and I were there. Ever the pragmatist, he not only was meeting me for a drink or two, he was checking out a new act for his community radio show - ATX Live. If I only had known the role that that show would play during my time in Austin.

That was the thing about Andy. He was and is an enigma. Professionally, he is an engineer, but his real passion was radio and music. He later became the president of Austin Community Radio - KOOP. It was through the co-op that he met Cheryl. Cheryl was a good friend of his who was incredibly fun. In fact, she became my best friend while we were there. She wanted Andy and I to get together (i.e. really date) badly, but it wasn't meant to be. Andy saw me as a kind of little sister (he is seven years older than me), and the three of us ended up having a lot of fun together.

That fall, Andy had laser eye surgery, and it didn't end up going well - at all. He was functionally blind for a week or longer. When he could finally truly see again, Cheryl and I decided to throw him a "dress to be seen" party (it happened to be close to his birthday too). I have so many outrageous pictures and memories from that party at his house. Cheryl, the eternal match-maker and optimist, made excuse upon excuse for me to head to Andy's house alone to help set up. I was spending the weekend with her in San Marcos, and she purposely didn't show up at Andy's until much later.

Well, it was strange being there alone with Andy getting things set up. It was homey, domestic, and felt all too natural. Not long before the party started, a bunch of his friends from work showed up (one happened to have graduated from Michigan State too). Anyway, everyone seemed to think that I was Andy's new girlfriend. At the time, it broke my heart that I wasn't. As I said earlier, I have many memories from that fall. That night during the party, Andy and I ended up dancing drunkenly around his kitchen. Andy, Cheryl, and I cemented our friendship that night.

Towards the end of the summer, the First Annual Austin City Limits Festival was held. I love to describe it as a techie Woodstock, and in many respects, it was. Not many people realize this, but Austin, Texas has a strong hippie contingent that never really grew up or left. I was treated to people older than my parents acting as though they still lived in the 1960s. You also had many, many young professionals in the technology industry (Samsung, Applied Materials, Motorola, and of course, Dell are all huge employers in Austin) in their 20s and 30s (people like Andy, Cheryl, and I) who loved music. Of course, Andy and Cheryl wanted to go in order to promote ATX Live too.

Well, Cheryl was at it again. She decided that she was only going to go one of the two days. I ended up spending the night in Andy's guest room and spending the last day of the festival with him - alone. It was funny. All it did was reinforce the idea that he looked upon me as a little sister. In fact, he insisted that I get a cowgirl hat so that I didn't get sunburned. As we sat on the grass waiting for the next performance (it might have been Shawn Colvin), we were treated to the lively conversations of young soldiers from Fort Hood. They were angry that they couldn't enjoy a cold beer, but it was very likely that they would serve in Iraq. Remember, this was during the summer of 2002. It was not long before those 18 - 20 year olds (not much younger than me at the time) were sent to Iraq. Every time I hear of someone from Fort Hood becoming a casualty or dying, I always think back to that summer before the war in Iraq.

Andy, Cheryl, and I went on to have a lot of fun that fall. I ended up going to a Halloween Party with Andy. It turns out that it was at the house of a friend of his, Chelle Murray. Like many in Austin, she is/was a musician. I ended up buying her CD. Her Midwestern roots showed through on the CD (she is from Ohio), and it quickly became my favorite. By the time Karen and I planned my going-away slash birthday slash Christmas party, I didn't want to go back to East Lansing. In theory, I had to go to complete my education. Yet, there was a very large part of me that wanted to STAY in Austin permanently.

As I drove away that foggy December morning, I cried listening to Chelle's CD. By the time I arrived home for Christmas, I was a different woman. I wasn't the same college kid who had left six months before. I was older, wiser, had had my heart broken, almost died, and for one of the first times in my life, had found my place. Things happened fast once I was back on campus at Michigan State, and before you know it, I was looking for a full-time job.

Naturally, I was drawn to Dell and Applied Materials. I was devastated when I didn't get those jobs after two rounds of interviews. I even got an opportunity to travel back to Austin on Applied Material's dime. Of course, I saw Andy, Cheryl, and Karen once again. When I found out that I didn't get the job, I felt as though my life was falling apart.

In the end, I started a relationship with Brian and ended up moving to Houston. While there were reasons for me living in Houston, it was a serious mistake. Houston will never be Austin. As much as I love Bay City and Michigan, Austin will always hold a very special place in my heart, as will Andy, Cheryl, and Karen. In my mind, Bay City has the potential to be another Austin (just smaller), but people would have to embrace progress, the arts, technology, and Saginaw Valley State University.

You may wonder why I've been going on and on about my experiences. It is relative to what is going on in my life right now as most of the great things that happened in Austin were born out of personal crises. It wouldn't take much for my life here in Bay City to completely change for the better; I just need to go after exactly what I want. Things have not been easy since Brian and I moved back to Michigan in 2005, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.


PS - Prior to my relationship with Brian, I finally got up the nerve to tell Andy how I felt about him. He basically reconfirmed what I thought all along - that he looked at me as a little sister of sorts. He essentially told me that the age difference was too much, and that I'd understand someday. Well, he was right. Now that I'm pushing 30, I understand what he meant. It isn't the difference in age so much as it is stage of life. There are big differences between a 21 year old and a 28 year old.

Austin Calling

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At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Aurora said...

Lindsey, great reading. I think you've missed your calling as a novelist. I can identify with the run of trouble you had in Austin. been there, done that. I hope things are much better for you now.


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