Austin City Limited

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not typically a fan of being away from home for work reasons over a weekend.  The fact I was doing it in Texas also wouldn’t click high up on my ‘happy weekend’ list.  It was cold, it was rainy, and the threat of ice hung … but I’m calling this one in the win column.

This story actually beings a week and a half ago.  I’ve had work plans for this upcoming week in Dallas, where I currently sit waiting for my fellow JPLers to show up.  Then, a need came up on short notice for a visit to a supplier in Austin.  With my schedule tight (see the whole Insanuary post), and the fear of adding an additional two travel days to my schedule, I decided to tack the new audit onto this past Friday and stay in Austin over the weekend.

Austin is one of the slowly shrinking number of US cities I’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t.  You’d expect it to be as Texas as Texas cities can be.  Home of the University of Texas, the State Capitol, and named for one of the founding fathers of Texas – you’d expect nothing but cowboy hats, horses, and barbecue.  Well, there was barbecue, that’s for sure. In any other way, however, I believe Austin is the least Texan Town in Texas I have ever seen.

I’ve known it for the music scene mostly.  Austin is the home of South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual music event (and film and multi-media, but stay with me here) that is the most comprehensive / expansive music festival in the world.  It basically takes over the city for a week in March with nearly 2,000 official acts and some 30,000 possible other acts popping up everywhere.

With this in mind, I focused on hanging out Saturday Night on 6th Street.  Austin’s 6th Street is the Bourbon Street or Beale Street of town.  Bars line the road for seven or eight blocks, many of them built for outdoor or rooftop or open front experience.  Like I said, it was cold this weekend, so outside entertainment wasn’t really a good option.  Still, every place had music going … and I mean … live music.  It’s was funny how many places had music going.  Blues, Jazz, Rock, Dueling Pianos, Electronic.  Bouncers outside of the bars were calling out ‘We Have Live Music’ …. and I was like, ‘yeah, you probably provide napkins with your drinks too’.  For serious, you were more likely to see a bar with a four piece live band than a bar with barstools.

Honestly, though, 6th street is for the younger scene.  U of Texas is there, so the streets quickly got packed with college aged folks looking to do what college kids do on a Saturday night.  It’s that kind of crowd though that feeds to unique lifestyle of the city.  Many places stole the old Portland line, with shirts that say “Keep Austin Weird”.  That was a sight to see as many buildings are painted with artistic murals or cool ideas.  Austin has this Bohemian, hipster feel to it.  It felt that any minute you could run across someone pulling out an accordion on a street corner, or reading some new poem, or offer black market free ranged cage free kale.

So, I only spent two days in this little bit of a city, and I am not even begin to say I experienced it in the right ways; but man that city had a vibe that was intoxicating.  With as insane this past month has been, I needed a day like Saturday to feel the release of the hang-ups of life.

Of course, tomorrow starts a day in Dallas – a day of real work – so I bet the weight of the world will come crashing back pretty quick.

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