Don’t Mess with Texas!

I was sorry to be MIA here on Monday – the schedule this week went off the rails into the great abyss of move preparation. We’re within three days of moving. We’re not overwhelmed, since we’ve been going at a pretty good pace, but each remaining moment will definitely count toward getting everything packed up and squared away.

I wanted to give a huge, hearty shout-out and “thank you” to Texas for being fantastic! When we got here we couldn’t predict we’d cut our one-year-then-we’ll-see plan short and only stay four months, but we did what we wanted to do… we went with the flow and enjoyed Texas while we were here. We spent the four months of summer in exactly the right place, and it proved to be an amazing time.

 

A little keychain souvenir

A little keychain souvenir

 

Texas is great for many reasons. Here are just a few highlights, things we especially appreciate:

–The people here are friendly, warm and big-hearted. They have an easy way of making one feel at home, and they’re genuine people. Good people. In three words, Texans are awesome.

–The service everywhere is outstanding. Texans know hospitality!

–It’s easy to live here… the cost of living (in Austin, anyway) is very reasonable.

–We’ve had nothing but solid, good experiences with the public transportation system here. There’s a convenient network of buses that take you everywhere you want to go, which includes buses that run late at night. Also, we’ve noticed that the freeways here are never too jammed (compared to, say, California).

–Austin is a good time! It’s interesting just by virtue of the fact that it’s the state capitol. There’s the capitol, itself, and there are many museums to explore.

–We’ll never forget the bats under the bridge, and with the Colorado River here in town and our fossil-hunting family adventure up north by Dallas and the countryside in between, we got to enjoy some sides of nature we’ve never seen before.

 

And the t-shirt, of course

And the t-shirt, of course

 

So the next few days will flash by, and then, like the Ingalls’, we’ll pack up our covered wagon (well, a U-Haul trailer attached to the back of our truck) and head west.

Happy Trails, y’all!

 

Oh, THAT Apocalypse.

We saw three movies over the weekend: Pacific Rim, The Heat and The Conjuring.

Brilliant times were had.

In the existing sea of apocalypse movies, newcomer Pacific Rim does a fair job of defying all of the superlatives in the English language… and that’s okay, because it handily makes up its own as it goes along, relieving me of the burden of description for those who ask. It’s inventive like that. Pacific Rim is such a staunchly self-defining film that I can only recommend that you go watch it for yourselves so you can see what I mean. It’s visual bombast at its finest. It’s one of those movies that manages to inhabit its own cinematic space while stealing from everywhere at the same time. I might be saying this to lazily avoid thinking of the words, but I also might be doing you a huge favor. Go and enjoy yourselves a hearty 131 minutes of campy, cheesy, Godzilla-mated-with-the-Loch Ness Monster-in-the-aftermath-of-a-nuclear-event-and-spawned-meets-Iron Man goodness. Sit back in your seat in the dark and let your eyes gobble up the spectacle that spills out before them. Not since the delightfully awful Tank Girl have I been so gratified at a Good vs. Evil apocalypse fun fest (though Tank Girl is technically post-apocalyptic). Seriously, I’m not a sci-fi fan per se, but I love these movies. They are the exceptions for me. Like Tank Girl, Pacific Rim is a sci-fi action film that I’m going to want to watch over and over again.

Side note… there should be an industry awards category called “Best Use of War-Paint in an Apocalypse Film,” because Mako Mori co-storms into combat wearing red lipstick, and she would get my vote for that award. Red lipstick? It might sound frivolous and potentially reductive, but it isn’t sexy or glamorous so much as bad-ass. (Becca in Tank Girl wore it too, come to think of it.) People from cultures all over the planet have fought battles wearing paint on their faces from the beginning of time, so there’s nothing new going on when Mako shows up wearing her “Yeah I’m a Rookie SO WHAT” shade of red. She just does it with aplomb, and it’s a costume detail that stands out when you consider the character’s personal circumstances. It’s a dash of defiance. (Interestingly, I can’t find a still online showing Mako in that red lip, but I swear I saw it in at least one scene, and Callaghan remembers it, too.)

If the Kaiju monster in Pacific Rim is the new Godzilla, then Ashburn and Mullins in The Heat are the new Beverly Hills Cops (though Ashburn’s actually a Special Agent), as Callaghan aptly remarked as we exited the theater. We went in expecting raunchy fun times ahead, but we honestly didn’t think we’d laugh as much as we did. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make quite a pair!

Finally, The Conjuring pulled off the nearly-impossible and thoroughly creeped us out with its sneaky direction, pacing and use of, um, props, shall we call them. (No spoilers here!) I definitely am a fan of the horror genre, and it’s hard to make me jump. The Conjuring did it.

In summary, it was an excellent weekend at the movies, which is an intensely satisfying thing, especially since a weekend at the movies is a rare event for us. Neither a cent nor a second of our time went to waste.

Okay, so I dwelled on Pacific Rim a bit longer than I’d intended. I also wanted to point out one of the hidden hazards of public transportation.

When this is your bus stop...

When this is your bus stop…

...and this is across the street...

…and this is across the street…

This happens. hahaha!

This happens. hahaha!

Free Wheelin,’ or Wheel-Free

We’ve been in Austin for a month now, and we’re finding it to be a pretty kick-ass place. We’re enjoying the process of discovering our new city, and we’re transitioning well, overall.

One thing we’ve done is we’ve freed ourselves from the hassles of ownership as much as possible. We don’t own cell phones, property or vehicles. For phones, we use Magic Jacks (we each have our own). We rent an apartment, and we walk and take the bus to get around. Thus, there are no phone bills, mortgage payments or auto-related expenses in our monthly budget. Not having a car is also economically beneficial in that it eliminates the ability to give in to instant gratification impulses… there’s no jumping into a car on a whim to go do stuff or buy stuff we maybe can’t afford. We have to mindfully plan our excursions and make decisions about what’s a). necessary, and/or b). worth our time and money, and what’s not.

At first, the idea of going wheel-free unnerved me somewhat, just a little bit, as I’d been as accustomed as anyone to the independence of mobility inherent in having a vehicle. My last vehicle – in Arizona – was a little red Chevy truck I’d named “McKenna.” I loved her and considered her to be a member of my family (I can be obsessive like that. And, okay, I’ll admit that I have a thing for Chevy trucks). (No, I did not have a decal of Calvin pissing on the Ford logo.)

In reality, it turns out that being wheel-free is anything but a hardship. It’s actually incredibly liberating, and it makes so much sense for us, it’s almost ridiculous. Our new lifestyle is quickly becoming second nature. We love not having to deal with parking and getting gas. Also, not having a car keeps us active… we walk an average of 10 miles per week, just going around doing our errands.

Our biggest surprise source of glee has been the bus. The bus-line we use the most is the 1M, and it’s fantastic. The 1M picks us up right in front of our apartment, and it cuts south through the Austin metro area, taking us almost everywhere we want to go, from N. Lamar to Guadalupe to Congress and beyond. Mainly, we go downtown. The 1M takes us there directly… no transfers!

The advantages of riding the bus are numerous. For one thing, it means that someone else is driving, so we’re free to stare out the window and make nifty discoveries. (For instance, thanks to the 1M, we discovered the Hyde Park neighborhood, which we love.) We don’t have to pay attention to the road. We can talk, daydream and even take a short power nap. All we have to do is be aware of when to pull the stop bell.

We’ve yet to have a bad bus experience (though I’m sure we will at some point… those are the odds). So far, the bus has always been either on time or early. It’s beautifully air-conditioned, meaning that we get to travel in a comfortably chilled environment, rather than in a hot car with cold air blasting onto our faces. We enjoy the diversity on the bus, all the proverbial walks of life we encounter. The mix of people includes students, yuppies, hipsters, housewives and gangsters; both white and blue-collar employees heading to work, everyone from engineers to artists to construction workers to librarians; homeless, disabled – sometimes with helping dogs – parents and teenagers. There are children and elderly. There are loners and lovers. There are groups of friends. Shades of skin represent the full spectrum of the human rainbow, and it’s beautiful. There are hundreds of stories on a bus at any given time, and with my penchant for people-watching, I love to image what some of those stories might be. A bus ticket scores you free entertainment, too, because human beings can be pretty funny creatures.

The first time we rode the bus, we were sitting there talking when an old guy got on, loudly singing a Mac Davis song:

“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble/When you’re perfect in every way…”

He walked down the aisle past us, continuing to sing.

“I can’t wait to look in the mirror…”

Then he doubled back and stuck his face in front of Callaghan’s to sing him the final line:

“Cause I get better lookin’ each day!”

Which caused us all to crack up. See? How often do you get to burst out in spontaneous laughter while driving? Instead of cursing out traffic conditions and other peoples’ stupid driving behaviors, we’re being comically serenaded by a happy crazy person. Awesome!

Here, check out the view from our favorite bus:

 

Heading downtown on the 1M, our go-to bus-line. We jump on the 1M several times a week, at least.

Heading downtown on the 1M, our go-to bus-line. We jump on the 1M several times a week, at least.

 

Crossing the Congress Ave bridge

Crossing the Congress Ave bridge

 

It seems there are as many different architectural styles in Austin as there are types of people. I love them all.

It seems there are as many different architectural styles in Austin as there are types of people. I love them all.

 

Have I mentioned that Austin's a pretty friendly place?

Have I mentioned that Austin’s a pretty friendly place?

 

Coffee on every corner! Seems that way, anyway.

Coffee on every corner! Seems that way, anyway.

 

I posted this on Facebook yesterday: Tuesday afternoon, we were on the bus going downtown and I took this pic of the Texas state capitol not knowing that a badass Texas state senator called Wendy Davis was inside at that very moment, doing badass things. (Like her or not, she is a badass.) This is what history in the making looks like from the outside.

I posted this on Facebook yesterday: Tuesday afternoon, we were on the bus going downtown and I took this pic of the Texas state capitol not knowing that a badass Texas state senator called Wendy Davis was inside at that very moment, doing badass things. (Like her or not, she is a badass.) This is what history in the making looks like from the outside.

 

"Stay alert to stay alive" - there's a reason why the military teaches you to live by these words. You want to be aware when a demon dumpster tries to sneak up behind you and your friends.

“Stay alert to stay alive” – there’s a reason why the military teaches you to live by these words. You want to be aware when a demon dumpster tries to sneak up behind you and your friends.

 

Here's a little tribute to one of my favorite actors. Every time we pass this, I think of Christopher Walken, so finally, I took a picture of it.

Here’s a little tribute to one of my favorite actors. Every time we pass this, I think of Christopher Walken, so finally, I took a picture of it.

 

say "fromagggge!" or "camembert!!!"

say “fromagggge!” or “camembert!!!”

 

Making a conscious decision to not own a car is the best thing we’ve done, and we’re lucky that we have this option – I know that not everyone does. We, too, might need to get a car one day, for whatever reason, though we sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. So we’re going to enjoy this freedom for as long as we can. It’s just a pleasure to get around without speeding mindlessly through our day. We can see what’s around us when we walk and ride the bus. Plus, we’re no longer contributing to the pollution problem by adding an engine of our own to the mix. If we ever do want or need a car for a few hours, we can rent one, or use Zip Car or Car 2 Go (we see Car 2 Go Smart cars all over Austin). Win!