Alone Star State: Chapter 2
I landed Thursday afternoon and Oliver was there to pick me up right on time; perhaps a little too on time. After throwing my bags in the car and making sure the trunk wasn’t lined with garbage bags, I hopped in and began to breathe in the expansive scenery and endless farmland as we cruised the outskirts of downtown Austin. Turned out, Oliver was a) British, b) close in age and, most important of all, c) a pretty good dude. When we pulled up the driveway to their two-family house I could not believe that this couple had such large and well-decorated digs at this point in their lives. Kick-starting what became a trip-long comparison to life as I know it on the East Coast, the only thing more impressive than the size of their home was that it was entirely paid for by renting out their spare bedroom every night of the year to travelers like me. Oliver and Jade both work at home: he for his own company helping small businesses build out their online presence and her as Community Manager for—you guessed it—AirBnB. I could think of no young couple more emblematic of success, taking 21st century technology and some DIY millennial know-how and using it to their full advantage to carve out the life they felt they deserve - a reiteration of the new, if slightly spunkier, American dream.
I had known each of them for less than 30 minutes before I began envying their affordable living, entrepreneurial spirit and overall laid back mien. Spending some time abroad a few years ago, Jade, a lifelong Texan, met Oliver at a pub in London. Several pints (and dates) later, they were on a plane to start their lives together in Austin. They spent the majority of their night helping me plan my weekend, telling me which bars, restaurants and neighborhoods I had to check out during my stay. I would have written “sights” to appear more cultured but I’d prefer to be truthful to all one of my readers. Besides, I try not to lie to my mom. After grabbing a to-do-list and a couple of road-beers, I was off and on my own again to wander the streets under the sprawling night sky.
I was en route to East Austin, what was described to me as the Southwest’s answer to the East Coast’s all-too-popular (all-too-played out?) hipster scene running from Williamsburg, Brooklyn down to Gainesville, Florida. While sauntering around aimlessly and introducing myself to random bar patrons at the 1920’s-inspired speakeasy, I thought that I easily could have been on 9th and 2nd in the East Village and wouldn’t have known the difference. In fact, half the people I struck up conversations with were from New York. Everyone seemed to be a transplant, the other half having migrated over from more coastal cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. No one I chatted with in the bar had lived in Austin for more than five years, let alone a lifetime. If I didn’t know to Keep Austin Weird, I’d say their slogan may well have been Austin: Established in 2009. That’s not to say that my new friends embodied the overall stereotypical character traits from the towns in which they came. Most New Yorkers I met during my bar crawl that night were surprisingly and abundantly kind, buying me round after round of drinks and accepting me as their own right away. It seemed as if a stint in Texas (and a few cocktails) had mellowed their harsh. Maybe you can take the Queens out of the girl, after all.