“As adults we try to relax from the never-ending quest for reason and order by drinking a little whiskey or smoking whatever works for us, but the wisdom isn’t in the whiskey or the smoke. The wisdom is in the moments when the madness slips away and we remember the basics.” ~ willie nelson
above / barton springs, austin city limits, hopfields
how does one enter a space, a place, a possibility, a somewhere to live, inhabit, embrace? i went to austin with a mission ~ to see, verify even, seeing myself, my family ~ there. and so i entered it more like an anthropologist ~ the thing that i studied and became before making clothes and food and film… to liken it to my entry into jamaica almost makes me smile because it brings back in a flash the way a mind works (my mind works), how it navigates space, encounters people, eases into another way of being. In Jamaica, living between Kingston and traveling through the rest of the island ~ i had 10 months with a 2 month pre-fieldwork period / in Austin, i had 3 1/2 days ~~~
but preparation is always key (and essential), and like with jamaica (or italy, or japan, or wherever you might find yourself), you research a bit about the culture, your own interests and theirs, but the most essential is the connections you have going into a place; and as a salonniere who makes connections for others (over the course of my past 95 dinners), it was my turn to ask for connections to those things i love, or could come to love, in Austin. here is a bit about the way i moved through this completely new space ~ a mini travelogue of how to get the feel of a culture, its people, its essence, almost, in less than 100 hours…
there were gaps of course ~ i didn’t get to go to my favorite clothing store By George (I knew it, dreamt of it after meeting the now ex-owner Katie Culmo years ago when i did trunkshows in austin years ago ~ and was taken to Uchi and Hudson on the Bend). i also didn’t make it to Hotel San Jose or the Saint Ceclia / my big LOVE is hotel spaces and i had heard there are many super cool groovy spaces in austin. i didn’t get to eat at Lenoir, Dai Due, Buffalina, Easy Tiger, Uchiko, Clark’s, Jeffrey’s, Emmer & Rye, Olamaie, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Mickelthwaite’s ~ to name only half of the recommended “to do” restaurants from my many food and wine friends (thank you emily schindler, carenn jackson, jonathan marlow, hannah eaves and jordan mackay for all your advice)
below / a little stream of consciousness remembering of a transformative weekend in austin ~ which now, three weeks later, seems like an eternity ago…but i’m so excited to become part of ~
DAY 1 / the arrival / Friday, September 30th
ACL / no I didn’t know what that was ~ Austin City Limits (M83, RadioHead, Major Lazer) with my Leominster high school friend Timothy Harrington.
DAY 2 / acclimatizing / Saturday, October 1st
seeing homes, meeting people (with realtor Katie Jackson of GoodLife and Leonora Landers Harrington, an amazing companion on the adventure). From Allandale/Rosedale to Lakeway, Cuernavaca, West Lake and Mueller for lunch…
House # 1 / Broken Bow Trail, Apache Shores, Lakeway
House # 2, still in development / Cochise Trail, Apache Shores, LakeWay
The Afternoon / Lunch and other things
above / Fiore Tedesco (of Prune, Gramercy Tavern, Franklin BBQ and Bufalina) and Adam Orman’s L’Oca d’Ora; my “local” coffee shop for the weekend ~ Houndstooth, other local fave Anderson’s and Draughthouse Pub for darts; the gorgeous Uchiko interior; meeting my dear friend Katrine Formby (whom i met in Telluride a decade ago and is one of the partners of these waterfront establishments) at Hula Hut and Mozart’s Coffee ~ where i know if we lived there, august, royal and i would spend tons of time.
The evening / art galleries and openings and cocktails
above / art openings with an old friend designer Deborah Main, and a new friend, the sculptress Valerie Chaussonnet (our mentor, the anthropologist Dr Nelson Graburn from UC Berkeley connected us) ~ we started off seeing Calder Kamin’s cool plastic bag sculpture at Women and their Work on Lavaca; then went to a show by the collective ICOSA on Shady Lane on the East side; and ended up at the closing of a show at Demo Gallery on Congress…. Then I literally walked across the street for drinks and a burger at the gorgeous Townsend…
Day 3 / Sunday, October 2nd / from Barton Springs to the very new Eberly
above / barton springs before 9am, Launderette for sunday brunch with Vital Farms‘ Matt O’Hayer and Catherine Stewart; a tour of places to shop ~ from whole foods (of course) to wheatsville co-op and central market to the super fun chill space the Spider House and some hanging out in a yard near a creek playing cornhole… a sunset dinner with my old friend Rania Milleran Cruz (whose wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses i made over a decade ago) in her neighborhood on the river…
Day 4 / Monday, October 3rd
above/ good morning, again, Houndstooth; breakfast at Texas French Bread, with one of my favorite writers Geoff Dyer, (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi and Paris Trance in particular) who is teaching at UT. A quick journey to Lake Travis high school and a tour of Hudson Bend Middle School, through Cuernavaca and hopped in the Uber of Austin car ~ aka FASTEN ~ to be taken to June’s where a little adventure began. When deciding where to live it is always good to consider how you like to live your life and much of what we do is around cocktails and wine and food and the people that make it ~ so I asked my dear friend Rajat Parr who i should meet ~ and i was welcomed by a handful of austinites and transplants. Above, (master sommelier) June Rodil of June’s opening a delicious Bourgogne that Rick Pitcher chose for us to start with; next we tried a gamay. We talked Mighty Cone and ACL with Chris McFall, the opening of Hudson on the Bend; and Diane and Earl Dixon of Keeper Collection about their bringing together of food and wine through Somms on Fire. Next stop the newly opened Eberly ~ where we were given a little tour of the premises and the roll-out by a fellow new yorker (thank you rick!)…
Day 5 / the departure
a last memory / and beatrice, beside me on the airplane on the way home…
above / radiohead at ACL, playing daydreaming… and the woman sitting next to me ~
she said she was a seeker. and that’s what stuck. i was thinking of daydreaming ~ radio head’s version of it, translated by paul thomas anderson into the meditative video that it has become for me, now listening to it (rather than watching it) on my headphones as she finally spoke to me and we spoke, and she drew and it was lovely… it hadn’t been even 100 hours since i had landed in austin, and here i was taking off to return to oakland ~ assimilating all of it, as i do… thinking possibility and what i could do there, if we in fact chose there. thinking of the way friends do things in the bay area and the parallel stuff that could be done in austin ~ the merging and buying high and low / fast food, slow food / L’ocol and Mighty Cone to Coi/Alfred’s and McFall/Caruso of Hudson on the Bend ~ from DPG, MINNA and Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Manufactory here and Stubb’s/Eberly, McGuireMoorman… the music festivals/ACL, film gatherings/SXSW, wine gatherings/SommsUnderFire… and all the other things i have yet to learn. it’s moments like these when you see “ hat could be” ~ becoming an Intel anthropologist ~ ethnographer at Dell or Apple; translating the salon dinners to different spaces throughout the city, imagining what can go where, who can meet whom ~ when, why and how… how can i be the “how”?
on the plane home, i thought of what it meant to be a baudelarian flaneur ~ an old school wanderer who embraced the city~ part of and apart from urban life ~ usually wandering a nyc, london or paris ~ this time a texan flaneur by means of car rather than foot experiencing Austin and its outskirts through my own eyes, which were in fact through all those friends of friends ~ a connected community that i could become part of… “what if, what if” she said… (“”What” and “If” are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life. What if?”) yes, what. if.
“but what if i fail of my purpose here? it is but to keep the nerves at strain, to dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall, and baffled, get up and begin again.” ~ robert browning