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Monthly Archives: January 2014

So this brilliant little infographic has been circulating on the Interwebs and Austin social networks over the past few days in humorous response to the influx of people flocking to the city and boosting our ever growing population count and property values – UT graduates who squat; Silicon Valley techies who seek sunshine and cheaper rent; actors or models who can’t make it in LA; and your general free-spirited folks from colder, less exciting parts of the country who either caught the Austin bug on their first visit or through word-of-mouth, and then impulsively decided to pack up their cars and head South.

I try not to be a hater. It does unnerve me every time Austin makes another Top 10 List for Best Places for Young People or Top Tech Cities in the U.S. because I know the long-term consequences of our ever-increasing population – higher rent prices, insufferable traffic, skyscraper construction – but I too am an implant who sought employment and permanent residency in Austin because the evidence is undeniable – Austin is a great place for young people and creatives and music lovers and foodies and hipsters and vegans and runners and hikers and bikers and geeks and gays and pet owners; it’s warm, welcoming and non-representative of the rest of the state of Texas. We can’t blame people for wanting to relocate and plant roots in Austin any more than we can blame engineers and developers who want to move to San Francisco; bearded hipsters who want to move to Portland or cocaine-snorting finance folks who want to move to New York. (that last generalization may or may not have been influenced by recently watching The Wolf of Wall Street)

However, I think there are a few other things that this illustrator left off that would even further deter a prospective resident from moving here so I thought I’d list a few extra contributions:

  • Heinous allergies: This time of year is absolutely miserable for a huge chunk of Austin residents and the dry weather in the winter months makes it worse and worse each year. The cedar pollen count levels are astronomically high and every morning I suffer from a terrible mix of symptoms that are impossible to abate. In fact, the clouds of pollen coming off the trees were so enormous that some residents thought there was a forest fire.
  • Mopacalypse – the traffic on I-35 is included in the infographic, but I think the traffic on MoPac is worth mentioning. MoPac is the only other major freeway in the city, and traffic will get exponentially worse as construction workers plan to expand the freeway and transform it into a toll road. I believe a recent article stated that an Austinite with a 30-minute commute will spend an average of 83 hours a year in traffic, a soul-crushing, life-sucking data point and a truth that I’m realizing very slowly and painfully.
  • Homeless people – Sure, there are homeless people everywhere; in a lot of sexy cities too – NY, Chicago, San Francisco – but many hobos migrate here during the winter months because of the warm weather. They are getting harder and harder to avoid.
  • Franklin Barbecue – People wait in line 3 hours for barbecue, and don’t get me wrong it tastes fantastic and is probably the best barbecue in Austin. But three hours? THREE?  Waiting that long for anything is so excessive and unnecessary and unappealing and I would never recommend that anyone go there unless they had a week day off and got there right when the restaurant opens. I’ve only ever tasted Franklin once in my life at a private rehearsal dinner that rented out the space, and I don’t ever plan on going back. (Which is a shame because it’s delicious)
  • You’re still in Texas – Austin is the diamond in the rough and unrepresentative of the rest of the state. It is liberal and vibrant and there are always protests campaigning for Pro-Choice legislation and gay marriage and all sorts of politics that I support. BUT we are still in Texas. There are still TONS of rednecks, racists, Bible-thumpers, drunk Dodge Ram drivers and idiots in office (ahem Rick Perry and ahem Ted Cruz) that live in Texas. There is a smaller percentage of these folks in Austin per capita, but Texas is a proud state that tried to secede from the Union at one point – so there it isn’t completely fair to compare Austin to places that legalize gay marriage or marijuana or abortions. Plus other than lakes and hill country, Texas is flat, dry and ugly in a lot of places, and it takes about 13 hours to drive across from point to point. If I ever left Austin, I’d probably have to leave Texas. Though I’ve lived here my entire life and love being from Texas – the more populous cities like Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio have their own charm and personality, but are ultimately utterly uninhabitable.

I hope that dissuades any of you outsiders from entering our city limits. And I really do need to reiterate – it does get really fucking hot here.

We’re exactly one full week into 2014 and after giving it some thought – I’ve decided to make a few New Year’s Resolutions. This should come as no surprise. After all, a lot of people make resolutions around this time of year in an effort to better themselves and start fresh, but this is actually very atypical behavior for me.

I’ve never been a believer in New Year’s Resolutions, and here’s why:

  1. They are usually generic and cliche (like the list depicted above)
  2. They are usually difficult, unappealing tasks (like the list depicted above)

And though you will ultimately be happier, healthier and extremely proud of yourself if you lose weight or quit smoking – the end result will not make the means to reach those goals any more attractive. For example, probably the most popular, universal New Year’s Resolution is losing weight. I would love to lose weight. Who wouldn’t? But do I want to get out of bed on Saturday mornings and head to the gym? Do I want to adhere to a strict, sensible diet? Do I want to quit drinking alcohol? The answer to all of those questions is a loud, emphatic and undeniable ‘NO!’ and I’d challenge any of you to disagree with me. Resolutions are things we know we should do, but they are also things we don’t really want to do. Otherwise, we already would be doing them. There’s a reason for the expression, ‘Resolutions are meant to be broken.’ It’s because resolutions are hard. They’re really fucking hard. They’re not fun, and that’s why I don’t like them and that’s why I don’t make them. I see nothing more futile than setting goals that you probably won’t reach or making promises to yourself that you probably won’t keep.

So Alison, if you hate New Year’s Resolutions so much – why did you make some this year? Good question, clever Reader. After ruminating over this for the past seven days, I realized that I can still set goals for myself that will ultimately make me a healthier, happier person. The key difference is that all of my resolutions are reasonable and positive. For example, my resolutions are either things I really, really want to do or enhancements of things I already do and enjoy doing. Rather than treating New Year’s Resolutions like daunting tasks, we should be using them as opportunities to try new things. There is no shortage of activities, behaviors or good habits that will make my existence in 2014 better than it was in 2013, but said activities do not necessarily have to be terrible, uninspired and mundane tasks (like the list depicted above) Instead of focusing on abstaining from vices or depriving myself of tempting things, my New Year’s Resolutions are fun and exciting. I challenge you to quit treating New Year’s Resolutions like Lent and start brainstorming creative ways to enjoy and improve your life while having fun in the meantime. Quit treating resolutions like work and start looking at them like play.

I think this will all make more sense once you actually read my list. I thought 10 was an appropriate and elegant number to strive towards. Here goes:

ALISON’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

1. Run a 10K. This is a perfect example of a positive, yet reasonable resolution. I like running; I really do. I never thought I’d like running, but I started last year and genuinely enjoy it and want to continue doing it. Running a 10K isn’t as lofty a goal as say, a half marathon, which would require a significant time investment, weeks of training and a certain element of sacrifice. A 10K makes sense. I can do a 10K, but I never have before. In fact, I’ve probably run 6 miles before, but never achieved the gratifying sense of accomplishment that comes with officially completing a race.

2. Read six Classic novels. Perhaps one every other month. Y’all know I love reading; this is just a way to force me to pick up those timeless novels I’ve always wanted to read, but never got around to.

3. Read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (THEN YOU CAN FINALLY WATCH THE DAMN MOVIES! I STILL HAVEN’T SEEN THE LORD OF THE RINGS MOVIES AND I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO BUT I CAN’T BASED ON MY RIDICULOUS, SELF-IMPORTANT PRINCIPALS ABOUT READING BOOKS BEFORE WATCHING THEIR FILM ADAPTATIONS! THIS GOAL IS 12 YEARS OVERDUE! I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M STILL TYPE YELLING)

4. Try a new restaurant every month – I actually just did this last night so I can already check January off my list. My friend and I decided to try a new sushi joint and had such a terrific time that it actually inspired this entire blog post and set of 2014 goals. The Head Chef at this place was the friendliest, most unassuming sushi chef I’ve ever met – rather than the usual quiet, brooding, hyper-focused chefs that deftly prepare your sushi (and don’t get me wrong, I love watching those guys work in respectful silence too) this guy welcomed questions, customized several of our orders, and gave us complementary dessert and tea. We not only scored a delicious meal and discovered a new gem, but we learned a lot about seafood and culinary artistry and made a new friend!

5. Watch a new old film once a month.  I’ve never seen The Princess Bride. Or The Goonies. Or The Gremlins. Or Labyrinth. Or Never Ending Story. Or The Godfather. Or Rocky. Or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Or Back to the Future. Or [Insert any must-see, timeless film that most everyone’s seen] Whenever people learn this about me, they without fail respond with the most overdramatic sense of disbelief, and it’s really disheartening. This list of movies I’ve been deprived of all these years keeps growing and growing. That in itself is so miserably overwhelming and daunting that I usually give up before I even start. But I can do one a month. Anyone can do one a month.

6. Watch a documentary once a month.

7. Complete 5 DIY/craft/organization projectsI could easily spend 2 hours continuously perusing a plethora of Pinterest boards and DIY blogs, but I almost always lack the motivation to make the trip to Michael’s, buy materials and execute a project. When I buy a piece of artwork, it’s not uncommon for me to take weeks, months even, before framing and hanging the damn thing. I have all these hopes and dreams for potential storage solutions or cute ways to displaying my Instagram photos. I don’t think finding the time or money is as decisive a factor as simply, finding the motive.

8. Write a letter to a someone who lives in another state once a month. I love the thoughtfulness and nostalgia of hand-writing notes and mailing them to people you care about. I know how much it means to me on the rare occasion that I receive a handwritten card so I think the most deserving recipients of these special gestures are those I care about, but rarely get to see in the flesh.

9. Donate to a deserving charity. I usually do this in some form or fashion every year, but this year I want to find a nonprofit that supports a really interesting cause that might not be as widely known as other, better established organizations.

10. Treat yo’self once a quarter. I think treating yourself to a manicure, massage or facial once in a while is healthy and important to your own well being. Once a quarter seems like a reasonable amount that’s not too overindulgent.

*I think it’s also important to note that each of my resolutions has some sort of tangible number, timeline or level of frequency attached to it. This is one of the most important, but commonly ignored rules of goal-setting both professionally and personally. Rather than “run more” – I determined a set distance. Rather than “read more”, I designated distinct numbers and types of books. Even if your resolution is as cliche and unoriginal as losing weight – you should have a target weight you want achieve. You’re more likely to attempt your resolutions and accomplish them when you have a figure or deadline associated with it. Therefore, if you do decide to make resolutions this year, I’d encourage you to keep that in mind.* 

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Well that about sums ’em up. Hopefully, I’ll keep you guys updated on my progress on this blog, which could also double as an honorary 11th resolution to blog more often. However, I know my limitations and writing these actually takes a really long time so I won’t make any promises. But I can commit to writing a year-end review of what I actually accomplished and I’m optimistic that I will actually achieve all of these things.

 

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So, after my strongly-worded diatribe I penned a mere two days ago that detailed my negative opinions about how terrible New Year’s Eve is and why I had every intention of avoiding people, places and all things associated with the occasion, I ate my words and actually partook in almost all of the awful, cliched activities that characterize celebrating New Year’s. Whoops!

To be fair, my New Year’s Eve plans were spontaneous, last-minute and ultimately influenced by a group of my oldest friends who were visiting Austin for the day and now live in North Carolina, California and New York respectively. If I was asked to dress up, go to dinner, pay a cover and brave downtown Austin in the biting cold with any other group of individuals I would have definitely said “no” or feigned some compelling excuse about washing my hair or explaining that… “as much as I’d like to join you guys, I don’t really want to join you guys….”

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But I’ve known these dudes since I was 13 years old and some of my fondest memories of summer camp, Vans Warped Tour, the first boy I ever liked (none of the above by the way) and my entire four years in college involve these goofy guys so I would have been a terrible friend if I denied the rare opportunity to spend meaningful time with them. Plus, it evened out the group for the one solo, girlfriend-free, fiance-free bachelor, who happens to be my oldest and closest friend of the bunch. Accompanying him was a pressure-free, innocent and fun way to start off 2014 single, but not alone – free of any sort of anxiety or expectation, arguably the most unattractive aspects of the entire New Year’s Eve experience.

The haphazard nature of how quickly I had to alter my original plans of running errands, staying in and starting my latest literary conquest saved me the time and money of buying a dress, getting my nails done and even showering – things I probably would have done under different circumstances. But I ultimately managed to appear presentable and though my opinions about New Year’s Eve are steadfast and unwavering, I would be a miserable liar if I said I didn’t have a good time. Because I did. You can call me a hypocrite if you want, but the evidence for my original arguments is still crystal clear – I did have to spend an unreasonable amount of money on cover fees and alcohol. I did have to worry about finding a cab, and I did have to withstand 40-degree weather in an insufficient ensemble paired with excruciatingly painful high-heeled shoes. These components are all undeniably terrible things indicative of celebrating New Year’s Eve. However, the company I was with was worth the extra effort I wouldn’t have otherwise made – so judge me if you like, I don’t really care.

I still hate New Year’s Eve. I just love my friends.

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Photos complements of the beautiful Melissa