The light in Texas is tinted it’s usual tan hue. The ring of unfamiliar bird calls pierce down from above. Looking out into the neighbor’s back yard from this little house that I rented, I can plainly see a manikin sitting in a bathtub. This kind of funky lawn décor is not uncommon in Austin Texas. I had heard before coming here that the city’s slogan was “Keep Austin Weird”. But I had no idea just how weird until I got here. There is no cohesion to the city at all. The best way to describe Austin is to imagine that the city itself is a giant thrift store sprawl. There is no organization to the dirty hodgepodge of sites. You walk into a thrift store to sort through the junk for treasures and one man’s junk is another mans treasure. So too, scattered all over the city are these little treasure spots amidst the junk sites that no longer hold value; except to someone else.
In the old west, there was no social cohesion or social responsibility. It was every man for himself. Simply put, Austin is a hipster version of the old west. The palpable and visible funky, eclectic hipster culture that has taken over Austin has not bothered to re-do the town. Instead, like they are merely renting the city temporarily, they have metaphorically moved in and put posters up on the aging retro walls. It is a bizarre feeling contrast. The city whose physical structure is a bit like a dusty ghost town with this overlay of vibrant, liberal, progressive thought on top of it. I’ve never in my life been to a city with more youth. Walking around it you begin to feel like seeing someone over 50 is a novelty. From what I can tell, most people in this city are between 20 and 40 years old. And I can’t help but feel like a lot of my soul family has ended up here. Everyone seems so familiar to me. The frequency of their consciousness is much closer to my own. I feel less alien here.
The city also boasts a large and famous collection of bats. The Congress Avenue Bridge that spans Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. The colony is estimated at 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats. Each night from mid-March to November, the Congress Bridge Bats emerge from under the bridge and blanket the sky as they head out to forage for food. I walked to the bridge before sunset yesterday, hoping to see them and ended up on a dock staring at a red ear slider turtle instead. He was eating a dirty napkin that was strewn with all the other garbage in the swampy shallows of the river. Austin is a very unkempt city. Despite Austin being the headquarters of many fortune 500 companies, the city does not have an affluent feel at all. I suppose it is because the Austinite’s eclectic focus and values are directed elsewhere.
So here is my energetic diagnosis. The dominant negative vibration of the city is unrelatability. This goes hand in hand with the zero social cohesion and zero social responsibility in the city. The down side to being eclectic and unique and “weird” is that you begin to feel like no one can relate to you and like you can’t relate to anyone. The people of Austin are friendly to be sure. But there is an isolation deep inside them. A place that never gets seen and touched and understood. I am yet to pass one single person in this city that does not have the basic belief “no one understands me.” And so it is no surprise why the universe has arranged a workshop here on Valentine’s Day, the day for relationships. The people of Austin have to learn how to connect deeply, beyond the realm of the mind. Austin would do well to repeat the mantra “I allow myself to be seen for more than just my thoughts.” Learning how to relate to one another on a deep level creates social cohesion and this is the order of the day for Austin.
The dominant positive vibration of the city is Peculiarity. Peculiarity carries with it the very same excitement that one feels at a thrift shop. You never know what you’re going to find but there’s bound to be something there for you. It is familiar but at the same time unfamiliar. There is nothing normal about Austin. Simply put, that is awesome. I have a special place in my heart for the unusual, the uncommon and the unique. Austin is a place for individuality to be embraced. This truly is the island of misfit toys (Rudolph the red nosed reindeer reference). The thing I love the most about this city is that it feels like anyone who did not fit in on account of their peculiarity could move to this town and carve out a life worth living for themselves with other people who also did not fit in. They could come here and make life fit them instead of make themselves fit life. And so, they could simply not fit in…together.
Yesterday, after a truly healing and restorative lunch at an organic, vegan, alkalizing restaurant called Casa De Luz, I made my way to the headquarters of Whole Foods Market. You know you’re a health food freak when… your version of Disneyland is the largest whole foods store. Blake, Zach Moyer, and I were like kids in a candy shop; aisle upon aisle of yet to be discovered edible delicacies. I found coconut curd cheeses, nut milks, candies made without sugar, luscious berries, gourmet olives and herbed bean spreads. We were in heaven but so overwhelmed by the sheer expanse of it all that our vision began to blur.
My favorite thing about travel is sampling new food. Last night we went to a critic’s choice restaurant called the Fonda San Miguel, where we had the best Mexican food that any of us had ever tasted. The ambiance of the restaurant was perfection. It was the kind of dining experience where the flavors make your mind go blank and then you realize that no one has actually said anything for the span of a few minutes. And after you finish, there is a cozy sense of completeness and all you feel like doing is relaxing and laughing together. If I ever own a restaurant I want my food to leave people with that feeling.
Today, we are surveying the venue and taking in more of the city in preparation for tomorrow’s workshop. So out I go again into the hodgepodge of Austin Texas, I wonder what I’ll find today.