An outsider living in Austin

I’ve made the Austin area my residence for almost two years now. I lived for a while a bit north in Round Rock, but lived in Austin when I got here, and live here now.

It wasn’t my first trip to Austin. In my college years a friend went to school at Texas then St. Edward’s. My cousin went to UT and graduated from there. In fact, he keeps reminding me that if it weren’t for my love of the Longhorns through high school, he may have never gone to school here.

I’ve visited many times, took many canoe trips down the Colorado/LadyBird Lake/Town Lake areae. I’ve flipped my one-man dingy at Hippy Hollow. I’ve eaten Sixth Street pizza, and have smoked the sweet leaf a time or two while here. I’ve been to just about anywhere that needs to be gone to.

But, within the last year, I’ve been described as “one of those.” As in one of those who recently moved to Austin, and not a true Austinite.

I remember having this conversation before, and hearing on the radio, that you need to live here for 10 years before being considered an Austinite. But even then, you really aren’t.

Who the hell makes up these regulations? I was born in Chicago. I had nothing to do with that, but all of a sudden those who lived in Austin all their lives claim they are somehow much more regal than I am? I’m pretty sure most folk who say this lived off of mom and dad for the first two decades of their lives. After that, it was up to them to figure out what they were going to do, and where they would live.

But I’m here, now, being judged as a Johnny-come-lately and not a real Austinite despite my taxes being paid, my Texas Tag (if you don’t know what this is you don’t have one, or don’t need one), and high-fiving the homeless. One thing I will give up to Austin is that they have the most beautiful homeless people one the planet — granted I haven’t been all over the planet.

But you grew up in Austin. Good for you. Go ahead and pretend that’s a badge of honor. I grew up in all sorts of places and I am very thankful for that. But I don’t think of myself better than anyone else for it.

It’s Austin. You have crappy Tex-Mex food, the traffic blows, and your football team sucks. It’s not all that. It’s a great city, no doubt, but people who think like I mentioned need to get the Monty Python fish slap.

Lake Travis smells like a dump, and apparently now there’s a reason to believe it is a dump.

I’ve lived in much better cities. I love Austin, but don’t pretend to be better than I am because you grew up here and never moved and bothered to see how the rest of the world lives.




Where are you from?

In recent months I’ve noted that when people ask other folks–or me– where we are from, I take pause. I think about the question and wonder, “Where am I from?”

My journey to this point in my life has carried me to call a lot of places I call home, even if for a short period of time. From birth, to early years, to my formitive decade as a pre-pubescent kid who loved Star Wars, biking around the city, had a crush on several girls in elementary school and got into my one and only school fight.

A friend and I picked on a shorter, skinnier kid our age for the sake of just doing so. His older brothers noticed we were engaging in some not-so-friendly conversation, and some pushing was involved. They came and surrounded him, but not so much to defend him, but more in the sense of making sure they had a good view of what was about to develop.

Well, I forget the details, but punches were thrown. I don’t remember how quickly the fight ended, but the conclusion wasn’t part of the plan. The one ended up taking me and my friend behind the woodshed for a good ol’ country whooping. My friend and I were so upset we ended up fighting each other.

When I got home, my brother found out about it and made fun of me for days, pointing to the shiner I received under my left eye from trying to bully a kid that ended up turning the table on us.

But I digress…

Back to the question at hand, and the answer I’ve struggled to find. Now, I’ve never felt as if this was a question directed at me concerning my legal status. At least I didn’t take it that way (I’m American by birth, by the way).

See, I was born at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini hospital in Chicago, Ill., in the early 1970s (I’m not telling when). As an infant I lived there with my parents and older brother and sister. My maternal grandparents lived there, too, as well as family friends. But I only lived there until before I was a year-old, or so I’m told. The tale goes that my grandfather was mugged outside our apartment complex, and my parents thought it wasn’t safe for me to stay with them for the time being.

So at this point, I was sent (not by mail) to live with my paternal grandparents in Celina, Texas. Rumor has it I lived with them for a few years before my parents decided to leave Chicago and return to Texas. We continued to live in Celina, but I only really have one memory of the place. My cousin, who was around my age of about 4 or 5) had to really, really go to the bathroom, but someone was in there. So she proceeded to walk outside into the flower bed next to the steps leading up to my grandparent’s house, drop her drawers and took a poop. I couldn’t believe she was doing this, but I couldn’t turn away. That is my only real memory of Celina while living there.

From Celina, my family moved to Edcouch, Texas, which is the complete opposite of the state of Texas from Celina. In Celina, we were closer to the Oklahoma border, being not too far away from Dallas. In Edcouch, we were about 15 miles from the Mexican border. Edcouch is a city in the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost four counties of the state near beautiful South Padre Island.

I lived there until I was a freshman in high school. By this time my parents had divorced, and my father lived outside the city of Elsa — Edcouch’s sister city. I ended up leaving my mother’s home for reasons that I may talk about at some point here, just not now. So I live with my father now, and we are generally though to live in Elsa (I still went to Edcouch-Elsa High School) but had an address listed as residing in the city of Weslaco (I’m not going to get into the semantics).

I was with my father a very short period when, at the end of my first semester of my sophomore year in high school he decided to leave for North Carolina to work as a day laboror. My father was always a worker, so this did not surprise me. Thing was, I didn’t want to go to North Carolina. I wanted to stay behind. My dad didn’t make it a big deal and made arrangements for me to stay.

So yet again I find myself living with my aunt, my cousins and my grandparents, but they had move to Edinburg from Celina years before. Edinburg was just west of Edcouch and Elsa, and so I stayed with them for a short time, too, when my aunt met her future husband and her and my cousins moved to a city near Houston. I didn’t follow, and instead ┬ámoved in with my father’s other sister in the city of McAllen.

By now I should be getting the idea that peopole will move away a very far distance in order to get away from me. I know it’s not true, but if my sense of self was fairly weak, I would have thought that for life.

I lived with my aunt in McAllen the rest of the way through high school, graduating and then accepting a scholarship to go to college in Michigan. So I took it. I could have stayed home and gone to the local university, but something told me to go. So I went.

So while in college, I lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan for about a year, then for a short time in Ann Arbor. I had a technical screw up at school concerning my living accomodations, so I returned to McAllen, intending on going back to Michigan.

That plan didn’t work out so well.

I returned home and found a “summer job” delivering pizzas for a big pizza chain. I did that for a bit over a year before I was fired because I gave an interview to the local media concerning how well I thought we were going to do for Super Bowl Sunday (the Dallas Cowboys were in the game for the first time since the 1970s) and I may or may not have mentioned how much we expected to make. As an assistant manager at this point, I was the only one working at the time that was allowed to make such a bone-headed decision.

I was fired two days later.

So I look for another job and I am not having any luck. I have no desire to go back to college quite yet, so I hunt for something a typical college student would do. I couldn’t find anything, so a friend asked me if I wanted to try and give it a go in San Antonio, and a short time later I became a San Anonian.

That didn’t last very long because I realized that not finding a job was the problem. Not really actively looking for one won’t land you employment.

I again returned to McAllen. A short time later, the girlfriend I had on-and-off ended up telling me she was pregnant with my child. So we figured we were going to have to get married. When your life begins to take on priorities like an infant, you find a job fast. So I did. We moved back to Edinburg where she was a student studying bioilogy.

After a few years I went back to school. Eventually she became a teacher, and I was a sports writer when we moved back to Elsa. We lived there for a while until we, too, were divorced. I left for Edinburg, she stayed in Elsa.

I would live in Edinburg for about a decade before I found love. I met this woman at my best friend’s wedding in Nashville. We hit it off immediately and began a relationship soon after. But she mentioned to me that she had been applying to jobs (she was a banker) in California. I was saddened, but hopeful. I knew she had been delaying an offer she had on the table for a while because of me. I didn’t want her to do that, so she left for the central coast in California.

I don’t remember when she left, but I think it was a few months later. Some timme after that I followed her to Monterey, California. As fait would have it, I couldn’t find a job and my savings was dwindling. At some point we had the talk, and I started looking for jobs back in Texas.

I had no takes, but I had to leave as I didn’t want to be a burden. We didn’t break up, but I needed a job. So I drove back to Texas and took my time– five days to be exact. When I finally passed through El Paso, shortly thereafter I had a phone call. A media company in Austin was interested. I had a few phone interviews over the next two days and a week later I had a job in Austin.

So now, I make my living deep in the heart of Texas.

So tell me: Where am I from?