Austin, Texas

Austin’s beautiful, weird, a city juxtaposed. Words that come to mind:

Urban. Street art. Hills. Vines. Curving roads. Steep inclines. Mountains. Ponds. Chipped concrete. Gravel parking lots. Loose rocks. Sprawling lakes. Kayaks and paddle-boards. Arched bridges. Pointy-winged bats. Sunsets in high places. Wealth stacked atop mountains. Income disparity. Food trucks. Bars. Loud music. Crowded cafes. Shitty parking. Rocky terrain. Small bulbs of lights, broken windows on geometrical homes. Palm trees and record shops sprinkled around the streets. Oddly California-esque for a Texan city.

On the trip, I jotted down a list of places we went, things we did, food we ate. In lieu of writing a massive post, I wrote down the highlights, which I’ve linked to in the list.

Saturday

  • And we roadtrip: playlist and stops along the way
  • Lunch and noms: chicken fried steak, a burger, peach moonshine
  • Headed out to Graffiti Park, realized we’d forgotten the spray, went back to get it, then climbed to the top to make our mark
  • Drove up to the lake for views, pink drinks and fancy glasses
  • Grabbed burgers at P. Terry’s

Sunday

  • Went hunting for cafes–all crowded. Visited a coffeeshop by a record store, dipped in. Went to yet another cafe, until we finally settled on Starbucks
  • Drove to Rainey Street, which was dotted with food trucks, bars, and restaurant. Ate at a Rowdy outdoor restaurant called Bangers, where musicians played right in our faces
  • Zilker Park. First saw the big ol’ field, then some kayaks on Lady Bird Lake.
  • Went kayaking! Decided to kayak wildly and arbitrarily to the far off bridge. One hour turned into an hour and a half
  • Afterwards, sopping wet, hiked up Mount Bonnel
  • Ate at Gordough’s, only the most delicious donut place to graze the planet. Heaps of strawberry and cream cheese on ours.

Monday

  • Gordough’s for lunch (again)
  • Third cafe’s the charm–we found one right by the Capitol
  • Went to the Capitol and walked around all the floor
  • Drove past South Congress to get Gordoughs (for the third time)
  • Took scenic route, where we drove through hill country. Passed by small towns, stopped at a restaurant. Found a hungry cat, which we fed beef jerky.
  • Sunset, winding roads, dim lighting. After a few hours, we finally reached the main highway. DJ’ed and we pseudo-clubbed on the way back.
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Kayaking Adventures

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Distant mountains, swaying trees, basking turtles and a view of the city up ahead. It was, by all means, beautiful. But we weren’t here to enjoy the sight. We were here to aggressively kayak to some arbitrarily-determined location three bridges away.

“Let’s get down to business! To defeat the huns!” I paddled emphatically. Water splashed in our kayak.

When it started to get hot, I declared, “toes in the water!”

An hour later, we’d arrived at our (again, arbitrarily-determined destination): the triple arched bridge. Arms sore, clothes drenched and tired, we looked back to realize we couldn’t see where we’d begun. We’d also reached our one hour limit. So for the next forty five minutes, we alternated between drifting/wailing and aggressive paddling. We almost ran into a turtle and definitely ran into another kayaker before finally reaching the dock soaked in lake water. 

Oasis

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Around us, people mingled and posed and photographed the sunset. Like a citrus smoothie, the white-yellow sun dipped into the sky, the reddish orange pinks melted into water–then a tap on the shoulder and a “hi, can you take a picture of us?”

I don’t blame her. Or the countless others with cameras aimed towards the sky (I was one. With three cameras) The view was breath-taking. And we were high up, too: on the drive, we’d looped up and around the rocky hills. It reminded me of California, with its steep roads and inclines.

So I’ll cut to the chase–let’s just say we found ourselves at the crowded sweltering restaurant on a hill. To our right were fancy homes (and lucky homeowners). To our left, tourists and restaurant-goers and sight-seers. The place was packed, a hive of sweaty well-dressed vibes. We slipped into the bar for a fruity pink smoothie, then wandered around the three stories. Once it was dark, we speed-walked back to the parking garage hungry and exhilarated.

Graffiti Park

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Instead of the single wall I imagined it to be, Graffiti Park turned out to be a colorful mini mountain stacked with painted concrete slabs. Satirical paintings towered over layers of graffiti. Squiggled words littered the walls; empty spray bottles littered the ground. Around me, people posed for pictures and tagged their names. Artists hauled in ladder to work on their pieces. We watched an artist spray-shade in a lion’s mane with cyan colored paint.

After grabbing our white spray paint, we hiked up the hill to find a place to paint. Most people were hiking up to the right. We were already on the left side and spotted a rundown path up the hill. I went first. I steadied myself on the rocks, occasionally gripped a branch, and we slowly made our way up the mountain. Terrain was rocky; the dirt was sometimes loose. We hopped onto a concrete slab mid-way from the top with view looking over the park, then shimmied our way onto yet another space. We tagged our names and I painted a face, disproportionate and bright, finishing the can before sunset.

Roadtrippin’ To

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The countryside’s dotted with houses, bales of hay and grazing cows. Thoughts that flee through my head:

what’s it like to live in the countryside? and what do people do? in the interim, when they are bored, or when it’s quiet (is it always quiet?), what do they do? 

I thought we’d be driving through vast expanses of nothingness but homes and buildings line the highway. So do cows, occasionally, who hover around puddles and graze lazily in fields, divided from speeders by flimsy wire.


We make three stops on the drive:

Stop 1: massive touristy stop with pristine bathrooms, bakeries, drinks, and entire store sections devoted to souvenirs

Stop 2: shopping outlet, where we buy longsleeve crewneck navy blue Ralph Lauren polos

Stop 3: IKEA, since it’s my first time at one. It’s soft with concrete-floors and maze-like. We get lost in the huge store, which is filled with determined-looking shoppers wielding measuring tapes


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Snippets of our Roadtrip Playlist:

  • Midnight City, M83
  • Redbone, Childish Gambino
  • I Wanna Be Yours, Arctic Monkeys
  • Tongue Tied, Grouplove
  • Two Weeks, Grizzly Bear
  • Come a Little Closer, Cage The Elephant
  • Breezeblocks, alt-J
  • Sleepyhead, Passion Pit
  • Knee Socks, Arctic Monkeys
  • A-Punk, Vampire Weekend

City Respite

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To escape the city, venture deeper into the city; a necessary paradox when surrounded by people, crowds, movement and noise. Many weekends I’d escape into Center City, where I’d burrow myself in a coffeeshop or bookstore. Though I’d remain constantly surrounded by people, it was a way of finding solitude, an otherwise rare beast on the urban campus.

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Summer Rain and Cigarettes

Cigarette smoke makes me think of China. I remember the way it’d fill up the room in my Uncle’s absence, then stay still, holding its breath for several hours. In the streets, in the markets, in the restaurants, there they’d be, the cigarettes clutched-clasped-dangling between people’s fingers.

Last summer we got caught by Mei Yu. The plum rain. The constant downpour of gloom that cooped us up at home. Monsoon season? I asked. No, responded Wiki: the East Asian Rainy Season.

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So I cut my hair. I painted. After the rain, I ventured outside in some grey oversized sweater (so poorly underdressed in a city where women tottered around in heels over broken concrete and construction) to photograph people, strays and the occasional chicken.