Empire State of Mind

new york city skyline landscape photography

Photographed this about three years ago. I miss New York and all its lights; I’ve been itching to visit for the past year or so.  In my general consumption of rom-com movies–always based in NYC (of course) and around Christmas (yes), Christmas lights, in particular, have become somewhat of a myth.

So I’m going back soon–for the sixth time!–this time to see the Christmas lights!

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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.

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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Wandering the City

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After making a bucket list of things to do in the city, I finally went out and crossed a few off the list.

We meandered around the design district, searching for the museum of contemporary art. After circling around a few times, we realized it’d been in front of us the entire time. The space wasn’t what I’d anticipated; it was open, garage-like, with three moving art exhibits. I’m not usually the biggest fan of contemporary art–sometimes it strikes me as something devoid of skill–but these pieces weren’t like that. They were meaningful and thoughtful. The artists were talented. We drifted from one exhibit to the next, oohing and aahing at the pieces, from massive rug-like designs made of plastic fingers to portraits painted on metal.

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Afterwards, we headed over to a grilled cheese restaurant, where we ate bruschetta, downed two beers, and ordered a savory bacon-and-grilled-cheese sandwich. The sandwiches were, as I always say, nom-tastic.

I like to imagine that this particular neighborhood is where the hipsters come to roost. Vintage shops litter the streets. Walls are decked out in murals. Quirky sculptures greet visitors in repurposed homes. It’s eclectic, artsy, old but welcoming. We peered into a few shops here and there, visited a coffeeshop-meets-bookstore-meets-bar. Then we dived into a pie shop for apple streusel and ice cream. (Our pie slice was massive).

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Once we devoured the pie, we wandered around and found a wooden swing by some murals. They were occupied by three girls who posed and puckered for pictures for what felt like forever. In the meantime, we looked at murals. My favorite featured a mandrill meditating-floating above a pink sprinkled donut. I pretended to meditate atop a greyish block in front of the mandrill. After what felt like forever, the girls posing on the swing finally paused to move and look at their photos. I leaped onto the swings. We swung together.

It was hot. It was humid. But after leaving the arts district, we drove to visit the bridge, a city landmark, and walked across. I’d never driven on it, only seen it from afar, but today we got up close and personal. We walked on the hill, towards the bridge, onto the walkway, where we could see downtown.

“That’s where we spent the majority of our relationship.” He pointed out to a cluster of buildings.


As we drove home, the sun set. We talked about ridiculous things, as per usual. And for a moment it felt a little like the summers during which we’d always drive downtown.

Pause, Rewind

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“I wish I could pause time and moments like this without having to think about what’s next.”

Pause. The sun set. We were quiet. It felt like the moment when my friends and I were in Central Park, New York. We’d found a pond with ducks and turtles facing a castle in in the distance. So we sat on the rocks, quiet and contemplative, swimming in our own thoughts.

A blanket of peace descended upon us; I asked them what they were thinking. My friend said moments like this were rare. And maybe we wanted to achieve material success in life so we could buy intangible moments like this. Maybe we strived to make money, lots of it, so maybe we could buy peace, calm and happiness.

But wait–no–that didn’t sound right.