Megventures: Alright, Alright, Austin – Part I

Believe it or not, until earlier this month I’d never stepped foot in Austin, Texas. Since my routine is a little more clear these days and my 50 State Quest is long under my belt, when a Virgin America fare deal came up last fall, I decided to finally book a flight for a long overdue visit to see my friend Nathan and a few other folks who’ve relocated to muggier climes.

Like anywhere, especially anywhere hip, people had loads of recommendations, and contrary to all of my work/family/wedding-oriented 2016 travel, I had a whole four days to follow them and will hopefully complete a blog post from each day of journal entries before the end of the month.

Never fear, y’all know I cram enough into one day of vacation that it’s enough to spread out over a long weekend if you’re following in my steps.

Part I: Friday

Despite arriving late on Thursday, I made a conscious effort to be up-and-at-em on Friday morning. I also never want to burden my hosts, so planning to be up when Nathan had to leave for work was part of my agenda. Finding a yoga studio within a few minutes of his house was part of that plan. Thanks to internet research I came across the wonderful little Dharma Yoga in the pocket of far East Austin where I was staying. After a lovely “Gratitude Practice” All Levels class (which thankfully improved after an opening killer core workout), the locals directed me to the nearby Cherrywood Coffeehouse so I could plan out my day over coffee and a ginormous breakfast taco.

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The Terra – avocado and fried tofu

While my countermate at Cherrywood rose from his seat and declared, to no one in particular, “well, it’s time to go get this body inked up”, I quietly left and drove across town to spend a warm afternoon at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. Bequeathed to the city by the estate of UT Art Professor, Charles Umlauf, the garden is a pleasant spot to stroll on a cloudy afternoon. There’s also a small gallery of Umlauf Prize winners, showcasing modern sculpture and multimedia art. As for Umlauf’s work, I definitely appreciated seeing the evolution of the artist’s style and found the juxtaposition of Catholic imagery and erotic scenes pretty interesting.

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Umlauf’s rare interpretation of La Pieta with Mary Magdalene added in.
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I mean, seriously, look at this sculpture of a cock! (But for real, the Lovers series and The Kiss were fascinating studies in erotic sculpture)

After my walk, I needed to take a drive to recharge my phone. Unfortunately I discovered that my rental car didn’t charge phones very well, which meant I had to conserve battery by putting it in airplane mode. Not very helpful if you’re trying to navigate an unfamiliar city! After getting super lost in a ritzy, hilly area of West Austin along the river, I pulled over to take a walk on what I thought was the main recreational trail. Turns out Redbud Isle is more of a dog park, and I was pretty suspicious without a pup, but I still enjoyed my little stroll.

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Getting lost isn’t always the worst thing.

I finally found more of the famed Greenbelt trails I was looking for when I happened upon Pease Park and hit the Shoal Creek Trail for a couple of miles to get in my steps. The taco finally wore off here and I decided to try to find lunch on an Austin B-Cycle, but just got lost at a dead end trail before hitting Friday rush hour traffic. I rode back to the car.

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Beware of high pedestrians in Austin.

Silly Yankee should’ve realized that all the BBQ joints would be out of meat by 4 p.m. and I hangrily stopped at a food truck park in East Austin. This was a great decision because I got vegan joffa rice with fried plantains from Wasota African Cuisine, which was a fantastic flavor explosion and didn’t fill me up too much before dinner.

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This picture does not do justice to the flavor.

I looped back with Nathan and we headed downtown to the Alamo Drafthouse, which was definitely on my list. I was much more impressed with the huge selection of menu items (hummus & veggie plate! quinoa veggie bowl!) compared to SF (so many more healthy and vegetarian/vegan options, seriously in Texas over California), than Arrival (I figured it out halfway through and then was just bored), but enjoyed the experience overall.

Apparently it was a relatively quiet night on Sixth Street, but I still concluded that my time to enjoy any college strip has long passed. RIP, my youth. We popped into Swan Dive on a side street and finished our Fire Eagle beers before the band finished their soundcheck.

Back to the Eastside, we checked on some gallery set ups for Saturday (more in next post) and got a tip on a party at a new place called Cherry Cola Dog. I wish we’d been in more of a partying mood, because this place was incredible and the event was planned to run until 4 a.m. As it was, we enjoyed some good tunes while perusing local art (I especially liked the work by @erthink, Helen Martin, and Gent). We also hung out by both the firepit and in one of several fluff piles set up in storage containers in the huge backlot.

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Art by ERThink & Helen Martin at Cherry Cola Dog
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Art & Chill, Austin Style

Cramming in one last “Austin” thing for the night, Nathan took me to the White Horse and I’m so glad he did. It was one of the most uniquely entertaining bars I’ve ever been to, perhaps second only to the Fairview Inn in Talkeetna, Alaska. Cowboys and hipsters co-existed and we watched the pick up games going on in the back patio area.

A late-40s, genteel businessman, “Steve”, sidled down next to us for a minute — long enough to pour out some “apple pie from Georgia” into Nathan’s empty popcorn cup. Tossing the kernels to the floor, he discreetly produced a shot of brown liquid from a flask procured from the inner pocket of his ill-tailored suit.

(No Mom, we didn’t get roofied)

Instead we decided to call it a night and walked back through the now-crowded bar.

“NO WAY AM I LEAVING NOW!” I yelled.

The band, who’d been setting up when we arrived was in full-swing and so was the dance floor. I’d arrived in another country — Texas. I insisted on getting another beer and once it was done, forced Nathan to briefly clumsily dance with me. Still, so much fun and an A+ first night in Austin.

Blogging in Today’s America

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The author, en route to the Women’s March

For those who know me, you know that I am sick about what’s happening right now in our country. I have lots of words jotted down and lots of fearful tweets to flush out. Of course I went to the Women’s March. Of course I walked in the pouring rain, knowing it would make my cold/flu worse. It’s important to me to end up on the right side of history.

In the meantime, I have a backlog of rather benign posts that I’ve been meaning to write. So while I practice my travel blogging and talk about my trip to Austin, please don’t think that I’m sitting idly by while the world burns. I just need more time in the day to fix everything.

The 37 by 38

I truly can’t believe I just typed the number 38 in reference to myself. I’ve been getting used to uttering “37” for a month or two now, and wow, yeah, eeesh. But, seeing as I can’t figure out how to a) stop time or b) travel to an alternate universe where everything is totally hunky dory, I’ll proceed with a longer list of yearly goals than the last.

While the trivial pursuit riff was fun, I’m going back to a more classic approach this year, broken up into patterns of 3×7 (get it? 37?). You’ll notice two big themes are improving fitness and feminism, I figure being disciplined in both prepares me for the fight ahead and as my Advent Activism project taught me, that’s a big one.

Without further ado, here’s the list, presented alphabetically by verb (ooh!):

1. Abstain from alcohol 3 different periods of 7 days each.
I promise they get better. But my Dry July last year taught me that taking a break is a good thing…but best broken into smaller chunks.

2. Attend 3 classes/lectures through 7 different organizations.
I’ve found a lot of good ones in the last six years, now time to dive deeper.

3. Attend 3 concerts each at 7 different venues.
I was miserable at attending shows last year. Committing to 21 concerts (and I’ve already purchased a NoisePop pass) helps remedy that.

4. Attend 3 events (screenings, performances, etc.) at 7 different Bay Area festivals.
There are so many film, music and art festivals in San Francisco and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the service. Time to actual look at schedules.

5. Attend 3 exhibitions each at 7 different SF museums or galleries.
Supporting the arts is high on my resistence list and balancing the ecosystem of established museums and galleries is a key part of that.

6. Attend 3 separate performances by 7 different performing arts groups.
See above.

7. Attend 3 yoga classes at 7 different studios/centers.
As I’ve started building relationships in the yoga community (seriously, this blog is called “Meghan in Midlife” for a reason), I’ve learned about other studios I want to try outside of my regular home base. I also really want to commit to yoga while I’m traveling.

8. Bike 3 times in 7 different towns/cities.
I haven’t had a biking goal for a couple of years. Time to bring it back.

9. Bring lunch 3x week for 7 weeks.
Fitness and health are tops on my list for this year, after a couple of years of stress have taken their toll. My pocketbook shouldn’t complain either.

10. Call 3 representatives 7 different times.
I already have my senators saved in my phone. It’s gonna be a long year of making calls.

11. Donate 3 times to 7 different non-profit organizations.
I learned about a ton of direct services organizations with Advent Activism. I want to continue strategically taking action.

12. Drink 3 beers each from 7 different breweries.
Offsetting those fitness goals. No, actually hoping this helps temper some bad habits by making consumption more mindful.

13. Go to 3 types of Fitness SF classes 7 different times.
I’ve started going to spin regularly with Amber and hope to Zumba again with Emily. I also don’t really mind the P90x classes. Need to make these things a habit.

14. Hang out 3 times in 7 different SF parks.
Optimistically imagining that the rain will stop one of these days (grateful for it still! Better than a drought) and I can chill with a book or friends in the city’s lovely outdoors.

15. Have a 3-stop outing in 7 different SF neighborhoods.
One of the downsides to moving to San Francisco’s best neighborhood is that I’ve slacked at going out in others. Hoping a goal like this will help me continue discover new parts (or rediscover ones I visited years ago) of the city I love so dearly.

16. Hike 3 times in 7 different counties.
Not putting a distance limit on this, but simply want to get back out on the trails. Have a summer hiking/camping trip in mind that would take care of a large chunk of this.

17. Interview 3 women each in 7 different states.
I truly enjoyed doing the email interviews I included as part of Advent Activism. I’d like to do more and hear different perspectives of women around the country.

18. Listen to 3 episodes of 7 different female-hosted podcasts.
I’ve been listening to Call Your Girlfriend and Design Matters for a couple of years now, but have a whole list of podcasts on my list to try out.

19. Listen to 3 full-length albums of 7 different female artists.
Another 2016 highlight was being gifted a huge record collection from my friend John. I’ve been spending much more time with vinyl, and, by nature of having my own place, music in general. I’ve rediscovered the joy of digesting an album and want to make it a goal to do so intentionally with the back catalog of female musicians who I admire.

20. Lose 3 pounds a month for 7 months.
The math here is 21 pounds gone by the end of the year. I won’t be sad if I exceed this. And hoping to be at least halfway there by the time I leave for Mexico in 9 weeks.

21. Make 3 dishes each from 7 different cookbooks.
Making my own food will help with the above. As I reorganized my kitchen recently, I noted how many cookbooks I have just hanging out. I need to put them to use.

22. Practice 3 languages in Duolingo for 7 weeks each.
My travel plans are dictating these. I’ll practice my Spanish for Mexico and French before September’s Montreal trip. Not sure if I’m going anywhere else, but want to keep my German active after letting it slack a bit this year.

23. Read 3 books each by 7 different women authors.
Instead of trying to keep up with reading books as they’re released, or in different categories, I want to have a better feel for writers and style. This may involve some rereading as well.

24. Read 3 long-form articles by 7 different female journalists.
Journalism needs to stay alive and I’m looking forward to supporting it.

25. Read or watch 3 articles/books/videos each about 7 different women in the type industry.
Being part of the Alphabettes community has helped me through some rough years. There are so many talented women in the industry I work in, and this exercise should help me get to know them a little better.

26. Run 3 miles in 7 different towns/cities.
Scaling back my running goals for this year, but I do enjoy seeing different places by foot. This should get me through my travels and add to one of the ways I can move.

27. See 3 films each at 7 different theaters.
I did really start going to movies again this past year and loved that. I did get comfortable at the Alamo though and feel like I probably missed some smaller films because of that. Committing to 3 films at 7 theaters should help balance out my cinephilia.

28. Send 3 cards/letters to 7 different out-of-town people.
Instead of random mail days, I’m bringing back the pen pal. Of course they don’t have to write back, but it’d be neat if they did.

29. Spend 3 hours one-on-one with 7 different friends.
I’m very lucky to have developed some incredible friendships in my nearly six years here. My birthday party last weekend was testament to that. I need to continue investing in the people who’ve provided me with such love and support.

30. Visit 3 galleries each in 7 different cities.
I need to make a conscious effort to see art when I travel and really get to know a city through its art scenes. Plus the folks at galleries usually have good tips on other stuff to do too!

31. Volunteer 3 times for 7 different organizations.
Now that my schedule is a little more known (knock wood), I feel comfortable carving out time to volunteer again. Just like calls and donations, volunteering for progressive organizations can help with the resistance.

32. Walk to work 3 times a month for 7 months.
This is a much more manageable goal than the one I had a couple of years ago. As a Walk SF Board Member for another year it also allows me to literally “walk the talk.”

33. Watch 3 films by 7 different female filmmakers.
Another “back catalog” goal, I’m looking forward to familiarizing myself with the work of some underrepresented women.

34. Watch 3 online talks each by 7 different feminists.
Inspired by the Cindy Gallop episode of Design Matters and colliding with a desire to watch more Creative Mornings and TED Talks (and the like), this should be an interesting project to tackle this year.

35. Watch or see live 3 performances of 7 different female comedians.
This one is for my friend Amy, who is constantly recommending comedians to me. Plus, I’m going to need to laugh during a somber year.

36. Write 3 paragraphs about 7 different travel adventures.
The gratuitous writing goal. Hoping this bitesize assignment gets the juices flowing.

37. Write 3 posts for 7 different publications.
A stretch for sure, but possible.

Time for a Change

One of the few highlights of my 2016 was celebrating 5 years as a San Francisco resident. I knew as the year progressed that having a blog dedicated to “chronicling a move” no longer made sense. I guess I really live here now (yay) and my blog should reflect that. Switching to a more generic URL, but I’ll stick with the “Meghan in Midlife” focus, since that’s where I seem to be at 37 turns around the sun.

Brew To Bay will live on in archive form (probably long past us if we all get nuked), but going forward my goals and musings will reside over here.