austin-tx

5 Years in ATX

It’s been FIVE years this week since we relocated to Austin, and it’s time for my annual assessment! I had written three different posts for this, each with about 25 revisions. But in the end I decided to just simplify.

I’ve realized that Austin is a great city that meets or exceeds just about all of our needs. I can–and do–often bitch about the heat, of which I’m very ill-equipped to handle (just try strapping a squirmy toddler into a carseat with a heat index of 110º), and the fact that traffic is bad, but that’s really about the end of my complaints. I’ve tried to make Austin out to be the bad guy in the last two years, but there’s not a lot bad you can say about the city non-weather or infrastructure related. Austin has been good to us as we have had successful careers here and raised Johnny.

But that’s not to say I want to stay.

No, the main problem I have after five years with Austin is that it’s 1,161 miles from Minneapolis, and I now know that’s where would much prefer to be. I think I used the same word last year to sum up my feelings, and that is “disconnected.” Aside from Lauren and one other random friend, every other person I’d ever met in the first 29 years of my life lives hundreds or thousands of miles away. And to go back even for a few days with a toddler takes months of planning and thousands of dollars.

We’re not the only ones to relocate here. Two of our best couple friends both moved here from out-of-state as well. But in one case their parents moved here too, and the other moved here with several other college friends, plus a side of their family is within driving distance. Another relocated-to-Austin friend convinced his cousins to move here. I had one other co-worker who moved here from Virginia who was totally solo and knew no one, but last year she–for a lot of the same reasons as I’m describing–went back to Virginia. We’re like the only people I know here who are here totally on our own. And for some reason that bugs me a lot.

I mean this will be the sixth straight Fourth of July where we’ve been here on our own. I’m not saying my friends or family from South Dakota and/or Minnesota are doing something TOTALLY AMAZING that we can’t attend, but to never spend holidays with them is crappy. My brother and sister both have new houses I’ve never seen. Lauren’s family has a cabin on a lake they all frequent. And ticket prices at Target Field are cheap now!

I think Lauren and I have generally the same feelings on the subject, only my timeline is NOW NOW NOW and Lauren is much more logical and saying “let’s give it a couple years and see what happens.” We are both also open to living in a different new city someday. I would totally be up for moving every five years. But right now I just have this urge to get back to Minneapolis, and I’m sorry but that’s just the way I feel.

Having said all of that, I’m doing well. I’m not some blubbering mess. I have lots of fun here and, well, we’re parents now anyway so it’s not like I’d be gallivanting all over town. We get regular visitors passing through here.

Anyway, this was my annual chance to share my many emotions with you all. To sum up my feelings after five years–Austin’s a great city especially now that the rock-throwing bandit is off the streets, but I miss the Upper Midwest–Minneapolis specifically. We’ll be here another year or two barring some unforeseen incident, so check back in 2017 for my 6-year review.

Tattoo

They say you can take the boy out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest off the boy’s chest. I think that’s the saying. Well it’s true.

So I went and got a tattoo Monday night! It was both short-sighted and years in the works at the same time. Struggling with occasional home sickness for three years, I’d long been toying with the idea of getting the state outlines of South Dakota and Minnesota as a reminder of my humble upbringing, but the outlines themselves seemed very boring. South Dakota is nothing more than a rectangle with a few little juts here in there on the eastern side. Minnesota is a much more recognizable shape, but nothing particularly interesting either. Even as a professional graphic designer, I could absolutely not think of any way to make these designs more interesting, like filling them in with a road map, license plate, or state symbols, and not look weird to me.

On a whim Saturday I was driving by the local tattoo shop and just swung in to feel it out and the guy was like “sure I can take you back right now!” I balked at that idea but did schedule an appointment for Monday.

I decided to put the two states together as they appear geographically and just leave them as the plain old outlines for now. I can always fill them in with something later on. I also decided to have them done on my chest. If it was on my back I would never be able to see it. This may not have been the greatest placement because anytime I move my arm South Dakota gets warped/stretched. In order for it to look right I have to be seen perfectly still. And soon my chest hair (I shaved it in that area) will grow back and Minnesota will be covered and probably less visible. But then again how often do I go running around shirtless? No one is going to see it unless I’m swimming or get sucked into the porn industry to make ends meet.

Anyway, Mo at Steadfast Tattoo did a fine job and I was in and out in under twenty minutes. I have a very low tolerance for pain, but it was relatively painless. Much less so than someone popping a zit on my back.

It really isn’t much to see. But like I said I will someday think of some way to get it filled in with something more interesting.

The fresh new tattoo in the shaved area of my chest.

The fresh new tattoo in the shaved area of my chest.

Seattle in all its glory.

Seattle

Over Memorial Day weekend, Lauren, Johnny and I flew out to Seattle to meet up with Mom and Dad for a fun vacation. Why Seattle? Because I wanted to go somewhere COOLER than Austin. And I have long wanted to visit Seattle. And the Twins were playing the Mariners. Also because meeting the Glanzers somewhere fun sounded, well, more FUN than us going there or them coming here. That’s something we’d like to do more of in the future, as long as we’re living in Austin–meet up with family or friends at neutral destinations where it’s new and fun for everyone, just like we did with Walsh and Sarah in Mexico half a year ago!

The flights to and from Seattle were interesting. We’ve flown with Johnny a half-dozen times now, but not in the past 9 months. It was simple before–he was a baby, he just sat there and spaced out and nursed or played with jingling keys. Now he had a real attention span and just sitting there isn’t going to cut it. Thank goodness Lauren bought some sticker books–Johnny had me plastered with stickers by the time we touched down in Seattle. On the way home he slept during takeoff. Our plane took a detoured path to fly right alongside Mt. Rainier! It was the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen on a plane. It wasn’t below us or off in the distance. It was RIGHT alongside the plane. I was in the aisle and struggled to see past the two people to my left, but got a decent glimpse. It felt like we were dangerously close to the mountain. What a view.

We chose to rent a house from Airbnb rather than rent a hotel. Our house was in a ritzy well-to-do area of town and featured steep hills, picturesque greenery and great city and nature views. The house itself was nothing particularly special, but it was fine for the five of us, save for the fact that there were no curtains and the sun BLASTED in starting at 3:45am every morning, meaning Johnny woke up way too early. While we enjoyed our time there, the home owner chewed me out afterwards for leaving a mess including what he believed to be a vomit-stained pillow. It was Johnny’s pouch, but I absolutely didn’t want to get into a big confrontation with this guy and put a damper on the trip, so I just paid his outrageous fee, gave him a less-than-stellar review and tried to forget about it.

Johnny’s sleep was the only problem of the trip. He woke up for good at 3:30, 3:45, 4:30 and 5:10 the four days, compared to his usual 7am. I expected him to be thrown off going two time zones west, but not that much. That meant whichever of me and Lauren woke up with him had to nap later in the day just to stay afloat. A number of times on the trip, pure exhaustion just set in. Lauren came home the final night to find me sleeping on the hardwood floor in the living room using a couch cushion for a pillow.

Safeco Field was the 14th Major League stadium I’d visited and it didn’t disappoint. Safeco is renowned for having some of the best concessions and THE best beer selection of any stadium in the league, and I did my best to try them all. The roof was closed, but the stadium was nice–right along the same lines as Minute Maid Park and Miller Park, in my book. Our seats were field level right down the third base line, though we didn’t come close to any action. The Twins pulled out a thrilling 5-4 win, shockingly sweeping the Mariners on the road in what has been an otherwise awful season.

I think we all really liked our time in Seattle. For me, I was in absolute heaven weather-wise. Cool, drizzly and overcast almost the entire time. The day we were leaving the sun came out and to my amazement a bunch of mountains were suddenly visible from our rental house and the nearby parks! It would have been a great day to explore, but I was happy with the way things went. Mom especially was freezing the whole time. It wasn’t the warm vacation she may have envisioned! I truly believe I could get on board with Seattle weather full-time. If a return to Minneapolis isn’t in the cards in the coming years, I think I would happily discuss Seattle as a worthy Plan B.

Here’s a list of everywhere we wound up visiting. I doubt many of these restaurants made Seattle’s “must try” lists, but I will give us credit for going off the beaten path and trying things for ourselves. I think it gave us a truer taste of the city.

Thursday, May 26
Pike’s Market – the most ballyhooed Seattle landmark.
Von’s Gustobistro – lunch and cocktails. I thought it was the best restaurant of the trip!
Whole Foods – because we needed to stock up on baby supplies and beer for the house.
Via Tribunali – got takeout from a woodfire pizza place which left a bit to be desired.

Friday, May 27
The 5 Spot – really good breakfast with hearty portions and a bourbon pie for dessert!
Kerry Park – best view of Seattle and a modern playground.
Northwest Folklife Festival – stumbled through a large city festival.
Seattle Children’s Museum – it was no Thinkery, but Johnny had fun.
Space Needle – didn’t pay to go up, but was fun to see from the bottom.
Queen Anne Beerhall – neighborhood German fare and beers.

Saturday, May 28
The Hi-Life – breakfast spot that was the sister restaurant of 5 Spot. Had no idea.
Westlake Center – Mom and I ventured out to find her a warm sweatshirt.
Discovery Park – took a long, hilly hike down to the beach. It was hard work.
Theo – a chocolate factory that Lauren actually considered working for in the past.
The Barking Dog Alehouse – neighborhood dive bar with decent food.
Purple Cafe and Wine Bar – late night wine and apps.

Sunday, May 29
Top Pot Donuts – tasty donuts from Seattle’s favorite chain.
Safeco Field – Twins vs Mariners… highlight of the trip for me!
Ten Sushi – last chance Hail Mary for local sushi… not the best I’ve had.

Monday, May 30
Queen Bee – coffee for the road.

Family enjoying a cool day in Seattle.

Family enjoying a cool day in Seattle.

An enhanced image of our rental property. Couldn't have asked for anything more picturesque.

An enhanced image of our rental property. Couldn’t have asked for anything more picturesque.

Little buddy prepares to leave on Monday morning. What a cute fella.

Little buddy prepares to leave on Monday morning. What a cute fella.

Johnny meets Mariner Moose.

Johnny meets Mariner Moose.

Momma, Johnny, and a pretty tipsy Poppa after the Mariners game.

Momma, Johnny, and a pretty tipsy Poppa after the Mariners game.

Johnny freaks out when Gutierrez cranks a 2-run homer off Jepsen in the 9th to pull within a run.

Johnny freaks out when Gutierrez cranks a 2-run homer off Jepsen in the 9th to pull within a run.

Nothing beats a ballgame with Grandpa and Grandma!

Nothing beats a ballgame with Grandpa and Grandma!

Pregame view of Safeco Field.

Pregame view of Safeco Field.

Mom, Dad, Dave Niehaus's statue, and me.

Mom, Dad, Dave Niehaus’s statue, and me.

My first pregame beer. Exploring a stadium for the first time is my favorite.

My first pregame beer. Exploring a stadium for the first time is my favorite.

Johnny and Grandma get to know one another over some Elmo.

Johnny and Grandma get to know one another over some Elmo.

Momma and Johnny emerge from the dense woods.

Momma and Johnny emerge from the dense woods.

The family at the halfway point of what was a grueling hike.

The family at the halfway point of what was a grueling hike.

Momma and Johnny along what I guess could be considered the Pacific Ocean.

Momma and Johnny along what I guess could be considered the Pacific Ocean.

The beach we hiked to... not the greatest reward at the end of a long hike.

The beach we hiked to… not the greatest reward at the end of a long hike.

Love this shot of Johnny on the beach throwing rocks.

Love this shot of Johnny on the beach throwing rocks.

The gang had no idea what they were in for at the beginning of this hike!

The gang had no idea what they were in for at the beginning of this hike!

Grandpa and Johnny at the Queen Anne Beerhall.

Grandpa and Johnny at the Queen Anne Beerhall.

Me being dumb at the Space Needle.

Me being dumb at the Space Needle.

The family at the Space Needle.

The family at the Space Needle.

Grandma and Johnny on the Kerry Park slide.

Grandma and Johnny on the Kerry Park slide.

Seattle from Kerry Park.

Seattle from Kerry Park.

The family at Kerry Park, just down the street from our house.

The family at Kerry Park, just down the street from our house.

Seattle in all its glory.

Seattle in all its glory.

Johnny and the grandparents near our rental house.

Johnny and the grandparents near our rental house.

Hold hands for safety!

Hold hands for safety!

Johnny's first beer of the trip.

Johnny’s first beer of the trip.

Grandma and Johnny browse the Von's menu.

Grandma and Johnny browse the Von’s menu.

Wow, lotta liquor. Do they have E&J brandy though?

Wow, lotta liquor. Do they have E&J brandy though?

Starting off the trip heading to Pike's Market.

Starting off the trip heading to Pike’s Market.

Pike's Market, pretty dead on a Thursday but quite the scene inside.

Pike’s Market, pretty dead on a Thursday but quite the scene inside.

Big Four! I think? Me, Lauren, Mom and some stranger.

Big Four! I think? Me, Lauren, Mom and some stranger.

Cute fella in his collared sweater get-up.

Cute fella in his collared sweater get-up.

FUN times on the plane with Big Bird!

FUN times on the plane with Big Bird!

What a good little flyer.

What a good little flyer.

A slow, wet slide.

A slow, wet slide.

Gramps and Johnny

Gramps and Johnny