Saturday, October 30, 2010

The People of Austin

Conversations with visitors to New York usually end up being about how surprised they are with how friendly New Yorkers are. What I have discovered, after spending 24 hours in Austin, Texas, is the reason people think New Yorkers aren't friendly. It's because nobody could be friendlier than the people of Austin. I had spontaneous conversations with at least a dozen people in the day and a half I was there, more than I've had in the entire last year in New York.

"How was your meal" by a short order cook in a bus/restaurant turned into a 5 minute conversation about how and when they move the bus, who they serve, and how they run their little business. Waiting in line for the bathroom, something all women know about and usually done in silence, generated several friendly exchanges about ear plugs, tampons and newfangled sleeves that slip over your thumb. Asking directions turned into a long discussion about the various ways to get to downtown, what we would see on the way, and which street would be the closest to find a good place for lunch.

The strangest conversation was with Jason, who sat down with us at a table in a club. After a minute he went to the bar and returned with 4 beers (startled side note: $2.50 per beer). I thought, is he buying us beers? But no, they were all for himself. He opened each one and lined them up in front of him as he told a story about playing drums in Prague with men who took him into the gay district to play in a building that was a series of vaults. They jammed, smoked something that made him higher than he had ever been, and then tried to get him to sleep with them and have more fun. The story didn't end because just then, Jason looked at the door, grabbed his four beers and literally ran away from us into the outdoor beer garden. We didn't speak a word the entire time. It was a stunning display of story telling and beer drinking.

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