culture can’t just be found in petri dishes

I went to Austin yesterday on a whim.

I didn’t go down Congress Ave. I didn’t hit up 6th Street. I didn’t get any of the yummy ice cream from Amy’s. But a few weeks ago I did all that. It made me feel like I was home again.

What cultural things have I experienced lately in my slice of Texas? I went to the lawnmower races. No joke. I was actually pretty excited about going – something exciting about the complete unknown.

When I was a child, my parents would take me and my siblings to the symphony every year or so on a field trip. I loved to sit in the concert hall, greedily soaking in all the ornate carvings on the box seats, the heavy velvet curtains, the almost visible hum when the musicians tuned up their instruments. That was my idea of culture.

A few years later, I would get used to the funkiness of Portland. The diversity of life that sprang out of the streets. I loved trips to Powells, riding the MAX in fareless square, and of course, the Saturday Market. Everyone was dressed so differently – from socks with birkenstocks to knee-high chuck taylors – and then there were the people so uniquely ornamented themselves. Body piercings, body art, the twisted locks of unnatural hues. Not quite the same as what you’d find in the concert hall but oh, so interesting.

Then I got into the different ethnic festivals. The Greek festival with all of its sticky pastries. The Highland Games with the bagpipes wailing so proudly. The ethnic days at the local college where you would could watch Bangra dancers and ballerinas.

One of my favorite pasttimes was going to different ethnic restaurants – Ethiopian, Cuban, Thai, Moroccan, and half a dozen other ones. A gastronomic field of pleasure could be found within the city.

And then I moved to small town, Texas.

And Starbucks became one of the most familiar places. No independent coffee shops. Just the green apron. I went to the Art Museum but it was like someone had just emptied out their Grandmother’s attic. The Modern Art was interesting but the American and European Art was terrible. But maybe it’s not fair. The last art museum I had gone to was a Smithsonian. Going to the Modern Art section with an old friend was an experience I’ll never forget. Probably because both of us ended up in trouble with the security guards.

Football is huge in these parts, but I haven’t made it to a game yet. I just smile smugly when people ask me where I’m from. When I tell them, they respond with a “You must be proud of the Oregon Ducks.” Yes, sir. I am.

The food scene isn’t very stellar. I’ve managed to lose weight by eating out. Food poisoning has become a regular part of life. And no, I’m not slumming it or dumpster diving. I guess my body just isn’t used to grease or super-fried foods. I’m usually safe if I eat salads or fish. So I do. It’s quite the change for me.

I first heard about Lawnmower races on a movie. I was convinced that it was something that Hollywood had made up, just to get some laughs. Turns out it’s a real thing. There were little kids lining up to get their favorite racer’s autograph. Parents with strollers, senior citizens lining up the walkway, just to get a glimpse of one of the mowers when it tipped turning a corner.

 But, life is never dull. It’s time to find Texas culture.

4 Responses to “culture can’t just be found in petri dishes”
  1. Bethany says:

    My favorite restaurant in Austin is Z’Tejas, in a converted victorian mansion. Kevin has too many favorite restaurants though, so we have to schedule our meals out when we’re in town. 😉 I always gain a few pounds in TX, but I figure it’s for a good cause. Never have had food poisoning that I know of…. sorry you’ve had that experience; it sounds nasty. 😦

    Probably my favorite cultural experience in Austin is the Zilker Theatre. We’ve only been able to make it to the summer musicals, but they have been fantastic, and there is something magical about live theatre under the stars.

    Lawnmower races sound interesting. I guess that’s one way in which Austin is NOT similar to the Bay Area. 😉

    • caitlinmuir says:

      Oh my goodness, I need to hit up Z’Tejas. And the Zilker! I should probably ask Kat for a town tour. I wish San Antonio was as funky and fun as Austin. No such luck.

  2. I have always called Austin “The California of Texas.” I love going up there.
    The rodeo at the At&T center in Feb. will be a cultural experience for sure. Don’t miss out on that! I completely agree good food is hard to come by here. Not to mention good stores too. I’ve been here 11 years, and I still can’t fully adjust, and it’s crazy to think my kids are “Texans.”
    Hope to hang out again soon~

    • caitlinmuir says:

      Oh yes. There’s no way I’m missing the Livestock Show. I think I’m going to schedule my life around it. And yes. We must hang out again.

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