This week marks the one year anniversary of our departure from New York and our arrival in Texas, so I guess that makes it as good a time as any for a pre-dawn ramble.
23 things that make life in Austin particularly awesome
- 312 days of sunshine per year. Coldest month of the year is January, with an “average” temp of 58 degrees. I swear. Totally awesome.
- Friendliest, chattiest, most open and laid back people ever. E-V-E-R.
- The entrepreneurial community. Off the charts amazing. Truly transformative opportunities and experiences for us — both individually and collectively.
- The Alamo Drafthouse. Food and alcohol served to you during your movie. Nothing cooler. If you doubt it, ask Leonard Nimoy.
- Amy’s Ice Cream. The first time we went, they had both Guinness and Chipotle flavors. Yes, of ice cream. Damn, they were good.
- Mexican food. And TexMex. Everywhere. All the time. And they don’t skimp on the picante.
- Breakfast tacos. They are all over the place. Coffee shops, Mexican restaurants, fast food. If you want to start a heated debate, publicly declare that your favorite place has “the best” ones in town, and watch the fur fly.
- Stars. Thousands and thousands of them, all visible every night when we take Zeka for a walk.
- South by Southwest. Two weeks of a mix of the most unusual combination of people to make one hell of a fun party and deductible business expense.
- Keep Austin Weird. I swear, that’s the local motto. Alternate lifestyle, uber-liberal, tree-hugging, vegan, hippie, artist-types EVERYWHERE. Just like home.
- The herd of goats in the field on the way to the grocery store. I swear, there are goats. This blows Charles’ New Yorker mind every single time he sees them.
- The Whole Foods HQ. We call the store The Mother Ship. Not kidding. Walk around there at lunchtime eating samples and you don’t actually have to buy anything. You won’t be able to resist, though. There are something like 8 different ‘restaurant’ stations inside — not counting the drink-only ones.
- BBQ. And not just the BBQ itself, but even the meat they sell in the grocery store that is FOR BBQ. BBQ is a Holy Institution here.
- Dog-friendly in the extreme. Oh, so happy to be in a canine-friendly town. Dog parks, dog Meetups, etc.
- Independent businesses — especially coffee shops and bookstores. Move over Starbucks, this place is the home of the independent coffee shop. (And, unlike the mammoth from Seattle, the independent’s all have free wifi.)
- Pervasive WiFi. City of Austin’s goal is to have a free public wifi net that covers the heart of the city within the next year. It’s already largely there.
- Festivals. They have a Hot Sauce Festival. They have a dog-centric festival called Woofstock. They have ACL. They have the Pecan Street Festival. These people understand the value of outdoor shopping, combined with eating and entertainment.
- Cupcakes. I can’t explain it, but this town has an obsession with cupcakes. There are more cupcake bakeries here than anywhere I’ve ever seen.
- Outdoor dining. Just about every restaurant has a patio, and thanks to an amazing climate, you can eat outside almost all year around.
- Local businesswomen. I don’t know what it is — if it’s the water, the economy or the easy access to lethal weaponry, but this place breeds some of the most incredible, creative, talented, successful and amazingly interesting businesswomen I’ve ever met. Amazing forces of nature, every single one of them.
- South Congress Ave., affectionately known as SoCo. Think of it as Telegraph Ave. or Haight Ashbury, but more affordable and cleaner. With the biggest cowboy boot store you’ve ever seen. And an enormous costume shop called “Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds.”
- Business casual. Outside of the politicians or those in the immediate vicinity of the capital, this town has an allergy to business suits.
- Austin is The Live Music Capital. Everywhere you go, there is a band. Everywhere. All kinds. Constant music. So cool.
6 things that make life in Austin better than life in New York or California
- Cost of living. Seriously. 2X the space we had in NY or than I had in my house in Petaluma, and 20% less rent.
- No state or municipal income tax. It makes quite the staggering difference on a paycheck. I didn’t believe it until I saw it. HUGE difference.
- An organized, collaborative entrepreneurial community specifically to support startups. Especially tech startups.
- It’s a college town. While UT gets all the attention, there are four other colleges here, too. It makes for a fascinating influence on the culture.
- In our building — right downstairs — we have a coffee shop/bar, nail salon, dry cleaner, dentist, Subway and an AWESOME Greek restaurant.
- Go into any bar and ask how much a drink costs. If you’ve ever ordered a drink in Manhattan, the bartender’s answer will make your jaw drop. Charles still hasn’t recovered from the check for his first beer.
7 things unique about life in Austin/Texas
- UT football. Truly inexplicable. If you take soccer in Italy, add beer and a lot of sunshine, you might come close. Maybe.
- The number of transplanted New Yorkers and Californians. No kidding. California license plates are most common after Texas. And every professional or networking event if full of people who came here from the Bay Area or New York.
- Churches the size of shopping malls. As they say, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” They weren’t kidding.
- Republicans in Austin. Almost as rare as Republicans in Manhattan or San Francisco. I’m literally shocked anytime I encounter one. They are like rattlesnakes or scorpions: you know this is Texas, and so they are inevitable, and yet it’s still always a surprise when you encounter one.
- No one is a native. People come to Austin expecting to stay for a couple of years. And then they fall in love with it and never leave. This is the MOST common story we hear from transplants.
- I saw a sign on the back of a pickup one day that said, “Wild Hog Removal Service” (+ phone number). I swear, I have no comment to go with that. It still stuns me.
- Even at nearly a million people, Austin is still a small town in many ways. Once you get plugged into a few specific social or networking circles, everyone knows everyone else and you run into the same people all the time.
9 things about Austin that require some adjustment
- No Trader Joe’s. This is probably the only true daily hardship about life in Austin. Damn, I miss Trader Joe’s.
- No ocean. Lake Travis is beautiful, and as much as I look forward to the day when we can live there, it’s not the ocean. (Then again, NY doesn’t have a real ocean, either. :-p)
- Long-distances to friends and family. Sappy, but true.
- The “average” age of Austin residents is 27. We are OLD by comparison. This fact is painful some days.
- 70+ days of 105 degree weather this summer. Happily, that was abnormal and even people used to this climate found it excessively brutal.
- Epic hail. March’s hail storm (completely) destroyed so many cars that we now always use our covered spot. Some cars looked like they’d been hit with a shotgun blast. Charles got pelted with hail stones the size of marbles trying to close the patio door when it started.
- Thunder and lightening. Personally, I love it. Zeka, on the other hand, does not. My biggest concern is the heart attack I fear she will eventually give herself over it if she doesn’t start getting used to it soon.
- Cannot buy alcohol before noon on a Sunday. This is only really an issue because I do the week’s shopping on Sunday morning, and I always put wine in my cart and they always take it from me at the checkstand. You’d think I’d learn. I keep trying, though, as if they are suddenly going to come to their sense and realize that is a stupid law.
- Armadillos. No idea why, but they are quite popular… particularly given that they are ugly, nasty and actually have leprosy. Go figure.